Sunday, June 22, 2008

Family Dynamics

It seems the last couple of years my family is falling apart.

There have been a lot of changes starting with my Mom's death in 2003.

A year later my sister and her husband moved to Atlanta, where their two sons settled years before. Sue and Marty's house was always the place where large family events took place that included both families- holidays, birthdays, picnics. So, this alone had a huge impact. No more place to gather, no more semi-regular merging of two families, who had spent so many years and so many celebrations together.

Not that I blame or resent Sue and Marty for moving. They had retired and why stay in Wisconsin when they could be closer to their sons and also in a much better climate? They have a beautiful home outside of Atlanta and have made a wonderful life for themselves. They are happy and I am happy for them. I love visiting them, which I do often.

Through circumstances I won't explain and which I truly don't fully understand, my nephew and his wife withdrew from his parents life in Georgia. They have chosen not to be involved and to keep their children apart from their grandparents. The hurt and pain this has caused my sister and brother-in-law is enormous. They have been great parents to both their sons and welcomed their daughter-in-law into the family. They were thrilled with their son's choice of a wife and when their first grandchild was born - well, there would be no better people to be grandparents then they are. Although they understand that there were some problems and misunderstandings, they have tried to make things work. Yet all attempts by them to rectify the situation, including the suggestion family counseling, have been shot down.

This, too, had a huge effect on the both sides of the extended family, probably more so than my nephew and his wife could ever imagine. It put the rest of us in bad positions. From my own stand point, I truly love my nephew and his wife. They are great people and wonderful and loving parents. Their two kids are adorable and I love them so much. While I am usually able to spent an hour or two when I am down visiting, it is awkward. It is like the proverbial "elephant in the room." We are friendly and try to talk about everything else except the relationship that has been severed. And, I always feel I am on a tightrope. Will they someday shut me out, too? I simply don't understand. My nephew was raised in a loving home, the same home that included all of the great family gatherings. How can he just walk away from all of us?

My sisters and I were raised in a family that, while small, always included the aunts, uncles and cousins. I have such great memories of my grandparents and extended family. We all feel strongly about "family." All of my nephews have wonderful memories of their grandparents and great grandparents. Yet, here I have a great nephew and niece who don't even know their grandparents and maybe have a slight memory of me. I don't get it.

In the past year or so, my other sister, Linda, has had a string of bad luck. Starting with a couple of injuries that prevented her from working, her life has spiraled downward. She has made some bad choices throughout her life and, to be honest, a little difficult to deal with. But, she also had a big heart and in her own way, a loving nature.

Recent events involving my father, which I also won't explain in detail, has caused a huge rift and complete mistrust of Linda. Legal action was involved. Her actions have been totally unacceptable and hugely disappointing to Sue, t me and to our family. This has caused a complete alienation between my two sisters. And while I am sorely disappointed in Linda, there is still slight communication between us. Yet, from what I see, she is still making bad decisions regarding what she does and with whom she spends her time with. And because of her actions and her own anger (at what I don't know), she has alienated herself from her best friend and other parts of her family. Linda alone has caused this, but she is blaming everyone else. As I know, it is easier to blame others than to take a good hard look at yourself and admit you were wrong. And even harder yet to apologise and make amends. She denies any wrong doing and refused to make amends. In her own words, "I won't kiss anyone's ass." Oh, well . . . we all make our own choices in life.

Then there is my other nephew, my sister's son. He, too, can be a very loving and caring person and has been very helpful to me. He is a good father to his children and loves his wife. He is a hard worker and has become a very impressive "handy man." Yet, it seems that he, too, is full of anger. How many phone calls have I received where he is yelling at me or venting about someone else. How many times has he screamed at me only to hang up the phone. He will get the whole family upset and by the next day or so, act as though nothing is wrong. The attitude is, "Oh, well - you know how I am." Again, very much like his mother, he can hear only what he wants to hear and interpret things the way he "hears" them, not as they were said. My sister and brother-in-law have also been the victims of this verbal abuse and have now stepped away from his life. While they love him and his family and feel terrible about having to come to this decision, for them "enough is enough." What he doesn't understand is that after yeas of his bursts of anger and verbal ranting, we are all getting tired of dealing with it. Now, let me say one thing on his behalf. He is trying to control these "rants." However, it might very well be too little, too late.

I feel that someone in the family has to keep communication open between all of us and have tried, not to much success, to be that one. Not that I am perfect. I have said things I shouldn't have and have done things that weren't in the best interest of myself or my family. I know that I,too, have caused problems over the years. Yet, I love my family - my sisters, my nephews and the "greats" (nephews and nieces). Sometimes I feel very bewildered all that has transpired.

But, I am getting tired. Tired of the drama of being yelled at over the phone. Tired of feeling on pins and needles when I only want to spend time with my "greats" and make sure they know me and how much I love them. Tired of trying to understand how a son who was raised by such loving and supportive parents can shut the door on them. Tired of dealing with a sister who prefers men who abuse her and to hang out with people who abuse drugs and alcohol. Worse of all, whose actions jeopardised our father's well-being. Tired of being screamed at and having my words, and the words of other, twisted into other meanings.

Someone very wise once said, "You are a reflection of those you people surround yourself with."

Several years ago a woman I know told me that after her mother died she would no longer have any contact with several of her siblings and their families. She said she had had a lifetime of dealing with their dramas and problems which include illegal activities, drug and alcohol abuse. While her mother is still alive she feels obligated to see with them on a limited bases such as holidays and a few family events. But, all that will stop one day and her relationship with them would be over. Permanently.

I questioned this friend. How could she walk away from family? She told me to ask myself a hypothetical question. If I had the chance to met members of my family - not knowing who they were - and spend an hour with each of them, long enough that I got a feel of what type of a person they were, how many of them would I really choose to see again? How many of them would I want as my friends, to be a part of my life? Would I really want to associate with some of them?

Now I am beginning to understand. And while I will aways hope there will be resolution and will always feel it is wrong purposely keep some family members apart, especially where children are involved, the drama is getting old. I know every family goes through difficult times, arguments and stress. Yet, hopefully, we grow together and as we do, more understanding develops. But, if people don't want to try to resolve problems, try to understand the hurt they cause and do something about it, I can't keep trying to make it work.

Within the next two years I will be making major life changes including marriage, retirement and a move to Georgia. I will be a 1,000 miles away from a portion of my family and within a couple of hours to others. Maybe things will be better. Maybe they won't. Maybe I, too, will have to say "enough is enough."

I hope not.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Today I went to see Dad, who is in a health care center and has Alzheimer's.

When I got there, right after lunch, he was in line waiting to be taken to the bathroom. He is in a wheelchair and wears Depends. He was a mess. The aide explained that he still can feed himself, so they let him as they want him to keep these skills as long as possible. Makes sense, but despite the large bib the aides drape him in before a meal, he gets food every where. But, 15 minutes later he was cleaned up, pottied and ready to go.

It was a lovely day here so I pushed him around the grounds. The minute we got out of the building and into the fresh air he said, "Boy, this feels good!" I pointed out all of the blooming flowers and flower baskets. We checked out the height of the river after all the storms we have had here lately. We both enjoyed our walk.

Back inside the facility had entertainment . . . I guess for Father's Day. It was a man playing the accordion and a keyboard. He was very good and fun. He played all of the old songs and it was a pretty lively group. Of course, Dad sang along with gusto. I did, too. I have a horrible voice, but among 80-90 year olds , who cares! Dad and I held hands when we sang Let me Call you Sweetheart. I went and sat by Don, Dad's roommate during Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

The aide told me that Dad has been having very vivid dreams lately. He will sing in his sleep (I think that is great, since he sings a lot any way), sometimes he speaks a little German. He will ask where Geneva is (my mother who passed away over 5 years ago) or tell her something as if she is right next to him (I believe she probably is).

In the past month, Dad has had 2 seizures. His left arm and leg will go rigid and his eyes will turn to the left. He will shake for about 2-3 minutes and it is over. He is very aware before and after. My sister and I, along with his doctor, have agreed to slowly take him off his two Alzheimer's medications as one may cause seizures. Since he has been on it for about 4-5 years, it might be the cause. If he has another seizure, he might have to be put on medication to prevent them. We hate to do that as one side effect is that it makes you sleepy. We want to keep Dad as alert as possible. Hopefully, he won't have another, but we don't know. We do know that at almost 90, we will not put him through any tests to try to determine the cause.

Overall, I had a great visit with Dad. After a moment or two he knew who I was and called me by name several times. That is always good. It is great to be able to take him outside. He enjoys it so much.

A very short time after I left, my sister called him from Atlanta. She asked him some questions. Did you have any visitors today? No. Was there entertainment today, like music and singing? No. Did you go outside? No.

Oh, well.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. You're the best. Always were and always will be.

What to do?

I've been thinking about my previous blog about the church festivals. I went to one last night with my gal pal, Terri, who is single and would really like meet a man and establish a good relationship. She, along with my other single women friends who are single and would like to be in a relationship, complain that there is no place to go to meet men.

Well, obviously, I would rule out church festivals!

But, seriously, being single about 80% of my adult life, I can relate.

I have several women friends who after their divorces just dropped out of the dating scene or never really got started in it. They focused on raising their kids, building their careers and being involved in various interests, both their own and that of their children. They stated that the time flew by, but now the kids are leaving the nest. All at once they realize they would love to start dating, but how? After so many years of focusing on others - both children and volunteer work - it is hard for them to now focus on themselves in a more personal way.

Then I know of a couple of women who made a choice not to date, not to even think about becoming involved. One dear friend told me it has been well over 7 years since she has . . . ahhh - "been" with a man. And, she went on to say that she has accomplished so much in her life and it has been a period of tremendous growth in all aspects of her life. No regrets. However, she is beginning to feel the time is now right to be in a relationship.

Of course, there are many, many ways to meet someone of the opposite sex and everyone out there can give advice as to how to go about it. There are even shelves of books on the subject.

All of my single women friends who would love to be in relationships are attractive, smart women. They have many different interests, are educated, well read people. They keep up with current events and are very self-sufficient. They work hard, do volunteer work and are good friends to their friends.

And, me? I don't have the answers on how to find and maintain a good, loving relationship.
I guess it is all a matter of being open to what may happen while going about living your life in the way you want. And, if you meet someone, looking deep into them and finding that spark - that light - that is more than superficial.

As my mom use to say, "if it happens, it happens." And, while this is true, it's not much consolation on a cold winter night!

Getting too old for this . . .

Here in Wisconsin, many of the Catholic churches have some type of festival during the summer months to raise money for the parish. Some of these are huge, with games, food and various stages with rock bands playing.

When I was in my 20's I use to hit the circuit of church festivals with my single girlfriends every summer. We would scope out the men, dance, drink and have a good time. It was like going to a bar, but being outside under a tent. As I recall, I had a lot of fun. But then I was young and I was drinking.

After my divorce in 1997/98 several of my women friends liked to go to these festivals for basically the same reasons, although most now say they like go there to listen to the music. Yeah, right.

Older and not drinking it didn't take me long to realize that I really didn't enjoy church festivals any more. And, I didn't enjoy anything along this line of entertainment. After a few beers my friends were in a place I wasn't and would never again be. I hate the crowds and being jostled around. People smoke. The smells are yucky in the tents where the music is playing - smoke and beer. Punky kids show up. It's not pleasant.

But, once or twice a summer my women friends drag me out to a festival. Tonight was one such night. Phil is at home this weekend with his daughters and a little under the weather. I stayed in Milwaukee and made plans with Terri and Martha to go to St. Roman's festival. I dreaded it all week. For a while it looked like it would get rained out. I suggested Plan B - dinner and a movie - particularly "Sex in the City." Sounded like a great girl night out to me. Unfortunately, the weather cleared. And, Terri really needed to get out of the house. Martha couldn't make it so Terri and I ventured to the tents of St. Romans.

And, it was the same old, same old. In fact, in the 10 years I have been divorced I have gone maybe once or twice a year to these festivals with Terri and/or Martha and I see the same faces. Jeez. Same music, same beer smells, same cigarette smoke, same drunks. While I enjoyed Terri's company, I was miserable being there.

So, I'm done with all of the type of "entertainment."

Phil wants to go to SummerFest in a couple of weeks. We have a long weekend planned of hanging out in this area. I agreed. But, during the day only. By early evening when the crowds show up and the heavy drinking starts, I want to be long gone.

Been there. Done that. Over it.

Dinner and a movie, girlfriends?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Here in the mid-west we are flooding.

While I have had some water in my basement, which my shop vac sucked up rather well, my co-worker, Judy, had 3 1/2 feet in her basement. They lost quite a bit of stuff. Luckily, it was clear water, not sewage back up, which is also happening all over the area.

In southern Wisconsin houses have been washed off their foundations, cars have been seen floating away, roads closed, bridges out, dams threatening to break.

It is still raining tonight and rain is in the forecast all weekend.

Last Saturday night while I was in Michigan visiting Sally (who as of Wednesday is finally at home!) my doggie sitter spent hours in my basement due to tornado warning and bad storms.

We Midwesterners are made of hardy stock. We survived this past winter with its 90+ inches of snow and we will survive this.

But, whatever happened to calm weather? What is normal weather? How will the farmers deal with soggy fields?

What is Mother Nature up to?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

Last winter looking out my windows at over 90+ inches of snow, I didn't think I would ever see green grass or my garden again.

Oh, me of little faith!

Here's a small sample of my lovely yard.