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Feelings, those damned feelings

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Has it really been NINE months since I’ve last written on my blog? Gee, nine months. Wonder what ELSE takes nine months…oh yeah: birth.

Anyone remember the TV show Ben Casey? The opening line was “Birth, Death, Infinity.” That’s the true order of things. I was born many, many years ago. That was the beginning of the ride. Now, I’m facing death, and a whole lot of it recently.

My mom died on October 8th, just over a month ago, at the ripe old age of 97. The last few years of her life were rough. She had delusions. She feared that someone or someones were out to kill her. There was no good way of consoling her or denying her reality. It would be like someone telling me my dogs were cats. In her brain, those delusions were REAL.

She’d had a difficult life. Born and raised in a tiny town in Hungary, she was a Jew when anti-Semitism was alive and well in her country and in the entire continent of Europe. Her parents, my grandparents, ran the town’s bakery.

When her parents were no longer able to work, courtesy of Nazi Laws in Hungary, my mother and two sisters moved to Budapest to find jobs and to send money back to the rest of their family. To hide their Jewish affiliation, one of the sisters managed to get them all false Christian papers.

Mom managed to survive as a hidden Jew until someone voiced suspicions to the authorities. The gendarmes revoked her paperwork and took it back to headquarters to verify the authenticity. Meanwhile, Mom waited for them to return and to take her into custody. She said she wasn’t afraid to die. She was afraid of being tortured.

What I’m getting to is that, in her past, there were MANY someones who she feared were coming to kill her. These later in life delusions might have been fears she’d repressed from those horrible days in Hungary. Her parents, brother, sister and her family were murdered in Auschwitz.

Unlike today, people in the late 1940’s and ’50’s didn’t share everything that was on their minds. They had no access to facebook, and going to see a psychologist to “process” what had happened was not an option. So she did what most “sane” people did under those circumstances: she shoved those fears down, way down into her subconscious.

I suspect in her later years, those memories broke free from the web of horrible memories and emerged as real “boogey men.”

Towards the end of her life, Mom was incredibly hard to be around. She locked her house with chains around the door handle. She wouldn’t let anyone she didn’t know really well come into her place because she was certain they were stealing from her.

At one point, she was certain her neighbor in Leisure World was sending ants carrying poison on their backs into her home. She suspected the ants had spread the poison onto all her dishes and food, so she had stopped eating. She smelled gas in her bathroom and was certain someone was piping it into her ventilation system.

She wanted to move, and she wanted to move immediately. VERY long story short, under intense pressure, I quickly located a senior living home with only four residents fifteen minutes from my home.

Maybe a week or two later,  she convinced my daughter to sneak her out of it because she was convinced the owners had stolen her I.D. and were smuggling foreign relatives into the country. She stayed about a month with my daughter. When that didn’t pan out, my son moved her up to Spokane, Washington to live with him. That lasted about a couple months before she moved into a seniors apartment complex where she lived all by herself for three years.

She was completely independent, cooking for herself, taking buses to get groceries, and finally admitting she needed a walker to get around.

The night I called her to see how she was doing, she told me with real earnestness that she had been expecting, that very night, that the “killers” were coming for her. She had stacked a bookcase filled with heavy objects against the sliding glass door of her balcony to block them from getting in.

I asked her again, as I’d asked her so many times before, if she wanted to move back to California. At last, she admitted she did. We made preparations for my husband to fly up to Spokane, to pack up her few belongings in a U-Haul, and to drive it back here. I’d arranged a new senior apartment less than ten minutes from my home where she could live.

I flew Mom back to John Wayne Airport in Newport Beach, where she arrived at 6:00 pm. I picked her up, and she was ecstatic to be home. We kissed and hugged and were sincerely glad to see one another. I suggested we have dinner at a Norms restaurant. My teeny little mother hadn’t been eating much in recent times, so I didn’t even know if she was hungry.

I ordered us both fish dinners, and she managed to eat half the portion, along with salad and other vegetables. She had our server pack up a doggy bag so she could eat the remainder the next day.

We were talking and laughing like the old days. We reminisced about some of her funny old friends, and her memory was spot on. Because we were having such a pleasant time together, I asked our server to take a picture of us after we’d finished our meal.

We got into the car and headed home. Not even fifteen minutes later, she suddenly slumped forward in her seat. Her top denture fell out of her mouth. I could tell this was serious. I shook her and asked her what was wrong. She managed to utter, “I don’t know.”

Those were to be her last words.

I pulled into a fire station and laid on the horn. Several firemen rushed out. One took her pulse and said it was faint. They loaded her onto a stretcher, slid her into the ambulance, and told me to follow them to the nearest hospital.

Although I didn’t “know,” I knew. She was gone.

The on-call doctor told me that they’d tried CPR in the ambulance. In the hospital, they tried to shock her heart back to beating.

She was gone.

I got a chance to say a final goodbye in the hospital room, where Mom lay lifelessly. She didn’t look like she’d suffered. It was quick and easy, just as she would have preferred it.

It was a “perfect” way to die. There she was, back in her home state, having eaten a good fish dinner, and in the company of the daughter who loved her so much and whom she loved just as hard.

Birth, death, infinity. Wherever you are, Mom, I hope you have found peace.

 

 

Recovery Rocks Interview

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Name:  Marilyn Boehm

Age:  66

Sobriety date:  1-4-88
Website:  beachmama777.wordpress.com
Facebook:  Marilyn Boehm

Bio:  I am a retired probation officer who has now been fortunate enough to focus on my other life’s passions. I am a dog lover, and I’ve started a meetup with others who love their fur kids. We meet at a local park, have lunch, and then go for a pack walk.

I love quieter pursuits, like gardening. I tend to be on the obsessive side, so my backyard looks like a tropical jungle. I also volunteer weekly at the Long Beach Veterans Administration nursing home. I simply spend time listening and joking with these disabled men and women. I help the blind vets with bingo games, and generally offer any kind of support needed. This is my way of giving back, and I find it helps me more than it helps them. Isn’t that always how service works?

My most recent, and significant accomplishment has been to write and publish my memoir, “Starting at Goodbye.” It is my story of alcoholism, recovery, and the crazy love affair I had with my now deceased husband. I worked on it for ten years, and it helped me deal with the grief of losing my life partner. He was also a Vietnam vet, so working at the VA helped me focus on the living, instead of dwelling on his death.

  • Describe your “rock bottom.”

There were a series of events that conspired to beat me into submission as I struck “rock bottom.” One of the most damaging memories I recall happened when I was in a drunken stupor, angry at my family for not helping to clean the house.  I threw my four-year-old daughter’s toys and possessions off the second story level of our townhouse. Watching her scream in terror as her things went crashing onto the floor of our living room should have assured me a rapid end to my drinking. It helped, but it didn’t end there.

When my husband, a nonfunctional drunk, went into treatment, I was forced to look at the extent of my own drinking. Because I appeared more functional, maintaining a career while drinking myself to death on a daily basis, it took moving the focus off him and onto me. I noticed that those wine bottles in the trash can were mine, and I couldn’t blame it on him anymore.

Lastly, I participated in a personal growth seminar in which I realized how numb I’d gotten from my drinking. The feedback I got from the other participants was that they saw “a dead woman.” I made an appointment for outpatient treatment the following week. I realized I needed help.

  • What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

I absolutely hated being sober! I had to learn to live my life without any drugs or alcohol, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I liked the fellowship—the laughter and the crazy stories—but I thought those who were enjoying sober lives were lying! Ironically, I’ve stayed sober since my first meeting 28 years ago, and now it’s me who shares about enjoying life.

  • What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

My husband relapsed during my first two weeks of recovery, asking me why he should stay sober when it was obvious I wouldn’t last one more day. Because I knew I couldn’t stay sober around my drinking “buddy,” I divorced him. Alcohol had destroyed us both. I still loved him, but I knew I couldn’t live in that madness anymore.

When he came into the program six months later and joined me at some of my meetings, we remarried! Our family life grew healthy for the first time, and we became responsible and stable parents for the first time. My husband eventually took his contractors exam and became a licensed contractor. We experienced financial security for the first time in our marriage.

Those were the most joyous days of my life. I still needed a little “edge” of excitement in sobriety, so we started adventure travel. We enjoyed seeing four kinds of monkeys and sloths in the rainforests of Costa Rica. We saw a tiger in the jungles of Nepal while riding on the back of an elephant. We saw a pack of lions hunt and kill a buffalo in Botswana.

When my husband got diagnosed with brain cancer, I was able to be his caregiver for five years, while working full time. While that experience was far from being the “best thing,” I learned the true meaning of love. It’s not a feeling, it’s an action.

I also got to see my daughter graduate from college after which she found and married a great guy. My son, who got the worst of my drinking, found a solid career in the railroad industry in Spokane, Washington. He and his ex-wife also blessed me with my grandson, who is now 11 years old. Seeing both of my kids grow up to become productive, responsible, and loving adults is HUGE.

  • If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using, what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself that I didn’t need to anesthetize myself and numb out my feelings in order to live a good life and to be okay with myself. I would tell myself that I could have MORE fun in sobriety than I ever could find in the lowlife bars and with the lower companionship I considered as friends.

I would tell myself I am a funny person! In sobriety, I learned that I made people laugh when I shared. So I took a Stand-Up Comedy class and, for my final exam, I performed in a comedy club. I continued to perform a couple more times, but I realized it was too much pressure and that I shouldn’t give up my day job!

  • What have been the most useful things you have learned about yourself since getting sober/clean?

I have learned that it’s an inside job. When I was drinking and using, I focused on looking and sounding good. I believed I was ugly and needed attention and validation from men to have any worth. I wore a mask, hiding my true self from the world.

I have learned that one of the most important things is to walk in integrity, to clean up my act if I make a mistake and hurt someone, to live an authentic life that I choose.  I have found that the innermost me is a good person who is living her dreams and is grateful for what I have. I no longer want someone else’s life.

  • Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that would never have happened if you had been drinking.

In June of last year, I challenged myself to do something for a cause dear to my heart: helping to save the life of elephants. I flew to Sacramento to learn to lobby for a bill that would prohibit the sales of ivory in our state. The bill passed in the legislature! In my drinking days, I would have complained that there was nothing I could do to help fix anything I found wrong in the world. In sobriety, I know that my voice matters and that I am not powerless.

Also, I had always wanted to be a writer but never believed I was good enough. When I was in college, I had signed up to be a journalism major. Because of one conversation with someone who walked me between classes and whom I didn’t even know, I changed my major and the direction of my life.

It was only in sobriety that I finally had the courage to tell my truth and to face my demons by publishing my memoir in November, 2015. The reactions from people who have read my memoir have given me the confidence to call myself an author and to believe I really am a good writer!

  • What are your favorite recovery slogans?

“Live and let live.”

“To thine own self be true.”

“A day at a time.”

  • And lastly, why does “recovery rock?”

By the time I got to the rooms of AA, I wanted to die. I have realized that, in sobriety, I am learning to live life on life’s terms. Now, I want more than ever to live a sober life as long as I can last. I want to feel all of my feelings, good and bad. My life rocks…and it’s all because I’m in recovery!

.

 

 

Diary of a divorce–July 25,2012

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  Okay, so what kind of a moron schedules surgery right during a pending divorce? Gee, I don’t know. Maybe ME! I look at that last post and I am stupefied. Who is that independent woman crying out in liberation?

   I sit here, two weeks and two days after one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever endured: the insertion of a spinal cord stimulator in my back. No big deal, says the doc and the company’s rep. You’ll be on your feet and back to yourself in a few days. Well, NO, I’m not. I’m paralyzed with fear and with the reality of knowing I can’t do anything for myself. How much TV and how many books can a Type A individual soak in before she goes nuts?

   I look at my lawnmower, edger and leaf blower with wild cravings. I want to use them again. The new steam cleaner I bought to clean my kitchen pavers sits unused in the spare bedroom. Didn’t even have a chance to test it out on Alanna’s aging online skate tracks she’d imprinted on the kitchen floor when she was maybe 12 or 13. When Wayne yelled at her not to skate across the floor, I had had no idea how badly she could damage those tiles. Nothing has been able to lift those marks. I’d hoped the steam cleaner, with the promising ads, could put an end to that  cycle finally.

    Alright, so I go outside. I take my clippers and do a “little” trimming of the overgrown bougainvillea vine draped over the back fence. Stop, I scream at myself, as I limp back into the house. Ain’t gonna happen. I’m in wracking pain again and stagger into the kitchen to swallow a couple more pain pills and a muscle relaxer.

     I was indeed mislead on the time of recovery from this surgery. At my last visit with the doc, the rep let slip the “gruesome details” regarding what exactly was done to me. Seems the doc did a “laminectomy,” or a removal of some bone from my spine. Yippeee. Could that be what’s causing this stabbing pain?

     I was wholly unprepared for being “down” for over two weeks. Had made no arrangements for someone to walk the dogs. Didn’t even have groceries in the house. My mother to the rescue! She forced Alanna to drive over to her house in Leisure World, pick up and deliver to me a “care package” full of food to last several days. I doubt I’d have starved without her dinners, but nothing beats Mom’s chicken soup and ruckutt crumpli (who can spell Hungarian words?). I savored every delicious bite.

     Was virtually a captive in my own house for over two weeks, unless you count a couple doc appts and visits to the pharmacy. I’d had to cancel all the plans I’d made for both fun things as well as responsibilities. My mind has been working overtime, imagining all kinds of complications and strange new ailments. This CAN’T all be related to the back surgery, can it?

     When one of the incisions started bleeding a few mornings ago, I really panicked. What the hell was THAT? So I took off my nightgown and let the dogs smell the spot of wet blood to see their reaction. Don’t dogs know how to tell if someone has cancer?

      When I told the doc about the dogs sniffing my nightie, he found nothing funny about it. Call me, text me, I’m your doctor. Consult with me, NOT your dogs! He cleaned up the bandages and told me to put on a fresh dressing every day. Oh yeah, sure. Right in the middle of my back! I’m not an octopus, and my reach is simply not that long.

      Mom again to the rescue. She took two buses to come over, clean my wound, walk the dogs, and feed me more delicious food.

      What would any of us do without the women in our lives? Yes, men are amusing, but almost worthless to me now. Okay, so I’m seeing the glass half empty. I’m sure Mark would’ve cleaned the dressing–but probably in HIS time. Just like everything else that went on his “honey do” list.

      Have we women done this to ourselves? In our quest for independence and authenticity, have we gone too far? Are we now doing it all?

      I went for a manicure the other day. Changing my nail color was great excitement for one who has been without stimulation in her house for over two weeks! I saw a woman, visiting HB from South Carolina, come into the shop. I hated her at first sight. She was gorgeous, self-possessed, unpretentious, and her clothing draped effortlessly over her perfect figure. Then I heard her tell her manicurist that her husband of 15 yrs came home a couple nights ago and announced he had fallen in love with someone else!  He’d been getting his ducks in a row for the previous two months, changing all their accounts so she’d have no access. This woman had been doing it all around her house–the lawnmowing, the kids, cooking his food, repairing the car, even taking out the trash. The husband? Well, he went to work, came home and was done. I could feel myself seething with anger, although the woman herself had a great attitude.

       Yes, we all know the end of this story. They will get divorced, and then the guy will get over his little fling.  He’ll realize just what he lost in this lovely lady. And I hope then that she realized what a jerk he was to her and shows him the door.

       We are woman! We are strong, we are invicible…but sometimes, like now, I can’t do it all. I am hurting today. I can’t wait to report I’m back to my usual self. It’ll not be soon enough for me!! I can’t do it all myself. To my chagrin, I admit I need people. I am vulnerable. I am no longer a rock.

 

 

Diary of a divorce

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   I decided I would write a blog on my divorce, my fourth and final divorce. How many times must a woman get hit in the head before she realizes something’s not feeling so good?

    So here we go again. I have just filed the petition through a paralegal to “dissolve” my marriage. Such a sterile word for what started out with such passion and happiness.

    Don’t you dissolve sugar in your coffee? Or chlorine in the jacuzzi to sterilize it from germs?

    How do you “dissolve” feelings?

     I’m in my “I am woman, hear me roar” stage. I bought a lightweight lawnmower, leaf blower and edger to trim my own yard. Yesterday, I actually bought a drill! Wow, I can feel the testosterone surging through my veins. Soon, I’ll be scratching my balls and spitting!

      Of course, these frantic activities manage to keep away the sadness of yet one more marriage failing. To paraphrase the infamous words of Scarlet O’Hara, I’ll deal with that tomorrow.

      Stay tuned!