The Treat Bags

For much of my daughters’ early lives I was an at-home mom. Their dad worked overnights and was the low man in seniority, so he didn’t get a lot of nights off. And when he did, he was usually too exhausted to go out and do anything. So our kids rarely had sitters and if they did, those sitters were Grandma or an aunt or a cousin. Our kids grew up with the security of knowing mom and dad would always be home.

Over time I became an elected official and eventually my obligations required that I do some traveling once a month. Usually I was gone one or two days but sometimes I was gone for as long as five nights. With their dad working overnight and me traveling, we had to get an overnight sitter. Again, usually a relative, but still not the usual routine. To kids who were used to having Mom home all the time, that separation caused a lot of anxiety. And for the youngest daughter, she wasn’t old enough to comprehend what it meant that I would be gone two nights or five.

To help the youngest one with her separation anxiety, I began a tradition of putting together small, inexpensive treat bags for each night that I would be away from home. I didn’t spend a lot of money on the contents or the bags. I used the same brown bags we used for school lunches. I bought inexpensive candy or other treats in bulk and divided them up among the bags for each of the four girls for however many nights I’d be gone. Sometimes I bought little puzzles or coloring books to put in the bags. Each bag had one of the girls’ names written on the outside; each bag was stapled shut; and each day’s four bags were clipped together. One bag for each daughter for every night that I was away from home. The girls usually opened their bags after school or at supper. The youngest would watch the pile of treat bags on the kitchen counter grow smaller with each passing day and could quickly discern when I was coming home. When the bags were all gone, she knew we would be reunited the next day. A simple system that eased their anxiety.

I hadn’t thought about those treat bags in years but was reminded of them in recent days as I became aware of separated families, not knowing when, or if, they will be reunited.

Advertisements

There Are Others

At the beginning of the year, I made a decision to tone down my rhetoric regarding the state of affairs in our country, specifically the current leadership. It was a difficult task, and every day I have been challenged. But I’ve stayed true to my word.

What brought this on was a Facebook post by a friend who is a conservative evangelist. She was publicly railing against our previous president and criticizing his family values and his character while praising our current president for his wholesomeness and good character. It was a final straw for me. I replied to her post with equal animosity and essentially called her a hypocrite and accused her party of having no family values anymore. Literally I threw stones back at hers. And she promptly unfriended me.

Ever since I’ve been nagged by the scenario. I could have turned a blind eye to her post and silently moved on. I could have taken the time to find less inflammatory words and asked her to rethink what she had written. Instead, I stooped to the level of her soapbox. And that’s what bothered me. It stayed with me for days and eventually I reached the decision that the only way to unite our divided country is to seek out truth and call out others when they lie or spread falsehoods, and to show kindness. I’m just one small person in this world, I know. But I’m not alone. There are others.

This week, another friend went off on a rant. He was responding to a post that a mutual friend had put up. That post was undeniably political, but it was not off color. My ranting friend quickly made it full of colorful words. I inserted myself and asked him to be careful with his words. I was proud of the fact that I had taken the high road and hadn’t met him word for word with my own colorful words. But he was still on the low road and quickly responded with even more spite, now aimed at me. I so badly wanted to debate his arguments but instead I called him out for generalizing and throwing me under the bus for no reason at all. I pointed out that he was being disrespectful and attempting to humiliate me when I hadn’t tried to be contrary to his opinion. In fact, I had written we clearly disagreed, but none of that mattered. The words he had used were what mattered. He didn’t come back with more. And shortly after another commenter asked the person who had put up the original post to do us all a favor and delete the thread of comments. I went back now to reread it, to make sure I captured correctly the colorful words. The post is gone.

Divisiveness can only breed bad things. At the end of the day, your words are everything. And you cannot expect to be treated with kindness if you are not kind to others.

Not the Mom I Want to Be

I want to not be a mom anymore. I want my heart to not care anymore. And yet, I am so ashamed that I feel this way. I have friends who have had to bury their children! How despicable I am to even think such things. But it’s true.

I didn’t grow up knowing a mother’s love. The last of eight kids, I was just more work for my mom. Instead my three older sisters took care of me. By the time I turned twelve, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and fought a horrific battle, dying two years later. At the end of her life, we were complete strangers and I had no comprehension of what it means to be a mother.

When I became pregnant for the first time, my heart ached for the mother I never knew. I wanted to ask her questions, to understand what my life would be like as a mom. Holding my newborn in my arms, my heart melted and I was forever changed. I committed myself to my daughter forever. I promised her we would learn together what it means to be a mom. At the time my doctor said two things to me that I’ve carried all these years and at my age now know them to both be true. “You are a dyed-in-the-wool mom.” “You’ll be a mom until the day you die.”

I wish it wasn’t true but it is. I can’t turn off being a mom just as I cannot cause myself to stop breathing. Caring as I do, being a mom is going to kill me someday. My heart will shatter.

My daughters are grown. There are four of them. The oldest is 32 and the youngest is 24. The first three are married, the last one is not. The first has two children. The third is expecting her first. With the exception of the youngest who still lives in my home, I consider them all launched. All four are strong—in intellect, in will, in opinion, in passion. Each one thinks life has tested her but the reality is not one has truly been challenged. Even so, I know them each to be a survivor.

Perhaps it is this strength that causes such a heartache for me. I want them all to lean on me, to share their burdens and their joys, to keep me in their lives. One is very good about that and another is somewhat good about that. The other two are not good about that at all and fight me tooth and nail, in passive-aggressive style, whenever I try to connect or, heaven help us!, try to plan a family gathering, which is the reason for my heartache today.

The last time I saw my two grandchildren was six months ago. They live two hours away. Their mother, my oldest daughter, has given a dozen different reasons why she didn’t want to come to my house to celebrate Christmas. Her three sisters came.

Now I’m trying to plan a get together, free of the emotional tug that happens over the holidays. Despite the fact that I have a large house and could put everyone up for the night, my oldest is again the holdout and is insisting that we all rent hotel rooms for our family gathering. Fine, I can do that! If that’s what it takes, then so be it.

Not so easy. My husband won’t go; he thinks it’s ridiculous to spend so much money to get locked up in a hotel, even if there is a pool. My second daughter’s husband feels the same way and would rather stay home and care for their animals and avoid the inevitable drama. And my youngest can’t afford to spend the night and doesn’t want to share a room with me and besides, she thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous that her older sister won’t come to our house.

I just want to spend time with my daughters! All of them in the same room at the same time! I feel defeated. It’s never going to happen again in my lifetime. How do I tell my heart not to care so much? How do I push aside my disappointment that I can’t be the mom I want to be, that I don’t have the relationships with my daughters that I wanted?

 

Struggling at The End

Our dog Charlee Girl is fourteen and a half years old. She’s a sweet, compassionate personality and adores her family. When she’s been laying down a long time, she struggles to stand up—being the old lady that she is—but she pushes through her arthritic pain anyway just to greet one of us when we arrive home. About a year or so ago she lost her hearing, but she still looks to our faces when we talk to her, trying to read our body language. Dutifully she barks when she realizes someone is at the door, often after the fact since she can’t hear the doorbell. Despite her old age and accompanying health issues, she regularly proves she still has a will to live when she rolls around on her toys or attempts to chase a bunny in the yard.

In the past couple of years Charlee has had a number of ailments, but the most serious were pancreatitis and bladder stones. We thought each would be a fatal blow, but she survived. The pancreatitis was especially troublesome because Charlee is a very finicky eater. Unlike other dogs who will vacuum up anything you put in front of them, Charlee won’t touch most foods. It’s a struggle on a good day to get her to eat. So when she’s sick, it becomes much more complicated. As a result of the pancreatitis, we have to make sure she never goes more than eight hours without eating something. You’d think it would be easy to get a dog to eat. If she’s not in the mood to eat, Charlee will run away when she sees one of us preparing her food. She’s a small dog—something she despises in moments like these—so we’ll go after her and drag her out of her hiding spot and carry her over to her food bowl. Often we hand feed her every bite, sometimes shoving the food into her mouth. It’s not a fun struggle.

Around Thanksgiving Charlee came down with a bladder infection—common in old lady dogs—that just wouldn’t go away. The first antibiotics she was prescribed hurt her stomach. We understood this only by her moans and the fact that no matter what we did she refused to eat. There was a great debate in our house about whether this was Charlee’s last stand. Why force food on the poor old dog if she’s ready to be done with her struggle? But as we argued this, she would go charge into the living room and roll around on her toys and crouch down asking us to play with her. Her will to live is as strong as ever. So we gave up our fight and gave Charlee exactly what she wanted. Chicken and ground beef. It was a relief because she wants to eat it and we no longer have to hand feed her or shove the food down her throat. The vet said to mix in rice with it, but Charlee quickly learned to pick out the meat from the rice. So now we don’t even bother with the rice. She just finished up a second round of antibiotics and got the all clear from the vet.

Our family has agreed that Charlee is at the end of her life and our duty now is to make her last days—whether they be weeks or months—as comfortable and as happy as possible. Even though we know a diet of chicken and hamburger will cause a return of the pancreatitis, that’s what Charlee wants to eat so that’s what she’s getting. And we’re putting her on a doggy anti-anxiety med to help her manage her separation anxiety when we’re at work during the day and her “sundowning” behaviors at night. So long as Charlee continues to roll on her toys and chase bunnies, we’ll do our part to keep her alive. She has a strong will to live.

Life is a struggle. Literally.

On the other hand, in contrast to Charlee, is the daily struggle with my husband who thinks he’s dying and who is on the fence about whether or not he wants to live. Granted he is 73 years old and has a lot of health issues, some of them very serious, but he’s a long way from dying. That doesn’t matter because he has given up. He sits in a chair all day watching TV, smoking cigars, drinking sugar-filled sodas, and eating anything he wants. I stopped buying most of the foods and beverages he likes a long time ago but that only caused him to go to the store and buy those foods on his own. (Hey, at least he got out of his chair and away from the TV.) But it also gave him cause to complain that I no longer love him since I won’t give him what he wants. He has pointed out on numerous occasions that I give the dog what she wants but not my husband.

This last year has been one of the worst for my husband. He came down with an upper respiratory infection in April that turned violent and eventually the infection affected his heart rhythm. All these months later he’s still being doctored for it and has to take several pills each day to prevent a stroke or heart attack. At the time he was prescribed all these medicines he was too sick to manage the details so I did. I bought him two pill boxes—one for morning, one for evening—to make it easier for him. He often forgets to take the meds, even though the pill boxes are always right next to where he eats his meals. If I remind him, he complains that I’m “hen pecking” him. When he does remember, he loudly complains about how he hates to take pills. To me, him taking his pills is a matter of life or death.

It’s obvious he battles depression and he is being treated for that. But what happened this year is he was faced with his mortality for the first time in his life. Amazing given how old he is. But when others slam the door on Death’s face, he seems to have decided to leave the door open and think about how easy it would be to just step across the threshold. I cannot begin to understand the value in contemplating that thought when the truth is there is a lot of life left to live, but it’s going to take a little effort. It’s the effort part that prevents my husband from getting out of his chair.    

Right after Thanksgiving he came down with a chest cold. It was a common cold, nothing near as bad as what he had last spring. But with his heart issues, any sickness can quickly become life threatening. With all the meds that he takes, he’s limited in what he can buy over the counter to treat a cold. I suggested several times that he go see the doctor to get something for his cough but he refused. He did go to his regularly scheduled checkup with his cardiologist and learned his heart was not in a correct rhythm again. His meds were changed and now he’s back in a regular rhythm but he still has this cold. In the evening when we’re watching a movie on TV, he’ll sit in his chair and open his mouth and wheeze loudly to get my attention. I reached a point of having no patience and asked him, “What do you want me to do? Do you want my pity? My sympathy?” He didn’t answer. Later he told me he doesn’t think I love him anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I want him to have a strong will to live. I want him to rise above all his aches and pains just to see another day come. I want him to have the same character that Charlee Girl has. But I can’t force him to go to the doctor and get an inhaler to make it easier to breathe. I can’t make him get out of his chair and exercise. I tried controlling the food brought into this house and that didn’t work. I can’t change his behaviors any more than I can force him to want to live. It breaks my heart that he doesn’t feel motivated to make his life better so he can live longer and we can be together longer.

My parents died when they were young so I’ve never witnessed these end of life issues up close. It’s a daily emotional struggle to watch my dog desperately fighting nature and illness in order to have one more roll around the floor with her toys while my husband sits in his chair whining about how life is unfair and he wants it all to be done so he can feel better.

This last year has given me a new appreciation for caregivers and for people who truly are at the end of their lives. I pray my heart withstands the loss of my Charlee Girl when the time comes. And I pray my patience and love will be strong enough to foster my husband into a better frame of mind so we can have many more years together.

Number Three

The winter of 1991 came early with a three-day blizzard beginning on Halloween dropping nearly thirty inches of snow. As is usually the case after a nasty storm like that, the following days were filled with sunshine and brutal cold. And, as luck would have it, I caught a cold. Given that I was about 34 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t take any serious cold medicine, and so over the course of the next few weeks the cold turned into a cough turned into bronchitis. I had nothing within me to fight it. All I could do was wait for the baby to be born and then hit hard with antibiotics. At least, that was my plan.

My doctor had other ideas. He knew how tired I was from being sick and from getting ready for the holidays and he worried I wouldn’t have the strength to deliver the baby on my own. Ha! I was determined to deliver that baby or die, probably the exact thing the doctor was concerned about. And, the doctor had another concern. The two of us had been patient-doctor for fourteen years and because my previous two babies had come into the world too rapidly for him to attend in person, I think he was defending his pride a little and didn’t want a third strike. So a history of rapid delivery combined with a sick momma and a doctor taking a personal stand resulted in the doctor ordering an inducement for December 9.

On one hand I didn’t want to be induced. It wasn’t natural. I thought we would be messing with both Mother Nature and the Divine and I just wanted no part of that. On the other, I was too sick to care. By December 2, I was not getting any better and so the doctor told me to start taking Sudafed. He also told me his colleagues thought December 9 was too early to induce and they wanted to give me a few more days to feel better, so it was pushed back to December 16. One problem. That day was my second daughter’s birthday and I didn’t choose to have the kids share the same birthday. The doctor consulted with his colleagues and they agreed to change the date, to Friday, December 13, 1991. No! Not on a Friday the Thirteenth! My doctor laughed at me. This man who knew so much about me couldn’t believe I was superstitious. He gave me a lecture combining science and religion and basically delivered the message that I had no choice.

Funny how life likes to throw you a curve ball when you think you’ve outsmarted Mother Nature. With the morning of December 12 came a fever of 101 degrees, sore throat, chills, and a very irritated digestive system. Basically, I had a very nasty cold and stomach flu. I was so afraid that if I didn’t get better fast the doctor would cancel the inducement. My husband had worked the third shift the night before so he was sleeping. I sent my oldest daughter to school and then laid on the couch while my four-year-old played around me. At lunchtime I ate some soup and then woke up my husband to take care of our youngest. I crawled into bed and tried to rest as best I could.

At 1:30 the phone rang and the township needed my husband to go out and plow and sand the roads. Nothing was happening with me, so he left. Ten minutes later the school called to let me know my oldest daughter was now sick. I couldn’t go get her, so I arranged for my in-laws to go pick her up. When she got home, I put her on the couch and told her little sister to play doctor and make her big sister feel better. I went back to bed.

At 3:00 I started to feel some kind of pains. Because there wasn’t any pattern to them, I told myself it was just more false labor. Within a half hour, it was clear these were contractions and they were consistently ten minutes apart. But they just didn’t feel like the real deal, so I wasn’t too concerned.

At 3:45, my husband came home and we talked for a while about what to do. We decided I should call the doctor and let him know what was going on. So at 4:30 I called and left a message and the doctor called back right away. He wanted me to come in as soon as I could get to the clinic. So we tracked down my niece who was going to be our sitter and she came to our house. We headed out at 5:15 but the clinic was now closed so we went to the hospital. The doctor was waiting for us and he checked me right away. By that time my contractions were six minutes apart but still very tolerable. I wasn’t dilated any more than I had been at my previous appointment—about one and a half. He told us to go in the lobby and wait an hour. So we did.

During that time the contractions got closer and closer but I still wasn’t in any pain. I knew I wasn’t in active labor. At 7:00 the doctor came out to check on things and my contractions were staying consistent at three minutes apart. He decided to admit me. That took a while but finally I was in a bed with a fetal monitor, contractions still at three minutes apart and fever still at 101. As I laid there and relaxed, the contractions got weaker. I tried to sit up to keep gravity on my side but that didn’t seem to help. The doctor checked in with me around 10:00 and said he was spending the night in the hospital to be close by. He was convinced I would have the baby by morning.

It was a quiet night but I wasn’t getting any rest. Everyone knows you don’t go to the hospital to sleep. About 3:30 in the morning my fever broke and the contractions stopped completely. I was so disappointed, and so worried that they would call off the inducement.

The doctor came in to see me again in his morning rounds and we talked about how neither one of us got much sleep, and how disappointed we both were that the baby was being so stubborn. The doctor was reluctant to continue with the planned inducement but I argued that my fever had gone and I was already on the schedule for it. He agreed.

I was eager to get the show on the road but it wasn’t until 11:00 when the nursed hooked me up to an IV with Pitocin. Within a half hour contractions started. Things were going well and by 1:30 contractions were again three minutes apart. But at 2:00 things started to slow down and an hour later the nurse discovered the IV pump wasn’t working properly. She consulted with the doctor and he said I needed to start all over with the minimum dose. With the afternoon shift change, the new nurse was determined to bring a baby into the world and she was shocked at the “off the charts” contractions my body was having as shown on the monitor printout, except I wasn’t feeling anything at all. I was as relaxed as one could be given the circumstances. Even though I hadn’t slept, I did feel better from being so well hydrated but the nurses were getting a bit peeved with how often I needed to use the bathroom. With the IV, the contraction monitor, and the baby’s heart monitor, it wasn’t a quick or easy process and not one I could do on my own.

Evening arrived with no baby. I wasn’t progressing—dilated only to a 3—and the nurse was growing concerned about how long I had been receiving the Pitocin. She said I wasn’t uncomfortable enough. At 8:00 the nurse said she would give me one more hour and then turn everything off and send me home. Every fifteen minutes she amped up the dosage but still no progress. I was so depressed and frustrated and tired. Even so, as tired as I was, I quickly discovered I still had energy to fight. The nurse was resigned to the fact that I would be sent home and I refused. I told her I was a walking time bomb now that they had messed with nature and I insisted I was going to stay there until a baby came, if it took a week. The nurse and I argued and she said she’d have to consult with the doctor. I was so disappointed. And frightened. I was convinced the baby would be born at home on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. We had gotten lucky the first time that had happened. I didn’t think we’d be as lucky a second time.

And then, at 8:55, I felt and heard something pop inside me and I felt the baby fall. Instantly I felt the hormonal switch in my body turn on, just as if someone had entered the room and turned on the lights. I told my husband to call the nurse. He didn’t believe me. I had to ask him a couple of times and finally he went and got the nurse. She came in a few minutes later and I told her to check me. She didn’t believe me either but she checked just the same. As soon as she inserted her fingers, the bag of waters gushed out and the nurse swore.

Immediately I was in hard labor. I was still only dilated to a 3, but I knew things would go very fast now and so I asked the nurse where the doctor was. He had gone home for supper. I told her to trust me and to call the doctor back to the hospital. I was somewhat surprised that she did as I asked.

Another ten minutes passed and the nurse came in to tell me the doctor had arrived and would be in to see me in a few minutes. I was in the middle of a hard contraction. I could see the shock on her face. Twenty minutes later I had an urge to push and breathed through it. Two more times I was able to breathe through the pushing urge but I knew I wouldn’t be able to for much longer. I called the nurse again and told her to check me again. She really didn’t want to but I kept insisting. I knew I had to be at a 10. Whatever I said or did to convince her, she finally checked and she smiled ear to ear. “You are amazing!”

An alert was put out for the room. I was ready but they weren’t. The bed had to be prepared and supplies put in place. All the while I fought the urge to push. I was too tired to stop it. And it was unlike anything I had experienced before. I knew it had to be the effects of the Pitocin. Finally the doctor came in and he told me to go ahead and push. The urge to push was so strong that I couldn’t tell if there was a contraction. It was like my body was in one solid, long contraction. Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more pain, the baby was born, at 10:04 p.m. on Friday, the Thirteenth of December, 1991.

Another girl. Beautiful. Dark brown hair, almost black. Gorgeous eyes with very long lashes and perfectly formed lips. At seven pounds, nine ounces she was the smallest of my babies. I was so relieved she was born in the hospital, and so grateful everything worked out as it should. She was our second child to be born just before Christmas. As I held her in my arms and welcomed her to the world, I was reminded that there is no greater blessing, no greater connection to the reason for the season.

Are you passionate?

I’ve never thought of myself as a passionate person. I don’t know why not, I just never have. At times in my life people have teased me about “getting my Irish up” but I never made the connection to passion. I always felt it was their way of telling me I needed to be mindful of my frustration and to toe the line.

Yesterday I had a conversation with my daughter Rose. We were talking about my current battle with depression and she rightly pointed out all the things that are out of balance in my life. She brought to mind the ongoing battle I face in keeping communication channels open amongst my four daughters. She honored the love I have for my husband and the nurturing I’ve provided for the last six months as he’s fought heart health issues. She called me a patriot and mentioned how I’ve been upset for nearly a year about the fact that our country elected a man without integrity or morals. And she recognized the stress I carry every day in my quest to dig out of an enormous financial hole that is almost ten years old. She brought to mind many things in my life that I feel passionately about and how nearly all of those things are in a state of weakness or under attack. She called me passionate.

Webster’s declares a passionate person as one who is capable of, affected by, or expressing intense feeling and defines passion as intense, driving, or overmastering of feeling or conviction.

In a sense, it is humbling to be known as someone driven by conviction. For my whole life I’ve thought of such people as heroes. Mother Teresa was a woman of conviction. She was criticized for many things but praised for her service to those with AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis and for her life-long devotion to the poorest of the poor. John McCain is a man of conviction. His duty and honor to others outshines anyone else I can think of in recent service to our country. His ability to survive five torturous years as a POW speaks of his courage and character. These are two examples of my heroes. Two people passionate about their beliefs that they took action impacting many.

To be driven by your convictions means you face challenges despite your fears. It means you make a decision for the good of the whole and take action despite a rapidly and ever-changing world around you. It means you are strong despite your weariness and the hardships you face. You are passionate.

It is an honor to have one of my daughters recognize that I am also one driven by my convictions, that I am passionate.

Unfinished Business

For the last several years, the changing colors of the leaves triggers me to ask my four daughters, “When can we get together for Christmas?” Every time I ask that question, no matter how I preface it, how I disguise it, the question becomes a catalyst for a civil war among the daughters. I almost didn’t ask the question this year—it’s been such a godawful year for my husband and me—but duty called. I’d like to report there was a different response this year but I’d be lying. In fact, the ache of disappointment is greater than it has ever been.

Going through this drama each autumn, I’ve come to know that there are a lot of people out there who do not talk to siblings and a few who don’t even talk to their parents. Having spent seventy-five percent (or three quarters, and that’s not an exaggeration) of my life without parents, I would give anything to have my mom and dad back for just one day, or even one hour. I cannot fathom any circumstance that would cause a child to choose not to talk to his or her parents. It is beyond my comprehension even though I know it happens.

Siblings, on the other hand, are different. I am the youngest of eight and there are a couple of my siblings that I do not talk to more than once or twice a year. And when we do talk, the conversation is stilted and awkward. If we were not siblings, there’s not a chance in the world those people would be included in my inner circle of friends.  So as it regards siblings, I have empathy for my four daughters. They did not choose to be related. However, I know without a doubt, if my parents were alive, all of us would be there for Christmas.

In the midst of the civil war that erupted about ten days ago, my daughters Rose and Emily debated the definition of family. Daughter Kate’s husband is allergic to cats and Kate’s house is the only one without a feline. So Kate wants to have Christmas at her house, which happens to be more than two hours away from everyone else. Rose suggested Kate hand out Benadryl and get her family to my house to celebrate the holiday. Emily accused Rose of being insensitive and said “family doesn’t treat family like that.” And so it went.

The thing that is most troubling for me is the fact that all four of my daughters gather at their dad’s house on Christmas Eve and at their grandmother’s house on Christmas Day. “We’ve always done it this way.” So when their dad and I divorced, I compromised and held my Christmas celebration on other days. When really didn’t matter to me. We’ve gathered as early as the first weekend in December and as late as the middle of January. It’s the gathering of my four daughters with me that matters. So why can they gather at other people’s houses but not at mine? Why can they agree to gather as a group with other family but they can’t agree to gather with me? What do I bring or not bring to the equation?

It’s a riddle I’ve been trying to solve for years with no success. The older I get, the greater the disappointment and the deeper the hurt. I have the wisdom of knowing I have fewer years ahead of me than I have behind me. My four daughters can’t comprehend that at their young ages. And since they have yet to lose a parent or a sibling, they have no comprehension of how life turns on a dime, how short our lives actually are.

Oldest daughter Kate is now 32. She’s a mother herself and plenty old enough to understand unconditional love, and yet it’s Kate who is the biggest antagonist. This year she drew a line and will not be celebrating Christmas with me and her sisters, prompting Rose to call her a “self-righteous, self-centered, holier-than-thou bitch.” Like that would help.

Holidays are always so stressful, so filled with emotions. We battle the stress of buying presents, telling ourselves we’ll deal with the overspending in January. We exhaust ourselves by hurrying and scurrying while getting everything ready for the ultimate December 25 deadline. We fight disappointment at not getting something we wanted or frustration and anger when a somewhat inebriated sister-in-law says, “Wow, I didn’t know you were pregnant. When are you due?” With all the noise in the mix, it’s no surprise that we lower priorities with family. Family is loved ones, safe, reliable. If family gets hurt feelings, they’ll still be family a month from now and you can circle back and say, “Hey, sorry about that. I was having a bad day.” But I’m here to tell you that sometimes, you can’t circle back.