Know your role

Happy Birthday Dad!


Yesterday, my dad turned 70 years old. I always wondered how crappy it would be to have your birthday so close to Christmas. So many of my friends that have December birthdays experience the ‘this is your birthday and Christmas present’. I also bet it is rare that they get a birthday present that isn’t wrapped as a Christmas present.

As I reflect back on his past birthdays, there have been some great ones and not so great. We have had the annual Christmas party on his birthday before and some years we may have been very inebriated from overindulging in such fine liquors like Aftershock. Take note, any liquor blend that has a name like Aftershock, or Fireball are just asking for pain and suffering the day after.  It is truly an “Aftershock”. My brothers, my dad, John and I have had experience with this. Trust me on this.

Another birthday year, Dad had stood up to some belligerent guys at Fenders in Milan and paid the price. He was there to have a few birthday drinks with friends and 2 guys started to harass a couple in the bar.  Short story, we have family pictures of my dad pretty beat up. He and another guy did get the 2 jerks out of the bar, but not without them getting a few hits in. Sometimes I wonder does he realize his age. This wasn’t when he was like in his 40’s. This was when he was in his 60’s! I asked him this repeatedly as I yelled at him. Hunter has some pretty interesting 1 year old Christmas pictures with grandpa and grandma.

This milestone for my dad would have been celebrated with some flair and whiskey if it was a typical year. I would have probably worked with Phyllis to set up something of a get together. There would be stories to tell and reflect on.  Similar to the stories like above. But I will just say it, ALS sucks.

Russell Family Christmas


back row: John Darrah, Me, Jamie, John Covel, Bryan, Suzie Middle: Bryan II, Phyllis holding Ms Bree, Dad Holding Penny dog and trying to contain Ms Baily and sitting is Hunter and Brody

We had the Family Christmas party Saturday and overall it was a wonderful time. We had laughs but tears too.  It is hard to not realize the undercurrent of emotion that was around us, the proverbial “elephant in the room”.  We all took extra moments with Phyllis taking pictures, emotional hugs, and tears. Everyone realized that this may be our last one. We hope and pray we get more, but we are taking what we can get and cherish it. My dad said a very nice Christmas dinner prayer. It was an emotional prayer but one that was filled with love and support surrounded by family and friends that are like family.


Terri and Don Conde with Phyllis and My Dad

The grand kids got spoiled, as they usually do. This year my nieces stole most of my attention. img_2586While I love the boys too, little Miss Bailey is a riot and Miss Bree is the sweetest thing. I mean, look at them! God blesses me with nieces and nephews because I can love them and cuddle them but then give them back. 🙂 I have said a few times in the past, I am not a multi child mother. And to those parents out there with more than one, god bless ya cause some days I can’t handle the one I have. As I review the pictures that come up in my time-hop app from Christmases past, it is funny to see them grow up and then new grand kids are added.  It is bittersweet to see how happy we all are from those past years and while not perfect all the time, there is love in our crazy mixed up family that can be seen every year.

Update on Phyllis for the week of December 12th : We had the appointment with the holistic doctor and they have started the supplements they have prescribed.  It was funny talking to dad about the visit as he said “they were a little weird”. Having Phyllis raise her arm and then based off of observations, they suggested supplements. But I feel that we are at a point of trying anything. Phyllis is adapting to the feeding tube and we are getting on her to keep eating at a regular schedule. Our constant nagging is probably driving her nuts. But when I was there on Friday, she seemed to have more energy and was able to nag my dad on things, which produces a smile or laugh from her. So it seems hopeful that the ability to get her nourishment and supplements are helping. Everyone pitched in on Saturday for dinner and set up. We had for the most part our typical Christmas. I am still worried about my dad and his health but I think that’s just going to become a constant as time goes on.  This upcoming week I am looking into light therapy and we have home care coming in and helping out. It will be a change for both Phyllis and my Dad, but all us kids are hoping for the best and that they are more help that a ‘pain in the ass’ ( as my dad states).

Changing roles

I talked to John today about how my dad was 70 now. It got me thinking about how the roles of parent and child are changing. I am not happy about it, as all my parents are an integral part of my foundation of life. Each one of them, my dad, my mom, and Phyllis are my support system in their own way. I don’t know about others, but I have always thought of my parents as invincible, a force to be reckoned with. Especially my dad, he has always been in my corner and we have had some tough times. Even being 44 years old, I still have to check in with or text or call them when I travel :D. “I am here, I have landed, I am home” as they are always worrying about my safety. But now with the uncertainty of what the future holds, I see myself starting to worry, about their health and their safety. I have those moments when the phone rings and I think whats wrong or I have to call daily to check in on them. The roles are changing and we will all have to adapt to that change. It is just here sooner than I expected.

I hope that during the holidays you think about those that have past and remember them fondly, while enjoying those that are still here no matter how irritating that one person in your family is. Also, if you are traveling during this time, I hope you arrive safely and remember to check in to just say ““I am here, I have landed, and I am home”. I am sure your loved ones will appreciate it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s