So. Here we are.

8 weeks after Mathew died. What’s been going on with you? How are you doing? You might think we disappeared to hide for a while but that isn’t the case. Not at all. Let me catch you up on happenings around here.

The week following Mathew’s memorial service, John and I decided to buy a travel trailer and go camping. We travelled a lot before the kids got old enough that it created more problems than we could solve; John and I travelled a lot in the years before we had our pumpkins. After the kids were born we started with a tent then moved to a tent-trailer when I quit the tenting gig. Then, when work life and home life became intertwined while we were living in Alberta, the stress of everything became too much for me and I was too tired to go anywhere on weekends. John took them, on his own, for many a weekend. I don’t recall when we sold the tent trailer… for the last 2 years out west, John brought the kids to New Brunswick to visit family in the summer. I never had enough leave to join them so didn’t return to the Saint John area until we moved back 10 years ago.

With Mathew growing up, and his disabilities becoming much easier to see and work with, we decided that trips would go with hotels. It worked fine for us and especially for Mathew.

Now, being in a different situation, we decided to do the camper thing and give it a go. We spent some time going to the different dealers the week following Mathew’s memorial and found a 28 foot Shadow Cruiser that we ultimately bought. It is a 2014 only 3 years old and set up how we liked. It has a slide-out, and a dinette, couch, and two little rockers at the back.

In order to tow this rig the Honda Ridgeline had to be upgraded to something with the right towing capacity. We traded “up” to a 2016 Dodge Ram that I could barely climb up in to until John put running boards on the side.

With the new truck we hooked up the trailer from the dealer and left for some camping. We went to PEI (home of Anne of Green Gables) for a few days, spending equal time shopping for the trailer and sight seeing. Travelling did not lessen our grief; we just wanted to leave everything behind and go away to be by ourselves.

After PEI, we drove to a camping site near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. This is a world heritage site for good reason; the area is beautiful. We did Peggy’s Cove in the fog and driving rain; Lunenburg on a beautiful day and “The Ovens” on another gorgeous day. The Ovens is located on private property and consists of walking along the cliffs (bluffs?) and going up and down stairs to admire caves and old sailor stories.

The final leg of the inaugural trip was to stop at Seafoam, Nova Scotia. We arrived and a mini-disaster happened when we attempted a drive-thru to our camp site. The back end of the camper didn’t quite make it before hitting the post carrying the water and power cables & wires, etc. It caught the back end of the camper, gashed the side and then pulled the back left corner of the camper out. The campground owners were very kind and helpful; there was no charge for shearing off the water pipe or pulling the electrical box off the wooden post. They were more concerned about our trailer. While we waited for the water to be turned off (it resembled a fire hydrant being flushed!) a small group of men gathered and pondered over the trailer. Nothing like a little accident to bring good souls together.

The camper is made of fiberglass so it isn’t a bang-back-into-place situation. On closer examination however, you could see the underlying floor in the exposed gap between camper and its back wall. That floor was black and rotting off. The wood crumbled in our hands it was so rotten.

That didn’t happen overnight or in the 7 days we owned it. Neither John nor I were in any mood to continue the trip and have the camper exposed to the elements. We called the dealer and told them what happened and mentioned the rotted floor. We drove it back to the dealer’s – which was closed for the weekend by the time we got there – and disconnected the trailer. It was left in their yard to be looked at the following week.

That was on June 23rd we dropped it off. We have yet to see it. The floor was damaged and so the dealer replaced the rotted areas. The trailer is now waiting to get in for the fiberglass siding to be fixed. But……………………

Life is funny………………

We returned home June 23rd to find a couple of messages from the family doctor’s office, wanting to speak to John about the ECG he had done just prior to us leaving on our camping trip. The messages were worrisome; sometimes you just know from the tone and how it is worded. We waited all weekend and then John called the office on the Monday, only to learn the doctor was away that week!!! The earliest John could get in was July 6th, in the following week.

The next day however, I stopped into the doctor’s office to pick up some paperwork (dealing with Mathew’s estate) and the doctor heard my voice. He popped out to ask how I was doing. I gather it is impossible for our doctor to not see his patients even when he isn’t scheduled to! I replied that I wasn’t going to talk to an illusion since we were told the doctor was not in that week, so I wasn’t sure WHO that image was. He laughed and then I told him I was very worried about this test John had. The doctor replied he needed to speak to John about it asap, and so we could come in the following morning. Wow. I was so relieved to hear that.

The following morning we both went in and Dr. Poirier indicated the test showed there might be a problem with the blood flow to John’s heart and he needed to see a Cardiologist. John was advised not to do anything beyond simple walking until he saw a Cardiologist. Oh and if he started to get any kind of chest pain to call 911 or rush straight to the emergency room.

This was just 3 weeks after Mathew’s death. Not wanting to sit and around and stress even more we drove an hour down the road to the beautiful St. Andrew’s. It is a flat area on the coast and it wasn’t overly hot or crowded. I kept both eyes on John and we did a casual walk. On the way home we stopped at a diner and had a very generous and excellent meal…. *sigh*…. of fried fish, clams, etc. Oh and don’t forget the yummy Strawberry-Rhubarb pie too.

On the drive home, the Cardiologist called for John on my cellphone (did the guy have eyes on us at this diner? Was he there, watching us??). A stress test was set for John the next morning. So on Thursday 25 June, John went in for the stress test. This is where they connect a bunch of electrodes on to your chest and have you walk on a treadmill. John’s test was great ~ until he sat down to rest. Then, as the Cardiologist put it, the ECG bleeped a concerning movement on the paper that earned John a dye test.

The offer was to admit John immediately to get the dye test done either that day or the following day or, for John to leave the hospital and wait for an appointment to be arranged as an outpatient…. maybe in a week or two. In the meantime do NOTHING and call 911 if the chest started to hurt.

No way was I letting there be any further discussion on option #2. I never gave John a chance to speak up before I offered him up for immediate admittance. That being agreed to, John was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and prepped for an emergency. We watched the procedure on the television a kindly nurse brought us, and heard about the risks of what they were going to do.

Then they took John! I called his brother and wife. The same brother I called the morning Mathew died; Harry and Christine who came to get us, brought us home, made the cremation arrangements for us and got Mathew’s ashes when they were ready. John’s other siblings were in the United States, vacationing. Thinking about the risks again, I then called John’s parents. He didn’t want me to but I could not NOT call them in case something happened.

We gathered to wait for John’s return. It took about 2-1/2 hours or so, but John came back with 3 stents and a 100% blocked artery on the right side of his heart. When I heard that I thought I was going to drop to the floor; it was too much. The angioplasty put 2 stents in one artery – the so-called “widowmaker”- that was 70% blocked. The second artery was 90% blocked and it got the third stent.

The blocked artery had developed its own blood flow. There was no heart damage detected and the Cardiologist said John had been experiencing angina. The only restriction was no driving for 48 hours and that was it! John sees the Cardiologist again in August for a follow-up and is supposed to have an stress echo done. This test stresses his heart and then it is checked; the purpose is to see if, by opening the other 2 arteries, there is any change in the function of the right side of his heart.

Only after John had returned and we knew the outcome did I call Kristen. Even then I waited until she left work because this was her Dad. I was so relieved to call with good news and to let her talk to her father. Ottawa is a long from us and coming on the heel’s of her brother’s passing, very upsetting.

John’s siblings weren’t supposed to know until they got back from vacation. Shall we say someone… a certain individual…. let the cat out of the bag a few days early. Wendy, Alistair and their families were on their way back and the news had a happy outcome but it was still upsetting to hear.

The only symptom John had was an unusual feeling in the right side of his chest while walking up an incline; some discomfort. He first noticed while doing an evening walk, when the discomfort hit and he had to rest going up a hill on his walking path. After a while it grew to where walking up the grass on the side of our house produced the same feeling. This started a month or two before Mathew died. John didn’t want to deal with it while Mathew was in the hospital, etc, and so the ECG was scheduled only after.

It shook us up that events might have happened differently. So, parents and children, if YOU notice something different please don’t wait. Get checked out right away if only to laugh at what turned out to be indigestion. Everyone would rather that than something serious and no one is immune. John certainly doesn’t look like a heart attack stereotype. But upon closer examination…. his father had a heart attack last year, his maternal grandfather dropped dead of a heart attack at age 53 – the same age John is, AND his paternal grandmother had a heart attack in her 60s or early 70s.

We upended our diet and are now eating much, MUCH better. It took nothing for me to switch gears and start the heart-healthy eating. The four year’s of Mathew fighting cancer took a toll on us and our mental and physical bodies. I am very out of shape, after sitting at Mathew’s bedside for so long.

After this, John and I decided it was time to return to work. I felt reasonably capable of doing my job without falling apart and I’m not sitting home while John is at work. Our house is so empty and missing the larger-than-life personality of Mathew.

We returned to work 2 weeks ago and so far it is going okay. It is a good distraction but it is so hard to come home every day to the empty and the still. The door to Mathew’s room stays open and we go in there to grieve here and there. I try to remember than Mathew didn’t want us to be sad or to cry. He didn’t realize that him and his sister are our lives and our happiness. Much of it died when he did. So even when we are smiling, laughing and carrying on, the grief runs deep underneath.

That’s the thing about grief. It has its own timetable and there isn’t much you can do about it. There are triggers all around and you never know what is going to set off a new wave of sorrow or when. You don’t know when it will completely overcome your senses and how long it will last. You just keep breathing. Minute by minute sometimes. We are only 8 weeks into this hated, despised path so I can’t comment on where we will be in another month or three. I do know this, our love for our children will always be first and foremost for us. No matter where they are.