I have been asked so many times over my 50+ years, how do I manage to stay happy and keep going? The last four years I have been struggling with the answer to this question. While driving my Grandson to another Therapy appointment, I came upon the answer:
I began thinking about all the bad things that have happened just over the last four years. This has been one of the hardest times of my life. I took a bit of a step back to try to figure out exactly how I got through it all and kept my sense of humor. The following is what I have discovered.
HOUSE FIRE 4/20/14
- Lost 4-year old Grandson (younger brother to the one I now have custody of).
- Lost memories (including hand paintings my deceased mother made for me.)
- Lost memento’s (Jewelry gifted for my birthdays from my deceased father, years books signed and shared with great friends from my past, and things that I created in various mediums turned to ashes)
What did I do to deal with it? I didn’t dwell on it.
I didn’t have any time to sit and wallow in self-pity. IT HAPPENED. I had gotten hurt at work about a month before the fire, so I was (I can say it now, “luckily”) already on a type of work disability. When the fire hit, we were allowed Family Emergency Leave which only lasted a few weeks. Then my injury got worse, and I was sent to a specialist. That was at the same time I was working with Detectives, Insurance Investigators, Insurance, Funeral Home, and my Grandson. My daughter was a basket case and couldn’t handle anything but herself, so I took in my Grandson. Then my specialist took half of my left index finger.
I was now off work on medical leave. It was June, and the farm was a mess. Our insurance was fantastic and set up a mobile RV trailer on our property, so we were still able to take care of the critters. It was also good for my Grandson as his ADHD/Autism does not allow him to handle change well. He was only 5-years old at the time and did not fully understand everything that was going on.
We would sit in the gazebo in the front yard because it was right next to the swing set. It was “our time” to just discuss anything he had in his head. One of the first things he said to me was:
“When are you going to go get Andrew?”
This hit me right upside my head like a led brick. His brother was dead. He died in the fire. How was I going to explain this to him? The first time he asked I just changed the subject. It seemed to work – for the moment. Then a few days later he asked again. Apparently, he just thought Andrew was staying somewhere else, and I could simply go pick him up. I should have recognized that he did not fully understand the death when we were at the funeral.
He was sitting front row between myself and his mom. There was a large picture of Andrew and a door just to the left of it. I was holding it all together until he leaned over and asked me if Andrew was behind the door and could he go play with him till this was over. I lost it. I simply held his hand and said no honey, then proceeded to cry uncontrollably. This was my release.
By the time he asked me to get Andrew a second time, I think (subconsciously) I was better prepared. The only thing I could think of to try to describe an angel to a 5-year old little boy, came from the Disney movie The Incredibles. I proceeded to ask him if he remembered the movie? He said yes while swinging on a swing (everything was just so casual to him – amazed me). Then I asked if he remembered how the sister was able to go invisible, but her family knew she was there? He paused for a minute and the agreed. I told him that Andrew was like that now. He would be invisible forever, but always with us. His reply:
“Oh. Ok, can I have some juice now? “
WOW – IT WORKED?! That point on he never again asked me to go and get Andrew. I did see him on several occasions that summer, talking to him when he was playing. The two of them were very tight, and one seldom was without the other. Nathan was the leader, Andrew was the follower, and they were best when they were together. Initially, Nathan had a hard time just playing by himself, and he would constantly try to engage me. Unfortunately, so were the construction guys, Insurance, victims advocate, police, and a million other people that wanted to help. Oh, and my finger doctor informed me that my family friend “arthritis” was the reason I could no longer raise my right arm, and I needed to get a full MRI to see the extent of the damage. Like I had time for that! But after my description, he backed off and seemed to enjoy his time alone with his angel brother.
By the time the end of July rolled around, we were all so stressed out and exhausted we were snapping at each other for no reason. It was time for a break. Washington County Fair! It was fair time. Local Morgan County fair is very “old style” – just the critters, kids, and crafts – no rides of games. However, just 30 minutes away is Akron, which is home to the Washington County Fair – games (sponsored by the 4-H kids) and some rides (also locally sponsored). We decided to take a Saturday off for distraction purposes. We all had a blast! A fun ride around the fairgrounds on a mini-train (pulled by a decorated lawn tractor). Tons of fun little games made just for younger kids and great little prizes (a fantastic way to build up his confidence). The best was a huge blow-up slide maze thingy. We were all relaxed – finally!
The best surprise and the thing that reminded me not to dwell on the bad was something my Grandson did one late Saturday. The old house was gone, and the new had started. They guys had the new steel floor joists done and all the wood flooring on top. It had been a very hot late summer day we had set up a little plastic pool for Nathan to cool off in. My sister and I were pulling weeds around the yard and didn’t notice that he was not playing in the pool anymore. Suddenly, bounding across the wooden floor (which, at this point, looked more like an outdoor theater stage) came The Original Young version of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS only with ninja turtle underwear. He had a plastic ninja turtle back in front using it as a shield, and a large stick for a sword. He began jumping around on the “stage” thwarting invisible bad guys.
How could you not bust out laughing at a 5-year old boy, with nothing but ninja underwear, a turtle shell shield and a sword stick attacking invisible bad guys? It was the first, biggest laugh we had since the fire. That was when I knew we were going to be ok. We could still laugh after everything bad. No more time to dwell on what was gone – what’s done is done! The three of us stayed outside laughing, playing and getting wet (from the pool) until after dark and we were all exhausted. It was a good day!
You can also check me out on: www.helbergfarmstories.com for fun stories from our farm.