Tag Archives: empty nest

REMINDERS

There was a time in my young adult life where money was incredibly scarce. It was a time when I argued with the cashier at a grocery store for taxing the cents-off coupon I’d used to help make my money go farther.   It was a time when cornmeal was a staple because, at the time, it was virtually free. It was a time when store-bought cigarettes were for use while out in public. At home, we rolled our own. The brand name was Bugler.

I remember working various low-paying jobs to pay the bills, keep the lights on, and keep gas in the car so that I could get back and forth to one low-paying job after another. I sold sweepers, folded and hung clothes at a discount department store, and sewed seat seams on would-be over-priced slacks in a textile factory using an industrial size sewing machine. I temped at business offices when I could get the work, and mostly we just scraped by.

When I got my current job, nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t have to roll my own anymore. I could buy cigarettes in packs just like everybody else. The grocery bill got higher with the better foods my paycheck could support and my rent was finally paid on time. I had received my last disconnect notice on a utility I’d often wondered how I would survive without.   When that first paycheck came in I was ecstatic. I had a pouch and a half of Bugler left over and wasn’t sure whether to toss it out, give it away, or keep using it until it was gone. Something told me to hang onto it. I decided to keep it as a reminder of just how bad things can get.

Since that first paycheck I’ve left three husbands, moved five times, bought a house, been promoted once, became a grandmother twice, and bought three vehicles. And although the unit that houses it is different, that pack of Bugler is still in my freezer, untouched save for the reminder it provides, sealed in a Ziploc baggie to preserve its original state, and in the door so that it’s the first thing I see when I retrieve my daily frozen meal.

Suffering from empty nest syndrome (not a clinical diagnosis, I know) I picked up a second job at a local restaurant to fill the time. As it was, I got off work on Friday afternoon and then just sat and waited until Monday.  I watched a lot of television and went on randomly circuitous drives. I was in a state of seemingly constant restlessness. It took about six weeks of solitary in my apartment before it hit me what was happening. Complete and utter silence. I also realized that it was the first time ever that I’d lived alone. Throughout all the life changes in my adult history that had me living in many different places, I always had my children with me. I didn’t realize how much company and comfort they provided while they were at home.

Silence really can be deafening.

As soon as I figured out what it was that was bothering me, that something you can’t quite put your finger on but drives you nuts trying to figure it out, I was okay with it. I grew to sort of like the silence. Until I got bored, that is. Which apparently happens pretty quickly in my world. So I picked up the second job to fill some time, to get me out of my apartment, and to put me around other people. With those measures, I believe I have successfully prevented depression from setting in.

I work the second job on the weekends, and maybe one or two evenings during the week. I guess I don’t really need the money, although it does help to have the extra on occasion. Every shift, though, I see my new part-time and incredibly young co-workers struggling to make enough money to pay their light bills, put gas in their cars, keep a kid in diapers, and buy that new tire they need.

I catch myself wondering how they make a life for themselves on such few wages. And then I remember that I used to be them. I come home, bone tired from the extra work, and open the freezer. I reach past the shoulder height pouch and a half of Bugler for an ice cube to cool my Diet Pepsi, and I’m grateful that I don’t have those struggles anymore, that I haven’t had them for almost twenty years.

Sometimes I’m tempted to buy a pack of papers and roll one of those things just to see if the freezer and/or the Ziploc baggie have done their respective jobs to preserve the contents of the little green and black pouches.

Somehow I think that some reminders are best served intangibly, with a side of nostalgia, and garnished with gratitude.

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Obsession

I don’t know if the obsession she’s experiencing at the moment is about getting her own way or whether it’s really about the boy.  Maybe it’s a combination of both.

She has issues, to put it mildly.  While her obsessions tended to change over time, fulfilling them was always genuinely necessary to preserve her sanity.

I remember when she was little and she just had to have all the shoes in the house paired up and lined against the baseboard of one wall with the toes pointed toward it.  There was no pattern in the shoes, just that they had to be lined up.

She was four years old.

I explained that it would probably be better if everyone’s shoes were in her own closet, that way Mommy could get ready for work and Oldest could get ready for school.  I asked her if she’d help me put them all back.  She did help me, and easily enough.  But then a few hours later they’d all be lined up against the wall again.  The explanation was repeated, the agreement reached, and the shoes returned.  This whole repetitive process lasted several days.  Slowly, the obsession with the shoes evolved until she was only lining her own shoes in her own closet.  Eventually she forgot about them altogether, and they wound up in a tangled mess like every other young girl’s shoes on the floors of closets everywhere.

Once, for a really long time, she had an obsession with pencils.  She just had to have them.  One entire dresser drawer was eventually devoted to housing nothing but the slender, graphite filled, and cylindrical slivers of wood.  Most were yellow because those were the easiest to collect.  But trips to the store and most small gifts for her usually involved at least one.   They became outlandish in both color and size.  Erasers were never an issue at all.

She was eight years old before we were finally able to empty that drawer and dispose of them all.

I’ve read that Attention Deficit Disorder is a little bit hereditary, and I do remember occasions when I’ve become obsessed with something, but mostly I think I just have an addictive personality.  I’ve been addicted to cigarettes since I was fourteen years old, I can get addicted to a computer game like nobody’s business, and activities for me have to be entered into lightly.  I once thought it would be neat to make a scrapbook.  Hundreds of dollars later I had every imaginable tool used by the most devoted scrap bookers everywhere, and made lots of scrapbooks and mementos.  Then the thrill of it quickly waned until I crashed all at once and just stopped doing it.  That ride took me through three or four years of constant snapshots and diligently collected pretty paper and ribbon.

I’ve suspected once or twice that I might be bi-polar.

When I stopped smoking for a year I was using an electronic cigarette and collected every flavor that sounded remotely interesting.  The interest in the collection wore off when I found the perfect flavor, but eventually I started smoking again.  Now I both smoke and vape.  I think I’m addicted to both.  I’m not smoking three packs a day anymore, but I’m still struggling to keep it under one.

Youngest’s dad was an alcoholic.  I’ve cautioned her about the lethal combination of ADD, Alcoholism, and Addictive Personalities.  I’ve talked to her about how careful she has to be to avoid self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  I think so far she’s done okay.  I know she drinks some, and I’d be stupid to think there wasn’t any pot smoldering in her vicinity.  And I can only hope that she’s being careful.

But she’s almost nineteen, so she’s probably not.  Nothing I’ve said to her thus far has fallen on receptive ears, so I have no meaningful reason to believe that my wise words of advice will have any positive affect whatsoever.

She was about thirteen when she met the boy.  Everyone who knew him said he was bad news.  She wouldn’t believe them.  She eventually lost friends because of him.  He’s also the reason she started shutting me out.

He’s come and gone, weaving himself into and out of her life one crisis at a time, leaving her heartbroken and crushed, only to come back to her and assure her that this time it’s for real.  Loving him has left her closed to any good opportunity that might ever come her way.

I thought that it was finally over, that even though she had feelings for him that might never go away, he had at least moved on.  He’d found someone else to play with, torture, and maim.  But then he reappeared.  I didn’t have a clue.   I learned after the fact that he was the reason Youngest had packed up and moved out two weeks ago.

She’s insisting that he has to stay with us.  She finally told me that through circumstances beyond his control, circumstances that are none of my business, he has nowhere to be.  She’s demanding that we give him a place to stay.

We said no.

She doesn’t come home now at night after work, and I’m a little uncertain whether or not she is even still working.  I do know that whatever this boy wants, he will manipulate her into providing.  I tried to tell her that if he loved her, he wouldn’t want her to give up her home for his sake.

Yesterday she threatened sleeping in her car, with him, in order to provide him shelter, and that if we didn’t let him stay with us, then she wouldn’t come home either.  I told her I wouldn’t be harassed, bullied, or manipulated.  I reminded her that she could come home any time she wanted, but that where Boy is concerned, the answer is no.

She thinks she’s proving herself to him at all costs so that he’ll finally get it and never leave her again.

Love conquers all, etc.

The only time I hear from her is with an occasional text that demands we let him stay here, and promises that she’ll come home, too, if only we allow him to come with her.  Our response has been firm, and her insistence increasingly more hostile.  I don’t know why he has no place to go, and apparently I’m not supposed to.  Which means it’s probably a pretty grave situation that now involves Youngest.

I don’t think I want to know.

What makes this mother’s heart even more filled with angst is the idea that she might really be sleeping in her car, in parts of town unknown, surrounded by evil and ill will.  I have no hope that the boy will protect her.  Boy is the reason for all her current troubles.  And instead of encouraging her to come home and leaving her alone, he is dragging her down with him.

I talked to a gentlemen I highly admire and respect about a similar situation in his own life.  He told me about a son with whom he does not speak.  The son had gotten involved with a woman who pulled him into drugs, and the dad told me that it was more than he could bear to watch his son neglect his own children in favor of a drug addict and her children.  To be involved with his son meant that the rest of the family, and the quality of his own life, suffered.  So while he hated to do it, he felt like he had no choice but to cut the ties.

I don’t know if I’m in the same situation, or if this is the choice I will soon have to make.  I hope not.  I hope Youngest hasn’t gotten herself involved in something from which she will not be easily extracted.  While all the signs are there that she is experiencing an obsession, I’m still not clear on whether the obsession is with the boy or with her own efforts to get us to let him stay here.  I’m hoping the fixation is not with something more sinister.

She never did like being told ‘no’.  It comforts me to think that this might just be a simple power struggle between two stubborn people.  Youngest did inherit my unwillingness to budge.

She may have also inherited my addictive personality, which does provide some room for concern.

Right now she’s addicted to this fight, and while I’m determined to win it, dwelling in my own obsessions over it, I worry about the price of the victory.  That boy will not spend one night in my home.

I might just lose my daughter in the process of proving it.

Part of me knows I already have.

 

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Sway

Remember that upswing I was telling you about?  The one where my good fortune generally runs through the middle of everything and I have curves that sway away from the middle from time to time? Remember when I told you that something wonderful was about to happen because of my current sway to the left a little?

I’m still waiting.

Oh, it’ll happen.  I just think it’s going to be big.  With the way things have been running lately, it just has to be in order to balance things out.

You remember some of the dental issues that had me on a near liquid diet for seven days?  Well, one tooth finally got fixed.  I had put off the repair because I didn’t want to mess up an interview at work.  The rest of that story is that the person who should have gotten the promotion at work did get it, which is absolutely wonderful and I’m so incredibly happy that it fell the way that it did.  The interview itself has already opened some opportunities that I’ll be anxious to explore once a few more things finally fall into place.  And I know that they will.

But that’s another story.

The other tooth that was giving me trouble got pulled a couple of days ago.  It was one of those jaw teeth that grow roots to China.  In the process of its extraction, I felt some tugging on my right ear.  I know that sucker had roots that had wrapped around my ear, twice, and then had attached itself to the nape of my neck.  I think it might have been the first time ever that a dentist pulled a tooth and had to cut an umbilical cord.

Today is day three since the extraction, and while I’m healing nicely, I am a little sore.  My jaw bone feels bruised and there is still some slight swelling.  The good news is that I’m not in any kind of pain.

If you’re counting, that’s one broken tooth, one week of solely near-liquid and simultaneously flavorless intake, (I keep saying that because I love to eat.  I was deprived.  It’s a big deal.  I may repeat it at some point.) one semi-painful tooth repair, followed a week later by one very painful, and still ongoing, recovery from a tooth extraction.

Then Youngest and I got into a pretty heated argument yesterday morning.  Rather than talk to me she packed her stuff and moved out.  I was devastated.  I had only just recently gotten over Oldest’s last departure.  Of course, when Oldest moved out the last time, she took the two grandchildren with her.  I lost not one, but three loves.

It happened four times with Oldest.  The first time she left was also in anger and frustration, much like her sister’s departure yesterday.  Oldest felt like I had too much control in her life and she wanted to live it on her own.  I thought she still needed some guidance and I was, I suppose, too determined to offer it.  She was eighteen.  The second was a planned departure at nineteen.  The third was a little later, at twenty-one, only mildly hostile, and she took a grandbaby with her.  The fourth, while planned, took two grandbabies.  She’s all grown up now, with a life of her own, and I’m glad she chooses to share some of it with me.  She’s doing well, and I’m incredibly proud of the woman she’s become.  And she knows that wherever I am, she has a place to come home to.

Husband reminded me that this current set of events with Youngest is normal, and that it was bound to happen soon anyway.  I know this.  She’ll be nineteen this summer.  I knew she had been apartment hunting and was trying to get things in order so that she could move out.  I thought that was the natural way of things and it didn’t bother me much to think about it.  Between her work and her social life, I rarely saw her anyway.  And when she was home, she did all those things that annoy moms of adult children everywhere.

The leaving in anger part bothered me a great deal.  The fight was about responsibility, hers, and my insistence that she show some.  It was probably too soon.  I’ve spent all this time, probably the last four years, focusing solely on keeping her in school, and I forgot to prepare for what happened after graduation, which was barely a month ago.  Now I wish she was here to make all those messes and annoy me in all those thoughtless ways that always had me rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth in frustration.

You could remind me that it’s been barely twenty-four hours since she left, but I wouldn’t listen.  I’m like that sometimes.

I tried to talk to her this morning by phone and the end result was that she hung up on me.  She’s staying at a friend’s and I know that she’s safe, so I am comforted with the knowledge that she’s not out on the street, homeless, and desperate.  And I’ve told her that she can come home anytime she wants to, or needs to.

In the meantime, between bouts of depression and crying jags that leave me wishing I’d been a better mom to them both, I’m still waiting on the sway of something wonderful that is surely bound to happen.

It has to.

Because that’s the way life is.

 

 

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