Tag Archives: life

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.

The Moment in Change

Pen poised in mid-air,
with mind musing upon
the course of destiny,
vaguely wandering in
floating traipses
shooting off into future dreams
forgetting the moment
given in tender love
for cautious care.

So quickly do I flee
from the pressures of time
into a world of imaginary dreams,
mystical illusions and cryptic
messages – forgetting that
only through a full living
does the journey seem brighter
and the path clearer . . .

When caught between
past and future
I stand in terror,
eyes fearfully turning first
one way then another
but never straight ahead –
fogs swirl in clouded images
through the mind
leaving behind a tension
of confusion.

Today is only like any other . . .
the past is all that is seen,
the future lies in a heavy
cloak, blocking out fresh air.

But the moment – if relished
for itself – treasured among all
others for it’s radiance, its life –
is a gift of the gods
given to the weary
to instill hope and faith
that other moments such as these
are there for the taking
and just as freely given

 

Night Child

Child of the night
with your petals
curled up tight
in restive contemplation
of another night

Unfurl your spangled
banner of reds and golds
to fly with careless abandon
in dusky deep moonlight
casting aside shadows
lulling discontent to a
peaceful slumber

Nay, night need not be
a somber time
of reflection –
rejuvenate the pagan
spirits of long ago
dance their unearthly tunes
in sensual abandon

Refuse to wimper
when the sun lays
his head to rest.
Rather rejoice in
cascading glows
of feminine splendor
in the land of shadows.

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.

Emergence

Each day with you seems a reprieve
or a rare gift given to wonder and delight
Anger may flare, wills clash,
passion builds to a roaring crescendo,
yet for every hurt lie a hundred gentle memories
of softly lit eyes and hands caressing
in tender ecstasy either pliant or powerful.

I seek your presence as a thirsty soul
searches for water among arid plains –
and feel at home with tempestuous moods
or quiet perusals –
content in that special brand
of soul touching.

 

His special essence

Reflecting sides of a prism,
full of light and diversity . . .
each time those eyes
burn with that special
brand of intensity
I want you more
than days before.
As layers peel, dimensions surface,
complexity interweaving
in subtle variations
of themes my own, yet
seen within your mind –
the pull between
your essence and mine
binds, grows, strengthens
and that certain allure
only you possess
comes into increasingly
sharp focus.
A unity of spirit exists
as we spin tales of days past
or speak in reverent tones
of a future misty and vague –
and a tiny voice
growing in strength
says I want to be there
to see the person
as he unfolds.

Vast Reaches

The time has come
to search beyond fears
and trepidations of
long instilled torments
and reach for pinnacles,
scary but alluring,
rather than remaining
sequestered behind walls
built to protect,
to put the soldier,
always holding the fort,
maintaining structure
and security to rest
to experience peaks and valleys,
of knowledge and understanding,
loving and letting in,
sharing and fighting . . .

It is a time
for new beginnings,
an exploration of the sense,
questing for gratification,
in opening oneself up
to the frailties and strengths
never before explored.

The time has come
to love, to like, to play
… to be and be with,
to be at home
within the vast reaches
inside myself

Soul Mating with Yourself

Growing times, painful times
having to accept the inevitable
but resisted forces –
knowing action must be taken
yet balking. Wanting to remain
that shy young girl
nurtured by some handsome prince.
Always awaiting rescue
from sorrow and toil.
Understanding the moment has come
for responsibility,
to self and for self –
a decision between being
either best friend or worst enemy –
accepting the bonding
to that which lies within –
soul mating with yourself.

(written in 1982)

Palliative Care

Hospice – Palliative Care
slowwww ddownnn
No routine
Eat however much
whenever mood strikes
even though mood is a misnomer

No more struggling
to make walk.
Showers out
sponge baths in bed in
Hospital beds
Wheelchairs
Pureed foods
Lifts if necessary

Trips are gone,
body too fragile
mind largely gone
pay attention to face –
grimaces? Stop, ease off
smiles, try more activity

For caregiver, its harder
if you have been with patient
a long time
two people needed
when one sufficed before
for moving patient from one place
to another or
simply to change clothes in bed
Taking are of person
is challenging – at best.
new, different skills are needed.

Putting away items
not needed anymore
in a few months time,
she will pass into great beyond.
Little time left –
starting goodbyes
in minute gestures,
tears filling heart,
sadness lining body cavities

A magnificent woman,
broke glass ceiling
in world of Finance
now beginning new work
breaking glass ceiling
to Heaven . . .

The Other Woman

Every night I pray for her.
In my mind’s eye
I so clearly see her.
My platitudes ill advised,
meaningless . . .

How can I justify our God’s plan?
Why should I be free of need
and she have anything but?

I know it’s stereotyping
but her swollen belly children
deserve an accounting.

Soon she will be gone –
disease stealing her strength away.
They will be orphans -alone –
under a tattered canopy,
thrust into begging to survive.

Just one more parent gone,
one more family destroyed
one more ten year old
parenting a large brood
under the blazing sun.

Why she – why me –
I who have nothing to give,
intimately knows every wrinkle
worn of care . . .

But I am here
babbling words to our Father
as she dies bit by bit
under the African sun
in a refugee camp
alone . . .