Thursday, March 15, 2007

Feeling Melancholy

July 2001

Family is the most important thing in my life. My children, my husband, my parents, my siblings, and all of the rest. I love visiting with aunts, uncles & cousins. I miss the stories of 'days ago'. They know so much. I love family recipes. I relish family photos. I am thrilled to learn the crafts of these folks who have so much to share. I love being compared to someone in the family - it's a connection. It's who I am.

I'm no saint. My mothering skills revealed my impatience way too often. I regret this but hope it made us all stronger. I love my children and would give my life for them.

I recall the days when the three were small/young and wonder how I managed so often by myself while my husband served our country. We spent holidays apart, anniversaries separated, relocated to unfamiliar territories by ourselves. Our income was divided to support all of his family... we made the most of what we had.

When faced with a home left behind by my predeceasor we found ourselves paying back taxes, deep cleaning walls and carpets, replacing light fixtures removed and the fireplace insert. We were blessed with acreage that needed major attention to avoid code enforcement and a pool which had to be emptied, scrubbed, refilled in addition to replacing the equipment. At that point in our life it felt like two steps forward and one back. With every accomplishment we were faced with another outstanding bill left by another or an legal document breaking a previous agreement leaving us once again to pick up the pieces. And no means of contacting his children who were no longer available to him.

I flew to foreign countries with 3 small children, left my babies with women I had to trust, lived in an economy of theft & distrust where I was the foreigner, endured Hurricane Hugo AND the aftermath of living on an island with no water or electricity waiting for supplies to arrive by barge, managed chicken pox X3, flu, head lice, pneumonia, runny noses, scraped faces/knees/elbows, stitches, mended broken hearts, sold multiple houses, moved cross country, unpacked households, the list goes on. This doesn't even touch on the day to day "make my hair turn gray" car maintenance, bills to pay and no money, repairs, food disasters, dead pets, mishaps, fumigating, projectile pukes... I don't feel sorry for myself. It's the life we chose - no one forced me. It is part of what makes me who I am today. I managed - one day at a time. I smile because I survived! I am proud of myself.

In addition to my own children, I have spent the past 25 plus years trying to find a place in the hearts of my husband's older children - and their families. Family is important. Our children were raised knowing they had 2 older brothers & 2 older sisters. They were raised knowing we are ONE family. Even when the contact was minimal, there has never been a doubt about what role the older four children play in the lives of the younger three. It's never been questioned. This is what we chose and what we want to be.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about family. They don't all see us as a family in the same manner. It's been a rollercoaster ride, believe me. Through them we are blessed with grandchildren - and while we are not a part of their family snapshots, I hope they will always know how much we love them.

Once upon a time we were able to spend more time together. We lived in an area that was convenient, or on the way, when they traveled. We looked forward to those visits every year. Often times we had more than one daughter at a time, as well as their children. It was great to be a part of their lifes. We moved some years ago. To date, their frequent travels haven't found them returning to our new home. We've traveled to their homes or crossed paths on the coast when they needed someone to watch their kids while we camped. The time with the kids was special but we missed their parents too.

My own parents and siblings are also thousands of miles away. My parents are healthy now but I worry. My sister's family is growing up way too fast. I need to figure out how to get back more often to visit and spend time with them - know them - be a part of their lifes too. I had two precious weeks with them in October. It was quality time with my folks and time on the run with my sister. I loved every second. My nieces and nephews are good about emailing and texting. I love being a part of their day. It's nice to know I'm in their thoughts.

My husband's immediate family is gone. His brother passed away followed by his mother and then his father. The family Patriarch position is supposed to be his Dad. Except his Dad is not here. Mike's brother got sick when we lived in Puerto Rico. Twice Mike had tickets to be with him and his parents, but needed notification from the Red Cross to leave his military post. Twice we got partial refunds from airlines because no one got word to the Red Cross. It breaks my heart when we hear the stories of how hard it was for his brother. I know Mike feels badly he couldn't be there for his brother or his family. Not for lack of trying. My husband's life was directed by the military. Even after he retired, we were without jobs, and drove cross country to spend time with his family. We didn't go there to live and start over because we had an offer of a place to live, until we were settled, elsewhere. You deal with the cards you are dealt.

When his mother died we were driving cross county to spend time with them again. It went from a time of family reunion to a funeral. Then the long distance care of his Dad and the accusations that we stole or took advantage. You try to do your best but if someone else has a different agenda they can mess with your emotional state very easily. Fortunately my husband was at his father's side when he passed away. Unfortunately he is alone.

There have been the normal family stirrings, too often caused by outside sources. Long periods of no communication - due to busy schedules, illness, misunderstandings or the ability to not give a darn. I don't understand it. I'm not good at that. How can people who claim to care about one another go weeks or months without responding to one another? How can you ignore inquiries about how you are doing? You certainly cannot expect someone to understand your situation, how your are feeling or what you are enduring if you don't at least give them a hint.

After our move to Idaho my brother-in-law's family grew and we reconnected. My husband was asked to be Papa to two beautiful girls who mean the world to both of us. It's such a blessing to be a family reunited. They are the pieces of the puzzle that links my husband to his brother and parents.

I once had a Navy chief who told me I wear my heart on my sleeve. Wow - what a revelation! I'm a Cancer - very family oriented. This is who I am. I try to understand - give space - be patient. It's not my forte.

In recent months, it feels like we are on a long bike trip - we've had flat tires, branches in our spokes, and sore backsides. It seems as though we get through one trial and another arises. We hug one another and remind ourselves that God never gives us more than we can handle. Despite what it feels like at the moment. And believe me - it has been a test. We stick together. We help one another. We will survive.

Life goes on. You take it one day at a time. Our own children are grown and moving on to the next stages of their lifes. We are proud of everyone. We will soon have a new generation with which to share our love. I cannot wait!

I still have this dream that some day there will be a family gathering - my husband with all of his children and grandchildren. I hope it will include his nieces and nephews and their families too because they are our family too. I hope it will include memories, stories, hugs, kisses and tears of joy. I hope I will be there to sit back, watch, smile and thank God for bringing us all together again.

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