The ultimatum, part 4

A business acquaintance once said that he didn’t know any business owners who weren’t alcoholics or divorced.

My husband is a visionary. But he is more than that. He is a doer. He has the ability to take his dreams and put them into action. He sees the potential in the future. I can’t see tomorrow from yesterday. I look at the past for answers, he looks at the future…what is possible.

He had this vision for a start up company. No one else in the area had this business idea, it was a new niche. Running a business is more than just doing what you are good at. It includes many moving parts; finance, sales, marketing, HR, customer service, collections just to name a few. The pressure is immense when your name is on the door and you are the only one providing a source of income for the family.

Paul worked hard even when it took years to see any fruit from his labor. He worked when he was sick. I even dragged him to the office the day after he came home from the hospital from having major surgery. Many nights he came home from work just to work some more after supper. That wasn’t even enough. He wanted to learn everything he could about business. He worked on his MBA while running a business. Most mornings he would go into the office at 5 AM so he could get a few hours of studying in before the phone started ringing.

After ten years, I joined Paul running the business for another ten years. Looking back those were some of the best years of my life. We worked well together. Running a business was rewarding but very stressful. I wanted to be in control but I didn’t want to be in charge like Paul was.

He started having a few drinks after work to take the edge off. It was his reward for a hard days work. It’s an incredible amount of stress making high level decisions that effect the lives of other people. If an employee made a mistake, it was his problem. Every month Paul had a long list of collection calls. It made me sick to hear him have to make those calls. He had to calm down angry customers when they had technology issues that he barely understood himself. He had to make sales calls where he got the door slammed in his face. His phone was always on. We could never get away from it.

Like most things in life, we rarely heard from customers when they were satisfied. They usually called when there were issues and problems.

Getting together with business acquaintances usually involved drinking. Sometimes it meant trying to keep up with the heaviest drinker. Paul would usually say he drank as much as everyone else did. I really didn’t think much about it. Then one night he called me when he was out of town and we had a 20 minute conversation. The next morning he called apologizing profusely for not calling me the evening before. I thought he was joking at first. He didn’t remember calling and having a long conversation with me the night before.

I was starting to notice a new pattern. Paul wasn’t remembering our conversations. Sometimes he would accuse me of not telling him things that I clearly remembered telling him. Sometimes he would say things that upset me and had no recollection the following morning. Talking to him was like talking to myself. Sometimes I would just walk away. Why bother? He wouldn’t remember the conversation.

I didn’t know what to do. Running a business was his life, but the stress of the constant pressure was killing him too. Nothing I could say or do could change it. Then we sold the business. Eventually the high pressure and busyness gave way to a lack of purpose and boredom which wasn’t much better…until he was back in the game with a new business.

 

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.

The ultimatum, part 1

I am finally ready to tell the story of what happened last summer. It’s taken me almost a year to share this post originally written in August of 2019 because it has been tremendously difficult to talk about.

It’s over. At least that is what I thought as we were sailing on the way home from our anniversary trip. I wanted to take my wedding ring off and throw it into the drink. After all, he was throwing away our marriage for the drink.

Just the night before, our wedding anniversary was ruined. He stood at the dock screaming obscenities for everyone to hear. He told me to leave. I quietly walked away. I knew it didn’t pay to fight. He was wasted.

I felt so embarrassed the next morning. I knew that people were near and overheard the anniversary domestic dispute. I pretended that everything was alright. We had a very happy anniversary I said, probably our last I thought.

It would’ve been easier to get drunk that night. If I drink, it is easier to forget that he is drinking. That is the trap I see. Couples that both drown in the drink can’t pull each other out before they sink.

I told him if he doesn’t stop drinking, I would leave him. I meant it too.

It wasn’t always like this. It started out slowly, just a couple drinks a night to take the edge off. But gradually over time, it grew steadily worse. He was a happy drunk. Paul was always the life of the party. He loved everybody and said many kind words, until he wasn’t that way anymore. For awhile he was in control, but then it took control of him.

Paul said he would try to stop drinking, he loves me more. For how long I want him to stop, I am unsure. Tonight will be the test. It’s the night he goes out with his buddies once a week. They might try to pressure him to drink. He will tell them that he screwed up and if he drinks his wife will leave. Paul is afraid of losing his friends and not being fun anymore. But I said if they are truly friends, they will care about you whether or not you drink.

He thanked me for pulling him out when I saw him go under. But I’m not sure he is out of the water yet. I’m happy he is willing to try. I’m glad he ruined our anniversary because that was the catalyst for change.

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.

Gratitude week 24

  1. This school year is finally in the books!! I think my daughter passed all of her classes. For the first time, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen…so that is tons of stress off of me!
  2. Summer!! Mother Nature has been moody this year. It’s either been hot, humid, and rainy or cool, dry, and windy. I almost froze this weekend sleeping in my winter pajamas. Some days we need the heat and others the A/C, but we are saving money by keeping both off.
  3. For the first time in my lifetime a tropical storm passed through the state of Wisconsin setting records. I almost felt like I did get that trip to Florida. Just another thing to add to the list this year of weird historical events I’ve lived through. Our foreign exchange student had her 16th birthday and party the day the storm hit. Talk about memorable.
  4. I finished a self(?)-help marriage book this past week. I realized I am an avoidant marriage partner. I like to take care of myself and not ask for help. I tend to hide out in my shell and have to be drawn out. As an introvert avoider raised by two introvert avoiders, I don’t tend to reach out to others as a source of comfort. I sometimes wonder if blogging is another way of avoiding relationships with other people. I am grateful for books that bring about more self-awareness.
  5. I also finished the colitis for dummies book. I learned a lot of helpful information. I also met with my wellness nurse this past week. I expressed frustration over not feeling good after going for almost a year. She still thinks she can help me but said that I have a lot of things going on in my body that have been that way for decades and are resistant to change. She gave me her personal contact info which she doesn’t give out to any of her other clients so I can update her on my progress. I feel like I can trust her. I am working hard with the nurse, counselor, and craniosacral therapist to heal my body. It seems almost voodoo like to have to purge all the junk I’ve stored in my body for so long to deal with the trauma in my life.
  6. I bought some flowers this week to decorate the outside of my house.
  7. I have been working with a mentor the last couple months on a Bible study on anxiety. When talking about what to do next, I suggested a couples study on marriage. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression my whole life but I haven’t been married that long. It’s something we want to work on with someone who has been married longer than us.
  8. I’m grateful my husband spent the weekend away working. His new business is taking off and I am happy about that since it was something we worried about.
  9. Flavored sparkling water.
  10. I’m grateful my daughter will be coming home for a visit this week.

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.

 

Gratitude week 23

  1. I am finally feeling like I am making progress on my self-improvement project.
  2. Summer weather!!
  3. I was able to get out on the sailboat for the first time this season.
  4. Things went better than I expected taking care of my autistic brother Matt. He adapted to our family well. More on this later.
  5. Taking care of my brother allowed my mom to get away with her sisters for a few days. It felt good to be able to give her a break. She decided she didn’t want to let fear control her life.
  6. I’m grateful our best friends had a really good experience with the foreign exchange student our daughter talked them into hosting. It was sad to say farewell to him over the weekend, but I’m grateful for the experience they had and we have had with our foreign exchange students. They are all awesome which says a lot since I’ve heard quite a few horror stories.
  7. I’m grateful that Paul’s new business is doing better than he thought it would.
  8. I’m grateful that for the first time I had a good experience singing in church. It has been difficult at times singing about the love I feel or the trust I have in God when I am struggling with that. Not only that, but I was able to sing relatively anxiety free. There were times that family issues made me feel panic or the thought of having to run to the bathroom in the middle of the service was terrifying.
  9. I’m grateful to have a clean house today.
  10. I’m grateful for the times I feel like everything is normal. That’s saying a lot because the last few months have been far from normal in so many ways.

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.