I feels like it’s time to reach out on my blog to let those of you who may not follow my social media a little closer into my life. I feel ready, well, truthfully not really. But after having lunch with a friend yesterday, I realized nothing is gained through silence.
Grief is such a difficult process. I’m learning it takes many forms, and each person handles death of a loved one in his or her own way. Some people “white knuckle” through it. Others reach out for support and counseling. Artists friends I’ve talked to over the past couple of months have shared their personal stories with me, and each of these treasured…private…intimate conversations has filled my heart with even more respect and tenderness for them and for the things they, too, are dealing with as they attempt to balance their careers.
My father passed away June 28th. I was in Paris at the time on our private art retreat. Of course, Susan, as well as the lovely ladies on our adventure knew of my situation and were incredibly kind and supportive. My father, a 20+ year diabetic, went into congestive heart failure in March, right before Adorn Me in Houston, Texas. As much as I hated doing it. I called the organizer and, together, we found replacement instructors for my classes. I was grateful to my friends Rikki Schumaker and Kim St. Jean for adding to their already full schedules to teach my classes. This new reality of my father’s declining health caused a chain of events that was like a snowball starting slowly and picking up more and more snow as the days ticked by.
I immediately started paperwork to apply for ALTCS (Arizona Long Terms Care System), a state program designed to pay for care. ALTCS eligibility is determined by a financial and medical assessment. The system is convoluted and complicated, and I was told on a number of occasions to hire an elder care attorney to handle the paperwork/process. The idea was crazy to me to hire an attorney my parents can’t afford to help them get into a system designed for people financially unable to pursue private-pay options. I did exactly what I do when presented with a problem. I put on my big girl panties and tackled it, and thus started what amounted to an additional part time job on top of my normal schedule.
The end of May, my father called me one night and said he was ready to transition. He asked me to call Hospice and get him and my mother help. I made a phone call to a friend in the medical field and he gave me the info to SAGE Hospice. Thus began a new round of paperwork and more caseworkers. SAGE moved quickly and my father qualified immediately. He thought he would go quickly. It took a full, seemingly-long-but-blessedly-short five weeks for his body to shut down. We had time to say goodbye. Nothing was left unsaid. My father received and gave love all the way to last breath.
I spent hours with him and my mother the last two days before I left for France. All affairs were in order. When I gave him that last kiss and hug goodbye knowing I was getting on a plane the next day, I knew it was the last time I would see him. He wouldn’t let me cancel the trip. Houston was bad enough for him. Paris was unacceptable. He died four days before my parent’s 65th wedding anniversary and two weeks before his 87th birthday.
My mother has never lived alone. She is grief-stricken and complains of heart pain, among many other things. I’m still going through the ALTCS eligibility process for her and it continues to demand my time. We will know the outcome within the next few weeks and I pray my mother gets what she needs.
All of this, of course, was going on while Susan and I were also working behind the scenes on our exciting new ventures with Ranger Industries. Talk about the best of times, the worst of times. While I’m so incredibly excited for the future and grateful for the multitude of tasks (also behind the scenes) that we must accomplish before CHA, I find that there are days when I just don’t feel like myself. There are moments when I wonder if my creativity has blown away in the wind because it’s so difficult to wrap my arms around that which is most familiar to me.
On those kind of days, thankfully, someone in my inner circle reaches out to me. Like yesterday, when my wise friend took me to lunch and shared her own grieving process of her father’s death. And last night when a friend/fellow instructor acted as a sounding board to my work ideas and guided me as I refocused.
I’m doing my best to stay grounded in my life. I can’t wait for 2016 to get here because there’s lots of new opportunities to touch even more people with art. Since my teaching is over for the rest of the year, I have time this fall and winter for some much-needed exploitative time in my studio. I will share visuals on Instagram as I can. For now, today’s share is enough.