“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.” ―Veronica Roth
This day is emblazoned within my mind. I would learn so much within a forty-eight hour span of time, and I would be permanently changed. But no one tells you that when you’re a child. No. They try to keep you “innocent”. Except in my family. My mother decided I was not going to be lied to or be told nonsensical stories. I’ve been treated like an adult, with free thoughts and a free spirit, my entire life. There’s much to be said for this methodology because, even today, people do try to shield their children from many things. There’s no perfect way to be a parent. Did you just shake your head? You can disagree. That’s fine.
There are so many moments in life, but as someone with extreme intuition, this one still gets me.
I remember a full day of fun, spent with my mother, brother, and Grandparents. I remember exactly where we were, and that we had been in a specific store just minutes before the tension began. I remember feeling confused when some form of visibly silent arguing began, which is when my mother and her parents would switch languages in front of my brother and I. My brother probably doesn’t have any recollection of this, but I do. Whenever another language was spoken around me, I paid attention. I still do.
I remember my mother becoming frustrated, bordering on furious. The plans had changed and she was hurt, trying to rein in her temper. She was trying to put on a brave face in front of her children, but I felt the shift in emotions immediately. Once again, my Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle would get their way, and my mother was not pleased. She was not manipulative and didn’t appreciate manipulative people. She was never fake by nature, but in those final moments, she was putting on a show.
Me, always questioning everything, precisely as she taught me, demanded to know what was going on. “Where are they going? Why are they leaving? I have to say goodbye to Grandpa.” At that point in my life, my entire world revolved around my mother, Grandfather, Aunt (my mother’s sister), and brother.
My mother, of the softly spoken everything, of her calm, easy-going nature, would reply with a tone better suited for a teenager that arrived home at four a.m. drunk, without a phone call. “You don’t need to say goodbye. You’ll see him tomorrow.” I remember trying to get one final hug and kiss, and being forcibly taken away from him. I was angry. He and my Grandmother waved, promising me tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t happen the way any of them expected, I am sure.
It was extremely early in the morning. Ever the night owl, I left the room I shared with my younger brother to find out what was going on. I remember facing my Grandmother, her always stoic expression conveying something was wrong. I had never seen her so quiet, so sad, so lost.
“Where is Grandpa?” I demanded. You rarely saw one Grandparent without the other, even though my Grandfather was the predominant force between the two. She looked up at me with a blatantly sad expression on her normally expressionless face. “He’s gone.” was the answer I received.
Gone. What did that mean to me? It made no sense. “Then we have to go and find him.” was my reply. I was adamant. I knew he would not leave without me, without talking to me, without saying goodbye. The fiercest part of me knew that he would never leave by choice. Never. She shook her head and waited for my mother to explain to me that the single most important man in my life was “in heaven”.
I quickly learned that NO ONE understood this concept. They would look at me sadly, point up to the sky, and tell me my Grandfather had “gone to heaven”. I did not believe them. I had already extensively searched the clouds and he was not there. Because they all pointed up, I believed he had gone to a castle in the clouds. He would always study the sky with me and show me things, so this made sense in my mind at the time.
I remember his funeral. The entire chapel was filled beyond capacity. People were huddled in to make additional room. Hundreds of people had come to pay their respects. My Grandfather was beloved, respected, admired. I remember looking at all the people, so many of them strangers to me, and everyone looked back at me sadly.
I remember the cemetery. The line of cars was unreal. Again, a testament to this great man. I remember my Great-Aunt Minnie and Great-Uncle Charlie wanting to dote on me from the funeral home to the burial site. I remember my cousins, Gloria and Lenny, trying to lighten the mood in the car. Lenny was known for his sense of humor. My Aunt Minnie tried distracting me with cookies. I was not to be distracted, though. I was this man’s only Granddaughter and I knew I had a purpose on this day. After all, I fought to be there. No one thought I should be “subjected to death”. I’d heard this stated quite a bit in the previous day, and knowing myself, I was paying exceptional attention to who said what and how they said it. I’ve always been a keen observer.
My mother sat down with me and explained everything and asked what I wanted to do. I remember her friend Ellen saying “Don’t you want to stay home and play with me and your baby brother?” I remember looking up at her coldly and saying “No. He is MY Grandfather and I AM GOING.” My mother actually stared at me, shocked by the tone of voice I had used. Before that moment, I had always been described as the “little girl with the ancient eyes”, even as a baby, but in that moment my mother knew I was the fierce warrior she had prayed for. There would be no further argument. I had stood my ground.
Cemeteries are for the living. It’s how we remember those we’ve lost and try to honor them. There is nothing more final than seeing someone’s name and the dates of their birth and death etched into granite or marble. Is it bizarre that my Grandparents’ headstone is the same as my parents’ stone? Not really. I remember asking my mother what she wanted for my father and she said “Just bury us together. Get one stone. Something similar to the one for my Mom and Dad, okay?” Her only concession was that her side have a specific design. I custom-designed that stone with the help of someone who does that sort of work. The final result was startling, same as it was to see my Grandparents’ names etched in finality.
After my Grandfather’s death, I remember heated discussions. My Great-Aunt, my Grandfather’s only sister, asked my Grandmother if she could still go on her vacation, despite the traditional 3-7 days where Jews sit Shiva. My Grandmother acquiesced, as she always did in situations such as this. My mother didn’t speak to my Great-Aunt for YEARS after the fact, and my own anger would become part of the mix as I got older and heard the entire story. If, G-d forbid, anything ever happened to my brother, I would not be on a plane the day after his funeral to go anywhere. I would never show his life such disrespect. It’s nonnegotiable. How the hell does someone claim to be in mourning and then get on a plane to go anywhere to enjoy themselves?! I will forever feel haunted by that move. In reverse, I can assure you my Grandfather would not have done something so despicable.
My Grandmother never spoke about it. She had friends, family, tons of well-wishers, and her children and grandchildren by her side. She became a prominent, front-and-center Grandmother in the wake of my Grandfather’s death, whereas she was very much in the background most of the time before his passing. There was NOTHING she did not do for us, take care of, or handle if my father refused. If my brother or I ever needed something, it did not matter what it is, she was there. She went to all of my gymnastic competitions, every drama performance, every Glee club performance, every Graduation. If it was during the day and my parents had to work, she was the face we saw in every crowd. She loved us, she helped raise us, and she was always right across the street. With her, we would get extra time before cancer came and took her from us. The insidiousness of that disease, coming along and taking someone who stayed out of the sun (I always remember her being under an umbrella or sitting in the shade.), never smoked, rarely drank, was devastating. It just goes to show you that no one is immune.
For roughly the next three years, after things had settled down, I would openly discuss suicide, a word that had NEVER been used in my home or in my life. My family did not discuss such things, EVER. My parents would stare at each other in dismay, and I know what they were thinking. “Where did she get that word from?” I had never been exposed to it, but it was constant. I was determined to be wherever my Grandfather REALLY was, and I made this clear. Every time I would talk about it, my brother would become hysterical, clutching me and telling my parents “She’s my sister. She can’t leave. Don’t let her leave me.” His face would turn red and he’d cry himself into an asthma attack at times. We were incredibly adult for kids, I now realize, but back then, I thought all people had similar family lives and discussions. They did not. They do not.
It’s important to discuss loss, grief, death, and every aspect of mental health with your children. I have suffered the majority of my life because my mother was afraid for me and my father was in denial. But as someone recently said to me “You could have harmed yourself so many times by now, and you’re still here. You’re still in one piece.” Only, I’m not truly in “one piece”. I’m very much a broken, pretty mess, but people only focus on the visual on front of them. They are sitting across from someone who is dressed appropriately, someone who is clean, hair done, makeup on, and they think that someplace, somewhere, I have it all “together”. Sometimes I do, but mostly, I do not. I don’t pretend. I am as imperfect as the amethyst I wear around my neck nearly all the time, except during a Full Moon.
To this day, I still suffer. I still hurt, wondering how different life might have been if he had lived another ten or fifteen years. I miss him terribly. But most importantly, I remember. I remember it all.
copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
“The tears I feel today
I’ll wait to shed tomorrow.
Though I’ll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight:
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
Yes, I’ll keep my tears til later:
But my grief will never go.”
“Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.” ―François de La Rochefoucauld
I hope everyone had a restful weekend. I’d like to welcome the new subscribers who have come on board in the last few weeks. 🙂 I’m glad you find me interesting enough to follow me on my journey. Please feel free to message me and/or leave comments. I always reply.
Today was hard for me. It was the anniversary of my mother’s funeral. I still have her eulogy typed up, and every so often I go back and read it. Mostly to remind myself where I was in that moment and how far I have come since that day.
I tried hard not to think about it, but by six o’clock in the evening my stomach became ill and my current nine day long migraine intensified. The only thing I could do was turn off my computer, set it aside, take my current migraine medication, which isn’t much, and lie down with a cold pillow over my head. If you know me, you know how much I LOATHE being sick. Suffering from a long list of chronic illnesses doesn’t mean I enjoy it. These are things I never asked for and would not wish upon anyone else. I do my best to navigate each of these things, but I also have to prioritize my health as opposed to forcing it to the back burner. I neglected aspects of myself for a long time and as a result, I am sicker today than I ever was before.
I know constantly having to fight for my rights, advocate for my health and proper treatment, and always feel like there is no certainty, just battles, isn’t helping matters. People often read my posts and get offended when I say “I don’t have much of a support system.” I wasn’t aware I was invalidating people who are, predominantly, quite vacant in my life. If all you do is call me when it suits you, text on occasion, message me here and there, and ask me questions about things of no real importance to me, I don’t consider you a part of my daily “support system”. If you feel invalidated by that statement, the issue lies with you, not with me. There are plenty of people who I have offered support to and have received the equivalent of a slap in the face in response, so excuse me if I don’t deem these people “supportive”. My assessment is quite accurate.
Standing by someone while they sort through their health and unhappy situations means you don’t ever intentionally trigger their anxiety, anger, or emotional suffering. If you never say a kind thing to another person, you certainly aren’t bettering their life in any way.
I was raised by two women, my mother and Grandmother. My Grandmother would always turn to my brother and I and say “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” My mother’s version was different. She always encouraged me to speak my truth. I was five when she told me “The truth is more respected than dishonesty. If someone chooses not to believe the truth, and they try to discredit you, at least you know you’ve told the truth, regardless of what they are choosing to believe.” Those were profound words for a young girl, but she always encouraged me to use my voice, and not allow others to attempt to rob that power from me. Having lost both of them, I know they are each in the unique position of being able to see how people treat me, to hear the conversations and comments, and to know precisely who is and is not doing their best. I am far from perfect, but I am doing the best I can.
My Grandmother was such a strong believer in family. After she passed away, I quickly saw through all the things she tried to keep in tact. Her belief in the “family unit” stemmed from how she was raised, but in truth, there was no “family” at all. There was this immense illusion. My mothers’ side of the family chooses to have nothing to do with me, and the feelings I have in regard to their behavior are things I don’t always verbalize. I try not to think about it too much because I am justified in my anger. I have zero respect for a lack of decency, lack of common sense, and basic humanity. The same is true for my fathers’ family. I witnessed so much growing up, always wondering why my Grandmother held tight to the idea of this “family” dynamic. I watched how it became nothing and continued to become less and less the day of her funeral. Losing both of my parents put everything into perspective for me.
I don’t doubt that certain people have feelings for me, but do I believe those are feelings of love? Rarely. I know my brother loves me in his own way. He steps up at times when I am not expecting it. I know that other family members love me in their own way, too, but I often feel excluded and dismissed. I often feel set aside as a person with no thoughts, no feelings, and no validity. If one more person has the audacity to say “Are you ever positive about anything?”, I will probably lose my temper.
I have never had anyone who truly knows me or anyone who follows my work deem me a “negative person”. I am my most authentic self when I am writing and speaking. I am the same way in every aspect of my life. And yet, I’ve noticed snide remarks of late that question my genuine authenticity. I have walked away before saying “Go fuck yourself.”, because I will not engage with someone who is intentionally looking for a fight and/or being an asshole. I have walked away before saying “You’re clearly projecting if you’re questioning MY authenticity. I question YOURS, but I’m classy enough to keep my mouth shut.”
Love, loyalty, authenticity, and all my friendships and relationships are some of the most important things in my life. In this, I am a supreme perfectionist who is honest about her imperfections. Someone told me last week “I can see that authenticity is very important to you, and I respect that.” When one person chooses not to see it, and everyone else sees it immediately, it is much easier to cope with one person trying to take a pot shot, as opposed to thousands of people viewing you negatively.
I am going through a lot, but I’m still the same person. I am working on myself, and I am doing the best I can. If you don’t know every single thing in my heart, you have zero right to judge me.
This week I move on to other battles. I am hoping for some downtime at some point to be able to find a sense of calm. I have a consult with a new neurologist next week, so I am hoping there’s a positive outcome there, especially since I’ve waited nearly six months to be seen. Fingers crossed for some good news.
Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead… Li
copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
“But I believe in love, you know; love is a uniquely portable magic. I don’t think it’s in the stars, but I do believe that blood calls to blood and mind calls to mind and heart to heart.” ―Stephen King
If I added up the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years I have spent missing my mother, I am pretty sure it would be an astronomical number. All those moments have brought me to this day; the tenth anniversary. A decade without my mother. It makes me sick to my stomach, putting the words out there into the universe.
My life has changed in such dramatic ways since I hung up the phone for the final time the night she passed away. No matter far I have come, no matter how much growth I have achieved, no matter the rises and falls, I am still gutted by every moment that led to her death.
The people who loved me the most are all gone. I live in a world where no one mentions my mother. No one talks about her, no one acknowledges that she even existed, and it deeply affects me.
I remember when she was alive and people would often accuse her of being “too emotional”. I don’t think people, especially now, are emotional enough. I don’t think people are anywhere near as human, kind, caring, or compassionate as my mother was. Occasionally I catch myself looking for those qualities in others, and I find people sorely lacking. Perhaps this is why I am more introverted and isolated than ever before.
I am by no means searching for a “mother figure” or “mother replacement” because those are simply things that do not exist for me. No one else could ever be her. I can hear my father’s voice whenever I speak to my brother, but my mother’s voice has grown distant and foreign, and for me, that is very sad indeed.
I’m never not going to be disgusted to have someone, be it a family member or a friends, act like today is “just another day”. Today is the day I lost my mother, my best friend, and my guidepost. As imperfect as I am, I will never be the kind, caring, loving person my mother was to her children and other people. I have learned to accept that.
Lighting Yarhzeit tonight was difficult and highly emotional, but I did it. I’m doing my best. My Mom always told me “Your best is all you can ever do, and if people don’t like it, at least you know you didn’t sit around ignoring a situation.”
I’m a writer because of my mother. She introduced me to power through my voice, and that’s something that will never change. Nor will my commitment and devotion to her memory.
“Seek the sweet surrender of simplicity. Listen to the sound of faith like a flute playing inside your chest. Go within. Serenity lives always within your reach.”
-Ching Qu Lam
copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Neither of which is true for me, but to each their own.