Willing to listen

It was hard to work for the census because at times I knew I was causing others pain with the questions I was asking.

I had to deal with loss rather frequently. I can’t tell you how many times I spoke to people who lost someone close to them. I felt callous and impersonal about it sometimes. I know you told me that your dad died, but did he die before or after the census date.

I spoke to a man who lost his wife this year. He was out in the yard with his children when I pulled up. When did your wife die? Was it before or after the census date? I always felt a bit awful about it.

As I was getting ready to leave, he told me that I could turn my car around in the driveway and drive out instead of backing out. His driveway was on a hill. He said his wife left the house to go to work one icy morning and slid into a tree. He told me not to worry, she did not die in the driveway. She died after a long battle with leukemia.

I felt sad for his loss. I felt bad for his children. So I took a few extra minutes to listen. I told him I was sorry for his loss. I could tell it meant a lot to him. Sometimes people just need someone who is willing to listen.

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.

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. My 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.

Gratitude week 21

  1.  Just like that it went from winter to summer in Wisconsin. My favorite season is finally here!! This week we finally got green leaves on our trees. We took the cover off our pool.
  2.  I trimmed down the list of people I’m following. I no longer follow people simply because they follow me like I used to. I’m following blogs I am interested in. The whole process was very glitchy so it is possible I may have accidentally unfollowed someone. I also axed some people that I genuinely liked because they haven’t blogged in several months or years. It felt good like I was cleaning. A big shout out to long time bloggers. I am grateful that you stuck it out.
  3.  Coronavirus be damned, I hugged and cried with a complete stranger. As I mentioned yesterday, over the weekend a historical building once owned by my family burned down. I cried with the new owner who felt horrible because their intent was to restore the building and preserve its history. Also, because of it, I was able to see and hug my mom which with her terror over the virus I questioned if it would happen again anytime soon. I am grateful that we don’t have to deal with the devastation of a fire. The destruction and loss was overwhelming. I can’t imagine what they will have to go through. I am also grateful that no one was injured or died as a result of the fire.
  4.  Paul got his first customer in his new business venture.
  5.  I am slowly starting to feel a little better. By no means close to 100%, but if I had to live this way the rest of my life I could.
  6.  On this Memorial Day, I am thankful for our wonderful veterans who sacrificed all.
  7.  I am grateful for the ability to survive traumatic experiences.
  8.  I am thankful for Paul. Even though things have been difficult lately, I know he has my back and I his.
  9.  Taking the winter quilt off the bed, turning off the heat, and opening the windows.
  10.  Estelle and I bought some orangish brown paint for the shed in the backyard. It is nice to have a project we can do together and something to remember her by once she goes home when I look at it.

Losing myself

It’s funny but one of the things I miss most is not wearing lip gloss. Shiny sparkly lips covered by a mask is not possible anymore. It’s messy and it smears.

Life is like that sometimes, messy.

I don’t even want to leave the house anymore. The last time you saw me I was beautiful and strong. Since then I’ve let my hair go gray. My strength left behind me with my last run at the gym before its doors closed along with my youthful blonde locks.

I’m ashamed of myself. I’ve tried to put myself back out there but I’ve been much too weak to run. Perhaps it’s over. I’ve had to let myself go. Instead of outrunning I’ve been overrun.

Do you know how much work it takes to run a 50k? Or maybe a marathon? I used to be a great runner. But now I can barely walk a couple miles without feeling winded. How will I get it back? Everything I built gone in one swift blow to my health. I just can’t seem to do it anymore. Maybe my toned athletic body will turn into a blob of sludge.

I will never be what I was.

I’m mourning the loss of me. Aren’t I too old to have to find myself again?

Or is that just a part of life? Do we ever realize ahead of time when things are ending or even beginning?

Is this the end? I don’t know anymore.

If I had known it was going to be over, I would’ve enjoyed it more. I would’ve held on longer before it slipped through my hands.

But isn’t that what we always tell ourselves when we realize we just said our last good-bye? The guilt of not making the most out of our last time never seems to leave. I would’ve tried harder.

I have to let it go if it is truly over…but right now it hurts to even think it might be.

 

Gratitude week 17

The past week has been very rough. I guess I’ve been saying that a lot lately.

I am now on day 6 of being sick. I haven’t slept much because I am up multiple times a night to use the bathroom. I am not well. I’ve had to take all my goals, dreams, and hopes for the future and put them on a shelf. Or maybe I have to give them up forever. I’m starting to grieve that my old life is probably over.

There have been times I’ve curled up in pain in a fetal position on the floor tears cascading from my eyes. I’ve had a fever off and on and I feel it starting to climb back. I don’t know how I am going to make it through the prep tonight for my procedure. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, death. Sometimes it feels so close that everything still left inside me tells me to prepare.

I don’t have much time to talk, nor much energy. So, that being said, here are my ten things I’m grateful for this week.

  1. Soon maybe I’ll finally have the answers for what is wrong with me.
  2.  I reached over 750 followers on my blog. I am thankful for you my readers and friends who are supportive of me telling my story.
  3.  I am thankful for my husband. He is the best man I could ever ask for. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers because he is really having a hard time with this.
  4.  I am grateful especially for my children, my mom, my brothers, my aunt Jan, and my best friend Cindy. They have been checking in on me so much that I can barely get any rest.
  5.  I am thankful for my pets, especially my cat. He follows me around everywhere.
  6.  I am thankful for the deer that grace my yard. Watching nature keeps my mind off my pain.
  7.  I am thankful for finally getting some weather that makes us think of spring.
  8.  I am grateful I tested negative for COVID-19.
  9.  I’m grateful I’m not missing much because I’ve been stuck inside sick.
  10.  I’m grateful that my procedure is very early tomorrow morning. I don’t have to wait much longer to hopefully get some relief.

I need to take some more Tylenol and eat some chicken broth. Prep starts in less than 2 hours. I will try to update you in the next couple days. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

My salvation fantasy

I used to find solace in God.

I prayed and yearned for my whole family to seek serenity there.

Then a miracle happened. My dad really made a mess of his life. Before this every time he invoked the name of God it always had a damn after it. He laughed at my mother for her faith. He sneered at the very essence of God. He knew a lot about theology and always could find a loophole in our faith. It was easy to seek sanctuary in a place where my dad refused to go.

But then my dad sunk to the very bottom. It was the only way he could open his heart. He started listening to my mother’s words about God. He started reading the Bible. He shed a few tears. He said a few prayers.

Soon afterward, God sent old friends of my parents to their door. My mom didn’t recognize her old friend. They haven’t seen each other in 15 years. The friend said that God had my parents on her heart. She came over to invite my parents to a Bible study at their house. They knew my dad didn’t believe. They had several heart to heart talks with my dad and he was very receptive.

My mom even tried out their church which has a low sensory room for people on the autism spectrum to participate in the service. My mom could take my brother to church without worrying about whether he was going to act appropriately. It seemed like the hand of God was all over this.

It was everything we ever wanted. Right? Then why does it seem like the closer my dad becomes the further I am cast away? Seriously who wants their parents to go to hell if they sincerely believe in God??

But this was not how I played it out in my mind. I thought the first thing my dad would do once he became a Christian is give us a call and ask us for forgiveness. He would apologize for the abuse he heaped upon us. Then we would have a great father-daughter relationship. He would all of a sudden be everything he wasn’t. He would be loving, supportive, encouraging, and would want to get to know me and love me the way he never had.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even close. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook with his bright shiny new clean heart. I didn’t receive any handwritten letters in the mail. I haven’t even spoken to my dad in two months. I was deceived by this salvation fantasy in my head that if my dad accepted God everything would be perfect.

I know this is going to sound crazy because isn’t this after all what I prayed for. More than anything, I feel abandoned by God. This is not what I wanted, nor expected. I feel like maybe there is still a God out there, but he doesn’t love me.

All I wanted is one person to reach out to me. I, myself, am drowning in sorrow. Just show me God’s love, tell me he hasn’t left me. I sought but found nothing.

I just wanted a normal loving family. Is that too much to ask for?

I can no longer find solace in God because now my dad is there. Spending an eternity in heaven with my dad sounds like hell to me. I can’t hide under God’s wing anymore. It is no longer safe.

I am not at peace. I have stopped seeking. I can no longer pray.  I don’t even want to go to church. I feel very confused and afraid. It’s strange, I never thought my dad finding faith would threaten everything I’ve ever believed in.

Amongst the weeds

I wouldn’t say that I am the overly jealous type, not about material things anyway. The biggest thing that causes me jealousy is relationships.

I felt jealous when your parents moved up from a southern state just to be closer to you. I should have been happy for you, but sadly that was not the feeling it triggered.

The last time I saw my parents together, they were fighting. My dad went almost a year without showering when my mother said she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she said that he must shower once a week or there will be consequences. On that day, my mom and I went somewhere. When we got back, my mom asked my dad if he showered yet like he was a small child. He did not and she yelled that he better hurry or he would be in trouble. I would never ask them for marriage advice.

My dad did not attend Alex’s graduation. He did go up north with the rest of the family (not including us). He sat around all weekend in his underwear. This bothered my SIL Carla greatly and she complained about him. Carla and my brother Mark helped clean out my parents shed. Carla said now that it is cleaned out a little, they can fill it with more crap. Or maybe they can buy another car. Carla said she would love to buy a hearse for my dad. It was funny, yet it was not.

I felt jealous when your brother told me he was going to move closer to home to help you and your husband raise your first child. I know your family will be there for you anytime you needed them. I could probably count on one hand how many times we were able to get away when our kids were little because we didn’t have anyone to help us.

I had to schedule my 3rd C-section to be in the hospital over the weekend so my husband could watch our other kids. He just started his business and had to work on the day our last child was born. After he came back from working a few hours, my mom dropped off our other two children at the hospital because my brother Matt had an appointment. Matt always came first, even on the day I gave birth.

I found someone else with demons. We hold each other’s hands as we walk through our own hell fires. Paul is the only person I can count on and I trust he will be there until he can’t be. We’ve had to rely on each other.

Paul never had a dad. His mom had a brief marriage when Paul was little, but she left her husband because she said he was abusive. Martha did remarry after Paul grew up and left home.

Paul did not have one single person from his family to invite to our son’s graduation, unless you count his step-dad. His step-dad Darryl attended but brought a new girlfriend that we met for the first time that day. Darryl has moved on with his life. Paul shared his grief over the thought that his mother will no longer be remembered. He is an orphan. His whole family is gone.

Paul grew up with a great void. I grew up in an environment of dysfunction and abuse. We had to rely on ourselves to survive. It gave us grit and strength beyond belief. But there was no one to turn to when we needed help or advice.

It’s tremendously hard to create a healthy family without having a firm foundation to build our house upon. You may envy our fierce drive and independence, but behind it lies brokenness, emptiness, and pain. Maybe you envy our financial success, our big house, and attractiveness. But I’ll tell you what. We both would give everything we have in exchange for a healthy family of origin.

It’s amazing that we survived and thrived as beautiful flowers among the weeds in which we were planted.

 

 

The radiant red ruby ring

I noticed it was missing right before we left for church on Sunday morning.

The ruby ring was a very special college graduation gift from my mother. It had a large rectangular radiant cut ruby with 4 small rubies and 8 tiny diamonds on a gold band. I wore it last to a Christmas party a week and a half before.

It was gone and another ring was put in its place. I searched the whole jewelry box, but it was still missing. Stolen, I believe, with a painful realization on the way to church. Paul, Luke, and I went to church while the rest of our families slept in. I was planning on going to a Christmas Eve service with the rest of the family at another church the next day.

The church service started out with Joy to the World, but I wasn’t feeling much joy in my world as the tears quietly slipped from my eyes. Someone stole my ring. When we got home, my nieces wanted to play detective and solve the mystery of the missing ring. They left to go home after lunch. I felt relieved when they left. It was hard to hold it all together. I felt very low and was rather snappy.

I wasted the day with my grief…grief over losing my ring, grief over losing my job. I felt like it was one of the worst Christmases ever. I knew it would be a hard week with my employment ending on Friday. I had planned on going to the gym on Monday and running 10 miles. I also planned on going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I woke up with swollen eyes and decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Angel had a Christmas party with Dan’s family, Alex was with friends, and Arabella had to work. My kids were gone too.

Instead, I spent the day scouring the internet looking for my ring. I called a local pawn shop which was very helpful. I tried to get an idea of how valuable the ring is.

I checked all of my jewelry to see if anything else was missing. Nothing was. I checked all of my pockets on all of my pants and coats. I took everything out of my jewelry box. Did I misplace the ring? Maybe if I check everyday, then one day it will magically be there.

Who was at our house since it was gone? I counted 16 people outside of my immediate family. It could be anybody. At first we put a lot of blame on the boy with the face tattoo. He has been living with us off and on for the past 6 months, without incident though. We just don’t think it was him.

I also called the parent of one of Alex’s friends who was over. She admitted that her son tried to steal some of her jewelry. I think it might be him. As of yet, I haven’t filed a police report. I’m not sure what to do. I hate to cast blame on an innocent person. I just want my ring back. It was one of my most expensive and favorite pieces of jewelry. It was a special gift from my mother for a big accomplishment. So it had high sentimental value as well.

I don’t have any pictures of the ring. Big mistake, but you know what they say about hindsight. My mom has the original receipt with the description of the ring. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that it was stolen. She is so much more sentimental than I am. She just threw out my brother’s baby blanket a few years back and he is almost 40.

I feel stupid for not locking up my valuable items. Who would’ve thought that someone would go into my bedroom and take jewelry out of my jewelry box? I never had anything of any value stolen from me before.

I also visited a used jewelry store. I talked with them about my stolen ring. The next day I went back and bought myself another ruby ring. I also bought a lock box to store my valuable possessions in. I have to somehow let it go. I will probably never get it back. But I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this never happens again.