I am not fine.
There it is, I said it. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. But, I have acknowledged it, pulled it out from under the emotional rock it was hiding and verbally stated its presence.
I am not fine.
There are many reasons I am not fine, and it’s not a simple answer to the question of why? But it is a truth, a truth I have been hiding for quite some time now.
I spent this week in San Diego as a participant in a Health and Wellness for public servants seminar. The first day started with an amazing opening speaker who really inspired and justified my resilience in accepting this time away from Jacy. After that it was a lot of the same old build up, and for us fire guys a reiteration that ICS should always be used while managing any type of incident. Including a mental health crisis. After 8 hours of what was new and interesting information for most and a segment of boring refresher for us fire people. I prayed the class would only get better. It did not disappoint.
Day two found us thrown into the emotional arms of a speaker covering the essentials of support, where that support comes from and what it looks like when built properly. He carefully broke down through his own experiences where we go wrong as public service personnel when it comes to identifying the who, what where and why of our foundations for strength while working these spiritually, emotionally and mentally taxing professions.
As he stood there expounding on his failures, the recognition of a skewed priority system, the ability to deny professional help after a triggered emotional event and the wall he built around him by simply stating he was fine when asked. It hit me, hard, like a ton of bricks that everything he was saying fit me to a tee. That I to have been pronouncing my resilience nonstop and answering every question in regards to how I was doing with the five year demise of my wife as I was “fine”.
But I wasn’t fine. In fact I had been living this lie for so long I actually began to believe my own bullshit.
You see in those few moments as I wandered in and out of his lecture, with every key point fitting me perfectly I knew it had gone on long enough. But where did all this come from? How did I get this way? Why have I been able to carry this load so well for so long and still be standing?
Day three gave me the answer.
During a transition in classes on day three, having freshly been removed from an hour long course on family crisis and the emotional well-being of children in regards to perceptions related to our jobs.
I received the phone call no one wants.
My wife, the love of my life, the strongest human being I know in this world was in demise. As many of you already know Jacy has been fighting a very long hard battle with GvHD post Leukemia transplant. The GvHD has won. We quietly placed her on long term hospice four weeks ago. Affording us instant access to RN’s who would come straight to the house when needed. Also giving me a strong base to stand on as I have been the head nurse to my wife for over a year.
The phone call went something like this: James, Hospice is taking Jacy off the Stanford medications, she can no longer swallow, or eat and really it’s about pain management now. She has but a few days.
Of course there is much more to it than that but this is neither the time nor place to run through her complete medical chart, emotional state or my irrational state of mind.
As of late I have been referring to myself as the air traffic controller of our family, that call was the equivalent of having a plane drop from my screen. Call sign, call sign, pandemonium and panic ensue.
Yet it was also in that moment, standing on a deck just outside the convention overlooking beautiful Mission Bay trying to keep it together as 600 hundred of my fellow public servants could see me from many vantage points I not only realized 100% I met every single criteria for a public servant-no a human being, father of four, dad, a fucking husband in distress and the honest recognition I needed help. Just like that, the clarity as to how I have been able to keep going for so long hit me like a brick.
My dad could drive me crazy! His self-righteous bullshit was always something I rebelled against! But since his passing here at the house almost three years ago I have come to realize that even though I fought against him so hard for so long there are traits he taught me that I carry proudly to this day.
Son; always put one foot in front of the other, life will knock you down but you need to keep going. What else are you going to do?
Of course in his later years he did nothing but sit on his butt and blame everyone and everything for his perceived failures in life instead of cherishing what was around him. This was also a bone of contention between us because I believed the latter and it made me mad he wouldn’t follow his own advice.
But here I was, overlooking the ocean, swelled up with a myriad of uncontrollable emotions. Not more than a few hours earlier I had been talking to one of my co-workers about how tired I was after five years and several Leukemia associated battles. Trips to Stanford, scares, triumphs, disappointment, doctors’ visits to Kaiser, Jacy crying in the elevator proclaiming she wasn’t ready to die, because she felt there was so much work left to do. It all has taken a tremendous toll on us all, of course no more than what it’s done to my wife.
The only life I have known for five years is that of a single parent (I fully admire all of you single parents) doing his best to get three of my four kids where they need to be when they need to be there, run our ranch, work my job as a firefighter, and care for my wife 24 hours a day many times with little sleep. I am blessed the most amazing support structure in Jacys family and with the assistance of our Gina I don’t know how I would ever have gotten it all done, but either way, yeah I was tired.
But what struck me, what really opened my eyes at that very moment was the realization through wonderful training that week, was that I hadn’t been placing one foot in front of the other for five years, no, no my friends. I have been doing it for 18 years.
I never dealt with or recovered fully from the loss of my first wife. I have been doing the emotional two step in one form or another for a very, very long time, affecting my personal relationships, my children’s ability to grow as human beings and my own self-care.
So yeah I am tired, I am so fucking tired.
But in that same instant, I’m not ready!
I am not ready for any of this, I have the skills to handle it, I have a complete support network in place to handle it, and I have the contacts to some of the best professionals in the business to handle it! All of that is something I didn’t have in 2001 when Kim died. I have been praying for peace for my wife, but her mind says she isn’t ready. I have been wanting to have a moment where I don’t need to worry about anyone or anything, but I am a man who cares deeply for his family, all of his family so that is not a viable wish. But I am not ready to say goodbye.
On the flight home I stared at the ceiling, I could hear my wife’s angelic voice in my head as I replayed moments from the past. It hurt because we haven’t had a conversation that was completely lucid in quite some time. I relived many of my favorite times with her and realized how much I will miss even the tough times. She is the only woman in my life who understood I never ever meant any harm when at times my mouth wrote checks I couldn’t cash. Which means she is also the only person who could ever call me on my shit without receiving the full verbal wrath of James Franceschi! Something I am always embarrassed by when it inadvertently happens.
I don’t do alone.
What am I going to do without her? Why is or did this happen? I have been so focused on keeping her alive that now as the time dwindles away I haven’t remotely considered how I am going to function without her, her strong willed personality, her gigantic kind, giving heart, her ability to coerce me into doing things or trying things I never, ever would have done or experienced completely against my will only to have me thank her for it afterwards. That larger than life smile, how will I go on without that larger than life smile in my life? How are my children going to function? Cody and Jake have been through this, they still have no idea what’s ahead, and they are quietly struggling as well but what do I say, what do I do? What is Jess going to do in a house filled with all boys, no mom to be there for prom, homecoming, graduation, and all the girly things that need to be addressed in the way only a mom, no, only my wife can do! What about Parker, why is this happening to Parker her only child? She fought so hard to bring him into this life and now she won’t be there for him either!! She is his everything!!!
Listen, I understand I am not the only person in the world this has or is happening too. But what the hell???? Why is this happening to me twice and how in the fuck do you justify taking away quite possibly the kindest most giving person I have ever known. Why not me? I have spent my life as an asshole, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work???
Jacy Mirelle Glenn Franceschi answered a call 16 years ago. She fought hard against all odds to answer that call, fulfil that vision and she has without question made me the man I am today! Something I am so, so grateful for! She fought long and hard, working night and day to create the James Franceschi that sits here typing, wondering why? Is God saying her job is done and if so couldn’t he have found a different, less painful and disturbing way to tell her?
I love, love, love my wife. What am I going to do the first morning I get up and I don’t hear; Good morning my love as I grumble across the kitchen floor and make her coffee and breakfast? That first morning the kids don’t yell goodbye mom see you after school, hope you feel better today, while she does her best to respond with: have a great day! The first time her hospital bed isn’t there, the oxygen machine isn’t running, the doorbell isn’t ringing with medication deliveries and the house is cold and empty as if she never existed? The house she created, the home she filled with warmth and love, the ranch we tried to build together???
WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP SHIT IS THAT??? MY BEST FRIEND IS DYING SLOWLY AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!!
I’M NOT FINE, THERE IT IS, I’M NOT FUCKING FINE!!!