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I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.
I am lonely for my daughter.
I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion. I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal. And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.
I have always been the one in the family who worked. My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way. I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.
Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.
But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.
Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.
Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.
The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.
I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.
I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.
I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.
Ex-Pat remains in the hospital, and as I discussed yesterday, I have started the clean-up process in my old house.
It is terrifying.
I don’t understand how someone can let things get this dirty. I chided Kelsea about it last night (nice welcome home, huh?) and she said that she never touched half of the stuff in the house – which sounds just like her Dad. My response? Whether you touch it or not, you still live here. So there.
I won’t gross you out with all the details, but suffice it to say that when you have two dogs and two cats, love to cook, and live by a creek and across the street from a cow pasture, you just have to realize that hair, dust, and grease can transform some things into creations worthy of Salvador Dali if you don’t stay on top of it. I’m so far under it in this clean-up process that it’s hard to breathe.
But progress was made last night. Several surfaces were cleaned and shined. One carpet, while not salvageable, was at least improved. Walls and ceilings were partially de-cobwebed. A load of laundry was done. The freezer was cleaned. The kitchen table is 90 percent excavated. I have made some decisions about some of my things – what to take to my house, what to leave here, and what to throw away.
This cleaning process became more amenable for me when I realized that this is another stage of leaving my old life behind. When I moved out in 2008, I took things willy-nilly, at random, because I was shocked at what I was doing. I was actually leaving him. I would grab a random stacking file here, a cookbook there, but there was no real packing. Some of my clothes are still in his closet. Which is beneficial when I housesit, but perhaps not helpful for either of us in making a full-fledged parting. Although he has been passive-aggresively letting the cats pee on my clothes that find their way to the closet floor. Grumph.
I talked to him today, and told him what I was doing,and he said not to go crazy on the cleaning. Since the house is half mine, and in the state it is in, I am disregarding that and doing what I think is right. He may be coming home soon – depends on his fever and blood cultures - and will have a home health nurse coming periodically to help him through six weeks of IV antibiotics through a picc line. It’s my opinion that cleanliness is critical at this time. Dog hair +picc line = back to the hospital.
Kelsea, meanwhile, is embracing the cleaning with all the enthusiasm a teenager on spring break can muster for such an activity. Get what I’m saying? Yippee.
But as dear Ceciliag commented on yesterday’s post, this cleansing will be good for all of us.
Assuming we survive it.
I have been having water dreams lately. Lots and lots of water dreams for weeks, I think. Water dreams are strange things for me. They have always been portents of huge and significant changes. And generally not good changes. They are always similar in character. I am by the ocean and the waves are huge, engulfing everything, and I am trying to survive, to push through them, to stave them off. Doesn’t take a Jungian dream analyst to figure that one out, does it? What I know for sure is that they are certain predictors of something big happening. Generally, how I am able to survive in the dream indicates the level of intimacy with which the change will affect me, but not always. Sometimes, there are people I know with me in the dream, and they are usually impacted in real life whenever the change comes.
So, another water dream last night, coming on the heels of yesterday. Yesterday sucked. I won’t really go into why yesterday sucked. Suffice it to say that it did. BIG TIME. I am hoping today will be better. Hope springs eternal.
Ex-Pat has endocarditis and septicemia. He will be in hospital at least until Friday. According to my readings on the Internet, this is scary stuff. Really scary stuff.
The Internet can be your trusted friend or that devious individual on the street corner hissing to you that the world will end soon and he will take care of your pets when the rapture comes. When too much information on one topic is available, it is easy and hard at the same time to pick what you are going to believe. I read that septicemia is the same as sepsis, and that the odds of survival are about even. I read that it wasn’t, and that the survival odds are about 90 percent. I read that endocarditis can cause strokes, and that he’d have about six months to live even after recovery. I didn’t read anywhere that he would pop out of his hospital bed on Friday and start romping with the lambs. And what I heard him say last night, when I pointed out to him that without getting treatment he would have died and pretty darn quick at that, was that maybe that would have been better, as his daughter is the only thing he has to live for. (Which to me is a huge reason to keep living.) But he’s lost his will. He’s in too much pain to walk, and they don’t know why. Things are looking bleak, to say the least.
I think I will try to talk to his doctor to get the full scoop, as he is too doped up to tell me much. Then at least I can share what is real with Kelsea, who comes home today.
On the other hand, I am still at his house, and it is filthy. Filthy. Just disgusting. Even though I said it is not my job to clean this place, and I know it isn’t, I am going to do so, enlisting Kelsea to help, so she can see what clean is, and how to make things that way. I can’t let her live in a place that is like this. In clearing off the kitchen table, I found receipts from 2009. And that was probably the most pleasant of my finds. I remember he was always mad at me because of all the paperwork in the house that I never went through. Now that he’s having to deal with his own mail, and receipts, and crap, I suspect he understands, but he would never own up to it.
I may even tear up all the rugs and try to find replacements at ReStore. They will never be clean, ever, no matter what I do. I will get the handyman to come in and get the holes in the walls patched. I will try to rebuild my own sense of love and trust. I will do two jobs and manage two houses. And then I will sprout wings and a horn out of my head and become a human unicorn.
I’m being realistic.
I spent last night sleeping in Kelsea’s bed in my old house. Sleeping in her bed helped me understand her better. How odd does that sound? All I’m saying is that it is a truly magical bed. It’s one of a pair of twin beds from my grandmother’s house, one I used to sleep in some 45 years ago. (It’s mate was lost in an unfortunate accident when I was moving out of Ex-Pat’s house – que lastima.) I don’t know if its history is part of its magic but I suspect so. Anyway, I slept amazingly well, had amazing dreams, and had a visitation from my Mother in the Hour of the Wolf. Her scent preceded her, and we had a lovely conversation. I have missed her so. I had no idea she was hanging out in Kelsea’s room, keeping watch over her, but it totally makes sense, given how much she loved her and how alike they are. As I was drifting back to sleep, I checked again, and her scent was still there. She was sitting with me. What peaceful comfort.
I’m sure that sounds a little crazy, but hey, the women in my family have the shine.
Moving on, the shower is always a great place for me to come up with creative ideas, work through technical problems, and have epiphanies. I suspect it’s that eternal connection between me and moving water. When I was in the shower, and thinking about how “enmeshed” (to use MKL’s term) I am with Ex-Pat, I realized one very important thing – and this is something MKL said to me yesterday: Ex-Pat’s problems are not my problems any more.
Yes, I can help, because he is my daughter’s father. Yes, I can help, because I love the dogs, even though they are his dogs now. Yes, I can help, because the house is half mine on paper. But I am not his wife any more. I have moved on. He hasn’t. That does not mean that he gets to turn to me as if I am still his wife. Which is what he is doing. As Pam said in comments on yesterday’s post, I am a good human being and take care of people, and while that is indeed an admirable quality, in some situations, like this one, the boundary issues must be acknowledged in order to take care of myself and my life. I am not going to screw up my relationship with MKL because I am feeling guilty about Ex-Pat being alone (and hence, spending my time to take care of his needs). Ex-Pat has made his own choices here. And as singlecell reinforced in her comment, he has made his choices. His choices have left him without a support network. That does not mean it is automatically my job to be his support network. I am not the get-out-of-jail-free card anymore.
It’s a habit, a pattern of many years, that is hard to break, but must be broken.
He HAS to take responsibility for getting things taken care of. And doing so does not just mean asking me, and me saying yes. I think, in the shower, I finally realized that I can say no. Just like I finally realized that, even though he has a kitchen full of dirty dishes, it is not my job to clean up the house to make it easier upon his release from the hospital. If he can’t pick up after himself, he can ask another (less enmeshed) friend to help. If he hasn’t got those, then that’s not my problem. And on my way to work, I told him he would have to find other resources and couldn’t just rely on me. He clearly wasn’t happy about it. But it felt right.
The rest of today however, has gone horribly wrong, and I am totally discouraged.
I have an unusual divorce. In many ways, it is good. Ex-Pat and I get along pretty well most of the time, as we are committed to our 15-year old daughter. The first year was tough – he was angry, I was sad, it was awful at times. But now, when it gets awful, I can leave, or hang up, or whatever. I don’t have to put up with being berated or belittled. And we do help each other out with things from time to time. We’re better unmarried than married.
He has not moved forward in his life. I have. He is very supportive of my relationship with MKL. He wants me to be happy. But he has done nothing in his life. He hasn’t learned anything from our divorce, hasn’t grown, pursued another relationship, devoted himself to a job or a dream. He has just bowled and spent money and alienated nearly every one of his friends. His support system – on which he calls rarely – consists of me and Kelsea. That’s not good.
He got a sore neck about 45 days ago. It became excruciating. He had horrible back pain. He could barely move. He was miserable, and miserable to be around. He went to the doctor at th VA twice, and they didn’t diagnose him, just gave him painkillers, which didn’t help much. I finally insisted he go to the doctor again, and that I go with him to advocate for him. I couldn’t stand how he was being around Kelsea and I was worried. He’d lost 15 pounds in a month, and reminded me of how my mother suddenly lost a lot of weight before her final cancer diagnosis.
So on Friday morning, we went to the VA. And while I’m glad it’s there to help veterans, it was about the most depressing place I’ve ever seen. To give you an idea of how poorly Ex-Pat was doing, a fellow veteran in the waiting room mistook him for a World War II veteran, which gave me quite a giggle.
The appointment with the doctor was okay. I insisted that he come clean about his excessive drinking, and the amount of over-the-counter painkillers he was taking.The doctors listened, looked at x-rays previously taken, and said he had some arthritis in his neck that might have just finally started causing the pain. Hmmm. I was suspicious, but the doctors agreed to get him to a primary care doctor for more visits, and to schedule an MRI to see if there is any soft-tissue issue.
But as we were wrapping things up, Ex-Pat got woozy. He thought he was going to faint. They took his blood pressure: 87 over 51. And off we went to the Emergency Room. That was Friday. They decided to keep him overnight because his blood pressure wasn’t coming up. They said he either wasn’t producing blood or he was bleeding “somewhere”. Overnight, he spiked a fever. They ruled out leukemia. On Saturday, his fever was down, but his blood pressure was way high. They kept him in another night. He had an MRI, which was fairly normal. But they discovered bacteria in his blood, so he went onto massive antibiotics. This morning when I talked to him, he said they were keeping him another day. Now I can’t remember why, but I think they’re trying to figure out if it’s related to his long-term mitral valve prolapse. He’s on fab painkillers, so he’s happier. But they still won’t let him go.
So I’m at his house, to tend to the animals. (Roscoe is back to his old self, by the way.) I can’t sleep in our old bed, because it’s covered with laundry. There’s no food in the house, and a counter full of dirty dishes. And I’m in tender shape. I help people who need help. It’s who I am and what I do But I feel like we are crossing boundaries that our divorce should have solidified. It is disturbing to me. It is disturbing to MKL, and I can understand that. I am still half owner of this house (that he has let fall into as much disrepair as he has let himself fall) and the animals, and Ex-Pat is still my daughter’s father. (She, by the way, is in the mountains with a friend for spring break.)
And it is upsetting. When they mentioned cancer during his exam, I got nauseated. Seeing him degenerate like this has brought back all those feelings about when my Mom got sick, and I cared for her, and she died. And when the Captain got sick, and I lost him. Which were both around the same time. I find myself holding back tears and saying out loud to myself, “You’re all right. You’re ok.” And this makes me feel stupid. None of this is happening to me. It’s happening to Ex-Pat. I am fine. Inconvenienced. Worried. But fine.
I guess I still have some work to do.
One of the prices of divorce is the pets. When I left, I left our pets behind. Between my depression, moving out, leaving my ex practically everything, working two jobs, and trying to start over, I couldn’t handle the responsibility of two dogs and two cats. The cottage didn’t officially allow pets, and as much as I loved my boys, I needed to not have that extra responsibility. Pat wasn’t working, so he spent the most time with all the animals, and the dogs had a big fenced yard. I could see them whenever I wanted. I missed them, but it was best for everyone – though I feel guilty about it. They still love me. They all come to give kisses when I visit. Dusty, my darling kitty, always come straight to me, and I’m still the only one allowed to pick him up for cuddles. Mel never fails to give me a disdainful big yellow tomcat greeting. Champ, Kelsea’s dog, generally wants a belly rub and a kiss. And Roscoe never fails to greet me with a toy in his mouth – I have always been his absolute favorite playmate.
So when Pat called last week to say that something was wrong with Roscoe, I was naturally worried. After all, even though I don’t live with him anymore, he’s still my last baby. We got him at the pound as a teeny tiny puppy only 4 1/2 years ago. At the time, they thought he was Australian Shepard/Golden Retriever. As it turns out, he’s 9/10ths Great Pyrenees, gigantic, cuddly, and adorable, though not as good as he might be with other dogs, as he likes to play “I’m gonna eat your face” which is a game a lot of other dog owners don’t understand.
Roscoe was moving stiffly and wouldn’t sit or lay down. Pat found a hole in his back, like a puncture. At first, he thought it was a bullet hole (we went through that with our most beloved ever first dog, Tug), but the vet said no, he must have just poked a hole in himself. The x-rays showed no bullet. The vet cleaned up the wound and gave Pat antibiotics to fend off infection, along with instructions on bandage changing and some painkillers.
A few days passed, and Roscoe was no better. I wanted Pat to take him back to the vet, but he insisted on waiting until the course of antibiotics was gone. And the day the antibiotics wore off (yesterday), one of Roscoe’s back legs swelled up to three times its normal size. So Pat took him in. And they did surgery on him last night to remove a 9-inch wood spike that he had somehow driven into his body and broken off. The surgery took two surgeons, and the incision is down a large part of his left side. It is badly infected. They have a pump pumping pus out of him and have him on massive antibiotics and painkillers.
They are not sure yet that he will survive.
So please set your prayers and intentions, send healing juju, and use any otherworldly powers you might have, to help my Roscoe get through this and get back to his old self, with no PTSD. I just want my boy to greet me with a toy in his mouth again, and I promise him a good long game of “I’m gonna get you.”
I may not live with him anymore, but I still love my boy.
It occurred to me the other day, as Kelsea and I were driving down the road, noting to each other which houses we might like to live in here, how different my life could have been had I had a partner who was working with me towards a shared goal all these years. I know that sounds obvious, and I know, too, that I have pondered this many times, but somehow, not in the same way.
We all choose our mates for different reasons. I know that, way back in the annals of time, when I was a few days past 21, I chose mine because he was different from me, exciting, and he made me laugh. They seemed like good enough reasons. And once I get with someone, I tend to stick with them until I realize it will kill me if I don’t leave. I’m stubborn. Or stupid. I know now that I chose my mate to eventually have this wonderful child. Not another child. THIS child.
Others choose mates because they want to rescue them (or be rescued by them). There was some of that in there for me, but it played itself out long ago, when I realized the futility of the whole rescue concept. Others because they don’t want to be alone. Others still because it’s almost expected, and it’s easier to stick with something than to get out and find something else – good enough will be good enough.
None of us can see all the way down the road. People change. Change is the only thing certain in this life. In some cases, each half of a couple changes in ways that still work for the couple as a whole. And in other cases, not.
Had I been with someone who wanted to work towards a common goal, I would have had my beach house here – and my travels, and my place in the Caribbean sun. And some space to write and breathe. I never expected to be coupled with someone who shared ALL my goals, just as I wouldn’t have shared his, but that part is less important than caring enough about one another to be willing work to fulfill not only common goals, but to help the other realize his or her OWN dreams – simply because you love them enough to want to them to be happy.
I spent my long 25-year relationship without a partner, working to support us, our little family, and occasionally being able to indulge my own goals. Am I bitter? Well, yes, a little bit. But only when I think of what I haven’t accomplished, and what more I could have accomplished with some help. With a partner. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish on my own this past quarter century. It’s really quite remarkable. And I have a lot of time left to accomplish more. It’s just that I wish the train could arrive sooner, as much as I enjoy the journey. I would like to be able to spend more time sitting by the sea, writing, and breathing.
So, in my wizened wise woman state, I say to you, if you are younger than me and wondering if this person with whom you are side-by-side now is THE one, be clear on your goals, and share your life with someone who has goals of their own – as well as ones to share with you – and who is willing to work towards them. Try to think of it without rationalizing or fooling yourself. And try to have the difficult courage to act on what you know is true.
You will find both the journey and the destination unfathomably joyful.
I awoke this morning after my usual complicated, half-frightening, half-supernatural, all-meaningful dreams, thinking about threes. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I finished Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons last night, with all its scientific/religious intersectional themes.
Aside from thinking about the classic Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (or ” the Holy Spigot”, as claimed by Rowen Atkinson in his short but sweet role in “Four Weddings and A Funeral”), I was thinking about the concept of love – true love – being something that is mind, body and soul.
Love can start in different ways. It can start as friendship. It can start as passion. It can start as a sense of partnership. It can start as a vibrant energetic connection. Or it can start as some combination of the above. In order for it to succeed and strengthen, the three core elements – mind, body and soul – must all be allowed to bloom. And not just between two people but within each of those two people.
If you are mentally compatible with someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you share the same level of intelligence or education. It does mean that you are eager to expand your thinking to consider ideas or ways of life or activities that you might not have considered before. You are willing to be open-minded and non-judgemental of how you – or your potential partner - experience life. And you are willing to involve your partner in your life and become involved with theirs.
If you are physically compatible, well, it’s an amazing thing. You can have a successful love relationship without intense physical passion – you can be perfectly fine with average physical passion and attraction. But when you do have the intense body connection, it can transcend the physical and touch the spiritual. Due to our nearly-inborn Christian conservatism which we all want to deny, we can think that having an intense physical relationship is ”bad”. We can place put on our shame-colored glasses and imagine that we should not be in such a relationship, because if it is that good, clearly that’s all there is to it, and that makes it wrong. Not so. An intense physical connection is just a part of the trinity, and something that should be nurtured, cherished and honored.
If you are spiritually compatible, you find yourself expanding in unexpected ways. Your life is full of minor epiphanies about yourself, about the universe, about each other. You each fuel the flame of spirit that burns within the other – and the result, while sometimes confusing, is ultimately most joyful. While I don’t think any element of the “Love Trinity” is more important than another, the spiritual element is the most rare and the most frightening. It takes courage and strength to confront yourself daily. When the cares of life are overwhelming, the unclouding of the soul can feel like it is simply too much to manage. It is easier to find a relationship where you can be less (or be the same) than stick with one that makes you grow. At least then you have the illusion of peace. Ah, but what you miss.
Back in college, I had a therapist who said that when you were choosing to be with someone, you needed to be sure that your head, your heart and your crotch were all aligned. I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve certainly gone with the “two out of three ain’t bad” approach once in a while. But for a life partner? Nope.
I will not compromise the mind-body-soul trinity again. And I feel sorry for those who do.
I know what can be. I know what I have to offer. And I know what I’m worth. I believe there’s a saying that good things come in threes. (I know there’s also a saying that disasters come in threes, but we’ll put that aside for the purposes of this post. I believe in the power of good.)
I am a good thing.
What side of the bed do you sleep on?
When you’re young and you have a twin bed, this is not really an issue – there’s only one side of a twin bed. If you have tried to share a twin bed with someone, you will probably have discovered that, if you are the one sleeping next to a wall, when you roll over you CAN break your nose on said wall. Trust me on this.
At some age, perhaps early teens, many of us graduate to a double bed.
And if you try to go back to sleeping in a twin bed for any length of time after you move to a double bed, you run a very high risk of falling out of bed. Trust me on this one too. And believe me when I tell you that hitting the floor as a dead weight in the middle of the night is a distrubing way to wake up.
It seems, and maybe it’s just my perception, that the size of every bed has changed over the last 48 years. Kelsea’s twin bed seems much larger to me than my twin bed growing up, or the twin beds in the room we share at the beach for that matter. Double beds seem smaller – queen beds seem more like what I remember double beds to be. And king-size beds seem huge, with the California King being huger than huge. I’ve always wondered why they named it California King. If it’s a description of size, then shouldn’t it have been named Texas King?
During my entire married life, I slept on my husband’s right. I don’t know why. He was left-handed, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it. On the rare occasions when we tried to change sides, it just felt so wrong. And now that I am single, the idea of sleeping on anyone else’s right side feels wrong. I imagine I would wake up in a confused fog, thinking that Pat was the person next to me, and that’s really not an episode any courtship needs. But I could deal with sleeping on someone else’s left side.
When Kelsea and I took road trips last year, we sometimes had to share a bed, and it didn’t matter what side I was on. Thinking back, it was her right side in Tucumcari and Cheyenne, her left side in Cimarron and Durham. Apparently, when it’s not a romantic partner, it makes no difference, although with her, I tend to take the side closest to the door, in order to protect her from intruders (which really makes no sense at all).
In my own massive bed, I sleep on the left side (as viewed from my position lying on my back in the bed). The right side is a dark territory into which I rarely venture, like the wilds of the Amazon, as yet fully unexplored. Every so often, I’ll wake up lying sideways or diagonally across the bed, but I never start out of the right side, and I never wake up there. I’m sure part of the reason is because the light switch is on the left side, but I know that’s not all of it.
It’s truly a psychological thing. When I moved out, I wanted to change everything. Since I took almost nothing from the family home, since Kelsea (and of course, Pat) were still living there, I bought furniture. (Thank heavens I was working at the time.) Everything was new to me, which fit well with the idea of leaving my old life behind and making a fresh start. So I deliberately chose to sleep on the opposite side of the bed from that which I’d slept on for the past 24 years.
And now, here I am, on the other side of the bed. I dislike the fact that the side to my right is empty, but I hope that will change in time. It certainly leaves a lot of room for exploration in the future.