A Letter to My Step-Grandpap

You were so much more than the title you held in my life.

You were sophisticated, down-to-earth, classy, loving, kind and generous.

You took in a child — not your own and gave him not just your name but… everything about you.

I am so sorry that he couldn’t see the incredible person and gift you were.

What a gift — the gift of you!

I caught some glimpses of your amazing light in this world, and I’m forever changed and grateful because of it.

I saw you bail out your stepson (my stepdad) so many times. I was a benefactor of your generosity, as were my siblings and mom.

When we got evicted from our apartment, you bought a house and contracted it for your stepson to make payments.

I know you gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I also know he didn’t deserve it.

We weren’t homeless, and that is 100% because of you and your kindness and generosity.

I remember staying with you and grandma Alice (your second wife) for the first time when I was six or seven years old. I remember she was giving me a bath and you walked in. I remember hiding my body in shame and you were very nonchalant, and said it’s nothing you hadn’t seen — but you respected my privacy and walked out the door closed behind you.

I was trying to remember if this happened before or after your stepson molested me, and I can’t remember.

What I do remember is that grandma Alice took me shopping and bought me a brand new outfit and I was beyond thrilled. I remember the red purse you gave me one Christmas with my initials engraved on it, and you put a dollar inside — because as you told me, it’s bad luck to give someone a purse with no money inside.

I remember you remarried after Alice died, and your third wife, Lucille, was special too. I still have an ornament she made for me nearly 39 years ago.

This is my one of my fondest memories of you is knowing you were a writer….

I don’t remember if was for the newspaper, but I tend to remember it that way. You had a desk and a typewriter at home. You put fresh paper in your typewriter and let me type away (just gibberish letters). You pulled the paper out of the typewriter and read to me this amazing story that I had somehow written. It was a story about a rabbit and its adventures. I was so elated that I could have possibly created that, and even more magically, I believed you.

I took my typed story and asked your stepson (my stepdad) to read it to me again — but he couldn’t. The magic was always between us.

Thank you

I want to say thank you for the love and the many lessons you taught me over the years

Thank you for bringing me out of my shell. 

Thank you for helping me overcome my fear of flying.

Thank you for taking me to the ocean for the first time.

Thank you for Italy; it was truly the trip of a lifetime.

Thank you for teaching my daughter to cook and to drive.

Thank you for teaching me to keep toxic people at arm’s length.

Thank you for always allowing me to maintain my independence.

Thank you for calling me the “love of your life” on stage – in front of a crowd of people – and for honestly meaning it at the time.

Thank you for seeing me through the death of my first grandchild; I am not sure I could have done it without you.

Thank you for helping me grow in so many ways. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you, and I will be forever grateful for those gifts.

And mostly…

Thank you for smoking cigars even though I’m allergic.

Thank you for not showing up while I battled breast cancer.

Thank you for not being there when my mother died.

Thank you for all of your unkindness during one of the hardest years of my life.

Thank you for kicking me while I was down.

And thank you for cheating.

I’m grateful for these gifts as well — because they made letting go of you so much more bearable.

The End Of A Decade

Twenty years — it’s nearly the number of years he and I had been together; practically a lifetime.

We had been happy for many of those years. In the latter years, the crimes between us grew deeper, and in the end, the ultimate betrayal led me to throw him out.

It was my home — a home I shared with him for nearly 17 of those years. My home — the home that now shows practically no trace of him. I have reclaimed it for myself, and it’s been a true symbol of what I have been doing for some time within my heart.

I had begun feeling the distance between us widen over the last year or so. At first, I thought it was my cancer diagnosis; however, as the weeks and months went by it became clear to me there was someone else — someone else when I needed him the most. I went to many of my doctor appointments alone. I was alone and felt ashamed that this person was supposed to “my person”, and he wasn’t there for me. I didn’t tell my family or friends as I went through cancer alone.

I asked him about the widening gap between us many times and even went as far as to tell him that I wouldn’t hold him. I never wanted to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me. 

I would have gone looking for evidence sooner — evidence of what I already knew in my heart; however, I was pretty busy surviving cancer, the loss of my cousin to lymphoma, the loss of two friends (one very close to me), the loss of my mother and then the diagnosis of Lymphedema – a complication of cancer treatment.

So, when I eventually found some footing, I went looking for proof. It wasn’t hard to find as he’s a public figure. I found picture after picture on the internet of them smiling together. It was incredibly crushing to see him so happy in every picture. It seemed that while I was fighting for my life, he was having the time of his. How can the person that is supposed to be “your person” kick you when your down?

Finding out via social media angered me in a way I’ve never felt before even though I knew in my heart this had been reality. But actually seeing the evidence was indescribable. Our relationship seemed to have ended in that final moment, but it had truly ended long before.

We build relationships in small moments over time, and in small moments of time, we can also lose them.

Brass In Pocket (I’m special)

Where do I even begin with this story?

I guess I’ll start here….
A lady in the trailer court where I lived with my aunt was looking for a babysitter. She was a single mom with two young boys — a cocktail waitress working till wee hours of the morning.
I was a high school kid looking to get away from my family my boyfriend at the time — and pretty much everything in my life. It was a recipe for disaster. She wasn’t that much older than me in retrospect; however, at the time, it seemed like we were a lifetime apart.

She was a teen mom who married the father of her child and later her second child. He cheated, she was angry and she set some of his things on fire. She actually set his underpants on fire and applied them to his back. At least that’s the story she told me. They were both so cruel. Both so focused on their own lives, and the boys seemed lost.

I stayed there four to five nights a week —sometimes more. I would cook the boil-in-bag meals she had in the freezer for them after school. I was responsible for them completely. I made sure Bobby was ready for football practice, and that he did his chores. Timmy would pick out his own mismatched clothes. I made sure they were bathed, teeth brushed and in their beds at night. I got them — and myself — off to school every day.

The boys I babysat were sweet boys. The older challenged me at every turn, but he was a good soul. “Mel please do my dishes” (while wearing his football helmet & uniform). “I’ll pay you,” he said. My reply was first of all, you have no money and second, your mom said you have to do them and then get your ass off to football practice.

They played Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders (a 45 on the record player) over and over. To this day, I can’t hear that song without being transported back to that time and that place. It’s the very reason I’m writing this.

They almost always needed lunch money or milk money or both. They knocked on their moms bedroom door but she would have the door locked. She was asleep or passed out, and most of the time, with a man. I did my best to shield them. 
I gave them money for milk for lunch. Their mother never paid me back. In fact, she rarely paid me the wages I was owed. They would call their mom Mel and then catch themselves, “I mean mom.”

I loved those boys, and I try to remember that I myself was a kid too.

After I put them to bed my friends and I smoked pot sometimes. And sometimes we drank.
The day when Bobby locked himself in the bathroom to get high, I was freaked. He was 10 maybe 12? My friend and I picked the lock to find him high AF in the bathtub. I screamed at him — he only laughed. He had a sunny disposition and always made me laugh. I could never stay angry at them for long.

I stopped sitting for them after graduation I think — maybe before. Their mom wanted me to move in, but I was ready to move on. I had been saddled with so much responsibility so young that I needed to move on even though I knew I’d miss them.

Some years later after I was married, while reading the newspaper, I saw that Bobby had died in a house fire. He had fallen asleep while smoking.
If only I had been a better example….
His mom never came to his funeral. She had moved out of state and Bobby was living with his dad.

I try to remind myself that I was a kid too, and yet, I still sometimes carry the weight of his death. I’m no longer sure it’s my weight to carry.
I somehow found a way to show up for those boys every day. We clung to one another. I knew the feeling of not being seen or loved, and I know they knew that feeling too. We did our best, all of us kids. We did our best to love one another in spite of and through our brokenness.

A Lesson in Love and Life

I hadn’t seen him in a decade. We met the last time he was in the area for a family reunion. We had dinner; we had drinks; and we talked of things past and present — his recent divorce, his daughter and his family. His family was one that I was once a part of and one that was better to me than my own. They were solid and stable, and while he saw them with all of their flaws — to me they were perfect. I missed them when we parted ways, but I stayed in contact distantly.

This recent visit was due to the death of his brother (who was merely three years older than us). He’s the brother I have many fond memories of. It seems pretty surreal. And it feels like just yesterday that we were all kids.

This visit was of course different. It was somber at times as we spoke of his brother, our families, where our lives had been and currently are and even how COVID has impacted us. Both of us are very social, and it has taken its toll. We also spoke of his dad and how fragile he has become now in his 80s. We spoke of work, lack of work and simple things. We talked of our travels — his more than mine — as I’m much less traveled than he. We shared memories of my crazy aunt and uncle. We laughed about my aunt’s shoplifting antics that are funny now but weren’t at the time-
at least not for me.

Him and I met when we were just 14 years old. I had moved to the area to live with my aunt after I was removed from my home by social services. We became fast friends, and later we would become a couple.

I had been sexually abused – my body repeatedly touched without my permission – since I was a seven-year-old girl. It would be with him that I would choose to give myself to someone emotionally and physically for the first time. It was him that taught me I could be safe with someone. Something happened that changed us, something that I won’t go into here.

Rolling off of yet another trauma, I went on to meet and began dating my then future husband and now ex-husband. I couldn’t shake my first love so easily, and I spent many years wondering about him. I asked his family about him on occasion. Was he happy? I secretly hoped not. I secretly wanted him to still love me. It seemed to make no sense as I am the one that ended it.
It seems a lifetime ago that we were high school sweethearts — a lifetime ago that I walked away from him and his family.

We have come full-circle and back to simply being friends. We’ve gone back to the ease of just being together, laughing, talking and remembering.

Since he’s gone home, the distance is beginning to widen again. I can see the reasons and circumstances surrounding why we parted so much more clearly now.

It’s interesting how life brings us together sometimes intermittently. Perhaps to remind us of where we’ve been and to show us how far we’ve come. I will always have fond memories of when we were kids, and I’m grateful for the friendship and the love we shared —
as well the lessons taught and the perspective gained. I wish him all of the best,
and while our love may have been for just a time, it has impacted me nearly a lifetime.

The Rescued

I’m not sure how we came together, you and I …serendipity I suppose. I was looking for a rescue, but little did I know at the time, it was actually I that would be rescued.  

I wish I could remember how it happened. It’s truly frustrating for me — as I typically have an impeccable memory. 
But things that I do remember are our very first video chat. You were a snuggle bug and you still are. We went through many milestones together— both yours and mine, and we grew together through every one. 
And I taught you simple things while you were teaching me the big things. Things like unconditional love acceptance and an appreciation for simple things.

To say I’m grateful for you doesn’t come close. You have forever changed my life in the best way possible and
every morning when I wake, you are there with a snuggle.

So, on your first birthday I want you to know that I love you even more than the day I brought you home, and I suspect I will love you more every single birthday for as long as either of us are alive. You have my whole heart. I love you in a way I will never share with another.

Thank you for rescuing me. ❤️

Having No Name…

I posted an article on Facebook today about the Holocaust and its 75th anniversary. 

“And they said, ‘From now on you do not answer by your name. Your name is your number.’ And the delusion, the disappointment, the discouragement that I felt, I felt like I was not a human person anymore.” —Lilly Appelbaum, Auschwitz survivor

I must say that I am in no way trying to compare my life with those that survived the Holocaust; I cannot compare my experience at all. But, I was however triggered and thrown into memories of when I too had no name — when I too felt discouraged and not like a human person. 

I no longer remember the specific reason this came about except that I had angered my abusive stepfather in some way. It wasn’t difficult to do. He demanded to the entire household that I should no longer be called my name. I would be referred to “it” “thing” “that”. My name was not to be spoken by my mother or my brothers, lest they then find themselves as targets. He barked orders to my mom “make thing … ”, “tell it ….”, and when he spoke to my mom he referred to me as “it”, “that” or “that thing”. He never spoke my name, and when he spoke the alternate words,
it was like poison coming from his lips — from his soul. He made me feel like I was poison — as though I had in some way deserved this. I felt isolated and alone and inhuman, all in the place where I should have felt safe and loved. I don’t remember how long this went on, but I do know that in my young mind, it seemed like a lifetime. I think I may have been 10 or 12 years old at the time (it’s a bit blurry now). Time has smoothed many edges of these memories over the years.

My mother never came to my defense and I resented for her this, as well as well other things that happened between us. We were estranged on and off throughout my life, and were estranged at the time she died. But I do wonder if perhaps she felt she was poison too? Perhaps she could no longer speak her truth. Was this really her truth too? Perhaps he had stolen her power and made her feel worthless? He certainly knew how. She was young, a mere 25 or 26 years old with a 14-month-old baby when my father died. She was vulnerable. Did he use her vulnerability against her as he did me?

I’ll never know for sure I can only speculate. 
I was a child and still a person, but I didnt see so clearly then. I felt powerless, helpless and alone through much of my childhood. Though I now know I was none of those things, and they were simply situations, feelings and perceptions.

I would eventually find my strength, my power and even some love along the way.

How?

How do you pretend that a lifetime spent with someone has vanished? That it never existed? 
With my children’s father this option doesn’t exist, so there is little conversation.

With my partner of nearly 20 years, this would seem to be an option. But is it? There are those that love me that would rather I dont speak of him or perhaps I should say they don’t want me to speak of him at all.

Twenty years of my life — I’m to forget, lock away and never speak of? 

It wasn’t perfect, and I need to preface with the fact that I don’t miss him or miss having him in my life. That is not to say that there aren’t moments that I do miss. There was absolutely good in those years, and I do miss those at times.
I mostly miss the moments when I was really vulnerable, and he scooped me up and didn’t ever once make me feel ashamed for it. If I needed help, he knew sometimes before I did and made helping seem easy and natural.

I don’t however miss the moments when he was critical or how I worried about when he would no longer find me attractive – because I knew he would be gone. I never spoke about this, but I always knew deep down the time would come. The good moments felt worth the risk at the time. The ability to love unconditionally seemed to escape him at times, and I’m not sure where that came from as his family is unconditionally loving warm and kind. Perhaps the entertainment industry and its superficiality had an impact.
It wouldn’t be surprising as he’s been an entertainer since he was four years old.
We came from different worlds he and I. I grew up in an abusive, poverty-stricken home. He had a loving family, and though his parents were divorced, both of them loved him dearly.
I never really felt the love of family like he had.

When I speak of his kindnesses, my daughter reminds me that this is just what people do for one another. I then remind her of how kindness was such a rare occurrence in my life prior to that point which I guess is why it meant so very much. When he was no longer kind and even going so far as to become unkind to me, I needed him gone from me and out of my life. All of these events are part of my life – part of my story. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

All of us are changed by others we share our lives with. For good or bad, our strengths and weaknesses are shaped by those that came before. I learned many things from him, both good and bad, and I wouldn’t be who I am without having had him in my life. The relationship is over; however, the memories remain. I am grateful for the lessons he taught me. I’m grateful that I can now see the relationship in the rear view and not be chained by anger and bitterness. I am grateful that I can remember the good without longing to hold on. This story, our story is just that now. There was no happy ending but are endings ever happy? This chapter of my life is closed. I’m living a new chapter now. Just like all of the stories of my life, they are my stories to tell and I will tell them.

Who Knew?

Recently, I purchased my very first appliance since I’ve been living alone. This doesn’t seem to be a big accomplishment in life — but for me perhaps, it’s symbolic.

I remember buying my first refrigerator with my then husband. We bought it from a local company in the scratch-and-dent section. We were young and didn’t have much money. But, I think that fridge outlasted our marriage of 16-ish years.

The next set of appliances I purchased were for a home that I shared with someone I was living with. We had been living in a place with appliances; however, with a raise in rent it was decided we move to something more practical. The only problem was that appliances weren’t included. We went together and picked out a refrigerator, dishwasher and stove. Mind you, I was a single mom who made a fraction of what my partner did at the time, and I said I would purchase the appliances. There was no argument — just a simple ok, and I had a credit card of debt while still paying half the rent and utilities. I wanted a gas stove, but since there was no hookup, I was forced to have an electric stove for the first time in my life! I hated it at first but learned to live with it — again, maybe this was perhaps symbolic.

The stove I bought for us many, many years ago began to fail around the same time as our relationship. We tried to repair the stove several times — the most recent in 2018. This stove, even on its last leg, would still outlive our relationship.

So fast forward…and all men are gone. I’m currently living in the house I bought on my own and recently replaced that electric stove that I was never really happy with. And I bought a gas stove!!! It is my first appliance purchase without having to consider anyone but myself. I never thought I’d find myself alone at this point, and it can be somewhat sad at times, but at this point, it’s rather liberating!

A Letter to My Ex….

The first time you came on my radar was maybe more than a month or so ago. I was meeting a friend for dinner at a restaurant. The one where you and I hung out at for many years. I hadn’t been there in more than a year or even possibly two years, but it was a nice day, and my friend and I decided to meet there.

I arrived shortly before her and saw some other friends that I hadn’t seen in some time. One of them had told me I just missed you and that you weren’t with your girlfriend. I thought it was odd in the moment but didn’t give it further thought.

A few weeks later, a friend asked me to meet him there for happy hour — so I did. I sat down with my puppy waiting for him and I saw you sitting alone a few tables over. I don’t think you noticed that I saw you because I wouldn’t look directly your way. I saw you checking me out. And yes, I looked good in my sundress and heels; I’m so glad you noticed. My friend eventually came, and you noticed him too. I’ll assume that you thought he was my date. I know you’ve met him before when we were together, but it’s likely you don’t remember. We greeted with a hug and then sat down. I noticed you turned your chair around so that your back was to us after that. Did it sting seeing me with another man? I noticed you left shortly after. 

I began hearing from friends that they had been seeing you there several times a week — always alone. This seemed a little odd, but I know you golf locally and maybe you were just stopping by afterward. When I met my happy-hour buddy for his birthday, it was after 7 p.m., and there you were. Alone. I realized you weren’t really coming from golf, and now I was getting a different picture of the situation.

When I came in, I saw you and deliberately sat with my back to you. My friend came and you left shortly after. Once you were gone, friends there approached me. One said you were asking about me, and the other went as far as to say that you have regrets.

Would that make a difference?

The answer was and still is no. She said we were so good together, and I replied “yes we were, once.” And we really were…but you stepped outside of our relationship when I needed you most. 

I saw an old friend this week at my neighbor’s, and she said she saw you at the same place again…alone. She asked you about your girlfriend, and you said things weren’t going so well, and that you are renting a place in the area. 

Are you trying to run into me? We have travelled in the same circles for nearly two decades – so it’s not hard to do. 

What are you looking for? Hoping for? Are you looking to apologize? Are you hoping we can be friends? 

I’m not interested in reconciliation or even friendship. Actually, seeing you for the first time since our split was incredible because I honestly felt absolutely nothing. I’m no longer angry, sad or even hurt.
I am actually happier and healthier than I have been in years. So, whatever it is you’re looking for — please do not look to me.