March 4th

March 4th is a crappy day on the calendar for me. 3.4.1994 my friend was murdered and the Hippy lost his mind. I am not sure if it was a teenager dying; or that both of the Hippie’s fathers (he was adopted by his step-dad as a boy) had died six months prior or if it was his birthday approaching (41) and he decided to have a mid-life crisis and change our entire lives on a dime but all those things happened at the same time and was pretty much the end of my relationship with the Hippy as he sold all his businesses; told his 16 year old daughter (me) to find a place to live (he didn’t care where) and told his wife to go or divorce him and he was in Jamaica not two months later. He was gone for 10 years and that’s a different story 🤦‍♀️! Fast forward to 2000 and I am just married (10.10.00) and my 16 year old sister (Debbie and Feat’s daughter) is pregnant. My last step-dad Danny finally divorced Debbie as he could not deal with her drug usage and cheating on him any longer (he held on for 9 years). Debbie and Niki are living in an apartment and Debbie is partying it up (worse than when she was with Danny). Debbie was practically living with her dealer and 16 year old Niki is dealing with a new place to live; Danny gone; and she is pregnant. Debbie wanted my husband and I to adopt the baby and we did talk it over. Ultimately we thought it would be best for Niki to not know where the baby was living and we feared it would be salt in Niki’s wound. I had learned about Gladney (adoption center in TX that’s huge and well known) from my Home Ec. teacher in High school (strangely she comes up again later…). Debbie told Niki she was putting this baby up for adoption and since Niki was a minor that’s how it was going to be. Debbie ships Niki off to Gladney in Dallas, TX and enjoys her kid free life. Niki is not there but a week or two. She hated it. She was miserable and not making friends. Feats (Niki’s dad) rode his Harley from Houston to Dallas and picked Niki up. This is probably the first time he stepped up for Niki. However, Niki was taken back to Debbie and Feats put the fear of himself in Debbie to allow Niki to stay. Actually, it was also because now Gladney was going to pay all Debbie’s bills that got Niki back in the house. Our aunt Terrie also stepped in and helped Niki a lot emotionally and mothered her throughout this process. Niki was due late March 2001 and by the winter of 2000 had picked a family. One day Niki was talking to the adopted parents (Niki wanted an open adoption) and the adopted mother told Niki that they planned on naming Niki’s baby “Suzy”. Niki called me at work crying. She was crying so hard that it took me a few minutes to calm her down so I could hear what her problem was. The second Niki heard the name was Suzy she knew she had to back out from that family. It was a sign to Niki that this was not the right family as I was supposed to be named Suzy when I was born (Suzi Suzuki technically). I tell Niki to call her counselor at Gladney and she did. In the mean time I tell my husband what has happened and he mentions that one of his co-workers has expressed an interest in adopting Niki’s baby (Travis and Yvonne). Travis and Yvonne had no kids (at the time) and had a failed foster adoption in WA (state gave the baby back to the drug addict / jail serving parents) so he only was willing to do a closed adoption. However he was willing to keep the name Niki is giving her which is Audrey Nicole. My husband and I talk about this because it’s not us adopting but we would still know her and see her and maybe that would be ok with Niki. Not ten minutes later Debbie calls me and says she knows a couple that will pay for Niki’s college. I tell Debbie in plain terms (ok they were ugly) that I was not letting Debbie anywhere near this adoption as Niki’s baby is not for sale to the highest bidder. Niki wants an open adoption and Travis wanted a closed one so that conversation ended in January of 2001. Meanwhile, Even with all the above changes in Niki’s life (in a very short time) once she started showing she was forced to change high schools to the one in the district that the pregnant girls attended. Oddly this happened to be the high school I attended and the pregnancy teacher was my Home Ec. teacher (Peggy) and even though Niki and I have different last names and we are 7 years apart, the teacher figured out that Niki was my little sister. Peggy (the teacher) took Niki under her wing and Niki even dates her son Matt while she was pregnant. (The babies’ dad lied to his parents saying Niki was not pregnant with his child and he and Niki broke up early in her pregnancy. They had dated since the 7th grade and Niki is a freshman at this point). Once Debbie finds out she cannot sell Niki’s baby for her interest she kicks Niki out again but Peggy (the teacher) takes Niki in. Niki now is as homeless as I was when I was 16 (crazy). Peggy encourages Niki to reach back out to Gladney. My aunt Terri and I step in to help Niki with her decision as she has less than 2 months at this point. Niki decides that she wants a family not in TX. All she keeps telling me is she does not want to walk the mall one day searching all the young kid faces for her daughter (I was very impressed with my little sisters logic to be honest). Niki picks a family in February of 2001. They live in NY and have 27 adopted people in their family. Something about genetics that they all agreed to only adopt and not have biological children. The father was a basketball coach and worked on wall street and the mother was a teacher (I think). They bonded with Niki instantly and everyone loves them. They flew to TX to meet Niki and my aunt Terrie (I live 3 hours from Niki so I was not able to take off work and attend). They tell Niki they will name her Keri Lynn and that is a sign for Niki (in a good way) as Terrie’s middle name is Lynn and Audrey will still have an aunt Terrie as the dads sister is Terrie. We are not able to know their last names but Niki loves them. Gladney starts the paperwork and they head back to NY. Gladney installed a phone in their home and Niki talked to them daily. They asked Niki all kinds of things about her and her family so they could tell Keri (Audrey) as she grew up. The evening of March 3rd I get a phone call from my aunt Terrie that it’s time. She has Niki back in Labor and Delivery and Niki wants me. I am 3 hours away and we had my step-son that weekend. I tell Terrie I’ll leave at sunrise and drop Garret with his mother and I’ll be there. Niki labors through the night. We leave Austin at 6 am and meet Garret’s mom and then drive the extra hour to the hospital. My father-in-law beat me to the hospital as he adores my sister. We walk in and I walk into a landmine of news from Gladney. They had discovered that Niki was not my sisters legal name. Neither was Nicole Marie which was Niki’s name, or so we thought…you see Gladney uncovered the truth and that was that Debbie never bothered to name Niki so here Niki is in labor with the adopted parents flying in and she is told her name is actually Girl Of. That’s my sisters name! I mouth off with “pick a name then. Let’s do this and you can be whoever you want”. Debbie is furious with me; with Gladney; with the world actually. Debbie leaves as do my husband and father in law as it’s lunch time. I was planning on eating too but the nurse announces that Niki must have been waiting on me because as soon as I arrive it’s time. The door is locked and in stays our aunt Terrie; Niki’s boyfriend (not the baby daddy) and me. Ok and all the staff and Niki of course. I stood at my sisters feet and saw Audrey Nicole enter this world and take her first breath. My aunt and I are crying as we watch Niki hold her baby knowing she is giving her up. The hospital knows this is an adoption and they change their protocols and allow the family in right when Niki is decent and give us time with Audrey before taking her back to be cleaned up. We all held her (well Debbie left so not Debbie). Audrey Nicole was born on 3.4.01. I have a video of all this that Ross keeps under lock and key. TX adoption laws (in 2001) required Niki to keep Audrey in her room for 72 hours and Niki had to leave the hospital before handing Audrey over to the adopted parents. 3/7/01 Gladney took Niki to take photos with Audrey and my aunt Terrie was with Niki when she handed her child over. I again was unable to get off work (I now have a boss that would never put me in a position to work over being with my sister). The open adoption was for pictures on Keri’s Birthday for the first 5 years and then when she was 13 she was to be told by a 3rd party she was adopted and if she expressed an interest in meeting her birth mother they had to make that happen. Also, if she needs an organ or is hospitalized for more than 24 hours Gladney is to be contacted and they will call me. I promised my sister 17 years ago I would never change my phone number. Audrey just turned 17 this year and I pray she has an amazing life. We know she has at least one sibling as a little boy appeared in the yearly photos when Keri was 3. Niki had another baby two years later, Blake and when Blake was 6 months old she and Audrey’s dad got back together. Niki and Billie married 3/17/06 and have three other children together Averi, Paige and Gavin. Niki was finally legally named Nicole when she was 30!


More of the same 2.14

Well 2.14.18 came and went. Last year I put it in my head that if the Hippie could pick a day to pass it would be 2.14. Not because we know that as Valentine’s Day but because that’s his lucky number. He used 214 for everything. Years back he told me he would only pay for my wedding if it was 2.14 so of course on 2.14.98 I almost married a terrible guy but I called the wedding off the summer before. I have huge abandonment issues. I probably have more issues than that because hello, have you read about my childhood?!? I don’t trust people. I am pretty sure I will be murdered in some horrific way (ok yes all murder is horrific). The last ten years or so I learned all these are due to his choices and I won’t chase him and beg for attention. He chose to turn my life upside down when he told me to find a new place to live when I was 16 because he wanted to move to Jamaica and become a full on drug Lord. I cannot tell you how many of my friends’ families took me in. I always had food and a place to sleep but it was a very strange few years. The terrible man I mentioned above was my version of escape but when you are raised with as much violence as I was, then you do not see the signs “normal” people might see. Some people think the step-monster was good for me but she was probably more toxic then the Hippie and Debbie. I once found a diary from when I was 8 or so and I was writing about lying on the living room couch watching the step-monster have a full melt down and she was throwing kitchen knives at my dad and they stuck in the wall. We no longer had a kitchen clock because she threw that at him and it shattered. Yes, with all this going on little Heather is sitting on the couch writing in her diary or reading a book because this was our normal! I don’t remember why she slapped me when I was wearing braces but the wire on my braces came loose and cut my cheek. I had to go to the Ortho to have it fixed and I still have a scar on the inside of my cheek to this day. It took me years to realize that my childhood was effed up because again it was my normal. I have seen the Hippie maybe 10 times since he was kicked out of Jamaica in 2005. I hurt for him because he’s my dad and I know he did the best he could. I know he loves me but he never chose me. He never chose to protect me from the step-monster. He was so focused on someone kidnapping me (ok again in his defense Debbie’s step-dad did make a threat) that he never thought to look at what the violence around us was doing. I laugh when I think back to when my husband and I first started dating. He has a “typical” family even though his parents divorced when he was in college; everyone gets along and loves each other. No drugs. No violence. Ross and I had only been dating six months or so and in this six months my 13 year old sister and her friend discovered her friends’ mothers body after she was raped by her boyfriend and her throat was slit. The girls walked right in her bedroom after being in the house about 30 minutes eating breakfast. Then the day before Valentine’s Day (1999) my sisters dad was shot five times at point blank range (he is still alive). Ross quickly got a glimpse of craziness. Even with this craziness Ross used to push me to interact with my family because simply they are family. Fast forward twenty years and Ross wants them no where around any of us. They are selfish. They are all toxic and still I hurt for the Hippie that he is sick. I cannot go to him. I cannot chase him because in the end he is still going to die and that will hurt me worse if I grow close with him again. If he wants to talk to me he will have to call me.

A year later…

I don’t have a health update on the Hippy as we have not spoken since August 2017. My FaceBook On this Day is currently having me relive all the details of the Hippy’s surgery and recovery. Sometimes it makes me sad that this is all I have. Yes, I could call him but he could call me also. I am sure anyone reading this thinks I am a horrible cold person but I ask you to not look at this through your lens but through mine. I did not have a loving supportive family unit. The Hippy raised me and then kicked me out when I was 16 because he wanted to chase a dream. He missed my high school years. I was not able to attend college right after high school because of his decision to leave and live in Jamaica. He chose drugs over his child. He missed my wedding. He missed my first college graduation (ok he attended the second but for five minutes). He never had a Funeral for my grandmother when she passed away and she was my everything. I regress, here we are a year later and honestly I am cold and emotionless. Of course I wish him well but I also know that having your parents alive and not interested in you or your life makes me long for them to be gone so I no longer feel abandoned each time I think of them. Again, not really an update at all.

Today would have been my grandmothers 89th birthday…I think anyways

I haven’t written in a while because I just haven’t had anything to say about the Hippy. I know he’s alive and needs more surgeries as I talked to him in August around Hurricane Harvey as he lives in Houston. It was a short call but I learned he was dry and that his surgery was being rescheduled. A week or so later I spoke to him again and learned that the Step-Monster had her hip replaced and that he is very angry with me.  See he had learned that I refer to my step mother as the step-monster and was blown away that I would do that. We exchanged heated words along the lines of me asking him how on earth he can act like he didn’t know this as I have done this since I was a teenager. He then said for the first time he was angry that I hadn’t come to see him. I reminded him that I didn’t believe he wanted me to based on all our conversations we had when I was a kid. I also told him I don’t want to see him like this and ruin my good memories of him. I told him that to this day my first thought I have of my Papa Dale is my grandmother calling the house when I was 15 and screaming into the phone saying “where’s Pat” because she was hysterical from finding my Grandfather’s dead body because he had killed himself that day (he was terminal and couldn’t take it anymore). Almost 20 years later and I can still hear her perfectly and only because I answered the phone that day and she was too hysterical to call the cops instead of my dad. I never spent the night at their house again and last year was the first time I had walked in to his old bedroom again. After listening my dad told me he understood and didn’t really say much else.  The entire conversation sucked and I deeply regretted it. The only good part was the Hippy saying I didn’t have to refer to the step-monster as “Mom” anymore. This has always been an issue since I was 3 years old. Actually what he said was that I am not good enough to call her mom because I don’t appreciate her but whatever. He refuses to see any side other than hers. He refuses to see why it’s messed up that I would get in trouble for saying she was my step-Mom or refer to my actual mother as my real mom or by Debbie which is her name. I was just a kid. We hung up and I told myself that may be our last call ever. I felt like we had closure. A few weeks later my husband and I where staying the weekend at my husbands sisters house and I had a long conversation with her husband (my brother-in-law) about the Hippy. See we where in Houston and David was shocked I wasn’t going to see the Hippy. I told him all this and he said “so you still blame him from your childhood” and he also felt I was selfish for not going to see him. We talked all night about it and I said I wasn’t angry but maybe I am. I haven’t ever been angry about him leaving for Jamaica. I haven’t ever been angry that he only met my husband one time before we married and didn’t come back until my 5th anniversary. I am sure I sound angry but I’m not. However, I am angry about how my grandmother died and he never had a funeral. I am angry at how he trashed her memory. I am angry he chose my step-mother over me. None of this is why I won’t see him. I truly believe deathbed wishes and confessions are for the dying – not for the living. I for all the reasons above won’t allow that to be my last memory of a father I loved dearly who left when I was 16. Today I am probably the only person in my family that will stop and think about my Grandmother but she was my everything. I have her most prized possession Barney, her shitzu and he is almost 10 years old and every time he gets his bath I take a deep sniff and I feel like I am 5 again and at her house smelling the fresh smells of bathed dogs!  Happy Birthday in Heaven Grandma Jane!

The story behind my Open-Heart Surgery 8.11.99

This week is the 18th Anniversary of my Open-heart surgery. I have mentioned it here a few times off and on but I waited till this week to write the entire story. Obviously the Hippy, Debbie and I have different versions and well the beginning is from their point of view…

Time to go way back to April 8, 1978 when an 18 year old Debbie, married to 25 year old Pat (aka Hippy), gave birth to their first child, in Houston, TX. Unbeknownst to them their brand new baby was very sick. All seemed normal until my 4 week check-up. Debbie took me to my first pediatrician appointment with Dr. Truitt. Debbie had no idea what to expect but she did think it was strange that the doctor was listening so intently to my heart. Without saying a word Dr. Truitt leaves the room. A few minutes later he walks in with two other doctors who each take turns to listen to my heart. They all three step out and a while later Dr. Truitt walks back in the room with a note that lists the name Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Truitt tells Debbie he doesn’t know what he hears but he knows it’s not right. His colleagues all agree and they have already called the hospital and Debbie is to take me right then. Debbie is able to call the Hippy and relay all this information. Debbie has not lived in Houston even a year so the Hippy sent one of his Hot Shot drivers to pick us up from the pediatricians office and take us to the hospital. Debbie walks into the hospital with me and says a nurse immediately took me back. It was hours before the doctors spoke to her. They ran an EKG; Echocardiogram ; X-rays and bloodwork. Since it was Friday they told her the results would be back Monday and they made her an appointment to come in with me and they said to bring her husband. They had told Debbie I may be a little listless all weekend so she wasn’t really surprised when I slept a lot and didn’t really eat. Monday morning they took me to the appointment at Texas Children’s Hospital where they were told that I was in heart failure and they would need to keep me in the hospital for testing and monitoring. I was in the hospital for two weeks. During this time Debbie and the Hippy met some of the greatest heart surgeons in the US. Dr. Cooley and Dr. McNamarra. I was diagnosed with a Left Congential Heart Defect with a small Aneurysm of the membranous septum. (Left VSD with an aneurysm that was partially blocking the hole). I was placed on a digitalis (medicine) and that day Debbie was told I would never run; play; or come off my meds. My grandmother would later joke that her dog and I took the same meds but his were cheaper at the vet. I was released from the hospital in May 1978 to a very disheartened Debbie and Pat. They had no money. No insurance. No idea what to do with a baby much less a very sick baby. The Hippy also felt very trapped. He had already planned to leave Houston but realized this day he was forever stuck because of me. My heart was so enlarged, due to being overworked pumping my blood as the oxygenated blood was flowing through the hole and mixing with the deoxygenated blood, that I had to eat baby food till I was almost three. I was two when I had my first heart Catherization (the doctors needed to get measurements inside my heart of the blood flow and the size of the hole and aneurysm). Luckily Texas Children’s Hospital is a teaching hospital and they had a program that allowed for me to have free healthcare if my case was followed by the lead doctors and their students. Every summer I would have a full day appointment with Dr. McNamarra and about 10-15 students. I would have an EKG; X-ray; Echocardiogram and spend time in an examining room with Dr. McNamarra and his students. I was lucky to have Dr. McNamarra until he graduated me out of the program when I was 18. One of my greatest memories of him was his talking to the step-monster (Debbie never took me) and I was supposed to be jumping up and down. I being a kid would notice he wasn’t paying full attention and I would slow down. He would just move his hand in a motion that told me higher!  I was taken off the digitalis when I was 8. Dr. McNamarra (and students) attended my volleyball games when I was in middle school. I was so embarrassed that mid-game I would be called off the court and he would listen to my heart (as did all his students) and then he would nod his head at my coach and they would send me back in!  I had the full name of my heart Condition memorized by the time I was 5!  Anytime I was not in the care of family the Hippy would send a signed letter instructing emergency personnel of my condition and giving authority to treat me. It also had the phone number of Dr. McNamarra and later his cell number!  I had some difficulty creep up in the 7th grade so Dr. McNamarra wanted to do another Heart Catherization but by this time I was also on Debbie’s health insurance and they required that I be insured for a year as I had a pre-existing condition. So when I was 16 (9th grade) I had my second heart Catherization.  This Heart Catherization was traumatizing to me!  I was babysitting for a family in our neighborhood and the step-monster had learned that the father was studying to do Heart Catherization at you guessed it Texas Children’s Hospital and again I was in the student program. I was terrified that he would be present BUT I am glad he was. This is the first major surgery for me as a teenager. I remember being wheeled into the OR. The nurses transferred me from the gurney to the table. I clearly remember looking around at all the people necessary for surgery.I remember   them opening the curtain to the gallery so all the students can observe (think Grey’s Anatomy). I remember talking to the man I babysat for. Then the nurses completely undress me to prep me for surgery (remember I am 16!). If you are not familiar a Heart Catherization is where they inject a camera into your artery in your groin (while you are asleep) and the camera let’s the blood take it all through the heart. I remember waking up and telling my parents all about this and the Hippy signed me out of the student program. Also, the Hippy would never willingly allow me to have open-heart surgery as he didn’t want me to have a scar. Due to my parents being unwilling to sign off the hospital had a panel of 100 doctors and experts that would review the case and if they decided that surgery was necessary a judge would rule that I would have surgery. However everytime my case was presented it was pretty much 50/50 of doctors that felt it was life threatening and those that said to continue to monitor. This was the case when I was 16. The Hippy moved to Jamaica that summer so I was not seen at 17 but when I was 18 Dr. McNamarra had his nurse call Debbie and request to see me one more time. I went in by myself and met with him. We did all the usual testing EKG; Echocardiogram; X-rays and this time a stress test!  Dr. McNamarra kept detailed notes of every single visit and would mail copies to my pediatrician and to the Hippy each time. I was given my full heart record when I was 16 and the Hippy moved to Jamaica. Wouldn’t you know it I lost it. It’s no where to be found!!  When I was 21 I got very sick. I gained a lot of weight and my nails had started turning bright smurf blue. I was at work one day and looked down and saw my blue nails. My boss looked over and said “if you need to go to the doctor go!” I called Debbie and Ross (my husband who I had only been dating about a year). Neither answered so I drove myself to the ER (7.15.99). While I was in the ER being ignored by doctors and told that I was hyper ventilating, Ross was being laid off from his job of 5 years (Compaq Computers did a big layoff that day). I went home and quickly focused on Ross (the doctors had said I was fine). A few days later I talked to Debbie and told her what happened. I was still very blue and it was a very hot summer. Debbie made me a doctor appointment with her family doctor who had at least treated me for step throat before and had a copy of my heart records. I drove myself and ran into a friend of mine in the parking lot (her kids daycare was next door). Holly went to the doctor with me and I am so glad I was not alone!  The doctors (several different ones again) said that I had developed a reverse shunt and that the blood was basically pumping the wrong direction. My oxygen level had decreased to about 40%. They sent me home and said they would send my records to a cardiologist (since Dr. McNamarra had died). Holly followed me to my apartment and we hadn’t even sat down when the cardiologist office called and said to get there NOW!  I call Debbie who wanted Holly to bring me to her house and get her (her house was on the way to be fair). We walk into the cardiologist office. It is packed. People are waiting everywhere. Debbie sits me down and gives them my name. We wait only a minute and a full staff came out to the lobby and stick an oxygen measuring thing on my finger and start listening to my heart. I met the cardiologist in the middle of the waiting room and he announces to all that I am his emergency and it would be some time. The echocardiogram becomes available and he stands in the room watching the echo live (usually the doctor reviews it later). He leaves towards the end and once I am dressed I emerge. Again I am in the middle of the doctor office and he tells Debbie I need surgery immediately. I start crying (I am 21 after all and this is all of a sudden and very scary. My dad is in Jamaica and until this moment he had made all my healthcare decisions). The nurses are all on different phones trying to get me a surgeon immediately. I am very overwhelmed. Well immediately turned into two weeks. My surgery was rescheduled 4 times with 4 different surgeons at 4 different hospitals while I sat home with a very nervous Ross and a scared 4 year old Garret (step-son). Debbie was honestly amazing through all this. She called my dad in Jamaica and told him to come back and to NOT bring the step-monster and for the only time in my life he left her for me!  The delay was due to the insurance (I had my own this time as I was employed) requiring that a pediatric surgeon perform the surgery even though I was 21 and they had some difficulty getting this done. One hospital /non pediatric surgeon offered to do my surgery for free and my insurance company told Debbie If I did that they would not insure me for the rest of my life! So I waited at home for Debbie to call me. My surgeon was picked on 8.8.99 (my dad and step-monsters Anniversary and also my little sisters birthday (Debbie’s daughter)). On 8.9.99 I had my 3rd Heart Catherization and I was supposed to have surgery 8.10.99 but I got bumped again because the surgeon wanted to meet me first and the surgery was scheduled for 8.11.99. On 8.10.99 we met with the surgeon and my now husband hated him on sight. Ross wasn’t happy that my surgery was pushed for this meeting and he spent less than 3 minutes with us. We also walked St. Luke’s (connected to Texas Children’s Hospital) and met with my surgery team and had all our questions answered so it was a good visit. My surgeon was Dr. Ott. As he was running away from our meeting Ross asked him how big my scar would be (this was the Hippy’s issue). Dr. Ott with his hand on the door to exit turned back and said “4 inches”.  Surgery day arrives – 8.11.99. I wake very early and shower with the soap I had been instructed to use. Debbie actually arrived on time and took me to the hospital. I had a brief panic when I signed all the forms and almost walked away but an awesome nurse brought me meds that caused me not to care. I have no idea what really happened that day. I know the waiting room was filled with Debbie and the Hippy’s friends. Aunts and Uncles all came. Ironically one of Ross’ uncles mother had surgery at the same time and Debbie and Ross’ uncle became smoking buddies outside. The surgeon told Debbie that I had the largest hole he had ever seen; also my scar was exactly 4 inches! I remember waking in ICU that night and seeing Ross who told me that he couldn’t bring 4 year old Garret so he had left him at his moms house. I had told Ross I was in pain and he quickly got a nurse who explained that I was on a morphine pump and that I had no clue. Thursday morning I woke in ICU to an early visit from the Hippy. The nurse had just taken the tube out my my mouth (throat tube) and it was the first time I really woke as when I saw Ross the night before it was very fuzzy. Debbie says that the day of surgery she could only get my eyes to open when she said “Ross” or “Garret”. My ribs had been sawed in half and then wired shut so I really couldn’t / shouldn’t move without being very very careful. Thursday in the ICU brought me several visitors (Debbie and my last step dad Danny) and later Ross and his aunt and uncle. I was moved to a room Thursday night and I was told that I would start walking on Friday and when I walked a mile I could go home. No one stayed with me at the hospital. My dad and his friends came by and Debbie left with all of them to go eat. Ross was home with 4 year old Garret but Ross’ dad worked the 3pm to Midnight shift and came every night to see me and bring me a strawberry milk shake!  I remember hearing lots of screams that night and telling him that I thought someone died. He responded with “probably”. Friday was my first day I could get up and I walked a mile that day and was discharged the next morning 2.5 days after having open heart surgery!  I had to have help at all times as I could not sit up or lean back at all by myself as my ribs and muscles had been cut and I couldn’t risk breaking a wire and puncturing my lungs. I was instructed to cross my arms over my chests and let whomeever was helping me lean me forward or back. It was definitely a helpless feeling and a perfect trust exercise that lasted for 6 weeks. That was a long summer. Ross didn’t look for a job until I went back to work and his mother paid all our bills so he could stay home and take care of me. The Hippy went back to Jamaica right away and once my situation was no longer dire we did not see or talk to Debbie again. It was Ross and his family that nursed me back to health. Sadly the saga did not end with my surgery. Approximately 12 weeks after my surgery I started turning blue again. I went back to the cardiologist and once again I was rushed into an echocardiogram. This time the doctor comes in and looks at the screen. His response is “shit” let me say that’s not something anyone wants to hear and not someone who just recovered from having their ribs sawed in half!  The next day has me in the operating room again but this time for a TEE which is a procedure where they put you under and send a scope down your throat to see the heart. The doctor believes I popped a stitch and that it may heal on its own. Meanwhile I told him there was no way I was having surgery again. This is the day that Ross was called about the job in Austin and we decided to move. I saw a few doctors in Austin in early 2000 but nothing seemed to be of alarm to anyone. Everyone had hoped that the new hole would close if the septal wall could strengthen. In 2001 I started getting very blue and had trouble breathing and I also found myself back at a cardiologist office having the test run – EKG; Stress Test; X-rays and my 4th Heart Catherization. It was at this time the cardiologist sat Ross and I down and dropped the bomb that the only recommendation he had other than do nothing was a heart transplant. He explained that the open heart fixed the major problem but that you cannot repair a muscle that has been overworked for 21 years. The damage was done and was permanent. Ross and I talked about it for weeks. We also prayed about it and we went back and told the doctor we opted to do nothing. That is exactly where I am today at the age of 39 – 18 years later. I have a full life and I have taken up cycling and I am riding at least 70 miles each week on my mountain bike.

Hippy Update 8.2.17

It’s been a real long time since I have posted. The truth is I don’t know how my Hippy is doing. I called in May and left a message on his home phone and called his cell. No answer and no call back. I called in June and left a message on his home phone and called his cell. No answer and no call back. I did text him on Father’s Day and he responded with a thank you which is a small miracle because he calls texts “emails”!  I called yesterday and left a message at home and called his cell. No one answered and he didn’t call me back. I finally texted his best friend aka Uncle Glen yesterday and he told me that he spoke to my dad an hour prior and for me to only call the cell.  This doesn’t worry me. This doesn’t concern me. Truth is I lost my dad when I was 16 and he moved to Jamaica. He wasn’t here when I was navigating the perils of high school. He wasn’t here to meet anyone I dated. He wasn’t here when my grandmother asked me to drop out of high school and get my GED because she needed me to work. He wasn’t here when I met my husband. He did come back when I had open heart surgery (for another post) but he called collect on my 21st birthday. He wasn’t here when I got married. He wasn’t here for our wedding reception and the step-monster refused to bring my grandmother because she is a vindictive bitch. He wasn’t here when I turned 30.  He did show up when I graduated with my bachelor degree but of course missed my graduation when I received my associates degree. He is not here. My grandfather always said no news is good news so I am guessing his health is ok or maybe one day I’ll get a letter from the step-monster. Who knows. However what my Hippy taught me at an early age was that I am strong enough to be on my own and he taught me to Let Go. I found this today and just love it. 

Chew Chew

I came by my love of animals via the Hippy and Grandma Jane and Papa Dale!  The Hippy never once told me “no” I couldn’t have an animal – most likely because my grandparents never told him “no”. When the Hippy was a boy my grandmother got a Double-Yellow Head Parrot that she named Chew Chew (because he chewed everything up). Parrots live 70 years on average and usually only bond with one or two people in their lifetimes. Chew Chew chose my grandmother and my dad. Papa used to swear that Chew Chew would go out of his way to seek my grandfather out and bite him every single day!  Chew Chew’s cage was always in the kitchen and my grandmother never clipped his wings. When she was home his cage was always open and he was flying freely throughout the house. Over the course of his life my grandmother had several different dog packs and Chew Chew knew all their names and never mixed them up. Before I was born Chew Chew called my grandfather “Dale” but anytime I was around he would call him “Papa”.  Chew Chew would even play hide and seek with you. My grandmother has a kitchen cabinet that refused to stay open and anytime you opened it the cabinet would close (the hinges didn’t work right). Well, if Chew Chew was not sitting on top of his cage; or on top of the refrigerator dropping dog bones to the dogs; or in my grandmothers office on top of her filing cabinets all you would have to say is “Chew Chew where are you”. If you listened you could hear him respond “I’m hiding and what sounded like a giggle” (he loved getting in that cabinet and having it shut the door on him). Every single time the Hippy would visit my grandmother Chew Chew would get very excited to see him UNLESS he was holding me!  Chew Chew was incredibly jealous of me and as a small child I was terrified of him!  My grandmother has pictures of me running down the hall screaming because Chew Chew was chasing me but in reality he was slowly doing a bird walk after me!  One day the Hippy was trying to show me how nice Chew Chew was (so I wouldn’t be so scared of him) but he was holding me at the time. The Hippy walked over to Chew Chew and puckered his lips for a kiss (something the Hippy probably had done a thousand times at this point). Chew Chew runs over and bites the Hippy splitting his lip open!  This did not help me think Chew Chew was super sweet by the way!  Kids really only hear things they understand and it wasn’t till I was a teenager that I figured out what Chew Chew was saying whenever he would see the Hippy enter my grandmother’s kitchen via the garage and then walk outside. Anytime the Hippy did this exact pattern Chew Chew would say “wanna smoke a joint”!  Apparently when my dad was a teen he would lean into Chew Chew’s cage and say that everytime he would go outside to smoke a joint!  Chew Chew also caused lots of problems when I was a baby. When I was one or two my grandparents went to their house in Mexico for a month or so and naturally my dad took Chew Chew while they vacationed. One day Debbie had me down for a nap and she was cleaning the house with the windows open. Debbie didn’t trust Chew Chew as much as my grandmother did so she didn’t let him fly around the house all day long. Chew Chew being so smart quickly learned that when baby Heather cried everyone came running so Chew Chew learned to mimic my exact cry and he did this whenever he wanted something and I was around. Debbie walks into the kitchen and sees 3 little old ladies trying to look into her kitchen window and they are whispering and pointing because what they can hear a block away is a baby screaming when in reality it is a bad tempered parrot who wants his way!  Debbie told the Hippy all this when he came home that night and after he quit laughing he devised a plan. He moved Chew Chew’s cage outside that everning and I was playing in the yard on a blanket.  Eventually everyone on the block stopped over to see me and they would see Chew Chew and the Hippy would tell the story of the badly behaved bird that could mimic the babies cry!  Debbie said you could see the relief on all the neighbors faces! When I was 12 or 13 I let Chew Chew out of his cage at dinner time while my grandmother was cooking. (He had routines for different times of the day). In the evening (when my grandmother would come home from work) he would feed the dogs treats. I open the cage and Chew Chew would fly to the top of the fridge and he would lift the lid off the glass cookie jar (held dog bones). He would call each dog (by the correct name) and he would take a bite of their dog biscuit and drop it to the dog (my grandmother had tons of photos of this). On this day the cookie jar was low so he reached in and fell into the jar!  My grandmother turns off the stove, grabs the cookie jar, and we head straight to the vet. The doctor had to sedate Chew Chew and break the jar to get him free. My grandmother never replaced the jar and I swear he missed it after that!  Chew Chew was around for my entire childhood and I was supposed to inherit him (I loved him dearly). Sadly one day when I was 20 he pulled a feather in the night (normal) but this time the blood didn’t coagulate and he died. I am still very sad by this.

Health Update 5.10.17

I spoke to the Hippy finally. The real shocker is he answered when the step-monster was home (she even cleared her throat once and he still didn’t hang up with me)!  He said he is starting to feel a little better since his radiation treatments ended several weeks ago. He saw his doctor this week and he wouldn’t give me an exact weight number but said things like “it comes and goes” and “it’s more or less that” when I asked if he still weighed 107 pounds (he is six feet tall). I had Barney (my grandmothers dog that my husband wanted to take in after she passed away) in the car with me as I was talking to him while driving to work so he asked about Barney and we discussed him most of the conversation. I did ask him if he knows when the doctors will perform another CT scan to check his tumors. He said he thought it would be end of May or beginning of June but to his knowledge it is not scheduled yet. He went on to explain that his doctors (VA Hospital) are not in a super hurry to check on the tumors because once they discover it has progressed to the brain they are done with treatment (at least that’s what they said in the beginning of all this). I know a lot of people may not understand how disconnected my dad and I are but right now I have never been so happy that we are. I have always believed that people know certain things and he knew that he neeeded to raise me to be strong and independent. Moving out at 16 was not crazy to me or to anyone that knew my family. Having my dad gone for 10 years was not strange. Marrying a man my dad had only met one time two years prior was not strange. It was what it was!  I still pray for peace every day for my Hippy!

Hippy Update 4.11.17

I have not had much to say lately on purpose. My 39th birthday was 4/8/17 and I simply refused to think about anything unhappy. My husband and I celebrated in Las Vegas which we really needed!  The Hippy worried me most of my birthday as he always calls and sings to me early (and never really knows where in the world I am). I had not heard from him or Debbie until late in the day and my husband did his best to keep me occupied. He took me to my favorite restaurant and then we went to visit the former MGM Lions at their habitat (this was the highlight of my birthday as I LOVE those lions and have had my picture taken with 2 of them back when they were cubs). Debbie finally texted around dinner time (PST) which would have been late for her but oh well she texted (we don’t really speak so this was a huge gesture for her). I had opted to not attend a show for my birthday as I was afraid I would miss a call from the Hippy (I have never worried about this in my life so I guess the reality that he might not be around at my 40th has started to sink in). The Hippy called me around 8:30 PST which is extremely late for him but I am sure his schedule is all wonky with not working and having daily radiation treatments. It was a short call and he mentioned how over dinner him and the step-monster discussed how I would have birthday parties each year at their house; and my Grandma Jane’s and the step-monsters parents would have a family party for me. Not sure why that was a memory for him but it was the first he had ever told me that he thought about all that. My thoughts on my 39th was how the last birthday I spent with the Hippy I was 16 and got my Mustang. The Hippy had Debbie and Danny over and several of his friends (my Uncles). Terrie and the kids came too and the Hippy flew one of my next door neighbor girls, Natalie,  (who had moved to Austin) down for the weekend.  The step-monster wrote a poem and placed the poem and my school picture in the paper and my dad had the poem read on my favorite radio station to announce my birthday. That was it. Two months later he left for Jamaica. He missed my 17th completely. He was home for my 18th (from Jamaica) and visited me at my friends house where I was living and took several of my friends to dinner. He missed 19-20 completely (Jamaica) but on my 21st he called very late in the evening (collect lol) and I spoke to him briefly. I had open heart surgery 4 months after my 21st birthday and he did come back for my surgery (another long story). He missed 22-25 (Jamaica) but has called for every single one 26-39!  I pray he makes it to my 40th!

I did not get into his health when he called me as I only had about 3 minutes on the phone with him. This Wednesday, 4/12/17 will be his 30th radiation and last I heard he has 35 total.