Undone

I read the prompt for this week’s writing challenge and thought of the minutia that is bouncing around in my head at all times, appointments to make, and repairs that need looking after but quite frankly, that sounded like way too much work for me today, so I have decided that what feels most undone in relation to my priorities is a rather scary conversation that I need to have at some point in the near future with my eldest son.

Having gown up in a pretty chaotic environment, as a Mother myself, I sheltered my boys from everything that could possibly hurt them. Not physical hurt- they were fine healthy boys and I knew they would survive the breaks and stitches and bumps and bruises like most kids do. I protected them from emotional hurt. From the fear of not having enough money, or food, or falling ill three days before pay day and how that could topple the whole house of cards over.

I protected them from all my unresolved hurts that came with me into adulthood and motherhood at a young age. I protected them from fears of family dying, and illnesses that strike innocent babies and parents who barely speak to each other but stay together 5 MORE years for the sake of the “children.”

I have two sons. The older is a lot like me in looks and temperament. He also seems to be showing signs of maybe having picked up a bit of the “family” illness. Signs that I am not positive about and quite honestly, don’t have the strength to deal with at this time. Things are going well for him in his life at this moment, great job, new love, involvement in the arts community he so loves. He has openly admitted that he is far better in the routine of a relationship, so I am going to put that other business…that worry..away for now.

He is my softer hearted boy. We are incredibly close and times when he has asked me as all eldest children do ” WHY are you so HARD on ME? WHY not HIM?” I respond back, “Because I know you will never cut me out of your life totally. I know I can have these moments with you and you will always be here for me. I know you won’t ever go away forever and never come back.”

My younger son is much more rational and much more reserved. He is the go-to whenever you have a hard time figuring out which direction to take. Whether it is literally a path in the road or which faucets to purchase for the kitchen sink. He is the son who knows where all the paper work is. The will. The insurance documents. My bank card. My PIN #. He doesn’t care for when things get emotionally messy. He will find the nearest exit usually at the first sign of a tear or emotional outburst.

Humorous aside: When I sat down with my kids and told them about their uncle’s prognosis, their exact first reactions were – Eldest son laid head down on kitchen table and cried silently. Younger son hit me with 303 questions in a rapid fire manner regarding second opinions, living wills, home care, caregiver support, medications, and end of life requests.

Now I have rambled on and on about the kids and haven’t gotten to the meat of the post here. I am all potatoes today, instead! You needed the background information, though, in order to understand why I need to have this conversation with my oldest son.

I know that in his heart, my eldest feels that I have let him down at points in his life or tried to step back from swimming in his pain with him. I know he has felt I am hypervigilent about silly matters such as how many beers in everyone is, or why forgetting to lock the door makes his Mom lose her shit at times, or why seemingly simple things like raising your loud male voice suddenly at something amazing on t.v. can make his Mom shake like a leaf for hours following.

I need to come clean with my son about some of my past and the way I was raised. I have white washed a lot in my stories, in order to shelter them from pain. I have put on a brave, in-control face their whole lives in order to make them feel safe and secure. But I know my eldest wonders at times why I react in ways I do to simple little things that he perceives as non-threatening.

I will feel undone until I talk to him about some pretty painful events that shaped his smiling but nervous Mom into who she is. And I am not worried that the love will not remain. I just don’t want him to feel pain because of me. I  want him to understand that I did what I could with the tools I had as a young mother and made some incredibly stupid choices along the way because I didn’t know any better and didn’t seek the help I very obviously needed back when I needed it most.

And if that helps him to understand me better, and to perhaps even assist him with his own life choices, then it won’t have been in vain.

And then it will be done.

2011-12-15-16-41-05-jpg
Prince # 1 – The Artist

 

 

Advertisements

Eulogy for My Brother, Mark

What to say about my brother, Mark?

Well, we aren’t in church, so I can skip the part about telling you all what a Saint he was, because that isn’t the first word that comes to mind when thinking of him.

Everyone who knew Mark saw something different, I’m sure.

Over the course of his life, he was a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle and a friend.

I used to get frustrated with Mark’s inability to be tactful in his dealings with people. Rory pointed out to me that Mark did not HAVE that little switch in his brain that most of us have; the one that tells us to keep it to ourselves or stay silent when we should. Mark was so brutally honest about his opinions and his feelings that he was unable to keep anything to himself. I truly believe he felt that we all NEEDED and WANTED to hear every thought, good or bad, that he had about us. He wouldn’t feel true to himself or those he loved if he wasn’t being “straight-up” 100 % of the time.

One of his frequent complaints to my Mom when he was growing up was “Why am I always in trouble and SHE never is?” And my Mom would reply “She knows when to keep her mouth shut and you don’t.” Mark never learned that skill….ever.

He loved us all, with his whole heart for EXACTLY who we were at EXACTLY the moment he knew us. He took us flaws and imperfections and all and loved us not despite our flaws but loved the flaws just as much. The flaws to Mark were what made us who we were.

One of Mark’s greatest traits was his generosity and his amazing ability to forgive those who had wronged him.

Oh, don’t get me wrong- he had a hit“list”. And he usually referred to it once a year at a family gathering and would ask if any of us had anyone who needed to be added that year.

Mark hated to hear of stories of injustice occurring to regular folks. If any of us shared a story with him of someone we knew being wronged in some way, he was the first one yelling for someone to find his keys as he was going to go “make it right!”

And over the years, I watched him charge blindly into situations, some of them terrifying to me, without a thought for his own safety or personal freedom…he just knew someone needed his help and he knew if he didn’t deal with the situations, no one would.

So, he made some enemies along the way, but there is no one who will ever be able to say that my brother was a coward who sat back and did nothing when someone needed his help.

Mark was the most loyal person I have ever known in my life. That is something our parents taught us from a young age.  We could beat the stuffing out of each other daily (and we did as kids), but God help the person who came after either of us if the other one was around.

I will miss that now and also his incredible memory. It just isn’t fair that someone that put that many foreign substances into his body should still have a memory like an elephant!

We spent a lot of time in the last couple of years reminiscing about the past. I think he knew his time was limited and it felt good to relive some of his favourite memories all over again.

He told me, during one of our chats (when he was actually trying to prepare me, saying goodbye and telling me he was so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old & grumpy together as we’d always planned), that he believed he was going to a better place.

He had such a child-like wonder and inquisitiveness about what he would find on the other side…like it was going to be his next great adventure or trip. We had endless discussions regarding spirituality, morality and different belief systems. He wanted to know where he was going and if it would hurt at the end.

When the topic would become too much for me emotionally, he would throw in a joke about how chances were that I would die before him anyway, as I was such a shitty driver and also clumsy, so I could fall down the stairs any time. He was aware of his health problems; I was a ticking time bomb of clumsiness and crappy driving!

I have regrets that during those dark times for him I could not fully go as deep into the depths as he needed me to go. No matter how many times he told me during my life how strong I was, I couldn’t allow my heart or my mind to go to that place where someday he wouldn’t be here. I can barely do it now that it is a reality.

What I learned and take away from his illness, is how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

While he slowly lost physical ability, endurance and strength, he seemed to grow immensely emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It was almost like he had to shed his old skin in order to be prepared with new tools when the time came for him.

Exactly two weeks before he died he was telling Rory they were going to be in the Okanogan in the summer jet skiing, while also making plans for a winter cruise with Cal and I.

2016-01-22-13.41.15.png.png
Infamous “smoking in his sleep” move.

I still don’t know if he was trying to remain optimistic for everyone or if he truly thought that if he had things planned, dying would have to wait.

The memories of Mark that seem strongest for me at this time are:

Mark as a typical pain in the ass little brother- always wanting to go everywhere I was going; me being held responsible for his safety. Removing slivers, wood ticks, leeches, bee stings, and trying unsuccessfully to remove his tongue from the clothesline pole the January he was 7 after I told him they tasted like cotton candy. He lost some skin that day but at least it prevented him from telling on me.

The two of us together in a room alone at the funeral home looking down at our Dad when we were younger than my boys are now. The absolute silence and togetherness of that moment and the strength we gave each other.

Waking up in the hospital room in the dark after my first son died to hear quiet crying and looking to my side to see my brother in full Gene Simmons make up with tears running down his face. My Mom had contacted him right in the middle of a hell of a Halloween party with the news, and he had come straight to the hospital to see me. We actually didn’t say a word to each other- he just held my hand and cried for me as I was too sedated and numbed out to cry for myself.

Mark on his wedding day- so handsome, so happy, so in love. I think that may have been one of the happiest days of his life, all his family and friends in one place celebrating their marriage and also the opportunity for a kick ass party when the formal stuff was over.

20141204_185608.jpg
Money-Drop Visit

Finding $100.00 bills all over my house after he had been to visit one time when the boys were babies.

In their piggy banks,

in the cookie jar,

in my coat pockets,

stashed in my car.

I even found one in a box of tampons in the bathroom. He had obviously noticed that I was struggling  financially and knew I was too proud to ask for help. So he helped and just went on his way without us ever talking about it again until I tried to pay some of it back.

He told me to shut up about paying it back.

Said he didn’t need it and he knew I spent it on something far wiser than he would have

Hugging him close to me days before he died, in the middle of an acute episode of pain, hearing him cry for the first time in twenty-some years. He was hurting, he was afraid and he was finally allowing me to be the strong one again after years of him doing it. It was full circle back to our childhood with me rubbing his back and “shhhshhhing” him, telling him everything was going to be alright, and that I would make everything better. Just “shhhhh.”

 

 

I always knew in my heart that my big strong brother would not wither away. I told anyone who would listen that he would go on his own terms and his own timeline, which he did.

Watching as his life slipped away in the hospital that day, surrounded by his nephews and Gary and Jack, I was so very grateful that he had such strong loving hands upon him to ease his transition.

At the moment his spirit left his body, I physically felt it fly straight through me like a shattering burst.

1424320229906.jpgIt hit me hard enough to send me to my knees if Cal hadn’t been there to hold me up.

That energy was my brother’s soul impatiently dropping what he didn’t need any more- that tired, failing body and blasting off like a shooting star to whatever is out there- his next great adventure.

He took a huge chunk of me with him that day but also left so much of himself in my heart that will forever be with me until we meet again.

Safe travels, Muck – love you forever – Yaya XO

 

 

Overworked & Underpaid

acb8440e01170dd54017f1ddcd55cadb

In response to the prompt here , I have a few doors that I have closed for good, I hope.

Much like another poster indicated, I feel uncomfortable saying I will never open it again, as I don’t know the future and do not have all the information I would need in order to make that decision at this moment in time. I am such a hedger and fence-sitter anyway, that words like never make me squirmy and twitchy.

I have worked since I was 14 years old full time, with only maybe a combined total of 3 years off during my child rearing years. I was raised with a very strong work ethic and the belief that if you work hard, people will notice and respect you and promotions will appear as appropriate due to all your hard work and dedication.

Sitting here now, I know that to not always be the case.

I have worked in health care for the last twenty five years, in every clinical area imaginable. Seniors health, rehab, Critical Care, Palliative care, Hospice, Rural health, Med/Surgery and corporate.

The most rewarding area by far was hospice and I would still be there but for the fact that I had two sons going into secondary schools, and the pay was atrocious as it was a not for profit organization.

So, off I went to the corporate offices, in search of the money I needed to help these sons of mine get their educations, so that they could eventually fly on their own, and my conscience AND bank account was done with them.

I have watched horrible people advance here to senior leadership positions, due to nepotism, blatant fraternization and also political savvy, regardless of their skills or leadership potential.

I have also seen colleagues who stayed until 9:00 at night every night for years get passed over for promotions for reasons that are obscene. (she wore “slutty” shoes to the interview, he has a weight problem so bad optics for a health care management position…)

697dc70d8df8db10998629acd8de73c3

I have always worked very hard for my own team and I love to help my colleagues whose time is better spent improving the patient care experiences in their facilities, but I am closing the door on giving more than is healthy for me to anyone else any more.

Moving forward, I will be doing my own job very well, as I always have, and with pride.

But I will not be covering for anyone else that cannot seem to complete their own tasks within the time frames they are given. If there are constant issues like that, then those employees need to be performance managed or mentored. In the organization I work for, the practise is to over work the diligent workers to stress-related time off, rather than ensure everyone has manageable workloads.

Call it slowing down.

Call it tossing that big heavy medicine ball back where it belongs.

Hell- call it lazy old bag syndrome, for all I care.

All I know is I am done covering any asses other than my own in the work place and it feels awesome!

*SLAM* & *LOCK*

( furtively put key in safe hiding place…just…in…case)

bab67107f4c380ee4c68d98801ddda0e

 

 

 

My Voice

13b8152965a386a3bd1b3c3f9fc765d6The Sandbox Writing Challenge 22 — Setting free the captive parts… – http://wp.me/p5bWLb-1Du

It has taken me many years and many tears and also too too many sleepless nights to grant myself forgiveness.

Forgiveness for the child I was and the youthful decisions which altered what I believe my path was supposed to be.

I have recently been told that I forgive those who have hurt me far too easily, and have allowed grievous transgressions against me without lifting so much as a finger to defend myself.

Something very vital was broken in me at a young age. I was at some point led to believe that my needs were insignificant. That it was selfish to need when i was clearly from outward appearances the healthiest one under the roof.

That to insist I be considered. ..seen….heard..understood….was to cause a ripple or rending in the fabric of our family.

It was never voiced but certainly implied that everything was always dangerously close to falling to pieces and the least resistance coming from me would allow the balancing act to continue.

There were other far more damaged souls that needed tending to, and the best thing I could do in the name of harmony was

To bend.
To blend.
To take less.
To give more.
To forget myself.
To forgive them more.

I need to forgive that child who had no voice and no choice in where her little soul landed on this earth.

I need to allow myself to forgive her for choices which were made and alliances she formed in order to thrive and more importantly, survive.

I have spent more than half my life holding back forgiving a small, vulnerable child who had absolutely no voice in how she was treated by those who were responsible for keeping her safe.

It’s time.

Like My Mother Always Said

mother.jpghttp:// http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18405527-like-my-mother-always-said

I received this book from a colleague at work who was retiring and wanted to get me a gift as a thank you for supporting her during our years working together. We had spent much time laughing and reminiscing about things we carried with us from our Mothers. Sayings, advice, health warnings, and sundry other “Mom-isms” that get passed down.

This is a nice little coffee table book and it rather surprised me how unoriginal many of our mothers were, as there are many entries I heard from my own Mom, who I thought was always the originator of said advice.

My Mom has been gone for almost ten years, so now that the grief wound has mostly scabbed over, I sometimes find myself thinking of her analytically, rather than emotionally. Trying to figure out who she was and what made her tick. Doing the math in my head to try and compare myself at forty to her at forty or whatever age I am remembering at any given time.

Just for fun, I decided to go back and research some of her advice to see if she knew what she was talking about or was simply regurgitating things her own Mother told her.

  1. Sitting on cold surfaces causes hemorrhoids. No. Mom was wrong.
  2. Eating raw potato or cookie dough causes worms. NoWrong again.
  3. Going out in the cold with wet hair will cause a cold. Wrong.
  4. Your face will freeze that way. Undecided. I’ll give her this one.
  5. Pretty is as pretty does. Mom was right
  6. Only the good die young. She was right. < Trigger warning. 
  7. I will always be with you. Forever. Mom for the win.

So, whether you choose to believe every word your Mother told you, or you choose to Google her wrong on every utterance, you cant ever escape the fact that she is your first teacher, and whose words you will be quoting for the rest of your life, right or wrong.

I choose to laugh now when my sons say ” MOM, you sound just like Nan!!’

And while I still haven’t quite figured her out and likely never will, she was my constant, my rock, and Mom-isms like the ones I posted aside, more right than she was wrong in her life advice.

Do unto others never goes out of date. Eat well and get enough rest is another one that we will appreciate more as we age.

“You will miss me when I’m gone…..”

Yes, Mom. In ways I never imagined.20150702_183255.jpg

 

 

The Promise

Sandbox Writing Challenge 21 — Shhhh! It’s a secret. – http://wp.me/p5bWLb-1AW
What Have You Done That No One Knows About ?

When my brother was dying, he asked me to put his ashes in with our Dad.
I drove six hundred miles to honour that request,  only to be told that I was not allowed to do that.
The rule was two bodies per hole.
My Dad and infant son  were  already residing there.

I called back the next day, without identifying myself, and asked if I could plant a perennial at the gravesite as I lived far away and it depressed me to see the barren stones with no flowers.
Upon approval, I hastened to the greenhouse, purchased a lovely tiger lily plant and went to the cemetery.
I dug a hole, dropped my brother in, dropped the lily on top of brother and filled the hole in.
Done in under five minutes in the middle of a sunny June day, with a burial taking place five plots over to the right,  and what looked to  be a mildly intoxicated teenaged cemetery worker riding a mower to the left of me.
I have zero regrets and no shame.
In the back of my mind,  I knew I could likely cry my way out of anything serious in court if I was caught and fined.
There was also much irony as my brother had lived his life dodging the law and I knew he would be tickled at the thought that he had forced his sister to commit a criminal act in order to keep a promise.

image

The Stupid Broke-Down Rusted-Out Merry-Go-Round

A year and a half ago I made the trek back to my home town, to fulfil a promise I made to my baby brother. Shortly before he died, he asked that his ashes by put in our father’s grave.

The cremation itself was quite an accomplishment, as he had never cared for the idea. I found out during that discussion that he was afraid that he could possible be burnt alive, due to someone’s mistake, or incompetence.

Having worked in healthcare for years, most specifically with hospice patients, I was pretty sure that this had never happened ever in the history of all time. ( Please don’t show me any stats and prove me wrong!)

Once I reassured him that he needn’t fear, he was totally on board with cremation so that he could go in with Dad. He liked that idea and I thought it was nice as well, being as our Mom insisted on being scattered here and there and I STILL have a portion of her in a lovely, discreet box in my living room, awaiting the mutual availability of my sons to go do it with me. ( Truthfully, none of us have the heart for it and have every excuse not to.)

While I was back home, the day following my brother’s memorial service, I took my man , my stepdaughter and her boyfriend out to the lake my family had a cabin at for entire childhood. We spent all our summers there, swimming, boating, playing in the sand,  & endless hours at the  dinky playground with only three stupid rusted out playground items to play on.

I will be honest. I was pretty tired and hung-over on this day. The memorial had gone well and we had been hosted following in our friends’ beautiful yard, flowers, sunshine, music and plenty of bevvies. Relieved that I had actually made it through my eulogy without a breakdown, I was ready for a drink..or ten.

So, the next day, we are at the lake. We spent some time in the water, we walked the old board walk. I was a regular Anthony Bourdain, telling stories, sharing history of the lake, the cabins, the geography.

Everything was fine until we walked through the shady coolness of the trees and I was at the playground, without knowing it. Someone made a joke about the disrepair of the equipment and how nowadays, helicopter parents would be apt to sue if their precious snowflakes got cut on a jagged edge or rusty handle.

One moment I was laughing; the next I was frozen.

I was back there in the 70’s with them all. With the eyes and ears and heart of the daughter and sister I was. I am neither of those things now..nobody’s daughter, nobody’s sister.

My “new” family had walked on ahead, chatting, laughing, not noticing I was standing still.

That is where I finally broke.

After years of watching my brother dying- of watching him in pain and regret and wasting away.

Seeing that stupid fucking rusted out merry-go-round sitting still in the shade and quiet sent me over the deep end.

For one soul-shattering moment in time, I went back. I could SEE my parents sitting on the porch of the cabin. Enjoying the shade and a cocktail together.

I could HEAR the sounds of the music coming out of the   radios of the cars the teenagers cruised around in.

I could SEE my brother’s silky blonde hair wafting in the breeze of the merry-go-round. I could SMELL his wet puppy smell that all young active boys carry with them. I saw his dancing eyes and his whole life in front of him and how it all ended up and it broke my heart absolutely.

I can say honestly that I felt a piece of my very heart tear itself loose and drop there on the ground,dead. Forever to be hidden under the sand and leaves and snow in the winter.

It happened in the time it would take to count to ten and then it was gone.

And all because of a stupid rusted out merry-go-round.