Monthly Archives: July 2017

Mourning the Living

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Mourning the Living

Grief isn’t just for the recently deceased. Sometimes it’s for those we must purposely leave behind. We’ve all experienced it at some point….a bad break up, a friendship that can’t weather a bad storm, or a relative that is doing more harm than good. Grief paints with a broad brush.

Anger is my emotion of choice when dealing with the hard stuff. Some would call it a crutch, a better description is a shield. It protects me from the deeper, darker emotions that come from grieving the still living. My shield is past it’s expiration and the wear and tear is breaking it down, leaving me with profound sorrow.

Perhaps you have been there. Maybe you’ve experienced a relationship so broken or toxic that it is beyond repair. That’s the spot I’m in right now. The fact that it involves a parent, makes it especially harsh. So many missed opportunities for myself and my children, displaced by someone who is either incapable or unwilling to care. It’s sad and I need to allow myself a moment to acknowledge that.

Grieving the living is tricky business because it is ultimately a choice. It may be the most healthy, sane choice you can make for yourself. Self preservation doesn’t come cheap. I have spent years trying to fight the undertow of my mother’s mental illness. The constant tug to take me under while I continue to tread water is causing my head to bob up and down. It’s at my chin now and I refuse to go under any further. That leaves me with one option, to pluck myself out of the water and walk away.

Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

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Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

I’m trying to balance compassion and self-preservation and it’s a bitch. My mother has certifiable mental illness. She has a long history of mental illness issues including hospital stays for suicide attempts and alcoholism. She is generally miserable and unable to maintain long-term relationships. She has seen doctors and specialists by the dozens, she’s had inpatient stays in psych wards, has more than 3 decades into 12 step recovery and has tried every pill known to big pharma to treat depression. She has been on disability for at least 25 years for her depression so it’s well documented. Sometimes though, the lines blur between her mental illness and her just being a shitty human. Other times she is amazingly thoughtful and generous, mostly to strangers or acquaintances. She saves the gnarly stuff for my brother and me, we are the only relatives that have stuck it out.

I’m not sure when her mental health issues began. She has told me a lot about her life (too much if I’m honest) and I know she always had a terrible relationship with her brother. In fact she had a rough go of it with both of her parents as well. Was that due to their treatment of her, her mental illness or some other sad combination….I don’t know. I do know this, misery is her most frequent companion. If there isn’t something to lament about, her razor-sharp mind will find something obscure and mold it into a formidable monster.

She’s smart, so very smart that it makes pitying her as a sick person near impossible at times. Master manipulator and rationalizer extraordinaire, check and check. She can twist the most innocuous situation and turn it into filth and wretchedness. She has left a wake of destruction behind her. When she goes, she goes big, in a huff…..a cloud of confusion, hurt and anger swirling around her like her own personal tornado. It’s sad, infuriating and exhausting.

I have to mentally remind myself that she is sick. Like cancer, diabetes, MS, lupus, fill in the blank…..except it isn’t like that at all. If your mom has cancer she doesn’t typically say “I wish you were never born” repeatedly to you as a young child. Diabetes doesn’t abandon you in the state of Florida to go to New Jersey when you are 9. MS doesn’t call you a “whore” because you over did the eye shadow and lip stick at 14. Cancer won’t leave you and your brother homeless at 15  because mom doesn’t have it together. Lupus doesn’t tell you that you’re a bad person because your husband bought his dream house, the one he worked his ass off for, but it’s too big so you’re all horrible people. Mental illness and alcoholism does that, not the other diseases. So I’m a bit tired of the mental illness is just like any other disease line, no it fucking isn’t.

So now I have a 72-year-old broken down mentally ill mother who has basically treated me like shit most of my life. And as much as I want to let go of past bad experiences, they keep reinserting themselves into present day. Every time she makes an unreasonable demand or is inconsiderate I am haunted by the ghost of reason that says – “seriously, why are you doing this for her?”

Why indeed. I’m a good person and I don’t want her to haunt me when she dies and she would. I have had my share of obstacles that I have overcome and I basically cheer for the underdog. At this point I’m not sure which one of us is the underdog. I think it’s me today. Yesterday I told my mother to “fucking move then”.  What got me to this point beyond the cumulative effect of 49 years of insanity?

I bought a house at the beach in New Jersey in 1999. It was a struggle to purchase it and I did it on my own before I got married. That house was a testament to my financial and emotional independence. It was one of the most empowering things I ever did as a young woman. Fast forward 14 years and I no longer needed the house. We hadn’t lived there in years. My brother and his family lived there for 5 years and they moved away. My husband and I have a beautiful home in a neighboring state. After Hurricane Sandy, we began to worry that at some point it would get destroyed in a storm and we would lose the financial appreciation. I sold the house a few years ago and tripled my investment. As someone who had been a reluctant, accidental SAHM for a decade it felt great to make a financial contribution to my family. I also used a portion of that money to buy a small house in a nearby adult community. I bought a place for my mother because she was so unhappy where she lived. For nearly 10 years she complained about her living situation.I also thought it would be more practical to have her closer to me as she aged. My brother moved to Maine so he can’t help with medical or other issues that require hands on assistance.

Fast forward another 3 years and there isn’t a week that goes by that she doesn’t complain to me about something. Some of it is normal life stuff, a few ants, a nosy neighbor, the air filters. The air filters get to me. My mom smokes about a pack a day but INSISTS that the air filters in her house get changed on a monthly basis. She complains a lot about her financial situation which has always been awful. I bought the house so there is no mortgage but there is an association fee that she pays. She also has utilities and other bills. It is a stretch for her and I help with some of it.

The other day she called to tell me that I “had to pay” her Comcast bill so she could pay out-of-pocket to see an eye doctor that isn’t in her plan. If she said “can you help me” or “I want to go to….” that isn’t how it was presented at all. It was a command given with a bitchy tone and she went on and on about how horrible Pennsylvania Medicaid is compared to New Jersey and……..I just snapped and said “fucking move then”. Granted I could have delivered the message in a calm tone minus the expletive but she wouldn’t have heard me then. I’ve tried that approach for two years, no luck. She heard me this time.

Later I got an email from her telling me how she doesn’t expect me to pay ALL her bills. She then went on to describe how she is the victim of a corrupt government of evil ne’er-do-wells. Blah blah blah I’ve been reading and hearing this crap for years. I’m worn out I tell you, worn out. She has never taken financial responsibility for herself and she is seemingly incapable of any consistent emotional stability. This life long inability or disregard (not sure which some days) has left her facing her “golden years” pretty much broke and alone.

The biggest barrier for me though is her complete lack of interest in me or my family. She has two kind, funny, smart, beautiful grandchildren 10 minutes from her home and she could not care less. Soccer games, shows, Sunday dinners she is frequently invited and rarely shows. When she does attend a dinner she is consistently late. She shows absolutely no regard for how her actions or lack there of could have an impact on others. Again, I don’t know if this is part of the mental illness or just someone so self-absorbed that they are incapable of basic consideration. Either way the end result is the same.

So here I am again trying to balance compassion for her with my own self preservation. This isn’t new territory I know what I need to do. Take a break, don’t call her for a few days or minimize interaction until I can fortify myself enough for the next round. Once again I remind myself that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I just hope I can make it to the finish line.

 

 

 

Sleepy Town No More

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Sleepy Town No More

They’re searching for bodies on a farm 3 miles from my house. This doesn’t happen in Solebury. Four young men are missing, ages 19 to 22. One has been gone for a week and the other 3 are missing for several days now. It’s awful and it’s all anyone can talk about. A community obsessed with the latest coverage. We collectively drive by the search site, taken back by the presence of local and national news vans that now dot the shoulders of a usually passive Route 202. We follow the DA’s updates and press conference with rapt attention. Anxiously awaiting something, anything that will tell us that it was all a big mistake, the boys are fine, you can go back to your regularly scheduled summer activities. That hasn’t happened and it won’t. God only knows what will get unearthed on that farm.

To say this is unusual here is an understatement. This part of Bucks County is pretty homogeneous – mostly liberal, white collar and well educated. I have often joked about the lack of diversity in this area we have white and gay white with few exceptions. We have crime here – burglaries, some drugs, DUIs and the occasional insurance fraud. Murder is not something that happens on the regular here. A good chunk of the local population has moved here from New Jersey or New York mostly for the favorable taxes and a good school district. We aren’t unaware of how the rest of the world is we just found ourselves in a bubble believing that it’s a great place to raise kids. We are less sure of our choices now.

Fast-forward a few days and the facts are unraveling in the most horrible way. A 12.5-foot deep grave was discovered with the help of cadaver dogs on loan from the FBI. The remains of three of the missing men were located in a tank in the deep grave. Dean Finocchiaro (19) was the first to be identified. It took longer to identify the remains of the other two occupants – Tom Meo (21) and Mark Sturgis (22).

The fourth victim to be found and identified was the first to go missing. Jimi Patrick (19) was found in a separate location on another part of the 80-acre farm. The location of Mr. Patrick was given in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table for Cosmo DiNardo. According to reports, the DA, Matt Weintraub, conferred with the families of the then missing men before going forward with the arrangement. Some people are outraged by this deal and I understand their anger. It is just so rare to see the death penalty actually utilized. I think Mr. Weintraub made the best decision under the worst of circumstances.

There’s also a swarm of rumors buzzing about on social media. The one with the most intrique is that these missing men were witnesses to a beating in May near the Temple campus in Philly. Billy Riddle, the person charged with the assault that nearly killed a young man for seemingly no reason except that he had the misfortune of crossing paths, is rumored to have set up a hit on these young men.

Rumor has it that Cosmo DiNardo owed Billy Riddle some money over drug deals and getting rid of the beating witnesses would clear his debt. I have no idea if there is even a whiff of truth to this. I suspect at this point if it were true we would be hearing about it. As it stands now, that hasn’t come up in the handful of press conferences that have taken place.

Other rumors are that the DiNardo family is in the mob. The name ends in a vowel, proximity to Philly, his parents own a construction company and they have vast acreage with backhoes and other equipment. People draw their own conclusions and imaginations are ripe with possibilities real or not. I’ve also heard people speculate that Cosmo is a serial killer. I guess time will tell. He without a doubt is responsible for the deaths of 4 young men, who knows if there are others.

The actual story that is being reported is less Hollywood and acutely more senseless. Apparently, three separate drug deals were made and the men were shot on the property in three separate incidents. Mr. Patrick was the first to be killed. He was meeting with DiNardo to purchase pot and was shot and buried by DiNardo. In this case DiNardo acted alone seemingly because the deal changed to something less favorable.

Two days later the same fate was met by Mr. Finocchiaro in a barn on the property. This time his cousin, Sean Kratz, accompanied DiNardo. Kratz and DiNardo disagree on who fired the first shot at Finocciaro but DiNardo admits to firing a second shot when the victim was on the ground.

Later that same day, Mr. Meo and Mr. Sturgis met the same fate as the other two. They were lured to the property for a drug transaction and were quickly shot when they exited DiNardo’s truck. It’s been reported that Mr. Sturgis was running away when he was shot having just witnessed his best friend Mr. Meo get shot. It’s also been noted that Mr. Meo was run over by the back hoe to make sure he was dead as the killers ran out of ammunition.

The bodies of the three victims killed on July 7th were transferred to a tank and DiNardo and Kratz attempted to burn them. The next day the tank was placed in a 12.5 deep grave, which was dug by a backhoe that resided on the property. Sometime that weekend a ping from Mr. Finocciaro’s cell phone set the investigation in motion. The discovery of Mr. Meo’s car on another local property also owned by the DiNardo family gave investigators enough reason to search the farm diligently.

Cosmo DiNardo and his cousin Sean Kratz both face multiple counts in relation to the four murders including robbery, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy. They are both being held without bail and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31st. As a community we are relieved that they are locked up.

There is a cloud of sadness, anger and devastation hanging over this usually bucolic location. We are a community of mourners, still collecting facts and speculating over the rumors. Wondering how it all went down in our back yard unbeknownst to us. Our sleepy little town has been awakened in the most jarring and gruesome way.