Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Strange World of Estrangement

Estrangement, I have heard that word before and never thought in my life it would apply to me. My Gramie was estranged from her brothers, I thought that was so weird. Never would that happen to me, that wasn't my family. Even in the midst of divorce, I never thought divorce would affect my sister and I.

 My sister and I were born two years apart. I really don't remember my life without her, we were playmates along with our cousins Brianne, Sarah and Rissa. We all were inseparable, spending all of our time together at our grandparents house, each others houses, the mall and for my sister and one cousin, their mutual friends houses.

I considered my sister one of my best friends. We fought and were very different people, she was neat and tidy, I was messy. She was tough and I was emotional. Really opposite people but somehow we had some common ground.

Every weekend, our Dad would drive us into LA and we would go from concert to concert together seeing our favorite bands. We held parties at our house together and spent weekends at our grandparents with our cousins. She eventually moved in with my Dad and grandparents, I remember crying for days on end. I was in high school and had a life at mom's that I didn't want to leave.  That is when things really started to change between us.

Things started rapidly declining around 1995, it was silly little things and somehow my sister became very angry with me. I to this day really don't know what I did or why things changed? they just did.

For fifteen years, I begged, pleaded, wrote letters and in the words of Marty ''puppy dogged'' after my sister trying to ''fix'' our relationship. She would come to visit our other sister and be around the corner from my house without a word. She would make that 300 mile trip to see my sister and never tell me. I would go for a walk with my kids to see her car at our other sisters house. Neither of them would tell me. I wish that feeling upon nobody.

I would get upset and say something to just be ignored. Nobody could help or would help, it just was a vicious cycle that kept turning.

In 2004, I made the choice to disconnect my life from my older sister. After years of verbal abuse, I could take no more and it was very unhealthy. I always tell people, I didn't want my kids to think that was normal or okay, I grew up with it but they didn't have to. Best decision I ever made.

As for my younger sister, I kept trying. I went to counseling to deal with my insecurity and emotional issues. I changed and was different but nothing mattered.

My long suffering cousins would listen to me over and over. Crying phone calls time and time again after being shot down for trying. Those girls were there for me, they couldn't fix it and were caught in the middle for the longest time.

Then one day, our entire family was cut off even the other girls. There were hurt feelings and anger, a situation cropped up and the estrangement now encompassed one side of our family, Dad and all. Nobody can fix it, we can't make the change to make someone want to be a part. We just aren't that kind of family but nobody knows what to do. A couple of us have tried to no avail.

I will say, after trying to be allowed to be an aunt, I gave up but had a small chance to make a connection with my nephew a couple of years back. I have been able to talk with my nephew and niece on the phone a few times, see them in person a few times and let me tell you, it is thrilling everytime!

When Marty was sick, something came up and I finally let go. No more chasing, no more trying, I would just walk away and leave her be. I care it with me, a pain unfathomable to most.

Thankfully my sisters of the heart and my sister cousins have helped heal that hole. They love me, support me, listen and do fun things with me. I am so grateful for their role in my life.

I will never give up hope. I pray always and in 2005, I had a sign that their was hope and I cling to that hope that someday things will be healed.

Its tough, I really never imagined things would be this way. I cannot fix it, I cannot change it, I am completely at the mercy of her wishes. I recently read a blog by Ann Voskamp about the heart and estrangement, in the blog she said she would change things in a heartbeat. That is me, in a heartbeat, I would open my life to my sister again.

For me, I move forward. I will say my heart is whole, there is that dark pain but it is what makes me love others fiercely and with unwavering dedication. I smother my sisters of the heart, though sometimes they have to deal with my issues. I fear abandonment, I always fear they will give up on me as easily as blood did, it can be tough for them. I am working on that issue and others, my heart is a scarred place but the scars make me, who I am.

Last year, my friend Mary challenged me to be vulnerable on my blog. This is a part of my life that is no secret but I really never put the details out there. I always want to be careful of what I say or put out there, it is a tenuous situation. This week, after I learned something, I decided to just put it out there. Today is my sisters birthday, I miss her, I wish that we were close but we aren't and that is something I have surrendered to. I love her, I never stopped loving her and never will but that isn't enough sometimes.

Estrangement is a dirty word with ugly meaning. I accept it as part of my life and finally have surrendered to being honest about it. It's not my choice, I cannot change it, I can accept it and keep moving forward.

Maybe by sharing, it will help someone else dealing with the same issue. I always want to portray an honest look at my life, warts and all. Maybe it will help those who have wonderful siblings to love them more and appreciate what they have, you're really lucky. I know many are curious about this and hesitate to ask me, so I wanted to share to answer questions and let people know, its okay to ask me.

A deep dark shame covered my heart for many years. I felt ashamed and like a failure, I didn't want people to know. Finally one day, I really don't remember how or why? I realized that I had nothing to be ashamed of, this isn't my fault and I have tried all I could. Now instead, I accept it, I am open about it and hope my honesty will help someone else.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Year Three, Reflecting on the Journey

The evening we got engaged, Marty and I stood in the Huntington Beach pier parking lot discussing our future. Marty popped another questiong that night, '' If you want to marry me, you have to realize that I don't want to live in California forever and be willing to move away someday.'' I agreed with trepidation and fear that I would be able to leave my family someday.

We had a journey ahead of us that most will never go through in life. Burying his grandma and dad before we were twenty one. Moving away for the first time to Visalia, Ca with our young son Conner in tow. Starting out with nothing, losing a baby, battling Type 1 diabetes, working hard to make a life for our family. We finally had realized our dream of me staying home and Marty working in law enforcement, life was looking up. Plans were being made for me to go back to school and gain a career in case anything ever happened to Marty, that was just passing conversation, nothing serious.

Then a high blood pressure test at work, followed by a trip to the doctor the next day and a phone call on a Wednesday afternoon that threw our world upside down. End Stage Renal Failure at 31 years one moment our lives were turned into a dark tunnel. I always liken it to being in a metal air conditioning shaft with no way to turn or move, the only way is to crawl forward looking for a way out.

We were 30 and 31 years old,  Conner was 9 and Elizabeth was 6 yrs old.

We knew immediately that a transplant was the best solution. We started seeing a Nephrologist who mumbled and looked like Santa Claus with a fiery temper. We were misled by the office staff about the kind of transplant he should have. We wanted him to be transplanted in LA but God closed that door and we were turned to Stanford University, the best in the nation. We traveled in  zero visibility fog getting rear ended in a rental car in one of the multi car pileups on the 99 corridor between Kingsburg and LA. We limped our way to Stanford, shell shocked and thinking our lives were over.

A doctor came into the room and asked a simple question, ''Why doesn't he want a kidney/pancreas transplant? he is the perfect candidate for one.'' We explained that we didn't have seven years to wait for that and were informed that we were misled. The wait for kidney pancreas was one year versus seven years for just a kidney. We agreed and waited to be told he was accepted on the list. He was listed October 8, 2007 and the wait began.

There was a hope he would never have to go on dialysis, he still had kidney function left and there was a chance that might happen. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and he started a regimen of dialysis at home every four hours. It was a nightmare experience filled with terrible things we would like to forget. Machines beeping, waking up every four hours sleepless nights, high blood sugars, passing out at work, high blood pressure that scared us, swollen legs. We wondered would our miracle come?

We put our lives on hold. We didn't leave our town for two years unless we made a trip to Stanford. Our house became a prison of sorts for us.

During this time Marty started dreaming. One day while cooking in the kitchen he said, '' I think that if I get better, I want to move to Peachtree City,GA'', that dream kept us going, it gave us something to cling to and dream about in a very dark time.

We kept hearing that people in southern states were waiting short times for organs and the wait list wasn't as long. It seemed like a good choice all around.

Every day after October 8, 2008 was sheer torture. One year turned into two years and two years turned into three years. We spent so much time waiting for our donor, praying for that family, we always sensed it would be a man. In September 2010, Marty was taken off the wait list briefly due to a doctor calling him non compliant because his phosphorus number was high. We thought for one weekend, death was very certain. One day in December 2010, our family laid in our King sized bed and cried together, Marty's toes were black in a place and we thought he wasn't going to make it.

Then a premonition from Elizabeth on December 17, turned into a call from Stanford on December 20th, Marty was next on the list and we were on stand by.

The call came 1/1/11, forever to remain our lucky day. One last night of dialysis, a morning spent trying to lower his insanely high blood sugar.  1/12/11 Marty was wheeled into the O.R. for a nearly twelve hour operation. He came out with a working kidney and pancreas. The months after were tenuous and stressful, thanks to so many people and help from all over, we made it through.

We took a trip to Georgia, started planning to move in 2013. God had other plans, it wasn't meant for us to go to Georgia. That was just a dream to get us through but the dream of moving became reality. We took a chance at a job offer and moved to Knoxville, TN. Our dream finally became reality.

It has been a tough year of transition and growing pains. We have learned some tough lessons but grown all the way through. We have laughed, cried, prayed, grown, and had adventures together. Everyday we think of Jerry, our eighteen year old donor who gave Marty new life and his mother Debbie, who in her time of grief made a difficult choice. Dialysis and insulin are now things of the past and only hope remains. We are grateful for this gift of life and can never tell you enough.

Our year in review:

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