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December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

[These three days are always hard for me, especially coming at this time of year that I love. And so, over these next three days, I will be reposting what I lived during these days six years ago.]

 

With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.

[The next three day’s postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother’s death four years ago.  This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]

December 10, 2006:  I don’t remember what we did today.  Probably not too much but talk – and laugh.  Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there.  I only remember us.  Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping.  I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times.  I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone.  But you didn’t.  It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time.  Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control.  We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees.  In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.

You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day.  Not much, but you’d never needed it before.  I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession.  You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself.  It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain.  I remember your pain.  It was in your bones.  When you would move sometimes – or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable.  You would hold your breath until it passed.  I hated to see you in pain.  I encouraged you to take the morphine.  After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain?  But you wanted to spend it being present.  I admire that.

You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you.  Water.  Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls.  It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does.  You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside.  Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature.  But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured.  The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.

People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so.  You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend.  You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone.  I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself.  But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.

Everyone brought food.  You weren’t eating.  I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep.  I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me.  It wasn’t comforting.  It was a random necessity.  That had been going on for a week, my eating like that.  Ever since you really stopped eating.  For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.

I don’t remember doctors coming.  I don’t remember even talking to the doctors.  But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?

In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it.  I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you.  When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest.  You said yes, and looked at me strangely.  I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand.  Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter.  Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me.  I felt a chill that I did not show.

I had been so wrapped up in caring for you.  For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you.  Your death became my life.  We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth.  We had talked every day.  After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day.  In the mornings, to be sure you were okay.  If you were lonely.  If I was bored.  If you went to the doctor.  In the evening before bed.  If I was scared.  If you had some piece of news.  We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.

And you were so happy to have the three of us there.  You loved us so.  That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night.  You said goodbye to me.  You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her.  You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen.  Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.

But it was not your last night.

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.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

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.

Aren’t I?

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.

Aren’t I?

I guess I still have some work to do.

Denver VA Hospital (image from http://www.ucdenver.edu)

I’m not whining, but I do want to share.

Roscoe’s injury has hit me hard. Not as hard as it has hit him, obviously, since he’s the one who had a nine-inch stick in his body cavity for a week and almost died, not me. But in an emotional way, hard.

I’m at the vet now, sitting on the bed that he’s become attached to here, typing this. He has his upper body curled against my leg, and is sleeping peacefully, breathing normally for the first time that I’ve seen since the injury. He was dreaming a bit, his paws twitching like dogs do when they’re chasing something in their sleep, and he just gave a big contented sigh. Nothing is waking him – not my sneezes, not the barking dogs in the treatment room, or the voices of the staff. He’s peaceful. I cuddled him and sang him all the lullabies I used to sing to Kelsea when she was a baby.

He still has the pump in his side. They upped his antibiotic dosage, and so the incision sites are cooler, and he is much more alert. The shaved spot is the size of many other dogs, so he may have to wear a t-shirt when he gets home, which I always think looks adorable on dogs. But he’s still not eating and not drinking. He did covertly eat the food I brought yesterday sometime in the middle of the night, so I brought some more for him today. They gave him two liters of electrolyte IV solution earlier to help him keep hydrated and his body just soaked it up like a sponge.

Roscoe's Frankenstein incisions

I don’t even want to imagine what the bill will be. I don’t care. I can’t really afford it anyway. But you do what you’ve got to do.  The vet – Arapahoe Animal Hospital in Boulder – has been fabulous. All the doctors and all the techs here know Roscoe now and love him. They want him to live here with them and be their vet pet. (Sorry guys, we got him first.) It reminds me of when Kelsea was first born. That first night, they took her away and told me they’d bring her back for me to nurse her. I woke up seven hours later with no baby and no one answering the bell. I wondered if something had happened and I was the last person alive. So I hobbled out to the nurse’s station, and said, “Um, excuse me, do you know where my daughter is?” “Oh, Kelsea?” they said, “She was so sweet that we just decided to keep her here with us at the nurse’s station.” Sweetness must run in the family.

So, Roscoe is getting better and is going to be okay. And that’s all the news that really matters.

But now we come to me. Yes, wussy me. I am so exhausted energetically from caring from him from a distance, emotionally from worrying about him, and physically from not sleeping well at my ex-husband’s house while I care for the other animals that I can hardly tell which way is up. Sitting with my puppy while he sleeps, along with this wiped out feeling, is totally taking me back to taking care of my mom the week before she died. I was up all the time, sleeping in strange places, showering when I had a second, snarfing food when I could, sitting with her all the time because I could. (I haven’t been able to do that with Roscoe all the time.) This zombie-like functional state is so familiar in my bones from that time with my Mother that it’s giving me flashbacks to a most tenderly painful episode in my life – her death. I never thought I would feel that way again. I couldn’t have told you exactly what it felt like until now, when I’m experiencing it again. And now it is flooding back in a strange, disjointed, poignant way.

I will deal with my own feelings, and it will be fine. I will be fine, just like Roscoe will be fine.

But it is strange to wander in this strange land again.

Roscoe in my lap

Yes, Kelsea really needed a little distance from Colorado, so that’s just what we got today… out-of-state. Fortunately for us, another state is less than 100 miles away.  So we went there.

Wyoming.

We spent the travel time talking and talking and talking.  Mostly about what’s going on in her life, but we did have the occasional bizarre segue, like a debate about the perceived gender of God, and if God were a woman, perhaps we all have really bad weeks when she has her period.  And then about the fact that, yes, to blaspheme is actually a verb.

We were looking for some bizarre rock formations that I had read about on www.roadsideamerica.com a couple of months ago.  My swiss-cheese brain told me it was near the border, but that was as far as it went. So we took a detour east and found some rocks that were inaccessible near the tiny town of Carr. Which also had a great little convenience store.

We debated and declined trespassing on the funky rocks, and turned around to continue our journey. But once we got back on the Interstate, we saw the ACTUAL rocks that we’d been looking for, which we would have seen had we driven another mile or so.  We resolved to stop on our return.

Into Cheyenne, we stopped at the first flea market we saw and poked around for over an hour. It was a good flea market, and we came away with some music for her – I had gotten her an old record player for Christmas, so she’s starting to collect vinyl – and some clothes from my fledgling Ebay vintage store for me. And of course, we got a couple of little things for the house.

A scented china glass conch shell that we initially thought was a salt shaker, but then determined was for potpourri.  Either way, it now lives in the bathroom.

A milk glass covered chicken dish! (The gold perpetually waving Chinese cat was a Christmas present from Kelsea). Both now live in the kitchen.

After browsing and buying, we stopped in at Two Doors Down for an absolutely excellent burger, and played peekaboo with a neighboring baby.

We had an actual purpose for going to Cheyenne – to buy Kelsea a pair of cowboy boots. We braved the wind – one thing we both REALLY dislike about Wyoming is the perpetual wind – and fled into the Wrangler, a longstanding Western store and fixture of downtown Cheyenne.  And I’m happy to say we met with success!

She’s very pleased. And now it’s payback time, because I always make her take MY cowboy boots off when we’re home together.

Our final shop-stop was Ernie November, a head/music shop, where she indulged in a few CDs to round out her growing music collection.  The final music tally looks like this:

Gotta love her eclectic taste in music – she bought Kiss AND Dean Martin!

Time to head home, we did take the detour off the highway back to see the strange rocks, and to get a slightly closer look at the herd of buffalo that we passed.  The sunset was lovely.

And the rocks were REALLY cool.

There were a lot of them, and they created a sort of little maze, complete with small caves and crevices.  But the wind was blowing like cold stink and after scaling one of them, Kelsea decided she’d had enough.

We made a mad dash back to the car, and watched the remaining sunset cuddled in front of the heater.

We’re home now, on the red couch, watching ridiculous television, and happy that we had a few hours in another state of mind.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend, too.

I know that really, every day is special. But today is especially special for me. Why? Because today is the day that my most special and precious daughter arrived on this earth (at least this time around – she’s a very old soul.)

Because some of her friends read the blog, I’m not going to inflict much gushiness and reminiscing on her. After all, she’s 15 today, and you know what that can be like. At least I do. I remember 15 quite well.

The idea that she’s 15 is amazing to me. How could that be? Like an excellent vacation, it feels like she’s been here forever, and yet the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.  I wish I had been (then and now) the one to spend more time with her. I missed a lot of her day-to-day growing up by working so much to support us all these years. But she had an excellent parent in her dad for those many years.  And I do feel that the time we have spent together has been “quality” time, more precious for its scarcity.

It snowed the day before she was born; it is snowing now. That day was a Sunday. Today is a Thursday. But at 4:06 pm on that day, my life changed forever for the better because this strong, smart, beautiful, funny, caring soul decided to grace it.

I can’t wait for many more years of roadtrips, inside jokes, kitchen disasters, epic fails, soul-level hugs in front of endless fields of sunflowers, famous chats, and getting to know one another better as we both continue to grow and change.

Happy birthday, Kelsea, my dearest daughter and friend.

Kelsea and Jack. Machyllneth, Wales. June 2007.

I don’t follow sports. I don’t have any connections at Penn State. I don’t even know how I became aware  in the last several days of the atrocious acts that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky committed on who knows how many young boys over the past 20 years.  My heart aches for the victims. I know a little about how they feel. I remember being a victim myself.

But in all this publicity, the perpetrator hasn’t spoken. He’s free on a reasonable amount of bail. What’s he doing? Spending a lot of time with lawyers, obviously, and supporters, certainly.  Note that I did not make the totally inappropriate remark about athletic supporters – oh wait, I just did. He can’t be strolling around Happy Valley with his head held high.  Can he?  Or can he truly be secluding himself in his home, with his wife of heaven knows how many years?  Can he really? Which brings us to the point of my post.

As my heart aches for Sandusky’s young victims, it aches for his wife. What must this woman be feeling?  Shame, anger, disbelief, rage, humiliation, shock, nausea, betrayal, bewilderment, devastation are just a few of the emotions that come to mind. What do you do when suddenly you discover that the man you married and loved and helped all these years is a person you don’t even know? And someone you would consider a monster if you did not know them?

It must be impossible for her to believe it, despite the evidence. And I know that, at this point, she is looking at every moment of their life together and wondering. Did she really know and just turn a blind eye? Did she miss all the signs? Does this fact make x,y, and z make sense now?  How could she have been so gullible? Such a fool?

These are the things she is thinking privately. She may not voice these kinds of thoughts to anyone. And barely even to herself. To friends and family, I imagine she is still displaying the stong, supportive wife-face she has worn for years. The face that says, “I don’t believe a word of this, and I am standing by my man.” She has perhaps raged at her husband – or perhaps not. She’s not of an era when women did that, for any cause.

People have asked, “How could she have not known? It had to have been obvious, or at least suspicious.” But no, it is entirely possible that she did not know, did not see, did not believe. Sociopaths – which is what child molesters are – are extremely charming and excellent at the art of deception. And when you love someone and have built your life around them, you are predisposed to believe what they tell you. When you know someone as a man who has looked after kids in various capacities for years – and raised the ones you adopted together – then the trips, the phone calls, the bedtime companionship in the basement room, seem like pure fatherly activities. And pedophiles can – and do – raise families without victimizing their own children – sometimes.

The one thing I know is that this woman is a victim in a whole different way.  And for that, my heart goes out to her.

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