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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Guilty Heart

A person all alone with a giant shadow standing over them.

Have you ever felt so much guilt that it feels like it will consume you? You feel like you should have made a different decision but then you would feel guilty for that choice too. That is how I have been feeling these past few months. My decision to place Mom in hospice has been weighing on me ever since I signed the papers, did I make the right decision?

They keep telling me that she is acting the way she should at this stage of her disease but I can’t get rid of this feeling of guilt over the decisions I have made to ease her pain and discomfort. I know what I am feeling is normal for the position I find myself in. The decision maker regarding my Mother’s health. I know the decision to place her in hospice was so that she could receive the pain medication that would give her some relief but I wonder if I had waited a bit longer; maybe she would have still been here with us instead of lost in the grip of the morphine.

My niece looks at me with anger and disdain. She thinks that I should visit Mom more often. She doesn’t realize that every time I walk down the hallway towards Mom’s room, that I am assaulted with all sorts of doubts and questions. A heavy sense of responsibility weighs down upon my shoulders. If I could pass this torch, I would do so gladly. If you have ever felt like I do when placed in the position of decision maker for a family member, let me know in the comments.

The definition of guilt in words.

I receive a phone call from the hospice chaplain almost weekly. He asks if I have any questions about Mom and at the end of the call, he always says he is here for not just Mom but for the whole family as well. Is it wrong to not want to hear the age-old platitudes that he probably does by rote now? I just can’t bring myself to discuss my feelings where it concerns my Mother. People usually don’t understand that when they say “we know you love her, it must be hard.” They have just brought up another thing I feel guilty about because I honestly don’t love her. I respect her as my mother but I stopped loving her long ago.

People tell me that I must love her because of everything I do for her. I do what I do out of obligation as the eldest child, not out of love. I do what I do because it was one of the last things my Dad asked of me before he died. If I do anything out of love, it is because of how much I loved my Dad.

This awakens all new questions in my mind. I sometimes think I don’t know how to love. I never was shown what true love looked like. I know my Dad loved us because he didn’t say it all the time. He preferred to show us and when he said the actual words, he truly meant them. Mom, on the other hand, said it all the time but didn’t show it much, if at all. Dad was a giver and Mom was the taker but that subject can wait for another post. This one is not about love, it is about guilt over feeling how I truly feel. Guilt over decisions I have made, and the fact that I am tired of having it eat away at me. How do I get past these feelings so that I can go on with my life without it weighing me down?

How do you live with guilt and how it affects the decisions you have made or maybe the indecisiveness that it brings? Or does that fall more under the feeling of fear?

Let me know what makes you feel guilty or how do you define love? I hope this week will let you love freely and laugh often.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Ties That Bind A Family.

Silhouette of a family of five.

Have you ever looked back over your life and thought of the people who have been there throughout it? The ones you could count on come rain or shine. Do you think of friends or does family come to mind first? The people who were your strongest supporters but could also be your biggest aggravation. Yes, I am talking about family. Today I want to talk about siblings, in my case that is two younger brothers. Keep reading to see if you have any similarities with your brothers and sisters.

I didn’t always have brothers. The first three and a half years I lived as an only child. There were good things about it. I got spoiled rotten by parents, grandparents, other relatives not to mention friends of my parents. There was a downside though. I was lonely. I spent most of those early days with a sitter because my Mom worked and my Dad was trying to start a business while at the same time working for others. I have more memories of the pastor’s wife at our church who was also my main sitter. I still remember clearly the last day I ever drank from a bottle. I threw it in the toilet and she closed the lid and pretended to flush it away. Yep, no more bottle for me. I was around the age of two.

She is also the person who taught me to read. Every afternoon she and I would sit down on the sofa and she would teach me to read. It kind of backfired on her though. She did this to relax me so I would take a nap. Nope, not me. I became engrossed in the stories and would not sleep until we completed the book. By the time that happened it was time for her kids to come home from school, so no nap time for me. Did I also mention that I was spoiled and pretty much got my way about most everything?

That was when my Mom decided I needed a sibling, someone to take some of the attention from me. Silly mommy, I am a Scorpio, and I would still get the attention. I also gained an adoring fan that was putty in my stubby little fingers. He arrived just a few months before I suffered my first loss. He was in his crawling phase when we went to stay at my Grandpa’s. Mom and Dad were having some problems and had separated. I remember my brother was crawling at the time because he bumped his head on the front door when he crawled straight into it. He had himself a lovely goose egg on his forehead for a bit. My Grandpa died a few weeks later.

After attending the funeral, where once again I gained everyone’s attention when I declared very loudly that the man lying in the coffin was not Grandpa. I had never seen my Grandfather clean shaved, not once in my life. I also had never seen him in a suit. To my four-year-old mind, that man could not be my Grandpa because of those reasons. A few short hours later, the car was packed up and we were headed back home to Dad. This would mark the beginning of my brother and I clinging together when our lives were being torn apart by an evil disease that had my Father in its grip. I learned to protect the two of us when schizophrenia was ruling my Dad.

A girl holding her baby brother.

A couple of years later my parents welcomed another baby boy. They may have welcomed him but neither my brother or I liked the idea one bit. I would have been fine if I had gotten the baby sister I asked for but another brother was not appreciated. My youngest brother had the distinction of being born on December 23. While my Mom waited for her ride to the hospital, me and little brother woke up and asked to open a present each from under the Christmas tree. As we went in search of the biggest presents under the tree; you know bigger is the best present. Boy have I learned that isn’t always the case. Those tiny little gift boxes sometimes hold the very best kind of present.

Anyway as my Mom sat having contractions, she asked what we wanted for Christmas since she wouldn’t be home for the holiday. I very adamantly reminded her of her promise of a baby sister; up to this point, the doctor swore she was carrying a girl. My brother didn’t say much as he played with his newest toy. So as Mom was taken to the hospital and we went to the babysitters, I was assured that in a couple of days I would have my very own live baby doll to play with. It was at this time, I learned parents do lie. On Christmas morning I got a call from my Mom telling me that I had a new baby brother. I was very nice as I told her to leave him at the hospital, he wasn’t wanted at home.

My brother showed his feelings on the subject a couple days later when as Mom was sitting in the living room holding the new baby, all the family was standing around her gazing upon the newest addition. My brother calmly walked through the group until he was standing beside my Mom before she could react, he grabbed the baby by the feet and tried to pull him off of Mom’s lap. As he was pulling, he simply stated to the crowd, “my Mommy.” Yes, my baby brother was a great addition to the family, he just wasn’t appreciated at the beginning of his life with us.

As much as I complained about having another brother, we all became a very tight-knit group. I became a protective big sister keeping all the harm away from my minions… oops, my brothers. In a couple of years, some of the worst memories in my life transpired. The fight we all faced as Dad’s schizophrenic delusions and hallucinations reached a fever point. I remember him losing the battle on occasion and it became too dangerous for the three of us to stay in the house. I was living on high alert every time Dad was off work. I never knew when I would hear my mom yell for me to take the boys to the neighbor's house. My Mom would shove us out the door and return to battling the beast that gripped my Dad so tightly.

Our lives became more normal after Dad went to spend some time in a mental hospital. While he was there, my Mom ended up in the hospital with a nervous breakdown and the three of us were sent to live in a foster home. I am sure there are still memories of that time that I still have blocked out. What is sad is every once in a while one of those hidden memories will tease just on the edges of my consciousness. Teasing me with feelings of panic and fear. Pretty sure that I want those memories never to resurface. One of my biggest fears is what the boys remember during that time. They were so much younger than me so if they do remember, the memories would be fragmented in their mind.

A big brother holding his baby brother.
Yeah, this scene never happened in our house.
Since I was the only girl and a few years older than the boys, I was usually left alone. I didn’t want to play with the “babies”, they, in my opinion, were no fun. Well except when I needed someone to blame for a misdeed, then they were my best friends. As we got older, the boys were inseparable. They did almost everything together, but they were also always fighting each other. It was weird they could be beating the crap out of each one minute and the next standing together against a schoolyard bully. Years later they said it was that they were the only person allowed to kick their ass, well and big sister. Hey, I had to assert my authority once in a while, I’m only human.

Here we are at the ages of fifty-one, forty-eight, and forty-five and we are still each other's strongest ally. We have weathered being separated, living with our own families, but we have always been there for each other. I think for most siblings just the fact that we had a shared history growing up made us close. Only someone who has lived a situation with you can truly understand your feelings about the situation. We had the same building blocks so to say.

To attest to the fact of how close we are, we all live in the same house. My youngest brother invited me to live with him and his family when I found myself homeless after being abandon by my roommate at the time. I was having health issues and my roommate moved out of our apartment leaving me with all of the bills. On my paycheck alone I couldn’t pay for the place so I had to move out. I went to stay with my mother but where she lived had strictures on how long someone could stay. My brother was getting ready to move into a bigger house and asked if I would like to move in. It was a no-brainer that I would be joining his family. A few years later he was sent to a new Army post and asked if I would like to move to Texas. I figured after almost ten years in Tacoma, I could use some drying out.

The older brother stayed in Tacoma with his wife and family. They were debating moving but couldn’t decide between Texas and Alabama. His wife decided that with or without him, she was going home to Alabama. Since the whole family was in Texas, my brother packed up what was left of his life and came down south. He was pretty much broke by the time he got here so he took up residence with the rest of us. This is how it has been all of our lives if one of us fell on hard times, the other two offered any help we could. It was ingrained in us by our Dad that we take care of each other because at the end of the day you should be able to depend on family. If one of us failed, then all of us failed because we let it happen.

My gypsy blood is begging for me to find new pastures, I hate to leave but I need to do this for my soul. I feel stagnate. My life stuck in a holding pattern. As much as I would love to move away, I can’t bring myself to move away from the family. Especially now that my Mom is fading away day by day. I know that we are going to need each other when the time comes for her to go. This is another thing about siblings when you lose someone as important as a parent, you should join together in celebration of their life.

Yes, my Mom did dress the boys alike for quite a few years.

I know I have rambled on for a bit, I just felt the need to let this out. If it makes you think about your own family and see the similarities then I am glad. If it makes you feel sad that you don’t share the same relationship with your siblings. Remember there is still time to mend your differences. You shouldn’t hold hate in your heart towards someone who has been there from the beginning. Whatever tore you apart, can be fixed if you come together and agree life is too short to hate each other. Sure siblings can push more of your buttons than anyone else simply because they have been there so long. Think about it, you can push their buttons just as well. It is a two-way street.

As I finish this post I hope you take what I have said and take a look at your shared life together. I also hope that you love fully and laugh often.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Sunday Morning Memories

preparing scrambled eggs

As I was trying to think of a good subject to write that would give you a new Glimpse of My World. I thought what would be better than writing about the first thing one does in the morning, well besides waking up, after beating the snooze button into compliance. I am speaking of what I have heard all of my life is the most important meal of the day, and that is breakfast.

I remember as a child, every Sunday morning was family time at the dining table. Mom would get up and yell at us kids to wake up and come eat breakfast. She began by making oatmeal, the old-fashioned kind that not many people eat anymore. As I would slowly wake up, the smells of eggs cooking and toast began to pervade the air. Soon bacon or ham joined in the chorus invading our olfactory senses. One by one the three of us kids filed into the kitchen to find our place at the table. The aroma of Folger’s coffee percolating was the ending in the attack on our senses as my Dad sat at his place at the table and sipped slowly on the magic brew. Sundays were the only day we all ate together. During the week, Dad had already left for work hours earlier than our wakeup time. And he stumbled in soon after we had said our good nights and went to bed.

Some of my best memories are of my Dad during Sunday breakfast. I remember his laughter as one of my brothers cracked a joke. Or how he would push back from the table to let one of our pets lay in his lap. More often than not it was the cat that he said he hated but would calmly sit there and stroke. My Dad was an animal whisperer. I never saw an animal that didn’t gravitate towards my Dad. I remember dragging home every stray I met on my walk home from school and how Dad would always find a home for them. But I digress. We are talking breakfast here; not the story of the garbage man/animal whisperer.

As I got older I took over some of the breakfast making duties. I started with making enough toast to feed an army, then I learned how to make the oatmeal. I graduated to eggs and how to make the perfect pot of coffee soon after. The last subject in my breakfast lessons was the cooking of the meats. Why it was the last is the simple fact that I didn’t want to get splattered with hot grease. I overcame that obstacle with the eggs but still to this day hate to cook bacon. I don’t mind the sausage or ham but bacon is a pain in the butt. By the time I was a teenager, I was chief cook and bottle washer in the house. Mom never liked to cook and loved handing me the golden spatula.

A plate filled with fried eggs and bacon.

In this day and age when the family meal has broken down to a quick hi and bye as you pass on the way to the refrigerator, it seems like as the family unit eating together has ended, also mankind's treatment of each other has eroded away. Maybe if we take at least one day a week and slow down enough to share a meal with our family, that maybe just maybe, it will lead to a stronger sense of community within our lives. In our rush to do everything, it seems as if for one moment we could take a break. To put away our phones, tablets, anything that can distract us away from learning how the week is going for those around us. Not just the cursory retelling we have now, where people ask you the question and if you can spare the time to look up from your electronic device, the other person has lost interest that fast.

This morning when I woke up, I felt like making breakfast for my family. As I stood over the stove, there were some staples from the breakfasts of the past missing. There was no bacon, ham, or sausage. No coffee brewing, just a teapot heating water for my cappuccino. The oatmeal stayed put in the cabinet. This morning the menu is simple. Eggs and toast. As I stood there I remembered those old days of family camaraderie as we sat around an old beaten up wooden table. We didn’t have much back then but we did have each other. Today I just called out each person's name and they slowly found their way to the kitchen to grab their food and then disappeared. No one sits at a dinner table anymore in this house. We all live separate from each other but under one roof. The past is long gone.

We don’t even own a dining table. It is just understood that no one would sit around it so why have one take up space. Just another thing to slip into the past. Do they even still sell dining tables, I sometimes wonder?

Once the meal was cooked and I gathered up my plate and cup. I felt my Dad’s presence. It felt like he had been standing there watching me cook and he wanted me to remember times past. He wanted me to remember the lazy Sundays where a family joined together to share a meal and a laugh. I wish those days would return. I leave you with one wish that you love fully and laugh often. Until next time.