About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I asked the Universe for a little respite...

...a little respite from the grief of losing my dad. I asked the Universe for a little break before the next life-changing thing shoots down from the heavens. And I got it. Yesterday, I closed my father's estate, officially. A sigh of relief, some tears, a rest.

This morning we are awakened by a phone call to get to GB as quickly as possible; my father-in-law was on a respirator and his vital signs were very low. Once we got "The Call" (you all know and fear this call), we jumped into action, packing quickly, including funeral clothes, extra underwear and meds, scooped up the kitties and boarded them and were on the six hour drive. At one point in the drive, we get another call from a sister-in-law: "We think we're going to pull him off the respirator, and he might not make it. Do you want us to wait for you to get here?"  K and I both thought back to the exact moment in my father's war with death--his anguish, agitation, disorientation.--and K felt it better to let his siblings do what they thought was best.  Van was off the respirator. And no call. And no call. Three hours left to the drive, and no call.  We were afraid we wouldn't make it before he passed away. We talked about it a little bit, and what that would mean to K.

We arrived to the hospital and found my father-in-law's room. There he was, looking like he'd been to hell and back, but awake. Off the respirator; just getting a little help with nasal canula (sp). We had made it, and the look of relief on K's face was so beautiful. We spent this afternoon listening to Van talk nonsense all day "Where's the paint? We have to paint the church?" Some times he was laughing at something he hadn't said, but perhaps seen or heard in his head.  He hasn't had much to drink --more than a sip or two of water, and no food.  My mother-in-law needs a warrior to step in, but I don't know if should be me. If she asks I am all hers. If she doesn't ask, I may try to feed Karl the questions....Being through this so recently has brought back some of the fear, the memories...but it also brings back the warrior I was for my father. Van, my father-in-law deserves a warrior too.

All of Karl's many siblings are doing their own things right now; two are at the hospital, we're here, in a hotel around the corner; two other siblings are at their homes, sleeping in their beds; my mother-in-law is also home, I hope sleeping soundly in her bed. Two siblings are out having a drink, to talk.

There was talk of "shifts" today to be with Van; my family did this with my father, so that he'd have someone with him all the time. That time was sacred, reverent.  Van's room is loud, with lots of people talking over him as he grows more confused and agitated. They want to keep his spirits up, the want to respond to him, even to his nonsense. But it's loud. This man is already on his journey; "Elle a la mer; nous au tombeau"....

It doesn't help that I don't really know what kind of care he's getting. This I will clear up in the morning. Is it palliative care? Are we talking about a hospice setting here in the hospital? Is your plan to release him to a hospice if all you are giving him is O2? What exactly is his diagnosis? Why is the nursing staff so slow to respond to requests? What exactly is the outcome? Are we waiting for his death? Are we waiting for him to stabilize so he can go to a nursing facility?  His wife has utter, almost blind, faith in the doctor. You don't question the doctor. Oh, boy. If I can sneak in a meeting with someone tomorrow, I will. Maybe it's only selfish, but I'm uncomfortable with so little knowledge. And I want the best care possible for my wonderful father-in-law. And I want his family to have all the details and ask all the questions they want.  If I can facilitate this, I would be honored.  It's a lesson learned that I am ready to pass on.   Peace, Van. Sleep well, and if the angels open a door, go with them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I am Carolyn's Daughter

It's almost Mother's Day. And my parents' anniversary. And college graduation day. A lot of emotions all wrapped up in one freaking 24 hour period. But that's okay. I will have my tissues on hand, and my heart open, to see what happens. 

But first, I am Carolyn's daughter.  She was a complicated person, a conflicted person, and carried a lot of baggage with her until she passed in 2007.  And it's taken me until 2011 to want to talk about her.  The more I allow myself to remember, I see how similar we are. Some good, some destructive. Self-destructive.

My mother and I had an awkward relationship from the time I was born. She wasn't ready for me; she, a young, newly married woman at age 20, was "gifted" a baby with colic and a husband who was so dedicated to being a family man he worked two jobs. She was stuck with me, alone, most of the time. I remember her telling me, "If you hadn't been so cute, we would have taken you back."  Most of the time she was joking, but, I know there were times when she wished it could have been possible.

We began butting heads when I started talking at age 2. My dad used to say he'd come home from his teaching job, hear two voices yelling, and didn't know who was the kid and who was the mom.  This didn't change much through the years.

But she had the most beautiful blue eyes, and when she smiled she revealed the shyness she was desperately trying to hide.

She loved to cook, and was very, very good at it. Her meals are legendary in my family, our friends, and beyond. She brought lavish food to celebrate my recitals at conservatory. These receptions were unprecedented.  She cooked the entire week before my wedding for all the friends and family wandering in and out of the house. The post reception party. The wedding breakfast. Countless, gorgeously homemade food.  

She loved to shop. She always had a present or two in the house--if we wanted to give our teacher one, or last minute gift exchange occurred. She always wanted to have something nice in the house "just in case."  The most poignant memory I have of my mother shopping is actually an amalgam of many shopping days. We'd need school clothes or bathing suits or something, and she'd quietly add a pretty blouse for herself, or a dress, or a sweet tchotchke...We'd wander around the store, looking at pretty things, and then at some point, we'd wander again, tracing our steps as my mom put back all the things for herself. I cried about his for years. Until I found myself doing the same thing. Dreamshopping, I guess--picking anything I wanted, and wandered around with it until I decided if I needed it or not.  My sister also has this affliction. 

My mom loved her grandchildren. She was so proud to be the "Mimi" of these tiny toe-headed beauties. But even they could not prevent her drinking from escalating, leading to several hospitalizations, failed attempts at rehab, failed attempts at death, until one finally succeeded four years ago. 

I had stopped talking to my mother about a year and a half before her death. She had, because of her alcoholism, become toxic--writing me cruel letters, asking for gifts back; calling me on the phone to tell me I'd ruined our family...It was killing me and I had to distance myself from her.  It hurt my father that I did this. It hurt me, too. I never realized it had any impact on my mother until after she died. She had begun to write a letter of apology to me but never finished. We found a box in her bedroom, addressed to me.  I had my husband open it, overwhelmed. It was pair of diamond earrings my father had given her. "You are your father's daughter," she'd written in the letter we found. I don't know what she meant by yet another potent statement in a long line of them. 

I don't have memories of physical or even gentle affection from her. She was prickly, uncomfortable with intimacy. She was a private person, who could not, or chose not, to share herself with many people.   I, too, struggle with this kind of thing. There is a wall around me that stays firmly in place until I feel my own natural shyness recede. Or I decide you are not worthy of who I am, and the wall remains up, intentionally. But I thank god there is no alcohol that makes the decision. 

I wish my shy, beautiful mother had known how worthy she was to receive love and affection. 

I love you, Mom, for your kind heart. The rest will inevitably come to me, now that I'm free from the fat, evil trolls that kept you from me.  Happy Mother's Day.