This week, I had a lot of ups and downs personally and emotionally. When these things happen, as they often do, they come crashing down all at once. As a mom, my job is to make everyone else feel better despite the cry-fest I would love to dramatize on my imaginary chaise lounge. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a Southern Belle and have fainting spells? That’s romantic. As I was reviewing my week, you know, in the shower, I thought “Man, this sucks, let’s be honest. But, come on Cristina, we’re also grateful“. Because there are a lot of us in here, but that’s fodder for another post.
And with that, let the honest but grateful edition of 7 Quick Takes (#7QT) begin.
As you read these, know that this is what I keep going back to, just when the tears are about to well up so much that looking at the ceiling doesn’t keep them in. You know what I’m talking about.
While I was on vacation with my family, I received an email from my ex-husband (aka Alex’s biological father). He will be in town and would like to see Alex. It’s been about 5 years since they last saw each other. They have video conferences maybe once every couple of months, but you know, Mike is Daddy-Daddy. I always go back and forth in my head with how I am supposed to explain the why’s and how’s of our blended family to Alex. I haven’t told him yet of this looming date because if it doesn’t pan out, no harm done. The flip side to that is, I can’t just spring it on him. What if he needs time to mentally put the jigsaw puzzle of memories together? Will he feel awkward with both Dad’s in the house? When he says “Hey, Dad” will they both turn around? Will Alex feel badly about that, and will Mike? Tough stuff people. Tough stuff. Don’t get me started on Gabriel. Do you know how hard it is to explain, in terms they can understand, at that age, about what is going on?! Gabriel just wants what Alex wants. Sure honey let me whip up an extra Dad. NOT!
My step-daughter Kaila is visiting us for a few weeks. Can I just say it again? She is my original bestie. She was living with us for a time and then she decided to move back in with her mother. I get it. I do. But I miss her, a lot, when she’s gone. I usually just bury it and try not to think about it, but the “missing her” is always the most intense while she’s here. We don’t do anything amazing together, but she gets my jokes, we poke fun at Mike and it’s kind of ok to burp at the table because she’s there! Blended families are great because you get all of this extra, but it’s hard too because, you get all of this extra.She leaves on July 1st and I am getting more and more sad the more I type about this, so, let’s look at the ceiling together and move on ok?
Have I been very open about families here? Not just me, Mike and the boys, but the extended part? I’m talking about my parents, Mike’s parents and each of our siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, all that jazz? I’m sure I’ve shared a little and that’s on purpose. Those relationships are just shredded. Awful. For the most part. I speak with a few of my 6 siblings, and mostly, it’s always like there’s an elephant in the room. There’s so much history of bad blood, or fear of showing that their siding with me over someone else, it’s all so stupid.
Mike’s mother is in the hospital. We just found out. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in maybe 6 years? I won’t get into the reason for that. I will say that she’s really sick and regardless of what’s happened, when it comes to a person’s dignity and possible final years, I can’t help it – I want to do whatever I can to help. I talked about it with Mike and he asked me if I thought he should go, I thought he should. And he did. Even if he had to keep telling himself that he was doing it for our children (who also haven’t seen her in that time – if you’re counting, then you know Gabriel has never met her). For when they’re older, and ask, we can say we were there for their grandmother in the end.
It was not easy for Mike yesterday. I prayed for his heart to withstand all he would see, all he would hear and to respond with charity. This also meant that I was at home, for Kaila. I kept checking in with her to see if she was ok, consoling her and giving her updates and trying to give an uplifting perspective. No, her grandmother wasn’t alone, her Daddy was there and he would always do the right thing. That was tough. Back to the ceiling? Yeah, back to the ceiling.
This morning, I reiterated to Mike that I think it’s important that his mother not be alone this weekend, so we decided to all go to visit his mother in the hospital. It’s a two hour trip and parking may or may not be feasible, but it’s important. I know what’s at stake, and I know what I could very well be walking into, but it’s not about me. It’s about another person who is alone, who could use other people she knows on this journey with her. Even if she says nothing to me. Even if … anything. I am not the kind of person that knowingly leaves anyone to suffer. Even if we aren’t talking.
I brought Alex to work with me to explain what we would be doing tomorrow. Why to work? Remember the 15 minutes I get to pray in the car? I was praying hard as I spoke to him about blended families, about how adults can’t be told to “make up” like he and his brother are. Adults can do what they want, and they don’t always do the right thing. There was a lot more to our conversation, but here’s how I ended it. “Here’s what I do know, Alex. I know that I will always protect your heart. It’s the most important thing in my life. Daddy will always protect your soul and with that, you will always be ok”. Damn, here I go, ceiling anyone?
When parents are ill and they need to be taken care of and the family is shredded and not really a family at all, how does that work? Who helps with what? Who leads? Where’s the well of compassion to draw from for strength and hope?
Mike has siblings too, and I don’t know if they’re all in a place to communicate a plan of action that everyone can be honest about, manage and live with. I offered some suggestions to Mike, some options that I am willing to open our family and home to. But who knows? The surgery doesn’t happen till Monday and from this side of Friday, that looks like a really long way off.
I said we would be mentioning gratitude, right? I think sometimes that if I could just cut this part, or that part out of my life, I could just move on, but then I wouldn’t have my Alex and little Gabriel. I wouldn’t have married Mike. I wouldn’t be so strong in my Catholic faith to endure something so hard – because the old me, wouldn’t have thought to dig deep and care outside of myself. Alex wouldn’t be so emotionally smart and empathetic. Gabriel wouldn’t be the gooey center of a Rolo <— he’s that sweet. And maybe Kaila wouldn’t burp at the table. Who am I kidding? She totally would. And Mike, maybe, without our marriage so deeply weathered from past storms, but incredibly strong, wouldn’t have had a strong Catholic (convert) woman to help him through this. So, thank God for my mess. He knew just what I needed for every trial that I could, would and will face. I thank Him every day because He helps me see it (and kinda holds my hand through it, ya know?).
So please pray for me, for my family and for the tears that I keep from falling because I can’t have a meltdown.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!