thanks wordpress

WordPress sent me a note today.  I registered to blog with them 4 years ago….not sure how that feels, like yesterday or several lifetimes ago….

I write less lately.  Please don’t mistake that for a lack of opinions :).  It is the result of spending too many hours at a computer screen during the day.  this job of mine has turned into its own sort of monster.  My eyes, and brain, are tired at the end of the day.

This retirement thing seems to have taken a leave of absence.

I promised myself that the job would be “fun”. that i would not slip into old habits of caring too much, working too much, worrying too much.  Right.  There are great moments of joy in my work, but the push is palpable:  do more, bring in more funding, bring in more schools, up your numbers, be the best supervisor ever, understand millennials, don’t let people walk on you, check on this and  this and this.  I’m exhausted.

But, this too shall pass.  In the scheme of things I have nothing to complain about.  Life is full, the beach house is awesome, you know the drill.

However, I am going to do some serious thinking after the first of the year.  Maybe it’s time for some changes….

Oh, and Happy Anniversary WordPress.  Glad you stuck around.

 

 

 

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She’s in

mom is in the Assisted Living home.  She has a sweet little apartment, complete with refrigerator and microwave, coffee pot and toaster. And most of her beautiful stuff, her antique desk and her grandmother’s rocker were the first pieces of furniture we brought in.  I had them all set up before she came into her room.  It made her smile, and I like to think, gave her a sense of home.

I am left to clean up the mess that was her home.  whenever you walked into moms it was dark.  Since I was a child she avoided turning on lights in the house.  her home always looked neat and tidy.  When we began to ready her move and I had to open drawers and cupboards I found out that she has kept every piece of paper to enter that house since dad died over 5 years ago, along with a multitude of bills etc. from when he was alive.  And, among these bills, checks, receipts and contracts, I found no less than 15 letters and notes   where she detailed a variety of wrongs my brother and I had done to her.  Hateful notes full of self pity and accusations of neglect and anger.  Not one, not ONE of them spoke of her great grandchildren, or her grandchildren.  Of visits to dads grave, or shopping trips or Christmas meals.  None of them spoke of her sorrow at dads passing or her memories of their past together.  Each was a scathing hit at one of us, or dad. She kept one from 1956 that she wrote to dad, a private note between a young wife and her husband, full of hatred and threats.  And they were scattered throughout her troves of papers.  You couldn’t miss them, and, for all except one dated October 2012 and the one written to my father, you couldn’t tell when they were written.  And even if now she doesn’t remember they are there — if her fog is that deep— when she wrote them, when she placed them in with these papers, she knew we would find them  .  She wrote them to cause us pain. We were meant to find them after she died, when we couldn’t confront them or her, when we couldn’t question her or dispute.  She wrote them to cause us pain.  What a pitiful, angry life.

And a lesson for me to surround myself in gratitude and joy and let the anger and pain roll off. It is just cruel to cause pain to those who love you — and to do it when it is too late for them to make it right.

Declaration of My Independence

Oye.  So, my kids won’t read this.  They don’t have any interest in my blog, which is okay, truly.

Disclaimer:

I have been slowly declaring my independence from the ties of parenthood, grandparenthood.  Now, that does not FOR ONE MINUTE , mean that I don’t adore my kids and grandkids.  i would drop everything, everything if one of them needed me –and I have many many times.  Happily. I don’t regret or resent any moment with my family over the last 35 years. Not one moment.

But, over the past 2, maybe 3 years, I have realized that I am running out of time.  No drama here, just reality.  I’m almost 58.  Realistically I have maybe 10 -15 years left to feel pretty good, be pretty active.  Then, with my family history, maybe another 5 years to dwindle…and that is best case scenario. Not guaranteed, by any means. I have spent the last 35 years wrapped up  in supporting other people.  My people, my kids.  But, its time, it really is, for me to have some ME time.  for sure.

We took a honeymoon and then one camping trip in my dads camper before we started having children.  popped out 3 in less than five years. When our third child was 5 we took our first weekend away, with out kids.  Did it once a year for the next 2 years.( This was the time in my life when I used to stand in the back yard and watch planes fly over and wonder where they were going, if I would ever fly again.  Yes, I know, poor pitiful me. )

After  our 20th. anniversary I planned a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I know, Cleveland. That was the extent of our travels, alone, during our marriage.  Period.  We took the kids to the beach, almost every year after the oldest turned 7 — in North Carolina. Wonderful family vacations. We bought a boat, took the kids out every week.  We spent many days with family and with each other, we swam at the neighborhood pool.  We gave them the best life we could. We spent every minute with them, as a family. And it was a good life.

Flash forward, 35 years after we married on that Cold January day.  Kids are grown and married.  6 grandchildren in 6 years and now number 7 due any minute.  We retired early, then went immediately back to work, me in a new career, husband in an extension of his previous job. Our kids all live close.  It is wonderful.  But, it began to be expected that we would cover the holes in their days.  We “felt bad” when the kids were in daycare, so we picked them up almost every day.  we “felt bad” when oldest daughter or our son didn’t get to “go out”, “have fun” — so we babysat, rented beach houses and invited them all to join us.  We worried that they were short on money, or time, or joy or rest time.  So we worked to “fix it”.  And our kids have become quite comfortable and expecting of our involvement.

And then, it occurred to me that while, for 30 years or so,  I was spending every day and night raising kids and then grandkids,  and had zero hobbies, very few friends and no down time, my husband had been  hunting, fishing, building race cars,  playing darts and helping friends.  Not as much as he wanted, but still , finding time to be him.    There was no time to be me.  I lost me.  I went through years of resentment, laying right under the surface, of the life he had molded me into.  It almost drove us to divorce.  I left for a little bit.  He went buck crazy.  I figured, hell, if he wants it back this bad, maybe it IS worth fighting for.

Over the last couple years, I have pushed back.  We are working to live for us now.  It is our time.  We get to vacation alone,  say no to babysitting,  buy things we want and do things we enjoy. When my youngest says “lucky you” when I say we are at the beach, or at a restaurant, I remind her that when I was her age, or when my kids were her kids  age, I was exactly where she is. We are working hard to remove ourselves from our kids marriages – their arguments, decisions are not our business.  We will listen if they talk, but we will not try to solve their problems.  It is not our job to figure out who gets who off the bus, or to the doctor, or new shoes. I shouldn’t turn around on the way to a business meeting to pick up a child that has a parent who should do it, as hard as it is for me to keep driving straight.   We will help, when we can, when asked, but we are trying to help them not assume we are taking care of these things. Its life altering, not only for us, but, Im sure, for them.

We work full time.  We have a big house. We have sore knees and I have stents in my heart.  We have hobbies and toys and things we want to do.  Sometimes we want to do them with company, with children around. Sometimes we try to connect with old friends that we have ignored for years.  Sometimes we will alter our schedule to spend time with the people we love.  We will honor traditions and be present.  I never missed a hockey game, wrestling match or cheerleading performance.  Never missed a dance recital or a band concert.  Never. But I may miss a couple of these things when my grandchildren do them.  I may choose to sit on the back porch and read the paper or drive to the beach.  I’m going to build that beach house and spend months on end there.  And that is ok.

I declare my Independence.

night guest

My mother spent the night.  thunderstorms took out her power so we went over and picked her up.  Actually husband did, I was pulling branches off the road….

I have a new respect for those who work in the geriatric field.

Mom spends a bit of time here, but went room to room commenting “thats new, isnt it?” to every piece of furniture, carpet or knick knack she spotted ..Noooooo, Ive had that since our first house, since the second house,,,,Noooo, that stained glass has been hanging in my kitchen for 18 years.  yup.

She doesnt do steps, years of restless leg syndrome coupled with ” I dont want to walk” syndrome has left her legs weak and wobbley.  But my bedrooms are upstairs.  So I followed her up, impressed with her strength — she made it up there pretty well. I was concerned that she would see the pictures of her and my dad on the desk in the guest room and get upset, i was hoping that they would make her smile, but neither.  she didnt notice them.  She noticed the bookshelf, “is that new?” and the beleek lamp “thats beautiful” but not a glance at the pictures of the man she loved, who we lost 4 years ago.

Morning came early.  I get up around 6 to take a walk and spend some time knitting before getting ready for work.  she met me in the hall — I asked her to wait a second while I threw on a tee shirt and shorts, then we would get her down the stairs.

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She didnt wait, of course.  Im in the bathroom, shirt half on, and I hear the “babump”.
“Oh Cindy, I fell, I hurt my knee.”

Opened the door to my room and there she sat.  perched on her butt on the landing — she either lost her footing or her knee went out.  Thank God she just did a hard sit down, and didn’t slide the whole way down the stairs.  the knee is fine, no swelling, we got her down the stairs without further excitement and she sits in the kitchen now, nursing a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal.

I have a new respect for geriatric caregivers.

work work work

This retiree, who ,is actually a restartee, is getting tired…. I am, surprisingly, not 22 anymore.  Hell, Im not even 42 anymore….my mind is still sharp, my creativity level is still high, I am stimulated by the challenge and strategy needed to do the job I have taken on, but the hours in the day just dont allow me the time to do what i need to do.

Im slowing down.  damn it.  tasks take longer, organization takes more thought.  And at 6:00 when I get home, i am dog tired.

The drag of it is, I dont have to work.  I have a decent retirement income, we have savings and “plans” that will get us through the “golden years”, but I really really really believe in what we are doing at my job.  My heart is made for service and it gives me joy .  In the 8 1/2 months Ive been on this job we have accomplished great things, built the program, built our reputation, helped people.  So, I dont want to stop, or quit. or even slow down, i just need a few more hours in every day so that I can do my Job and see the grandbabies, go to the mall, meet a friend for lunch, have dinner with my husband, go to church, WP_20140930_043go to the beach…

shades of the past

So, I retired 2 years ago this month. went back to work part time the very next day…..then a year later found the perfect fulltime gig == great job, great people, strong mission…..good stuff.

But, yesterday, the job interfered with the life.  Family situation that I needed to deal with, right in the middle of preparation for an important presentation.  Juggle.   Family wins, of course.  So I took care of that, and have the privilege of being able to telecommute, so did some work last night to catch up.

And this morning, it continues.  Needed by family for a few hours.  Supervisor excellent, understands, all good. But, do I ?  Do I want to be in that place where you have to decide whether to spend time with the grandbabies or the office?  Do I want to do 8 hours a day behind a desk or at meetings?  Or do I want to sit in the backyard watching the kids play….

time will tell.  I dont do anything halfway, so it will be a conscious decision, for sure.  Time will tell.

you know you’re OLD when…

elfyou reach up to the valance to wrap the Christmas Elf’s arm around the loop and you pull  your back to the point where you are draped over a side table yelling ” babe, babe” and your husband comes running out to the family room and thinks ” oh my God, she’s having a heart attack” and grabs for the phone to dial 911, because, you know, thats what you do when your wife is having a heart attack.  And, you yell “no, no, I pulled my back” and he puts the phone down and says, “what?  Stupid elf”. and leaves you draped over the table while he walks to the kitchen to finish washing dishes.  Old.

the king of bad decisions…

I just read an article about how someones dad, when laid off from work in the 70’s, turned himself into a landscaper.  Got me to thinking about my  dad, the king of bad decisions.

My dad started out, the child of a bootlegger and a drinker — the little brother of a beautiful blond haired beauty, my aunt Nita.  Stories of their youth sound a bit horrifying to me — taking care of each other while pop made night runs and mom sat at a speakeasy drinking.  Not the stuff Holiday cards are made of. But they survived.  She ran off and married a handsome soldier in the mid 40’s — dad and pop drove out west and dragged her home, twice I think, before pop finally relented.  Pop  never was crazy about Uncle Eddie, and his “polish” family ways, but that is another story.  They spent everyday of their life together, raising three children, until Aunt Nita passed.  Then Uncle Eddie stayed in their little brick house until he joined his beloved Juanita in Heaven.

Dad dropped out of school shortly after 8th grade ( can you say, bad decision) and joined the navy as soon as he could convince them he was old enough.  Served during wwII, lots of pictures remain of him drinking in Puerto Rico, manning his gun on his ship, hanging with friends and sailors…We also have several pictures of his boat, the tops of onion skin paper letters that he wrote my grandmother…only a few words written in his beautiful tight script left on the 2 inch letterhead that he eventually cut off the letters.  I have no idea why the letters werent savable, the words I can read speak of beautiful islands, longing for home and assurances that he would be okay.

When he returned he ran ragged for a while ( bad decision) drinking, wrecking cars and raising hell.  One particularly bad night resulted in the death of a friend in a car accident that may or may not have been dad’s fault.  He spoke of that infrequently, but always with sorrow and regret.  There were women — many of them and fights and beer.  Somewhere in there he reacquainted himself with the woman that would become his true love, my mom, Betty Ann.  They had known each other when she was 10 and he was 16, and if you believe my dads story, one day he and pop were riding through Dover, shortly after he returned from the Navy and she was walking down the street, no more than 14 years old.  He said “pop, Im gonna marry that girl some day”.  And so he did.  A month after she turned 16 — took her to her grandmother who had raised her and said ” Im gonna marry Betty Ann this weekend, ok?”  And that was that.  ( one of the good decisions!)  They didnt have, as my mom would say, a “pot to piss in” for many many years.   They moved a lot, ran shoe stores ( bad decision leaving that field, apparently dad was a great salesman and mom and he worked well together) , were caretakers at a lodge ( Big brother pushed bigger brother off the dock one day, ran like hell back to the house to hide), sold freezers….and then dad landed the job of his life:  on the line at General Motors.

Their life changed then and dad began a lifetime of bad decisions that led them to a point,when for all intent and purposes they should have been sitting pretty,  where he said “Im worth more to your mother dead than alive” as he bemoaned the fact that when he turned 65 the value of his life insurance was cut by 3/4 .  Dad knew how to spend money, but not how to save it.  His pride and the fact that my mother had become pretty much a “hood ornament” a beautiful woman that he liked to show off and have host parties, kept her from working much and his job at GM , where he eventually made it into supervision
(imagine that, without even a high school diploma) paid well, but not well enough to warrant the lifestyle he loved.  I never, never heard that man tell me I couldnt have something.  My first car was a 190 sl mercedes.  My brothers had matching corvairs in the late 60’s, their own band that dad drove to gigs in Atlantic City.  When I couldnt learn to drive the stick shift that the mercedes had, dad bought me a cougar:  the mascot of my school, and in school colors.  He gambled and drank, spent every penny he earned in that cycle of poverty that people who grew up with no money often do, and when at age 54 he had triple bypass surgery and was retired immediately ( 1979 ) he had no savings.  Did that daunt dad?  Hell no, he had his retirement, which in the late 70’s was good, he had GM (“Dont worry honey, people will always need cars, GM will always be on top ….bad decision)  and he had the belief that since his dad had died at 62, and he had his heart attack at 54, he wasnt going to live long.  Hence the term life insurance that in his head would keep mom, along with 1/2 of his retirement pay, in her current lifestyle  ( I have lost count of the number of bad decisions there) . Over the next 13 years they lived the life.  Bought a travel camper, drove up and down the east coast ( mom was afraid of flying), hit Disney world, Cape Hatteras, kept a place in Cape May for years.  Bought cars — on their credit card, no lie, selflessly gave my children gifts and trips and experiences that shaped their lives, but still no saving, no thinking about the future.  When my grandmothers died, there wasnt enough money to buy tombstones.  In 1992, dad sold their house, he couldnt keep up with it anymore and they needed cash.  They had close to 100000 in equity line on a house they had paid 13000 for in 1962 — and bought a modular home.  From this modular home they  lived like they were at the beach,  they loved that place.  Until the first tornado watch was issued.  They were scared.  I talked them into coming here for the weekend, tried to get them to come here permanently.  Dad went through the depression that follows a second heart surgery, the loss of his insurance, General Motors cutting benefits.  He suffered from the lack of a formal education, and the man who would do anything for anyone, the man who could fix anything and whose hands could hold the weight of the world, became confused and scared.  He bought ridiculous things from telemarketers.  He bought hundreds, HUNDREDS of those state coins and stashed them, later to use them for common purchases. He gave my son his little s10 truck because he liked it, and bought yet another car.

The bad choices of his youth and mid years caught up with him.  Dad lasted 82 years.  It was a hell of a ride.  He had alot of fun, in the end his financial decisions about his retirement check  have allowed mom to live a good life.  He taught us all lessons about love and giving and enjoying the day.  He was, and continues to be my favorite person in the world.   I miss him more than I can say, and when the strokes and dementia stole him from me I hung on to him, pulling out moments of lucid conversation and joy.  My husband would roll him down the halls of the nursing home, telling tales, listening to dads stories, searching for the “little people that had rolled” him across the lawn the night before.  I convinced my mom to let me bring him here about a month before he passed.  It only lasted a week, she couldnt handle the fear being alone with him brought her when I was at work, but one moment in that week will always be etched in my mind as the essence of dad and my’s relationship.  He was asleep in the living room, where we had set up a temporary hospital: complete with special bed, medicines, equipment and 24 hour nursing.  I was spread out on the couch, in case he woke up.  In the quiet, he lifted his head and looked at me.  I said “Knitting”, he nodded and said “Napping”.  And that was it.  lay his head down and went back to sleep.  That was all it ever took.  A word or two.  Dad and I knew that we were there for each other, always.  Bad decisions, mistakes and regrets aside, he was the best, and while he never made it big, he always made me, and the others around him, feel they had it all.