The maternal side of your family

Hey Four!

So this is my now normal weekend routine: sleep in, write a little, read, and watch TV.  I am still taking it easy, but my nerves are not doing so well.  I broke down in front of your dad Friday night.  I am allowing myself to be afraid of so many things.  Right now, I have not felt you move at all…not yesterday, and just maybe a teeny tiny flutter on Thurs.  I believe I felt you more earlier in the week, but then I just don’t feel you much at all.  My breasts aren’t as sore or as sensitive as they have been either, so I am just convinced that something is wrong.  I try to play music through the headphones and still I get nothing.  My tummy doesn’t feel bigger, and I don’t see how you are growing as much as the ultrasound measurements claim without me growing more too.  I have what is called a “B” belly, so I don’t look cute pregnant – I just look super chubby.  I also have tried to get in touch with my sisters and they aren’t replying, so that has me feeling blue.  I am just a little down in general, so it was nice that we had some really cool critter visitors Fri night to offset my poopy mood with the awe and beauty of nature.

Right when I was crying to your dad, and he was being the good listener that he is, he stopped me and said, “there are deer out there.”  Sure enough we had two large bucks out in the yard.  They had these awesome antlers and were just hanging out.  They came toward the patio and into the lights so we could see them better.  They were so elegant.  They ate some of the fallen bird seed, and one of the bucks picked at the pumpkin that Chomp was working on earlier in the day.  The sparred with their antlers, which we could hear cracking against each other.  It was all just a little fun playtime, they weren’t trying to hurt one another.  Then they settled down, yes, like sat down and snuggled on our grass.  It was really magical.  We also had a large coyote in the yard earlier in the evening too.  He looked so healthy as compared to ones we were trying to help.  I haven’t named him yet.

Okay, so onto your education about my side of the family.  I have already talked about your Aunts J and A.  I have mentioned a little about Grandma J.  I promise I will write about Grandpa M later…but not much here today (and I already wrote about Great Grandma F – his mom).  I am sure that you will notice a difference between your dad’s side and my side of the family.  I want to explain my side a little as you will probably not see them too much.

Being that my side of the family is a little further away, it is just harder to get together.  However, even when my GPs lived 6 hours away when I was a kid, I still was close with them.  It just took more effort and it meant that the time we did have together was important.  The thing is, we aren’t that far apart though.  We can get to anyone in less than one hour.  Anyway, I really hope that the situation I am about to describe changes…God willing.  My family is just not as close as your dad’s.  On my side, we struggle to be together.  For many different reasons, we don’t tolerate one another very well.  It is sad.  I have always been the weird, bohemian type and many of my personality traits just don’t appeal to Aunt A and Aunt J.  My sisters simply don’t like me as a friend they way that they like each other.  They hang out, text, and keep in touch with each other.  They have “sister” times together and have gone on trips together.  I am not included on that.  I fear that because I was a dumb, self-centered, stubborn kid that failed in my big-sisterdom many years ago, there is just no repairing or making up for that now that we are all grown adults.  In some respects, it hurts my feelings more now than even 10 years ago.  As we get older, I assume we would get wiser and realize the value of having sisters…sadly, however, I will text, post something on social media, email, or even try to call and never, ever hear back from them.  How long does a text take?  Being busy is an poor excuse, because it only speaks to their priorities and how far, far down the list I am.  It sucks when I see their fun escapades on social media and know they probably never even considered including me.  And on the limited occasions when we do get under one roof, everyone is so edgy that no one can relax into the comfort of our family time together.  One of the last Christmas memories I have of the three of us happy together was quite awhile ago.  We were driving home from a “midnight mass” which means we were getting done at midnight.  My parents’ neighborhood does luminary candles in paper bags along the road.  It is really beautiful.  We were driving along and honking and yelling at the people who didn’t do their street area.  We laughed about that and just had fun together.  Obviously time marches on and things always change.  It is so hard to get together because we all have families, jobs, and just a lot on our plates.  Well that, and I have been on modified bedrest and told to stay close to the hospital just in case.  So I am not going anywhere.

Part of what makes our present day situation what it is was our past.  So now I will transition into Grandma J.  GJ was the oldest of two girls.  My Aunt P (her sister) was 2 years younger and they were incredibly different.  GJ was a vibrant and outgoing young lady, but then her sister came along was smarter, the Homecoming Queen, and super free-spirited.  When GJ got married and settled down in the burbs, her sister became a career woman living a very different life in the city.  There was always some bit of distance and strife between them and because both were stubborn and easily encamped in their own separate lives, it was a matter of them falling into indifference toward each other rather than trying to forge sisterly connectivity.  Years slipped away with just the perfunctory meet ups at the holidays and occasional birthdays.  Then Aunt P got cancer.  She had struggled with her health as she grew into her late 20’s and early 30’s.  She worked in a lab for the EPA and was exposed to many toxins – I’m not sure if there is a correlation there – but possibly.  She had many miscarriages in her attempts to have a baby.  When she finally did have my one and only cousin, she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a blood borne cancer – and a very bad one, especially at the time she had it.  It was a very slow slide to her eventual passing at 46 years old.  She was completely under the grip of her cancer.  She had all kinds of medicine and transfusion efforts.  Her kidneys started to fail (I actually offered to do a transplant of one of mine at that point, but she was too far gone).  She ended up in a hospital in the city and that is where she finally passed.  I can remember being with my mom when she got the phone call that let her know her sister was gone.  Understandably, she was a mess.  Her sister was the first to pass and her parents, who were both in very poor health, outlived her.  The biggest lesson that was seared into me in watching my mom deal with that loss was her overwhelming sense of regret.  She realized too late how too many years went by that she could have had more time with her sister, and now she was alone.  Having a sister is special and she and my Aunt P wasted it.  This is why I see the same pattern repeating itself with me and my sisters and I wish that I could get them to see the hindsight that I see before it would be a tragic lost opportunity for us as well.

My mom, GJ, has had her own health issues too and that was part of the strained childhood that may have contributed a bit to why my sisters and me are who we are today.  When GJ met Grandpa M at college she was thin, beautiful, and the ultimate social butterfly.  Despite such major personality differences she and GM fell in love, got married, and moved away from their shared hometown to start a new life.  She was the super homemaker.  When I was born, she was on her own with me a lot and only later did she recognize that she had postpartum depression.  Apparently I was not an easy baby and while I cried all day around her, I would turn into a sweet, cuddly baby when my dad got home.  That only made her feel worse and at times even jealous of the relationship she saw blossoming with me and my dad.  GJ’s mom, her dad, and later she too all suffered with mental illness.  She struggled as I was a little one because she was feeling sad, alone, and overwhelmed.  She didn’t lean on her sister – which I already explained about, and I only wonder if her having had her sister there in these tough times would have made a difference – I can only imagine it would have helped.  Nonetheless, GJ strapped a smile on her face and threw herself into being a mega mom.  She did a ton of things for me and Aunt A.  There are photos galore from these early years of our family.  However, when she was pregnant with Aunt J, she started to get sick.  The genes on my mom’s side are not the best, sorry Four.  GJ ended up being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  It was so bad at first that she was immobilized due to pain and swelling and could not do anything.  The disease causes inflammation of the synovial fluid in the pocket around joints.  This means the fluid gets gritty and starts to eat away at the joint itself.  There is no cure for it, so medication and pain management is the name of the game.  Due to GJ being so incapacitated, my dad hired a Swedish au pair to come live with us.  She was nice, but when I was a 2nd-3rd grader with three younger sisters, one of whom was a baby, it was just all a little crazy.  My mom not only was confronted with all the physical issues from her autoimmune disease, but she also had to struggle with the mental illnesses of anxiety and depression.  There were all kinds of doctors appointments and my sisters and I even went to family therapy sessions.  It is pretty scary for little kids to have their mom get sick and never get better, and really just get worse…and she did get worse.  She was heavily dosed with prednisone and very bloated.  Her skin and hair changed.  She got gold injections.  She took a shelf-full of pills each day.  Everything changed and it never went back.  Our family life centered around how much the medical stuff impacted all aspects of everything.  The mom I used to see wake up early and go jog, who played tennis, who did a lot of cool stuff instantly retreated into this shell of a sick lady.  I was angry, I was worried, and I was at an age where I just wanted to be a normal kid and fit in.

So, over the years, GJ has dealt with illness, me and your Aunts J and A dealt with our frustrations as kids, and GM just worked really hard to pay for all of the doctor bills, child care, and to try and keep the the family going.  This is a short and simplified generalization, and there are many more individual dynamics in play that would give an even better picture of things.  Despite all of the ups and downs of my family’s history we do have some moments of strength.  There are times when everyone can still pull together.  When GM had complications from his heart operation, your Aunts and me were solid together.  The same happened with us when GGF passed away.  I love and will always love my family…which is what is good about family.  It is just that at times, past and present, we aren’t always friendly toward each other…and that is something that can’t be forced but can certainly be missed.

GJ’s parents both worked most of their lives.  Her dad had a string of jobs and business endeavors and her mom had supplemental roles in those various businesses.  I honestly can’t keep it all straight.  Like Grandma J, her dad was also someone who bought a lot of stuff to the point that it was detrimental.  He seemed to have a different new car each time we saw him.  He was a consumer.  Your Great Grandpa H had been a prisoner of war during WWII.  He was captured and marched across Germany and Poland.  He was German, even his name was German, so he really had a hard time being an American POW.  I believe that the quirks in his personality: impulsivity, a strong-willed nature, and being gregarious were already there and when he came back from the war there were additional issues from that trauma.  GJ had a stressful relationship with GGH.  Again, even at the end of GGH’s life, it was too late to try and do anything for the lost time of them both being angry and bitter.  His was a “bull in a China shop” kind of guy.  He was a guy’s guy who loved being a leader in his social groups, like the Elk’s, and he loved to talk.  But, again, despite the personality traits that rubbed people the wrong way, he was just a guy who was trying to make it.  After he died, GJ’s mom, Great Grandma G came up to live by us.  She had Parkinson’s Disease (again, sorry for those bad genes baby) and was not always aware of who was visiting her.  Even though my Aunt had been gone for a while, she would often think that I was my Aunt P and talk to me as if it was a different time and place.  I indulged her and tried to be a comfort when I visited.  The Parkinson’s was terrible and she wasted away, being more shaky and frail with each visit.  My mom did her best to be there for her.  When GGG finally passed, my mom felt the loneliness of that loss very deeply.  Even with her own health struggles, she was the one to outlive her whole family, and I can’t imagine what that is like.  When I try, it is sad so I just take comfort in knowing I am blessed to have who I do have for the time we are granted.  GJ still endures the sadness around her sister and parents’ birthdays, anniversary dates, and the holidays without them.  Again, I can’t tell you how hard it must be to live with the regret for years and opportunities lost to family stubbornness and strife.  That is why I am writing about my side of the family.  My dad, your Grandpa M, is a different person than GJ, your Aunts A and J and me.  He is someone who doesn’t hang on to negativity.  He is able to be there for us and for others in a most self-sacrificing way.  I will write about him later.  I just want you to know – eventually, like way eventually – that my side has its baggage.  When your Cousin E was born, some of those old wounds healed, but the scars remain.  Having a new generation to invest hopes and dreams in does help us silly adults.

I know that you will be blessed with a family – both sides – eager to welcome you with love and attention.  All of the members of my side will certainly take you into their hearts.  They will do their best to make things fun when they spend time with you.  Just as it was a different atmosphere from my mom’s parents to my dad’s parents, you will perceive that too.  It is inevitable.  My parents, your Grandpa M and Grandma J are superb grandparents.  They have had some years of practice at it already.  I have no doubt they will shower you with their love.  Just learn from these missed opportunities I have described so that as you become part of the new generation, you remain kind, forgiving, understanding, empathetic, and connected.  You have a clean slate and limitless possibilities to make so much out of your relationships with your family.  I hope you will be able to enjoy those very much.  There is nothing as powerful as the love and support of family.  I have been incredibly blessed to marry into that with your dad’s family.  They genuinely enjoy being together and never hesitate to make helping one another a priority.  They are very comfortable and super easy going.  So, even with the differences between the two sides, you are always going to have the best of whatever they can give and be for you.

Again, this is not a very comprehensive or unbiased view of my side of the family.  I bet if your Aunt A or Aunt J wrote this it would sound different, just as it would if GM or GJ were to tell their version of things.  I just so hope that you are able to enjoy all of my family because each person is very special and will be a part of you.

On a side note, today is our first big snowstorm of the winter season.  It is beautiful!  I love the way the snow is sticking to the tree branches.  The birds are flitting about the trees and bird feeders.  Your dad hooked up power to the heated birdbath, and our feathered friends couldn’t be happier.  Your Grandpa E is over making us lunch and treats – he brought brownies (your Grandpa E makes yummy brownies).  We posted some beautiful pictures your dad took of all the wildlife and people think it looks awesome.  The snow is just very serene and I hope that in the calm it creates I will feel you moving.  We sent out all of our Christmas cards and are almost all set for Christmas, which is very early preparation.  I keep thinking that, God willing, at this time next year we will be getting all excited for Santa to come visit you!  Keep growing Four.  I would love to feel you move…I am quiet and still to try and feel that.  Being quiet and still is the prescription for this continued modified bedrest.


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