"I learned that I HAVE moved on." I said I would write more about this…
My older sisters took over my mother’s care back in 1999 after my dad died. During Dad’s short, intense battle with cancer, we all stepped up to try to nurse him, to allow him to die at home, as was his wish. I, however, had the luxury of being able to quit my mostly useless job and spend the most time with Dad, do most of the organizing and cooking and running him back and forth to the hospital. It was excruciating, but I took on that responsibility because no one else could, or would.
After Dad passed away, the blame for everything that might have gone wrong or been handled inadequately during his illness fell squarely on my shoulders. My sisters summarily relieved me of any responsibility when it came to my mother’s care, obviously convinced I had done such a piss-poor job with Dad that they could not allow me to reprise that performance with our surviving parent. Mom was critically ill herself at that time, so the family basically revolved around her care and concerns; and I was rather brutally pushed away from that activity. Of course I was crushed…and indignant. But it quickly became obvious that the only way for us to come to any kind of peace after Dad’s death was for me to back off and bow out. To the point where, ultimately, the husband and I felt it was in our best interest to move away—back to Portland, where he had a job and a life. Whereas I had neither. Anywhere. I needed to get a life.
We moved north in May of 2001. We bought a lovely home, the nicest we’d ever had. Husband made enough money that I didn’t really need to work. Which was just as well, because I struck out repeatedly trying to find a decent job. I was lonely, isolated, and sad. At loose ends, I flitted from project to project, never really accomplishing anything, or even staying busy. I cried bitter tears for a home and family that had been the center of my universe but no longer existed. And I wrote. Pages and pages of anything that I thought might ease the pain. It didn’t take me too long to realize I knew what I needed, but it was way tougher to accomplish than it was to figure out. I needed to get a life.
For five years, I spun my wheels, or rolled uncertainly in directions that tookme halfway to where I needed to go, but always terminated in dead ends. Everything I tried to do to become independent from my family—or the memory of what my family had been—only served to drive me back to them. I started my own little business, but found I needed to rely heavily upon my sisters to make it work. That seemed like "the" solution for a time. I cherished the germ of hope that I was providing a way for us to regain some of our lost closeness. Even as I watched their interest flag; even as I sat wistfully on the sidelines while they got their own new lives… I needed to get a life.
Going "home" for visits was rarely pleasant. I craved those visits, hungered for them like an addict for a fix. But in the end, there was always some episode, some incident that demonstrated once again that there were clear reasons why we had moved away. I needed to get a life.
On July 1, 2006, we signed the papers on the café. In the months preceding that momentous occasion, I fretted and worried and wrung my hands about the decision. It was a whole lot of money, this $100,000 we were about to spend on what amounted to a somewhat crazy gamble. But I could no more have stopped myself from signing those papers than I could have held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Because I knew…I knew I was buying my life.
Last Sunday, as the husband and I took our stolen moments from the café and enjoyed our walk with the dog up on the dike, I stood and looked out across the greening fields. I looked west toward the backdrop of the misty dark hills, looked toward my home. My café. My town. I took a deep breath and I realized all at once that I had finally done it. I had finally got a life.
A couple of weeks ago, the news came from down south that my mother had fallen when she tried to get out of bed one morning. She was not seriously hurt, but my sisters took her to the hospital anyway, to try to determine why she fell.. Mom is 84 years old, and has been in poor health for, oh, about twenty years. She’s a tough old bird, and has managed to hang in there through some pretty nasty episodes that might have killed a less tenacious soul.
At first, that old frustration threatened to take over me. I bridled when my oldest sister failed to keep me informed of what was going on, then cut me off when I calledher for news. And then it hit me—what could I do from a hundred miles away that would be of any possible use?
So I let it be. The history will never go away, so it stung some. But I made a tacit little deal with my sisters: You take care of all of this. I’ll pay for the privilege of being on the outside by NOT giving you a hard time about what you do and how you do it. Which is more than you did for me when I was struggling to deal with Dad’s issues. It seems like an eminently fair exchange to me.
I shook my own hand on the deal, and then I turned around and dove headfirst back into my life.