MEET YVETTE

Yvette grew up in Tigard, Oregon, attended Central Catholic High School, and graduated from the University of Washington. After working as a Speech Pathologist for 10 years Yvette stayed home with her 3 girls and supported her husband throughout his Navy career as they moved around the country — 7 times in 14 years. Yvette has one daughter studying to be a Physician Assistant in Knoxville, Tennessee, one at the Naval Academy, and one who is a Junior in high school.

Although Yvette would consider herself a bit of a “quiet Christian,” she has a deep-seated faith that she shares with her husband and which has strongly influenced her life and her reaction to life’s biggest challenges and moments of joy. She is deeply grateful that after moving around for all those years she now lives 2 blocks from her sister and 5 minutes from her mother.

MEMORIES OF MY FATHER

I grew up in a lower middle class Italian Catholic family with five brothers and sisters. Neither of my parents had college degrees so my dad worked two and three jobs and my mom augmented our income by babysitting neighborhood kids. My brothers and sisters and I all started working around the age of ten and were definitely not shopping at Nordstrom or getting handed $20 bills from our parents to go to Starbucks. We did not fly to Hawaii or Florida for vacations… we packed up the family and went camping to Detroit Lake every summer, rain or shine.

We also went to church at St. Anthony’s every single Sunday, .all eight of us. We sat in the same pew and kicked each other in the heels while walking up to communion and got dirty looks from my mom or dad when we were goofing off. It was a great childhood. I never felt like I was missing out and although my parents did not have a loving relationship, both of them were present for us and extremely loyal and supportive.

Fast forward ten years. I married a Navy man and we moved every 22 months for about twelve years. During that time we had three children, two spastic Vizslas, and a cat. My husband was frequently gone for long periods of time, leaving me alone with the kids and all our creatures without the benefit of family or dear friends close by. For the duration of our military career, my dad flew wherever we were stationed and walked the dogs, played with my kids, went to the park, watched school plays or sporting events, helped me grocery shop, and took us out to Wendy’s for burgers and Frostys.

My dad spending time with us while my husband was overseas

When my husband retired, we moved to Washington state and eventually convinced my dad to move to a retirement community five minutes from our home so we could help him after his coronary artery bypass surgery. Unfortunately, my dad absolutely hated Issaquah and was never happy after moving. It was a lot more expensive than his previous residence and having raised six kids without a degree, money was a major component of his happiness. In addition to the heart issues, my dad also started suffering from mild cognitive impairment. As this condition progressed, he became grouchy, antisocial, and not very fun to be around. He stopped going to church or talking about God. He stopped attending any of the grandkids’ events and only wanted to spend time with me and my sisters. It was hard not to take it personally and I felt so sad that this man who had been an extremely involved and loyal grandfather to my children when they were young no longer wanted to spend time with them. I hated that my children began to forget what a fun and loving person he had been when they were younger and how much time he had spent with them.

In October of 2020, my dad was diagnosed with what we thought was pneumonia. His medical needs continued to increase, and my sisters and I were over at his house daily to care for him. He was not improving and eventually ended up in the hospital for a week. We were unable to visit him because of Covid. It was horrible. He was very confused and couldn’t even use the phone to call us. He finally got a diagnosis of a very aggressive and untreatable lung cancer, even though he had not smoked since he was in his 20s. He was offered a bed in a hospice unit but we decided to bring him home and stayed with him around the clock for over week until he died on January 5th, just 18 days shy of his 80th birthday.

In the weeks and months after he died, I suffered from frequent crying episodes and guilt. I regretted not being able to enjoy the time we had spent together for the past few years because he was just so darn grumpy and unhappy. I became fixated on what I could have done differently to engage him in the lives of my children but came up with no good answers. Finally, after hearing me express myself about this issue for many weeks, my husband finally provided what I now consider an Anchor Moment. He said, “When I think of your dad, I remember how much he helped you when I was overseas and how much time he spent with you and our girls. And I am so grateful to him for that because I never worried about you when I was gone. That’s what I remember about your dad.”

“When I think of your dad, I remember how much he helped you when I was overseas and how much time he spent with you and our girls. And I am so grateful to him for that because I never worried about you when I was gone. That’s what I remember about your dad.”

Amazing! Who knew such a simple summary could be so transformative. When I decided to let go of my guilt and regret and spend my time focusing on all the good stuff, I finally felt at peace. He had truly been a wonderful father and grandfather. His cognitive condition had changed him but that was not his fault. But instead of getting stuck in the few years that weren’t so good, I made a commitment to focus on the 40 plus years that were really good.

I came across a scripture verse recently that really comforted me:

Do not let these memories escape your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” Deuteronomy 4:9

I cannot tell you how much comfort this very simple scripture provided me. And so much guidance! I now remind my girls how much my dad did for them and our family through the years. I show them pictures of us all laughing and having fun together. I can’t erase the memories of the grouchy grandfather he was at the end of his life, but I can definitely help reinforce the memories of the delightful grandfather he was for most of it!

I have his picture on my dresser and when I look at it now, I can smile.

Written by Yvette Artman for The Anchor Journal

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