RIP Tony

I babysat my little nieces the other day and I asked the four year old if she wanted to FaceTime her grandmother. She replied, “Mama’s dying”. I couldn’t help but laugh. My mother had a stomach virus, so I’m sure she FELT like she was dying, but she certainly is very alive. I had to explain “exaggeration” to my niece. We then got ready to FaceTime my mom to say hi. Before I could finish setting it up, my niece continues with this:

“My uncle is dead.” I know my sister talks about my exboyfriend/her uncle/her godfather with her a lot and has explained death in a child appropriate way to her. Her paternal grandfather died before she was born, so they talk about him often.

“I know. Unc did die,” I responded, not really thinking too much about it. But then she continued, “Do you want to know how?” That stopped me in my tracks. “How?”, I asked, having no idea what her response was going to be. She confidently replied, “he drank too much alcohol.”

Now, obviously she was repeating this from my sister. My niece is four and does not even know what alcohol is. I was very shocked at her response and didn’t know what to say, but luckily the FaceTime call connected and she started talking to my mom, the conversation already forgotten (by her).

When my sister got home from work I told her about the conversation and we talked about it. First she seemed surprised too and thought maybe my niece overheard an adult conversation, but later she said that she does try to tell her the truth about questions she asks. I wasn’t mad or anything, more just surprised I guess.

My sister and I have had discussions about eventually talking to my two nieces about alcoholism and how much to actually tell them about our father. They LOVE my dad. They only know their Papa as a sober man. And I hate to admit this, but one of the driving forces in my breakup with M. before he died was not wanting my nieces growing up with an active alcoholic in their lives. I am so close with them and spend so much time with them, I just do not want them exposed to alcoholism as children. I am relieved that they do not have anyone in their lives now that drinks.

But I also know that there is a genetic element to alcoholism and it is important for them to know the dangers of addiction. I don’t think they necessarily need to know everything from our own childhood or about my dad being abusive. I feel like that would just be so damaging to them. Growing up, my paternal grandfather was one of my very favorite people. He passed away when I was 12 years old. Many years later, my mother confessed to me that my grandpa was very much like my father- that he was an alcoholic and very, very mean. Obviously he was able to control that when I was around him because I had no idea. I felt so hurt, betrayed, and angry when I found out and I think it marred his memory some. I hated thinking about him in a negative way. I am very appreciative that my sister involves me in these decisions, although I would obviously support her and I know that as their mother she has the right to make all of her own decisions when it comes to the girls.

Last night my sister called me, whispering into the phone. “Tony’s dead! What should I do? Should I go get another fish to replace him or do I just tell her?” Tony is (was?) my niece’s blue and red betta fish. She said she was going to talk to her husband when he got home and they would decide what to do. I quickly googled an article from a psychologist about what to say to children when pets that pass away and sent it to her. It said that most children can handle the loss of their pet and it is important for them to talk about it, feel sad, etc. It is a part of the circle of life.

When asked my personal opinion, I half jokingly said, “well if you can tell her the truth about her Uncle dying, I think you can do the same about her fish.” I guess it kind of bothered me more than I thought that she knew the circumstances of M’s death. But I think more than anything, I just still feel so sad. It’s still SO hard. And I am glad that they still talk about him and loved him so much. I want his memory to stay alive and for everyone to remember him. It is coming up on the one year anniversary of his death and it still feels so raw.

❤️ This post is in memory of Tony 😆 He was a really cool little fish 🐟

Unanswered Prayers

I used to be a huge Garth Brooks fan and I just heard a song that I haven’t listened to in many, many years. It is called “Unanswered Prayers” and the lyrics include the following lines:

“Sometimes I thank God
For unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’
To the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
‘Cause some of God’s greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers”

I am not religious at all, but I can appreciate the meaning of this song. Sometimes the thing we want the most is not what is best for us. I don’t really believe that “everything happens for a reason”, but I do think that there is a reason for everything.

When my exboyfriend was sick and his alcoholism was at its worst, I hoped and wished for him to get better so that we could have a future together. I do not really pray to god, but I do talk to my Mama (my deceased grandmother with whom I was very, very close). I remember pleading with her to save his life, to help him survive the coma, to help him get better.

The most important thing at the time was his health and our relationship- and my feelings- took a backseat for a long time. But that was going on long before he got so sick. His problems, his addiction, his depression was always at the forefront. I would ask my Mama to help him, to help us as a couple. But that never happened. He never got help and the consequences were devastating.

I know now that my Mama was not ignoring my requests. She was simply giving me what I needed, which was to NOT give me what I wanted. If I had stayed with my ex, I would have been stuck in his sober/relapse cycle for my whole life. And even if he did get sober, I would have just been waiting with baited breath for him to drink. I would have been suspicious every time he stumbled over a word. That is no way to live- for me or for him. My Mama gave me the opposite of what I thought I wanted and I ended up with failure, but freedom. I realize now that is what I needed more than saving my relationship.

And after the pain and suffering and excruciating loss came something unexpected…a new relationship. One that is light and healthy and equal and secure. I never thought I would be with someone who took care of me. I have never been in a relationship that didn’t include drama and arguing and codependency.

If my “prayers” had been answered by me asking for the wrong things, I know that I would not be happy right now. I believe that it was a gift to NOT get what I thought I wanted, because I know, without a doubt, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and with who I am meant to be with.

20 Questions

1. Do you have any regrets?

Not seeing each of my grandparents one more time before they each passed away. My travel anxiety held me back from visit them and I will always wish I had one final chance to see them.

2. How would you like to be remembered?

As being kind, thoughtful, caring and funny. A good sister, daughter, aunt and friend. An inspiring teacher.

3. Have you ever broken a promise to someone?

Yes, myself. I swore to myself that I would never date or marry an alcoholic because of my father. I feel like a cliche that I did, but I am also relieved that I broke the cycle.

4. Was there one event that changed your life and the way you think?

When I was in elementary school, I saw a documentary on children in third world countries, specifically Ethiopia. I had never seen images like that before and I remember being shocked that there were kids starving in the world. It taught me to appreciate the life I had and I have thought of it often.

5. Would you sacrifice everything for love?

No. I have learned the hard way (twice) that love is not enough.

6. Are you afraid of dying?

I rarely think about dying myself; rather I fear losing someone that I love. Now that my parents are older, I am afraid of my mother dying more than anything.

7. Have you ever been abused?

Yes. My father was/is physically, emotionally, verbally and psychologically abusive. He is still very verbally abusive, but I think the psychological abuse affected me the most, even more so than anything physical.

8. Have you ever been in love?

Yes, I would say three times. In college, I had my “first love”- where you love so naively and hopelessly. I loved my ex husband and I love (present tense) my ex boyfriend. With both my husband and boyfriend, it wasn’t because of not loving them that the relationships ended, hence my answer to #5. I think the true love of my life/soul mate is my ex boyfriend, but there are very logical reasons we are not together.

9. Are you happy with who you are?

Yes. I definitely have my flaws, but I think I am a good person. I care about other people and always try to do what I think is right.

10. Would you ever give up your life to save someone else’s?

Yes, definitely my sister or my niece…without even a second thought.

11. Have you changed at all in the last year?

This last year has been life changing. I experienced my boyfriend being in a coma…I don’t think I will ever be the same. He was so close to death. I am so, so grateful he survived, but I lost him anyway.

12. What is something most people don’t know about you?

That I suffer from agoraphobia and at one point years ago it was so bad that I didn’t even want to leave the house to check the mail or go to the grocery store. I just recently told someone about this and they didn’t believe me. I guess that’s a weird compliment in a way.

13. Do you like being alone?

I really do. I need time to decompress and just think. Sometimes I just lay on the couch without turning on the tv, just to be in silence.

14. Is there something you would never do?

Get married again. I felt very trapped. I definitely did not grow up with a good role model of what marriage should be and I stayed with my ex husband far longer than I should have simply because I felt like I had to try everything to make it work because we were married. I want to be with someone by complete choice and I want the ability to walk away if it isn’t the right relationship for me or if the person changes.

15. What makes you uncomfortable?

Confrontation. Although I have gotten much better at standing up for myself lately. I felt like I had to be an advocate for both myself and my ex boyfriend through his illness and it severed the relationship I had with his friends and family.

16. What is the meanest thing anyone has ever said to you?

My dad says so many mean things pretty much daily, but excluding him, after I got divorced, my ex husband wrote me an email saying he was sorry he couldn’t “fix me”.

17. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?

I can’t pick just one thing because any time I get a compliment from a student or they tell me I inspired them in some way, it is the best feeling. Recently, a student wrote me a letter saying that through my actions, I taught her how to be a stronger person and that meant a lot to me.

18. What is your prized possession?

A green diamond ring from my maternal grandmother. My sister and I used to try on all of my mama’s jewelry and we each had a favorite ring of hers. It was a joke in our family that she would leave them to us in her will. During one visit, my sister and I were parading around with our rings on and when we went to give them back to her, she handed us the empty boxes and said she wanted us to keep the rings so we would have the memory of her giving them to us, rather than it being a sad time when we inherited them. That is also one of my favorite memories.

19. What is something weird or unusual that you do?

Every year when I decorate my Christmas tree, I watch the movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”. I have no idea why there is a connection, but it has become a weird tradition. I love that movie 🤷🏼‍♀️

20. What is your favorite quote?

“Education is not preparation for life; Education is life itself.” -John Dewey

keep f**king going…

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I am here, my love.  I am sitting next to you as you lie motionless in your hospital bed.  Tomorrow will officially be two weeks that you have been in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube.  I keep thinking to myself, “but we were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.”  You always hear about people’s lives changing overnight, you just never expect it to happen to you.  I am listening to the steady breathing coming from your lungs, but I know it is a machine doing the work for you.  I am wearing a plastic gown that has become a part of my daily wardrobe.  The sounds of the ICU has become just background noise.  The first few days I would jump every time an alarm went off.  Now, I can identify which IV drip is running low and I know medical terms that are 15 letters long (and can pronounce them).  I have a newfound respect for nurses, who have treated your body with such respect and have treated my broken heart with such kindness.

An hour ago, you opened your eyes, staring at nothing.  I tried to make eye contact, but you are so sedated, I doubt you are seeing anything.  I put on a latex glove and held your hand.  I asked you to squeeze it and you did.  But like a baby who smiles when they have gas, I wonder if it was just a reflex or if you could really feel me touching you.  I hate not being able to touch your skin without plastic between us.

I miss you so much, but you are right here.  I go through so many emotions every day, I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  When I am home, I feel guilty that I am not with you.  When I leave the hospital, I feel guilty to feel relief.  Why do I feel so much guilt? I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have always tried not to play the victim card when it came to my dad’s alcoholism, but I was a victim of it, just like I was a victim of yours.  I have to take responsibility, though, because I didn’t have a choice with my father.  I did have a choice when it came to you.  But, honestly, given another chance, I would still choose you.  You were worth the risk.  I saw all the good in you…so much good.  People always say they have no regrets and wouldn’t change things in their lives because they learned from mistakes.  I have regrets- I regret marrying my exhusband…I would have preferred to miss those hard lessons.  I will never regret you, though, my love.

I tried to pour my heart out to your mother.  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  One thing I tried to explain to her is that when all of this is over, she will still have you as her son.  When this is all over, I lose you.  I will have to start picking up the pieces and find a new life for myself.  I know it is the right thing to do, though.  We could not have continued living the way we were.  Well, I couldn’t.  I just would not be able to see you do this to yourself again.  Please don’t let this be in vain.  I wish I believed in god so I could pray for you to survive, to get better, to get sober, to be happy.  Other people who are religious are praying for you- that makes me grateful.  I have asked my Mama for help.  I talk to her and ask her to watch over you and to protect you.  She was the toughest woman I know, but she had the biggest heart.  She would say to you, “oh phooey- you wake up and get off those machines!”.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop loving you?  Maybe never.  Maybe it will just be a part of who I am.  Right now it is hard to be angry with you for your lies and your betrayal because you look so weak, so helpless.  But it’s not fair- I have a right to be angry with you.  It has to wait.  I feel like all I have been doing for the past two weeks is waiting (and you know I am not the most patient person).  But I need to see this through- for you and for myself.  Jess bought me a bangle bracelet as a gift that is just silver on the outside but on the inside it says, “keep fucking going…” And that is what I am going to do.

The year of firsts…

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Having a baby niece has been amazing for so many reasons.  These past few five months have been some of the best of my life.  I am so lucky to live so close to her and to be such a big part of her growing up.  It has been so fun to see all of her “firsts”, especially holidays.  In an alcoholic family, holidays can be dreadful and stressful.  I have definitely experienced my fair share of ruined holidays.  I jokingly said to someone the other day that I feel like my niece is the reward for having such a dysfunctional family.  She is just so sweet and innocent and happy.  And she makes my sister and my mother and me SO happy.  Tonight was her first Halloween and my mom made her costume.  I know this was such a wonderful experience for my mom- to make something special for her granddaughter.  It may seem silly that we all dressed up and made such a big deal about a baby going trick-or-treating that isn’t even able to eat candy yet, but it was just another of so many sweet memories with her.  I usually do not look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas the same way other people do- I mean I still really like the holidays, but since they involve my family, they are usually stressful.  But this year feels really exciting and special and it is nice to actually be looking forward to the next few months!!

Grandparents = LOVE

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My grandmother passed away yesterday. Obviously losing her is upsetting, but beyond that I am so sad about the fact that my last surviving grandparent is gone. My grandpa (her husband) died in 1990 when I was 12 and my Mama and Papa (my mom’s parents) passed away within 40 days of each other in 2009. For my whole life, if you asked me to define the “roles” I had, granddaughter was one of the most important. I have so many wonderful and special memories of all of my grandparents. They all loved me, supported me and each played an important part in my childhood.

My grandmother’s passing also brings up other darker feelings, though. Over the past 10 years or so, she definitely became less involved with our side of the family, due to my dad’s alcoholism. Even though my dad was her son, I think my grandmother was very disappointed in him and it must have been very hard for her to see how he acted when he was drunk. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic and I am sure it broke my grandmother’s heart that my father turned out like him. She became very close with my Uncle’s family…and I don’t really blame her. Therefore, over the years, she spent a lot more time with my cousins (who are also younger than my sister and me). Incidentally, my sister and I became much, much closer with my maternal grandparents. I was so devastated when I lost them (I was also going through my divorce at the same exact time which didn’t help), so there is a little guilt that I didn’t have the same reaction to losing my grandma yesterday. Although I am so sad she passed, she was not a regular, constant part of my adult life like my Mama was. My therapist today told me this was totally normal and that people have different relationships with various relatives in their family (the copay was worth it today!)

Regardless, I am so blessed to have had my grandparents for as long as I did. I have friends who never even knew their grandparents, so I know how fortunate I am to have all the wonderful memories of them that I do!!

Long time, no see…

I just realized recently that I have not seen my father since Christmas. This is the longest I have ever gone without seeing him in my entire life. I was on the phone with my mom the other night and mentioned this to her and I actually asked her if she thought he missed me. She probably thought I was joking because she said, “maybe, but he talks TO you every day through his emails” (she thinks she is funnier than she is- lol).

My parents only live 45 minutes away from me. My hometown is pretty boring and I do not have any other reason to go there because all of my friends have moved away (whereas my sister goes there often because all of her childhood friends still live there and so she stops by my parents’ house occasionally). I am not sure why this bothers me…I should be ecstatically happy that he has been less involved in my life. But, the fact that he doesn’t seem to really care is a little disconcerting. I mean, he is still sending a minimum of three emails daily (especially lately due to my grandmother being ill). I speak to him occasionally when I call their house and he answers the phone. I just feel very disconnected from him and it makes me a little sad. But then I read one of his crazy emails or he is nasty to me on the phone and I remember why I gave up trying to have a normal relationship with him. A couple of months ago I redid my basement and invited him to come to my house to see it. He pretty much blew the idea off. I took it personally for a while until I realized that I can’t remember the last time my dad actually went somewhere- he has become very reclusive. I think that now I am a little nervous to see him because my sister says that he is in pretty bad shape health wise (no surprise there).

I guess it is just a classic case of “can’t live with him…can’t live without him”. I am sure if I spent time with my dad every single weekend, I would be ready to jump off a bridge, but there is a part of me that feels hurt that he seems to not care whether or not he sees me.

Falling from grace

My paternal grandmother (my last surviving grandparent) has been ill lately and I just found out yesterday that she fell on Tuesday evening and was not found until yesterday afternoon. She lives six hours away from me and I feel very helpless. I have a very small family. On my dad’s side, there is only my grandma, uncle (dad’s brother), aunt (his wife) and two cousins (their children). They live in Maine, my grandmother in Cape Cod and my family is all in NJ.

For many, many years, my family has been distant- literally and figuratively- from my uncle’s family due to my father’s behavior. I resent him for this because I care about them a lot and feel like I am missing out on seeing my cousins grow up. I was very close with my aunt especially growing up. In fact, for the past few years, even my contact with my grandma has been limited because she has a clear preference for my uncle’s family and I don’t blame her. My father has ruined many occasions and his behavior must be very upsetting for my grandmother and uncle (my grandfather was a raging alcoholic before he died in 1990, so my father must be a great disappointment to them).

Throughout these past few months that my grandmother has been falling, ill and in and out of the hospital, there have been email chains going including all members of the family, including my dad and uncle’s first cousin, who thankfully lives by my grandma and has been instrumental in her care. Whereas everyone else’s emails have centered on my grandmother and what can be done to best assist her, my father’s emails have been batshit crazy insane. He writes nasty things, talks about irrelevant topics and focuses on himself and his problems predominantly. Finally my mother had to call my uncle to apologize and explain that my father’s alcoholism has increasingly become worse since the two brothers last saw each other.

My mother has always been the heart of our family and it is unfortunate that so many other relationships had to suffer because of my father. People didn’t want to be bothered with him, and that trickled down to include my mother, my sister and me. I don’t take it personally because if I was in their position, I would feel the same way. But it makes me very angry with my father, not only for destroying family ties, but also because he is not doing anything to help his own mother. When my maternal grandparents both passed away a couple of years ago, my mom was back and forth from NJ to FL constantly and we all got involved in helping them and being there for them in anyway.

So when my mother tried calling my grandma to check on her (my grandma adores my mom), she got no answer and was worried. She called my dad’s aunt who rushed over and found her on the floor, completely disoriented and she was rushed to the hospital, where she still is now. Most of the communication of all this was on email and between my mom, the cousin and my uncle. My father was specifially left off of the email and was the last to know that his mother had fallen. This makes me so sad and angry and left wondering why my family is so freaking dysfunctional. Most of my friends have normal families with normal relationships (not perfect, obviously, but in the norm). It upsets me so much that because of my father, I have limited contact with his whole side of the family (and my family all around is extremely small…on my mom’s side there is only my aunt, cousin and her kids). I just feel sad today. Sad for my grandma, who will most likely die without seeing her eldest son again (my dad) and who must feel heartbroken that he turned out the way he did.