Category Archives: love

The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

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The Lonely Middle Years of Parenting

Parenting kids in middle and high school is such a complicated and lonely space to be in. When our kids are little we tend to share a lot about them. Holiday cards, social media posts, small playgroups, sports teams and parent clubs. The little cherubs happily pose for the camera without a whiff of self consciousness.

Somewhere around 5th grade things start to shift. The kids no longer want you to go public with what you think is cute. Concerns about privacy, social status and damage control start to creep into your thoughts. The kids disappear from your social media feed and you keep things under lock and key. The difficult stuff is whispered to your closest friends, a very limited set of eyes and ears. Even with those confidants the experiences are exhausting and isolating at times.

I’ve had days this past month that have absolutely gutted me. Pain for my child which housed a kaleidoscope of emotions; profound sadness, love, pit of my stomach fear, impatience and resignation. Fortunately the low points have been transient, replaced with more hopeful experiences, it goes in and out like the tide. I can only imagine the despair of families that reside in the muck for extended periods of time. I’m sure those parents are around me, they just aren’t talking about it.

The why of the reasons for not discussing things openly are a complicated stew of ego, protection, shame and insecurity. Shame that maybe we failed as a parent somehow – gave too much or too little. We were too involved or not vigilant enough. We haven’t properly adjusted the sails, we hit the gas when we should have braked and now we are spinning out of control.

The first inclination is protection. Protect the child at all costs from labels, embarrassment, bullies, the boogeyman, mistakes or misunderstandings that can negatively impact their future. That’s a tall order and some days I feel so small, minuscule, a speck of dust, insignificant. At this phase in their lives, your kids generally care more about friendships than family, at least temporarily. Another jagged pill to swallow, the person you want to help most in the world doesn’t necessarily want your assistance or your opinion. They will however, happily relieve you of $20. or the car keys when they start to drive.

Insecurity is the ghost that haunts us all whether we care to admit it or not. Insecurity is married to shame maybe not officially but they are at a minimum shacked up together. If I’m honest, this is the piece of parenthood I feared the most before we had kids. Knowing that I would make mistakes as all humans do. I also knew that making mistakes as a parent would cause me intense pain. Mind you I haven’t had colossal failures, just the usual varieties; having a more impatient tone than intended (this is called yelling), being a few months behind on the dental check up, and not being a constant shadow on their social media.

I’m sure some parents and kids skate through this phase without a pimple or a tear shed, I think those are the unicorns. Most of us take a deep breath and remind ourselves to have a friendly tone when we knock on our child’s bedroom door. We worry about over/under scheduling, setting reasonable expectations that neither diminish goals nor create neurotic overachievers. I’m still searching for that sweet spot of challenging my kids so they can bend without breaking.

 

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Rub My Belly

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Rub My Belly

For those that are new, Blanche is the made up name of my real dog. I’ve recently introduced her to the Super Cringe series on my blog. Super Cringe is the alter ego of my pen name. I probably should have suggested you take a seat before you tip toe into my thought process, sometimes it gets surprisingly deep in the shallow end. Anyway, if you’re still here, thanks. Here’s a recent conversation:

Blanche: (Super excited greets the family at the door. All 90 pounds of her is wiggling with joy) Oh my God your back! I was so worried, you’ve been gone for like a year, I thought you deserted me.

Super Cringe: I told you we were going away for a few days. We missed you too buddy!

Blanche: WWhaaaat – why do I smell dogs. G-damn it you were with other dogs.

Super Cringe: It’s true we stayed with friends and they have two dogs.

Blanche: (Stands up on back two legs, crosses her front arms in front of her chest) Right and I’m supposed to be OK with that….you should have taken me.

Super Cringe: We can’t take you on a plane, you don’t even like going in the car. Seriously you are the only dog I ever met that doesn’t enjoy sticking her head out the window. What’s up with that?

Blanche: I would have gone on the plane. I could have pulled off the therapy dog thing. I have a sensitive nose the window thing is too much.

Super Cringe: You’re 90 pounds I can’t stick you under the seat in front of me, you aren’t a lap dog.

Blanche: I would be a lap dog, you won’t let me.

Super Cringe: You are 5′ 3″ when you stand on your back legs. I’m pretty sure the cut off for lap dogs is 3′ 6″ on hind legs.

Blanche: That sounds totally made up.

Super Cringe: Maybe…

Blanche: And stop tossing my weight around. Do you want me to start telling everyone how much you weigh?

Super Cringe: I don’t even know what I weigh, how would you know?

Blanche: I know stuff. The squirrel that was eating the molding, he gotten taken out by one the the hawks.

Super Cringe: Really! Wow, what else ya got?

Blanche: The UPS guy has a sinus infection and the neighbors kid was doing laps in our driveway again.

Super Cringe: You are a fountain of knowledge. You want a belly rub?

Blanche: Yeah, I want a belly rub (assumes the belly rub position).

Super Cringe: We cool?

Blanche: Yeah, we’re good, a little to the right.

Super Cringe: (sighs) I wish every relationship was this easy.

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Je’taime Montreal

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Je’taime Montreal

Just got back from a family vacation which included 4 nights in Mont-Tremblant and one night in Montreal. The hubs and kids snowboard, I don’t. I prefer a more moderate indoor climate with all of my body parts intact. This was our annual holiday trip which we take with another family (the other family includes my husband’s childhood friend). Since I don’t participate in the sport, my husband does most of the trip planning and basically has to keep both our kids alive on an icy mountain.

I read books, watched Holmes & Holmes and set a goal to walk 5 miles each day. That last bit gets a little weird around 10pm when I realize I’m 2/10 of a mile below my goal. Then I wander the hotel halls in a frenzy trying to get my steps in. Luckily it was a big property although I did bump into a maintenance guy twice within 20 minutes, he gave me a puzzled look. Speaking of oddities, while watching Holmes & Holmes, I saw an advertisement for a Cannabis Summit which featured former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. At first I thought it was some Canadian version of SNL making fun of the USA but nope, that sh*t is real friends. I don’t watch much daytime TV so the whole cannabis summit was news to me, I Googled it when I got home to be sure – The American Cannabis Summit It’s about as weird as when Bob Dole started doing ads for Viagra (apologies if that is new information). Bob Dole ED commercial (warned ya)

My favorite part of our holiday was hands down Montreal. What a fun quirky city that isn’t afraid to let her freak flag fly, I fell in love. We stayed in the Old City section and the boutique hotel had a lot going for it – spacious room, nicely appointed (two sofa beds and a separate bedroom), great location and plenty of hot water. Downside – no elevator (not so bad 4th floor, getting my daily steps goal wasn’t a problem), no onsite parking (hubs saw a cop next to our car when we parked briefly to unload the bags, he ran down to avoid getting a ticket or whatever they do to you in Montreal when you illegally park) and across the street from train tracks (uh-oh, foreshadowing).

Within an hour of checking in, 8 of us were out wandering Old Montreal in search of lunch. We found a place that looked great but didn’t open until 4pm so we went to look for an alternative. La Cage lured us in with their popcorn machine. Baskets and popcorn were in hand before we were seated. The service was slow and I was restless to explore. My husband said why don’t you go out and we’ll catch up later (I love that man). I catapulted from my seat before he could change his mind. I quickly asked my kids if they wanted to go, they chose food over me, I didn’t try to change their minds. Before I left I got the single hotel key and bid au revoir and sprinted for the door.

I have to mention that my family had crappy cell service during our trip. We were dependent on WiFi because our cell phone plan sucks (Consumer Cellular). It’s great when we are home but outside of the USA, it’s pitiful. So I was off the leash in Montreal with no consistent means of communication, like in the olden days before cell phones. It was glorious.

I went to Victoria Square in an attempt to find the underground city. I was distracted by Starbucks and an interesting Santa exhibit. There were several displays and each featured a variation of Santa from different times and locations. This is going to sound odd but, if I was going to toss names around for a round of who would you rather, I’d definitely pick Black Peter. He was in charge of “persuading” the naughty children to change their ways, the henchman for St. Nicholas. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

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Black Peter, Henchman for St. Nicholas

Sadly the Starbucks didn’t have Chai which is my beverage of choice at that establishment. So I got a regular coffee and used the WiFi long enough to agree to meet at Notre Dame. I was the first to arrive so I got in line. It was a long line which snaked halfway down the block when I hopped on. I didn’t think the hubs would be up for waiting but I decided to stick around until we caught up. I chatted with my line mates the gentleman ahead of me was from Texas and the group of guys behind me were from New York. I overheard my NY friends say that the entrance fee was $6, cash only (uh-oh no Canadian cash on me).

About 20 minutes into my wait I spied the family and shouted my husband’s name. He has an unusual name so that did the trick. The line was still too long for him and everyone else in our group so they didn’t want to go in. At this point I was committed and asked him to get me some Canadian money for entry. He did and we agreed to meet at the hotel at 5pm (I kept the key). Notre Dame is gorgeous, it was worth the 40 minute wait in frigid temps. While I was in there, I lit two candles and said a prayer for my father and father in-law who each passed away in 2018.

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On my way back to the hotel I noticed the dogs of Montreal because they were all dressed better than me. I got my North Face coat for $39.99 at Marshalls two years ago and then it was marked past season, it probably stopped being fashionable 6 months before I bought it. I swear I saw a Chihuahua wearing Patagonia and a Boxer, Oh FFS, it is he in Canada Goose? For the unfamiliar, Canada Goose is the Holy Grail of outerwear the median price point is a grand. My first car was $450., I can’t abide. Of course if I lived in a freezer for 6 months a year and spent significant time outside, I might sing a different tune. Certainly that tune would involve sobbing of some kind.

Later that night we had a great meal a Bevo. We were seated near the kitchen (basically the restaurant version of the kiddie table, thanks Mom). We watched a constant stream of servers exit the kitchen at the intersection of funeral procession meets high fashion. Everyone was wearing black with trays of food which housed various shades of crimson. Is this a nightclub or a restaurant? Even the bathroom made me feel shabby. It featured a wall which is cooler than I could ever hope to be (featured photo).

After dinner we wandered Old Montreal some more. Went to a square where a woman was in a life sized snow globe, people were skating on the pavement and music was being played, very festive. On the way back to the hotel we found an alley which had lights projected onto the street which were interactive, a green blob of a spotlight trailed my daughter, it was fun. It was a lot packed into one day and we were ready to call it a night.

We were all tucked in by midnight, about 3am a metal screeching sound woke the hubs and I up. At first I thought it was a garbage truck in need of some serious repair, 5 minutes into it I looked out the window and saw an endless stream of cargo train cars loudly lumbering by. That slow loud parade lasted 15 solid minutes. The next one came around 5am and was brief in comparison. It reminded me of an I Love Lucy episode –

Aside from the disrupted sleep, Montreal was wonderful and I’d love to go back.

The Huntress 915

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The Huntress 915

A quick post to show some love to another new blog that I’m following. This chronicles the romantic relationships of the author. I don’t want to give too much away but it’s quite a tale of love, lust, betrayal and staying in a relationship WAY past it’s natural expiration date. She writes with such raw emotion that you will get pulled in – I am so rooting for this woman!  The featured photo is from her blog –   The Huntress 915

 

Jam Man

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Jam Man

I accidentally got into a Facebook fight with a local guy who sells jams. I know it sounds ridiculous, stay with me, this guy has been caustic since day one. A few months ago a local non-profit I volunteer for hosted a vendor event. I was doing promotions on Facebook for it when I get a “why wasn’t I invited” in the comments from some stranger. I never heard his name before but I responded politely gave him the details and he joined the event.

Most vendors donated a percentage of sales. He donated a total of $3. to the non-profit.  That was the change from a purchase my friend Pam made. She said “donate the change to the kids” within earshot of me so he handed me the change. I reached out a few times after the event with details of how to donate. I got no response, I let it go.

Things are going fine. I liked his jam related posts and we have some mutual local business friends. Great, I support local businesses. Then in August things went off the rails.

He posted something which asked a question, I answered. Things spiraled from there. It was getting late and I didn’t like the tone that his post was descending into so I turned off the notifications. Then I posted about my newfound love of the “turn off notifications” feature on my personal page. Apparently Jam Man noticed.

I logged off and went to bed.  While I was sleeping, Jam Man started a sh*t storm on my personal Facebook page. Some of my friends defended me and took screen shots of the whole sordid affair. Most of the offensive comments were deleted by the time I logged on the next morning. All that remained were a few traces of a rough night with people messaging me the details.

My friends were demanding a boycott of his business. I urged them to let it go, he makes a good product. Just brush it off. Then I unfriended him because I don’t need the drama. Here’s the funny part…my husband loves this f*cking jam. The one he likes reminds him of childhood summers spent in Italy. How can I deprive him of that? I can’t. But I don’t want to order this stuff online and have Jam Man see my name on the order – he’ll probably poison the jar. And I definitely do NOT want him to have my home address.

So in an ironic twist, filed under things you do for love…I am driving all over, going into local small businesses looking for this stupid jam. I bought another variety at one store, hubs gave it the thumbs down. I go back two days later for the beloved flavor, they don’t have it. Damn it.

This morning my husband sends me a text “good jam” – meaning please get me the stuff that reminds me of childhood summers spent in Italy. My first reaction was “you’re on your own dude, Jam Man was at it again yesterday.” Then I look up other stores that might carry it and find a local venue. I found it!!! So yes I bought the stupid jam because I love my husband more than I dislike the Jam Man.

An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

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An Accidental Stay at Home Mom

My plan, our plan, THE plan was that I would go back to work after our son was born. I took three months maternity leave and after two weeks of being back on the job, I got laid off. I worked for a software company at the time and all of the Project Managers were “let go.” Wow that was a lot to wrap my head around, now what??? I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM).

Honestly, I was scared. Financially we could swing it (thank you husband) but mentally the idea of not working was completely foreign to me. I hadn’t considered it before, it wasn’t in the plan. This wasn’t a choice, it was an unexpected circumstance. I worked most of my life up to that point, from the time I was 16 until I got laid off at 35 and there were several years that I worked multiple jobs. Before I was legally old enough to work, I worked.  I raked leaves, shoveled snow, cleaned, weeded, babysat…I hustled.

 

 

I was raised by a single mom and we were broke. I worked because I needed to if I wanted anything beyond the absolute necessities. Through observation, I took in many lessons from my single mother. She always said things like “don’t become a secretary” and the not always verbal but always present and paramount life lesson – don’t depend on a man. Well damn, now I have a 3 month old baby and no J-O-B and a husband OK with me staying home.

The medical complications of my pregnancy and necessary follow up also had a profound effect on me. Part of me was just happy to be alive. I had to talk myself through the not working thing. I questioned myself, if this was my last day on earth, how would I want to spend it? Working some random job or taking care of my baby.Truth be told I did send out some resumes but it was a half-hearted attempt. I could not justify making a choice to work and leaving child care up to someone else a big chunk of the time, simply because I HAD a choice. It’s a different game entirely if it isn’t a choice, I get that.

It didn’t take long to see some hostility between SAHM and working moms…my theory is guilt. Only my theory based on my own experience not a universal truth so calm down…your theory may kick my theory’s ass at recess…I don’t really care.  I had guilt as a SAHM because I was used to being financially independent and I had to constantly tell myself it’s OK, it’s best for the family (and it was best for us).

It was still hard to shake the guilt because of the lessons my mom taught me growing up. I was falling short by depending on a man. I think working moms feel guilt because they don’t see their kids as much. It’s just a hard frickan’ job whether or not you work outside the home.

I had to step away from my practical, always working self and do something completely different from what I had carefully planned. Sorry atheists…but for me being a SAHM was an act of faith. You see at that time between the health issues, unexpected unemployment, moving and other changes…I really felt like the universe was telling me to stay home, so I did. Honestly it is not something I did gracefully. It was out of necessity and circumstances that were bigger than me.

A week or so after my son’s first birthday, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. This was unexpected. After the complications of my first delivery, my husband and I were a little scared. We “planned” on having one child. We were wrong. So one and done became two and through with lots of monitoring of my high-risk pregnancy.

Knowing what to look out for in the second pregnancy was helpful but it didn’t alleviate all of my fears. There were weeks when my husband traveled internationally and it was just me and our son. My fear was that I would throw a blood clot which would incapacitate me and my son would be the only one around. It was not an irrational fear.

Late in my second pregnancy, we were having a New Year’s Day dinner at my mother and father in-laws house. My sister in-law and her family were there as well. My husband was joking about some minor health issue he had. I laughingly said something like – “Sure you get a man cold, meanwhile, I’m throwing blood clots like a pitcher in the Major Leagues” – something stupid and yet (cue the the creepy music) prophetic.

The next day I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee and I called my OBGYN. This time she had me go directly to the Maternity Ward at the hospital and did the ultrasound there. Sure enough I had another blood clot behind my knee. This granted me a 5 day stay in the hospital with an IV of blood thinners and mandatory bed rest.

When I was released from the hospital, I had instructions to inject myself in the abdomen twice a day with a blood thinner. Say whaaaaat? Every twelve hours I had to psych myself up to jab a needle into my very pregnant belly. Dare I say, super cringey stuff.

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We decided to temporarily move back to New Jersey to be near the hospital and closer to family. I injected myself twice a day for a month before the Hematologist and the OBGYN got together and decided it was time to schedule a C-section. They were both afraid of a bad outcome (fatalities really mess with their malpractice insurance and I think they liked me). I had another retractable filter inserted. This time I demanded a mild sedative for the procedure, much better.

At 35 weeks/6 days of my second pregnancy our daughter was born via C-section. Me, my husband and our trusted doctors, all decided it was best to perform a tubal ligation after the C-section. Apparently I suck at being pregnant. I was 36 and survived two high-risk pregnancies. We had one healthy boy and one healthy girl, no need to get greedy.

Our second baby was so much easier. Perhaps because we knew the drill and our expectations were not as regimented so we could relax more. We knew we couldn’t “plan” every aspect of things so we just rolled with it. Bonus this baby wasn’t colicky and slept a reasonable amount from a very early age. (You mean they don’t all scream for several hours continuously and wake up 4 times a night…for years?)

Fast forward many years and I can see how being a SAHM served me. If I am honest, I got the perks and the liabilities in good measure. The perks are obvious, I haven’t missed a thing with my kids. First steps, first tooth, first haircut, first day of anything – I was there for all of it. We had so many special day trips that wouldn’t have been possible if I worked outside the home. They don’t remember most of them. I do, and I suspect they are the days I will reflect on in old age.

When I walk into my kids school, I know half the faculty, the school board and at least 60% of the kids by name.  I have created a network of go-to moms that can get me through to the finish line or at least high school graduation. I have volunteered for just about everything in the district (exception: I refused to get on the school board, that is just bat sh*t crazy).

The liabilities are pretty stacked too thankfully some of them have passed.  My first born was a colicky baby who had night terrors and did not sleep through the night for FOUR years (4 mofo years). My kids are about 20 months apart and (aside from my hospital stays) I got up with both of them every single time. Every. Single. Time. During those years I fantasized about being alone with a fist full of Tylenol PM in a dark quiet hotel room. Sleep was like trying to catch vapor in those early years of motherhood.

Being a SAHM was great but I had no time to myself. I thought it would be good to get away from the littles few hours a day, I couldn’t. I looked forward to medical appointments to get some “me time.” Some days it was easier to have the blood drawn than to be home. And sometimes I had to take two kids with me to those appointments. When they were toddlers I would play hide and seek just to get a few minutes to myself in the kitchen pantry (there may have been Oreos in there).

 

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Sketch by Lisa McMillen http://www.cicalisadesigns.com/

Being out of the workforce for a decade didn’t do me any favors career-wise. This may be the biggest hit that a SAHM takes. That and the guilt about doing anything for yourself because you get to stay home. What saved my ass was a small group of women in a Moms Club. Unlike me, they “planned” to be SAHM and their friendships have had a huge impact on me.

 

 

 

Stayed tuned for future installments of #SuperCringe

Big Black Dick

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Big Black Dick

The past couple of blog posts have been grim. My father died this week and it has brought up a lot of emotions as death tends to do. I just want you all to know I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

A couple of days ago I was putting together memory boards for my father’s wake. It was an especially tricky task given the lack of actual memories and the scarce photos with the few that exist. I was struggling with this emotionally and I was a bit on edge. My husband also seemed a bit off so I checked in on him.

Me: You OK hon, you seemed pissed

Hubs: I just had to clean the damn toilet

Me: Um, OK….

Hubs: Would you like me to show you….

Me: No, I’m good.

Hubs: (proceeds with hand motions and visual cues) You just need to..

Me: No, just no.

Hubs: You always get pissed when I try…what you’re going to walk away now. I’m just saying I could show you…

Me: I KNOW HOW TO CLEAN A F*CKING TOILET OK!!!!!!!! (leaves the house, time for car line)

We wound up taking a walk and talking it out later that day. I got even in an unintentional, yet glorious way.

2 days later…

We have a dinner at my father’s GF’s house after the wake so I sent hubs to the liquor store to get some wine and rum. I told him to use his own judgement on the wine, the rum however was very specific. My siblings told me about a favorite rum of my father’s longtime partner. So I asked my husband go into a liquor store to get three bottles of wine and Big Black Dick, which is rum (maybe). And he did it because he loves me despite my inability to properly clean a toilet. Sadly there they were out of Big Black Dick.

 

 

Broken

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Broken

Sometimes you stumble your way through the dark on an unfamiliar path trying to  discern the next right step. In my experience, these paths are riddled with emotional land mines. You anticipate the boogeyman when he jumps out in front of you. When you hear the creepy music, you don’t have to turn your head to know someone is behind you. Then there’s the stuff that blindsides you and takes you to your knees, the unexpected hits you never saw coming. I’ve had a week of those.

The days are blurring together and feel oddly suspended as they do when things get awful. Some slow motion version of life settles in as you try to adjust to the new normal, which is anything but typical. On Wednesday, I went to visit my father in the hospital and they were talking about discharging him. Then on Thursday morning, he went into cardiac arrest and he’s been in a coma-like state ever since. The prognosis is grim and now we wait for things to change in some new direction. Waiting for milestone hours to pass; 24, 48, 72 and we continue to wait, and wait and the days feel like weeks and every so often the physical/mental/emotional exhaustion comes over you like a tidal wave. It feels a lot like drowning, minus the water. I’ve been dry drowning.

This situation is awful enough on it’s own and yet, there’s more. Five decades of an on again/off again father-daughter relationship, half siblings, a beloved twin who is far away, a history of family tragedies and what can I say, it’s complicated. I’m the oldest of seven, one of the two from the first disastrous marriage. The other siblings are from my father’s second marriage. His second wife died in a car accident in 2000. His youngest child died by suicide a handful of years ago. The pain this family has experienced is enormous and I feel like a ghoulish outsider with unfettered access.

As I’m getting older, friends and loved ones have lost parents. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like for me when the time came. I no longer resent my father for what he did or didn’t do when I was a child and yet, we aren’t especially close. Not a conscious effort to stay separate, it just became easier to chose other priorities. I’ve also tried to insulate my children from the dysfunction of my childhood. There is a lot of my personal history that they don’t know yet. As they are getting older more is coming to the surface but not everything.

I’m a strong person, been through plenty of my own shit and always came out the other side on top. I’ve beaten odds that no one could’ve predicted. If younger me was a horse in a race, no one in their right mind would have bet on me and yet I placed. I found my way into the winner’s circle, against all odds. I thought I would be somewhat disconnected when dealing with my father’s mortality, I was wrong.

Yesterday I felt hallowed, a husk of a human who had their innards scraped out. An emptiness that was dark and consuming, a black hole from within. It took me by surprise and I had to yield to it. I could not leap through this particular ring of fire, I had to stand in front of the flames and watch it burn. Eventually I had to accept help and let my husband and kids join me at the hospital.

In the middle of my pain, I imagined myself as a plate made of fine china with an intricate pattern. Seemingly intact, functional and somewhat pleasing to behold. Upon further inspection a hairline crack is discovered, the kind that can cause the plate to break if it is not handled in a delicate manner. If you feel the edges on the backside the chips reveal themselves and you know this plate has been compromised. It makes me wonder if the damage is visible to an outsider. From a distance, it looks good but up close, you can see it’s damaged and on the verge of being broken.

 

My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

I don’t mean to brag but my job is better than yours. I started a business a few years ago to fill in the gaps for families. I run errands, let the dog out, greet kids at the bus stop, take people to appointments; a variety of services for people that need help. Sometimes it’s a one time deal, other jobs are long term. As the business has grown, it has taken a definite turn toward the more mature client. Most of my steady clients have been in their 80’s and 90’s, their families hire me to check in on them with a social visit.

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I have always been fond of the elderly, even as a child. My cousins would pair off during holiday gatherings and I would visit with Nana and Pop-pop. I loved their stories and their inability to filter themselves. Even as a kid, I found it refreshing to be around people that simply spoke their mind without fear of reprimand. This fondness has followed me my entire life.

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I currently visit a couple twice a week. Ralph and Helen have been married for over 60 years and they still kiss each other goodbye and say “I love you” when one is going out without the other. These are usually outings to a social activity within the assisted living facility where they reside. Ralph is a frequent participant in Wii Bowling and Helen likes to beat me at tabletop shuffleboard.

The featured image for this post is the face of the card that they gave me the other day. Here’s what Helen wrote inside:

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I adore these people.