Wings without roots

Last weekend Paul went ice fishing with Darryl. (Yes, it was still cold enough here despite the calendar saying something about spring).

Paul and Darryl talked about fatherhood. Usually when the guys go out on the ice, they talk about nothing even if they are gone for the whole weekend. There is never any interesting gossip to share. Unlike getting together with a group of women which usually includes emotions, crying, and gossip galore.

Darryl told Paul that he was working on his will. Darryl wants Paul to be the executor of his will. Paul told him that he didn’t have to worry about giving us anything. After all, he isn’t Darryl’s real son and his mother is gone now.

Darryl has two sons. He kept his landline for years just in case they called. After Martha passed, Darryl was in rough shape. He really wanted to contact his estranged sons but didn’t have a way. I was able to find one of the sons on Facebook and told him to give his dad a call. Both sons called, but didn’t attend the funeral or even send a card. That was really upsetting to Darryl.

I always thought that Darryl would’ve been a great father. His ex-wife left him and moved out of state with their two boys when they were little. She was bitter and poisoned their minds against their father. He had the boys every summer for a few weeks. They were always trouble. They would steal money that wasn’t hidden away. They got in trouble for shoplifting. Both boys spent half of their adult lives in prison.

Martha always had that over Darryl. Look at your sons in prison while my son got an MBA and started a business.

So it went on for many years…Darryl wanting his sons…a father without his sons…Paul wanting a father…a boy without a father..

Regret…

Too bad Darryl came along after Paul grew up.

Darryl told Paul that he was a wonderful father for never having a father

Then the conversation turned to the identity of his real father. Darryl thought that Paul’s brief step-dad in early childhood was his father..

How can you be married to someone over 20 years and not know the identity of their child’s father??

I found that shocking. Wouldn’t you??¬† I guess that secret has been buried with Martha.

I asked Paul if he ever wanted to find his bio dad. Now would be the day and age to do it..We only have snippets of info to go on..his name was legally omitted from the birth certificate…but we have an approximate age…69…last name Wilson…no first name, just initials…in a Chicago motorcycle gang…from somewhere else…Kentucky or Tennessee…red hair…green eyes…

He may have died in Vietnam…he may have tried to steal Paul…he wasn’t interested at all in being a dad…the same conflicting stories told over and over that never made any sense.

Is any of it real??

I admit to being a little curious over the years, but Paul never wanted to know.

Sometimes, I google variations of the name on Facebook or online. Is that your father?? Is that your dad?? Sometimes the temptation to open Pandora’s box is rather great for me…But I can see that the problem with opening that box is the risk of knowing what is inside..We can’t unknow things after they are known..but sometimes, just sometimes, I want to peak inside..

Maybe I am looking for the wrong things…

Am I blind to what is right in front of me??

I should focus on the here and now without looking back…appreciate the man with strong wings to fly alone…and not look for hidden roots…

Maybe some things are better left buried…hidden in the past…forgotten forever..

A lot of praying, without a prayer

Playing the waiting game is never the fun and games it sounds like.

Yesterday my mom and Paul’s mom had doctor appointments.

As expected, my mom had the best news. The doctor wasn’t sure if she has glaucoma. She will have to do more waiting. But she does have cataracts and needs surgery.

My mom has always been the best driver that I ever knew, up until recently that is. I noticed little changes, like pulling out in front of traffic when she really didn’t have enough time or showing greater than necessary hesitation.

She is starting to forget little things too. She forgot my sister-in-law’s birthday. She forgot about my daughter’s holiday concerts. I found myself so busy at work that I didn’t have time to remind her either. The gradual decline is troubling at times.

My mother-in-law Martha’s decline has been more of a steep descent lately. She wanted to die at home which is not going to happen. She slept during her oncology appointment yesterday. The doctor decided to stop all treatment and keep her at the nursing home. He used words like keeping her comfortable.

I did start writing about two sentences of a eulogy. Oh, I already wrote it. I wrote it in my head while I was driving, running, and trying to sleep but I can’t seem to write it down on paper.

I started going through the old pictures. I didn’t realize how poor quality they are. The smiling images are not centered, blurry, or dark more often than not. I have gotten used to taking 50 images of the same event and deleting the ones that are not perfect. It’s not like the good old days where we took one or two pictures in an effort not to waste film and having them all turn out bad. I can’t part with the less than perfect images because that is all I have left besides the fading memories.

I feel depressed. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my grandma’s death, next week is the anniversary of the death of Aunt Grace. The despair of death and dying is surrounding me. It makes me feel nostalgic and melancholy on these bleak days of midwinter. This is the month that I lost the most loved ones and another will soon be added to the list.

We last visited Martha at the nursing home on Sunday. How I hate it there. I wondered how the young employees could work there day in and out without pondering their future fate. It seems like a nice place. I haven’t seen anyone mistreated.

What I hate is the joy that is robbed from having no hope. There is no hope that she is going to get better. There is no hope that her life will ever be the same. The despair of not having any hope left is emotionally draining. There is nothing we can do about it. Every time we see her, she is getting worse.

I have always clung to hope in the darkest times, but there isn’t a prayer although there is a lot of praying.

It was hard seeing Martha on Sunday. When we got there, she was laying in an uncomfortable position. We worked together to move her body. I lifted her shoulder while supporting her head. Her words came out in a mumbled whisper. She pointed and we guessed what was being said. She kept saying that her mouth was dry but she didn’t want to drink. She rummaged through her purse for aspirin although she just got pain medicine. She faded in and out of sleep.

Before we leave, we always take her for a walk to see the birds. The nurse carried her into a wheelchair and hooked her up to her portable oxygen tank. Paul pushed the wheelchair as I walked alongside with the IV. You would think that it would be easy to push the IV along but it rolled along like a shopping cart with a messed up wheel. I swerved around as I tried to avoid obstacles trying not rip or twist up her cords that were everywhere.

The birds flitted about in a relaxed manner. The residents spoke of the birds. They spoke of a man that comes around to clip the birds nails and clean out the cages. They spoke of this with great importance. They weren’t in a hurry, they were content to sit and watch the birds like it was the most important thing in the world.

It seemed like a mystery to me. The residents didn’t seem worried or to live in the hustle bustle world of deadlines and time constraints like most of us do, yet they have less time..

Tonight Paul and I will visit Martha. Darryl said that her condition has deteriorated considerably since our visit two days ago. We sense the urgency and are nervous when we hear the phone ring.

It could be any time now..

 

 

 

The weight of my world

I am having nightmares again..two last week and one this week so far..

Last night I dreamed my sister-in-law Emily died. It was right around 2 AM. I stayed up a few minutes and went back to sleep into the same nightmare again. Then for the next 2 hours I continued the dream. Emily died and her little girls were without a mom. It was shocking, unexpected, and tragic. Not only did Emily die, but whatever killed her was contagious and other family members were exposed and might die. I woke up crying and here I am typing a rough draft at 4 AM wanting to sleep, but not really wanting to sleep.

This is a stressful time in my life. I thought I was going to fall into a deep depression after my daughter Angel went back to college. It didn’t happen. Honestly, I have been too busy to notice her absence. 

Work has been crazy busy, but yesterday we hired our new employee. There is relief in sight.

My mother-in-law, still dying and getting weaker with each visit. We have been going to see her as much as possible. It is a depressing and hopeless situation. I feel a lot of guilt because I have been neglecting my own parents. 

All of this brings up guilt from when I was a caregiver for my Aunt Grace. She needed so much care that it took all of my time. I didn’t spend as much time with my grandma whom I was closer to. I often drove by grandma’s house without stopping because Grace needed me more. 

Is this how my mother felt all these years taking care of my autistic brother Matt? I think I am finally getting it. I wanted to spend time with you, but he needed me soooo much more. 

Matt still needs her more, will always need her more. He had a meltdown over Christmas. He went home from work one winter day with his boots on and forgot his shoes at work. He was so worked up that he needed to be medicated. My mom told me about this on Christmas Eve because someday she said I will be getting the phone calls.

The weight of my world is so suffocating some times. 

Saying good bye?

I have often wondered why we say the words good bye. What is ever good about parting with someone that you care about?

This morning I said good bye to Angel as she left to go back to college. I won’t be seeing her again until March.

Last night Angel said good bye to her grandma, probably for the last time.

It was a rough week. Darryl called earlier this week very distraught. The doctor told him that Martha was never going to go back home again. She was going to be transferred from the hospital into a nursing home. They thought that she was going to beat this terminal stage 4 cancer thing. It is hard to blame them for feeling that way as they don’t have the internet at home and we are all new to this stage 4 cancer thing.

Living with her day to day, I’m sure that Darryl didn’t see how the cancer eroded her body like we did. Losing 100 lbs isn’t as noticeable if you lose it 1 lb a day. It broke Paul’s heart to see his step-dad break down and start talking about final wishes and funeral arrangements. We knew we had to arrange one last visit with Angel and her grandma before she left.

The night that Darryl called, Paul cried. Before all of this, in the 20+ years I’ve known Paul, he has only cried a handful of times. Mainly when his grandma, who helped raise him, died. Dealing with his mother dying has brought out a whole new range of emotions, some of them not very good. I want to fix things, but I can’t.

Sometimes I worry about Paul. He takes on too much responsibility. He is a great leader and everyone wants his help on this board, committee, or that. I find that most people care more about what he can do for them instead of him.

Besides Paul and my friend Cindy (who keeps calling and asking how I am doing), I have been pushing everyone in my life away. When things get difficult I shut everyone out. No personal Facebook statuses for me. I don’t want anyone to know. It surprises me that I even talk to you. Sorry, no offense, I’m sure you are a great person.

Instead of dealing with my emotions, I put more things on my plate. No, not food, if I’m really stressed I barely eat. Working long hours…yes…trying out for a part in the play…yes…signing up for an 18 mile trail run…yes…another marathon…yes, yes, yes….a half iron…yes, yes, oh yes!

Keeping very busy has always been a tactic of mine.

I’m not sure I can keep going at this pace. But I am afraid. If I stop juggling all of these busyness balls, I will surely drown.

I will keep going. I am determined to persevere. And I am going to keep writing (take you along on this journey with me)! Lucky you! XOXXO

 

 

The Chicago drama…

Just a short recap…I got my pants back. Yes! I didn’t have to see Hamilton in PJ’s!

After getting my pants back Friday night, we stopped at the hospital to visit Martha. She was doing a lot better and was moved out of the ICU. I felt a lot better heading to Chicago knowing things were better at home. Plus, I had pants.. There’s that!

I won’t bore you with the trip down to Chicago as it was very uneventful. We checked into our hotel and headed for a late afternoon showing of the Blue Man Group. It was an awesome high energy show.

We took the subway to the show. We stuck out like a sore thumb all dressed to the nines and all. There was a man that wanted money to help Paul get a subway pass. The security guard asked if we were okay. Immediately after entering the subway, we saw a man that had a sign that said ‘Hungry as F*ck’. He appeared to be sleeping. The subway car smelled like piss, but being on it didn’t scare me. I just fear irrational things.

It was bitterly cold in Chicago with wind chills below zero. I broke down and bought myself a hat. I watched the passersby from the window as we ate supper late Saturday night. Young girls walked with streets on their way out in short skirts, high heels, and no coats. There was a group of young guys with pants that didn’t cover their rears. I thought that went out with the 90’s. Guess not? Everyone looked so cold. I finally reached the age were being warm is more important than looking cool.

I had a hard time sleeping at night. I thought I heard someone getting murdered out in the street in the middle of the night. I looked out my window in the morning to see if I could glimpse a body in the dumpsters.

I have also been waking up with nightmares. I have this crazy fear when it is cold outside that I forgot to let the dog back in and he is freezing to death. My son was staying at his friend’s house down the road and was going to be pet sitting. I worried that the dog was out all night. Sometimes at home, I get up to check that the dog is alive and inside. It is a totally irrational fear that I can’t seem to shake.

But you want to hear about the sold out Hamilton?? The musical was greater than I ever expected it to be. Angel sat in front of the computer literally all day the minute the tickets went on sale. She was able to snag tickets for Paul, my mom, her boyfriend Mitch, and I. The tickets had an obstructed view. I had a pole in the middle of my view. Regardless, the show was absolutely awesome. It was worth it!

Then came the long trip back home. We got lost trying to find our car after the show. It seemed like the skyscrapers stopped our navigation from working properly. So we ended up wandering around the streets in our dress clothes in the bitter cold cursing modern technology.

It was so bright in Chicago on the dark night that we failed to notice that our headlights were off. We drove through downtown Chicago and were on the interstate when I noticed that someone opened her car window and was frantically waving at me. It was then that we figured out our lights were off the whole time.

It was at this time that Arabella started calling me. She stayed over at a friend’s for a birthday party and got dropped off at home. She said that she wasn’t feeling well and might have strep. She was feverish and delirious. She complained of being cold. She said that she was going to turn on the oven and open the door to warm up. It freaked me out that she was home alone sick and we were a long way from home.

We finally got home late last night. I checked on Arabella. The house was trashed but the pets were alive. Alex overfed Angel’s fish so that caused a fight. But it was a lot better than our arrival home from Florida last year when our pet sitter was stuck in the snow bank after trying to leave our house that was covered in dog crap, vomit, and urine. Fun times!

I had to take poor Arabella to the doctor today. She does have strep and is delirious when feverish. She was crying and arguing with me about why she should cut her hand off. When asked if anyone else was sick in her house, she responded that the pets were very sick with fleas. She was convinced that the doctor was trying to steal from her. We sure had some interesting conversations.

The saga continues…

 

A flame’s last few flickers¬†

Yesterday I spent the evening in the ICU.

My mother-in-law Martha collapsed on her way to her doctor appointment. An elderly friend of Martha was taking her to her appointment, pulled over when Martha said she was going to be sick, and couldn’t get her back in the car.

The rescue squad transported her to the nearest hospital where they had no room in their ICU. Then they transported her to a hospital a couple of hours away. This was good news for us because Martha was 20 minutes away versus 2 hours away. 

We drove in nervous silence to the hospital. It was a long, windy, and bitterly cold day. It seemed like I had to park miles away from the door. The sharp winds whipped my face and stung. I ran to get in as fast as I could, but I really didn’t want to go. I was afraid of what I would find. I was afraid of how I might respond.

We searched for a long time down empty corridors for Martha’s room. We didn’t know where to go or what was happening. We weren’t sure what to expect. We had many questions and no answers.

We finally found the ICU. Only 2 visitors were allowed at a time. Paul and Angel went in first. While we were waiting, Martha’s husband Darryl arrived. Angel came out crying. My other 2 children went in. Angel sat on my lap and I held her in my arms while she cried. 

Darryl and I were the last ones to enter. Paul helped me tie on my gown and I put latex gloves on as was ICU protocol. Then I saw Martha. She was so weak, sick, and fragile looking. She asked me if I was okay since I looked so tired. Her concern for me was strangely touching as she was the one in the hospital bed hooked up to machines. She was getting a blood transfusion and had a couple more bags being emptied into her body. She had to sign a consent form but couldn’t quite remember how to spell her name. 

She told me that if she didn’t make it home, I should go through her items with the girls and take what I wanted even though she said she doesn’t have much. I told her I would.

It was all very beautiful and ugly at the same time. All of our previous issues faded away into the past. Yet I felt like I was in the way of the nurse. I didn’t know what to do. There was nothing I could do. Nothing but be there for her as her light starts to fade during her flame’s last few flickers.  

Soon our brief time together came to an end. I tore off my gown and threw it in the garbage along with my gloves. I washed my hands in the the sink. Martha told me that she loved me. I told her that I loved her back. 

After a long glance, I walked away and didn’t look back.     

Boot thief

I am going to take the kids to see my mother-in-law this weekend.

The last time I visited, she accused me of stealing her boots. She said that someone, possibly my daughters or I, took her boots and left a pair that looked just like hers behind.

I really didn’t know what to say. Why would I steal my dying mother-in-law’s boots?

I admit, my relationship with my mother-in-law Martha has been rocky at times.

I am structured and overly responsible. Martha is spontaneous and irresponsible. She is usually late and she only does what she feels like doing. If she doesn’t feel like doing something, she won’t do it. She might cancel out last minute after she made a commitment. She usually has good intentions.

She once cancelled out of going to her grandchildren’s birthday party because it was going to be too hot outside and we were having the party outdoors. Or it might rain or might snow. Or she spent all her money at the casino and didn’t have enough for gas. Or she had to work. Or she was sick. Or the hot water heater stopped working and she couldn’t shower. Or the car broke down. Or she needed to go shopping instead. All of these excuses have been used.

Some of my biggest pet peeves are when people don’t do what they say they are going to do or when they cancel out last minute without a good reason.

Most of the time, I didn’t argue. The handful of times that I did over the past 20 some years angered Martha enough not to talk to me for years. Martha is always right. It was never her fault. It’s not worth arguing. I just nod my head and smile if I disagree. It is not worth having my children not have their grandma in their lives over.

I am a peaceful person that avoids conflict, but is never at peace. I am the one that is upset. I am the one that is hurt.

I have learned over time to lower my expectations. I am not upset that she accused me of stealing her boots. Martha is a difficult person. Paul and I talk about the things that bother us so it doesn’t fester into something bigger.

Really, what does Martha care if I am upset??

She is the biggest owner of rose colored glasses that I know. She is happy. She talks of all the things she is going to do when she kicks this terminal cancer. She is happy while she is getting chemo. She thinks she is getting better. She has always lived in her dream world of lies. She is happy. She is happy. She is happy..

I am a realist and I am completely miserable.

Some have called me a pessimist and I would argue. But I would admit I am not an optimist. I want to have both feet on the ground. I want to know the facts. I want to know the truth. I see the world as it really is and sometimes that bothers me.

Is such honesty worth it? Try as I might, I can’t seem to change.

 

Opening the Door..

DSC_0017_copy.JPG

This past weekend, I visited the beautiful Door County located in the thumb of Wisconsin. I even broke some of my rules…

Namely, I was spontaneous. My mom asked me to spend the weekend with her and two of her siblings and their spouses. Less than a weeks notice is spontaneous for me. I did have other plans, like going through my endless pictures to delete them from my server that I almost crashed and cleaning the house for Thanksgiving. But I did blog earlier about needing to put my relationships above cleaning, so I packed my bags and went.

We had a great time away…we played the game Loaded Questions. Great game! We stayed at a large house right on Lake Michigan. The picture above was taken from the front yard. One of the questions asked during the game was what everyone would do on a whim. Most answers involved travel or jumping nude into the lake. Well, except for my mom who answered that she would have a cup of coffee. Hhmm, sad! I don’t take after her… Ha ha ha.

I was tempted to jump into the lake. They had a hot tub near the lake and when I got overheated I was tempted to jump right in. It looked so inviting, despite the cold and all of the empty beaches.

Saturday morning we awoke to the first snow flurries of the season. It was cold and windy. It was so windy at home that trees fell down on power lines and cars. We braved the cold to head out to the winery that morning (where I broke one of my rules). Aunt Jan said that it was too early to drink wine, but she changed her mind. Aunt Jan is usually the one in charge, so we followed her lead. At 10:45 AM, we were sampling wine. Hey, it’s noon somewhere, right?

I ended up buying 5 lbs of pitted tart cherries to make my homemade Thanksgiving pies and a bottle of Summer Breeze wine. They bottle it under the name White Christmas in the winter, but I couldn’t resist the picture of the sailboat on the summer label.

DSC_0060.JPG

The above picture is why we don’t go sailing on Lake Michigan or the bay in the winter. It can be pretty vicious, which is why all of the sailors took their boats out of the water last month. No one wants to be on the water under these conditions. Just think of what happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in the gales of November. Great! Now I am humming the Gordon Lightfoot song!

As I was inching my way along the dock to take this picture, an older gentleman screamed out to me “No further!” People have drowned when waves like this have crashed into the dock knocking them over into and under the water. But I didn’t even get close.

We had a great time in Door County and in case you were wondering, I was able to get my house cleaned too!

30. What I hope to be remembered for

Day 30: List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Do you ever wonder what will happen to Facebook or WP 100 years from now? Do you ever wonder what will happen to all of our old posts, comments, and pictures?

A few months back someone shared a post entitled ‘a picture of grandma’. It showed two pictures side by side. The first picture was a black and white from the early 1900’s showing a women dressed very modestly with her hair up in a bun..then the picture on the other side showed a woman from our modern time..she was taking a selfie in nothing but short shorts and a push up bra with an unmade bed in the background.

At first I laughed, but then I wondered what it would be like to have my great-great grandchildren literally see every part of my documented life.

Generations beyond ours will be able to know everything about us. We are the new pioneers for creating future genealogy records. (Hey, I just found my grandma’s blog). Facebook and WP will probably charge tons of money to grant our descendants access. Have you ever wondered why both are free now?? Ha ha ha. JK!

What will it be like to know what grandma ate for breakfast 75 years ago? I wish I knew more about my ancestors..Maybe not that much info, but still!

My grandma passed away after delivering her eigth child when she was around the age that I am now. I know nothing about her. I don’t even know her birthday. I know nothing about her personality. My mom said that her parents were very happy together and that I would’ve loved her mother. That’s about all.

When I was a little girl, I had 2 great-grandmothers that were still alive. I sure heard a lot of stories about them. I wonder if it was because they were unusual women for their day or if people talk more about the living. Both of my great-grandmas had strong personalities and just happened to outlive the rest of my great-grandparents that I know nothing about.

A decade ago, I got into genealogy to learn everything I could about my family history. I took a class at the local library. I went to several archives. I scoured old records. I found a couple of old newspaper articles. I went to cemetaries. I got a computer program and a membership to Ancestry. I scribbled all my findings onto a family tree.

Even though I got back as far as I could, I could only find birth, marriage, and death dates. Just the facts. What I really wanted to find out was who they really were.

I want to be remembered by my writings. I want my great-great-grandchildren to read my blog and understand me. That is what I want to be remembered for. I am hoping to give what I wanted to receive. I want to be more than my dates on a faded piece of paper.

24. Family dynamics

Day 24: Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

Then:

My parents were married back then and still are now, however there was always a lot of conflict between them. My mom was the breadwinner and the one who did a great majority of the household chores.

I was the firstborn. I was overly responsible, a caregiver, a confidante of my mother, and a problem solver. I felt as if I was always an adult and never a child. I was very serious, mature, moody, and intense. I strongly sided with my mother and found myself playing the part of judge picking sides with either of my youngest two brothers.

The world revolved around my autistic brother Matt. The family centered around his care, wants, and needs. If he wanted to go somewhere, we went. If he decided to stay home, we would stay. Everything was about him, the rest of us took the back burner.

Mark was the invisible child. He didn’t rock the boat. He was quiet, serious, honest, stoic, and hard working. He received attention for his work ethic, otherwise he was totally forgotten. He didn’t seem to have feelings, except the anger and depression that manifested in his teen years. He strongly sided with my dad and it was his job to convince my mom to stay when she wanted to leave.

Luke was the clown and instigator. He demanded attention and refused to let Matt have it all. He did wild and crazy things without consequence because my parents were too worn out to handle it. He rocked the boat every opportunity that he could. He strongly sided with my mother and against Mark and my dad.

The family dynamic was very dysfunctional. We did not work together as a team. The environment was constantly stressful.

Now:

Fast forward things a couple of years….and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ falls in love with ‘Good Will Hunting’. Or if you aren’t familiar with those old movies…the little girl who thought that dysfunction was normal met the little boy without a daddy. We fell in love and got married.. We had no idea what normal or healthy was, but decided to work towards it anyway.

Not long after…we had 3 children..

Our firstborn Angel is our beauty both inside and out. She is overly responsible, honest, and extremely optimistic with a winning personality too. She is a big time people person and would make a great supervisor.

Our middle child, Alex, is the one that rocks the boat. He is honest to a fault. He is smart with a high emotional intelligence. He is not a people person, but can read people well. Sometimes he likes to cut corners, but is willing to work hard if he needs to.

Our youngest, Arabella, is an intellectual. She is very book smart, but can’t seem to read people. She likes people, but also likes to argue. Other than that, she is very easy going.

As a family, I think our dynamics are very healthy. Sure, sometimes there is squabbling. But compared to how Paul and I grew up, our kids have it made.

I guess we are pretty normal…Whatever that is..