“It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards.” ~ Lewis Carroll:

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So, this isn’t the post I was going to write today…I had another one mapped out (and it’s a goodie 😳) but I’m putting that off a day or two because I need to process what I’m feeling right now.  I hope you don’t mind.

Today I was at the college for a couple of hours to box up my office since I’m moving to another location in the building; there’s going to be construction where I currently am.  I’ve been in my office for 17 years and I was surprised at how emotional it was to pack it all up.

I have so many letters, cards, drawings, and gifts from students over the last 20+ years and getting them out and looking at them again brought back so many memories.  I had letters from students telling me how much I had helped them when they were facing difficulty, cards saying ‘Thanks’ for all I did teaching our class, drawings of llamas and my Dottie and name designs that hung on my walls, and lots of gifts like mugs, stuffed llamas (see a pattern here?), books, etc.  It really delighted me to know these wonderful young people took the time to say and give these things to me.  I could picture each one of them in my head, and laugh at the memories I shared with them.  I’m somewhat known for often having nicknames for people and I was smiling, with tears running down my face, thinking of the special things I called them (for example, one of my sweeties is my “money beet”…if you don’t get this, watch The Office).

I try very hard in my classes to give a lot to my students…I don’t ‘read the textbook’ to them like a couple of professors I had in college did (yes, they had college even way back then…it was a one room schoolhouse 🙄), but create special lectures and expand on the curriculum content.  I also ask my students what they’re interested in and try to make a pertinent lecture based on their suggestions.  But here’s the thing:  no matter how much I give in my classes, I get so much more.  I love my students…and I don’t say love unless I mean it.  They are my family and have enriched my life more than I can say.

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Then, as I was cleaning out some drawers I haven’t touched for years, I came across a ton (not quite a ‘ton’ but damn close) of pics that I’ve decorated my office with over the years.  I found so many of Hubby 2 and my boy, O, when he was a little guy.  Hubby and I were shown in restaurants, on our front porch, on outings with O, and posing with pets we had had over the years.  I cried as I looked at these, because we did have such a terrific life together.  It was very much a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type of situation and memories of it are so good.

When I look back at the end of our marriage, I know it could have been saved.  No doubt.  I also know I was wasn’t on meds for my bipolar, and that surely played a role in it’s demise.  Handling my ups and downs couldn’t have easy for this man who had no other experience with mental illness and I’m not proud of how I behaved during manic times.  It’s so hard not to have regrets and guilt, and I know that right now my ma is saying – “Kristi, you can’t go back…you did the best you could.”  Well, the thing is:  no I didn’t.  Doing the ‘best I could’ would have been breaking down my denial that anything serious was wrong with me…being honest with our family doctor when he’d ask how I was…and getting my butt to a psychologist for a proper diagnosis with treatment.  And because of all of that, my guilt remains.

Unearthing pics of Hubby 3 was difficult too (I know, I know…they are SO hard to keep track of…I promise not to add another to the freaking mix to help y’all out).  Yes, we are still really good friends and talk daily.  He’s going through some rough times and I’m here for him just like he’s been there for me.  I found pics of us in Chicago where we loved to spend weekends, pics of us at mountain bike races with mud all over our arms and legs,  pics of us at different zoos and in museums, and yes, all of these were rough to go through.  Hubby and I had some tough times (which I’ve written about and I’m sure you’ve read my sweet, loyal peeps) but the good times we had outweighed those significantly.  He was so much fun and no one has ever made me laugh like he can.  Hubby is the one person (outside of ma, sis, and O) who I can tell things to and never ever have them used against me.  He has always accepted me for who I am and I do the same with him.

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Did my bipolar affect our marriage too?  Is that why it ended?  Well… I can definitely say a resounding  ‘yes’ to the first question:  bipolar affects every part of my life, and I know I was a bit much at times when I was ‘high’ (that’s an understatement if I ever heard one and no ma, I don’t do drugs; please don’t run out and get a drug testing kit for me to prove it to you 🙄).  But when I was in a depression, it was even tougher for him.  I’d suddenly not want to do things with him and was much more distant emotionally which brought back memories of neglect when he was young.  I’m sorry I put him through those ups and downs that he didn’t have an explanation for.

Then I found my pics of J.  One of them was framed and had hung on my wall for 3 years; O (professional photographer) took it of us at a wedding we attended and we are facing each other, laughing, and looking into each others eyes.  We both look so happy and in love.  Seeing pics of J brings back bad memories…it’s no secret our relationship was tumultuous, but we had so many great times too.  I think out of all my ‘men’, J understood me the most.  Him having Borderline Personality Disorder (undiagnosed at the time) and PTSD helped him to understand my behavior better, and I tried to do the same with his.  Our biggest problem was each of us not getting the help we both desperately needed to get ourselves stable and our behavior under control .  We were 2 mentally ill people trying to have a ‘normal’ relationship, while doing our best to ignore our diagnoses and their subsequent behaviors.  It’s funny that I’m so much better now…so much more ‘even’ because of my mood stabilizers, yet it came too late.  Had I recognized and then insisted we both get the medical/psychological care we seriously needed, I believe our relationship would have had an excellent chance.  Yes, I still think of him everyday.  And yes, I miss his kids so much I ache.

I’ve talked about guilt before in this blog…as well as regrets, and I see, through all I found today, how much I have failed so many people in my life.

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You know, there were students I could have done a lot more for…students in my classes who may have had pain I didn’t recognize or needed help I didn’t spot.  I could have talked more to individual students.  Listened more.  Asked them more.  I have a feeling my students who read this are saying:  “Shut Up!  You were great!”  But sweeties, I could have been better…and hope to be as I continue in my career.

And why didn’t I get help sooner and maybe have my life on a different trajectory with fewer regrets and losses regarding my personal relationships?  Why didn’t I do this for my marriages?  For my family?  For myself?  Yes, the psychologist that sexually abused me for a couple of years (that fucker…sorry ma) did a number on me trusting any other therapist or counselor, but I could have worked harder at letting someone in.  I could have put the needs of the people in my life over my fear of being used again.  But, I didn’t.  Am I’m so sorry for that.   I’m especially sorry for those that were hurt by my inaction and mental illness…but to be honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Memories are a funny thing.  They can make us laugh and cry…surprise us and anger us…and they can teach us lessons we take with us as we move ahead in our lives.  I know I can’t go back and fix all the wrongs I’ve done and make it up to the people I’ve hurt.  But I can use those memories to make me a more loving, empathic, understanding person that tries her best again and again.  And that, grasshoppers, is what I intend to do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

“Oh, It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night” ~ John Lennon & Paul McCartney

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So, yesterday sucked balls (for some reason I really love this term).  I’m having a bit of a tough week, and yesterday I pretty much lost it.  I’m missing my son and his girlfriend since they are in their own apartment now…I’m working really hard to get my house in order and have a wrenched back and purple/numb finger to show for it…and this week marks the 3rd anniversary of seeing my nephew for the last time before his death.  Also, this is the exact time that J began making plans to see his ex which started his back and forth abandonments and cheating.

In some ways, I’m really proud of how I’m handling things because not long ago, I would have been much worse.  It shows that I have grown and healed to some extent these past couple of years and that I really am stronger.  But it also brings me back to a place that I never wanted to visit again.

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My sis and I were talking about this last week as we discussed things happening in our quarantined lives.  She’s always worried about me…she was my protector growing up and still plays that role today.  I know she’s proud of how far I’ve come since that fucking breakdown 3 years ago, but she also knows once you experience something like that, there’s always a chance of going back.  I have to agree.

Anniversaries are tough, aren’t they?  The anniversary of someone’s death.  The anniversary of a divorce.  The anniversary of a marriage or relationship that failed. The anniversary of a tough time in your life.  As much as we like to put things behind us, they still have a tendency to haunt.

For some reason, I find myself saying “I’m Sorry” an awful lot lately.  It’s almost like I’m going back to a somewhat ‘weaker’ me I thought I had all but buried.  Maybe since these anniversaries are here though,  I find myself going back to being a ‘people pleaser’, just  to ensure I don’t get hurt again.  Hmmm…I don’t know.

One of my precious students messaged me last month and asked me something I’ve had other students deal with as well:  she had been sexually abused as a child and was worried about having a child someday herself.  How would she protect them?  Would she be able to recognize when something was wrong?  How could she open the road of communication early so her child would feel comfortable sharing things with her?  Other students who have been physically abused worry they might end up repeating the generational cycle they were in, that their own parents lived.  I’ve had female students tell me they will never marry or live with man because they are so scared they’ll be in a  domestically violent situation like their mom was.

So, I tell them it’s understandable how these serious past issues are affecting their present.  I talk to them about being conscious of the damage these situations caused will help them in stopping these cycles.  After all, you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge (Dr. Phil 🙄).   I also recommend they develop a support system of friends and family who are aware of the issues, see a counselor to learn how to put ‘safeguards’ in place, talk to their partners about their fears, and to make themselves understand they don’t have to be like those who hurt them.  They can make a cognizant decision to be the kind of parent or partner they want to be, and anyone, with enough ‘want’, truly can break this cycle of abuse.

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

We are all in cycles…patterns…dances…whatever terminology works best for you.  I know I am.  I fall for someone and immediately I’m so elated and excited since I love to love (that sounds like a great title for a song), and I want to share with them, be with them, and get to know all I can about them!  Falling in love excites me; it opens my heart and so much flows from it.  I think this can be attributed to the feeler inside of me…the empath.  This sensitive person I am who when I feel something, I feel it strong and want to share every single bit of myself with that person.  The problem?  It can be hard to keep up!  I know it can be overwhelming.  I know I’m very excitable.  Well…I know I’m bipolar.

I also know that when I’m around others, I try very hard to be the person who never rocks the boat.  It’s almost like Everyone Loves Raymond…I want everyone to love me!  And I guess I’ve learned, through various life experiences, that to do that I need to acquiesce to the wants of others.  To make sure they’re happy. Satisfied.  “If I’m good enough and sweet enough and act happy enough, this person or these people, will have to like me!”  For some reason, I associate any criticism, hearty disagreement, or conflict with the idea the person has ceased to approve of me, and for those of us who are sensitive ruminators who tend to personalize things, this is terrible for us!  As a result, we do what we say we won’t do again:  push our own needs down, do all we can for the other person, envelop them with a love that’s very hard to return, and then take blame for when things go wrong.  I don’t like this dance and I’m trying so hard to change the steps.  But when this is the only way you’ve danced for 50 years, that’s easier said than done.

This fucking bipolar.  I know so many people have it much much worse.  I truly understand that and I thank God every single night about how grateful I am for the blessings I have.  But I still hate this.  It’s so easy for people to say, “Of course I understand you’re bipolar”, but it’s not so easy to understand that if I am more emotional or sensitive to words and behavior than others are, it’s because of this brain illness.  Unless you’ve been there, how do you describe what it feels like to have your brain pushing you one way, when you really want to go the other.  Pushing you to have that emotional, hypersensitive reaction instead of letting you tone it down to what is more appropriate.  What’s more realistic.  You’re fighting an opponent that’s very very difficult to beat.

Maybe I need to put some of those masks back on that I tore off a couple of years ago.  I am starting to understand masks can be a good thing too and we really do wear them more than we think.  Sometimes I say to myself, “OK, Kristi, who do you want to be today?”  When I get into another relationship, will I be able to put on a mask that says: “I’m a bit reserved because I don’t want to give so much that you have the power to destroy me.”  I wonder what that mask would look like?

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There are so many ‘anniversaries’ for me in the spring and summer:  my grandparents dying, 2 husbands leaving, 2 weddings (and no, the weddings and leavings were not necessarily the same people…and yes, I understand this aspect of my life is a freaking soap opera), my nephew, J, my breakdown, etc.  It’s impossible not re-visit these.  To make yourself forget.  And so many of these bring me pain.  Remembering my sweet nephew who was killed on a Naval ship continues to bring tears to my eyes.  Looking back at my weddings and remembering the excitement of starting a new life with this person, and then trying to understand how the marriages fizzled out like they did.  I smile when I remember my grandparents, but get choked up too after all of these years since I wish they were here to hug and talk too.  Having to go back to all J did and trying to still build myself up from being torn down like I was.  And remembering that breakdown.  That fucking breakdown.  Actually, I’m reminded of it everyday since I have scars that mark the time.

I’m going to try to put on a ‘strong’ mask for this summer.  I’m not going to be fake or go back to being someone I’m not.

I just need to consciously remember I’m capable of handling anything that might come my way.  Old memories…new situations…new people.  I’m not going to have the mask completely cover my face though.  I’m going to have more air holes so I can breathe.   More flexibility in how it fits.  A better representation of who I am compared to masks I used to wear.

So anniversaries…memories…do you worst.  I’ve got the ability to handle them now.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty proud of that.

Kristi xoxo

Paper, Plastic or Burlap?

So, I’ve mentioned before that Anne Tyler is my favorite author, and I love her book “Breathing Lessons” so much.  In this, the main character works in a nursing home and a resident there tells her that he believes when you go to heaven, you will be given a big gunny sack with all of the things you lost or miss from your life.  He talks about a red wagon, meeting his wife, an old pet, etc.  It started me thinking about what I would like in my own sack (if I make it to the pearly gates, which I’m planning on), and the realization this sack is going to be ginormous.

One thing I have lost over the years of moving so much is a sweater my grandma knitted for me when I was a teenager.  Of course then I didn’t appreciate the work and time she put into it, but it really was beautiful.  Soft green fuzzy yarn with a v-neck.  I’d love to have that again to wear (does it get chilly in heaven?) and feel that softness against my skin again.

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I think this speaks for itself.  I think I’m going to buy this on eBay. 😉

Grandma also made these God-awful yearly sequined calendars, which my mom actually had to help her with every December since she never got them done in time, no matter when she started them.  Every year was a special ‘motif’ such as cardinals, tea pots, flowers, etc.  And need I remind you, these were all made with sequins.  Oh grandma, these were so hideous, with the calendar dates so small you needed a magnifying glass just to be able to read them, but I tell you what…there’s nothing I’d love more than to have one hanging in my office right now.

By the same token, grandpa used to make a lot of things too.  One year, he made my sister and I stilts.  A high pair and low pair with the high pair being about a good foot off the ground.  They were made from 2×4’s (impressed with my wood knowledge?) and would be outlawed in a minute today!  But for a few years, my sister and I clomped around the neighborhood on them all of the time!  He also made T and I buckeye necklaces after gathering buckets full of them.  I thought they were my jewels and wore them proudly!  I’d pretend that I was a beautiful princess wearing my diamonds, ready to meet my prince Charming (by the way, still waiting…just sayin’).

I’d also love my first library card in my bag.  I can still see it now:  the size of a recipe card, pink, with my signed name on it!  Every Saturday my mom, sis, and I would traipse to the bookmobile and check out armfuls of books.  I liked to read anything and everything, and I know I get that love from my ma…she’s an avid reader and definitely passed that trait along to me and T.  I really loved it when I finally qualified for my ‘Young Teen’ card and could check out books by Judy Bloom!  I finally got to read about periods, french kissing, and, GASP, sex!!  I wonder how many of us learned about all of these things because of Judy?

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Me at the lake…look guys, I look great in a swimming suit (just sayin’)!

When T and I were little, our family went to a lake not too far away and had a room in a small motel with the beach right there.  I know I was pretty little, but I remember the smell!  That sort of musty, watery, buggy smell and for some reason, I still love it today.  I’d love to have that smell in my bag.

My mom gets jealous when I talk about this, but I had a HUGE crush on the speech teacher I had for 3 years!  She taught me how to speak so people could actually understand me, and she had ‘treasures’ we could earn for doing well.  One time, I earned what I had my heart set on for weeks:  a blue canister that had cow sounds when you turned it upside down.  I loved loved loved it!  I also earned Fruit Strip gum once, and never tasted anything so good…it was from Ms. D!

I also remember matching nightgowns T and I had; for some God forsaken reason, mom thought we were twins and dressed us accordingly.  We are 3 years apart.  Anyhoot, they were red plaid flannel and we wore them so much, they became soft and comfy!  I was also into ‘Little House on the Prairie’ at the time, and envisioned myself as the reincarnated Laura Ingalls.  My nightie made me look like it!

One Christmas, when I was probably in the 6th grade or so, my aunt gave me a clear make-up case with lip gloss, mascara, and some powder in it.  I loved that so much!  I’m sure mom and dad spent a lot more on me at Christmas that year, but this was my favorite!  It’s the first time I felt like I was really growing up!

And my first 10 speed!  Baby blue with black taped curved handlebars and I paid for most of it myself!  I don’t even remember who took me to pick it up because I was just too damn excited to ride it, because it was like a ticket to freedom for me.  I rode everywhere around our city and loved the feeling of going fast with the wind on my face.  I still love riding anything on 2 wheels still; and yes, I’m cool enough to have had a Harley!  Oh yeah!

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This is the bike, which can be found in bicycle museums.  ‘Nuff said.

I was in 8th grade when I really wanted to learn to play the flute because my best friend played it so well!  So, she gave me her old flute and I learned on that, and had a ball in marching band, music camp, and just feeling a part of that band-geek community.

When my sis and I were in grade school, my dad surprised us by picking us up from school, taking us to a local shop for greasy bags of buttery popcorn, and then going to a theater to watch “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”!  I’ll never forget how good that popcorn tasted because I was with dad and T doing something so special!  Dad would also call T and I every morning on our birthdays while he was at work.  Back then, getting a call from your dad was truly an awesome thing…we loved them!

OMG.  Ma won’t believe I’m including this, but she had this UGLY outfit comprised of flared capris and a button up shirt in a patchwork quilt pattern.  Go ahead and gag…I’ll wait.  Anyhoot, to be a smartass, I told her how much I loved it, so guess what?  She believed the compliment and bought me one of the damn outfits to match hers.  Fuck.  So, I had to wear it at least a couple of times in front of her, and did so for the first time when my son, his dad, and I met mom at church one Sunday.  I got dressed and asked hubby how I looked.  His fashion sense was not great, but he said:  “My God, you look like a freaking quilt.  Are you really going to wear that in public?”  Unfortunately I did.  Twice.  But having mom buy it for me, and seeing her face when I wore it makes me think I’d wear it again (once) in heaven.  Just to give Jesus a chuckle. (NOTE:  I tried to find a pic of this, and they all must have been burned or banned).

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Taken on the way home…AFTER the weather moved on!

When my son lived in Fort Worth for 3 years, ma and I drove down one Christmas and it was the WORST weather possible!  Sleet, flooding, crawling traffic, ice and as I was driving, we’d hear radio reports saying: DO NOT TRAVEL IN THIS!  Well, were only going 800 miles, so what the hell.  Anyhoot, I’d love to have that time back because we laughed our way through the weather, stayed at the dumpiest motel you could possibly find in Oklahoma where there was 1 towel the size of a notebook, no kleenex (that was an extra amenity not offered), and a man behind bullet proof glass taking cash only in a town of about 3.  But, we barricaded the door, got to Texas, and I got to show ma this awesome state for the first time.  We had a blast!

And there are so many things from my son’s childhood I’d love to bag up!  His sweet smell  on his little bald head, and how he’d give me a slobbery, toothy grin when I’d get him out of his crib in the morning.

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That slobbery face!

The little outfits that were his faves and how cute he looked in them.  Him coming home and handing me a gluey, glittery valentine made out of a doily.  The smell of the ball field for the many summers I watched him play in little league. The look of him in his swimming trunks yelling at me to watch him jump in for the 100th time.  His getting older and going through that awkward stage where he had a face I still loved despite the fact he refused to cut his CURLY hair for a year and he looked like he had a bowling ball on top of his head.  Getting to know him as his adult self where he developed an individuality and independence I’m so proud of.  His hugs even now.  His sweetness that is still there that shines from his face.  

When I think about it, there are so so many things I’d love to have!  The old green love seat in our basement when I was a teen where I made out with some guys…and I know T did the same because I was her look out!   The gold shag carpet in my bedroom that would be actually really funky to have today.  My first car: a 1980 Chevy Chevette complete with racing stripes and a luggage rack (this bag better be really big).  The Mickey Mouse ears I got when we visited Disney Land when I was in the 4th grade.

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It took 20 minutes to boot this gem up.

The smell of a grade school classroom: crayons, glue, freshly sharpened pencils, markers, books, etc.  The feel of my graduation robe when I got my Masters.  My mom’s brown (shit brown) Monte Carlo that my sis would take me riding in…we actually found a street where if she went fast enough, we’d get off the ground (sorry, ma).  My first computer, a Tandy with about a .0000000000001 size gig.  My first sewing machine.  The smell of my first dog, Scooter.  And my gosh, the list would go on and on!!

Looking back like this makes me realize all of the special memories I have and how could I ever make this list complete?  I’ve talked a lot about some bad things that have happened to me in my life, but there are so many good things too!  Sometimes, when you are battling a mental illness, it’s hard to see them because we have to focus so much on getting through the day at times.  But we are so much more than our diagnosis.  We are complex, loving, funny, smart, interesting people who have so much more to us than these…wait for it…fucking bastards of mental illnesses.  I think it’s nice to remember that.

Kristi xoxo

 

Momster in Law.

So, when Hubby 3 (and still best friend) and I started dating, it took a while for him to invite me to his house, and I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I knew his address and stopped by one morning just to say ‘hey’.  When he saw me drive up, he came out before I could get to the door and he said: “I have something to tell you.”  Oh boy, I’ve heard that before.  I figured the jerk was married and he was about to tell me, so I braced myself while he sheepishly said, “I live with my mom.”  OH!  I was relieved but could tell he was embarrassed to be doing this at his age (43).  He said he needed to in order to help her pay for the rent, etc.  No biggie.

Then, I went inside and met her.  She was a large woman, sitting at her table, smoking and looking at me like I was some bonehead her son was hooking up with.  Hmmmm.  I tried talking to her and she basically grunted at me, and when she did speak words, her voice sounded EXACTLY like Marge’s sisters on The Simpsons.  By the way, I can imitate her voice perfectly.

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Mom’s doppelgangers.  🙂

Because of her voice and attitude, I started calling her “Krusty” or “The Krust” (always behind her back, I swear) and tried to befriend her.  I like people liking me and I’m pretty much used to that happening, but I obviously had a lot of work to do.  And, just so you know, she had ‘nicknames’ for me too, such as ‘nitwit’ that she thought she was using behind MY back, but for some reason, I was usually within hearing range.  Go figure.

One night when I was at the house, she made Hubby and I dinner (she was an amazing cook) so I told her I’d do the dishes.  I’m a VERY tidy person and cleaning is second nature to me.  She ‘supervised’ my dish washing from her chair, and after I was all done, she told Hubby that she’d have to re-wash all of the dishes since I didn’t rinse them correctly.  If she didn’t, she said that she’d have the ‘runs’.  Ooookkkkaaaayyyy.  Heh?  Really?  I think I know how to rinse, Krusty.

Through the years, she always came to our house for the holidays, and K loved Christmas!  She had very little money and lived on social security.  But despite that, she always brought every one of my family a BIG sack of presents.  They were all from dollar stores and what-not, but the gifts were picked just for every person.  She truly put a lot of thought into it and I was always touched.  (By the way, she hated everything I got her…just sayin’).

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Mom and Dottie!  She loved her so much!

Something that really surprised Hubby and I was her love for Dottie (my poodle).  Hubby said that Krusty hated dogs, but she spoiled Dottie to death!  It was so sweet to see her with Dot and showed me another side of her.  And, Dottie adored her too (the little Benedict Arnold).

I used to love hosting Thanksgiving and during our first ever, Hubby went to pick up K and I was almost ready to put the meal on the table.  I’m not a great cook by any means, but it wasn’t bad.  When K came in, she was LOADED down with food, and Hubby trailed behind carrying even more casserole dishes.  He also had a brown paper bag.  Basically, The Krust had cooked her own meal, and of course, the dishes were completely homemade (insert your own eye-roll here).  When I looked in the paper bag, I saw bread.  Stale bread.  Krusty looked at me like I was an idiot and said:  “That’s for the stuffing…I don’t want any boxed crap.”  I told her I understood, but our stuffing was done and I didn’t have time to make another batch.  (And of course, mine was StoveTop…straight out of a fucking box.  She refused to eat any).

About 7 years into our marriage, The Krust was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer, and it was obvious she could no longer stay in the assisted living apartment we had moved her into when we got married, and we had to put her in a nursing home.  She didn’t want to live with us.  Period.  A huge problem was that the nursing home wasn’t the best by any means.  She was on medicaid, but we couldn’t afford to place her anywhere else.  The only good thing was that the nursing home was only 2 blocks from our house.

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Mom and the hushpuppies I brought her.

Now, Krusty and Hubby didn’t have a great relationship, even though they had lived together for a couple of years.  Hubbies dad was EXTREMELY physically abusive to him and K would never say a word about it.  She was very neglectful to Hubby and he and his sister pretty much raised themselves.  To add to this, the family was dirt poor.  The first time Hubby got in trouble with the law was when he took an old cast iron stove out of an abandoned barn during winter (that the owners still used for storage apparently) so they could have heat in their trailer.

Because of all this history, Hubby didn’t want to see his mom in the nursing home much…a lot of his childhood memories had come back to him and he said how she never took care of him (literally…for example, he had to walk miles to see a doctor by himself if she thought he was sick enough, and didn’t see a dentist until we were married), and he just didn’t have it in him to take care of her.  I know that sounds horrible, but I can kind of understand.  So, I did it.  I was with her every single day.  Before school, after school, evenings, and weekends.  I knew the care wasn’t as good as it could be in the facility; the CNA’s who did the majority of the daily tasks she needed done were wonderful, but they were stretched so thin, it was hard for them to respond to every need.  That’s what I did.  I did her laundry, brought her food (her fave was hushpuppies from Long John Silvers), combed her hair, decorated her room, helped her in the bathroom, etc.  We also had movie Friday, when I would bring my laptop and we’d watch whatever film she wanted.  (My family was awesome during this time too…they visited her and brought her anything she wanted which was a lot).

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Me and mom during one of movie days. 

A few months after moving her in, hospice care was necessary.  Her cancer had spread and there was no hope that any treatment would lead to more time.  One afternoon, we were watching a movie and she took my hand.  She asked if she could tell me something and I said yes.  I turned off the movie, faced her, and here’s what she said, word for word:  “I was raped by an uncle when I was 4.  And I was raped again when I was 9.”

I was speechless.  EVERYTHING about her suddenly made sense.  Her anger.  Her aloofness.  Her feeling of powerlessness.  Her tough exterior.  I told her how very sorry I was for having suffered through that and she started to cry.  She went on to tell me how horribly Hubbies dad had treated her and how good it felt to be able to tell somebody these things.  I hugged her (for the first time) and she looked at me and told me how she hadn’t liked me at first.  Then I told her that I hadn’t liked her either!  And then she said this in her Simpsons voice: “But I love you now.”  I told her I loved her too.  And I meant it.  I truly did.  That was the day I started calling her mom.  The first time I did it, she smiled a wonderful, genuine smile that opened my heart fully to her.

The last month of her life was something I’ll always remember.  Releasing that burden made her light up.  We laughed, we cried, we got to know each other and became friends.  She and Hubby made peace as well, and the night she died, he was there.  His friend came to the house to get me, and I rushed up to her room.  She had already passed, holding Hubbies hand, and I stroked her cheek and told her how much I loved her.  I knew she was finally at peace.

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The last picture I took of mom.  I’m so happy she’s wearing that robe…it was her favorite.

Krusty will always be a happy memory for me.  I can laugh at things she said and did those first few years and I cherish the last.   Isn’t it amazing how much more we can understand a person by listening to their story?  I wish she had told me sooner.

That’s why I blog.  To share my story.  To share my experiences and memories and life with my own issues and mental illnesses.  It’s out there so people can understand that we are all complicated human beings who can be so easily judged for one thing or another.  I judged The Krust (and I hope you know I use that with love) without knowing her past…and it was wrong of me.  She had a reason for her demeanor and behavior and I wish now I would have really talked to her more when we first became family.  Maybe we should ask more about others’ stories while sharing our own.  Imagine how many walls that would break down in our relationships.

Rest in peace, Krusty, and I know I’ll see you again.  And yes, I’ll let you teach me how to make homemade stuffing once and for all.

Kristi xoxo