It's summer! Here's to summer and to summer fashion! I talk just a bit about it, but it got me to thinking that I am going to write more about this and post pictures. Women in their 50s are NOT old and should not dress so. See more below:
Well, here you go. I know, I know, the world is waiting to shower us with all kinds of awards - best reality show, best actress in a difficult role, best actor demonstrating realistically how annoying children can be. It goes on and on and on....
Copyright 2013 liamsgrandma
Did you ever ponder your rambling mind? All of the inane and insane thoughts that run through it at the speed of light, only occasionally pausing on something that is of any significance? No, you say? That's just me? Oh, well, goody for you!
Here's just a sampling of how my mind went this morning:
"Morning (yawn). What day is it? Oh, what the hell difference does it make? It makes a big difference, idiot. Either the Tasmanian Devil has school today or he doesn't. That's a big deal, you know. It means that I get two and a half hours to myself. Oh, who am I trying to kid? I get two and a half hours of doing things I don't want to do. Like therapy. Or grocery shopping. Or therapy."
(Head downstairs to coffee maker). "I really need to just set up a coffee maker upstairs. Well, wait. Liam needs breakfast. Wouldn't it be great to just install a mini kitchen up here?" (coffee made and back upstairs to watch Curious George with Liam).
"Ah, this is nice. I love feeling a warm cup of coffee in my hands and snuggling with my grandson. Would someone shut that damned dog up?!! Where is he? What house? Who lets their dog out to bark at 7 am? Honestly. Let him out to do his business and bring him back in if he's going to act like that. I remember that time when we lived in Boston and I went out on the porch and barked like crazy back at that little Schnauzer who barked like it was his last bark every Saturday morning. That was fun. I had to run and hide when the owner came out. Serves them right. Seriously. I'd like to strangle that thing. Well, no, I'd like to strangle the owner. Oh stop. Why be so evil in the morning. But still. Mean thoughts lead to mean behavior. Oh really? Who the hell said that? I can say whatever I want - IN MY HEAD. Oh stop arguing with yourself. Jeez."
"What a minute! I'm supposed to be at preschool this morning to clean. Oh my God! What time is it? Where is my phone? What time is it? My hair looks like hell. Well, It's not like they've never seen me this way before. Me looking good is what scares them - they're used to me looking like a freak. I should at least run a comb through my hair, brush my teeth. Wear a bra. Poor things. Oh, too bad! They can handle it. Ladies, this is what you have to look forward to someday. Enjoy your nice tight skin and your firm breasts NOW. Sigh. If I hadn't broken that damned toe last year, it wouldn't hurt so much to wear my heels. Dammit, I'm never giving those things up. NEVER. Oh you will when you can't walk, lady. Oh shut the hell up."
Copyright 2012 liamsgrandma
I have often, over the years, asked for guest authors to add some variety to my blog. Well, today, I am pleased to post a writing by my dear friend and author, Paloma Paz. Thank you, Paloma, for your contribution to Liam's Grandma!!! Comments welcome!
AN UNEXPECTED TRIP
BY PALOMA PAZ
I thought I was safe. I spent more hours at work than I should have for the past four years. The industry in which my employer operated was rapidly consolidating. As an attorney, I spent a solid amount of time in those years on acquisition teams, buying companies as small as a single plant to and as large as being worth a few billion. During this period, I averaged a twelve hour work day, nearly seven days a week, further compounded by a two hour round trip daily commute and an average of only five hours of sleep each night. I loved the work, but wished there was less of it. Perhaps slightly more than the work, I really, really loved watching my savings pile up. Money had always been my cozy chenille comfort blanket.
I thought I was safe. Yet my mind and my body began to protest at around the three year point. I treated my family to a colossal crying jag after Thanksgiving dinner one year, got into a heated one-sided shouting match with my sister (you can guess who did most of the shouting), and angry snips seemed to spurt from my lips with a frequency close to the speed of light. I put on twenty five pounds thanks to a regular high carb, higher chocolate diet in a vain attempt to create more energy to function. I rarely exercised. I wanted to quit my job. My God, did I want to quit. The job market has been particularly poor for attorneys, and I did not want to leave a job without having another one lined up. I knew I couldn’t outright quit because then I would not be eligible for unemployment. I had so few hours available to look for another position, but I searched whenever I could. I felt trapped.
I thought I was safe. After one large major acquisition, a new CEO was hired. With this change came along the various terminations and demotions of senior management as the new CEO made room for his team. In the next months many changes were made in key management positions. I figured that the law department was small enough and disconnected enough from key operations that no changes would be made. My health continued to decline as I developed hives on my torso. My doctors tested pretty much everything testable, but couldn’t find anything wrong. The only logical conclusion I could come to was that I was beginning to morph into a cheetah with red instead of brown spots. While this could have been alarming, I thought how delightful it would be to grow some serious fangs and outrun the wind. No colleague would dare race to my office at 5:30 pm on a Friday with an “emergency” if I could flash my fangs.
I thought I was safe. As I continued to morph into an overweight, crabby cheetah, my life short circuited after being informed by my boss on a warm, sunny June day that due to management changes, my job was eliminated.
I was not safe. I wish I could say that I gathered up my spotted cheetah pride, and with grace and elegance shook my boss’ hand and thanked her for the opportunity that she gave me. After all, she was one of the most talented attorneys I knew and I gained many skills by having worked with her. After a few moments of stunned silence I did indeed thank her for the opportunity…with tears streaming down my face and a nose full of snot.
I was not safe. I had been let go. I, who had given far too much in four years, was let go. I, who sacrificed health, time with family and friends, and happiness to ensure that every bit of work I touched was completed with excellence, was let go. My company provided me with a severance package and good references. For the first time in my adult life, I had no job. I learned the hard way that excellence alone is not enough to safeguard my position.
I was not safe. I grew up poor. My parents had low wage jobs, and whenever one of them would lose a job, we would lose our home or car or be hungry. In experiencing my family’s struggles through unemployment, I learned a simple mathematical equation: unemployment = very bad things will happen. I educated myself with a vengeance, believing education to be a talisman protecting me from ever being worried about the origins of my next meal or whether my car would disappear into an adept repo man’s hands in the secrecy of night. I never wanted the fears of homelessness and hunger that starred almost nightly in my childhood dreams to be my living reality as an adult. I thought I had protected myself with the fool-proof solution of education.—I got a doctorate for goodness sake. But no. A bloody, stinking, expensive doctorate cannot guarantee employment. So much for that plan. [Yes, I think I hear post docs, new PhD’s, and scads of unemployed lawyers from around the world belly laughing at my naivety between guffaws and snorts right about now…].
I was not safe. Despite the severance package , excellent saving and investing habits, and the fact that my husband remained employed, I spent the first few weeks of my unemployment waiting for the horror that I knew would come. Day in and day out I was expecting…well, I’m not sure what I was expecting other than a terror I could not foresee. I became a robot of money conservation to fortify myself against the unknown. Not a single penny could be spent that was not required by urgent necessity. I constantly unplugged everything that wasn’t being used, including the microwave, coffee pot, and the washer and dryer. No, I justified to myself, I wasn’t going off the deep end. We should be conserving energy anyway; it’s better for the environment. My poor husband was less than enthusiastic about my implementation of new economic sanctions, but thankfully he cut me some slack and let my fear run its course.
Maybe I am safe. More than two months had elapsed and nothing bad had happened. No repo man made off with my Chevy. The bank did not throw us out of our house. We did not starve. We did start buying meat only on sale and watching the weekly ads closely. The use of coupons is now so engrained a habit that it might be built into my genetic code. Instead of uncorking a wine bottle, we usually pour from a box. On the rare occasion when a bottle is uncorked, I find myself savoring it and paying more attention to the bouquet, the feel of the wine in my mouth and the flavors as they flow over my tongue. We don’t eat out. We brown bag lunches, and I am building confidence as I try cooking in earnest for the first time ever. The only thing better than the cost effectiveness of cooking is the improved nutritional value and taste of the meals we eat.
Maybe I am safe. I have caught up on much needed sleep. I am spending more time with my husband enjoying simple pleasures, like fires in the fireplace, listening to a much loved (and dust covered) CD or watching a favorite movie for the gigamillionth time. I am having lunch and coffee with friends, and I am touched to find that not a single one of them would allow me to pay. I lost my status as an aspiring cheetah when my hives disappeared. I started to exercise again. I am writing again. I must admit to myself that being unemployed has been less stressful than staying in a job that was too much for me. I never thought this would be true for me.
Maybe I am safe. It took a long mental and soulful journey for me to admit to myself that I cannot be an eighty hour a week, high charging executive, that my body and my soul have limitations on what and for how long I will be allowed to work. Since I was a girl and understood that I was my own best advocate, and ambition led me to climb the professional world higher than I thought possible. Yet I came to realize that all ambition does not have to be plowed into hitting the corporate jackpot. I can be ambitious to have a more balanced career, time for important people in my life, time to exercise, and time to write. For me, ambition is no longer the ability to get a job with a glorious title and spectacular paycheck. Now ambition is having the courage to choose my life’s course by understanding what I want, and mustering the courage to decline opportunities that are not what I want.
Maybe I am safe. As if to test my new understanding of the role of ambition in my life, I received the opportunity to take almost the same job as the one I lost, in the same industry in another city, with the ability to move into the senior vice president role. The salary was spectacular and the cost of living in the area was so low that the pay would have been a considerable raise. I wasn’t tempted to take it. I thought it would be hard to pass on the offer. I thought it would be the employment equivalent of passing on a lifetime supply of Godiva champagne truffles. It wasn’t. I kindly and calmly thanked the HR Director for considering me, but I decided to move in another direction. No fireworks hailed my bravery, no heavenly chorus applauded me for vanquishing my unhealthy yearning for the big corporate executive life. It was a simple, peaceful “no” that flowed as gently as a hidden brook. I felt good about the decision, and I was glad that I could make a decision that put the interests I identified as being important to me above the interest I merely thought or was compelled to think was important to me.
Maybe I am safe. I understand that while unemployment can be a frightening thing, it isn’t an automatic financial and emotional death sentence. For me it has become a welcome opportunity to identify the myths that have been ruling my life and leading to overwork and unhappiness. I needed the downtime to think and evaluate my satisfaction with my life and its direction; for four years I cut this side of myself out of the picture. I understand how unhealthy this was for me to do, and I earnestly apologize to myself for being neglectful. I resolve to not have this lapse in judgment again.
There is no guarantee that the outcome of my journey to find the right job for me will be a happy one. There is no guarantee that we will keep our home or that we will have good credit. There is no guarantee that our savings will last. But for today, I know what I want my life to look like, and I have a wonderful spouse and family and friends to share it. Today I have a roof over my head, lights and heat, food to eat, and two very cuddly cats who think it’s about time I stopped the work nonsense and devote much, much more time to them. I have a cup of tea in my hand, words flowing from my fingers and acceptance of the unknown. I am safe.
Copyright 2012 Paloma Paz
Monday will be four weeks since my Dad left us, my sister holding one of his hands and I, the other. It still doesn't feel real that the first man in my life, a man who has known me longer than anyone, is gone.
I thought I was doing pretty well. I got through the first few days of tears and was able to keep it together most of those days. My grandson and my husband kept me busy. Immediate things that needed to be tended to on Dad's behalf were taken care of. And I held it together. On the day of his funeral, while delivering the eulogy, my voice only broke once, and the people who had gathered there waited patiently while I recovered and finished my speech on Dad.
Then I hit a wall. It happened when I received the health insurance "Explanation of Benefits" in the mail. The ambulance ride cost. The emergency room cost. The private room. The x-rays. I knew those days. I knew the days upon which each event occurred. Every day that he received meds. Or special fluids. Blood tests. All of it. And I crumbled in a sea of grief.
As I've wandered in a daze through the last few days, not being able to look at his smiling photograph that sits atop my dresser without doubling over in grief and feeling like someone slammed me in the stomach, I've tried to focus on more positive things. And there was something today that hit me, as I was driving, and caused me to giggle. And my giggles turned into chuckles. The chuckles turned into guffaws. And then I was shrieking in laughter.
You see, my Dad always wanted to raise a lady. No, let's face it: My Dad wanted to raise a glamour girl. A full-scale, classy replica of Audrey Hepburn. I've tried over the years. I've tried hard. And I've saved him some disappointments by not telling him stories like the day my slip fell off at Boston's Government Center just before boarding the train. I avoided telling him about the time I walked into work, the manager of the Boston law firm, with a big white sweat sock stuck to my back. Or the time I was running down the hall of another law firm, trying to make it out to the front desk before the Fedex guy came for his pickup when my brown wrap-around skirt flew off in a big "FWAP" like a sheet that's blowing hard in the wind and slaps against itself. Or any of those times that he might shake his head and wonder where he went wrong.
I blew it again for Dad on the day of his funeral. I arrived at the funeral home, the first one there, and walked into the room where he lay. The casket was opened because the funeral director said it was just in case the family wanted to say last good byes. I nodded and approached my father, as he lay peacefully in his final bed. He looked beautiful. I used to hate it when people would say, "Oh he/she looks good." Shit, they didn't look good. They were freaking DEAD. But I was astonished at how beautiful my father looked. Peaceful. Serene. Happy.
I knelt at his side, and bent my head to pray. I reached my hand out and touched his arm. And the tears came. And came, and came some more. But it was just me and Dad there and I felt like I could relax for a few minutes before anyone else arrived. I grabbed a tissue and blew my nose. Hard. And, at that moment, just like out of that Seinfeld episode when Kramer drops a Junior Mint into the gut of an unwitting operating patient, I gazed in horror as I watched, almost slow motion-like, as a big, clear, wet drop of snot flew up into the air and landed smack dab on Dad's suit, just above his folded hands.
"Oh, Jesus, I said. Dear God." I looked at Dad in a panic. He wasn't stirring. I looked, horrified, at the now widening circle of moisture as it absorbed into Dad's suit. I glanced behind me to verify that we were still alone. Dutifully, I dabbed my very wet tissue at the snot spot in an effort to get rid of it. That very wet tissue only made it worse.
"Oh my God, Dad," I said. "I am so sorry. I mean, shit. Wait, no, I don't mean that. Oh, Dad, I am so sorry." I knelt there for a minute, looking at him, wondering what he thought. I leaned closer and said, "You know, we could just think of it as you're taking a part of me with you. You know, some of my DNA. " And then I I stood, leaned over, and kissed his forehead. And began to giggle. Until my giggles turned back into tears and I knew that despite the fact that his girl was never and never will be Audrey Hepburn, he loves me anyway.
Copyright 2012 liamsgrandma
Many people have either asked for a copy of the eulogy I said for Dad that I decided to share it here. I love you, Dad.
For Stephen Drojak...1/25/30-8/27-12
Today we celebrate a beautiful, long, productive, and happy life. We celebrate the life of my Dad, Stephen Drojak. When a person has lived such a long and good life as my father, it is difficult to choose what to say on his behalf.
Dad was the youngest of 9 children. His Ukrainian parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s and raised four daughters and five sons with lots of hard work and a huge garden that took up their entire back yard. As a child, I marveled at row upon row of varying vegetables and never appreciated, until much later in life, the work my grandmother put into maintaining the garden which provided their daily food. They used fresh food during the summer months and grandma would can as much as she could to hold them through the winter months. They were survivors, learning to live on very little during the Great Depression.
My father grew up on Linden Avenue in East Rochester. The house is still standing and I glanced at it the other day as my brother, sister and I pulled out of the parking lot of the Northside Inn, a place where the Drojak family spent a good deal of time over the years due to the fact that they were good friends with the owners. The Drojaks are still well known to several East Rochester business owners, including the multi-generational family who continues to own and run the Northside. In fact, when my parents were dating, Dad often took Mom there and showed her off.
Dad enlisted in the Korean war at the tender age of 19, but rarely, over the years, would he speak about his time there. It wasn’t until the end of his life that he would provide us with small snippets of his experiences. One of the most heart-wrenching moments was when Dad told us that when he and his fellow soldiers approached the shores of Pusan, the Lieutenant told them to look up toward the hills. Dad saw many men watching them from a great distance. The Lieutenant told them, “They are going to try to kill you. It’s up to you to stay alive.” When they reached shore, Dad recounted to us the horror he experienced in seeing so many dead and rotting bodies laying in the water and on the shore. It was there, during that story, that Dad’s voice broke and he couldn’t continue his tale.
Dad earned two bronze stars in the Korean War. One, a meritorious medal and the other, a medal of valor. Despite being wounded in that war, he survived and went on to do incredible things with his life.
He worked for Eastman Kodak Company for over 30 years and, at the beginning of his career, he met our mother. They married and had three children. I still remember my sister and I, so young, standing on the sidewalk, watching for Dad, who would walk to and from work everyday, to round the corner at the end of our street at dinnertime. We would see Dad, and he would see us, stop, crouch down low, and stretch out his arms as we ran to him, eager to be enveloped in his embrace.
Dad tried to instill in his kids a love of nature, respect for others, and respect for ourselves. He insisted that we behave well wherever we went and it was of utmost importance that we had clean faces, combed hair and clean clothes. He held us to a high moral standard, all the while demonstrating his own high moral standard as an example to us. My father was a gentleman in every sense of the word. Since his passing, when I have received calls from family and friends who knew Dad, the two words that I’ve heard the most are “gentleman” and “class.”
Probably the most endearing trait that Dad had was his incredible sense of humor and his quick wit. Even as he lay in his hospital bed, when the radiologist came in to take an xray, Dad looked at me and said, “How’s my hair? Is it combed ok?” Even then, Dad made me burst out laughing as he readied himself for an xray picture.
My sister, Pat, likes to tell of the time she drove him to his doctor’s appointment and the doctor asked if he was experiencing any dizziness or seizures. Dad replied, “Only when my wife tries to get romantic.”
That is how our Dad was. His quick wit and upbeat personality carried him and his wife, Jean, through some very difficult times these past few years. And it helped to lighten our own hearts and relieved some of our worry.
Dad coined the term, “Life is a Dance” long before those books came out called “The Dance of Intimacy” or “The Dance of Anger.” Dad told me long ago that life is a dance and you get better the more you practice. And I know that, in a sense, Dad danced with each one of us three kids the way we needed to dance and needed to be taught to dance through life.
For myself, I look at my own life, as a young child, new to the world and its experiences. At weddings, Dad would hold my hands and have me stand on his feet as he slowly waltzed me around the room, watching me, holding me tight and teaching me the steps. As I got older, he’d put his arm around my waist and hold my hand out, teaching me how to follow his lead. By the time I was in my late teens, Dad and I could cut up the floor together pretty well with the cha cha, the jitterbug, a slow waltz, or free style. I loved a fast song because Dad would whoop and holler and every now and then he had this move where he’d dip in towards me, shout, “Ca-cha!“ and dart back out, grab my hand and spin me around. There were times when it was difficult to follow dad’s lead, but I got better.
I’ve realized that what Dad told me is true. Life is a dance. With those first lessons, he laid the foundation for how he thought I should dance. As I got older, he taught me to follow his lead because, after all, he was the educator, teaching his daughter how to behave in life. And finally, he and I came together, mature in our dance moves, understanding where the other was going and following or leading, depending on the dance.
Learning to dance is painful sometimes. Sometimes one partner wants to dance one way and the other wants to go another way. Dad I and occasionally experienced this over the years, and now and then, we butted heads. We sometimes would go for periods without speaking to each other because he could be a hothead and I have been known to be a bit stubborn and slow to come around when I feel wounded. Eventually, though, one of us would make that first move and nervously go back out onto the dance floor, extend a hand, and see if the other would accept.
Dad and I never apologized to each other. We never talked about our feelings or tried to iron things out. It just wasn’t the nature of our relationship. Instead, we learned from one another and changed who we were just a bit, danced a little more in rhythm with the other to show that understood. We showed that we were willing to acquiesce, just a bit to make the dance a bit smoother.
Spending time with Dad right before he died, staying at his house with him, cooking for him, sitting with him, was a gift. Because we were, in a sense, dancing that last dance together, more of a slow dance, one in which he followed more and I led more. In taking the lead, I let him know that eventually, it would be OK to sit out the next dance and let go. Dad did that this week. The dance has stopped but his legacy will live on forever.
Copyright 2012 liamsgrandma
I'm sitting at my dad's computer as I write, about to down a pint of Haagen Daaz's (sp?) chocolate ice cream. But first, I wanted to write about Dad. He's in the hospital and I feel him slipping away from me and my siblings.
Before I get to Dad, I need to mention two of the few people who reside in my group of "My Most Important People In the World." I give my parents most of the credit for cultivating a rich, memorable childhood for us, but without my siblings, my childhood and adulthood would be devoid of so many good things. I am grateful for them and our closeness then, now and always. It's true that we are typical siblings. With three of us, however, there always was an "odd man out." And the other two ganged up on that odd person (who generally was me - LOL).
But last night, as I sat in the waiting room with Pat and John while the nurses cared for Dad, we were giggling, making remarks, and acting as if no time had passed over the years when we were annoying the hell out of each other, or playing ding-dong ditch on unwitting neighbors, in a team-spirited fashion.
But back to dad. Over the years, I have remembered and held close many things that dad has said to me. One of them is his phrase, "Someday you'll thank me."
When I was in the 7th grade, I was shy, skinny and lanky. Those three ingredients made for a volatile cocktail of teasing. And I got teased - BAD. One evening, I said to Dad, "I hate school. I can't wait until I get out of there and work." Dad said, "I don't want to hear that kind of talk; you're going to go to school and love it because once it's gone, it's gone. And you can never return. Remember this and one day you'll thank me." Several years later, I did. Things got better and I enjoyed high school incredibly. I was still shy, skinny and lanky, but I got better at dealing with it.
One summer evening, at the tender age of 14, my brother and his friends were sleeping out in the backyard and my mom had said that my sister and I could camp out too. I had a crush on one of the boys. At that age, hormones are raging and the thought of being out under the stars all night with a boy I liked seemed so romantic. My dad lowered the ax and told me and Pat we had to come in for the night and that this was just not acceptable. As I stomped up the stairs to bed, he called out, "One day you'll thank me for this!" Yes, Dad, I do thank you, because I remained a good girl and respected the boundaries you put in place.
One evening, when I was 18, I was at the home of a friend. We were playing Yahtzee on her bedroom floor, completely innocent of any wrongdoing. My parents had always told me to be home by 10:00, even at the age of 18, except on Saturday nights when I could stay out a little later. It was summer. What the hell. I wasn't home by 10. They knew where I was.
At 10:15, there was a knock on the door; it was my mother, come to retrieve me. We walked home in silence and, as I walked in the door of our house, my dad was sitting there, in his white leather chair, watching TV. I angrily slipped off my shoes and stomped off to bed, and he called out, "One day you'll thank me!"
On a summer's day in 1978, after being in Tennessee visiting a friend, Dad and I were driving home from running errands. I often went with Dad while we ran errands because I really cherished the time with him. And sometimes he'd buy me a milkshake. Anyway, at the time, I had had a high school sweetheart who had broken up with me and it was painstaking for me to deal with. I never seemed to get past it. Even now I still dream of him, even though I am quite "past it/him."
Dad and I were driving down the road and were in front of our house when I saw the ex-boyfriend and a friend walking down our street. I yelled for Dad to stop and I jumped out and yelled, "Baby, Baby, Baby!!!!" Dad had just begun to drive towards our house when he slammed on his brakes, flung open the passenger side door and yelled, "Suzanne, get in here!" I obliged and slinked into the seat beside him and looked straight ahead. "You are a LADY," Dad said, "Now act like one." He pulled into the driveway and said, "Get in the house and go up to your room and think about that for awhile. Someday you'll thank me." I was 18. I went to my room. I thought about it. He was right.
Dad has taught me many things over the years, with many more "Someday you'll thank me's."
I don't begrudge Dad (and mom) for not allowing me to live a typical teenage life. But it wasn't even that; I obeyed them because I loved them. I knew, early on, that my parents were my teachers, and they were good role models for me. No one is perfect, but my parents did pretty well, especially based on their own hardships growing up.
To my Dad: Someday is here, and I'm thanking you. And I love you.
Copyright 2012 liamsgrandma
Where did you come from?
Did you come for me?
Did they tell you what to expect
Or how it would be?
Copyright 2012 liamsgrandma
I always have some kind of writing in the works. Much of it is just for my eyes; some of it, I allow others to see. I may write to relieve some kind of angst, or to express feelings I have, based on something beautiful I saw, or to comment, for example, on a father running with his child, their jackets fluttering in the wind as they try to catch the bus, their laughter filling the air, and causing me to smile and stare at a moment like that.
This particular writing that I'm about to share has been only for my eyes. Mostly because of embarrassment and the feeling that people will judge the family members involved. As this writing has grown, however, and has seemed to take on a life of its own, I've realized that I am not alone. These issues are very real and touch many of us everyday. Some of us handle it better than others, some ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. Some of us end up in therapy for our entire lives, trying to learn how to close the wounds that others have unwittingly cast on us with the choices they've made. Some of us collapse.
I'd like to finish this story within a year or so and try to find some interest in it - because if I can help another family, another soul, another mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, friend, husband, wife, even if it's only one person, then I will feel right in sharing this journey.
This is only a segment of "Collapse." I most likely won't share anymore with you for a very long time. It is private and painful, but I also know that there is hope and redemption on the other side of that long, dark tunnel.
It’s the rare young woman who doesn’t, when accepting a proposal of marriage, firmly believe that her life will be exactly as she dreamt it would be: traditional wedding, pregnancy, family, home, pets, soccer practice and nights filled with laughter as we’d play board games together. At least that was my idea of the perfect American Family.
My own upbringing had been normal, to a degree. Dysfunctional to the nth degree. But whatever our lives are, we seem to survive, grow - and, to us, life is “normal.” Mostly because that’s all we know. Maya Angelou’s book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” says it all. The bird sings because she doesn’t know anything else and finds happiness within the confines of her own small world.
Despite my childhood ideations of family and happiness, I knew there were things about our life that I didn’t want to bring to my potential future family. Alcoholism and addiction was the biggest of all.
My parents each had alcoholics within their families. Some were rabid alcoholics; others were the occasional binging alcoholics. Still others drank “just a little bit” every night. Sadly, by the time I was 11, my mother had also succumbed to alcoholism.
As a youngster, the drinking didn’t bother me much because it was common practice during the 60s and 70s for most people to come home from work and pour a drink. It wasn’t until my teenage years, when I needed my mother most and she was available to me the least, that I realized the impact alcoholism and addiction had on me, and would continue to have on me for the rest of my life.
My mother’s family was Irish-American with strong roots in Roman Catholicism. My father’s family was Ukrainian, also with strong roots in Catholicism – the Greek Orthodox version. Despite the fact that my Irish Catholic grandmother said the rosary at least twice a day, drinks started at a very early hour, for as long as I can remember. Grandma got silly, danced around the kitchen, and occasionally got mouthy. Whenever one or two gathered at the house, it was cause for a party.
Once, as a teenager, my mother dropped me off at my grandmother’s home on her way to work. There was no school that day and I wanted to spend the day with grandma. Those days were favorites for me. Grandma seemed to make the best buttered toast in the world. After breakfast with toast and tea, we’d play cards all day and she’d call me a little shit when I’d beat her. She’d open herself a beer by noon (or earlier) and she’d take an occasional break to stand at the kitchen window and smoke her non-filtered Pall Mall cigarettes.
On that particular day, my high school boyfriend and his friend, Jim, stopped over. It was 8 am. Grandma saw this as a reason for a party and asked if they’d like a beer. Why, of course two teenage boys would like a beer! I turned her down and insisted that one was enough and no more for each of them. When she offered them another, I glared at “Jeff” and he politely refused before he and Jim rose and left to do whatever guys do on a day off from school.
Little did I know, as I sat at that table playing cards and eating toast, that the foundation was already poured and firmly set for a lifetime battling the wily, ever changing demons of alcohol, addiction, lies, incarceration, health problems, hospitalizations. And I, one of the warriors fighting an ever stronger foe, walked along the brink of madness and fear - amidst what I perceived as a world filled with little hope.
Copyright liamsgrandma 2011