One is the Loneliest Number

Actually over the past couple of month’s I’ve realized that I don’t mind being alone. I have done things I’ve never done … gone to sit down restaurants by myself, to the beach, walked along the boardwalk at John’s Pass and went Black Friday shopping alone. I was alone, but in this high-tech world, I’m not lonely. My daughter has written to me each day and I’ve video chatted with my grandson and his mom a couple of times also. I face-timed with my husband, son and granddaughter. It was all good. 🙂

Tomorrow I’m heading home. While I’m very happy to be going home I’m also happy to have found out that I’m a strong, independent woman who can be happy alone.

The Circle of Life

LETTER FROM A MOTHER TO A DAUGHTER:

“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love.

I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you… my darling daughter.”

– Unknown

I read this on Facebook today and cried.  I see myself in this scenario .. in my relationship with my own mother and I pray this won’t happen to me as I age.  Now my mother is past help .. she suffers from Alzheimer’s and rarely recognizes me.  I do know I am guilty of every point listed above and, for that, I am sorry.  I do try, I try so hard to be patient with her over the last 20 years but it was difficult at times.  Now I go and sit with her and she is grateful for the company but really doesn’t realize I’m her daughter.

I do get confused thinking about this because I have always had this unusual relationship with my mother.  In many ways, I was the mother … even though she had a totally different relationship with my sister and my brother.  My mother would lay out all her problems to me to solve rather than be there to support me.  I can’t remember a time when I felt that she took care of me.  My father cared for me when I was small.  To my mother I was always the anchor in her relationship with my dad.  She married him in order to have her other two children supported and she looked at my dad as her meal ticket.  Eventually I became the negotiator in her relationship with my father, I took care of her instead of the other way around.  So yes, there were times I was impatient, arrogant, bitchy and short with her.

My mother has contributed to the person I am.  I am strong and able to function on my own.  I don’t “need” people to solve my problems.  I don’t share my worries or feelings easily.  I will downplay any health concerns because I want to handle it on my own.  I don’t like to appear weak to my family.  I am the mother of my family.  I need to be strong for my children and they need to know they can count on me to be there for them.  My husband and children are my world.  I would do anything for them and would be devastated if they felt I was a burden to them.

Recently my husband’s ex-wife’s husband died.  (Whew … what a sentence.)  He died after suffering from cancer for a year.  He had always had health issues and personal issues.  He was a recovering alcoholic.  Even before his cancer they would pressure my two stepdaughters to take care of things for them.  Now that he has passed away their mother has gone into this “take care of me” mode.  Suddenly she can’t manage her money, take care of her home or her health.  She has now talked her youngest daughter into  selling her condo and buying a house together.  On the surface this looks like a good idea but neither one has equity in their current homes and are taking on a $300,000 mortgage.  The mother is over 60 … how many more years does she expect to work?  She doesn’t have any RRSP’s or savings to draw on once she retires, all she has is a small insurance settlement that won’t last long.  She wants someone to take care of her and she is looking at her daughters as her way out of the responsibility of life.

I don’t want pity from anyone.  I just want to be loved.  There may be a time that my husband and I move in with one of our children but we will want a separate area and I will remain independent.  We would sell our house and put towards the new home (whomever I live with will get part of the inheritance early).   It would be a win win situation.  The six months a year I live there I would help my children any way I could.  I would be an asset and not a liability to my children.  If neither of my children aren’t interested in that arrangement then we will move to a senior’s apartment but I would hate wasting all that money on rent.  I would rather the money end up helping my children in their lives.

I am terrified that I will end up like my mother.  I don’t want to live in a nursing home, alone and confused.  I totally agree with my father, the day I can’t drive anymore is the day I want to die.    I want to be strong, eccentric and loving until the day I die.  I want to be me.

Spirits, Ghosts & The Afterlife .. Continued

The other night my father phoned me. Yes … I know he is dead but he phoned me.

I was sleeping and I heard the phone ring. I reached up … answered it and I knew it was him. Usually when the phone rings at night I panic thinking it is bad news but this time a feeling of peace flooded me.

He spoke, not really formed words, but I heard him say to me that he loved me, was proud of me and that I made him proud.

He hung up.

Since that moment I have stopped feeling the guilt that I carried over the last two years. I know he understood that I loved him and had tried to do my best. I feel my heart is lighter and I am no longer stuck in the grief that I let him down.

I went to his grave the next day, put Christmas flowers on it and a poppy. He always wore a poppy in November. I felt a warm breeze while I stood there looking at his grave.

This also made me realize that there is something beyond death. I’m not really a religious person but a spiritual one. I know there is more than just this space … this place and that someday I will be there watching over my loved ones.

I love you dad. I will always love you … always miss you but the time of grieving is over. Keep watching over me and our family.

As you always said to me, life is too short … go enjoy it. That is exactly what I plan to do.

It Is Not You

When I was 12 I was sexually assaulted. Normally I wouldn’t bring this up but I need to in order to introduce you to one of my greatest influences of my teenage life.

I was babysitting my niece and nephew. My sister was out (I can’t remember where) and my brother-in-law was supposed to be at the cottage for the weekend. It was around 7:30 and both my niece and nephew were sleeping when the door to the apartment opened. In came my drunken brother-in-law demanding to know where my sister was. I told him she’d be home in a few hours and he suddenly grinned at me. I will never forget the look on his face as he came towards me. I’m not going to go into details here but he ended up leaving (he went back up to his cottage) and I phoned my parents. My mother answered the phone and she told me she’d come get me.

She arrived, assessed the situation and packed the kids up and we went to my house. My mother left my sister a note saying she could pick the children up in the morning. In the car my mother told me I was to tell my father nothing about what happened. I didn’t understand how I was going to explain the fact I had a split lip, black eye and one very sore side. I also didn’t understand why she was angry at me.

The next day she told my father and sister that I hurt myself while babysitting. She said I was reaching for something in the cupboard, it fell and hit me in the face. No one said anything to me. My mother warned me not to say anything about that night … that if I did I would be blamed for ruining my sister’s marriage. I was confused, hurt and felt very alone. My nephew spent most of the day on my lap as if he knew I needed someone to care for me. I knew that day I’d protect that little boy for the rest of his life.

OK enough of that … now to the person I really wanted to talk about.

Over the next year I was becoming a normal teenager. My sister ended up leaving her husband, and to my mother’s relief, I was not blamed. Apparently having the shit beaten out of me wasn’t a good mark on the family. I started high school alone since most of my friends ended up going to the Catholic High School and I went to the public school. I changed my look entirely. I went from wearing very short (my mother used to cut my hair) hair and horn rimmed glasses to growing my hair long, going strawberry blonde and getting wire framed glasses. I embraced the hippy lifestyle. I wore fringed vests, long flowing dresses and coloured glasses. My mother HATED it or me. Obviously I was crazy so I was sent to see a psychiatrist. I am surprised she did this because I would think it would also reflect on her that I had to see this doctor.

This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted several years.

I remember the day I met Dr Raskin as if it was yesterday. I was nervous waiting in the reception area. Everything seemed so dark. The walls were dark, the lights were turned down … I guess it was meant to relax you. Didn’t work for me as I felt very uneasy waiting. My mother and I went in to meet this man who was going to turn me into a normal human being. For the first hour (ok 50 minutes but I’m going to say hour because it is easier) my mother talked. She told him that I was impossible. I listened to loud music (IT WAS NEIL DIAMOND … WHAT TEENAGER LISTENED TO NEIL DIAMOND), I didn’t keep my room clean .. she told him about me and my faults for the entire session. I just sat there. Went back the next week and once again she did all the talking. How horrible her life was, how horrible I was … I just couldn’t understand why I was there. Third session started and Dr. Raskin finally spoke. He looked at me and said, “Why are you here?” My mother started to answer and he looked at me again and said “No .. Why are YOU here?” I replied, “I really don’t know. My mother feels I need to be here.”. He asked, “Do you?”. I just shrugged. He told my mother that she was no longer needed at “our” sessions and that he would contact her when he felt she should be there. It was the quietest ride home.

The next week (I went every Wednesday at 4) I went in alone. Dr. Raskin and I just sat there. Minutes dragged on. He started reading something on his desk. I didn’t want to interrupt his reading so the silence just dragged on. He finally looked at me and said again “Why are you here?”. I told him I really didn’t know but apparently I was defective and, as a doctor, he needed to fix me. He laughed. Now you have to picture this man. He was very tall, dark hair and had a mustache and always was dressed in black. For some reason he reminded me of Dali’s sane brother. He would twirl his pen in his long fingers and it fascinated me. When he laughed, I laughed. And we started to talk. And talk. He saw me through all the high and lows of my high school years.

Every week we would talk about school, my school mates, music, life … nothing was off-limits. He sent me to the Oshawa Hospital for two days of extensive testing. I was having migraines and he had them run every test possible. Not that it surprised me because I already knew this but I have a high IQ but trouble memorizing things. Don’t ask me dates, names, even words to songs. My mind doesn’t work like other minds … he would tell me I could be brilliant but I had an undisciplined mind. He would lecture me to focus, train it as I would any muscle but I never could learn to memorize things properly. I wonder if it is too late to start training my mind.

For three years I saw him every Wednesday at 4. I looked forward to our visits. To me they were not “sessions” but two friends getting together to chat. We did talk about the reason my mother sent me there originally and dealt with it. I remember leaving one week and as I got to the door, Dr. Raskin said to me, “You know, it is not you”. Nothing else. I laughed and replied that I knew that too.

I started dating the high school football captain and ended up marrying him. When we were getting serious I told him where I went every Wednesday afternoon. He was horrified. He didn’t say anything for a few weeks and then told me that I would have to stop seeing the doctor. He could not go home and tell his parents that I was in therapy! As it was they hated me for not being Ukrainian. This would be the final nail in my coffin. So I went to see Dr Raskin and told him. Dr. Raskin totally understood and told me his door was always open. For the first time, he actually touched me … he hugged me as I left. This time, when I was leaving he said to me “Susan … it is not you. Be you. And … your mother is crazy”. I said I knew that since I was a kid and that was the hand I was dealt as a child.

I married my high school sweetheart. I married him for all the wrong reasons and leaving him was probably the best thing I ever did for him. He will be the topic of a blog some day … but not today. When I left him, I knew it was over. I filed for divorce (back then you had to wait 3 years for it to be final). He said he would not contest the divorce IF I would go see Dr. Raskin (apparently I was crazy to leave him) and he agreed that leaving was the best thing for me. I agreed and went to see my old friend. We didn’t even talk about my ex-husband in that session. I knew nothing was going to make me go back to that life.

Dr Raskin had aged. Perhaps he was ill, I really don’t know but all I could think of was he had become an old man. We chatted but that link between us was gone. This time I left without looking back. We both knew it was time for me to be out in the world on my own.

Northern Girls oh The Way They Kiss …

I had to come back up north for a few days and I am still shivering. I left sunny Florida on Monday, travelling through the sunshine to southern Georgia. The fields reminded me of winter … acres and acres of cotton in full bloom blanketed the southern part of the state. Travelling north through northern Georgia and Tennessee there were snow flurries. It made me feel nostalgic and I wanted to come home and get ready for Christmas. By Ohio there was snow in the fields. Each time I got out of the car to pump gas or to eat I got chilled to the bone. I can hardly wait to head back south.

I have never liked the cold. I remember when I was a kid my dad would build me an ice rink in the backyard. He would stand out there for hours watering it. He would take me out to teach me to skate but I would be so cold and I just wanted back inside. He finally gave up by the time I was eight or so (but the neighbourhood kids loved the rink). I did love going sledding with my brother. He hated taking me but I loved the feeling of racing down the hill. I may have been cold but I have always loved speed. Even today when I am tense or upset I like going to a ride in the car … driving as fast as I can!

Winter hasn’t even started and I already am tired of it. Decorating for the holiday season will keep me warm but immediately after the holiday I’m heading south!