Monday, 20 October 2014

Breaking Sad

Grateful Heart
The seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks, have now pushed measuring our grief in months.  He was here, existing, living, laughing, and an actual person that was really important in my life...and suddenly he was gone.

You can't help but cringe at the words mashed together with good intentions (probably similar to the dreaded turnip casserole that shows up uninvited at holiday dinner tables) - partly because you said it to other people who suffered losses, but now you realize how the hollow words echo in their unintended emptiness - "You have to move on" or "Your dad wouldn't want you to be sad" or "It'll get easier."  Of course they are spoken with genuine kindness behind them (and thank you for them) - but I think I would prefer words of wisdom like: "Drink an extra glass of wine" or "Eat your weight in chocolate" or even the simple, perversely encouraging, "Life sucks."

 To quote Dave Matthews, "The space between the tears we cry, is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more."  I like that.  I like it because it's true.  The love, laughter, the friends and family make it (it being the sucky parts of life that we'd rather not deal with) worthwhile.  There is more joy in my life than sorrow.  But (and it's a big but - not "butt" in case you were reading this and immediately your mind flew to my behind) my dad's journey from life, into Heaven, has left a ragged, gaping hole that hurts to peer into. You can't help but squint deeply into the void and hope that eventually, when I look into that darkness, a memory that makes me smile flits through it.  

So, that is my plan to 'Break Sad.'  I will keep schlecking (made up this word because I felt like it) good memories of my dad into that pit, until it is full to the brim of the blessings he brought me and my family.  So when my breath gets snagged on a reminder of him, Steven Butler, that triggers an ache in my chest, I can smile instead of swiping at the tears.

So, I am expecting my next post to be a light-hearted time-waster...or time-filler if you're really bored....or, if you wanted to really boost my spirits - you could refer to the next posting as completely uplifting, motivating, and so deeply thoughtful that after reading it your heart and mind grew 2 sizes larger.  (You could say 3 sizes to really be kind...too much?)

I can't believe it but...writing this has actually made me feel a bit better.  

Thank you readers, and especially KS for your constant encouragement,
Hug your dads and moms, folks,
Kathy Pettit :)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Best Ever Eulogy...For The Best Ever Dad

The following, I wrote for my dad.  On September 5th, at 10:54pm, at the young age of 56, he passed away from his battle with lung cancer, 5 months after diagnosis.  I read it at his funeral...which was difficult...but important to me to do for him. 
Steven Butler, My Dad
For those that don’t know me, I am Steve Butler’s absolute favourite (and, to be totally transparent, his only) daughter, Kathy Pettit.  This is my husband Peter. 

On behalf of my stepmom, Judy, and my brother, Jeff and his wife Angela, and our children we’d like to thank you for coming to celebrate Steve’s life.  Please join us after the service for a reception, where we will be serving some of our dad’s favourite food, so we encourage you to mingle, laugh, eat pizza and share memories with us.  A special shout-out to the Kraus Crew for wearing their funky vests in honour of my dad.  You should all know – no animals were harmed in the making of those vests! 

The “Best Ever” Eulogy 

Listening to this is going to be very difficult for my dad.  He was a man who hardly ever stopped talking –-- and thought he always had the last word –-- unless it was another Butler in the conversation – and then it became more of a contest of who ran out of hot air first.  It was like his hand was custom built to hold that cordless phone and yak for hours on end.  

Like any story worth telling, his included a strong, likeable main character and an interesting cast of misfits who kept him company along the way.  The plot thickened and thinned, not unlike his midsection, though the theme has remained constant throughout.   

I’m going to start at the end, because we all know how it ended.   

Cancer came from that place called left field.  Not being very sports-savvy, I assume this “left-field” just randomly throws balls, surprises – or even the occasional baby “Kathy” – at unsuspecting individuals.   Like a sudden summer storm, it caught us off guard, and drenched us in tears instead of rain. The news was grim.  The catscan even bleaker.  He did interrupt to ask if they could arrange his treatment schedule around his work as he really didn’t want the cancer to affect his role at Kraus Flooring.  The poor doctor looked quite puzzled,  as most normal people would be relieved to be off work while they fought this ugly disease.  Not dad.  He loved his job and the people at Kraus – and he was a really loyal guy to the end.    

Because my dad did such a good job looking after me for all those years, it was now my chance to return the favour. Dad made it simple because his relationship with my husband was such an easy-going and friendly one;  Peter readily agreed to make room for he and Judy in our family home.  They were excited at the prospect – though it was difficult for them to give up their home and most of their possessions.  When dad referred to their new home as “living in our garage” – I repeatedly corrected him with the word “suite.”  I was worried that when he described his new home to people they would think he and Judy were tucked in at night on a workbench, next to winter tires and toboggans.  If you’ve been to our home, you know that’s not the case. 

In some ways, it was just like old times – except this time around I didn’t need to borrow his Geo Metro OR persuade him to grant me permission to stay out later than usual!  Peter has often said, if you’re going to have anyone move in with you – Steve would be the guy.  He was so laid back, and unassuming – but you guys already know all of that.  And when Jeff and his family stopped by, it really got silly, like we were all kids again.   

Having grandma and grandpa in the house has also been a whole new adventure for our kids.  Like me, they adored my dad’s sense of humour and silliness.  And I get it – and seeing him through their eyes reminded me of my own time with him as a kid. 

Growing up, dad was the one I leaned on, cried to, hugged, laughed at - and with, the one I vented to, nagged at, lectured, and occasionally even listened to.  In a time when men weren’t the primary caregivers of their children – he was there.  Solid, warm and reliable (except for that one time he didn’t make it home – and living in the same apartment complex as many other family members, I ran upstairs and told my grandma on him – and boy did he get into big trouble from his mama!).  I remember with great fondness the days of Dad, Jeff and I just sitting around watching old re-runs of Star Trek and debating loudly if The Next Generation was a better rendition of the series, or whether Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard made a better leader   we always enjoyed being around each other and I will miss that hilarious banter. Although we didn’t have much growing up in terms of things, we had him – and that was enough.  

Steve Butler set the bar incredibly high on what it means to be a good parent. 

My dad taught me how to stay positive in difficult situations and how to always make the best of things, and I have yet to meet a more optimistic individual.  It is this attitude that I probably admire the most.  From the moment he was diagnosed, he almost seemed ok with it.  He wasn’t interested in listening to numbers or bad news or statistics.  Dad just chose to live like he normally did, eating the same, cold Chef Boyardee out of the can for breakfast (I’m going to insert here that I would not recommend this for the feint-hearted). Peter and I would often wake up to the smell of bean and beef burritos at 6 am, part of his typical Hungryman frozen dinner breakfast (sorry Dad, you couldn’t convince us that they were a suitable substitute for toast and jam). But they were the “best he’s ever had” he would tell us, a claim that Dad kindly made about pretty much any food item that was placed on a plate in front of him.  He’d give that look, and rave about it being the best ever.  Dad would have been the PERFECT inspiration for a Seinfeld character – “The Best Ever Guy.”   

And his positive attitude continued even through treatments.  Dad would literally go out shopping right after chemotherapy, or take the kids for a walk on his scooter.  I was forever nagging him to stay home so he wouldn’t get sick – to which he would reply “I’m dying – I’m ok – stop worrying.”  His treatments were just a pause in his day.  He would often announce to us he didn’t feel like he had cancer.  And because of that, he didn’t act like he had it. 

Unless it was convenient, of course.   

On a warm Saturday morning, he and I took the kids garage-saling in the neighbourhood, he on his scooter, the kids and I walking.  Along the way, we decided to stop by a friend’s house. Into the backyard we went, at 9am, and Jeremy, who had kindly adopted my dad as a friend, offered him a beer.  To which I pointed out, “Dad can’t drink - he’s on too many meds and it’s 9am.”  Dad looked at me squarely and said, “I’ve got cancer.  What’s a beer gonna do – kill me?” 

Rarely did we hear my dad complain about treatments or symptoms.  He didn’t feel sorry for himself, he didn’t mope; he simply lived while he could.  I don’t know if I would have that same strength given the circumstances.   

My dad actually said to me, and I’m quoting, “I think in some ways the cancer is a blessing.”  I remember looking at him with some annoyance, my brow furrowed, and asked, “How could cancer possibly be a blessing dad?!”  His answer, which was SO my dad, made me realize how silver-lining-dwelling he really was, “Because I get to move in with my daughter and spend time with her family and my grandkids, retire, and also see my son and his family more often.”  I had no response.  What do you say to that?  What do you say to a man who is able to find a blessing, even in his dying?  For once, I was speechless (and Peter can attest that this is a rare and note-worthy event – again – because I am a Butler). 

On Friday, my aching heart was quieted by the number of visitors who came to see my dad, or offered their support through phone calls, texts or hugs, meals, flowers or prayers. The outpouring is truly humbling.  I KNOW I am blessed, even admidst the sadness. I have no shouldas, wouldas, or couldas when it comes to my dad.  Only dids.  There was nothing left unsaid between us and that is such a comfort that not everyone is fortunate to have.  And so Jeff, Judy and I walked him as far into his journey into Heaven as we could go, letting go of his hand when we could go no further.   

What has reinforced his inherent goodness and likeable nature was the number of calls and visits where I have consoled the individuals offering sympathy.  That was just the kind of guy he was – and what I love most about my dad.  You had to have loved him in order to lose him, and in losing him you realize just how much you loved him. 

A.A. Milne once wrote, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” To all of us here who are full of tears and sorrow, please remember that it is BECAUSE of how much my dad meant us, and for all the JOY that he brought into our hearts --- that we weep. For this we must be thankful.   

The people we love never truly leave us.  Dad is just at a different vantage point, now.  And I have to smile, thinking that his grandkids have the goofiest guardian angel watching over them.   

I encourage you to smile when you remember Steve, my dad, your husband, your brother,        your uncle, your grampa, your friend – because when he was with us that was what HE did BEST.  Make us smile…

I can't believe it dad made me so proud of his strength...and attitude...and I didn't think it was possible to love him anymore.  But I do.

Tell your family you love them,
Kathy Pettit

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Little "c"

Composed on dad's first treatment:

At his very moment I am sitting in a dimly lit space, surrounded by voices, whirring and beeps, shuffling feet and bustling nurses.  My stepmom is my anxious companion, as we sit by my dad's bedside.  When I shared with her I was going to write about dad and the big "C" - she was quick to correct me and renamed it the little "c."  (Every now and then she says something worth noting - but don't tell her I said that!)

All has been quiet on the blog front as we have been coming to terms with cancer joining our family.  It was an uninvited guest.  But before it announced it's appearance, it came like an invisible, deadly ninja months before and lay in wait, spreading like dandelions on a freshly plotted piece of garden.  Except less pretty.  By the time it became clear that something had invaded my dads 56 year old body, the damage had already been done. It started in the lung....spread to his liver, his spleen, his lymphnodes, his spine, his skull, his brain...pretty much everywhere.

So we wait while radioactive material blasts him and courses through his veins.  We try and have the most ridiculous conversations to lighten the oppressing mood of illness, making him laugh unexpectedly while he can stay awake.  We pray, we hope, we yearn for the chemical cocktail to work its magic on the little "c."

Time has become the most precious commodity in our lives.  It has started to spill it's sand so quickly it's all we can do to collect each grain and appreciate what it represents.  None of this scary news has affected my dad's outlook on life.  He's still positive even though he just had to give up his career at Kraus Flooring, which I think was more difficult for him than even being told he has terminal cancer.  Unbelievably, and I mean even the doctors were blown away when dad was asking if they could arrange radiation and chemo appointments around his work schedule, he worked through the beginning appointments.  He is one loyal employee.  But that is how he lives his life.  So I channel his high spirits and dedication, so that I can be the best daughter and caretaker I can be.

I can't believe it but...I'm gearing up for a battle at the side of my dad.  It won't be pretty for the little "c".  Expect undignified outbursts along the way!

Never give up,

Kathy :)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Projects, Bronchitis, Gall Bladder Recovery, Chicken Pox and Christmas

Christmas came in a blustery whirlwind of some much-needed happy excitement!  For those that don't know, Hubby was rushed to the ER via ambulance for severe pain (which we now know was a gallstone attack).  The recovery has been slow and achy for him.  His diet has been reduced to a pittance of bland, no-fat foods (this has made him slightly, er...well, cranky).  I get it. We love food!  And this whole event has put a real damper on the consumption of his usual holiday treats.  However - he is a trooper and has managed to pull through.

On top of that, whilst in the toxic soup of the ER waiting room with Hubby, I managed to make an unwanted friend with a virus that turned into a severe case of bronchitis.  This 'friend' does not want to exit my lungs and has made me hack so hard - my new doctor questioned if I had become a smoker!!!  Thankfully, I am on antibiotics to quell the growth of any further bacteria.

And, since timing has never been my strong suit, it was also Christmas. (Insert a case of Chicken Pox here - on a vaccinated child, to boot!)  Amidst all of the negative, we were blessed with a lovely Christmas.  Time off of work topped the list as something I was SO grateful for (and for having such a flexible boss).  With everything going on - it made my life way easier.  And, because I am fairly organized, the one saving grace was I had finished my Christmas shopping pretty early in the year! (And because I am a teensy bit of a freak, I actually bought a few presents for next year already!!)  

That being said, I am married to guy that is pretty great (albeit, a titch grumpy for lack of real food!!) so we still managed to accomplish some home projects despite the setbacks.  But, when I get an idea for a project, hubby always give me a certain look: a raised eyebrow, a tilted head that begs me not to drag him into my crazy plans.  However, the truth is, when he joins me on those projects, we produce a level of greatness that I would have trouble replicating without my unwilling sidekick.  So, when I asked for his expertise in using a drill, he sighed, raised an eyebrow, and worked hard to convince me to leave the piece of furniture as it was.  I nodded absently, letting him think there was a chance that he was right, then I pounced (what is it with men so AGAINST painting all things wood?!)!  I had a final vision of what I wanted the piece to look like, and I wasn't about to be deterred.  (I have included the the before and after pictures to prove my point - for the doubters).  He sighed, and fired up the Ryobi...and I can say I am so happy with the final product (and my Hubby!!).

Boring wood furniture about to be VAVOOMED!

Project finished!

So this post is dedicated to Hubby's patience, his mad skills, his ability to trust my end results, and for his support in whatever creative adventure I am on.  Whether it's canning, writing, cooking or decorating - he's got my back.  And I love that. 

I can't believe it but...19 years ago I was lucky enough to nab the father of my three kids - and a great partner - all because I overheard him speaking french :) !


Kathy Pettit