functional family

Every other week I sit in a surprisingly uncomfortable chair in my therapist’s office.

Rarely do I feel like going.  If I am crabby and busy I think, “man, I don’t want to waste and hour sitting in that chair just talking,” and if I am having a great day I think, “I don’t want to go and have a big old Debbie Downer discussion.”

The weird thing is that I never walk away thinking, “see? Waste of time.”

A couple weeks ago we were talking about family.  My family and Cort’s family and how we communicate with our families.  I told Dr. Melissa,

“I never have to wonder if someone in my family is mad at me or if there is an issue or what.  If someone asks like an ass, the other people tell that person.  There is no silent treatment or passive aggressive jabs.”

Then I told her about something super disappointing my mom shared with me recently.  After my mom had told me, she asked me if I was mad at her and I said yes.

I festered about it for a few hours, then started to cry.

Eventually I called my mom and said, “I’m not mad at you guys, mom.  I’m just super disappointed.”  We talked about it for a bit and I told her I wasn’t going to dwell on it. I just needed to tell her that it bothered and disappointed me.

My mom agreed and we were Ok.

I told all of this to Dr. Melissa.

She looked at me for a minute and then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“You know, Katie, many many people would not be able to talk about that as openly as you did with your mom.  And they most certainly wouldn’t be able to stay disappointed, but let the anger go.”

I was sort of baffled.

“Really,” I responded,  “because in the entirety of life, it’s not that big of a deal.  It’s not worth losing my mom and dad over or anything.  It sucks.  It’s really sad and disappointing…and I’ll probably be disappointed about it for a LONG time…but it’s not worth having a feud over or anything.”

“That’s the thing,” she told me.  “This is exactly the kind of thing most families do have feuds and harboring resentments about.  It’s amazing that you have this kind of communication with your family.”

I have been thinking about that conversation for the past two weeks.

This past week, Eddie has been very sick.  Cort and I each took two days off from work to stay home with him, but both of us really needed to be at work on Friday.

Thursday night my mom, knowing about our struggles, called and said that my dad had Friday off and would be cool with hanging out with Eddie in the morning.  Then she would take the afternoon off from work, and stay with him.

It was a lifesaver.

She didn’t do it because she felt guilty for disappointing me weeks ago.  She did it because this is what our family does for each other.

I can’t imagine holding anything against my parents or my brothers.

I tried to think of a time before this that anyone did something that was truly disappointing or that angered me that I didn’t say something.  I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even think of something that I would have gotten mad about…other than crap we did/said to each other when we were kids.  And even then we just yelled at each other and got over it.

What’s funny is back when I was in high school, friends of mine and friends of my brother, Chris would come over for dinner and refer to our family dinners as “having dinner with the Yelling Match.”

Everyone in my family talks over everyone else.  There are only five of us (parents, me, my two younger brothers), but it gets loud.  Then the talking over turns to disagreeing about topics or calling each other names.  Things get louder and louder.  My parents try to intervene, but it never works.

By the end of the meal, everyone leaves full and happy.

Yelling Match Completed.

I know my parents used to worry about how much my brothers and I argued and name-called.  I think they still worry sometimes since we are all adults (34, 32, & 27) and maybe shouldn’t be calling each other “buttface” at the dinner table.

But we all have a close, happy relationship.  We love doing stuff together and spending time together.

We miss each other and give our mom grief when we haven’t had a Sunday dinner together in a while.

We enjoy each other’s company even when we disagree.

If someone falls short of someone else’s expectations they are told, but a real beef is never held onto for long.  Oh we don’t let the person forget about it, but we don’t seriously harbor ill-feelings toward each other.

We let it go.

Apparently this is not something all families do.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this:

Hey mom and dad, you done good.  All those times you worried about us being so mean…at least we were being mean and not holding it in.  Because had we held it in, we wouldn’t be able to be the communicators we are now.  And we wouldn’t want to come over and have you feed us.  And we wouldn’t want to spend a week all together in the summer at the cottage.

Yup, my family lets me down sometimes, but rather than shoving that down into my heart and muttering, “that’s ok.”  We say our feelings and we let it go.

I’m so thankful for this.

Also, mom? Really. I’m not mad.

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You have until Friday to treat yourself to some great skin care products and/or enter to win some!

loss in waves

Last October we lost my cat, Louis.

It was an incredibly painful journey for me since he had been my best friend for 17 and a half years.

Eddie was only two when Louis died.

the last picture we have of Eddie with Louis. Sept 2011

Louis’ health was going downhill quite rapidly and we had an appointment to put him down on a Monday.  We just had to make it through the weekend with him.

Unfortunately, Louis had other plans.

Early Saturday morning while Cort was gone to class and Eddie and I were still sleeping, Louis had a stroke near the island in our kitchen.  He was lying there unable to get up when Eddie and I wandered into the kitchen after snuggling in bed watching cartoons.

Eddie sat on the couch and watched TV while I texted Cort, called my brother and his wife, and called the vet.  In the meantime, I wrapped Louis in a receiving blanket to preserve some of his dignity (he had pooped in his fur) and to keep him warm (he was shaking).

When my brother and his wife arrived, my sister-in-law stayed with Eddie while my brother and I took Louis to be put down.

When we got back, Cort was home from class and we placed Louis in a box to be buried at my parents’ house by the rest of our childhood pets.

And that was it.

It’s been over a year.

We have not avoided talking about Louis.  In fact, we talk about him frequently–especially when cats come up in conversation.

Eddie has asked lots of questions over the past year about where Louis was and how we don’t have a kitty can anymore, but I was not prepared for what happened last night.

Around 9:30pm, long after Eddie should have been sleeping, we heard a thump and a couple minutes later we heard Eddie sobbing in his room.  I mean SOBBING.

I thought maybe he hurt himself, so I hurried down to him.

When I opened the door, he was sitting up in his bed, tears streaming down his face, trying to catch his breath through his sobs.

“Honey! What is the matter?” I asked expecting him to say he bumped his head or something.

“I MISS YOUIS*!!!” he wailed.

It’s like time stopped.  My heart fell down to my feet and tears welled up in my eyes.

“Oh buddy,” I said as I sat down on his bed and pulled him into my arms. “What made you think about Louis?  Did you see a kitty cat?”  My mind raced trying to think of what in the world we had done that day that could have possibly made him think of Louis this late at night.

“I was reading dat book ovah de-ah,” he sniffed as his little finger pointed to a large book on the floor next to his closet.  A book that had clearly been tossed (the thump we heard).  A book that was published in the 50’s and that my grandma used to read to me at her house.  A book that was held together with tape.

A book with large pictures of cats and dogs.

A book with a picture of a group of kittens that look identical to Louis.

“It has a pi-tuh that yooks jus yike Youis!”  He leaned into me and started crying all over again.  “I miss him, Mom. I miss him a yot. I want he come home. come back hee-ah.”

It had been a whole year.

I didn’t think he could possibly have that much connection to a cat he only knew for the first couple years of his life.

But he was crying like it just happened.  Like a wave of loss and sadness had collapsed on him and he was fighting to stay afloat and understand.

I didn’t know how to comfort my little boy.  Louis was one thing I couldn’t bring back to him.

So, because I was crying now too, I pulled the blankets up over us as we held on to each other, and I told him the story of how Louis came to be my kitten.  How he took care of Eddie by laying on my tummy when I was pregnant.

How he paced and meowed whenever Baby Eddie would cry and cry, and wander the house meowing at Eddie’s toys when the baby was sleeping.

How he would find a spot just out of Baby Eddie’s reach to sleep…and keep an eye on Eddie.

or you know, ON the sleeping baby.

How Eddie was the only child in the entire world who could touch his face and pull his fur and tackle him and yet he wouldn’t bite.

and Louis gets away again!

“You-is nevah evah bite me,” Eddie agreed, “but sometime he bite daddy.”

And we giggled.  Because it was true.

“And he run and run in duh house, member, mom?  Member dat?”

“I do remember that, Eddie. I do.”

“Why he can’t come back?  Why he yiv with my Papa and God? Why God want a cat?”

I explained to him that Louis was so awesome, he is the perfect cat for God…who loves awesome stuff.

He had stopped crying by now and was asking some pretty big questions about heaven and God and forever.  In a moment of thoughtful silence he asked me, “Mom? You yay by me for a yittle bit?  Just a yittle bit?”

And I did.

He cuddled into me and told me, “I yike taw-king a you, mom. I yuv you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Eddie.  And you can talk to me anytime. about anything.”

“Tanks, mom.”

As we cuddled and both processed our conversation, I couldn’t help thinking about this mom thing.  Just when I think I have it handled–that I know the in’s and out’s of momming a little boy–he throws something new at me to remind me that I am still new at this.

With each stage, milestone, and new question, I will be newb with Eddie.

From the minute he was placed in my arms, I started to learn, and until one of us is gone, I will always be learning.

I hope I am doing right by him.

I hope I am giving him the comfort he needs.

Have you dealt with a loss with your children?  How did your kids handle it? Was there anything that seemed to make the process easier on them?

I am all for suggestions.

*words are written just like they sound when Eddie says them.  If you need a translation, let me know!

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Don’t forget to enter my Babies R Us gift card giveaway here.

And I totally did a craft with Eddie.  And it didn’t suck.  You can read about it here.

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