Great Illusions and Sucker Punches

They sort of go hand in hand in life sometimes. Today I received a sucker punch that was so shocking it took me a few minutes to mentally process it. Yet once I realized what had transpired behind my back I couldn’t help but feel the pain of that punch.

It goes like this; Every Sunday my one sister (#4) and I go to visit our mother at the nursing home and today was no different. Last weekend her daughter graduated from college and will be home for part of the summer. I love my niece tremendously but #4 keeps her busy and away from me. Though when she was an infant I was with her constantly. Anyway, #4 said we’d have to cut our visit a little short because she had a lot of things to do today. Since she drives the 30 miles round trip I was fine with it. We had our visit and she dropped me off at my house.

I ran a couple errands and returned home again. When I sat down I opened my Facebook to a post from another sister (#2) saying what a wonderful time she was having with #4 and niece at a water front diner. The hurt was instant and deep. I was shocked and felt completely betrayed and blindsided. Sister #4 couldn’t just say that she was meeting sister #2 with her daughter? Like if it wasn’t a slimy move why not just tell me? Why hide it? But no, we spent almost an hour at moms and a 30 mile round trip in the car and not a single thing was said about an obvious previously arranged meeting for them to get together. AND I WAS EXCLUDED!

I will never forget nor will I ever trust again. Family or not, this has been sealed and delivered.

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Invisible Me

Lately I’ve been walking along a path that feels uncertain. On one side there are many people and on the other side is a cliff and it looks like it could be a painful experience if I missed just one step and fell. Yet all of the people on the other side are laughing and living but they don’t see me. They’re right there, just an arms length away. As I walk my path I might be noticed and summoned to help one of them, which of course I will but when the need or task is accomplished I am returned to my path. I walk alone and find things to marvel at. Maybe some brightly colored songbirds, or some Monarch eggs on the underside of a Milkweed that I will take and raise to become a beautiful butterfly. I notice things most of those on the people side take for granted. I hear them chuckle at my excitement for simple things.

As I stroll along my path alone daily I go to work and for the most part really enjoy putting my various skills into practice. I work with great people and enjoy the social aspect. When my shift is over I return to the place I call home. It really isn’t my home it’s just a place where I rent a room from a dear friend. Two days a week I visit my mother who’s in Hospice. She is dying a slow death from being old and suffering the remnants of brain injury due to a stroke. My mother lost her eyesight a couple years ago and her hearing has diminished greatly. The only joy she has in life is when I visit. She has made peace with death and is ready to finish her journey here on earth.

A long time ago I lost my house in foreclosure. The devastation of that loss still haunts me. It was a beautiful old place built in 1900. It is filled with oak trim, oak flooring, stained glass windows and it had a phenomenal front porch. My back yard was huge for a city lot and my dogs at the time loved the freedom to run and play. My fall from that cliff was in fact extremely painful and I have never recovered.

Here’s the thing about being invisible; you know you have to continue to move forward, put the past behind you but you are terrified to fall again. People don’t see you as ever being able to recover your place. So they just don’t look at you. No one seeks you out. You are forced daily to “show up” and join yet at the end of the day in essence you are walking a path you didn’t choose. And no one is walking with you. That is my life, the invisible me.

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The Last Mother’s Day

Gone are the days of dancing the Twist with my mom in the living room. My infant sister (the last of five girls) sleeping in the next room. Those early years of my childhood spent playing outside in the summer with my sisters and neighbor kids are still vivid in my mind. Mom always inside cleaning, cooking and doing general housewife duties for that era. They were good days and my parents were living the life they had dreamed about as a young married couple on the other side of WWII. The American dream.

A few years later and that dream life began to slowly crumble. Piece by piece it fell into a state of arguments and disarray. Nights of dancing and music were replaced with screaming at each other and violence. Mom had always worked a small part time job at night for a little extra money. She always made sure we had nice church clothes and holiday outfits. Her daughters were not going anywhere looking unkept. Appearances were everything and so was behavior. When we visited at someone’s home they need not have ever put fragile items away from our reach. Ever. We were taught manners and respect from day one.

My mother’s lessons included teaching us civically. Had things been different I believe my mom would have joined the Civil Rights Movement. She saw people as people, nothing more and nothing less. Mom had personal experience with discrimination when she became engaged to my father. When her grandmother found out that mom was going to marry an Italian Catholic and converted to Catholicism she was disowned by her grandmother who was devout Methodist. And anti Italian.

I’m just going to say that the breakup of my parents created many horrible circumstances. It was a very rough bunch of years for five sisters but in those years were more lessons. The greatest being how to survive. How to deal with a new life. How to move on after trauma and heartbreak. We each made huge mistakes with our lives but we managed to either correct them or deal with them.

Dad moved on, mom moved on and we moved on for the most part without them. About two years before dad died I made peace with him and we became very close. I actually lived with him for a while and it was wonderful. He’d make me a lunch that would pack nicely on my bicycle that I rode to work. My sisters kept their distance but loved him also.

Mom found a new man and settled down again. He was a poor replacement for our dad. I now had a sister in Seattle, a sister on a Naval Base in CA, and two younger sisters at home with mom and her new man. I would come and go because I was young and wanted to be free. I couldn’t be held down. Then one day I was put on a plane and sent to live with my sister in Seattle. More trauma. My sisters husband was a Vietnam Vet with severe substance abuse issues. After a few months we packed up the tiny little car we owned and headed back east. The party was over. Once they realized his dream of moving to Ireland was a dumb one they headed back to Seattle and left me behind. Again.

There were few conversations with my mother and lots of resentment. My sisters and I spent many years frustrated and angry with her. Decades. Once she and her now husband split it didn’t ever change how we felt about her. She had become helpless in her own mind, demanding and needy in ours. Whenever we would visit her there was always a long list “do this for me” waiting for us and very little conversation.

Slowly approaching her 80’s things with mom began to change. She would forget water running in her kitchen or bathtub. Little things like that. She started falling and would not tell us. She stopped taking showers and would only wash up at the sink. Eventually we moved her (against her will) into a senior housing complex. She lost her eyesight and most of her hearing during her time there. No longer able to read or knit or figure out how to play music on a machine she’d had for years. That lasted about two years at most and we had to take the next step to Assisted living. She could no longer care for herself or be trusted to take her medication correctly. Mom made it almost one year there and then had a stroke. That’s when things spiraled out of control. With one daughter still living in Seattle, one daughter with horrible resentment issues, one daughter who completely disconnected from her by choice that left two of us to work through the maze of getting her into Skilled Nursing.

I think I am very lucky to have come to terms with the past and am now able to return to the love for my mother. It was a process and not easy but I think all of those lessons learned from childhood played a huge role in learning to truly forgive. From my very core. I no longer resent her, no longer have anger towards her. I have chosen to remember all of the good and wonderful moments with my mom.

Mom is on Hospice care now. Her brain function is limited and bouts of dementia and delusions are her normal. She is a body void of life just waiting her turn to summoned to the heavens. Watching her go through this “final phase of her journey” on earth has been extremely difficult. At best. For the past year in my sleep I hear my mother call my name. Sometimes it’s unnerving and sometimes it’s comforting but regardless all signs are pointing to her leaving. Will it be a relief or will it be devastating? Or both?

Yesterday I went to her on what I am sure will be the Last Mother’s Day. May all that was good be all that’s remembered.

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Crazy Awesome 

This year I decided to spend three weeks in Italy with my family. My first week, as expected, passed way too quickly. Though we did gather to celebrate my fathers cousins birthday. Her 86th year.

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These are her children. Also present were her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A highlight of the first week was a visit with my grandmothers niece, Vincenza. I say highlight because she is the last living elder on my grandmothers side.

When I was here last year she spoke of a tree that my grandma had planted on their property in the country. It was just before I was going back home and no time to go see it. So for the whole year I thought about this tree and wondered if I could make a trip to see it. The following day we picked up Vincenza and she lead us to her land of vineyards, apple trees, wild strawberries, pear trees etc. Sadly it is so overgrown now that her brother Angelo has passed. I’m sad to think what will become of this place that has belonged to the Montanarella family for well over 100 years, but grandmas tree stands. We estimated she planted it sometime around 1907.

It made my heart race to see this mighty tree. Knowing that as a young girl around the age of 10 years, put a seed in the ground, its roots took hold and here it is over 100 years later.

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Excitement Anxiety and Reward

The excitement is building for my return to Italy. I was able to get my tickets last week and in just a few months I will be on my way back to my “other” home again. My family is waiting and happy that I added one extra week this year. It will give us more time together and me more time to absorb more of the language and culture. The pace will be a bit more relaxed as one extra week will, I hope, take pressure off of trying to cram a bunch of stuff into less time. There are the meetings of elderly family members and little side day trips to places off the commercial path. Places of amazing beauty and history such as Castelmezzano & Benevento that many tourists never get to see. Am I sill considered a tourist?

This year I will be going with a large group of family to spend one week at a Resort on the southern shores of Sicily. It is a birthday celebration for one of my fathers cousins. I’m excited about this trip within a trip! I will get to see another piece of Italy and relax on the beach. There are half and full day tours available to visit ancient Churches and historical places which I would like to try to see if possible.
Although, the not so great part of this is the fact that I will have to wear a bathing suit. I have not worn a bathing suit in close to 15 years! Nor do I own one, which means I will be having anxiety over both searching for and wearing one. And I am only buying one, so they will have to get used to seeing me wear the same one.

I took a huge financial hit in the beginning of January when I injured my knee quite badly and was out of work for two full weeks. The back story is complicated and messy so all I will share is that I didn’t get paid for those two weeks. Which has put me behind a great deal and caused me a good amount of anxiety. Also, the huge swelling threw my Rheumatoid Arthritis into a frenzy and I have been dealing with that as well. But, all in all I think I’m getting close to putting myself back together and within this month should hopefully be able to get caught up financially. I kept thinking I had more time to save but somewhere lost track of that, so it’s nose to the grindstone from here on out.

I am so lucky to have this opportunity. I am so very proud of myself that I was able to find family I didn’t know I had in a beautiful country called Italy. The time and perseverance spent searching and digging for the possibility of family has brought me such great rewards and happiness. I feel complete knowing that they love me as much as I love them. My hope is that my sisters and family here will someday be able to accompany me, that I can be there to see their lives forever changed when they meet our family in Italy. I am excited to share this with them, all of them.
My dad would be so proud. Maybe he already is, watching from heaven.

Oh and for anyone who has followed me; Bruce Springsteen will be in Itlay while I’m there!!! Again!!!

 

 

 

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Change is in the air – Blessed are the Gypsies

I do not enjoy being in the company of people who think there’s nothing better than to drink so much alcohol they either go “numb” or make complete jerks of themselves under the guise of “let loose, have fun” or the best one; “relax” and whatever other reason they deem to justify being in such an altered state that they slur their words, stumble while trying to walk, think every stupid little thing is funny or start crying because the alcohol makes them so sad etc.
I have spent the majority of my life with people who either use alcohol in excess and turn into flaming idiots or assholes. I have also lost family and friends who have died as a result of excess alcohol. New Years Eve is the LAST night of the year that I want to be anywhere near these fiasco’s. Far be it from me to judge or stop someone from enjoying themselves, it’s just not MY thing.

I bid farewell to 2015 in peaceful slumber just a couple of days ago. Warm and comfortable in my bed. My year recounted quietly in my head, the good, the not so great, the fabulous and the difficulties. I thought about my visit to Melfi, Italy in the spring. My personal tours of places in Rome, Castelmezzano and Benevento. The private tour of the cave church Santa Margherita sec.XIII was incredible. As was the time I got to spend with family again.

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Castelmezzano

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Benevento

I thought about the multiple car repairs too. From 3 brake lines going at 3 different times, slave cylinder going, needing a hole in the muffler plugged, oil change and worrying if it will make it just…one…more winter here in Upstate NY.
Thoughts also went to moving my elderly mother to a better apartment Easter Weekend. My sisters and I all worked fervishly to make that move and transition as easy as we could for her, but per our mother, she fought every step of the way. Only two and a half months later her stubborness backfired on her and in her refusal to use her walker because “she was fine” she fell on the kitchen floor and fractured her elbow in multiple places. I thought back to being in the Emergency Dept. with her and two of my sisters. Each of us cursing in our heads, mom included. The Surgeon wired back together the fragments he could save and sent her and a full cast off to a beautiful ReHab facility where she spent 6 weeks. The oldest sister had planned to come East for a 2 week visit anyway, so she was the lucky duck who got to help transition mom from rehab to home.

While snuggled quietly in my comfy bed I thanked God for lessons learned during 2015, for the strength and grace he provided me to accomplish my life’s tasks, both good and bad. I looked back at the year with grateful appreciation for all that I have and all that I have become. It was a year filled with love, family, friends and framily.

My 2016; Yesterday I started to price airfare back to Italy. My heart raced and jumped when I saw how cheap the same flight was compared to last year! This trip will be for 3 weeks, I’m a little nervous being gone that long, but they want me to stay as long as I can. They are excited and waiting for me.
Our Italian Language teacher has moved to NYC and I am crushed. I was looking forward to continuing classes with him. I am so far behind with my studies, I pull out my books, review my vocabulary flash cards, dabble with Rosetta Stone, listen to my Italian radio app on my phone, but I need to do more. There is a class at Nazareth College nearby, but it’s over $200 – out of my budget range. So, I will do as much as I can, but it will be what it will be.
Hopefully 2016 will be my year for another vehicle. The Honda has been a champ at 15 years old and pushing 200,000 miles. It still gets me around and I’m praying that it hangs in there for at least another 6-8 months.
I have been calling my Financial Case Manager regarding my health grant renewal to no avail. I only use it for my Rheumatoid doctor visits and required blood work. Monday, I will try another call. After that I’m not sure what to do. I need the medications, and with out the grant I can not continue. Without the meds I can not use my hands.
My expectations for good an wonderful things in 2016 are high. Keeping negative at arms length and inviting positive to come closer is becoming easier with each week that passes. I can be there to support my friends and family but I don’t have to absorb their sadness or pain.
The biggest change coming to me this year is silly but I will be turning 60! I can’t believe it. It seems so strange. Part of me feels totally fine with it, then other parts of me are panicking. My plan has always been to slow my work to a crawl and have no worries about surviving financially. Ha!!! Well THAT didn’t work as planned but I will still focus on the things I Can do something about. Work. Love. Peaceful warrior. Kindness. Protector.

Change is in the air, I can feel it. My gut never lies. 

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The Thanksgiving Police

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Mountain Gypsy's Blog

Today we American’s join together to celebrate one of the biggest non religious Holiday’s of the year – Thanksgiving. Filled with tradition, family, friends, food, football and parades. We gather with intentions of sharing all of the good we find in our lives, to give Thanks for our freedom, our bounty of food, those we love and those we have loved and lost. It is centered around the meal and the collection of those people who are important in our lives. Some Thanksgivings are memorable, some are not. Some are filled with laughter and joy, some are just another Thanksgiving. Some you never forget.

There is one Thanksgiving forever etched in my heart. It was about 1967 and I think I was about 11 years old. It was the first Thanksgiving without my dad and our “happy” family. My parents had split that summer, my mom packing all five of…

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