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Poison and Lies
You fed me.
You fed my soul.
You turned my head.
You twisted my heart.
You spoke such honeyed words
of futures and dreams and forever
with all the sincerity of a true love.
And yet it was all a ruse.
You had cultivated your ability to deceive
Your artistry is superb.
You use the same words
To the next woman.
“Ain’t gonna happen.”
“If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.”
“Never before, never again.”
“I’ll never hurt you again.”
By now, you are lying to the next woman –
The one after me –
About the current one –
The one after her –
Only she doesn’t know it yet.
Just like I didn’t.
“We’re only friends.”
“I’m not a man women want.”
“She needs someone to listen.”
“I’m not good at cheating.”
“I’m hanging with the boys tonight.”
You did some things well.
But lying and cheating -
Those were your specialities.
You spoke the truth only once that I can be sure of.
That last night,
When you said:
I know how to make people love me so they will give me what I want.
What kind of a man lives like that?
A man who blames everyone else for his own failings
While bemoaning the loss of his honor.
Not a man I want in my life.
I do not wish you happiness.
I wish you the poison
And lies that you fed me.
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.
December 11, 2006:
You had slept. I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row. I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant. You would moan every so often. When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me. “Am I still here?” you asked. “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.” “Damn,” you said.
We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here. You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today. Which told me how much you were hurting. We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine. I would have done anything for you. But I could not commit to killing you. I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.” I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.
The quality of the day changed after that talk. It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were. We were down to just the orange sherbet now. I would slip a little between your dry lips (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile. We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way. How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.) How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry. We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child. That seemed to ease you greatly.
You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often. More people came and went. We talked about your excitement about whatever came next. And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.
More people came and went. I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born. It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.
We talked and talked. You were getting…frisky? Cocky? Rambunctious? You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass. I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.
You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come. You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew. And you let it go.
[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference's to my Mother changed from "you" to "she" about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]
The hospice chaplain came. I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t cry much the last few days. Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t. But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow. I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go. After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace. I never knew what was spoken between them. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that she had released that last burden.
Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly. Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit. It made her so happy. “It’s my angel,” she said. She always thought that way about Jackie. Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time. “Have you noticed that smell? It’s the smell of death,” she said. “I know that smell.” Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman. She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry. She hugged me.
As the afternoon faded, she started to fade. She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much. She was hurting more. I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often. I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands. It was getting late. We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other. She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine. I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.
The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light. We did. We sat and talked quietly. We sat in silence. We sat through the night. E-Bro went to rest of a while. It was calm. I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free. Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed. Maybe it was her breathing. Something. My uncle went to get my brother from the couch. We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go. I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart. It slowed. Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.
Until they stopped all together.
MKL and Thunder Cat have a love/love relationship – even though MKL has never been a cat fan. Thunder Cat is such a fan of HIM, however, that he couldn’t resist her furry charms. Still, his skepticism lingers, and he often comments that if she gets hungry enough, she will kill and eat one of us, perhaps starting with the eyeballs.
Somehow or other, as we were falling asleep last night, our conversation turned into this:
Me: If we’re ever lost somewhere, and I starve to death, you can eat my eyeballs.
MKL: I wouldn’t do that.
Me: But I’d want you to. I love you and I’d want for you to go on.
MKL: I would not eat your eyeballs.
Me: Well then, what part of ME would you eat if I was dead? And you were starving?
MKL: I wouldn’t eat ANY of you if you were dead.
Me: That’s just silly. Why let me go to waste?
MKL: I’d find something else to eat.
Me: But if you’d been able to find something else to eat, then I wouldn’t be dead.
MKL: That’s my point.
And he fell asleep.
I don’t think his point made any sense at all. But I guess it’s nice that there’s one less thing I have to worry about. At least from him.
As I have revived the Weekly Wednesday poem, I am also reviving the Original Thursday poem. [Insert applause here.] I have hundreds of poems from the past that I can share with you, and I hope that the revivification of this feature of the blog will inspire me to create more.
Devil With A Forked Tongue
One golden morning early,
You looked in my eyes across the table,
“You’ll never find another man like me.”
I was touched.
Touched in the head.
I should have stabbed you in the tongue with my fork
Stuck a fork in you.
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.
There are times in every person’s life that are transforming. They can be triggered by emotions, events, or age-related milestones – read, desperation, death of a loved one, or turning 18, for example. When these milestones appear in our lives – or we draw them to us – we have a lot of choices.
We can choose to cave in and cower. We can choose to run away. We can choose to adopt a victim mentality that may well define the rest of our lives. We can choose to make dramatic changes in our lives in terms of our location, relationships, and direction; sometimes those changes are well considered and sometimes they are knee-jerk reactions. I think regardless of how we approach those changes, they are essential to the process of completing whatever transformation we are undergoing.
Most of the time, we do not experience this transformation in some sort of isolation chamber. As we are struggling through it, and gasping for air, our inner panic (or lack of peace), and flailing through life will impact those around us. We may hurt people we love by whacking them with our wildly revolving selves. It’s not intentional, but yes, it happens.
And here’s where we can still have conscious choices, no matter where we are in the transformation process. When we hurt someone, they have every right to say something about it, even if they understand what we are going through. They may even say something that hurts us in return – not because they want to hurt us, because remember, they love us, but because they are speaking their pain. If we care for that person, we listen. We have a dialogue. We do not just turn and say, “How could you say that? Don’t ever speak to me again.” In short, we do not burn our bridges. That is, if we are seeking the path of wisdom, which I am. Which many of us are. We do not turn away from those who have long shown their humanness and devotion, from those who have shown themselves worthy of being a part of our lives, standing by us through thick and thin and all the meat-slicer settings in between.
As part of the path to wisdom, we apologize. We explain. We ask for patience. We take off our own blinders of pain and shame and guilt and anger at who-knows-what, and know that when we do so, our true friends will be right in front of us, arms extended, there for support, because we are not alone in this journey. Even though in some ways, we always are, and in other ways, we must be.
Again, it’s a choice. Leave the blinders on. Put the old life in a trunk, wrap it in chains, and send it to the bottom of the sea. Start over pretending you have a clean slate. I’ll wish you the best of luck, because you’ll need it. Or leave the doors open. Be gentle with yourself and others, because we’re all human. Take breaths and realize who is true to you and worth your spirit. Go back to the rules of kindergarten. I think one of those was “Don’t play with matches.” The adult version is, “For god’s sake, don’t set anything on fire.”
Transform, yes. But not by the light of the bridges you burn.
Today’s guest poet – Jann Howell
I’m always wondering
… where you are
… what you’re doing
… are you thinking of me?
… do we dream the same dreams?
… if we feel the same things
in our hearts.
But every time
I try to speak the words…
when I try to ask the questions
just to get the answers,
a fear takes hold of my heart
that the words that you’ll speak
won’t be the words that I seek
keeps me paralyzed.
And the silence between us
stretches further than the stars
so that I am always,
where you are.