Monday 19 June 2023

Introspective Holidays

Holidays, even the most uncomplicated ones, are hard. Perhaps I'm only speaking for myself because most everyone I meet seems to love the hustle, bustle and often consternation associated with huge family dinners, trying to make everyone comfortable and happy and purchasing gifts or tokens of affection that won't immediately be returned for something else. I know most of you are thinking about Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, Valentine's Day and Easter, but we've had three very important ones the past month that have made me realize how pathetically sad my own life has become--Mother's Day, Memorial Day and Father's Day.

These special days bring little besides a huge lump to my heart and tears that can't be stopped from sliding down my cheeks at the most inopportune moments. Remembrances from the past bring to the foreground once again all I've missed by not being part of a family that was encouraged to spend time together and keep in touch once we had gone our separate ways. I suppose my latest bout of melancholia started on Friday when one of the men I work with told me that he and his wife were heading to Idaho again. They'd been there over Memorial Day to decorate graves and talk about good times from their childhood with siblings and friends. This time they were simply going to play board games and enjoy being together.

I haven't seen two of my siblings for nearly twenty years. Perhaps they would have come for my brother's memorial service if it hadn't been during Covid when flights were almost impossible to get and large gatherings were prohibited. I remember that time vividly because my brother's daughter from South Carolina drove all the way with her family so she could give her father's life history in a thirty minutes service on a cold and blustery November day at the cemetery a quarter of a mile away from the home daddy had built for us.  Sandon died the day after Thanksgiving alone in his room at the nursing home from a sudden heart attack. 

He had been badly burned a few years earlier when he fell into a fire pit while at a party and couldn't get out. The people he was with waited until they thought he wouldn't survive before throwing him in the back of his van and leaving it outside the emergency rooms doors at the local hospital. He was so badly burned and swollen that it took three days for him to be identified and transferred to the burn unit at the University of Utah. When I first saw him his head was swollen to twice its normal size and he was hardly recognizable. But he grasp my hand and despite my reluctance to be where I was watching him suffer I couldn't bring myself to leave the room as more dead skin was pulled from his body and he was given further burn treatments. I loved him dearly and had watched over him as best I could throughout his life because I have never gotten over being blamed for the accident that left him with lifelong mental and physical disabilities.

My one sister who lived there and had been responsible for overseeing his affairs let everyone know that quarantine rules meant only seven people would be allowed at his graveside service. She was not happy because his daughter was driving across country and bringing her entire family with her. I hadn't had much contact with my niece in decades, but she was the only one of six children who would even talk to her father after their parent's divorce and she had called the the day before Thanksgiving to tell me that someone wasn't right with him. When I relayed the message, I was told he was doing just fine.

I wanted desperately to go to the service, even knowing that it was a long drive over what could be some very bad roads and I wouldn't get to see his face, but how could I take the place of someone who was sacrificing so much to get there? I cried a lot after making that decision and telling my sister that one of my niece's children could take my place. My son was outraged when he heard what was being planned. No regulations had been set as to how many people could be out in the cold, fully masked to attend a memorial service. He believed my sister just wanted to be in control as she always did. He said I was going and he and his wife were taking me. We would stand on the outside the fence if necessary.

Knowing I was going to be there regardless of what had been said, my sister asked me to say a few words. I might have done so had it not been one of the saddest experiences of my life. There must have been thirty-five people present--separated into three distinct groups that wouldn't walk six feet to talk to each other. My brother's ex-wife and her children who had not spoken to their father in nearly twenty years clustered together  away from the tent that had been set up for family. My two sisters who lived in town and even got to see him before the casket lid was closed sat underneath the tent with members of their families. I was terrified to go near them because I knew I wasn't welcome so I stood with my son and daughter-in-law and a couple of other people I didn't know. 

I was having a very emotional time, especially after learning that my niece had been in town the night before when my sisters went to the mortuary, but they hadn't told her that she was allowed to see him too. This sweet young woman was as broken-hearted as I was. She had been estranged from her family since the day she chose to be part of her father's life, while everyone else chose to keep on hating him. After some not so gentle persuasion I sat underneath the tent out of respect for my brother and listened to my niece give a beautiful life sketch, but I wasn't encouraged to say anything so I kept quiet. I couldn't have expressed what was in my heart anyway when there were so many uncharitable feelings floating around, but God gave me the courage to speak to most everyone before leaving the cemetery.

That experience brought back with undiluted clarity what happened the day my mother died nearly twenty years earlier. I had gone over to her house after work knowing that all of my siblings were coming since she was in the final stage before succumbing to cancer. A different niece met me at the door. She was in tears because she had been there the entire day and no one had invited her to go into grandma's bedroom to say goodbye, not even her mother. I took her arm and moved her in front of me down the hallway. The room was full so we both stood at the foot of the bed for a few minutes. There wasn't time for either of us to say much because three of my sisters--the two who had been at my brother's service and my youngest one--told the rest of us to leave because mother needed some rest. 

Another sister and I followed our two brothers into the back yard. There we talked and paced for over three hours before we were told to come back. Mother was dead. She'd been cleaned up and was wearing one of her prettiest nightgowns, but we had been excluded from her final moments. I couldn't wrap my head around the cruel insensitivity, but it was far from being the first time. Sandon and I had only been allowed to see her for a few specified minutes each week since her diagnosis while our two sisters got to spent every day and night with her.

When I told mother that twenty minutes every Monday night while my one sister was gone wasn't time enough, she just told me that she was doing what her caregivers wanted. But she had a job for me. She wanted me to type all my grandmother's short stories and readings and put them in book form so all my siblings could have them. That was a monumental task since many of them were handwritten and some not even finished, but I did it in record time and had binders ready for everyone specified before her death. I wish I could say that my time with her increased after my pleading, but I can only recall one short conversation where we talked about  Sandon's accident. She said she didn't remember telling me it was my fault but she was in a state of shock and could very well have.

As I'm sure you can tell by now, the dynamics in our family were not healthy. As adults we children were not encouraged to talk to each other. Mother wanted to be the disseminator of information and decide who needed to know what. And since many of us were scared of her, and busy with our own lives, we didn't rock the proverbial boat. It was different then anyway because calling long distance was cost-prohibitive and most of us were too poor to take a trip to see anyone. But the sorrow I feel over not being part of a loving and connected family is very real.

I guess that's why these past few weeks are always so hard each year. It's starts with Mother's Day and knowing that my own mother may have loved me, but she didn't appear to like me and was not capable of showing strong positive emotion. My father was somewhat different from what I can remember. He was tall and thin--a real cowboy who loved riding his horse and announcing or clowning at rodeos. His hands were strong and his heart willing to support and care for his large family. But his grief over the accident where his own little son was so severely injured must have been almost impossible to bear.

How I envy families where the love is strong and siblings actually like spending time together. But I've had to accept that some things will have to wait until the next life to be resolved. I want to be with my family forever. I know it's possible but have no idea how it will happen since we can go years without contact in this life and no one seems to care. 

There's one plot left in that cemetery in Idaho where my parents, my brother and two brother-in-laws have been laid to rest. My two sisters will be placed beside their husbands when their missions in this life are over. Daddy purchased eight plots before my youngest sister was born, and I know he felt good about having a resting place for his wife and all his children. And while I've always been grateful to have a designated spot for my physical body when my spirit leaves it behind, I'm not sure that's where I want to be anymore. Regardless of the fact that it's already been paid for, two siblings spots have already been filled with someone else and my son says he wants me closer to where he is.

Not that it's really going to matter, except for knowing where my body is, but I do need to be making a few permanent decisions. That includes finishing my life history that is so painful to write only bits and pieces now exist. However, if I want my posterity to understand why I am more than a little messed up, but a true peacemaker at heart, I need to take that journey through my past one more time. Perhaps I will see things somewhat differently than I once did and my compassion and understanding will show through. 

I really want to rid myself of the anger, jealousy and judgment that has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I want to see others as God and my Savior do. There is a bit of divinity in even the vilest of sinners because they were created by Heavenly Parents who love without condition. I think I felt that way more yesterday than I have for some time as fathers were honored at church and I thought about how much I missed mine and how different my life may have been had he been allowed to live past my thirteenth birthday. But everything happens for a reason and we were not sent to earth to indulge every desire. We are here to learn, grow and develop into people who are prepared to return to their heavenly home.

And just so you know, I sent a Happy Father's Day text to the man I've been writing about. He didn't respond, but I decided that I would only be hurting myself if I didn't since I've sent one for the past four years. I don't know what's in his heart because he won't tell me. But maybe it's better that way. I'm trying to stay focused on the light, and he's a long away from doing that right now. More about that later, but it's time to get on with my day. Folding clothes and running errands await me.  

Monday 12 June 2023

Still Trying To Get Out Of That Hole

Wish I could say that I am back to my highly-motivated, driven and productive self again--writing up a storm each morning after making sure my beautifully-blooming flowers and promising vegetable garden have enough water, and not even minding that I got so little sleep because the ideas for characters, plots and settings were coming so fast. But I'm not there yet. While my heart is starting to heal from being so unapologetically crushed as I reported in my last entry, my head still has a way to go. 

However, the last seven years of being a published author have shown me that childhood dreams can come true and I have the inner determination, along with God-given, cultivatable talents, to accomplish whatever goals I set. I think most of us feel that rush of adrenaline and excitement when the creative juices are flowing and we're doing something that lifts our spirit, makes us smile from our heart and brings a feeling of calm and peace. We need that to offset all the commotion that often makes the world feel like a lonely, overwhelming and scary place we're not sure we want to be part of.

I've wanted to be a writer since penning my first novel at the age of fifteen. And I do mean writing it with a pen on sheets of notebook paper when I should have been studying, especially math since I have never understood more than the basics. It was far from being an upbeat, lighthearted story like most of the ones being produced for juvenile readers in those days, but it was my first real attempt at trying to put into words  the thought and feelings of a confused, introverted and hurting teenager who had already seen far more of the underside of life than she was capable of understanding. 

Those of you who have read past posts know about my being blamed for the accident that nearly cost my little brother his life and forever changed the dynamics of our home life when I was five. Some might even recall my sharing the poem I wrote about being molested by my violin teacher and not having my mother believe me. And there was nothing fun about spending six months in bed with Rheumatic fever when I was in the third grade or losing my father so unexpectedly when I was thirteen.

Silently suffering through so many traumatic ordeals when I was a born introvert caused me to withdraw further than I might have into a world of my own making. I was far more comfortable confining myself to the windowless basement bedroom I shared with three sisters where I could read books underneath the covers at night and play with my dolls and paper dolls instead instead of having to interact with even members of my own family, unless I was doing my assigned chores in a prompt and efficient manner. I was terrified of causing someone else pain or becoming more damaged than I already was.

That's why not being able to write these past two months has been so difficult. I like being lost in my head. It keeps me from having to deal with unpleasantness like being dumped by the only guy where there's been a mutual attraction the past ten years--and all because I wouldn't fall into bed with him like every other woman he meets. The sensuality he exudes on stage is hard to miss. But like so many other love-starved females, I wanted to believe he possessed more important qualities than the obvious. Unfortunately, the mystique created to bring the women in an audience back for a repeat performance disappears almost as quickly as the bright lights overhead.

Despite the number of days that have flitted into oblivion since my last contact with him, I still feel stripped of every inner hope that made writing fiction so much fun. Not that I've lost my belief in love and the sheer joy it can bring, but I do feel like I'm stuck in some giant hole of my own making whose edges are so high and crumbly that there is little chance for escape. Taking something that was, in realty, little more than a beginning friendship and allowing it to take away my sanity is childish at best. But I can't deny that our texts and conversations brought a brighter ray of sunshine even on a cloudless day. And I can't seem to stop the mental image of a scene from the movie "The Thorn Birds" where Barbara Stanwick's character, a seventy-year old woman who has just been rebuffed by the young priest she has a crush on, ends up telling him that her outer appearance does not match how she feels inside. She's still that young, vibrant girl who wants to be in love.

Maybe that's simply a fact of life that must be accepted by those of us who have never found the kind of love we desire while in this sphere called mortality. But I won't deny that it felt heavenly to have an attractive man hold my hand, kiss my lips, smile at me with a certain light in his eyes and sneak his arm around my waist while we were talking to other people. I'd never had that before, even when I was married. My husband was a cold and offish man. He never took me on a date, remembered a special holiday or even acted like he cared. If I had surgery or lost a baby, I was expected to be up the next day taking care of household duties. And sex was nothing more than an act to get me pregnant because he wanted a child of his own, not the two we had adopted. And he had the very unmanly habit of letting me know that everything not up to par in our lives was my fault alone.

I have been starved for physical contact my entire life, and feeling some of it during what can only be called my twilight years was a heady experience I didn't want to lose. But perhaps those unexpected feelings need to be mourned like so many other losses I have endured over the years. God made me with a tender heart for a reason, and I love helping people whenever I can. However, there is a flip side to that gift and one that Satan is certainly capitalizing on right now. It's being jealous and judgmental of women who have what I most desire and beating myself up for every possible flaw I see in myself. 

Since the evil one couldn't get me to go against a promise I had made to God, he chose a more effective tactic--using lifetime weaknesses against me. The last two months I've basically lost interest in doing things that once brought great joy, have stopped putting my health before my food indulgences and spend every night watching TV reruns instead of reading and doing handwork for people who might one day appreciate the effort. If it wasn't for yard work, gardening and two days of committed service to others, I would be a basket case of disproportional size.

I know I'm not the only one who has ever felt that way, and maybe it's okay to indulge in sorrow and pain until that stage of the grieving process is over. But I'm to the point that I either start swimming against the current or sink. I've always told myself that it's better the be alone than with the wrong person, and I still believe that. And my being able to write what I have in this post, and the last one, has been an enormous undertaking and help. You see, I am writing again. It might not be a novel, but it is exploring human feelings and tendencies that translate into better understanding my next character. 

We are no longer living in an "Ozzie and Harriet" or even a "Brady Bunch"world where the worst thing we have to contemplate is burning the Sunday roast or one of our children getting a bad grade at school. Most every headline is designed to cause an intense emotional reaction regardless of which side of the political fence we're on. Instead of trying to live together in harmony, the powers that be seem determined to pull us apart by focusing on our differences instead of our commonalities. 

I find myself wishing we could go back to simpler times when neighbors talked to each other about things that really matter and schools were a place where children learned to read and write without undo social pressures. But I fear those days are gone, and I need to make peace with where I stand right now. Not that I know how to get over another broken heart--even if it was mostly based in a non-reality--but I know I have to try. So I hope you'll be hearing from me more often and that the next time I write I may have even opened a file where I have a story-starter ready to be developed. 

Now, I'm going to get my allergy shots and pick up a few things at the store. I'm finally able to sleep laying down after weeks sitting up in a chair so I could breathe. That's a blessing in itself, and I need to pay more attention to God's tender mercies because they're happening every day, even if I'm unable to see them.

Books by JS Ririe:

The Truth About Strangers - Book 3
The Trouble with Strangers - Book 2
The Hearts of Strangers - Book 1

Rivers of Rage

Beyond the Glass Doors

Kismet Finds a Way

Crossfire at Bentley

Final Allegiance - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 1

Resilience - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 2

Safe Haven - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 3

Unsheltered - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 4

Welcome Redemption - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 5

Indecision’s Flame - Book 1

Lost - Indecision’s Flame - Book 2

Exposed - Indecision’s Flame - Book 3

Betrayal - Indecision’s Flame - Book 4

Reawakening - Indecision’s Flame - Book 5

Unraveling - Indecision’s Flame - Book 6
Destiny - Indecision’s Flame - Book 7

So Long, Bishop - by Viola Ririe

All books available in print or eBook format a: