It was bad enough for us with Don being in and out of the hospitals, having two surgeries, staff infections, and then finding out he had cancer all along. I was working, driving back and forth to the hospital in another town, and trying to take care of Dawn and Johnny. Once in awhile they stayed with relatives, and other times they had sitters, and as they got older, they began working on me to let them stay alone if I was not going to be gone more than a few nights.
I thought I was there for both of them, but I was not. Looking back, I was emotionally unavailable. I listened. I asked questions. I told them what to do, and we all just kept going. Don began having stomach problems. When he felt better, he filed for Congress without telling me. He campaigned, worked, and his health issues got worse. I helped, but he lost. He had a surgery, was feeling better, and then was under duress from those in Washington wanting him to run again. He said “yes” and actually lived in another town for one more congressional campaign. I was working, taking care of Dawn and John, and trying to see Don on the weekends during both campaigns to help him.
Dawn and John went with me some weekends, but did not like to do that. They usually had sitters and their activities. We were living in a rent house we did not like. We found a house the three of us liked and I purchased it. I traded land we had originally bought to build on sometime in the future for the down payment. Dawn and Johnny helped me move us to a home we liked that I purchased while he was gone. Then we telephoned Don and suggested he come back as soon as possible to sign the loan.
It got worse for the three of us after Don died. There was only one parent to depend on. We were all three doing the same running, running away from our own pain. I did not realize I was running and I did not notice what was happening with them. I felt alone. They felt like they lost their Dad and, to some extent, they lost me. They each began acting out in their individual ways. I was acting out in my own way. Teen years are hard without all of this trouble.
LESSON: Stay “in the present” as much as possible. Throughout Don’s stays in the hospital, congressional campaigns, his dying at home plus all that comes afterwards, I was just trying to make it. I later saw that I was “emotionally unavailable” for Dawn and Johnny.