My 2 year vacation, part 5

So right here is where my brilliant decision making powers took over as you’ll soon see.  Oops, did the sarcasm drip off the page?

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I don’t remember sleeping at all that night I was kicked out of my moms house.  I went to the house of the only one who seemed to understand, my childhood friend.  We sat and talked for hours trying to piece together what had happened.  We talked through the day several times, and the facts stood:  my mom knew I would not be home at any certain time.   (She laughed and smiled while she was standing there watering the edges of the lawn.  It’s etched in my mind…on my soul.)  No one had said a word about the plan to meet at the grave site in the early afternoon, I had no idea.  Through all the yelling, screaming, cussing and name calling I pieced it together and tried to tell someone, anyone I didn’t know anything about it.  I got called a liar.  Again, when mob mentality takes over chaos ensues.  No one listens.

If this same scenario took place today, I’d stand in the middle of my mothers living room and hold my ground calmly and peacefully.  BUT I WOULD NOT LEAVE, PERIOD.  The chaos and entire situation was ridiculous and absurd on so many levels.  It took me a while to understand, but, I cooperated with the madness like I had done so many times before.  A dysfunctional abusive childhood has that effect.  Just sayin.

~~~

I’m divorced a bit more than a year, exiled from my “friends” and entire social network, my dad recently passed away, my mother has kicked me out of her house, and my entire family is angry at me for abandoning them…..

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Well, except for my youngest son, even at 10 he could see the nonsense for what it was.  I’ll never be able to express to him the depth of gratitude I have for him.

All the decisions I made following this debacle hurt him (and my oldest son) deeply, I’d imagine to their very souls.

(God help me for the pain I inflicted on my precious innocent sons.  I’m trying to heal from it, but wounds of hurting someone you love so deeply take years if they in fact ever heal.  I know the blood of Christ washes me clean, but it’s difficult to accept.)

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Also, let’s throw this in: one of the many contributing factors to my being divorced is single parenting for the last 5 years we were married.  My then husband made a career change from writer/ad exec to teacher and football coach, and basketball coach and track coach and worked at a school a couple of small towns away.  In a small city or town, coaches are expected to coach a sport for every season.  Yes they’re paid to teach and to coach, however when you divide the hours by their pay, it’s such a pittance it makes your stomach hurt.  It did mine.  So before you bitch and moan about your children’s teachers and coaches, they’re doing their job more from a ministry/heart/love standpoint than you realize.  Appreciate them and support and encourage them.

Bottom line, the last 5 years we were married, I was a single parent and everything for our 2 sons fell to me.  By the time my dad got sick and passed away, I was weary and exhausted mentally and physically.

When I think about my mental state at that point I understand why I made the decisions I made, but it doesn’t make any of them ok.  I felt completely alone, abandoned, and this one childhood friend seemed to completely understand.

So here’s what I did:

I stayed the rest of the summer with childhood friend because at least someone understood.  Plus, me being gone meant my now ex-husband had to step up to the plate and finally be a dad, right?!

I went back home late August, and a day or two later was bombarded with the news that I had been the subject of conversation at a church picnic.  (A large church of about 2,000) Evidently, I was staying with a childhood friend and “shacking up with him”.  This was shared by a coach, who just happened to work with my ex-husband.  Coincidence?

I was horrified, and I was humiliated.  First, it wasn’t true, or was it?  The first few nights I slept with my clothes on.  He was so understanding and listened so intently, how could I not fall in love with him and say yes to marrying him?  I mean it just makes sense, right?!  (I know the sarcasm’s dripping again huh?)  But the fact was, we hadn’t got married yet, and now my sons would have the mom with The Scarlet Letter pinned to her chest.  When you live in a small town / city, the latest juicy gossip travels fast.

I travelled back to my childhood town, and promptly got married.  I felt my sons would be better off without Their Scarlet Letter mom.  Plus like I said, this would force their dad to step up to the plate and be a dad!!  I travelled back home, packed my belongings and left.

~~~

My oldest son all but shut me out emotionally.  He still talked to me on occasion and visited once.  The one time he visited, the song “Stand by Me” came on, and he sang it to me.  It’s one of my fondest memories.  We’ve come a long way, and by the grace of God we’ve made much progress.

My youngest son tells me that he always believed I’d be back.  That he always told himself she’ll be back.  I know his belief in me was the one navigational tool that worked.  Whatever he does, wherever he goes, I am forever grateful to and for my youngest son and his unwavering belief in me.

~~~

Right now today, my youngest son pushes me away as well.  I think the full force of my leaving finally hit and it’s not easy to navigate, and that’s putting it mildly.

My deepest truth is every moment, every season they live with me, every trip to the beach, every moment watching Netflix, every second I have with either of my sons for the last 10 years is a serendipitous gift from God. I’ve watched Him heal things that had no way of healing and I’ve prayed and prayed for some things for which I’m still waiting.  God is good and He is good all the time.

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When you go through hell in life, you learn that Jesus never walks away.

He was relentless in the pursuit of my heart and His light showed me the way out of the pit of hell.

~~~

There’s more, but this is enough for now.

It gets worse before it gets better.  Isn’t that encouraging?

 

My 2 year vacation, part 4

sooner than later, more beautiful than ever

As this finally gets purged from me, there are images that seemed burned into my soul.  Images that after 12 years are as real as if it was last Saturday.

My hope is that someday (sooner than later) this will be the result:

Image result for Kintsukuroi Symbol

I went searching for my favorite Kintsukuroi image, and found one I’ve not seen before.  I believe it was brought to me right now on purpose by Someone who loves me more and in ways that I’m not even aware of, they’re not in this realm.  My Father I thank you.  You are truly using this blog as a healing journey for my soul, my heart.

Image result for Kintsukuroi

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Sometimes the trajectory of your life is altered by circumstances you could not have imagined.  Getting back on course takes the strength of a few armies.

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When I got back to my moms house after being gone all day so I could breathe, here is what I experienced.

The first image I saw was my oldest son (then 13) standing next to my sister with his arms rigidly folded across his chest and glaring at me.  My mom (and whoever else) was yelling and screaming at me, cussing me, calling me names, and accusing me of spending the day getting drunk and sleeping with a childhood friend.  My mom was screaming at me to get out of her house.  (I had stayed with her the days before dad passed and the 6 days before his funeral.)

At first I tried to defend myself, but no one was listening.  The screaming and yelling, cussing and name calling continued so I went in to throw my things in my suit case and leave.  My youngest son (then 10) was upset that I was leaving, not by my choice.  He had a cell phone I had given my sons for emergencies and I told him I would call shortly and that I would be ok.  My mother came in the house yelling and screaming to give her my house key and get out.  I tried again to explain, something, anything and to try and figure out what was going on, but like I said no one was listening and everyone was angry.

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Now that I think about it, it’s an excellent example of what happens when mob mentality takes over.  No one listens, and chaos ensues.

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I left and went to the childhood friends house they had accused me of sleeping with.  The truth is the day was spent riding around in the mountains, period.  I had 1, that’s ONE Bloody Mary.  That’s it.

~~~

We’re going to pause right here for a moment and look at some things.

I was accused of getting drunk and sleeping with a childhood friend.  Hmm, well, how come I wasn’t staggering in drunk or even the slightest bit buzzed?  Also, I suppose you can sleep with someone on a motorcycle but I didn’t.  He simply seemed to understand my need to be alone, and he left me alone in my own thoughts the entire day.   Again, no one asked me anything, but they assumed and accused me.

Let’s rewind a little to the evening my dad passed.  The hospice nurse checked his vitals and confirmed that he had passed.  The nurse actually checked them twice, the 2nd time per my moms request.

After they took dad’s body away I remember everyone being out in the back yard, except an aunt who had gone to bed.  I also remember almost everyone drinking, including my mom.  It felt to me like they were celebrating and they were glad he was gone.  It’s not like dad hadn’t given people plenty of reasons during his life to be glad when he was gone, but in my mind it was macabre.  It felt wrong.  I sat there completely sober and tried to be ok.  I’m sure everyone thought I was: like I said, I’m a recovering people pleasing enabler.  It was somewhere around 2, probably closer to 3a.m. when I finally went to bed.

On the day of the funeral after the dinner that evening, several family members, some family friends, and I went back to my parents house.  My mom rode with my sister and her husband, and they weren’t back yet, so people sat out in the back yard and some in the house visiting.  While we were sitting there visiting, my mom went to a bar with my sister and husband and proceeded to get so drunk she was sick.  When they got back, they told one of my aunts she was just “sick”.

The day after the funeral when I went to clear my head and drank one Bloody Mary, all hell broke loose because I was supposed to be back at a certain time and wasn’t.

I guess it was ok to drink the day dad passed and get tipsy / drunk, and I guess it was ok to get so drunk you get sick the evening of the day of his funeral.  But the day after, I went to clear my head and had one drink and I’m ….. (lots of words).

Double standard anyone?

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Before we continue the next part, I want to note something.  My sister and I have had countless conversations regarding the above and we both agree that at any given moment, mom could have “saved the day” had she simply told the truth.  But she didn’t and consequently my actions deeply hurt not only my sons, but my sister and several family members.

We both wish we would have talked, it would have made all the difference.  We’ve mended our relationship and I believe it’s stronger, deeper, better than ever.  Perfect?  No. But we’re on a journey to excellence and maybe someday I’ll convince her to have a blog or guest write on mine if I figure that out.  I also believe we’ve laid the gold in and it’s settling in the cracks more beautiful than ever:

Image result for kintsukuroi heart

My 2 year vacation, part 3

a ship at sea adrift

The biggest catalyst for finding my authenticity and living even remotely comfortable in my own skin began when I lost my dad.  The series of life decisions I made in the days and weeks immediately following his death clearly show I was, in many ways, a ship adrift in the sea of life, no anchor, no captain, no navigational charts, no charted course, merely going wherever the waves and storms of life took me.

There’s no way I could tell my story without this crucial life altering event.

I’ve learned that sometimes you must go backward to go forward.  If this happens, it’s important to remember it’s not the end of the world.

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By the grace of God, I was in the room when my dad’s spirit left him.  I saw it happen with my own eyes, and nothing or no one will convince me otherwise.  That night, I learned there’s a miracle in death as there is in birth:  both are sacred.

The events that followed, were in some ways emotional torture.  I have often hoped that I would wake up and find that it all was simply a nightmare.  There were things that made no sense to me, things that deeply hurt me, things that all but destroyed me, and things that I truly regret.

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Now we go backwards a year maybe 2.   My divorce was final and I came to realize that almost my entire circle of friends had crumbled almost immediately.  In retrospect I see many things so clearly, although at the time it was truly painful.  I had never felt so alone.

Up until my divorce, I would have said I had many friends who loved and cared about me.  I went to church with the majority of them and the others went to another church.  The problem is this particular religion believes divorce is immoral, and whoever is “wrong” in the divorce is going straight to hell.  I was awarded the title of the scapegoat.

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Now we go backwards almost 2 decades to 6 days after my wedding.  My then husband and I were sitting outdoors at a restaurant, and the next day we would be heading back home as Mr. & Mrs.  As that thought swirled about in my mind, my chest tightened, I couldn’t breathe, my heart raced, and I felt trapped.  I said, “I can’t do this.  I’m not ready to be married.  I’m not ready to be a wife.”  His response, “You’ll be ok.  We’ll be ok.”  (Note – you may want to run, fast, far and not look back if your new bride says this. Just a thought.)

~~~

So when I lost my dad, there I was with a couple (I mean 2) people who were actually my friends and are still dear to my heart, divorced (the scapegoat), and feeling like I was being smothered with family and “friends”.

I believe when someone dies everyone means well, but what few seem to understand is we all process emotions differently.  Some of us need to be surrounded by people, while others need to be off by themselves.  This difference started a chain reaction of events that if I’m not careful, I can still get angry.

The day of my dads funeral, the following processional to the grave site and at the dinner that night, if anyone asked how I was, I said ok:  I knew what I was supposed to say.  It was expected that I would participate and go along with what everyone else decided: whether I agreed or not was irrelevant.  I’m a recovering people pleasing enabler, of course I would agree.  But, I was also expected to participate when no one let me know the plan the day after the funeral.  What I needed was some space and time.  One person seemed to understand.

I desperately needed some time to be alone in my own thoughts so I could breathe.  This was not the case for the rest of the family (except maybe my youngest son).  They all seemed to thrive on being together.

Early the next morning following my dads funeral, I got up before everyone except my mom and got ready to take off for the day so I could clear my head and take at least one deep breath.  When I was leaving that morning, mom asked if I knew when I’d be back.  No I did not. Just heading west.  She laughed, smiled and said, “ok, have fun.”

The rest of the entire family woke up later that morning, including my 2 sons, and asked my mom where I was and when I would be back.  My understanding now is she told everyone that I knew there was a plan to meet at the grave site early that afternoon so I’d be back before then.

The cold fact is no one had said one word to me.  I knew nothing of this plan.

When I wasn’t back “on time”, I was _______________________________ (fill in the blank). According to my family, I had abandoned them and I had abandoned my sons. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

My 2 year vacation, part 2

send ’em while I’m alive

On my life journey, there are some days that have vanished from memory.  There are other days that are etched on my soul in ways I could not have imagined.

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The day after my dad left the hospital A.M.A., Hospice set up a bed in the living room of my parents house.  My sister, brother in law and children made the 30-40 minute trip everyday to care for dad.  I found out later, they had been caring for him for weeks taking him to radiation and various medical appointments.  I can say thank you a thousand times and more, but I don’t know if it ever conveyed the depth of heartfelt gratitude I have for their sacrifice and willingness to do whatever it took.  I’m also eternally grateful to my brother in law for taking care of dad in ways I know I never could.

Dad was miserable, he was barely hanging on.  He was on morphine and barely eating or drinking anything.  His body was shutting down.

For the next 6 days, he would wake up and fight to hang on, almost as if he couldn’t let go.  I don’t believe he was afraid of dying, I believe he was afraid to leave mom, my sister and me alone to figure out life without him.  In his way, he was still trying to care for his family.

Anytime dad woke up, he’d ask for mom if she wasn’t there in the living room.  She spent the majority of her time out in the back yard sitting at the picnic table or watering the grass, anything to get away from him.  (Why she stayed married to him is another subject for another day.)

My entire life, dad had said many times, “I don’t want any flowers at my funeral, I can’t see them when I’m dead.  If you wanna give me flowers, send ’em while I’m alive.”  That and, “just bury me in a pine box.”  (I’m guessing people often say they want to be buried in a pine box, because when we were picking his casket, a “pine box” was one of the most expensive options available.)

About a day later I found myself sitting alone with him.  He was sleeping and every so often he would wake up and kind of smile and look toward the television before going right back to sleep  All of a sudden, in a flash I remembered the flowers comments.  I got up and told him I would be right back.

I raced off to the closest florist and bought the biggest basket of red roses they had.  It was gorgeous!

I brought them in my parents house and showed dad the flowers.  He saw them and softly smiled.  I set the basket of roses on top of the T.V. so dad could see them anytime he opened his eyes.  I remember feeling good, like I was honoring my dad and his wishes about flowers: “send ’em while I’m alive”.

Then I realized, dad was only hanging on for us.  He needed us to let him go.

Sitting by him, by his bed I began praying and saying under my breath, dad, it’s ok, let our Father take you home.  It’s ok dad, let Him take you.  I remember being so scared to whisper those words, but I knew in my soul they were true and they were necessary.

I continued whispering those words, my prayer, until finally he let His Father take him home.

My 2 year vacation, part 1

It seems important

It seems important at this point to describe the reasons behind why I was gone for 2 years and lived in another state away from my sons: especially since I made it very clear in another post that I love these 2 young men with my entire heart.

In Spring 2005 I got a call from my sister, she told me dad was sick and that he wasn’t going to let anyone know that he had cancer, not even me.  He didn’t want people to feel sorry for him, navigating sad emotions was definitely not his strength.  So I made a trip to see him.

At that time he was going to radiation treatments and it didn’t take long to understand that this was near the end of his life.

I wanted my sons to at least see their grandfather before he passed.  I called my then ex-husband and explained the situation, he agreed to bring them.  They spent a couple of days with grandpa and back home they went.

They hospitalized dad and he went home A.M.A.   He had laid down for bed early that evening and I went in to say good night but he was already asleep.  So I very quietly and gently kissed his forehead, and said, “good night, I love you dad”, turned and took a couple of steps.  I heard him move and looked back.  He had raised himself up a bit and he smiled at me and said, “I love you hun.”

(Now that friends is a big deal.  Big deal.  He didn’t say I love you very often.  When I was growing up, I always kissed dad on his cheek, and said, “good night I love you.”  To which he kind of said night, or grunted something.  And smile?  Especially AT me??  Um, not really.)

It’s bittersweet, and I am deeply grateful for that exchange.

Little did I know that would be the last time he would ever say those words.