Saturday, September 5, 2015

Heart Attacks, Women & Mrs. Zimmerman

Two weeks ago, Dad had a heart attack rendering him unconscious but alive.  He survived, left the hospital, signed a DNR because he has no life in MN.  He sits alone while my mom runs around doing whatever it is she does while he sits, alone, almost blind and mostly deaf.

No wonder he signed the DNR.  I would too.  As much as I hate it, I get it.  Depending on my own circumstances in the next few days, he will likely come to live with me primarily and go home to be with his wife on occasion.  Here he has a life - little things to do, pets to let out, he loves to putter and there are lots of puttering things to do here.  As he pleases.  No list, no harried pace to get things done.

Make no doubt, my mother loves him.  She does.  No doubt she's also terrified of what is coming.

Me too.

Nothing made that more clear than 3 days after my dad was released from the hospital when I got a voice mail, voice quivering, "PJ, call home."  It was 3:30 AM.

No good decisions come at that time of day, no good news comes then either.

In June 2010, a man whom was like a 2nd father to me, passed away peacefully after a lengthy demise due to Alzheimer's disease.

You can read that story here:

And the follow-up here:

Back in 1986, after signing the termination of parental rights agreement, trying to decide on my son's family, and deciding within the appropriate time period to keep my son, I never let my parents know.  They'd already disowned me once and I was terrified they'd do it again.  The financial part wasn't worrying me, it was never speaking to my dad again.

I'm a daddy's girl and proud of it!  My nickname, PJ, is from him.  IF I get to have fancy initials on my name, my first name on any badge will be PJ.

Anyway, I kept my son, went to classes at the university, took him with me per my professors' suggestion, walked between classes if I had a babysitter to hand him off and called my dad.  From a payphone back in the day of collect calls, he'd never know.

Or so I thought.  Dad always knew.

That August of 1986, my parents were on their way to the Zim's cabin in rural WI.  Wanted to stop by and say hello, see how my apartment was, see how I was doing.

Terrified, I asked a friend of mine to take my little guy for the day so I could "hide" that I'd kept him. And, I left a note on the door explaining why I wasn't there, why my son was kept, what his name was (middle name after my dad) and hoped someday they'd forgive me for disappointing them.

A few hours later, I came home to find my dad sitting on my door stoop, my mom in the car crying and giving me the crazy stink eye.

We talked for a long time, Dad gave me $20 and said to give her time.  He also said he'd fly back when he could to visit me and meet his grandson.

They left for the cabin and I truly never expected to see them again.

There was a bigger power though.  Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman.

At 14, my parents had signed a will that if something should ever happen to them, and they both passed at the same time, the Zimmerman family would be mine.  They'd adopt me and raise me as their own.  In many ways, they already had.

At the cabin, my parents told the Zims about my pregnancy, the failure of me to adopt out my son, probably my failure in keeping him, and that they'd just found out.  I do not know what else transpired there, I do know that very devout Catholic family looked at my mother and said her place was with me, supporting me, not with them whining at the cabin.

That much has been confirmed many times.

My parents showed up three days later.

Back in June of this year, my son and I flew to see my dad on his 85th birthday.  We also got a phone call while sitting there from Mrs. Zim, and of course, I wanted her to come to dinner with us.  We all did.

We all laughed at stories of the cabin, talked about Mr. Zim, talked about her and her health.  Her eyes had been declining.  Mac degeneration.

I laughed and asked if there was a can of Franco - American Spaghetti in her cupboard (not spaghettios, spaghetti).  She laughed, her eyes lit up and said, "Always.  Just for you.  Do you really still eat that stuff?"  Laughing, yes, I really do.  It's my comfort food.

We talked about coming up in August for a long week at the cabin.  A summer solstice, a calming retreat of fond memories, a ...

She passed away this week.  I have a hard time writing that.  My head still can't really wrap around the fact that she's gone.  And I don't know if I can get to MN for her funeral.  To say goodbye to the woman who was most like a real mom to me.

Apparently, the night she passed away she'd been talking to her daughter and said she had bad gas.  The daughter kept telling her to call the hospital.  Mrs. Zim refused saying she was just going to rest.


My guess is she had a massive heart attack or an aortic dissection.  Women's heart attacks don't manifest themselves like men's.

If you are a female, please learn the symptoms of a heart attack.  Please visit the American Heart Association site and read:

As the family grieves the loss of their mom, I grieve their loss as well.  Mrs. Zim lived a great life, raised amazing kids, loved her grandkids, and loved her friends.  All of us.  And we loved her right back.

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