I get the Seeds of Life blog in my inbox and often I only read the title but every so often it lights a little fire in me. If only because I would love to be able to forgive myself for any of a million things, a little food for thought.
Let today be a day of self-compassion. A day to forgive ourselves for a past regret, past struggle, missed opportunity. We all have times in life where we would have liked to have reacted or done things a bit differently. Made a different choice, chose a different word, taken a different road. But regret always…
I sat across the table from my sister-in-law and listened to my brother tell us things we already knew. We were gathered in the kitchen of the rented house, some at the window seat, some here at the table, a few of the brother-in-laws leaning against the counter picking at the food set out there. For the first time in three days no one spoke much. No one was swearing or drinking. We all just sat in our own minds.
“He said he’s seen this a lot. It’s terrible, but a super common situation.”
A wave of rage batters the shore in my mind. I know Dad picked 2 because he’s the most successful, business wise. But he’s also the kindest.
Who leaves a mess like this for their kids to clean up?
“He said old men are just weak. He sees it all the time.” My brother shakes his head.
It doesn’t make any of us feel any better.
“I really think he thought he’d live forever. I don’t think he did this on purpose. He just thought he’d never die, thought he had another twenty years, at least!”
I think my brother is probably right, but I can’t feel it.
In the past three years, too many things have gone wrong all starting with mom’s sudden death. The kicker being that it wasn’t even cancer that killed her. After ten years of that bullshit, it wasn’t even the cancer that did it. My father’s relief was more apparent than his grief, that was the next blow. Two of the seven children are still down for the count from that one. The other five soldiered on for eighty days until the next blow. He called each of us announcing his marriage. One was happy for him. The rest looked on in shocked silence. Not the reactions he was looking for, three months after his wedding he changed his will.
He left her everything.
Not just allowed her to live in the house until her death, but also, the final blow, left her all the personal possessions. Not just his, but everything of mom’s still in the house.
When she dies the house and property come back to the kids.
When she dies.
As I walked into the viewing, the same room mom’s was in, the first thing I heard was the second wife’s voice.
“No, he left me everything. There’s a will.”
I turned around and walked back out.
It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but hearing the words from her mouth make me very aware of that fine line that keeps me out of prison. That very thin line that defines me as human.
Out on the sidewalk in the cold night, I try to remember the last time I wanted to see someone dead. Okay, not that hard to remember, there are only two others. Is that number high?
I think about Kirk. It was almost thirty years ago. Back then I ran away to Hawaii. The distance helped but it took years to put myself back together. Now, there are no beaches, no palm trees, nothing that resembles warmth on my horizon. Not this time.
He died on the toilet. Three years to the day after mom. He’d had a recent shoulder surgery and died of heart failure.
I like to think she slapped him silly when she saw him. Then I wonder if she hugged him and commiserated with him, stupid, ungrateful children? I wonder what she thought of his second choice in wives? I wonder if the two of them think of us and are embarrassed over the mess they’ve left us to sort? Did they watch her dismantle their great room, selling off rare plants and trees they’d had longer than any of their children?
That was just the Monday after the funeral. She waited till Tuesday to start posting their personal effects on Facebook Market.
This morning I watched my youngest falter after opening her gifts. Her sister unwrapped a retro gaming system, and an Akibento box. Both things she’d been really excited about. Her brother got the laptop both of them asked for. She’d gotten a few bits from Stranger Things and a really nice Karaoke machine for the girl who sings everywhere she goes. Now, she didn’t ask for the Karaoke but I think she’s too young for a laptop and, in all honesty, I had a finite amount of energy to direct toward shopping. This morning I could see the disappointment. I pumped her up a bit, convinced she’d love the gift once we got it set up.
The look she gave me was incredibly familiar. I think I’ve seen it every year since she was born… So Skeptical!
I gave her a stern look and was gifted with the lip.
But half an hour later as we sang out first duet…Say Something…..the sun had come out again.
But it was a close call I’ll remember.
Time to stand back up, put on my big girl panties, and let the dead roll in their graves. I’ve got living to get back to.
Therapy Yes, for you. I don’t care how wonderful your life has been, how many trophies you dust every weekend. Get yourself some therapy. Go talk about yourself a couple of times a month for a year or so. Not only will your children thank you, you will learn things about your own brain that will astound you. You will be a better parent.
Expect Disappointment A child free of your genetic mistakes will have their own. They are not blank slates awaiting your fine hand. Every child comes with their own genetic history, their own likes and dislikes, their own weaknesses. You will need more than the usual amount of patience to successfully navigate this minefield of the unknown.
Adopt an Infant I’m not kidding when I say, the younger the better. The older the child is, the more trauma they have endured. Trauma leaves its mark on the psyche and can take years to manifest. If you adopt a child older than one year old, you will deal with trauma scars. If you adopt a baby born addicted to drugs, you will deal with trauma scars. Take my word, stack the deck as much in your favor as you can. Adopt the youngest, healthiest child you can find.
Who the hell do I think I am?
I am that child you want to adopt. I’m one of the easy ones. A teenage mother, a father headed off to Vietnam. I’m two days old, a little banged up from a forceps birth but all in working order. That’s what you want, right? A tidy private adoption, your names as my parents on my birth certificate, no strings. No ugly surprises in six months, twelves months, ten years.
My parents wanted that too. They engineered that for all eight of their adopted children. We grew up together in two phases, four of us in the seventies, and four of us in the eighties.
My adoptive parents are both deceased now. I give you the advice I would have liked to give them. Advice they would have smiled through, nodded thoughtfully, bless your heart, and completely ignored. She was the eldest of thirteen, what more could she possibly learn? He was the youngest of three, children were for her to worry about, he was the breadwinner.