Happy Holidays

I know it’s only the second week in November but I have had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving at my house for the last 4 years. Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday as it occurs in the fall, entails food and doesn’t require gift-giving of any kind. Plus, it’s non-denominational and is celebrated by everyone in America. How cool is that.

So this week I started sending out text messages asking individual family members who would be attending this year and who wouldn’t be able to make it. This process is necessary for two reasons. One is to get an accurate head-count so I know how much food to plan and secondly we parcel out all of the dishes from turkey to pie to different people so that one person doesn’t get stuck making the entire meal. This has worked well for the last 25 years of my marriage and I saw no reason for it to not work out this year. I was wrong.

It seems I inadvertently stepped into a huge pile of poopy by sending out individual texts to adult  children no longer living at home.  You see, unbeknownst to me there is trouble brewing between several members of my extended family. Uh-oh. Now at this point a little back story is in order.

While some of you may know this, many of you do not. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old and my father remarried about six months later into a family with 3 boys that were around the same age as my siblings and I. He then had another son with his second wife (hey Andy) and we were supposed to become a big blended happy family. You know, like The Brady Bunch. The problem with this was that my mother was still alive (and so was their father although involved to a lesser extent), and so began over 20 years of family holiday drama.

Also, I never got along well with my step-mother. At the time I thought it was because she was an evil, horrible person. But let’s be honest here. She was a great wife to my father and stayed with him while he was dying from cancer. She nursed him and took him to clinics around the country. She kept him at home and made him comfortable when others would have put him in hospice. He died at home like he wanted to because she had the courage to make it happen. So no matter how our relationship may have been strained over the years, she has earned my eternal gratitude for this. Also, hers was the first condolence card we received when Joes brother died. This woman has class.

But back to the story. I have received conflicting texts from various members of this feuding family and second-hand information from other family members who should mind their own business. But even worse than that, I think I may have upset someone whom I  care about deeply. And worst of all, I can’t call anyone involved in this to tell them I understand their position(s) without making it worse. So what am I going to do about it?

Well the answer to that goes back to the excellent training I received in my blended family. Nothing. That’s right folks. I’m doing nothing but writing this blog post in the hopes that the offended parties read it and know that I truly had no idea what was going on. All I wanted to do was figure out who was coming to Thanksgiving. Honestly. I am the least clued-in member of the family. Mostly by choice.  I learned a long time ago to stay out of volatile situations and keep my opinions to myself.  If people want my opinion they can ask me. And as the only member of this family who actually had a blended family, I actually have a unique perspective on the whole mess.

And then there’s the other part of this that has me upset on a very personal level. It brings me back to the years when I felt I had to choose between warring parents and siblings. When one persons view of an event wasn’t necessarily another persons; or even mine. When I was asked to make compromises that didn’t seem fair in order to see my family. Many time as an adult I opted to simply not see them. I went to college in Boston for this reason and lived in Connecticut for 2 years afterward just to avoid these situations. I had hoped with the death of my father 12 years ago that these feelings of loss and abandonment had gone away. Turns out they can come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.

I hope that all parties concerned can come to an amicable solution and we can spend some time together at Thanksgiving. My son and his wife will not be making it this year which is a real bummer. My sister is in the middle of a nasty divorce and will be spending the day with my mother, brother and his family and Stephen will be conspicuous by his absence.

Wish me luck on dividing up the Turkey Day menu. I think I’ll be in charge of the Prozac.

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Oops..I Did It Again

When I was a little girl, my mother often accused me of being overly dramatic and sensitive. Of course, I didn’t agree with her then, but I’m wondering now if she may not have had a point. In my last post I attempted to explain why I hadn’t been around in awhile and in doing so I think I may have set off a few unintentional alarm bells. Yes, I’ve had some health issues to deal with but I figure that anything that doesn’t end in my eminent demise is a good thing.

Having said that,  words can’t begin to convey my emotions at all of the encouraging messages I’ve received from friends and family over the last few days. I guess that sometimes we live in our own little slices of heaven and never stop to think that others might be even the slightest bit interested in how we’re doing. And, like most people, I’ve never gotten the hang of imparting bad/mediocre news without it sounding weird.  How does one mention that they are ill; but not critically so, without sounding melodramatic. If anyone has some good ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Now on to the latest news about my mother. She has what’s called Hemalytic Anemia which means that every 6 weeks or so she has to go in for a few pints of nice fresh blood. So today we went over to Northwest Community Hospital where they were kind enough to spend about 6 hours topping off her tank. She went in weak, tired and white and came out looking and feeling much better. In fact she was feeling so good she was hoping to stay up long enough to watch NCIS and NCIS, LA. She really has a thing for Mark Harmon.

I was there for about half of the procedure (she made me go home for lunch and a nap) and was able to spend some quality time with her. As I’m going through this process of watching her life wind down I keep remembering a conversation I had with my old friend Michelle. Michelle is one of those people who everyone should have in their life. Grounded, smart, thoughtful, kind, and above all compassionate. She really lives the ideals of a Christian life. But I digress. When her mother was dying a few years ago from cancer she spent time with her in hospice and was able to come to terms with many of the conflicts that we invariably have with our parents.

I remember thinking at the time what a gift it was for her to be able to do this. And even more than that was her ability to find closure in the conversations. In talking to her mother and coming to terms with the answers her mother gave her and not the ones she wanted to hear. I mean let’s be honest here. What are the odds that we are going to hear what we want to hear? So as I watched my mother sleeping and dreaming I realized that once upon a time she was a helpless infant and child. I wondered how anyone could look at this little person as her mother had and not want to do everything in their power to protect and nurture them. And yet, that hadn’t happened with my mother.

When she woke up I asked her about it and her answer was simple. She said. “My mother, fed, clothed and educated me and that’s all most parents did back then. That’s what they did”. I had never heard my mother utter words of acceptance or forgiveness for her own mother and yet there it was. She had finally given me a response that was totally unexpected and proved that you can learn even as your life is ending.

And although I’ve been slowly coming to terms with my own relationship with my mother over these last few months I’ve never had more admiration and respect for her than I did today. We talked about how long she wanted to continue with the treatments and how she wanted to end her life. For all the pain her going will cause, I am eternally grateful that she is willing to talk so candidly and openly about her passing. It is truly inspirational.

And so although I’m going through a rough patch now I know that it won’t always be this way. As with most things in life, this too shall pass.