The ultimatum, part 3

The morning of our 22nd anniversary was perfect. The weather was wonderful and promised a beautiful day. We left the marina in our sailboat and headed to a nearby town for lunch at an Irish pub. On the way back to the boat we stopped at a consignment store along the way. We didn’t find any bargains, just junk.

Then we headed back to the place we started. Paul introduced us to the boaters nearby who invited us onboard for an anniversary drink. By suppertime Paul seemed upset for no apparent reason other than he had too much to drink. It was a special occasion and we were on vacation which meant he drank more than usual. By the time the day was done he had 15 drinks.

After supper, the fight began. He started yelling loudly and told me to leave. When I didn’t, he threatened to leave starting the motor on the boat. I told him to leave the boat at the dock because I was leaving. I left so quickly that I didn’t take anything with me.

I wandered around the marina and to the park nearby. It was a dark night and I tried to hide myself in the darkness. I hoped Paul was worriedly searching for me but I didn’t want to be found. I was embarrassed to be seen wandering around by myself in the night.

I heard people laughing and partying nearby. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t feel confident in my safety from people or wild animals without my phone. I could literally just disappear. A part of me wanted to just keep walking and leave everything behind. But I didn’t have any money, my phone, or even a jacket so I probably wouldn’t get too far. Besides I didn’t even know where I was.

I stayed at the park a long time until the grass I was sitting on grew damp and the bugs started biting. But I wasn’t ready to go back to the boat.

I got cold outside and sat for awhile inside to think in the boater’s lounge. It was awkward. I was sitting by myself looking sad on my anniversary when people wandered through. Maybe they knew? Maybe they heard the fight? I couldn’t stay there all night. Was I going to sleep in my clothes on the couch?

Maybe I could get my phone and call someone for a ride home. But it was late and we didn’t live close. Was Paul still upset? What was I going to do that night? What was I going to do going forward? Will our marriage end on the day it all began?

Eventually I made my way back to the boat.

The ultimatum, part 2

I think things got worse after his mother died from cancer.

Or maybe that’s when I noticed it more.

He was a happy drunk before. Or should I say it enhanced his good moods and his bad. It’s hard to be upset with someone who is spilling forth good things about you. You are so wonderful. You are so beautiful. I’m so happy I married you. Yeah, tell me that when you are sober I’d laugh.

After his mom died it wasn’t fun anymore.

He didn’t have any family left. That’s a hard pill to swallow. No one. He never had a dad or siblings. His step-dad Darryl started dating online a month after his mother died. Paul felt like he helped Darryl out more than Darryl helped him through the grieving process. The rest of the extended family were the wedding funeral types. Our teenage kids met most of them the first time at their grandma’s funeral.

He started drinking more than his usual routine. A typical summer Tuesday he went out with friends and had maybe half a dozen drinks. Wednesday and Thursday a bottle of wine. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday he drank two bottles of wine. Monday he took the night off to prove he didn’t need to drink every night.

He was drinking somewhere around 40 drinks a week. Special occasions, hanging out with friends, or really bad days warranted a couple more drinks. So he had anywhere between 30 to 50+ drinks a week.

The year his mother died was a really rough year. I don’t think he cared anymore. His only parent was gone. He slowly watched her die. He coped with the loss by drinking more.

He said he wasn’t going to stop drinking until the doctor told him to. That year his liver numbers were a little high. It was just a fluke thing he said because he was out drinking with his friends the night before.

He wasn’t worried but I was.

Gratitude week 26

  1. After doing an iPhone update my phone started glitching out. I thought I was going to have to break the bank and buy a new phone. My daughter suggested turning the phone off and on again. I’m grateful it worked and I don’t have to get a new phone for awhile.
  2. Summer!!
  3. My mom ended up in the hospital this past week. I’m grateful that routine bloodwork for her physical caught a problem before it became a bigger problem. Because of her health concerns, I took my brother back to his group home for the first time since the pandemic. I’m grateful because that means a little less stress for her.
  4. My daughter didn’t come home for Father’s Day weekend because she was concerned she may have been exposed to coronavirus. Thankfully the COVID test came back negative and she was able to come home this past weekend.
  5. We took a ride around town in my daughter’s new Jeep with the top and doors off. It was a lot of fun. I’m grateful that I can still have fun even during hard times.
  6. We had a bon voyage party for our foreign exchange student Estelle who will be going back home the end of this week. All she wanted to do was light off fireworks for her birthday but we couldn’t because of the weird tropical storm that hit Wisconsin. We were supposed to get severe weather on the night of her going away party but just got a few sprinkles so we were able to light off fireworks.
  7. I’m grateful that I was able to spend time with all my kids this weekend laughing and talking.
  8. I’m grateful we were able to take a young lady with cancer sailing. She had two wishes, one was to go horseback riding and the other was to sail. It was a perfect night to make her wish come true. She was so happy that it felt nice to do something to make someone else happy.
  9. I’m grateful for a long conversation with my brother Luke. It really is nice to have someone to relate to.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing well.

Gratitude week 25

  1. I have one less teenager in my house…actually my son turned 20 this past week. I am grateful for him and the person he is becoming.
  2. My son had a mouse in his room which I am thankful for. It prompted him to clean his room to how it looked before we moved in. Now let’s hope it stays that way. My cat has the bad habit of bringing presents in the pet door.
  3. Although Paul and I really didn’t luck out in the dad department, I am grateful to have a husband who is a wonderful father to our children. That is what I celebrated on Father’s Day. I did send my dad a card though, not because he was a great dad but because I am a good person.
  4. In what can only be described as a God moment, I was able to meet someone who might be a friend and someone we could work with in our new business.
  5. I am thankful for my therapist. She called me to reschedule my appointment so I could have a double appointment for the cost of one. I have a really good team of people working to help me heal my body, mind, and soul.
  6. Summer!! I am enjoying every minute of it. I have yet to turn on the A/C in my house or car.
  7. Thanks to the coronavirus, it made it easier to transition from blonde to gray hair. People now ask if I dye it the silver color it is. It is so in right now and I don’t have to pay a cent.
  8. I went up north for the first time this season and swam in the lake.
  9. My daughter is planning on moving back home at the end of the summer and is able to keep her new job. I think she was only able to come home two or three times this year. Sadly she wasn’t able to make it home as planned this past weekend but it won’t be long until we see each other all the time.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing better than we expected.

Caring for Matt

It’s been at least a decade since I took care of my autistic brother Matt in my house. A few things precipitated this change. Initially I stopped providing weekend respite care for my parents after Matt was violent towards my daughter.

There may have been a few times I took care of Matt and my mom took my kids although it wasn’t much of a break. It was difficult raising 3 little kids without having much for family support. My mom had to take care of Matt. My brothers didn’t live close. My mother-in-law could barely handle raising the one child she did have, my husband. I found myself bitter towards parents that could dump their kids off and get away every now and then.

But the biggest change for me as a care provider for Matt was when my parents placed him in a group home. I was no longer needed to help out, until now that is. Matt’s group home was closed since the virus started. It is now open but if he goes back this month, he is not allowed to leave.

Originally my mom wanted me to stop by the house every night to make sure Matt was okay under my dad’s care. I told her it would be easier for me to have him stay with us for almost a week which is longer than he has ever stayed with me before.

I told my kids that Matt was coming to stay here for awhile but they wouldn’t have to adjust their lives around him. If it didn’t work out, Matt could always go home and I could check in on him everyday. One of my kids called me selfish for saying that our world didn’t revolve around Matt.

As a child my whole life revolved around Matt and if I had to tiptoe around him in my own house it wasn’t going to work. No other family member is willing to step up and offer to take him in for almost a week. That should count for something.

The whole experience went better than I expected. Although Matt is no longer violent, caring for him is not easy. He is on a special diet. I needed to make separate meals for him. At certain times of the day his medicine needs to be ground up and put into applesauce. He doesn’t have table manners. He farts and belches at the table. Sometimes he gags on his food especially if you bring a napkin near him.

He has poor hygiene. He is a messy eater and soils his clothes. He often wears his clothes inside out and/or backwards. He doesn’t change his clothes often. He refused to shower which he would need assistance doing. He wouldn’t ask for help after using the bathroom and made a mess on the floor. I had to floss his teeth and big clumps of food came out of his mouth which made me feel nauseous. He made a total mess out of the bathroom he used. In all honesty, it did trigger feelings of hopelessness in me.

Not only are my parents hoarders, but they rarely cleaned the house. Cleaning up after Matt would be like fixing up a house before you knew a tornado was going to hit. I didn’t even feel completely relieved that everything was clean after I cleaned once he left. I can’t always clean up messy feelings inside by cleaning the filth in my house.

I felt guilty when I wasn’t spending every minute taking care of him. Most of the time he would sit on the couch and stare off into space when I wasn’t interacting with him. I felt the ingrained need to please him because his life is so sad.

I found his favorite movies and put them on for him to watch. We went on walks together. I talked to him about the shared good memories from childhood. I talked about places and loved ones that long since passed. I talked to him about the things only a sibling would know. All these things helped ease his separation anxiety from my mom. I think things went really well, as good as I could have hoped for.

As a sibling, I worry a lot about what life will be like for Matt when my mom is no longer here. My parents are getting old. It is comforting to know that maybe he will adjust with my help. Matt will probably never be easy to care for but I think he would do well with me. I was impressed with how well he adapted to his new environment. It felt good to be able to help my mom out. In some ways it was nostalgic and strangely comforting for me as well.

 

Trips to the dump

I thought of my grandpa the other day as a baby bee brushed against my fingers.

Things fell apart the summer I turned 13. My grandpa fell trying to get out of bed in the morning and spent the summer in the hospital trying to walk again. It was the year after my brother Matt spent the summer in the hospital. My grandpa wasn’t the same after that. He was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. Before he came home a wheelchair ramp was added and the bathroom was remodeled to accommodate a wheelchair. He never walked again.

Maybe that was the year things got harder for me. My grandma was one of Matt’s biggest caregivers and now she needed to take care of my grandpa. That put a lot of pressure on me and I stopped my social life before it really even started to help take care of my brother.

But before grandpa got sick, we had some good times together. He used to take me fishing. I must have talked his ear off because he told me I was scaring the fish away with my incessant chatter. Many years later I found out this wasn’t true.

We also had our occasional Saturday morning trips to the dump. Grandpa would back his truck into our driveway to pick up our garbage which wasn’t a lot since we had a burning barrel and a compost pile. My parents are hoarders, so only true garbage was thrown away like used cat litter. Although sometimes that was used in the winter on the ice. Everything had a use or purpose even when it didn’t. Some rooms of the house and even the garage were dedicated junk piles. It was one of the zillion reasons I didn’t have friends over often. Apparently most people seem to find hoarding off-putting.

But anyway, the trips to the dump with my grandpa were wonderful. He was friends with the dump man who was also a hoarder. I swear the guy would go through everyone’s garbage to find treasures to take home. There were bags of garbage everywhere, some were burning in a big pit.

The dump was sandy and smoky. It wasn’t a good place to be on a windy day. But when there wasn’t wind, there were bees. The dump man said I didn’t need to be afraid of the bees. He told me to put out my finger and the little bees would land on it. I did and they tickled my finger. Since then I’ve never been afraid of bees or wasps and they have never hurt me. Of all the things I am afraid of, I’m not generally afraid of animals. My dad was afraid of spiders so he never used them to terrify me. Win, win I guess.

My grandpa and I made several trips to the dump because we were looking for the perfect bike. The dump man started setting aside the bikes for us that others threw away. Then one day we found the perfect piece of junk. Grandpa lovingly painted it purple, my favorite color. He put on a new chain, new tires, and a new sparkly purple banana seat.

One day I outgrew the little one speed bike. My last birthday before grandpa got sick, he took me to the store to buy a bike kit so he could put a ten speed together for me. It meant a lot because he bought it new and also because he took me to the store to buy it. That was the first and last time I remember my grandpa going inside a public place. He refused to leave the house after he was wheelchair bound. We had to fight with him to go to the doctor when he needed to go. He didn’t even go to my wedding. He would even panic if grandma was gone for more than an hour or two.

So when I saw the little bee buzz by the other day, I put out my finger to say hello. It instantly took me back to the trips to the dump. How crazy to have the trips to the dump be one of my fondest childhood memories. I am thankful for that though. My younger brothers barely remember the good times with grandpa before he was in a wheelchair.

 

 

In health

Yesterday I had my first Craniosacral therapy appointment after the start of the pandemic followed by an appointment with my therapist. Afterwards, I felt great. I finally feel like I am making some headway with my healing process.

Fixing myself has been hard because I’ve been broken so long I got used to the cracks. It’s been an adjustment. It’s created some problems I’ve never guessed it would. Now that I am healing I’m starting to notice the brokenness around me more. For example, I find myself more critical of my husband because I feel like I am in a healthier place than he is. Before he was always the healthier one.

Since I started seeing the therapist a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through several crises. My therapist wants me to focus on letting go of the original trauma that I hold locked inside my body and mind. She thinks that once I do this all of the other stressors will flow through. I liken it to Tetris. If you clear out the bottom rows before everything starts piling up, it will be easier for everything else to flow through.

My therapist told me that with three teenagers in my house life realistically won’t be stress free anytime soon. What she says is true. Teenagers are stressful even when they aren’t trying to be. For example, our foreign exchange student Estelle wants to join in the protesting. I told her that she couldn’t because I couldn’t guarantee that it would be peaceful. I am in charge of someone else’s child and I want to feel reasonably sure that the activities she is involved in are safe.

Then Estelle said she wanted to run a mile every hour for 24 hours to raise money instead of protesting. Her idea was that she was going to run alone on country roads by herself day and night. She was rather upset when I said no to that idea too. Then she asked if she could run laps around the house at night and I told her it would be perfectly fine.

I think Estelle will be frightened running around the house at night. I took my brother Matt for a walk today and we saw 4 deer. We saw the cutest baby fawn. My autistic brother Matt is staying with us for a couple days. My mom is going up north to visit with her sisters for a couple days. I’m proud of her for not living her life in fear.

This means that I will be helping Matt with daily living. I will be fixing his meals separate from ours since he is on a special diet. I will have to help him shower, clean up himself after going to the bathroom, floss his teeth, and give him his medication. He is quite used to getting his way so I want to see how he will handle being with my family for several days. Someday when my parents are gone I will probably take him in once a month to stay with me if this works out.

If it doesn’t work out, I will take him back home to stay with my dad. I will just run over every day to check on him. My husband thinks it’s funny that my mom trusts me more than my dad to take care of my brother. But he doesn’t understand that is always the way it was even when I was a child myself. I hope this experience is not triggering. But I am mother henning right now which isn’t entirely unsatisfying since it is the last thing my teenagers want.

I am in a good place right now and hopefully I can remain here for awhile.

Gratitude week 22

  1. It felt good to go in for a haircut this past week. Funny story, when I got to my appointment I had a fever from sitting outside in my hot car. I was a little afraid she would turn me away. By the end of the appointment, I looked great and my temp was below normal.
  2. We finished painting the shed. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen at first because it seemed like a wild animal was living inside. Every time I got close it started clawing at the walls. But a few days later it was gone. Estelle, Arabella, and I started painting together. Then Estelle and Arabella started fighting. Estelle will be leaving soon. I will miss her a lot because she became like a daughter to me, but I will not miss the fighting. The shed will be a visual reminder that everything happens in its season.
  3. The month of May is over. I’m saddened by the state of this country and have to hope things will get better. Maybe this month…
  4. We were able to go back to church for the first time since the pandemic this past Sunday.
  5. The books I ordered came in the mail. I paged through Colitis for Dummies and learned more than what my doctor told me already. Apparently I am the 10-15% of the colitis population that has an undetermined cause. It could be ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, but they really don’t know. I wish my doctor would’ve explained that to me.
  6. This past week I celebrated my 5th blogging anniversary. I’m still here!
  7. Today is the 2nd anniversary of moving into our house. I am thankful to be living in a house that I don’t mind being quarantined in.
  8. I am grateful to have a husband that loves to cook and is good at it.
  9. I’m grateful that my mouse issue was solved with replacing the batteries.
  10. I am grateful to be able to do a little planning and finally put some new things on my calendar after everything else has been crossed out. The funny thing as I was looking ahead at my wall calendar I put the wording on December’s photo as best year ever. Note to self: never put the words best year ever on a wall calendar in December…maybe in January.

The raging fire burns

I left shortly after I put my clothes back on. I was ready for bed. I thought I would check Facebook one last time as I waited for Paul to come back home. Facebook, that is where I learned that our previous family business was on fire. Paul arrived home after 10 PM tired without even eating yet. I left without him in great urgency as if my presence would stop the raging fire from burning.

Inside that building is where my family members lived on in my memory. My great-grandparents built the business 100 years before. Like a family farm, all of the family members lived next door or down the road. In my mind they worked together in a steady hum like a colony of bees. I don’t remember any conflict just hard work.

My grandpa and uncle Harold fixed cars. There were several other mechanics too that they treated like family. I remember Harold laughing and sharing stories with customers in his quiet way. My brothers and I were always running through the garage as kids only stopping to buy a bottle of soda from the machine for 25 cents. It was a magical place, a place where broken things got fixed. I loved the smell of tires and even the scent of gasoline because it only brings back good memories.

My aunt Grace did the bookkeeping with the help of my grandma. I can still see them pouring over the paper files and counting money in the antique cash register. It’s the one place I remember them all being together busy and productive.

I was pouring over these thoughts as I got closer to the scene. Roads were blocked, sirens blared and I was the only one from my family that was there. My parents were up north opening the cabin for the season. My brothers and I should’ve been there but even that is changing because of the conflict with my dad. The times at the cabin together as a family might have come to an end too. After not speaking to my dad for 5 months, I called him late that night to tell him the old family business was on fire.

I stood on the side street for over an hour and a half watching the orange glow as fire trucks steadily poured in and out. I talked to the only person watching with me, a stranger. At 1 AM, I told the stranger I was going home which wasn’t exactly true unless you consider home my parents house. I had to go to the bathroom really bad by this point.

My parents locked their house before leaving but they always have a spare key in the closet if you can find it.┬áMy parents could be considered hoarders. Their closet had 4 levels of tightly packed shelves of odds and ends. I found two keys, but they didn’t fit. I searched my purse hoping that I still had a spare but the keys I had didn’t fit so I left them. Finally I found the right key in the closest and let myself in.

I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I had to get closer to the flames. It was drawing me in like a June bug. I left my car in my parents driveway and decided to take the trail into town the back way. It was very dark and I felt anxious running down the road and trail by myself in the middle of the night. But I shown no light since I didn’t want to be seen. I was a little afraid of bypassing the police cars and sneaking in the back way. I was afraid of night animals but I figured the fire probably already scared them away. I ran without seeing what was ahead of me fighting my fear.

I couldn’t see the fire any better than before. There were trees in the way. I didn’t want to get any closer because there were many people there fighting the fire. There was another man leaving the area from the back way. I was afraid because I was alone and vulnerable, but the man meant me no harm.

I got home late that night. After a couple hours of sleep I awoke and went back for more. My parents came home early the following morning and found themselves locked out of the house. In my panic, I left the house keys in the bathroom and my own set outside the door. When I’m really stressed my mind stops processing the details which I so obsess over in normal times. I find it bizarre that the strongest part of my brain just quits working.

The building may have burned to the ground, but the memories of my family working together will always live on in my mind.

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The first fire

I never heard my mom cry like that before. It was the deep howling sorrow that was saved for behind closed doors. I could almost peak out the window she was staring out of if I stood on my tiptoes. The night sky a glowing orange haze in a hue I never saw outside before. Together we watched her childhood home burn down.

I went with my mom once to see her old house the year before when I was 3. I’m not sure how I remember it. Strong emotions of my mother typically elicited sparks of memories in me. There was a long dark inside staircase that went upstairs to the main floor of the house. There was a bright average sized kitchen with a window above the sink that I could imagine her mother standing at with her back to me. I never saw my grandmother’s face before but I was told my mother looked just like her.

We had to walk up one step to go into the living room from the kitchen. I found that rather strange. I saw the bedroom my mom shared with her sister Jan. It looked as small as a closet. I imagined my mother playing in that room with her one doll. Mom always said that Aunt Jan was messy and my mom was the clean one. They seemed to have switched roles. Aunt Jan never entertains because people get her house dirty. My mom never has people over because she is embarrassed by her clutter and hoarding.

I wonder now if she imagined her mother was still alive inside of that house cooking supper, washing dishes, or just living a normal life every time she used to walk by. That was the only house she remembered her mother living in. Her mother died and her family moved far away, but she remained in that small town.

My mom more often than not on nice days took us for walks by her old childhood home. Every day the memory of her mother was still alive inside of that house. I’m sure she thought of that when she took us on walks to visit her husband’s mother.

Until one day the house burned down and even those memories faded away. She couldn’t imagine her mother happy inside the house when the house was no longer there. It was almost like she lost her mother again.