Thursday, June 17, 2021

Kitchen Floor

I remember the kitchen floor in great detail because of that day. Linoleum, white, avocado green and harvest gold. The geometric pattern was loud and detailed. I have memories of her on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor dutifully each week. She wasn't going to scrub that floor anymore. My brother and I sat in the kitchen chairs while my parents stood in front of us. My father was telling us that our mother would be moving out. He told us that they didn't love each other anymore. 

As he continued to talk my nine year old gaze was fixed to the linoleum. My eyes followed the pattern from one end of the kitchen to the next., I don't remember anything else about that day except the floor. 

I remember a few months later my uncle Jim and my cousins Mark and Brian helping my mom move into her new apartment. I skipped down the hallway of the smelly building, excited to see my mom's new "house". It hadn't hit me yet what all this meant. It hadn't hit me yet how this would shape my life and my sense of worth. 

My mom chose herself. My mom chose freedom. My mom chose Wednesday nights and every other weekend with me and my brother. 

Third grade. I remember crying to Mr. Kohnen my teacher, him hugging me and telling me it would be okay. He ended up being my favorite teacher. I remember turning into a latchkey kid at nine years old and having to walk to the bus stop with my 11 year old brother who wasn't crazy about the idea either because my dad had to be at work before school started. We had to leave the cocoon of our long time home daycare because my dad couldn't afford it as a single parent. We'd come home from school alone and allow the television to babysit us. Hogan's Heroes and the Brady Brunch looked after us until our dad came home from work.

He'd come home heartbroken and exhausted and do his best to feed us. Monday nights we'd go to the Town Crier Restaurant for fried chicken, the other weeknights were filled in by hotdogs and macaroni and cheese, goulash and overcooked pork chops. Fridays were pizza nights at Big B's. That was our routine. 

I don't recall the first few weekends with my mom, except when she took us to White Castle and she got sick from eating too many sliders. My brother and I would sleep in her bed, she would take the couch. I loved my brother and wanted to be his friend too, but I annoyed him too much and one night he bopped me in the nose and I bled all over my mom's sheets,

I remember getting chubby in elementary school as a result of inactivity and lack of supervision. I would snack on spoonfuls of peanut butter and chocolate chips, hoards of Doritos and stacks of Chips Ahoy. No one to say "have an apple or a banana!" There was no encouragement to get involved in sports or extracurricular activities. 

My dad bought a puppy early on, but then insisted we keep him in a kennel in the backyard. Everything seemed just out of reach for me. I would take refuge at my friends houses where they had both parents at home. Mrs Kinney has a special place in my heart for offering moments of comfort when I needed it.

I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was different, that my mom didn't want me.

Fast forward 38 years later. After countless years of therapy, 30 years of sobriety and many bouts of forgiveness my relationship with my mom had become good. we had worked thru the why's and how's of the divorce and everything after and we were good. We were on the same page. I had boundaries and was able to call her when I needed to talk and she showed up for me, finally.

Then she had a stroke. Parts of her were gone. The dynamic was altered again. My mom needed me in a different way now. And the part I needed from my mom was gone, clogged up with her stupid blood clot that damaged her brain. 

A few years have passed since that stroke and the decline in her cognitive function continues. She wouldn't acknowledge it, but watching her on a recent visit up north pounded in the reality that my mom had left again and I am without her. I must learn a new way to live with my mother. To love her without conditions. To
give to her without a payback. Expect nothing in return. 

There is no happy conclusion to write yet. I am sad and exhausted. There isn't a finish line for hard times. There isn't a quota either. I am trying to take my life day by day, lesson my burden by asking for help with things others can do for me, practice self care and know,  really know that this is not my fault but it is my responsibility.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Be Still?

 I just googled "trauma and loss". then "Grief and loss", then "loss over and over". No answers for me there.

I recently talked about Dermot to some hockey moms who asked me questions about him. How old is he now? Do you have someone stay with him when you go out of town? What does he have? What is his prognosis.

I appreciate these questions. I welcome the opportunity to shine a light on our experience, but I also underestimate the power of saying the answers out loud. more than once in a day. its real, it always is, but when you say it out loud, other people hear it. Other people ponder the possibility. that is scary. 

I spend the majority of my time "running " from these feelings of reality. running from the constant loss that permeates my life. 

I have "be still" tattooed on my body as a reminder to stop running, but it's the hardest thing for me to stop.

I run in various ways. I actually run, 3-7 miles every few days. I run by keeping busy. I run by spending money, ordering things off the internet to feel some sense of power that eludes me. I focus on others and their problems and try to help them. I run by trying to orchestrate my surroundings and the people who live in them.

Then things happen...

  • My emotional support dog, a six year old Weimaraner, dies suddenly of a brain tumor. 
  • My caregiver for Dermot lets me know that she is done on June 1st. 
  • One of Dermot's nurses gets removed from his schedule. 
  • I get a notice from the high school inviting us to a virtual open house for Dermot impending move the the high school. 
  • My husband sells his car, 
  • My 50th birthday sneaks up on me
  • My mom's brain continues to evolve and change into different less improved versions of who she once was.

My question is. what do I do with all of this? How do I cope? I am certainly not alone in any type of constant change or trauma sneaking back into my life at unexpected times, but what's my next move?

Should I order another pair of running shoes online? should I decide to stop eating carbs and only eat "natural" food? do I retreat and hide under the covers until everything goes back to "normal"? I don't know.

I don't know...It is spring though. Spring always bothered me. I could never trust the first warm day, I knew there was always six inches of snow right around the corner. I prepare myself for the worst so I don't feel like a chump for taking my snow tires of my car too soon. I don't plan ahead because I'm positive nothing will turn out the way it's planned. Our team loses, the dog dies, the kid can't walk, the mom is getting old and the nurses quit.


I just went through Step two with a sponsee in the Narcotics Anonymous book. (We came to believe that a Power greater that ourselves could restore us to sanity.)  Its not a book I read too often, but for some reason I picked it up and we read out loud. "We trust that we are undergoing a fundamental transformation, even though we may not yet understand its full implication for our lives. As painful as it seems, we must change."

My whole struggle has been about getting to the finish line, to be done with the changing, be done with the pain of transition and loss, every ounce of my being fights the change. my instincts take over and I attempt to control the uncontrollable, to keep what I have steady and juggle everything without dropping anything. the book goes on to tell me: "If we trust that there is growth despite the pain (Which I totally know already!) we can walk through these difficult periods more readily.

So don't underestimate your feelings, don't try to suppress or manage your feelings. FEEL your feelings. Could it be that simple? Probably. But its just as simple to forget how simple it is.

Loss will always occur, Change is ever present and I get to choose how to react. I can always run, but the growth happens while being still.