Monday, April 30, 2007

Cat's out of the bag

And I'm not too fond of cats. So let 'em go.

This post is to bring everyone up to current. It’s a rant, a rave and a revelation of sorts.

These past several weeks have been pretty traumatic on my psyche. I have had to withhold information from you lovely loyal readers and that put me in a predicament that caused me to slow down on so many fronts, especially the blog postings. Something I didn't exactly like doing.

This blog is my confidant. My therapist. My out, if you will. Even though its auspices are organ donation, the blog has a very grounded effect since the organ donation is exactly what has put me in this current position.

Where does the future lead?

We are in the process of looking for a new house here in Western PA. If that happens, then is will cement our roots in this area for several more years. It's not something I relish. As a matter of fact I nearly got divorced over this decision. Something I actually seriously considered. While I can live and flourish anywhere in this world, my family is the most important thing to me. My “family” is not limited to just my children and my wife. It fully includes my parents (both sets), my brothers and sister, their kids, my grandparents (all of ‘em) and my aunts, uncles and cousins. I grew up with 5, 10, 20 people at a birthday party. Thanksgiving dinners had twice that and most of the time there were so many people coming and going at Christmas we really couldn’t count. I cannot thank my parents and grandparents enough for those memories that are just so damn wonderful.

But that is exactly what put me in a position that no matter what my decision was, I would regret it.

When we moved to Pittsburgh, I thought I made it very clear that we would be here for at least five years. That would be enough time to take in the ambiance of what is Pittsburgh and beyond. At four years we would sit down and determine if our move was beneficial to us as a WHOLE family. If we have not benefited as a WHOLE family, then we would begin the process of returning home to Washington.

Apparently, only my kids, my family members and myself were the ones that remembered that four/five year timeline. My wife (and company) had forgotten about it.

I define “beneficial” as a set of standards. Whereas we have either increased our finances, gained personal wealth by experiences (more-better culture), put into a better position professionally (which should better our finances, so to speak) and/or where we as a family have become better people by living here.

In years form now and the subject comes up that we lived in (near) Pittsburgh, they will invariably ask what you did there. Well, up to now, not much. I have been to the hospitals more that anything else. I have seen one pro baseball game. No hockey or football. I have seen a couple fireworks shows, but now they are old hat. We have been to a few museums and my daughter got to see River Dance at the opera theater. We have been to Erie once and Niagara Falls once. This summer we head to Philadelphia for a weekend. That’s it. For fours years in this area and I can summarize it in a couple of sentences, I say it’s a bust.

The above may expose our limited experiences, to be totally fair, we have benefited.

I have put myself into positions where I volunteer for one of the local youth sports associations. That is something that really is one of my great joys every week in the spring and fall. I have also been able to pick up a camera again and re discover my love for still photography. (I would have most likely picked up a camera anywhere, it just happens to be here so that’s an indirect benefit). I also got involved with an organization to bring about revitalization to the small town I currently live in. My wife has been promoted which really was the reason we moved in the first place. She contends that she can’t “just transfer” to any other location within her company. I agree, it would take time to do that, but we did it once, we can do it again. Another benefit that is most obvious is the recipient has received a liver resulting in a new lease on life. The recipients spouse loves living here too. Enjoys the slower lifestyle and small quiet comforts of the village they live in.

What have we lost?

My kids….well they haven’t directly benefited by being here. Indirectly, yes. But they are also losing so much that just cannot be replaced. Regular time with extended family just cannot be replaced with a few weeks once a year or in our case every four years.

What’s the big deal? Well, my kids are growing up with only two of their dozens or more family members. The two that they regularly interact with really can’t (or won’t) do anything with them. One is more of a homebody and the other has health issue that must be taken into consideration. It’s NOT a slam. It’s the reality of our situation. There are so many family members we left back home, that are very active in life that our kids are just plain missing out on it truly pains me to be in this situation.

Staying here in Western PA will result in my kids not knowing any of their cousins or their grandparents and having great memories like I do, I still have two grandparents (with one remarried) that are alive. My mom and dad have both remarried (YEARS ago) and I have siblings with both of them that have kids. I also have numerous cousins from aunts and uncles that have kids that are similar in age to my kids. All-for-naught.

Right now I feel they are in the golden hours of their lives. Over the next 3-4 years, they will create memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I want those memories to include family. The whole family. Once they hit high school, it’s all about their peers and their classmates. The majority of their time will be spent away from mom and dad and they will be fast approaching full independence. Even if we move back in three years (my next milestone) they will have missed out on the ability to make close relationships and great memories with my parents, (their grandparents) their cousins and other family members.

By my decisions, I will have taken away opportunities of precious memories from my parents as well. That is something that is very, very difficult to accept.

So why are we still here? Well, it’s economics my dear Watson. Economics.

The recipient of course underwent a liver transplant recently. The medical coverage is provided by the hospital that performed the procedure. If the recipient leaves the area, then the medical coverage will cease to exist. Since none of use makes seven figures a year, we are sort of stuck here. The state Commonwealth of PA uses proceeds from the lottery system to supplement the seniors that reside here. Many states use the lottery for education; PA uses a lot of it for seniors. It’s a system that works very, very well.

I requested the medical info from the recipient so I could contact the State of Washington to compare medical coverage. But the recipient and spouse wouldn’t have not provided that info for me. I think they know that if I can find a good argument against staying here, we will then begin moving back to the (great) State of WA. By not providing that info to me, it ensures we stay here. That’s leverage. I’m impressed.

I tried a difficult stand on a compromise, that wasn’t taken very well. Perhaps it was the blindsided approach that caused it to fail right from the beginning. But sometime, that approach works best. This time, it didn’t. I offered (?) to move back to WA with the kids for a couple of years. My wife could stay here with the recipient and spouse. In a few years, we would reevaluate the situation.

It was met with incredible hostility.

Even though my wife left WA to come to PA for her job, me leaving to go back to WA with the kids was not met with the same enthusiasm. It must be different.

It wasn’t meant to be an “end all”. It was designed to be a safe stop gap of “the grass is greener” situation. If it didn’t work out for us in WA, there was some place to come back to in PA. If things in PA changed, or the insurance in WA got better for the recipient, then those in PA could head to WA.

Again, it wasn’t received well at all. At that point, I had to give up the battle. I knew I would lose everything I was working for if I continued. I put on my “happy face” and went on with the charade.

My wife has made it her number one goal to ensure the best quality of life for the recipient and spouse their last years on this earth. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT. But our sole focus on them has caused the rest of our families (hers and mine) to figuratively be lost to the wayside. They have essentially become an after thought.

We have effectively been the sole providers to them for the last 6-8 years. I must admit, it’s been challenging but also rewarding. There are few people on this earth that can do what I do. It has caused some consternation and yet has given hope to others. Never the same people though.

I have rarely been the one to say “if we can save just one” it’s all worth it. I am usually the person to reach out to the masses. I don’t have a problem sacrificing one for the majority. It’s a bitter pill to swallow in my ability [sic] to self sacrifice. I have given so much up for the benefit of others my whole life….I am realizing now, that I need to begin to take care of myself, to take hold of my own dreams before they are lost to the ether forever.

I just do not know how rocky that path will be.

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