Category Archives: Family

Beginning a Multi-Generational Family

Becoming a Multi-Generational Family when Social Security for the Disabled and Section 8 Housing are involved can be fraught with difficulties.  When my daughter and son-in-law asked me to move to California and be the nanny to their first born, I knew it was the next chapter in my life.  I’m turning 61, a new decade. No hesitation. As I look at the host of hurdles which need to be jumped over, I still know it is the right thing but there is plenty of work to do to make it work.

To begin with, I am a quiet person who has lived the twelve years since my daughter graduated high school alone.  To move into their home with a brand new baby and two dogs is change enough.  Most of the time I don’t have any noise in my apartment save the sometimes relentless talking my cat does.  I just moved, literally a month ago, just purchased furniture needed to make a substantial downsizing work, started back to walking my cat daily, and reduced the outer noise volume to nothing.

I live on Social Security Disability for Working Employees and part-time work as a CNA. This change would mean negotiating the tricky minefield of employee payment within the family unit.  I will also need to figure out a way to keep my Section 8, whether it means renting a room or studio. Should I pod, share a house with other women my age?

I currently live in Connecticut.  What are the best options in this new living arrangement?  Does giving myself options mean I am leaving the door open?  If so, my cat might escape.  And speaking of my cat – all those adjustments I am to make, he is making.  Can a mature, one person pet adjust to so much new?

Moving across country wouldn’t be an issue.  I’ve done it several times before.  But this time someone else needs to drive my car and possessions across the great divide.  And all that downsizing I just did will making will be nothing compared to what will need doing to make this move.  This last move I gave away what I didn’t need.  This time I will need to sell or donate belongings that mean something to me as well as divest myself of things like linens, cookware, dishes, Christmas treasures, a brand new cat tower I put together myself, etc.  Things I thought of as essential.  God has been teaching me things don’t matter, people do.

Boundaries . . . a veritable minefield all its own.  Sharing space with others means listening and comprehending what matters to them.  Being reflective.  Bending and being fluid.  For all parties involved, except the baby.  My family has produced strong-headed people.  My daughter wants to take care of me while I take care of her baby.  How does that work?  I’ve become pretty independent over the years.  I raised both she and her brother, who I will also be closer to, another source for boundary issues.  I have both physical and mental issues now  but none that impair my ability to care for myself.

Values. . . such core aspects of a personality.  I already know my children have different ones than I do.  Especially over religious matters.  Making them merge will be interesting.

Grandparenting, how wonderful, delightful, daunting.  Am I up for the rigors of caring for a child 8-10 hours daily?  What will I do to carve time out for myself?  To keep my independence and soul intact may take a bit of processing.  But this is what I will do. . . with joy and thanksgiving.  The rest is trivia.

Chapter 10 . . . or is it 15?

My daughter and son-in-law called the other night, via Facetime, not a usual occurrence, and she said, “Momma, do you remember when I was a little girl, I always said when I grew up and had a baby, I wanted you to live with me and take care of it?  Well. . . .”

“You’re pregnant?” (Real fast on the uptake).  Eight weeks along.

“And we want you to  come live with us and be our Nanny.”

Of course I said Yes!  I love children, especially my own who live 3,000 miles away and have busy lives.  I was a nanny for 2 1/2 years for my twin nieces and loved ever minute of it.  Taking care of my grandchild, a no brainer.

A caregiver for years, I had been pondering lately how much a toll it was taking on me physically and mentally to work with those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I didn’t know if I could hold out another four years or more. The opportunity to grow closer to my daughter and son-in-law, whom I barely know, was exciting. And a baby!

Then the multitude of questions started flooding in.  I have been living alone for many years, how would I be within the context of  a family unit?  Could my depression and anxiety stand it? Would I be giving up my Section 8 voucher – something I could well need in the future?  They were only married a year, did they really want to trade off on their intimacy so their child could be cared for someone they knew would love him or  her?

As my daughter’s childhood grew she would say she wanted me to live next door,  then down the street, to slowly evolve into nothingness.  I had been reconciling myself to knowing I would be living 3,000 miles away from my children forever.  This was an abrupt about face.

I asked my daughter, Dani, how Kendall would feel about living with his mother-in-law when he only got to know the few days before their wedding.  Dani said he had been the one to suggest it.  They had talked before the pregnancy about having me come out to live with them.  Those physical and emotional issues I mentioned earlier have impeded my independence, which I treasure.  How could I maintain it in a multi-generational family? Would my life get smaller as it was getting bigger?

They were thinking in foreverness, would that be realistic?  Kendall is starting a Divinity Master’s in May.  They might need to move when he graduates.  Would I be willing to move in three years, they asked?

I had to laugh.  I have lived all over New York State, two places in New Jersey, four in California, and five in Connecticut.  Moving was something I knew how to do.  I had just moved the month before.  I liked my new place, and had downsized  substantially before moving, then bought a few things to make it home.  I will be downsizing one more time.  God has taught me a lesson – not to be attached to things.  Things don’t matter.  Circumstances and people do.

The questions swirl through my brain.  I am about to turn 61, this is a new Chapter in my life.  There have been groundbreaking Chapters over the years.  This will just be another. I recently submitted my children’s book in hope it will be published.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if I could read my published book to my grandchild?

Chapters . . . is this my purpose in life?  I’ll have more time to write.  And more to write about.  Grandparenthood – who would have thought it?

Volatility

Storm surges –
not knowing from moment to moment,
whirlwind tempests
stirring waters into choppy, cut-up waves,
slicing bodies into fragments,
buffeted by forces beyond control.
Death and despair,
pulling up roots,
pushed over by greater forces.
one by one the fortresses’ buttresses
fall, stone by stone
smashing on heads
bruising damaged minds,
praying for resurrection
in the wake of thunder’s heartbeat,
lightening’s spear thrusts –
how are we to bear up
to life’s dark furies?

When do you say Goodbye?

She was by turns feckless or feral.
ferocious, fickle, self-centered.
Twelve years spent in her company,
unable to respond or defend.
captive, as she came to visit
several weeks at a time,
several times a year.

Schizophrenic, Bipolar –
voices keeping her company
more than her devoted husband.
Her only caregiver –
he wore himself down
to bare nubbins.
And I worry now he will soon
follow the same path.

She appropriated my life
told me there was a cancer in me
she had to cut out.
Humiliated me in front of family
relatives, her friends – while they lasted.
Spoke in a foreign language
my husband wouldn’t teach me,
about me, in front of me,
my knowing the words were directed ,
about me, in front of me.
Told my children she
was their real mother.

She died last night,
first came mourning,
now rage . . .
It’s been 20 years since I have been
her daughter-in-law,
since I have seen her except
when my children married,
or graduated from schools.
And even in these years I treated her
with a consideration and kindness
rarely shown to me.

This woman who made my life
miserable, terrifying, unstable –
who did so much to ruin my marriage –
twisting, turning truth,
confusing my children,
angering my husband so he wouldn’t
speak meaningfully to me for months.

Who twisted my children’s
understanding of Mental Illness,
refused medication or therapy,
made her husband of 60 years’
life one of horror and despair,
beating and berating him,
listening to those damn voices . . .

After all this time, and I mourn
for her, for my children,
for her husband and my ex-one.
Mourning the woman she was
and could have been
if she had accepted her diagnosis.

Listening to her voices . . . .
Still feeling a relative,
Mourning the loss,
even as the rage pours in.
Some nightmares you never forget.

I dreamt you died

I dreamt you died last night
and a week went by before
I realized you had slipped
out of my consciousness
and into another of your choosing.
My heart bled little one,
I couldn’t imagine a life
without your shining face
reflecting back on mine.

You are the mirror of my madness,
the being who forces me
to resolve the tortured places within,
for if I don’t, yours is the life
most likely to suffer.

Parenting requires me to turn
my soul inside out,
like shaking pennies from a piggy bank,
seeing what it holds,
then stuffing them back in again,
known commodities.

Each day forces you to examine
your premises, expectations,
under a finely tuned microscope
until I am sure,
cemented in the knowledge
I am offering all that is best . . .
releasing the worst . . .
before irrevocable damage happens
to the sponge of your young mind.

Each day I awaken
to a little mourning,
a small keening of my soul,
for your encroaching lack of innocence,
the slow evolvement from purity
to detachment and
a rethinking of how life is
forced by big and little
tragedies of your days.

If I could hold you back,
heal your wounds,  I would.
In owning my responsibility to you,
my spirit must strength,
while letting go of control,
so you can be the adult meant to be,

and be free, wholly yours
so as not to not die week before I notice.

esmeralda with her hair

 

Idiot sayings of old

“Children should be seen and not heard’ and somehow that only applied to boys “- my brain smiled when I read those words this morning.  Still chuckling, I am remembering my sisters and brother, aged 5 and 7, climbing out the second floor window of the parsonage, creeping down the six-inch shelf along the second floor the distance of the home and climbing down the pine tree at the end, covered in needles and sap.  Not just once mind you, but a lot.  My mother never knew.  somehow, she was oblivious to all the shenanigans of my younger siblings.

Please understand, the demands of obedience were intensified being minister’s kids. That particularly applied to me, as the oldest.  My parents placed a lot of responsibility on me.  I was the quiet one by nature by I had my share of going out to pick my switch when I had disobeyed.  But my illicit activities where nowhere near those of the others.  Well, except for the time I was playing in the church while my Dad was counseling a couple in the parsonage’s office.  I inadvertently turned on the organ and music, of a kind, rang through the neighborhood.  I remember my Dad flying over to stop me but he could hardly contain the smile lurking about his lips as he chided me.I was about 5.

Although come Sunday morning, my Mother was yelling for us to get ready for church. When we were in church, it was the “whammy look” which brought us to heel. One of those was like the Death Star shooting rays at you – total  inialation. I have had countless nightmares involving the whammy look, even through adulthood.  Although I have to admit it was my adult years when I deserved a whammy look once in a while.

That rebellious, fiercely disobediant spirit lurked strongly in my son.  I worked from home, not the easiest of tasks with young ones about.  Once I was talking to a client and suddenly realized it was far too quiet.  Finishing my call, I went to check on my son and his friend Luke. I couldn’t open the door.  When I told  my son, Yori, to open it, there was no response.  I walked outside and looked through his window. Everything he ownded as crammed up against the door, including his mattress. (He was about 4 at the time). I gave him 5 minutes to put everything back.  When I walked into his room, I was surprised how far he had achieved that goal.  Later that night, I opened his closet to put clothes away and everytrhing tumbled out and on me.

Another time, while talking to a client, I heard chopping. When I finished the call, I went out to check on the boys (Luke again). (This is the boy who, at his wedding had his dogs carry the rings and act as best man and maid of honor)  They had climbed the fence into the dog’s yard, gone into the garage.  Took tswo hammers. And proceeded to chop large holes in the fence. Aghast, I tracked down the dogs and put the boys to work picking up wood. There were many such incidents in Yori’s childhood.  Needless to sday, the kids won, the 10 year old job did not

.So the saying “Children should be seen and not heard” was a misnomer in my famly heirarchy.

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Holidays

The holidays are here . . . there is hope, my friends, hope to enjoy the memories being created, hope to share in joy and thanksgiving, hope to walk away with a smile instead of trying to shake off negative thoughts and feelings. For many of us, the holidays bring stress, anxiety, perhaps anger.  But, in times like those, it is good to remember . . .

The tingling of a stream running through a forest                 A cozy fire to warm up our increasingly older bones                 A blanket which feels cozy and secure                 The passion in the eyes of a lover, even if it was many years ago                 How the Grinch stole Christmas and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer Those are just a few things to reflect on when life seems interminable, frustrating, depressing.  There are people who can offer comfort. Or, wait for it . . . you can give comfort to others and to yourself.  There is positivity to offer renewal – of our associations with others and our relationship with ourselves.  This is especially true for those of us with thought disturbances and/or mental and emotional ones.  When you are sitting at a table with more than 5 people, just remember you aren’t the only one – 1 in 5 people have some sort of mental/addiction/biochemical challenge – you are likely not as alone as you may think.

When you yearn to change your thoughts, move a muscle:

Volunteer or share the meal at a Shelter or Food Kitchen Exercise – max out those endorphins Watch some of the old charmers – Bells of Saint Mary, Christmas Carol, Christmas in CT . . . Call someone who understands and remember crisis centers if need be Calmly but clearly express your feelings, share those feelings where it matters Go to the Religious organization of your choosing and practice the traditions you grew up with

Don’t be afraid to leave the holiday gathering – go in another room to compose yourself, go for a walk, smile (just using those muscles changes your mood, even just a little). Feel the love you have for your friends and family, even when they disappoint you, you’re not the only person who can benefit from a hug.

Most of all, remember the meaning of the holidays . . . religious/spiritual, loving, sharing, giving of oneself to others.  Remember . . . whatever your circumstances, you are Blessed.

Aging with Children

Your words plunder my heart
for what I am telling you is real
but you don’t hear my reality.
How can I make up for a thousand
errors in judgement, slips of the tongue,
tears of depression . . .

You, still young, don’t understand
the ramifications of age
creaking of bones, emotional balance,
various and assorted illnesses
and traumas……

How I tried hard to be what you needed,
failed miserably and now rue the costs.

I am aging. Likely I have many years ahead.
But I want to share them with my family there,
the ones I gave birth to.

The difficulty is, should I be there
the increasing impediments aging brings
would mean you would be asked
to provide increased help when
what most excites you is the life
you live now . . . and who can blame you?

Which brings me to more pain.
If I moved back, I might only be
the person of misery there before –
neither of us want that. I’m stronger
physically and mentally, but,
I am aging. And you fail to realize
the implications.

and I don’t want to lose
those precious moments.

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Death

As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that Mom has died With the woman I knew.  She was a force to be reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quinticential  matriarch.  I hurtled myself at her thousands of times yet she stayed strong, unwavering.  A mother.  I didn’t realize how much I would miss her until now when its too late.  The woman I saw on Monday evening was not the woman I knew in this life.  Her essence was gone and we all know how much a woman she was. She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I needed, probably more than she should have.  She encouraged me to be a strong woman.  There was no way I \could fill her shoes – One sister is much better that. Two others still follow in her wake, – I was her antithesis.  But even in this I defined myself by her measure. My sisters, aunt and I stood around her hospital bed and solemnly sweared we wouldn’t followed the same health choices she did.  We agreed we would be closer to each other. Some of that has come true, some not.  After she died, I moved to California to be close to my children.  I just didn’t realize they would feel about me Finally, I realized I had to o back to Connecticut to be where family could help me out when needed and where I was wanted.   In the course of looking for a new apartment ,I stayed in my mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and the things that comprised it.  My anger dissipated and we made peace.  It was a tough one – one I couldn’t have survived.  She was a remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too angry to see.  I miss her but I think she might be proud of me now.

Her Luminosity

I never wrote a poem for her,
She was too uncomplicated,
too surface, a known commodity.
Yet it was a lie, of self-defense,
because still waters run deep
and she is one though whom
God’s eyes shine.
Her luminous soul reflected
in each act with which
she undertakes her days.

A vision of beauty,
exotic and rare,
unfettered by life’s social constraints,
conforming only as a means
of self-determination,
acting with a will
I failed to possess
at such a young age,
all I longed to be and more,
reflected in the eyes of this child.