For the Love of Our Human

 

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When we lose the most important person in our lives, we as humans all grieve differently and need time to heal.  So do our animals, this is the story of how our puppy dealt with the loss of his favorite human, Keith!

Our daughter, Kellie, had been sending Keith and I pictures of this dog, a small black Labrador-Beagle mix.  She was telling us how adorable he was, but he was living in a terrible situation. “He needs a home, our home, we have to rescue him!!!” Keith and I owned a business. We were so busy, that the thought of having to care and be responsible for a dog was just too daunting, even though, mind you, we love animals, and have had both, dogs and cats in our lives.  We told Kellie that it was just impossible, a puppy is so much work.  As much as we were saddened for his situation, bringing him into a home where he would be alone all day, just didn’t seem any better!

Kellie had a different idea, however.  She decided to let us see for ourselves.  One evening, she brought him to our home.  I’m sure you know where this is going!!!  After about 30 seconds, Keith was on the floor playing with this adorable 4-month-old puppy and fell in love.  It took a little more convincing on my part “How are we going to manage this?” Keith replied, “As we do with everything else, we will figure it out!!”

On that day, December 14, 2016, George “Bailey” came into our lives. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of our family’s favorite movies, and we knew it was right.  Bailey did too!

Bailey and Keith became instant best buds.  Wherever Keith went, Bailey had to be there, too!  Since Keith was a chef, you could always find the two of them in the kitchen.  Bailey was happily awaiting anything that might happen to fall off the cutting board.

The two of them loved taking long walks together, and with Keith being 6’4″ and having very long strides, Bailey, only four months, happily kept up the pace.  When I would come home the three of us would take long strolls during the evenings, it was one of our favorite things to do.  Bailey loved the pack walks; as long as his favorite human came along.  At the end of the night, Bailey always jumped into our bed; snuggling between us.

One year later, Christmas 2017, Keith was not feeling well.  So much so that we took him to the hospital the next day, where we received devastating news.  Keith had a tumor on his liver and needed a liver transplant.

Bailey saw me leave with Keith that morning and when I didn’t come back home with him, he was confused and miserable!  That night, I could not find him, he was hiding from me under Kellie’s bed, and he ended up sleeping in her room all night long!

Keith came home about ten days later, but he was frail.  We did not want Bailey jumping on him and overwhelming either of them.  So while I was bringing Keith into the house, Kellie brought Bailey out through the back door.  Once I got Keith settled, I texted Kellie to bring him in.  It was like something out of the videos you see on YouTube.  Before Bailey saw him, he knew Keith was home and practically torn Kellie’s arm off, as he tried to run to him.  The reunion was beautiful, Keith stretched out his arms and Bailey flew into them.  All was right with the world.  That night Bailey slept in our bed, snuggling next to his favorite human.

About a week later, I had to bring Keith back to the hospital.  Not only was this devastating to our family, but to Bailey as well.  When I did not bring Keith home that night, Bailey was very very angry, thinking I had something to do with it.  If I walked into the room he was in, he walked out!  Of course, he did not sleep with me that night, he slept with Kellie!!

Bailey was missing his daily long walks with his favorite human.  He got the essential exercise, but it just wasn’t the same for him.  When Kellie and I were not at the hospital or running the business, Bailey got our attention!!  However, as the days became nights, and we spent most of our time at the hospital, he became very destructive.  Kellie would go back and forth to take care of him and give him hugs, but he bore holes in the walls and ripped up the carpet.  We knew that he was so upset, so we found it difficult to be angry with him.

Keith spent another 12 days in the hospital only to have them tell us that there was nothing more anyone could do for him.  When he came home for the final time, we had to have Hospice set up in our living room so we could make him as comfortable as possible!

Over the next nine days, I slept in the living room with Keith, because I was afraid I would not hear him when he needed me.  Bailey spent every night in our bed, but during the day, he would nervously go between the couch, to the chair, to the floor, or lay under Keith’s bed as if he was protecting him!

On February 8th, just six weeks and two days, after the initial visit to the hospital, Keith was in and out of consciousness.  At one point, Bailey jumped up on the bed and landed on Keith’s stomach.  Bailey was only 18 months old, and of course, he didn’t realize that he was causing some pain.  He didn’t understand why we quickly shooed him away, and he was so upset that he hid under our bed.  Kellie and I spent the whole day just being by Keith side.  We were playing his favorite music and telling him how much we loved him.

Very late in the afternoon, Bailey came to Keith one more time.  He gently got on the bed, kissed Keith on the face and then he left his bedside.  That night, just before midnight, Keith had passed away.  We had to call the nurse from hospice to come and officially pronounce him.  While we were waiting, Bailey laid under the hospital bed, and the three of us sat there in silence.  He never came from under the bed until the nurse arrived.

The nurse was a kind, 6’6″ gentleman from Jamaica named Godfrey, with a baritone voice, and fedora.  Bailey would typically greet him with his tail wagging, and try giving kisses.  Usually, he would jump up because he was so happy to see him.  Not this time!!  Bailey proceeded to sit in front of Keith at his bed as if guarding him.  As Godfrey gently took care of Keith, Bailey did not move.  Bailey watched intently.  I believe that if Godfrey moved a hair wrong out of Keith’s head, he might have lost a leg.

Once Godfrey left, we then had to wait for the funeral home attendants.  It was so heartbreaking for Kellie and I, but it became so profound as we watched Bailey sit next to Keith when the two gentlemen, dressed in suits, arrived at two in the morning.  As the gentlemen worked, Bailey followed them intently.  He was visibly upset as these guys placed Keith on a gurney.  Bailey was running back and forth; from both sides of the bed to the couch to the chair.  He was whining, crying and trying to catch his breath as they were making there way to the front door!  What were they doing to his favorite human?  Where were they taking him?

As the funeral attendants took Keith away, Bailey followed us down the stairs and watched as the gentlemen placed Keith in the back of the hearse.  Kellie, Bailey and I watched as the vehicle drove away, and then we went upstairs.  Kellie and I went to our bedrooms, Bailey slept in the living room under Keith’s hospital bed, and he did not leave it all night long.

The next morning I had to go to NYC, and Kellie stayed home.  Hospice needed to pick up all of their equipment.  What neither Kellie nor I realized was how devastating this would be for Bailey.  For over ten days, the hospital bed and oxygen machine were part of our lives and an extension of Keith.  When Hospice came, Bailey went crazy and started jumping up at the gentleman taking the equipment.  He was crying and whining as each piece was taken outside to the truck.  Kellie called me to tell me that he was crying so hard that she thought he was choking.  She was so upset as he would run to the window, watching them load the truck, crying.  After they left, Bailey did not know what to do with himself.  He ran from room to room whimpering; he was devastated!!

Over the last few months, it was a real struggle not only for Kellie and me but also for Bailey.  In the beginning, he was so stressed out and super hyper.  Going for a simple walk was agony.  We were so frustrated that we could not control him.  It was beginning to look impossible for us to keep him.

While dealing with our own grief, and because we loved Keith so much, we had to realize how important it was to remember our little non-human.  Bailey is grieving with us.  Each day, we all get up and put one foot or paw, in front of the other, and try to adjust to our new norm.

The three of us are slowly navigating our way out of this deep dark cloud together!  Bailey goes back and forth to Kellie’s room and mine to sleep every night!  We may not be his favorite humans, yet, but as we all get out of bed every day, we are all learning to live life without our favorite human, Keith!

 

 

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No Big Deal

 

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It was a beautiful morning, much like today, seven years ago, on Wednesday, June 22, 2011, Keith and Kellie were by my side, as I was putting on my hospital gown and getting into a hospital bed.  We were all making nervous small-talk, and Keith was making his usual sarcastic puns and quips. As the anesthesiologist comes into the room, all I said to him was I better wake up…

When Keith and I opened The Petite Cafe in 2001, we were new to the town of Nutley, NJ.  As the years went by, we got to know so many wonderful people that eventually became friends. One such family was the Paserchia’s.  I met one of the daughters first, Leanne, then her sister Kim and then eventually their parents, Dennis and Denise, and brother Christopher.

Around 2006, Leanne came with her family into our cafe for Sunday brunch, and her mother, Denise was visibly shaken.  When I asked what was going on, they told me that Dennis needed a kidney transplant, that he was a difficult match, and had no prospects for anyone willing to be a living donor.  I said to them “I’ll get tested, what do I have to do?” They all looked a little shocked, but they told me that I needed to get a blood test. I told them “great I’ll do it!” During that little conversation, brunch is booming, so I went back to work, and I casually walked up to Keith, who was in front of a sizzling stove, with pancakes on one side and eggs on the other, and said “Um, Babe, I am donating my kidney, to that guy over there!”  Without skipping a beat, he said “oookkkaaayyy,” while flipping the pancakes!!!

A few days later, I went to St Barnabus, in Livingston with Keith, and we met with two great people Marie Morgievich and Dr. Shamkant Mulgaonkar.  They loved Dennis; his wife donated her kidney six years earlier, and he rejected it. They were very anxious to get him a new Kidney. When we met with Dr. Mulgaonkar, he took out his pad and pen and proceeded to show us how this was going down.  He was so amusing in his explanation but, I was not sure if he was trying to scare us or just wanted us to be very well informed.   But after he proceeded to explain, EXACTLY how they were going to cut into me and take my kidney, he said, so are you still interested??  I said of course! You don’t scare me; this is EXACTLY what I want to do.  Keith told the Dr., “she made up her mind Doc, there is no turning back, now” Dr. Mulgaonkar, said great, let’s get you tested!!

Unfortunately, I was not a match.  Now, understand that being a match for someone is very difficult, even within a family.  But if you don’t even get tested, you will never know. There was another option, it was called a “chain donation.”  So this is how it works, Dennis needs a kidney, he needs someone to donate for him, whether it is a family member, friend or stranger.  Once they have that, next is finding another person (let’s call her Laurine) in need of a kidney whose family member wants to donate, but does not match her either (let’s call her Kathleen)  I match Laurine, and Kathleen matches Dennis. So, my kidney goes to Laurine and Kathleen’s goes to Dennis. Thus the chain, I hope that makes sense!  The big problem is still getting that person who will match Dennis!!!  When family members, friends or even strangers, do not step up, it makes it difficult for the person in need, to even get the opportunity at life!!

For the first few years, nothing happened, there was no match out there for Dennis! Meanwhile, poor Dennis was on Dialysis this entire time, up to 4 times a week. Then one day I get a call from Marie, and she tells me that we have a match.  I had to go to the hospital for tests, which includes a cat scan, pap smear, and mammogram. Everything came back perfect! I am ready to go!!

But then, the call that brought everything to a screeching halt, just a few days before the operation!  One of the people in the chain – I believe it was a chain of 8, decided to back out, because his wife’s friend wanted to donate to her, and she was a match!  He was delighted he did not have to do it, backed out and the whole chain fell apart! I was so angry at the guy – HOW DO YOU DO THAT???, all these people are counting on you?? So now we wait again!!!

We waited nearly a year, and around June 10, 2011, the phone rang.  It was Marie, who said, ok we have a chain again, we think that this is solid!! Everyone has to come back again and get all the tests done, again, to make sure that nothing had changed.  If everything is good, surgery is June 22!

On Wednesday, June 15, 2011, I went to St Barnabus, for my tests, I had the mammogram, pap smear and then the cat scan.  Now the cat scan is where you have the iodine injected for contrast. Once the Dr. started and injected the iodine, I laid down on the table.  It was so weird, but I let out a very fast, short sneeze!  I had no idea where it came from because it actually startled me. After a few moments, my eyes started to itch, but I could not move yet, the Dr. asked me if my eyes were itchy (my thought was – how does she know that) and I said yes, she said, Ok, I need about 16 more seconds, can you hang on until then, I said sure!

When the test was finished, the Dr was right there to help me up.  As I swung my legs to the floor, now my eyes were very itchy.  She said to me “I think you are having an allergic reaction.”  (Apparently, the sneeze was a warning sign for her) I said, how is that I had this test before, this did not happen. (When your body has an allergic reaction, the first time you are exposed to whatever it is that you are allergic to, your body says “oh we don’t like that,” and it is the NEXT time you have been exposed, that is when the reaction happens, interesting right?!!?!!)

The next thing I know, as she was helping me walk from the imaging room, I started having difficulty breathing.  I happened to bring my daughter Kellie with me that day, without Keith, and she had to watch as my face blew up, and got swollen.  She said, “what is wrong with you, mom?” I was bewildered, I could hear the Dr say to me, “Maureen you are in “anaphylactic shock” a reaction to the iodine, I am giving you Benydryl, it will stop the swelling.”  However, what happened, was that it got a lot worse before it got better. She called for a gurney and laid me on it. I was beginning to panic because I could not breathe, I told the Dr. to get Kellie out of here, and then next thing I knew I took in a breath and could not exhale, I hear in the background Code Blue, Code Blue!!

Next thing, 14-15 doctors, and nurses are surrounding the bed looking at me, and one said, I am going to put a breathing tube down your throat to help you breathe.  I shook my head NO, and I knew if they did that I would have to stay in the hospital, besides I was starting to feel a little better.

By the time Keith got to the hospital, I was down in the emergency room, but feeling better and still swollen.  Keith told me that he “was so freaked” out that he was not here for me, and he was so happy to see my face – even though it didn’t even look like me!  Before we left, I asked the Drs., am I ok to have the surgery next week?!?! They said yes you are, my reaction was “GOOD”! After a few of hours, I was okay to leave and I even drove home.

That Sunday, June 19th, was Father’s Day.  Our store was open, but a Street Fair was going on, and Keith and I decided to take a walk. As the surgery was looking like it was really happening and I was feeling excited and anxious about it.  I knew it was the right thing to do, especially since Organ Donation has been in my life, ALL my life – but again that is another story, for another time! As we were enjoying the day, I said to Keith, “I know that Wednesday was scary, but I need you to promise me one thing, that if the surgery goes south, you won’t be angry with me.”  We stopped walking, and he said to me “How can I ever be mad at you for doing something so beautiful,” I gave him a big hug and said to him, “Ok bring on Wednesday!”

Which brings us back to the beginning of my story…

I kissed Keith and Kellie, then I was wheeled to the OR, they helped me on the bed, hooked me up to IVs, and the surgeon came in and said, “Ok, Maureen, are you ready?”  I said I am, and he said, excellent! That was the last thing I remember until I woke up!!!!

The surgery was done Laparscopic, there were three tiny incisons, they cut the Kidney out, stitched up the vein that connected the kidney and closed me up.  It was about an hour and a half.  Done!!  Now I am not a wimp, but whew, I was definitely in pain, I will not sugar coat it!  Even with the painkillers, it was not easy.  But, I woke up jubilant, the first thing I asked for was “how is Dennis,” they told me he was doing great!  I was beyond thrilled! The surgery was an eight-person chain, my kidney went to a woman in NYC, and Dennis got his kidney from a person, who was from California!  It was such a great day! The lives of eight people changed forever, and I am so proud to have been a part of it!

Dennis did have some issues post surgery, but once he was feeling better, he began living his life without Dialysis!!!  Life was great, and so was his life with his new grandson.

Sadly, after living with this kidney for nearly 7 years, in March, Dennis rejected the kidney, and he is now back on Dialysis!  This does happen with organ donation, he will now be a more difficult match, but if no one steps up to be a living donor, then he will not get another opportunity! We cannot let this happen!  Consider being a Living Donor today!  If I could, I would do it again, I am very passionate about Organ Donation, and to me this was really No Big Deal!

The First Father’s Day

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**I posted this on my social media on Father’s Day

When Keith and I started talking about getting married, I was really not interested in having children, and since he already had two children from his first marriage, I asked him “are you ok if your two children are all the children you have?” He told me “yes, but I think you will change your mind someday!” I told him, “I don’t think so,” and we go on with our lives.

But then, my beloved grandfather dies, I realized what it meant to have a family of my own, and having watched Keith with his own children, I knew that he would be a great father to our child. I told Keith, “ok I hate to admit it, but you were right.” “I think I want to have a child, just one, and also I want to go back to work after six weeks, are you ok with that?” of course he was thrilled!!

On February 26, 1990, our beautiful daughter Megan was born. As Megan got sick, it became apparent that I would not be able to go back to work. Keith was working at the Marriott Corp. at Paine-Webber, and he took on two more jobs to make up for our lost income! When he would come home, the first thing he would do – if it wasn’t too late – is tell me to get some rest, I will take care of our little girl! He was the calming force in our small family, and Meg loved when her daddy held her in his massive arms against his chest. On the day she died, he whispered in her ear; you can let go, my little little (his favorite thing he called her), we love you, you do not need to hold on for us!

One year later we gave birth to our daughter Kellie; it was challenging being pregnant and mourning at the same time! Keith, was my strength, my rock, and my navigator through our new norm. He took on all the stress of everything so that my pregnancy would be as “stressless” as possible. When are beautiful daughter Kellie was born, completely healthy, we started to build a life again.

In January 1994, Keith’s son Justin had an opportunity to live with us, and just like that, we became a family of four! It was so amazing watching Keith with his children. Cultivating their strengths, teasing them with pranks, reading stories to Kellie and telling Justin stories of his adventures! Both kids were able to go to him and tell him anything. He was not judgy, but he was not a pushover either. If the kids were in trouble, my first reaction was to freak out and ground them, but he would have his calm Keith way, and the kids would usually feel far worse because they disappointed their dad!

As the kids had become adults, Keith, became their best friend! He loved the man that Justin had become! He was proud of the husband and father that he was, and I was so happy that Justin had the most amazing example of what it means to be a husband and father. My heart goes out to Kellie, who has yet to start her life, Keith will never see her career choice, who she decides to spend the rest of her life with, or ever meet her children. I am confident though that with the special relationship she had with her dad, he will be with her throughout every decision she makes through her life, and he will help her to make the right choices.

This Father’s Day will be the most difficult for all of us, but as we think of the kind of father he was, all we can do is smile throughout the day! HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! #keithandmegan💜💜 #fathersday

Missing My Love

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My name is Maureen Jaret, and I am Keith “The Existential Baker’s” wife.  With a heavy heart and in case you did not realize it, my beautiful husband, poet, chef, father, and grandfather passed away on February 8, 2018.  Please see his last post of February 1, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”

I have been trying to decide what I would do with his blog, which he loved and nurtured for the last six years.  I did not want his blog with all his amazing writings, to die with him. So after much thought and reflection, I decided that I will continue what he started, discussing my life with him, my life without him, and everything that is in between.

I grew up in the dawning of Equal Rights for Women; however, I grew up in a very conservative household where being a feminist was vulgar.  When I met Keith, he not only embraced the fact that I had strong opinions and sense of self, he encouraged it. We always had a funny thing between us, that I am not “The Wife,” I was not Mrs. Keith Jaret or even Mrs. Jaret, I am Maureen Jaret.  It never meant that I was not proud to be Mrs. Jaret, but I was my own person, and he respected that.

So in honor of him, and the fact that I am and always will be extremely PROUD to be his wife, I will be renaming his blog, “The Existential’s Wife”!  I am not the writer he was, but I think this new journey, will be fascinating…to say the least! I do have a passion for Organ Donation, and I want to spread the word about how this has affected my life.  Since we no longer have the New Jersey Stores, I am going to change all my social media to The Existential’s Wife. I spoke to my children about this, and they were happy that their father’s words will go on.  I hope you will continue to follow me as I go on with the rest of my life, without the love of my life, trying to figure it all out! I know he gives me a peace sign over this.