Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One Mother's Trials

(This was actually my first journal entry, just not the first one published)
Journal 2/9/10

Until recently I haven't logged a journal entry in years. I remember how cathartic it was though, what a great relief it was to simply get things out and on paper or whatever. I've had my share of issues over the past several years, but nothing that has urged me to journal, quite so much as the events that have transpired with my daughter over the past week or so.I've never raised a daughter, or any children to adulthood for that matter.

I am doing the best I know how as a mother. Or am I?? What instinct am I missing that makes the connection with my daughter what it is today (which apparently isn't much). A little background here may help. I recently spent about 3-5 weeks in a deep, deep depression. I lay in bed with no desire to do anything, with anyone. Not my kids, not Rob, not anyone. Haven stepped up to the plate A LOT as far as doing things for her and her brother. I will never forget what this child has had to endure because of the mistakes I've made. I don't always have the right answers.

I had Haven when I was 19. I cared about nothing more than being a good mother, and taking the best care I could of my child. By the time Haven was 3, I had been married and divorced. My world had been turned upside down, and like many people my age, I didn't quite know how to handle it. I started partying, doing drugs, and basically was more worried about having fun than being the mother that she needed. I was simply trying to escape my pain, selfishly thinking it wouldn't affect her precious little life at all.

She was young. I didn't realize what impact my absence could possibly have on a child so young. Seems I may be paying that price now. I have made bad mistakes as a more mature adult. Did I try to lessen the impact on my kids as much as possible? Of course I did! Does that mean it didn't impact them at all? No!

I also spent over four years in a very controlling and abusive relationship in which Haven was old enough to know what was going on. I will always be at odds with myself for the negative impact this relationship may have had on my kids, especially her. Despite all of this, the long and short of it is that I have always done what I needed to do to make sure they were taken care of.

They have always had a roof over their heads, food in their mouths, and a mother who loves them deeper than words can ever express.For seven years, Haven was an only child. Despite some of the choices I made, the time spent away, Haven has always been somewhat spoiled. For seven years she had me mostly to herself. She had my mother mostly to herself. I can imagine that having to share that spotlight with another child after so many years can be difficult.

With all of this, what is a mother to do. As much as I know she is an 11 yr old hormomal basket case, I also worry exactly what impact all of my mistakes have had on this child that I love so deeply. Recently, we've been butting heads really bad! She thinks I shouldn't yell. I think she should do what she is told, the first time and not have to be told 5 times. I think she should take initiative and take care of her responsibilities without having to be told. She thinks she should always get something in return, or just not have to do anything at all.

She thinks she should have all the things her little heart desires. I think she should too, but given our financial situation, it simply is not possible. Would I give her all of these things; cel phones, laptop, shopping every week for clothes, etc... if I did have the money. I'm not sure that I would given her current attitude. My attitude sucks sometimes too, so she comes by it honest. I just don't feel that is an excuse for me to let her get away with being disrespectful, sassy, and downright defiant at times.

One of the main problems is, this child is so good at making me question my own parenting skills. I try to be lenient, I know that puberty is not easy to deal with. Have I been too lenient? Some say I have, she thinks I'm too strict. Where does parenting stop working, and a child's 'nature' begin? At this point, I simply don't know. I know that I have made mistakes, and will make more before it's all said and done. I am not super human, and I am not super mom.

All I know, is I do the best I can at this point in time. I'm always willing to learn and grow. I also know that I cannot let guilt over situations past, to govern my parenting at this point in my life. If I let that guilt rule my relationship with my children, I fear what will happen to them as adults because I would never discipline them. I would never raise my voice, I would never expect anything but for them to exist and that would be enough.

Bottom line is that for my children to simply exist, especially as adults, is simply NOT acceptable to me. I want them to grow up with something to offer this crazy world we live in. I have spent 31 years simply existing. That is not what I want for my kids.

I get up from day to day, and other than being a mother, jewelry designer, and soap maker, I am nothing. I know that is all something, but it is still lacking from what I could be contributing to this world. That is not a good feeling.I have never wanted to die, but some days I feel like this world would carry on just fine without me, and it would. I know that in order to be the best mother, and everything else I can be, I have to work through these issues.

I have to find my place in this world before I can ever lead a pre-teen girl to her righteous path. Does this mean that I won't keep trying? NO. We will survive this. I'm sure there will be plenty more melt downs, several journal entries, and more than enough moments of self doubt and self reassurance. Where will we be at the end of this journey? Well obviously I don't know that yet. But, I will let you know when we get there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dear Dad

Journal Entry 2-9-10

Dear Dad,

You're dying. I'm sure you're wondering why I'm stating the obvious. It's been a little over 2 months since I got the call from Aunt Cindy. Before she told me, she was sure to call the prison and make sure it was true. I know that sounds terrible, but given your mental history, well we just never know whether to believe you or not. I have not written you because I don't know what to say. To be quite honest, I'm not sure how to feel. You've been my father my entire life, and ironically, you've been in prison my entire life too.

They always made sure I knew you, always made sure I saw you as often as possible. As a matter of fact, Grandma bent over backwards to make sure we made those visits. When I was a young child, it was my 'norm', until I realized that most kids didn't go visit their Dads in prison. But for some reason, it was still ok. It was all I had ever known. For a long time, it was ok that you weren't there. As I got older, and I realized how you were, it wasn't so "OK" any more.

Do you remember the letter you wrote me when I got pregnant with your Granddaughter? Do you remember what you said to me? I do. I also remember that it was then and only then, that I started building my wall against you. I mean, you actually had the audacity to scold me!!! You had the nerve to question my situation and my choices. Well guess what; You had no right. I told you that. I wrote you a 17 page letter telling you basically, to suck it up and deal with it. It was that blatant lack of support, from my father, that made me realize you had never been there and never would be.

I was 18 freakin' years old before I actually came to grips with the reality that I had never really had a father and never really would. This was about the same time I'd found out what kind of letters you'd been writing to my grandmother. Yea, that pissed me off too! Probably more so than the callus remarks about me being pregnant. That woman did the best she could to take care of us both, and you treated her like shit. For that, I never thought I would forgive you. Do you have any idea how much pain you caused her with your words??!!

You cannot blame her for your issues. She raised 3 other wonderful and successful children, so it couldn't have just been her. Do you see that now? That's my next, most vivid memory of you, your rediculous blaming of others for things that you did. Choices that you, and only you could make. I shake my head when I think of the narcisistic, self-centered jerk you've been for most of my life. Everything was always about you, and what others should do for you because you were in prison. BOO FREAKIN' HOO!!! Do you get it? I stopped feeling sorry for you as soon as I was old enough to know what you'd done and why you were locked up.

I am so glad that you have never been able to munipulate me like you could my grandmother. I'm so glad that I've never had the soft spot for you that my mother still seems to harbor. I have spent my entire life going back and forth from feeling sorry for you because you suffer from a mental illness, and being pissed off at you for getting locked up. Now you're dying, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to feel. Hurt, sad, relieved? How, exactly, am I supposed to react?

I know that I have a good heart, and I do not want you to suffer any more than I wish suffering on anyone else on earth. I pray that it is not a long drawn out process for you. Dad, to be quite honest, those are the only feelings I can manage to muster over this entire situation. For 31 years, someone has had to see to it that you are taken care of. Honestly, it will be a burden lifted to have you constantly calling and writing family members asking for money. I'm just glad that someone else took over when Grandma passed away, because I really don't think I could have done it.

You are my father, and I love you as much as a 31 year old woman can be expected to love someone who has been locked away their entire life. I wish I loved you more, and I also wish you'd loved me enough to stay out of trouble. That, my dear Father, is honestly how I feel right now at this very moment. Why wasn't I enough to keep you from doing something to get yourself locked up in prison?

Why, my dear Father, wasn't my birth enough? Why did you constantly have to have more money? It's not like you were broke, you were just greedy. I spent years using the excuse that you had bi-polar disorder, for you being in prison. Now, I just can't. I deal with depression, and I don't go out and rob people. There are so many people that have your disorder that aren't out robbing jewelry stores and getting life plus 50 years in prison. You chose to do what you did, and that, I am not sure I will ever understand.

I know that this is all basically water under the bridge. There is nothing to be done about it now, no way for you to make it better. Come to think of it, there never really was. Once it was done, it was done. I try not to dwell on this, Dad, but I can't help but come to the realization that it is part of who I am today. And it's not really the fact that you've been gone my entire life that really gets to me. I think I'm more bothered by the fact that you've never, not once, said you were sorry. Do you even realize that you've never apologized for not being there for me? All you had to say was "I'm sorry baby girl. I did something stupid, and now I can't be there for you."

I can completely understand how someone who will never know freedom could feel so sorry for themselves. Hell, I probably would too. But, you need to understand that this is the very reason I am so shut off from my emotions when it comes to you. I've never had the priveledge to imagine you dying anywhere but in prison. To have a father in my life, in any other way, is a feeling I have never known and never will.

Now, I'm sure there are worse things a father could do to his daughter than getting sentenced to prison for their entire lives. But, that is what you did. And in the process, you left an innocent child with no Daddy to protect her from the ways of this crazy world. I have two children now, and cannot imagine in my wildest dreams, doing something that would jeopordize their right to have a mother who is present and active in their lives.

I do not dwell on this, Dad, and I know that I must forgive you before I will ever know peace myself. And part of me does forgive you, but the child in me had not. Not until today that is. It has taken me all these years to realize that all of these emotions were still locked away behind that wall I'd built. It is my reality, and it is what it is. There is no going back, there never was. How can a child not wish to be the heart and soul of their parents? I now realize that it was not my fault that Mom and I were not enough for you. That was noone's fault but your own.

I sincerely hope that you find the fulfillment in death, that you never had in life. As for me, well, I have it. I have two beautiful children that I adore, and who look to me for comfort each and every day. They have a wonderful father figure in their lives that adores and provides for them as well. That is where I find my peace Dad, knowing that I will not follow in your footsteps. Knowing that as long as it is in my power I will never leave my children in this chaotic world to fend for themselves. I could not possibly live with myself if I did.

I have to go now. I'm sorry that I can't comfort you in your time of need, but you see, that's something you never taught me how to do. Unfortunately, you get out of life what you put into it and the same usually goes for people. This is probably more than you have put into this relationship, and therefore, what you get in return. I will not apologize for not being able to muster up feelings for you that I simply do not have. And, I will not blame myself for that or feel guilty. I know that I have a good heart, and I also know that you are not someone I have to thank for that.

So, I pray you have a speedy and painless death. I hope you make it to Heaven where you will know peace and happiness. As for me Dad, I will carry on with my life as if you never existed. That's what I've always had to do, so it shouldn't be hard. I do love you and really hope you don't suffer.


A Letter to Grandma

Journal Entry 2-8-10

It's official. I've been 31 for an entire 3 days now. I came into this world, the spawn of the black sheep of my family, on February 5th, 1979. Was I doomed from the beginning? I don't know. I'd say if it hadn't been for my Grandmother(my Father's mother) I would've been, even more so than I already am. Grandma, I miss you!

That's what this journal entry is all about, my Grandmother. She's been gone for exactly six years. She passed away from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma the day after my birthday 6 years ago. I don't know that I'll ever get used to her being gone. Even on her death bed, she was busy making sure that my aunts took care of getting me something for my birthday. She made the remark that she would not die before my birthday, and she didn't. She died the day after.

A stubborn soul she was, and keep her word she did. Grandma, you did not have to suffer as long as you did just for me. In case you can't tell, this is a death I have never grieved. To this day, I don't know if I can handle it. As much as I know she meant to each and every one of her children, she was so much more to me. Not to say I loved her more, I'm not sure that was possible. All of my aunts are great women and loved their mother.

You see, my respect for her (in my eyes anyway) is on a totally different level. They were her children. She chose to have them and raise them and she did a damn fine job. By the time I came along, she had basically raised her children except for one aunt who was a teenager and rarely home. However, in true Grandma fashion, she stepped in and did what no Grandmother should have to do, she raised me.

By the time I was 6 months old, my father was in prison. Not just in prison for a few years, he was sentenced to life plus fifty years, He would never know freedom again. And I would never know the life of a normal child. Not for lack of effort, Grandma did the best she could to raise yet another child. This time, the child was the product of one hellion of a father, and an ill-educated mother.

For as long as I can remember, she saw to it that I was taken good care of. She saw to it that I saw my father, that I saw the rest of my family(who lived another world away from small town Connecticut in Tennessee). First and foremost, she always tried to see to it that I was happy, well fed, clothed, and had as 'normal' a childhood as possible for a seemingly doomed youngster.

At the same time, she was constantly making sure my father was well taken care of in prison. I vividly remember the holiday lists and packages. A couple times a year, he was allowed to have packages of special items sent in. I remember everything from Hershey's Kisses and other candies, to packages of white socks and t-shirts going into those boxes. Toothbrushes, other toiletries, etc. And she never complained.

She never complained about having to raise a child that was not hers to raise. She never complained about things that she may have wanted to do, but was unable because she had me. Not that it necessarily stopped too much, but I'm sure that taking a child on almost every single trip you ever made, was not what she thought she'd be doing after all of her children were raised and out on their own. She did it though. And she did it with grace and style.

It's been 6 years and 3 days since she left this world, and to this day, I just want to call her for advice when I'm second guessing myself. I want to be able to call her and just tell her how much I love her and how much I have grown to appreciate everything she ever did for me. You see, then I didn't know any better. That's just the way life was. I lived with my Grandma because that's where I liked it better, that's where I had the most stability. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized she wasn't obligated to do anything she did for me, regardless of how much she may have felt she was.

Thanks to this wonderful woman, who's presence no longer graces this earth, I am not doomed. I am not just another statistic born to a criminal and left to find my own way in this world. I may be a little screwed up. I have issues that need to be dealt with. But thanks to her, and my wonderful family, I did have some morals and standards instilled in me during my upbringing. Thanks to her I did not have to live in poverty or be a simple victim of circumstance. The truth is, I think I am better off for her impact in my life than I ever would have been had my mother and father been left to care for me themselves.

Don't get me wrong, my Mother is great in her own right. She did the best she could, and is an awesome Grandmother to my children. I love her with all of my heart. In truth, I don't think it would matter if she were rich and the best mother on earth, there will always be a void in my soul that my Grandma used to fill. It's funny how when you're young, you rarely realize how important people are to you. It is not until they are gone, swept from your life for all time, that you realize what an amazing impression they had.

I fear to think where I would be today if not for her. I really do. I fear to think of what kind of person I would be had she not left such an indelible impression on my life.

Dear Grandma,

Where would I be today, Grandma, had you not loaded me up and took me on your bus route? Where would I be today had you not paid my way and hauled my stuff on all the road trips we took when I was young? Where would I be today, had you not bought me a round trip plain ticket every single year to go to Tennessee and spend the majority of the summer with the other side of my family? How incredibly unselfish it was of you to make sure I had the best life you were able to give me.

Where would I be today, Grandma, had you not always made sure that no matter where you lived, I had my own bedroom. There, waiting for me no matter what. How many times in my life would have actually gotten to see my father had you not forked out money, time, and hours on the road; making the treck from Connecticut to Tennessee and back again to visit him in prison? What kind of shape would I have been in had you not taken my daughter for a month so I could go to rehab and get my shit together?

I miss you Grandma! As much comfort as I get in the fact that you're in Heaven watching over me and these kids; it does not touch the comfort I would get out of being able to pick up the phone and call you. Nothing in this world can touch the amount of respect and gratitude I will always have in my heart for you. In my eyes, regardless of what faults others may have found in you, there are none. I know that you were controlling, stubborn, and set in your ways. But, in my childish eyes, you were then and now, and Angel. You were sent from Heaven to take your place in the life of a child who would be nothing without you.

If my father never gave me anything other than life, the best thing he ever did was give me you. Or vise versa, however one wishes to see it. You, for the longest time, were the only one I had to look up to. And to this day, the one person I would never want to disappoint. I miss you! I'm sorry I didn't call you for so long after I found out you were sick. Turns out, I'm not that great at dealing with stuff sometimes. I did not know how to deal with you being sick. As selfish as it was, when I told you, you understood. You cried with me and let me know that you still loved me and it was OK. It was not OK, and nothing I can do will ever get that time back.

Grandma, I'd give anything if we'd been able to make that trip from Connecticut to Savannah to move you into your new townhouse. If anyone on this Earth ever deserved to live out their last years in the warm Georgia sun, watching their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids grow, it was you. You would've loved it, I know. You would've loved watching Maia, Devon, Haven, Bradley, Everett, Makenna, and London grow up and being a Great Grandmother.

For reasons that I don't have to understand, God had other plans for you, and the rest of us because he took you to Heaven. As selfish as it is for me to want and need you here, you are exactly where you deserve to be. In a place without pain and heartache. A place where you can watch over us all at the same time and understand why things are the way they are. That is luxury well deserved, that the rest of us have not yet earned. I am not mad at God for taking you, nor you for leaving. But when it comes to you, even after all these years, I am a mere child who selfishly and unashamedly wants her Grandma here.

I hope with this, you can help me start the process of grieving your absence from this world. It has been 6 years, and I don't have drugs in my life any longer to help numb the pain. I have to do this, as hard as the mere thought of it is. I have to accept(rather than ignore) the fact that you are gone from my physical life and will be until it is time for me to join you. It is simply just that time in my life. I know I don't have to explain this to you, and I know you understand. I know you love me, and are here for me whenever I need to talk.

For now, I will simply find solace in my firm belief that you are in a place that is filled with love, free from pain, and above and beyond anything I can wrap my head around. The truth is, I need you watching over me now as much as I ever have. I need your advice and words of wisdom as I raise my children, and try to find my way in this crazy world. I guess now, I will just have to listen harder but I will be listening. I can't do this without you. I never could have and don't see why I should have to stop now.

If I can just get over the fact that you're really gone from physical reach, I will be ok. I will deal with it, and take whatever I can get. I will keep you with me every single day, in my heart, like I have since the day you left this earth. If you'll just guide me gently, the way you always did, the kids and I will be ok. Just don't go too far Grandma. Please don't go out of prayers reach, because I need you now, just as I did as a child if not more. There are so many of us that were graced with your presence in life, please to continue to grace us in your death and know that, to me, you'll never be completely gone.

As I continue to grow from the 31 year old woman I am, I can only hope to be half the woman you were, Grandma. I can only hope to live up to whatever hopes and dreams you had for me. I can only hope that I can raise my kids to be half the people you raised Aunt Cindy, Christy, and Jeanine to be. Dad wasn't your fault. I think that after all these years, he may actually be starting to see that. If not, don't worry, I will remind him because I am his daughter and I can do that, whether he likes it or not. You see, he doesn't get the pleasure of making me feel guilty as he did you. I let him know, under no uncertain terms, that if not for you, I would have been a lost cause. I think with that, he realized that he couldn't really blame you anymore. At least not to me, I won't allow it.

So, I know you're enjoying life in Heaven, and with that I believe I can finally find comfort. Perhaps not the comfort I sometimes think I need, but comfort I can live with. Ya know, as I sit here and type this out, I can honestly say I'm glad you're not suffering anymore. I don't know that the selfish child in me could have said that at the beginning of this letter/journal entry. There are so many things in my life I would go back and change if I could. Having been raised by such a wonderful woman, is not one of them. There is not one single thing in my life I wouldn't trade for the years I had you in my life. Not one.

With that, I just want you to know that I am eternally grateful for your presence in my life. Actually, grateful doesn't even begin to grasp the scope of how fortunate I am. I feel sorry for the people who did not know you, and the ones who may not have appreciated you. For those of us that had you in our lives, well I don't think any words can describe just how lucky we are. Tell Grandpa John I miss him too. Tell him he's the only Grandpa I ever had or ever will. I love you Grandma! I miss you terribly, but you will remain right here in my heart forever.

Love always,