Tag Archives: Family

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.

Platitudes and Analogies

There are times I feel so alone with these diseases and conditions.  It’s usually when I’ve been around “normal” people for too much time.  They just don’t get me and I’ve ceased to try to make anyone understand.  Sometimes I’m in a good space, sometimes not – but it is good to know I’m not the only one going through these issues.  I can get too wrapped up in my symptoms, people  tend to say things that don’t ring true for me.  I’m searching for some good analogies that get me through the tough times. See if they ring any bells for you.

When the going get tough – the tough get going. Don’t shrug your shoulders at that.  We are a tough lot.  We have t be.  Nobody can wave a wand and make the symptoms of our lives of our lives go away.  Medical Science has a way to go.  We suffer in silence or not, but WE are not the ones who have to go through this.  All the platitudes “normies” give us will not sufficiently calm us when we are in a rough place.  God bless them for trying, they just don’t understand what’s going on beneath our skin.

You can do it one step at a time. This is true. We can’t get out of bed and negotiate our days without moving exactly one step at a time.  Nevertheless, when our insides are racing and we can’t think a rational thought, when all we see before us is struggle, racing thoughts, nightmares and silent screams, you might want to backtrack, not move forward.  It is hard to bring ourselves to center.  We can do it, but not without skills and understanding.  And as much as we can, utilize the support people in our lives.  These are the people who understand where we are coming from.  Things will get better one step at a time.

You are the only one who can heal yourself. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  However, we know we need help . . . even when we can’t reach out and get it.  I think it’s a phrase people say to absolve themselves of responsibility for ourselves.  We want to be self-sufficient, that is where frustration builds.  But sometimes we need outside intervention.  And though we are the ones who have to do the work inside ourselves, sometimes we need direction.   On the other hand, we are the conductors of the symphony of our thoughts, feelings, and actions that make up our lives.

Practice Joy.  When I am in the midst of adversity, joy is just three letters with no meaning.  I can struggle through the morass which can surround my life, but joy is something I rarely experience.  BUT, when I do, I rejoice in it and don’t take it for granted.  I don’t know how to practice it.  There is an artificiality in the word Practice.  I either wake up in a good place or I don’t.  Restarting the day sometimes helps, like when I look out the window and feel sunlight caressing my face on an otherwise gloomy day, its heat tickling my skin. Joy is a blessing always to be appreciated.

Nevertheless, there is always HOPE.  Nothing lasts forever.  Another Platitude but one of Truth.  We can put one foot in front of the other and each footstep gives us a new opportunity to step out of bad spaces and, at the very least, come to center.  With help, spiritual guidance, and the support of those who understand, we can change our circumstances. One Day At A Time.

 

Sifting through the Ashes

So many years since my parents have died and yet they walk through my life day by day, hour by hour.  Is this so for everyone? Sifting through our ashes, seeing the truths or remolding childhood witnessing into more truthful adult understandings. . . or should they be upended?  Aren’t my life experiences as a child as equal, or more so, than their adult counterparts?

Isn’t the fact my father and I played a game where he blew his pipe smoke in my face because it  made me exclaim for him to stop but we both laughed just as valid as my understanding that it was the underpinnings of my attraction and addiction to tobacco, and later COPD and asthma?  Or my coming in drunk from some beer bash and sitting up with him for hours talking about the world, the universe, my present, later to realize he had been drinking too and it was a tactic acknowledgement of drinking as acceptable, even essential?  Just as Christmas brings misgivings driven both my the year we snuck downstairs to see an entire kitchen and bikes our size as well as the one when Dad knocked over the Tree in a fit of alcohol fumes?

As an adult, I moved back to Connecticut, staying in my mother’s room while looking for a home of my own. Within those walls, Mom and I made peace with each other.  I finally felt her life, what made her, why she was such an angry person much of the time, overwhelmingly generous at others.  I understood why she was angry with me, frustrated at my weaknesses, as she co-dependently made right my many, many mistakes. I forgave her transgressions. And felt her presence at the foot of the bed and with the Shirley Temple collection, the first dolls she ever owned.

Yet these two people gave us such treasures.  As a Minister’s family, we moved frequently, as my Mom did, from one Brooklyn apartment to another when the rent ran out.  So when Mom saw a tiny ad for a 250 year cabin on 50 acres a 17 hour trip away, she bought it sight unseen  so we would, no matter how many times we had to move.

Every summer she would take off work, bringing us up to our spiritual center for 2 months, Father joining us under his vacation. Now I look back to see how hard she worked on the cabin, making it safe and livable for us.  Understand, as a mother myself, the frustration she would sometimes feel as a single mom for such a long time.  Laugh at when she sent my wayward brother to the garden to remove rocks when he did, frequently, something outrageous.

Memories fill the furniture in my apartment.  A teacart given from a barn in exchange for a loaf of bread, now well over 150 years old. The carved, wooden screen behind it, a much beloved piece from my grandmother.  My “distressed” childhood dresser and toddler rocker. The cut glass pieces my mother so dearly collected in a beautiful collection. The painting of “Uncle Willie”, an old hermit who closed off his beautifully furnished  home, save the kitchen, when his wife died; we picked cherries from his trees, mom making pies, jams, and bringing them to him.

My adult eyes stare into the inward memories of my brain to remember. In some places there are causes for anger displaced.  In order, wry comprehension.  In others humble gratitude.  They were not perfect people but they were good ones, who moved beyond the strictures of their memories and life experiences to give us so many precious ones.

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.

 

 

 

 

Muttered Musings

Another day
God, help me make it through
have no one hit me today
let there be a cease fire between
relatives, families, friends,
countries . . .
I can’t keep living with
this hole in my heart.

Let this day be about blessings
make the whole world stop
and pray an hour, a day, for
refugees, Aleppo, child brides ,
untouchables.
the battered and beaten,
defeated and aching
sick -mentally, physically,
emotionally, especially spiritually.

In the busyness of the day
let all peoples remember
this is not just about them
there is something greater –
feel awe, revel in gloriousness,

Not gonna happen anyway
World’s too crazy for Peace
Too many BAD people –
in homes, communities,
We deserve better
Tired of waking with chest pains
second guessing God
being scared . . .
why are so many people
so Stupid!!
My prayers go unanswered,
God looking down and shaking her head