Tag Archives: Family

Nonny land

Yes, that is my new name. . . Nonny.  Doesn’t mean anything but I like how it sounds.  When I was going to make my name Nana, my sister said I couldn’t take my Grandmother’s name since no one could be her.  Turns out she wants to be Nana.  That’s OK because I really like Nonny better, it suits me, just a little, or a lot, off track.  However, all bets are off if Emmitt chooses a different name for me.

That’s my grandson’s name, Emmitt Samuel.  After 5 days of labor, 4 hours of heavy pushing, resulting in a c-section, Dani finally gave birth right on his due date.  It was a very hard delivery.  Pre-eclampsia developed the last two days. After the cesarean, she hemorrhaged a liter and a half of blood and had to be opened up again.

Emmit developed jaundice and lost 10% of his birth weight.  They were in the hospital for five days. But he looks like Dani, covered with a full head of almost black hair. There isn’t too much of Kendall in him as of yet.

I know I am giddy with delight.  Being a grandmother is beyond my expectations.  That little boy is a miracle.  The birth of a family where a couple was before.  Both Kendall and Dani are wonderful, exhausted parents.  It was a truly nurturing, loving experience where we all enjoyed being together and tending to the constant needs of this little man.  He should take comfort in it….he will have to share time with others as he grows.

But one thing is for sure – I will be visiting California much more often from now on.

Off I Go!

This is it!  Off to California tomorrow.  I’m going to be a Grandma.  I’m wiggling inside and out of expectation. The bags are packed, my cat is provided for, and the fridge is empty of perishables.

Here’s the thing . . . I’m all jazzed about seeing my daughter and getting to know my son-in-law, and of course, being there for the birth (even though I have to wait at home until the baby is born).  But Dani and Kendall are going to be non-pulsed about it all.  Yes, their excited but they are in their own place, they have seen her belly grow and heard the heartbeats and seen the sonograms.

I haven’t seen them in two years.  It is such a long time and a lot of longing in the in-between time.  All that time I think about them.  But I remember what it was like to be a new mother and what it was like to be living far from my parents.  There wasn’t the same emotional investment that my parents may have had.  I was a twenty-something with a good life and a lot of living to do.  Part of the reason I moved 3,000 miles was to get away from my parents. I need to contain some of this enthusiasm.

My son parented me about boundaries and appropriate behavior at Dani’s.  Yori said Dani was an independent, disciplined, intelligent woman who knew her own mind.  I needed to remember I was there on vacation and not try to do everything for them.  They wouldn’t appreciate it at all.  I have to remember to relax, take care of my healing foot, and just be present.  He is right, of course, not that I necessarily know how to relax and let the world revolve around me.

But until then, I’m jiggling.  Wish me luck and hope that I behave appropriately.  Be back in 2 1/2 weeks.

Expectations

The baby isn’t even born yet and I’m learning the disappointing truth that it isn’t about me and my expectations.  It’s all about the parents and baby.  Don’t get me wrong.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be . . . but still.

I had fantasies of being in my daughter’s room until she went into delivery when I would leave to allow them their precious moment.  Hah!  Then I thought I would wait in the waiting area until after she gave birth. Another disappointment . . . I have to wait at their home.  Then the kicker, my ex-husband will pick me up and take me to the hospital.  I get to share the unveiling with him!  I get it.  It’s only right.  But I hadn’t given him a single thought.  He is the baby’s grandfather after all.  Grandmother – grandfather – equal in the eyes of the parents.  Grandpa even tried to name the baby.

So I’ll stay home and make gluten-free meals for those crazy nights when baby is making his presence known.  Clean the place. Show my worth somehow.  I sound terribly selfish and immature, I know.  These are just my petty ramblings.  It’s amazing how immature I can still be.  After all, I’m becoming a grandmother for the first time.  This is a life-changing event for my daughter and her husband (and the baby).  I’m thrilled for them.

Most of the pettiness comes from the fact that my time will necessarily be so short with them.  I only have two weeks and then I’m 3,000 miles away. I want to cram as many memories in as I can.  I can be content seeing the man I once loved dearly holding baby the way he once held our own. In fact, it will bring back surreal, precious memories transposed over the present moments.

Only a couple of weeks (we hope) to go.  I’m rationally excited.

Bump

My baby has a bump.  A growing, wriggling baby bump all her own (and her husband’s).  It delights me.  I believe I may even be enjoying it more than she does; although she’s excited, she has to go through all the rigors of pregnancy.  I see her pictures, each one bigger than the last, now beginning to see the full loom of pregnancy.

Her 30th birthday was yesterday.  She is but a few months off the schedule I had when I gave birth to my first, her brother.  She waited until later, as did I.  I’d give anything to be there with her but economics is one reality I simply can’t avoid.

I look at her pictures and see this thriving adult, about to enter an entirely life-changing chapter of her life, and can’t help but see in my mind’s eye the little girl she once was.  I wonder if it ever truly leaves a mother.  Are my children always going to be my babies?  Or, will I allow them to grow up?

Not too long ago it was me telling them, in succinct terms,  not to parent me.  Our relationships are so much better since we passed that hurdle.  But I wonder if I am trying to claim ownership of them even as they are fully adult, with mortgages and spouses, college loans and now a baby.  Is it that I am so far away that I hold fast to their childhoods, something I can connect with despite the miles between us?

I am so blessed.  Even though I can’t see them often, every 1 1/2 years or so, I have a great relationship with both my children and their spouses.  We talk every week, sometimes more, and my son still calls every time he is sick to ask what he could be doing to feel better.  He called yesterday saying, “I’m dying Mom, what can I do more for this sinus infection?”  There were few words I could share as he had already learned the lessons of previous sinus traumas.

My daughter is taking such good care of herself.  An avid runner, she is not doing so, preferring gentle pregnancy yoga.  I wish I could be there for her, taking care of their baby.  I’d move there now if not for the exorbitantly high rents in her area.  She plans on working after maternity leave.  Her husband plans to care for the baby while studying for his Divinity Masters.

If only the world went according to my plan.  But until then, I’ll have to depend on God’s timing and will.  And be content.

Shaving

One of the sweetest commercials I think I’ve ever seen s a new release…a father shows his daughter how to shave her legs for the first time.  She nicks her leg and her dad is quick to gently apply a spot of tissue paper.

Shaving one’s legs for the first time is a rite of passage for a young teenager.  It is almost as significant as menstruation.  For me, both events were momentous. One an act almost of rebellion, the other nature’s call to a new life, both a personal emergence into womanhood.

My mother didn’t want me to shave.  She never had.  But whereas her legs were smooth, with few hairs, mine were hairy, like my Dad’s.  They may have been golden blonde but I felt like a furry beast.

I was fourteen when I shaved my legs for the first time.  It was the year of my emergence.  I had lost the baby weight, exchanged cat’s eyeglasses for wireless ones, and got my period. I was ready, even if my mother was not and wouldn’t dream of asking for help.

My family was up at our summer cabin and friends of the family were visiting. One day Mom and her friend, Bunny, went out for a few hours, leaving me in charge of six kids.  I snuck into the bathroom and furtively proceeded to butcher my legs.  No shaving cream, no water, just raw steel.  I was bleeding out.  There were tissue paper and band-aids in wide swaths everywhere you looked.

When Mom and Bunny returned, they looked askance at my legs but to Mom’s credit, she didn’t say a word.  I stuttered, “Mom, the razor fell off the shelf and fell down my leg.  When I put it back up, it fell again, running down the other leg.”  They kept straight faces.

The next day my Mom approached me, saying “You do realize you will have to shave now for the rest of your life.”  “That’s quite all right Mom.”  I savored the sweet victory, even as I winced moving around.

The In-Law Wars

“There is a cancer in you I need to cut out,” my Mother-In-Law, Gette, said to me after a particularly brutal day.  As always, she moved her pursed lips back and forth, like she was sucking a bottle. Kneeling beside her lounge chair, knees bruised from the pebbled cement below, I bit down my words, a supplicant wanting to supplicate.  I could only think that if I could placate her enough, swallow myself down deep within me, become a shell without substance, perhaps she would stop this current reign of terror.

Knowing what to do or say was tormenting me.  I didn’t want to have this woman in my home much less subjugate myself to her will. I had the spirit of independence within me. But with each pass of the Seasons, Gette and her husband, Dragos, would arrive in a whirlwind of condescension and fury.  They would stay for 3-6 weeks at a time.  For weeks before they came, I would panic.  When I finally tried to forbid the planned trip, my husband, Alex, replied, “You can leave if you don’t want to be near them.”

Gette would march in the front door, head directly to the kitchen, and start rearranging it to her liking.  She would send Dragos to the market for those items she felt were necessary.  From that moment on, I was forbidden in my own kitchen.

My spirited, wonderful children suddenly fell under the auspices of the Grandparents’ methods of parenting.  This was the supposed Romanian way of doing things.  All my disciplining was strictly monitored; should I do anything not to Gette’s liking, I was subject to discipline myself.  My husband not only abetted it, he did the same, way too many times.  It might be appropriate if I was in any way abusive, but I was not.  What I was, was anxious, frustrated, angry, desperate, unsupported and alone.

The house would revert to Romanian as the language of choice spoken by all adults except me.  The kids didn’t mind.  Their desires were met, their questions and comments answered.  But one time I asked a table of Romanians to please speak in English (when they all could) and my husband responded, “Shut Up!” in front of his extended family. My in-laws told me this was the language they were comfortable speaking although it had been 20 years since they defected, hey had held professional positions requiring English, and it was an English-speaking home.  When seated at the dinner table, I could sometimes understand they were talking about me to my husband in front of my face.

I was, and am, as American as you can be – blonde, blue eyed, previously divorced. . . in their mind lacking in character.  For many years I was a national management consultant, in Who’s Who in America for several years, and a published author, yet Dragos always told everyone I was a secretary.  Romanian women in their circle were doctors, lawyers or scientists.

There is so much talk about multi-generational and multi-lingual homes.  DACA is on everyone’s lips. Immigrants do have it hard.  Many times they come to the U.S. with little to no money, may have to go back to school to retake degreed professional exams for legitimacy in their careers, and may have to start with jobs well below their educational level.  They can be outcasts, will almost certainly face discrimination, and have to undergo huge cultural shifts that can seem to be never ending tsunami waves.

But what of the people who marry into these strong ethnic traditions?  I was terrorized by my in-laws and ex-husband.  Everything in my life was controlled.  Emotional, financial, familial and some physical abuse was rampant.  I loved my husband very much, but his mother had an untreated schizophrenic personality disorder and was given free reign to behave in whatever manner she chose.  She was a spoiled, at times vicious, callous woman in the manner she treated me.  And he followed in her footsteps, very much her favored and only child.

Yet she was a loving mother and grandmother, cloyingly, overwhelmingly so. The kids loved her even as they came to understand her disabilities. Dragos tried to placate me, saying she was a “Good Girl”, I should listen to her.  They only wanted what was best for me.  Other than pertinent information, Alex would refuse to talk to me during the time they were visiting and up to 2 months later.  And within weeks, it would be time for another visit.

One of those things to be changed was an attempt for me to eliminate contact with my family and friends, to which my Mother vehemently and frequently objected. There was a time I gave in and didn’t contact them for three months because my mother was violating boundaries calling Gette and Dragos and working to undermine our marriage from her end, just as strong minded and quite resentful of the situation.  Not a minute went by when I was not connected to them in my mind. My heartstrings were more deeply connected to them if I couldn’t speak with them. My mother even called their home to argue about these issues.  She would call me and berate Alex, sometimes with him standing right in front of me furiously telling me to hang up. Little wonder I was a nervous wreck.

None of the In-laws were behaving appropriately.  One of the main reasons I left the marriage was the knowledge one day I would be taking care of Gette in our home.  I knew her disease would worsen and as they didn’t believe in therapy or medications, there was no hope for the suppression of symptoms.  She would remain the arrogant, controlling woman she was then even as she talked to her spirits.

There were other factors which led to the demise of our marriage but the In-Law Wars were the primary issue.  Had we not been subjected to these pressures, we might still be together. Alex might be more temperate in his need to control me.  We might have enjoyed more limited visits.  But then the “might have been’s” are merely suppositions without merit or reality. Suffice to say I have permanent PTSD from those years which has manifested in restraints to enact on dating or relationships now. And I cherish my freedom.

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?

Love is . . .

Love isn’t the brassy blare of a band, marching down the avenue on July 4th’s celebration. Oh, to be sure – that is part of it – loud jangles, crash of cymbals, heartbeat of drums. But love has many faces, some apparent, some quite deceptive.

Love is the gentle stirrings evoked by a walk after a thunderstorm’s power, smelling the earth, watching lightening flitter over the New York skyline, curled up on a rock, and telling each other of your pasts, and peoples – speaking in reverence and caring tones.

Love is the sharp pain of betrayal and the shooting stabs of hurt inflicted upon sensitive, fragile egos that make one near in anger and rage – defending yourself at risk of rejection – yet believing, nonetheless, first in your own sense of worth.  Being able to say “fuck you” to the one you love.

Love is the despair and confusion and insecurity brought forth in opening yourself up to another person.  Of being aware of his frailties and still wanting him more than ever – because of those faults not in spite of them. Of seeing the flaws yet not running away.  Of opening yourself , baring your soul when trust is just a mirage, still to become real from knowing your love, facing it and not walking away, and of having to tell that other person that love is there – whether or not he chooses to respond in kind.  Of wanting so much to hear the words “I Love You”, yet not pressing but allowing them to come of their on accord at a time of his choosing – if at all.

Love is passion and the exploration of a body found wildly exciting – seeking those hidden sources of pleasure, being sexually vulnerable.  And love is those quiet ripples that float through your body as you see the one you love or think of him during the course of your day.  Love is giving and taking- together or apart – the stillness of soul touching – the fire of lust, the knowledge that this is something different than any before or any after, but that a part of you, larger than ever before, rests in the hands of another, and you are content, or largely so, to have it that way.  Love is a gift from God to be savored, enjoyed revered, for each moment it is a part of you.

Love is encouraging the strengths in the other, urging him to grow and explore facets of himself.  Being a source of strength rather than drowning him in your need.  Love is knowing the relationship may end yet moving forward in self-determination, with trust and belief gathering your courage about you, a mantle of strength in the storm of emotion.  Love is knowing that love may change in form and substance, devolving into a well of despair, fragmenting, feathering away into a manifestation of a different making – yet Love still.  Love is holding still the trembling of the soul.

Love is the bringing into the world two children to bless this union. Children precious, deserving of all that is good.  Physical manifestations of love and passion.  Children who bear witness of good and ill. Who bear the scars of devastation.

Love is the torture of knowing your love was always far greater than his. Of sustaining emotional scars, physical bondage, inquisitions, blasphemies, of running and hiding to escape his wrath. Of finally, running away, knowing not to do so would mean your death, be it emotional or physical.

Love is the PTSD moments after the Fall. Twenty years later.  The choosing aloneness rather than taking the risk of opening yourself up again.  Of the nightmares that continue, again and again, of what it turned out to be.  Of the ending, cruel, painful, devastating in consequences not just for the two of you, but for the children brought forth from the union of those souls.  Of the never ending trauma that follows in your wake, curling in sadness and despair deep within.

The volume of a voice

Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness – not connecting or being heard. I’m not a screamer by nature so it’s more like “ah, hello, is anyone out there? can you hear me?” in soft whispers. I want to connect but I’m too often the scratching noise at the end of an old phonograph album. White noise with a mild irritation perhaps, but something that needs to be changed.

I wonder what to write about. What matters to others? Do I have something to say more than trite, banal quips? I fancy myself a writer . . . oh, I know I’ll never be Proust or Dumas. Not even Berry or Silva, or even some self-published, harried someone rushing from libraries to bookstores to get their agreement to let me read my writings or display my book. {mostly because I can’t afford it and maybe not have the guts – those copies would be gathering dust in boxes in my apartment} I’m more like a church mouse hiding in the organ pipes, head clanging away when the songs are played. I hide.

Today I mentioned to someone that I have maybe 40 or 50 followers – wait for it – 74!!! Okay, I know that’s not a lot by a lot of standards but considering not one or my friends or family read my site, it’s not bad. I worry about that. I write about some deeply personal things and have come under the forbidding glare of a relative’s eye when they read a paper draft of something or other.

So I’m not sure how to grow my site by conventional methods. Do I start a new Facebook page and link it? One I don’t give my family address to? And how does Twitter work? Perhaps that can stay out of the family focus.

I publish in a couple of newsletters, one being my church. Poem after poem went into it for a while and my sister never commented on them, even when reading it while sitting right next to me. When I asked her why she said, “What do you want me to say? I don’t go in for that kind of thing”. My kids don’t like my stuff either. And the worst part is, I let their comments and non-comments affect me. Shut me down a little more.

So please – be the voice who responds to my whisper. Give me your thoughts about growing my site while remaining anonymous to those near to me while remaining completely accessible to those far from me. Be honest with your feed back. Feel free to shout your answers, or whisper, I’ll be listening.