Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Terrier Dog

It's obvious I don't blog much anymore, but when something happens that tells more of Ryan's (Kyle's) story, I feel obligated to update this.  Add to the archive of his life story.  Actually, there's a lot I could add, but this story is cool.

Let me preface this by saying that even though I referred to him as Kyle for the years I was blogging, my son's name was actually Ryan.  And in August he'll have been gone for 10 years.  But truly gone?  Read on...

Ryan was an animal lover.  But our lives were so busy there were barely enough hours (and dollars) for 5 kids, let alone a pet. But they wore me down, and 6 months before Ryan passed we got a dog.  My wife got a lead about a beagle puppy at our local animal shelter, and that was enough to make me cave. I always wanted a beagle.  When I saw the dog, I realized the shelter did a bait-and-switch on them.  The beagle puppy had just been adopted, but look at this dog...  It was a 5+ year old terrier, maybe with a little beagle in her bloodline.  But that was OK, she was a sweet, loyal dog.  Maybe because she had obviously been abused in the past.  They took her home, and Ryan was beyond excited.  After much discussion they named her Ryley.  Ryley attached to Ryan.  He loved that dog.  But it's funny, when Ryley got scared, she came to me.  For example, when there were thunderstorms she'd be trembling and I was the only one who could reassure her.  More on that in a moment. When Ryan passed, the dog mourned for a long time.  You wouldn't think a dog would know.  She knew.

Fast forward to the recent past.  Ryley was slipping.  She was 15 or 16, nobody knew her exact age.  She was completely deaf, and almost totally blind.  She had dementia, and couldn't control herself.  After a while we realized it would be cruel and selfish of us to keep her around any longer - it was time to let her go.  We took her to the vet, we're waiting for the doc, and my wife is talking to the dog reassuring her.  Then it was like Ryley had a moment of clarity, she heard my voice, looked into my eyes, relaxed, and never stopped looking into my eyes until she was gone.  The last thing my wife told her was that Ryan would be waiting for her.  I was happy I could provide Ryley comfort, but devastated by the thought that I couldn't protect her from this. 

2 nights later my wife's phone rang late at night.  Whenever a phone rings early in the morning a parent's heart stops.  But in this case it was one of  Ryan's best friends.  He was excited to tell her about a dream he just had, a very vivid dream about Ryan.  He described it, and told my wife that Ryan said he was doing great.  Then, without knowing anything about the dog, said:

"Ryan said he has Ryley."  

Saturday, October 01, 2016

An Update - Part 2

Sorry it's taken me so long to finish this story. Thanks to Polarimbi for her message which made me remember to finish this.

 As I wrote earlier, my son's cancer had spread, and the necessary chemo left him infertile. They had been trying for children for a couple years before his cancer diagnosis, so this was bad news. But they had frozen some sperm before his surgery, and after his chemo and the initial diagnosis that he was in remission, they decided to undergo fertilization. They tried a couple times without success. They're a young couple, he was a small town newspaper editor, and fertilization is expensive. They'd try, save more money, and try again. They tried in vitro, which has a higher success rate, but that was much more expensive, and they struck out there also. Someone told them about a third method, which was almost as effective as in vitro, but much less expensive, and they tried it. Success. They went in for a check up not long after the good news, and the doc said "you better sit down." The baby didn't make it. They were crushed, but still determined. Saved some more, and did it again. Success. They were having twins. They were floating on cloud 9, and we were all elated. A couple weeks later they went for a check up, and the doc said "you better sit down." They lost one of their twins. I can't imagine the roller coaster those kids were on over those 2+ years. So 2 weeks later they went in for their next check up. Once again the words "you better sit down." The doc explained that the embryo separated. They were puzzled, until she told them they were having identical twins. Twins are common with fertilization, but identical twins happen at the same rate as regular conception. The embryo splits, and it's a rare occurence. They are now almost 3 years old, and are 2 of the smartest, sweetest, cutest boys ever.

 But there's more.

 My youngest son and his wife had also been trying to conceive, but without success. Greg told them about this fertilization method, and they tried it. Success. Things were looking good. Then a couple weeks later at a checkup they got the dreaded words "you better sit down." The doc explained that the embryo separated... You guessed it - 2 more identical twin boys, 9 months younger. They're smart, loving, and absolutely adorable. My wife and I went from zero grandkids to four in 9 months. What are the odds? It's mindblowing. And it's all Ryan. Not only did he possibly save his brother's life, he set in motion the events that led to these beautiful children. And I don't believe for a second that 2 sets of identical twin boys came about without intervention of some sort. It's just too freaky.

 But there's more.

 Greg and family lived several hours away, where he was a small town newspaper editor. As is common in a smaller town, he got the pitch about becoming a volunteer firefighter. Wanting to become an active part of the community, he agreed. He discovered a passion. It didn't take the town long to offer him a paid position, and he left his newspaper job. Soon after he took a career firefighter position in a nearby larger college town. Shortly after that he was hired by the fire department in our city, a larger city, and his hometown. They found a house 6 blocks away from his brother. So we now have all our grandkids 10 minutes away, and the brothers and all 4 boys are living only a few blocks apart. They'll go to the same school. Can you imagine? I'm not sure Ryan orchestrated this part, but he would be pleased. His family was important to him, and he was very close to his brothers. He would have loved his nephews, and been a great uncle.

A few months ago Greg had a check up, and they declared him cancer free.  No more regular checkups.  No more extended warranty.  He kicked it's butt.

 I try to wrap my head around all these events, and look at things logically. But it just doesn't work, there's nothing logical about anything that happened. I know Ryan would have given his life for any of his family or friends. But his passing was an accident, a true fluke. There was no way he could have orchestrated that for the purposes of saving another life. But yet...

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Update - Part 1

(Cross posted to Bipolar Support and Living With A Purple Dog)

I haven't updated this blog since Ryan passed, but it's time to come back and tell a story of events that only Ryan could orchestrate. This is a story where, if you aren't familiar with Ryan and his life, might sound like random events. We know better.

Ryan and his older brother, we'll call him Greg, were only 19 months apart, and were very close. They did everything together. After Ryan passed, on the anniversary of his death, Greg decided to honor Ryan by stepping outside his comfort zone and doing something he wouldn't otherwise do. Ryan was a fearless free spirit, and it was a fitting tribute. One year he went skydiving, another year he ate Chinese food. Then the third year...

On the third anniversary of Ryan's death, Greg went horseback riding. He'd been on trail horses at camp, but never wind-in-his-hair, exhilarating riding. It was the great experience he hoped for. Another fitting tribute. The next day he was sore - that's to be expected, right? Except it didn't go away. After several days he decided to get it checked out. His doctor got somber and told him to run, not walk, to the hospital. There they diagnosed him with testicular cancer. They scheduled him for surgery the next day. Not to minimize any cancer, but testicular cancer caught early is rarely life-threatening. A lot depends on when it's caught, and the particular situation.

Taking a slight detour here. Testicular cancer usually involves removal of the affected testicle, and after a period of time, fertility returns to a normal level. But we encouraged him to freeze some sperm before the surgery, and he said they'd consider it. Well, they did. Can you imagine a young couple trying to produce sperm after being diagnosed with cancer, knowing surgery was early the next day? My perverse sense of humor makes me chuckle every time I think about it.

Surgery went well, but after a CT scan they scheduled him for aggressive chemo. It was miserable, but successful. Except the chemo left him sterile.

Over the next year or so he underwent numerous examinations and scans, which eventually led to a clean bill of health - he was in remission, and they had no reason to suspect the cancer would return.

End of part one - if it wasn't for honoring his late brother, it's possible Greg's cancer wouldn't have been discovered soon enough for the positive outcome he received. I truly believe Ryan orchestrated this. And since he went that far, watch for part 2 of this post...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Disability Hearing

About a month ago we had a call from Ryan's (Kyle's) attorney saying a date had been set for his disability claim hearing. He had made application a long time before he died, was rejected (as are most), and the attorney filed an appeal. It seems like this happened quite a while before he died. 20 months after he left us, he finally gets a disability hearing. We were ready to walk away, I have no interest in taking money from the Social Security Administration after he's gone, but the wife and I discussed it and decided that, if for no other reason, the attorney could recover some of her costs. She really is a caring and compassionate person. So we decided to proceed.

We walked into the hearing room and there was my wife and I, Ryan's attorney, the judge, a medical expert on speaker phone, and a vocational expert. They all had files as thick as a big-city phone book. They were referencing many exhibits, sub-exhibits, schedules, and so forth. They had his counseling records, his medical and hospital records, his psychiatrist's records. Things he'd NEVER want to share with anyone, and it was an open book. To hear his life reduced to a stack of papers was almost more than I could handle, and I choked up at times during the testimony. There was information read aloud he would NEVER want us, let alone others, to know. It was really sad. We wanted them to know what a caring, compassionate, loving, brilliant kid he was, but that wasn't material to the case.

The system is broken, probably irreparably. It's designed to deny benefits rather than help those in need. It sucks out the motivation, the self-worth, the soul of those attempting to collect disability. Unfortunately, it won't change, given the state of politics today.

The weeks leading up to this, both my wife and I fell into a depression. The deepest depression I've had since he died. The day after the hearing, we're both improving a bit, but it may take a while.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Chapter Read and Closed

It's been almost 10 months since Ryan (Kyle) died. The sharpness of the pain has faded, and that hurts also. It's like we're no longer feeling his death like we used to, and that brings about feelings of guilt. Last night we were eating dinner and the phone rang. Someone asked for Ryan, and my daughter handed the phone to me. It was a recruiter. I told her Ryan passed away, she felt bad, and said she wouldn't call again. I hung up, and we all sat there and cried. But those times are less frequent.

I've been asked why I'm no longer blogging. I am, albeit infrequently. I'm also spending time on Facebook. My blog is a general blog, meant to give a personal outlet. I no longer blog about my bipolar disorder, the sharing of that part of my life is gone with Ryan. I have moved on. I'm not removing this blog, or our blog. I'm leaving them up as a reminder to me of how much things have changed, and as a reminder of yet another chapter in my life that is read and done.

Here's a favorite family picture from either 1995 or 1996. Ryan is sitting next to my wife, posing, as he did for every picture we took of him: