The past few weeks I have been watching the news and reading about these scandals happening with Lance Armstrong and Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o which are consuming the headlines. I also am a huge fan of Dateline’s Friday night show with investigating reporter Keith Morrison.
When I read and watch these scandals, there is always a part of me that sides with the person being investigated because I like to believe that people are good. I always walk away from the stories in shock about the fact that these are true stories of people living fake lives and pulling off lies that hurt so many people. I also feel very thankful that it has never happened to me.
Ever notice yourself having a hard time relating to these stories and shrugging your shoulders because it really doesn’t matter to you since its not really effecting your life? I am completely untouched by Lance Armstrong’s years of betrayal and use of drugs. I never really followed his career or was influenced by him other than maybe buying an wristband because it was cool. I have no interest in Notre Dame’s made up story about a girlfriend. I just feel sorry for him because maybe his imaginary girlfriend was all he had? Who knows.
It’s not until you are in a situation where you have been betrayed or hurt that you feel like you can relate to those who are affected by the stories you hear in the news. I still struggle to believe that people can be that cruel or deceitful. I like to live in my bubble of “everyone is good and means no harm”.
Today, I want to share MY story…..the story that won’t be printed in the newspaper or the headline of the next National New's Headlines. This has been my blog for nearly 5 years and I have tried to leave out my personal views on political and religious topics to keep this space a happy and inspiring place. I think by airing my story to those who will read it, will help me with closure, or at least as close to closure as I can get.
In early 2005, my Grandmother passed away from breast cancer. My Grandfather is affectionately known as Popop (my Mother’s Father) who carried on to live 7 more years before passing away this past May of 2012. Popop remarried about a year after my Grandmother’s passing to a woman named Millie. They were married from 2006-2009 and remained a part of each others lives as friends until his passing. Millie would accompany my Grandfather to join us for Easter and Thanksgiving, so I was very familiar with her. Millie was also around our family when Reese and Rayne were born.
Popop was a very social kind of guy. When he was around, his cell phone would always be buzzing and he would joke that it was his latest girlfriend. I never knew anyone other than Millie since my Grandmother’s passing ….until March of 2012. Popop called saying he wanted to stop by for a few minutes and introduce me to his friend PJ whom he had known since Grandma passed away and that she wanted to give us some movies that her grandchildren were no longer watching.
PJ and Popop came over and mingled with the kids and seemed to be good friends. I gathered from our meeting that PJ and Popop met back in 2005 as PJ’s husband had passed away around the same time as my Grandmother. Popop and PJ had the loss of their spouses in common and remained friends off and on since then. I didn’t think anything beyond friendship as this was the first I have ever heard of her or the first time Popop ever brought her around.
Around late 2011 to early 2012, my Grandfather learned about his Throat Cancer returning. There was going to be a lot of doctor visits and unknowns. As for our family situation, Popop only had me and his brother Herb who lived in another state. My Dad offered to help when he could to take Popop to Dr appointments and friends who lived in his same community were offering to help as well since his health was declining and leaving him weak.
PJ’s involvement with helping my Grandfather started to become more well known. Between my Dad and myself, we were all keeping each other updated on what Dr’s were saying and who was taking him to the next procedure. We actually had a pretty decent system going.
PJ and I began to get to know each other a little more as we exchanged phone conversations and sat in waiting rooms together. I was able to learn more about her family and her relationship with my Grandfather. PJ would joke with all of us saying that she and my Popop could never get their ducks in a row to ever have anything more than a friendship and now that he’s sick, they are closer and talking about possible vacations together. PJ has a son and 2 grandchildren and was always joyfully sharing stories about them and the times they had met my Grandfather. It came as no surprise that everyone loved my Grandfather which always made me feel so good to hear.
PJ was a good friend during the decline of my Grandfather. She offered to help him with the business side of his affairs by keeping a folder with all of his bills organized and making sure that everything was getting paid in a timely manner. PJ would often tell us that she was just trying to help where needed. On more than a handful of occasions, PJ would comment that she wanted nothing from my Grandfather as far as money went or anything personal of his because all she wanted was to be there for him as a friend.
The more PJ was around, the more I appreciated her for all she was doing. My Popop’s brother Herb came mid-April to live with Popop until we knew for certain when his throat surgery was going to be held.
To give more information about Popop’s health:
Popop’s doctors sent him for physicals to find out his overall health. The cancer hospital Doctors felt they could go in through surgery to remove the tumor of cancer in his throat by taking out his voicebox and cleaning out the damage that the cancer had caused. This process was something Popop wanted to try, rather than letting the cancer take his life. Popop was willing to take the chance of surgery and living with a voice automaker than to die now. Through this process Popop learned that he had a weak heart and the throat surgery could not take place until he had stints put in to give him better circulation and overall health. Popop went through with the heart stint procedure and that seemed to help. While tending to his heart issues, Popop’s throat was only getting worse. He was losing weight rapidly and had lost all interest in eating or drinking anything. The doctors reviewed this and decided to put a feeding tube in his stomach that he could manually feed himself with liquid nutrients. They originally talked about putting the tube down his throat, but with the sensitivity and rawness, they had to resort to his stomach. Neighbors would come by to help keep him on schedule with his feedings and his brother Herb who was living with him would also assist. Unfortunately, Popop wanted nothing to do with the feeding tube and his feedings were sparse and as much as we all wanted to push him, he would refuse. There was a period of about 6 weeks from the time of the heart procedure that Popop had to wait before scheduling his throat surgery. This is the 6 weeks of hell as I can remember. The heart Dr’s had him on blood thinners to ensure that his heart repaired itself with the new stints put in. There was a set meeting with the throat/cancer doctors as we reached closer to the end of the 6 week time frame to review his health and make sure he could withstand the surgery. We all felt that each day we waited for his heart to repair was only allowing the cancer that much more strength to take over.
As we got closer to the date to meet with the Dr’s for his throat, my great uncle Herb was noticing my Grandfather going through these bouts with hallucinations. One night Herb called me to say that he was having Popop taken by ambulance to the hospital because of them. I met them immediately as I was his Power of Attorney for all medical decisions. When Popop would talk to me about his visions, I had to just nod and accept what he was saying.
His hallucinations were about these men and women and children who would appear in his room. He said they would dress up in his clothes and hide his keys from him. I asked him more information about these people and what they looked like. He said they gave him straight faces and said nothing.
I have no idea what those people were in his mind but I tried to convince myself that they were angels watching over him.
As time would tell, Popop had very high sodium levels and severe dehydration. These were the excuses for the hallucinations so they administered IV’s and were trying to get him nutrients. There is no telling how far gone his intake of food or liquid had been. We also learned that he had signs of possible pneumonia. The Dr’s were going to treat him as if he had pneumonia. Popop could not understand why we could not just go home. He was just days away from meeting with the throat doctor for his surgery.
Popop never left the hospital. His health declined everyday that he was in the hospital. He developed double phenomena and the Dr’s could never get his sodium levels up. I tell ya though, Popop was a fighter! Even on the last night when I saw him awake and alert, he was telling me to get him a popsicle and to take him home. These pictures were taken on that night. The man next to my Popop is his brother Herb and in the other picture is PJ and Popop. He was so frail but perky. I’ve heard this is typical for people to have a burst of energy before going downhill.
The next day, I had a call from the Dr’s who kept me up to date on what was going on and they said he had taken a turn for the worse and was on 100% oxygen. My great uncle Herb and I had to make a decision later in that day on May 23rd to let him go peacefully.
PJ, my Uncle Herb, and one of his friends from his community were there in the hospital during the last moments before Popop passed. Millie and her son came earlier in the day to say their farewells as well as some other close friends and family.
It was now upon myself and my Uncle Herb to tend to the business of my Grandfather’s wishes. The months leading up to the heart procedure and plans for throat surgery were spent with my Dad and Popop and making sure we understood where all of the important documents were and what he wanted. My Grandfather didn’t have much but he did have money put into an account with Wells fargo that he had told my Uncle and Dad that was set aside for me and his great-grandchildren, Ryan, Reese and Rayne. There wasn’t much material wise that I wanted except that I did ask for these German Steins my Grandfather had collected over the years as they were the memories from my childhood. Popop had given me a few trinkets here and there before he got too sick but he had made it clear that he had left everything to his brother Herb and designated any money to be distributed to me.
There seemed to be some tension forming between my Uncle and me during the final decisions about my Grandfather. I felt very shunned by him as he waded through my Grandfather’s home deciding what to do with every item without including me. It was very bizarre behavior which I would lean on PJ to vent my frustrations.
Herb and I agreed to hold a celebration of life Memorial at his community center in his apartment complex as most of his friends lived there and could attend. He had a great ceremony filled with many people whom shared stories about how he touched their lives. It was sad but joyful and a relief for many to know he is not suffering anymore. This picture was taken as I spoke at his service.
In the last weeks before Herb finalized my Grandfather’s home and packed up his things to head back to his house, I was trying to make sense of everything. I had lost my Grandmother and now my Grandfather. My Great Uncle didn’t live nearby and by the way he and I were parting ways after dealing with my Grandfather’s wishes, I didn’t think I would likely speak with him ever again. PJ was there for me. PJ would assure me that everything was going to be okay. She would back me up when I felt like I was being treated badly by my Uncle Herb.
It brings me to an email PJ wrote me during this time. I asked her to please stick by me in the future and that I wanted her to be apart of our family. She writes:
“I would be proud to be part of the "family" You absolutely do not make me feel awkward. Matter of fact, you are a lot like me, there when someone needs you, want what is right but will not push & shove to get it our way (unless we really have to!!) I kinda backed out of Herbs dealings too. He kinda shoved me to the side. I did bring the plants home to try to save them. They haven't had water for a while. I always made it a point to water them but I haven't been there. I hate to keep saying it but PLEASE feel free to let me know if you need me to meet you over there or help you with anything.”
PJ was checking in with me as the days moved on from Popop’s death. We would text each other and update if either of us had heard anything. She was a friend and I appreciated it. She had information about my Grandfather from the time they were friends that she could share with me. She would also send me a few random pictures of her with my Grandfather as she came across them so that I would have more memories to hold on to of him. She seemed to be so sweet and caring and when people die, it seems like people get very greedy about things. PJ assured me and many others on many occasions that she wanted nothing from him. She just wanted to be there to help. There was something genuine about her that I loved. She sent me this picture of them at dinner before his cancer took its toll.
June snuck up on us and it had been less than a month since Popop passed away and things were still being sorted out with his financial affairs. PJ had been helping my Grandfather in his final days with his bills and writing his checks for him, she also helped direct him to the account advisor with Wells Fargo to invest his money that I mentioned before was designated for me and my children. As time was passing, I thought it was odd that I had not heard anything from Wells Fargo. I remember asking PJ if she knew anything about it and she would either avoid the question by interjecting something about my Uncle Herb or saying that she knew nothing. I figured if anyone would know about his financial affairs, it might be her since she was helping and all.
She wrote me an email at the first of June saying:
” I spoke with my attorney this afternoon to tell him about Herb asking about the acct when "I wrote the checks" . I asked him just for grins about Dicks doctors bills. He said without seeing the will & taking my word that it said Herb would get everything, that the bills would come out of the estate. Herb would not have to pay anything above the value of the estate.”
Life was carrying on with unknowns about how things would finally end with my Grandfather’s matters, but I had a birthday party for my daughter to plan. Reese was turning 2years old. I invited PJ to come as I thought it was fitting for her to be there since she was owning up to the adopted Grandmother role. She gave Reese a big Minnie Mouse and enjoyed the party with all of our family and friends. I introduced her to friends as my “Grandfather’s Girlfriend” as I figured it would be the easiest title to give her even though they were just friends.
I didn’t want our relationship to stop there and my Dad felt the same way towards PJ, so with July 4th coming, we asked her to join us for a family get together to celebrate which she unfortunately couldn’t join. I knew I would need to make an effort to keep in touch as I’m not the best at doing it with work and kid schedules and everything. I just knew for sure that I wanted her to be in our lives.
I was thankful she was helping with the details. She wrote me a text asking for updates about the probate of the will and I wrote her back telling her:
“I called about the Wells Fargo investment and they can’t tell me anything but the guy did say that I was not listed as the TOD (transfer on death) and whoever is.. has been contacted. I just feel sad about it all. Angry with Herb and the fact that I can’t do anything about it.”
After July 7th, I never heard from PJ again.
Click HERE for Part 2 of this story.