Dysfunctional Thanksgiving

It is now 4 days before Thanksgiving and everything is up in the air as to who, what, when, where and why.  Traditionally my sister has hosted Thanksgiving at her house. Sometimes we go and sometimes we do something different. Last year, we went camping because we just wanted to do something outside of tradition to keep our mind off of our son that passed away earlier that year.

Anyway, we planned on going to my sisters this year for two reasons. 1. My brother lost his dear wife six months ago after 37 years of marriage and we want to be with him.  2. My mother is getting more and more feeble and may not make it through the winter.

Everything was planned: menu, who is bringing what food dish and who is driving my mom to my sisters. We even finalized plans for the following day: meet at mom’s the next day to set up her tree and put her Christmas decorations out so she could enjoy the holiday season. Again, this Christmas decorating at my mom’s is something my brother and his wife always did for her so this year we planned to all do it together to help my brother get through this first year without his wife.

So, it’s all set. Then, two days ago my sister called my mom, who in turn criticized all of us which led to my sister telling my mom that her hatred was not welcome in her home and if she couldn’t leave it behind, then she couldn’t come to Thanksgiving. This leads to my mom saying she was uninvited which led to my brother telling her that she misunderstood and my mom saying she won’t go unless my sister calls her. But, she will send food!!

There is this whole crazy, unhealthy pattern in relating to my mom that is not an easy pattern to break. My sister reached the point where she was done with it. We’ve all been there at one time or another but then old habits die hard, or the guilt sets in, and we meld back into our roles of enabling or accepting or denial or whatever the case may be of trying to keep mom happy.

We will never have the relationship with mom that we desire. We accept it, we gripe about it and we still love her.  We make sure she has all of her physical needs met, we take her to doctor appointments, take her to run errands or do shopping (last week I spent three hours in one small store, ugh), and yes, we do tell her we love her. But, Mom doesn’t think we love her because we do not meet her expectations or her concept of love.  We cannot do or be enough. It is such a shame, because we do love her but she can’t recognize it in the ways we express it. I’m sure she loves me, but I don’t recognize it either.

Do the best you can to show and express love on this day and all future days.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

A verse with no chorus

My oldest son suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts.  He self medicates with alcohol. As you may or may not know, we already lost one son due to alcohol. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop with fear and trepidation. I hope I am wrong. I pray I am needlessly worrying.

When my oldest was in his late teens or early twenties, I would wake in the middle of the night and pray for him. As parents, we did pursue the usual avenues to help him such as hospitalization, counseling, medication and so on. But when it all fails, what is left but a miracle?

During one of my all night prayer sessions, I wrote a song. I tried to put myself in his mind and it was so very dark there. I imagined what it must be like for him to look in the mirror and thus, I wrote the following song. It starts out as a slow, sad tune but just before the chorus, the tempo changes and the chorus is jubilant. You will just have to use your imagination.

Title: God is greater

Verse:

I look in the mirror

Tell me, who am I?

Down deep in my eyes

Are pools of pain and despair.

Darkness surrounds me

Feels like I’m drowning in this world of sin.

(transition as tempo builds)

But a message of hope

of peace and a light

Shines deep from within.

Chorus:

’cause God is greater, greater

and greater is in me.

God is greater, greater

and greater is in me.

You pick me up when I fall.

Your love, it carries me.

You are the light of the world

and you give me peace.

You are my rock and my hope.

My joy and my strength.

Oh, light of the world,

Shine your light down on ME!

Recently, during a 45 day stay in inpatient rehab, my son left me a message on my phone. He sounded so happy and content. He was feeling peaceful. I saved the message and I listen to it sometimes. His peace did not last long. He is self medicating and depressed again. How sad it must be for him, to live in that darkness. A verse with no chorus. He found peace for a brief time and I listen to his phone message to remind me that it could happen again. You know what my biggest fear is? That I will accidentally erase the message and I will no longer be able to hear those moments when he was what he was meant to be, even for a short time.

 

 

Veterans Day Blues

One of my sons is an army veteran.  He was deployed to Iraq and spent a volatile 15 months as an infantry Sergeant in and around Baghdad. I cried every single day he was gone. I prayed to God every day to keep him safe. Every single day God told me to end my prayer by singing the Doxology of “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow”. It seemed weird but I had to do it. Maybe God just wanted me to praise Him through the tumult and so I did.

After my son’s deployment ended, a part of him returned to the United States. A part of him was missing forever. My son came back as a stranger to us and a stranger to himself. He has spent the last few years trying to find himself and heal from wounds that are not visible. He has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and multiple blast TBI (traumatic brain injury).

My son is a talented carpenter who sometimes doesn’t know the word for hammer, wrench, or level. My son is a lover of nature who sometimes goes for a walk in the woods behind his home and suddenly does not know where he is or how to get home. My son is a loving devoted husband and father who fades away from his wife and daughters at times, as he remembers the atrocities of war, especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My son is a Pastor who reaches out to others with PTSD and other wounds of war. He can relate to them in a way that no other Pastor in our area is able. I have questioned God as to why He has not healed my son. But maybe the very reason is so my son can reach out to those with PTSD in their darkest hours and give them hope.

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s and Eagle Scouts

My dad had Alzheimer’s. It is a horrible disease and I pray that a cure will be found soon.  About the time my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we had moved him and my mom in a mobile home on our property which is in a rural area. My dad had never run away before but one evening he took off running and didn’t stop. He was just gone and we were all in a panic. There are several wooded areas around our home and it was getting close to night. On top of that it was getting cold and a drizzle of rain had started. A search ensued.  Several people gathered and we searched high and low. My mind was swimming in fear of him being lost, alone and afraid. Little did I know, he was having the time of his life. He was putting all of his Eagle Scout survival skills into action.

A couple of hours later, a rural neighbor spotted him near a wooded area which was about a mile or two from home. We’d found him! As I approached him, he was chuckling with a big smile on his face. The first thing he said was “you walked right by me and didn’t see me. I was hiding in a ditch with leaves over me as camouflage”.  A mixture of relief, irritation and then pride swept through me.

What had caused me fear, gave him a couple of hours of freedom from his inner prison. He’d had a couple of hours where he was in control of his life and he was able to have a great adventure. I’m glad he had that time of feeling proud in duping us all. For a brief period, he had the upper hand. I love you dad.

 

Maybe I should explain

I’m not blogging to promote anything. Just One and Me blog was created to reach out to just one person who may be experiencing some of the feelings I felt (sometimes feel) when coping with life changing experiences. I hope to add some helpful resources to my blog as time goes along. Can I be perfectly honest here? I don’t know how to do a blog. At all.  I started it to help just one (person out there somewhere) and me (because writing is very therapeutic).

So far, as a beginning blogger, I’ve touched on child abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, ptsd and grief. I’ve got a lot more of that to share with you. But, if I could go back in time and change anything, I would change nothing.  Everything in the past brought me to where I am today, and today is exactly where I want to be.

I’m a young person in an old body. I love to laugh, hug and tell people “I love you”.  I have a husband who I love very much. He is my second husband but who’s counting? I am the mother to three adult children. I have several grandchildren.  I started smiling as I typed the last sentence. I love them all so much.I hear one of my grandchildren shriek “Nana” and my heart leaps with joy.  I am blessed. I have hope. I have love, I have contentment. I have peace. I hope to share it all with you.

 

Line of Duty

My husband and I just returned from a camping trip. We enjoyed the wonderful changing colors of the landscape. I am so grateful for this day, this life and this world of natural beauty.

We got back home about 3 hours ago and the first thing I did was take 4 days of soggy, wet mail from the mailbox. There was a letter from the Department of the Army addressed to my husband. Of course, I immediately alerted my husband who immediately opened and read it. Enclosed was the Report of Investigation Line of Duty and Misconduct Status Report plus the State of Medical Examination and Duty Status Report.

Department of Army, your black and white army speak reports state that the soldier reported for weekend duty, was released for the evening and didn’t return at the appointed time the following morning. A welfare search ensued. He was found deceased in his vehicle. Medical Diagnosis: Acute Ethanol Intoxication.

I’m sorry Department of Army, but you missed a few sections in your reports. My husband’s son (my stepson) completed several overseas missions including Afghanistan and Iraq. Our boy, who had a huge fear of flying, shoved that fear down and sat in the cargo hold of a shaking plane, dropped out of it in the dark, landed in the desert and waited for his contact in hostile territory.   Your reports are incomplete. He couldn’t sleep at night due to recurring nightmares. Not just nightmares, but images of things he had actually seen and done while serving his country.  Flashbacks that haunted him, kept him up at night and ate at his soul. Yet, he would willingly do it all again because he was a good soldier and a loyal soldier. Army was structure and it was how he functioned best. He was a brave, loyal, honest, sincere, kind, funny and loving person. He was a loving and devoted father to his sons and he was a beloved son to us. I don’t see that in the reports. Department of Army, you get a flunking grade for those reports. They are incomplete.

We tried to help him with everything we had in us. Several times he went to detox but not for the right reasons. He didn’t try for his own sake until the last time of rehab. Finally, he really wanted to beat this addiction and recover. We were so hopeful! Thrilled!! Everything we hoped and prayed for was coming together and we could just imagine a much better life for him. He stuck with it for the full 30 day inpatient program, made his own arrangements to get back home and had already set up an appointment with a counselor locally. Our boy had just been released from a 30 day in-patient alcoholics program of which he voluntarily entered.  Life was good. Three days later, he was dead.

I’ll never understand it. But, I would like the world to know that I couldn’t be prouder of him. He did the absolute best he could.  Shouldn’t we all?

My Saving Grace

When I was 8 years old, my mother married the “other man” mentioned in previous posts. I gained 3 stepsisters and a stepbrother and our blended family began.  From now on, I will refer to my stepfather as my Dad.

My Dad was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a kind, patient, hardworking man who loved us. He was also a new Christian and our life together included attending church and church activities, seeing my Dad reading the Bible at the kitchen table every morning and hearing my mom sing along to gospel records while cooking supper. But, even back then while living the picture perfect family life, there were some cracks, some obvious signs that things are not always as they appear.

A constant battle of wills sums up my entire relationship with my mother from day one to present.

I was not a problem child but on occasion, my mother did use spanking to punish me for some childhood wrong. I don’t resent it.

But, I also recall my mother making me lean over a piece of furniture and my butt getting several lashes with a belt, which is abuse. Cutting a switch from a tree and whipping me with it for a long, long time is abuse. And, the verbal abuse cut the deepest. I believe my mother was and is mentally ill because she is still proud of those times where she took control and made me bend. The times she won and I lost. That surely is mental illness.

My dad took the opposite approach. He would take me into my bedroom and sit beside me and “talk”. Just talk about my behavior, about his expectations and he was so kind and calm. I would break inside because I did not want to be a disappointment to him. He never laid a hand on me. He never raised his voice. With him, it was never about control but about understanding. Our talk always ended with a plan of discipline (grounding or whatever), a hug and affirmation of love. My dad showed me a better way. My dad was my saving grace.

These stark differences in parenting made an impact on me. If just one person reads this and it stops them from picking up a belt, then my story has a purpose. Just stop for one second and ask this question. Is it about controlling a child or is it about shaping a child? Is it discipline or is it punishment?  Is it anger based or reconciliation based? Just stop, put the belt down and breathe. There is a better way.

 

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