Gratitude week 41

  1. I updated my address and am ready to vote. I also helped my son register as a first time voter.
  2. We met with a new doctor for Arabella and we really like him. I think he is going to be able to help her.
  3. I have been struggling with my daughter’s depression and decided to take a drive by myself to clear my head. I headed up north and discovered unexpectedly that my dad was up there alone as well. I said some things I needed to say to him. He did say he was sorry for hurting me and also said he loved me. I think God guided me there and it is crucial for my healing process. I have been fluctuating between rage and forgiveness far too long to be healthy.
  4. I am done working for the census now. It’s been an expected yet not easy adjustment. I’m grateful to have extra time to get some of the back burner tasks done like washing windows and changing light bulbs.
  5. Yesterday I got out my winter clothes. I got rid of a bunch of clothes I don’t wear anymore. It felt good to get rid of things I don’t need and to get ready for winter.
  6. I’m grateful that although I live in a COVID hotbed, so far all of my family and close friends have been safe.
  7. I’m grateful our president recovered from COVID. There is so much chaos and craziness in our country right now that I couldn’t even imagine more…
  8. I’m grateful to finally be able to talk to my best friend. For some reason she didn’t receive ANY of the texts I sent to her this month. I was really starting to worry.
  9. It is absolutely gorgeous outside right now with the fall colors. I really need to try to enjoy each season because I think I am going to be stuck here for quite a while. I think I’m going to have to challenge myself with gratitude in this area especially when things get dreary, cold, and dark.
  10. Arabella’s senior pictures turned out really cute.

Luke’s visit, part 2

I suppose since you have a big house now that you will be hosting Christmas this year.

It wasn’t the first time I heard this comment…

I told Luke that I didn’t really like an aunt and uncle of ours.

Why?

Because of the time that they came over for supper when we were kids.

What about it?

They had the house with the piano. They wanted us to come live with them if mom and dad left us forever. That evening while we were eating, Matt hurt our aunt. It wasn’t unusual for Matt to hurt someone.  It was our aunt who was acting strange. She locked herself in the car crying hysterically. She could not be comforted. I’ve never seen her so upset before or since.

Suppose that our aunt was attacked and Matt triggered her memory of it.

Aunt left and didn’t come back. They said that they didn’t want us to come live with them in their house with the piano anymore.

Who told you that?

Mom. She cried and said that no one cared. She said things would be different if her mom was still living.

How old were you?

I don’t know, maybe 8 or 9.

You were too young, why would she tell you that you were unwanted?

Something strange happened in the course of our conversation. For the first time I was able to see the event through adult eyes.

I was able to let go of the rejection of 30+ years. My aunt has always been kind to me, but I didn’t trust her since that night. Other family members cared. They were busy living their own lives. Some were only a few years older than me. They saw what was happening but didn’t know what to do about it. Some lived far away. The ones that were near did help.

My mom just needed more help than anyone could reasonably provide.

So I became the helper. I became the adult.

I have forgiven my family.

Someday I will forgive my mother too for my lost childhood and for giving me this heavy weight to carry. I think it is time to start unpacking my baggage.

 

18. The most difficult thing to forgive

Day 18: What has been the most difficult thing you have had to forgive?

First of all, I don’t like this question. Thing? Really?? I have people to forgive, but not necessarily a ‘thing’. These questions are really starting to make me feel edgy. Some are just downright stupid. I mean, who really cares about my daily routine?? I will finish what I started, but I might change things a bit.

I am going to change this questions to…Who has been the most difficult person to forgive? 

The long hard thought out answer to that question is ME. Yes, me!

I have to forgive myself. For all the stupid things I have done. And even for the things that I didn’t do that I should’ve done. The hardest thing about making mistakes is the inability to go back in time and make the right decision. The regret over making the wrong choice or taking the wrong fork in the road. 

When I was younger, I used to worry and ruminate over mistakes. I used to berate myself for not living up to my expectations of perfection. I tried harder to make up for the times I didn’t try hard enough.

Now that I am older, I don’t think I am any easier on myself. But I realized as I aged that there was nothing I could do to change things that happened in the past. I had to move on or go absolutely crazy from it. I had to forgive myself…let it all go…learn from the experience…and move on…

Even though I strive for perfection, I cannot attain it….I realize that now…only God is perfect….so I can hand it all over to Him and He can figure the rest out… 

4. Ten things to tell your 16 year old self

Day 4: List 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self, if you could

  1. Spend as much time as you can with your grandparents. I hate to tell you this, but friends come and go. Your best friends now won’t even be at your wedding. Soon something is going to happen that will push the friends you have now away. Enjoy the times with friends in the moment. Remember that your grandparents won’t be around forever. They are the greatest source of stability in your life, not your friends.You will never regret spending a lot of time with them.
  2. Your strong work ethic will get you very far in life. However, don’t put work or your long to-do list above your relationships. Take the night off of work to go to your brother’s high school graduation. The $30 you earned that night will never make up for the regret you will feel for the rest of your life for not being at your brother’s only graduation.
  3. I know that you are dealing with some pretty hard things to handle and you feel like you are all alone. These are the hardest years that you will ever face in your life. Hang in there, soon it will be smooth sailing.
  4. Don’t think that you have to be perfect, or even good, at something before you are willing to try it. You don’t have to be good at something to like it either. You don’t have to be perfect. Quit being so hard on yourself. It was a big lie when you were told you had to be perfect. Put yourself out on a limb. Try something new even if you are not good at it.Who cares if you fail?
  5. Leave home when you turn 18 and do WHATEVER it takes to not go back. In fact, move far away. Do not take responsibility for your parents problems. Do NOT agree to be your brother’s caregiver. You should not be giving your brother a shower on a Saturday night. You should be out living your life doing the things that young people do. For once in your life, be carefree. You will already regret not having a childhood, don’t regret not living while you’re young too. Soon enough you will be tied down by your own responsibilities.
  6. Don’t be a caregiver for your brother or anyone else for that matter. Be a little more selfish. Do the things you want to do. Allow yourself to be stupid and make mistakes that you can learn from. Hold out for the library job you will be offered instead of turning it down to be a caregiver. You did enough care giving as a child. This will not be good for you.
  7. Buy an expensive pair of running shoes and start running. Trust me. You need a healthy way to relieve your stress. It is a lot cheaper than therapy and all those bottles of pills that never helped you anyway. Soon you will enter adulthood with enough baggage to travel the whole world. Once you realize their weight, you will have a lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, worry, and anger. Running will help you get through all the years of repressing your feelings that you couldn’t handle.
  8. Keep writing down everything you experience and don’t stop. It is worth making time for. Some day it will make for a helluva story.
  9. You have to forgive the people that have hurt you for your sake. Pity their weakness. Eventually you will no longer be able to outrun all of the things that you are hiding from. It is going to take a long time to face your demons. You will spend a lot of time reflecting. But eventually you will have to let go..forgive..and trust that God has a bigger plan or purpose for your life. Be a beacon of hope for those that struggle around you.
  10. Try not to worry so much. It annoys me and the others around me. I don’t like it. I want you to relax. Please start working on that now so we can get over this someday.

Monday’s dirty laundry

I started the week off by having to buy a new washing machine. The last couple of weeks it sounded like a gun range in my house every time I threw in a load of laundry. Bang, bang, pop, pop, pop. Then this morning it almost started on fire. Good thing I didn’t throw in a load and leave for work. Stinky smoke billowed out of our utility room. I sure hope this is not an indicator of how the rest of the week will go. Lol. 

Yesterday my mom came over for supper. We spoke about my mother’s childhood years. She said that as the second oldest girl, without older brothers, it was her job to assist her dad in his work. His job was very labor intensive. She spent the summers picking cucumbers to sell to help support her family. She had to help her mother wash clothes, including cloth diapers every day, in a basin with bleach. They did not have a washer or dryer. It sure makes me appreciate my broken washer, or should I say being able to afford to buy a nice new front loader. 

I wish that my mom would write down her stories so I could understand her life more. Just like I hope someday my kids will read my writing and understand me more.
Then we talked about Matt and parenting an autistic child in the late 70’s. She said that she was thinking about writing down everything that happened to help herself heal. At times like this, I am so tempted to tell her about my blog but didn’t. She said that she is helping herself heal by helping others that are struggling. She has more compassion than anyone. She said that she wouldn’t have been able to make it through without her faith in God.

We spoke about the abuse that Matt suffered at the hands of the school. She said that she only saw Matt cry twice in his life. He cried when he spoke of what happened at school. It was absolutely barbaric. The teacher had him sit underneath her desk while she sat at her desk. If Matt touched her, she would kick him. One teacher held him face down on the floor while the other sat on his back. He couldn’t breathe. That is the story he cried about. There was a disabled child that died that year from a teacher that used the same discipline method.

We spoke about my mom’s church friends. I was not aware of this, she said one time when Matt swore in church her friend hit him. Another friend told my mom that they needed to beat it out of him. Oh, my dad did try to beat it out of him. It didn’t work. My mom spoke of when my dad kept hitting Matt over and over trying to beat it out of him. I told her that I remember that day clearly because it was my first childhood memory. I remember the screaming of my dad and Matt. I remember the plunking noise of Matt being knocked back and forth against the cupboards in the kitchen.

My mom said that Matt crawled around on the floor like an animal. He spent a lot of time screaming after he quit talking. 

Later on he became fixated on hurting little girls and I just happened to be the only little girl around. My mom said that she felt terrible that I had to suffer. She spoke of the birth of her first grandchild, my daughter Angel. She said that she was excited and filled with joy the day Angel was born. But her second feeling was horror because she knew what that might mean.

Matt did hurt Angel. What I didn’t tell you was that the two years leading up to the attack, Matt became obsessed with the thought of hurting Angel. He ruminated about it. He asked questions about what it would be like if he pulled her hair, twisted her arm, hit her, or held her head underwater when we were together. My mom and I were worried. I had to take a step back from Matt.

When Matt hurt Angel on her 4th birthday, my mom went in the other room and cried. She was so upset that she didn’t talk and was inconsolable. Luke took Matt home and the whole time it was like he was possessed. He laughed. The voices in his head were whispering over and over out loud. I almost forgot about his maniacal laughter after hurting someone. I could only describe it as evil or demonic.

My mom was at her breaking point. We had to part ways. She quit going to church for the next 3 years. She was angry at God for allowing this to happen. 

We have forgiven Matt for all of the things that happened. But it has been a long road and painful process.

Tomorrow I am going to start another autism series. I have a copy of Matt’s clinical diagnosis report from the early 80’s. I have been holding on to it for the last 20 years. I am going to share it with you along with my feelings about what was written.

Last(ing) things

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night crying from a nightmare. In my dream, Paul and I were in some sort of clinic. Someone we knew was close by and received good news. They were expecting a child after years of trying. But we received bad news. I dreamed that Paul had cancer too. We were going to watch his mother die, then he was going to die of the same thing. It was all very horrifying. I woke up upset and crying. I reached over and held onto Paul tightly.

Back in October, Paul’s mother Martha came out to Alex’s confirmation. She had been sick for over a year at that time. She had a cough that would not go away which her doctor said was caused by medicine that she was taking. She was always sick with sinus infections or bronchitis. When we saw her in October, she was wheezing, short of breath, and gasping for air. She looked horrible. We told her to go back to the doctor.

In November, the doctor found a tumor in her stomach and lung. They thought that the tumors were the same kind, that they  would be easily treated with a pill. She was going to be okay. Martha already survived breast cancer 15 years ago. 

Then in January, the doctor found out that the tumors were two different unrelated kinds. In February, Martha was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer. The cancer filled one lung and was moving into the other. Then last week, she found out that the cancer had moved into her brain.

Martha is now taking a combination of chemo and radiation. Last week Martha lost her long shiny hair. I haven’t seen her yet without hair. That is going to hit us all hard. I am glad that Paul was given some forewarning to take the time to say good bye. I have to forgive her for all of the past hurts. 

Our relationship with Martha has always been volatile, especially in the earlier years. When Paul and I bought our first house, Martha wanted to help me make curtains. We went together and I spent more than I expected to on material. We started the project, but before we could finish Martha got into a big fight with her son and left me with unfinished curtains. My grandma helped me finish the project.

There were countless times that Paul and Martha would fight. Martha screamed at Paul and kicked him out of her house anytime that we had to discipline the kids. She would show up late for holidays. It has been years since we celebrated any holiday with Martha. Sometimes she would cancel out at last minute or not show up at all.

One time Martha and I were going to take the kids to a water park. She was running late to the point where we weren’t going to be able to make the trip worthwhile. This was the only time that I confronted her. She didn’t talk to me for a year.

Martha often called and spoke of gambling trips that she took with friends then complained that she didn’t have money for gas to come see the kids and their events. Our relationship was marked with a lot of anger, hurt, and resentment. She is a difficult person that likes to argue and say hurtful things, and now she is dying.

This week she called Paul and asked him what we were doing for Easter. We have plans with my family. Today is Matt’s 40th birthday. My whole family will be getting together to celebrate Matt’s birthday on Saturday and then Easter on Sunday. We are able to see each other as a group a couple of times a year. I told Paul that we could cancel the Easter plans with my family to see his mother. It most likely will be her last Easter. Paul decided to keep our plans as is. 

I forgive you, Martha! I will try to remember the good times. When you weren’t crabby, you were always so much fun. Your fun loving, upbeat, optimistic attitude is hard to beat. You provide a lot of excitement. There was never a dull moment with you. You are always happy with the littlest things. You are content with what you have. You try to make the most out of situations. You always had good intentions. 

By far the best gift that Martha gave me was her son. She made the right decision when she decided to keep her unwanted pregnancy. For that, I will be forever grateful.  

 

Grace uncommon, part 9

One day while at the small local grocery store, I saw Aunt Grace come in to buy a beer. She wanted one beer. She wanted the store owners to open a case to sell her just one beer. She wanted the beer for a beer brat recipe. Aunt Grace did not drink so she did not need the other beers. She always said that sitting on bar stools made women unattractive. She also told us that we shouldn’t drink until our mortgage was paid. I sure hope that she didn’t roll over in her grave a little that time I was at Coyote Ugly. Hhmmm.

Aunt Grace was a religious church goer. She attended every Sunday but never took communion. My mom thought that Aunt Grace didn’t take communion because there was alcohol in the communion wine. My mom went on this big campaign to have the wine replaced with grape juice. She said that there were so many medications that people were on (Grace included) where they weren’t supposed to have alcohol. Finally the pastor switched over to grape juice. Aunt Grace still did not take communion.

Aunt Grace became bitter in her later years. She was very upset that people of the church did not pay their garage bills. She said that kind people were not always kind when they owed you money. Money that they didn’t seem to have to pay their bill even though they could afford nice new toys. She was very upset about this after her brother Harold died and the family business closed. She said that he worked so hard all those years for nothing. She was angry. She was bitter. She couldn’t stop ruminating about it. It found a way to trap her. Some things were hard for her to let go. 

The bitterness ate her up inside. She was the type of person to hold a grudge. She felt like she should not take communion with an unforgiving heart. It was too bad that she couldn’t see that she was only hurting herself. She wanted things to be fair and right, but the world doesn’t always work that way. 

There are certain family members that have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. When I said that Grace never forgave me for saying shut up to her, she really didn’t. I struggle with this myself at times. I find that being angry, criticizing, or condemning people for their imperfections is much easier than forgiving them. When someone screws me over, I want to cut them out of my life. Now this is much harder to do with family. LOL. Seriously though, forgiveness? Letting go? Forgetting? I find it much easier to form a hard bitter wall around myself.

Paul is one of the most forgiving people that I know. He tells me again and again that I am only hurting myself when I don’t forgive someone. That doesn’t mean that I have to be best friends with the person or trust them again. Forgive, forget, and let go… I can do this now, it just seems to take awhile until I can get over it. I feel a little sad that Aunt Grace didn’t seem able to do this.