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.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Goal 5: Work on documenting and preserving family history

This month I got an Ancestry subscription. I just started working on compiling the family history. As of now, my parents, husband, and all of my children took the DNA test along with me. We are still waiting for some of the results. I just started a family tree with my mom online.

It seems like yesterday when I was walking around cemeteries with my grandma. We stopped by the family home of my great-great-great grandparents. I never would’ve figured it out if my grandma didn’t know where it was. We talked to distant relatives and found out that my ancestors were involved in politics, art, community theater, and had a love for cats. Not all that unlike our family today.

It is so wonderful to hear stories instead of just names and dates on a headstone. Next month my grandma will be gone for 10 years. You don’t know how much I wish she was still here.

Now I’ve decided to work on this project with my mom. It is amazing how quickly time flies past. I want to hear her stories and preserve them for future generations. I want to make them living characters in my mind. I want to attach names to faces in the black and white photos. I want to give everyone a story. That would be much more exciting than names and dates.

I want to take the stories I remember and that have been handed down to create a wonderful story for future generations. Today I found out that my 5th great-grandpa was hung. Such interesting stories. Too bad my ancestors didn’t have WordPress!

2018, the year of great change

I think my life changed more in 2018 than it ever has previously.

It has been a roller coaster ride with many twists, turns, and plot changes. Almost everything that happened was unexpected. Before I reflect on the goals of 2019, I want to summarize the year of change in chronological order.

  1. We sold our start up company. It was the biggest year of financial growth. We still worked for the company under the guise of things staying pretty much the same. My husband Paul started the business 20 years earlier and I joined him 11 years ago. Together we worked hard to build and sell a successful business venture.
  2. We were able to pay off all of our debt.
  3. Our insurance changed. We changed doctors and dentists.
  4. We crossed our first continent outside of our own off of our bucket list. We spent 10 days touring Thailand.
  5. A close friend was diagnosed with cancer.
  6. We invested in real estate and moved to a new town. We sold our little house that we lived in for 18 years and moved into a mansion with an indoor pool. We said good-bye to our old neighbors and everything we knew.
  7. My daughter Angel and I visited Nevada for the first time for a music competition. I checked off visiting my 31st state.
  8. Angel started dating Dan.
  9. We said good-bye to the 16 year old daughter of close friends who died tragically in a car accident.
  10. I ran my first trail marathon, the 4th marathon that I ran. We spent the weekend of my birthday sleeping in a tent. It rained 2 inches the first night. The next morning I got up and ran a marathon. It was so challenging that instead of saying that I am never going to run again, I asked myself what more I could do. I decided that the following year I would try a 50k.
  11. My mom retired and started to have issues with her health.
  12. My daughter Arabella started going to a new school in a different school district.
  13. Arabella got her first job and started driving.
  14. My son Alex and his girlfriend broke up after dating almost a year.
  15. My son had his car damaged the same day he got it and the perpetrators are facing criminal charges.
  16. My husband turned 50 and had a health scare.
  17. My son’s friend started staying with us. We hoped to help him turn his life around, but he stole my ruby ring and is no longer welcome here.
  18. After touring a college for music, my son dropped out of band. The future that I had played out for him is gone. I’m not sure he will go on to school at all.
  19. My daughter’s beta fish died that she got in high school. Now Angel is a junior in college and is not planning on coming home after Christmas break.
  20. The people that we were renting office space from sold their property. We stayed in the same building, but said good-bye to the people we knew there.
  21. We left our church. Again, we said good-bye to the people we knew for the past decade.
  22. I lost my job unexpectedly. The new owners decided to move operations to a new location. I said good-bye to two long term employees that I managed. I also had to say good-bye to clients and colleagues.
  23. We closed our office and had to be out by the end of the year. My husband and two sales people are still employed and work out of their homes. I am wondering what to do next…

I think that pretty much sums up the year of change.

Oh boy!

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend Cindy told me that she is going to be a grandma!

Oh boy! (Or girl!).

And so it begins…My first friend to become a grandma.

My daughter’s best friend is going to be a mom.

And so it begins…Her first friend who is going to be a mother.

And so it begins.

And so it begins…

That’s life!

 

My last day of work

Friday was my last day of work. I thought that I would be feeling down like I did most days leading up to the last day. Instead I felt relief, and a lightness of spirit. I did end up inviting some close friends over that evening. Two out of three couples came out for my pity party. Two out of three ain’t bad for short notice over the holidays.

I invited out the brewer and his wife, the psychologist, whom I will call Rhett and Sue. Sue told me that she gave my name to her boss as someone who was interested in talking to the parents and siblings of autistic children. I still feel interested in helping people through similar experiences that I’ve had. I want to write a book. But first I want to go through all of my journals. It is going to be a slow and tedious process.

We also invited over Tim and Cara. Cara just wrote a book and now that I have more time, I offered to read it critically. She encouraged me to write my own book. Right now Cara’s job is also on the line. She would love to be a full time author. Paul and I thought of starting a sailing business with Tim and Cara. Paul is working on his captain’s license as we speak. It’s crazy, but we are thinking of starting another business together.

I’m not sure where the future leads right now, but I know that these other couples are involved in it in some way. We had a lot of fun Friday night and did a lot of laughing. I felt like whatever happens everything would be alright.

And so the journey starts…