In the great tradition of our family blog – here is our end of the year letter (because I’m too lazy to mail them out or rather because I’m saving paper and postage – you decide which answer you like better).
This past year was one of many changes just like everyone else. In 2008, it was our first entire year without Lisa. Our family endured the one-year anniversary of Lisa’s passing in February. No times passes without Lisa in our thoughts.
In February 2008, the kids and I decided to head to Portland for the weekend of the anniversary of Lisa’s passing, to have alone time together. The kids played glow-golf, shopped in downtown Portland and overall had a good time.
Little did I know in early 2008, I had been walking around on a ruptured lumbar disk that I had done 7 months prior in my lower back after falling down our stairs following a work call. Once it was discovered that my decreased functioning was not due to my MS, I was scheduled for surgery. Fortunate for the kids and I, my sister Marilyn and good friend Myanna arrived to save the day and see me through the surgery and recovery. And parents from Waldorf once again were amazing making sure the kids made it to and from school throughout the spring when I was on bed rest. Lisa’s parents came for a visit about 10 days after the surgery to take over the care of the kids, since I was on bed rest for weeks.
In March, Katie turned 11 and invited her entire Waldorf class to her party of miniature golf that is done under black lights so called “glo-golf”. At the end of March, Michael – still in the institution turned 18 years old – unbelievable and made me feel old for sure.
Once my back healed as much as it could, I was finally able to be out with the kids for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Katie and David played on the same indoor soccer team and defeated every opponent. The girls played on the same Y girls’ basketball team and David played on a great Y boy’s team. As usual, the kids stayed very busy.
In late 2007, I found out that Bette Midler would be playing Las Vegas in 2008. I couldn’t resist and I knew just the person to come with me. Called up my older sister Marilyn “hey sis, how about a night in LV to see Midler” – she was game.. Our date in LV was March 08, we had amazing seats, thanks to my neurosis of trying to get the best seats possible. The only bummer was it was before my back surgery and I was in severe pain the entire time. On a side note, while I can never find fault with anything Bette does… by far her Kiss my Brass and her Millennium tour shows were much better – maybe because they were longer and I could soak her up for longer. And I’m the first to admit if I could stock a celebrity it would be Bette, but I’m too busy. Someday my dream would be to actually meet her. We all need dreams right?
The kids and I were also invited to the GLAAD (Gay/Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) media awards in San Francisco on May 10, 2008. I fortunately didn’t need to speak at this gala event but was in the VIP section with Danielle, David and my sister Marilyn (Katie couldn’t join us because of a school function). Neil the president of GLAAD told the audience of our story. Sharon Stone received the award at that ceremony and we sat at the VIP table with Judith Light. My usual self, I felt shy and out of place. I was glad that my sister Marilyn was able to attend the awards with the kids and I. I was even too shy to walk the red carpet with the celebrities. I mean what am I suppose to do at the after party have a glass of Champaign and talk it up with Sharon Stone? We still had a great time staying in San Fran and meeting up with my sister – and following the standing ovation about our story, I was again humbled to know that what happened to our family seems unfathomable to so many others.
As the year anniversary of Lisa’s passing came and went, Lambda Legal put Jackson Memorial on notice our intent to file a suit but could avoid litigation but they failed to contact Lambda legal or me, so in June 2008, I returned to Miami to officially file the lawsuit against the hospital, the 2 attending physicians and the social worker. In Miami, I did many TV interviews and taped interviews to be used at a later date. To say returning to Miami was difficult was an understatement. One of the taped pieces done by CNN overlooked the port of Miami and as I answered questions I felt the swell hitting my insides that finally at one point I jumped up from the interview, about broke my Mic pack and just had to cry – and Beth and Tika from Lambda – asking what was wrong was I finally able to put it into words – that looking over at the port it was the last place I saw Lisa alive, it was just too much pain for me to take on right then. Following the Miami filing and press conferences, I headed to Tampa/St. Petersburg were I was the Grand Marshal of the Largest Pride Parade in Florida. It was 3 days of light fun with comedians ANT and Christine O’Leary, leading the parade and appearing on their morning TV programs.
The kids wound down their school year with Katie having her “India Feast”. Danielle finished up her middle school years and readied herself for High School in the fall.
I returned to NYC twice in 2008, the first time in early January to meet with GLAAD and Lambda Legal to help me put my thoughts and feelings into words that were coherent. And the second time in mid- July to do a People Magazine photo shoot and ready the family to take off on the Rfamily Cruise again. There is no date for the run of our article in People – believe it or not we got bumped by Brad and Jolie’s twins – surprise when you pay that much for a cover – and our story is free. Though the kids did enjoy the 6 hour photo shoot because they got to keep most of the clothes the assistant had gone out and bought for them.
On July 1, 2008, while the kids were at the Cape, I saw the “True Colors” tour headlined by Cyndi Lauper and Rosie O’Donnell in Seattle. Rosie didn’t hesitate and had her stage person bring me backstage in between sets – she signed her craft book for the kids, took pictures and continued to be the authentic soul who reached out to our family when Lisa passed.
In July, the kids and I boarded the Rfamily cruise once again with Myanna, Chris, Alan and Jacob. The cruise this time went up New England to Canada so to places that were new to all of us. We took in 2 shows while in Manhattan – “Stomp” and “Mary Poppins”. Katie is still bugging me to move closer to NYC so she can start working on Broadway.
When we returned from the cruise, school came fast upon us, David and Katie returned to Waldorf and Danielle started High School. Michael was getting ready to move out of the institution into Independent Living with 24/7 staffing.
David decided he wanted to try tackle football and not to be outdone by her older brother; Katie said she wanted to play also. I agreed but made it clear that if she didn’t like it, she had to finish the season due to the cost involved. Not only did she like it she loved it. She became a starter on offense and some on defense. David made a great lineman because of his size and he improved every game and I think he found a niche for himself in sports. He worked hard everyday at practice and the coaches all said he had an amazing attitude. The league they played in was outstanding and I won’t hesitate to sign them up again.
As school rolled around, the kids have done an amazing job in remaining focused. I made a commitment to drive the kids every day, which I was unable to do prior to my back surgery. Katie is excelling at violin and practices for nearly an hour a day without being asked to. David outgrew his viola and now has the largest size there is and while he struggles at times, he and Katie are in the same middle school orchestra and she works to help him keep up.
The lawsuit is going through the motion phase at this point. I have received support for our action from family, friends and strangers. I know that not everyone agrees with our litigation society but that is not what is at the reasoning of why I agreed to seek counsel. I tried on my own to get an apology from the social worker and it fell on deaf ears. Lambda legal did the same – asking for an apology – and it too fell on deaf ears. The suit in my eyes is critical to make sure what happened to us, doesn’t happen to another family. It’s that plain and simple. Think about it if you are married, do you have to bring a marriage certificate with you to the ER to be with your spouse? I’m sure the answer is no, so then why should committed individuals like Lisa and myself with jointly adopted children need to prove a relationship for us to see her? And beyond visitation, we had done everything right – we had the Medical Power of Attorney and that still didn’t guarantee her and my rights as her medical surrogate. Enough on that front, I’m sure 2009 will be the make or break point in the lawsuit, either the judge will set it over for trial or dismiss all counts. I will just need to wait, see and pray for his wisdom.
So now December and 2008 is coming to a close. I know there are other events I missed such as the kids annual trip to the cape, my invitation to speak at GLMA (Gay/Lesbian Medical Association), the failure of Prop 8 and Amendment 2, the election of Obama and on and on. There are other things that quietly tick away in my mind, I turned 40 and outlived Lisa, Lisa would have finished graduate school at the time I was filing the lawsuit, I was forced into disability retirement after 18yrs with the State of Washington. None of these “things” goes unnoticed by me, just some are easier to write or talk about than others. I hope that you get a flavor of what our family has been up to. The kids are getting so old (and big) Katie and David both are taller than I am (not Danielle though). They are by far the most amazing beautiful souls I could ask for.
As we look forward to 2009, I am sure more will happen with the lawsuit and I will keep those interested up to date. The kids will continue with multiple sports of soccer, basketball, roller hockey, tackle football and on and on – just as Lisa would want. Not a day goes by that I’m not blessed for having Lisa in my life for nearly 18 years and being asked to raise our wonderful children. So 2009 here we come ready or not.
Jan and kids