I have a draft ready to post, but I'm gonna share this in hopes that I'll feel better. I'm fine. Well, I'll be fine. This too shall pass, as they say. I apologize for the length.
My blog friend, Pat, commented Monday: I'm so glad that you and Coach are having some fun times in the midst of a lot of heaviness. *So true. What a great couple of weekends.
Then . . . on Sunday a few hours after we got home, I met my sisters at Ann's house.
|Marie took a photo of this |
picture that apparently
hangs in Uncle's house.
I'd never seen it before.
It's me and Tommy.
I broke down when
she showed me. I don't
normally share images
of me - but this looks
NOTHING like me now.
I finally said that if no one else wanted it, I'd take the locket. It's engraved with my aunt's initials. Inside are two photos. One of 'Tommy' and the other of 'Elizabeth.'
Ann: YEAH, GO AHEAD. YOU WERE THEIR FAVORITE COUSIN ANYWAY.
That made me cry.
When I was in 2nd grade, Aunt and Uncle went on a vacation. He was a doctor and I think it was a conference. They were going to be gone for over a week. I accompanied my paternal grandma to babysit Elizabeth and Tommy. Elizabeth was in 1st grade and Tommy was 4. I felt VERY important, pretty sure I tried to carry Grandma's suitcase at the airport. We were gone for 2 weeks.
My cousins were a handful. Their parents were 'soft' - easy to walk all over, and the kids could be demanding. They hollered at Grandma at times and acted like she didn't really know what she was doing. I helped her out, mostly entertaining the kids and urged them not to be naughty for Grandma.
|I'm sitting opening gifts |
wearing 'the dress.'
|3rd grade photo - oh, look |
what I'm wearing.
Finally Aunt and Grandma had a loud chat in the front seat about what a shame it was that I hadn't liked the brown one at Whatever-Store. "It was so special and Ernie's mom would LOVE it." Mention an 8 year old's mother after she hasn't seen her in 2 weeks? Sold.
My dress search had exhausted them. After saying yes to the dress, I proudly wore it every chance I got.
For the longest time, that trip counted as my WIN. If a neighbor had an extra ticket to a show - I wasn't chosen. "Ernie, you got to go to Texas." Eventually it became a running joke, because HOLY HELL - COULD MY GOOD FORTUNE EVER EXPIRE?
Anyway, Uncle (Dad's only sibling) came in town a few times a year, or we went there. We begged our cousins to say AROUND THE HOUSE, to accentuate their drawl. We vacationed together a handful of times.
At Disney, Elizabeth was in a beautiful white dress. She was a princess, and it had nothing to do with Disney. In her own world, she danced in front of a marching band that had to stop because they couldn't get past her - captured on one of our family video reels. Hilarious.
Tommy was diagnosed with OCD when he was a freshman in high school. After a negative reaction to Prozac, they planned to see the doctor the next day. He took his life in his bedroom that night. Elizabeth heard something from his room, but everything she did agitated him. She didn't investigate. I don't think she ever forgave herself.
It was Feb, my freshman year in college. Seeing Grandma and Grandpa huddled in the corner of Uncle's Texas house saying their rosaries when we arrived from the airport was unbearable.
Afterwards, Elizabeth would only talk to me. My folks called me at college regularly: WE NEED YOU TO CALL HER. I'd report back. They'd get word to Aunt and Uncle. What Elizabeth needed, how she was feeling, etc.
It was 1990, not 1900. How did someone not know that this was a lot to ask of me? The phone calls went on for some time. My sophomore year Elizabeth enrolled at Notre Dame. Our folks thought being near all of us (Pat, Marie, and I were at ND or Saint Mary's) would be good for her. She didn't finish out her freshman year. Had a mental health crisis that was rough for Maire because Marie was an RA in her dorm. Elizabeth was brilliant. Truly. I think she worked in her Uncle's office for awhile. She was always unstable. She always lived with her parents.
At my wedding when the bridesmaids were called to come up to the altar, Elizabeth (not a bridesmaid) stood in her pew. She just stood there. I didn't see it happen, but I heard about it. In the receiving line, she asked: SO IS IT A WHITE WEDDING? She liked to push the envelope.
I saw her now and then when she came in town with her folks to visit our grandparents. Aunt passed away in'18 after surgery to fix an aneurism, maybe. Uncle has cancer. He's been getting treatment for over a year, but I think it's in his bones.
Then, Elizabeth killed herself a few weeks ago.
I carry some guilt for not doing more. Not reaching out regularly. After Grandma died our dads drifted, I think. I sent Christmas cards and get well cards. Could I have done more? Probably. Would it have mattered? My guess is no.
When I drove to JB's funeral last January with my sisters (remember I hid under my coat to read my book), Marie said she'd been emailing Elizabeth per Dad's request. Did I feel like my 'job' had been reassigned? Yes, I did. I also knew that I wasn't equipped to fix what Elizabeth had going on and Marie was never close to Elizabeth but she'd jump through any hoop to please Dad.
Marie: DAD WANTS TO EMAIL ELIZABETH HIMSELF, BUT I WON'T LET HIM. SHE'S ALL DOOM AND GLOOM AND I DON'T THINK HE CAN HANDLE IT.
Good grief. Marie talked about how she felt bad because Elizabeth had no friends.
Ann: WELL, THAT'S HER OWN FAULT.
Seriously? The girl had a tough life and struggled with mental illness.
Marie and Ann think Elizabeth feared being alone after Uncle passed. It's hard to wrap my brain around the fact that she's gone and that she, too, killed herself. The whole time Marie and Pat were in Texas, I kept picturing Elizabeth at the house with them. Uncle wants to remain in Texas - won't move to Chicago to be near all of us. He has lived there forever and has many friends. He needs to move to a retirement community because he doesn't drive. I think he also can't live in that house anymore. He's had to endure SO much.
Layers: When Marie called to tell me Elizabeth died, she shared that she'd planned to take Dad to Texas in March, that she'd been emailing Elizabeth for awhile - until Elizabeth stopped responding, that Uncle wanted Elizabeth to travel -so Marie agreed to meet them in Yellowstone with Dad in May.
Dad converses with me about very little. If I stop by my folks' house and Marie calls while I'm there Dad will chat endlessly. Marie-in-the-loop. Me-on-the-perimeter, not really counting.
My college roomie has known the family dynamics for years. She was around when Tommy died. She asked me a few weeks ago: What is missing in Marie's life that she constantly seeks approval from your parents?
Both of my sisters crave control. They're struggling for power over who is running the show. It's Marie, she's Dad's right hand. Ann is coming unglued. I'd like control over who coaches our varsity basketball team, so I get it to some extent - but I like to think I stopped drinking the lemonade years ago.
|Comedic relief: little Miss |
pulled her pony tail out, added some
food and there you have it: troll hair.
I witnessed Ann's frustration at the jewelry thing, and I feel for her. She'd hoped to fly down with Dad to then drive 5 hours to a museum to donate 5 Navajo rugs that Aunt collected. The museum is going to create an exhibit in her honor, etc. The museum guy can't meet that day, so now Marie is gonna go with Dad. It's uncomfortable to watch it play out.
My brother, Mike, and I are flying down this weekend (I'm flying to Dallas tonight, staying with Dee and Maurice - then fly out in the am). We plan to get Uncle out of the house. Take him out to eat, nothing fancy. He'd like to go to some canyon and bird watch. Guessing my bird watching friends will be envious.
Me to Dad on the phone Tues night: SO, NOT SURE IF YOU'VE MET MY SISTERS, BUT THEY BOTH HAVE CONTROL ISSUES. ANN REALLY WANTED TO BE INVOLVED WITH THE MUSEUM EXHIBIT. *It didn't help. He's doing it with Marie and he told me he knows Ann's upset - she hollered at him.
Well, it's a lot. Anyway you slice it. Mom mentioned to me the other day how hard it was for Marie to live in the dorm with Elizabeth. On Sunday, Marie admitted she didn't feel like she went out of her way for Elizabeth in the dorm. I'm pretty sure my role as the fake therapist has been long forgotten. At the
jewelry dividing, jewelry staring, I wept, describing my fake therapist ordeal to my sisters.
Ann: I DIDN'T KNOW THAT.
I felt better after sharing that with them, and now you. I'm sure my folks were just grieving and grasping at how to help Aunt and Uncle, but it took a toll.
I can't go into details, but OCD has struck again recently. Distance is complicating things. Given the above, it's weighing very heavily on my mind.
|I'm self-medicating. |
I found some forgotten
peppermint bark in the dining room
fridge leftover from Christmas.
I so appreciate your reading. No need to offer condolences. It goes without saying. My heart breaks for Uncle - a gentle, kind soul.
Instead, I'd love to hear about a time you got a treat that refused to expire (like my trip to Texas), Ever see anyone stop a show at Disney? A disgruntled non-bridesmaid? Anyone say AROUND THE HOUSE funny? A mom I sit for thinks I look like a boy in that photo. Me: Have we not talked about this? Are the scars not visible? Go ahead, tell me how boyish I was - you won't be wrong.