Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Ups and downs

It's hard to believe that Christmas Eve was only a month ago. So much stuff has happened that it feels like a much longer amount of time has passed. It was the week before Christmas when I found out my dad was going into hospice, and a couple of days after that before I found out he was "actively dying" and had less than a week left to live. 

Then, of course, he died on New Year's Day.

Immediately after his death I started having issues with my mom, and that's been almost equally as stressful as losing him. Last week I had a long overdue talk with my aunt (dad's sister) about some of the family issues that have been going on both before and since dad died. 

During that phone call with my aunt, she said she was going the next day to close out my dad's trust/inheritance account and would be sending me a check for what was left in it the next day. The check arrived two days later, and to my amazement it was exactly enough to pay off the mortgage on my house. I couldn't believe it. I still barely believe it. It's been terribly exciting.

Yesterday I went to a local branch of the bank that holds the mortgage loan and got a payoff quote for the house. I also went and deposited the inheritance check in the bank. After the seven-business day hold my bank places on large deposits, I'll be sending a wire transfer to pay off my mortgage. On February 1st we'll own our home free and clear. 

Six weeks ago, I didn't have a clue any of this was coming. It's strange and sad and exciting and bewildering all at once.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Narcissists and boundaries

I've avoided writing about it here, but there's been some turmoil brewing in my personal life over the last few weeks. Since the day my dad died, I've had the trouble with my mother that I've known for years was coming. She's treated me very badly, worse than I'd imagined she would. 

In a nutshell, she's furious that I just inherited the last of the money from dad's family's estate. It's not a fortune, but it's a nice fat check, and for a person of my modest means it's a lot. My grandparents left it in their will to pay out to me upon my dad's death. My mother is so angry (that it wasn't left to her instead) and jealous that she's been really unkind to me. And that's putting it mildly. She hasn't shown me one ounce of sympathy over losing my dad; in fact, she started in about the money the very afternoon he died. She explicitly said, repeatedly, that she expected me to hand the money over to her. It's been really awful.

I've been so stressed out that I've been on the verge of panic attacks a couple of times. I haven't been sleeping well, and maybe worst of all the stress has caused my eczema to flare and break out all over my body, in places it's never been before. 

Yesterday was a turning point, though.

I've been reading a lot about narcissists and their toxic behaviors, and my mother checks almost all of the boxes. I honestly believe she has a personality disorder. So yesterday I decided it was time to set a firm boundary with her. I sent her a private message letting her know kindly but firmly and in no uncertain terms that I'm keeping my inheritance. (If she were in dire financial straits, that would be different, but she's not. She'll be able to live comfortably, if modestly, without any help from me). 

Putting it out there, defying her, and deciding to let the chips fall where they may was scary at first. I grew up with her rages and emotional abuse. But when I hit "send" on the message (that I'd spent two days crafting) it was like a balloon popping. All of a sudden, I felt the burden of it all lift from my shoulders, and I'm much more at peace now. I can't control her reaction or her behavior, and I'm okay with that. 

Unless and until she can treat me with kindness and respect, we'll just be estranged. I've probably just lost my mom as well as my dad, but any parent who treats their daughter they way she's treated me doesn't deserve to be in their daughter's life.

Does it make me sad? Sure. It really hurts. But I'm proud of standing up for myself. And that money that she's so greedy for? It's just a hair more than the amount I have left owing on my mortgage. By next month Gregg and I will own our home free and clear! How wonderful is that? We're absolutely thrilled about it and my grandparents would be so pleased. 

I wish my mother could be pleased for me, too, but she's just not capable of it. And I can live with that.

One website I've found valuable in learning about setting boundaries is the wonderful advice column called Captain Awkward. Here's a passage from one of her columns that I found particularly insightful when dealing with the fallout of setting boundaries with toxic family:

Let me leave you with one reminder: It’s not your job to fix every relationship or clean up every mess in your family, even if you could. (You can’t). Even when we’re armed with all the best advice, planning, strategies, counseling, support from safe friends and loved ones, safety plans, boundaries, kindness, patience, good intentions, etc. fraught family relationships can stay a total mess. Even when the worst of it stops (usually ’cause we grew up and got out), some people will never be what we need. Some people will never make us feel all the way good or relaxed. Some places will always feel haunted, and some situations will always have us double-checking under the bed or behind the shower curtain or between the lines for danger. The absence of danger is no less eerie! No monsters under the bed this time, but are the dust bunnies filled with menace? No monsters in the closet, just these wire hangers. The yellow wallpaper in the hall got paneled over long ago, observe the faded spots where the portraits of what looked like a happy family from outside used to hang. Don’t forget to jiggle the toilet handle after flushing and step over the broken stair. Oh yes, that sound you hear is definitely ghosts, The Ghost of The Childhood That Should Have Been likes to come out this time of night and wail for a while, she’s pretty friendly if you want to say hi! But come away, come away, you don’t need to repair or renovate this wreck, it’s time to hop in the rental car or catch your train back to where your small quiet room awaits. Come in, close the door behind you, nobody is going to knock on it. Hang up your coat, take your shoes off, fix yourself a beverage, sit in your comfiest chair, and open your presents:

  • 1 dog-eared copy of A Wrinkle In Time with “I give you your faults” highlighted.
  • 1 yellow post-it note with “Do less work to manage relationships with people who are unkind to you 2019” scrawled in teal glitter pen
  • “Bless This Mess!” sign, $1, slightly cracked, purchased in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart


Not Just A Captain, She’s Also A Member

Friday, January 12, 2024

School nurse hero

Earlier this week we had a near tragedy at my school. With no warning, an 11 year old boy collapsed in class. The teacher called the office for the nurse to come immediately, and it was obvious she was frantic. When the nurse (and the principal, assistant principal, and security guard) got there the boy had no pulse, wasn't breathing, and was already turning blue. The nurse commenced CPR and when that wasn't working she sent someone to run to her office for an AED (portable defibrillator). She had to use the defibrillator 4 times to restart his heart. 

Back in the office, I called 911 although I wasn't sure what exactly was happening. The ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital, and they airlifted him to Charleston after he was stabilized. 

It turned out the boy had suffered cardiac arrest. Had there not been an AED available (and someone who knew how to use it) he would have died. Our school nurse saved his life.

Here's a link to the news article about it:

Luke was actually able to FaceTime with his class from his hospital bed in Charleston yesterday! It's a miracle that he survived. Our school nurse has been very modest about what she did, but there's no doubt she saved this child's life. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Stormy day at home

 Really strong storms with high winds, hail, and the chance of tornadoes will be rolling through the area starting at about lunchtime today. For this reason, the school district (along with most districts in eastern South Carolina) have called for an "e-learning" day. Everyone stays home and the students log onto Google Classroom with their school-issued laptops to do their work and get credit for attendance. With winds expected to gust over 50 mph this afternoon, it wouldn't be safe for school buses on the road. 

Working from home, for me, only involves a couple of hours of answering the school phones (with the Zoom app on my cell phone) and checking my email. I'm covering the phones for the first three hours of the day, and the receptionist will take over at 11:00 to finish out the afternoon. So far, I've only had one call this morning. Since the days of Covid everyone has gotten used to e-learning days and knows what to do.

It's so nice to be able to stay home when bad weather threatens. I'm very lucky. As long as I keep my phone nearby this morning, I can stay in pajamas, drink coffee, write on my blog, and hang out with the dogs and Marco. 

Hopefully we won't get any tornadoes! That's my only weather-related worry today.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Starting off the year

 It's a chilly, rainy day here and I'm grateful for my snug, warm house. A couple of friends asked if I wanted to hang out/go get coffee/get lunch (knowing that Gregg works an almost 12-hour day on Saturdays) but I think I'd rather spend the day at home with the dogs and Marco. I certainly appreciate everyone's kindness and concern, but all I really want to do is stay in my pajamas and read, watch old episodes of Bake Off, and putter around the house. 

I went back to work yesterday. I'm glad I chose Friday as my first day back; I got the questions about dad and expressions of sympathy out of the way but was so busy catching up on work that there wasn't much time for talking. I was also able to get caught up on everything which will make Monday a lot easier.

These past three weeks have seemed so long, what with Covid, finding out my dad was ill enough for hospice, finding out dad was actually dying, the death, and then the holidays going on during it all. So much has happened in the last month. Resuming a normal schedule is going to feel really good. 

A belated Happy New Year to you all, and thanks again for all the kindness and support. I look forward to being more present here now that things are starting to settle down.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

My dad

My favorite picture of me and my dad, circa 1980ish

My dad died on New Year's Day, around 1:15 in the afternoon. I was at home when I got the call. We had been expecting it at any moment for two or three days at that point, but it still somehow felt like a shock. It still doesn't seem real sometimes. How can my dad not exist anymore? It's hard to wrap my head around. 

Dad was kept comfortable those last few days and slipped away quietly and peacefully at the end. I'm so grateful for that. He had been very, very sick for a long time. As sad as it is that he's gone, it's a comfort to know that he's beyond all pain and suffering now. 

My dad was a kind, gentle, and generous man. Although he had lots of faults and made plenty of mistakes in his life, he was a good father to me. I never remember him so much as raising his voice to me, ever. For all the issues my family had when I was growing up (and we had plenty), I never once doubted his love for me. I hope he never doubted mine for him.

I was always my dad's little girl. I always will be.