Life’s Rich Tapestry

Published 15 years, 3 months past

Human beings say, “It never rains but it pours.”  This is not very apt, for it frequently does rain without pouring.  The rabbits’ proverb is better expressed.  They say, “One cloud feels lonely”…

—Richard Adams, Watership Down

The past few weeks have been a bit more intense than usual.  It all started on Inauguration Day, in fact, though that’s pretty much just coincidence.

It all started with a cold.  Carolyn stayed home with a terrible cough and a slight fever, which meant she got to watch the inauguration with us.  A couple of days later, she was fine, and Rebecca was sick.  Nothing unusual about that, of course: you have two kids, they pass germs along to each other.

In Rebecca’s case, though, it didn’t seem to get better.  By the time, a few days later, she spent most of an afternoon sitting very still on my lap, whimpering softly, her skin burning with fever, Kat started to suspect a common but serious childhood illness.  A trip to the doctor confirmed it.  The child in the next examination room had the same illness and was unlucky: two inhaler treatments had little effect, and he was sent to the hospital.  Rebecca fared much better: one treatment and she was much improved.

That was lucky for us all, because we had a long road trip ahead of us.  The night before Rebecca’s doctor appointment, Kat’s mother died after a very long and difficult illness.  We had known it was coming, thanks to the hospice nurses.  We had known for a very long time that this is how it would one day end.  Most of the mourning had been done ahead of time, to be honest, but at the same time it’s never easy to lose a loved one, no matter how much you may have prepared.

We needed to be on Long Island by Sunday night.  Plane fare was far too expensive, even with the bereavement discount.  So we packed up the nebulizer, treatments, and everything else we needed to drive eleven hours to our hotel.  Pennsylvania, as anyone who’s made the drive will tell you, goes on forever.  It’s an even longer forever when you have to make extra stops, as will happen with four people, two of them children.

A very good friend of ours watched the girls as we attended the graveside ceremony, and we spent the next couple of days with Kat’s family as they sat shiva.  And then we drove back to sit our own.

I had to be in Boston the following week for client work, and while a great many awesome things happened on that trip, it was hard to leave so soon after everything else.  In the middle of everything else, really.  I left on the second day of our two-day shiva; the rabbi finished his prayers and remarks and five minutes later I was pulling out of our driveway to catch my flight.  And of course the illnesses, traveling, and general upheaval in our lives had pretty well shattered both girls’ sleeping patterns, and I couldn’t be there to help.

The day after I got back, Kat finally went to the doctor to see about her sore thumb.  It turned out to be broken.  She’s wearing a brace now.  Two days after that, I quite unexpectedly suffered an anaphylactic reaction to a food I’d had many times before.  It was the whole works, too: sore stomach, tightness in the chest and throat, dizziness, itchy hands, and, so my wife tells me, a blue tinge around the lips.  It was a new and wholly unwelcome experience, I assure you.  We’re not completely sure of the ingredient that caused it, but there’s a very strong candidate: avocado.  So no more guacamole for me, it would seem.

All that knocked me even more offline than usual, which is why further writings about HTML5, CSS3, and other topics of note have persisted in collectively playing the parts of Sir Not-Appearing-On-This-Site.  I’m hoping that by getting all this off my chest, I’ll clear up some of the blockage and get things moving again.

So how about you—what’s the first month-or-so of 2009 been like for you?  If it’s been similarly stressful, unload and lighten the burden.  If it’s been good, tell us about it so we can all share a little bit of uplift.  I know I could use a little!

Comments (24)

  1. Whoa. All that in just under three weeks?!?

    My condolences to you and Kat on her mother’s passing.

    Since you asked for participation: the first few weeks of 2009 for us have been marked by planning for (and maybe just a little worrying about) the first real social event we’ve hosted in quite some time. It would up going well beyond our expectations; a huge relief and just a really good time. Other than that, it’s been a pretty steady, manageable balance of interesting work and fun family time — the kind of routine I hope you get to spend some time in these next few months.

  2. Wow, Eric. Your 2009 sounds like my 2008. 2008 started off with a bang – an unpleasant one at that. For us, it didn’t let up all year: severe illness in our family, death, financial burdens – we got to experience all of it.

    For my husband and I, it seems that we get a year from hell every 10 years. Then, relative peace for 9 years until the next year from hell is due. For that reason, I feel guilty even complaining. Not everyone can claim to have 9 years of relative peace. I do hope that pattern continues this decade, as I could really use 9 years to recover from last year’s mayhem. :)

    I hope you’ve gotten all of your havoc out of the way and can experience smooth sailing for the next eleven months (at the very least).

    Thankfully, the first month of 2009 for me is looking much better than 2008 did. I don’t want to share too much and jinx it all.

    :::searches for some wood to knock upon:::

  3. Glad to hear things are starting to return to a semblance of normalcy for you, sir.

  4. 2009 hasn’t started out so bad, but the 2007-2008 rollover was a bit trying (particularly for my wife, who most of this happened to).

    Between removal of a dermoid cyst (Thanksgiving), my grandfather breaking a hip two days before Christmas (still doing OK), gallstones leading to her gallbladder being removed (early February) and the diagnosis of a neurological disease for which there is now treatment (6 days in the hospital, early March), I didn’t feel bad when someone asked, “Hey, you’ve been married a year now! How’s your first year been?” and I responded “Long.”

  5. Well Eric, you and your family have had quite a rough start to the year – sorry to hear that, and I wish you all the best. It hasn’t been quite like that for me over here in the UK (but my circumstances are very different to yours in the first place!) Lots of snow + poor economic climate + not much else so far. Could be better, could be (much) worse…so there’s good and bad here!

    Hope things improve for your lot soon. Matt

  6. WOW – My 2009 has been a cornucopia of riches compared to yours, it seems.

    My son had a great report from school and is getting ready to move up to kindergarten. I turned 40, but on the plus side my present is a trip back to the UK (any recommendation on power adaptors for a laptop?) which will be the first time back since moving to Ohio, 6 years ago.

    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better and hope you’ve had your quota of drama for the year.

  7. By the way, that “now” in comment #4 is correct – 15 years ago there were no treatments, now there are multiple treatments and even more in clinical trials.

  8. My sincerest sympathies regarding the loss of Kat’s Mom. And boy oh boy what a year so far. Sounds like a little home time is sorely needed. Here’s to the rest of the year being much less intense!


  9. My sympathies for all of the rough times you’ve experienced so far this year. We’re just getting through the ordeal of water damage cleanup in our home. I woke up at 6:00 on Martin Luther King day to find three or four inches of water in the kitchen, spreading to the carpet, dripping into the crawl space, with lots more spewing from under the kitchen sink. It took three weeks of being somewhat displaced before the cleanup company had everything put back together. As you probably know, kids can have a pretty rough time during things like that, and our two kids were very glad to have their house back. We celebrated by cooking dinner in our oven, which had been sitting useless in the living room until everything was finished.

    We did feel extremely blessed to have insurance to cover it, people who knew how to clean it up, and family living close by to cook us dinner and let us sleep over when we needed to.

  10. Hello Eric,

    Well…. My wife went to hospital for the first time this year (one of many return visits). She has suffered a speaker falling on her head. She has had three sets of migraine attack. She has had two bouts of seizures.

    Now some normally concerning me. I have joined YouTube. I am intently watching developments in America and around the world. It seems that change that we can believe in is not real change but more of the status quo.

    I would dearly like to return to CSS and other pursuits but I must resist what is slowly coming. Peace.

  11. Dear Eric,

    I’ve known about you pretty much my whole adult life, you being the “Web guru” guy. But I’ve never followed your postings here nor known anything personal about you. So this is my first encounter with you, the human, the person – not the “Web guru”.

    I just want to let you know that it grabbed. Very well written. We need to share our experiences with one another. Very pleased to see you used this space to open up and invite other people to do so as well. A great initiative.

    I’m sorry to read all those bad things happen to you and your family. My way of seeing things is: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Hopefully all this has given you an even closer and stronger bond then before.

    Personally I’ve been unemployed for the last six months. That’s not fun, of course, but I’ve spent it doing what I love: Art. With paintings, photographs, sounds, and sometimes in the company of good friends. Life is hard to understand but sweet in its own way.

    I wish you and your family the very best. Thanks for everything.

    Kind regards (from Sweden),

  12. 2009 has been hard so far. We’ve had a household of minor illnesses, my bf took a job, rather than face the uncertainty of freelance, with a hefty pay cut, my dad’s 61st birthday passed and I wished he was alive every second of it. On the plus, we don’t have any major illnesses, the bf and I both have jobs and our girls are happy and healthy so I try to focus on that. When that doesn’t work I watch this video.

  13. Dear Eric,
    I’m so sorry to hear all this from you, and I deeply sympathize as my mother died in mid-2008 from cancer after several months of suffering. She died in a hospice as well, and I am so glad that there are houses like that and people who take care of the dying and their family.
    I suffered a lot thereafter as did my wife and daughter of eight. It took me half a year to regain a view on life as a friendly and adventurous experience.
    I hope the rest of 2009 will be less demanding for you.



  14. Hi Eric,

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. My deepest sympathies to you and yours. My year did not start off well at all. My mother passed away suddenly on Dec. 23rd 2008. Needless to say our holiday season was not to fun. It kind of set the tone for various dates through the month of January.
    Jan. 5th Mom’s B-day (hmm, she’s not here to celebrate)
    Jan. 8th 1-year anniversary of my fathers death
    Jan. 10th Funeral for Mom, 1-year to the day since my fathers funeral
    Jan. 25th My B-day, well there’s always next year ;)
    Jan. 27th Brother-In-Law passes away in tragic car accident

    Here’s wishing good luck to you Eric and everyone else who stumbled out of the gates. I can’t wait for 2010!

  15. I’m glad January is over.

    I had something like a cold, but not quite as strong as annoying. This was after not having a cold, flu, or anything like it for 2+ years.

    Then I had a lien threatened on my home because a landscaper I had do work back in October/November did not pay a vendor for some of the materials used. This lien threat came from the vendor, even though I had no direct contact with them and had paid the landscaper. Numerous contacts with the landscaper went nowhere, so I filed a complaint with the contractors’ board. Thankfully it finally got resolved without it getting worse.

  16. January was tough for me too. I lost a grandfather, and the other isn’t likely to make it much longer (though we did celebrate his 90th birthday). I haven’t had to be away from my wife, so at least that part has been good. A time and season for everything, I guess. My condolences to you and your family.

  17. Holy crap Eric, sounds unreal!

    Regards your allergy. A few weeks back I saw a documentary which had a case that certain allergies can occur when the person is under a lot of stress and these can manifest as temporary symptoms.

    If I were you, I’d have a separate allergy test and see how that goes.

    Hope your next few weeks are less eventful mate.

  18. Hi Eric,
    You continue to share yourself with all us out here, spread around the world — and your very human reality mixed with your knowledge, skill and energy continue to inspire.
    My condolences to your family and best wishes for the rest of your year — may you enjoy health, happiness and work too.

    On my side of the world it is summer, and I have been picking beans and tomatoes that I have grown myself — which is an exciting innovation for me. It is warm and mostly sunny, and warm even when not sunny, and there was body-boarding in the sea last weekend: surf, sunshine, sparkling sea, and speeding to the shore in the waves.

    The inauguration of your new president was a moving and inspiring event — we have such hopes for him, and for a USA that impacts the world for better.

    My work year has started with a business mentoring programme which is exciting and energising, and I am looking forward to another year of web work with a cheerful enthusiasm in spite of the economic clouds.
    January was good. February is looking even better. I hope yours will be better too!

    Miriam, Otaki, New Zealand

  19. Hey,

    Thanks for sharing your downs as well as your ups. It help me to know that the people who do what I do for work are also human.

    2009 sucks so far. A good friend admitted to lying and cheating on me when we dated 3 years ago at the same time I had my trust in a co-worker challenged and now I question my ability to trust anyone. My Mum lost an election about the same time we had a fight about whether or not I like my step-Dad. An organization I volunteer with came to me with a giant last minute rush job and they had no back up plan if I turned them down. And my perfect day-job dissolved into a pit of backstabbing complaining stress with work I’m suddenly not interested in doing. And then I got sick too.

    But it feels good to talk about it.

    Here’s hoping we’ve all gotten the bad stuff out of the way for the rest of the year. Best wishes for health, happiness, and fun work ;)

  20. So sorry about your loss – January 09 was a bust for me as well. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer just before Christmas and had surgery right after New Year’s. I stayed with him throughout his recovery, which took two weeks and involved several ER visits, his lung collapsing and many more doctor visits.

    Then I finally got home to my husband and chronically ill cat, got the flu, and then came down with three infections following.

    I’m quite done with 2009.

    On the other hand, my two year old horse just had her first carrot today and nodded her head vigorously to let me know she liked it, so I guess it’s not all bad. :) Hang in there everyone!

  21. Eric,

    My best wishes to you and yours for your various levels of difficulty so far this year. I can understand completely. While I haven’t lost a relative recently, we’ve had our own share of problems.

    * RSV in the 4 month old. But a few days breathing treatments (something we’re used to thanks to the three-year-old’s shaky start) and he was all better.

    * Issues with daycare: an unneeded trip to the pediatrician which meant my wife and I had to take all three kids out and miss a couple hours of work due to the distance as well as general issues with the way they handle things.

    * My grandmother, who has lived alone in Michigan since my grandfather died 19 years ago, broke her hip in August. In January her daughters (my mother and aunts) moved her into a nursing home in Texas, where she just celebrated her 91st birthday, with three of her four daughters.

    * My wife had a heart scare in December. There’s a history of heart problems in her family (her father died at an early age, as have many others in her family). She’s fine, but has decided to try to do a 5K run in March.

    * My wife and I have both had unrelated work issues that have been very trying (we work at the same company, but in different departments). But things do promise to get better, sooner (for me) or later (for her).

    * We’re trying to figure out whether to send our five-year-old to public school in our school district, in the district where we work, or to the Catholic school near work (we aren’t Catholic, but our district’s school is less than stellar).

    * We’ve got apparent electrical issues with the lights dimming and brightening alternately. An electrician took a look and hopefully it’s with the incoming service, probably at the pole. Should know more later this week.

    On the good side, I’ve managed to more or less keep up a New Year’s resolution to work out regularly, thanks largely to Wii Fit, and to a local version of Biggest Loser. I’ve lost about 5 pounds since Christmas (yay!). We’re getting a substantial income tax refund (actually, should already have it… haven’t checked) which should help with our even more substantial debt. And, with the above exceptions, we’re doing well.

    Whew… that was a lot. And I spilled into February some. But I have to thank you for opening this up… it does feel good to share :)

    Again, I hope your trials and tribulations have settled down for now.


  22. You’ve fared even worse than I have. I was all fired up for 2009, but it hasn’t gone well so far.

    After realizing I was hopelessly behind on multiple projects, I took a day off from work to begin to catch up. Halfway through the day, I found out my grandma was dying. 8-hour overnight drive home, 4 exhausting days at home, 8-hour drive back once I couldn’t miss any more work, and she died the following morning. Then I had to make the tough call to not turn around and do it all over again for the memorial service. And was another week behind in my work.

    So, this week, just slowly and steadily putting everything back in order. It looks like you’ve been in rare form for the week since posting this, so cheers on pushing forward. I hope I can match your resolve.

  23. I always remember the Lennon quote which went something like “Life’s what happens to you when you’re making other plans”.

    Also it seems bad things often come in twos (or more!). But reversely, good things can often happen together.

    My 2009 so far has been awful. I was ill all over Christmas and New Year with a heavy cough, heavy cold and an eye infection that appeared on Christmas Day! (I couldn’t easily open the eye for crusting and it was completely bloodshot.) The cough took weeks to clear properly (luckily the eye healed quickly but then it returned so I was back on the eye drops!)

    Then I got almost better and then HEAVY SNOW HIT BRITAIN. We usually get just a few flakes where I live, or one or two days of snow. But this was heavy so I had to work from home. I then hit a bowel problem I think is related to using the computer for too long, then going back to work, then home again for a day and so on. Or it could be an old egg I had in the fridge I scrambled the day before. Either way I spent last week worried sick about the movements down below after seeing what I thought was purple coating the stools. (A sign of internal bleeding.) I’m still monitoring the situation and if it doesn’t improve will have to go for tests.

    But like I say bad things happen together and so a blocked ear problem I’ve had since my heavy cold in December suddenly flared up. One ear now reacts thunderously to sharp sounds like metal, water and even plastic wrapping. It’s horrible. The doctor thinks I have ETD – Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Well at least my heavy cold has subsided. (Note: ETD can come on after a cold).

    So basically I am feeling low and not enjoying 2009 as much as I should be doing. Agh! Oh well. There are a lot worse off people than myself so I must be grateful for what health I have. I just wish I was fully healthy and this terrible cold winter was done with!

  24. oh, Eric…. I am so sorry to read what a tough start to the year you and your 3 girls have had.
    My sincerest condolences to all of you – especially Kat for losing her mum.

    I love how you’re opening up has caused everyone to tell all… aw – a bit of warmth in these sometimes distant internets…

    Wishing you and your family a much better rest of the year from now onwards :)

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