Saturday had a twist in store for me in more ways than one. I had planned to do so much that day, but as always my ‘To Do’ list is adventurous and far exceeds the hours and energy available. After exploring a new venue for dinner with friends up in Brigham City, I decided to quickly go shopping so I was ready for the coming week.
I zoomed around the store picking up the items on my shopping list, pleased that I could still walk fast and that I hadn’t over eaten at our meal. I was hoping that I would be able to catch up with the things that I hadn’t done on my list due to coming to a complete halt after lunch. I arrived home about 8:15 p.m. and unloaded the shopping, putting the first load on top of the freezer in the garage. I could get it into the house in two trips. I waited patiently as the front of the garage door closed. If my dog got out of the house, I didn’t want her to escape through that garage door. Then I opened the door into our little courtyard or patio, climbed the three steps with the first load of shopping and plonked it on the counter in the kitchen.
Before I could turn around, the dog had gone out the back door. ‘She must need to go out,’ I ruminated. Then I realized I that I hadn’t pushed the garage door shut. “Oh no!” I rushed out the back door as I didn’t want the dog to go to the loo in the garage.
“Where did the steps go?“ I mused as my feet met air. ‘Time seems to have slowed down,’ I continued.
But all too soon, I met the concrete with a thud and the pain shot up through my body. ‘How stupid!” My mind screamed. I couldn’t get up and I felt like I was going to pass out.
I must have screamed when I landed as my husband came running out. “I’m hurt!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t get up. He tried to help me but I couldn’t put any weight on my feet. I felt waves of nausea ripple over me and I became very light headed.
Eventually, although I don’t remember exactly how, my husband was able to help me inside to the reclining chair and put some ice on my right foot which hurt the most. I’m grimacing in pain but worried about the food that I had left in the garage and the kitchen that could go off in the heat. My husband is adamant that we are going to the Emergency Room. I’m concerned that even though I’m in pain, no-one will believe me and worried about the huge bill that it will generate. However, the pain and my husband’s insistence won the day and we manage to get me into the car. I didn’t have the ability to calm my husband’s anxiety as I was focusing on controlling my pain by trying to relax. I nearly had a panic attack on the way to the car and needed to breathe as best I could on the trip to the hospital.
Once we got to ER, my husband pulled up and went to get a wheelchair. A member of the hospital staff helped him and came out with him to get me into the chair. She wheeled me in to get me registered and to go to triage whilst my husband parked the car.
About twenty minutes later, we are admitted to a room. I’m really glad that they weren’t too busy. Everyone was super nice. My swollen ankles and feet showed them that I was telling the truth even though I was able to mask the pain somewhat. I had a series of x-rays and fortunately for me it turned out that I had not broken anything. Just a sprained left ankle, a sprained right foot and a slightly sprained wrist. I was given a large dosage of ibuprofen for the pain and a brace for my left ankle.
Taking my feet off the level bed to try and stand up to have lessons on the crutches took my pain back up to a seven from a four or five. A constant throb to excruciating stabs. Training would have to wait until I was at home. I could look up some videos on YouTube. My husband went to get the car.
It was pretty tricky trying to get back into that wheel chair again. This time with very little help, the inability to put any weight or pressure on my right foot, the raging pain as the blood rushed down to my feet again, and having to get from the elevated bed to the low chair. I am so glad that I didn’t fall again or twist my left ankle further as I attempted to wheedle myself into the right position to lower myself into that chair. The young lady who was going to give me lessons on the crutches didn’t really know how to help me into this chair. Nor did she know how to get me into the car. But she was excellent at pushing me from the room and out of the hospital to the car! My husband took over and got the wheelchair almost adjacent to the passenger seat and I was able to use my arms to pull myself over to the seat.
As we drove back home, the Ibuprofen kicked in and the pain dropped to a more manageable level. I am so thankful to the wonderful staff at the hospital, to my wonderful husband who cares so much, and to wonderful medicine and technology. I am thankful that I was wearing a little backpack on my back when I fell which cushioned my back and hips. I am thankful that I didn’t break any bones and that I didn’t live alone. I would still be on that concrete patio right now, unable to get up.
I became even more sensitive to the needs of others who are confined to wheelchairs for various reasons or have artificial limbs and wonder how they manage? I reflected on their strength and courage to move forwards in their lives and to become as independent as they can.
I got used to the crutches as soon as we got home. I wanted to lay down upstairs rather than lay on the couch. The stairs seemed daunting and I wasn’t that good with the crutches. So I relied on skills that I learned many years ago and, once I got my husband to lower me onto the stairs, I turned around and crawled up those stairs. Getting up again when I got to the top was another difficult maneuver and with the help of my husband and one of those crutches I was able to get up.
By the time I got to lay down in bed it was about 1 a.m. Then my husband and I needed to decompress. I think I fell asleep about 2:30 a.m. I had been awake twenty and a half hours. I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk on air unless you have as much faith in the Saviour as Peter had when he began walking on water.
Today, I am able to put a little more weight on my right foot; I haven’t been downstairs for three days as I can’t manage them yet. I’m still icing the swelling. The beauty of working remotely is coming into its own as I can hobble to my desk from the bedroom on my crutches. Some kind friends have visited and bought in dinner or yummy treats; my daughter and grandchildren came to visit and brought me little ‘get well’ drawings, lemon bars and some lovely roses to look at as I lay in bed; and I’ve received multiple texts of support and love. All in all I’m on the up and up. My husband is super sweet and attentive although I’m probably driving him crazy with how much water I like to drink! Now to just have a shower ….. that would be soooo nice!
Last Thursday evening, my husband and I began looking after our five grandchildren aged 9, 7, 5, 3 and 21 months, whilst my daughter went into the hospital early Friday morning to deliver her sixth child.
I think our task was much easier than my daughter’s, although I went back to work this week for a rest! It’s at times like this, that getting old is frustrating with the lessened ability to do as much as I could do in my prime. Nevertheless, we lost none of the children and no-one died. That is a success, right?
For Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we divided the children up with my daughter’s in-laws. This really helped with getting age appropriate activities going and being able to give the time and attention that the children needed.
We received a text and cute pictures of our newest grandson late Friday afternoon. As a mum, it was with great relief that I knew that both Mum and baby were okay and healthy. As all parents know, you never stop worrying about your children and their offspring.
Saturday morning we took the two little ones to enjoy a few rides on the Canyon Model Railroad that were having a free day. They really enjoyed that. I think Grandma and Papi enjoyed it even more. Could have spent all day riding if it wasn’t for the scorching sun! Then off we went to visit my daughter, her husband and the new baby!
In America, it is really cool that the father can stay in the hospital with the mother and the new baby. Everyone has individual rooms with an ensuite. I remember my days in the hospital after the delivery of my children in England. We were in a large ward separated from the other mum’s and babies by a curtain that we would pull around our bed if we wished. My then husband wasn’t allowed to stay. He could come during visiting hours. When I was a child, children weren’t allowed into the hospital. I remember being lifted up and looking in through a window to be able to see my little sister after she was born.
My daughter was looking really well although tired from the birth and sore from the afterbirth pains (which get worse after each birth). My little new grandson was beyond gorgeous. My daughter’s husband introduced little William to his big little sisters. Both were so gentle with him. I think that the youngest finally understood what we had been telling her about the baby coming out of mummy’s tummy and was amazingly kind and tender to her little new brother. Seems this kindness and love just oozes out of this little girl.
Each of my grandchildren have amazing unique qualities that belong just to them. Those qualities came with them when they were born. Being a sociologist, I was always taught that we are a product of our environment. When I had my children I decided to do a social experiment. I had one girl and one boy. Both played with dolls and cars. (Both favourite toys of mine!). I dressed them mostly in unisex clothes and colors. They had the same books and the same opportunities. I know that you can’t control your environment and the way that you behave due to your upbringing so I’m sure that we were modeling many behaviours to our children unconsciously.
I was a single mum when my youngest child was four. Dad wasn’t around much for visiting. When my son was a young teenager, he one day turned around to me exclaiming that I used way to many words to explain things and suggested that I became more succinct! He didn’t mean to be sassy, he was just trying to express a frustration. Well, I’m still female and still use a lot of words to convey stuff; but my son showed me that he was very male and wanted concise conversation.
My daughter and son are like chalk and cheese. I brought them up the same way, but they are very different. They may share some similar mannerisms, but their personalities are distinct and very different. Even as little kids, they were different in the way they reacted to things. My daughter was a go-getter and loved to join in everything. My son would hide behind my skirts and was very retiring.
So too are my grandchildren. Each one has a very distinct personality and interests. As I held my new little grandson on Saturday, and as I have held my own children and each of my grandchildren as they have entered the world, I am moved to tears at their purity, their innocence, and their glory as they came straight from the presence of God. Wordsworth says it so well:
What an honour it is to hold a child of God in my arms! To be entrusted with God’s child to rear, to protect, to teach, to respect, to honour, to nurture and to help them prepare for eternal life back with their Father in Heaven. I am grateful for my call to be a mother and grandmother. I reverence this sacred office and hope that I can do all that is expected of me with the trust that has been given to me by God.
In America, people usually have the funeral services within a week of their loved one passing. In England there is a much longer gap between the two events. I don’t know why, so if anyone can enlighten me, I would be very interested. In America, there is a regular embalming process.
Lohr passed away on a Monday night in March 2010 and we held the funeral services and the burial on the Friday. (See ‘What He Left Behind’ for further details). That week was a very busy time; so busy that one didn’t have time to think too much and to grieve.
Tuesday morning, we were woken up early with a telephone call. The caller was asking if we would be willing to donate Lohr’s organs. This call deeply distressed my husband. If the organs were going to be donated, we had to be asked as soon as possible, but with Lohr’s death being such a shock, the call made my husband extremely angry. He had been up most of the night sobbing until he fell asleep exhausted. Then was woken up early by this call.We spent the first few days finding a plot to bury Lohr. My husband’s father was buried in Oakland Cemetery and he wanted his son to be buried near his dad. We were able to find a plot about eight yards away from his dad underneath a beautiful tree. Oakland Cemetery is the resting place of over 50,000 people of all walks of life and is historically significant in Minnesota.
I drove my husband to the cemetery on the Wednesday after his son died. My husband was in great emotional pain and distress. On the way, I felt Lohr’s presence very near. He was very concerned that his mother and father were in so much pain. I felt him whisper ‘Tell my dad that I love him’. I hesitated to tell my husband. I’m sure he would think I was nuts. But the feeling persisted. I let my husband know, but on recalling these events to him a couple of months ago, he did not absorbed the information at the time.
We spent a lot of time at the mortuary. Sonny went to visit Lohr as often as he could that week before he was buried. The morticians did a great job of getting Lohr ready. He wore a white shirt and the white trousers that I had hemmed. The mortician had closed the eye that had been slightly open. He looked very peaceful. It seemed surreal that he had died.
Each evening we came home to find food on our doorstep. One day we found this tiny vase with a single pink carnation in it. That meant so very much to me. I still have the vase and it fills me with great love every time I see it.
My son, who lived at home then, looked after himself for the days that we were busy. He got himself off to school and got his homework done. He didn’t have to cook as our church family had provided food everyday in abundance. He, at least, was eating it and my husband was eating a little. My daughter and grandson flew in from Connecticut for the funeral.
All too soon, the day of the funeral arrived. Funerals to me are the hardest part of the whole grieving process because it is so public and I am a very private person especially with regards to my emotions.
We had the funeral services at the funeral home. We had two rooms. We used one room for the viewing and we used the other room for the service. Initially it was going to be a closed casket service, but Sonny and Annette changed their minds on that decision during the week.
My husband was speaking at his son’s funeral as well as Annette, Lohr’s mother. I was holding up well, supporting them, taking care of all the communications with everyone including the morticians, and the little details. I did okay until the movie with the music was put on.
Some kind friend of Annette’s had produced a short movie of about four minutes or so. The movie showed photos of Lohr growing up and a two or three short videos of him.
When Lohr was little, my husband would sing John Lennon’s song, ‘Beautiful Boy’, to him when he went to sleep. The movie played John Lennon’s recording of this song throughout it’s duration.The movie was put on in the viewing room on a repeat cycle. I was pleased that it was put on later in the proceedings because I started to loose it a bit at that point. Music does that to me.
We had a lot of guests come to the funeral. A few of Annette’s family came and most of Sonny’s family were there. Sonny’s work colleagues came from St. Paul. I was working in downtown Minneapolis at the time and was surprised when my team turned up. A lot of Lohr’s friends came to say goodbye.
When the music went on, I had to leave being the hostess to our guests and walk out to compose myself in the foyer.
My husband did really well when he spoke at Lohr’s funeral. Annette had a harder time but she got through it. It was an honourable service. As soon as Annette had finished her talk, she left with her therapist. She was very distraught.
As the service concluded, my husband said goodbye to the mourners. The morticians closed the casket and the took Lohr out to the car. We travelled from Plymouth to Oakland Cemetery, in St.Paul. It was March and we were in Minnesota. The snow was deep on the ground. I had changed out of my dress shoes and into my boots. When we got to the cemetery, they had cleared the frozen snow from around the grave and the grounds leading up to the grave.
This for me was the most harrowing part of the proceedings. Watching my husband carrying the coffin of his son from the hearse to the graveside. My husband’s friend walked me to the graveside and stood with me whilst Sonny escorted his son. The tears began to race down my face (just as they are doing now as I write this). My tissue did nothing to stem them. My heart ached so much for my husband and for all that was happening at that moment.
My husband is the most gutsy man that I know. As a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, he dedicated his son’s grave after some short words from the Bishop. Then the mourners left. My husband took a few minutes and then we went back to the car to attend a small meal put on by the ladies at the church for our immediate family.
As I drove away, I saw them lowering the coffin into the ground in the rear mirror. It was all I could do to see through the haze of tears. My heart was fit to burst.
On March 11th, 2010, I was sitting in the back of our car. The car was parked in a car park near Ridgedale in Minnesota. I was listening to the anguished cries of my step-son’s mother as she yelled down the phone at the coroner’s office.“You will not touch my son!” She exclaimed. “He is my son and I don’t give you permission! When can I see him?” Not satisfied with the reply, she got angrier and angrier, completely engulfed in her distress and grief.
Eventually, she hung up. She gave my husband my cell phone. “You call them,” she cried. “Don’t let them touch him!”. My husband was gentle with her, reaching beyond his own grief, to comfort her and help her with her pain. “They have to. It’s the law.” He said gently. “I’ll find out when we can see him”.
He dialed the number on the cell phone. “Hi, this is Sonny Wren, Lohr’s dad. Yes, he was brought in last night. When will we be able to see him? Yes, I understand. You need to know the undertaker we want to use? Okay, I will get back to you on that as soon as possible.”
Lohr’s mum grabbed the phone. “You will not cut up my son!” She cried. “I forbid it!” She slammed the phone shut.
My heart ached for them. I would feel the same way about my child. I reached out to touch their shoulders. “I know that this is hard for you. We need to find an undertaker so that you can see Lohr as soon as possible.” I said. ‘Do you have any preferences?’
Lohr’s mum thrust a piece of paper into my hand. “A friend recommended this one”, she said.
“Okay,” I said. “Sonny, I can make this call if you want me to, but they may not speak to me. Do you feel up to making it?” My husband, through his tears, nodded his head. I read out the number on the paper as my husband spoke with the coroner’s office. After he had finished, I called the undertakers to find out where they were located and asked them to call me when my step-son’s body arrived.
Lohr’s mum, Annette, was engaged with my husband, turning her grief onto other subjects where she got angry about how people with homosexuality were treated. As my husband listened, I wondered if the coroner received phone calls with parents and other loved ones like the one he had received from Annette on a daily basis. How hard for them to be dealing with the anger of heartache and despair of people in grief.
My husband had woken me up at 11 p.m the night before. “Penelope, wake up. Lohr is dead”. I shot up from the bed.
“What? What did you say?”
“Lohr is dead. The police have just left”.
I pulled my husband into my arms. “I’m so so sorry, honey.” My husband broke down and wailed. I held him for a long time.
“How long were the police here? Why didn’t you wake me up?” I asked after awhile.
“They were here for about an hour?” He said. “I told them to contact Lohr’s mum. They are going there now.”
“Are you up to calling her?” I asked. He nodded. “I will in a minute. Let’s give them time to get there and then I’ll call”.
“Do you know what happened?” I asked.“ He jumped. He finally did it and jumped”.
Lohr had attempted suicide several times before. He had tried pills and he had often wandered to the top of the car park at the Mall of America in Minnesota. When he had felt like he was going to jump before, he would call his Aunt and she would talk him down. He had done this several times. This time, his Aunt was unavailable as she had had a stroke and suffered from aphasia. Lohr had been visibly shaken by his aunt’s downward spiral of health. She was like another mother to him.
Lohr had been admitted to the hospital about a month earlier. He was severely depressed. After a week there, he was unable to get out of bed. As he was over eighteen we couldn’t consult with the hospital staff about his treatment. This was the worst that I had ever seen him. I sat by his bed and just stroked his hair. After visiting with him, I went to speak with the staff and said “He’s really, really depressed. I haven’t seen him this bad before. Whatever meds you have him on are not working. I’m very concerned.” I felt like I was talking into thin air. Of course, they knew he was depressed. His dad and I were so frustrated that we didn’t know what was going on.
Lohr was discharged from the hospital at the end of the following week. I was surprised that they released him so early. He had been committed again, so it is not like he had a choice in the matter. Lohr lived in a half-way home as he was on probation from his several attempts at suicide. This was a measure to try and keep him safe. Lohr had suffered from bipolar since he was about ten years old. He also had a suspected diagnosis of schizophrenia.
I was brought back to the present as Lohr’s mother accelerated in her barrage of words. She was highly distressed. She also was bipolar and had not taken her meds and was roaring away in a torrent of understandable mania as she grappled with this unfathomable loss. I could see my husband waning under the onslaught.
“I know you guys aren’t up to this right now,” I interrupted, “but why don’t we go to the undertakers and assess what we need to do there – choose a coffin, decide on clothes, etc. Then everything will be ready for when Lohr arrives.”
Doing something practical seem to help them to move on through this moment. Annette left the car and went back to her car. I got out the back and slid into the driver’s seat. We found the mortuary and went inside. I introduced us to the staff and they put us in a room where we could talk. The lady who was helping us went through the procedures and the choices of service, coffins, etc. She then left us to decide. Sonny and Annette were distraught and unable to focus for longer than a few minutes.
Annette said that she would sell one of her paintings to pay for the coffin and the funeral services at the mortuary. I asked them gently if they would prefer to have the service at our church or whether they would prefer it at the mortuary. Annette expressed a strong desire to have the funeral at the mortuary and Sonny was okay with her request. “But I want him to wear white”, he said. Annette conceded to his wishes. I will order the trousers and shirt tonight, I said. I can hem them as well. I will just need a pair of Lohr’s trousers to get the right length. They very quickly decided on a nice but moderately priced coffin. My husband decided that Lohr would be buried near his dad in St. Paul. I managed to get them to plan out the services – what hymns they wanted and who would speak. They both wanted to speak and would have our Bishop speak. We worked out the obituary for the mortuary to get out in the paper and online. It took awhile as their grief worked against their focus.
We had just finished, when the undertaker came in to tell us that Lohr had arrived. They said it might be better to see him later when they had time to work with him, but both Annette and Sonny wanted to see him as soon as they could. Annette wanted to go in first and alone. About forty minutes later, she left and went home, after letting Sonny know that she had his blood-stained clothes. Sonny wanted me to come in with him. I was nervous; I didn’t know what shape he would be in. I hoped that I would know how to support my husband as he got his first taste of the physical reality of the situation.
We walked in. My husband made an audible gasp. I held his hand as he went over to his son and rubbed his back as the tears flowed down his face. He caressed his son’s chest and wept. He spoke to his son and wept some more. One of Lohr’s eyes was not completely shut and I hoped my husband didn’t notice and feel more pain. I gave my husband some space. After a long while, he indicated to me that he was ready to go. He kissed his son and we left the room. I let the staff know that we were leaving and thanked them for their kindness. We would be back tomorrow.
When we arrived back at our house, there was a meal for us on our doorstep. Our Bishop came over later that night and talked with my husband and I. He gave him a blessing. I let the Bishop know the details of the service on Friday and he said that he would take care of the programme and let the members of our congregation know. He said that he would arrange for a meal for our immediate family after the service and the burial.
My husband soon fell asleep as he stared at the television that night. I got a blanket and covered him up. I went into the bedroom and got ready for bed. I climbed into bed. The events of the day caught up with me and, now that I was alone and didn’t have to be strong for anyone, I laid down and sobbed.
Paige is my cocker spaniel. She was born in 2002. We met in a Pet Shop in Arizona when she was ten months old and it was love at first sight for both of us. I am frightened of animals – all of them – so this bonding was unusual in the extreme.
Paige was the first dog I have ever been able to touch and hold. She has always been gentle with me from the get-go and I have been sensitive to her needs. It’s like we were made for each other. When I would have to go away for a few days, she would stop eating. She follows me wherever I go. Her love for me is unconditional. She holds a special place in my heart.
I let the children name her. If it had been up to me, she would have been called ‘Lady’. The five children came up with Paige unanimously and Paige she is.
My husband readily admits that he is a mutt! It makes me laugh. Americans like to say they are made up of a percentage of the nationalities of all their ancestors and, as you know, the majority of Americans (bar the native Indians) descend from immigrants especially from Europe. My husband’s extended family comes from Norway, Denmark, Germany and Ireland. I, on the other hand, am a purebred! My ancestors come from Fordingbridge and Southampton for quite a few generations.
My ‘puppy’, Paige, is also a purebred. We have a great and natural understanding of each other. Perhaps we are subject to the myth that purebreds are a little insane due to interbreeding. Nevertheless, we are not mutts.
Paige is getting on in years and I am dreading the day when she has to cross the veil. She is so much a part of our family and I love her deeply. The past couple of years, her health has been declining. She always love to come on long walks with me and then she didn’t want to go any more. We would get a few hundred feet and she would be pulling on her leash to go home. We took her to the vets and eventually she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. The vet put her on some purple thyroid tablets – Levothyroxine 0.6 mgs. She started eating again, had more energy, and started to be able to go on small walks around the block. I was so happy she was feeling better.
One day a few months ago, I picked her up to put her in the back of the car to take her to the vets for one of her injections and a comprehensive examination. I felt something crusty under her belly. I couldn’t figure out what it was and wondered if she had another cyst that was weeping. When I got to the vets, I pointed it out. I left Paige at the vets as scheduled and rushed home to work.
A couple of hours later I got a call. The vet told me that she had open sores all over her body (how the heck did we miss that?!). The vet had done some research and discovered that Paige was allergic to the purple dye in the thyroid tablets. She went on to explain that the manufacturer had been told that some dogs were allergic to this dye but they hadn’t changed their product in any shape or form.
When we went to pick Paige up, they had cleaned up her wounds. Gobs of hair had come out of her coat and we could see all the open weeping lesions on her body. I found this extremely distressing. Paige had not shown any signs of pain that we had recognized.
We had to apply ointment to all her sores twice a day for two weeks. They covered most of her body – her back, her shoulders, her neck, all her tummy and her hind legs. Together with antibiotics and pain killers, her sores healed and the vet was very pleased to see skin growing back. She put her on some other thyroid tablets without any dye in them. It was a lower amount so we had to monitor Paige to see if the new dosage worked. I asked the vet to file a report to the manufacturer so that this wouldn’t happen to any other dog. I would hate to see any other dog suffering as much as my little girl had.
We took Paige into the vets again last weekend as we were worried that we saw blackening on her skin and she was having some more cysts appearing. We were also concerned as her hair wasn’t growing back on her body. We were lucky as the blackening wasn’t a repeat of the lesions, just old age. It turns out that the dye that caused the lesions also caused the hair follicles to be destroyed.
Paige will now have to either wear a doggie coat or have sunscreen put on her if she goes out in the sunshine. I feel so sad for her being physically scarred by this medicine. We now take our walks early in the morning before the sun has had a chance to be out. I so love Paige and hate to see her suffering in her old age. She is so much a part of our family.
I absolutely never wanted to live in America. Ha Ha – my famous last words! Everytime I made a close friend, they would end up emigrating to the USA. I even started joking with new friends – ‘Just a warning, by being a friend to me you risk ending up living in America!’
When my last friends emigrated, I ironically said to myself. ‘Well, if you become your own friend, you’ll end up with your friends in America.” A year later, the children and I were already to leave England.
My fiancée lived in Irvine, California. He was eager for me to arrive in America so that we could get married. I had phoned the American Embassy several times and just got an answer machine which told me that I needed to apply for a fiancée visa. I wanted to know further details but couldn’t get through to a person to talk to – just the same old answer machine.
When I let my fiancée know, he was exasperated. A few days later he called me to say that he had spoke to some lawyers in the U.S. and they had told him that I could go over on an I90 and then file the paperwork in the states.
“Are you sure”, I asked?
“Quite sure”, he assured me.
“Would you phone the Immigration and Naturalization Service out there and see if you can get further information. They told me on the answer machine that I needed to get a fiancée visa?”
My fiancée didn’t sound too pleased about this suggestion but reluctantly agreed to call them. He told me a few days later that he couldn’t get in touch with them and that we should follow the advise of the lawyers that he had consulted.
I put my house on the market and it sold in a day! I packed up my house; sold a lot of stuff and gave some furniture to my cousin. I had all my stuff shipped out to the States.
I was living in the Midlands at the time. I drove down south for a few days to spend time with my family and all too soon, we were on our way to Heathrow Airport to fly to America and our new life.
It was cheaper to get to Los Angeles Airport by having a stop over in Missouri. As this was the first stop in America we had to go through immigration. This was the part of the trip that I felt the most nervous about. I didn’t feel one hundred percent confident about the I90 vs Fiancée visa information. But the lawyers ought to know, right? I had bought return tickets so that if the paperwork didn’t go through in time, then we would go back to England. Well, it didn’t go well. After the children and I had queued for awhile, we eventually got to present our passports to the immigration officer. I don’t know what sparked their interest – maybe the fact that we had entered the States about four months ago for a week? They asked me what the purpose of our visit was.
I’m not very good at lying even if I wanted to. So I told them that I was visiting a friend in California. I gave them his name and address. The children and I found ourselves in a set of small connecting rooms to the right of Immigration Control. They then separated me from my children and began interrogating me. I was honest in all my answers even if my initial answer was not the whole story. They wrote my answers down and when they gave me the final draft of the interview, they had changed the order to make it look like I was lying. I was not pleased.
After the interrogation, I was back in the room with my children, where I found that they had let my seven year old go to the bathroom on his own in a crowded airport. I was beginning to simmer with anger.
They then lined us up by the wall and took our picture. Now I felt like a criminal. This was not one of my finer moments. I had no idea what was going on. They said I could have a phone call so I called my fiancée who was out at work and left a message to say that we were with the Immigration Department.
They then escorted the children and I to a plane. They gave our passports and the papers that they had written to the pilot. We were seated on the plane. It was not until the plane took off that I realized that we were on our way back to England. As soon as we took off and the pilot began speaking to the passengers, I learned that we were flying into Gatwick airport. A million things went through my head as I frantically wondered what I was going to do. I decided to shelve some of them and just focus on how I was going to get back to Fareham where my mum and dad lived. I was really glad that we were going to Gatwick as I did know how to get home from there on the train.
I was worried that my mum and dad would be worried about me when I didn’t call on getting to my fiancee’s. I wondered if my fiancée had got my message before he was due to pick us up from the airport.
As we started to land, my son threw up. It went all over him. We had no warning. We had been flying for nearly twenty hours with a couple of hours in Missouri. We had been awake for quite a few hours before we had left to travel to the airport. It was no wonder my little boy had thrown up.
So now my immediate concern was to get my son cleaned up. I had used the paper serviettes to clean up most of it on the plane, but it still wasn’t pleasant. After we left the plane, we had to go through the British Passport Control and pick up our luggage before I could even consider getting him some clean clothes. When we got our luggage, I couldn’t get the three of us and the luggage into the toilets together and my daughter was too young to be left outside with the luggage. So I decided that we would do it when we had gone through customs.
As we exited from customs and emerged on the crowds that were waiting for their loved ones, I felt very conspicuous and I was very, very embarrassed. As we got through that ordeal, I headed for the bathrooms that I knew were a bit bigger. Imagine my surprise and my great relief when I suddenly saw my dad. If I wasn’t in public, I would have probably cried.
My dad said that they were worried when I hadn’t turned up at my fiancée’s. My fiancée had called them asking where I was. My dad had made an educated guess as to which airport I would come back into and got in his car and had been waiting at the airport.
Even thinking about this now, all these years later, I still get choked up regarding what my dad did for me!
My dad looked after my luggage and my daughter whilst I went to the ladies to get my son cleaned up. Then he drove me back to my parents home.
For the next three months or so, we stayed at my sister’s house. I got the children back in school and picked up some temping work. My fiancee’s mother was old friends with the secretary to a senator. Somewhere in this adventure I had been given the forms to apply for a fiancée visa. Once these were submitted to the INS, the senator was able to expedite my application.
We arrived in the States in January 1999 and my fiancée and I got married. In 2003, I started divorce proceedings from my husband due to his abusive behaviour. Looking back on this event with greater hindsight, I don’t believe that the lawyers were ever contacted. I learned the hard way that I should trust my gut when it comes to making decisions and never rely on the advice and decision of another person. If a choice is made and the consequence picked up, I want to be in full control of that choice.
Last time I wrote about the way things lie at work, I posed the question ‘Why not change my job?’ Yes, this is a question that I wrestle with constantly. There are three reasons that keep me in this job right now:
Firstly, one of the biggest benefits, working for my current company is that I now work remotely for them. I used to work in the Minneapolis office when I first started. When my husband retired, we decided to move out to Utah so that we could see the grandchildren grow up. We knew that money would be tight and if we continued to live in Minnesota, then we would only be able to afford to go out to Utah maybe every other year. We so wanted to be a part of our grandchildren’s lives.
We decided to take a leap of faith and move. If my company didn’t keep me on, the plan was for me to temp and get a permanent position that way. In Minnesota, there are staffing agencies that will place you into a permanent position for a fee to the employer. However, in Utah, they don’t have those types of agencies and prefer a temp-to-hire situation so that the companies here can see if you are a good fit.
I approached my boss’ boss and let her know of our plans, asking whether she would like me to continue with the company as a remote employee. I had incorporated process improvements in my job, so that there was no paper involved and I could do the whole thing on the computer. She took it up with her boss who agreed to let me work remotely for three months so that we could get on our feet, with a new home and a job in Utah.
We sold our house in Minnesota in a day to a cash buyer and had to be out in three weeks. We moved into our daughter’s basement temporarily and put most of our stuff in storage until we found a place to live. After being in Utah for three weeks, the Chief Financial Officer left the company and my boss’ boss called me to ask if I would like to stay on permanently; we were thrilled. Now knowing that I had permanent job, we looked for a house.
It is a wonderful commute to my office. I love working from home, I am really focused and don’t get distracted; except for the past year, I didn’t have to put up with office politics; and I am more productive.
The second reason for not changing my job is the financial aspect. There is quite a large salary disparity between the two states of Minnesota and Utah although the standard of living is no different. In fact, food and petrol seems more expensive here. The price of Minnesota housing dropped significantly from 2006 through 2014. We lost most of the equity in our house. Utah’s property prices actually remained stable during that time. My husband and I haven’t quite worked out why, such young people out here in Utah can afford these expensive houses; We certainly couldn’t. There is a high propensity of women staying at home with their children here too. Most couples have two cars. In the States, it is not easy to get around without a vehicle; You can’t really walk to the shops; everything is so big and spacious. Unlike England, the bus services and train services are not as prevalent. In Minnesota, for example, I didn’t even know where the train station was and never saw any signs to it, if it existed. So unlike hopping on a train to get from Fareham to York, I have no idea how one would get on the cross country trains out here. In Minnesota, for one job, I used to take a bus downtown, but it’s not like you could get on a bus and easily go from one town to another; I found the system very hard to navigate. So since my husband is now retired, my salary is important for us to pay the bills. Doing a similar job in Utah would reduce my salary by almost half.
The final reason for trying to stick this job out, is because of bullying, this type of conflict follows me around. I have experienced it before in a couple of jobs out here. I do really well in my job for a few years and then another element (person) is introduced to the mix and I get targeted. So there is something in me that really wants to try and make this work. After a few more instances of poor communication and being left out of the loop the past couple of weeks, I’m not sure if I will succeed, but I want to give it one more chance. However, the relationships are pretty shot and I’m not sure if they are repairable. I feel that I no longer have any trust with the people involved and I don’t know how to rectify that since in my perspective, trust has to be earned.