There is nothing so heartbreakingly difficult as leaving your mother in a care facility and being able to make her understand why she can't go home with you. That's what I experienced Thursday night.
I flew in for my audition on Thursday. My sister-in-law picked me up. She was down and depressed. You could tell it had been a hellish week. She was obviously emotionally drained. She asked me if putting Mom in a care facility was the hardest thing I'd ever had to deal with. Strangely enough, the answer is no. Believe me, it's up there. But I would still put coming out of the closet as the most challenging thing I ever had to do.
My sister-in-law took me to Mom's house and our neighbor from across the street came over and chatted with us. My sister-in-law asked me if I wanted her to go in with me; she explained that Mom's room, in particular, was in shambles because of our rush to get her moved to the facility with her furniture.
I said, "No." It was kind of something I wanted to deal with myself.
Mom's room was, indeed, a mess. In the rush to get Mom's clothes and bedroom furniture and pictures to the facility before Mom got there, things had been dumped in boxes and baskets. It was a sad sight.
I was really glad nobody was home. I don't know where my niece and nephew were, but I was glad to have to go through this on my own. It felt appropriate to me. Jonah has been feeling bad that he hasn't been able to be here with me, but I said that somehow it feels like I'm supposed to deal with this alone - at least initially.
I pretty much immediately started trying to organize Mom's room somewhat. It was like I was trying to preserve her dignity or regain some control. I started throwing away anything that was absolutely junk and putting others things in a box to donate to charity and then separating things that might have value, either sentimentally or materially. Mom isn't necessarily a hoarder to the extreme, but she has certainly accumulated a lot of stuff over the past 50 years, and much of it is, indeed, not worth saving.
As I was going through her stuff, it felt really wrong, and I thought, "If Mom knew I was going through her things like this and throwing away stuff she's collected over the years, she would be so upset." Never mind the fact that she wouldn't notice most of it missing or that much of it wasn't worth hanging onto in the first place; it would still upset her.
Another feeling I had was, "Oh, my gosh! I am my mom." Whenever I came across something and thought, "Why the heck did she hang on to this?" I realized I save almost the exact same kinds of things myself. Cleaning Mom's house is making me realize how much stuff of my own I need to depart with.
Still another feeling I felt was that this is what children do when their parents die; they clean their houses out. In a way, it's as if my Mom has died. And yet, she hasn't; she's very much alive in another building just 4 miles away.
Yes, perhaps a part of her has died. The mom we all knew growing up certainly is not fully there anymore. She's become very childlike and confused. Her reality is altered. She isn't and will never be the same.
And she's never coming back home.
That was the fourth thing I felt: Mom is never coming back here to live. And in a way, it made it a little easier to throw some of her stuff away. She's not coming back for it. She's the only one who has any attachment to it. She won't miss it. Some of it she hasn't looked at or touched in years.
Soon my nephew came home. I asked if he still needed Mom's car. He said no. So I decided to pay her a visit.
While I visited several assisted-living facilities before I left Utah, this particular one I had not seen yet. I trusted the judgment of my siblings who said it was nice, more economical than some, and small enough that Mom wouldn't get overwhelmed by crowds of people or noise. It's also secure, which we desperately need for Mom.
There are two sets of security doors at this place. One leads into a lobby, and the other leads from the lobby into the dining and residential area. There's a plate glass window in the lobby where you can see into the living area, and the residents can see out. As I approached it, I saw the majority of the residents sitting at tables either getting ready for dinner or finishing up (I wasn't initially sure which). Mom was sitting at one of the tables, and she glanced up and saw me and was so excited and happy to see me.
I went in and gave her a hug. She said to the other residents, "This is my son!" and then literally pushed me towards her room, muttering, "I'm so glad you're here. Let's get away from here; these women are driving me crazy!"
Her room is quite small, but I was really impressed with what had been done with Mom's furniture and photos. I think my sister-in-law did much of it. Anyway, it's nice. They were able to fit Mom's bed, dresser, TV, TV table, and one of the chairs from her living room. And there are photos from all around her house in the room including a set of me and my siblings arranged exactly the way it was in Mom's house.
I do wish the room were a little more spacious. Actually, I wish the whole facility were a bit roomier. It seems a little cramped to me. Mom doesn't even have a personal shower (which maybe is good - that way they'll be sure she actually takes one). Mom's room is also right next to the kitchen. I hope maybe we can get her moved eventually because the noise from the kitchen is distracting to her.
I asked Mom if she wanted to play a game of Scrabble. She did, and we did. Meanwhile, "Project Runway" was on the TV in the background. Mom does not watch "Project Runway." It's one of Jonah's favorite shows, and he has even gotten me watching it, but I don't think Mom has ever seen an episode or would care to and yet, that is what we watched while playing our Scrabble game, and she seemed fine with it.
We talked for a bit. She was very confused. She said she just wanted to leave. I tried to sell her on the place. We took a little tour. The dining / recreation area is designed to look like a 50s diner, and there are 3-D-type paintings of famous movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Laurel and Hardy, Annette Funiciello and Frankie Avalon, Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart. I thought that might appeal to Mom. She's always loved old movies and movie stars. I had her tell me who each star was. She knew some, but didn't know others. Five years ago she would have known them all, I'm sure.
In the recreation area, the TV room has a couch that is made out of the back end of an old car (actually, I think it's fiberglass, but it's made to look like a car).
The place is decorated nicely and is secure. Again, I just wish it were bigger. Many of the places I've visited or looked into just seem roomier.
When we got back to her room (she remembers her room number (#10) well), I commented on how nice her room looked. She said it was all like that before she got there, and even though she certainly recognized the pictures as being her family, I don't think she connected the dots that everything in the room is actually her stuff.
We went through her clothes, and she said some of it wasn't hers; but of course, all of it is. She kept saying, "This was already here. This isn't mine," and I would point out the name tag on her clothes that had her name on it, and she would reluctantly agree that, yes, maybe it was hers after all.
I soon realized that Mom had not just been excited to see me because I was her son and because she missed me, but primarily because she thought I was going to get her out of that place to go home. She was glad I had come because she didn't know how to get home from where we were. She said she had no way to pack all of her clothes, but that she would rather just leave them and buy new ones when she gets out. When she realized this was not to be, she just started sobbing and kept saying, "I don't understand why I just can't go home. Why do I have to be here?"
It was devastating. It really was one of the most heartbreakingly difficult things I've had to do in my life. I just wish I could make her understand why it's safer for her to be there. I just keep trying to focus on the fact that she's safe and not alone where she is. Trouble is, she feels very alone.
I went back to Mom's house and did some more cleaning. It's funny what you can learn about a person by what they save. Mom's mementos seem largely based around her family, friends, religion, and trips she has taken. Old letters, Christmas cards, birthday cards, and Mother's Day cards from friends and family; photos; souvenirs from trips; some old school work from her children; old cassette tapes of recordings of family members; old church lessons and programs; a friend's graduate thesis; tons of genealogy papers; sewing supplies from her younger days; yarn and knitting and crocheting supplies; mementos from my dad and his and her parents; tons of costume jewelry, clothes, purses, and hats; old coins my grandpa collected that were passed on to Mom when her mom died; lots of books; lotions, empty medicine bottles, and a ton of Rolaids and Listerine pocket packs; old bags and menus from an ice cream parlor she worked at (all of us kids did, in fact); and many, many, many, many notebooks and journals. (quite a few in which only the first couple of pages were written in).
Some of the more interesting things I have found:
a pair of my dad's old cuff links, which I remember him wearing
the 1978-1981 minutes from Sacrament Meeting and Priesthood meeting in the ward I grew up in (Dad was a ward clerk)
a rough draft of the letter Mom wrote me when I said I was thinking about starting a life with Jonah
a journal entry Mom wrote the day she lost her driver's license - both surprising and telling
journal entries that talked about her mom's death and my dad's illnesses
a card with the location of where my grandma's ashes were scattered
a picture of my mom in San Francisco when she was a little girl
a dinosaur I made out of clay when I was in elementary school
a photocopy of my dad's parents' wedding certificate
some old drawings my brother drew that hung in our kitchen for years
a letter Mom wrote Dad on their 31st anniversary
a tape with some songs I wrote and performed that I gave Mom for Christmas, I believe
Some stuff was easy to go through; other stuff, I thought, "Someone else has to deal with this box. I can't deal with it right now." It was too hard at times. I feel like I'm surrounded by the ghosts of my Dad's parents, my Mom's parents, my Dad, and who my mom used to be. Every photo or letter or journal entry or document or memento I take time to look at brings up their memory. It's been a hard as well as sadly nostalgic task; but it's also been fun to stroll down memory lane, and I have been eternally grateful that the memories are more often good than bad. I have come from a wonderful family, and I am grateful that even though each of us will die someday (some more slowly than others), that legacy will last forever.
It felt weird sleeping in Mom's house without her in it, knowing she's not going to be sleeping in it again. It felt wrong.
Friday I had my audition for Les Miserables at Pioneer Theatre Company here in Salt Lake. My nephew usually uses Mom's car, but said I could take it after he ran an errand. Well, the errand took longer than he expected, so I was almost late to my audition and had to park illegally in order to make it on time (luckily, no ticket).
Funny, with all the chaos of dealing with Mom, I didn't even think about my audition. I was prepared, but not very focused. A couple of friends greeted me at the audition and said they were sorry about what and family and me are going through.
The audition went well, I felt. I sang well and was asked to sing another selection. Alas, no callback. Such is the life of an actor. I almost don't care. I just feel like so much else is going on, I just don't have time to be concerned about it.
It is troubling that I don't see much in the way of employment opportunities in the future, and my unemployment benefits will be gone relatively soon, so I just wish I could find some work, even if it's not acting.
I went and visited Mom when I was done auditioning. When I got there, my younger sister and her little girl were there, and soon my sister-in-law and two of her kids (who looked thrilled to be there) as well as my older sister, her husband, and their daughter showed up. In trying to cheer up Mom, my younger sister was trying to get Mom to see how great the place is and said, "I wouldn't mind living here myself."
"Don't oversell it," I muttered.
At one point, in an attempt to get Mom to be more social with her fellow residents, we sat down with two of them - a woman named Lula and a woman named Rita. Lula is pretty severe dementia-wise, but Rita seemed about where Mom is, maybe just a tad worse. What I'm learning in my associations with Mom's fellow residents is that it's not all that different than being surrounded by a bunch of first- or second-graders.
Lula kept pushing a folded up bib across the table like it was a game. So there we were, Rita, Lula, Mom, my youngest niece and nephew, my sister-in-law, and me shoving the bib at each other as if it were a game. Mom even joined in. And I thought, "This is pathetic." And poor Rita just wanted to drink her cocoa, and when Lula got a little aggressive with the bib hurling, she almost knocked Rita's cup over. I cleaned up the droplets of spilled cocoa and tried to prevent the bib from coming her way. She thanked me for that. She seemed nice. I'm hoping maybe she and Mom can develop a friendship. She seems a bit more on Mom's level. Some of these people are quite far-gone, it seems, and I feel bad for Mom because even though she's very confused, she's still aware enough to not have a lot in common with some of these individuals conversation-wise. I did catch myself thinking, "It's no wonder Mom doesn't like it here." Although I don't think Mom is aware enough to understand that everyone (including her) has a form of mental illness. She probably just thinks people are strange rather than mentally "not altogether there."
I was glad the majority of my family was there. It gave me a chance to slip out early. Being the last one to leave Mom is the hardest because that's when she gets all mournful about her situation. When she's occupied with other activity, she's more pleasant to deal with - not that she doesn't always have the overlying desire to go home; she does.
I had told Mom I was coming back that night, but had forgotten we had scheduled a family meeting to talk about where we go from here, so I didn't make it back to her that night.
The family meeting was mostly about financial stuff and practical stuff like what we do with her stuff and whether we sell the house or not and how we're going to pay for her care in the future. It's uncharted territory for all of us, and it's a bit daunting.
I'm planning on renting a truck and taking some stuff back with me. There is an elliptical machine and a fax machine that Mom and I purchased together, and I really want to preserve her journals and photos and home movies and stuff pertaining to her history. We don't really have the room for it, but Jonah's and my house is the largest, so we have the best ability to take care of it. What I'd like to do is scan her journals and have a digital copy, and then I can discard the originals. But that's quite a project and could take a lot of time.
If I do rent the truck, Jonah may even fly down and ride back with me. We don't really have the money to do that (or rent the truck, really), but it may have to happen.
I did not sleep at all well on Friday night. The next morning I watched my niece while my younger sister went to visit Mom with my baby nephew. My niece was really good. It had been a long time since I had changed a diaper, however, so that was an interesting (but successful) challenge.
My niece brought me this old Fisher-Price clock that I played with as a child.
I kept turning the knob on it and playing the tune, a tune I remember learning in second grade and which has become very familiar because this old clock has been played with by all the grandkids:
"Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died."
I remember when I first learned the tune, it always seemed so sad to me. This day it seemed even more so and somehow more poignant, especially each time the music got slower and eventually ran out. I just kept mindlessly rewinding it. And I was reading an old children's book that's been around the house since before I was born and was probably read by my mom and dad to my older sister and brother. And I was reflecting on how many memories this house holds and how the things that represent those memories and the house that stores them will probably all be gone by next year, and it made me very sad.
It's been good for me to be with Jonah. It's been good for me to be removed from the situation. It has given me the opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes and renewed energy, and I no longer feel as emotionally attached to things and can be more objective than I was. Certainly, the situation makes me sad, but I do feel I can be more objective and practical about things than I was when I was last here, and that's good.
I am actually surprised at how well I seem to be doing; my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece are wrecks. I am ready to let go of Mom's house and stuff, if needs be, whereas before I was really having a hard time with it. But what needs to happen needs to happen, and we will likely need that money to care for Mom, and she's the priority.
Besides, each time I come back here, it feels less like home. My home is really with Jonah now. My one big regret is that I will not be here as much as Mom continues to deteriorate. I want her to constantly feel my presence, and that will be harder now. I can still call her, but it isn't as convenient.
Another thing I thought as I watched my niece was that it wasn't all that different from watching my mom these days. It really isn't.
After my younger sister returned, my brother and I went to the bank to get Mom's accounts put in our name so we can write checks for her. Mostly, I've been handling Mom's finances online, but we also need to be able to write checks from time to time and withdrawing cash from ATMs to pay her bills is not convenient.
Because much of Mom's money is in a living trust, and because my brother is a co-trustee, it should have been simple to assign his name to her trust accounts; it wasn't. We were at the bank for an hour and a half. And the sad thing is that we will have to go through this same process with all the companies Mom has investments with.
One thing I am extremely grateful for was that as Mom was declining, we had the foresight to get her power-of-attorney and trust documents in order. Without that power, this process would be so much more complicated. I'm also grateful my parents had the smarts to invest some money. That gives us more to work with. And I am grateful that Mom has been pretty good about saving and is debt-free. I'm also grateful for my dad's parents for leaving him and Mom some investment money which gives Mom about $5,000 extra each year. And I'm glad we've spent time preparing for this day.
Even with all that, I do foresee that Mom will probably outlive her money, and Medicaid will have to cover her expenses. The good thing is that I believe the facility we have her in accepts Medicaid, so we won't likely have to move her when we reach that point. Right now, I think we're good for a year or two (maybe a bit more depending on what we do).
I'm in contact with a Medicaid advocate, and I am hoping he can help us know what we're facing and what needs to happen to best serve Mom and ourselves (because when she dies, we will have funeral costs to cover (although I'm also glad Mom had the foresight to buy her plot, headstone, vault, and internment rights in advance; that will help)).
Even though our bank visit took a while and even though my brother looked very haggard, I told him that the bright side was that we got to spend some time together and really talk to each other. We don't do that often.
My brother has not been sleeping well at all. I think he is overstressed and so focused on the details that it's really affecting his health. He's even come down with the flu, and he rarely gets sick. I was talking about all the positives of the situation, and my brother said he really needs to learn to look at the bright side of things.
Anyway, one financial hurdle jumped; 97 more to go.
After our adventure at the bank, I took some clothes to Mom. I was greeted with a sullen-looking mom sitting on her bed staring ahead. She looked at me and said, "How did you know where to find me?" I said, "Oh, I know where you are, Mom. I know how to find you."
"Are you going to take me home?" she asked.
She started whining, "Why? I just want to go home. I don't understand why I have to be here. I feel like my family has just thrown me away"
That sucked to hear.
I tried to explain to her that it's precisely because we love her that she has to stay here. I feel Mom is slowly resigning herself to the fact that this is her new home, but with much annoyance and sadness accompanying that resignation. And she is very much clinging to the hope that she will get out. I just keep encouraging her to make the most of it, but I also know if I were in her place, I would feel the exact same way.
Mom and I played a little bit of Scrabble, but there was a Bingo game starting, and I wanted to try to get her socialized with her fellow residents. At my urging, she reluctantly joined the game, but seemed like she'd rather be getting a root canal. She did pretty well. She was the first winner of "blackout" and won some sugar-free chocolates. I could understand why she might be bored, though, too. It wasn't the most fun I've ever had.
It's certainly a challenge, but we're muddling through the best we can. I know she'll adapt in time, and I also know based on her behavior and my conversations with her that we have done the right thing. There's absolutely no way she could successfully fare well on her own. She hasn't consistently been able to tell me where she lives or even who she lived with, and details about her life and home are very muddy right now. Not to mention, her full-time care has simply become too much for my family to handle; we've done the right thing, but it is soooo hard to watch.
I chose to leave just as they were serving dinner; that way, Mom was distracted. I told her I loved her. She said, "How much do you love me?"
"Very, very much."
"Then why won't you take me home?"
Daggers to my heart.
I tried to tell her that it is precisely because I love her that she has to stay in her new home. I don't think she was buying it.
I came home and did some more cleaning. I made the mistake of listening to the tape I made for Mom. There was a song on it I wrote for her.
I used to write music a lot and play songs on the piano. I don't do it as much as I once did. Mom would always ask me why I never wrote a song for her. After all, I wrote one for Dad (never mind that it was while he was dying).
Anyway, I was compiling a tape for my family of songs I had written over the years and hastily wrote one for Mom as an extra bonus. I enjoy the melody (which perhaps I will include here one day when I become more tech. savvy and transfer the tape to digital), but the lyrics are a bit clumsy. I think I could do better.
But as I listened to this simple song, the words struck me as even more poignant than they were when I originally wrote them who knows how many years ago. And as I hear these words, I start sobbing uncontrollably. I feel such sadness for what was and what is:
You've been asking me
To write you a song;
I'm sorry I took so long.
I just want you to know
That I love you more than words can show.
I know there were times when I caused you some pain.
I know there were times when I practically drove you insane.
I love you.
You help me in all I do.
I don't know
Where I'd be
If it hadn't been for you.
You've supported me,
You've encouraged me,
And you've always been there when I needed a friend.
I never want to see the day
When you're not there for me.
I love you.
I only wish I could tell you just how much.
I don't know
What I'd do
Without you in my life.
There were times
When I abused you
And ignore your advice
Only to find out that I had made a mistake;
But now as I walk through my life,
Any advice you could give me I'll gladly take.
I love you,
And I never want you to leave.
You're my mother,
And I'll never have cause to grieve;
For I know
That we can be together
This I believe.
You've been asking me
To write you a song.
I hope that you liked this song.
I wish you could hear the melody. The words alone just don't quite capture the moment for me.
You have to know that even though today I may seem like a doting, loving, attentive, caring son, there were some years in my youth when I treated my mother very poorly. Happily, those days eventually passed as I matured, and were well gone when I wrote this song.
For a good portion of my life, Mom was my biggest champion and supporter and my best friend. I've said previously in my blog that my siblings call me "the Golden Child" because I seem to be able to do no wrong in Mom's eyes.
Now I think Mom expects the "Golden Child" to come racing in on his white stallion to save her from this terrible prison she's in; the problem is, the "Golden Child" can't do it; all he can do is try to save her from herself.
In Church today, I was hoping they'd announce Mom's situation in Sacrament Meeting. I guess they don't make general health announcements in Sacrament Meeting anymore (at least in Mom's ward), but it did disappoint me not to hear some acknowledgement given to a woman who has lived and served so long in this ward. I know they announced it in Relief Society, though. It just made me kind of sad.
After church I visited Mom again. My older sister and niece were there, and Mom was actually laughing a bit. The very minute my sister and niece left, Mom got all sullen and crabby again pleading for me to take her home. I was pretty stern with her today, explaining that the situation is not desirable for any of us, but it is what it is, and that how she responds to it is all dependent on her attitude. I said, "You can either make the most of it and get to know the people who live her and make friends and participate in the activities or you can sit in your room and feel sorry for yourself.
"I'll just sit here and feel sorry for myself, " she said, petulantly.
I said, "Fine. That's your prerogative."
I said I couldn't take her where she wanted to go, but that I would take her on a walk, emphasizing that we were just taking a walk and returning to the assisted living facility.
It was cold. We took a very short walk. I think Mom was trying to figure out where home was in relation to where we were and seemed very frustrated that nothing was familiar. She couldn't escape anyway. The building is quite secure. And Mom knows she can't find her way home.
On our very short walk, I was reminded of this walk. Of that walk, I said:
"I remember when I went on my mission and hugged my dad for what turned out to be the last time, I felt a prompting to make it count because it would be the last time for a while. Dad ended up dying while I was away.
"I felt that same feeling today as I walked with my dear, sweet mother. "Make this count," I felt. "It won't always be like this."
"That isn't to say that Mom will pass away soon or that we won't take other walks, but something told me to recognize what I was feeling with my mom in this moment and to hold on to it because it was precious and wouldn't always be like this. It felt almost heavenly."
"Make this count. It won't always be like this."
It turns out I was right. We shall probably never walk through her old neighborhood again. That was about a month before I moved back home with Jonah. And while Mom was not doing great, I would not have predicted that we'd be where we are today. I would not have thought she would deteriorate so quickly. I would not have thought she would be in a home just three and a half months later.
We returned just in time to play Bingo.
I like the activities director. Her name is Elisa. She transferred from another facility I had previously checked out, and she too is frustrated by how much smaller this one is.
We played Bingo. I also reminded Mom there was a movie night that night. (She likes movies). Mom didn't seem very into Bingo. I felt like I was surrounded by elderly children. Having taught in elementary schools, I can confirm that the behavior I saw today is not all that much different, and I thought, "It really takes a special person to do this type of job." I actually think I would be good at it myself, but I also think I would burn out quickly. And I imagine it is easy for anyone to burn out.
As one woman chattered incessantly and as another kept repeating "Bingo" over and over again and as one guy basically kept telling the first woman to shut up and as one guy wandered around trying to open doors and as another lady just lined her Bingo chips in a row of stacks, I thought how childlike these people are, Mom included. It was all Elisa and I could do to stop laughing. She said, "This is every day for me."
I am so impressed by how cheerful the staff seems because I'm sure there are frustrating days. I know. I've been there myself. All of my family has.
After Bingo, Mom reiterated that she felt like a prisoner. I told her I was leaving, but that I would be back the next day.
"To take me home?" she asked, hopefully.
The circle of life is so interesting. The child becomes the adult, and the adult becomes the child. I think it has to be that way. It teaches us to care for one another.
There is a social hour with the staff tomorrow afternoon. I think I'm going to go. I'd like to get to know better the people we have entrusted my mom to.
This certainly is not the most fun I've had in my life. I know we've done what's best for Mom, but it is incredibly hard to watch, and yet equally hard not to be as involved as I would like to be. I catch myself second-guessing our decision even though it was the most necessary thing to do.
As I was driving home, the very irrational thought crept into my head, "Why couldn't you take her back home, just until you leave? You're going there anyway, and she would probably do okay as long as you're there." But it's just because I don't like seeing her so unhappy.
Fortunately, the rational thought came into my head, "What, and traumatize her when she realizes all her stuff is gone and that she has no bedroom to sleep in? And doubly traumatize her when you have to take her back to her new home when it's time for you to go to yours? I think not!"
Well, it was a fleeting thought.
I feel right now we're trying to acclimate Mom to her new home, but I would eventually like to take her out on outings and maybe to her regular hairdresser or to a movie or out to lunch. Make her feel as normal as possible while still making her know that this new place is where she'll be living. I wish I were able to be with her more.
And I look at some of these other residents who are further along than Mom in their dementia, and I think, "---sigh--- That's what we have to look forward to these next however many years are left."
I wish things didn't have to be this way. But they are.
I keep posting sad posts on Facebook. I have some amazing friends who have given me so many words of love, support, advice, and encouragement. I am eternally grateful for that.
Well, this was a long one, but that's what my life has been like these past three days. The adventure is just beginning.