Brewing Storm

“…I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms…”             ~John Geddes

Hubby and I never did fall into a comfortable sexual pattern; it was a constant challenge for me… our libidos were simply mismatched. No matter what I gave, how I performed, or how many boundary barriers I broke through, it didn’t seem to satisfy his needs. He wanted more. Always. The stories and ideas that I had read about in Forum magazine or the movies that we had watched became tame in comparison to the things that he asked of me. I gave, he asked for more. I stretched, it wasn’t far enough. I struggled constantly to meet what I interpreted as sexual demands – they weren’t but I always felt that if I didn’t conform to his desires then he would just get them filled elsewhere – and so I breached every value boundary I knew to have. I was once again, trying to raise children, run a household, work, and satisfy a husband who had no limit where sexual satisfaction was concerned.

The core problem here wasn’t that he was in some way sexually deviant – I try not to experience judgment in this regard. First, because I admittedly enjoy physical pleasure but secondly because human sexuality is a complex and non-linear aspect of our existence. What was essentially problematic for me is that I felt complete and total disregard for MY comfort level, my limitations or values. It wasn’t ‘what’ he wanted to do per se – as I was willing to try almost anything – it was a lack of respect for my wishes when my interest clashed with his. On many occasions, I felt belittled and bullied with comments of “you’re a prude”, “get over it”, or “grow up”.  I was led to believe that there was something wrong with my sexuality because it didn’t match his. Sadly, there were few people I could talk to about this – you don’t exactly (or at least I didn’t) sit down for coffee with a friend and say “does your husband want you to …. ? Most of the time we ladies ‘dance’ around the subject and I definitely did that but it was typically limited to the most outer circle of the things I really wanted to know.

I was having some female plumbing issues during these years which, precluded me from enjoying a fully active sex life ALL the time. Frankly, it was somewhat of a relief for me. I felt justified to ‘take a break’ or gather myself when my body wasn’t compromising with his needs. In my mind, it was a respite of sorts. Well, kind of. Life was just easier when he was a happy guy so, HIS basic needs were met as much as I could help it. When the doctors suggested I get a partial hysterectomy as a final solution to my matters – all I could think of was “Shit – that makes my body available 24/7/365.” Because “no” didn’t really go in my house. While I was never physically forced to perform sexually, I do feel (seeing it in retrospect) that I was bullied, emotionally pressured, and quasi-badgered until I caved – to keep the peace; to be a good wife.

Slowly, I opened up to Abee, I figured a sister-girlfriend was probably as close to a non-judgmental person as I would find and when I shared my frustrations and fears with her I experienced some emotional relief. It probably sounded like I was bitching and complaining and perhaps I was. I was at my wit’s end with finding a way to compromise with and feel respected by Hubby. She and I talked often, sometimes several times a day. Depending on what was happening at home we would close our office door and fail to get any work done. She became my confidant and I no longer felt alone with this problem. Our lives became enmeshed. She was engaged but was only able to see her fiancé on weekends. During the week, our relationship was so symbiotic that life was just easy. There were two of us doing practically every job, not just at work but taking care of mom, caring for my kids, cooking, shopping, etc…  When her fiancé came on the weekends, we all got along well so our ‘downtime’ became shared time as well.

Abee’s twin lived across a couple of states and sometimes I wondered if this was what it was like for them – a sister so ‘in sync’ that it was as if there was only one of you. Maybe that’s why it was so easy – Abee already knew how to merge. I don’t really know, but after a while, it felt like the lines got blurred but by then I was dependent on the help and on the emotional support. I ignored the discomfort and kept going.

Mom and Abee were fixtures in our home – or us in theirs. I loved having family members so close by, not just because I was sharing life with my mom but because my girls were sharing theirs. She would come to chorus concerts, girl scout events, and help with school projects. Abee was always there to help us with birthday parties, coordinating outfits, or making dinner. She was becoming quite the teen advisor / mentor our daughters, many times overriding the need for ‘mom’ because she was so much younger and ‘cooler’. I was glad that the girls had someone like that in their lives. Every young girl needs someone besides a mom, to model.

Abee’s engagement broke off when the long-distance thing just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t that simplistic of course and it was hard on her. By then, Mom was physically healthier and they relied on one another for just about everything. They became partners – in their combined ‘singleness’, they became dependent on one another for comradery, daily living, and financial support. They protected one another from the outside world. We were right there with them in what we believed to be the essence of family.

At work, Hubby and I continued to offer Abee more responsibility as she consistently demonstrated tremendous competence. Hubby and Abee traveled more together and they became a powerhouse team, propelling us into even more success. Our dreams were coming true. We had been outsourcing our HR needs and our ‘rep’ was a brilliant kid (relatively speaking) who I eventually convinced to work for us full time. We began to groom him to take over for me – managing the administrative duties of our office so that I could be more involved with the girls. Financial freedom was just around the corner and our vision was almost fully realized.

As good as everything looked on the outside, there was trouble brewing at home. The sexual tension that existed between Hubby and I was at an all-time high. Our fighting about it was me attempting to find a mid-point – a center where I could feel comfortable but it just wasn’t close enough to meet him. We didn’t know how to fight well and our fights were often verbally abusive – although I couldn’t give back as much as I got; I just didn’t have the vocabulary. I gave up time after time, in a mass of tears, once – huddled in a corner, on the floor, as I wrapped my arms around my legs and felt my spirit drift away.

Beautiful Death

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind & serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised & today is short.” – Unknown

I loved having my mother live near me. Coinciding with Mom’s move was hiring one of the twins – Abee – to work with our company; and so, she too… moved (in with mom). She was the perfect addition to our staff as we expanded and implemented a customer service position. I was elated to have family close by and my sister and I soon became great friends, expanding our relationship beyond sisterhood. We shared an office at work and enjoyed family time off the clock. She was a wonderful mentor to our daughters. She and I shared some of the medical advocacy responsibility for mom as they (Mom and step-dad) made frequent trips to Walter Reed. On one of those trips, mom asked Frank (her husband, my step-dad, sister’s dad – not to be confused with my son Francis also known as Frank in High School…) to have a mole checked out that had grown sufficiently to interfere with the arm of his eyeglasses.

It wasn’t ‘just’ a mole. Within a week, it – the mole – along with a large margin of surrounding tissue and a series of lymph nodes had been removed. He had (literally) a monstrous line of staples running from his temple down the side of his face and across his neck to the base of his shoulder. Within another week, he was receiving aggressive radiation for what had been determined to be Stage Four Malignant Melanoma. It was just less than a year since we had moved them nearby to help with Mom’s illness and Step-dad (SD) Frank was receiving a cancer death sentence. After a couple of months, it was clear that radiation was not working and he was advised to call Hospice and go home; that’s what they did. It was early June.

Abee’s twin had been married a few years back and had a baby the prior fall. They came often to visit that summer. We all spent a lot of time at Mom’s house as a family. When we weren’t working, we were together in some capacity. We took turns nursing a garden for SD Frank, who loved gardening and sitting on the porch chain smoking. We would sit with him, smoking far too many cigs ourselves, speaking quite philosophically about life, love, and hope. One thing was sure. He loved our mother. He was more protective of her than any other man I’ve known in any relationship with the exception perhaps of my maternal grandmother and grandfather. It was a beautiful example of the chivalry that one thinks of when considering the definition of a champion – at least in my mind. Her well-being was foremost in his mind at any given time. It was endearing and I loved him more because of the way he loved my mother – the way he made her life better and easier. I wanted to be loved and taken care of like that.

I wanted to ask him to say hello to Rocky for me – to give him my love – when he finally made it to heaven, but it felt somewhat callous so I never actually spoke those words but I thought them each time we would sit together. He found a wonderful way of being present and in-the-moment with every person who was with him that summer. He was peaceful and gentle and loving and kind until cancer went to his brain. Then, he wasn’t himself. By then it was August and he was running out of time. I spoke to him pragmatically and told him how fortunate I was to have had him in my life as a father figure. I was so deeply grateful for his support of me over the years he was a part of my life. Much of any success I experienced was in part – because of his support. I expressed appreciation for all the patience he had with me through the years as I grew from a snotty little brat into a cohort of sorts. I told him how much I loved him and how we would all band together to make sure that mom was ok. I was sitting there as Hubby let him know that he would look after us, make sure our needs were met – all the gals.

If ever there was a beautiful death, it was his. We were prepared, we thought. He had been ‘out of it’ for several days and heavily medicated for two or three. He was peaceful and still. Mom was anything but… she was so immensely emotional that none of us could comfort her. The nurse was telling us that he should have passed hours earlier, she didn’t know why he was holding on. We, the twins, our brother, myself, Hubby, and my children, along with a few Hospice people, were in and out of the room – mostly in – as we sat and waited for him to take his last breath. We would all hold ours when we noticed any irregularity in his and then with the sound of an inhale, we would exhale and the wait would resume. In the meantime, Mom continued her outpouring of grief without control of her tears. Eventually, she crawled up, in bed with SD Frank and laid with him –  her head on his shoulder, sobbing gently, until she fell asleep. Then, without apparent hesitation – with his beloved resting and momentarily calm – he left. In a matter of micro moments, there was peace in the room – not in the quiet sense – but in the way of the spirit. He quickly and quietly slipped out of this existence, away from the living energy in that room and it was palpable that his essence had moved away.

He was the 3rd person ever and indeed, the 3rd most important man in my life – to leave. I found it very difficult to process that men I loved – died. Hubby was the only man of any importance left in my life and frankly, I was still having trouble trusting him.

SD Frank didn’t just leave me of course. He left mom (his wife) and his daughters. Abee was particularly close to her dad and his death hit her hard. She and mom hunkered down in their grief in a way that was almost impenetrable; mom especially. Within a month or two she was diagnosed with a Lung neoplasm that required resection and via wet slide was determined benign only to discover – two weeks later – that a fully developed sample indicated malignancy. They went back in – through scars not yet hardened, to remove a larger section of her right lobe. We – all her children – stayed close by, taking turns, caring for our grieving mother. Abee became her primary physical and emotional caregiver – they became extensions of my immediate family. In our mourning of SD Frank, we bonded with one another in a way that many families fail. Abee and Mom moved into a new house in an effort to begin a new life; still close enough to be a part of our everyday experience. I loved dropping in and having a morning cup of coffee with mom or coming home only to find her finishing my laundry as a surprise (for some quacky reason, she found laundry to be relaxing and offering her a sense of accomplishment). Of course, Abee, Hubby and I continued to work together and build a business that had somehow become a ‘family’ vision.

We developed a strong, robust connection – a form of ‘super glue’ – that we thought was impervious.