Saturday, August 15, 2009

Things to Remember

My Mom reminded me the other day that age 15 or 16 was the era of “would you please tell Dad that…” and “Tell your daughter this…”. And I have to keep reminding myself that if judges and courts and Universal law took every 15 year old girl who was mad at their Dad away from them, none of us would have any Dads. It’s not just me, lots of folks I know have girls who are tweens and teens. And those of you who don’t, well… I’ll just say hold onto your hats and leave it at that.

When I was 15 I had my first boyfriend with a car. I got threatened with expulsion for fighting in class (with a boy who still apparently can’t resist needling me to the point of extreme irritation).
My friends decided to hate me randomly for no apparent reason. The first deep lessons of the “anyone can say anything they want” quandary started to cut into my soul. I was deeply into Ray Bradbury. My crushes at the time were Harrison Ford, John Lennon and the older boy across the street. No boys at school looked twice at me. We performed Oklahoma, which is significant because those songs are the ones that pop up on incessant replay in my mind to this day. My locker looked like I was hording paper for doomsday. Alienation from the mainstream was solidified. I just did not fit in. Thank god. Thank you thank you thank you because I would not be who I am today.

At 16 I went to High School. Fell in love twice. Met lifelong friends. I went to a dance with someone who had known me since birth. We hung out on the levee, in parks, and boarding houses. We listened to music that reverberates through my memory like a soundtrack. The feeling of being wild and free is palpable in those memories. My sister was 4 and she willingly tagged along in convertibles with the top down and the air blowing through our hair. I got a 45 record of sixteen candles as a birthday present and a t-shirt I have to this day. My brother began to exhibit the signs of severe OCD, addiction and violence enhanced by his lifelong defiance of all authority. My Dad took away the phone if I got in trouble, especially for bad grades. At school we were power reading, moonlight swimming, and spending study halls lying on the floor of rehearsal rooms talking about poetry and love. We couldn’t stand to be apart even for 45 minutes and wrote notes to one another in classes. I was the babysitter of all babysitters for a huge number of families. Some of those kids are still on my friends list today. One Saturday afternoon I had a fight with my Dad and broke the glass in the front door just as a mother came to pick me up to babysit. That was the only time I forgot a job. Sometimes we’d get up in the morning to find that my brother had eaten a gallon of ice cream during the night. My Dad put a lock on the freezer.

I have to remind myself just how wonderful and terrible it is to be a teenager. I have to remember that those memories linger and the people who you love do not fade.

I have to remember that now, to me, my Dad walks on water and that my Mom is the one I go to when I am crying.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Side of the Story

When John started his John and Kate plus POTS blog I was worried that I would not have much to contribute that would stay positive. I have a lot of anger and sadness and frustration and hopelessness at times. But I have to say we have come so far. I would be doing a great disservice to our family if I didn’t acknowledge the hard work we have all done.

I came into Sarah and Loreena’s lives when their parents were separated. I had know their father years before and at the time I had no idea if I’d be a permanent part of their life or just a passing through kind of friend. It was a really hard time. Sarah was struggling with seizures and finding the right medication at age 7 and Loreena was 4 and had her own struggles with speech and conveying her already abstract and complicated world view.

We all hung together through thick and thin and both girls overcame a great deal of difficulties and problems and their father and I did too. Not all of our problems, but some really big ones. But the underlying theme always seemed to be that Sarah was sick with one weird thing after the other. I would call my family back home in Iowa from the ER and they’d say “again!?!” I have been in the ER more with these guys in the last 8 years then in the rest of my life combined. It became kind of a joke that if anyone was going to get something it would be Sarah; the rare sickness, the anomalous symptoms.

Through it all her resilience amazed me. She kept plugging away at school and physical activities and friendships and even boys (karma has not forgotten my own teenage woes). When her health started to decline 2 years ago we chalked it up to growing pains, teen angst, and lingering illness which was always a problem for her. She just never seemed to get well. And then we started the cycle of symptoms that would eventually lead us to POTS syndrome.

As a step mother is it torture for me to see them in pain, either physical or emotional and not be able to help either by determining a better course of action (that’s not my decision to make) or even just by comforting them (don’t want to step on anyone’s toes). It’s a struggle for a problem solver like me to find diplomatic ways of persuading the players to look at things from a different point of view and satisfy the nurterer in me as well.

I eventually came to see that I have a place in this complex puzzle. I can’t say I have totally accepted it but I recognize my role. I was raised with parents and extended family that are highly skilled in the art of unconditional love. That is a quality that I know I can provide for these two beautiful girls and their Dad if only I can let go of the need to have a influence in the outcome. I need to accept that my influence is passive. Sarah needs support for strengths and comfort. She needs to understand that everyone is fighting for her best interests and that no one wants to fight against her. Loreena needs to know that we are all just as worried about her as we are about Sarah. POTS syndrome effects the entire family and how you interact and what you do together. It sucks the life out of the person who has it and everyone who loves them. John needs some clarity of thought and unconditional support when everything around him is falling apart.

That’s me. The Goddess of Unconditional Love. Those of you who know me can hear the sarcasm in my voice. How can I explain that while it comes naturally, it also goes against my perfectionism and critical tendencies? I am only human after all. I am really trying.