I Grieve, Not Because of Death

Obviously, I haven’t posted in awhile.  The last few weeks have been insane to say the least.  My grandmother’s passing has opened up so many emotions that I never realized were there.  I have so much to write about today, but I’m not sure where to start.

It has been emotionally exhausting just to be in the presence of the rest of my family members during this time.  Even though she was 83 years old, her death was unexpected.  She had gone into the hospital and had surgery to remove an infection, but she was recovering very well.  So well, in fact, that they moved her from ICU to a rehabilitation center.  She was there for 3 days before a massive heart attack took her peacefully in her sleep.  My aunts were lost and confused.  I helped with the funeral arrangements, and it seems I was the one who had my shit together the most.  I didn’t shed a tear, although I did feel icky.

Being in my grandmother’s house the day of funeral was surreal.  It was packed with family members, but it felt wrong.  The one person who was ALWAYS sitting in the same chair every time you went there, was gone.  It also felt very wrong to be going through her things.  It felt very wrong that family members were dividing up her things amongst each other.  I understand that is what has to happen when someone dies, but I wasn’t ready for it.

This is the woman who emotional abused and neglected me for a long time, yet I miss her.  She was a constant in my life.  She was always there.  I came to the realization last week that I never thought I would see her die.  I’ve always expected to die young, always.  It might be because my mother died young, but I never thought about the future at all because I was sure that I wouldn’t have a long life.  I was ok with it, but it left me not ever contemplating the situation of my grandmother’s death.  Even when she was in the hospital, I never thought she was going to die.  It was a non-issue.  Now I can think of nothing else than mortality.

My grandmother kept everything.  Letters, medical records, pictures, keepsakes and even every single one of my report cards from 3rd grade (when I went to live with her) until I graduated high school.  It was kind of fun going through those.  I found the only “D” I ever received.  I also found a letter that was written by an old friend of my father’s family to my father about his behavior after my mother died.  I always loved this friend as a second mother.  There was one sentence in that letter that rocked my world.  It said, “On her death bed, she made you swear to never send her daughters to live with her mother.”  Imagine my jaw dropping.  My mother apparently knew that my grandmother would not be a good person to raise me if it was one of her last requests.  Of course, we know what happened.  My father didn’t give two shits what my mother wanted, and he did exactly what she didn’t want him to.

If I had even the slightest bit of love left for my father, it disappeared the moment I read that sentence.

I guess the bright side of my grandmother’s passing is that I was given her old cedar chest which, as it turns out, was my mother’s.  It was her hope chest.  I imagine my grandmother got it when my mother died, and I remember it always being at the foot of my grandmother’s bed.  It’s in rough shape, but I plan to restore it as a treasured memory of my mother.  I also got my mother’s graduation picture, which is just stunning.  I’d never seen it before, and I treasure it.  It’s beautifully framed, and sits in a prominent place in my living room.

I am worried about the aftermath of my grandmother’s passing.  I’m not sure what will happen to my family.  She was the matriarch after all.  I don’t want us to grow apart because she’s not around as a center point.

Mostly, I have a head full of new facts and emotions I’m not quite handling well.  I know it’s a process, like everything in life, but I’m letting myself get overwhelmed.  I’m letting myself hurt for awhile.  If I know my cycle, I’ll become numb after that and then I’ll start analyzing.

I hope the Good Lord gives me peace for awhile because it’s already been a really rough year.

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Ending Lives, Beginning Sorrows

It’s hard to see someone at the end of their life.  I’ve, unfortunately, seen many.

When I was a small child, I watched my mother slowly deteriorate from colon cancer.  She struggled for three years before it took her.  I still remember seeing her for the last time.  My father took me to the hospital to see her shortly before her death.  At that point, there was nothing else they could do for her besides keep her comfortable.  She didn’t know me.  She didn’t see me.  She lay there with a glassy expression.  To be honest, I think she was already gone, but her body was still hanging on.  For years, that last moment with her haunted me.  This was my beautiful, strong, loving mother, and she was now unrecognizable to me.  The cancer ravaged her and turned her into someone I didn’t know.  To a six year old, that’s impossible to understand.  Over the years, my understanding became clear, but that memory will always linger.

My great-grandmother, my Nana, on my father’s side was one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.  I loved her so much, and held her close to my heart.  After my father abandoned me, she was devastated.  She lost contact with him, and subsequently, my sister, who he kept with him.  Before this, we would visit her at least once a month, and we always enjoyed our visits.  My sister and I were her only grandchildren, and she cherished us.  After my father gave me up, she held onto me tightly despite living across the country.  I wasn’t able to visit her for about 6 years, but we kept in constant phone contact, and she would send me care packages monthly.  When I finally visited her when I was 14, I didn’t want to leave.  I loved being there so much, it felt like home.  Alas, I couldn’t stay, but I was able to visit her again when I was 16, and again, it was wonderful.

I got a call just shortly after my 18th birthday that my Nana’s health was failing fast.  I flew down, and walked into her hospital room.  The doctor said that her kidney’s had all but shut down, and she wasn’t going to last long.  I told her that I came to see her and that I loved her while I held her hand.  Not 30 seconds later, she took her last breath.  To this day, I believe she held on just long enough for me to arrive.

My uncle on my mother’s side was so precious to me.  He stepped in and became my father figure when my own father didn’t want me.  He was there for me growing up whenever I needed him.  He was also an alcoholic.  Last summer, my aunt rushed him to the hospital because he was quite yellow.  Obviously jaundiced from his liver shutting down.  He got medical help too late.  Shortly after his liver shut down, his kidneys followed.  I went to the hospital to see him, knowing that he wasn’t going to make it.  He couldn’t wake up, and they were just keeping him comfortable.  I told him I loved him, and sat with him for awhile.  He died two days later.

Just recently, my grandmother went into the hospital for the last time.  She had surgery to clear up an infection, and it was touch and go for awhile.  She hadn’t been to the doctor in about 45 years, so she had a lot wrong with her.  She was in the intensive care unit for about a week after the surgery while they monitored her to see if she would recover.  Despite some episodes with her heart, she did start recovering.  I took my daughter up to the hospital to see her, and my grandmother was happy, smiling and said she felt good.  I held her hand for awhile, and so did my daughter.  That was the last time we saw her.  She was recovering so well, that they moved her to the rehabilitation center to recover even further.    She was there for a few days, and then she had a massive heart attack in her sleep.

Despite going through this multiple times, seeing someone at the end of their life doesn’t get any easier.  Every circumstance is different, every relationship is different.  The surrealism doesn’t change.  Even if you know that your loved one is going to pass, it doesn’t seem real for a time afterward.

It’s like a bad dream that you hope to wake up from, but never do.

Great News/Endless Possibilities

I hate to ever get too excited about anything.  I’ve learned from an early age that full-fledged optimism will get you nothing but disappointment.  But, I think some really wonderful things are on the horizon.

I got new furniture yesterday.  For the first time in my life, I’ve got a full living room set:  couch, loveseat, coffee table, end tables and lamps.  It all goes together beautifully, and I love it.  Now I just need to stop obsessing over something happening to it or being forced to take it back.  I know that won’t happen, but my anxiety is getting the best of me right now.  I also got a beautiful dining room set that I love, but again, worry, worry, worry about things I can’t control or things that won’t happen altogether.  Maybe once the novelty wears off I’ll be ok.

I got the best news last week.  My husband is FINALLY going to start working first shift.  He has been working third shift for two years, and has been living a separate life from our daughter and I.  His hours are so long, and his work so strenuous, that I was basically running the house by myself.  Now that he is going to first shift, he will be on a normal schedule, and will be able to help out a lot more around the house.  We’ll also finally be able to plan things to do as a family because he won’t have to sleep during the day.  It’s really going to be wonderful.

I won’t have to try to squeeze dinner into a ridiculously small time frame so he can eat before he leaves for work.  I will be able to workout in a gym because I won’t have to get home right away after work because he has to leave for work.  We’ve also talked about all of us getting on a low-carb meal plan so we can get healthier.  We’ll finally be able to clean out our spare room so I can turn it into a craft room/study.

The act of him going to first shift has my mind spinning with the wonderful possibilities.  There’s so much that I want to do, and will finally be able to because we don’t have to work around his schedule.

The best part about this news?  We’ll finally be a family again.

Mothering

I’ve been busy lately, and have been neglecting my poor blog.  It’s a good kind of busy though, so I don’t feel so bad.  My daughter had a fantastic first day of school, and she fit in very easily in her new school.  She doesn’t care for her bus driver much, but that’s okay.  It can’t all be perfect.

Things are settling down a bit since school started.  She is enrolled in dance class, which she just loves and she’ll be starting youth group soon.  I think it’s going to be a fantastic year for her.  It’s a bit bittersweet because I see her growing out of a gawky little girl into a graceful young woman right before my eyes.  It’s wonderful, but sad at the same time.

It makes me ponder thoughts of “what if” when it comes to my mother.  Her one desire in life was to watch her girls grow up, and be the best mother she could be.  I can’t sit and contemplate why she wasn’t allowed to do this, or it would make me crazy.  I reconciled that with God a long time ago, yet I still wonder what it would have been like if she had lived.

I think about moments I go through with my daughter, and every single one brings a thought of how my mother would handle this, or what she would have done with me.  Recently, I had a very age-appropriate “sex talk” with her, and I hope I did my mother proud.  I was pulling my hair out for days before wondering how to approach it, but I think I handled it well.  Another situation was getting her her first bra, and I think we came to a good compromise.

There will be many, many more situations like this where I will have to analyze and come up with the best way to handle them.  I will just have to trust that I will make the best decisions according to what my mother showed me while she was still alive, and my own personal experience with them.

So far, I have handled them with relative ease, thanks to immense amounts of quiet contemplation.  My husband is a great help too, but she is a little girl, so I will have to handle a lot of it on my own.

I hope my mother is smiling down on me, saying, “Good job babygirl.”

Father Loss (X2)

I had a dream about my father last night.  It was one of those where upon finding out that it was just a dream, made me sick to my stomach.  It was rather vivid.

I dreamt that he called me.  He apologized for everything that he had done to me.  He wanted to be back in my life again.  He told me that he had struggled for many years over what he had done, and finally wanted to make things right.  He wanted to be my father again.

I was elated.  I remember being with him, in person, in the dream.  I remember him being a good father.  I remember him holding my daughter.

And then I woke up.  I was so saddened and disappointed.  I was mostly angry with myself.  It felt like taking a huge leap backwards in my healing process.  I had finally come to terms with the fact that my father doesn’t give a shit about me, and I thought I had let it go.  I thought I had finally realized that I don’t need him.  I thought I had finally stopped caring.

Now, knowing psychology like I do, I realize that this came about because I am facing the very real possibility that I will lose the only father figure left in my life.  My uncle is still in critical condition, and he may not make it.

I’m not as ok with it as I thought.  Even though this scenario was anticipated, I still don’t want to lose him.  I still need him in my life.  I need a father figure.

Why, you might ask?  That’s one I am still trying to figure out.  Every child needs a father figure, but I am a 30-year-old woman.  I should be fine without one.  The truth is that I am “fine” without one, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t “need” one.  It’s a longing that I can’t seem to reconcile.

My own father is still out there somewhere, and that hurts.  He is still out there, this man who was supposed to always be there for me.  This man was supposed to take care of me.  I should be able to call him and ask him for advice or help.  I should be able to visit with him.

These things will never happen.  He is scum.  He is evil.  He is not worth my mental energy.

I’m not as over it as I thought I was, and in turn, the possibility of losing the man who tried to take his place is heartbreaking.

Cycles of Abuse

My grandfather (my father’s father) was a bad man.  His wife died when my father was 5 or 6 years old.  Not too much later he married my step-grandmother.  Throughout the time since my grandmother passed away, my grandfather beat my dad incessantly.  Eventually, my grandfather chose his wife over my father, and sent him away to live with his grandmother.  Fortunately, my nana (as I called her) was a beautiful, nurturing woman, and my father was happy there.

Do you see any similarities here?

The only difference between my father’s story and mine is that my grandmother was a horrid woman and emotional abused me and neglected me until I was 17.

For a long, long time I was obsessed with the cycle of abuse.  I, irrationally, was confident that I would follow in my father and grandfather’s footsteps.  It was my destiny.  I never wanted children specifically because of this.  If I didn’t have any children, I couldn’t abuse and abandon them, right?  Thinking back on it, I was really loony, but it was terrifying at the time.

My husband would tell me all the time that I was being irrational.  We would talk about it in length.  I thought my reason for not wanting children was perfectly normal.  I don’t want to end up abusing it, duh!

He would tell me, “I know you.  You would never let that happen.”  But, I thought it was out of my control.  Who am I to argue with two generations of the same abuse cycle?

I don’t know my grandfather’s history other than his father dying while he was an infant, my grandmother loved him very much, but I wonder if the man my grandmother married later was abusive.  I’ll never know.  Something happened to make him the way he turned out to be.

I figured that if I stayed childless, then the cycle would stop with me, simply because there wouldn’t be a victim to start the cycle.  I never wanted to be an abuser, but this is how crazy I was.  I thought my life was already determined.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I immediately went into panic mode.  I couldn’t believe that I let this happen.  How could I be so careless?  I was terrified.  I cried so much and fell into a deep depression.  I was going to have a child, good lord, what the hell do I do?

I took control.

From that point on, I did not allow my past to determine my future.  My child was not going to be abused.  My child would not be abandoned.  My child stops the cycle.  I was then free to really enjoy the prospect of becoming a mother.  I snapped out of my irrationality and focused on the love for this little being growing inside me.

Now, when I look at my child, I could never imagine harming her.  She is my little angel, and an extension of me.  She is everything that I wish I could have been at her age.

When she is older, I will talk to her about the cycles of abuse in her past, and how her mother was strong enough to break the cycle.

Comparisons

Last night my cousin brought over her two-week old baby boy for me to babysit.  He is such a precious little thing.  I haven’t held a baby that age since my daughter.  I’ve never been confident in myself to hold babies.  My daughter was different, but every other child is like that.

My cousin is like my sister.  We grew up together even though I am 8 years older than her.  This little guy is like my nephew, and I love him to pieces.

I was sitting in my lazy boy, rocking and feeding him.  I got this overwhelming feeling of content.  This little human, just barely two weeks old, is a clean slate.  He hasn’t had any trauma, he hasn’t been abused, he hasn’t had his adult personality and emotional make-up decided yet.

I often looked at my daughter this way, and still do.  By the time I was her age, I was already really messed up.  I had lost my mother, been abused by my father, and I was on my way to yet another abusive household with my grandmother.  God, I am so damn thankful that she is growing up in a more stable environment.  She has ample amounts of love from her father and I, and although I know that I can’t protect her from everything, I do know that I have the largest influence on how she lives.

I may be taken before my time, but if that happens, my husband will be the best father he can be.  If something should happen to the both of us, I already have a plan for her.  It wouldn’t be easy for her, but she would be in the best place she could be with counselling and loving family to help her through it.

Life is so unpredictable.  I worry so much about her emotional state of being.  I worry about things happening at school that I can’t prevent.  It’s silly, but I am her mother, one of only two people in the world who’s duty it is to protect her at all costs.  I ask her about her day and can pick up immediately when her demeanor changes in the slightest.  She’s comfortable enough with me that she can tell me anything, and I hope it is always so.

I love watching her grow up.  I compare her to how I was at her age all the time.  I can say, with full confidence, that I am doing a great job with her.  She is so different from me.  She is out-going, happy, loving and fiercely independent.  That compared to the timid and terrified child I was.

She also has a glow about her.  When she walks into a room, everyone seems to light up.  I know I am biased because she is my angel, but I truly feel this and can see it in everyone she meets.  My family loves spending time with her because she’s so fantastic a kid.  On the weekends, our phone is ringing off the hook from her friends and cousins wanting her to spend the night with them.  She is a shining light at school as well.

Ok, enough bragging.  It’s just so strange and wonderful to me that she is turning out so wonderfully happy and stable.  My only comparison is my own childhood, so I continue to be amazed by her.

I hope I always am.

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