When I was a little girl I loved holidays and birthdays. They were always fun and filled with at least three generations of family. My birthdays were always one of my favorite, not just because it was well, my birthday, but because I often got to celebrate with my Grandma Donna. My birthday is the day after hers and I loved sharing it with her. Towards the end of my past life, Mom and Dad moved Grandma Donna home to live with them. Grandpa was moved to a “local” nursing home and I was thrilled. I had a hard time ever convincing D that I should go down to Arizona and visit them. By the time they moved back to Etna (Weed for Grandpa) it had been 10 years since I had seen them last. I didn’t ask D if I could go home to share my birthday with Grandma that year. I told him, straight out, I am going home to share my birthday with my Grandma. Do you want to come? I was thrilled when he said no.
Had I been in a normal relationship, that should have bothered me. He didn’t want to spend my birthday with my family. I was quite happy though, to not have him with me for it. I had spent my previous birthday on eggshells. By the time this one came around I was ready to Riverdance all over them. In 2011 his dad got us a hotel room and the plan was to spend the weekend down with him and just really relax and get away from Sacramento. The day of my birthday D got the chip on his shoulder pointed out by his dad and told to get over himself. I was sitting quietly in the front seat so glad that someone was say what I’d been thinking to D. Well D couldn’t let it go and demanded that we leave in the middle of my birthday get away and then I got lectured and yelled at all the way home (a few hours drive from Livermore, CA back to Sac) because I didn’t stand up to his dad for him and just sat there. I think I may have said that I kinda agreed with his dad, but what I did tell him was that I had hoped that being as it was MY birthday, he would just suck it up and deal with it. Well that got me the silent treatment. I spent my birthday in tears, though a wonderful friend from church had called to wish me a Happy Birthday and we chatted and she took me out to dinner. So I did have a good ending. After my 4 day weekend was over I had put out several more job applications trying to get him out of my house. He wasn’t doing any house work, he wasn’t DOING anything other than driving me crazy.
I was tired of the eggshells. I was tired of always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. I was tired. When I came home from work, I didn’t want to be stressing about the dishes, laundry, or other routine chore that I hadn’t done that he could have and waiting for him to lecture me about it. I was tired of waiting for the tirade that I knew was waiting if I didn’t get dinner made as soon as I walked in the door. I was tired of laying in bed trying to sleep while my mind did frantic mental checks over every possible thing that he could force me out of bed to take care of before I would be allowed to sleep. I was tired and knew it was only a matter of time before I picked up the shoe I knew was there and beat him with it. Some days that other shoe was never dropped. Some weeks even. It was all a matter of keeping me guessing I’d assume, on whether the other shoe even existed. Sometimes I wonder if he got a kick out of watching me anticipate things he never did, though often he almost always did drop that other shoe. It was frustrating and maddening.
Because of 2011, I made sure that I wasn’t going to be missing out on anything more because of the dreaded anticipation of things that may or may not happen. I was so tired that all I wanted was to go home (not the home with him, but home to my mom) and never leave. I wanted to be done with him, but it wasn’t time yet. I kept saying I was done in my heart, but the only answer I was getting was “not yet”. In 2012 when my grandparents were moved home, they spent the night in Woodland, CA. D said he’d come if I road with him on my motorcycle. I told him I would rather drive the car. He didn’t want to go if he he was in a car so instead of balking at going, I got in the car and I drove myself. I hated myself (maybe hate is a strong word but I was greatly displeased with myself) for not going to see them in Arizona. I had missed the last few years of my Grandpa’s life because of D. I’m sure he’d tell you that if I had really wanted to go he would have let me. When I got to their hotel room, Grandpa didn’t recognize me. Yes, he had dementia and had problems with memory, but he didn’t recognize me. As soon as Grandma told him it was Sarah D. he smiled so big and said “I love you!”. I hugged him, I sat with him, I held his hand, and I fed him his pudding and jello for dinner. I savored every second I had. If I had stayed home, worrying about if my going would trigger some sort of fit when I got back, would have been saying that the last time I saw my Grandpa was when my oldest nephew was born.
I had plans, you see for my birthday in 2012. I had saved up my vacation time at work (a miracle with D because he would demand I use it only when he wanted me to, which was either never or to be at his beck and call) and I was going to take full advantage of my birthday falling close to a holiday and had almost a full week off. My plan? I was going to drive up early to Weed and spend the WHOLE DAY with MY Grandpa! Oh what a glorious plan I had. I knew we couldn’t DO anything. He’d been fighting pneumonia along with all his other health problems, but I was going to have a DAY with him. I hadn’t had a day with my grandpa since I went to college in 1997. I also knew that my “whole day” would probably only be for a few hours because that would be all he could manage. But I was going to savor every second of it and take selfies with him so I could have a picture with Grandpa and be able to hold it when I was back in Sacramento pushing on in that life I was living. I was all set for my vacation and my time with Grandpa. Then I got the phone call from my mom two days before I was set to go visit.
I didn’t get that day with my grandpa. The day I was supposed to be spending with him, I spent with my parents picking up his ashes for the funeral. I hugged that urn so close on that drive back home from the funeral home. I didn’t want to let it go. I spent that birthday with my grandma and my sisters and my whole family much different than I had planned. I had my birthday with my grandma in 2013. I don’t think I even gave D the choice of coming with me. I just told him I was going home for my birthday. My birthday in 2014 was even better because by that point, I lived with my parents and my grandma. I never did get a selfie with my grandma though. I was so busy trying to make sure she knew how important she was to me. Just because I spent so many years on eggshells trying to avoid that shoe I knew was going to drop and losing out on the enjoyment of so many things, I made sure I put my phone down. I needed to be present with her with minimal distraction. I loved it when she’d pop her head in my bedroom and ask “Wanna go to Bob’s for Breakfast?” Her passing was swift and unexpected, but I was with her to her last breath.
So much regret, so much I only now realize D took from me without me even realizing it. I spent so much time trying to anticipate his next emotion, thought, or reaction. I felt like I was playing a constant game of Chess trying to be 2-3 moves ahead on the board. I’m not great with Chess and it was taxing. The best thing I ever did was become done. Done with the anticipating. Done with caring about the “other shoe”. Something had to give, and without action it was going to be me every time. It’s nearing the 5 year anniversary of me leaving. It was a mutually agreed upon split. I have no regret of staying long enough to have no regrets of leaving. My only regret is that I let a person become my whole world, not out of love, but out of fear. I didn’t want to get yelled at. I didn’t want to get treated like a child. I didn’t want to be ignored. Never had I been treated like that growing up, so I assumed I must have done something to deserve his reaction. It was an ugly tumble into a pit of self doubt and anxiety. I find myself even now forgetting to just breath and not worry about thinking ten steps ahead so I can savor the moment I’m in.
I got to sped 454 glorious days (give or take a few trips to finish moving and paper work) with Grandma Donna. I didn’t know there wasn’t going to be a 500th or even a 460th day. She didn’t know. Nobody knew. I think the only real true regret I have is that it took me 5,842 days (that’s 15 years, 11 months, and 29 days) to get the the point of leaving. All the empty anticipation for a fight that never happened, or did but not when I expected it, never changed anything about the situation. It changed me, not all for the better. What I wouldn’t give for one more day.
I didn’t know that there would only be 30 more “one more days” with my Grandma Darlene (Mom’s Mom). I spent as much time as I could with her. I focused on making her smile and making sure she knew I loved her. I never remembered her being a touchy feely grandmother. I knew she loved me, but I don’t recall a lot of physical affection. I made sure I took her hand, I hugged her, and I kissed her cheek every chance I got. I made dinner for her and spent my Friday nights listening to game shows and the news at volumes no television should be capable of reaching.
I made sure I got at least one picture with Grandma Darlene. She’d hold my hand if I took hers, once she even took my hand first and I was so thrilled. She always made sure she got her hug when I’d come to see her. I hope my Grandmas knew that they became my best friends. You never know when the final moment is going to be.
I started this post with a clear cut plan on how I was going to talk about the various situations that we’d get into that I would never actually enjoy because of fear. I dreaded birthdays and holidays because something would happen that would trigger him and I’d be waiting for that explosion, that other shoe. It got to the point where I’d be in that dread and fearing stage even if he never got “triggered”. I lost joy in so many things that I had previously loved so deeply. I missed years of lives that I can never get back trying to avoid the triggers, avoid the repercussion of said triggers. I am finding I still will withhold myself and I haven’t been in such a situation for almost 5 years. If you read this and you know what I’m talking about because you it is part of your past life, or even part of your current life, make sure you’re not missing out on the now because you’ve been conditioned to look so far ahead you get lost. I catch myself at the end of the day walking across the lawn to lock up my Chick-A-Doodles, with the setting sun blinding me, wondering where my day went, what is on the agenda for the week (not tomorrow or even tonight, but the week). Today I decided to pause in that blinding warmth of the seasonal shift and look up (but closed my eyes, because the sun is bright and looking into it is frowned upon by everyone, including Mom.) and just breath. (even though it is spring and allergies will be running wild – still – just breath but maybe not too deeply 🙂
* all non-photos (so the quotes) are not mine. I find them on Pinterest and try to make sure they link back to the source.