Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time heals all wounds.... sorta

So I was sitting at my computer the other day, surfing the net, when something reminded me of my father. I can't even remember now what it was, but before I knew it, I had burst into tears. I suppose it's understandable to grieve for your deceased father - but my father died 15 years ago. And I'm not talking "tears-running-down-your-face-after-a-memory" crying, I'm talking full-fledged, gut-wrenching sobbing. It came out of nowhere, and it really shocked me. If you asked me on any given day, I'd tell you that I am 100% completely over it. I guess my heart knows better than my head.

When I was a teenager, my parents divorced. My mom discovered that my dad had been stealing money from his company to support his cocaine habit. Despite the fact that she was a teenager in the '60's, my mom was the complete opposite of a hippie! She was a good girl, she was the 2nd oldest of 10 children and learned responsibility from a young age. She helped support her family, she grew up quickly. My dad, on the other hand, was basically spoiled rotten. His family had money, and he never wanted for anything. When he graduated high school, he got a job at the company that his father had founded. My dad didn't want to grow up - before he knew it, he was married at 21 and had 3 children by the time he was 26 years old. By the time he was 30, he had his first heart attack.

When he had his first heart attack, everyone was shocked. He was so young, healthy, etc. I remember it happening in our home, and we were terrified. The ambulance came and took him away, and when we visited him in the hospital, he looked like he had aged 10 years overnight. Although the details are sketchy to me now (I think that your mind does you a favor by blocking out some of the most hurtful memories), it wasn't long before my mom realized that things were much worse than she had imagined. While my father was home "sick" and could not work, my mom worked 3rd shift to support the family, dad collected his disability or social security check. I can remember getting up at night if I couldn't sleep, and my father would get mad - I think now that he was probably doing drugs while my mom was at work, and was afraid that he'd get caught. One time, my mom found a giant bag of white powder and asked my dad what it was. He told her that it was chlorine for the pool. She believed him. I'm sure she just WANTED to believe him, and she was naive. She had never even seen cocaine before. Another time, my mom washed her sheets and beddings, and when my father came home, he flipped out on her. She thinks that he must have had something hidden and she had either washed it (HA!) or he was worried that she would have seen it.

My parents finally divorced when I was about 14 years old. My father chose a life of drugs and friends over his family. By then, I knew what my father was doing, and I hated him for it. My mother was so good about not telling us things, but you can only hide so much. I would get mad at her for not telling me, but now I am glad that she didn't. It's too much for a 14-year-old to deal with, it was hard enough dealing with what I figured out on my own. My father had taken off to California when he first left us, and did not call or contact us for about a year. The following Christmas, he called. I happened to answer the phone, and when I heard his voice, I just burst into tears and threw the phone down. I'll never forget that day. My father's family was there celebrating Christmas with us, and his brother's wife, my aunt Patty, put her arms around me and consoled me. I was so angry, hurt, confused. How can a man do this? How could he basically abandon us and then call on Christmas and expect.... what, exactly? Joy? Happiness? Christmas freaking cheer? Are you kidding me?

He came back to Worcester shortly after that, and I refused to see him. My brother and sister would stay with him, I refused. He'd come to our house to visit, and I'd lock myself in my bedroom and blast my stereo until he was gone. To this day, I am so thankful to my mom for not forcing me to see him. I could not deal with it, period. I began to experiment with drinking, drugs, and sex. I skipped school and got into fist fights. But I also got a job and contributed a portion of my paycheck to my mom to help pay bills. My mom continued to work 3rd shift, which was a blessing and allowed us to keep our home - but I took advantage of it by sneaking out at night or having friends over after she left for work.

I graduated from high school in 1990, after staying back in the 10th grade - which was fine with me, it meant that I got to spend the next 3 years with my sister and we would graduate together. My father attended several rehab programs and flitted in and out of our lives during this time. He remarried a woman he met in rehab (whose drug of choice was heroin - you will see the reason I mention this below) and my mom remarried a wonderful guy she worked with, Paul. By the time I was 21 years old, I had not spoken to nor heard from my father in a few years. I was living with Jeremy, who was my boyfriend at the time (my hubby now) and I was about 5 months pregnant with Trevor. One Sunday morning, after sleeping late, I woke up to my answering machine blinking furiously. My sister had been calling all morning and leaving messages - apparently, our father was in the hospital and not expected to make it much longer. Despite the fact that he had basically abandoned us, he was still our father. We went to the hospital to see him - he was 44 years old, but he looked about 70. He had abused his body so badly that it gave up on him. He was lying in that hospital bed on feeding and breathing tubes, with his eyes wide open. I will never forget it - I held his hand and I said "Dad, I'm having a baby" and he squeezed my hand, and a tear fell out of his eye. He died that night. The doctors told my aunt that "he was doing so well on the methadone." *sigh* He died from heart failure along with several other organs failing.

The calling hours and funeral were awful - my brother refused to go, but my sister and I went. We hardly knew anyone - it was such a strange feeling being in the receiving line of my father's funeral and not knowing half the people who came through. Every familiar face was a comfort and I can remember a couple of his old friends hugging us and saying something to try to make us feel better, something like we should remember how he was before the drugs took control of him. But that was easier for them to do - they weren't 13-14 years old when the drugs took control. They had memories of him for 20-30 years, we hadn't even been alive for that long.

For the next year or two, I saw him EVERYWHERE. I'd be driving to the store and a car would drive by and I'd swear my father was driving. I'd be in the store and think I saw him walk around the corner, it was so weird. When I gave birth to my son that July, I gave him my step-father's name as his middle name - Paul. Paul is "papa" to my kids - he's the only grandfather they've ever known. Blood means nothing to them - who cares if Papa is not related to us by blood? He's Papa - he's related to us by love. He's been more of a father to me in the 20 years he's been married to my mother than my father was - as a matter of fact, he's been my father longer than my father was my father!

So anyway - it was 15 years ago in March that my father had died. As I said, I'm quite over it. But I guess I'm not, not really. I think that deep down, you don't ever get over such a deep, heart-breaking loss. My loss really started when I was about 14 and didn't end until I was 21, which is a long time to suffer. Not to mention the fact that I was trying to grow up during all of this! I guess I grieved in my own way, because there was no way I would have admitted that I was sad, upset, hurt, back then. I was too tough to cry, too strong to admit that I wanted, needed, my daddy. I would have laughed if someone told me that I was hurting, I would have told them that I hate that man, he is NOT my father. I even called him by his first name, James. But I know now that the drinking, the experimenting with drugs and sex, the fighting, it WAS my way of grieving, of hurting, of wanting someone to notice that I was NOT alright, despite my insistence that I was.

Because of the way my father hurt me, I always knew that the man I married and had kids with was going to be a good guy, and I was right. The guy I dated in high school was an alcoholic. I loved him, but I knew I would never marry him or have his children, so I broke up with him. I was drowning my own sorrows in alcohol, in the meantime. A year later, I met Jeremy. A few months later, we moved in together - a month later, I was pregnant. Maybe not the ideal situation, but it worked for us. And I stand by my philosophy that everything happens for a reason. I had to grow up once I got pregnant, no more partying and caring only about myself. I threw myself into that role and I loved it. My father died before Trevor was even born, which was perfect, really - I was finally able to grieve for him without hate. I forgave him, mostly, and could move on. I had Trevor and knew my life would never be the same. I knew that I was meant to be a mother, and that Jeremy was not going to leave our children like my father did his.

So life goes on and before you know it, fifteen years have passed. Wow - fifteen YEARS! Time does heal, but I guess it doesn't completely cure. Because I can now talk about my father without feeling sad, mad, or hurt. So the fact that I completely broke down sobbing the other day, well, I guess that's just my heart's way of reminding me that even though I'm doing OK, I'm never going to be completely over it. And maybe that's a good thing - maybe if I could get over it completely, I wouldn't be the person that I am. I loved my father and he hurt me - and I never had a chance to reconcile that. I don't think I'd want to be the kind of person who doesn't care, even if it hurts to care.

AND - fifteen years later, I'm still married to Jeremy. We have 2 TEENAGERS (gasp!) and we've had our ups and downs. We've fought, we've struggled, we've been through a lot - together. No matter what, I wouldn't change a thing. Everything I've been through has taught me a lot and made me stronger, made me who I am today. And I think I kinda like that girl. I think I'll keep her. And to all my friends and family - thanks for sticking with me for the long ride. I love you all and I wouldn't be the person I am today without you, either. So thanks for that. And the next time I'm having a nervous breakdown, remind me of my own philosophy, OK? Everything happens for a reason - EVERYTHING. Peace.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sucky week

OK so I really try to stay upbeat for the most part, but I gotta tell ya, some things just bring a sister down, no matter how hard she tries to see the sunny side. *sigh*

What is up with PMS, anyway? When is this going to end? I'm 36 years old, I've got 2 kids and a husband with a vasectomy - I am COMPLETELY ready to be done with this hormonal, annoying nonsense. I am sick of feeling like a lunatic ready to crawl out of my skin for, oh, 5-7 days each month. I am absolutely certain that my family would agree with me, as soon as they come out of hiding. he he :)

I've had quite the interesting week. I promised my family that I wouldn't share too much personal, embarrassing information about them with the world, so I'm sorry to be vague. I will tell you that I really wish that people would make an effort to understand my son and Asperger's. Especially people who might be responsible for discipline at certain high schools.... but really anyone who needs to interact with him. My husband and I were also treated very poorly by the school this week, and after several positive weeks of nothing but good reports, I feel like I'm on an emotional roller-coaster. And let's just say that this is an especially bad week for that, OK? Do you get my drift, sister? I knew you would. *sigh*
It's so hard to concentrate and actually work when this kind of stuff is going on - but you know, life goes on and you have to do what you have to do. I've come a long way, though, I have really learned to take deep breaths and not to over-react to situations that make me emotional. This just happened to be a BAD WEEK for this type of situation, OK?? *sigh* Luckily, I have a great group of people that I work with. If you have to spend 8-9 hours per day someplace, 5 days a week, it really helps to actually enjoy being there. I have the most wonderful friends at work, and it really helps me to maintain my sanity. As you know, because you have read every stinkin' one of my blog entries so far, I am also lucky enough to work with my sister, so I really have a great support system at work. I feel blessed to be in that kind of situation.

So did I manage to whine enough to let you know that I've had a tough week, but not enough to actually be annoying? I hope so - it makes me feel better to share my stories. Someone told me that someday, someone is going to benefit from the Hell that we've been through, and I think that she's probably right. So I'll keep talking about it and hope that someday, people understand autism and it's related disorders a little better and not make life so hard for these kids. Sometimes I feel like I would do anything to make life easier for Trevor, but then sometimes I think that if everything happens for a reason, then maybe this is making Trevor into the man he is supposed to be. So you know, we take it day by day and we're not really counting the 29 days until school is out for Summer vacation...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Prom night!

Even though we are a year apart, my sister Michelle and I graduated high school together in 1990, because I was a bit of a juvenile delinquent back then, and I stayed back in the 10th grade - but hey, I graduated eventually! Better late than never, right? So the year we graduated from high school, I was 18 and she was 17.

On the morning of graduation, Michelle woke me up with a surprise - a positive pregnancy test. OMG - I'm gonna be an auntie! And I'll tell you what - that sister of mine took what could be described as anything BUT the ideal situation and she made the best of it. Her son Eric was born on January 31, 1991, and he was just the most adorable, smartest baby that ever was! Everyone adored him - and when you're a teenager and you have a million friends, let me tell you - that is a LOT of lovin'!

I was very close with my nephew, and I got to spend a lot of time with him. When he was about 3 or 4 years old, somehow the topic of "the prom" came up, and he said that he was going to bring me to his prom. I was so touched, I never let him forget it. It became a running joke for the next 12 years or so, and when Eric was about 13 years old, he started to get nervous - as he should have, he KNOWS me.... So he would say to me, "auntie - you are NOT really coming to the prom, I'm not going to tell you where it is!" And I would laugh and say "maybe I'll offer to be a chaperone, and I can wear my prom dress and dance with you!"

Fast-forward to last week. My nephew, that precious baby with the big blue eyes - yeah, he's SEVENTEEN years old now! *sigh* And guess what? He's a JUNIOR in high school, and do you know what that means? JUNIOR PROM, baby! So I started to think, maybe I'll behave (yeah, right) and just let it go. Then the day of prom comes, and Eric stops by my work and on the way out, he says to me, "don't forget your dress tonight." Well, how could I resist that temptation, I ask you?? I simply cannot. I ran home during my lunch break and grabbed this fancy dress that I had from when I went to a political fundraiser about 10 years ago, it was definitely suitable for the prom! So Cassidy (my 13-year-old daughter) came back to work with me, and she is letting me know that as far as she is concerned, I am certifiably insane. I console her on her genes and warn her that I am her future. She might as well embrace the insanity that runs in her blood, as there is simply no avoiding it. ;o)

So the plan was to go to Michelle's house after work to see Eric and take pictures. I called Michelle on my way over, and told her to keep Eric in the back of the house. Cassidy and I ran into the basement and I quickly changed into my prom dress. We could not stop laughing - we could hear Michelle talking to Eric and he was wondering why she had the video-camera out - so I go running up the stairs in my dress and into the kitchen yelling "your prom date is here!" Eric was hysterical, and he had a friend there who must have thought (correctly) that Eric has one of the craziest families he'd ever met. Here is a picture of me and Eric:

And then,. being the good-natured, wonderful kid that he is, he even POSED with me, this is us doing the "sexy pose":

Now I should tell you that Eric's real date was not there yet, and when he left to pick her up, I went and put my normal clothes back on and pretended to be a rational, sane woman. LOL This is Eric and his real date, beautiful Noel:

So that's the story and I told Eric to be thankful that at least the joke is over now. But wait, there's always SENIOR PROM..........

Thursday, May 1, 2008

There is nothing like a sister!

This is me and my sister - her name is Michelle and she is one year and 3 days younger than me, we grew up like twins. I want to tell you about her today, as she is definitely the most important person in my life along with my husband and children.

Michelle and I have always been close, in this picture we are probably about 15 and 16 years old. Ignore the beer can, it wasn't ours, I swear! ;o)

When we were little, our mom dressed us alike and everyone thought we were twins. We were pretty cute, I must admit! When I was about 4 years old, Michelle was 3, I decided one morning to give her a hair cut. This is the result:

Nice bangs, huh? She's going to KILL me for posting this. hee hee Anyway, when I heard my mom wake up, being the genius that I am, I put a cowboy hat on Michelle and told her to keep quiet. I mean, come on, how brilliant is that? Our mom would NEVER notice! Oh wait - you mean she can't wear the cowboy hat for the next 3 months? Uh-oh, mom starts wondering why Shelly is wearing a cowboy hat at 6:30 a.m..... hmmmm.... let's just say mom didn't think I was quite so brilliant. My mom burst into tears and took Michelle next door to the neighbor's house, from what I understand it was simply to avoid killing me. She got over it rather quickly, as moms are forced to do, and as you can see, it certainly didn't affect Shelly's cuteness quotient! If anything, I think she looks even cuter because you can see her entire face! Yeah, that's it, I did it on PURPOSE cuz I knew how adorable she'd look! Let's just say that was the end of my hair-dressing career.

As teenagers, Michelle and I had mostly the same circle of friends. We hung out together and got into trouble together - me a bit more than her. Even though I'm older by a year, Michelle has always acted like the big sister. She's the one who forces me to think rationally, she's the one who is always there for me, she's the one I turn to for absolutely everything. She's my best friend, my confidante, my real-life angel. My old boyfriend from high school used to get annoyed and say we were "joined at the hip" - because I wouldn't do hardly anything without her, or at LEAST without consulting her first. I cannot imagine my life without her.

As we've grown up, we've gone through so much together - our parents divorced when we were teenagers, when my mom discovered that my dad was a cocaine addict. He got very sick and died when I was pregnant with my son 15 years ago. We had not been in touch with him in several years, but we went to the hospital together to say goodbye. He abused his body for so long, the drugs had taken a toll on his heart, he was only 44 years old and looked about 70 when he died. I could not have gotten through that without Michelle.

We were maid-of-honor at each other's weddings. We've each had 2 children, and our kids are very close with each other and with us. Michelle has 2 sons, so she tends to go overboard with my daughter and spoil her rotten. Cassidy doesn't mind a bit, and she absolutely adores her auntie. She's like a 2nd mother to both of my children, and she's one of the only people who understands Trevor, or at least tries to! She has more patience than anyone I've ever met in my entire life.

My sister is the most generous, giving, loving, sweet, un-selfish, loyal person I've ever met in my life. Anytime I need her, she is there for me - but not just me! You know those trees they put up at Christmas with tags on them with kids' names, and you can take one and buy a gift for them? They might be involved with DSS or be ill, etc. My sister takes more than one tag every year - and she doesn't just buy a gift. Noooo, not Michelle, Michelle buys CHRISTMAS! This girl will go out and purchase brand new clothes, snowsuits, boots, toys, etc. - any child whose name she grabs is going to have a fantastic holiday, I can guarantee that.

Now that we're grown-ups (YUCK!), we are lucky enough to work together at a local college. We work in 2 different departments, but in the same office and our departments work closely together. It's so great getting to spend all day with her, being able to chat and go to lunch together, etc. The funniest part is when Michelle is dealing with a student and/or parent, and then she sends them to me - I've had quite a few who have said to me, "Wow - you look a lot like that girl I was just with!" LOL I just smile and say "yup, we're sisters!" That sentence means so much, in so few words. We're sisters - we look alike, we think alike, we even dress alike without knowing it at least a few days each week! Sometimes I think we should call each other in the morning to make sure we're NOT wearing the same clothes! ha ha

One of my friends likes to always say "You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." She's right - and I am so very lucky that I have the most wonderful sister in the world. If I could choose, I'd choose her a million times over. I can put up with almost anyone and/or anything when I have her by my side. Shelly, thanks for being you - I love you, sis.