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The fact The past few years have taken a toll. Life is like that, not ‘funny that way’, just like that. But I feel myself slowly emerging, like when a bullfrog first peers from the waters brim before rising up. Though comparing myself to a bullfrog is not what I was going for here.

The past few years have seen tests to my spirit and identity with the heart wrenching placement of my father into a “memory care center”, because we were not allowed to use the word Alzheimer’s per our mother, though this had been diagnosed years before. His placement was premature, but my mother was “done” and ready to go on with her life. Then suffering through his slow horrible decline and 4 relocations as he fought being confined, and then his death this past year. The previously written about divisive unraveling of my family. The two rounds of treatment my husband endured for Hep C as the first one failed. The change in my relationships with my precious daughters as they grew into the appreciation of the lifestyle their father’s (my first husband) money could bring them and slowly being relegated to a corner spot. The past few years tested me.

But I am not without the resolve of enduring testing. My father instilled that in me, taught us the differences between ‘mountains and molehills’.  Quitting was never an option with my father, it was always “if there’s a will there’s a way”.  The challenge is not to lose the will. And for me, it was redefining the will. 

My will was no longer about being the best mother, holding on to my father, having my husband back to his former self. Even as I write this I realize anew the common thread of accepting a new me in the midst of new relations with old relationships. No, my will fluctuated, redefined, focused in and out like those automatic occular testing devices.  First I focused on getting through each day. I focused on not snapping at people, on my moods, on not crying, on not thinking, on  not over engaging in difficult conversations.  It was The Will of Not! The Will of Not is the story of defense.

This shifted into  a will to understand why my mother would/could seem to so easily dismiss my father, two of her four daughters, grandchildren, great grandchildren, the community my parents had lived in for 30+ years and close friends…to just walk away and start over.  To understand how my husband’s treatment changed who he was and live with this at times cold man it created which is a stated side effect and how long it would last. To try and wrap my head around how my daughters were so pulled into a lifestyle I could not begin to appreciate, relate to or respect with the private jets, fancy vacations and materialism that came with their fathers wealth. And how this pushed all of the other grandparents to a corner in the square and out of the inner circle.  This is not to say they are not loving. If something was wrong and I called they would certainly be available to lend an ear. But their lives are busy and I do not have much to offer but babysitting services, which is my greatest joy.  This is the part you think will never happen to you when your children are growing up and depend so much on your love and guidance. Then have their own busy families and you realize you are now a spare part. I can not fault them for the power I gave them. But it is a power they are probably bewildered by me taking back. Yes, this was the period of The Will to Understand, because understanding is knowledge and knowledge is power and I was desperately seeking power in my life. Understanding allows acceptance.

I have forgotten to skip.  Who did not learn the joyous movement of skipping as a child!? Just thinking about it creates a sense of freedom and abandonment. Why do we teach these things to children when we don’t practice them as adults?  To move our bodies, which moves our minds, in abandoned freedom.  To focus so purely on the here and now and allow the worry of tomorrow to slip away, to relearn how to skip. This emerging process is a cherishingly slow process. I am stunned when I reflect back on how hard I worked for my daughters approval and acceptance, in a constant state of anxiety if I had irritated them. I’m afraid that pendulum has swung, without my even realizing it except in reflective comparison.  Only today did I realize I have this past month forgotten both of my son-in-laws birthdays! Not where I want to be! And yet after 10 solid seconds of panic I moved quickly to ‘oh well’, done now. And added the dates back to my calendar as they evidently dropped off with the last update. Another sip of coffee.  I am learning. Learning finally to shrug, skip, forgive ME, hold onto what my father taught me above all ‘live fearless, live honest’, to keep my eyes open. “Was blind but now I see”.  I am willing to learn! Yes, this is the period of The Will to Learn!

Learning my limitations, embracing my limitations! Both limitations that are natural to my humanity and limitations I choose, and understanding the difference. Not allowing one to be an excuse for the other. Staying the path of being open to fearlessly looking forward, there lies the peace. Knowing I’m allowed to take care of me and not apologize for it. 

~peace~

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I found out this week that a woman I know who is 56 is getting a facelift. I know this is nothing new, happens all the time, it’s not like it’s the 1960s when it would have been shocking. But it shocked me. I didn’t see it coming in this person for one. This isn’t a woman I’m close to, but I do know her well, she is my first husband’s wife and therefore one of the grandmothers to our grandchildren, three of which are young girls. So, I am bothered on several fronts and had a multitude of emotional reactions. I have to confess that at first I was just shocked, then had a few jokes, but quickly settled into a sadness for her, disappointment and even being mad about it. I will soon be 60, so I get the whole aging thing. My sadness is from a belief that when we feel a strong enough need to alter our looks because we look in the mirror and no longer like what we see we have much larger issues (short of a traumatic event that altered our looks).
When our self worth is based on our looks, then inevitably our worth will fade with age. We are given many, many years to learn and embrace that our worth is based on our values, principles and passions. And because those are enhanced with age as we come to a deeper understanding of them, our self worth increases with age. So, I am sad that at this point in her life she has not gotten there and it makes me sad that as she starts down this path of seeking to surgically increase her self worth that she will make that arrival all the more difficult.
I am disappointed tinged with mad, that as a significant female in the lives of our three young grand-daughters she is not taking into account what this says to them, or if she is, she is able to justify and dismiss it. In a society and age where our young girls are inundated with the message that the most important thing they have to offer is their looks, the responsibility of strong and positive female role models is all the more crucial. Because these are my grand-daughters, I resent that she is failing them on this and sending the message that if you don’t like how you look, that you aren’t comfortable with aging, then just alter it.
I know we all alter our looks to some extent, as females we put on makeup, we color our hair, we pierce our ears (or God knows what else), but I believe it is fundamentally different when we choose to permanently alter the structure of who we are. How do you feel when you look in the mirror then and no longer see the ‘you’ that you’ve always seen? What is next? How or when do you draw the line? When is it enough to make you ‘happy’? I think the greater peace would have come from getting out of yourself and more focused on others in the world around you whose lives need to be reconstructed. Just another example of too much money, too much time, too much self-focus. I am ever more thankful for the peace I have found in my life and I truly pray that she will continue to seek true peace in her own, and find it, because it won’t happen under anesthetic, waking up with bandages covering you face in a sterile environment with people who don’t know you, other than that you are good for the bill.

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I miss the recognition in your eyes. It’s been over 20 years, and I’ve come to understand over the years why I miss you still. You are the one person who really knew all the parts of me.
On the rare occasions that reunites us, I recognize that momentarily when I look in your eyes before you mask it. We all want to know that someone really knows us, that place where secrets live and are safe outside of us, the history of us, the totality of us. It’s not fair that someone can steal that from you and you can never get it back. You carry each other’s unspoken secrets with you and it’s a burden and a blessing. The agony is knowing someone walked off into another life with that piece of you, and left that piece of them in you, and you can’t give it back any more than you can get it back.
Building a new life isn’t really so difficult when you do it moment by moment, year-by-year, experience by experience. You add in many pieces, so many pieces, to make up for that one large piece you lost. But you realize that no matter how many pieces you add in that piece lost can’t be replaced and that the scene is forever changed and the picture can’t really be complete because you are always trying to find another piece to fit in that hole.
It’s not wrong that I miss you, I’ve learned that over the years. I have a full life, I live a full life, I’ve chosen a full life. But when I’m sitting by the window, and it’s raining outside, and a song comes on that pulls at me, I go back to that missing piece….and it’s raindrops falling like memories, cascading down, drenching my view.

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Have you ever noticed the slow curve on the conversation road when wine and a close friend are driving? As I have commented in a previous post, Old Love Old Story, I rediscovered a manuscript that I wrote twenty years ago and am tinkering with reworking…a look at how women grieve as seen through the eyes of my own divorce after an 18 year marriage, and then twenty years later.

So I was having dinner with a friend the other night, beautiful warm Spring evening. We had found a wonderful little patio at a new wine bar, and ordered our first glass of a subtle Pinot Noir.

Her: “So how is the manuscript going?”
Me: “I’m really excited about having it in front of me again, just getting myself geared up to start on it. It’s so cool to have it again, it will be such a trip to pick up in a ’20 years later’ mode!”

We chatted for a little while, laughing at some of the memories brought up in discussing the manuscript as she was my best friend and mainstay through that difficult time. We ordered our second glass of wine.
Her: “So when do you think you’ll really get started on it, seems like you’re avoiding it.”
Me: “No, just not in a hurry, (pause) I’m just waiting for the right mood, to be in the right frame of mind. There’s so much to think about and I want to get the right angle on where I was and where I’m at now, it’s been such a long time. (pause) I’ll probably start soon though.”

The conversation becomes less jovial, more dramatic, more nostalgic reflecting on both of our divorces and takes on a ‘WTF’ tone as we order our third glass of wine.
Her: “Why do you even want to open that can of worms again?”
Me: “Seriously! What am I thinking?! I should just put it away for another twenty! It’s just a fricking manuscript! What is the point after all? Even if it got published what would that matter? Why do people even bother writing?”

Why do we become so conflicted with our decisions the more we discuss them. Our thought process talks us into and then back out of things. Or is it our mind and heart at odds with each other. Or our fears and confidence sparing over our desires. Or our past experiences arguing with our dreams. OR maybe they are all really the same, because after all, we are a totality of all of those.

We are who we have been, who we are and who we aspire to be, and sometimes all those players have different opinions. And that’s okay. That very conversation within us is what moves us forward. Think about it, if those confounding conversations didn’t occur, how would we evolve meaningfully? And sometimes what opens up those conversations is a relaxed and safe environment, it’s the third glass that takes it into crazy!
Wishing you Peace with the voices in your head!

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Let me just make a recommendation right off the bat, if you adore your mother, if you love mother’s day, this may not be the blog for you…or it might. Personally, every year I struggle with mother’s day, can’t even bring myself to capitalize it. It is by far my least favorite holiday/celebratory day of the whole year. I prefer Groundhogs Day, Presidents Day, Humiliation Day (Jan. 3rd), National Bubba Day (June 2nd), Yellow Pig Day (July 17th) and Marooned Without a Compass Day (November 6th), all to mother’s day.

I no longer struggle (much) with this day, I mainly just quietly ignore and wait for it to pass. And just so you know, I am a mother of two adorable grown daughters, who do not know I do not like mother’s day to the extent I dislike it, because what they do know is I LOVE being their mother.

See, I have learned over the years, many years, that there is a huge difference between being a mother and a parent, a father and a parent. My ‘mother’ is still living, so I do not speak of this unknowingly or lightly. As you may be aware from previous posts, my father is still living also and in an Alzheimer’s facility.

When I was blogging in my head earlier today I knew I had to write about it. I do that, blog in my head. A past acquaintance referred to it as ‘mind %#$@ing’. He didn’t get it, and it was before blogging.

My mother/parent, gave it what she had. She simply was not equipped to be a mother to me, but was able to parent me, and for that I am grateful. She met all of my basic needs wonderfully, faultlessly. But she wasn’t able to mother me. This was not unique to my mother, it was the relationship she had with her mother, her mother had with her mother, and I don’t know beyond that but probably went back more generations. It took therapy to get to a point of first recognizing it, accepting it, forgiving it and letting go of it…except on mother’s day. This was complicated early on by the fact that growing up my father had very high expectations of myself and my siblings on just how mother’s day would go, and it required excellent behavior and big displays of love and affection from us. I couldn’t muster either so I remember mother’s day as always being a struggle.

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Then I became a mother, a young mother, and my husband was determined to override my mother’s day wiring by spoiling me, having the girls spoil me and doing his damnedest to make me feel loved and appreciated. And it helped for a while, but always those feelings of “will this day never end?!” hung on. You see, when you know you didn’t get to have a mother and you watch everywhere around you and see what it is like to have a mother, even in your own home as you are mothering, you have a hard time embracing the celebration of it. My mother made it very clear very young that she did not want me, confirmed this to me when I was a young adult and saw no problem with it. Again, she parented well, and provided for me. But there have been so many, many times in my life that I have struggled with how to react to something because it was never modeled for me. It was not only up to me to figure out, she resented my ability to figure it out. My mother was emotionally abusive from the time she found out she was pregnant, details don’t matter here. I learned to mother myself, and from that learned to mother my children. My children were my saving grace as I was able to feel the love of a mother by being a mother. I was also able to feel the pain of what I missed by what they received. I feel mainly just pity for her at this point, long gone are the days of anger or need.

At some point many of us, for various reasons have to make a decision between leaving our past and choosing our future. Sometimes that choice is forced on us, sometimes it is a long slow process and if you are lucky, it never happens, you are able to mesh the two. For me, it became clearer and clearer that to own my life and live forward, I could not stay engaged with her. It was the final step in truly letting go and accepting that ours was a relationship not made of choice, not wanted and not necessary. I learned that I needed peace in my life more than I needed a ‘mother’ and that ship had sailed. I felt free for the first time when I came to that realization and realized it didn’t even matter to her.

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My greatest reward for mother’s day is watching my daughters enjoy it with their children, knowing that cycle has been broken. Watching them joke about it and detecting no stress or anxiety about it, makes it all worth it.

In 1994 President Bill Clinton signed into law the resolution unanimously adopted by the U. S. Congress establishing the fourth Sunday of every July as Parents Day. This I can get behind, because sometimes that is all that is possible. Sometimes a parent just isn’t equipped to be a father or mother, but they do their best to be a parent, to meet those basic needs.

And it isn’t about all the hugging and kissing or sitting up late at night talking through things. It’s just about being there. What makes my father, my father, is not any of that, he traveled much of the time I was growing up, he left the parenting to my mother. He was the disciplinarian. But he was also the teacher of principles, the one who though was wrongfully hard on us, was equally hard on us. I think each one of us felt we had a special relationship with him. He wanted so badly for us to be independent, strong, happy women, and it was his mission in life to accomplish that. That is what made him a father, not because he did it all right, because he did not.

Parenting is not for the weak of heart, mothering is not for everybody. And sometimes the two just don’t go together, and that is what keeps therapists employed! I hope that if you struggle with mother’ss day, that you are able to find peace in the ability to mother yourself, and know, it was never about you not deserving a mother.

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If you have read my earlier posts you are aware that I am one of the millions who painfully watch the slow erosion of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s much like seeing someone on a raft at sea whose mooring breaks loose and they drift out to sea and you are powerless to stop it. You agonizingly just have to watch till they are out of sight.

I’m a daughter who adores her father. I have written some about the ‘golden nuggets’ I use to get, little momentary flashes of wisdom. They have been long gone…or so I thought.

Yesterday I decided I would go visit my father, because I can still. It was a very non-busy unstructured kind of day, so thought I would treat myself to a visit and not wait till Sunday, the day I typically spend with him.

So I stopped and got the traditional Frosty on the way and had to apologize for being a nickel short and promised to bring an extra nickel on Sunday. When I got there my dad was sitting in a chair that he frequently is in now a days, he doesn’t walk/wander as much as he use to but seems to want to sit more. I leaned in to give him a kiss and he nuzzled me and said “I just love you so much babe” and stared at me so intently. I don’t care who he thought I was, I took it.

I felt a certain mission today, all week I’ve been thinking I need to tell him again how much I appreciate, really appreciate, all he has done for me, all he taught me and tried so diligently and determinedly to teach me when I know I was not a cooperative student of his lessons. I knew he wouldn’t understand but I felt so compelled to tell him. So, I did and was surprised at how hard it was to voice that without crying. It was odd, because he looked so seriously at me and said something that made no sense, but it felt like he got part of what I said.

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Then as he was talking a short time later about some business thing in words I couldn’t decipher, out of the clear blue sky he says “and it’s important to be nice, not arrogant, that gets you no where”, and then he was gone again. And I thought ‘another lesson still, another golden nugget! Always teaching.

He said my name a couple of times but I don’t know in what context, it was just thrown into a group of non words. But several times he told me he loved me, so it was just hard to leave but I was so glad I went. A couple of weeks ago, when I was there he all of a sudden said “where are all my grandchildren?”, and then he was talking about something else.

Life is about the moments, and never is that so clear and true than it is with visits with a person with Alzheimer’s.
~Peace~

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