Tag Archives: Lola

Damaged Goods

I just finished reading Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton. Linda is the oldest daughter of Poet Anne Sexton who suffered from chronic undiagnosed mental illness and attempted suicide many times throughout Linda’s childhood. She finally succeeded and killed herself when Linda was 21 and a senior at Harvard. Linda’s lifelong struggle with depression, alcoholism, medications and 2 serious suicide attempts is vividly retold in the book. Despite being continually abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother, Linda is slowly drawn into repeating the very same behavior with her own children and family. While she knows first hand the pain that suicide leaves with those left behind she cannot resist the desire to reconnect with her mother even if it means her own destruction. The book opens with Linda’s first serious suicide attempt 6 months before she would turn 45. This is significant because her mother’s suicide was only 1 month before her 45th birthday. This can’t help but make me reflect on my upcoming 45th birthday this year and my brother Mike’s suicide less than 1 month before his 46th birthday. In a little over 1 year’s time I will be older than my big brother and time will continue on like that for the rest of my life. Linda’s detailed descriptions of her life at her lowest points also resonated strongly with me. Any reader will recognize the personal human pain she feels and lays out so unselfconsciously whether they are dealing with a depressed loved one or if they’ve traveled a similar path themselves. The book gives an eloquent voice to those who most need to be heard but because of their situations cannot get the words out.

Now I find myself wondering what kind of emotional legacy my brother and I received from our own mother. When my daughter was born my dad compulsively evaluated and criticized every single choice we made with her. I knew enough to ignore his advice even if it meant arguing over every single one. I now realize that he probably did the very same thing with my mother when my brother was born. As a new mother in a relatively new country I’m sure she had all the normal insecurities in her ability to care for her infant son. I have no doubt that my father was unable to let her find her way on her own. I can see him trying to control every single thing she did with the baby from the very start. She must’ve felt so inadequate when comparing herself to her professional Psychologist husband. Surely he knew what he was talking about! I can imagine how defenseless and alone she would have felt. Eventually my mom withdrew from the family and let my dad cast her as the enemy.  I was quite young when my dad started to tell us that it wouldn’t take much for my mother to become an alcoholic. I guess that this was to undermine our trust in her and scare me especially into wanting to be on his side. It was very important in my family to take sides. I was very aware that it was my father and I versus my brother and my mother in a lot of ways. How did this dynamic play out as we got older and my brother started getting into trouble all the time? My parents always fought about my brother. My dad would rage and blame my mother for Mike’s every fault. She loved Mike through it all but of course just having her love wasn’t enough for him in the end. It was damaged goods.

I guess the question now is not what emotional legacy will I pass onto my own daughter but whose?

 

Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective which endorses Blog With Integrity.

To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.

Half in Love Relationships and Depression Series

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Grandpa

We journeyed to Skylandia this past weekend to belatedly celebrate the holiday and my daughter’s birthday with my parents. Thankfully my in-laws were able to come as well. I think my mother had a good time. She stayed up late everynight enjoying the company. I did all the cooking and planning. I have been talking and thinking about this pot roast I wanted to make for weeks now. We finally get there on Thursday and I pull my 4lb roast out of the cooler and my dad turns to me and says, “oh, she’s not allowed to eat meat.” We later clarified that she is supposed to eat only lean meats and fish but it is not like she can’t have a little bit on a special occasion. I wish that he had told me earlier. I would have obviously made other plans but it was way too late to change it and she ate it (and enjoyed it) anyway.

Grandpa was in fine form for our visit. He is constantly underfoot in the kitchen. It’s like how I used to describe my dog Dylan. She was like a VISA card, she’s everywhere you want to be. He thinks that he is helping you but when someone tries to clean everything as soon as you set it down it is just annoying. I don’t know how my mother has done it all these years. He was pissing me off and I was obviously pissing him off. I could hear him complaining to my mother in the middle of the night on Saturday. I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying on the other side of the wall but I could recognize the tone and the anger in his voice. It’s exactly what he used to sound like when he would talk about my brother.

The highpoint of the weekend is when he told my mother-in-law that Piper is beautiful except when she smiles because her front teeth are too big. I remember him telling me not too smile in pictures because of my teeth when I was a child. I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want her to overhear any of it. I’m not sure what to do because he’s bound to tell her sometime. He just can’t keep those little bon mots to himself. You can’t unring that bell.

In the immortal words of Mr Awesome, what a douchebag.

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Crisis at Skylandia

A texting excerpt from my recent trip to my parent’s house which Mr Awesome and I affectionately refer to as Skylandia. I noticed that the toilet in “our” bathroom was flushing slowly. I thought it was running after I flushed it so I tried jiggling and pushing down on the handle. I heard a funny noise and when I looked down I realized that water was just pouring out of the bowl. I quickly opened the tank and pulled up on the bulb and stopped the water. Later on I texted Mr Awesome to let him know about all the fun he was missing . . .

NOV 14 2010 10:11 PM

Crisis time!!! The toilet in the grey bathroom just overflowed  . . .

There is no caulk around the toilet or tub and the grout is shot so it went straight through the floor . . .

And poured down all over the kitchen counter.

Mmmmmm!

My dad is convinced that the kids flushed something down the toilet. He also asked me if my cousin or I flushed a sanitary napkin down the toilet.

What, you’re NOT supposed to do that?

Oh what fun!!

LOL!

He sees the water in the kitchen and starts screaming like he’s on fire and running up the stairs. Meanwhile both kids and my mom are up there trying to sleep.

Don’t you just wish you were here too??

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So it begins . . .

My Mom has cancer. She has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She’s had pain in her leg on and off for a while but it started to get much much worse about a month ago. She went to the Doctor who did an MRI and they found a large mass. It is pressing on the nerves in her leg and it is what is causing her pain. A biopsy said it was Lymphoma. When she first told me about the tumor that all I could think was, so it begins. Both of my parents have been very physically healthy up to this point. They are very lucky. I hope the luck isn’t going to run out now.

It really makes me sad that my brother is not here for her now. It also makes me mad that he is not here for me now either. She really misses him now and nothing I can do will ever fill her need. My dad is having to take on a lot at home now which is what he should be doing. My mom can’t really move too well because of her leg. He’s complained to me that she’s telling him what to do, down to the simplest detail. It’s just payback time as far as I can see. He’s been telling her what to do for the last 50+ years and now it’s her turn.

I’m going out there tomorrow and will be there when she starts her antibody treatment on Monday. I’m looking forward to meeting her doctor and I hope to have a chance to talk to her. My parents have a way of fudging up the facts. It’s a lot for them to take in at once. I imagine my mother is totally overwhelmed and my dad is not a good listener. This is ironic of course because he is a Psychotherapist. All I keep thinking about is if my mom ends up passing away before my dad I will probably have to kill him. I don’t know how I’ll deal with him all on my own.

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Lola’s Dream

My mother often tells me the dreams she has about my brother. This is her latest:

My parents are sitting on the beach and looking at the water. They can see Mike in the water and he’s swimming towards shore. There are a large group of people nearby who also see Mike swimming. It seems like the group of people are going to start to cheer for Mike and encourage him. My mother decides that if they start cheering she will too. But they don’t so she doesn’t either. Finally Mike reaches the shore, gets out of the water and walks right by my parents like he doesn’t know them. She woke up.

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Channel Guide

My parents have an enormous TV and they seem to subscribe to every single channel known to man. This includes the naughty ones for some reason. Their cable provider Cablevision has a couple of Adult programming channels placed right before the block of children’s channels. This means when you are sitting there on Saturday morning with your 7 year old daughter and 79 year old mother looking at the channel guide to see what cartoons are on you see titles like:

Blindfolds N BJs
Tiger’s Got Wood!
Explode in Mama
Bros Luv Big Racks
Black Beaver Bang
Your Mom’s Ass is Tight
Um, I think we watched The Suite Life instead.
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Weekend

We went to visit my parents this past weekend. It was the first time we had seen them since this happened. My mom looks so tired and sad. She is very quiet and says even less than she usually does. My dad on the other hand is talking a mile a minute. He’s trying to work it all out in his brain I guess. He’s looking for answers and even went as far as to ask me if my brother ever “told” me anything. He also wants me to talk to his wife and find out what was going on with them from her. He’s crazy if he thinks I’m interrogating my friend for him. He was saying that he knew his son when he was a little boy but that when he got older they knew less and less about him. I would say that was because they didn’t care to know anything about him. They didn’t approve of the choices he was making so they weren’t interested in his life. I think that once he got older and started going his own way they couldn’t deal with it. Now my dad goes on and on about what a wonderful thinker, writer, friend, person, etc., my brother was. It makes me crazy because he never really bothered to tell Mike any of this when he was alive and maybe if he did a little more often, we wouldn’t be in this mess we’re in. I know my dad wants me to look to them for comfort now. I just can’t. I know it would help him, to feel that he was helping me a little but I’m not ready for that yet. I haven’t looked to my parents for comfort for a long time now and I’m not about to start now. It’s just that it doesn’t come without judgement – at least from my dad. He’s got to have an opinion on everything and he’s got to let you know his opinion whether you’re asking him to give it or not. It’s like I’m seeing them so clearly right now and I’m just taking a step back and taking it in for now.

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Old Photo Wednesday – A Very Peluso Christmas

Hammy-Handed Santa

Aaah, the holidays. Happy children, chestnuts, trimming the tree and hammy handed Santas. We haven’t subjected P to a visit with Santa yet. He’s been too scary to do anything more than wave from afar. I probably shouldn’t show her this picture if I’m hoping for more this year, eh? Jeez, I hope that the department stores hiring their Santa’s are a bit stricter now a days. They should post signs that say “No one is allowed to be Santa if their hands are freakishly larger than a small child’s head”. I’m not sure how my brother is feeling about the whole thing. Maybe he’s just fine tuning his bershon at age 8 or 9. I love the pants I’m wearing and the hat with the bow looks just so precious though I think I remember it being itchy.

A Very Peluso Christmas

This one was probably taken on Christmas Eve the same year as the photo above. We are at my Aunt Ann’s house. I can tell from the dark blue foil on the tree in the background. The blank look on my mom’s (gorgeous) face, the bored, mad look on my dad’s, more bershon from my brother and my deer in the headlights stare pretty much sums up our little family dynamic. Most adults try to put up more acceptable, public faces for these kinds of holiday family photos but I guess my parents just didn’t care. I don’t want to see fake smiles maybe just more of an effort. Sometimes when they’d fight my dad would try to apologize by telling me that they were only staying together for our sake. Wow thanks, that means that all that yelling and anger was all my fault.

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Mother Guilt


With the start of the holiday season we’ve also started the annual rite of Mother Guilt. Perhaps you’re familiar with the kind, my mother and her guilt – or rather my guilt. No matter how much we try to avoid it – it happens every year. This year we are going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and we were planning on having Christmas Eve at our house. We invited my parents, my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her family. I just found out that my sister-in-law can’t make it because her step-daughter can’t come (she’s got to stay closer to home to be near her mother). Now my husband wants to go to his mom’s house for Christmas Eve instead. He doesn’t want it to be just my parents and our little family. I can see his point. Christmas is really fun when you have kids around. Ever since we had P we’ve wanted to her to be around other children on Christmas Eve.

Right before P turned 3 we decided to spend Christmas Eve with my parents at their house. It was just the 5 of us. I know that it made them incredibly happy to have their granddaughter all to themselves. My daughter’s birthday is in the first week in January so it was not three weeks after that happy Christmas when my dad completely freaked out after her birthday party. My parents were staying at a bed and breakfast nearby because my brother and his wife at the time were staying with us. They were leaving to go back to their room and he was asking what time I was serving breakfast the next morning, 8:30 am, 9:00 am?? Mind you, this is only three weeks after Christmas, one week after I spent my New Year’s Eve puking up some bad non-dairy creamer I put in my coffee and only hours after having 12 2-3 year olds plus their parents in my house for fun and a clever craft and when he asked me when Sunday breakfast was being served I replied (even half jokingly), aren’t you staying at a bed and breakfast? Don’t they serve breakfast there? You would have thought I had flipped him the bird the way he reacted to that. He didn’t talk to either of us or see us for MONTHS after that. Before he stormed out of the house that night he told my brother that I was a “piece of s**t”. I can’t even write it out, that particular comment is so hurtful to me. Needless to say, there are a lot of bad feelings on both sides as there has been for years.

I told my mom about the change in plans for this year on Sunday and I could hear the disappointment in her voice over the phone. Then she called me the next day and told me again how disappointed she was. I know that she is jealous of my in-laws because we see them so much more often. They also live much closer to us than my parents do. My parents might as well live in another state it takes so long to get to their house from mine. Just take a look at the map for crapssake! I do feel for them and I feel like I should be more forgiving. They are my parents and I love them but I just can’t stand this same routine for every single holiday and/or birthday. Now that they feel officially dissed does it mean that they are going to be giving us crap on Thanksgiving? Is my Dad going to lose his mind and freak out again? If they do end up coming to my in-laws on Christmas Eve are they going to be speaking to us? All these questions need answering but I fear that we won’t know them until the very moments are upon us. It is so easy to offend them, I shouldn’t even be surprised anymore when I do.

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Classic Lola*

*We call my Mother Lola, it is Tagalog for Grandmother.

My parents are coming up this weekend. We haven’t seen them in a long time. I emailed my Mother some pictures yesterday. She called me to tell me that she got them.

LOLA: I see that you cut your hair.
ME: Yeah, I was getting sick of it.
LOLA: Did you do it yourself?

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