Dad

My dad has been gone for almost one third of my life.  I think of him often at this time of year.  In my mind he is a tall quiet guy, waiting for something….what that might be , I am not sure. After my dad passed away it struck me how similar my dad and I were…I wished I would have realized this when he was still alive.

I came across some old census records from when my dad was a child.  It is hard to picture him as a child.  He was the youngest in his family.  His family had lived comfortably before the Depression came along. When my dad was born though they were struggling. From what I gather my paternal grandfather never bounced back after this, either economically or psychologically.

I sense my dad knew from a young age he would have to make his own way through life. He started working at a young age. Later he would join the military and finish college. After that he would meet my mom.  I admire that he took time to serve in the military. He’d always taught us to be respectful of veterans.  He’ d always wanted to make sure that we were aware of dates such as the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in which US military personnel had lost their lives.

My father always struck me as an old soul. Perhaps it was because I sense he didn’t have many years of a childhood that were carefree.   He had very old fashioned beliefs especially in terms of religion.  He was extremely intelligent in certain respects, but in navigating relationships with people,  there was always some awkwardness.

Beyond the quiet intelligent man that the public saw, he had another side. His other side was controlled by alcohol.  While it was not entirely the alcohol that made my dad sometimes difficult to get along with, the alcohol sure didn’t help.  Why did he drink..who knows, I can only guess.  I’ d always  thought there was an element of depression and anger that he was trying to manage.  Along with that I also thought there seemed to be a ghost of sadness that haunted my dad’s side of the family.  This ghost was only hinted at though, people just weren’t  open about the it struggles with mental health.

Despite my dad’s inner struggles, I always admired his work ethic. He didn’t want to stop working.  He had already become sick, and his death would only be a few months away when he finally quit his job.

While I never talked about it with him, I always suspected my dad and I both had a strong need for quiet.  Sometimes our shyness made it difficult to communicate with others.  Our words sometimes tumbled out in a way that seemed awkward to others.  I’ve really tried to work on this especially in the past years.

If I could go back in time I wish I would have tried to get to know my dad better.  I wish I would have been able to figure out how to let down some of my own walls and get my dad to do the same.

I originally posted this 2 years ago.  Since then, through researching my family tree, I found an old class picture from when he was in the eighth grade.  He is the tallest in his class but somehow gives the impression he wants to be invisible.  Or else he just didn’t want his picture taken.  I was happy to find the picture as there were few childhood pictures of dad.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, my sister is an alcoholic as well.  I don’t know if my dad and sister had a genetic vulnerability to alcoholism, but it sure is a tough disease.

I apologize if you have already seen this posted.  I am confused about trying to repost an old post and I am not sure if  it had went through on the other tries.

 

Nostalgia

Nostalgia strikes me once in a blue moon.  The last time it happened I saw that an old friend’s mom had passed away.  Thinking about my friend brings a cascade of memories, a yearning for the good old days.

In my mind I think my memories are securely packed away.  Until I can remember how the pizza parlor was decorated, how we would argue about what sort of pizza we would order.  Our friend who would always have some rationale for not paying her share of the bill.  Always wanting a strawberry sundae later.

Going to basketball and football games to socialize, not to watch or even attempt to understand what was going on, well sometimes.  If it wasn’t pizza after it was enchiladas or cheese fries.  Lots of chit chat.  Going out perhaps to see a glimpse of the mysterious public school boys, tired of the boys at our Catholic school.  They ignored us and we ignored them.

Heartbreak.  Talk about the future.  Lots of gossip.  Our group sometimes changing but you and I are always a constant.  Missing those days of long phone conversations.  Phone conversations tethered to the cord of an old fashioned phone.  My house never had a completely private place to converse.

Baking Christmas cookies, trying new recipes.   Going shopping together.  Riding our bikes to get McDonalds.  Many miles walked down tree lined streets in older neighborhoods.

Later on, pairing off.  Moving.  An occasional misadventure.  You marrying first and settling into family life.

Old friend, I wish you were closer.  We would do the things we did before, only the slightly grown up version.

We’d chat about people we knew.  The straightest of arrows who now lives in Colorado and is somehow involved in the marijuana business.  Classmates that have left this world. Classmates that are already grandparents(EEK!).  Classmates living on other continents.

After my trip down memory lane though, coming home to my husband, snuggling up on the couch together and watching TV, this is so much more than any trip to the past.

Never Ending Dysfunction

My sister has been staying at my mom’s house for a visit.  These visits are tremendously stressful for her because she will harbor the ideas of guilt of what she should be doing for her mom, but her ideas of what she could be doing rarely turn into action because she becomes quickly overwhelmed.  My sister and my mom can’t get along but they have this relationship where they can’t leave each other alone and I often play odd man out.

I went to visit, a bit of a drive from where I live.  I thought we would have some lunch and that would be it.  As soon as I get there, I can see my mother is struggling to keep up with being able to live alone.  I don’t know that she takes her meds appropriately.  Any suggestions of what could be done to make her life easier are instantly shot down.

At this point my mother is angry that we have confronted some of the issues that she struggles with.  She takes her anger out on my sister who has been drinking during her stay with my mom.  Now I more than anyone understand the anger and frustration with my sister’s drinking.   The things my mom says though are unspeakably cruel.  She calls her a slut multiple times, she says she wants nothing to do with her and that she(my sister) is not her daughter any more.

At this time my sister’s normal reaction is to bolt.  She usually ends up in a bar somewhere.  This time she tells me she can’t take her life anymore, she is depressed and wants to get help.

So we go to the emergency room and work our way through the system to see what can be done.  Her blood alcohol level is sky high.  The staff asks her lots of questions and her answers sometimes vary.  A physician asks her about the quantity she drinks each day.  On this occasion she says her drink of choice is wine(she drinks anything).  Once she tells him she drinks two glasses of wine.  Another time she tells him she drinks a box of wine a day.  “A box?” he says, puzzled, but then moves on.  I’m not sure the physician knew boxed wine was an actual thing.

My sister is directed to a treatment center eventually where she currently withdrawing from alcohol.  I hope it works.  Earlier in the week she had attended an AA meeting where she met a man who gave her more alcohol and tried to assault her.

I’m not sure what the answers are.  I pray that this time she can gain peace and sobriety.

Summer Snippets…The Graveyard of Old Hurts

Circumstances have dictated that I must spend more time with my sister and my mom. Being around family means that old disagreements and painful memories come back to the surface.

It is okay to examine these old hurts for a time.  It gets dangerous for me though when they start to consume my thoughts.  Memories I thought were long dead come back to life to haunt me.

When those old memories haunt me, it is easy for my depression to sneak in and cast a dark cloud over everything.

I know for now I must say goodbye to the graveyard.  Time to get back amongst the living.

Tea Cup

She saw the tea cup decorated with red roses in the antique shop and she knew she had to buy it.  She was sure her grandmother had a tea cup identical to it. She had always loved that tea cup.  Whatever had happened to it?

It was funny how a simple tea cup made her think about her grandmother for the rest of the day.  She had regrets that she had never tried to get to know her grandmother better, for now it was too late.  The tea cup was a symbol of her grandmother’s struggles, of a hard life.  Her life had so many more opportunities and physical comfort  compared to that of her grandmother.

She was never quite sure what to say to her grandmother, after all they didn’t seem to have much in common.  Now she wondered, what part of my grandmother is in me? There was the faintest hint of her grandmother’s bone structure in her face.

The tea cup was always on display, one of her grandmother’s treasured items in her small house.  Grandmother kept her house neat, and took good care of everything she had.

Grandmother was a “little old lady” presumably delicate. However she’d lived a much harder life than her granddaughter.  Her parents had come from the old world. Grandmother dropped out of school at an early age to begin working.  She’d worked on and off throughout her adult life, out of economic necessity.  Those memes about fifties housewives, they’d never quite applied to her.

She found a treasured place for the tea cup with red roses.  Every time she looked at it she would smile just a little bit and think of her grandmother.

Summer Snippets…Time Travel, Role Reversal

Sitting in my mother’s living room, in the house I mostly grew up in, I feel like I am travelling back in time.

The living room especially hasn’t changed very much since I was a kid.  Some new furniture mixed in with the old.  The paintings on the wall are the same.  Newer curtains that look just like the old.  Other parts of the house evoke a similar feeling.  As I sit in a chair in her living room it is easy to let my mind drift by to the days of being a teen.  I get the same feeling in the dining room, memories of dozens of holiday meals and who sat where at the table and what sort of dishes were used.  At times it is a comforting feeling. Other times I look around at things that could be spruced up or fixed, if only mom would let us.

One day, mom sat in a chair and I fixed her hair for her.  I was glad to do it, but perhaps not ready for the role reversal.  I’m sure many more role reversals are yet to come.

Summer Snippets…All Day Text Drama

That damn invention called a smart phone sits there, threatening to rattle my peace with a vibration that yet another text has come from my sister.

She has been texting me all day long some days.  Texts about trivia.  Texts about how hard she has it.  Texts about how she is better than me.  Texts where she is aggravated that I haven’t responded to her sooner. Texts where she is angry. Texts about how she does more to take care of our mom, continually neglecting the fact that she has agreed to take care of things for my mom for the short term in exchange for PAY.

Maybe I am just too old, but sometimes I’d like to flush the phone down the toilet.  My husband and I don’t do the all day texting thing.  My kids might do the all day texting thing…but not with their mom.  I text, sure, but about boring stuff…what time to pick up the boy, or that we need milk, blah, blah, blah.

There is no time too early to text, or too late to text.  When I am around my family I have just taken to turning the phone off so I don’t get jumpy when I hear the phone vibrate. When I am at work I just leave it in my purse.

Technology is nice, some of the time.  Maybe I am a freak, but I just don’t get this expectation of having to communicate with someone all day long.

Summer Snippets…Odd Woman Out

My mother is aging and she needs more help.  She is trying to bounce back after a hospital stay.  In our own way we are each trying to help her.  It is scary to travel on the interstate to see your mom so much you barely remember your trip, you are so busy thinking of all of the family drama.

My sister wants to make this a contest.  She has done so much, according to her.  She perhaps has done a little more than me, but I want to scream YOU ARE GETTING PAID by mom to help out.  I don’t expect to get paid, but I sure don’t appreciate your martyr complex when you keep leaving that detail out.

Sister says she has been spending hours upon hours cleaning.  I’m not sure where those hours were spent as the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, stove all have a coat of scum on them.  Perhaps a coat of scum that my mother just does not see anymore or doesn’t have the energy to care about. Maybe my sister doesn’t clean her own kitchen…who knows.  So while she has a temper tantrum, I clean the kitchen. My sister has trashed the part of the house she is staying in. Hopefully when my sister picks all her crap up from the floor, my mother won’t notice that a room that had stayed pristine over the years now has a stained carpet.  WTF.

There is a weird dance between my sister and I.  She has been lashing out at everyone and anyone because she feels left out.  She is mad that her life choices have put her in a place where she is in a financial mess, so god forbid anyone have more opportunities than she does.  Yet she seems to forget that between the three of us, my mom, my sister and I, it is I who have been left out.  Whether my sister and mom are getting along or not, they have always been in constant contact….not so for me.

I’d like to think my sister is staying sober.  Even if she is sober, it seems like her brain has changed over the years in a way I no longer understand.  She is paranoid about hurts others have inflicted on her, but seems to have almost no memory of her behaviors.

You would think after decades on earth together, we would have this family thing figured out.

Mother’s Day

It is getting close to Mother’s Day as I write this post.

Mother’s Day..what is it?  Many years ago it was a fairly low key affair with my mom. After I was married, for a while it seemed to be a battle for whose mother reigned supreme..his mother or my mother.  While my mother in law was still living, it was expected that we would always put her first..beyond whatever I might wish to do with my mother, or what I might like to do once I became a mother.

These days it is back to being a more low key affair that I spend with my kids.

It is also a time of reflection.  As my kids get older I look back to some of the difficult times I had with my own mom.  I hope and I pray that I can be a mom without all the drama I grew up with.

Today I was thinking about when to step back.  Sometimes it is hard not to hover and interject my own opinions over trivial things.

Most of all though, I think about how blessed(lucky, grateful) my husband and I have been by our children.  They are definitely more than the sum of our parts.