Timshel

I first heard of the concept Timshel in the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It means thou mayest in Hebrew. Timshel is saying we have a choice between good and evil. You can choose the path you take. Will others rejoice upon our passing or will there be great sadness based upon the choices we made in how we love one another. I know I am not giving the 600 page book justice with my mere 600 words.

I wouldn’t consider the book to be a happy story. But it was a feel good book because of its realistic perspective. Some of the big themes dealt with relationships between siblings, sibling rivalry, and the parent/child relationship. One of the things that really hit home for me was the struggle the characters experienced within. If my parent chooses evil, what does that make me? The book brings up the thought that although your parent may choose evil doesn’t mean that you are destined for the same choices. They have a choice just like you do.

I won’t lie to you, I sometimes struggle with this. I try hard to be a good person, but plenty of times I fall short. My dad did a lot of evil things. Does that make me evil even though I did not make the same choices he did? Sometimes I see him in myself. I hate to be reminded of him when I look in the mirror, how I talk, or how I walk. But it’s there. I have to wonder if that is the only thing there. Maybe he passed his evil down to me.

Logically, I know it’s crazy to think that, yet sometimes I do. The weight of his decisions has brought many people down. My mom is really struggling with her mental health over it. My brother Luke will not have his kids around my dad. I rarely see my brother and haven’t seen him, his wife, or my nieces yet this year. My dad is not invited to holidays. He is not invited to my daughter’s wedding. We always wonder if and when the police will be back to my parent’s house. But those are all just the external things which make life difficult and complicated.

I think the internal pain is worse. The anxiety that somewhere deep inside I might be guilty just for being his daughter like choosing evil is an inheritable trait. Sometimes I have to keep telling myself I am not responsible for my parents. I am not responsible for my adult children. I am responsible for me and my choices alone.

I don’t have a dad I can be proud of. He has brought nothing but shame to the family name. I wish I could say his choices affected only himself. If the evil choices other people make cannot be attributed to us then neither can the good. Having a child who chooses good does not equate to having good parents any more than having a child who chooses evil equate to having bad parents. Why is this so hard to understand? Why do we need something or someone to blame for the bad choices others make? It’s true some people have more obstacles than others. But is that really a good excuse? Maybe they just made a bad decision because that is what they wanted to do.

My grandparents were wonderful people. My dad, not so much.

Timshel. Everyone has a choice.

Again, I would highly recommend reading East of Eden. It’s very well written and thought provoking. It had a lot of interesting twists and turns in the classic drama by John Steinbeck. I’ve read several other books by the same author decades ago, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath were among my favorites. I hope to read more of his books in the near future. They always have a way of making me think about things differently.

Gratitude week 118

  1. March is over! Hopefully spring will be on its way. March went out like a lion. We had a two day period of snow/ice/rain/sleet mix. We still have patchy snow on the ground. The upcoming week looks more of the same…but I know it won’t be long until the days are nice.
  2. Everyone was safe during the storm although family members were out and about driving in the bad weather and also experienced brief power outages.
  3. Arabella visited for a couple days. We watched a movie and played some games.
  4. Clean sheets.
  5. My son had some friends over grilling out a couple of days. It’s nice because they treat me like a friend and not a parent. I feel like at this time I have a really good relationship with all of my kids, their significant others, and their friends. It’s nice to be able to talk with everyone as adults openly. That’s something I never experienced with my own parents. Even now it’s hard to be myself around them. That’s not something my kids have to do around me.
  6. A spontaneous double date with my best friend, her husband, and my husband.
  7. No one played any April Fool’s Day jokes on me nor I on them. I’m just not feeling it.

I gotta let that go

I’ve been feeling a bit off the last couple of days. I’ve been trying really hard to let go. I’ve been trying to stop policing. I’ve been trying hard not to get involved in other people’s problems. I’ve been trying to turn the sirens off for every little offense. But honestly, it’s not working out that well for me. I feel rather miserable.

I’ve been trying hard to let go of Arabella since she is 18 now. I went with her to her appointment to meet the new psychiatric nurse today since her doctor retired. After I was in the appointment for about 10 minutes, she got frustrated with me and kicked me out. I feel frustrated because she is not taking her medication like she should and because of that the nurse said it wasn’t working as effectively. But Arabella said she is a teenager that wants to live her life and not worry about taking medication. I really wish she didn’t have to take pills either.

She didn’t take her morning pills yet today. It’s almost suppertime. It is upsetting to me. Just because she is 18 doesn’t mean I can just turn off the worry switch. She is not totally capable of taking care of herself but gets really angry with me when I try to help.

She has another job interview tomorrow. She didn’t get the other jobs she wanted. She decided that she wants to tell all of her potential employers about her mental health issues during the interview. I told her that was a sure way not to get the job. I’ve interviewed people before. But what do I know? I got to let that one go.

My son turns 21 next week. He’s never been much of a drinker but now he is starting to drink. I realize that it’s not unusual for young folks to want to party and have fun. I’m trying not to blame my husband who modeled drinking too much. He cut back on his drinking, but he did start drinking again. I’m trying not to police it and nag him about it but it is hard. Sometimes I’m of the opinion to let them have fun and enjoy their lives and the next minute I want to yell at them to knock it off. Who am I to tell other people how to live their lives? But I will say something if I feel like they are being unsafe or taking things too far. But then again that makes me responsible to monitor them and frankly I just want to be responsible for me.

It’s hard to let go. My mom left to go back to her house for a couple days because she has doctor appointments with Matt. She is struggling taking care of both my dad and Matt. There is nothing I can do about it.

I watch as Angel struggles with anxiety. There is nothing I can do about it and I am probably the one that caused it. Today Angel told me she might not want to have children someday because of our family history of mental health struggles. It’s sad.

I am having problems letting go of my old pets. My dog is almost 14 and he has a hard time getting around. My cat is 15 with a lot of health issues. He pretty much stopped using the cat box. The vet said he is probably having arthritis pain and gave me pain medicine for him on top of his thyroid and arthritis pills. He is a very gentle and loving cat. I hate to put him down if I don’t have to. His favorite thing to do is snuggle on my lap every opportunity he gets. It’s really hard because he needs three different medications twice a day. I feel guilty leaving the house because he is hard to care for. When is it time to let him go? There is nothing I can do about aging and it makes me sad.

When can I let this all go and move on with my own life? I’ve been holding it for so long I don’t know if I can. That is really what I am struggling with right now.

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.

Hoarders and clean freaks

This past weekend my mom came over to help me weed. I didn’t ask for help, she just saw the need.

It got me to thinking about something that I couldn’t place which was bothering me. There was an in-congruence in my thought patterns. My mom is one of the hardest workers I know. Yet she has one of the messiest houses I’ve ever seen. How conflicting the thought was in my mind. I always thought that hoarders were lazy. But are they?

My parents are the biggest hoarders of magazines and papers. They still have a phone book from the 1970’s from a different city that they lived in out of state. They have stacks and stacks of papers that litter the living room floor and all available counter spaces.

My parents kept almost all of their clothing since they got married. Their closets are full of old clothes and jackets. It comes in handy for me when I am going to a costume party.

My mom hoards food. Her cupboards are stocked full of canned goods. All of her refrigerators and freezers (they have several) are full. The refrigerators always smell like rotten food. It is very important to check the dates on items before you eat them. The freshest foods are in the grocery bags that line the dining room floor.

Thankfully for me, my mom kept every school and personal journal documenting Matt’s life in great detail. It has been very helpful for me in writing my book. I don’t think that I could be writing as powerful and moving of a story without her help.

Their hoarding always suffocated me. It was hard to clean the house. The counters were so full of stuff that there was no place to move anything in order to clean it. Then you just put the items back on the cleaned areas. I always felt like I was emptying the ocean a tablespoon at a time. It stirred within me feelings of hopelessness.

My brothers and I are not hoarders. It bothers me when things are cluttered. It fills me with despair. The strange thing is that my parents feel the opposite way. It causes my mother emotional pain to get rid of things. My mom threw out my brother’s baby blanket when he was in his 30’s. She cried and lamented about it for days even though my brother didn’t want it. She tries to get rid of things but it is very upsetting to her.

Sometimes my mom will clean out the cupboards and closets. Instead of throwing things away, she gives them to me. Recently she gave me a bag of my dad’s old worn out socks. It is a little easier for her to give things away then to throw them away even though she must know that is what I will be doing with it.

It is hard for me to understand how my mom’s feeling are tied up in useless things.

It must be very hard for my mom to see her house in the shape that it’s in. She is embarrassed to have anyone over. I wish I could understand. Yet I am glad I do not.

I feel guilty for my mom’s help around my house when she needs it more than I do. It’s overwhelming to try to help her. I would just come in and start throwing things away and she couldn’t handle that. I know, I’ve tried. I feel like my hands are tied. But I know that my brothers and I are going to end up throwing most of the stuff away or getting rid of it someday.

I need to be careful in my own life so I don’t end up on the opposite spectrum. I have a tendency to be a clean freak. Dirt and clutter stresses me out. I want everything to be clean, neat, and organized. But I try not to let it control me.

I also have relatives that are clean freaks. We once went camping with my Aunt Jan. It stormed out and we ended up huddling in my aunt’s garage freezing because we were too dirty to be allowed into her house. I also have an uncle that would host parties and follow his guests around with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve also witnessed him on his hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor while guests were over.

I don’t think people at either extreme seem happy. I tolerate uncleanliness when guests are over. But it’s also kind of funny that I picked this topic to write about as I am freaking out about cleaning my house and weeding everything this week to have a perfect house for my son’s graduation party.

But since I grew up in a house of clutter and hoarding, I realize if people really care about me then they are willing to overlook some slight imperfections.

Change is in the air

The winds of change swirl around me as I enter the fall season of my life pushing me towards something new and different.

Over the last few days I’ve had to prepare myself for a lot of change.

I am preparing for my son to graduate from high school and leave home within the next year.

Yesterday Angel told me that she is not planning on coming home from college next summer. Then when she graduates, she wants to go to graduate school in Boston. Her time at home has come to an end. I am happy that she knows what she wants to do with her life, but I am sad that she is leaving.

Then a couple of days ago, our youngest daughter Arabella told us that she wants to be a foreign exchange student. She wants to spend her whole junior year of high school in a foreign country.

By next year at this time, we might have an empty nest. I am excited, yet nervous of the change.

Something else changed too. My mom is starting to have health issues. She has to go to the hospital this week for tests. It is very likely that she is going to need surgery. She might need to move in with us for awhile if she has surgery. My dad is not in the greatest health, so he wouldn’t be able to take care of her since she takes care of him.

Everything and everyone is changing all around me. Yet here I am taking it all in. Letting go of summer and preparing for the winter. My house full of teenagers might soon be a geriatric ward.

I don’t like change very much, but I don’t have much control over the seasons.

I always thought that autumn is beautiful though. Its crisp cool air hits me like the truth. A warm blanket, a hot flash of flame, a crackling fire takes away the chill. The trees shine in brilliant color the beginning of fall, full of experience and nutrients. It is a time to sort and prepare. The end of the beginning, the beginning of the end. No longer volatile and stormy. No longer sunny and bright. But comfortable.

A noticeable change of seasons is in the air. The leaves are starting to change color. But as of right now, none of the leaves have fallen totally from the branches of my tree.

 

On ffffffeeling angry

My mom called me first thing Monday morning. She told me that she wanted to work on her feelings of anger. She thought it would be a good idea if I did too. Maybe, she said, I should think about seeing a therapist.

She point blank asked me if I was angry with her. No, mom. She asked me if I would tell her if I was angry with her. Sure, mom.

My mom asked if I was angry that my autistic brother Matt hurt my daughter Angel. Mom, that happened over 15 years ago.

My mom asked if I was angry that she spent/spends more time with Matt than she did with me. Mom, Matt needs you more than I do.

Right now I spend my time angry about other things. Arabella is starting to get late assignments. Her straight A’s are starting to slip…Not to mention that she rolls out of bed 10 minutes before the bus comes and expects to have enough time to take a shower and get ready. And somehow that ends up being my fault.

I am angry that I got a letter from the police department regarding a fine my son received over break for doing donuts in a parking lot…a minor incident nonetheless, but we didn’t find out until we got a letter in the mail. We told him that he had to pay his own fine to find out later in the week that he pissed away most of his hard earned money from his summer job on fast food.

This is what boils my blood now.

But I don’t tell my mother that. I barely talk to her at all about anything personal anymore. I don’t tell her about the things that make me angry. I want to protect her from that. She has had a hard life. She shouldn’t have to deal with any more problems during her last years.

To tell you the truth, sometimes I am angry with my mom. I am angry that I gave up my childhood to take care of my brother. Then when I needed her the most, I felt like she wasn’t there.

My mom did the best that she could. So why should I feel angry?

So what if she babies and spends more time with my disabled brother?? He needs her more.

Why do I feel anger towards my mother sometimes for something she had little control over??

The more important question is why don’t I feel anger towards my dad?? He had an ideal childhood, but wasn’t a good parent. He was lazy. My mom worked long hours to be the main breadwinner. She supported the family. My dad worked part-time jobs here and there.

My dad stuck around but wasn’t there. He was more interested in TV than being an active father or supportive husband. When he was involved, he was reactive and abusive.

My mom did everything and needed help. So I stepped up to the plate to help my mom raise my 3 younger brothers.

That being said, why should I feel angry towards my mom?? Why not my dad? She did the best she could. He could’ve done so much better.

How come feelings don’t make any sense?? There really is no logic behind them. They are so complex that I barely understand my own feelings much less the feelings of others.

No, mother, I am not angry…says my mind…but on some days my heart tells me differently. Why??

Thanksgiving leftovers

The day before Thanksgiving, I spoke to my mom on the phone. She told me that my dad was going to drive 8 hours round trip to drop something off at my brother Mark’s house, but he wasn’t going to come over to my house for Thanksgiving.

I said, “Let me get this straight, dad is going to drive 4 hours to see Mark but he won’t drive 20 minutes to come over and eat a meal that he doesn’t have to prepare?”

My dad showed up for Thanksgiving. Then after the meal, he left without saying good-bye.

Later in the day, we were playing Loaded Questions and everyone had to guess my response to the question asking who I always wondered if they liked me or not. Some people said Aunt Grace or my sister-in-laws. No one guessed that I put my dad down as my answer. It’s sad that I feel unsure if my dad likes me.

It seems ironic that Paul never had a dad and I always wondered if my dad likes me while we were surrounded this Thanksgiving with men that had estranged relationships with their children.

Paul’s step-dad Darryl and my Uncle Rick were guests in our house this Thanksgiving. They weren’t invited anywhere else. Their stories are similar.

Darryl was previously married to a woman that he had two children with. When his children were little, his wife left and took the boys with her several states away. Ever since I’ve known Darryl, he has wanted a relationship with his sons that was not reciprocated. The only time that they called him regularly was when they were incarcerated. Darryl was the man that stood patiently by his wife’s side as she was dying of cancer. Darryl loves to spend time with his step-grandchildren, my kids. Darryl married my mother-in-law when Paul was in his upper 20’s, so he never thought of Darryl as a dad.

My Uncle Rick has a similar story. He is recently divorced not of his choosing. His adult children all decided to side with their mother instead of him. They also cut themselves off from all of his family. My Uncle Rick is one of those nice guys that women seem to walk over. He wears his heart on his sleeve but would give the shirt off of his back. He brought a ‘F off’ letter that his daughter wrote to him for us to read at our house.

 

Paul and I would’ve given anything to have a dad like Darryl or Rick, yet their kids want nothing to do with them. They are wonderful men. I’ve known them long enough to know that. I just don’t get it.

I find it heartbreaking when kids feel like they have to pick sides when their parents divorce. Why can’t they have both parents in their lives??

Maybe someday their kids will come around.

Until then, we are thankful for your broken, discarded, leftover dads.

 

Enlistment?

Last night my son told me that he was planning on enlisting in the military after high school.

He has been talking about it for the last couple of weeks ever since we started watching a Vietnam War series on public TV.

My dad was in the Vietnam War.

Times have changed a lot since the 1960’s.

But really have times changed that much?? After watching several episodes about the Vietnam War, it really hit me for the first time how hard the 60’s were. A president assassinated, political unrest throughout the country, violent war protests, young men drafted…

Times were tough for my family then…My dad went off to war while my mother went off to college..While her then boyfriend was at war, her mother died. She had to tell my dad in a letter…he missed the funeral. My mom’s college finals were cancelled because of bomb scares and there were violent war protests out in the streets. My dad saw his buddies die next to him. I can’t even imagine.

My grandparents had to send their only child off to war…My great-grandparents sent their only grandchild off to war…several decades before that all of their children were in the military for WWII.

Today was my grandpa’s birthday. He passed away the year my son was born. Even though they did not have the opportunity to get to know each other, they are a lot alike. My grandpa was full of piss and vinegar. Before I was born, he was a bit of a bad ass. He rode around on his Harley with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Although he was a small man, people didn’t mess with him. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in. My grandma was the only one that could tame him.

I see my grandpa in my son.

My grandparents were wonderful people. They are a big part of the reason why I am sitting here typing this today. They insulated me. I would be a huge mess of a person if they weren’t a big part of my life growing up.

I feel proud of my son. I think this is the right move for him. He would thrive with the structure and discipline the military would offer him. It’s just the mom in me that feels worried.

 

Some harmless, some hidden

Memories swirl around in my mind. Some harmless, some hidden..

…laughter of teenage girls…the lighter flicks…not to smoke…melting the tip of the eye liner so it glides on easier…

I put on eye liner for the show. It goes on easy. It almost smears, unlike the sharp pencil of my younger years…Does anyone use a lighter anymore to soften their eye liner pencils?

…I see a younger face in the mirror, then she is gone..

A harmless memory..

An interview for the show…

Were you ever involved in theater before you came to this theater?

…My dad dropped me off at the theater before work…I was the little girl with a small part in the show…I was dropped off early before everyone else…I walked the trails alone in the woods surrounding the theater, sometimes afraid…but it was only a deer…alone…fun on stage…the big kids…the costumes, the makeup…

…The only time alone with my dad…his boss taking him for lunch…maybe I can go too since I ride with him…laughter…why would I take you??

The next summer, I got a part in another play. I was a princess.

…Reading my lines out loud with the other princesses on the grass in a circle in the summer sun…gone…have to drop out…Matt is sick…my mom left for the summer to go to a hospital out of state with Matt…selfish…how could you still want to be in the show…your brother is sick…so lucky that you are not sick…so lucky…anger and tears…some things are more important…crying…no ride…alone…loneliness…missing my mom…fragments of memories reflect off the surface of the dark murkiness in my mind…

Were you ever involved in theater before you came to this theater?

Just one innocent question scratched the surface…I don’t answer…

It has happened before over the years…innocent questions avoided…the explanations too personal…too painful…they shouldn’t be, but are.

Over 20 years later, I walked through the doors of another theater…in another town…and left all those old hidden painful memories behind me..

Or did I?