I have a recurring dream quite often now. I’m somewhere and I have to call someone for help, but every phone I pick up is missing numbers, doesn’t work or has letters or some other symbols instead of numbers. Sometimes I just keep keying in numbers and making mistakes which means I have to hang up and try again. It is usually my mom or my grandmother I am trying to reach in these dreams. For whatever reason, they are the ONLY people who can help me. So, I keep trying over and over and over and over to punch the numbers in or find a damn phone that isn’t broken but I never manage to get through. You can imagine the frustration and isolation I feel in these dreams. You have probably had a taste of this feeling if you’ve ever picked up the phone to call someone about something that has just happened to you (be it good or bad) only to remember that they are no longer alive.
I don’t handle death very well. With all the recent high profile deaths, its really only driven home how much I really haven’t coped with the death of those I’ve been most close to in my recent past. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized how closely my current physical isolation mirrors the emotional isolation I experienced when I lost my grandmother and mother within 6 months of each other back in 2002. June 30th was the anniversary of my grandmother’s death and November 28th will be the anniversary of my mother’s death although Thanksgiving always feels like the anniversary since I lost her on Thanksgiving day 2002.
I have to say, I’m not sure if losing them led me to where I am right now or if I’m perseverating on their deaths because I NEED them so much right now. I haven’t really cried in I can’t tell you how long, but as I write these first few paragraphs I have tears streaming down my face and they aren’t lonely little tears…it’s a big ol’ ugly cry that would make Oprah green with envy so I must be on to something here.
Growing up, I never knew my father. He and my mother were very young when she got pregnant. They got married, but he was overseas when she had me and they divorced before he ever really made it back home. Some drama created by his sister gave him an easy out of fatherhood and my mom felt that I was probably better off without him so she didn’t pursue a relationship with him or his family. At 18, I discovered that my father had actually died of a brain aneurism when I was 13 years old. I ended up meeting his family and with the exception of one aunt, I realized my mom did me a favor by not pursuing a relationship with his family. Things may have been different with my father; most people had a really good opinion of him and said that if his sister hadn’t gotten things so screwed up, he would have been a great father to me. Of course, I will never know.
I didn’t really grieve when I discovered my father had died years before. It was hard to feel all that connected to a man I’d never known; especially when I’d had plenty of other amazing father figures in my life; my Grandfather being the first, and my uncle the second. I suppose now that I’ve had my own child, I wonder about it more. I wonder what he might have been like and what it would have been like to have a father in my life; how would it have changed me as a person? I don’t believe that anyone can ever replace a parent. To say a child can be raised with just one (either mother or father) just as well as they can be raised with both can’t be right, but I have seen just one parent do a hell of a better job raising a child than two parents put together so I guess it is all relative.
My mother did a pretty good job with what she was given. She always put me first, even to the point of putting off her own love life until I was completely raised. Oh, I later learned that there had been a few loves in her life that I was never aware of until they were long gone, but I was never called upon to “share” her with those loves. I was never required to accept them in my life simply because she wanted them in hers. I think she felt that it was enough that I had to share her with the two and sometimes three jobs she had to work to raise me. Some may not agree with putting off your love life for the sake of your children, but I can see now why its important. I plan on giving my son the same advantage. After all, it isn’t his fault his parents can’t make it work.
My family unit didn’t consist of mother, father, siblings and so on, but I did have a very strong family unit growing up. It consisted of my mom, my maternal grandparents and a maternal uncle. That’s it, but it was more than enough for me…until it wasn’t.
My uncle was about 9 years older than me? (I may need to fact check that lol) so he was really more like my brother. We always used to joke that if I wanted to show him the proper respect he deserved, I’d call him “Uncle.” Since he was really the only uncle I was close to, that’s all I used to call him…the word “Uncle” instead of “Uncle D.A.” He served as a pseudo sibling for most of my childhood and then somewhere in my teens morphed into a pseudo sibling/father. I like to think the passing into Pseudo Father figure happened when I was about 13 and asked OUT LOUD at a dinner party he and my aunt were throwing, what a blow job was. You could have heard a pin drop! I had heard a joke that seemed to hinge on that term and I thought it might be wise to find out what it was so that I could tell the joke properly. Needless to say, my uncle took me along on a last minute beer run so that he and I could become acquainted with the meaning of the term. He had a difficult time with it, managing to get about three words out with some unconscious hand gestures before I said “Ok! Gotcha! Next subject please…”
My uncle is still a part of my life, but he now lives over a thousand miles away and has a family of his own. I haven’t seen him since my mother died, but we manage to talk every couple of months or so.
My grandparents were a huge part of my life growing up. We lived with them until I was 3 years old and even after we moved out, I saw them at least on a semi-weekly basis. I usually spent the weekends with them for sure as my mother had to work Saturdays as a hair stylist at the time. Saturdays were days spent with my grandmother. She always had a great flea market to visit or some new craft to work on. We took macramé classes together, did loads of ceramics, she even taught me needlepoint and once tried to teach me sewing but I had absolutely NO interest in the sewing machine. I’m sure that was the one craft she was the most frustrated trying to teach me because it lasted no more than a few weekends and then we were on to something else. The one thing I loved about her was that she never tried to coach me on color selection or suggest what might look best. She just let me do what I wanted…..even if that meant she eventually had to find a place of honor in her home for a blue and purple turtle with multiple colored spots. One of the things I treasure most now is a
My grandfather was my caretaker. He spent most of his life in the military and had a rather gruff exterior being a former drill sergeant, but with me…he was a big softy. He eventually left the military after losing most of his eyesight due to some rare disease he was exposed to in the jungles of
Because he was medically disabled, he was my caretaker whenever I was sick. I can still remember my mom dropping me off at his house when I was ill with one childhood illness or another. He’d lay me on their couch, tuck me in….and I mean REALLY tuck me in…nobody could ever tuck quite the way he could…he’d tuck me in and turn on the tv, making sure I had a drink nearby and we’d spend the day watching various daytime TV shows. I remember watching quite a bit of Mike Douglas in those days.
My grandfather was probably the person who inspired me the most when it came to literature or writing in general. He had a Master’s degree in English and would proof my papers throughout middle and high school, help me out with some of the great literary works my teenage mind dreaded reading. When I was younger, I was always the envy of everyone at those book fairs we used to have because I could go through and mark down anything I wanted and he’d show up that day to buy everything on that list. I’m sure those little book fair ladies loved him to pieces. Seriously…he could drop a few hundred dollars at each fair. If you looked up Spoiled Rotten Brat” in the dictionary, you would see my smiling face looking up at you. Later, when I was too old for book fairs, he would take me to a local bookstore and let me shop to my hearts content. That has definitely been something I’ve shared with Tanner growing up…that kid always had one heck of a library!
So, in addition to my mom, you can see what a huge role these people had in my life. I managed to make it to the ripe old age of 32 without having to experience the loss of someone close to me. Most people have to cope with loss so much earlier and I always thought I was lucky to have made it as far as I did, but now I just don’t know.
I’ve tried to explain it to Erik because sometimes I don’t think he understands why it’s still so hard for me. It’s almost like all my life I’ve been on this little raft in the ocean but I’ve had strong ropes tying all four corners of my raft to the these big sturdy boats. These big sturdy boats made my waters a lot calmer. They broke the really big waves for me and helped insulate me from drastic weather changes. I always knew that no matter what I was up against, I had them to keep my raft steady. They were my anchor and they kept me grounded when I felt the rocky waves of life start to roll in. In the last several years, I’ve lost my grandmother, then my mother…half my support network really. My grandfather isn’t in the best of health and while my uncle is there for me whenever I need him, it isn’t the daily support I had in my mother and grandmother. In a sense, I feel like all those tethers were cut right when the storm of the century hit. I’m out here all alone and the waves they used to break for me are crashing down full strength. Now, I feel like my raft has been capsized and I’m just struggling to keep my head above water at this point. Sometimes, I honestly pray for the next big wave to push me under so that I can find their boats at the bottom of the ocean.
I’m sure you know my son is the only thing that keeps me from sinking completely. He’s my little life raft I guess, but it still means that I’m only staying topside at best. Up until recently, I felt like I always had some sort of an internal compass that kept me motivated and moving forward. Some of the other things I’ve gone through in the last decade (most notably my son’s illness and the failure of my marriage) have really beaten away at that compass. Each disappointment was like a hammer to its inner workings. I had to give up on my initial hopes and dreams for my child as a parent. Tanner’s childhood wasn’t the childhood I had hoped he’d have because of his other problems and I had to accept that his life will most likely be drastically different than I had hoped it would be. I may or may not have grandparenthood to look forward to and even if I do, I have to be somewhat concerned for what type of husband or father he might be if he can’t get a true handle on his anger.
We all know how my marriage turned out and while I may have come to terms with the choices Erik made and how they affect me, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m still devastated that I also have to give up on the life I thought I would share with him and question the life I thought I had shared with him. Somewhere in the middle of all this loss….I gave up on God too. I still believe in him, but I don’t feel like he ever believed in me. I’ve done everything I could to be the best person I could be but I never cut a damn break yet I see people all around me take all that they have for granted. They moan about how overscheduled they are with all their kids activities or bitch because their husband is tightfisted with their money and I just want to SLAP them sometimes; and I don’t mean a playful little love tap, I seriously want to haul off and knock the ever loving crap out of them. You can imagine that this often only further isolates me from whatever support network I might have in place now.
I know what I need to do is rebuild my raft, but how do you do that when it's all you can do to keep treading water?