Category Archives: love

Aunt Dee was the Spoiled One

Aunt Dee lives far away from home, in Texas, and I am the only relative who still speaks to her.  She was the youngest of the four sisters and she is the only one with more than a high school education–Bachelors, Masters, and PhD.

Aunt Dee received dance lessons, music lessons, new clothes rather than hand-me-downs from the boy next door.  There was money to pay for these things for her because relatives would send money especially for that purpose.  Her father, my grandfather, who had always been self-employed, was old enough to be on Social Security.  This meant that for the first time there was reliably steady income, and that the house was paid-off, having been purchased a couple decades before her birth.

Aunt Dee was the only sister still at home when Aunt Brenda was dying of cancer.  Dee had a bird’s eye view of the ugly side of mortality at the age of fourteen.  And no one actually told her what was going on.  She found out what the deal was when, one Sunday in church, the minister asked everyone to pray for Brenda who was dying.  Aunt Dee had gone to church by herself that Sunday because her parents were home caring for her sister.  She was surrounded by friends, neighbors, and strangers, but no family, when the worst news of her entire life was suddenly announced from the pulpit.  No one knew this had happened to her until recently.  In my opinion, this event was a critical turning point in her development as a human being.

My mother often talked about the inequality between Dee and the rest of them.  She loved her baby sister, but resented their parents for the differing ways they were raised.  Now, though, Dee herself is resented due to her own adult flaws and foibles.

Aunt Dee has always been a remarkably cavalier person when it comes to the feelings and spaces of other people.  For example, she has this thing she does with bathrooms.  When I was younger she stayed with us a couple times during her years of world travels.  She somehow managed to flood our bathroom during her shower every single day of her visit.  My mother had a carpet in there which became soaked with each flooding and it created a ton of clean up work for my mother.  No work for Aunt Dee, though, who would laugh and leave the house rather than help mop up the mess she made.

For several years she rented a very nice apartment in town.  She disliked the landlords and would create floods in her bathroom that leaked downstairs into their home.  She would just stopper-up the tub, turn on the shower full-blast, and leave for the day.  This was funny to her.

She would regularly stay with friends when she moved to other parts of the country.  They all ended up kicking her out and banning her from their homes.

Aunt Dee had a dog for several years that she allowed to piss on other people’s beds and couches.  She would laugh and say, “They’re rich, they can buy a new one!”

She borrows money, never intending to pay it back.

She accuses other people of things that she actually does.

Since I am the only one in the family who will still speak to her, it has become my responsibility to alert everyone if I think she may have gone off the rails and become a danger to the rest of the family.

Aunt Dee was the sister with charm and charisma.  She had opportunities the others lacked.  She often received or just took what she wanted.  I doubt she will change at this stage of the game because the things she does give her the results she desires.  Even if her desires alienate every single person she has ever met or loved, I think it is likely she will live this way until she dies.

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Filed under boundaries, bullies, decision making, dysfunction, enemies, family, getting along, human nature, love, Uncategorized

The Short Life of My Very Good Aunt

Aunt Brenda was the second oldest of four sisters.  Her two younger sisters considered her to be the good one in their family, the one who was more of a mother to them than their actual mother.

Aunt Brenda left home as soon as humanly possible, like all the sisters did in turn.  She worked, went to church, taught Sunday school, took her little sisters to the soda shop and movies, invited them to her apartment, and basically mothered them when she could.

Then right after she turned 33, she was diagnosed with an especially aggressive form of breast cancer and five months later she was gone.

Aunt Brenda had never married because the love of her life cheated on her with another woman.  He had gotten the other woman pregnant and “did the right thing” and married her.  He still lives in town and I know who he is.  When I was old enough to drive, I got a fill-up at his gas station and he recognized me as Brenda’s niece.  He made a point of bringing it up, though this was the first time we had met.  It made me think that he still carried a torch for her all those years after her death.

My own memories of her are the fragmented impressions of a pre-schooler.  There was the time she gave me a Nestle’s Crunch Bar–I held it in my hand so long that when I opened the wrapper to eat it, the chocolate had completely melted onto the foil liner.  There was the Christmas Eve at our house when I sat on the living room floor and untied her shoes over and over again while she kept re-tying them.  And after she got cancer, there was the time we visited her at my grandparents’ because she’d had to move back home.  I remember her sitting up in bed and she had white bandages wrapped around her entire rib cage.

After she died I think everyone stayed alone in their grief.  It was a tremendous loss which just got stuffed down, and it stayed down.  That’s how we tend to handle all the kinds of grief in this family.

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Filed under family, grief, history, human nature, injustice, love, Uncategorized

My Aunt Louise

Aunt Louise is the oldest of four sisters.  In her day, she was very beautiful with a beaming smile.  She was also quite awkward in many ways.  As an example, when she graduated high school, her fiance still had a year to go, so she kept going to school and audited classes so she’d have something to do while she waited for him to graduate.  She didn’t feel free and excited and have all these girlfriends to do things with.  She waited for her fiance to graduate high school.

The following year, they did indeed get married.

In the wedding photo she looks quite happy.  He looks kind of bashful.  The article in the paper is typical for 1949 with descriptions of what everyone wore and the several bridal showers she was given, including one given by the office girls of the place she worked.

Her life afterwards turned out to be very, very difficult and sad:  dysfunctional marriage, death of a three-year-old daughter, poverty, divorce, more poverty, then a good husband who died years ago, abusive relationship in her later years, and finally death of another daughter from brain cancer.

I would read the wedding article sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong….

Aunt Louise is due to turn 90 this coming January and my mother recently remarked that she has been quite talkative the last few times they were together.  Louise has said surprising things such as:  the reason she never worked after getting married was because not one person had liked her at the job she had.  She knew it the very first day she walked in the door.  They hated her at first sight.

How strange.  I wouldn’t have guessed that she was hated at her job.  According to her wedding announcement she had worked there for two years and “the office girls” had even given her a wedding shower.

I had always thought she had two lives.  The one before marriage and the one afterwards.  Instead, those “two lives” were part of a familiar pattern.

Her life turned out like all the other women’s lives in this family.  A beginning seemingly full of promise and light, beauty and hope.  Smart, sensitive, active girls who end up as victims on some level wondering where it all went wrong.

I suspect the clues to the future were right there all along.  We just missed them in the quest to do the right thing, please the people around us, be good girls, and basically give away our power until there was no more to give.

There are more women’s stories in my family and I hope I can do them justice.

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Filed under anxiety, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, enemies, family, first impressions, getting along, grief, history, human nature, journey, love, opinion, social phobia, Uncategorized, wellness, work

“Ripen into Your Authentic Self”

The phrase “ripen into your authentic self” was part of my horoscope from Rob Brezsny this morning and it was one of those aha things that I just love.

I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with a family situation lately.  We haven’t heard from our oldest son in over a year and it is bothersome.  Luckily with the internet I can keep faint tabs on him, but still.  This is the kind of situation that most parents dread and are confounded by.  I am no different.

Fortunately, I found a recent blog post he wrote–the sign of life I’ve been wanting.  The subject matter is one I am quite uncomfortable with personally.  However, it is not a surprising subject.  It is consistent with the kind of person he has always been.  Which makes his absence from our lives quite understandable.  He is being considerate of our feelings as well as being true to himself.

I was pleased to see that he is a fantastic writer.  And a person with integrity.  His interests are not interests I can share, but I can respect them.

I feel very proud of him.  But it is still strange and uncomfortable for me that I cannot just call him and say, awesome blog, tell me more.  I have to give him the kind of space that most parents would be uncomfortable with.  And I miss him.

It’s hard to know what to do with a relationship of this nature.

But the thing we have in common, and that all people have in common, is the desire and need to be our authentic selves.  And for many of us that takes a great deal of time.  Some people never accomplish authenticity.

I had to learn to get out of my own way to even begin ripening into my true and authentic self.  I think my son had to learn the same thing and over a year ago he made his move.

So here is to all of us finding our true, authentic selves and the peace that it can bring.

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Filed under blogging, boundaries, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, honesty, human nature, love, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, wellness

Weeping Willow

One morning last week I let the cat in through the back door and then just leaned against the window panes for a bit and absent-mindedly stared at the autumn all around.

On the west side of our back yard is an old apple tree and the compost pile.  In the center is a little flower bed.  And to the east is a huge old willow tree.  Except on this day it was lying on its side with roots in the air and branches and limbs strewn over ours and our neighbors’ lawns.

I love our trees the same way I love our pets.  Seeing the tree destroyed like that made me want to find a way to set it back up and let it somehow live for a few more years.  Magical thinking.

Later on I went outside and was able to look inside the termite damaged trunk.  There was a cool spray of dust from the roots slowly falling around me while I was in there.  Then I walked around checking out the full  length of our old willow and found dozens of bees freaking out near the ground under some limbs.  I guess their lives got mightily disrupted because of this.

It must have fallen during the night.  Neither my husband nor I heard a thing.  It was a complete surprise.

We’ve lived here for twenty-three years, so there are some memories attached to this willow.  We had a tire swing in it for awhile.  Our cats had chased squirrels up and down it over the years.  Lots of birds nested there, naturally.  One time, my husband set part of it on fire!  By accident, of course. And another time it lost about half its limbs due to a freak October ice storm.  That tree just might have had a more interesting life than I have had so far.

My husband and his friend made quick work of it with their chainsaws the other day and I have checked out the new piles of future bonfire wood a couple times.  It is kind of satisfying to see the orderliness of it.  Plus, we both thought this clean-up would take months (having had experience with only cheap, crappy chainsaws in the past).  Instead it took only a few hours with a couple of new, deluxe chainsaws.

Since the carving up, I haven’t been out there at all.  I’ve been busy and other things have been on my mind.  When I do see the tree from a window every so often, it still surprises me but not with the same twist in my gut as on the first day.

This is the kind of thing my life is about now.  And for the time being, or maybe forever, I prefer it to the tedious grind of being out there in the world of work, side by side with mostly strangers, and letting the external pressures of every single thing in the universe take over my poor brain.

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Filed under anxiety, depression, emotional health, family, grief, growth, healing, love, pressure, self-care, social phobia, Uncategorized, work

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award Q and A!

I have been following an awesome blog called The Elephant in the Room and today Ms. Elephant nominated me for the above-mentioned Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Being a very new blogger, and awkward at that, I can handle the questions part of the award. But the nominating part is a skill that I do not have yet. Perhaps in time.

Now to figure out how to get a link to The Elephant in this blog entry– http://telephantitroom.wordpress.com. Wheee! It worked!

Now for the easy part, which was actually hard because I thought I lost my draft for awhile there….

Q: What is your favorite type of animal in the world, real or myth?
A: Any and all kinds of felines. I love their faces, their paws, they way they move and the way they sound.

Q: What is your favorite type of pet?
A: House cats, naturally. It does not feel like home without cats. I have three of them and expect to always have at least one.

Q: What is your least favorite type of pet?
A: Reptiles. Maybe if they were warm-blooded and had fur I would reconsider. But in their current form, they just don’t seem like a house pet to me. They belong outdoors in ponds and under rocks.

Q: If you could BE an animal, which would you choose and why?
A: It is hard to choose what kind of animal I would want to be because I have a hard time getting past the various things they need to eat. I tell myself that if I were actually an animal, then the horrible things they have to eat would actually taste good to me. I would crave cold, gooshy things and bloody things with bones and fur and feathers. But from this side it makes me want to hurl. Based on food choices only, I would choose to be a deer. I can handle the idea of eating leaves and twigs and seeds.

Q: What tends to be your favorite season and why?
A: Easy! Fall. It’s nice and cool out. It rains. And when it rains, the tree trunks look black and dramatic against the colored leaves and the gray sky. I love that sight. And the dry leafy smell of the air gets my blood going.

Q: What tends to be your least favorite season and why?
A: This makes me an oddball but I kind of hate summer. It gets way too hot and humid for me. I actually feel sick if the heat and humidity get too high. If I liked swimming, then it might not be so bad. But I’m not a big fan of getting wet and I also sink and have a very hard time swimming. Once I almost drowned because of that sinking thing my body does. Not fun.

Q: Have you ever visited a park or landmark of any sort and, if so, what has been your favorite and why?
A: Several years ago, we visited Santa Fe, New Mexico because of the Georgia O’Keefe Museum there– http://www.okeeffemuseum.org. I loved the museum. But the big surprise to me was how much I loved Bandelier National Monument– http://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm. It is ancient and arid. It has some forest and some water. There is canyon and mountain. There is lots of red rock. If we had been prepared with proper shoes and some water, then we could have stayed many more hours hiking. Of the five days we spent in Santa Fe, two of them were devoted to Bandelier.

Ms. Elephant, thank you for thanking me and for giving me the fun questions to answer.

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Christmas Lights

We have our Christmas tree set up in the back room. It used to be the back porch of our house so there is a set of windows between the back room and the dining room. From my seat here at the computer, all I can see is a dreamy spray of colored star bursts through sheer white curtains and it is very pretty.

Over ten years ago, my father moved into that room for a day. He had called me in the morning and said he couldn’t take care of himself any more and would I come and take him to the nursing home. I told him that you don’t just go to a nursing home all of a sudden and instead he could come to our house to live. His lungs had been failing for years but this day he had turned a corner and he knew in his gut that there wasn’t enough of him left to be able to live alone.

That was a very long day in which we made trips back and forth with his most necessary possessions and rearranged our house and went to the store and bought some heavy green curtains for the picture windows so he would have privacy in his new room. We didn’t have time to make meals and there was one quick trip to Burger King so we could have something in our bellies.

Evening came and he was sitting up in his bed and I was sitting in his old orange recliner looking at him and wondering how we were going to manage this. He looked at me and said, “This isn’t going to work.” So we called 911 and they came and scooped him up into a big, thick blanket and carried him out of the house like that and into the ambulance where maybe he found all the machinery and lights and activity quite exciting in spite of his fear. He told me later he thought he would die that night. In reality, he lived another 26 days.

This is the first year we have had our Christmas tree in that room. I sit in there every night in the dark, with the only light being the mini-lights from the tree, and just take it in. I sit in a rocking chair facing the wall where we had set up my father’s bed and think about that night in 2004. My thoughts always go to what I imagine he could be doing now. I always imagine him flying among the stars and planets and absorbing everything he sees in outer space. I also imagine he looks out for us and has all this amazing knowledge now that he is on the other side. I imagine he knows things he would never have figured out in life because of the limitations of his physical body with its weak lungs and his Asperger’s mind. He always wanted to understand things and I like to think that now he does.

We rarely went to church when I was growing up and I do not recall ever going to church on Christmas. I do remember the awesome anticipation of there being presents from Santa under the tree. To think that someone who didn’t even know me would go to all the trouble of flying through the night sky in a magic sleigh bringing me presents! There was no other feeling like that. It was unconditional love. Maybe that’s why it took me longer than most kids to give up on my belief in Santa. It wasn’t traumatic or anything. Eventually logic out-weighed the dream.

When our kids were little, and we were living away from home because of the military, we would sometimes have Christmas on the road. We’d sneak and pack up the presents in the trunk of the car and tell the kids that Santa would find us in our motel room and leave presents there. One year we checked into our motel room and found that my father had paid for the room ahead of time as our gift. He could be sneaky too.

It was because of my father that we attended the gatherings of our extended family for as long as we did. They are not an easy bunch to spend time with, for various reasons, but he didn’t see any of the nonsense. He was happy to sit with these cranky people and enjoyed the dinners whether they were well-cooked or not. He liked sitting with the other men watching football on TV. And he liked the long ride out into the sticks to get there and back.

If he is really out in space somewhere among the stars, and if he really has ultimate knowledge, then he understands why we don’t go to the family holidays any more (in fact there really isn’t a big family gathering any more) and he is not judging any of us for it.

Because I like sitting in there next to the tree and feeling that connection with my father, I’m tempted to say that we will have our tree in the back room every year from now on. But there really is no such thing as “from now on” and there never has been any such thing. The most I can say for sure is that we will probably set it up in there again next year and it might become our tradition for a time. That’s really the best anyone can hope for.

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Filed under depression, family, grief, love