(A)part of the family

I feel like I don’t belong to my family of origin anymore. I can’t say I remember ever feeling that way before.

It started when I went up north to spend time with my brother Luke, his daughter Gracie, and my mom Saturday morning. I’d driven several hours after spending the night on the boat with Paul. I didn’t sleep well the night before, actually several nights before. I’ve been feeling fatigued for awhile now. I don’t have the energy I had before. I think it’s a normal part of aging. Other than that I was feeling like my normal self.

My brother Luke asked me what my story was. I asked him what he meant. He asked why I seemed so quiet and sad. I assured him I was fine. Yes, I am tired, quiet, and sad. That is my normal state. I was not feeling troubled in any way. There really wasn’t much to say. He almost seemed offended I didn’t have much to talk about. He accused me of being hungover from the night before. I was offended by his statement. Did he not know me? I told him I have not been puking drunk since 1995 when I was 21 and some old guy kept buying me shots at the bar. I was so sick I missed class the next morning. I told myself that day it wouldn’t happen again and it didn’t. I drink, but I don’t get drunk to the point where I am puking and hungover.

I felt judged by my brother the whole time I was there and it was miserable. I didn’t do anything to deserve being treated that way. He and his daughter Gracie pretty much judged me and everyone in my family except my son Alex.

Luke said someone he knew died the day after he retired because he got in a car accident from a teenager that was texting. My mom told everyone that my daughter Arabella texts while she drives. Then everyone launched into how bad Arabella is. I don’t even know if it is true. My mom just likes to add fuel to the fire. I’ve never seen my daughter text while driving. Yes, she probably uses her phone to play music and navigate. Who doesn’t? Why would my daughter tell my mom anyway? If it was really true and my mom was concerned, why didn’t she tell me in private? Now I am worried that my brother and niece will confront her about it during her graduation party this weekend.

Then my brother found some cigars in the back of the cupboard. My niece confronted me asking if I was a smoker. I told them they belonged to my husband. On special occasion he will have a cigar, like once every couple of years. There was a four pack of little cigars with one missing. I believe my husband smoked that cigar at least 7 years ago. I don’t know why they were making a big deal out of it. He wasn’t breaking any law.

Then my brother told me that he didn’t feel like his daughters would be welcome at my daughter’s wedding because of the music she was planning on playing at the reception. My daughter as a music major picked out her whole playlist of songs already. From 6 to 8, it will be jazzy dinner music like Frank Sinatra. Then from 8 to 10 she picked family friendly dance music like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Then from 10 to 12 she wants to play club music. Some of the music may not be appropriate for younger kids. But usually by later in the night the little ones go home anyway. I listened to the music and I don’t think it is anything out of the norm for a wedding. My nieces will be 13 and 15 when my daughter gets married so I think they can handle it. If not, I can remind him of the music he listened to at their age.

Then he also was judgmental that my daughter Angel went to the bar up north for her birthday. She is 23. We walked to the bar, had one drink, and played a round of darts. He was upset at the neighbors for drinking and swearing. I just can’t relax around him. I can’t crack open a beer and listen to the music I like. Everything I do, don’t do, or even think about doing is wrong to him. He is not much fun to be around. He expects everyone to be perfect, especially his kids.

We couldn’t even play a game and have fun. My mom had a really bad hand and said oh shit. He launched into her about her language.

I felt attacked and judged by my brother the whole time. I hope this is just a one off thing. Maybe he is just really stressed out or something. Everyone in my family is so dysfunctional and negative that I feel really down after a visit. I am considering not even hosting the holidays this year. Maybe I need to say no more for my own mental health. It’s really hurtful to be attacked and have my husband and/or kids attacked when I am hanging out with family. We didn’t do anything to deserve to be treated this way. Not only that but my brother has not even seen or talked to some of my kids in over a year. He doesn’t even know us.

The funny thing is my brother Luke was one of the wildest people I knew. He was wilder as a teenager than probably all three of my kids put together. He treats me like I am a bad person and parent. He is really strict with his kids. I actually was angry at first but now I feel sorry for him because he seems absolutely miserable.

We’ll see what the weekend brings and go from there.

Gratitude week 79

  1. Arabella was the only server that showed up to work on the 4th of July. So, yeah, I think they forgot about the day she slept through her whole shift.
  2. The fireworks were absolutely amazing over the lake.
  3. Summer! I was able to spend a lot of time on the water over the holiday weekend. The weather has been crazy this year. It has been extremely hot, in the 90’s, for the last couple of days. Later this week it’s supposed to be in the 60’s with rain. It’s either been incredibly hot or cool and rainy.
  4. I saw all three of my brothers this past weekend, one of my brothers I haven’t seen since before COVID.
  5. I put on my new boxing gloves for the first time this past week. My son is teaching me how to box. I gotta have nice looking arms for the wedding.
  6. It’s my birthday month. I can’t believe my birthday is next week already. I’m thankful for another year of life.
  7. I’m grateful that my husband was able to buy a new battery for Arabella’s car when it died.
  8. I’m grateful that he was also able to take our son in to get a new phone when it died.
  9. I’m grateful for the family that sent my daughter engagement gifts. It was very thoughtful of them.
  10. I was finally able to spend time with my nieces for the first time this year.

Gratitude week 76

  1. Arabella found a waitressing job! I am grateful she has a job now.
  2. I forgot to mention this one sooner…Last year my mom, Arabella, and I were planning on going to Europe with the school group on a music tour. Because of COVID the trip got cancelled and the tour company kept $1900 per person. Hundreds of people joined a lawsuit against this company and we won. We got our money back. I can understand if the company kept a couple hundred dollars as a processing fee for the work done, but $1900 that a lot of students (and parents) worked hard to earn and fundraise for. I’m grateful for justice.
  3. Friday night we went to a surprise birthday party for the guy my husband works for in the off season of our business. It was held at a bar and grill that had a live band. We ended up seeing a lot of people we knew that we didn’t see since before the pandemic. Everyone was dancing and partying like it was 1999. It was so nice to see everyone and hear live music again.
  4. We had our first graduation party for the summer this past weekend as well. Again, it was nice to see people I haven’t seen since the pandemic. Although I’m not much of a social butterfly, it’s nice to have the choice to attend parties again.
  5. My son is turning 21 this week and I have his birthday all planned out for him. (He wanted me to plan everything which totally surprised me!).
  6. Talking about birthdays, my brother Mark called me today to wish me a happy birthday. Funny thing is, it’s not my birthday. He was off by a month. But it was great to talk to him since I haven’t seen nor talked to him since before COVID.
  7. I also talked to my brother Luke and saw my brother Matt over the weekend. I haven’t gotten this much attention from my brothers since before COVID. Strange but nice!
  8. I spent the last couple of days up north. It was nice to relax, read a book, go for a walk, kayak, and swim. Last night I spent the evening up north by myself. It was a little creepy since a storm blew through at night. I can’t remember the last time I was truly alone. I didn’t really like it. But I did like to eat what I wanted to, listen to the music I liked, and just do whatever.
  9. I totally whipped my mom playing cribbage. I know, I know. But I enjoy being competitive.
  10. Summer!!!! I totally broke down and put on the A/C. In my defense, we had the earliest heat wave ever recorded. We had a good week of hot and humid days in the 90’s. Some summers we don’t even see temps in the 90’s, very rarely in June. It hardly gets over 80 in June. But apparently not this summer when I wanted to make it without air conditioning to save money. But I love it hot and want to spend as much time as possible pool side, at the beach, or on a boat.

Gratitude week 63

  1. There was one I forgot from last week. Before my daughter went into residential, she had her dental exam. With her asking for her new toothbrush in advance so she could brush in the bathroom right before her appointment and her candy bingeing, I was a little worried about what they might find. Not only that, but she was having some dental pain with her wisdom teeth. The dentist said that she didn’t have any cavities AND so far all of her wisdom teeth are coming in like they should. So it’s looking good that she won’t need wisdom teeth extraction. I didn’t even know that was possible! LOL!! On a side note, I’m sure my daughter Angel will be upset to hear that. She is my only kid that brushes and flosses probably more than I do. Her siblings always did the bare minimum and she always ended up with the cavities. It always made her mad when the dentist told her to brush and floss more and told her siblings to keep up what they are doing.
  2. Talking about Angel, she is coming back home today until she finds her own place!! Her boyfriend Dan came down with COVID a couple weeks back while she was visiting him at his parents house. They all holed up in quarantine there. Dan got really sick. My daughter and his mom got sick too, but his dad who we were all worried about ended up being just fine. They were sick for a good week and a half. It even went away for a day or two and came back with a vengeance. I’m grateful that they all have returned to health and that my daughter is coming back home!
  3. I’m grateful for the warm and a few rainy days that pretty much decimated all of our snow. I’m ready for spring although there is a chance for more snow this week…
  4. I’m glad that our first telehealth meeting with Arabella’s therapist at residential went really well.
  5. I’m grateful for some time for me to get my hair and nails done. I even decided to color my hair again and went a little darker. It must seem natural as no one really noticed it yet except Angel when I was facetiming her.
  6. I had my success story interview with the wellness clinic this week. It went pretty good. I’m going to be my worst critic, this I know. The lady that interviewed me was very nice. She said that I was beautiful and could be a motivational speaker. I was excited for the opportunity but it was rather terrifying and I did lose a little sleep over it. Now my husband is going to the wellness clinic.
  7. I’m grateful for the visit from my best friend. She made some deviled eggs for me and left them here for me to eat.
  8. Since the weather was nice yesterday, I’m grateful that I was able to go for a run outside without being too cold.
  9. I’m grateful that my son found his lost wallet.
  10. I’m grateful that I can start spending time with my mom again since she is fully vaccinated.

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?