Friday, October 24, 2014

I'm Okay

It has been six months since my 75 year old father has spoken to me, personally.  I have heard a lot of confusing nastiness via the mouths of others; a whole lot of He said/She said blah, blah, blah, but nothing other than two small words out of my father's own mouth. Two small words from a man who has never been known for his loss of words, and well, lack of wisdom, for most of his life.  And yet, there have been several incidents that for excruciatingly long periods of time (up to years at a time), this man, this man who is fifty percent responsible for gifting me life, this man who was my first love, the man who taught me so many wonderful things over the course of my fifty-two years on this earth, the man who is my father, has shut me out of his life either emotionally, or physically, or both for transgressions that have only been readily apparent to him.  Eventually, I get "schooled" on whatever infraction it is that I have committed against my father(typically by his wife), but rarely by him, and rarely does it end there.  It can go on for years and years and years. Sadly, this is not an exaggeration. Sadly, I am undeserving of these long, overdrawn grudges. Sadly, we both lose out on a relationship that is extremely important and vital to both of our lives, and worst of all, we lose time that no matter what, we can never, ever get back.

I am not my father's only child.  I once had a brother who was smart and loyal and funny as can be.  That boy could have a room full of people laughing to the point of everyone running off to the restroom so as not to end up peeing in their pants right where they stood!  I have to chuckle out loud just thinking about it.  He was four years younger than me and he achieved the goals that my father had stringently set in place for me.  He became an attorney and a very good one, at that.  In my brother's very early years as a lawyer, my father began making personal demands of my brother that were neither fair nor reasonable.  He wanted my brother to be his "personal attorney" even as my brother was trying his hardest to gain respectability and recognition in a profession that is exceedingly demanding.  He expected my brother to compose correspondences, do research, file motions and to show up in various court settings prepared for battle depending upon what my father was trying to achieve at that time, and my brother did.  He did a lot of what my father requested and required of him.  I cannot honestly say that my brother did not complain about the expectations that were thrust upon him by our dad, but he did what he could until one day, he just couldn't anymore.  As the story has often been told, my brother showed up a little late to a court hearing that my father was involved in one day and when my father admonished him for getting there late, my brother simply picked up his things and silently walked out of the courtroom and out of my father's life, leaving my father standing there with chest pains.  Now, I am unable to attest to any of what really occurred on that day but I would imagine that as always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. That day became the end of my father and my brother's story for the most part.  Oh there were many attempts made over the years by me to bring them back together, but mostly, those attempts ended up kicking me in the ass with both of them angry with me for days.  So, I left it alone and they ignored each other at family functions at which they both had to be present.  I cannot speak for them, but for me, the pain in the room was always so palatable that you could slice through it with a knife.  My brother had a child.  I once caught my father looking longingly at his granddaughter from across the room at one of my daughter's Bat Mitzvahs, but never did either one of them cross the imaginary line set forth in common blood by their stubbornness, their anger and their hurt at one another.  More family events, another daughter born to my brother and his wife, and each time, my soul stirred and sighed at the loss that they both honored more than their own love and connection.  This went on for fifteen years.  NEVER did my father expect to receive the phone call that I had to make to him on February 17, 2008.  His son was dead.  Silence.  Me scrambling for the words to alleviate the terrible guilt that must have struck our father at that moment in time.  He did not attend his son's funeral.  He has not visited the cemetery where my brother now rests.  And all because of a stupid misunderstanding that occurred when my brother was in his very early twenties.  Barely older than a rebellious teenager.  The End…

Hard-hitting lessons are usually learned when the cosmic two by four finally collides with our reality leaving us reeling in something that we never believed could come to be.  And yet, sometimes, those lessons are never learned and we are forced to relive them over, and over, and over again.  I try to learn.  I try to learn through the direct lessons and the indirect ones that I experience through the struggles of another.  It isn't always easy because perception is highly interpretive.  It is like a dance that everyone views with their own eyes.  It also depends upon the folks who are surrounding us at the time that something happens, and the choice of ideas that they use to fill our heads when we are trying to interpret whether or not we are being rational or reasonable, the music, so to speak.  The same person who was there when my father and my brother began their grudge many decades ago, is still there filling my father's head with swayed perception and negativity.  My husband and I have done everything that was relayed to us through this person in order to appease my father and to mend any fences that were damaged through misunderstanding and misinterpretation and frankly, mistruths.  I have called more times than I can even recall.  I have written letters and emails.  I have asked for forgiveness for things that I am not even sure of.  I have reached out in confusion and rejection and pain because I want my father in my life.  I need my father in my life.  I know that his time on this earth is winding down to a rapidly shocking halt.  Heck, for all I know, my time could be the one that is winding down.  The stillness and lack of noise from my father is staggering, unnervingly staggering.  And yet, I should be used to it by now since it is something that I have been forced into becoming uncomfortably familiar with for my entire life.  It doesn't get easier.

A few weeks ago, my father had an "episode".  Almost exactly two years ago, he had a heart-attack that led to a quadruple bypass surgery that led to some permanent damage in his dominant hand which led to subtle personality changes and to what I would describe as depression.(Who wouldn't be depressed after going through all of that?)  Most of the time, he appeared to be himself, but there were definitely moments that did not go unnoticed.  Glimmers of confusion or befuddlement.  Mixup mystification. We all sort of wished those moments away, but they were very difficult to ignore from someone who is so exceedingly sharp and witty most of the time.  About a month ago, I received a phone call from Angel Daughter Number Two letting me know that I should not panic, but that my father failed his Stress test and his blood sugar was far beyond safe levels.  He would be seeing his doctors and decisions would be made about what to do next.  AD2 told us that my step-mother said that I would be able to speak to my father but that we should not call until the weekend(This was on a Wednesday) and that I had to call on the house phone and that I was NOT allowed to cry.  It's almost amusing how, at fifty-two, I still get treated like a sixteen year old child by them even though I have completely raised four daughters of my own and have been married to the same man for thirty years.  Neither one of my parents or step-parents can claim to have done either one of those things.  That weekend, we did as we were told and called my father's home phone.  No answer on Saturday, so we left a message expressing our love and deep concern.  On Sunday, we did the same thing.  Very disappointingly, we never spoke to my father.  I proceeded to call his cellphone several times during the weeks that followed.  No answer.  No response.  I emailed my father to ask him what the doctors said.  No response.  And then one night, I sent him an email that must have sounded a bit panicky.  I wrote, "Very, very worried about you and would like to know what the doctors said today."  I was shocked when there was a note from him in my inbox the next morning.  It simply said, "I'm okay."  That was about a month ago.  I'm okay.  It frightens me how easy it is for my father to write off the people who he loves, it always, always has been.  I'm okay.  The lingering feeling of rejection rings inside of my ears like a bell pitched to be heard with intention.  I'm okay.  My brother's voice.  Fifteen years.  Robert died.  Your son is dead.  I'm okay.

Well maybe I'm not okay.  Maybe this is not how I want it all to end.  Maybe you could consider what it would be like for you to leave me here with this as the end of our story, your doting, loyal, loving, tender-hearted child.  But I guess that since you are okay, that is all that truly matters.  The tragic thing is that I do believe that you are okay, that you are just fine without me, and that this is not something that you would lose sleep over the way that I do.  I have witnessed you do this to so many others, but none so important as your only daughter.  I never believed that that was possible, or maybe, I just never wanted to believe that it was possible, that I am as disposable as the others.  I have seen the unusually fantastic side of you, but I have also seen the very, very worst and truthfully, they are balanced quite evenly.

I will be okay.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Writer's Soul

The humidity is staggering today as I sit confined to my bedroom, one of the only places in our home that actually has air-conditioning.  You have been on my mind a lot, lately.  Yes, YOU.  My lovely, intelligent, sensitive, dynamic, unique blog readers, especially the ones who have stuck with me during my unplanned, unannounced, fade-into-the-ethers blog hiatus.  I love you for sending me private notes, for continuing to check in on my blog, for knowing what I mean when I discuss my "Angel Daughters" in other places on social media.  I adore you for cajoling me, for gently poking at me, and for not forgetting about me.  I am not exactly sure why, but something shut down inside of me about a year ago.  I began to seriously lose/doubt my writing voice and it started to  frighten me…A lot.  I believe that I was born with a "writer's soul" meaning that it feels very natural for me to paint my life in words and for most of my twenties and thirties, I kept that portion of my soul buried deep within my life of domesticated, wedded, maternal, Orange County lifestyle bliss.  I put everything, and I mean everything, into raising my Angel daughters and maintaining a lovely marriage, family and home, but there was definitely a price to be paid for all of that loveliness because when the roles began to shift and I was not needed as much, I did not have a place to turn my attentions to.  I am not at all saying that I would choose a different path if I could go back to those decades when being a wife and mother was more than enough.  I am not even saying that in retrospect, I would have done very much differently because the product of all that I put in is a very successful husband who still loves me deeply after almost thirty years of marriage as much as I do him, and four incredible daughters who really are angels in so many ways.  But, the thing about being in my early(very early) fifties now, is that I do have the luxury of hindsight and reexamination and reconsideration which is forcing me to take inventory as to what worked and what did not work so well.  And one of the things that might not have worked quite so well for me is what I gave up as an individual and as a soul on a singular journey alongside a tribe of other souls whom I adore with all my heart.  It really is not so much about what I gave up because what I gave up in some areas, I gained in other areas tenfold.  It is much more about the things that I did not do for myself.  I allowed myself to get lost in the mix of the lives that surrounded mine(and this includes those outside of my immediate family) in a way that caused me to forget who I am, who I was before I became a devoted wife and mother.  I immersed myself so deeply, so fervently into who I always knew that I wanted to be, that I lost track of my own spirit and the things that called out to me as a singular person.  I lost hold of those other things that define who we are and what we should explore in order to still remain relevant to ourselves.  I completely ignored my writer's soul when I should have taken the time to nurture that part of myself.  I dismissed my own needs as a separate entity when there was someone or something else that seemed more worthy(or more needy) of my time and attention.  I allowed the voices of those around me to drown out that of my own.  I allowed myself to wilt as they blossomed.  None of this was intentional on anybody's part.  It just happened.  I am not placing the blame for this on anyone, including myself.  Self-blame would only continue the pattern and that is something that I do not wish to continue.  I will acknowledge the fact that I became who I am, who I was, because I did not have a proper role model.  My own mother would tell you that she was a "stay-at-home" mother meaning that she stayed at home when my brother and I were in school, and then mysteriously disappeared on the days when we were actually at home.  She would flit around with her friends going shopping or to lunch, never doing anything much of substance.  Or she would send us to camp during the summers, much to my protest…Anything to get us "out of her hair".  It felt like outright rejection to me and although I cannot speak for my brother, I do believe that the effect was even more profound for him than it was for me.  Even my father, who did take the time to show me affection and attention when he was around, often made me feel insignificant by spending so much time away from our family by going on "business trips" and also by pursuing women outside of his marriage to my mother.  He was a very strong father figure but he was(is) also extremely expert at compartmentalizing the different aspects of his life which is something that I realized and understood at an unusually young age.  My earliest memory of this was when I was around eight years old and my dad would bring my brother and I into his office once in a while.  He had a lovely secretary named Jennifer who I was also particularly smitten with.  She was young and beautiful and smiled at my brother and I a whole lot when we would go in to visit.  And even though she was seemingly wonderful, I would get a very strange sensation in the pit of my stomach when she would greet us, for I somehow knew that it wasn't just the fact that my brother and I were exceptionally adorable children that caused her to be so Popsicle-sweet.  She was trying to impress my father.  And as I look back now through much older and wiser eyes, I understand that Jennifer's focus was on my dad and not what pinchable cheeks my little brother had.   I liked her and I felt abject contempt for her all at the same time.  It is sad that an eight year old child was placed in a position that caused so much ambivalence at such an early age.  It is sad that my parental role models taught me more about how I would behave as an adult not through their positive behaviors, but through the selfish behaviors that I would most adamantly try to avoid as an adult, wife and mother.  I became just about everything that my parents, most especially my mother, were not.  Extensibly, I worked very hard to encompass the qualities that my parents lacked the most, so that I would be a good wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt and friend.  I would include my daughters in my social activities.  I would spend summers participating in outings along with my children.  I would be present and not just pretend that I was.  These were the most mindful years of my life.  And yet, like my parents who successfully failed both my brother and me, I ended up failing someone very important too.  Myself.

I am entering my fifty-third year of life as of about two weeks ago.  Even at fifty-two years old, I know that I still have so many lessons to learn, only during this second half of my life(give or take a few) I believe that the lessons will be meant to be more about fine-tuning myself.  My parents are getting not just older, but old, and with their progressing years they are becoming more like abhorrent teenagers who are definitely not as cute as they used to be.  They are teaching me to be much more self-protective and much, much more forgiving…to myself.  I can no longer languish in the self-serving nature of the expectations that they have set for me without also allowing myself to expect a certain level of respect and honor for me, their only child.  I am, I have been, and I will continue to be a good daughter, step-daughter, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend, etc. as long as there is the balance of reciprocation in these relationships.  I am not even requiring that the reciprocation be equal, just present.  There will be a lot for me to muddle through as I decide where, when and how the boundaries will establish and reestablish themselves, time and time again.  And if someone wants to be exceedingly angry with me for no valid or apparent reason I will no longer beg for their forgiveness.  I will only forgive myself for not being the person that they would like to try to make me into.  I will float above the guilt that I used to drown in.  I will let them do them, and I will do me.

I will say it here as it will force me to be much more accountable from now on out.  I am going back to exploring my writer's soul.  Writing brings me clarity and balance and peace.  Seeing my own words reflected back at me on a page allows me to feel validated in a way that nothing else does.  It makes me feel heard and uninterrupted.  I cannot be cut short by spasmodic breaks in my train of thought when I write.  And because I am also a good listener, certain people cannot resist the temptation to take advantage of the spotlight that I seem to provide when they inadvertently interrupt what I might be saying out loud.  Writing allows me to be heard without constant fits and starts that cause me to give up trying.  One of my goals is to write a book.  In order to accomplish this, I will have to honor the part of myself that is a writer.  I will need to become more authentic about how I present my own story and if there are certain people who are a part of my story who might not like or appreciate what I have to write about them, then that will have to become a part of their life-lesson, no longer mine.  Maybe it would have done them some good to have behaved better, kinder, more thoughtfully, or more respectfully.  My story is about me, not about them.  We are all adults here.

*If anyone has any suggestions about how to get started in a regular writing routine, please do share them with me!  I would love some feedback about this as a fledgling writer whose wings are still quite wet!

And now, a few photos of the Four Angel's Momma family to catch everyone up a bit!  I promise more in the near future.  I hope that everyone is well!

So happy together. 

Angel Daughter Number Three and my beloved Angel Husband, Mark.
Angel Daughter Number Two and her sweet boyfriend, Justin.  AD4 is holding their puppy Layla Rose.

Angel Daughter Number One enjoying her 27th Birthday in June!

Angel Daughter Number Four is still dancing her heart out!

Monday, October 7, 2013

As We Grow

Another summer has made its way through the ever-quickening calendar of my life and I am taking some time to reflect upon the moments that still remain ethereally suspended within my mind and soul.  It is strange for me this year.  Strange because the important string of Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), Yom Kippur (a time for atonement and forgiveness), Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah (the joyous celebration of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and the rejoicing over the completion and new beginning of the weekly Torah readings) all essentially took place at the end of summer, when they typically occur in early autumn.  Sitting here with all of these significant holidays now in the past is making me feel as if I missed something and I am not quite sure what it is.  A good comparison might be if Christmas was to fall on Thanksgiving this year (which Chanukah will) and then when December twenty-fifth rolled around, the day was treated as just another day in winter, Santa sunning his tootsies in the Bahamas, Rudolph using his vacation time to visit with his cousins in the Alps ...It would leave you feeling quite a bit discombobulated, like you forgot something important even though everything on your list was already done.  Still, all is as it should be whether it feels like it or not.  Autumn has arrived, summer has passed (although the heat is still in the process of wearing out its welcome!), and all of my Angel Daughters are busy living their own lives while I am still trying to figure out where it is that I fit in.  There are so many things that nobody ever teaches us about being a mother, but I have found that one of the most poignant things is how to start up where we left off, after the children are mostly raised up.
And so, when the weather is permissive and not too hot or humid, I spend some time outside in our garden raising up flowers and plants and tomatoes and pumpkins.
And caterpillars who feast upon the Milkweed that Mark so lovingly planted for me this year.  The caterpillars who then, so much like my own daughters, spend some time suspended safely and freely in the Chrysalis stage.

Impermanent and changing seemingly before my eyes, into beings that I can sometimes barely recognize but that I know oh so well.

Until, there they are, fluttering with perfectly formed wings before me.  Flitting past my face every now and again as I stand outside watching, observing, hoping, praying and daydreaming.  More beautiful and vibrant than ever before but ready to fly off on their own leaving me to wonder how it all happened.  When it all happened.  And yet I know because if I shut my eyes tightly, I can go back to the so many moments in between, when it all happened and I can remember...

Back in June, Mark and I planted five varieties of tomatoes in clay pots on our patio.  We have done this before with fairly mixed results.  Last summer, we had no success as the plants succumbed to a fungus that overtook the tender leaves and prevented the flowers from budding into fruit.  This year, I decided to do a bit of research in order to discover some more disease resistant varieties and Mark made sure to nourish them with Miracle Grow every week.  I expended some of my restlessness gently removing any sick looking leaves off of each plant daily.  We have been well-rewarded for our attention to the smaller things, this year.
Other than this four inch Jurassic looking pest known as the Tomato Hornworm or the Tobacco Hornworm(the ones that I discovered on our plants were Tobacco Hornworms, YUCK!!!), we ended up with bushels and bushels of wonderful, organic tomatoes this year.  At first, I thought these caterpillars were just another possible variety of butterfly but upon closer inspection and a quick check on the Internet, we discovered that these little beasts were out to completely ravage our tomato plants and so they had to go!  I truly hate to kill anything but these little monsters would have killed our tomato plants and so Mark took care of the dirty work for me.  Yet another reason why I completely adore my husband.  Still, I did spend quite some time watching and photographing these little dudes as I had never seen one before and I found them quite fascinating in a gross sort of way.  And after eradicating these little buggers(I found two of them on the same plant), we were rewarded with healthy, bountiful tomato plants which have provided us with delicious tomatoes every single night for over a month now.  Regardless of what we are having for dinner each night, I slice up a melange of several tomatoes and we enjoy them.  We have also shared them with our neighbors(I had to leave them a note saying that if they did not want anymore tomatoes, to please let me know!), my doctors and our friends.  Quite the fabulous treat fresh tomatoes are!  To me, they taste like sunshine.

A couple of months ago, we also planted one pumpkin plant just to see what might happen.  The vine wrapped around our yard with elephant ear sized leaves and the bees did their jobs pollinating the flowers as they grew.  We had several pumpkins that began to grow but did not survive for a variety of reasons, but then, there was this one which proudly sits curing on our patio right now.  I will post another photo of it off of the vine soon.  The color is a vibrant orange and the size is very nice.(12.8 pounds!)  It makes me happy just knowing that it came from our garden.  There is another one that is doing quite well on the vine right now but I do not think that it will be ready for Halloween.  That is okay because Thanksgiving will be coming up soon enough and it tickles me to watch it grow and mature.  I am finding that gardening and taking care of our seven pets as well as the wild birds and squirrels, helps to fill the void of not being as needed by my Angel Daughters quite so much anymore.  And although the gardening is a fairly new interest that has only evolved over the past several years, it is a satisfying way for Mark and I to spend some time together, enjoying the ocean, working side by side, and producing something that we can enjoy and share with each other and with others.  Funny how our neighbors smile just a little bit brighter when they greet us since we have been sharing our tomatoes with them.  Such a simple thing and yet, it really is all about the simple things, isn't it?
The Angels are all doing quite well since I last posted back in June.  I did not set out to take such a long hiatus from blogging.  It's just that every time I thought about it or sat down to begin writing, I seemed to draw a blank.  Writing has always been one of my favorite ways to work out my own thoughts so it has been disconcerting for me to not be able to express myself through the written word and through this blog which I consider my little corner of the world.  This is something that I feel like I need to explore more because in the future, I would love to be able to complete a book that I would eventually be able to share.  Sometimes I feel as if the words become "stuck" and my mind tends to freeze when I sit down to write.  To me, it feels like fear, yet I am not sure what I am fearful of.  This is one of the things that I hope to work on in the coming year.  Maybe there is a chakra or something that is blocked within my soul.  I do know that the physical feeling occurs right in the center of my heart and extends down into the upper left side of my stomach.  It is an anxious sensation and once it hits, I have a difficult time moving past it.  Most of the time, I just go on to something else because it feels futile when I do not understand its origination to begin with.  I always feel much lighter after writing.  It is kind of like putting the words into a helium balloon and just setting them free into the universe. It is a very positive experience for me and yet, this stagnating fear... Definitely something worth exploring but I don't even know how or where to begin.  Anybody else dealing with this kind of thing?  I would love to know what you might wrestle with and how you manage to move past the fear.  Please feel free to share in the comments or email me if you have had any success in this area.  It really helps to hear from others who have been through, or might be going through the same thing.

In the photo above, my dad is standing in for Angel Daughter Number Four which is why he is squatting down.  It is his sense of humor which I cannot apologize for because I definitely inherited it.  I get him but I can always spot the poor individuals who just don't.  They usually aren't sure if he is kidding or being serious.  Then they look over at me.  The blank stares tend to give it away.  Sometimes I try to explain but it is usually futile because, well, he is my dad, and it is sort of hard to explain...

At the end of August, Angel Daughter Number Three began a new leg on the journey of her life.  Earlier in the year, she completed her AA degree from the local community college and was accepted to a University which is nine hours away in order to complete her Bachelor's degree.  This is something that I knew was coming for a long time, but still, having one of my children farther than a simple one or two hour car ride away has been an adjustment.  Especially this daughter because she has always preferred to stick closer to the nest which I also enjoyed.  I do know that this is the right time and the right place for her to spread her wings in order to fly a bit further from home.  The knowing does make it a bit easier, but I do miss the heck out of her.  Not only is she my daughter, but over the past couple of years, our relationship has also very naturally metamorphosed into a dear friendship which I love.  AD3 has gone through a lot over the past few years, but she has used those experiences to grow and mature and transform into an incredible young woman.  Obviously, we all grow and transform at different rates which is part of what made it so special to witness AD3's transition from adolescent to young adult.  She has done so with grace and beauty.

She needed to drive her car up to school, so the rest of us(minus AD2 because she had to be in Las Vegas for a business convention) all flew up to help her get settled in.

We brought the boyfriends who are also the brothers.  I still get such a kick out of that.  AD3's boyfriend was also turning twenty one that weekend, so we had a lot to celebrate!  I took this photo after mostly everything was unloaded into AD3's dorm room.  Everybody was hot and tired but they all did a great job.  The really nice thing about her dorm room is that she has her own bathroom!  No trekking down the hallway in the middle of the night or taking showers in those stinky little stalls with who knows what kind of yuck on the floor!  She has three dorm mates who she shares a kitchen and a living area with, but it is a very nice setup.  Even the furniture that the school supplies is cute!
There was lots of love...

And lots of sisterly giggles.  Lots of climbing up brick walls...

Hugs with daddy...

Smooches with the boyfriends;)

And of course, tears...

But mainly there was love and joy and lots of I'll see you soons which are all a part of the journey.  All part of taking flight.  All a part of our family history.

Our neighbors have half-jokingly decided that the Coastal Commission should declare our front yard a butterfly sanctuary as there have never, ever been so many butterflies metamorphosing on these bluffs before and our neighbors have lived here for twenty years plus.  Maybe it's the extra attention and love and care that Mark and I have directed into making our home an even more extraordinary and magical place.  Maybe it is the tomatoes and the roses and the pumpkins and the squirrels and the birds who are always welcome.  But it's definitely the butterflies.  The human ones who have transitioned into lovely winged angels who flew through the past twenty six years of our lives but still return for a good meal, a loving hug and some family history, past, present and future.  Or, maybe it is the Monarchs who I have been told will also return from year to year, to feast upon the imprinted cellular memory of the actual  Milkweed that they adore, to suspend themselves in time as they transition from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and then deposit their eggs to begin the magical process over and over and over again.

Ah, the tender, lingering sweetness of it all.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ties That Bind

It is June.  June is the month of my oldest daughter's birthday.  June brings summer and June Gloom and eventually, July, which is the month of my birthday and my brother's birthday and some unexplained and mostly unexplored anxiety which I do believe that I must take some time to understand this year.  My favorite grandmother passed away on my birthday several years ago, but I do not believe that that has anything at all to do with my "July anxiety" because it seemed to have started well before her death.  Sometimes, I think that my grandma's passing on my birthday was sort of a Universal pox on my irrational anxiety.  Like "Here.  If you are going to be all weird about your birthday and stuff, we will add something else, something more concrete that will make it even more burdensome for you."  Or, "You really aren't that important, Debra, so do not believe that other people celebrating the fact that you are still here to be celebrated means anything more than that you are just another year older."  Silly, I know.  And the interesting thing is that I love life, I really do.  And I understand that in order to continue having a life to love, I must also have birthdays to grow older on.  Like my grandmother always told me, if you want to live, you have to get old.  And it isn't necessarily the growing older part of my birthday that bothers me.  I do not mind that at all.  There are many benefits to growing older and wiser and more comfortable in one's own skin.  But while I am contemplating this, I must ask if there is anyone else out there who shares in this birthday anxiety?  I witness other people getting very excited about their own birthdays and I do, too, but it makes me wonder where my own apprehension might have come from.

So here we all are in the month of June.  Angel Daughter Number One will be turning twenty-six at the end of this month which is almost hard for me to fathom as in my own mind, she is still a very young woman.  Truthfully, I am finally coming to the conclusion that this child of mine is finished being a child.  This has been a somewhat difficult concept for me to grasp as she has always been so easy to mother which makes it even easier for me to continue doing so.(She is a pretty good sport about it.)    But she does not really need me to do that part of the job anymore.  I mean, I know that she will always need me to be her momma, but as far as the unasked-for advice, etc., etc., I would rather not sound like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  I am learning to back off.  I am learning that when she needs me, she will come to me.  I am learning that AD1 is pretty much cooked.  I definitely cannot complain. Look at my girl, she is self-assured, considerate, compassionate and beautiful.  As her momma, there is nothing that I could wish for her to be that she is not already in the process of achieving.  It is a little bit frightening to know that I am on my way out of a job that I have so loved doing for twenty-six years, but this is the truth whether I want it to happen or not so I might as well enjoy the process.
So I move on to Angel Daughter Number Two...My wild child, per say.  The one who can cause my heart to pound wildly in the middle of the night without logical reason, but just because I know.  And yet, she always seems to figure her way out of the dilemmas that are sometimes self-created and sometimes, not.  This child is twenty-three years old and although she will tell you that she has been "on her own" since she was eighteen, that is so not true.  She flies freely under the very watchful eyes of her parents and her extremely proud, extremely supportive grandfather even when she sometimes flaps her wings like a wayward bird whose wings have been temporarily clipped by her own impulsive actions from time to time.  I cannot say that this one is fully cooked yet, but I do have to watch the way that I respond to the manner in which she approaches the world.  It it very different, not bad, just different and unusual.  She is, after all, a creative soul and creative souls can have a very different way of approaching life.  AD2 is a free-spirit who views the world from a distinctive and much further elevated perch.(If she can get there, it is definitely worth the effort of the climb!)  I often find myself observing this child in the way that I would view a very beautiful, rare bird that loves the idea of self-survivial but needs the security of others to occasionally feather her nest(and fill her refrigerator).  She wants, so badly, to do things on her own, but she just isn't as ready as she sometimes believes that she is.(Sir, I was born ready!)  It is all good, though.  I know that AD2 is absolutely capable of amazing things, things that other twenty-three year olds could not even imagine achieving.  Being her momma is something that I know that I was meant to do, so I will do it in whatever way she needs me to for however long it takes.  Nothing could make me prouder or happier.
Angel Daughter Number Three just completed her AA degree from a community college, received her first "A" in math, ever, and will be moving on to attend a college that is nine hours away in August to complete her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.(Just like her momma:))  In some ways, AD3 is our late bloomer, but she is also very thorough in making sure that she is comfortable with one step in life before she moves on to the next one.  It is going to be very difficult when she leaves, I am fully aware of that and I know that I will come down with another case of "empty-nest syndrome" when she goes.    She has been dating Zach for a couple of months now.  He is the brother of AD1's boyfriend, Matt.  They fell pretty fast and quick when they met and have been inseparable ever since.  I'm not exactly sure how the Universe is going to work this one out come August, but it is all part of the major scheme so I am confident that if they want it to work, it will.  Mark and I both really like Matt and Zach so if things are somehow meant to be, we would not complain.  Life has a funny way of working things out, so we shall see what happens in the future.
Angel Daughter Number Four...What can I say about this little bundle of teenage energy.  She is like a whirlwind of enthusiasm and kinetic chatter that bounces from moment to moment, place to place, leaving people smiling from ear to ear in her path.  And although she is in the midst of her final year as a teenager, she is finally now going through a somewhat rebellious stage.  I should have known that it was coming.  It is normal and healthy and necessary.  I was just sort of hoping that we could just skip that portion of the process with this mostly happy, mostly agreeable little soul.  AD4 is still dancing up a storm, going to college, and working while also keeping up with her full social calendar.  Her ability to bring people joy through the art of dance is mesmerizing and I am so proud of her confidence and skill.  I only hope that she takes full advantage of the natural ability that has been given to her so that she does not look back with any regret.  She truly is that good.

The love of my life.  This man whom I have spent the past thirty-three years of my life with.  We have been together since we were freshmen in college and have been married for almost twenty-nine years.  We continue to build a life together that is both joy filled and upbeat.  Yes, we definitely share in the difficulties that being alive throws at everyone, but we choose to deal with them in a way that allows us to keep the bright side mostly in tact.  We try to remember that we are always in this together and we do our very best to work as a team.  Most importantly, we remain deeply in love with one another and that is something that sustains us through even the heaviest of storms.

Even as we watch our four children walking into their own futures, we steadfastly remain two people who will share in ours together and in that, we both find deep comfort.

The pelicans have been returning to San Clemente, and with them, another season has passed and another June has arrived.  Watching my children leave and return and leave and return and then, eventually leave without returning alone, has been a process for me.  It has been a process filled with the bittersweet proclivity of both transformation and also, displacement.  I am excited about what is to come for them, but I am scared about where it will leave me in my newest phase of life.  Who will I be when I am no longer known as my children's mother?  Where will my own purpose lie when the most important job that I could ever conceive of in my life is mostly finished?  How do I discover who I will now become?  I have so much to learn and for the first time in my entire life, I am feeling a little bit lost.    I always knew what would come next...College, job and marriage, children...Now, I am just not that sure.  I've never had a role model to guide me.  No other woman to look to as an example of how it is all done gracefully, at least not one whom I know personally.  It's a bit disconcerting.  I know that I can rely on the support, love and encouragement of my husband and our daughters.  I know that they will cheer me on in whatever direction I choose to fly.  But where do I even begin...I have most of the tools, but I still need a compass, and a map, and a GPS, for that matter.

Happy June!

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