Choices

I change the subject hastily when she asked, “Where’s you daughter? How is your daughter?”

“Good”, I reply, “How’s your son? What have you been up to?”

I choose to focus on how good it is to see this lovely woman I haven’t seen in such a long time.

This is how it goes when you haven’t seen someone who knew you 20 years ago and it’s been that long since you’ve seen them. I don’t really know how my daughter is, it’s been five years since I’ve spoken with her. 

I’m surrounded by people who love me. A dear friend is hosting a gathering in her backyard to celebrate me on my day of birth and that’s what I choose to focus on. 

My brother calls to wish me a happy birthday while mentioning my sister was there visiting not too long ago. He and my two older sisters were all together. I haven’t seen or heard from either sister in a couple of years.

I choose to focus on the fact that he called to wish me a happy birthday. 

I run into another woman I haven’t seen in twenty years. She is proud to be a grandmother now and I am happy for you. She asks how many grandkids I have. She knows my daughter had children. “Two, they are twins” and quickly change the subject. I cared for this woman’s daughter when I had a childcare. We used to gather, with our husbands and our daughters. Where would I begin to tell her I don’t see my daughter anymore, that I miss her and my grandchildren everyday?

I choose to focus on the fact that I am recognized as a mother and a grandmother and this is someone I created good memories with. 

This morning, I choose to honor my sadness. I will give it what it asks of me, to allow the tears, to trust it will pass as all feelings do. 

Then I will choose to go visit a friend.

I don’t wear jewelry anymore

I don’t wear jewelry anymore

Did I beg mama to give me the cluster of pearls ring that was my grandmother’s
Or did she just give it to me willy nilly and send me on my way
all I remember is I was around nine. 
Memory is sometimes vague, often it only comes with a certain feeling. 
I remember being in the back yard searching for it, just me. 
Did she know I lost it, I don’t know but I hate that I don’t still have it.

My high school/college boyfriend, yes he was the love of my life really in truly, brought me a necklace of an etched whale’s tooth from his family trip to Hawaii. I still have the Bulova watch he gifted me. Wish I still had him, ha. He is dead though, he died from ALS. His wife invited me to come visit several times before he died. It was precious. 

Mama wouldn’t let me pierce my ears. I took care of that with an ice cube and a sewing needle. I don’t think I got in trouble. She usually didn’t have the energy to punish or guide me. My pierced ears created a tradition, my daughter would always get me a new pair of earrings for my birthday. I kept some of those earrings even though I don’t wear them anymore. 

A few years ago, my ears began to turn red every time I put an earring in. They would itch and burn. The best solution was to no longer wear them. I gave away most of my earrings, kept the ones that hold a special memory in my heart. 

In 9th grade, Mama took me and my older sister, on a ten day tour to Europe. In ten days we went to London, Stratford on Avon, Paris, Lucerne, Rome, (day trip to Assisi), Florence and Venice. My memories are fairly vivid from this trip. We were blessed by the Pope at the Vatican. In Lucerne, Mama announced we could get a special piece of jewelry to commemorate our trip. My sister chose a watch. I chose a sapphire diamond ring. Eventually I passed it down to my daughter. I hope she still has it.

The one last piece of jewelry I possessed from my grandmother, a stunning, unusual turquoise and diamond ring was stolen a few years ago. Traveling through Portland. I went out to my car after a night’s stay at a boutique hotel in the northeast neighborhood. Not only was one window busted out, but two. I had the ring in the car because I was taking it to be repaired. It is gone. I searched craiglist ads, placed an ad. I still think some weird miracle could happen, shopping in Portland and spotting it. Who knows, none of us know. 

Worthless or just misunderstood

One of the gifts of isolation time during Covid has been time, time to write, time for online writing classes and time to read. Reading other memoir is a great teacher while writing my own memoir. The latest memoir I picked up, What We Carry by Maya Shanbhag Lang is about mothers and daughters, family secrets and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. I can’t put it down only stopping to re read and underline phrases.
Maya’s mother was a psychiatrist, her father had a temper and did not hold women in high regard.


“Against this backdrop, my mom’s stories provided a glimpse of an alternative universe where people aren’t worthless; they were simply misunderstood.”

This week, I was fortunate enough to have a small piece of writing published by Visible Magazine. A boost in the arm, knowing my writing is worthy of publishing. Maya’s quote worthless vs. being misunderstood struck a cord. I’d like to believe that if some understanding came to be, my family could heal. If grace ever presents itself for the opportunity to understand, I will surely welcome it. Meantime, I’ll accept what is and keep writing.

Radio Silence

I might be coming out of radio silence. A little over month ago I got stopped in my tracks due to shocking news.

I have been reconciled with the fact that I likely will not have a relationship with my adult daughter in this lifetime. That acceptance has helped me to get on with my life a bit.

But I had held out hope that I might know my grandchildren who I knew for the first two and a half years of their life. It’s been four years since I have seen them. That hope was diminished at the end of January when I learned my daughter has put it her divorce papers that I am not to have contact with my grandchildren. My ex son in law was wanting me to know them again, but my daughter has made sure that will not happen. It’s heartbreaking. It has set me back. I was writing, I haven’t been writing.

I go to the store, someone asks me, “how are those grandkids of yours?” I say, “I don’t know” as my eyes start to water. This person tells me her cancer is back, her husband just beat colon cancer. She is chipper in her brightly colored clothes. My tears are still there, now for her and the gift of witnessing her strength. I tell her so.

On social media someone is showing off their new grandchild. I click away, happy for them while reminded that I do not have that privilege. I instead go searching for an island vacation.

What I know is that this feeling is temporary. I have to be gentle with myself and everyone involved. I will write again, I am writing now.

What I also know is while the family thing hasn’t worked out so well, I have some of the richest, most authentic friendships a person could ask for. I have kids in my life, a couple of them consider me their stand in grandmother. This does not go unnoticed and is not taken for granted. A therapist of mine says if you have one person you can call during your worst times you are rich in friendship. I have several of those “one” persons. I think they know I am that person for them as well.

In telecommunications, radio silence or Emissions Control is a status in which all fixed or mobile radio stations in an area are asked to stop transmitting for safety or security reasons. I believe it has been a safety issue to not be writing. It’s getting safe again.

Love you all, thanks for reading.

What I know and what I’m guessing

Here’s what I know, the rest I’m guessing at.

It’s been four and a half years since I have seen or heard from my daughter, fact.
She and I have struggled in our relationship since her teenage years. The struggle intensified when I divorced her step dad after an 11 year relationship. He was a good step dad. I stayed in the marriage longer than I should have because of that. He was a good man, but our marriage wasn’t. We both had a part in that. He and his infidelities, me choosing to stay with him in spite of that. Me drinking to deal, becoming angry, sometimes showing rage that my daughter unfortunately witnessed. It sucked for her. I have days of wishing hard for a redo or an opportunity for understanding and forgiveness.

I’ve read of relationships either strengthening or ending during this Covid time. In the beginning, I thought surely my daughter will want to connect, with all the fear this disease has evoked. Time passed, I got wind she was going through a divorce. As more time passed, the message was clear. She will not be reaching out. She has me blocked on all forms of communication. Covid will not be bringing us together. Nor will it be bringing me together with most of my family of origin. My sisters had a summer visit in the same town I lived in this summer. I didn’t hear from them. I learned on social media one sister has a new grandchild. The message is clear, for whatever reasons, some I am responsible for, divorcing, drinking and suicide attempt our family won’t be coming together. I suppose some things are unforgivable. Sometimes we are seen and defined by our worst actions.

I’m guessing, my family has deemed me crazy, unforgivable, toxic while the diagnosis of varying mental illnesses have certainly been tossed about amoung them. Since we don’t talk, I’m just guessing.
Some days, most days, I realize I have a pretty great life. I’m content really, living in a town I have loved since I discovered it. I’m healthy, have such dear friends, I’m pursuing creative outlets. I’m sober, I’m seeking, will never stop seeking and growing hopefully. I’m not pining to be in a relationship, nor do I feel I need another person to complete me or take care of me.
Some days I miss my daughter so badly, it kinda messes up the entire day. But those days are fewer and they will always happen. I am a mother. I miss my child.
As Dr. Joshua Coleman mentions in his talk here, I chose to feel the pain instead of avoiding it or pushing it away.

Thanks for reading a blog that started as a travel blog turned into a variety of blog posts, favorite shows, podcasts, writings, great places to donate, businesses to support, sometimes it’s sharing the journey of family estrangement. I feel it is an important topic to bring to light and discuss openly.

From Scientific America: “Family estrangement is one of my most requested topics from listeners and readers coping with the loss and isolation they feel when someone cuts family ties. In a way, the grief of family estrangement can be more painful—or at least more complicated—than the grief over a loved one who has died. When a family member voluntarily walks away, you may miss them and feel confused, ashamed, frustrated, and disappointed, especially if the hope of reunification is dashed.”

For my grandchildren

My Grandson

He named me.
Before that, the first time I saw him he had that wisdom in his eyes.
His head was strong and may it always be.
He would run, I mean run to me when I opened the door,
Eyes bright with delight and a giggle that would melt a heart.
If he spotted me through the window, before I got to the door,
The both of us could not get to the door fast enough.

I wonder, will I see that smile, hear his laugh, feel his hug.
Does he want to share that, will he want to share that?
Will there be any glimmer of remembrance?

Are books by your bed, are you outdoors quite often, walking among the trees or zooming past them as you pedal fast?
What are your interest, I’d love to know?
Do you feel protective of your sister even if she bothering you when you’d rather not be bothered?
How is school, do you enjoy learning, making friends?
Will I get to know these things about you?
I love you.

My Granddaughter

You learned pretty quick to take up for yourself when your brother tried to overpower.
In the double stroller, you were delighted to be behind your brother, able to reach up and grab at his hair to make him squeal. I have a picture to prove it.

I am proud, proud of the way you are determined, even if you have to be loud about it sometimes.

And I beamed when someone said, “she looks like you” and when I saw you dressed in the clothes I had saved from your mother’s babyhood.

So peaceful were our quiet times together, snuggling, reading, figuring out a puzzle or singing itsy bitsy spider. 

Tell me now, do you like to draw, read, do crafts or would you much rather be getting on your bike, adventuring outside or a little of  both. What do you enjoy most about school, do you want to know more about numbers or words or science?

By the way, do you remember me? I do hope to know you again someday.  
I love you. 

You may not like what you find

If you go looking, you may not like what you find. I decided to google my deceased paternal grandfather. He was chancery clerk of Hinds county (Jackson, MS) in 1958. I always felt he was not a totally honest man. He often kept to himself in his room when we visited his house. I never had any one on one time with him as a young child. He was not a hands on kind of grandfather.
I found a congressional record. It is written exactly a year before I was born. It stated, “June 7, 1958: King was committed on June 6th to Whitfield State Mental Hospital for a period of observation to last a minimum of 30 days. Examination by the two Hinds County doctors was by Chancery Clerk Frank Scott following a statement by Gov. J.P. Coleman who declared King “went berserk” during his attempt at entry to the University Thursday. Coleman said that if the mental examination shows King is sane, he will be tried on charges of disturbing the peace and resisting arrest on the Ole Miss campus at Oxford.” Yes, Clennon King was a black man. More on Clennon King Jr.
In 1962, James Meredith  became the first black man to be admitted to the University of  Mississippi.
My grandfather was part of this unjust system. I am not surprised, but heartbroken. So many emotions around this. My family has a history and continues to hide behind appearances. If it’s ugly don’t discuss, if it’s uncomfortable don’t go there. I’ve been the one in the family to go “berserk” over injustices and yes deemed insane by them.
Today I feel a little paralyzed learning this. However, it will also fuel me to continue the fight for bringing justice where it is due.

Complete Congressional Record

Forgive

Sometimes, I fall asleep crying and wake up crying. I’ve come to accept that and move through it, knowing in another moment I won’t be.
I cry for missed opportunities, family gatherings, my grandchildren turning 6, hearing them call me Gaga, the comfort of family checking in on each other during a pandemic, sisters, nephews, daughter and grandchildren calling to wish me a happy 61st birthday, planning the next gathering, and laughing together.
For reasons, some of my own doing and some I’m not sure of, those opportunities have passed.
I do believe, if we all listened, really listened with the empathy to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, we could grow to understand and forgive. I believe there is a story to be told, one of love and redemption. Fear  is erased, holds on control and the need to be right are loosened, and hearts are opened.

But for today, I’m off to Black Lives Matter Rally in Missoula. Black Lives Matter Rally
Showing up to show support, listen and learn.

Side note: the dolphin is running good. I took it to have oil changed at Lube It. The guys there loved it. I love it when whoever is working on it, loves it. Taking it into RV shop on Wednesday to have a few things taken care of.  I love it and it needs so much work!