stardreams

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Last night I went to sleep under a blanket of stars.  I’m not kidding.

John and I met The Boys (Rob and Sean) for a really interesting film and because it was so thought provoking, I was up for about three more hours when we got back home.

After crashing in John’s incredibly comfortable recliner, I finally crawled up to bed at 2 am.

As we still have no window coverings and there are two panoramic windows in that bedroom, I felt like I was in an open tree house overlooking the clear night sky.

I pulled back the comforter and what happened next startled me right awake again.

Just the motion of folding back that comforter caused what I can only describe as sparklers going off all over the bed.  I gasped at first thinking maybe the bed was full of bugs that were somehow scattering and glowing in the dark.

I quickly turned on the light and saw just a normal bed.

Turning the light back off, I spread the comforter back again only to see these tiny fireworks sparkling under my hand again.  I kept doing it and doing it, running my hand over and over the bed and could see, and feel now, it was the static electricity creating this midnight light show.

I even pulled out my iPhone and tried to record it yet nothing came through except the rustling sound of my hand across the linens and tiny crackling sounds if you listened hard enough.

I finally just decided to lay back and pull those twinkling sheets over me and fall asleep while I kept smoothing my hand over and over that blanket of stars feeling its luminescent magic carry me in to the dreamtime.

Sedona is surely becoming a magical place for us.  Sleeping under, and within, the stars.

Artwork:  Blanket of Stars by Aimee Sicuro

http://aimeesicuro.com/blog/illustration/

severance

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As you’ve probably noticed, I’m just winding my way around this blog.  There’s no real plan or chronology.  I’ve just decided this is a place where I can wander aimlessly and so I’m writing about what I’m thinking about in the moment.

I woke up this morning thinking “why have I been in such a funk the last week or so?” and realized, duh, I’ve been out of my bio identical hormones all week and they are ready to be picked up at the pharmacy.  It’s rare that I’m in a downslide that I can’t shake pretty quickly anymore.  Menopause is not something to be taken lightly.  Thankfully, with the miracle of modern (or not so modern) chemistry, I’ll be perked up in just an hour or so when I go pick up my relief from my middle aged self.  Whew!

I’m sure it also may have something to do with these paths I’ve been backtracking in to this week.  I also had a deep Myofascial Release treatment this week with it’s own excavation.  Duh.

I can’t seem to shake these memories of my relationship with Marjorie, my stepmother.  I really didn’t want this blog to become all about that.  And I promise it won’t.  My hormonally unbalanced mind has just been consumed with these reflections this week.  So I guess this time is as good as any to finish the story, at least for now.

I will say that I received a note from someone that caused me to erupt in to spontaneous tears this week (at work which was interesting).   One of Marj’s niece’s wrote me and told me she’d been reading the blog and said she was sorry all we endured with her and that she’d still like to be friends.  I was so relieved she didn’t hate me for saying these things publicly.  I’ve held them in for decades now and I really am not trying to hurt anyone by putting them out there.  I’ve talked to my Dad and John in person now about this stuff but her family…well, you know.  But it is our story and this is the place where I’m telling real events while hopefully offering some perspective and a light at the end of the tunnel.  So, that note in itself was a miracle for me this week and I so appreciate it.

As related in this story, that Maine trip was the last time I saw Marj in person.  The last time I saw her she was in midstream composing a letter to me as I sat in the same room all the way across the country.  And she mailed that letter the day I left.  That’s just how impossible it was for her to communicate with me directly.  I think of myself generally as pretty approachable but I’m sure all my defenses were up with her much of the time so none of it was easy.  But those long venting, analyzing letters…as I told her, they were the kind you write in your journal or to the person that you never send.  But she managed to get them in an envelope and stamped and mailed.  I can only imagine what she might have felt when she dropped them in the post box after all that effort.

I came home from Maine that year and told my then therapist about the events that had gone on.   Her name was Wendy.  I told her about the blow up over the memorial service, various other conflicts over the week like when Marj blurted at me “you’re almost 40 years old, isn’t it time you started acting like it?”.  No one in our family is mature Marj, including and especially my father, the man you married.  That’s part of our Monkman charm. She was just so serious.  I have to say, I suffer from the same ailment sometimes.

Wendy said this to me in that session “now you know you are going to receive that letter.  I don’t care if she puts $1000 in there or you just get curious.  I don’t care if it’s 2 in the morning and you get impulsive and want to open it.  You call me and I will talk you off the ledge.  You are going to send that letter back ‘return to sender’ as you promised her you would, otherwise your word means nothing here”.  I’d told her that Marj had figured out I’d stopped reading the documents in prior years, like when she’d tell me they were going to a wedding or something and I responded “oh so and so is getting married?  I didn’t know that” and she sadly replied “well I wrote you about it”. We both knew.

So she’d start writing things on the outside of the envelope to get me to read it.  Things like “check enclosed”.  And there always was one, she wasn’t lying.  She was just buying my readership.

True to form, a week after I’d left Maine, the document arrived.  That fat envelope overstuffed with feelings.  The venting was palpable.  Chubby, soft, bloated in that envelope barely enclosed by the licked seam straining to hold the momentum of all that need.

I did what I’d promised, almost immediately. The same day for sure.  I wrote “RETURN TO SENDER” on the outside and a small note.  Something like “I’ve told you these letters are destructive to our relationship. If you have something to talk about, you need to pick up the phone and call me”.

And that, was that.

Until, of course two weeks later when I came home from work to her recorded message on my voice mail.

She’d waited until she knew I’d be at work because, again, she wasn’t looking for a conversation, she was just seeking a receptacle.

She started her message out with “Dear Kathy…”.  I’m not kidding you.  She was reading that letter in to my voice mail.  But she’d clearly redacted it and in that stunted, unflowing rhythm of a script, she read that severance package to be recorded.

I don’t even remember much of it.  But what I do remember was this “since you refuse to communicate with me, I am cutting off our relationship.  I love you.  I will always be there for you in an emergency if you need me.  But I can no longer tolerate your abuse.  So I am severing ties with you.  Love, Mom”. 

It went on for 5 solid minutes, at least.  Every bit of it read from a script.  Not one word of spontaneity.

I felt just sick and relieved at the same time.  She’d thrown down a serious gauntlet.  You see our family was already dealing with several fractures, Cindy’s murder a decade before, John’s struggling and disenfranchisement from the family, my Grandma’s death and now this.  But this one was on purpose.  Could I actually be a participant in yet another trauma to my family?

I saw Wendy that week and took the message to her.  I dialed my number and the code for remote listening and sat across from her on the couch as she sat quietly in front of me at her desk, listening intently for the entire five minutes.

I’ll never forget what came next.

Wendy very slowly and calmly placed the receiver in the cradle and looked at me and paused.

Deliberately and carefully she chose her words.

“Kathy, there are three things I want you to know right now.  The first is, I am physically nauseous after listening to that message.  I am sitting here literally feeling sick to my stomach right now after listening to that.  The second thing is, that is not love.  Don’t get confused.  I am a mother and that is not how a loving mother speaks to their child.  That is manipulation and control. That is not a person who deeply loves you.  And the third is, let her go.  It’s time.  Don’t go chasing after her.  Just let her go“.

Well you can imagine the  mixed emotions I felt but I knew she was right.  We talked a lot about manipulation, abuse, psychological warfare.  But the end result was just that, she’d set me free and I needed to keep moving.  So that’s what I set about doing.  I never talked to my Dad about it, I just kept moving forward.  I never replied to that voice mail in any form.

My 40th birthday came just a couple of months after that.  I invited my Dad to come out and help me celebrate this milestone.  I knew that was going to be hard.  He hemmed and hawed about coming by himself but clearly I didn’t invite her, just him.  Right up to the last minute, he called and said something about “we” coming and I had to deal with it.  I had to say that this invitation was extended to him alone and I hoped he would come.  He ultimately did but I know what kind of torture that was for him on some level.  I’m sure she didn’t make it easy for him.  I just know she didn’t.

I can’t say it was easy for me either and was kind of bittersweet having him out but by the same token, I wanted to be with my Dad for this milestone.  It was just such a visible sign of that chasm in the family.

Later that year I suffered a set back in the anxiety disorder I’d been battling for over a decade by that point.  I’d gone to get on a plane headed for a family reunion in Florida.  Finally a family trip where Marj would not be as she was sick and just out of the hospital.  My cousins and aunts and uncles (we don’t have many) would all be there.  It was a big birthday party for our Aunt Natalie–maybe 90.  I was so excited to see everyone!

I got on the plane and was stricken with a massive anxiety attack, got to Las Vegas and just couldn’t get on the connecting flight.  I had to abort the entire trip in the middle of the night and beg them to fly me back to Phoenix on their last trip of the day.  It was devastating and humiliating to me.  I’d been dealing with this anxiety recovery for a long time but the plane phobia wouldn’t release it’s death grip on me.  It was the first to come and the last to go.

I really fell in to a very dark hole after that episode.  I got an emergency appointment with Wendy that next day as she could hear the desperation in my voice.  I remember her putting me to bed in her guest room and making me sleep there for awhile (she had a home office) as she was afraid to send me home after the appointment.  It was the one and only time she ever did anything like that. She was afraid for me to even drive. I had been up all night, literally, trying to get back home.  It did end up being a turning point though.  Sometimes, as a good Scorpio, I’ve had to crash and burn then rise from the ashes.  And rise, I did.  More on that in another entry.  Suffice to say I fly everywhere I want to go now, totally anxiety free.

Now, Wendy’s unusual rescue that day is what I would call mothering and something I eat up with a spoon when ever it’s offered to me like that.   Still to this day I crave that kind of nurturing and soak it up like a dry sponge when it’s offered.

Marj though managed from her sick bed, to get someone to go out and purchase a “Get Well” card to send me after she’d heard I’d fallen like that.  Now mind you, she didn’t send me a card or gift for my 40th birthday but managed to get that card to me for my personal crisis-one I was barely discussing with anyone outside of my therapy.  Naturally though my father would have mentioned it as my absence at the reunion was obvious.  I’d tried to blame my breakdown on a bad reaction to a Tylenol PM that I took before I got on the plane to help me sleep on the red eye.   I asked him to tell the family that as I was just so disappointed and embarrassed by my weakness.  I’m sure he told Marj the truth though, that the phobia had won, once again.  Which was the truth.

She wrote something inside like “I heard about your difficulties, I hope you get well soon and get the help you need”.  Now on the outside, the purchaser of that card, I imagine the person she asked to write my address on the envelope, would naturally think “how considerate” for her to do that.  But I knew what it was all about.  More of her need to point out my  failings.  It was as if she delighted in celebrating them.  So she bought a card!  I never acknowledged it.  It was nothing more than salt in the wound for me.  Again, she just couldn’t help herself.

Within six months of her severance of our relationship, Marj developed, what I was told, three…three concurrent autoimmune disorders going on simultaneously in her body.  It didn’t hit me right away, but as a body/mind therapist, the light bulb did go on eventually.  An autoimmune disorder, by definition, is the body attacking itself.  That’s exactly what killed her two years later.  Her intestines were literally disintegrating from the internal war going on.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s where that venom went when it no longer had an external outlet.  For some reason, she didn’t seem as satisfied taking it out on males.  My brother didn’t get the brunt of it.   The worst always were Cindy and Buddha.  I was pretty shielded when Cindy was around (note she beat me that last time when Cindy was far away in college in Florida).  Once Cindy and Buddha were gone, it all became directed my way and once that source of relief was cut off then…..

It makes me wonder.

I did receive some correspondence from one of her sisters during those two years wondering where I was, why was I abandoning my Dad and Marj during these medical crises.  She was in and out of the hospital that entire two years in various levels of acuity.  I had asked my Dad directly if he felt he needed me there and he said no every time, that he was handling it ok.  It was beyond awkward.  I can’t say I handled it well.  I just kind of checked out.

I never directly talked  with the family about her severing ties with me I don’t think.  If I told anyone, it was my cousins Leslie and Katy.  But I’ll tell you this.  I saved that message on my recorder for five years.  Those entire two years and then three years after she died.  I was afraid to erase it. It was some kind of insurance policy against something.  I was afraid she’d try to blame the entire thing on me abandoning her and I needed that evidence.  That it was her decision.  And I just didn’t protest.  One day, I went to re-save it and it was just gone.  Poof!  Done.

I didn’t go to Marj’s funeral and honestly that was legit.  I had grounded myself from trying to fly again after that Las Vegas debacle for two years.  I didn’t travel.  I just set about healing myself (and I did).  This was during that time and her funeral was in rural Mississippi and would have required two planes each way (at least) and driving after that.  It wasn’t an easy trip.  I also didn’t want to show no presence so I wrote a tribute and sent it for my Aunt Carolyn to read , she’s an amazing speaker.  I dug deep and told the truth about good memories and positive things about Marjorie and I was 100% sincere.  She wasn’t all bad and I wasn’t not sad about her death.  As you can imagine my feelings were very conflicted.   But relief was right up there toward the top.   I hope it’s the only time in my life I feel relief at someone’s death.  Well, I guess there is one more and you can just guess who that is and it involves an execution but that’s not even in the same stratosphere.  I’d never compare Marj to him.  Not in a million years.

I found out the following year that she’d cut John and I out of her Will.  Honestly I probably would have felt ambivalent about inheriting from her seeing we’d been in that place of severance there at the end.  But not my mentally ill brother.  What was up with that?  As he said to me recently, as in this week, “she always thought we were so fucked up and that her family was so perfect”.   So maybe when all was said and done, she was celebrating that reality, her reality, in that way.  All I can say is once I saw that, I was really glad I’d not made the effort to attend her funeral, deal with the flying torture only to land in a church somewhere having to listen to people talking about what a wonderful mother she’d been.  Just the thought of that…

In hindsight though I could have considered the tens of thousands her nieces and nephews got, had I received even a fraction of that, as payback of some sort for all the money I shelled out in therapy all those years undoing the damage inflicted on me by her.  But I can at least hold my dignity in that I owned my recovery in every way, shape and form.

Needless to say I doubt any of her family ever knew the Will issue until I started writing about it.  Which is ok with me, both parts of that sentence.  I don’t even think she told her sisters that we’d been severed.  That is so foreign to me as I told my sister everything. 

Maybe through writing all of this out, getting it off my chest, I will come to some true forgiveness and ultimate letting go with Marjorie.  She was in my life for thirty years.  She was a huge part of my father’s life.  He sincerely loved her and that should mean something to me.  I will spread his ashes over her grave one day, at least part of them, per his request.  And maybe then,  maybe by then, I’ll be able to remember sincerely the positive aspects she brought in to my life, even if they were lessons.  And maybe I’ll be able to tell her directly or as directly as I can now.

One thing she did teach me is to never, for any reason, under any circumstances, disrespect someone in death as you memorialize them.  So, that’s the legacy I will live and the karma I will choose.  Now that I’m writing this, I’ve decided I will even bring her flowers and I will be sincere placing those on her grave with my heart open as wide as it can be.

Now that feels right.  That feels like me.

Better late than never.

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flawless

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I think Laura Peralta was the most beautiful woman I will ever meet in my entire life.  Inside and out.

I remember when my friend Wendy introduced me to her.  I’d told Wendy about this incredible movie “The Hours” that I’d seen and wanted to go see it again.  She asked if her friend Laura who I’d heard so much about could come along.  “Sure!” I answered.

I saw that deep film about these different women’s stories of depression, despair, redemption twice in the same week.

I remember my first impression of Laura, that she was almost too gorgeous to look at.  Kind of like looking directly in to the sun.  How does a person like this really exist not up on a screen?

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Honestly I was pretty intimidated when I’d first met her..and had formed certain impressions about a woman that beautiful.  Until she opened her mouth when we went out for a drink after the movie to talk about it.  She had this gorgeous Argentinian accent and this woman was deep.  Everything about her had me captivated.  She was kind of this other worldly creature I’d not encountered before.  She looked like a movie star but was as down to earth as Wendy who is very earthy.

I got to know Laura over the years, not nearly as well as Wendy knew her of course but every time I saw her, she acted so excited to see me and wasted no time going straight to the heart of any matter.  Maybe Laura knew her time was limited so she made the most of it.  I treated her a few times for a hip thing and even then, she went deep the moment she got on my table.  She just was something else.  The kind of person I might be intimidated by but her energy was so connecting that I always felt inspired instead.  She was sincerely a role model to me but one that was a star you’d set your sights on hoping to just get infected with some of the shine.

You see Laura was not only a Psychologist, but also a professional tango dancer, a Pilates master with her own line of DVD’s, a published poet, a fashion designer and she even cut her own dang hair!

I remember Laura much like this as over the years we did quite a bit of dancing together at her studio.

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Us, after hours of sweaty dancing and connecting.  Wendy with her arm on my shoulder. Laura on the far left.

Last Fall Laura had planned to leave her husband.  She was on the verge of breaking out of what apparently was some kind of dysfunctional or controlling relationship.  She never talked to me even once about her marriage, really in any form.  I just knew he’d traveled a lot.  I found this out after the fact from Wendy.

Our dear Laura was murdered by her husband last November who then immediately shot himself.  One of their sons was in the home who found both of them.  We found out later, blessedly, she was killed in her sleep.

I still have a lump in my throat and a sick feeling in my stomach thinking of it.  I still can’t believe it.  Laura was so larger than life, I’m still in denial.  It’s not been a year yet since this happened.

Shortly after Laura was killed, I wrote this poem dedicated to her.  I don’t really know how it fits exactly but I do know she inspired me to write it.  So I’ll share it now.

Flawless

Try not

being

the bigger person.

.

When life’s crushing blows

come, be small.

Collapse.

Get smaller. Wait.

.

A perfect diamond won’t apologize

for taking all that time.

It patiently pauses for

it’s moment to shine on

.

The World.

The watch glancing, toe tapping

World.

.

So much pressure,

tick tock tick tock.

Waiting becomes

it’s salvation.

.

Unearthed,

bursts

just one proclamation:

.

While you were busy being

disappointed

in my disappearance,

I was becoming.

.

Flawless.

.

-Kathy Monkman 11/12

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We all miss you Laura.  If we’re lucky, we can still feel you shining in to our lives.  You will always be the most beautiful woman I ever met.

1985

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Remember this post?   Well I went to my mailbox yesterday and lo and behold a package was there from my father containing this sentimental gem.  I had told my father I’d wanted to snag it from the cottage in Maine and put it in our new house in Sedona and he mailed it to me with some other little gifts for John and I.

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My Dad is so sentimental.  He really taught us to value things in this life that have some kind of meaning attached to them.

So I’m not surprised that once I mentioned wanting this plaque, he wrapped it up and sent it to me.

That’s my Dad.

This package came also wrapped in a bit of a mystery though.  I was so surprised to turn it over and see this:

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’85?  As in 1985?  How weird as this was the kind of summer craft we were playing with when we were in Junior High and High School.  In 1985 Cindy would have been 27.  I’m thinking my Dad’s wood burning tool had long been discarded and where did she get the plaque or the decopage stuff?  I’m entirely perplexed.  I would have guessed 1975 at the latest for this to have been crafted.  It almost looks like the “8” once started out as a “7” too.  Hmmmm…

I love a mystery.  Somehow I think this might be a clue.  Of something.  I’m gonna keep my eyes open for the year 1985 showing up in my life somehow.

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My Grandma and her baby boy Jack

I want to preface this entry saying that I have to come to a lot of peace and forgiveness with my stepmother, Marjorie.  I’m sure there’s more to come but I feel a whole lot less resentment than I used to and being able to write that last entry without sweating and my hands shaking demonstrated that to me.  I actually had some really decent times with her over the years as well.  Planning my wedding with her was a very bonding time and she was extremely supportive to me during all of that.  She handled Cindy’s estate like no one else could have.  She saved my mother’s china and crystal for me all those years when she could have sold it and I’d never have known (she did get rid of her wedding dress though).  Obviously any relationship isn’t all anything.  I thought about including these comments in the abuse entry but then realized that’s the kind of rationalization I did all my life.  Sometimes it’s important to just tell the truth and let it stand on it’s own.

This story though, involves Marj and definitely a manifestation of whatever drove her darkness but it also tells a tale of one of many miracles that have always been operating throughout our lives.  Sometimes they were just more shimmering or maybe I was just more desperate to see them.  This one, however, shone so bright it was unmistakable.

When our beloved Buddha passed in 2000, my Dad and Marj were in Puerto Rico with no real phone service.  So I was the person who got the call and had to make the decision whether to resusitate her or not.  It was clear what her wishes were and the state she was in so I made that call and she passed a few hours later.  I finally tracked my father down in PR and told him the terribly sad news, that his mother was gone.  I remember thinking that night how poignant and somehow beautiful that my father broke the news to me of my mother’s passing and I did the same for him 35 years later.

We held two services for Grandma, one in Illinois where she’d been living at the time of her death and the second one a few months later in Maine.  She mostly had lived in a retirement community there as as she’d aged she wanted and needed to be near my father.  He was very very good to her in those last years, picking her up on a regular basis and taking her on drives to the Amish Country where they ate home cookin and saw “all those buggies”.  She had made few friends in Illinois so the first service, at the same funeral home where we’d held Cindy’s, was more for my Dad’s friends.   The second one “in the East” as she called it, would be filled with her friends and family.  Like my father, my Grandma was also an only child so she maintained lifetime relationships with her cousins and their children like siblings.  They all still lived back East.

I flew back to Illinois for the first service of course.  I remember the night before, my father discussing the structure for how the service would go down.  It was going to be one of those services where people could stand up and share stories and he’d had a video made of her life set to music which would be played.  Less religious and more personal.  He told me that John, who wasn’t doing very well at that time, had written a eulogy that would be read by Marjorie.  I thought that was strange as she wasn’t reading her own sharing but I just let it go.  Of course I’d written my own tribute to her filled with beautiful memories speaking for both Cindy and me.

The next morning my father approached me and told me that he’d changed his mind and thought it was more appropriate for me to read John’s tribute.  Of course I readily agreed, this seemed more appropriate anyway with me being another sibling and so close to our Grandma.

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The three page essay was handed to me at the funeral home and I sat down in a back stairway, pulled it out of the envelope and was shocked to see what landed in my hands.

The first thing I noticed was that it was entirely in Marj’s handwriting.  That she had literally written “John’s tribute” herself.  And you guessed it, on one of her yellow legal pads.  It was three pages and the first page was innocent enough.  Not by any means in John’s style of writing or vernacular but appropriate.  It was about memories of him and our beloved Buddha, nothing too personal but honest recollections.  When I flipped to the second page is when I fell in to the rabbit hole.

On that page it started something like this

“As long as I’m finding myself at a funeral talking about an influential woman in my life, I thought I would take this opportunity to mention other women who have passed who also had a great influence on me as well.”

Marjorie then proceeded to write glowing memories and tributes to women who had no real connection to my Grandma at all but the most heinous, hideous was she had the audacity to write Vivienne’s name on that list!

I won’t go in to all of the details but my Grandma got along with everyone with the exception of two women her entire life:  Marjorie Monkman and Vivienne.  Her husband, my grandfather, left my dear Buddha for Vivienne when my father was still a kid.  He’d had a long term affair with her and finally just left and shacked up with her until his death.  Now I’m not judging as I really liked Vivienne.  My father introduced us to her as he maintained a lifelong relationship with her after his father died, within a year of the time he lost our mother.  Yeah my Dad got hammered.  This is no attack on Vivienne at all who was a perfectly nice woman but the fact is, she did steal my Grandma’s husband and she had no business whatsoever being mentioned at her funeral!!!  I think I had maybe two conversations about Vivienne with my Grandma her entire life it was such a sore spot!

“What in the hell is going on here?” I thought!

Also mentioned in this list of “influential women” was Marj’s own mother and some family friends.  Interestingly missing from it entirely was our mother and Cindy!

How wildly inappropriate.  I was in utter shock and just moments away from the service.

The first thing I did was pull my father in to that back hallway.  John wasn’t there yet. I asked him if he’d read this audacious thing and he replied that he had.  I said “what is going on here..why is John supposedly paying tribute to all these other people including Vivienne?  Are you kidding me?  I’m not reading this!”.  He just replied “I don’t know, John wrote it.  Why don’t you talk to him about it?”.  He never took sides in these kinds of things.  UGH!

John finally showed up late and he was hearing voices bad.  I pulled him in to that back hallway and talked to him.  I stuffed down that lava inside me and asked him why this was in Marj’s handwriting (I knew exactly what was going on mind you) and what was up with that entire second page.  He replied that she’d helped him with it and looked very sad and sheepish.  I told him in the most motherly way I could that he hadn’t done anything wrong.  That he just didn’t realize it’s not appropriate to pay tribute to other people at someone’s funeral unless they had a very close relationship with the deceased.  I told him that I loved the rest of “his” essay and that I would read it omitting the second page.  He so innocently said “I’m sorry Kathy, I didn’t know” and thanked me for reading it for him.

I was sincerely about to blow my top.  But I in no way was going to allow this venom to seep in to my beloved Grandma’s service so I held it in, even when I saw Marj peeking around in to that hallway off and on as I was discussing this with my Dad and brother.  I informed my Dad I’d be reading just the first and last page and that was that.  He said ok.

I got up there to read it and watched Marj in that first row looking down at her foot as she tapped and tapped it in to the air over her crossed leg.  Her teeth clenched, unable to even look up at me.   I wouldn’t even give her the satisfaction of a confrontation. Buddha and I had won that round.

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Fast forward to several months later and I arrive in Maine for the yearly trip.  We are also hosting a big family reunion/memorial service that week.  I was the first to arrive so found myself in front of the setting sun on the porch with my Dad and Marj talking about the particulars of the service which was to go down the next day.  John was not coming.  He was not stable enough to travel.  As it turned out he was very unstable.

So there we sit, the three of us, when my father casually drops a bomb in to my entire being.

“And then John’s tribute will be read in it’s entirety this time by your Mother”

I felt like I would instantly throw up.  I flashed a look at him and he said “we know how you feel about it Kathy but we’ve discussed it and John wants it read fully this time”.  John, who is not even there.  If this was meant to be some kind of “catharsis” for him paying tribute to other “influential women in his life” (vomit), he would not even be there to hear it!  He was also not there for a reason.  He was completely psychotic!  How was he giving this consent much less request?

I felt like my head was going to explode.  Two against one.  Marj, as usual, sat there not looking at me all innocent like she had nothing to do with this whole insanity.   I blurted something at her and she shrugged “Ah have nothing to do with this, your fahthah asked me to read it”.  PURE BULLSHIT.  She wrote it!

My Dad just moved along like case closed and I stood up mid sentence yelled something like “I’m outta here!” and just bolted.  I started sprint walking on the beach tears stinging my salty cheeks.  I was walking so hard and fast, desperate my mind racing, my  heart breaking.  How could this happen?  Buddha’s beloved cousin our Aunt Ruthie was going to be there and hear Vivienne’s name mentioned?  She lived that nightmare with my Grandma! It’s so beyond disrespectful, it’s flat out abuse!  Of my dead Grandma!

I was pounding that hard sand with thoughts racing through my mind, desperately trying to find a solution, find a way out.  I thought about leaving. But that means she wins.  I AM NOT leaving my Grandma’s memorial service!

Finally, on my way back toward the cottage, a soft phrase whooshed in to my mind like a cool ocean breeze.

This is a dirty trick.

It was such an innocent, old fashioned sounding little phrase, something exactly my Grandma would say.  My mind was filled with expletives and that small little voice rose up and suddenly I knew exactly what to do.

I calmly walked back up to the cottage and my father was now sitting alone on the porch.  I sat down next to him, apologized for yelling at him and storming away then I said something like this.

“I know you can’t see this right now Dad but what’s going on here is a dirty trick.  I’ve talked to John about that tribute and asked him (which was true) and he told me it was all Marj’s idea.  She had a lifelong feud with Grandma and she’s using John to kick her in the grave.  I know you don’t feel you can stop it so this is what I’m going to do tomorrow.

When she stands up to read that, I will stand up and I will walk out of the room in protest. I will do so very dramatically so people will know something is up.  I won’t say a word but I will walk out.  Once she’s finished reading it, I will return for the rest of the service.  And if anyone asks me why I did that, I will tell them the truth. That she wrote this to kick Grandma in the grave, using John as her foil.  I intend to be very vocal about it. That’s what I’m going to do to stand up for Buddha.”

My voice then started to crack and I stood up and said the harshest words I’ve ever said to my father.

“And, Dad, I can’t believe you are allowing your mother to be disrespected in this way and you and I know there is no way Cindy would have tolerated this bullshit for one second.”

I then walked in to the house with Marj reclining on the sofa, sat down on the chair next to her and calmly delivered my same speech.

I watched her sit up stiffly.  I saw her for the first time since that stairway episode, want to hit me.  I could feel that familiar rage rising in an instant.  Yet oddly, the more she escalated, the more calm I got.  She started yelling at me “you know I had nothing to do with writing that!  How dare you accuse me of that?” . I replied , looking out at the ocean, getting more sunk down in my chair as she got more erect and rageful on the sofa and said “it’s in your handwriting, you wrote it, John told me it was all your idea and this is what I”m going to do.  You can go ahead and make a fool out of yourself, which you will, but not without a consequence”.

Then right in the middle of that, the phone rang.

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Back then we only had  a landline in the dining room.  As Marj and I were locked in this conflict, neither of us rose to answer the phone so my Dad came in from outside, crossed our living room battleground and picked it up.

I could tell very quickly he was talking to John.  I could tell it wasn’t good.  He was talking to him in that quiet voice he gets when something is serious.  We both got quiet, listening in.  “Ok, I’m going to have you talk to your Mother now and let’s see what we can do”.  He then asked Marj to get on the phone.

I followed my Dad in to the kitchen past Marj, now raging on the phone to my completely unstable brother with words like “how DARE you tell Kathy I wrote those words?  You know you wrote that!”, yes verbally abusing a mentally fragile Schizophrenic in a crisis.  That’s exactly what she did.

But the miracle landed smack dab in the middle of the kitchen.  My Dad stood at the stove across the room from me as I stood in front of the refrigerator and he delivered this message:

“John is calling to say that Grandma came to him in a dream and told him that second page of his tribute should not be read.  That she only wants the first and last page to be read but not the second page.  That it’s not appropriate to be read at her memorial service.”

As you can imagine, at that moment my entire body collapsed in to tears.  Finally I knew for sure I wasn’t alone and that we had all been rescued.  My heart just dismantled all that armor and melted as I said to my Dad “Dad I’m so sorry I said those harsh words to you on the porch, you know that’s not how I am normally, I was just so desperate over this.  It was so wrong, I just couldn’t stand it”.

And what happened next is a moment I will remember and actually feel in my heart my entire life.  I feel it now as I’m writing it.

My father crossed that kitchen, with Marj still raging on my brother in the next room and wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear

“It’s ok Kathy, I didn’t think those words were appropriate to be read either”.

He just never knew how to stand up to her.  I don’t know what that was all about.  He just couldn’t do it.  It all was made clear to me then, the reason he changed his mind and asked me to read the tribute the first time. He knew there was no way in Hell I would ever read those words.  Now how that got manipulated and set up for the second time I’ll never know.  It’s not important that I know.  It was just more of her games.

But my Grandma stepped in to save us all that day.  To save herself too!

I’ll never forget the jaw clenched, rigid postured way Marjorie read those first and third pages the next day at the memorial.  I have to say I sat there with a smug satisfaction that she’d not gotten her way.  How could I not?  I’m sure she wanted to get out of it then and ask me to read them but she was smarter than that.  She’d have really been exposed then.  So she stiffened herself up and read that glowing tribute to my Grandma.  Poetic justice I say.

We tossed Grandma’s ashes on to the beach that afternoon after a beautiful heartfelt service then had a big happy hour party.  Just the way she would have liked it.  Just the way she planned it.

I took the phone from Marj and coached John after that kitchen moment to call 911 and he was admitted to the hospital that evening. He was completely psychotic.  But it sure makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Just what goes on with his “voices”.

That trip was the last time I saw Marjorie.  It was the time she sat in my presence writing me a letter that I never read.  I imagine that letter was still protesting her non involvement in that tribute that was in her handwriting but it was too late to argue that case anymore.

The writing was on the wall and beyond now.

The war was over.

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Dedicated to my beloved Grandma “Buddha” who I still feel here with me now.