Wednesday, April 24, 2013

346 Days Ago

I stood in Catie's room trying to figure out where to begin cleaning. For whatever reason, I started with the shower. I moved all of the toys and small furniture that were in front of it, and pulled the shower curtain back. I quickly realized that this shower had not been touched for close to a year. Her shower chair sat in the center of the shower floor, her shampoo bottles still sitting on the chair. They were half full, never to be emptied. I took a deep breath that felt more shallow than anything, I grabbed all of the shampoo, and quickly walked outside to the trash can. I threw the shampoo bottles into the garbage can as hard as I possible could. I was angry. I stormed back into the house and pulled the shower chair out and wheeled it into the garage. After soaking the shower wall and floor in cleaner, I found myself starring into the suds all around the empty shower. I could clearly see a memory of Catie in my mind.

I was supposed to shower her and she was angry with me for it. She did not enjoy her showers and some days she was just plain mean about it. I had helped her slowly walk over to the shower and step over the lip of the basin. She sat down in her chair pouting.

"put your head back.."

"kellyyyy." she'd say in a deep voice.

"Catie, com'on..."

I grew irritated with the chore. It was a lot of work, I was always sweating and wet from the shower sprayer when I was done. Her lack of interest made it even harder because her arms weren't dead weight, instead, she was holding them down with all of her strength, and at this time, she had a lot of it left. I continued bathing her, speaking shortly to her while she continued to glare in my direction as fiercely as possible.

"hey kel!" she said in a very mischievous voice.


She sat up straight in her shower chair, lifted her arms and began flapping her chest up into the air quickly.


It was just like that, that my blind sister who was completely dependent on my help not only used my help but abused it. What, a, burn! She was right. I didn't have those and I never have. She was always uh, blessed you could say, in a way I never was or will be. She knew it and didn't even have to see proof.  I never heard the end of it either. Even when she couldn't speak any longer, my mom would shout across the room for her,

"Hey Kelly, don't forget! Ya don't got these!!" she'd say.

Catie would erupt with laughter. She never grew tired of laughing about it.

"hey ma, what dat nassy smell?" Joey asked.

I realized the cleaner wasn't sudsy anymore and I needed to get scrubbing so I could rinse it out asap. I started on the tiles and worked my way down to the floor. I was scrubbing quickly, still angry at the situation. Then, I saw it.

Her short black hairs were resting on the shower drain. Real, soft hairs. At first I jumped back. It scared me and I'm not sure why. I felt nauseated because my sister is dead but her hair was sitting in front of me. Then I realized that its been here for a year. Untouched. I reached out, grabbed it and began to sob. Not cry, but sob. This wasn't her favorite toy, or piece of jewelry. It wasn't an article of clothing or a favorite movie. This was physically a part of my sister and I was holding it in my hand. The last time I felt my sisters soft hair in my hands was 346 days ago. She was cold and white. I held her hand in one of mine and with the other I stroked my fingers through her hair one last time while saying good bye to her before I left the hospital room.

What I would give to wash her hair one more time. I miss her more than ever.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Good Times & Bad

I took a deep breath, followed by a sip of wine. I cleared my throat, and said, "I just love you so much." I did everything possible to hold back tears, and could see as tears welled up in my husbands eyes, he was also feeling the same thing in that moment.

We had stopped in Eugene, OR on our way to Seattle, WA. It was our 5th wedding Anniversary that day and we were beyond excited to finally be taking the trip we had always talked about. We took a walk and found ourselves sharing dinner in an adorable little restaurant, Ambrosia. (best Italian food, aside from my mothers, I've ever had.) The candle lit atmosphere and charming Italian music was more than romantic and after a long car ride and frantic morning getting our boys and pets situated, I looked down to see myself wearing a men's Nirvana t-shirt, jeans, and old school vans. Not only was I far below the restaurants dress code, I was completely failing at any chance of looking anniversary-esque. I looked up from my menu and apologized to Kyle.

"Babe. I'm very underdressed."
"who cares!" he said, with that smirk of his.
"I care! Its our anniversary and look at me. A nirvana tee?"

He looked at me with his baby blue eyes and smiled before saying,

"My very favorite look on you."

We ordered our dinner (don't forget, best ever!) and took our time. We are usually in a rush on our dates and if we aren't pressed for time, we still feel as if we are. This however, was different. The boys were safe, we were out of CA and it was day one of our five day vacation. We knew no one, and had no plans to be anywhere any time soon. We were so relaxed that we had been checking the time on the car clock and the time wasn't even correct! (we had quite the laugh over that one.) As we ate, we began to share our favorite wedding memories, and we laughed at how we couldn't have been more wrong when it came to what we had imagined our lives to be at our 5th anniversary. That of course led us to talking about our boys and how incredible they are. How we couldn't believe that Owen will be 1 year old at the end of this month. A year already? It feels so much longer than a year. That's when we really sat in the quiet, just the two of us, and silently realized how much we needed this trip. The last 365 days of our lives have been a roller coaster of ups and downs. The birth of our second child along with health issues related to it. The death of our sister. The loss of a job. The loss of a car. The cut back of hours at work. The terminal diagnosis of our grandmother. The death of our grandmother. The loss of a church family. The gift of a car. The gift of a new and better job. The first everything's with Owen, and the first everything's without Catie and Nana. The last year was full of tension between the happiest and saddest days of our lives. We fought for our love to stay bright through it, but we have been so tired. As individuals, as a couple and as parents.

I felt silly for caring about how I looked. It was so petty. After the year we have had, I shouldn't care if I'm in a little black dress or a 90s grunge tee. I should be completely blown away by the grace shown on our lives and our relationship that got us to this dinner. The gift of God's faithfulness during every up and down in the last year. Teaching us to love and care for each other no matter what. Whether we just met our second son for the very first time, or we just saw our sister for the very last. We were sitting at a table sharing a romantic dinner because of the love we have been given. A love that was doubted by some because of our young age, and only exists because of the undeserved love that God keeps showing to us. I'll never forget what a challenge this last year has been for us, but I know with time I'll forget the the little details of it. I won't however, forget our 5th wedding anniversary and the teary "I love you's" that meant more than they ever have before. The ones that tell each other, neither of you are going anywhere, no matter what the future has in store.

Happy Anniversary, my love! Thank you for your faithfulness, your love, and your support that you bless me with every single day. I love you more and more as we grow up together and couldn't be more honored to be your wife and the baby momma of your kids. I LOVE YOU, KYLO. (now lets go back for more of that taramisu!) XOXO

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nice To Meet You

I easily forget what a huge part of Annie's life has been. There was a long period of time where Annie would either be in a rage, or sleeping. She'd get agitated, it would escalate into a full blown physical fight where any 2-3 of us family members would be holding her limbs and torso down on the ground in order to keep her from breaking furniture, kicking or biting us, and worse, trying to hurt herself. Some days this agitation would last around 30 minutes which melted into around an hour long rage which turned into a 20 minute "cool down" where she'd cry and breathe heavily, her sweaty body shaking from all that it just went through. She'd fall asleep for 30 minutes to an hour and it would start again. There were times when my parents talked of building a padded safe room for her. There were talks of how to handle situations if she were to start having a seizure or maybe if the police were called by the neighbors, how to explain her illness to them. None of these things ever happened. Our family has been surrounded by loving, patient and caring people for all of Annie's life. This went on for years of her short life. At one point, 2 of my sisters even moved into my apartment for a few days and everyone took shifts helping with her because it was so physically and emotionally taxing. Sometimes it was at its worst, sometimes it wasn't as bad. But there was one thing for sure, she had no quality of life. She enjoyed nothing. She was always irritated and frustrated. She never seemed to have any peace. My family walked on egg shells, always being afraid of a rage. We all have scars from trying to hold her down. We've all had things special to us broken etc. But none of that even compares, not even close, to what my poor sister has endured. She has been trapped in this state of living her whole life until now.

People ask, "how is Annie doing?" Out of habit, I start to respond with, "Well, not great.." but when I think about it, its incredible. She IS doing great!! For the first time in her life, the last year, two years, she has had very few rages. Some days she gets frustrated and its very challenging but its been nothing like the years past.

I told my husband, I feel like I'm getting to know my sister. She'll be 15 this year and as a Batten kid that's nerve wracking to think about. Its frustrating, that its taken all this time for her to calm down and to know we only have so much time left. But still, the opportunity is here, and I get to meet my sister. I get to laugh with her, talk with her, I'm getting to know Annie. She has a sweet and thoughtful personality. Always giving gifts to anyone and everyone. She says hello to everyone she passes and always asks if they'll be her friend. She loves to watch My little Pony, pretend she has a pig nose like Penelope, eat Chinese food and rice. Her favorite color is purple, her favorite singer is Taylor swift and last I checked she was still engaged to a Jonas brother. These are all things we have all known about her for a while but she's never gotten to fully enjoy any of it until recently. She can finally let loose and dance and sing in the car, she can go shopping with you. She went to a loud, crowded crab feed with my family on a Saturday night and it was 9:30 when we were in the car driving home. Not a single fit the whole time. This week on Easter break, she came to my house to spend the night Monday, walked to Baskin Robbins with us Tuesday, went to a memorial service and then out to lunch Wednesday and today I got a text with a picture of her headed out to lunch, again!! This is a record for this girl. Its quality of life for the first time in her life. She is beautiful. I love her so so much. I never loved her any less in the past, but it feels like, for the first time, she is able receive love. She is able to live out the love that she has for everyone rather than being trapped in a rage. This time is special.. I'm always nervous that she'll go back to how she was. If she does, I will be even MORE thankful for this fun time in her life. For her laughing and joking (she has quite a sense of humor) singing, dancing. She's living!! and loving it. Its nice to know this Anne Marie.