Thursday, February 23, 2006

Unique opportunity for perspective

We are now home from the family funeral in Florida -- over 1000 miles driven within the course of about 60 hours. We are both tired, but also both very happy to be home, so it balances out.

Uncle's funeral was beautiful. He chose some interesting music to be played, including Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me Lord?" I had to stifle a giggle at that one, because when it first became popular, somehow my brother and I associated it with that stupid song on HeeHaw -- you know, the one that goes "Gloom, despair and agony on me..." to which someone would moan pitiously, cracking everyone up. Oh well -- I can't help my upbringing! I got to see a lot of my 32 first cousins, and loads of the 100 and waaay plus second cousins, and even some third cousins. Most memorably, I got to meet my cousin Cynthia's children for the first time. Her daughter is her spitting image -- it really took me by surprise when I saw her. After the service, I went up and introduced myself and told her children how much I loved and missed their mother, and that she was a wonderful person. They all seemed genuinely glad to meet me and to hear this, but her daughter in particular seemed very moved. I realized afterwards that these kids were there, at their grandfather's funeral, without their mother to comfort them. They had aunts and uncles and their grandmother, but not their mom or their dad. As I was leaving, I saw someone waving at me through a tinted car window, and when I got close enough, I saw that it was Cynthia's daughter. She rolled the window down and thanked me again for what I'd said. Later in the evening, after I was sure my mom was home, I called her to ask her to get this girl's email or regular address for me, so I could tell her stories about her mother and grandfather, not to mention her aunts and uncles. I feel a very strong desire to get to know this young woman, and I hope she'll be interested as well. The look in her eyes when I told her how much I loved her mother was beyond words, and I feel she needs someone. Maybe I need her too.

Here's what I got in the way of perspective: my mom's family has too much misplaced pride, and my dad's family has too much misplaced shame. No wonder I'm crazy. I sat there for the last few days hearing about how this brother had said this to my mom and wasn't welcomed at her house for a while, and how you can't look at one of her sisters wrong or she'll get mad, and how my grandfather said you never take sides with anyone over your own blood, no matter what. There was a cousin at the funeral who was feared to be going to cause a commotion over something -- no one knew what, but everyone knew he was 'crazy' and to be watched like a hawk. I realized, too, that this had gone on in that family, probably from time immemorial, and that's probably why I never felt comfortable around these folks for long. Their ways were very foreign to me; their lifestyles unfathomable. Everyone is related somehow and there are lots and lots of open secrets, to which I was not privvy. Women cowtowed to men, period. Whatever my grandfather did/said was right and there was no questioning. God only knows what kinds of abuse people have suffered as a result of this very insular and backwards upbringing, but I'm just grateful my mother had the sense enough to leave there as soon as she graduated from high school.

On my dad's side, I learned that my grandfather was a womanizer and a drunk, and abused his family terribly. I also learned that an uncle by marriage had what is now clearly panic disorder with agoraphobia, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. My aunt and her entire family suffered with this, because in those days, people like my uncle were seen as lazy, or no good, or just plain worthless. My aunt related to me many descriptions of the episodes he endured, and my heart just ached for her. She said the one person who ever helped her and understood without judgement was my dad, which explains why they were always so close. Now my dad is gone, and has been for almost 30 years, but my aunt remains. When I visit my mom, I always see my aunt if at all possible. 99% of the time, she comes to mom's house to visit me, though they live 40 miles away. Btw, this uncle died when I was about 15, and my aunt remarried one of the most wonderful men on earth. I have been very fortunate to have these men in my life. I remember my original uncle as a very kind man, always smiling. Whatever his struggles, he never let it show to us, and the same goes for my aunt. I told her after she gave me so much information that I am so proud of her, and am honored to be her niece. I told her that she didn't deserve the abuse she got from so many, and that she was the epitome of what a good woman is. She stood by her husband and her family, and never let anyone treat them badly. I wish I could somehow say the right words to remove all of her guilt, shame, and sadness at these experiences, but I hope what I did say helps.

She also told me that her daughter seems to have panic problems, so I was very open about mine. I told her to feel free to share with her daughter what I've told her, because I never want anyone to feel that they can't get the support they need from their own family. I do understand, and I do care, even if I don't know them very well. Keeping things quiet and hidden is what increases the stigma of these illnesses and disorders -- the only hope is compassion and education.

I also learned that my youngest sister thinks I am somehow not allowing her to phone me. All this because I wrote on my niece's postcard "Tell your mommy to help you write me back". What I meant was that she should get her mom to get an envelope and stamp for her, and maybe give her my address -- I wasn't trying to send 'hidden' messages to her. lol I have to laugh, because this is how it goes -- someone reads in something that is not there, and we're off to the races. God help us all.

Saw the shrink today and agreed to increase my Effexor dose from 150 mg to 225. We agreed that I haven't improved to the point I'd like to, and this will be a way to try to acheive that. I felt more comfortable with the shrink today than I have in the past, so I think things are going as well as they're supposed to. I see her again in a month.

Now it's time to make some phone calls, get some more appointments scheduled (ENT this time for chronic sinusitis, ear congestion, and throat tightness) and cancel some other plans. I was supposed to take a crochet class on Saturday, but I really, REALLY need the rest. I also am scheduled to take an 88 year old woman from my church to visit another woman who's in a rehab facility, and tomorrow night, have dinner with a friend from my previous home city, all of which I wish I didn't have to do at the moment, but life does go on, and we do need to keep our commitments, if at all possible.


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