Tag Archives: starting over

it isn’t supposed to be like this

As if no one knows, I am 50 years old. I’ve been doing this math problem in my head since January, and it’s easier to do with a number that ends in ‘0’. Here’s the calculation: When my mom was x years old, I was y years old. Then this whole list of things starts popping into my head, things that were happening in my life when I was y and my mother was 50.

OK, that sounds really confusing. Here’s an example: when my mom was 50, I had a 2 year old son and was working full time (plus some) as a systems analyst. I was also singing the the church choir, finding out that I had fibromyalgia and wondering what life was going to look like on the other side of that realization. Stuff like that.

So now that I’m 50, I start thinking about where my kids could have been by now, if I’d had them at the same age mom was when she had me. I could be a grandmother. There’s a mind-blower. I could be experiencing the empty nest that everyone talks so glowingly about. We could be finished with (at least) one iteration of  one of the kids (who would be adults) having changed careers.

I have two cousins that are a bit younger than me. One has three children, a sophomore in high school, a senior in high school, and a 21-year-old who can’t figure out who she is or what she wants out of life. She tried college; she tried Parris Island (lasted about 4 weeks), and now she is back home, working and studying automobile maintenance at the local community college, only girl in the program. Sounds like fun.

The other cousin has three children too. One is 22, in Iraq.The second one is 20, in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii. The third just had a baby, so my cousin is a grandmother.

These are all concepts that are kinda hard for me to grasp my sad little brain around.

Here’s another one: one of my children has been booted from the family domicile. Never, ever thought I’d be here, at this time in my life, dealing with this kind of problem.

Surprise! Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” So true. Now there are all of these pieces of things that I thought would be one way, scattered around the edges of my life. And his life, too.

Tough love is hard, damned hard. We’ll get through this, and the result of the putting of pieces back together won’t look like it did before the glass was broken. I don’t like the not knowing part.

Too bad. It’s here and I have to deal with it.

But, as Scarlett O’Hara said: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

And cousin Melanie: “Whatever happens, I’ll love you just as I do now until I die.”

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Sand and Water

Dear Daddy,

Remember when we all went to Fancy Gap for a pig-picking after David’s wedding? You and Ray were sitting at a picnic table, reminiscing about how fast David had grown up, and about where the tine had gone. I heard you tell Ray, “You know, I’ll be fifty this year, but I  don’t feel it inside. I look in the mirror and see myself and say ‘Yep, you sure do look like fifty’, but I don’t FEEL it. I feel 18.” I remember thinking about how ridiculous that sounded, and that of course you had to “feel” your age.

Well Daddy, you were a wise man.I always thought, even after you got sick, that we’d have more time, that you’d be here to see Wubby grow up. He is so like me, which means we are like oil and water together. But he’s also so like you, kind and gentle to a fault, never met an enemy, always looking for ways to make other people feel better. I wish you could see that.

I wish you could see your granddaughter and her horse. They have come so far from those little shows we used to have at the barn. Remember that “pokey kid” who took first place from those other riders whose coach stood and the rail and yelled at her students, “Pass that pokey kid!”? Well, she’s not pokey now. She’s fearless on a horse. They are amazing together. I wish you could have seen that.

But here’s the real thing, Daddy. I turned 50 this year, and I’m starting to get what you told Ray all those years ago. I don’t feel 50, but I don’t feel 18 either. Right now I just don’t feel. Anything. Except the pain that never goes away, my constant companion fibro. And maybe anger. I’m angry that our little family is alone in the world. The family ties don’t really bind all that much anymore. The kids miss their grandparents, ALL of them. And we miss our parents, ALL of them. Hubby misses his sister and his brothers, who are now spread out all over the place and busy with their own lives. Isolation could be a good thing if the conditions were right, but these aren’t optimal conditions for living the self-sustaining lifestyle.

I wish you were still here. I need to talk to you. I need to know some things. I need to know that I’m doing at least one thing right, that my life hasn’t been an entire screw-up, or if it has, I guess I need to know that too so I can maybe fix some things before it’s too late.

Please talk to me, Daddy. Somehow, some way, I need to hear your voice just once more. Tell me it’s going to be ok, that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that there’s still time to make a difference in this world, knowing full well that I could never come close to what you did.

When I was little you let me sit in your lap while you watch Walter Cronkite, and it was the safest place in the world. I need a safe place. Please tell me where to find one. Show me the way home.

All my love,

Your baby girl.

Wonder of wonders!

We are actually spending the night in the “new” house!

Things are still a mess, at both houses, but we go where the cable & internet connection goes, and they are here now. Cable guys earned their pay, too. They ran the internet connection to the third floor, which took a bit longer than they figured. But it’s done, we can call people, watch Dirty Jobs, send e-mail and pay the bills online.

But, we’re sort of worried about moving the cats, so they’re spending the night in familiar territory. There’s a fenced back yard here, and two of the cats are pretty darned lazy, so I don’t expect they’ll wander any further than the fence. And there’s plenty of woods for them to hunt mousies in.

But that third cat, she’s gonna be a problem for sure. And we’re surrounded by dogs. Big dogs. There’s a great dane that stands well over 6 feet when she’s on her hind legs looking over the fence. Today she’s been checking us out quite a bit. She’s wearing a t-shirt. Weird.

Weird. It sort of feels weird to be here, and at the same time it feels rather normal. I guess it’s because we’ve been moving things in bits and pieces for a while and haven’t felt like either place was “normal”.

I’ve gained a hearty respect for my mom’s ability to run up and down stairs. I’m pooped, and she’s been doing this for 3 years! I’m hoping for some killer calf muscles by January.

Well, I have laundry to finish (already) and linens to put away, clothes that are going to a friend of a friend who lost everything in a fire recently that need to be carried downstairs, a Christmas tree to put up….I did hang a wreath on the front door today….

I’m pooped.

Then there’s the twenty years of stuff still at the other house that needs to be sifted, sorted and sent somewhere.

Scarlett O’Hara said it best: “I can’t think about that now. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

My little brother Buddy

Last Thursday I babysat my little brother, Buddy. He’s four years old and can be a handful at times. Yeah, I know that people my age don’t have four-year-old brothers, but my mom and dad had already made arrangements to adopt him when my dad passed away. So, two weeks after Daddy died, Buddy came to live with my Mom.

Buddy is very precocious, and too smart for his own good sometimes. He loves going on car trips, so I took him with me to run some errands. He’s actually much easier to care for when he’s in the car than when we’re at my house. He loves my dogs and is constantly wanting to play. Unfortunately, my dogs are getting on in years and just don’t have the patience for Buddy. They’ll play for a few minutes, then my dogs go hide and Buddy settles down and waits for my Mom to come for him.

I don’t babysit Buddy very often, so when I do it’s because my mom is doing something important, or travelling and doesn’t want to take him with her, so he stays with me. Last Thursday Mama really wanted to get her house cleaned up and Buddy tends to get under her feet and wants constant attention when she’s cleaning. And he’s afraid of the vacuum cleaner.

Buddy is a papillon. You know…a dog with big ears and a long silky coat.

I’m babysitting Buddy again this Wednesday while Mama travels to east TN for a day. It’s her turn. Last Thursday, and the Thursday before that one, he drove over here from TN. So, it’s her turn to drive over there. Buddy isn’t sure what’s going on, and seeing my mom pay attention to someone other than him is rather confusing to him.  He gets clingy and whiny, he wants to play, he wants to be in Mama’s lap, he is JEALOUS.

I, on the other hand, know exactly what’s going on, and think it’s, well….interesting, to say the least. Exciting? Certainly, for Mama. Weird? Most definitely.

Mama has met a gentleman friend.

Waiting

I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been writing here like I really want to. There are plenty of excuses, a couple of GOOD excuses, but…

Life has been a waiting game for the family around here for, oh, three years and three days and, um, two hours and eight, no, nine minutes. Exactly three years, three days, yak yak ago, my employment as a computer systems analyst was terminated. It wasn’t a bad thing. I expected it, because exactly six months earlier I left the office trying to figure out how to do my job full time plus someone else’s job full time, plus fix another someone else’s code bugs and re-introduce the corrected code to system testing. If you’re a computer geek, or propeller head (as my first boss said) then you know how easy it is to get into someone else’s head and try to figure out what s/he was thinking when writing the nasty code in the first place. NOT. And the people who wrote the bad code I was supposed to fix, in my spare time, were in Missouri. I’d never met them face to face, never conferenced in w/ them when they were writing code.

No one person could possibly do all that stuff even if s/he worked 24/7. And I was supposed to have a life outside of work: husband, children, music, church. So, I came home to find my phone ringing and my daughter looking at caller ID and asking me if she should answer it. I didn’t recognize the number, but I did recognize the place and told her to answer while I got myself in the door, dropped my briefcase and laptop, and got myself to the phone. It was my mom. My dad had a stroke that afternoon. It was serious. I needed to come now. I did. Daddy died 4 days later.

That was the proverbial straw the broke this camel’s back. Life changed in an instant.

During the time from then up to now, I’ve spent time in a mental hospital behavioral health center, in counseling, being poked and prodded because the fibromyalgia. I’ve been in a barn, a poverty-stricken barrio outside Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the emergency room (twice); Slidell, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi after Katrina. I’ve vacationed at the beach, in the mountains; counseled teens at summer camp three years straight. Taught Sunday School, taken an art class, read tons of books, knitted socks.

So what?

I don’t know how to be me. I’m not sure I KNOW me. I’ve taken care of myself since I was 7, took care of my parents (translate: cooked, cleaned, etc.) while in elementary, middle, high school, and college. I got married, took care of our financial requirements while my husband looked for himself. Took care of my son and my daughter. Taken care of my mom since my dad died and she moved here.

I’m not saying that I’ve done nothing else in my life except this “taking care of”.

I’m not saying that I was a caretaker for everyone all the time, 24/7.

I am saying that I made tons and tons and TONS of mistakes.

I am saying that I love all of these people more than I can describe in mere words.

My son is about to graduate from high school and venture off into the scary world of ultra-left wing liberal college. My daughter is finishing middle school and heading to high school. My husband is excelling in his chosen profession. My mom is venturing back into the world of relationships three+ years after my dad’s death, and she was with him for 43 years.

And I realize that a lot of that caretaking that I’ve done is not pressing on me as hard now as it once was. I feel lighter, more relaxed, more OK with myself and my world.

But I still don’t know me, don’t know how to be me without the constant “worrying about everyone else” part of me totally engaged.

It’s new territory for me. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know it’s what I’ve been waiting for.

Back in January I received a favorable decision on SSI disability, after 3 years of waiting. The benefit isn’t bad; the back benefits have helped us with some financial issues we desperately needed to address. But it took another five months of waiting for all of that to establish itself.

Another load off my mind.

So, here I am, after all this caretaking and waiting and mistakes and rabbit trails and….

What am I saying?

That maybe the waiting can be over now. That maybe I can look back and finally reclaim the parts of me that weren’t fed and watered during all those years and see what grows.

Look at what I just said. “Feed and water it and see what grows.”

You know what that means?

ACTIVE waiting.

 

Thanksgiving, again

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, again.

We used to go to the beach for Thanksgiving, husband, kids, mom and dad. We’d rent a house and either cook a meal or order one from Food Lion. The last time we went to the beach for Thanksgiving was in 2003, and we took the flu with us. We all had it at one point or another during the week, except for Daddy. He was healthy the whole week, while the rest of us took turns with the fever, chills, headaches, etc. Daddy was looking at real estate magazines, and I think he and Mama might have actually considered selling out and moving to the beach. Since we were all sick, we went out for Thanksgiving dinner, to the buffet at the Lucky Fisherman. We all left the beach a day early because we were sick.

That happened once before, on a trip to the beach for Thanksgiving. We had rented a different house. Mama and Daddy left for the beach before we did, because hubby and I both had to work. When we got to there on Tuesday, Daddy wasn’t feeling very well and he got worse as the week progressed. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner. On Friday morning, I got up to find Mama and Daddy packed and leaving, heading straight for home and the hospital. We thought then that we’d had our last Thanksgiving together. I remember Mama asking me to take a lot of pictures that year, just in case. After they left for the hospital, I felt so lost and confused. We went to a local gift shop and I bought a Christmas present for Daddy, a tide clock for the Cape Fear River inlet, so he’d always know when the tides were at the beach, even when he was home. I think I was gambling that as long as he had the tide clock he wouldn’t leave, and I guess it worked for a couple of years at least.

Daddy died 3 weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004. On the Friday before Thanksgiving my baby boy came home from school and said that someone had found a suicide note in his 4th period desk and he had been questioned about it, but that he hadn’t written it. The following Monday he admitted that he had written it, and my emotions kicked into overdrive. I called my next-door neighbor to ask her about finding a counselor for him and in the process I became completely unglued. My last 2 grandparents had died, both of my in-laws had died, my father had died, and my son had written a suicide note.

And I broke.

My neighbor asked me to let her take me to the emergency room. Husband was two hours away, at a job site. Mom was two hours away, at her home. I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t stop crying. So we went to the hospital. I walked in the emergency room door and the first person I saw, the volunteer working the sign-in desk, was a man from our church. A man who has, and continues to remind me of Daddy. I knew I was in the right place. I spent the afternoon in the ER. Bill, the man from church, came and checked on me several times. My friend Lori, the Parish Nurse from our church, came. (Yes, I belong to a Baptist church w/ a Parish Nurse on staff. Interesting, huh?) My neighbor brought me a teddy bear that travels with me whenever I go on trips now. My husband met the kids at home and took care of them, and we all decided that I should probably stay in the psych hospital.

Only there were no beds available.

So my neighbor had to take me to another hospital in a larger city. I was checked in about midnight, went through a modified strip search, had all of my belongings searched for anything I could use to hurt myself, like the string from my sweatpants. I was allowed to keep the teddy bear, some paper and a pen. I spent the next 3 days at that hospital, and was released on Thanksgiving Day. My mom had taken the kids to her house, so husband and I spent the day doing nothing, just trying to understand what had happened and maybe what was going to happen next.

Now it’s 3 years later, and we’re still trying to understand what’s going to happen next. I don’t work any more, and know that I will never be able to work at the technical level I did before all of this happened. There was long term disability income, but only for 24 months so it’s gone now. We’re trying to stay afloat while a lawyer and the Social Security Administration try to decide what to do with me. There are things that have happened during these past 3 years that I have been able to experience only because of being broken. Good things. Other peoples’ lives that have been changed, for the better, because I was broken. Things can never be the way they were, and I wouldn’t want them to be.

Last night we watched the movie “Evan Almighty”. I remember when “Bruce Almighty” came out, and I saw the trailer for it and thought it would be blasphemous and swore I’d never see it. Then husband and son saw it at the $2.00 theater, and husband told me about it. Yes, it’s childish and silly and vulgar at times, but I like it. “Evan” was milder than “Bruce” and I like it better. The scene where God talks to Evan’s wife in the restaurant resonated with me. If you pray for patience, does God give you patience, or the opportunity to practice patience? If you pray for courage, does God give you courage, or the opportunity to be courageous? If you pray for a closer family….well, you get the idea.

So, what opportunities have made themselves known during these past 5 years? Patience? Yes. Courage? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. Trust? Most definitely, yes.

But I think the biggest opportunity has been…to be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Because tomorrow something or someone I thought I had might not be here.

It’s the opportunity to be thankful for……today.

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving again. And to those who are part of this life I have, I say “Thanks.”

Blessed BE.

C.

Learning to walk again

Pain has been a constant companion of mine for at least fifteen years. It’s not excruciating as a rule, but it can be. It is constant though, except for an occasional rare moment when the planets are in perfect alignment or something. I’m pretty sure it’s something I did to myself; the professional opinion is that is was triggered by a minor car accident. Wherever it came from, however it descended upon me, it’s here. The weird thing about it is that, if by some miracle it were to just disappear, I think I’d miss it. Isn’t that bizarre? There’s a saying, something about the devil we know being preferable to the one we don’t.

I’m not sure how it happened. One day I was teaching piano in a studio, glorified babysitting for the most part. The next I was married, working a blue collar job in an AT&T factory, then taking a programming class, and then working as a programmer. All the while, still playing the piano for the small church where my husband and I were married. Then we moved, I took a better paying position, sold my baby grand to buy a house because our first child was on the way. And the music started to fade into the background. The harder I worked, the better I became at my new chosen professional, the more the music faded until, one day, it just left. And the pain started. Actually I think the music just moved into a spare room and decided to wait until I found my way back to it.

Last October I played in a recital for the first time since college. One piece. Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# minor, “The Bells of Moscow”. It’s a chestnut, a war horse, everyone plays it at one time or another, and I’d been scared of it since forever. But the two of us, the music and me, sat down together and started listening to each other. And we came to an understanding.

There were plans to put an entire recital together, from Baroque to Billy Joel, but the pain got in the way. And now, I’m learning to walk again, with my fingers on a keyboard, with my crutches and stiff, swollen knee. I’m going to fall down, more than once, but I have to get back up. I don’t have a choice.

During my freshman year of college I had a music theory professor who broke his leg. He came into class on a Monday morning, in a cast, on crutches, and began to lecture on intervals and ear training, learning to recognize intervals by listening to them and not by playing them on a piano. And he said, as he leaned on the old grand piano in the theory classroom, “Do not use the piano as a crutch.” The room burst into laughter as he realized what he’d said and the context surrounding his comment.

My piano will be my crutch, and I will not be convinced otherwise.