Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Saturday, February 25, 2006
My Large Family
Eight days before my wedding my mother died suddenly, changing forever our close-knit family. At first everyone was in shock and disbelief. She was the glue of the family, being a very warm, caring, inviting mother to whom everyone turned when they had a problem. It wasn't that my father was any less caring, but mom was the one who was always there for us while dad worked at two jobs for most of his life plus kept up with the farm. For me, those days and weeks after mom's death - even my own wedding - were spent in a daze. My father, who had lost his life partner, took on the responsibility of giving us a warm, caring shoulder to cry on, and at the same time being strong enough to hold it together himself, telling us that mom was in a better place and not to be sad. If he wasn't before, he became my hero then, facing that hardship with such strength and faith. But he wasn't mom, and in the months that followed a drastic change took place in the family. Suddenly there were no more Sunday get-togethers, instead, just a few people dropping by the house to see how dad was doing, and maybe fixing dinner for him. Dad was like me, a quiet man. He had opinions which he would expound on at length, given the chance, but small talk and conversation starters were not things he excelled at. It was awkward, I think, for us to go back to our home and try to be cheerful when such a large void had been created with mom's passing. So gradually we all drifted apart, only seeing each other on holidays and weddings, until even that became a hassle with the ever-expanding families harder and harder to round up due to work and prior commitments. When my father passed away and the family home and belongings had to be divided up it was almost like cutting the last branch of the family tree. Not that we don't talk to each other, but we rarely get a chance for all of us to come together to catch up on each others' lives.
I really miss those family gatherings, and truly wish times were like those of my youth. My family was my nest to come home to and be protected and loved. Although my wife and I have built a somewhat smaller family I hope that my children will feel that they are part of a unique, caring unit, and maintain that feeling into their adult lives.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I just remembered that I still have to send in my city taxes. Went to H&R Block to get the state and federal done three weeks ago and got the refund back , but I have to pay in to the city so I wait until the last minute to do that. Did I mention that I'm a well-practiced procrastinator?
I'm listening to some of MY music right now. My 70's and 80's songs. This song - Driver's Seat- really brings back memories from my youth. It's as great a song now as it was then. The older songs like that really stir a longing to go back to that time. For me it was a feeling of freedom that excited me. Just out of high school and being able to make my own decisions, my own responsibilities.... that was the best feeling in the world!
Monday, February 20, 2006
By LISA REICOSKY Repository Living Section writer
It was around 10 the night of Jan. 6, when Sondra Khoenle got home from Wal-Mart with her 5-year-old son Tyler.
Tyler’s friend Katie was very ill and Sondra wanted to get a gift to take to her in the morning.
Sondra was busy in the kitchen when another son, Kyle, told her to come into the living room to see Tyler.
“He’s dancing, but there’s no music on. I think he’s lost it,” Kyle told her.
Sondra followed him in and watched Tyler, her little boy with Down syndrome, dance around the room smiling and singing.
“What are you doing, Tyler?” she asked.
“I fly!” he said. “I flying with Katie.”
“Where are you flying, Tyler?” she asked, amused.
Pointing out the window, Tyler said, “Katie fly there.”
Tyler continued to dance for a while, then stopped and did the sign language symbol for “all done.”
“Done flying?” Sondra asked.
“I done. Katie flying,” he said.
That night Tyler slept with his mother, not usually a comfortable thing for her because he tosses and turns and sits up all night. On this night, however, he slept peacefully throughout.
The next morning Sondra went to Katie’s house to deliver the present from Tyler. She left him at home so he wouldn't excite her too much.
That’s when she found out Katie had died at 11:19 the night before.
“How do you tell a 5-year-old child with a disability that his friend died?” Sondra asked. “I went home and told Tyler that Katie went to heaven to be an angel.”
“I know,” Tyler said. “Katie flyin’.”
Two peas in a pod
Everyone knew Tyler Khoenle and Katie Carman had a special bond.
Katie could speak few words, but she could say “Tyler.” The two often communicated with sign language, sometimes with signs only they knew.
Tyler started at Greenwood Integrated Preschool when he was 3. It was April of 2004 and he didn't want to go.
“He cried every day when I put him on the bus,” Sondra remembered.
In August, things changed. The bus stopped at Katie’s house and suddenly Tyler didn't mind school so much.
“All he talked about was Katie, Katie, Katie,” said Sondra.
The two were side by side from that point on, a sometimes difficult thing when their teacher wanted them to walk single file down the hallway.
“They were like a married couple,” said teacher Trudy Zimmerman. “They were so funny, so cute.”
She’s quick to point out, though, that everyone had a special place in their heart for Katie, not just Tyler.
Zimmerman’s class has four “typically developing” students, as well. She remembered the day the class was learning the letter “B” and Katie was able to say, “baby.” She called Thomas, the little boy next to her, “Baby,” and he took offense. At 5 and getting ready for kindergarten, that was quite an insult.
“I explained to him that Katie couldn't say ‘friend’ or ‘Thomas’ and she just wanted to be his friend,” Zimmerman recalled. “He looked at her and said, ‘You can call me baby anytime.’ Those kids loved her.
“But everyone knew it was the Katie and Tyler show,” she added.
And when it came to Tyler, apparently Katie had a jealous streak.“Tyler couldn't talk to other girls,” Sondra said. “She would hold her finger up and say, ‘no, no, no.’ And if she sat next to the wrong person, he'd do the sign for ‘Stop.’”
“There was something magical between the two of them,” Sondra believes. “She didn't look at Tyler and say, ‘You look funny,’ and in his eyes, she was perfect.”
A beautiful gift in an imperfect package
Jeff Carman remembers getting the phone call more than four years ago asking his wife, Judi, and him to come to Van Wert to see Katie, an infant who needed a home. They had two biological children, Troy, now 32, and Ryan, now 30, and had already adopted four children with special needs. But the Carmans, 55 and 54 respectively at the time, didn’t know if they could handle another infant.
“I thought, they can't be dumb enough to place a baby with us,” Jeff said, adding quietly, “I guess we never really were supposed to have her very long.”
“Fragile” was how social workers described Katie.
She was born addicted to crack, and doctors learned later she may have had a stroke en utero and had a rare metabolic disorder that blocked her body’s processing of protein.
On that day the Carmans met her, social workers asked the couple how they would handle the death of a child.
“Nothing can prepare you for that,” said Jeff.
Judi, a former hospice nurse, was able to care for Katie’s needs, feeding her through a tube and keeping her blood sugar elevated so she did not go to her body’s protein reserves. But the protein allergywore on her heart.
At 2, she was diagnosed with terminal cardiomyopathy. Her heart would eventually fail.
With her bright blue eyes, auburn hair, and vibrant energy, it was hard for others to tell she was sick.
“She looked fine to everyone, but she was a walking time bomb,” said Judi.
Katie never sat still for long. She liked to chase her golden retriever puppy she called “Woof Woof,” and she loved dolls and babies.
“She felt every baby wanted a hug from her,” said Judi. “She didn’t have time for TV. It was as if she knew she didn’t have time.”
Though Katie couldn’t eat food, Judi said she liked to get a bowl and spoon so she could pretend to eat with her family.
Judi thought about making her stay in bed to try to preserve her health, but thought it wouldn’t be much of a life for a girl with so much zeal.
“I couldn’t hold her back,” Judi said, and she enrolled her in preschool.
About a year later, Katie’s heart weakened; around Thanksgiving Judi called the school to say Katie would not return. An echocardiogram Dec. 5 showed limited function and Katie came home from the hospital on oxygen and an IV.
The last week of Katie’s life was the worst week of Judi’s. Cutting down her feedings and watching her struggle to breathe is something she tries to block from her memory.
Even with three other kids at home, the house is quiet now.
“The quiet times are the tough times,” Jeff said. “When the commotion stops, that’s when we miss Katie.”
Judi and Jeff are learning to live without Katie. Their other children need them.
Eddie, 20, was adopted at age 3. He was abused and neglected. He is now serving in the military. Mary, 16, adopted at 3 months old, has spina bifida. Her legs were amputated at age 6 because of her birth defects. Michael, 12, has heart defects, a blood disorder and psychological disorders. He was adopted at 7 months. And finally John, 7, was brought home at 4 months.
John was born with an open abdomen and no muscle or tissue over his organs, called cloacal and bladder extrophy, which lead to short gut syndrome. He has no colon and is fed through a tube at night. Two months before Katie died, he had surgery that required his hips to be broken. He is recuperating at home, but will need more surgery to repair his kidneys soon.
Why did the Carmans take all of this on? They believe it was their calling.
In 1987, Judi, a devout Catholic, said she had a “prompting,” — a feeling she was supposed to do more. Jeff felt it too. “And the doors kept opening,” said Judi.
Both say they heard a voice telling them what to do during quiet prayer time.
Both followed their hearts and made themselves available to the children who needed them.
Although the family was financially comfortable (he works for United Foundries in Canton), like many couples, the Carmans lived paycheck to paycheck. Jeff worried how they would make it financially, especially when they adopted Mary.
Then their church, Queen of Heaven, “had a shower, people provided, and shortly after that I got a promotion and a raise. After that, I thought, I’ll just trust and He’ll work it out,” Jeff said. “God has placed these kids with us for whatever reason.”
Here for a purpose
Judy believes Katie’s short life had meaning and that she touched many.
Troy, who was 15, when his first adopted sibling came home, said, “It’s hard to have a bad day when you see some of the experiences these kids go through.”
Judi and Jeff’s grandson Christian has learned acceptance and empathy for children with differences.
Judi said telling Katie’s story lets parents know to “appreciate your children and their life.” And, she urged, when it comes to children with disabilities, “Learn from them. Open your ears, eyes, and hearts.”
Many strangers have contacted Judi since Katie’s death, drawn to her by the angelic picture of her that ran with her obituary. Judi thinks they are being inspired by Katie to pray for her family.
And perhaps Katie’s most profound purpose, Judi believes, came with her death.
“She’s testifying to heaven through the mouth of a 4-year-old boy with Down syndrome,” she said.
“There’s something wonderful in the spiritual world we can’t understand,” she continued. “She was an amazing child given to us by an amazing God.”
Tyler and his mom went to the funeral home to say good-bye to Katie. The priest, Father David Durkee, held up the service for about five minutes while Tyler held and kissed her hand and played with her hair.
The emotional scene brought tears to the eyes of nearly all who witnessed it. Some wondered if this small child with Down syndrome could possibly understand what was happening.
“Katie looked just like Katie. She looked just like a princess,” said Judi.
She asked Tyler if he wanted to say good-bye to Katie.
Sondra remembers, “He looked right at Judi and said, ‘That’s not my Katie-girl. My Katie go bye-bye. My Katie’s flying.’”
The Special Child
The Child, yet unborn, spoke with the Father, “Lord, how will I survive on the world? I will not be like other children. My walk may be slower, my speech hard to understand, I may look different. What is to become of me?”
The lord replied to the child, “My precious one, have no fear, I will give you exceptional parents;, they will love you because you are special, not in spite of it. Though your path through life will be difficult, your reward will be greater, you have been blessed with a special ability to love, and those whose lives you touch will be blessed because you are special.”
Thursday, February 16, 2006
My father, being a man of deep religious faith, had faced his death this way, confident that he would be reunited with my mother and with his savior Jesus Christ.
That is the way I want to pass from this world.
But probably I will end up like the African Water Buffalo. You've seen those documentaries on the Discover Channel or Animal Planet where the aged animal is on it's last legs, sometimes from a fatal wound. As it stumbles, dazed, confused and in pain it sees the hyenas and vultures gathering around, ready for a meal. With it's last bit of energy it kicks and tries to fight them off as they start to devour it before it has drawn it's last breath. By the time it actually dies there are half a dozen animals tearing into it's flesh, adding to it's suffering. Not a very peaceful end.
I can picture that scenario. As I lay in agony , knowing that I am dying, I can see my in-laws converging on my wife and kids, wondering aloud what she is going to do with my car after I go, and how much insurance money she'll have coming. I can see her talking to the mortician on the phone asking how much the embalming is, forgetting that I've told her a dozen times not to embalm me. My career-criminal brother-in-law would be asking my son if he could borrow his car for "just an hour or so". I wouldn't have the strength to tell him that the last time he borrowed my car for "just an hour or so" it was two weeks before I saw him again and then I had to chase him down the highway for 10 miles before finally getting him to stop with his load of stolen copper wire in the back. I can see my wife and her mother shouting at each other with the kids joining in throwing temper tantrums. These would be the last images and thoughts going through my mind as a tear of frustration rolls down my face and I head- unnoticed by anyone present - onto what awaits me next.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Happy Valentine's Day
We went to look at a house today. We're going to be moving as soon as we find someplace we both agree on and can afford. The house we looked at was very nice looking - from the outside. A brick house with pillars in front and a balcony above the front porch, and a pool in the backyard. However, the inside was quite different, and quite unliveable. Steam radiator heat throughout, but the boiler was broken. Stains on the ceiling from leaking pipes. Walls totally in need of replacement. The balcony in front was actually coming off the upstairs bathroom. When we stepped out onto it it shuttered and felt as if it would give way at any time. So it was a waste of time, and we decided to stick with our original plan of buying land and building.... unless a really great place comes up for sale.
I should take the wife out to eat for V Day and to celebrate her new job, but right now I feel like I should be in bed with a dose of medicine. I don't get sick often but it always seems to happen at the worst of times. It's hard to go out and be my witty, charming, handsome self when everything feels like it's spinning around and my stomach has an active volcano rumbling inside. (the "witty, charming, handsome" adjectives are my own, but I'm sure there's at least one other person who agrees....somewhere)
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I'm not liking my job very much. There's so much unfairness that it really makes me angry. Also I feel like I'm wasting my time there. As a department manager in a grocery store it didn't take long to accomplish the things I had started out to do and was allowed to do. Allowed to do because certain higher-ups have their interpretation of what I should do and aren't willing to look further than that because it might interrupt their routine.
But I guess what's really eating at me is the knowledge that I could be doing something far more worthwhile. I know everyone has those feelings one time or another. For me it's not to make more money, or to become famous, but to do something that I can take satisfaction in. Something to show my children that you can do what you want if you really try. Thus far I've set a poor example I think.
Ok, sorry for venting but I feel better. Now I can go find something to work on with my new toy!! :)
Friday, February 10, 2006
You see, for years I had tried to gain access to this culture known as the "Hillbilly Redneck".... to fit in and bond with them. Thus far all my attempts were in vain. Anything I did or said would result in dull, blank stares, or the more familiar "What the hell are you doin shithead?". I never quite grasped the subtleties necessary to walk up to a group of them and be accepted as a "Good Ole Boy". I tried, mind you. I chewed tobacco , had a junk car towed into my yard, and tried to persuade my wife to let me fulfill the other two requirements: A dog (contrary to popular belief it doesn't have to be a huntin dog, just any old mutt will do as long as you let it take it's dumps in the neighbors yard), and a CB. Yep, you thought Citizen Band Radio was dead huh? Wrong! Even though the newfangled cell phones with the waterproof Skoal compartments are catching on there's still nothing like talkin to Sweet Little Thang on channel 14 and making yourself believe that she's really NOT a 340 pound grandma with a butt hanging out of her mouth and a half of a 12 pack of Iron City sitting beside the bowl of Hershey's Kisses. But my wife would have none of it so I had settled into being a redneck wannabe.
However, my years of study and hard work were about to pay off. Duct tape! The universal fix-all which every good ole boy has would be my savior. So without hesitation I just put some tape over the remaining holes and slapped a dab of spackling on top of that, painted the whole thing and had a job done that even Joe down at the bait shop would be proud of! I could just picture them all standing there staring at my ceiling in awe, then giving me an approving nod before spitting a wad of chaw in the general direction of my trash can. Then, I will know that my life is fulfilled.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Check back and I'll see if maybe I can find some interesting stuff to put on here. Since this is my first attempt I'm afraid I'm going to be dreadfully inept at blogging until I get into a routine. Then I'll just be terribly inept.