I’m thinking seriously of leaving the tree up all year because I like the twinkly lights and all my favorite things are hung on the tree. Red cardinals for my father, pictures of the kids when they were little and adorable, travel mementos like a golden Big Ben, clay ornaments from Italy and Eiffel towers hung on satin strings. The ornaments are my version of a scrapbook with the happy moments in my life hung up against a green background. Well except for the paw print of Tiger that my daughter and I pressed into salt dough on the last morning of his life. There are snowmen jolly and fat and ornaments made by the kids when they were young….It is not a glamorous, designer tree but it is lovely and it makes me smile. Plus I grow weary with the thought of taking everything down and boxing them up. I guess that is how crazy old ladies get started…..first you leave your tree up all year and the next you are going to the stores in your pajamas and robe.
My boyfriend has been in a bit of a down space as the decline of his father is hastening and he is completely unprepared for the next phase. I hate that I know what is ahead. My dammed knowledge of medical conditions added to my mother’s swift appraisal of the situation leave me with few words to comfort him. He was with his parents for the New Year and over that weekend had to attend to his mother’s personal needs and let us just say he is still in shock. I am a nurturer and of course having children and working in special education has given me insight into the world of caretaking and what is required to take care of a human; baby or elderly it is roughly the same. It is different when it is your mother but the ability to separate the physical needs and comfort from the emotional is how all of us survive toilet training and sick days and mopping up after the flu.
News from one sister is not good either. Her husband was laid off, let go, fired, or whatever and I do not know how they will make it. He has always worked but in construction with few pension benefits and now at age 69 (!) he is a white, old, alcoholic man with a bad back. Not a lot to fill in on a resume. My sister has been greatly unhappy with his depression and drinking and general malaise. He apparently has no interest in anything and she is starting to complain. The alcoholism has been an open secret for years and even my mom has come right out and said he is an alcoholic (my grandfather- mom’s dad drank and died young at 52- I never knew him). I also suspect my sister has a problem with alcohol and her mood swings are a bit more mania/depression than I previously thought. She swings between drinking with him and the church lady exhorting us to understand how ‘hard’ she has had it and to pray for us. She went as far as to send a sermon link and begged us to listen to it before we judge. This from the sister that judged me when my marriage fell apart called me names and then gave my ex-husband refuge after the split. Listening only to his side and calling me a sinner. As if. I do not need all this drama in my life.
They have no money, lived hand to mouth, and have for the nearly 30 years of marriage. Borrowing against the house repeatedly, living way beyond their means and always looking for a magic solution. My sister has a good job with decent pay but no real retirement benefits and it sounds like they do not have any kind of nest egg, which is necessary to supplement the Social Security check, which is never a princely sum.
I know my mom has been bailing them out for years and sending extra cash at the holidays and when she needed airfare to visit etc. Part of me is worried that she will try and put the arm on my mom for serious money and that will really get me angry. My mom is living very nicely on her pension, social security and the good investments my father made over the years. My sister and her husband or soon to be ex-husband have been the grasshopper fiddling away the summer day and now it is winter. I, as a diligent ant, will not be happy if my mom dips into her reserves to bail them out. My goal has always been for my mom to live fully and spend all her money so that once we have a grand party and bury her there will be little left. Since her older sister is, alive and still living on her own at 86 I figure mom has quite a few good years left. I want her to give an advance on any inheritance because I am sincerely hoping there will not be much left. Part of me is resentful for being the careful one with money, living the more financially conservative life and even thought the divorce set me back a bunch the Hex and I were both good savers and so we really had no debt before he starting racking up lawyer bills. Had he not done that we would both be sitting pretty as we head to 60.
Today is my ex’s birthday. He is 58. We have been apart for 7 years. He has been retired for three years and I have two more years to finish the bankruptcy his actions caused. I have zero contact with him and haven’t seen him in over three years. He is still the father of my children. I have known him since I was ten years old. I have a deep sadness that he is no longer any part of my life. A sadness that my daughter can’t understand. My son is estranged from me for 7 years and our meetings are few and awkward. He is essentially a stranger to me now.
This week is also the sixth anniversary of my lover’s death. A death I was not allowed to mourn and the loss still feels fresh and raw. He was the first man to tell me he loved me. I loved him too; then, now and always.
Friday my long distance lover will celebrate his birthday far across the ocean from me. It has been ten years since I have seen him but I still feel the connection strong and improbable as ever.
Thursday it will be Thanksgiving and my heart is full of gratitude for the love I have had in the past and the love I have now for my DH. How truly blessed I am to have him in my life now. I don’t know that I deserve this much happiness but I’m learning to accept I might just have done something right somewhere along the way.
*For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
*Maria from The Sound of Music