50 years and a million tears

Today is my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It is a huge milestone that should be celebrated yet I feel conflicted. They have been unhappily married for probably a good 49 of those years. They are miserable together, but they did stick it out.

My mom acts like everything is normal between them as if the police couldn’t show up at any moment and haul my dad away. I don’t know how she can live that way. She would rather stay with him then start over without him. I think if it was me I would’ve left a long time ago.

I think my mom’s life would’ve been better if she never married my dad. Maybe she should’ve left him for good that time he was mean to her before we were even born. I think my dad would have been better suited as a single man without children. He just wasn’t good husband and father material despite the fact that his parents were wonderful people.

I know that if my mom didn’t stay my brothers and I would never have been born. I wouldn’t have my children. I wouldn’t have my nieces. There wouldn’t be me. How can I say that it would be better if my parents weren’t ever together if it threatens our very existence?

What would the world be like without me ever being here? How can I say what is best for someone else if it would obliterate my existence and those of my siblings? I have to look at the good that came out of their relationship. Sometimes good things do come out of bad situations.

I examine my life sometimes more than George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. There must be a reason we are here or we wouldn’t be. Right?

I will not send my parents a sappy card that says I want a marriage just like theirs. Quite the contrary, from them I learned I wanted something different.

For their anniversary they are getting a snow storm cold and blustery. It’s not a lot different from their wedding day or their marriage.

I wish them the best, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish things were different.

Maybe it was the fried eggs

Maybe it was the fried eggs.

It’s been a rough couple of days since we got back home. There is so much to catch up on it makes me wonder if it was worth it to get away.

This morning our dog stopped eating. I think it might be time for him to cross the rainbow bridge. Angel said that he didn’t eat much on one of the days we were gone. Maybe he got into something or someone else fed him I thought. When we got home everything seemed to be fine. Yesterday I took him for a walk. Then he got sick later that night. He pretty much stopped eating and is shivering a lot. I called the vet and got him an appointment for Friday afternoon. I got the number for the emergency vet just in case.

I feel sad that his end may be near. He’s been a part of our family for the last 13 years. If I think about it too much I want to cry.

Maybe it was just the fried eggs. That is what my son said.

Yesterday there was a big fight, or maybe it was the day before. It wasn’t over something that big. Each of the kids had chores to do while we were gone. I told them, however, that they were in charge of cooking and cleaning the mess for themselves. Angel is pretty anal. She cooked and cleaned up right away. Alex not so much. He tends to procrastinate and that is where the trouble started. Angel got on his case about cleaning up his mess and he didn’t respond all that well to being told what to do by his older sister.

I thought it was relatively minor and everything would blow over once we got home. Boy was I wrong. Angel and Alex got into a huge fight. I felt like I was their referee. Although I sided more with Angel, I could understand why Alex did not want to be told what to do by his sister. The fight devolved into name calling and ended when Alex threw a fried egg at his sister.

I took each kid aside and had a conversation with them about the fight. I listened to their point of view, validated it, and encouraged them to work it out. There are things that both of them did wrong and it pains me to see them wreck their relationship over a petty little fight. Neither one would hear of it though. Angel said she was moving out and staying at her boyfriend’s house with him and his parents for awhile. Apparently they never have conflict at their house like I do at mine.

When I finished talking to Alex I told him he needed to clean up the mess he made with the eggs. But by the time we finished our talk he lucked out because the dog gobbled it up.

Fast forward to today. My son thought maybe the dog was sick because he ate the eggs. I googled if eggs were bad for dogs. I found out that eggs are good for dogs especially ones with upset stomachs. It’s not the eggs. If only the answers were that easy to find.

I wish I could tell you by the end of this post that everything is fine but it’s clearly not. Instead of talking things out with her brother, my daughter avoided it by leaving. It’s probably something that I would do. Oftentimes I also avoid talking about problems with people I am upset with. My son didn’t seek out his sister and apologize either. They were getting along so well before we left, better than they ever did before. Then everything fell apart. It’s very upsetting to me to have such conflict and strife between them.

I don’t know what is wrong with our dog either but I don’t think it was the fried eggs.

Bad luck Luke

I got some bad news today.

My brother Luke was diagnosed with kidney disease. It is irreversible. He is not to the point of dialysis and hopefully if he keeps on a strict diet it will not progress further.

How could something like this happen? My brother is a health nut. Why??

Apparently all it took was being very sick, taking too much OTC pain reliever, and becoming dehydrated to lose over half of his kidney function. Without a family history of kidney problems, the doctor could offer no other possible causes. Who would’ve guessed something like this could happen to someone young and healthy? Did lifelong intense stress weaken his kidneys?

Today when I found out about my brother I felt a lot of anxiety. But the strange thing is that I felt anxiety about something else. The first thing I did was worry about the garbage. Today is garbage day and I had this irrational fear that I threw out my son’s wallet when I grabbed the garbage out of his bathroom. Totally crazy!

Then I started to feel anger. Why would God allow this to happen to my brother! Then I felt sadness. I almost cried when I thought what it would be like to watch my baby brother die. What about his family? Life is just not fair. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do healthy people get sick?

Life, it’s taking the cards you have been dealt and playing your best game. It’s lifelong growing, building, and change. It’s not guaranteed to be pain free, but if you give it your best shot it’s worth it. Time is short and I want to look back satisfied that I did the best I could. I did not give up when things got rough, instead I tried harder.

I want a rock solid marriage. That is something else worth fighting for. Someday I might have to ask him if he loves me enough to donate a kidney. They are the same blood type if that matters, whereas the rest of us are not.

This post was originally written back in November. It was one of the drafts I saved because I was not ready to accept this much less post it. It’s hard to think of my brother as sick. Who knew that in a few months I would follow him down the path of illness. I feel bad because his life has been very difficult. It’s not fair. I wanted so much more for him. 

 

Gratitude week 7

  1. Another compliment on my hair this week. Again, it was after I ran 8 miles and hadn’t washed it in like 4 days. Gross! The lady loved my hair and asked what color it was. I replied that my hair is gray. She thought I dyed my hair, but instead I am not coloring it anymore.
  2.  After spending the week in California, Paul passed the class he was taking. Not everyone else did. I am grateful for a smart husband interested in life long learning.
  3.  Due to stormy weather in Chicago, my husband’s Wednesday night flight home was cancelled. He rescheduled his flight for Thursday which also got cancelled. Thankfully he was able to catch another flight home on Thursday. Thankfully his trip was delayed on the back end so he didn’t miss any of his classes.
  4.  I was grateful to have my brother Luke and his family spend the weekend here. We haven’t seen them in two months and it was great to visit.
  5.  Paul and I had a double date on Valentine’s Day with Luke and his wife Emily.
  6.  I’m thankful I was able to have some deep conversations with Luke, Emily, and Paul.
  7.  I’m grateful my husband was able to make it home in time to meet up with a good friend who is moving away.
  8.  I’m grateful that I found a book on Complex PTSD. I started it this week and so many things are making sense to me now.
  9.  I am grateful to try another new therapy this week in hopes of additional healing.
  10.  I am grateful for a quiet week ahead.

Who’s your daddy?

By far the strangest thing that happened last week was finding out who Paul’s dad is.

A couple months back, a relative on Ancestry emailed asking how Paul and him were related. I replied back that I didn’t know and gave him what info I had.

Last week I got a message on Ancestry from this man stating that he thought he knew who Paul’s father is. There were some things that added up and some things that didn’t. Then I saw the man’s picture and was convinced that he was Paul’s dad.

My mom and I were working on our genealogy project but had to leave before I could show her the picture. I promised I would login and show her when we got back.

When we got back, I logged into Ancestry preparing to show my mom the picture of who we thought was Paul’s dad when I noticed I got another message stating that the mystery was solved. Paul’s relative found out who Paul’s dad is and it wasn’t the first guy. He left me his phone number to call for more info. I was debating whether or not to call him right away since it was after 10 PM his time. But I figured I would give it a try.

I found out that Paul is this man’s second half cousin. His cousin only met Paul’s dad once when he was little and didn’t know him well. We talked for an hour, then I decided to do some more digging. Paul’s dad passed away in 2010 at the age of 62. I haven’t been able to figure out the cause of death yet, but I did find out that his dad has 4 other children.

Paul has 4 siblings! He has nieces and nephews. He has a whole family that he didn’t even know about. So I did what any average person would do in 2019. I stalked them on Facebook. I tried to gather as much info as I could about their lives.

From what I gathered, one of the siblings seems to be doing fairly well. The rest seem to struggle. His youngest sibling had some trouble with the law. I think that Paul was probably better off not knowing his dad. At his funeral, they didn’t want flowers. They just wanted money to put towards the cost of his funeral expenses.

I only saw 3 pictures of his dad. In his obituary photo, he was wearing a tux and in a church maybe for a wedding. Paul looks nothing like his dad. There was a picture of his dad holding a fish. There was a picture of his dad hooked up to machines in a hospital bed. I didn’t get the feeling of a tight close knit family. There weren’t any smiling family photos. He didn’t leave behind a grieving wife.

When Paul got home later that evening, I had big news to share. I found your dad. He is dead. By the way, you have 4 siblings. As you can imagine, it was all very overwhelming. But a couple of days later, Paul said he felt closure. The mystery has been solved.

I’m not sure what we will do with the information, but now we know.

Speaking instead of talking about it

Last week I had a meeting scheduled with someone from the local autism chapter. In a couple of months, I am scheduled to be on a panel as a sibling talking to parents about my story. What does this mean?

I am going to be given an hour to talk to parents of autistic children on how it feels to be a sibling. An hour! I will write my own presentation where I will speak in front of parents for 45 minutes and then have a 15 minute question and answer segment.

I did not know that I would be doing public speaking. Alone! In front of an audience. She also asked if I felt comfortable being recorded. Absolutely! I have no fear in doing any of this. In all honesty, I always saw myself doing this some day.

I also told her that I started writing a book about my experience as a sibling. She thought it was a great idea and also thought that there was a niche out there for a book like mine. No one else is doing this. She said she knew a publisher that would eat my book up if I decided that I wanted to publish my story. She said that she could also link my public speaking to this blog and would do what she could to promote my book.

She said that in previous videos, she received up to 7,000 views. People just love personal stories. This is where my fear started. I am not afraid to be a public speaker. I am not afraid to talk to strangers about my very personal experiences. I think it is powerful and moving. But, and here is the big but, I am afraid to tell my story to people I know.

I am afraid of getting more followers. I am afraid to put myself out there. I am rather paranoid about being found in all reality. That scares me. I’m not even sure why. Who cares, really? I won’t let anyone in. I have never told my friends my story, maybe just bits and pieces. My friends have asked to follow my blog and I told them that it is too personal.

I refuse to use my real name. But it is getting bigger. It is starting to snowball and I’m afraid I can’t stop it. But the question remains, why do I want to stop it? Isn’t it time to let people in?

This is my struggle, I want to tell my story but I don’t want anyone to know about it. I don’t know why this scares me more than public speaking. You would think I would want to talk about it with friends and family before speaking about it to strangers.

Has anyone else ever experienced this? How do I get over this fear?

Doubt

Would you be willing to hurt people you are closest to in order to help strangers?

Fear that is toxic. Anxiety whispers an endless echoing rhyme. Worry incessant. Doubt creeps in like a vine that entwines the wrestling demons running around in my mind.

I’m not sure I can do it. It’s too risky. Who do I think I am? Do I really think this will be a bestseller? Do I really think that my poison will be a tonic? Do I really think that my story is going to make a difference, change things?

Really, Alissa, you couldn’t even save your own family.

The thoughts painfully pierce my poorly healed wounds. The scabs tear away and bleed onto my parched paper skin. The memories scratch at the demons inside. They wreck havoc on my mind. Tears slip from my eyes.

Now I understand why there aren’t a lot of siblings telling their stories. I get it now. It is too painful. If the story is going to be effective, I have to be brutally honest. But that honesty is going to hurt, not just myself but other people.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a lady from the local autism group. She wants me to be on a panel representing siblings of autistic children in front of a group of parents. There are not a lot of programs available for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I think that is very tragic if a child needs help and doesn’t receive it because they aren’t special enough.

My goal is to write a book about my story as a sibling. I want to advocate for siblings. My thought was to write a book and donate a certain amount of the proceeds to go towards helping siblings that are struggling through support groups and therapy, etc. Just how it is all going to come together is not totally known to me at this time. I would be willing to donate my time and money to help other’s struggling through what I’ve experienced.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some answers. But as for today, I never want to write again. I want to delete my blog. I want to throw the book that I started into the trash. I feel unsettled, almost angry and sad. Restless.

I am at a crossroad of sorts. Will it make a difference? Am I just picking at scabs and bleeding out into my words? Will it heal me? Or will it hurt me and those I love? Should I just let it go?

Will I be able to help others? Am I being delusional that I can make a difference? Would it be worth it if my story can help someone contemplating suicide if  my family turns away from me? Maybe my vision is too grandiose?

I am absolutely terrified, but I think it will be worth it.

What if I don’t help anyone and end up alienating myself from my family? Do I have the strength and courage to do what needs to be done?

I have my doubts.

Goal 3: Start the process of writing a book

For a very long time, I was angry about the things that happened to me in my childhood. Why did my family struggle so much when other families had it all together? I think it was a miracle to survive with most of my sanity intact.

What is the purpose of struggle? What are we supposed to do with what we have been through?? Personally, I believe by successfully surviving my obligation is to reach out and help others going through similar circumstances. I have always felt this way but I was never sure how to do it.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to process my experiences in life honestly. But I found it to be lacking. I don’t feel like I have been able to reach my target audience so to say. They haven’t found me and I haven’t found them either. Maybe there are few that can relate to my life story. Where is everybody? Why aren’t you writing about it? Maybe it just takes a long time to process it like it did for me.

I told myself that once I retired I would write my story. I always put it off into some future place. Then I found myself without a job.

I’ve tried to find books even other blogs of people out their with similar stories and found nothing. How can there be a void? Nothing?? I decided that I am going to be the one to write the story. I don’t think that it will be easy, but I do think it will be worthwhile.

I am going to write the story of a sibling growing up in the 1980’s with a violent autistic brother. This was a time when autism wasn’t an epidemic. This was a time of very limited services. This was a time where my mother was blamed for his violent behavior. This was the time where I was expected to give up my childhood to be a caregiver. I also had two other younger siblings and an abusive father which will be woven into the story.

So I will be processing more journals from my childhood in the weeks to come and compiling everything together to start the process.

I also have some exciting news. My new friend Sue, who is a child psychologist that works with autistic children specifically, put me in touch with someone from her agency. I will be meeting with this person at the end of the month. I have been asked to be put on a panel as a sibling to work with parents. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I feel like this is a huge step forward in being able to help others who are going through what I have been through.

I am very excited about where this could lead even if I am only able to help one person through my experiences. Struggle does have a purpose, I just needed to find mine.

 

 

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

The brewer’s wife

Recently I met someone new under unusual circumstances. We met through our realtor, at a party she was hosting with a stranger at the stranger’s house. Generally this was out of my comfort zone as an introvert. Paul, the extrovert, said that he didn’t care either way if we went. It was rare to have a weekend evening free at the end of summer. Even rarer was that the introvert was all excited to go. I wanted to meet some new people in the neighborhood.

The party had an eclectic variety of home brews that were remarkably good. Paul said that he wanted to thank the brewer for offering up his marvelous beer. We had a long conversation with the brewer and he stated that he loved sharing his beer with friends. I jokingly asked him how we could become friends.

Skip a month ahead…I was planning Paul’s 50th birthday party. I was wondering what to do about drinks. I was already planning on having the food catered in. Then I thought of the brewer. I asked him if he would be willing to share his beer with us for the party. I offered to pay him which apparently was illegal. Whoops! I didn’t know. He said he wouldn’t accept money, but would do it for a friend. So we set up his kegerator at our house with 3 of his home brews.

After the party, we invited the brewer and his wife over for supper and to pick up the kegerator. Now the brewer’s wife is a doctor of psychology. Most of her clients are autistic. She also works with their families.

I had my first one on one conversation with the doctor. I ended up telling her a lot of things that I don’t even tell my closest friends after knowing them for years. I told her about the day on the lake that my brother almost drowned. That day, at age 6, I was left alone to watch my 3 younger brothers swim.  Alissa would certainly yell if there was a problem, but Alissa didn’t. I told her that since I was in grade school I felt like an adult.

I told her that I was homeschooled from 8th grade through 10th grade because my autistic brother was too violent to go to school. I told her that I lived my late middle school and early high school years in great isolation from my peers. I told her how I was a caretaker for my brother. Instead of going out with friends on a Saturday night, I helped shower my autistic brother. I told her that for many years I was a massive bruise from when my brother hit/hurt me. I told her the hardest part was that he never was told that hurting me was wrong.

I told her of my restrictions because those things could set Matt off. I wasn’t allowed to use hair spray, wear nail polish, or perfume. We had to dip our tooth brushes in peroxide and baking soda for awhile. I told her that my dad was abusive. I told her how I sometimes have flashbacks.

She said that lots of times special needs siblings have issues with addiction or depression. She said that the depression rate of special needs siblings is 50% compared to 6% of the regular population. But she said that the state lacks funding to have programs for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I find that very sad.

I told the doctor that I would be willing to speak to parents or siblings about my experiences. I told her if my story could help a couple others who are struggling, it wouldn’t all be in vain.

That evening, they left the kegerator at our house promising to get together soon to pick it up.

The next day I apologized for being so candid. I told her that I don’t usually share personal things with complete strangers about my life (outside of this blog). She told me that she was honored that I shared my story and that for everything I’ve been through it’s surprising that I am a solid person. (She also said she would be sending a bill which I hope she did not mean!!!).

She said that she was planning on finding a way for me to share my story of hope with others who are struggling. I’m not sure if anything will come of it or not.

I’ve always felt like my purpose is to help others…to write about it…to speak about it…

God works in mysterious ways…sometimes he works through beer.