Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Will You Remember Me?

Spoken words, whispered, yelled or thought, fell into the dark clay that is the fabric of time in my life. Some of words blossomed while others lay in their dark graves, festering and broiling. The thorny words sprung up here and there, while the blossoms smiled towards the sun almost oblivious that weeds of bitterness and anger existed.

For nearly ten years, I've lived without contact from my parents. I raised my children, adopted two more, started a career. I lived a life void of family drama (on my side at least). After the many years of trying and failing, I came to the conclusion that a relationship with my mother was simply not to be. It took time, but eventually my father fell into line with my mother's wishes and that relationship was fracture as well. 

Ten years is a long time to be silent.

My father has Alzheimer. The VA moved him into memory care after he became violent during an emergency room visit. I was relieved to learn he was no longer living at home, being cared for by my 72-year-old mother, who has a heart condition, and my alcoholic, younger brother. The logical adult in me knew that he was no longer safe at home, nor were my mother and brother.

I wanted to see my dad, but also dreaded the thought. What if he didn't want to see me? What if he was violent? What if my mother was at the facility when I arrived and wouldn't let me see him. So many what ifs.

It took two weeks to build up the courage. I had plenty of time to chase down scenarios in my head during the 35 minute drive. My stomach quivered in nervousness, blood pressure higher, anxiety seizing my every thought. No one can race down a path of made up drama faster than I can.

I arrived to find the parking lot deserted. A cool breeze followed my steps to the front door. I willed myself to be calm. What will be, will be. Stepping inside I found the reception area dark and empty. I waited, hearing voices in a back room.

"Hello?" I called out.

An employee, wearing a blue collard polo shirt, greeted me and asked who I was there to see. I gulped and told her my father's name. I had suspected that my mother had neglected to put me on the visitation list or, more true to form, had informed the staff that I was not allowed to visit at all.

"He might be in his room, " she smiled and punched in the door code.

There was no list, no ID check, nothing. The heavy door opened and I explained that I hadn't been to the facility to visit before and I didn't know where my father's room was. I felt small, like a little girl whose been allowed into the teacher's break room and doesn't know what to do next. The employee smiled and led me into the residents dorm area.

We walked to my father's room. His picture stared at me from the wall. Sad. Lonely. Unsure. I quickly skimmed the paragraph about him, where he was born - they had mistakenly listed his state of birth as California, but he was born in Colorado. His military service: US Air Force. It informed everyone that he liked to keep to himself...surely not! Not my father! My, "life of the party" father? The man who always had an exaggerated story to share? The description went on to say that he would talk to anyone if they talked to him first.

His room was empty.

We continued down the hall, rounding a corner where a group of residents watched television. No one looked up as we passed. As we headed towards the dining area, I saw him. I knew him from the way he sat and the funny hat on his head. My father loved hats! His back was to us but I could see he was carefully holding a mug of cocoa. My guide announced our arrival in a voice that was too loud, too lively, too bright.

"Jerry, I've brought you some company."

I looked into the eyes of my father. Eyes that I had not seen in ten years. I looked longingly for recognition. He looked back at me without emotion. My face triggered no response.

"Do you know me?" I said, my voice barely above a whisper.

He shook his head, eyes blank, weary.

"My name is Ann." I waited, but there was no memory of me left in his mind. I took his hand and leaned down closer to his face.

"I'm your daughter...."

Instantly, his eyes widened and he said, "Really?" and he began to cry. I cried for the ten years that I lost. I cried because he didn't know me. I cried because he was not the man I remembered. I cried because I knew when I left that he wouldn't remember that I had been there.

He has lost most of his verbal skills and barely spoke above a whisper. I showed him a photo that I had brought for him of my children, his grandchildren. He appeared surprised to have four grandchildren. I pointed at each one, "This is John. This is Crystal. This is Kayleen and here is Allison." He asked how old they were, he asked what job they had. He laughed when I said that Allison is a pain in the ass because she's 16. He cried when he learned John is Pastor.

He tried to tell me things, but the words wouldn't form in his brain. My father became frustrated and rolled his eyes. I couldn't help but smile because I had seen that expression on his face before. It felt good to glimpse the man he had been, if  only for a moment. I hold that expression close in my heart, because now I know where I get my eye rolling tendencies.

We cried and wiped our tears. He held my hand, rubbed my back. My poor father, so lost, tried to put me into a place that was familiar, but couldn't find one. He told me he was married and I smiled and showed him a picture of my mother and him  from my wedding,

"Isn't mom pretty?" I said.

He shook his head, tears falling again.

The  next 45 minutes followed the same pattern. We rediscovered the photo I'd brought three or four times. Each time he chuckled at my joke about my smart-ass 16-year-old, then he cried to learn his grandson was a Pastor. He tried to tell me a story about the police who had come to his house last night and how he'd told someone to "get the hell out". We cried. We sat together, side by side, clinging to a memory that was already lost.

I told him I loved him and he cried as I choked back the hysteria that was threatening to escape. I kissed his face and repeated the words over and over. A small, frail attempt to erase the years of silence.

I held him, his bony shoulders poking through heavy, grey sweatshirt. I whispered that I loved him again and again. I kissed his cheek and wiped his tears. My father held me with the little strength that he had and told me he loved me too.

I promised I'd visit again soon and he shook his head. The visit had been hard for him. He was tired. With one last squeeze of his hand, I turned and walked blindly away. I couldn't remember how I'd gotten into the dining room and I seemed unable to locate an exit. None were clearly marked for good reason. At last I stumbled upon an employee in a blue polo and asked directions. She was kind and led me to the door, explaining the lock code, which I forgot instantly, and asked if I was okay.

Without breathing, I shook my head yes and walked into the reception area. It was dark and empty. I bolted for the front door. I didn't make it to my car before I started sobbing, gasping for breath, heart pounding, hopeless and sorrowful.


I remember as a little girl, standing on my father's feet as we danced around the living room. I remember the Christmas I received a shiny, blue track suite (they were all the rage in the 70's) and my father received a black dress suit, with a matching fedora. I still have the picture of us, standing side by side in front of the Christmas tree. I remember the years my father drove truck and the trips I got to take with him, sleeping in the sleeper cab that 18-wheeler's have. I recall trips to Montana and Wyoming to see family, his gigantic vegetable gardens and how he always smelled like spearmint gum, aftershave and beer.

I recall a time when the neighborhood bully was picking on one of my younger brothers. He'd pelted him with pine cones until he cried. I punched the bully square in the nose, bloodying it. My mother was horrified. My father was proud. So very proud of his little girl. He also made me apologize to the bully and his grandmother.

My father wasn't a good husband, he cheated, he lied, but he was a good father. I was his princess in a family of boys.

The man I knew as my father is gone. Alzheimer's has taken his memories, his speech and his understanding of the world. Eventually, it will take his life.

I regret that I let ten years go by without a word. I regret that I wasn't a bigger person and I didn't fight harder for my relationship with my father. In the end, no one wins.

It would be so easy to sink down into the sorrow of what is lost. I can feel the cold, angry, thorny thoughts try to push into my mind. It would be so simple to let the weeds of accusation and misplaced pride take over my life. So easy.

I've learned that bitterness can have no place in my life. I cannot let it swallow me. I have to give this and all my regrets over to God. It's how I find peace and how I will find the strength to see my dad again.

I love you dad.











Saturday, March 23, 2019

Hello...It's Been Awhile

 I am the oldest and only daughter of my parents. I have three brothers, ranging in age from 57 to 45. The eldest is a half-brother and we have never been close. The middle brother is nearest to me in age,  was at one time my close companion and he has always been my parents favorite child. The youngest has become a friend, despite the opinions of others.

I have not spoken to my mother in over ten years.

Let me rephrase that, I had not spoken to her in over ten years....before last Sunday at 3:30 pm in the afternoon.

It is said that, time heals all wounds. For me, I would say this is true. I no longer harbor any ill will towards a mother who could not and does not, love me. I have come to understand that her lack of affection for me has less to do with me and so much more to do with her.

Over the years I have wondered if she ever thinks of me. If she ever wanted to see me or speak to me. I gave up the fantasy that we would one day lay our differences down and accept the other for who they are. Still, I have never been able to push her too far from my mind. Even after ten years of silence.

My youngest brother told me that she and my middle brother wanted to talk. I found this odd, considering the last words spoken, so many years ago, made it tragically clear how they felt about me.

Liar
Opportunist
Bitch

I waited a full 24 hours to phone my mother. Youngest brother urged me to call her, but not middle brother. Middle brother is drunk by 9:00 am and surly. "No, don't waste your time on him...call her," he urged.

So I did. From the house phone, not the cell phone.

"Hello?"

Her voice was old, so much older than I remembered. Logically, I knew she would sound different, but it was still shocking to hear her voice...the voice of an old woman.

"Hi...it's Ann..."

There was a moment of silence. I wondered if her mind immediately knew who "Ann" was. I held my breath, what would she say? I could almost hear the wheels turning in her mind.

And then her voice changed. It morphed to the familiar voice of my mother -

"Ann WHO!?" she demanded. Disdain and anger throbbed across the phone lines.

I took a deep breath, wondering what to say. Wasn't she the one who wanted to talk? Wasn't she the one who reached out? It was then that I realized I had been played.

"Youngest brother said you wanted to talk, is this true?"

"NO!" she snarled.

"Am I disturbing you?" I honestly have no idea why I said this. Of course you are disturbing her you moron! She doesn't WANT to speak with you. She never did!

"YES!" she spat.

"I'm sorry to have bothered  you," I said, emotionless.

I pushed the end button and stood there. Afternoon sunshine filtered through the family room blinds. The dog chased one of the cats. Silence draped over me.

I felt ... nothing.

Certainly, as the evening hours grew, I felt a nudge of disappointment. My feelings are not worn so near the surface these days. These last few years have toughened me and taught me that my expectations of others are seldom correct. I've learned to simply let it go.

I can't make you love me....if you don't

In the days since my brief phone call with my mother I've learned a thing or two about myself. The purest and best is that I AM NOT MY MOTHER. I am not bitter and angry. I have forgiven and will continue to forgive. I've laid the pain of her rejection in the grave and buried it deep in the love of my children, husband and friends.

I feel sad for her. Sad for the choices she has made and continues to make.

My mother is 72 years old and not in good health. There may come a day, although I doubt it strongly, that she'll want to talk. If she does. I know what to say.

"Hi....it's Ann"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Public Service Announcement

Little girl ran away the night of All Hallows Eve. She was distraught over having her phone taken away for failing a class at school. It wasn't something she was surprised at. The rule had been in place since September. Gentle reminders did not help. Printed class grades did not spur her into action.

She skipped class to meet up with her boyfriend. She stopped taking her meds. Little girl lied.

When confronted with these simple truths, and again, off her meds, she ran. Little girl strung together tales of woe, of abuse, and hysterics. Her friend's mother bought every tear. Friend's mom was moved to action. She accused and refused to send our girl home. She told me, "your house isn't the best place for Little Girl."

The problem, of course, was there has never been any abuse, not now or in the past. The therapist, the social worker, the police knew the truth.

Little Girl is home. The police handcuffed her and took her to the station. We picked her up and it was heartbreaking. Once the cuffs were unlocked she ran straight into my arms, crying and saying she was sorry.

Our journey to help little girl heal, continues.

As we once again shake off the despair that has become our life, I'd like to address all of the bleeding heart parents out there.

If a child shows up at your door, hysterical with a tale of abuse, call the police. If there is abuse, let the professionals do their job. For you see, your uneducated assumptions only make a bad situation worse.

Friend's Mom doesn't know us. She doesn't know my daughter's past, or the meds she takes. This woman took our lives into her own hands and tried to undo years of work.

In short, if you want to help, then make a call and keep your nose out of other people's business.




Sunday, October 14, 2018

When You Finally Learn

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you know that we adopted two girls just over five years ago. You may also have noticed that I took down many of those blog posts when things got bad. Really bad.

For us, adoption has been a disaster. The girls loath us. Many professionals say that abused kids, such as ours, return to their adopted families in their mid to late twenties. They somehow put together that you were not the cause of all their troubles.

I have no idea if this is true.

What I know to be true is that the human mind is a mystery.

People will treat you however they like...without repercussion.

Broken people are unable to self heal.

And the big one, it's not "if" they will attempt suicide or self-harm, it's "when".

Along this dark and narrow road, I've learned that I'm not the awesome mom I thought I was. I really and truly use to believe that if you mixed all the right ingredients you'd end up with cake. This is not always the case and it's been a rather difficult lesson for me to learn.

Don't get me wrong. I'm okay. I'm just perplexed that my life's work (and if you are a Momma Bear with every pore oozing empathy, meal plans and a schedule, you know what I mean,) has failed.

Failed miserably.

In full self-preservation mode, I've blocked and cut off contact with those who judge a little too harshly. Don't get me wrong...I was a card carrying member of that club for years. Hell, I RAN the club....

Funny how those kinds of things come back to bite you in the butt...

So now, instead of wondering, "Where is that girls' mother!!" I AM that mother. I'm the mom of the troubled girl. The girl who dresses provocatively, the one makin' out with her boyfriend at school, on the street, at a friends' house. I'm the mom of the girl who is struggling in school, who sees a therapist and a psychiatrist. Who goes to Equine therapy. Who takes meds so she can get through the day.

I am that mom and in case you've wondered why THAT mom doesn't clean up her daughter's act, let me tell you:

She can't.

All the begging, crying, screaming, threatening, pouting treatment in the world will not fix her kid. No amount of love or humor or anger, will produce a product that is mentally well.

Some things are just too big to fix.

Understanding all of this is not a bad place to be, not really. Some days are harder than others. Some days I wish I were anywhere but here. Some days she talks to me and I find my little heart hoping it's a good sign, that she actually doesn't hate me, while my brain reminds me that it's just for today, not for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be silence, served with a glare that screams, "screw you!"

My girls are broken. Anxiety filled, abused, battered and confused. They have a snowballs chance in hell of a "normal" life. There is little that I can do, but to redirect, to be positive and honestly, to drink a healthy amount of wine.

If you are finding yourself at the edge, and I know you've been there once or twice, remember a few things:

God, is enough. He can fix what needs fixing without your help.
Do not be so hard on yourself, cut yourself a little slack.
Take time to NOT think about the problem. It'll be there when you get back.
For goodness sake, drink a glass of wine.
Exercise

I won't say sleep, because unless Google has figured out a way to turn off our brains at night, you most likely are not sleeping well. I've decide that a full night's sleep is a fantasy and that's okay too.

I am finally learning that I cannot fix what is broken...And it's okay.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Do Not Believe the Lies

"It's been a while. I want to tell you things are great, but they are not. I'm swallowed in a sea of endless despair. There is no hope or happy ending. We are forsaken and merely crawl through each bitter day.

Friendless, clueless, alone.

We have have lost every battle. It's only a matter of time before the swell of the invading army over take us.

There is no hope.

Don't tell me that all is not lost. You don't know what we've been through. Don't tell me you understand. You don't. Don't tell me God is on our side, that this will make is stronger. Lies.

I'm battle weary. I just want to lay down on the ground and cry until I am no more. Until my body melts into a million years and nothing is left but the dark, damp earth."

I wrote this a few months ago. It was raw and emotional and should not have been posted when it was. I posted it in the middle of the night, then realized the next day that other people would read it and probably be concerned.

They did and they were.

Sorry about that.

Living in a house with someone who hates you is hard. Living in a house where every word and deed is a manipulation, is harder.

To set the record straight, I think y'all should know that I have been accused of abuse. It's been bandied about that I have "hit" her. That I have "refused to give her the medication she needs" and that, "I'm mean to her".

Oh, and that she has attempted suicide twice.

I've had my conversation with DHS. I've had my conversation with her doctor, her therapist, her psychiatrist and with my own therapist. I've tried to make the love of my life understand my pain and sorrow.

So.Much.Talking.

A few more things you should know:

There is no open child abuse case - because DHS knows she lying.

She has NEVER attempted suicide in this house.

I give her the medication that keeps her from rolling into a ball and sobbing hysterically, every. single. day. I watch her take it. If she's at her former foster parents home, they give it to her and watch her. When she went to camp, the counselors gave it to her.

Am I mean to her? Probably. She lies to me on a daily basis. She ignores me. She argues. She tells lies to others and then they come to me about it. She manipulates. She sneaks.

I take her to her therapist, her riding lessons, her volunteer job, weekly. I take her to her doctor for well child check ups and to her psychiatrist. I take her to her orthodontist and her dentist. I meet with her teachers, her IEP specialist, her school Principle and Vice Principle.

I do her laundry. I buy junk food for her. I speak softly. I walk away.

People don't understand that what we are dealing with here is not a rebellious teenager. WE are dealing with mental illness. WE are well aware that she "appears" normal.

Sometimes I just want to scream and say, "EDUCATE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU PASS JUDGEMENT ON ME!"

Fetal Alcohol Syndrom
Reactive Attachment Disorder

Look them up

Am I feeling better than I was when I wrote the above despairing blog? No, well, sort of, but I'm learning how to manage my anxiety and my failure.

If you are reading this and wondering how the hell we got here, all I can say is we were lied to. The state lied, the attorney's lied, the girls lied.

And we believed it all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

On Monday's We Wear Blue

A blue, button down, collared shirt to be worn each Monday, then a different color for every day of the week. ONLY button down, collared shirts. This should have been my first clue, but I was excited about this new possibility and all the perks that went along with the position. I was leaving property management behind, thank God, and moving onto a brighter, bigger, more productive future. 

Health Care - It's where it's at!

I applied for and ultimately took the job at the eye-clinic because I was so over, so so so over, property management. I was finished with the grumbling and the leaking toilets and the games that upper management played. While the position itself had been a pretty cushy one, times were changing and so was the ownership and management team at the Senior Community I had been employed with for the past four years.

It was bitter sweet leaving. No more sweet residents (or grouchy ones), no more working with two good friends (who fought most of the time anyway) and no more cushy job. Still, the future looked bright. The new job offered retirement and a future. It also offered a clothing allowance - Dude! A clothing allowance! There were solid medical benefits offered and since I have twenty years or so left to work, this position seemed like a solid choice.

Sadly, I was unprepared for a Micro Managing Manager.

In my early twenties, I worked for one of these MMM's. They told you exactly, when, how and why to do things. They scheduled EVERYTHING and they did their very best to make darn sure you were kept busy. MMM's like to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of their employee pool. They will get their pound of flesh, one way or the other.

Which I suppose is fine for some, but not for me. Not at forty-seven years old. My twenty-something self took it, but at this stage of life I'm more apt to tell them what they can do with their middle management glory, than actually put up with their power trip. I’m a "tell it like it is" kind of gal. The MMM did not know what to think of this. She would stare at me and blink during some of our discussions. I felt a little bad for her. I wasn't impressed by her and it was obvious. I was not disrespectful or snarky. I simply found it impossible to play her little game. 

I was the voice of descent in the ranks!

The other "girls" in my hub were young. Young women, young mothers, who needed this job! They clung to those positions and kept their heads down, eyes averted when the MMM was on the prowl. These girls always looked busy and I was told to slow down on a certain project because if I finished it, it meant that the MMM would find me a new, fun project to complete. I was assured these "projects" were never fun.

When I was offered the position, I was not informed of bi-monthly 7:00 am meetings. They also failed to inform me that my hours could be changed according to the MMM's whim. One of the reasons that I had taken the job was due to the compatibility of the hours with my family's schedule. I would still be able to drop the girls at school and would return home at exactly the same time, but with a much shorter commute. 

The 7:00 am meetings were going to be a big problem for me and I admit that I was annoyed that they hadn't been mentioned previous to my accepting the position. I went to MMM and explained that these meetings would be a problem for me. She, in turn, informed me that they were mandatory and that I'd have to figure something out. I explained about my girls, with a little detail, and said that I need to take them to school. She suggested my husband take them, that I find morning child care or that I find put them in an early school program. 

In the end, I decided that this position was never going to work. They had not been upfront about my apparently fluid schedule and I am too old to kiss someone's butt. It was such a depressing, dark, miserable place to work. I lasted two weeks and only lost a smidge of my soul. I left the eye clinic behind, telling those young girls in the hub that they were worth more and that there are better jobs out there. One of them looked at me and said, "You're so brave!"

No, just old and cranky.

Today, I begin a new adventure with a small insurance office. My interview was daunting, with the boss and the entire staff volleying questions at me for two hours. Yet, I walked out of that interview liking what I'd seen and heard. I'm excited about the adventure to come and a little nervous too. New things are always hard at the beginning.

The two weeks I spent at the eye clinic reminded me that life is short. It is far too short to spend 8+ hours, five days a week, dressing like twinsies and having your time micro managed by a woman who is frustrated and on a power trip. Life has to be about more than that! I hope those girls at the clinic and others like them figure it out. It doesn't take bravery to look for a new job. It takes bravery NOT to give them the finger when you walk out the door for the last time.


Snicker.



Friday, May 15, 2015

That's What She Said!

For the third time in a four month period, I have Laryngitis. I rarely get sick and seldom go to the doctor. I thought that I was either fighting an infection or simply catching every darn cold that came along.

Time for a doctor visit.

My doctor and I are just getting to know each other, since my perfect and wonderful and amazing Dr. Emily had the audacity to get pregnant and LEAVE my clinic. How could she? We had known each other for at least ten years and she was just the perfect doctor. She got my quirky sense of humor and always reeled me back in when I told her my latest and greatest diet plan (she was more realistic than I!)

New doctor is okay. I have only had two visits with him since Dr. Emily left. I've been that quiet patient, waiting to know him better before I shared my true colors and my quirky thoughts on weight-loss, child rearing and aging. This plethora of information has probably been recorded in my chart and yet, he still took me on as a patient. Whew!

At my visit I shared my concerns about my chronic laryngitis, the fact that for the first time in many married years, I snore, and that I cannot breath through both sides of my nose. I'm tired....so very, very tired.

I was surprised when he told me he thought the culprit could be seasonal allergies.

Really?

I know allergies. I have suffered with pollen allergies every.single.year since I was thirteen-years-old. Allergies...snort.

Oh yes! Allergies! Doctor said my throat looks like someone took their fingernails and raked them down the back of my throat. "This," he said, "is from the post-nasal drip that's been going on for months."

Dang.

So, here I am. I'm armed with enough medication to cure a small village of their seasonal allergies and a nagging fear that I am going to become one of the walking dead. You know, the chronically ill. That person with a humidifier in their bedroom, an air purifier and a distinct, smoker voice. Yet, I don't smoke...That person who cannot stand a live Christmas tree or surprise, delivered flowers because they might have an "episode".

I'm not trying to judge or look down upon those who DO have chronic illness. I have friends who have suffered greatly under the weight of their health issues. I am just surprised by the stealth of something so simple as a pollen allergy and the fact that it's kicking my tail!

Images of my mother, unable to walk up stairs without wheezing, dance in my mind.

What if I can't play with my grandchildren. Not that I have any....yet.

What if I am unable to go to the gym?

What if my chronic laryngitis lasts for weeks and months instead of days?

What if I never feel rested again?

Then I remember, that I'm not that person. I do not live in the land of what if! I don't have time for that. I have a life. I have children. I have too many things on my to-do list!

Full steam ahead!

The gym is the first stop on this journey back to self and perhaps an overhaul of all things edible. Perhaps a little quality SCHEDULED quiet time should be enforced too. A good dose of Bible time and encouraging notes to others is sure to bring me out of these what if thoughts.

I am such a little person, aren't I? Worrying over nothing. Silly. Apparently, I have too much time on my hands if I'm really going to wallow in this pollen bath.

Achoo!