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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. It's Slow, But It's Progress

It’s five in the morning, and I have been awake since 3:30.  I fell asleep at 11:00 and was awake with leg pain at 12:30.  I took half a Lortab and went back to bed but was awake again at 3:30, still hurting.  I didn’t have any Trazadone last night, and that may be the reason I had so much trouble with pain.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  I took some more pain medicine and now I am comfortable.   

The door to the balcony is open and as I sit here in the living room I can hear the wind rustling the oak trees.  Honey doesn’t like the wind, so I’m going to prop the door open just a little bit a try to find a comfort level for both of us.  (That didn’t work because the wind is swirling from different directions, so I had to close it.)

We just went outside for her to pee, and the feel of thunderstorms is in the air.  The weather man promised these storms yesterday afternoon but they never happened.  I walked to the oyster roast last night and only felt a few drops of rain. 

I like thunderstorms.  I liked them as a child.  There is something about the power of wind and rain that attracts me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I can enjoy unsettled weather while I am sheltered from it and still feel its effects on my soul.  The power of the universe is around us every moment of every day, and for me, the energy of storms infuses me with the knowledge of my own powers as a human being.  It also has the humbling effect of reminding me that I am at the mercy of nature.  

I think I am awake because I need to write.  Write what?  Just write.  When I go for days without spending time at this keyboard, something dies in me.  I feel incomplete, as though I have cheated myself out of one of my greatest pleasures, my most important outlet for self expession.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that I am a little depressed, and I suppose that is true.  This will help.  It will also help when later this morning I bake the cheese straws I have been planning for two days.  The butter is soft and the cheese is room temperature, and I will crank them out with a feeling of accomplishment.

Cooking is good for me.  I love the order of it all, the measuring and mixing, the resulting food that is good and that I can share with the people in my life.  I lost the love of cooking when Clint got sick, and I am just now recovering it.  It feels right.  It feels like moving on and going back at the same time.

A little as a year ago, typing was such a struggle that it wore me out, exhausted my body and my brain.  Now my fingers fly across the keyboard and the words spill off their tips as quickly as they form in my head.  It doesn't matter what I write about.  I need to write things down.

I was in a funk yesterday because I discovered that beer is missing from my pantry and my refrigerator.  Parrish drank it when he was here for Christmas, but I didn’t notice it until yesterday morning.  I was not looking for it.  I thought P was ready to spend some time with me here, but he is not.

When he called me last night, I told him I knew he drank the beer.  I said I was not mad.  I said I was sad for him and for me.  I said I was sorry for pushing him too hard, expecting too much of him so soon.  All the time, though, I was wondering what would have been worse, him spending Christmas alone in his little apartment or being here and anxious and tempted to drink.  My original idea of taking his meal to him was the right one, but I cannot undo what happened.  Neither can he, and I wish he could give himself a break.

He was not defensive but humble and respectful and expressed great shame.  He admitted something I have been telling him for years and that is that being in my house makes him tense and anxious, brings up old feelings of shame and guilt that he is unable to let go.  I pleaded with him to read Buddhist Boot Camp and try to immerse himself in the tenets of being present in the moment, learning to let go of the past.  

Night before last, after he spent a disturbing afternoon with Lawrence, I fetched him from his efficiency and brought him here for supper.  I made some salmon and sweet potatoes out of the freezer, and after we ate, we sat for a couple of hours listening to classic rock music and playing music trivia.  Between us we could name almost every band and most of the singers.  We were both a little stuck on some of the composers, but we learned a lot while Googling.  Neither one of us knew that John Fogarty wrote every one of Creedence’s top ten hits.

He did not drink that night.  We had a wonderful time together.  He kept contrasting his afternoon at the cemetery with Lawrence with sitting in my living room listening to rock and roll with me.  I kept urging him not to compare Lawrence and me, to accept the only kind of love his father can give him.

I have a theory about Lawrence and the cemetery, and I think it is a valid one.  He is incapable of showing love to the people who mean the most to him.  He goes to the cemetery every three weeks and puts flowers on his parents’ graves, trying to make up for his inability to express his love to them while they were alive.  It is very sad.

Parrish found it disturbingly morbid and was unswayed when I tried to tell him that Lawrence’s behavior is understandable, that he is who he is because of where he came from - a family that did not express love.  
Clint used to have a cassette recording of a lecture by a man named Morris Massey, a sociologist.  It is called “What You Are Is Where You Were When.”  I wish I had those tapes.  They explain how we are imprinted with our values and belief systems early in life, and that if they are not healthy, we must work to change them.  Otherwise, we are stuck.  If we never realize that we are stuck, we can never change.  

Lawrence is stuck.  He was an unplanned addition to his family.  His mother spent much of his childhood in a sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis, and he was not allowed in her presence for over five years.  He essentially had no mother figure and because his father’s job kept him away from home most of the time, he was raised by his older brother, a good man but also a product of parents who did not know how to love, to express love.  

I want Parrish to understand something it took me years to internalize, and that is that Lawrence can no more help who he is than he can help being 71 years old.  Parrish wants more; he has always wanted more.  I want him to learn to accept his father, his strengths and his weaknesses.  Will it happen?  It can happen, but will P ever get beyond his father’s emotional unavailability?  
That P and I could have a talk about these things is a major step in our developing a relationship that will work for us.  He must not drink alcohol if we are to move forward.  When he is drunk, he is a man I don’t know.  He was not drunk on Christmas, thank God, but he did drink.  He is stuck just as surely as his father is.  P cannot accept his father back in his life without questioning whether or not he loves him.  It is very difficult for both of them.

And I am in the middle, an unenviable position.  I finally accept Lawrence for who he is but it took 40 years for me come to this point.  Do Lawrence and Parrish have enough time for them to reach this place?  It will take work.  Lawrence does not know how to do the work.  Will Parrish learn?

I cannot fix this.  I cannot guide where it goes.  I can only set my own limits and love both Parrish and Lawrence for who they are today, not for who they might be or for who they were in the past.

© 2013 cj Schlottman


Robert said...

Thinking of y'all in the most heartfelt way

Claudia Schlottman said...

Thanks, Robert!

Janice Applegate said...

Thanks for sharing all of this, Claudia. I'm glad it helps you to write. Keep writing.

Sue said...

Such an interesting post, CJ, and a wise one.

I'm glad you are clearly feeling so much better. And I'm VERY glad you are writing…