Expectation reflections

It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment having 4 teenagers in the house.

Our foreign exchange students have been very quiet and friendly. When we told others of our plan to have 2 foreign exchange students, they cringed. Most shared horror stories of wild teen exchange students that made every effort to sneak out and party. So far there haven’t been any problems.

It’s probably because they are not comfortable being family yet. There aren’t any fights or talking back. We are all on our best behavior, no belching or farting. My husband has been giving them special treatment. He is buying the foods they like, taking them to places they are interested in going, asking if they are too hot or too cold. It’s hard not to treat them like visitors.

This is going to sound insane, but I felt a twinge of jealousy. It triggered something inside of me that reminded me of my mom’s special treatment of my autistic brother Matt.  Everything in our house revolved around Matt and what he wanted. I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel that way.

Of course, the students paid a lot of money to have a great experience here. I want things to be wonderful for them. Things are going really well. The girls don’t seem to be too homesick. If anything, at times they seem a little bored. But I’m sure that will change once school starts and they make friends.

It’s fun because they get excited about all of the little things, like going to the grocery store. They eat differently than we do. They use their knife and fork to cut things more. They cut up grilled cheese sandwiches instead of just picking them up and plunking them in their soup like I did.

Today Clara made homemade German potato salad for our friend’s Octoberfest party tomorrow. Real German food!

I also didn’t realize how much Hitler and the nazi’s were the butt of American jokes in TV and movie comedies. Awkward! But none of us were alive when any of that happened. If anything, countries that were once at war can be friendly towards each other again.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks the girls will come out of their shell a little. As for right now, I’m really happy that things are going better than I expected.

A new family

Last night our foreign exchange students arrived, Clara from Germany and Estelle from France.

I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

I worried. Would our new “children” like us? What will this next year be like?

My oldest two children are not as excited about it as I am. I think they think I’m replacing them. But maybe in a way I am. They are adults and don’t need me being a mother hen to them anymore. They are off living their own lives like they should be.

I am excited about this new adventure, but as with anything new a little frightened too.

I wonder what it would be like to see everything for the first time through their eyes. Maybe even for us, the old will become new again.

I hope it is a wonderful experience for all of us.

 

Who’s your daddy?

By far the strangest thing that happened last week was finding out who Paul’s dad is.

A couple months back, a relative on Ancestry emailed asking how Paul and him were related. I replied back that I didn’t know and gave him what info I had.

Last week I got a message on Ancestry from this man stating that he thought he knew who Paul’s father is. There were some things that added up and some things that didn’t. Then I saw the man’s picture and was convinced that he was Paul’s dad.

My mom and I were working on our genealogy project but had to leave before I could show her the picture. I promised I would login and show her when we got back.

When we got back, I logged into Ancestry preparing to show my mom the picture of who we thought was Paul’s dad when I noticed I got another message stating that the mystery was solved. Paul’s relative found out who Paul’s dad is and it wasn’t the first guy. He left me his phone number to call for more info. I was debating whether or not to call him right away since it was after 10 PM his time. But I figured I would give it a try.

I found out that Paul is this man’s second half cousin. His cousin only met Paul’s dad once when he was little and didn’t know him well. We talked for an hour, then I decided to do some more digging. Paul’s dad passed away in 2010 at the age of 62. I haven’t been able to figure out the cause of death yet, but I did find out that his dad has 4 other children.

Paul has 4 siblings! He has nieces and nephews. He has a whole family that he didn’t even know about. So I did what any average person would do in 2019. I stalked them on Facebook. I tried to gather as much info as I could about their lives.

From what I gathered, one of the siblings seems to be doing fairly well. The rest seem to struggle. His youngest sibling had some trouble with the law. I think that Paul was probably better off not knowing his dad. At his funeral, they didn’t want flowers. They just wanted money to put towards the cost of his funeral expenses.

I only saw 3 pictures of his dad. In his obituary photo, he was wearing a tux and in a church maybe for a wedding. Paul looks nothing like his dad. There was a picture of his dad holding a fish. There was a picture of his dad hooked up to machines in a hospital bed. I didn’t get the feeling of a tight close knit family. There weren’t any smiling family photos. He didn’t leave behind a grieving wife.

When Paul got home later that evening, I had big news to share. I found your dad. He is dead. By the way, you have 4 siblings. As you can imagine, it was all very overwhelming. But a couple of days later, Paul said he felt closure. The mystery has been solved.

I’m not sure what we will do with the information, but now we know.

What is happening? Part 1

So many things have happened in the last week, I don’t know where to start. It feels like a year has passed in a week. I will try to start at the beginning.

My faith feels tested. I’ve been asking God for a sign. But so many bizarre things have happened within a week that I don’t know how to interpret them.

It started last Friday as I was picking Arabella up from volunteering at Bible camp. I finally got a call from the doctor’s office. I don’t have Celiac and the polyps that were removed are benign. My stomach is starting to feel better. The doctor said if I went off Prilosec too fast, it will cause an excessive amount of acid to pour into my stomach. That is probably what happened, but I scheduled an appointment for allergy testing anyway.

Friday night a huge storm hit where our cabin is up north causing massive damage. I think that the power finally went back on yesterday. What a mess that will be to clean up. There were multiple trees down. Thankfully no one was hurt and the cabin is fine.

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Saturday morning we awoke to get ready for my Uncle Rick’s wedding. He had a whirlwind romance proposing 36 hours after meeting and moving in with her the following week. They married 7 months later, her 4th wedding and his 3rd. They seem like a good match. I really hope it works out for them.

We were going to leave early to meet up with my brother Luke and his family for lunch. It was my daughter Angel’s 21st birthday the following day and more than anything she wanted to meet up with the family for sushi. Just as we were ready to leave, another severe storm rolled in. There was a tornado warning for the path of our house, the restaurant we made reservations at, and where the wedding was going to be held.

The sky grew dark as night and sirens were going off. The wind swirled around in many different directions. Lightening bolts slashed through the sky as thunder clapped to usher in a torrential downpour. The rain came down so hard and fast that it poured into my son’s bedroom. After the storm passed, we mopped up the water as fast as we could in our dress clothes. We were running very late for lunch. Paul was an usher for the wedding and Angel was singing. They couldn’t be late. I worried that perhaps my uncle’s union wasn’t meant to be.

We made it to the restaurant an hour after our reservations. There were only a handful of customers. The place was always a classy joint, but on that day the music was the chef’s choice. They were playing rap. When a song came on with lyrics containing every profanity known to man, my brother Luke quietly left the table and complained to management that their choice of music was not appropriate for his little girls.

The wedding itself was held in a small church without A/C. I was a little worried that all of our cell phones would go off with the weather alarm during the ceremony, but the weather turned around. After the ceremony, there was a reception with an open bar. Once one of my aunt’s found out that Angel was turning 21, she started plying her with alcohol. Why wait?

It was at about this time that my son told me he no longer believes in God. I wanted to reassure him but I reminded myself that I was having my own crisis of faith. When I was having the most doubt, other people started cramming their faith down my throat which weakened my faith even more. I knew from my experience that I just had to listen. He left after the meal telling me that his rap band had their first gig that evening, but I wasn’t invited. He turned off his locator on his phone and returned home between 4 and 6 AM.

My daughter Angel caught the bouquet. Will she be the next to marry? As she danced with her boyfriend Dan, I thought perhaps she would be.

That evening Paul and I took advantage of a stunning sunset after weathering the storm.

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And the two shall become one.

To be continued…

answers???

Tomorrow is the big day, I am getting scoped.

It’s been an eventful last couple of days to say the least. In the last couple of days I wrote about 4 drafts that I threw away. They seemed so negative and angry. Am I really that way?

It was a long holiday weekend. What should have been relaxing left me quite drained. I went up north for the holiday weekend. For the 4th of July, in Wisconsin, there is no place I’d rather be. Every night there were fireworks on the lake. Then it seemed like every day there were fireworks with my family. My dad picked fights with my mom. My brother Mark and his wife Carla were bickering. My mom got in an argument with Carla which was unlike her.

It was hot outside. The people of WI are not used to the heat. My dad sat around the cabin in only his underwear for some of the weekend which was disturbing to say the least. There were fights about whether the windows should be opened or closed.

I hope I’m wrong, but I feel fairly certain that I might have Celiac. I tried to spend some time relaxing drinking some of my favorite craft beers, hopefully not for the last time. Every time I cracked open a beer, my niece Gracie would lay into me. How many beers have you had? Wow, you really like beer. Are you a drunk? Her nagging got very annoying after awhile. I told her that she would make a very good wife someday in jest because of all her nagging. Then Gracie bragged to her sister Eva that I said she would make a great wife. Then Eva got upset that I didn’t say it to her. I just couldn’t win.

To make matters worse, my husband and I were having the argument of a decade. I was so angry and hurt that I wanted to take my wedding ring off and chuck it into the weeds. Incidentally, the fight started about a half an hour before I was supposed to meet the first guy that Arabella wanted to date. I tried not to look too angry.

I was so stressed out that I’m sure what happened next could’ve only have been explained by my relaxing (not) weekend. A few days after I stopped taking Prilosec, I was in GI distress. I spent Friday and Saturday barely eating and feeling so sick that I slept very little because I had to keep getting up to go to the bathroom. I had a lot of stomach pain and only got about 6 hours of sleep the whole weekend. When I did sleep, I had nightmares. It was terrible.

Then I had to drive home. I would not let Arabella drive home because it would take an experienced driver to fight the traffic going south on a Sunday afternoon after a holiday weekend. I had to wait 10 minutes to turn right to go south onto a 2 lane highway. I was only let in because someone stopped on the highway to let us in. There were times traffic came to a dead stop.

All in all, except for the beautiful fireworks at night, it was a miserable weekend. I am feeling a lot better now. Paul and I are getting along again. But for awhile, I was very angry with God. I am worried about my health. Even my brother Luke is having health issues and might need a biopsy. Not to mention all the crap going on with family over the weekend.

Tomorrow I might not get the answers I want, but at least I should have some answers. I guess that is a start.

Cracking open the box

Today I cracked open Pandora’s box. I am afraid to peer into what lies inside.

I spent most of the weekend feeling blah. It rained all weekend with high temps in the lower 60’s. Some of our outdoor plans got cancelled. It has been very frustrating. So far summer break has been cool and rainy. Surprisingly, the best days of the year so far fell on Alex’s graduation day and again for his grad party.

The weather has been making me feel restless and bored. There is nothing I hate more than boredom. I’d rather be way too busy. Not to mention that all my favorite running trails are underwater. Although, thankfully, my ankle is starting to feel better.

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, something exciting happened though. I got a message on Ancestry from a relative on Paul’s dads side. On Father’s Day of all days too. You see, Paul never knew who his dad was. From what I can tell, this man is Paul’s cousin.

I told myself that I wouldn’t go seeking out answers. I was far more curious than Paul. But if someone came to me asking, that was an altogether different story indeed.

Today I reached back to Paul’s cousin and told him what details I knew about Paul’s dad. We’ll see what happens. Paul said he was okay if I did that.

It’s hard, Paul built his whole identity around not having a father. But what if he has a whole new family out there that wants to get to know him?

Why do I feel like I cracked open Pandora’s box? Do I really want to know what’s inside?

I can tell you one thing, life got a little more interesting.

My son’s graduation

It happened on a rare perfect day in Wisconsin. The temperature 75 degrees with a light breeze under partly sunny skies. No rain, no muggy humidity.

I’m not sure why we felt so stressed out that morning as my husband and I snapped at each other. Maybe the perfect conditions was a sure sign to be cautious that something might go wrong.

Last minute Alex couldn’t find dress pants that fit and had to borrow a pair of Paul’s. I was worried that he would be late for school one last time.

We sat with family on the bleachers in the gym. I tried to keep an open mind, yet inwardly I judged.

Did the people in front of us manage to have some of the few empty seats because they purposely didn’t shower? I ended up sitting behind them because no one else could stand the smell.

Then there was the mother with the ripped jeans and crop top like she was attending her daughter’s graduation from pole dancing school. I was appalled. I am not big on fashion, but made sure to buy myself a new dress. There are some things that one must simply look respectable for.

There was the child that sat behind us with an incessant whine.

Well at least they were there showing their support which is more than my dad did. He decided not to attend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was filled with anxiety.

I was worried all week that I would get that knock on my door with a certified letter stating that my son did not meet the requirements to graduate. I imagined myself full of shame as I explained why my son’s name wasn’t called at the graduation ceremony when people came bearing gifts at his graduation party. But I emptied that anxiety just to fill it with more.

I had irrational fear that my son would end up punching someone instead of shaking their hand as he received his diploma. I still thought that maybe he wouldn’t graduate as he received his diploma. There was a part of me that was very unsettled. I felt fear that there could be a school shooting during the graduation. Sadly, I no longer feel safe in large crowds of people.

I saw my son’s friends come in that attended another school. Included in the group was the boy we took into our home that stole from us. I felt uncomfortable.

My brother Luke asked my daughter’s boyfriend Dan if he was having flashbacks of his own graduation there. He said, “Yeah, more like PTSD”.

The graduation ceremony was boring. It was hard to see, the nearby projector didn’t work and the microphone kept cutting out if the speaker didn’t have their mouth right on the microphone.

The guest speaker was a doctor of neurophysics. She showed pictures of herself and spoke of all of her amazing accomplishments in a monotone voice. I thought to myself that I needed to get out of all graduation ceremonies I can in the future.

After the ceremony was done, I felt very happy and giddy. I was ready to go out and pop champagne in the school parking lot. Would that be against the law? Never mind, I didn’t have any champagne. I hugged boy B’s mom. We did it! We convinced our boys that hated school to graduate. I can’t quite explain the feeling. I felt like I almost got hit by a bus, but at the last second got away. That feeling of just escaping disaster. My son was also the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time.

Afterwards, we had family over at our house. It was so nice that we were able to play games outside and sit on the patio with a fire.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. We are happy that our son graduated. I can’t tell you how relieved I am.

 

 

May

It is finally here, the month I have been dreading and waiting for.

My son will be graduating this month. Despite his procrastination and grades that are less than satisfactory, I think he is going to pull it off.

Alex has finally matured enough that I think he is going to be fine without us. He told me this week, that although he doesn’t say it often enough, he is going to really miss us and that he appreciates everything we’ve done for him. He also said that although he doesn’t spend a lot of time with us that he doesn’t want us to take it personally that he is leaving. He said that it is time for him to be an independent man now. I agreed. I told him that it was normal to want to leave home once you are an adult.

I am letting go and he is planning on leaving. He told me he isn’t planning on leaving the area anytime soon and will probably visit us a lot. That made me feel happy since my son is not the type to share these things.

Next month Alex is planning on moving out.

This month Angel will be coming home from college. But this summer she is not planning on staying with us like she previously did. She just put in an application for an apartment and is planning on staying here until she can move in. She will live 4 hours away.

Two out of three kids are planning on leaving home for good next month. I will be happy and sad to see them go. It is bittersweet.

We still have Arabella at home. She will be 16 this month.

We are also planning on filling the void by getting a foreign exchange student. Estelle from France will be moving in the beginning of August.

A new adventure awaits!

On coming home

This morning my husband asked me what I wanted to do today. The first thought that came to mind was that I wanted to take the kids to the zoo. What a ridiculous thought. As if my kids were were little enough to laugh at the monkeys shenanigans or needed their hands held as they crossed the street. When did we last go to the zoo?

I can’t remember the last time we decorated Easter eggs. Maybe there is insulation from the pain of not knowing that you’re doing something for the last time. Remember the last book you ever read to them? Remember the last time you helped tie their shoe? Remember the last time they crawled before they walked? Remember the last time you had to reach up in the tall cupboard because they were too small? Now they are all taller than me.

I am now that annoying older parent that tells the young parents to enjoy it while it lasts as their kid is throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store.

My kids will not be here for Easter this year. Angel is sick with the flu and won’t be able to make the long drive home from college. Alex said he would join us for Easter service at our new church which he hasn’t attended yet. A few day ago, he asked if it was Easter this Sunday, then nonchalantly said he was scheduled to work. Arabella is scheduled to work on Easter too. My brothers won’t be making the trip back home either.

It hurts. I feel so down about it. It’s hard because I was excited by the expectation that they would all be home for the holiday. Paul suggested that I have more lights on in the house to make me feel better. In his mind, darkness causes dark moods and he wants to fix that in me. But it only causes me to feel annoyed with him.

I told him that maybe I would feel better if the kids were going to be around for Easter. Maybe I would feel better if they still needed me. Maybe I would be happy if they wanted to spent time with me if they didn’t need something, like money or new shoes. I remember when I meant the world to them.

I feel bad, but I am enjoying spending my time doing the things I want to do like running or writing my book. Maybe someday the kids will all be home again.

Going home

Today my mom and I went to see Matt for his birthday. He spends the day at a program for autistic children and adults. While we were there, Matt’s caregiver asked him to tell us about his special morning in a high pitched sing song voice reserved for a small child. Everyone was optimistic and cheerful, except me.

I felt such sadness I could cry. My brother should be meeting up with his friends for his birthday, or maybe going out to eat with his wife and children after driving home from a long day of work. His normal isn’t right.

I feel such grief every time I see someone with a developmental disability, especially my brother, that I don’t want to be there. I feel guilty for visiting out of obligation. Visiting makes me think about the families and all of their lost dreams. He shouldn’t be putting stickers on a chart for good behavior, he is a grown man. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I feel tired today. I slept good last night. But the night before was restless with nightmares. I was triggered by the developmentally disabled girl backstage. I heard people ask her sister what was wrong with her. I remembered all the times I was asked that about my brother. I got sick of explaining after awhile. They never asked about me.

Then I dropped my mom off at home. I went in and said hi to my dad. He didn’t get many birthday cards or calls this year. I wonder if it will be his last. He looks so old and weak. He rarely leaves the house. No one really cares about him much anymore, certainly not my mother. I want to reach out and help him. But he was a very cruel father. Why should I care? Why is it so painful to see the consequences of his bad choices when I was one of the people he hurt?

I walked through the house. There are still clothes from the 1980’s hanging in the closets. Hoarders. Piles of mail on the table. The same linoleum lies on the floor from my childhood worn with holes in it. Bags full of food line the floor. Dirty dishes clutter the counters. Nothing must be thrown away, but much more to be collected.

I feel depressed. But writing about it makes me feel better. I am starting to process how I feel and why I feel the way I do. I feel sad that my family is broken and nothing I do can fix it.

On the way back home, I drove through town and did not avoid it by driving through the outskirts. I drove by my Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold’s house. I drove past the area where my grandparents lived. I remembered how the town looked when I was a child. It was alive then with parades and festivals. But now it is a ghost town. Small town businesses closed. New houses stand where old homes once stood.

Everything has changed. But I still remember how it used to be back when my aunt, uncle, and grandparents were still alive. The town was alive then and that’s how I want to remember it with my loved ones alive in it. But that is not how it is anymore.

That is what it is like going home. The broken things still have not been fixed. The town and relatives that made my life magical as a child are no longer there. Emptiness.

Writing helps me process the way I feel. I think I understand why it is so hard to go home. Maybe you would feel the same way.