Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Catching Up -- Family Stuff -- The Late Mother's Day Edition

Family Stuff can be so hard to deal with; and it’s rewarding or heartbreaking; and God’s always in it. A lot of this is family stuff that rose up before and around Mother’s Day. That was a weekend full of listening to people and trying to carry their messages on to others, and there was no time and I was tired, too. I took a course in Div College once, called “Group Spiritual Direction”. Every Saturday, 9 – 4, for several months – theory in the morning and small group practicum in the afternoon. We were trying to learn to listen with God’s ears – I thnk last weekend that bore some fruit. It all turned out much better than it could have. I grew, at least, some gratitude and compassion for a couple of people who’d only brought aggravation to me before (and they did last weekend too), and the beginning of cordial relations with one of them. I’m not talking family here – these are people I volunteer with.

Okay, on to the family stuff. Mother’s Day has always been kind of an ache. I spent too many Mother’s Days cleaning the house and cooking so HIS mother could have a nice Mother’s Day, and I didn’t get to see mine, and no-one ever offered to take ME out for brunch or supper or anything … My Sister-in-Law at some point took over hosting Mother’s Day dinners – I think so we could cook on the barbecue for the first time all year. Still – I was THERE – didn’t feel like I got to make choices. It all made sense – that SIL and one niece and one nephew all have birthdays to celebrate in May too – we did ‘em all at once. Now I don’t have a Mum any more, and our son works 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on alternate Friday, Saturday, Sundays – and the alternate was Mother’s Day weekend.

What I do have is these amazing in-laws. Almost two years ago, my husband went and told his only sister that we would be separating, and I’d be the one moving out. She had told me and another SIL years earlier how grateful she was, “that my brothers married the sisters I always wanted to have.” The day after he told her we’d be separating, I talked to her on the phone, and the conversation ended with her saying, “Married to my brother or not, I still love you and you’re still my sister.” We’d already kept another SIL one of her brothers had divorced. And the youngest brother was home from far-away places in September. He was 15 or 16 when I started dating my husband back in 1978. We were sitting alone in the garden in the dark, and he said to me, “I heard about you two. I’ve done it twice, you know. No matter what happens, you’re always my sister-in-law.” My mother-in-law has offered to lend me money, should I need it. Holy mackerel.

I’ve gotta tell you – two years ago, I hated my husband, because that way I could make everything be all his fault. I worked VERY hard on seeing what my part was, and cleaning up my side of the street. Not for his sake – so our son could have what I didn’t – if he ever gets married, both his parents will show up and be polite and friendly with each other. And, it’s hard to show up at your SIL’s place for Christmas dinner if you can’t speak to your ex.

It’s not always easy. I’m the one who made the choices about separation, and I’m the one who left. I feel a lot more “separated” from my husband, internally, than he is from me. So he walks into the room and says Hi to me, and rubs my back or shoulder the way he always has – and I freeze. I haven’t figured out how to say, “Don’t ever touch me!” without sounding awful; and I guess I haven’t moved past some things enough not to want to say it. There was also the really good tickets for an event that someone gave him – something we used to do together – the first person he thought of to ask to go with him was me. (He’s a very good man, better than me in a lot of ways, and I can’t live with him.) I didn’t want, or have, to say, “Don’t ask me to go out and spend six HOURS with you!” I got to say, truthfully, I work all day on that day of the week.

So – I got invited to Mother’s Day dinner at my Mother-in-Law’s apartment, and my niece was cooking, and I went and was happy and grateful to be there. My MIL’s been in hospital or a nursing home since last August – there’s some hope she’ll still be able to go back to her apartment. And the person who was supposed to replace my son at 6 a.m. didn’t, so he stayed til 3 or so, when they got someone there. I expected he’d go sleep, but he went home and showered and changed and came back to be with us. Told me, his Mother’s Day present to me would be. my niece is gonna teach him how to make me a new apron. (My current favourite apron is 15 years old, a little grey down the front, and has at least three holes burnt through it – but the strap frayed off entirely in the last washing, and I thought I’d just replace it – he thinks I’m nuts.)

On the Monday, Dad saw the specialist for his liver. They’ve got him on a regimen of diuretics now that’s keeping the fluid levels in his body down. The crisis in March was that there was so much fluid in his belly cavity, he couldn’t eat or breathe. I talked to him after – he’s got blood work this coming Monday, and an appointment with the specialist a month after that. That means the specialist thinks he’s gonna live at least six weeks. Good. I called my sister after – she SEES Dad more than me – and said, “How is he, really?” Being so ill has left him very tired and weak. Her partner says, “He’s in really good shape for a 97-year-old man. Trouble is, he’s 77.”

Then I said to my sister, “I have something else I have to ask you.” She laughed, and said, “Where’s Mum?” Yup, that was it. When our mother died, they held her ashes in the funeral home, to be interred whenever my stepfather’s were. I hadn’t seen much of my stepfather in 2007, and his memorial service was two weeks after our aunt’s. I couldn’t cope, and didn’t go. I hadn’t realized – I didn’t know what cemetery or where. My sister said, “You know this is my busiest time of the year at work – in June, I’ll take you.” Then she told me where, and that there was a nice view of the wetland – this one, from the other side. My sister and me, that's a relationship that needed some healing too. I'd prayed about it a lot -- there was something that I need to apologize for that I haven't -- and I'm not sure what it is. She says family doesn't need to apologize -- that is, in itself, kind of a heavy weight to carry.

I was missing my Papa too, my Mum's father, this week. He died in 1976, when I was 21. He was the Rock in the family. I always thought I remembered him with rose-coloured glasses on, but all my cousins do too, so it isn't just me. There's some 8mm film around somewhere with him in, although mostly, he was doing the filming. I don't have the films though. So I went looking for people talking about their grandparents, and I found this lovely video. Hope you all enjoy it; and I hope and pray every one of us had a grandparent we feel this way about, and maybe we get to be grandparents someone will feel this way about. And that we have churches that feel like this too -- this whole sermon is full of joy and blessing for me.


FranIAm said...

I really want to watch/listen to the you tube, but can't right now.

However I did have to tell you how completely moved I am by your post.

Your honesty and your clarity always touch my heart so deeply Kate.

You are a treasure.

Thank you for sharing your life with us so richly and so generously - all of it, not just the great or the awful, but in its rich fullness.

God bless you Kate.

Doorman-Priest said...

Wow. So much to deal with. I pray for God's strength to see you through to the calmer waters.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I only got less than half-way through your post and now I must go get ready for work. But I wanted to tell you that so much of your story is similar to mine and that my feelings about mother's day are similar as well, except that mother's day for me when I was married was a better experience than it is with my current partner. Sort of the other way around from yours.

I'll get back to you; either through comments or email, if that's ok.

Peace, Kate


Kate Morningstar said...

Fran -- I've read what you said, and found myself wondering, if I checked, how many times I'd find you were here first. Before I started doing this, I'd told MP that I'd been thinking about a blog, but was afraid to. Never mind the list of Why's now. Your generosity and openness of spirit, encouragement and support have meant so much. Thank you.

D-P -- About 20 years ago, I had a spiritual guide who said, "There is a gift from God for you in everything that happens to you. It's your job to find it. Sometimes it will take longer than others." This is all celebration, even the boundary difficulties with my husband. All these family relationships are so much better than they would be, except I got willing to open up to God and take all this to him and listen to the response. Even when I didn't want to. Now THAT's a gift.

Kate Morningstar said...

Gina -- you were leaving your post at the same time I was!!! I'd love to hear from you by e-mail. Thank you.