Monday, June 29, 2009

The Final Exit

This is the hard part.

On Tuesday morning, Mama was up first, coffee made, and ready to read a passage from the bible for inspiration. Mama was staying with us to keep us safe, keep manfriend away, and I have to say was a generally pleasant person to be around.

My standards were pretty low by that time but I mean it. She was a kind woman.

We drove the puppy to the pound, after I spent an hour wondering if I could keep it. The animal shelters in Georgia are not "no kill" facilities. I thought the puppy had been through enough but I also knew I was driving home my sister, enough animals, and to add them to the regular ol' chaos of three boys, summer vacation... well, even I knew it would be too much.

The pound was a miserable place and I really don't want to say anymore than that about it. Part of my problem was I kept looking at things through my suburban mindset and this was anything but that. I walked away reminding myself of the next stop- the doctor's office for the final diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.

It was what we believed. It was impossible to tell how long she'd had it. There were a couple of options for treatment.

Can we have the files please?

We were certain, and the doctor agreed, about going to Boston.

It was late in the day by the time we arrived back at the house. I got on the phone to make my sister's doctor's appointment. And then the manfriend showed up, to get more of his things.

He walked in and announced his dear friend had told him he should not speak with my sister unless there was a witness present. I was in the next room, on the phone. My sister explained what I was doing and where I was- he waited for about thirty seconds then said he had appointments to keep and he needed to leave.

This the man who had no problem talking to me for hours at a time.

He started to leave just as I finished on the phone. I went after him, catching up outside. Again, with the threats.

I said I was deeply disappointed in his behavior. I can't help it, I'm a parent and those words just come spilling out.

He again got right in my face and explained to me that he was PROMISED things- my sister's RV, a truck- in my sister's will and he was OWED those things.

I said, um... do you understand what a will is? Hello? She's not dead.

Again, I was told about the not getting mad just getting even. At this point, I'm too angry to care much about the threat. I tell him he's just like every other low life scum who has lived off my sister.

He didn't like that too much. He left in the truck- oh yeah- that my sister had bought him.

That'll show me, right?

Something shifted for me in that moment. I wasn't afraid anymore, just really mad. He wanted to get in my face? I took a step closer. Bring it on. I wasn't a scared 12 year old, I was a 46 year old woman who was a force to be reckoned with.

Bring it on.

I wanted to leave Wednesday, but my sister dragged her feet. It was hard for her to imagine leaving. There was the animals, and she kept thinking of ways to keep them in Georgia and I thought... no, have them where you are. Don't trust anyone else to care for them.

I had arranged for a kennel up in Littleton to take them for a while. The cat, well, you know how I am about cats so she would stay with me.

I picked up records from the Hospital, ran a bunch of errands and then it was Wednesday night, we were ready to leave the next morning.

The friend of manfriend calls. Manfriend wants to talk to my sister before she leaves. She says, we are leaving at 9AM. Be here before then.

I roll my eyes. I understand this yahoo will show up at 9:03AM and yammer on for hours. But this is part of my sister's process of leaving. It's going to be ok.

The next morning, I pack up the car. Mama is reading a bible passage about the big city and strangers. At 8:50AM, I get the cat into her carrier, and put her on the back seat, the door facing the car door for extra security. I get the two dogs, put them in the far back. I sit on the edge of the car with them. One is lying down, mellow, the other is straining to see the cat.

I made him lie down. He keeps standing. It's 9AM. No sign of manfriend, as I expected. I get the dog down again, close the hatch and go to get my sister inside.

Time to go, I call into the kitchen.

Mama gets up with her and they start walking towards the door. I go back to the car, I'm not thrilled with leaving the dogs.

My sister needs some help, I grab her bag, she goes to one side of the car and opens the door.

She screams. The cat is out!

I yell back, Close the doors! I think the cat is walking around the car.

SHE'S DEAD! My sister screams, over and over. I open the door and indeed, the cat is dead on the seat. Neck broken. I know which dog did it- he's standing on the seat next to her. I pick her up. She's gone.

My sister is sobbing, I am bent over, holding this cat, feeling like someone just kicked me in the stomach. No no no no no.

This can't be happening.

Mama comes up to me, are you sure she's dead?

I'm sure.

Mama takes the cat, cradling her.

I'm on my knees crying. I should never have left them alone. It's my fault. I should never have left them alone.

My god, what is this place? Who lives like this?

The next part is a blur- I take the dog who killed the cat back to the kennel. I clean the blood out of the car. Mama has removed the kitty litter, food dishes from the car.

I hold my sister for moments in between.

We have to leave, I say. We have to get out of here now.

At this point, if she argues, I am ready to drag her into the car. She does not argue. She gets into the car.

We both cry all the way to Virginia. By Maryland, I can't cry anymore. I am exhausted. We've driven 10 hours with one dog, no cat. I am numb.

It's a story I can't tell, I keep thinking. No one will believe it.

We made it to Boston Friday afternoon, just in time for Zachary's baseball game. I have never been so happy to see a group of suburban moms- chatting about the summer vacation, the weather, what the kids were doing- before in my life. Seeing Walter and Allan in their chairs, watching the game.

Back to a world where up is up and down is down and things make sense to me. I almost started to cry.

My sister has her first doctor's appointment with her new primary care doctor on
Wednesday. I know and trust this doctor- she will be getting the very best care available. If all is still stable, we will be going to Ogunquit this weekend.

The remaining dog is going to a kennel run by an animal control officer on a farm outside of Boston. She'll be trained, and kept safe while my sister has treatment. Eventually, she'll join my sister.

My sister wants to find a place on a lake, in southern Maine. A small cabin, she says, simple and where she can be at peace.

And come for Sunday dinner every week. See the kids baseball games, plays, school events. Be with family that loves her.

We made it. My sister and I... well, we've been through some shit together. When we were kids, when we were in our twenties and now... again. Shit.

The one constant? We're sisters. We love each other. And will always be there for each other. That's just the way it is.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Surprise and Getaway Plan

I'm sorry if this story is upsetting. As I said, it was beyond anything I, in my adult life, have ever experienced.

The manfriend, after my sister told him to leave, yelled and screamed and ranted and raved all day. My sister would not let me call the police. She, instead, called his mother who came right over.

Not before manfriend got within two inches of my face, called me a college educated rich bitch and that don't worry, he don't get mad, he gets even.

He sure sounded mad.

In the meantime, it was Monday- I needed to find out about insurance. A friend had emailed me information on MA insurance but I literally could not read the page, figure out where to click- which is completely unlike me.

I know how to navigate a webpage.

The same friend, who I had called in horror about the puppy, took care of the insurance. Filled out the forms, signed her up. My sister would have gold level care from Blue Cross as of July 1st. She was also signed up with a primary care doctor who I know personally, and trust immensely.

One down.

It was too disturbing to focus on the dead puppy. Part of me didn't really believe it, but when his mother showed up, he told her he killed it, too. And when his friend came to help him pack, again, the same story.

I wanted him gone. I had no faith that his mother would have any impact on him.

I was so wrong. His mother, who I will call Mama, because that's what he called her, was not tall, or large, or overpowering in voice. She was sweet, gentle, and reminded me of the southern women I knew in my life. She got there and manfriend turned his attention on her- raging, yelling, but she did not flinch, nor did she appear the slightest bit afraid.

She kept asking him where her boy was, because that was not him.

Long gone, Mama, he kept saying.

I understood why my sister believed this woman would keep us safe. There was an invisible line she created and he did not dare cross it. It was powerful to see.

In the meantime, while he ranted, packed, raged, and she tried to talked to him, my sister and I plotted the escape. Doctor Tuesday, we leave on Wednesday. Went to the post office to change address.Called the realtor, to put the house on the market. Called the locksmith and had the locks changed. Called the alarm company.

Everyone but the police, it seemed.

By evening, the manfriend was gone, Mama was there talking with us, and looking through her bible for a good passage to read. It was by no means offensive to me, nothing Mama did was in any way offensive to me, but curious that the assumption was that I, too, believed in the good lord.

It was getting dark, and my sister wanted to go to get the cages for the dogs so they could come in the house. Mostly outdoor dogs, because manfriend believed dogs belonged outdoors, they had a kennel about fifty yards from the house where there was a shed, too. We went to get the cages, and some food for the dogs. When we were almost back to the house, I saw something wiggling in the tall grass-

it was the puppy.

The puppy was not dead afterall. Just ditched, probably by the side of the road and made it's way back to the last place it knew.

I was relieved there was not that level of violence, and I was furious that man lied in a way that was beyond manipulative- it was evil.

I picked him up, brought him in with the other dogs, and fed him. Two of the dogs, manfriend's and one of my sisters, were very aggressive and I had to do a little alfa roll on one of them. Honeybear, the other of my sister's dogs, ended up curling up with the pup for the night.

I gave him a little bath in the sink, to find all sorts of bites, probably tick bites, on the poor thing. It had been living out on it's own for a while. Mama thought manfriend probably found him at the dump- where most people leave unwanted animals.

My sister called the house where she knew manfriend was staying and said, tell him the dead puppy just wandered up.

Add to the list of things to do: drop the puppy off at the pound. Great. He curled up on my lap in the sweltering humidity, falling fast asleep, and all I could think of was how horrible for this little puppy to have become a pawn in a game run by an insane man.

And I could not take one more day of this insanity. Not one more day.

I did, though, and every moment I thought, it could not get worse? It did.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Manfriend, Mania and the Dead Puppy

I'm not sure where to begin...

Wednesday, the 17th, my sister called me in tears. She was again in tremendous pain and needed help. The next day, I flew down and met her at her primary care doctor's office.

We waited four hours for the doctor to come in and say nothing, that he did not have the results from the other doctor, and he really wanted to get going because he had a date with his wife that evening.

Um... Ok.

He then tossed out, after I, the lay person, had explained what the other doctor had told me, that she would have 18 months to 10 years to live.

Have a nice day.

Mind you, the other doctor had said it was very manageable and she could live the rest of her life with it.

The first spiral hit.

Now, I have led you to believe my sister was living alone. This is not true. She had a former boyfriend, good friend, never lovers, but very close man that lived in her house with her. For room, board, and cash every week, he lived there and cut the grass.

Yup. Cut the grass. Pretty sweet deal.

He couldn't take care of my sister in ways a normal roommate might- like go to the grocery store, cook a meal, anything other than the grass was out of the question.

He worked so hard, you know.

Manfriend, as I will call him, is from Georgia. In fact, my sister moved where she did because that's where manfriend's family was. It's not Savannah, it's about thirty minutes west of Savannah- rural Georgia. He talks and talks and talks- all about himself- and really does little else.

Now, I grew up with Southern relatives, I grew up with hot humid nights, long drawls and co-cola's. I thought I understood the lifestyle.

I did not.

So picture me, sitting on the back porch, my sister inside, and manfriend talking talking talking about himself when all I wanted to so was breath some fresh air and try to digest the news of the day.

I was raised to be polite. On day one, I was being stretched to my limit.

I was amazed this man never once asked anything about the doctor's visit or my sister's health, or... anything. Not even how my plane ride was. Zip. I have spent time with plenty of narcissistic people, but this guy really took the cake.

This pattern went on for several days. I would take care of my sister- cook, do laundry, make sure she ate, took her meds, and made arrangements to move my sister to Boston for treatment.

I thought the doctors were fine but not great. I wanted great for my sister and my sister wanted great, too.

Who wouldn't?

By Sunday, I could barely take one more minute of manfriend. I was annoyed. I didn't want to hear anymore colorful stories about how he was really of mensa intelligence, had killed ten people, was the meanest, biggest bad-ass biker dude that ever walked the face of the earth.

All stories intended to impress me, I'm sure, but since I clearly was not, he worked harder, and harder, and the stories grew more and more colorful.

I wanted to get my sister to Boston. We were waiting for a doctors appointment on Tuesday, to get all the records, set up insurance on Monday and then go. The only thing that was hard was my sister's two dogs and a cat. What to do with them? She did not trust manfriend to actually take care of them.

Sunday morning, manfriend got on his motorcycle and left. The whole day he was gone and we sat in glorious silence. I sat by the pool, read hundreds of piled up emails, my sister slept, organized papers to take... all was good.

I made my mother's potato salad, some grilled lemon chicken and a nice salad. The potato salad brought us back to a silly place of memories and laughter. We discussed the secret ingredient and wondered where our mother ever got the idea to put it in.

We were good. All good. Her pain was gone, she was sleeping better again. We were laughing.

That night, about 10PM, we were sitting watching a chef show on television. Up to the window comes manfriend. He has something in his jacket and is grinning like a fool.

It's a puppy.

He's brought home a barely six week old lab mix puppy. My sister is gravely ill and he's brought home a puppy.

I look at him through the window and shake my head no. My sister starts to cry. We both go to bed without talking to manfriend.

Next morning, I hear puppy in manfriend's room playfully bark early. I go make coffee. My sister comes out and eventually, so does he. She says I need to talk to you in private.

It's been an hour since I've heard the puppy.

She tells him she cannot take this stress. He needs to stop with the crazed, nonstop talking- because at this point it is clearly manic- and he has to be supportive not destructive. He cannot have the puppy.

The puppy is dead, he says.

Where is it? My sister asks, horrified. If there is anything that is true about my sister and I both, we are animal people. Beyond animal people.

I killed it. You didn't want it. It's dead.

My sister starts to cry. He begins to berate her for having a "pea sized brain" and how he's done nothing but good things for her and she's too stupid to know it.

I can just leave if you want me to, he says.

Good. Go, my sister says.

And thus began the nightmare of a day with screaming, yelling, ranting, and this bizarre form of constant rhyming the manfriend did when upset. I understood in that moment, he was actually mentally ill.

And probably dangerous.

I wanted to call the police. I am a suburban housewife. I have never dealt with a biker dude gone wacko who was carrying a gun. Did I mention the gun this former convicted felon was walking around with, proudly showing me it?

My sister said no, that would make it much worse.

She called his mother.

And she came right over.

Don't mess with Mama.

More later...

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Truth You Won't Believe

I have a story to tell, a story I know no one will ever really believe. I've told a few friends, and I know they are thinking... oh, she just added a touch to this, exaggerated a little...

I haven't. I will tell it as plainly as I can. I don't need a dash of anything to spice this up.

I have been in a world for the last week that made no sense to me. Where up was down, and down was up. I reacted within my own world of expectations to end up with horrific results.

And I know horror.

Necks snapped, a mean potato salad, dead puppies rising, and bible verses lovingly found to ease the pain every morning.

I'm home now. I've been gone seven days that packed three years of living.

Tomorrow... I promise to tell the truth you won't believe tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finding Home

It is amazing how quickly priorities can be set when there is an emergency. My sister is ill. Mostly, she's scared.

I'm here with her.

We know what's going on and she'd prefer I didn't write about it. I won't. I can say that I truly believe it will all work out and be okay. Not an easy road, but a manageable one, without a doubt.

That doesn't mean there isn't fear.

I think about my mother and how she would have treated my sister is she had called her afraid. She would have told her to buck up, take care of it and be done. Stop complaining.

One time, I was dealing with a cancer scare- I had several bad pap smears and I was headed in for a biopsy. My mother told me, oh, I'll never forget my first cancer scare... and also proceeded to tell me that it was no big deal. A quick D and C and I'd be fine.

I had a little baby at the time. All I could think of was him, and being alive to see him grow up.

Of course, he was cute then, not a sassy teenager like now. Not that I would reconsider.

I'm glad she's not alive to be that mean to my sister. She can't take it. I could hardly take it, but my sister cannot. Too many years of telling her that she's a piece of shit has made my sister actually believe it.

I still do, too, on some level.

So yes, I jumped on the first plane I could and headed for Savannah. Jeanine being mighty woman handling everything while I'm gone- as long as I'm not gone too long. My boys will be very worried. They love their aunt bolderdash, as we call her. She is goofy, silly and always breaking the rules. She and I end up like a stand up routine, with me as the "straight" guy.

I have to keep a serious face so the kids know I mean business while she cracks joke after joke, teasing me endlessly.

I love my seester. And it's not because she's the only family I have left, although she is the only family I have left, but because she and I have found a way to disagree on almost everything and still love each other deeply. We have a core understanding of our childhood and gave each other the reality testing both of us needed.

You're not crazy.

You sure?

Yes, I remember that too.

Without it, I'm not sure I would have made it through some of the bumpier parts of my life. we were not that close as kids, ironically. My mother had her laser set on my sister and was always certain any trouble or problem was caused by her. I stayed away, for a long time, until I realized my mother was turning the laser on to me... I sought my sister out.

My mother hated that. She knew there was a triangle and she hated it. She wanted me to herself, and did not want my sister and I to bond together. As adults, she would sneer when people would ask if the three of us were close (we have another sibling). Cathy and Sara are... as if we had done some great wrong by doing that.

We were the girls. We were treated with a different set of rules and expectations. We were never good enough, smart enough, successful enough. As much as I was criticised, I have to be honest- I suffered nothing compared to my sister. If words were knives, my sister would be ribbons after a half hour phone call.

I know, because she always called me right after. As I always called her right after talking to our mother. It was a triangle, no question. We liked it that way. Without each other to hold onto, we never knew if we really were that piece of shit we were just told we were.

There are a few friends that I end a phone call by saying, "love you" as a reminder that indeed I do, and that life is always precious. I never want my last word to be angry- even when I end yelling at the kids, I always pull myself together to say, and you know, I do love you. I am very angry right now but I love you.

My sister and I, however, started after my mother died. It was deliberate, thoughtful- not a quick 'love you' but a "I love you, sis." No one could ever take that away from us. We had a lot taken away from us as children, so much it brings tears to my eyes to begin to think of it. But no one can take my sister away.

The irony of her illness is she has been working so hard to get healthy. It is painful to the core. She's shed almost 100 pounds, has been exercising and lecturing me daily on how to eat right- I never remind her I was the one who got shit for feeding my kids all organic foods when they were babies, and still to this day, regardless of the cost. I'm so proud of her, what she has accomplished, I listen every time.

And so I'm here with her. I will always be there for her. We are both getting older and it's becoming apparent to me that I need her closer to me. I cannot stand that she is all alone when she has three nephews who adore her like a rock star, and my wife who bonded on a deep level over a Wegman's deluxe brownie treat years before (a long, hysterical story that must be told by the two of them).

We joke and call each other "seesters" I don't know why but we do. We have goofy ways of talking to each other that drives Jeanine (mrs.serious) insane. My sister is the only person who can still make me laugh so hard that I pee my pants, or send my beverage out my nose with some of the most inappropriate humor you can imagine- often about the abuse we lived through, in a way only someone who was there could appreciate.

Jeanine shakes her head at me, and I shrug, might as well laugh. If I start crying, I'm not sure I'll stop.

I have so much in my life now. I want to bring my sister to where I live now, close. I want her to know the love and acceptance I know has been so allusive to her. We will drive each other crazy, no question. But when we sit down for family dinner on Sunday night, as we almost always do, I want her to be at the table.

She will crack jokes about the table, as it was my mother's and I can personally attest to a few miserable moments we spent sitting at it-

the battle I had with my mother about ketchup on the table comes to mind-

I want her there because she is my family. I can't stand her being alone. She deserves to be wrapped up in the same kind of love I am. Every day.

I'm going to bring her back with me. The place we grew up will never be home, filled with too many ghosts at every turn. I hope she finds it a place she can call home.

Because she's my seester. And no one can ever take that away from us.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Money, Money, Money and Teenage Attitude

I'm sorry, can someone tell my why I have children? Sure, they were cute when they were born, but as they age, they seem to be bent on making your life miserable.

MOM! Can I have money to go to the square? asks Ben.

Now, we had been giving them an allowance until after three weeks of their not doing the basic chores of- bringing their laundry downstairs, putting the clean laundry away, and taking the garbage and recycling out to the road. I was done. Jeanine was done. We were done.

Ben seems to think of me as an ATM. I have a wallet. I have money. I should pony up any time he asks. Zachary doesn't ask for money, tends to hoard all he has, but also hates to break down cardboard for recycling to the point of major despair. Jake likes to hide on Sundays, when it's time for chores.

Ben, though, is old enough to want to buy a slice of pizza, some pop, and candy with your friends. I don't blame him- totally reasonable. But yelling at me that it's not his job to take the trash out and it's the equivalent of child abuse isn't going to go very far.

I said, if you want money, you have to earn it. I'm happy to give you some work to do. having a home office, I have a lot of shredding to do, something always needs to be cleaned, and hey, there is a ton of laundry to do.

Mom! Just give me a couple dollars.


Why are you so mean?

I ignore this question. It seems rhetorical to me. Occasionally, though, I roll my eyes. (And then wonder why he is so sarcastic.)

All this leaves me in the position of being tired of saying no all the time, wanting him to be independent, learning some budgeting skills, and not just giving in and being the ATM.

I have two more behind him soon to want money on a constant basis too.

I just asked him to go down and get his brother from after school.

How much will you pay me?

Nothing. That is simply about being part of the family, I said firmly.

You have the worst sense of humor ever.

I do.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama: Where's the Leadership?

ooo, I'm gonna make a few people mad with this one.

Obama: Where's the Leadership?

Color Day

Today is Color Day at the elementary school. Color day is the most anticipated school event in this household. A day where the entire school is divided into three teams and silly field games are played, is steeped in tradition in this house.

For one, Jeanine always works the fields as a parent volunteer. As it is always so close to the end of the year, I'm at home pouting because soon school will be over.

The other thing the boys always do, is cut their hair into a Mohawk. The ritual begins the night before, with a pair of shears and a chair in the backyard.

Now, I got some shit last night from a friend who said she wasn't loving the Mohawk idea. She thought it was racist. I asked her if her daughter ever begged, nonstop, for years, to have her hair cut into one.


She had no idea. My kids understand that Columbus raped the Native Americans of their land. That the pilgrims did a lot of horrible things to the Natives, including handing over blankets infected with small pox on purpose to decimate the population. The Mohawk hair cut is more of a nod to the punk rockers of the world.

Especially since it is always sprayed with the appropriate team color.

I understand the concern. but color day is color day. Mohawks always included. Besides, the night after color day? It all gets buzzed down for a great summer hair cut.

Oh, would I do something like let them have a Mohawk in order to have their hair short in the summer? Why, that would be... manipulative.

May the best team win!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tense Moment Relieved

I'm on a conference call. It's tense. And I hear a song in the background.

Jake is playing kumbaya on his recorder.

Thank god for small children.

I'm Back...

Alright. I'm having a hard time letting this blog go. I've been a little out of the loop lately- I can't really write about it as I've been asked not to.

It was intense, I think it's all going to work out ok, and there is something really great waiting at the end of it all.

Stay tuned.

I haven't been watching the news, reading the papers, or doing anything of political importance lately. It is June... June is the last month of school where every day has a school related event- or so it seems- not to mention the end of the baseball season for the kids.

Ben's track ended a while ago. He did great, pushed himself hard, and I think- hope- he found something he loves to do.

I miss my blog. I like writing for Bilerico and Huffington but the personal stuff... just doesn't seem to fit. I do like writing for Sue's blog, too... but...

I spent years working on this. Recently, as in this weekend, I finally reaped an enormous reward for it, just when I was thinking I was spouting off to the great void. I am going to Turkey, as in the country, for two weeks, all expense paid to... um... blog about it. Take photos.

I was blown away to be chosen. Suddenly, the blog didn't feel so stupid anymore.

I'm back. I know I'm going to have to start from scratch again, build up traffic, and I will continue to write for Sue, Bilerico, Huffington... but I also will write here. I miss it.

I hope you missed it, too.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dr. George Tiller Shot Dead: A Painful Reminder to Us All