Truth Be Told
Gretchen Rossi explains her difficult situation with Jeff, and describes the stress of being a full-time caretaker.
I have been a little out of commission the past two episodes due to the holidays. So this blog will be regarding the last two episodes - oh boy, that means it'll probably long again! Sorry in advance!
My sister came into town for the holidays and we got to spend some quality time with her, and I really just hung out with my family a lot these past few weeks. This holiday was the hardest holiday I have ever experienced, so I am grateful to have a family to spend my time with, cry with, and help me through the really tough moments of missing Jeff. Christmas was Jeff's favorite time of year and he always made it so special for his kids and me. I talked to his kids a lot and they all were having a very difficult Christmas due to it being the first one without their Dad as well. I've realized my emotions have been like a moving river; everyday I wake up with a different emotion. I can't seem to grasp if this empty spot in my heart will ever go away. Every time I think about Jeff it hurts just the same as the day I lost him. I am beginning to wonder if the age old saying "Time will heal your pain" is really true. I am starting to wonder if time will really ever make a difference. The person is gone and that is a feeling you can never get over. Nothing I can do will ever take that feeling of loss in my heart away. No matter who else I meet or whatever direction my life goes, it will never be lost on my heart that Jeff is no longer here with me. I found myself crying often this holiday and even the things that were suppose to make you smile I found myself silently crying about. It was things I wish I was sharing with Jeff - everything from a movie I watched to seeing another couple kissing under a Christmas tree taking a picture. I have so many good friends that have tried to keep me busy and keep me doing things that were fun and could temporarily put a smile on my face, but I have been hurting a lot these past few months.
To my pleasant surprise, I have met so many fans out and about and they have been so kind to me in their condolences and support, and it has been a wonderful thing to experience especially during this tough time. I tend to feel conflicted - I don't think it's OK to be out smiling and having a good time with friends because of losing Jeff, but I also know that Jeff would be disappointed in me if I sat at home crying and sad during what was his favorite time of year. He always knew how to put a smile on my face even when I was down - he just had a gift for it. So I decided to put my party dress and make-up on, go out, smile and be with family and friends, hoping it would make me feel better and get my mind off things. But I am just starting to realize that part of the process of losing a loved one is allowing yourself to go with the waves of the emotions. I kind of hoped the pain would just start to fade, but in a weird sense the pain feels even more pronounced, maybe because of the holidays. Most of you probably don't care about this and I understand, but I feel it would be an injustice to pretend that life is a bowl of cherries and you move on quickly because you just don't. You try to move on because you have to, but it doesn't make the hurt any less worse. I sincerely hope everyone's holidays were blessed and filled with a lot of true joy!
So let's talk about my experience in the past two episodes. Bass Lake was so fun for me to watch because my family is my heart and soul and I think it really showed where I get my different sides from. I was a total dork in this episode, just being silly and being able to be myself with no concern of judgment. My family more than anyone knew what I was going through and was behind me 100% in all of my tough decisions regarding Jeff. They really wanted me to take some time off because they could see the toll the situation with Jeff was taking on me. Sometimes when you are in it you don't really know until an outsider says, "Hey, you really need to take care of yourself as well."
I think I share a lot of the characteristics of both of my parents and I am so grateful for that. They are truly the most amazing people, and I feel so blessed to have them as parents. They were High School sweethearts and have been married for 39 years! They are my closest friends and the people I trust the most in my life. Even if I don't like what they are saying! They would do anything to protect me and take care of me. My brother was at Bass Lake as well and we still get along like we did when we were teenagers. We are just silly, always teasing each other and playing around. I love having him around! My sister unfortunately lives in another state so we don't get to see her as much as we would like too. My family keeps me very grounded so this was a perfect time for me to regroup and get some reprieve from the consistent day after day of being in a hospital room.
Jeff and I agreed to try and keep our lives as normal as possible. So when Bass Lake for the Fourth of July came up Jeff said to me, "Why don't we fly the kids out so I can spend time with them one on one and you do what we planned originally and be with your family for a little bit." I agreed to go as long as he was out of ICU and was doing better - which he was before I left! That is why during my phone call to him I got so emotional. He was doing well, feeling better, and out of ICU before I left, so I was frustrated that he didn't sound to be doing better. Even though Jeff wished I had stayed longer with my family, I ended up going home early after that emotional phone call. That call was made at eight o'clock at night and I was in the car at 6 AM the next morning on my way back home because I was worried about him.
Sometimes people forget that Jeff was NOT in the hospital for ONLY a week or so, but that it was a battle for 10 months and he was in the hospital 85% of the time. I understand that unfortunately people are going to place judgment as to the way I made decisions during that time because Jeff and I allowed cameras into our world, but for the record I truly believe no one has the right to really judge me until they have been in my shoes. I chose to do what was agreed upon and right for Jeff and me, and that doesn't necessarily make it right for the next person. I respect someone for having a different opinion if they have been in my shoes, but I do not respect someone who chooses to make uneducated and ignorant statements about something they truly do not understand or have never experienced. This is why statements like, "My loved one was in the hospital for nearly a week and we never left their side, so I can't believe you went on vacation" are incomparable statements to me. If Jeff was in the hospital for only a week I would of never left his side either!
Unfortunately Jeff did not have as much luck as that and he was in the hospital for a lot longer. I am in no way here to say that if how I handled the situation was right or wrong. I simply am giving you a look at my own experience. The way I chose to handle Jeff's illness was for Jeff and me to judge - not anyone else. And at the end of the day, all that mattered to me is what Jeff felt about it. By the time Fourth of July had arrived it had been close to seven months of almost every day going to a hospital 50+ miles away for close to 16-hour days (if I went home) and many, many, many, nights spent there as well. I was his sole caretaker with none of Jeff's family living here to help share the burden. I had not been anywhere else but in and out of the hospital for seven months. Both Jeff, his kids, friends and family all encouraged me to take some time away from it all. Remember this show was about 5% of my life this summer - the other 95% was in a hospital and I would NOT allow them to film there, so unfortunately you will not see that part of my life.
So that brings me to episode six. The kids were in town because they wanted to come out and give me a little bit of a break. It was so nice to hear what the kids had to say about me and how much I meant to them and their Dad during this time. If what the kids were saying about me doesn't give me a little bit of credibility, then I don't know what would at this point. Regarding the argument with Tamra at Javier's, let me start by first saying that Tamra and I have talked since that episode. We have worked out our differences, and we see and respect each other much differently now. Soon after that night she apologized to me for what was said and she said it was not meant the way it looked. But this episode and the things that were said at the time really chapped my hide. Let me be clear, what bothered me wasn't what was being said, but who was saying it. Watching the show now I realize that I got so upset because one thing was being said to me privately and then another in front of the women when cameras were on. I had gotten to know Tamra the most thus far due to her calling me and talking to me about the show and my situation with Jeff. I felt she truly understood where I was coming from because of our many conversations about Jeff and the situation off camera. I remember her saying something to the effect that I needed to take some time off for myself just a week prior to the Fourth of July. I am almost positive she knew I was going to Bass Lake and she said it would be good to spend some time with my family. (Maybe she didn't hear me when we all asked each other what we were doing for the Fourth - maybe she just heard I would be with family.)
Also, during the footage where Tamra and I went to lunch together, I believed she truly understood me as well because she said, "You cannot judge unless you are in that person's shoes, because you might be there one day yourself, and I cannot imagine what you are going through." So when she not only judged me, but then also said something so different then what she had said to me the week before, I was shocked and offended. As you can imagine I was very taken back because I hadn't seen that opinion from her at all and it really surprised me. Maybe at the time I was naive to think she had taken the time to become a friend and understand my situation, and that is my own fault. But you know when someone you think is a friend says something that you just weren't expecting? Your knee jerk reaction would be, "what the heck is that about?" If one of the other women said something I would not have been surprised, but Tamra saying it just really hit me in the gut because I believed she would stick up for me. It's funny to see my reaction because I don't get that upset often, but now watching my facial expressions I know exactly what I was thinking and I was holding my tongue a lot at the dinner.
Thankfully for her, Tamra really has no idea what it is like to have her significant other sick and be the full time caretaker. For her to say "the truth might hurt" is an uninformed statement. She did not know what my truth was, because she was not living it. I really do not wish what Jeff and I went through on anyone and definitely not on her (due to having three small children with Simon) because I think it is a horrible thing for any person to go through (the sick person themselves and the loved one watching them suffer.) But this episode makes me wonder if one day she had that same situation come knocking on her door, if she might have a different opinion once she experiences that someone still has to pay the bills, (they don't just pay themselves) and someone still has to bring in money to pay those bills, and someone (in her case) has to still get the kids to school, to soccer practice and dance rehearsals, make sure lunches are made, baths are taken, and homework is done, that birthday parties are still planned for the kids, and don't forget keeping the house maintained inside and outside, grass mowed, ground swept, gutters cleaned out, laundry done, dishes cleaned and put away, grocery shopping, and oh you can't forget to find time to feed yourself so you don't pass out while trying to do all these things despite the lack of sleep, because you were up all night holding a bucket for the person who is throwing up sick or can't walk to go to the bathroom, somehow find time to maybe get a 10 minute treadmill walk in just to relieve a little bit a stress or meditate or take a bath, or maybe just a shower once in a while so you don't look and feel like hell day after day of spending the night in the hospital room on a chair that barely folds out far enough to cuddle yourself up in.
But "truth be told" as she put it, God bless her if she would be able to magically make sure that all of that gets done, while somehow miraculously being able to spend every second of the day with her loved one for close to 10 months as the sole caretaker, and never take any time for herself to recharge so she can be there 100% for the person who is sick! If she can do that, then she is a better woman than me (or anyone I know)! Tamra knows I love her, but this was something we completely didn't see eye to eye on, and we are past this now. Truth be told when Jeff first was diagnosed I thought the same thing - I wouldn't leave his side and I would be superwomen. The first few months I barely left the hospital room and because it was 50+ miles away I forgot that I hadn't showered for a few days, but then reality sets in and life still goes on even when you think it sometimes should stop for you because you are in the most dire situation of your life. It is the worst feeling when you call your electric company because your electricity is off when you get home from a long day at the hospital because you forgot to pay the bill and that's due to the last few weeks of being in ICU fighting with someone you love to stay alive. Then you explain all this to the other person on the line and all they have to say is "Ma'am, I am very sorry for your situation, but you did not pay your bill and we will still have charge you a reconnection service that is $300 above and beyond your monthly charges!" You feel like an idiot and all you want to do is cry because you cannot understand why they don't understand. So when I get the opportunity for a few days of reprieve with my family, all the while having Jeff's approval and the opportunity for his children to come in and take care of him for a few days, I AM going to do it! Let me also make clear that vacationing to me is sitting on a beach somewhere in Tahiti with a cocktail in one hand and holding Jeff's hand in the other all the while cabana boys are fanning us with palm trees and we are there for over a week doing absolutely nothing - not driving four hours to Bass Lake for two days and having a few laughs with my family so I can clear my mind and be recharged for Jeff.
The viewers will see me go away three times during the filming this summer, one of them was out of obligation to the show (for a night) and the other two (one of them to Bass Lake) were things Jeff and I talked about and agreed upon. I am not naive to the fact that people might think it was wrong of me to leave, but because I always made sure Jeff was well taken care of, someone was always there with him, and he and I felt it was right, it made it right for me. Most families have people that can rotate being in the hospital with the loved one, but I did not have that. So when Jeff would suggest having the kids in to help and give me a break, I knew he saw I needed it. When I did have the opportunity to rotate with the kids, I chose to try and live my live the best way I knew how so I could recharge and get back in there to fight the cancer battle with Jeff. After all, that is really what it was all about, and Jeff really needed me at 100%, because when I was worn down, tired or impatient it made him down and feel bad and that was not good for anyone!
I have been in Bass Lake with my family the past week just relaxing and enjoying the cold weather. It's always nice to be up here because it gives me a chance to just breathe and focus on what is really important in life. I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately trying to figure out what is next for me in life since the loss of Jeff. I pray every day for guidance and strength to see what is next for me and to be content despite losing Jeff.
Happy New Year everyone!