Friday, December 28, 2018

It's Been a Hell of a Year

Well, you guys, it really has. It's been a hell of a year, and it's almost over. It's been quite some time since I've updated, mostly because I felt like the biggest thing I needed to update on was the heaviest and hardest thing to talk about and that I couldn't talk about the stuff that happened after until I addressed it. However, with the year coming to a close, now it feels like it's time.

. . .

Back in December 2017, I was home for "Christmas" (aka, I visited in the beginning of the month because holiday flights are outrageously priced), and that trip started out pretty rough. If any of you know me well or pay attention to my posts on Instagram (and previously Facebook), you'd know that I cherish my great grandmother (Babcia) like no other. It's a really special thing to have someone that ties your family together in such a way, and I've always held on to that and made sure that I never took it for granted. Every person she ever met fell in love with her. If you were having a baby, or a wedding, or a birthday, even if she didn't know you directly, you probably have some of her crocheted items. She just loved to make things for people, because she simply loved people. It was hard not to love this woman, and I was no exception.

She'd been on hospice for about six months at that point, and it was clear that she was reaching the end of her life. But not being there every day to see her slow decline, for me the decline was exponential, and when I saw her in her very frail, assistance-required state, I was in complete shock. I had a little bit of a true mental breakdown that day, and I spent that trip cherishing the little moments with her and making sure that she knew that I loved her so, so damn much, because I didn't know if I would ever see her again, because anything can happen on any timeline.

From the moment I made the decision to move out of Michigan, I did so with the knowledge that I would be spending Babcia's last years apart from her. Thinking about it, I barely got any time with her as an adult, and there are dozens of questions I wish I could have asked her during that time. But still, I called as often as I could just to say hi, and I always booked extra days on my trips so that I could see her as much as possible. Like clockwork, I was back in Michigan every six months. I never wanted to have to say that I couldn't remember the last thing she said to me or how she looked just before she died. I left Michigan in December knowing that the end was soon, ready or not, and I had to go home anyway. That was the hardest plane ride I've ever taken, because every piece of me wanted to stay with her and soak up every moment.

When Patrick and I first began our relationship, I knew eventually I would move out to be with him, and he knew from the very beginning how important Babcia was to me. He swore to me that no matter what happened, he would get me to her in time for me to say goodbye, at any and all costs, no matter how long I had to stay away from him. When I got the call in early January, he kept his promise, and I flew out the next morning to be with her and with my family.

I got about one and a half lucid days with her, and I spent the rest of the time by her side with my family, until she took her last breath four days later.

If I'm honest, I still haven't fully grieved her loss. It's so easy to forget that it never happened, because she wasn't a part of my daily life for the past 4-5 years. It's hard in the moments when my hand brushes one of the afghans she made for me, or when I see the little antique mental calendar she gave me, which I keep set meticulously to her birthdate. It would be especially hard when I call my grandmother to chat, and I'd keep waiting for her to ask if I want to talk to Babcia. She'd never ask, and eventually I'd realize why.

When I was little, that woman swore to me that she would live to see my wedding day. I ended up eloping, which didn't bother her one bit as long as it made me happy, and she held on well past her promise; she held on until I could kiss her goodbye and be with her when she left, and that's truly the greatest gift she ever could have given me. She made sure that I wouldn't have any regrets.

I stayed to take care of whatever needed to be taken care of: babysitting, errands, funeral arrangements, phone calls, school pickups... whatever my family needed, because I knew that I really wouldn't feel like I could grieve until I got home and felt comfortable in my own space, and therefore I could handle things with fewer emotional breakdowns. I held hands, I picked poems, I put together photo boards, I set up spreads, I gave gifts, I stitched up last minute clothing mishaps... and then I watched the most important woman in my life be set into the ground. I sorted, organized, and cleaned her room/belongings, gave everyone all my love, and then I went home to let things sink in. It realyl hit me one day when I was in Joann Fabrics, and on an end cap I saw the exact yarn she'd been working with in December just before I left, and I had a breakdown in the store. In my darkest moments, when I miss her the most, I watch the video that my cousin sent me a few months before Babcia passed. In the video, she tells me she misses me and that she's proud of me and that she loves me and Patrick. It's my most prized possession, along with the necklace that Babcia was wearing just an hour before she died. It's been 347 days, and I haven't taken it off since my grandmother handed it to me, still warm from Babcia's skin.

My memorial tattoo for Babcia 

Four generations of strong, beautiful women. 
(Kelly Karnesky Photography)

When I got home, I crocheted. It was therapeutic for me, being that Babcia taught me to crochet herself. I vowed to try to crochet one afghan for every month until 2019 (12 afghans). I made it to five before life became a whirlwind and we didn't stop doing until... well... we still haven't stopped doing stuff this year.

In April and May, I was sick. Two separate times, I had colds (or honestly probably the flu) so bad that I was convinced I'd end up in the hospital. I lost a lot of time during those months, and they mostly feel like they never happened.

In June, we geared up for the biggest trip Patrick and I have ever taken (either together or separately), and we finally finally got ourselves to Australia (and it happened to fall just before his birthday- the big 50- so we definitely counted this enormous trip as part of his birthday gift).

I have a best friend named Ellen. Ellen and I met about four years ago on a writing website, and became fast friends (she's actually the one who told me I was HSP, which changed who I am as a person and how I view/take care of myself in such a huge way that I wouldn't be the same person I am today if I'd never found out/met her). We'd type chatted and video chatted for years and we swore that we'd meet someday. That day finally came.

We landed in Melbourne and spent the most incredible seven days traveling around the city with my best friend. We met her fiance and their dog, I met their cat and saw their brand new house that I watched her stress over for literally almost a year. We tried Aussie snacks. Planes, trains, automobiles, trams, trolleys... We definitely got around the city, and I'm telling you all that if there had been any conceivable way that we could have stayed, we would have. (Nando's, I miss you)

Our trip to Australia, combined with meeting such a crucial part of my life in the flesh for the first time, was a truly life changing experience, and it was worth every single thing that we had to go through to get there (and back).

I know there's a strange stigma around internet friends, and I'm here to tell you to cut that shit out, because I have met some of the most important people in my life on the internet, some of whom I've still never met and still cherish. I met my husband on a blogging website. I met my best friend on a writing website. I met another one of my close friends on a pre-Instagram photo website. I met another one on a suicide chat room, in my darkest moments, and he saved my life (and then kept saving it over and over again while I got through what I was going through). 

Internet friends can be as unimportant or as crucial as you allow them to be to you, and they're truly no different than the way I'd communicate with my family back home, living so far away. Most of my relationships have at one point been text/phone/app based, and that's just the way that I connect with people best.

Puggle and Gruggle (The Lost Forests)

Melbourne Zoo

Puffs (The Play)

When we got home, we celebrated Patrick's 50th birthday properly, complete with cards, gifts, decorations, and a fancy dinner of his choosing!

We didn't have much time to recover from our trip from Australia before I had to head off to Michigan again. I do generally space my trips out to be approximately every six months, and this trip just happened to fall in that six month mark. I hadn't had any firm plans to keep going back every six months after Babcia passed, but this was a special occasion because my cousin was getting married. Patrick hadn't been back since December of 2015, so it had been a long time since my family had seen him, and I figured that a wedding would be a good way to introduce him to all of the family members that we had missed the first time around. This was also one of the last Kupski weddings that there will be until my sisters get married, and I wanted to party with my nutty family as an adult. I wasn't going to upload any photos in this post, but I feel like I have to now because EVERYONE deserves to see my grandmother, Bev, dancing with three beer bottles in her hands, God bless her

So I flew back about a week earlier than Patrick to get in some quality friend time (and just in time too; my best guy friend was in a deadly car crash just two days before I flew in and he somehow made it out alive, so I definitely wanted to soak up as much time with him as I could just to reassure myself that he was still there) and a little extra family time, and then Patrick flew in a couple of days before the wedding. Of course, it was sweltering hot in the days before he got there and then as soon as he arrived, it poured rain most of the time (but we both live for that, so no ruined trips here). We also got to see my mom's new house while we were there, which she closed on just a few days after I flew in. We are beyond thrilled for her; she's definitely worked her ass off for this, and to be able to do it entirely on her own is awesome.

Me and these girls <3

A day with Zach and some big puppers

Closing day for Dina!

RIP Copper

Bev tearing up the dance floor!

When we got back home, we settled into our regular routine (with the added bonus that I finally established a reasonable sleep schedule for myself after literal years of struggling).

We also, after a stressful fiasco where the wrong car ended up in our hands and nothing could be done about it until we got back from Michigan, got a new car. Our lease was up (2015 Mazda CX5) and we are still absolutely thrilled with our 2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD.

. . .

My last bit of news is something that we've been working towards for as long as Patrick and I have been together. I know most people work towards this goal too, but for us it was a little bit different- Patrick is 50 now and feels like at his age, he should be more settled, and both of us are extremely noise sensitive, so apartment just wasn't working out for us (it's truly detrimental to our health). We have been desperate to get into a house for years, but it wasn't even remotely possible... until recently... We pulled every string we had, and we had finally finally finally gotten to a good place and we were ready to begin the home buying process.

Our only question was where. We LOVE Oregon, but the housing prices doubled in just the three years that we were living there, and staying in the PDX area was impossible for our budget. We were never going to go back to California. We considered places like Bend, Oregon and Everett, Washington and even Boise, Idaho, until one night Patrick and I were driving to dinner and it hit him: Why weren't we looking at Michigan? I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, but I warmed up to the idea eventually.

Once the ball started rolling, it started rolling fast, and I'm happy to report that I'm typing this up from my couch in our new living room. And I do mean OUR living room. At the end of September I flew back to Michigan to house hunt, found the one we wanted within about a week, and the negotiations started. Initially I was supposed to fly back home after that, but after we learned that we could have me sign all of the papers on my own without Patrick (it was supposed to be just him signing), I ended up staying for about a month and a half. I had high blood pressure and a pretty serious eye twitch by the end of the process (honestly it started in the beginning of the process), and I finally took the plunge and cut off all of my hair out of stress/frustration but... we did it. Sight unseen (for Patrick, at least), we bought a house and closed on November 2nd. A few days later I flew home, packed up the rest of the apartment while Patrick was out of town, then when he got back we coordinated with the movers and had our stuff shipped to Michigan. The next morning we packed up the car, and drove across the country with two cats and a 20 gallon tote bin full of fish (not something I'd be eager to ever do again, honestly).

Feeling more like myself than I ever have, post-chop

We arrived in Michigan on November 15th, and we've been home ever since.

Life has changed quite a bit for us already. We've been busy with little home projects, painting and hanging and decorating and replacing, in between Patrick traveling for almost all of December, and me doing odds and ends jobs for people I know for a little extra cash (and really, more to help out the people I love). Plus I'm finally able to see my family more often than once every six months. I've seen them more in the last month or so than I have in the last 5+ years, and I get to go to sleep at night knowing that I get to watch my sisters grow up and be with my family as they get older.

I think the only thing that could make this all more perfect is if Babcia had been here to see it.

Hedwig "Hattie" Kupski
Our Babcia
February 29, 1920 - January 15, 2018
With Me Always