Mi Tio Gilberto

There is a lot of pain floating around in my heart about my uncle’s passing. There is a lot of anger towards lots and lots of people. There is also the question of did I do enough. The thing is that he would not want me to remember him that way, he was the kind of guy that was never angry or annoyed, he was always laughing or trying to make others laugh.

He was one of those grown ups that always made me feel like my opinion mattered. Even from when I was really young he always asked me what I thought. That was empowering, and probably one of the reasons I have always been so self-assured. If my uncle thinks my opinion matters, then it must.

I still remember the day he got his prized car, a baby blue jaguar. What does he do? He hands the keys over to me and tells me to take it for a spin. I was young and only had my license for a couple of years at the time but he was very willing to trust me with his awesome ride. Come to think of it, any time we were together in a vehicle and I was old enough to drive I was the one taking him around.

Years passed, his sickness got a hold of him and I now had to drive the car because he could not anymore.

I remember the last time I drove the jaguar, it had been sitting for probably a couple of years with little or no use. The vehicle was in very poor condition and I had to tell him that I did not feel safe driving it unless we took it in and had it looked at. I hate the fact that I had to tell the guy that never told me no and always made me believe in the impossible, no… about his car, about him getting better, about the reality of a terminal illness.

Nothing that I say will ever convey who he was, you had to meet him to really experience his larger than life attitude. I am glad that Heather had a chance to meet him, even though it was when he was already beaten up and almost defeated he made it a point that I lifted his had for him so he could shake Heather’s hand and mouth nice to meet you because he could not say the words anymore.

I have many good memories of him and I am holding onto them very much. We spent lots of time together the last couple of years driving around to and from doctor appointment to hospitals but we had great conversations. He told me about his childhood and growing up, also about all the hell he used to raise when he was young. He always had a smile, always had a joke and most of all he loved life.

I am so sad that you got taken away so young Tio. I am glad you got to see the world and experience life. I love you, and I miss you so much.

Types of Love

Have you ever heard about the languages of love? if you have not (and you are in a – or interested into being in a – relationship) you should really look into it.

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/

The first time I heard about this was after I was already on my way to getting divorced. Gwen and I are actually great friends now, and we were back then as well. When it came to love we did not communicate. I never actually looked into the book or took the assessment back then. From the casual conversation we had she and I both assumed that I would receive love from “acts of service”… then recently I actually took the test. Come to find out that while that is how most of my life I have received love, its actually not my dominant language of love. Mine sits very high on “words of affirmation.”

My life has changed quite a bit during the last couple of years. Losing my grandfather was a huge blow to my family and it opened up a lot of questions to me about the future. Having lunch with a close friend this week made me come to the conclusion that we become who we are thanks to people that tell us we can accomplish things. We have to believe it, but it helps to have someone encourage it. Someone telling you that you can’t do it can also have a very powerful effect. I was lucky enough to meet both of my grandfathers but now both of them are not with us anymore. I had been preparing myself to face the death of my uncle who is still terminally ill and I had not considered my Grandfather actually dying. Losing people that believe in you can make you feel very alone.

Since I was very young I tried to convince myself that I did not really need anyone. It was a defense mechanism that I built to protect myself. While I do have a very independent and self reliant personality, this could not be further from the truth, we all need other people. I started to realize how much I need a partner in crime that supports me not just in words but in action. My sister put it simply to me recently, because of the way we grew up (in kind of a very dysfunctional household) we really did not learn anything about healthy relationships when it came to marriage.

Languages of love aside, I have my own classification of attraction. Intelligence, personality and physical. Without being too crass about the whole thing, while in my past serious relationships I thought there had to be a dominant one. My first relationship was all about personality. We were and still are very good friends, however we were intellectually incompatible for many reasons and while the physical was never an issue we both have agreed that the fireworks with others have been way better.

The rest of the relationships I had were very physical in nature. Not one night stand kind of situations, but just something were attraction was the main driver and personality and intellectual attraction had nothing to do with it.

Maybe that was always my mistake, that I thought that one of those three facets being exceptional would make up for the other two being just ok. I always thought it was unrealistic or perhaps I had never met someone that could engage me on all levels at once. Looking at my parents, I think they also did not look at the whole picture and ignored the fact that their personalities were complete opposites. You could not find two more polar opposites if you looked. My sister and I lived it our whole life with tons of emotional scaring to show for it.

Opposites attract is what people say, but there is something to be said about how people give and receive love. If you don’t speak the same love language and are not willing to learn and use it, love will eventually extinguish. I have always tried to nurture love in my relationships, thing is that when there is love there should not be a lot of trying it should just be allowed to grow. Relationships DO take lots of work, the key is that the work should not feel like work, it should be something that you do gladly for the other person, something you do for love. My friend looked at me with a knowing smile across the table when I told him about how effortless everything felt now.

By choice I have gone through most of the things in my life alone. I have opened up little by little to more of my friends. It still not easy to do and with everything that went on with my uncle I know I felt alone. Thing is though, I don’t feel alone anymore. Since Heather and I started talking I have had something I did not expect, someone that wanted to listen to what I had to say. Someone to encourage and advice me, as well as let me know that I can do better when I let my emotions take a hold of me. I cannot begin to describe what it feels like to have the person by your side… I guess it is why I now understand things like “when you know, you know.”

The fireworks went from being bought in a roadside tent to full on 4th of July fireworks display over lake Michigan. The inside jokes we already have keep us laughing constantly, its hard to even type this without chuckling. We might not be in the same professional field but we are both darn good at what we do. Our languages of love match almost like mirror images of each other. We use phrases like “meant to be” and they don’t seem cheesy. I never thought I would find someone that actually encouraged my “want to be happy every day” attitude. We have different approaches at many things but end up at the same conclusions, respect, family and the value of strong bonds. To say I’m pretty freaking happy does not begin to cover it, so I quote something she said to me this week. “I’m so glad we are solid.”

Hating Presents

You know what one of the best presents I ever got? a Pandaren Brewmaster Deluxe Figure from Blizzard. DeGuia seems to always get me something very awesome for my birthday. I am not materialistic and did not expect such an awesome present from anyone but he went out of his ways to get me something I would really enjoy. He also got me the Game of Thrones books which I am still enjoying. I start with this because I don’t want to seem ungrateful on my post, because I am for everything anyone does for me but it has taken a while to be ok with getting presents.

I used to hate my birthday being celebrated. Partly because it was seldom celebrated and even forgotten, but it also had to do with getting presents. I was very dismissive of getting things I did not want growing up. I remember getting upset when I felt that people getting me presents put no thought into it. You know that saying “its the thought that counts…” well even that saying can be a double edge sword. You can still get a present and it have little or no thought behind it.

I love family. I love my family. My extended family can and has driven me nuts in the past. I don’t understand them completely yet, but I have started to as I get older.

People give and receive love in different ways, and while I could talk about it from a relationship standpoint it can also do with how you interact with your family.

I used to dislike the fact that being part of a big family meant that every single weekend there was a party for something or other. I also used to get very annoyed when kids birthday turned into adult gatherings. As I get older and become part of the “adult” group I start to get it a little more.

For the more social people in the family gathering together every weekend means something. If you have Italian friends and have been lucky enough to be invited to a Sunday dinner you know how important they are to them. Being social to some people is what family is all about. The birthdays, graduations and other gatherings are simply excuses just to see each other. I did not appreciate that before, but now that I get a little older I am starting to.

I still think that a birthday party should be about celebrating the person and not an excuse for the grown ups to get their “drink” on. I do however respect the fact that family might just want to spend time with everyone. Its hard to make the switch and start liking birthdays, gatherings and presents but I am working on it.

Family is very important to me and I am glad that I have so many people in the world that want me in their lives. I still don’t want people to make a big fuss over my birthday, but I am now more willing to celebrate it so I can see family and friends. It might not be the way I receive love, but if that is the way that some of those around me do, what is wrong with sharing the love?

Who To Love

I write to sort out my thoughts. I also have hundreds of entries that have never been posted for that very reason. This one is one that I have been dealing with but not knowing if I should write something just for me or if it should be shared. I decided on the later because of how much it is really touching my life.

My uncle has ALS. He is entering the final stages and it is ripping me apart. This week the dreaded day came where I went to visit and he did not wake up, he was not alert. I know he will be again, but the day approaches where I he might not be responsive. I have been tracking his deterioration mentally for a couple of years now with percentages. His upper extremities are at 0% now, even the side to side wiggle he used to do with his fingers is gone, his legs are now bellow 10%. His head remains the most active but even that is hard to gauge now. He seems depressed, he seems angry, he seems to finally be losing it and wants to trow himself from his bed.

To say that this is hard to watch is a understatement. The side story is the one that comes with a lesson.

I did not know that one of the big decisions with ALS is “vent or no vent”

I was aware of the whole feeding tube part, but did not realize that there are more tubes involved as well. And with no living will, things get a little trickier… OK a lot more complicated.

Let him die with dignity… and I guess that means him not knowing what he has and keeping the hope alive that he will get better.

True to my black sheep persona I was alone in team reality for 2 years. People started coming to my team little by little until there is only 2 people standing on team denial. However, one of those people is the decision maker that is pushing for extending life as long as possible.

My first big blow out came after the long hospital visit where he was outfitted with is trach and feeding tube.

Me: We need to start thinking of next steps, palliative care, I don’t want him to suffer.
Denial: Don’t even mention the word death in front of him.
Me: We cannot ignore it he is going to die.
Denial: I forbid you from even saying that word in front of him.
Me: He is not going to ever eat again, or more than likely even talk.
Denial: I have been the one dealing with those things and I will keep him alive as long as possible.
Me: That is no life, he stopped living the day he asked me what he should do. I have been dealing with the reality that he will die since that day.

… then I walked away, I felt the anger rising, I felt the rage just boiling over… I felt powerless… I cannot fight the disease, I cannot fight the person that is going to keep him “alive.”

And here is where the title of the post gets tied into all of this. Nobody knows what goes on in the middle of a relationship. You only see glimpses. Actions do speak louder than words… and I have seen a lot of actions lately, actions against a person that is almost completely paralyzed and cannot walk away anymore.

The first one came some months ago. One of the many extended family friends that stepped out to the plate to take care of my uncle at night decided to not do it anymore. It was not because he could not take the burden but because every little thing seemed to set “denial” off. “Denial” will then spend the rest of the night arguing with my immobile uncle about, money, or family, or past transgressions. I wish that was the first glimpse but some years back my uncle took a “sanity” vacation away from it all. The fact that he used to have to “sneak out” to visit family was always a clue, but from my black sheep point of view I could see how that seemed at least logical… trying to keep the party in peace.

One of my uncle’s saying resonates strongly with me… “Love does not last in an empty belly.” I used to take it as an encouragement to always be a good provider. Now I doubt that it meant that to him… I have more questions than answers, but he is not able to communicate as before and I wish I knew so much more than I do… in my eyes, love would foster compassion, and may actions right now don’t seem to be about compassion.

You have to be very careful about who you end up with, you never know who will be making decisions for you. Write a living will, know how that other person would react. I used to think that being a caregiver for your spouse was a given, but not everyone is equipped emotionally or physically. The last 2 years of seeing my uncle like this have really made me evaluate my life and what I want from it. It is not just about who to love, it is also about who truly loves you.

Villain vs Victim

When I have a lot on my mind, the best way for me to deal with things is to write about it. I share it with others in the hope that it might help someone as it helps me to put my thoughts in order.

My parents got a divorce when I was in my early 20s. It has been one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to go through. I did not realize back then how much it affected the next 5 years of my life. For me, family was the most important thing in the world and in one short week I went from having a family (dysfunctional, but it was my family) to being on the street and looking for a place to live.

Even as a quasi-adult, being a “kid” of divorced parents was hard. The first thing that happened was that you had to “pick” sides. I did not feel like I picked sides at all, but then I started to understand that there is a whole villain vs victim mentality that would become a theme every time that a divorce happens.

“OMG SOMEONE HAS TO BE BLAMED!”

It still pisses me off to this day that every conversation about the subject has to have a quick discussion about who is the one that “fucked up.” Sure, everyone draws lines in the sand and some people have the talk about 50/50 but in reality there is never a villain and most of the time there are only victims.

This post does not dismiss the fact that there are relationships where one of the people is mentally or physically abusive to their partner. Those are valid reasons to leave. It is not that simple though, and I have a huge issue with the whole “you decided to leave” mentality.

The one that is “left behind” is the one that suffers. It is a short-sighted view that assumes that the other person does not feel. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people in divorces that really had no clue the other person had already moved on emotionally and are surprised. Getting into a routine in a marriage is quite easy and, eventually, monotony can set in. Divorce can be a surprise to one of the parties, but that does not automatically makes that person the “victim.”

I know in the divorces I have been closely involved with both parties knew that something was wrong for a long time. Sometimes steps were taken to correct those things, sometimes steps were taken to ignore those things. In the end it is seldom, at least in my experience, that divorce comes as a total surprise.

I have my own rejection issues. I don’t let those cloud my judgement though. The person that does the dumping is no braver or more victim in the situation. Being the woman in the relationship does not automatically make you the victim either, yet a lot of people think that way.

Trust me when I tell you that the feeling that someone chose something else, alcohol, another person, a job, a lifestyle over you does not make it easier to dump that person. In my experience at least it took a lot of thinking and trying to make things work before the decision was made. I know with my parents they tried for years to make things work, made many changes… heck even a move to a different country made things hopeful, but what is not meant to be cannot be changed. Specially not when both people are not committed to the change or making things work.

Without getting too personal about my parents divorce and from knowing both of them my whole life, their relationship was doomed from the start. It was not a relationship based on mutual trust and it created tons of issues that continued to escalate during the 20+ years that it lasted. While you can say that lack of communication skills might have contributed, they were just really not meant for each other.

Marriage is work, but it should not feel like work. The work that you do should be done gladly. You should be able to do the things you need to do to make the relationship successful, not just because you’re expected to, but because you want to.

I see what my Mom has now, with the love of her life – they have been together for 8 years now, they have never had a fight, they are still in love like they used to be the first day. That gives me tons of hope. It makes me think that some day I can have the same thing in a relationship. It makes me long for what they have. It really makes me realize that I am not stupid for wanting to be happy every day, that it is possible, and that the person who deserves to be by my side for the rest of my life, is someone who finds that desire endearing and not foolish.

I wish everyone involved on that situation could have had the same happy ending. The more I live, the more I see that it is truly a personal choice to reach that level. You cannot make others happy… I keep saying… it has to come from within… and life keeps on lashing me with that thought over and over.

With what I am going through myself now, I am not interested in being the villain or the victim. I am not interested in rehashing the past 2 years or even the past 6. I am only interested on moving forward and learning from this experience. I know I did a lot of growing the last couple of years and I know I am better person because of it. I know what I want and don’t want out of my life. I know that to be happy I have to be around other happy people. I have taken steps towards that in many ways and it has improved my life a lot.

*This is my blog and I reserve the right to delete any comment that I find to be not of my liking. Just letting you know before you state your “opinion.”

Go to top