Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weathering the Storms of Life

As I sit here resting on my bed, I am trapped beneath the sometimes mind-numbing weight of my laptop computer and the warmth of my sweet cat, Callie, who is cleaning herself as I make the choice to busy my fingers by blogging.  It has been a stormy couple of weeks here in Southern California, from our white Thanksgiving up in Lake Arrowhead, to our first three rainy days of Chanukah at sea level.  There has been a lot on my mind, lately, as the news began with Jack, our eight year old little buddy who has tragically relapsed with neuroblastoma, to something which has laid very heavily on my heart since a few days after my brother died, almost twenty months ago.  Both the relapse of angel-boy Jack, and the constant reminders that my brother is no longer a phone call away, have caused me to remain ever-so focused on the fragility of life.  Of course, as with the storms which we have been experiencing in the weather, there are breaks of blue amongst the grey.  Beautiful lapses in storm cells that allow the spirit to regenerate, dry off and prepare for the rain, once again.  But sometimes the weight on the heart can feel almost suffocating.  And the only thing that can free my saturated soul is to release the words.
 I have thought long and hard about sharing some of the more difficult details of my life here, on my blog.  And I have done so with cautious abandon, finding that releasing the words and then soaking in the support which seems to come as a result of it, makes many of those details feel less burdening.  I suppose that is why painters paint, and sculptors sculpt, and writers write.  There is something about being in the midst of a storm and then sharing it, that allows us to understand that we are not the only ones who have ever gotten drenched.  And that sometimes, by being reminded that there are others who have stood threadbare in the pouring rain, with their clothes sticking close to their bodies like a second skin, we might remember to accept the offered shelter of a shared umbrella.
And so the words now come.  For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you might remember that I have four angel daughters who came from my body, but that there are two more angels whom I consider just as important.  My Angel Nieces.  Before my brother died, he and his wife and their two little girls who are now six and eleven, had a loving, close familial relationship with my family.  I will not go into detail about the days that followed after my brother's death, but they were some of the darkest days of my life.  The harder that I tried to be of support to my sister-in-law, the more she pushed me away.  I thought she just needed time.  I tried to convince myself that she was grieving and that I could accept being at the brunt of her anger, if that is what might make her feel better.  When I say that I have never done anything to deliberately upset or hurt her, it is the truth.  When I say that I have taken more negativity from her than anybody I have ever known in my life, it is truth.  I did not lash out, I did not get angry, I did not defend myself.  I wanted to see my nieces, my brother's children and if that meant accepting a few blows, then so be it.  For the first six months after my brother passed, I was not permitted to see my nieces.  I cannot express the toll which that took on my family.  I never stopped calling.  I never stopped trying and finally, my SIL agreed to get together with us.  I was overjoyed.  My nieces were so happy.  Mark and my four daughters were thrilled.  And then it happened again.  My SIL withdrew my nieces from our lives as if they were objects and not children.  Once again, I begged and pleaded.  I wrote a general letter apologizing for things that I hadn't even done, grasping, grasping because I felt my nieces slipping away the way my brother had done.  A month or so after I sent the letter, we called to wish my youngest niece a happy birthday.  My SIL never answers the phone, but we were accustomed to leaving messages.  To my delight, we got a call back and once again, without any reference to the letter I sent, or any explanation as to why we were cut off, we were allowed to begin seeing the girls again.  This went on for several months.  I was still treated very poorly by my SIL, but I was willing to put up with whatever was necessary in order to keep the girls in our lives.  The last time we were allowed to see my nieces was back in June.  After that, with no regard to her own children's feelings, with no concern for my children's feelings and for absolutely no regard for what my brother would have wanted, we were once again, cut off.  At first, my SIL would tell me that she was "too busy" to make time for us.  I kept trying.  She finally agreed to see us in September, but only for "a very short visit".  The day before we were supposed to get together, she left a message on my voicemail saying that her plans had changed and that they would not be seeing us after all.  I called her back and she actually answered her phone.  She was extremely cold and very rude.  I took a breath and asked her if we could please just keep the plans that we had.  She told me no.  I began to cry and told her that it had been three months since we had seen each other.  She told me to stop it and that it had NOT been three months but two months and two weeks.  I asked her to please tell me the truth about what was going on.  She told me that she was hanging up because I was attacking her.  I told her how much she and the girls mean to our family.  She told me not to call, not to leave her anymore messages and to leave her alone.  She was as cold as ice.  I finally hung up in tears.  Not only did I cry for my own loss, but also at the thought of what my poor, poor brother must have had to live with everyday of his marriage.  I knew there were problems.  I just never knew how deeply they ran.  I realized that just as I was remaining quiet to appease my SIL, so must he have done the same as her husband.  The tears came for a very, very long time.  And then, I reached the only resolution that I possibly could.  I hired an attorney.
Most people have heard of something called Grandparent's Rights.  At the same time, most people do not realize that the law is also written to include aunts and uncles.  We have been in the process of putting our visitation claim together for almost two months.  The last two weeks were spent with the process server trying to serve my SIL with the court documents.  She ducked service four times.  She had no idea what he was trying to deliver.  She is just an extremely disagreeable individual.  Several weeks ago, our attorney submitted a petition to the court to find out if our case would even be heard.  There was a possibility that it would be dismissed without a hearing.  Not only was it accepted by the Judge, but he set a mediation date, as well as a court date.  We recently found out from our attorney that my SIL's newly-hired attorney has already requested a continuance.  This means that the case will be pushed out even further.  I can wait.  I have been patient for twenty months.  I have done everything within my capabilities to resolve this without legal intervention.  I have even allowed myself to be treated as a scapegoat.  I have been pushed into a corner but now the continuation of this story does not depend on the whims of my SIL.  I have taken my power back.
For now, there is a bit of a break from the storm.  The rain has stopped.  Mark and I walked for hours on the beach today.  He kept asking me if I wanted to turn back, but I said no.  The sun felt too good.  I felt too strong.

When I was finally left by myself tonight, I began to think.  And in thinking, I ventured towards some frightened places in my heart.  The "What if?"places which can only be answered with time, but that I am sometimes foolish enough to think that I can answer all on my own.  It was then that I decided to write.  It was then that I decided to toss out the last vestige of fear that was keeping me from releasing the words.  It was then that I fully accepted that it is not me who has anything to hide from.  It was then that the words began to tumble from my fingertips from the grey and into the white.  I feel like I am taking them out from behind the clouds and placing them into the light.

Thank you so much for visiting Jack, and most especially, for leaving such loving messages for him and his beautiful family.  He has begun to read them himself, and he now has a map of the world on which he maps out all of the faraway places from which his visitors come.  Please continue to stop by his site.  He will be starting palliative treatment, tomorrow, which means that things are about to get even harder.


Laura Hegfield said...

I feel so honored that you have allowed us, your blogging friends into this sacred part of your gentle heart. Your words and images clearly express the pain/intensity/love/acceptance/struggle/empowerment you are dealing with so gracefully. Life is so very stormy and unpredictable...but that does not mean we can't keep trying to right the wrongs in our continue to love with all of our hearts the people most dear to matter what.

Good for you...fighting back on behalf of your brother and your nieces, your daughters, husband and yourself. May the miracle of light in the darkness that Chanukah reminds us of continue to glow and illumine the darkness you are feeling these many months. May it be so for Jack and his family as well.

Chag urim sameach,

Laura ~Peach~ said...

i first stumbled onto your blog a couple years ago and fell in love with your writing .. I stayed because of the bits you allowed out of your heart that mean so much to me... you have a gift of sharing (even when you may not want to) and I am glad to see you are seeing things i have seen for a long long time... do not give up the fight the girls will thank you one day.

Ness said...

Oh Deb, in my "sisterly feelings towards you" I knew that you were weathering another storm of separation from your Angel Nieces. Know that your brother is beyond pleased that you have taken this step on behalf of his daughters. My fervent prayers will be that this situation will be resolved quickly and painlessly to these little girls and that their heritage from their dad's side of the family can be restored to them. Having been a niece that was cut off from her mother's side of the family after her mother died by a very mean father, I know the pain your angel nieces are experiencing. I have just reconnected with the one remaining aunt in my family that can share parts of my mom's life with me that I was too young to realize at 13 years of age. Keep the faith, dear Deb. I believe in Christmas miracles and am counting that the reunion of your angel nieces is the Christmas miracle for this year. I am humbled that you chose to share with us, your blogfriends. I am here for you 24/7 by email or phone. Mark, God bless you for being a rock for our Deb. Love you.

jojo said...

I am at a loss for words right now as I have tears rolling down my cheeks and a smile in my heart. I have faith that you are without a doubt doing the right thing for everyone involved. Peace to you my friend...Happy Hanukkah..jj

miruspeg said...

Deb I haven't visited your blog for some time but tonight I felt compelled to pop over here.
My what a heartwrenching story you have just told. It often puzzles me why others suffer such hardships while I am blessed beyond belief.

It must have helped a little bit to write this story and the photos you have included are breathtaking.

One of the saddest part of this story is I feel your nieces are being brainwashed by your SIL which also stands for Seriously Ill Lady!!!

I am so pleased you are a fighter Deb. Your nieces need your family's wisdom and light.

May you always find the strength in this unfortunate, ugly situation to sustain you.

"May you always have an angel by your side
Watching out for you in all the things you do
Giving you hope that is as certain as the sun
Giving you the strength of serenity as your guide"

I am sending my angels to you now, also sending all my love and light and will continue until this situation is resolved.

I am burning a candle right here in my heart as I believe Angels are all around us waiting patiently for our call. Sometimes they alight on the shoulder of a good friend (or even a stranger) who proceeds to tell you something you really needed to hear.

Remember these words Deb....Love will ALWAYS find a way, we just have to believe.

Peggy xxxxxooooooo

Anonymous said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

Your photos are breath taking.

Cheryl said...

Dearest Deb,
My heart and soul are deeply touched by what you and your family are going through. By keeping your heart and intent "pure and true" you are ensuring peace and divine-right outcome for everyone concerned. My heartful thoughts, prayers and happy visions for your united family - are radiating out into the you and your family right now.
... A line from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran comes to mind: "Love has no other desire, than to fulfil itself." The immense love you have for your family, your neices and your brother...(and them for you) will fulfil itself in magnificient, divinely-right ways.

Abundant blessings and comfort and peaceful assurance to you and yours... my dear friend.
~love, Cheryl

Nina P. said...

What a sad situation here. Because of an adults insecurities, anger, issues (whatever is causing her to be the way she is) the children are the ones that suffer. They are being deprived of family relations/connections due to the distorted mindset of your SIL. Regardless of your SIL's relationship with you, she does not have the right to deprive cousins from seeing each other and loving each other. There is something fundamentally wrong with her. At first I could say, OK so it's too close it hurts, you are her husband's sister and maybe it hurt to be around you... but that only holds for a very short, short time and is emotional hogwash anyway. May you continue the good fight and may you at least have visitation rights with your nieces. If not, keep writing them and e-mailing them and just pop in for visits from time to time. School or church/synagogue events... they are open to the public and they can't stop you from going.
As for Jack and his family. They have been in my thoughts and prayers since you posted about him a few weeks ago. I've visited a few times and even written a poem/story or two. I placed the last one on my blog. Now there are even more healing thoughts and prayers going up for young Jack and his family.
My thoughts and prayers go out to you and yours during this difficult and frustrating time. God does answer prayer. And I dare say we reap what we sew... your SIL is sewing some very bad seeds right now... Pray for her and healing of her spirit. May she be guided to a place where she opens her heart to the Love that is around, and to the Family that her children so desperately need. Blessings to you dear soul and to your family and friends. Love and Light, Nina P

miruspeg said...

Deb just stopping by again to let you know you are constantly in my thoughts and I am hoping the angels are looking after you.
You are a very special friend!!
Peggy xxx

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