Thursday, June 28, 2012


I have always been jealous of people who had deep family roots and history. I've always wondered what it was like to have a culture and past to anchor and ground you. I've always felt adrift, with our family history being murky at best.
Mom was adopted from St. Joseph's Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1952.
The story she always told was that her birth mother was Navajo.
She was 8 years short of 1960, when the Navajo Tribal Council voted "The Navajo Tribe condemns the removal or attempted removal of any Navajo minor from the Navajo Reservation by any non-member without the prior approval of the Advisory Committee, except for the purpose of attending school under a non-sectarian program approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, provided however, that the Navajo Tribe does not condemn the removal of Navajo children from the Navajo Reservation by their adopted parents pursuant to a final judgment of adoption rendered by the Trial Court of the Navajo Tribe under said resolution." The preference now is to allow someone within the tribe to adopt a child before they are lost to the reservation, and the tribe.

There are 22 tribes in New Mexico. The majority of the population of New Mexico has either Hispanic or Indian or Metzo-Indian ancestry. So it's not a bad bet that if you're a native of New Mexico that you have some culture or history to pull on.

When I was in Santa Fe in 2010 for my last summer of grad school, I spent hours on the phone with the adoption contact in Albuquerque trying to figure out how Mom could get access to her records to see if she was indeed Navajo. While she had always claimed this culture as her own, she had never been able to get confirmation. New Mexico has closed adoptions, which requires a lawyer to open, but there is a provision to get a representative of the court to view your records for the purpose of seeing if there is information in the record proving tribal membership.You can apply (and pay) to have them look, and they can report to you whether or not your parents were Indian, and can help you file the paperwork for tribal membership.
She needed to fill out some paperwork, and submit a copy of her birth certificate. I got everything she needed and made sure she got it.
She never filed it.
When Mom died, I came across the paperwork, so I contacted the adoption office in Albuquerque to see if I could get access to the records. Despite the fact that I am her daughter, the only person who could access the records was Mom, and now that she's dead, there is no way to access the records.

I have no information on my birth father, and have never met him. Mom used to say I looked like him, but that's all the information I have.

So here I am- 36, no Mom, no history, no heritage.

When I visited Lance's dad, Hank in Hilo, Hawaii, I was overwhelmed by the the family history. Hank is very involved with the Community Center and gathering pictures tracing the history. There's a whole group involved with keeping up with the history of Camp 5 on Piihonua Road in Hilo, Hawaii. They are the descendents of people who worked on the sugar and pineapple plantations.

That's Hank in the background near the wall at Pi'ihonua Kaikan.

 Here's Hank walking into Pi'ihonua Kaikan to introduce me and show me around.

Hank lives in the home his mother raised six children in. His family emigrated to Hawaii from Okinawa and his father eventually returned to Okinawa, leaving his mother to raise all of the children on her own.
The Shimabukuro family tree is huge, and confusing, with many of the aunts, uncles, and cousins having the same name.
They can trace their ancestry. They are surrounded by their own history- on Piihonua Road, there is a plethora of relatives' homes. Hank is 81 and has stories of the tsunami that struck when he lost classmates, life on the plantation, and lots and lots of stories about family. There are stories of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Cousins, aunts, uncles and

It's a rich heritage and culture and I am very jealous.
I have no black and white pictures of ancestors. I cannot trace my ancestry. I have no stories to pass down. And even if I did, there is no one to pass them down to.
My family consists of my sister, Alexis and my step-father, Lance. Lance has a huge family, but I'm 36, and his step-daughter, so it's not like I have a lot of access to all of that history.

In the modern world, that seems to value family and history less and less, perhaps this is not such a spectacular thing. There are lots of people with history, who have no desire to be tied to it. Perhaps it's a case of you always want what you do not have. Those with a rich history and family heritage have no desire to be tied down by it. Those of us without history have a hunger for something to ground us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flipping through pages

When Mom died, there were many things to do- go through her clothes, her papers, the library, straighten up. Most of it happened in a whirlwind. I don't know if it's better to do it right away, or better to wait until you're not in a complete mental stupor.
It was two months later before I could go through her papers and tidy up the library. Even then, I couldn't bear to look at her journals. A quick glance through some of the pages showed that I was in no mental state to face whatever was in there.
I gathered them all together, and put them in a box and put them in the garage.
They've sat there for a year and a half. I've been unable to face them.

This summer, with my time off, I was determined to find the time, make the time, to sit down and go through them all at once.
The more recent ones are difficult to read. There's more than a touch of madness to the pages. Most pages reflect what had become her life- a daily litany of her medications and a recording of how often she took what. I feature prominently- she states that she hated me, that I made her miserable. That I was mean, distant, had a chip on my shoulder, and in one passage, describes me as having multiple personalities. There's an overwhelming theme that she could live a good, happy life if only she could escape here, and I suppose me. I was condescending, pitying, and angry.
Hard does not describe what it is like to read detailed descriptions of how much your mother hates you. She details how the vision of her having the perfect, loving relationship with her daughter was a lie.
I will be the first one to tell you that life those last few years was hard, and I know I was nowhere near my best. I've written here about the immense guilt I feel about that, that I never made amends, never made the most of the time we had together. But never, not for a single instant, did I ever not love my mother. I never would have even considered hating her. She frustrated me, the situation saddened me, I felt lost, and alone. But never did I hate her. She was my mother, and I loved her more than anything else. And it breaks my heart into a million little pieces that these were some of the thoughts that she had in these last few years.

I grabbed journals at random- more than half have only a few pages written in them, and then nothing but a fan of blank pages. There were over twenty all told, and most from the last few years. I cried openly at most. I was saddened by all. But I was glad that I sat down and read them all, not stopping at the ones that hurt so much.
It's a different picture as you travel through time, moving backwards through the pages.
The earlier ones, she is proud of my work in NYC, happy I became a teacher, ecstatic at my visits home, our coffee time talks long distance. Taken as whole, it is easier to see that perhaps her hatred is to be taken with some perspective given her illness, that the amount of pain medication she was on could have affected her moods, her feelings. I'd like to believe that her feelings are a complete result of her illness, of the mental problems we saw those last eight years with mood swings, memory loss, and anger. I think the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. I choose to believe that my mother loved me, and could never have hated me. I choose to believe that her illness, the drugs she was on, and being housebound, did produce a kind of madness. I choose to believe that it is this madness that speaks through the pages of so many of her later journals.
So many of my good memories of Mom are tainted by the many years of her being sick. I would like to hold onto the good memories as much as I can.

Mom's journals were filled with Post-It notes, cards, stickers, random lists. It seems pretty clear where I got that from! Mom was notorious for leaving notes everywhere. She constantly left me notes on the coffeemaker, put notes in my lunchbox (even once I was an adult and teaching!). They were silly, they were loving, they were constant reminders of how much she loved me.
I came across one such "Coffemaker Note" in one of her journals.
I've laminated it so I can keep it close.
This is what I want to remember about my mother. That she loved me. That she set the coffeemaker for me on early school days. That she left cute notes for me. That I was her Ichi-ban.
I have to believe all of these things, because I think if I had to believe that my mother hated me for the last seven years of her life, it would kill me.
Perhaps that's the thing once people are gone- you are left with only puzzle pieces, and the image they form is up to you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Week 2 Post ACL 2

Week 1 Recap
Nehi spent most of her first week post-op sleeping. I count myself lucky, having read some other post-op stories online. I don't have to towel walk Nehi to move around, while she's not putting full weight on her right leg, she is walking, and can go outside to go to the bathroom and everything by herself. She is also great about self regulating. She sleeps in her crate, goes outside and sleeps in the sun, sleeps in the bathroom, sleeps on the couch. She's been very chill, and not overdoing it.
I was a little concerned about her getting up on the couch, but while she is slow about it, she doesn't seem to have any problem. The bed is another story. Since her diagnosis months ago of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, I got rid of my bed frame, and just have the box spring and mattress on the floor. However, it's still high, reaching to my knee. Nehi was using the steamer trunk as a stepping stool. A couple of nights ago, she slipped, and froze in a Superman pose with her arms on the bed. My heart stopped. Once she was stable though, she got up. Since then though, she's spent her nights sleeping on the couch. I miss cuddling with my baby, but whatever is comfortable.
She's eating well, and taking all her medicine because I mush it into the disgusting wet food.
Week 2
So the end of Week 1 check up went great. Dr. Grossman took off the bandage (I can't believe that Nehi left it alone all week!) and said it looks great, and that he thinks this surgery may have gone better than the last one.
I asked about walks- as Nehi almost ran when I grabbed the leash to take her to the vet this morning. Dr. Grossman said she was ready for short walks to contain her energy. I was happy to hear this, as I rather not sedate her.
She should finish her antibiotics and Rimadyl this week, so we'll see how she does once she's finished with that. I know I'll be happier NOT to give her wet food (gack!).
Hopefully, she'll continue to self regulate and continue to just rest. We'll see. If not, I'll sedate her.
We'll see how it goes for our check up next week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ACL Reset- Week 1

I got to bring Nehi home today.
All the front desk ladies were very sweet, and I know that's one thing that makes all of this easier on me- I never worry about the quality of care that Nehi receives at Roanoke Island Animal Clinic.
Dr. Grossman says the surgery went great- if possible, even better than the first one. I asked about whether I should be worried about stress on the other surgery leg, but he said that by the time scar tissue formed, it was pretty steady, so I shouldn't have to worry.
I was worried that she would have a hard time getting in the truck with both legs, but she did okay. As soon as we got home, she tried several spots on the floor, but couldn't seem to get comfortable. Finally, she settled in her crate, and slept for a few hours. She roused to go sit in the sun a little, but it's freaking hot outside, so she soon retreated to the cool tile, and is sleeping soundly.

Here's Our Routine for Week 1 Post Op:
  • Rimadyl and antibiotics twice a day. Nehi loves this because the antibiotics have to be taken with food, and the only way to make sure Nehi does this is to hide it in wet food. I've never seen her eat so fast!  I hate it because I don't think dog food should smell the same going in as it does coming out. I practically throw up cleaning the yard. I must really love my dog.
  • Lock Down: no nothing. No stairs, no having fun, no walks, no nothing. She gets to lay down. That's it. Baby gate has gone back up on the stairs going upstairs, so no visiting the kitties either.
  • With Nehi, I have to watch the bandages. She hates bandages. Last time, she chewed the Ace bandage in half trying to get it off. This time, I'm keeping a close eye on her with it. The longer she can keep the compression bandage on, the better. For now, she doesn't have the cone of shame on, but if she starts on the bandage, I'm going to put the neck brace on her. I really want to get her to her week 1 check up with the bandage still on. Although Dr. Grossman did say that if it fell off not to stress about it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Other ACL?

So Nehi and I were out in the yard playing with her famous donut. I was glad to see this because she's been sleeping a lot the last couple of days, when she was playing the end of last week, so I was a little worried.
She ran into the ran garden, made the most God awful yelp, a sound I've never heard from her. At first I thought she'd gotten stung by the bumble bee she was snapping at earlier. And then she limped towards me.  It was her other leg, the "good" one, the non-surgery one.
I came inside, called the Emergency Vet number, got voicemail, left a message, and hung up. I made good use of my time waiting by getting dressed and putting shoes on. I even considered going ahead and getting Nehi in Baby Truck and heading over to the vet so that we'd be there to meet the vet.
The vet on call called back. And said to give her some Rimadyl if I had it left over and bring her in tomorrow- because I knew the drill, they'd have to sedate her to get her relaxed enough to feel the knee, then take x-rays.

I was a little incredulous. And really wished I'd gotten another answer. Or a different doctor on call, like the one who's been treating Nehi.

I gave Nehi the medicine, and she's laying down quietly. Mostly. She's crying a bit, and can't seem to get comfortable. I keep trying to get her to just lay on the floor, and not stress the leg anymore, but I just watched as she awkwardly got up on the couch, tried to find a comfortable position, and then shift a lot trying to find a good position. She finally abandoned the couch for the floor again.

I know I'm a freak about my dog. I will be the first to admit that. And I'm sure for most pet owners, if their pet is in pain, they want to try and fix it as soon as possible. So, maybe I'm an over-reacting lunatic. It's more than possible.
But's she's lying in front of me, doing this weird growling/crying thing. And I'm trying really to channel Cesar Millan and stay calm, and not stressed, so Nehi doesn't become more anxious. But it's really hard. She's my Bebe. And it's twelve hours until the vet's office opens.

So, I called back, said she was in a lot of pain, and was there anything we could do for her tonight. She said bring her in.
I take back any unkind thought I previously had, once we got there the doctor on call was as nice as could be, and was very understanding and explained what I needed to do to help. Good thing I used to work for these guys in high school!
So, we tried light sedating her (with a muzzle of course, because I was acting as vet tech). Doctor tried to feel the knee with that, but Nehi was too tense and wasn't having it. So Doctor asked me what I wanted to do. To save Nehi the sedation again tomorrow morning, and give them more options if they had to do surgery, I chose the heavy/out sedation. We waited for it to take effect so Doctor could feel her knee. And, yep, Nehi tore her other ACL. She couldn't tell how much, but was betting because she did it acutely, and the level of pain she was in, that it was bad.
So, surgery scheduled for tomorrow.
We stretchered an out Nehi out to Baby Truck, and then put her in her seat.

Not even thinking, when Doctor asked me if I had someone at home to help, I of course said sure! Called Dad from the driveway, and asked him to bring out a comforter, turn on the outside lights and help. It was only once we had Nehi's weight that I remembered that Dad has injured (probably torn) his shoulder. I tried to take most of Nehi's weight, but he wouldn't let me. We barely made it in the door before setting Nehi on the floor.

She's just now coming out of it- doing that weird bobble headed thing, an hour later. I'm weighing getting her into bed with a cookie against the no food the night before surgery. I'll drop her off tomorrow morning and she'll have surgery tomorrow afternoon, and then stay overnight and I'll pick her up Wednesday morning.

As upset as I was the first time, it was all business this time. Nehi doesn't need a blithering idiot, she needs a Mom who will take care of her.
Calm, assertive energy. See, Cesar, I'm learning.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Five Weeks Out From ACL

Nehi had her last post-op check up last week, but her annual yesterday. Dr. Grossman says she's doing great, and has rarely seen a dog recover so quickly. Which I love to hear!
On a side note to the ACL, I asked since Nehi was now three, if maybe we could see if she was old/mature enough to be over her protectiveness.
When I first started taking Nehi to the vet's at three months when I got her, one of the vets told me that the reason they had such a hard time working on her was because she was so protective of me. So, after Nehi attempted to snap at a couple of techs, we decided that the best thing was to take Nehi in the back. She was a completely different dog- submitted easily to treatment, and they never had a problem.
Anyway, rewind to yesterday- I asked one of the techs, and as she petted Nehi, she said she didn't think protectiveness was a problem, or else Nehi wouldn't let her pet her. Brought the same thing up with Dr. Grossman, and he said we'd try it in the room and see. I held Nehi's head while he checked her knee. Nehi growled, but stopped when I said "No". The shots were a different story. Partway through one and Nehi tried to snap. Now, I know how to hold a dog, so there was no way she was going anywhere, but even Dr. Grossman stepped back. He took her in the back and same thing as always, she was a doll. Guess she'll just always have to go in the back! Doesn't matter to me, and since it seems to make it a less traumatic experience for Nehi, it's all good!
When he brought her back, he commented that it was a hell of a bond that we had. This led to a conversation about what Nehi's breed might be. He said you could definitely see the Shepherd, but what else? I said that a friend had said Nehi looked like a Ridgeback to him. The Doctor said that would make sense, that he never truly trusted Ridgebacks, and the aggressive/protectiveness could definitely come from that, although Shepherds, particularly female Shepherds, often had the same instinct. While we talked, Nehi was fine, and he was able to give her cookies. He was impressed at the difference in her, and complimented me on how gentle Nehi was with her mouth. I told him that was A LOT of work when she was a puppy, because I was aware, because of her breed, that she had a hell of a bite pressure.
He asked how she was about others, and I explained that we didn't have many visitors at the house, and she had a stranger-danger bark, but once I let people in, she quickly settled down with most people. With the exceptions, they are people that you can tell that aren't comfortable with big dogs, although Nehi does try and play dominance games with most people who come in the house until I correct her, as they are too timid to- she can be intimidating. So far, there's only one person that when they come to visit Nehi lays down on the couch with and actually falls asleep!
Dr. Grossman was even more amazed when Nehi let me give him a hug at the end. She's well trained enough that her protectiveness has limits.
So, clean bill of health for Nehi, and hopefully, we won't be back at the vet for anything other than monthly heartworm/flea and nail clipping.

So, enough of a side trip...
She's back to eating her full bowl of food, which is great and this week was the first time she picked up her toys and showed any interest in playing.
We're right now just at one walk in the morning, just two blocks down and back (roughly 1/4 mile). By the end of this, she's favoring the leg a little, so we're going to have to work back up to our normal 1 mile, 2 times a day.

I think it's possible she's overdone it  in her excitement this week. Today she was limping after our walk. Although she's favored it more after walks (and part of the reason we're doing walks in the morning, rather than the evening when she's tired), today she seems a lot more stiff than she has been. She also is uninterested in toys today, or much else, other than just laying in bed, or in the sun.
It's not a bad way to spend a lazy Saturday, but hope she keeps feeling better as I've read some dogs tear their other ACL when compensating for a healing one.
Dad says I'm just being a Mom.
Dr. Grossman told me yesterday that for a human, the recovery from ACL surgery is six months of constant rehabilitation, so not to worry. He said that the walks are plenty of rehab for her.  She's also on Dasuquin chews which, if anything can, might prevent her blowing the other ACL. If not, I certainly have surgery and post-op down to a science!