Posts Tagged 'family'

Happy New Year

IMG_9978That title is both a wish and a description. I wish you and yours a happy healthy new year to come. And I am overcome with emotion from my wonderfully happy new year’s day brunch yesterday. I don’t even know where to start to tell you about it – it is such a whirlwind of activity and emotion hosting an open house for family and friends. I do know one thing for sure, however, that I have to tell you – and will say repeatedly – I could never have done it without my sister’s help. She and her husband and my husband worked and prepped and cooked and baked and cleaned through the 4 days it took to match this party to my hopes and expectations. 🙂 But of the 3 of them it was my sister who put in hours doing a lot of the manual labor and tedious tasks while I bustled about on more glamorous endeavors. My sister was my rock. Best Sister Ever.

For me, throwing a party is about family, food, friends, and, for certain parties, football 🙂 The football was a bit disappointing for this brunch but I have the best friends and family. IMG_9982Food is important but if you don’t have great friends who like to come out and meet and greet each other, you aren’t going to have a good time. I have to say that I am extremely fortunate in my friends. Everyone socializes and talks to folks they might not have met before. There was a lot of laughing and conversation and hugging and handshaking. My friends come with their happiness on high and share it around. I loved getting to see everyone and chat and to see them all having fun together. This party was billed as both a new year’s day party and a ‘come see the new kitchen’ party. *grin* More on that another day.

We were also fortunate in the weather – nearly 60 degrees and sunny in the afternoon. I always use my deck as my “walk in refrigerator” for my winter parties. I confess I was a little concerned about how WARM it was – if my desserts and drinks would stay fresh. IMG_9986 *grin* The upside of the warm weather was being able to set up the deck so folks could be outside and enjoying the sun!

The party lasted from bright warm sunshine into the dark hours, but the fun never diminished. Okay, for the cats the fun ceased completely once I brought out the vacuum cleaner that morning. 🙂 GC and BC disappeared back upstairs until the last guest left. WC attempted to hold her own in the sun room, refusing to budge so that I could clean the couch but she finally retreated upstairs when the first guests arrived. The 3 of them were quite relieved once I shut the front door for good. But as for ME – I’m still feeling the ‘afterglow’.

A small personal history

May 13 is Mothers’ Day this year. May 13 also happens to be my mother’s yahrzeit. *rueful smile* My mother, may her memory be blessed, always understood the importance of timing. As an actress she knew that timing, delivery and performance were key to making a lasting impact. She always wanted everything to be “all about her”. With remarkable timing, she has ‘captured’ Mothers’ Day. I will never reach this date without thinking of her and reflecting on our lives together. (To be fair, my father also made sure I’d never forget his yahrzeit either – I turned 50 sitting shiva, instead of throwing the big birthday blow-out I’d started planning.)

I used to have such fun with my mother. When I was a toddler I wanted to grow up and be just like her. I wiggled my way into her newspaper interview (what an adorable photo we made). I cried at a play when she, in character, cried. My father had to carry me out. 🙂 I cued her for her plays, I went to every show she was in, I envied the times she and my big sister would go out shopping without me.

Even through grade school and high school we were best buddies. I could tell her any and every thing. My friends all thought she was incredibly cool and would confide in her. When I went off to college she wrote me letters every week, and sent me zillions of clippings from the newspaper. *laughing* My beloved advisor once said that my mother was the only mother he knew who could be replaced by a subscription to the NY Times. 🙂 She came out to visit me at college and I was so proud to introduce her to everyone.

I graduated, moved back home for grad school, got married, stayed home until my husband also graduated. All that time my mother and I played together, had fun, had key jokes (Mickey’s Donut Land was one), traditional shopping trips (Black Friday after Thanksgiving – a day we loved to go out because we didn’t NEED anything so we could be relaxed while everyone around us went crazy).

My husband and I bought a house in the same town where I was born, grew up, where my parents lived, where my sister and her husband lived. We were a very close family. We did a lot with my parents – my husband and father were close, both engineers, liking sports, politics, conversation. My son was born and Grandma and PopPop took care of him regularly.

But somewhere along the line things began to change. The seeds were always there. I have an ugly story about my graduation present from college. There were some other harsh memories of things said, selfish behavior, controlling emotions. Beginning after college I went into therapy. Years and years of therapy. What I learned there was to be NOT my mother. What I learned and began to see was how unhappy she was, how emotionally damaged she was from her childhood experiences. I had absorbed ALL of that myself, modeled myself that way, being just like her. But I wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to be happy more than I didn’t want to have to change myself. I spent years and years and years learning how to undo the self-destructive patterns.

As I changed, I saw my mother differently. I saw her unhappiness, and she always admitted that she was not happy. But she refused to look at herself for the source. She always felt that happiness is derived externally. I think too that she became more and more her negative qualities – selfish, emotionally controlling, putting down others to feel as if she were better, hurtful comments trying to be funny. The more time I spent with her, the worse I would feel. A lot of negativity and anger radiated from her. It was draining and dispiriting.

But it was tolerable. My father was there, my sister, her husband, her daughter, my husband, my son – we were family and we saw each other regularly and happily. Okay, sometimes annoyingly too. 🙂 After all, we were family.

You need to understand. My father adored my mother. He thought she was wonderful. One time my sister and I were talking and laughing with him and we both mentioned how we heard our mother “talking out of our mouths” and he didn’t understand why we thought that was NOT a good thing. I love you so much, Daddy. He would do anything for her. He was her security. He was her rock. She was the glamorous butterfly, flitting and flirting and exciting but she would always come home to him – her safe haven.

And then my father became ill, unable to travel a lot. My mother was cruel. Comments like “well we can’t do this now because of you”. It got worse. He was in the hospital, ill. She didn’t visit him because she didn’t feel up to it. My sister and I were sitting shifts at his bed, dropping in exhaustion so that he would not be alone but she couldn’t be troubled. Had the roles been reversed, he’d have been there every day, dragging a lung machine and any other apparatus just to be with her. When he finally came home, she wouldn’t let him back into their room. He lived downstairs on a hospital bed. She did cruel things like move his toaster to a storage area because it was “in her way”. Every morning he’d have to struggle with his walker to get the toaster, bring it out to the counter, and then struggle to bring it back. She raged when we added safety bars to the bathroom for him. It was ugly. Very very ugly.

She was so angry. So afraid. She couldn’t forgive him for being human and not being her rock. She was terrified. He was her safe haven. He was her security. Her life, as she saw it, was evaporating rapidly.

Then he died.

I’d like to say that things improved but that is not what happened. She turned her fear-fueled anger on my sister and me. There were more cruel words and selfish selfish behavior. It was very hard for several years, but she was our mother, and we loved her, and you do what you have to do. She was still active, going into the city for theater and art and friends.

Suddenly she was ill, in the hospital, emergency surgery – a perforated ulcer. Who even knew she had an ulcer? Recovery was slow, her spirits were poor. We tried to keep her home, but we had to keep upping her in-home care. Finally we moved her to a nursing home. The odd thing is, in hindsight, we think maybe she’d have wanted that immediately. We moved her to a second, better nursing home when it was available. And it was there, finally, that for me, things began to heal.

I could visit her, chat with her, talk to her as we had in the past. There were flashes of my mother there, her sense of humor, her intelligence. We’d have cheese and crackers, drink coffee, eat chocolate. I could even classify some visits as enjoyable. My own anger at her for her treatment of my father began to ease. My anger at her for her lack of commitment to trying to recover from her surgery began to ease. My compassion became dominant, as I saw her living the very life I knew she had dreaded forever.

She died last year, suddenly, the day before Mothers’ Day. On Sunday she’d been okay. On Saturday she was dead.

I miss her. When I think of her now, I don’t think of those last 12 years or so. I think of the fun things we did. Our little jokes. That she’d like this weather. She’d like knowing this event. When the rabbi came to talk to us about her in preparation for the funeral, he asked me if I had forgiven her. I thought about it for a moment and told him no, I had not. I will probably NEVER forgive her for how she treated my father. But that was not the whole of my relationship with her, even if it did poison so much of our time together. I am grateful for that last year in the nursing home. We had time to sit together. Smile. It was quiet then and peaceful and there was room for love and warmth. Time and space for the positive interactions to flourish and bloom. When they say time is the great healer, I think this might be what they mean.

I miss you, Mom. Happy mothers’ day.

Tag!

It only took 269 days but I managed to “payback” my sister and make her laugh. I confess I am grinning, too. You may recall from my Trans-Canada saga, that on our very first morning out on the open road, Honour and I stopped at Horseshoe Canyon. While we were there, enjoying the scenery and sights, my phone rang. It was my sister, pointing out that we had LEFT THE HIGHWAY!!!!! Did we KNOW we had left the highway??? Were we LOST?? *grin* Oh wow, I do love my sister.

My sister and her husband have taken off cross-country today. Mostly cross-country. They are going to Wisconsin. /me gestures vaguely, pointing somewhere west. You know – out THERE. They are in their RV, with only 1 dog. I do feel I need to point out they travel in luxury, compared to those of us who load up an unfamiliar SUV with 2 unhappy cats and an elderly unhappy dog, a companion we’ve never met F2F before, kitty litter and bags and shoes and set out across the BROAD part of the continent, driving through wild-fires. Just saying.

You may also recall that I installed a nifty app on my phone called Life360, that would enable my family to track me on my travels (in case of lunatic axe murderers). This app also means that *I* can track *them*. We use it all the time. We watch my niece (her daughter) as she comes and goes to visit us. We use it if we are supposed to be meeting up, and we try to find the other. My niece and her husband left this morning for a trip to Japan, and I watched their progress to the airport, to the terminal, and then got the selfie portrait from them before they shut down phones and took off to Japan!!

The Rv headed out this afternoon. While I ate lunch I checked on their progress. They were NOT on the highway!!!! They had crossed the Delaware and were pulled off in a small town in PA, NOT on the itinerary. I could not resist. At least I didn’t CALL. *grin* I texted and said: “YOU ARE OFF THE HIGHWAY!!! Do you KNOW you are off the highway?? Are you LOST???” Oh my, it was sooooo satisfying. 🙂

My sister’s sense of humor is akin to mine – I got back a laughing text, asking if I’d been WAITING for the moment to send this. Of course I’d been waiting – 269 days. 🙂

Everyone has taken off on their travels but they are not ‘away’. I’ve now received text messages about muffins and trail mix left in the car, lack of toilet paper and the non-printed itinerary. They also serve who stay home and wait. (with apologies to John Milton)

Let’s Elect Vacuum Cleaners

A member of my extended family – really, my husband’s family – posted to Facebook yesterday asking for recommendations on vacuum cleaners. Her much-loved vacuum of nearly TEN YEARS had died, and she wondered what she should buy to replace it.

Did you notice how I distanced myself from her? She’s a good person, raising very lovely children competent, talented, self-sufficient. More than a good person – one could even say she is admirable. She’s VERY MUCH like her mother-in-law (my sister-in-law) was at that age. Every thing is in stark black and white. There is no gray. And she knows everything. And is willing to fight you on it. That was tiresome when it was my sister-in-law and it is tiresome now. It impacts how I feel about her – hence the distancing – because I find it exhausting to have such negative passion directed at me and others.

(As a little side note, I actually get along very well these days with my sister-in-law. Yes, the one who said some fairly horrid things about me and who I used to call “the bitch”. I used to be very black and white also. Might be an age thing? But we both figured out that peace in the family was more important than making the other person acknowledge we were right and they were wrong. We excel at side-stepping the many areas where the pit-of-disagreement yawns between us. We even have fun together now. 🙂 )

Anyway, back to electing vacuum cleaners. It soon became apparent in the discussion that there were two major camps: The Shark Party and The Miele Party. The adherents were strong in their praise of the benefits of THEIR vacuum. They posted photos. They recited anecdotes of the cleaning power. It was very interesting. I almost wondered if I should have bought a Shark instead of my Miele, the discussion was so fervid and intense. There were even folk supporting the Dyson Animal and the Hoover. The conversation is still going today. I don’t feel distant from this conversation at all. I’m interested in the outcome, and I’m enjoying the posts.

This morning when I looked at FB, and this discussion popped on the top, I laughed a bit. It’s interesting the things about which we get passionate. And then I noticed that people WERE passionate, they were sure they had the best vacuum, but they did allow as to how there might have been some areas where their vacuum could use a little improvement. No one, however, seized those comments and started calling the adherent names, or pointing out their stupidity and their lack of morality for supporting the WRONG vacuum. No, none of that. The whole discussion was about the merits of their vacuum and the situations where it excelled and where it might be a bit weak. No one told my niece-in-law that she would be damned for getting the other brand.

Wow, it was refreshing. Conversation on merits of the contestant. No name calling. No moral judgements.

Let’s elect vacuum cleaners to public office. It will make us better people and I can’t imagine the vacuums will do all that much worse than some of our politicians.

Full Disclosure: I own 3 vacuums: Miele, Panasonic, Zip. 🙂


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