Semper Fi

Every morning for the past few months I have woken up, slightly terrified, thinking to myself, ” WHAT NOW?!?“. How can it get any worse? Everything is falling apart. God must hate me. Divorce. Plumbing. Quarentining. Death. I could go on and on. My pity party has been throwing it down day after day after day.

Boo hoo. Poor me. My life is a waste. Nothing matters. Blah, blah, blah.

My head has been so far up my ass that all I see is dark. I’m sure that I’ve been a pleasure to be around. Everyone loves a selfish, dramatic, midwestern housewife.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on my balcony in the middle of the night. It was cold and I was crying over something stupid. I just kept weeping. Snot nose and all, thinking of all the wrongs done to me. My house was flooded with sewage water. It smelled like thirty people all decided to take a dump in my hallway. My relationship was officially over, and the weight of that statement sat right on my shoulders pushing me as far down as it possibly could. So many scenarios popped into my head. My kids would have a broken home. I might have to miss certian holidays with them. I have nothing of my own- house, car, job, or bank account. I have ruined my childrens life. I’m a bad mom. Only a bad mom would allow this to happen.

It’s a pretty sad day when you’re sitting in your house tearing up wedding pictures while the faint smell of poop lingers in your floorboards. I thought to myself, ” THIS IS IT. I’m done. I’m not cut out for this life stuff.” My favorite thought that came to me time and time again was, ” I’m so glad I got sober just in time for my entire life to implode right before my very eyes.” My poor, fragile mind had always used alcohol to cope with feelings that hurt. Every glass of pinot grigio numbed my heart and mind. No one can hurt a drunk like me. Go ahead. Try. But before you do- can you please open that second bottle up for me?

The news started to focus on a virus across the world that was killing people at a very fast pace. If it’s across the world, why should I care? Sucks to be those dudes.

I had no idea what was about to happen.

I had no idea.

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A few weeks later we were ordered to stay home. Stay home from work, stay home from school, stay home from restuarants, stay home from anything and everything. I get clausterphonic really fast, and I could already feel the walls coming in closer and closer. At first, it was bearable. My kids school got cancelled for a week. A week? I can handle a week. That’s cool. Maybe we can do some family shit.

Oh wait, no we can’t. We can’t leave our homes. It’s just a week though. It will pass.

One week turned into two. Two turned into a month. A month turned into the rest of the school year.

Homeschooling a six year old, four year old, and three year old can be trying at times. All times. My kids come from an amazing school district and the teachers are super helpful and care so much about our kids. A few weeks in we found our groove. I started to enjoy helping my kids grow and learn. First grade math is tough though. I have such a deeper appreciation for teachers. This shit is hard.

Just as I was able to wrap my head around this whole quarantine, I experienced something that I could never have forseen or ever imagined. I didn’t have a partner to hold my hand or comfort me. I had to hear this news alone, my mothers shaking voice on the other end of the phone.IMG_0486.JPG

My Grampie died of COVID-19.

 

 

IMG_0490.jpegLet me tell you a little bit about my Grampie. I had him wrapped around my finger from day one. One of my earliest memories was asking him to get me an icre cream sandwich at 9 pm on a random summer evening. He walked down the road to the general store. A store in which they generally sell things that you might generally need at one point or another, generally speaking. So, he got me my icre cream sandwich. This event was repeated over and over when I was a kid. Grampie never said no. As I grew older, I would call the house to check in and say hi to him and my Grammie.

” Hey Gramps! How are you?”

” Now, who’s this?”

” Your favorite grandchild!”

” Oh, hi Jill!”

 

Yeah… I’m not Jill. (although she is my bomb ass cousin who has amazing hair and equally amazing sense of humor)
” Gramps! Haha! It’s me!”

” Miss Kaitlyn, how’s it going in Chicago?”

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*Here we have on the right the so-called favorite, Jill.*

We had an on going joke for a couple of years. If there was a ever a time where my grandmother was out of town, I would call him and ask when the keg was being delivered and did he have enough singles for the strippers that would be showing up in a couple hours. He would usually say, ” Well, I ordered two kegs this time. Just to be sure.”

Once every few weeks he would check in with me when I was in college. He would always end the phone call with, ” Now you be careful, alright? I mean it. Be careful.”

His favorite TV show was Keeping Up With The Kardashians. His favorite Kardashian was Khloe. According to him she was, ” The only normal one.”

My Grampie embraced his Scottish heritage with pride. But, I still had to beg him to wear his kilt to my wedding. It had been years since he had worn it. During the family photos I walked over to him. He said, ” Now listen, don’t get too close. I’m not wearing any underwear.”

…WHAT??!

Apparently, thats a Scottish tradition.

5666CA1B-2E9B-4DD0-A73E-EBC4315AB0BF.JPGHe loved my Grammie with all of his heart. Stubborn, but full of love. He was a police officer and made a very large impact on his community with his generosity, kindness, service, and a crazy sense of humor.

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For as long as I can remember, he was battling one ailment after another during his life. Cancer, cellulitis, bad knees, heart stuff, infections and more. None of those things ever took away his joy of life. He went through most of that with a smile. Maybe not the entire time, but he dealt with things in his life with humor.

A few months ago I flew to CT. Neither of my grandparents were in good health. I was very worried about my Grammie, and not quite as worried about him. The virus had already started to infiltrate Connecticut and we were told to wear masks in the hospital visitng him. He was in the hospital getting antibiotics through an IV. His roommate walked by and let out one of the most haneous farts I have ever smelled. It just lingered. And lingered. Grampie said that he does that all the time, you just get used to it. Honestly- it’s a wonder that those deathly farts didn’t take his life first. I don’t know why, but it seemed important to make sure I took a picture with him. I didn’t know it would be the last one.

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My kids loved him a bunch too. Everynight we look out at the Grampie star in the middle of the sky that seems to get brighter and brighter. We sent balloons up into the sky with messages about how much we loved him. The grief came in waves.

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There was no chance in hell that I could go home, because Covid-19 was everywhere. I’d be putting myself and others in danger. But- grieving someone you love from 800 miles away really, really sucks.

Really sucks.

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I cried myself to sleep a lot. I’m extremely blessed to have my aunt, uncle and two cousins out here in Illinois. Being around family during this kind of stuff  is so important.Screenshot 2020-05-07 at 12.27.57 PM.jpeg

I had to watch his burial on a youtube. He would have loved it. He was given a marine burial, sending him to heaven with the gratitude of many police officers, family, and friends. I saw my mom holding it together so she could make a speech. I watched my grandmother be given the American flag that was draped on the casket.

IMG_1332.JPEGBut here’s the thing- he died. That hurts. It will always hurt, but I don’t have to drink over it. I don’t have to grieve him while black out drunk on my couch. I had to accept that I couldn’t change anything about it. Acceptance is an absolute miracle.

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All of these things could be categorized as major life events. So many changes, so many tears, so much uncertainty. A big ol’ broken heart to top it all off. These are reasons to drink that are completley validated. All that stress can be washed down with a cold Bud Light, and you know what? Things are so hard, why don’t you have another one. And another. And another.

Another until there is no more.

Drinking wouldn’t make anything better.

But I know what does- sobriety. I packed up my pity party and threw it in the trunk. Every single person has to go through this kind of stuff at one point or another. It never dawned on me that you could deal with all this sober. How would anyone be able to do that?

I did what I had to do.

I prayed. I reached out. I sat around with a bunch of other drunks who had found ways to deal with stuff sober. I learned. I grew. I’m still learning. Still growing. Every single day I can choose to either work hard on this shit and come out stronger, or I can succumb to my demons.

I’m not the only person dealing with this. Thousands of people have lost family members.  Thousands of people have lost their jobs. Thousands of people can’t pay their mortage. Thousands of people have put their own lives on the line in order to help others. Thousands of people will never be the same.

So, what right do I have to complain about this current wreckage? Nothing. I have no zero reason to complain. I’m fine. My kids are fine. I have a roof over my head. I have food to cook. I have zoom. I have friends from 6 feet away. I have people who laugh about how ridiculous our masks look. I have my dog. I have so much.

I will never see my Grampie again on this earth. But I know with great certainty that he is here with us. Always will be.

My youngest ran out of the bathroom last week screaming, ” MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY! I FOUND GREAT GRAMPIE STAR!” We all looked up and there it was.

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*hot chocolate on the balcony saying hi to Great Grampies star*

 

That star.

 

I’m 800 miles away from my parents and siblings. At first I was jealous that they could all grieve with each other while I’m out here in rural Illinois. My support system walked out the front door without ever looking back. My heart burned. I figured I didn’t have a choice. I had to be alone.

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Ok yeah- screw that. I’m not alone. I have that star. I have my sobriety. Sobriety is the gift that keeps giving. I did not think I was going to be ok a few weeks back. I really didn’t. I also was choosing to be a grump narcissist, that might have had something to do with it. Because I am sober, and ONLY because I am sober can I appreciate the life of an amazing man and the blessing it is to be his first born granddaughter. Dear cousins- if you’re reading this you should know that I was the favorite. Admit it. You know it’s true. Don’t you dare say that we were all his favorites, theres only room for one. And that one being me. Me, me, me! (still working on that narcisit thing…)

 

I love you Grampie.IMG_0609.jpeg

Joy.

If you ever enter my house, you’ll see about 50,000 things that say JOY on it. The word has a special place in my heart. My grandmother, GG, made it her mantra. So much so that at 75 she got it tattood on her wrist like a bad ass grandmother, if ever there was one. She actually convinced me to get my first tattoo at 18, with half of my family standing around in an itty bitty tattoo shop in Torrington, CT on my 18th birthday. She really, really had to convince me. My first reaction was, NOPE.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And then another thought filled my head. ” You gotta live a little.” That was one of her sayings. I can hear her voice right now, ” Katie, you’ve just got to live a little!” So I did. Fastforward many, many years later…I have 8…and I’m getting another one soon. It’s easy to get addicted to tattoos, right? My cousins followed in my path, and now my parents and my sister have ink.

 

Anyway, I digress.

 

That’s how she lived her life. Everyday she was thankful. Everyday she would reflect on the joys in her life. She wrote all of this down, and after she died, as we went through all of her journals and pictures, we saw JOY on every page. She inspired all of us. Even strangers.

Right after I turned 25 and six months before my wedding, She fell ill. Still, she spread her message of joy and love with every single person she knew. I’m not just writing this to write it. I’m writing it to show the absolute magnitude of acceptance of love and life she shared. If you ask ANYONE who ever came in contact with her their lives were better for having her in it.

Honestly, I could write a book about how this woman changed the world on person at a time.

I struggled with God after she died. I wasn’t religious, but I kept thinking if there is a God, why is he taking her away from us? How could he?

 

The day she died, I had a couple hours with her alone while my famiy discussed hospice in the other room. Her eyes were closed. They would never open again. Her chest went up and down, taking in some of her lasts breaths. I held her delicate hand in mind and I wept. This woman was my rock. She was all of ours rock. It was devestating. We all knew she was ready to go, but she kept holding on. My wedding was coming up, and I had spent countless hours talking to her on the phone about it and how important to me it was to me for her to be there.

My tears poured out as I told her, ” It’s ok. You can go now. I know how badly you want to be there, but it’s ok. I will be ok.” I sat with my head on her bed, placing her hand on my cheek. My heart was breaking into a million pieces.

A few hours later, she was gone. Months went by and I couldn’t control my grief. It was too much. I found myself desperate to hear her voice.  I tried to grasp the acceptance of life without her.

It sucked. Really, really sucked.

 

A few months later I got married. It was beautiful. The sun was about so set as we stood under the gazeebo and shared our vows. Everything was perfect. Except one thing. My GG wasn’t there. Nothing could change that. We all tried so hard be brave, but the tears poured and poured.

What happened next was mind blowing.

Here’s two pictures of myself with her.

 

At some point in the evening, my cousin just so happened to be snapping some pictures on the lake. Then she saw this.

 

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She found a way to be at my wedding after all.

 

One of my biggest struggles is isolation. I hate being alone. I panic. It sucks. Most of my alcoholism revolved around isolation.

 

Step Two says: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This step was challenging at first. I wasn’t sure if there was a God. I thought this was kind of uncessary. I didn’t need God. Fuck that.

 

Then the miracles started to happen. My sponser said to just get on my knees every morning and night and ask God to help keep me sober throuought the day, and then thank him (or her) for keeping my sober another day. I did this for two weeks. I felt nothing. My sponser told me to be patient and kind to myself.

This shit ain’t easy.

Then all of a sudden, while on my knees, I felt the absolute prescence of my Higher Power, my God. The feeling came out nowhere and blew me away. I was stunned. I went from not believing in anything, to suddenly believing in something HUGE.

It still blows my mind.

 

There were many times when I was drinking that I wished I had GG in my life still. I would drink and drink while asking the universe to somehow bring her back to me. I cried when she missed the birth of my children. I cried at Thanksgiving dinner without her. Hell, I cried driving home from work, because I missed her in my life so badly.

 

Then, just today, another miracle happened.

 

Someone said sonething tonight that touched every part of my soul.

 

He said God works in us in amazing ways. We all will die someday. That’s a given. And, we all go through tough challenges, but we’re not alone. We are jealous of angels. Our loved ones and friends have not left our lives for good. Not at all. They stand side by side with our Higher Power. They live with us and in us along side our Higher Power.

It’s incredible. In that very moment I felt a wave of emotions. My grandmother didn’t leave me. She was waiting for me to find my Higher Power. Through him, she is with me. It’s crazy. Insane.

 

I cried on the way home tonight, because that isolation I had been feeling was gone. I am never alone. Ever.

 

It’s a gift. It’s a miracle.