Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I spent days debating with myself whether or not I should call my mom. Each time I call or stop by, I always hope that maybe that time will be different, maybe something will have changed, maybe she’ll have some sort of break-through. It usually ends up the same way and even if all goes really well, it is as though the countdown to disaster has begun. It is only a matter of time before the good transforms into something unhealthy, volatile and toxic.

The few weeks leading up to Easter and a couple after that, she seemed at least a little happy. She was actually kind. I tried to see the situation as positive, yet history has shown me countless times, that it is only a matter of when, not if, the bombs would start going off and once again, there would be piles of emotional debris to sort through.

That day was yesterday. I phoned to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Honestly, it wasn't that I really wanted to, I just thought I should do it to keep the good trend going and not provide her with any more ammunition. I decided before I dialed her number that I would cut the conversation short if it took a negative turn. I can’t control or even influence her emotional swings, but I can control my actions and reactions and I decided that I would end the call before getting caught up in something I didn't want to be involved in or saying things I knew I would feel guilty about or regret.

It started about two minutes into the conversation and rapidly plunged off the cliff. As usual, my part of the conversation was mostly limited to “uh-huh, uh-huh, ok, uh-huh” as she rambles from topic to topic. I won’t go into the details of the conversation and they just aren’t worth reliving or distributing. I stayed true to my commitment to end the call by simply saying that I needed to go, which was met with her yelling “Happy Mother’s Day to you too!” to me in a very angry tone before she hung up.

I have been struggling with this relationship for decades and each time, I feel smashed each time it comes to this point. I was going to tell her that I am going to be a dad soon, and then decided not to. This is one of the most exciting adventures I have been on and I don’t want that experience tarnished.

Once again, I am debating whether or not it is worth continuing. Part of me wants to shut the door and seal it off. Part of me wonders if I am giving up too easy. Everyone who has experienced my relationship with my mom first-hand has told me I need to end it. Everyone who has heard the stories is always surprised when they meet her. Surprised that while they thought I was exaggerating, the quickly learn I was downplaying it all.

I haven’t made the decision yet. I want to. I don’t want to. Why I keep feeling torn between these extremes is something that has confused me for a very long time. Now, because of the fostering classes I am taking, I understand it a bit more. If I cut all ties from her, then I am letting go of hope. Letting go of that “maybe” I have been chasing for so long. I am letting go of the idea I have of my mom, the one where she is the person I would like her to be. The person I believe she will never be.

I don’t know what kind of father I will be. I like to think I will be a cool parent, like Ken or Christina. I know there will be arguments and tough times. I also know I will never make them feel the way my mom has made me feel. They will never wonder if they are loved. I will never give them reason to doubt that they are anything less than perfectly enough, just as they are. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Detour Through My Mind...

I recently realized something new about my brain and how it works. It is something that has led to me and other people being frustrated. I didn't figure it out until fairly recently and haven't written about it yet because, well, I forgot.

And that is the issue.  I don't actually forget things. As far as I know, I haven’t actually forgotten anything at all. Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine was in town and we were talking about when we went out to dinner a year ago. I immediately remembered where we ate. I remembered the name of the waiter I had not seen before or since. So the information is all there, but sometimes it seems like the car keys that have been put in a place where we won’t forget and then we can't remember where they were and suddenly when we find them, we remember putting them there and the logic for choosing that space.

My brain works like that now. As far as I can tell, I don’t really have that spontaneous memory that I used to have, that most people have. I don’t remember to call people. I don’t remember to write. I don’t actively remember that someone is ill or has an ill relative. I remember these things when there is a trigger. I will see a picture, go to a place or someone will mention it and all the knowledge is there. Without the trigger, it is very hit or miss. It’s like when you wake up in the middle of the night with that amazing idea and you know you should write it down but you don’t and then you wake up and it has been forgotten and stays forgotten until something triggers it and it all comes rushing with back. I get that all the time.

Things that are part of my routine, I remember. I noticed that I usually phone John around the same time each day. I remember to feed the dogs because it happens at the same time each day. I need things in a routine in order to remember, or, and  it pains me to say this, I have to make lists. Looking around my office right now, there are lists taped to the wall for all the things I need to do that are not part of my everyday tasks. Things like expense reports, updating marketing materials and so on.

I understand that people think I have forgotten them or that I just don't care. That isn't true. I forget to phone or email Ulco. In fact, I saw an update from him on Facebook that made me remember to plan some trips for his visit that then reminded me I have been meaning to write about this issue for a couple of months. That is the normal process and it is difficult to explain. It’s difficult for me to understand. It was something I didn't notice, because it’s not like I can’t remember things. I remember most everything, I just need a trigger of some sort to bring it to the surface.

So if I haven't called, messaged, emailed or reached out to you, I am sorry. It is nothing personal at all, I have just temporarily forgotten to, thanks to two brain injuries in less than four years. But if you call, text or reach out to me, that will be enough of a trigger to contact you. It may not happen all the time, as if I see something late at night, by morning, it’s been filed away for another time. Be patient and try again.

I am trying to send emails and make calls when the triggers happen, but it’s not always possible.  It's somewhat frustrating, but then I don't really remember the frustration until it happens again.

Friday, May 01, 2015

A Bit Further Down The Road

I can’t believe we have past the halfway point of the foster and adoption classes. Only four left to go and it seems to be flying by. The classes have been quite heavy at times, talking about all sort of horrible things that children go through and trying to get at least something of an understanding as to what it must be like to have to leave everything behind, take only what you can fit into a box or bag and move to a new place, new family, perhaps new school and new life. Many of the children will go back to their parents at some point or go from foster home to foster home. We have had to do a weekly assessments of our strengths and needs, to see how they have changed based on our education and insight into what might be coming our way.

We had our home visit two weeks ago. For me, that was the dreaded moment. The thought of someone coming into your home and looking for everything and anything that can get in the way of getting licensed. Cleaning products need to be locked up. Paint in the garage needs to be up high. All medicines and vitamins locked up in a cabinet. We get assessed. The pets get evaluated. Trashcans in the garage get looked at to make sure they have lids. The yard gets a walk through, closets and cupboards get opened and examined. After all of that, we had a very, very short list of things that need to be done.

The harder part was the interview. The application itself asked all sorts of difficult and deeply personal questions. The interview was a chance to elaborate on those things and answer all sort of questions. That lasted for about two and a half hours on the visit and then we had to stay late for about an hour after the following class to finish up. There’s a lot in my background and I have been worried that it might get in the way. She told us that while there is a lot, she feels I am at a point where it can really help someone else. That was a huge relief.

John and I have been on a couple of local sites looking at the profiles of children that are available in the system. There are a few that seem to be a good match and in another two weeks, we will be far enough along in the process to be put forward as possible adoptive resources. No idea what all happens after that, how long it will take or even if it will move forward at all.

Our class has gotten smaller each week, some people quitting because they don’t meet certain criteria, others maybe because it isn’t the right time. I’ve had my one moment of extreme doubt. Drop me in a country I have never been in, where I don’t speak the language and have no was of getting around and I am perfectly comfortable and at ease. This is a whole different type of unknown.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Class Time

John and I had our first class on fostering and adopting a couple of weeks ago. It was quite a bit different than what I expected. As silly as it sounds, I kind of had the image of a small group of us all sitting around in a circle on comfy chairs, maybe on the floor cuddling over-sized pillows while drinking a flavored coffee. Typing this now, it seems I had imagined more of a Lamaze class.

We got to the room that was more of a conference room, tables set up in one big U shape. I arrived before John and picked two seats right at the front. Some of our valuation is going to come from the class and I am not going to be a shy wallflower. The instructors introduced themselves and then we dove right in to introductions. Each person was given either a parent or a child card and we had to find our match. One person might have the parent card of “I can foster a child that has a history of abuse and has difficulties handling their emotions” and then of course you would have to find the person with a child card that went with that.

Then, we got into the first lesson talking about physical and sexual abuse, neglect and other things many children go through. We talked about the feelings they might have as a result of different types of abuse. I answered a question about one of the topics and then was asked to read the definition. It was difficult. I know what it’s like to be physically abused. I know what it’s like to have all the feelings that go with that. Feelings that as a child are so big they seem impossible.

We were also given an application packet to complete. When we got home that evening, I read through the questions. Some are very basic such as income and expenses. Others are hard, including talking about how anger was expressed in the home when I was growing up. Then there are the questions about our relationship. What would we change about the other person? What would they change about us? I don’t think in those terms at all and it was challenging and great to realize I had to dig to really find something and even then, it is not something that really matters. John and I had to complete the same application about ourselves and each other. I haven’t yet read what he wrote, but I know there are no surprises and if nothing else comes out of this process, we will know each other even better than we already do.

There were times in completing my personal history that I had to take a breath or even just stand up and walk a bit. Grab a coffee or spend some time with the dogs. It’s not that the past bothers me. I don’t mind talking or writing about it, I just prefer to be in charge of when the subject comes up.

In the middle of last week, I had a bit of a meltdown. Suddenly it all felt so overwhelming. Will they like us? Will I be a good dad? Will I revert to behavior I grew up with? Am I ready? Should we wait? What if this is a mistake? The questions just wouldn't stop and I ended up having to leave work early as I couldn't keep focus on anything work related. I went home and John and I spent a lot of time talking about it. I realized these are the questions any parent-to-be asks themselves. I know we may never be truly and completely “ready” in every sense. How could we be? How could anyone be? There will always be a reason not to do this, but for me I know that the reasons to move ahead far outweigh any questions and doubts I have. John and I are a great team and we have a lot of support from people around us. We will not be in this alone.

Monday was our third class. It seems like it is flying by. Only seven more to go. Waiting for the background checks to be done and for classes to start seemed to take forever and now we are about one-third of the way through. We have to be ready for licensing by June 1 and the clock seems to be speeding up. So many things to do and I have learned we just have to remember to take it one piece at a time, and breathe. Lamaze style.