Back on Our Own

After a wonderful family Christmas,  Hubby and I got a reservation at a local Residence Inn to wait out the restoration of our fire damaged house.  As much as I  love my family, I also love having my own space, as do my granddaughters  who cheered to get the news that their rooms would again be only their own again.

We are thankful our daughter and her family welcomed us while we got our bearings while adjusting to our new circumstances.

Some old stuff had to be cleared out, to the benefit of the local Goodwill, to make room for our invasion.   Thank goodness for our good insurance coverage.  Never did I seriously think I would ever have to take advantage of my insurance, but I faithfully paid my premium every month for 46+ years.

We have also continuously had insurance coverage on our automobiles, all our personal belongings including a rider on valuable items, and our life.  Health insurance was affordable thanks to our employers, but there were times between jobs that we suffered the insecurity of our health being uninsured for as long as 6 months at a time.

Some people believe all this insurance is unnecessary.  Over our life together, Hubby and I have had a to dip into all but the life insurance.  I have a growing belief that the day we do cash in on our life insurance is coming, but we hope to put that day off for as long as possible.

I suppose if we were wealthy we could be self-insured, but we have never been wealthy.  We are now, thankfully, average middle-class people.  Insurance helped when we were a struggling young couple expecting a baby, or needing an unexpected minor surgery requiring a hospital stay.  As we have gotten older, medical expenses seem to be growing exponentially, even as preventive medicine has become a staple of medical care.

I have a bad feeling, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Love and Mental Illness

We jump into bed from the floor, cold on our bare feet, giggling and laughing.  Grandma spoons another spoonful of honey into my mouth.  Mom would never give me another spoon of honey.  And then another spoonful of honey.  We say we are full, yet here comes one more spoon full of honey.

“It is brain food,” says Grandma, with yet another spoonful, followed by another, and another.

“Grandma, I don’t feel good,”  is said by my sister first, but after another spoonful I balk also.

“It’s honey!  It’s good for your!”  Still the spoon full of honey come.

I can’t stand the sickening sweet smell of honey any longer.  I don’t want more honey. “Grandma, my stomach hurts.  I don’t feel good.”

“It’s only honey,” and another spoon full of honey gets put into my mouth, and my stomach empties, all over Grandma, all over the bed, all over the floor.  My sister vomets along with me.  Grandma had a big mess to clean up, and I couldn’t eat honey for years afterwards.

“No thank you,” were never words we could say to Grandma.  Grandma was schizophrenic and we were encouraged to do everything to keep the peace, and keep Grandma calm.

It’s hard loving a person who is seriously mentally ill.  As her first grandchild, she adored me.  I loved her in return, but was not blind to the unfair way she treated my siblings.  I was the barrier between Grandma and my siblings.  I was the barrier between my Grandma and my Mom, running for help when Grandma tried to choke Mom  I watched Grandma so she could not put ground glass into Mom’s drink or food.

I was happy to get things, afraid of what would happen to the other people I loved,  worried about my Grandma’s illness.

How do I feel?  Even today, years after she has been gone, my emotions are elusive . This thing in my life that has been hidden for so long,  rarely mentioned even among ourselves, has had a lasting impact on my life.  One result is an eating disorder demonstrated by a lack of understanding when I am actually full and should quit eating, resulting in over-eating.  Another result is a hypervigilance of those around me, trying to anticipate needs, to skirt problems, and step in to protect.

I never ask what you need, or what you want.   I am not asked to come forward.  I am not asked to intervene.  As a result my help is not always appreciated.

Best I can say is, I feel sad.


If Dad Ain’t Happy

While our children were growing up we had a plaque on the wall that said, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  This came up in conversation during the family get together and Dad said the correlarary is that “If Dad ain’t happy, nobody cares.”   Dad saying that correlarary did not make Mom happy.  Sometimes Hubby has a strange sense of humor and why he thinks some things are funny has been a mystery to me for well over 40 years.

Our two children in attendance corrected their father saying, “If Dad ain’t happy, then Mom isn’t happy.”  This is what I have been saying as the correlarary for 40 plus years.  I filled with pride to hear my children quoting me, and then encouraging me to blog about it.

A happy marriage, and happy family, requires that both parents are happy with the situation.  This doesn’t mean everyday is filled with peace and tranquility.  Sometimes it take a lot of discussion, and high passions, to figure out a solution to conflicting desires that  will make both partners in a marriage happy.  Money, sex, issues of child raising, and how to manage a household provide plenty of opportunity for conflict and negotiation.  The idea is not to feel like you are compromising, but to achieve a solution that meets the needs of everyone in the best possible way, resulting in happiness for everyone.

Increasing the difficulty to achieve satisfactory solutions to life’s disagreements is the fact that sometimes we have difficulty identifying the real concern.  Many of the problems within a marriage and family, have to do with feelings of security, fairness, and a desire to be heard.  If one person lacks security, a sense of fairness, or believes their feelings are being ignored, then the relationship will not be happy, and the family is in danger of falling apart.

The work of marriage is to get everyone pulling together toward the same goals, for the wellbeing of everyone.  Children who see their parents working together and achieving goals together, and being as concerned about each others happiness as they are about their own happiness, will be happy children, ready to take on the challenges of the world.

Remembering Dr. Juergen L. Schapiro

I am now the oldest living member of my family with the death of my uncle Jürgen L. Schapiro MD.

My uncle was born on Tuesday, April 29, 1924 and died Sunday, November 9, 2014 at the age of 90. Dr. Schapiro practiced radiology and served as head of radiology at Fairview General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio until his retirement. He maintained residences in Lakewood, Ohio and Fr. Lauderdale, Florida where he died at the age of 90 after an illness.

Uncle Jürgen was preceded in death by his life partner, John Christian, his brother Rolf Schapiro and wife Delorus and their son Douglas Schapiro, his brother Bernhard J. Schapiro and wife Ardelia Dismukes (my parents) and their daughter Karen Elaine Schapiro, and his parents Clara and Luzier Schapiro. The Schapiro family immigrated to the United States from Germany after World War II, and prospered.

Jürgen did not care for the title of uncle, but I feel honored to have had him for an uncle. He shared much with us, and used his knowledge and connections as a medical professional to get his family the very best medical care available. My favorite place in the world was his beach house on the shores of Lake Erie, where we housed our boat and I learned to sail. The beach house was a place where the entire clan would gather for picnics, swimming, sailing, and relaxing. His partner, John, was our piano teacher. They were both generous with us, their nieces and nephews.

Jürgen was an artist. I have a large painting of my Uncle Jürgen’s hanging in my living room. When it got damaged on one of my many moves, I fought with the moving company to get the irreplaceable painting repaired in a professional way. I called art museums and asked for the names of restorers and the proper way to repair the painting. While the restorer had the painting, he appraised the painting. The restorer found two painting by my uncle sold at auction in Germany for $12,000 and $14,000. My uncle had never sold any painting, nor given any away to anyone outside the family. Only two paintings were out in the world, stolen from the lobby of the apartment complex where he lived. The thief attempted to ransom the two paintings back to my uncle, who took it as a compliment and said, “Enjoy your new paintings.”

Because American’s don’t really understand how an umlaut influences pronunciation of his name, he added the letter “e” to spell his name Juergen. Questions about his relation to hand lotion would annoy him. I do not know if the addition solved the problem.

Jürgen would be pleased that another little Schapiro boy is due in December and the family name is continuing. That is another great-great-nephew, added to my six grandchildren which includes two boys to carry the Schapiro name. The family is growing, and I know that would make him happy.

You are loved. Rest in Peace.

DifficuIt Family

Hard as we try to avoid them, sometimes we must confront difficult people and tricky social situations, maybe even at a holiday dinner. To insist on thinking that a reasonable person can overcome any and all obstacles, making all parties equally happy is to sacrifice your self-esteem, because the reality is that sometimes there is nothing you can do to make everyone happy. Holiday time will bring family together, and sadly old conflicts could also come up.

Hiding from conflict doesn’t help. Sitting in the background, keeping quiet, staying out of the way, is not going to solve anything. Instead, passively withdrawing from interaction is likely to backfire with an angry outburst that can be aggressive, leaving you feeling victimized and everyone involved with hurt feelings, making already strained relationships even weaker.

Aggressiveness can vary from disrespectful, manipulative, or demeaning, to abusive. Aggressive people need to win, and fail to look at things from another persons point of view. While being aggressive, a person wants to win, retaliating for perceived wrongs, and creating unnecessary conflict. In the wake of aggressive conflicts, relationships are left damaged, everyone involved feels like a victim, and any social support that may have existed is lost.

The better way is to follow a balanced path of being open and honest about your feeling in a non-judgmental way. Don’t try to change the behavior of others, but limit how their behavior effects you, by calmly and assertively expressing how you feel without engaging in a power struggle, or getting defensive. Sometimes a distraction, like excusing yourself to go to the bathroom, is very effective for interrupting any conversation that you need to get out of politely. Other distractions include offering to get beverages or snacks, or checking on what the children might be up to so quietly in the other room. Stay calm, and don’t rise to the bait that is offered.

When you are hit hard by disrespectful and abusive treatment, it is how your judge yourself that counts. If you know you are a good and loving person, who is competent and worthy of respect, then you have good self-esteem. Having good self-esteem will allow you to bounce back from difficult encounters with others, and will help you to treat yourself respectfully. As you treat yourself respectfully, others will also treat you with greater respect.

Communicating with assertiveness, will lead to fewer conflicts, help you build strong supportive relationships, and lead to less stress not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. Make a plan and be ready to act.

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