In The Living Year III

As I write my husband’s life story, I see more and more the hurt and anger that festered inside of him. This all began from trying to be the “good son”, the obedient son, and the frustration that came with his efforts. These emotions spilled over into his adult years as well. As a son, he was always obedient, with a “twist”.

An example of his being obedient with a twist was when his father wanted him to drive the church bus. This happened when he was in his early 20’s and he drove a “big rig” since he was 19 years old so, naturally, he could drive a bus. However, at this time in his life,  he didn’t attend his father’s church. He had enough of church by the time he left his parent’s home. But when his father asked, he always obeyed. On his only day off of work, he agreed to pick up all of the kids and others who needed transportation to church.

Keeping true to his rebellion, he would pick up the kids and others, let everyone off of the bus at the church, then, he would pick up all his “hippie” buddies. While everyone was at church, he and his “friends” would smoke up the bus with a little “weed”. He did as he was asked and then did as he wanted. Yes, this wasn’t very wise, but it was so like him and his way of being obedient with a “twist”.

Over the years and after two divorces, I think his parents “gave up” on him. They gave their approval to the second son and because of the developmentally delayed status of the adopted son, they reserved most of their concern and attention for  him. They knew that my husband could take care of himself. By his early 30’s, my husband had a true love/hate relationship with his parents. This lasted for the majority of his life. I think that it was the same for his parents.

I should clarify. Over the years, time was given to my husband. It was not done from a willingness or a parental concern, but it was done in the midst of crisis or drama. My husband’s choices in his early life always brought these elements with him. He received attention.

Much like when a child needs attention and they are unable to get it positively, they will act out and receive it negatively…that seems to be the operating principle over my husband’s youth and young adult years…

As the effects of life wore on my husband and his restlessness abated, his need for peace and contentment finally won out over his need for rebellion.

Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I “worked” on his “Father Hunger”. We bought books, tapes and listened to sermons that addressed the unending needs of an adult child when they lack a relationship with their father. My husband knew that his father was repeating in him what his grandfather sowed into his father…not much time or thought.

In 2003, my husband’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. She knew that something was wrong and when they finally told her, she began to become frightened of her future. My husband tried his best to reassure her that he would always remind her of whatever she forgot. He could remember things that happened when he was 2 and 3 years old and his parents were always amazed at his accuracy.

In 2005, a CT scan of his father’s brain showed atrophy and he too began to not relate to the present. He seemed to go into a trance and do whatever my husband’s mother bid him do. He seemed to cease being an individual.

On several occasions in those early days, before my husband’s cancer was diagnosed, we told his parents that, since we lived close by that we would help in any way with whatever they needed. On many occasions my husband would go over and “check” on them.

He tried to have a conversation with his dad about things that were on his mind, but all he received was silence. 

Many times, after the fact, we would find out that they called on someone else to do what my husband said that he would do for them.  I could see the hurt in my husband’s face  with each one of these occurrences. His heart was bruised again with each incident…..He finally gave up on the hope that he could resolve his issues with his parents. He had to let them go…

In the months prior to his passing, he gave up on calling them. They didn’t remember that he was sick or they remembered that his brother had prostate cancer, but didn’t remember that he was sick. He felt worse after trying to talk to them and, afterwards, it drained him emotionally so he stopped calling. For him, It was too painful to bear their dementia and his cancer.

The final week of my husband’s life, I spoke to my husband’s brother about whether he should make the effort to bring my husband’s parents down to our home. Traveling was a  difficult task and both my brother in law and I knew that they would not remember being here or seeing their son.

It seemed that my brother in law and I came to the same conclusion at the same time because as I called him, he was about to call me. I said that it didn’t matter if they remembered seeing my husband or not. If it were one of our children, we would want to see our child, so it must be with my husband’s parents.

By this time, my husband was unable to communicate with us. His level of consciousness was anyone’s guess at this point. When my husband’s brother said that they were coming, the children and I cleared space for chairs to be by my husband’s bedside…

I was not feeling well that day. I was having a major physical reaction to knowing that my husband was hours away from dying. The hospice nurse had instructed me to take my anti anxiety medication and lay down. I was sleeping when they arrived. The children assisted them.

I woke up after they had been here for a couple of hours. I knew that they would not stay much longer than that. As I lay on the couch between being fully awake and still drowsy, I heard something amazing.

My husband’s mother was talking to him in that voice that every child knows. It is the one where you are sick and your mother’s voice is as soothing as any medication or medical remedy. My husband couldn’t see his mother because she was standing by the window and he was facing away from it. The next moment I heard a cry come out from my husband.

With every ounce of energy he had left, his voice rang out, “Mom!!!”. No one will know just how difficult it was for him to say that word! It was his desperate attempt to reach her and It took every ounce of life left in him. All of us knew that she could never appreciate that is was one of his lasts words heard on this earth.

In many ways, it sums up their relationship. He was crying out for his parents and they never truly heard him. They were always lost in a fog when it came to their first son…

Yes, my husband’s parents are still living, but they are not here. They are in a place of confusion, a twilight of shadows, that robbed my husband of an opportunity to express his love for them and they for him. We think that we have years and years to tell our parents the hidden things, the wonderful treasure of memories that we have of them and us.

The reality for my husband was that, even when he tried to overcome the obstacles that were in their relationships, they could never listen and hear him. That moment of reconciliation never happened for him.  Dementia took his parents before death took him.

It is during the act of living that we take the opportunity to tell those we love how we feel. It is in the memories that we make that we feel their love and acceptance. It is too late for my husband and for me to express ourselves to our parents.

Now is always the best time to tell those you love how important they are to you……Now is always the best time….

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Never Knew Lonely Until I Knew You

( please forgive the subtitles on the video )

Yesterday, while cleaning, I discovered another written legacy. The note said to play this song. He said that it said it all….

 I wonder if I will ever know just how much this man loved me? 

At first, I was full of recrimination for not knowing about his loneliness in his last days…I think that I felt it because he seemed to withdraw at the last.

Maybe it was the pain of knowing he was leaving me after his promise to not die…that is what he said when we first heard the diagnosis. He was so convincing. I guess somewhere inside I believed him…but, he had to go no matter how much he didn’t want to leave me.

I never knew true loneliness until now. Living without him is unbearable at times.

I sometimes feel as if our life together was a distant dream. Did it ever really happen? Then, the full effect of this loss hits me again like a tidal wave.

As lonely as I felt as a child, I can honestly say, “I Never Knew Lonely Until You”, my dearly beloved…I know it now, too well.

In The Living Years II

I mentioned in Part I that when I first heard this song, I was reminded of my relationship with my father. I didn’t realize, until later in life, my father was the one that was imprinted on my heart and mind. He was the one I measured all men by and if they didn’t measure up, I either wanted them or I rejected them. To this day, I am not inclined to respect a man with “soft hands”.

Of course, he was the one who was the most distanced from me as a child. After the birth of my youngest sister, he ran from the idea that he had a special needs child. The doctor told him that he was the reason for the extra chromosome and he was a perfectionist in all his ways.

Naturally, he didn’t want to be reminded that he did not produce a perfect child.

In today’s understanding of Down’s Syndrome, I don’t know if that “fact” still holds up to the light of day, but it didn’t matter then. He went from playing and giving attention to me to being out of sight. He would go to work before I woke up and he didn’t come home until after I went to bed. He was there on weekends, but he was always busy or fishing.

I learned to fish from an early age. He bought me my first fishing pole at the age of 8 years old and I caught a 5 lb small mouth bass on 2 lb test line…I proved my worth. If I wanted time with my dad, it was done by fishing with him. There was always pressure on me because if I failed to catch fish, I wasn’t allowed to go the next time.

The other part of my life with my father was being his “gofer”. The gofer was the person that ran after whatever part or tool that was needed by whatever engine or piece of machinery that he was working on at the time.

I learned the names of the tools in the tool box. I learned the basics of the combustible engine and, even though I don’t put my hands on things, I am not half bad about diagnosing what is wrong with an engine by listening to it.

That is what it took to spend time with the first man that I ever loved. I learned to step into his world and he never crossed over into mine.

My father and I were very much alike, however I learned in my teenage years that I didn’t respect his volatility and his emotional decision making. That seemed to bring intense arguments that resulted in a slap across my face. Usually, that was where he would strike because, by the time I was 16 years old, I was taller than my father.

The last time he slapped me, I remember hearing him walk down the hallway and I knew that I was going to get one in the mouth. After he found me, he slapped me for talking back to him. I remember looking deep into his blue eyes and I told him, “You will be sorry for that.” I turned and went into my bedroom and locked the door.

If he wanted to, I knew that he could burst through the door and, if he did, he would deliver a sound beating. Maybe he knew that the beating would have only made me more resolved. Like I said, we were alike in many ways and a beating would have only solidified my stubborness and, by that, set the stage for another argument. I had ideas of my own and I would not let them go until someone proved them wrong.

To my surprise, (I am sure my mother intervened) my father finally read the brochure that I brought home. I wanted to go to a music camp at Indiana University. It was an honor to be of a caliber of voice to be able to attend this camp over the summer months and I wanted to learn more about voice and have the experience of singing with some of the best in the state. ( IU was known nationally for its School of Music). My father was opposed because he believed that nothing good could come out of Bloomington. He believed that it was “Sin City” and no daughter of his was going into “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and went to the bathroom. I saw my father reading the brochure that he refused to open. For the first time, I saw him in the process of reversing himself and really thinking about making a decision. It was a milestone. By morning, he said that I could attend. By this simple action, I regained a little of the respect that I lost for him.

My relationship with my father was changing from that point forward. I wish I could say that it was for the better, but it wasn’t. I became the voice of reason in his fits of anger and he resented the fact that one of his children would say what they thought. On most occasions, my thoughts ran counter to his. There was always the threat that I may have a better idea. I was not welcomed into his life.

Sadly, he could never see that independent thinking was the lesson that he taught all of us. As children, my siblings and I were never allowed to say the word, “Can’t”. We always had to accomplish the task even if the usual way didn’t work. We were required to find a way that would work. Today, I think it is a college couse called “Critical Thinking”. My father was the professor and we all learned this lesson, not with grades, but rather with approval. 

He never realized that his standard pushed all of us to achieve regardless of education or lack of it. He never allowed anything to stand in his way and he was not going to allow his children to get by with “standing still” in the face of a problem. He gave a great gift by insisting on this kind of thinking. Yet, when it came to him, he lost sight of this lesson that he taught so well. This kind of thinking became the corner stone of all his children’s success. Funny, he never saw us as successful. Maybe, it was because all he saw in us was himself.

I wish I could say that my father and I had a moment in life where we could have said all of the things that needed said. But, like in the song, his pride and mine kept us from saying those wonderful things that a father says to a daughter and a daughter says to a father. Even at his death, I wondered if he loved me.

I have no memory of being “Daddy’s little girl”. I never was that to him. I was his “gofer”… the fisherman that could out do him if he took me along. I eventually ran his business after the death of my brother and my “style” was successful, but he didn’t agree with it.

To know my father’s approval was something that I seldom achieved.

So, when I hear this song, I understand the verses so well. And when I hear other songs that sing of a Father’s love and protection, I don’t have an earthly pattern to refer to. I wanted one. I needed to know what it was like to dance in my father’s hand without critism or watch his face smile at my performance. I never knew if my father would come to my rescue because his kind of love was so conditional.

In response to this uncertainty, I found It very difficult to trust a loving Father God, yet somehow, I do.

Maybe I do because I watched my husband with his children. It was wonderful to see how he would be the father that I wished for. I watched as he quietly worked behind the scenes to do for them, at a great personal expense, the important things that showed them that he would always be there for them.

I saw his love for them as he watched them play and how he would take up for them when anyone was unfair or when they were hurt by others. He was always in their corner. He was a good dad in spite of how many things that their “mothers” told them about him. He was their protector.

His heartache came from the lack of a “Father-Son” relationship with his own dad. He and I knew the pain of having a father, but even when they were home, they were not there. I think that children of divorce know a terrible pain, but it is no less of a pain than having a father in the household, being able to see them in front of your eyes and realize that they are not present for you.

It is all pain. In the next part, I will write more of my husbands hunger for his father and mother and his desire to tell them how much he loved them while all of them were still in “The Living Years”.

For My Friend

There are some who are unfamiliar with my friend, Nicole3. She has her own blog and writes about her faith and her family. She began her blog with her faith in mind, but, as with so many,  breast cancer came into her life.

She has been an amazing blogging buddy to me and others. Her support and faithfulness to me as a friend are fruits of my blog and I want to be as faithful to her as she has been to me.

In the past few days, the fear of loss has come into her life through her husband’s heart condition. Medically, he has a very difficult heart condition to treat and it is life threatening. These past days have caused my friend to live a roller coaster ride of emotion and the fear of loosing her beloved is a reality.

I know that fear. And I know that loss. It is a terribly lonely road to walk even with family and friends. I am hoping that you all will join me in praying for Nicole3, her husband and their children at this time.

I am sure that she will write about this on her blog as time passes, but I want to do something more for her and her family, so that is why I am posting this request to my blogger buddies…

Please pray…the loss and the fear of it causes the soul to need all of the support that it can get…I am including her blog site. Those who have never visited, please drop by and let her know that she is not alone in her fight for life and love…http://nichole3.wordpress.com/

Nicole3’s friend,

Shadowlands

In The Living Years…Part I

I heard this song on the “Oldies” radio station as I was driving home from my last client. It took me back to the time when I first heard it.

I remember how much I thought that it captured the situation between my self and my own father. He and I were just too much alike in many respects. I had the advantage because there was enough of my mother in me that I didn’t do as he did, but I did inherit his ability to take risks.

Now, when I hear the song, I realize that my perspective has changed from when I first heard it. I am the parent in the song. The song caused me to think of my husband’s and my relationships with each one of the children. Each of us had “issues” that would cause us guilt and it was laid at our feet. Over time and hind sight, we knew that each child had disappointments in us as parents, both collectively and individually. There was little “co parenting” done with each child.

With my husband’s children, issues were always present. He was the non custodial parent and his desires or influence were reduced to a minimum.

The song brought to mind my husband’s relationship with his youngest daughter. She was lost to him since 2002. The final contact between them occured in the last seven months of his life. In December 2007, She wrote and sent pictures of her 3 daughters.  She asked that they restore their relationship.

At first, my husband was happy to hear from her and he immediately called his daughter. When he got off of the phone, his joy had turned to a painful realization.

He said that it was like “pulling teeth” to get a conversation out of her. I said that he needed to take into consideration the “shock” factor of hearing her dad on the line. I suggested that  the shock may have kept her from talking as much. But, I could see in my husband’s face all of the painful use and misuse that he suffered at the hands of the child’s mother and by her own..

After much deliberation, he wrote her a letter thanking her for the pictures of her children and  told her how glad he was to hear that her life had turned for the better. He told her that he loved her, but he had nothing left to offer her. He told her that the disease was taking away the time that it takes to restore a relationship and he wanted her to remember the good times more than the bad ones.

He never heard from her again.

When he died, I had my husband’s son call the number that my husband used to talk to the daughter. It was not in service. I told the son that I had the phone number to his half sister’s maternal grandmother and he may be able to reach his sister through her. He called and there was no answer. He didn’t leave a message. This kind of news is just too much to leave a message.

Later on in the day that my husband died, after everyone was gone, I received a call from the grandmother. I really didn’t want to talk to her, but it was too late, I had answered the call.

Her first words were that she had a “number” now. This comment set my suspensions on alert. Old habits never leave you and this was always a precursor to future troubles.

Then, the grandmother began telling me how she had lost her husband this past January. I listened as she told me all of the details of the cancer that took his life. As I listened, I tried my best to empathize. I was comforting her….she didn’t ask anything about my husband. She just talked about her loss.

She asked if I wanted the phone number of the ex wife. I declined that offer. I was in no frame of mind to deal with the person that had caused so much damage to my husband.

Personally, I believed and still do, that my husband’s cancer began with a decrease in his immune system and the decline was directly linked to the stress that he lived while going through the divorce and custody battles with this woman. I definitely did not want to talk to her at that moment in my life.

I told her that I would rather have her call and tell the daughter about her father. I explained that I didn’t want it said that no one thought to call and tell her about his death and I gave the grandmother the details of the Memorial Service.

The next thing that the grandmother told me was all about this daughter’s health problems and how stress effects her adversely. I replied that I could understand how this kind of thing could be stressful and worsen her condition. but I repeated the details of the Memorial Service. I said that I wanted his daughter to be aware of the arrangements. I then, as quickly as possible, ended the conversation…it was just one of the many nightmares of that day.

As the words and melody of the song rang in my ears, I thought about the time that was available for this daughter to say the things that she needed to tell her father and the things he needed to hear during his living years. I also thought about the words she lost by not making efforts during the time he survived.

His desire to live through all of the possible manipulations and painfulness that was associated with this child was gone. As hard as it was for him to let go of this child, the first time, and wait for her to come to him, he again chose to let her go because the time for living was too short. As much as he loved this child, he could not deal with the “maddness” that swirled around her. He had said all that he wanted to say to her in his letter.

As the song points out, each generation seems to loose sight of the living years and the opportunities that are afforded to speak heart to heart. Each child holds their parents responsible for their pain and each generation fails to learn the song’s lesson…so it stretches out in front of my generation now.

If it were possible, every parent would accept that the generations don’t see eye to eye, but we want so much more than that, don’t we? We want to rewind our lives and relive those times when we made the wrong choices. We would give anything to be able to undo the things that hurt us or our children, but that isn’t possible.

Now, we live with our regrets. There will be times that each one will have to reconcile themselves with the words that failed to find a voice. Regret is a hard thing with which to live, but it has been done by generations before us and it will be repeated by the generations past us.

No parent gets it right all the time. All we have are our opporunities to right the situation in the “Living Years”….

“Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear… Its too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye….. So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past. We sacrifice the future. It is the bitterness that lasts….So don’t yield to the fortunes, you sometimes can see his fate. It may have a new perspecive on a different day…and if you don’t give up and don’t give in and you may just be “OK”…Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear…..Don’t give up, don’t  give in, don’t wait until it is too late….”