Thursday, February 21, 2013

Le Nostre Famiglie

I begin this post with my favorite quote from Sex and the City ~

"The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't, but in the end they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself."

It's funny how I spent probably the first 20 years of my adult life blissfully taking my family for granted.  Every other year, we took these family vacations to some adventure-filled summer destination.  The Adirondacks, the Outer Banks.....  these trips started when my daughter was in diapers and she was in the eighth grade when we took our last.  They were full of kids bickering and adults arguing the merits of eating out versus doing the Betty Crocker routine - just imagine which side of that debate I was on....  My husband always swore that my brother's father-in-law over charged us on our portion of the vacation rental , and the last Outer Banks trip involved me sleeping in a nook by a window because too many people jumped into the fray and we ran out of bedrooms.  But they were also full of campfire stories, bear and deer sitings and fireworks on the beach.  What I wouldn't give to have one of those trips back - but do-overs are the things that dreams are made of, after all.

Now Bill and I wait poised to enter the next phase of our family with us in the roles of matriarch and patriarch.   Lately, I've actually caught myself daydreaming about my daughter's someday wedding.   In the meantime, I want to tell young families to savor every minute of their magical journey.  I want to tell families in turmoil to fight for each other and fight to save what they have.  In the darkest hours, it seems as though nothing will ever be right again and it feels as though people who we thought we knew better than anyone have turned into angry strangers.  Feelings of betrayal and angry words cloud our days.  How many families have their own private civil war raging unchecked and unnoticed by the outside world?  Too often, substance abuse is part of the equation.  From the alcoholism in my husband's family to my oldest brother's addiction to painkillers, it is the curse that can turn advocates into adversaries faster than one can say "just say no".    To me, as the innocent sibling or child trying to cope with the abuser, the biggest most overwhelming feeling is one of betrayal.  How dare this person introduce this poison environment into my family....

In the case of my father-in-law, i was continually amazed at his total disregard for his loves ones.  I was constantly bearing witness to his behavior and thinking- "how can you look yourself in the mirror and justify this behavior, day in and day out?", and now ultimately, the demon alcohol has robbed him of his mind, and he lays awaiting death.  People like my brother, though, they are the ones that I want to take with both hands and shake.   He had a great job, two young boys, a wife who- while admittedly I'll say she was a tad bit self-centered -  was still a pleasant and charming person who earned a decent wage as a music teacher.  What causes someone like my brother, with this solid life, to become so addicted to painkillers that he puts the family into bankruptcy and forges his wife's signature in order to drain her retirement account?  He left Connecticut with his proverbial tail between his legs and landed in Buffalo, much to the chagrin of us - his weary and wary siblings.  After four l-o-n-g years, I don't know where he is or what's become of him.  Suffice to say that he is not the best friend of the Blasdell police.   And whenever I think of him, I just wonder what kind of power these substances have over people that they would choose to turn their backs on the people who love them the most?  I feel fortunate that I do not understand it and I hope that I never do.

Sunrise.  The mystery and beauty of the family unit is that no matter how screwed up it can seem, no matter how many tears have been shed, it always finds a way to reincarnate itself.  All families live through tumultuous times.  When there is real love and devotion, we can emerge on the other side, not unscathed, not without the occasional residual tear - but wiser and with a better appreciation for the good times.   While the clock can never be turned back, it can be adjusted and reworked, re tuned and refinished.  Don't get too cozy with that refurbished clock, and always remember that even the most well-made timepiece requires maintenance and occasional TLC.  If we are lucky, we can come full circle back to those family vacation days with ourselves cast in different but equally important roles.  Cherished children beget cherished grandchildren.  Bill and I are in what I like to think of as "transition mode".   We don't have a clue where our immediate family unit is headed right now.  Who' knows - there may be more darkness waiting around the corner.  What I do know is that there is love here, and there is goodness.  As long as there is love and goodness, the beauty will come in its own good time, and the darkness can be overcome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Random Shhhh....tuff

There is that old wives tale that cats have nine lives.  Is it just me, or do they deliberately test that theory?  Why is it that whenever you are doing household chores involving solvents, chemicals and various disinfectants, they are right there next to you trying to get their noses into everything?  If I had a dollar for every time I've had to yell  "GET OUT OF HERE" with the accompanying foot stomp........

Counting down the days to Friday for the return of my daughter from college.  She's mine for a whole week!  Maybe this time, I'll lock her in a room and won't let her out..... ever ........  If only we lived in a castle with a tower.....

Thinking about German food.  So Gail....... I know you'll read this sooner or later.  If you ever get tired of teaching flute to kids and piano to over the hill adults like me, you should open a German restaurant, or get someone else to put in the money.  Doesn't matter who, as long as YOU are doing the cooking......

Last but surely not least, a sad era is coming to an end this week.  My father-in-law has taken a turn for the worse in Florida, and as I write this, Bill and Nancy are on a plane down there to say their goodbyes.  He is being moved to Hospice today and they don't think he'll last long once that move happens.  I hope this is the end of the destructive drinking and its aftermath in my little family.  No less than two people have expressed surprise that I am not accompanying Bill down to Florida.  I guess the thought crossed my mind briefly, but it never seemed to be an option as far as my husband was concerned.  I guess the best I can offer is to stay behind and hold down the fort.  This is the typical crisis management style of the Reece clan - circle the wagons and close out the rest of the world.  Throughout, I have been updated on a "need to know" basis, so I guess its for the best that I'm not there.   I'm pretty sure I'd just be in the way.  Just the same, this is going to be a very long week even thought it's starting on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Does a Broken Heart Really Feel Like?

The day has finally come when I don't have to live in fear of the next disaster with my mother.  For four years, we battled with her to get her out of her house that she lived in alone.  Every month brought a new challenge to tackle, something new that she could no longer handle.  Finally, we breathed a sigh of relief as she agreed to move into an assisted living facility.  But it was a short-lived relief as she withdrew into her own world and, in short order, became weaker both mentally and physically.  Then the falls started and a whole new set of worries took the place of the old.  Conflicting stories from different members of the staff at the facility.  Was she getting to the point where that level of care was inadequate..... or not?  We never really knew for sure as the hospitals kept right on sending her back there.   Finally, after her last fall, it was all just too much for her and her final withdrawal began.  A stint in rehab has turned into a permanent transfer to a skilled nursing facility.  It happened so fast and at first all I felt was relief.  But as the finality of the situation descends on me, I suddenly feel very alone.  I'm not really alone, of course, but now my only living parent has become nothing more than a broken-down body with a brain that is a shadow of its former self.

My mother was never a social person, but one thing she always knew how to do was to keep herself occupied.  She was a voracious reader, a lover of crossword puzzles, a paint-by-numbers master.  She enjoyed refinishing wood furniture and she liked to knit.  She loved to drive and never minded driving a distance if there was something worthwhile waiting at the other end.  This might be the only characteristic I inherited from her, when I stop and think about it.  One by one, these things deserted her, became beyond her capabilities, and I think this is what caused her to become progressively meaner and more unfiltered. She was never one to mince words, never overly affectionate or demonstrative but as senility crept in, she became almost unbearable to spend time with.

So what it is exactly that I'm mourning?  The woman that I knew as my mother no longer exists, and truth be told, our relationship-hers and mine- had never been warm and fuzzy to begin with and in the past five years it had degenerated into a bunch of head games that she was playing with me and my brother.  I think I just have this feeling right now of aloneness.  Daughter in another state, husband working crazy hours seven days a week, brother gone to Florida.....  no matter how cranky she was, my Mom was always there.  And now, for all practical purposes, she is gone.  And the only word I keep coming back to is "alone".  I just feel so alone.

I'm scared because I don't trust myself to handle this speed bump in my life properly.  I can feel myself unraveling more every day, I can feel my temper becoming shorter all the time.  And every time I lose my temper I feel more inadequate.  I can't seem to get any relief and I find myself crying or on the verge almost every day.   And then there's the dream that I had last night about my Mom that was so weird and awful that I'm sitting here after midnight because I keep thinking that if I close my eyes, it will come back.

So, I've decided that this ache in my chest is telling me that there are different types of broken hearts and all I can do is to keep telling myself that my life is pretty great, all things considered, and what right do I really have to be feeling like this?  Time to suck it up..... time to suck it up.....time to suck it up...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Krazy Kat Lady Monologues - Part 1

So, anyone who knows me, knows that since September of last year, I have been the proud owner of four - yes, four - cats.  For most of my adult life, I've owned at least two cats.  One solitary cat always just seemed so wrong.... somehow......   But never, ever have I had more than three of these seemingly undemanding beasts.  Since September, there have been quite a few "crazy cat lady" references zinged in my direction.  In the minds of the free world of non-cat loving people, it appears that three cats per household is the limit.  Well fine then, in that case, I have decided to embrace my new insane persona.  Without further ado, allow me to introduce my brood:

Pumpkin.  Our 15 year-old female.  For the record, we took her in when my Aunt couldn't keep her, and we inherited the name.  I would not dream of naming an orange cat "Pumpkin"..... for the love of God.....  hence, she now answers to a boat-load of nicknames further demonstrating the superior capacity of the female brain - even in cats.  She feels that she should be the lone cat in the household and is never shy about verbalizing this to the other cats.  Favorite pastimes include vigorously cleaning the white parts of her coat, drinking out of the toilet, and flirting with my husband.  Oh yes. When we took her, we were warned that she "doesn't like men".  All evidence to the contrary nowadays... the little slut.

Kramer.  I should really talk about Kramer and Jerry together, but I wouldn't want to do either of them any injustices by lumping them together.  We adopted Kramer from the SPCA almost five years ago as an eight week old kitten.  Two weeks after his adoption, he was diagnosed with the infamous "Upper Respiratory Infection" brought home courtesy of his litter mates and spread to our other cats in no time flat.  He was pretty sickly during his first month with us, but you'd never know it now.  We don't know what breed he is.  He appears to be a tabby/oriental mix with his single-layer coat and long legs that bear a strong resemblance to the legs on a colt.  And yes, he gallops when he runs (which is often, by the way).  When he was a kitten, his spots were chocolate brown, and they darkened to grey-black by the time he was two.  Favorite pastimes:  taunting any cat in the house other than Jerry, roughhousing with Jerry, and trying to stay warm in the cold months (notice him in this picture warming his feet under the radiator).

Jerry.  My very first black cat.   I honestly knew nothing about black cat superstitions at the time.  We adopted him with Kramer because they were inseparable in the kitten room at the SPCA.  The two of them were just irresistible   When Jerry was a kitten, he never walked.  He strutted.  All over the place, like he owned the joint.  By now you know( if you've ever watched 'Seinfeld'), that his and Kramer's names are self-explanatory.  He is possibly the sweetest, most affectionate cat I have ever owned.  He is also a thief.   Of food.  He has always enjoyed making off with some culinary delight in his mouth.  As a kitten, it was not unusual for him to steal pieces of food that were bigger than him - slices of pizza, or an entire bag of chips, for example.  Disciplinary actions have proven futile.  Whoa be it to the person who leaves a bag of snacks out unguarded.   Unless, of course, you enjoy finding and cleaning up an empty, shredded bag and crumbs spread hither and yon.    A cute, lovable scamp..... mm hmmm, that's what I'm calling him.

Josie.  The newest addition to our household who has apparently tipped me over the edge into crazy cat-lady land.   We inherited her from my Mom, with a warning (why do cats coming from relatives always come with a warning?  Seems like a "CYA" tactic if you ask me).   "She's not an affectionate lap cat", I was told.   Oh really?  I guess my lap has some sort of magnetic cat appeal that even the most resistant cat cannot resist.  She's on my lap.  She tries to crawl up me and lay on my chest.  The best part is when she starts licking me - my hands, arms, legs, face, neck, hairline, etc, etc.....    Other than that, she is certainly taking her own sweet time adjusting to our household.  It was a challenge for us to make sure that she was actually engaging in  normal activities necessary for survival.  But finally after six months, she is settling in.... sort of.   You my have heard the great cry of joy came from Pumpkin when Josie arrived, since Kramer turned his considerable attentions toward the new kid on the block.    This one is (at least temporarily) classified as an affectionate challenge.

So, those are my cats.  A ragtag bunch, but they're mine and I love all of them.  I sometimes look at pictures of those fancy pedigreed cats and dream of owning one, but really, would they be any different than my guys?  Are there any two cats in the universe who are the same in personality?  That's what makes them the amazing and fascinating creatures that they are.  But four is my limit.   That's my story and I'm sticking to it.... for now.