2018 sucks

So far this year, I had a foster experience that was traumatic, I had the flu and then strep throat, and my dad died.

After being sick for weeks I was scheduled to go back to work on Friday Feb 9th. Instead I get a call that my dad is on life support. So we drove down to Florida- a long 20hr drive. Three hours after we arrived he was removed from the ventilator.

A series of unfortunate medical events meant my dad struggled unnecessarily and did not die peacefully. It took about 17 hours for him to pass away and I wouldn’t call it normal or routine. I imagine my step-mom, sister, or aunt will sue the hospital for their treatment of him prior to removing the ventilator and afterward. Having witnessed someone pass peacefully with hospice, I can tell you this was NOT that. There was zero comfort, no gentle night. Everyone there was traumatized by the experience and is angry.

So, dad died on Sunday. There’s a funeral in Florida on Saturday but none of his older kids will be present as we all had to get back to work. There will be a memorial in Alabama in May during a time when our family gets together to honor the dead. So, it’s appropriate and it’s where he wants his ashes spread. I’m working on my step-mom to coordinate it as she would prefer to do a small immediate family only kind of celebration since she’s having her big thing this weekend. Everyone is so sensitive and awkward. It’s hard to grieve.

People ask how I’m doing and I’m stuck with no clear answer. I was never a daddy’s girl, I was his cast away, the ignored middle child. Truly, he lived a life completely apart from me. After my parents split 24yrs ago, I was nothing to him. He didn’t call, he didn’t visit, he took no initiative. My brother lived with him and he treated him like a leech he couldn’t get away from soon enough. My sister, the oldest, maintains our father as the best man ever. They must have some bond none of us knew or saw. I’ve been in therapy working through my fears of my dad dying and how he never knew me. Then he actually fucking died and my fears became reality. I try so hard to connect with him, go on vacations to see him and our family, try to tell him about my life but he was not receptive. I am sad for the dad he wasn’t but kind of grateful that my kid won’t have to deal with his detached parent/grandparent style. No other kids will know his disinterest in their accomplishments. I just have to move past thinking how shitty he always was and then he died without us ever really talking about it or finding a way to connect.

My dad wasn’t one to ask questions about our lives. He and I never discussed the foster kid we had for two weeks or the visits we have been having with the 12yr old girl. He never expressed interest in anything I was doing, really. But now his wife and one of aunts want to comfort me by saying how excited he was for our parenting adventure and adoption. What the hell? What did he know about me and my life?

We were estranged for years after I came out. He couldn’t deal with that and neither could his wife. It’s always been a very tricky situation with us and one we have been able to ignore in the past ten years since I began a relationship with C. I think my dad thought I had finally met the right man to turn me around…if he only knew. I guess that gave him some comfort that I wasn’t really a lesbian, I don’t know. I’m so frustrated about all the things we never talked about or worked through. He was 59 years old and in poor health so I shouldn’t have expected him to live forever but coming to terms with him dying right now is very difficult.

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When things got real

Rereading my last post I hear some optimism there amidst the struggle. A few days later, everything had turned on its head. I had indeed been diagnosed with the flu and would get a secondary infection on top of that. Let me tell you, I was not at my parenting best.

We insisted that our foster child be removed on Friday. After a very traumatic visit with his mother on Wednesday this was not the same child we were bonding with. It’s really easy to fall in love with a kid. If you haven’t done it, you should try it. It’s also pretty easy for that delicate relationship to be ripped to shreds by forces outside of your control. His mother said something very specific to him about us that made him terrified of us and the only way he knew to deal with that was to physically act out. He didn’t just act out in the traditional ways associated with boys. He acted out aggressively against our pets, against me, and against Cole. There was only so much restraining we could do when he was in the throws of an episode. He would deliberate kick, punch, bite, and pinch us with the intentions of harm. This little guy ripped his room apart on more than one occasion. On the final day, we had removed almost everything from his room because he was tearing it all down.

There was a lot of verbal abuse, things I’ve never heard a kid say. He is really struggling with the emotions of being in care, of seeing his mom after a long separation, and of the cruelty of what she said to him in their brief encounter. Though he has been in care for a while, previous families had not brought to the agency’s attention that he struggles emotionally and with self regulation. No one but the school had made them aware that he is deeply angry and really needed some additional supports. There had been no referrals for behavioral health, therapy of any kind, so trauma assessment, nada. With no outlet to process what was going on, he literally exploded.

We just barely got him to school on Thursday. The school didn’t think he would make it home with us so we were escorted by the agency behavioral health worker. Let me tell you, getting him out of that school and into my car that day was an act of God that involved a lot of little helpers. It was really terrifying. The worker stayed for a few hours to get him calm so we could put him to bed. That was a rough night with he and I sleeping on the couch together at his insistence. Just what I needed when I was exhausted physically. On Friday, the school didn’t want him to come in so we kept him home. The behavioral health worker came over in the morning to check in. They left saying he was no imminent danger and have a good day. By now I had emailed our worker, his worker, and the supervisor. We were scared of this kid, felt like hostages in our own home, and knew that none of us were safe together. No one was listening to me. This entire experience came to a head when our kid threw a large heavy glass object across the living room. He also fought me, literally, just for the fun of it. All while calling me names I wouldn’t come up with for my worst enemy. The agency was refusing to remove him and we were out of options so we called the police. They were able to calm him down and talk to him about being respectful and following house rules. He even apologized to us. Then the call came that he was being moved. The worker told him over the phone and then told C. They also sent the same behavioral health worker out and her colleague, a mental health therapist. The team stayed with us until a transport worker came to get him. The transporter was not particularly friendly and was in a huge hurry because her shift was ending soon. She wouldn’t let him take anything but his football and one set of clothes. That has been continually stressful as I can’t imagine what it was like for him this weekend to have nothing of comfort. Just one set of clothes and lime green football.

They told us he would be going to a hospital to be assessed for commitment due to his behaviors. I doubt they kept him or really even assessed him, that’s my experience in the system. He’s also very young and they will chalk it all up to one thing or another. By now we assume he is in another foster home and settling in. We have asked where we can take his belongings but have been ignored by his worker. The behavioral health worker said someone would come by tomorrow to pick things up. We will see if that really happens.

This experience has been extremely overwhelming for us emotionally and physically. Our doctor prescribed us anti-anxiety meds on Friday to help us to relax and rest. It’s very hard to accept that you are a failed parent for a kid that clearly needs you. And to realize that a kid was hitting you, that’s really new to me, the feeling of abuse and knowing it’s coming from some deep fear and hurt. I don’t think we could have done anything different on our end. We gave everything we had for him to feel safe and cared for but we couldn’t combat the unforeseen factors. It will take quite some time for him to be able to work through the damage that has been inflicted on him by adults in his life. I hurt for him way more than I hurt for us right now.