Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Long and Short (or Thin and Fat) of it all

I've spent my whole life struggling with my weight.

When I was in high school, 25 years ago, I thought I was huge as a healthy size 7 to 9, because I went to school with a bunch of size 0's and 1's (the Popular girls - the cheerleaders, the honor students, the fashionistas, and favorites of all the guys at an age when that was Incredibly important for self image.)

 25 years, 2 children, a few hormonal changes, and a nasty illness (Systemic Lupus) later.... and I'm still struggling with my weight, though for different reasons.

I don't consider myself huge any more. I eat Healthy, rather than obsessing about it. I don't worry about whether I could fit into the hideous clothing that high fashion dictates we're all supposed to be able (or at least Want to be able) to fit into. While I wouldn't mind being able to loose a bit of weight for the sake of my joints, I've accepted the fact that as long as I have Lupus (meaning = the rest of my life) I'm GOING to be on corticosteroids and I'm GOING to have weight issues due to those medications regardless of how healthy I eat. I've long since accepted the fact that I will Never Again be Physically Healthy enough to get sufficient exercise - because most days I count it as a win if I'm able to get out of bed without spending a few minutes whimpering in pain and hiding tears of agony from my partner.

Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the Lupus go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the Fibromyalgia go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to make the joint and tissue damage go away.
Being thin - regardless of how I were to get there - is not going to get me off the meds, take away the medication induced diabetes, restore all the myriad things I'm not able to do any more, restore mobility lost due to joint damage that wasn't caused by weight, suddenly make it to where I'm no longer allergic to being out in the sun because of photosensitivity, take away the depression that having a serious chronic illness and being allergic to myself causes me, take away the migraines or the muscle problems or the constant pain or the creeping vision loss.

None of that is EVER going away, no matter how thin or fat or in between I happen to be, not until the day I die.

Birth and Death and Everything in Between

As some of you might have come to realize, writing posts for this blog is frequently a cathartic experience for me.  I use it to work through various emotions when I'm having stressful times, or I use it to alleviate boredom or because something specifically piques my interest and I become passionate about it.

Today is a cathartic day.  I'll state that up front as a warning in case you desire to move along to other things.

For the past 6 1/2 years, I've been coping off and on with the results of my father having a massive and debilitating stroke, rendering him completely disabled and with a total inability to care for himself and his own needs.  If you've read any of my earliest posts to this blog,  you'll also know that when the initial stroke happened, everything essentially got dumped in my lap to take care of. 

Earlier this year, on 1/16/2013, I found out that.. much to my surprise... dad had died.  I didn't get the phone call that I've been expecting for so many years. No, I found out that my only remaining parent was dead when I received a letter from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Division, Office of Body Donation, expressing their condolences on our loss and thanking us for dad being a willing body donor.... 10 days after the fact.  My brother - and our maternal grandmother (whom he lives with and sponges off of) - didn't consider it Their problem to inform me of our father's death.

 My older brother was (and remains) an utterly useless PoS who wants nothing to do with anything that even Remotely resembles .... (dun dun dun)... 


Which of course meant that he has spent the past several years avoiding any potential for me to rely upon him to help out with dad's care, making certain that dad was in a decent nursing facility, making certain that dad's bills got paid, being sure that any paperwork that needed to get done for anything got done on time and properly.  The only thing my brother has wanted in all this time was for me to cough up money out of dad's accounts, on demand, to pay His bills... screw the fact that dad's money was there for Dad's bills.  He's threatened me, he's tried once to kill me (thank the gods he's an absolutely incompetent nitwit, or I'd be taking the concept of Ghost Writing to a whole new level!) he's committed fraud several times, he's tried to set me up to go to jail for fraud several times, and he's caused so much financial grief that it ultimately led to losing the family home last summer and me nearly ending up in the hospital with a lupus flare from all the stress that brought about.

So today, much to my disgust, I was forced into the position of having to deal with my idiot brother one final time.  He's named as a joint beneficiary on one small life insurance policy, and due to company policy in such cases, I have to have him sign a copy of the claim form, so that they can send him his token amount directly.  Now the good part of this is that after he signs that form tomorrow, I won't ever have to deal with him again for as long as either of us is alive.  That's the ONLY thing he's listed as a beneficiary of, and he made it plain today while on the phone with me that (according to him) it's somehow All My Fault that there's not some huge amount of money waiting for him to claim it as should be his by right.

He feels like I somehow managed to "cheat him" out of what he considered "rightfully his" - "rightfully" in the sense that he figures since he was the oldest surviving offspring, and the only male offspring, that he should have gotten anything and everything (except the remaining bills) that happened to be there after dad stroked in the first place.  He's incredibly bitter about the loss of the family home - both because he now has zero chance of attempting to claim it as His inheritance, and because it can't be sold and him claim the lion's share of the money from the sale.

In all of this, he still manages to avoid accepting any responsibility.  He refuses to see that many of the financial problems - up to and including the loss of the family home - are a direct result of choices HE made, actions that HE instigated, and people that HE associated with.  He and his former girlfriend (dead 2 years ago due to a drug overdose - good riddance to bad rubbish) hid a lot of crucial and time sensitive paperwork from me during the first 6 or 7 months after dad's stroke.  They hid paperwork about property taxes that were due, which started the cycle of the taxes never getting caught up - which led to the loss of the house.  They hid paperwork about dad's long term disability insurance from me - which led to the loss of the insurance paying dad's nursing home bill - which led to me having to pay that bill out of dad's retirement funds (the inheritance that my brother is so bitter about the loss of) until there was nothing left.  He himself personally stole a few checks from dad during that time, to bolster his own squandered money spent on drugs and booze, with no thought then or now about what sort of problems that caused - because according to his reasoning, it was somehow Owed to him, because it was supposed to be His Inheritance anyway.

When I informed him that there are still bills coming in that are in dad's name... which, by the terms of the will, are supposed to be paid out of the insurance before either of us get anything that's left... he was quick to tell me that it wasn't his problem.  Dad's dead, they can eat the costs of whatever bills remained, because he has no intention of spending the insurance payoff that way.  Then he went on to tell me that the bills should be my problem anyway, since I was the Trustee of the family Trust - and the bills are the Trust's problem.  Which makes no sense when you think about the fact that in the past 7 years he's stated numerous times that he should "by right of being eldest and only male" get anything in the Trust.  By his own former logic... that he should get everything that remains of the trust... the bills ARE his problem, and his alone. He's changed his tune on that score drastically now that the only thing left of the Trust is a slew of bills that he wants nothing to do with.

The bright side to all this, as I said a moment ago, is that after tomorrow I'll never have to deal with him again for the rest of my life.  I can forget that he exists, and finish writing his worthless arse out of my universe.  I think I may celebrate after I have that signed paperwork back in  my hand. 

No doubt some of you are sitting there thinking "Wow, she really hates her few remaining relatives."  You'd be wrong if you think that I hate him OR our grandmother the Bat.  You see, the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.  In order to hate someone, you have to give a flip about them.  I stopped caring about either of them sufficiently to hate them years ago.  I hate their Actions.  I detest his myopic self absorption and delusions.  I find him (and her) to be rather pitiable excuses for humanity, due to their entitlement attitudes and utter lack of self responsibility or accountability.  But I quit hating THEM.. the individuals... a few years ago, when I came to the realization that I just don't care enough one way or the other about them as people to invest the emotional energy in such a Personal set of feelings as Hatred.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The End of an Era

How often do we use the phrase "end of an era" to denote the passing of something which has been a constant in our lives for a very long time?  For me, there truly Has been the End of an Era of my life recently.  An Era that I've blogged about in the past has finally come to a close with the passing of my father from this mortal coil.

You never really think, in the back of your brain, that your parents will eventually be Gone.  You don't want to realize that eventually, they aren't going to be there any more to comfort you, rescue you, advise you, laugh and cry with you, or rejoice with you in the accomplishments of yourself and your offspring.  You learn early in life (at least, if you're lucky enough to have good parents who do what they Should) to rely on Mom and Dad to always be there, waiting in the wings, to pick you back up when you fall, dust you off, tell you it'll be ok, and send you back to try your hand again at whatever it is that you were doing when  you fell down.

 I've whined more than I should have, about the general hassles of what happens when your parents become dependent upon you, the way you were dependent upon them when  you were a kid.  I've grumbled and griped, bitched, moaned, and complained about the headaches involved in caring for an aging or disabled parent or other family member.  I've railed frequently about how much I disliked having to deal with some of the issues.  I've snarled rather bitterly a few times about just how much I hated having to cope with doctors and lawyers and a moneygrubbing sibling who wants none of the responsibility but all of the rewards.  I've even surmised a time or two that my life would actually Improve once my father finally got on with things, gave up fighting for life, left his ailing body for the hereafter, and quit being a factor in all my decision making processes.

I'm of two minds about his passing, now that it's actually Happened.

I find that I cannot, for the most part, grieve in the normal sense of that term.  I've spent the past 7 Years going through the grieving process for dad, and now that he's finally actually GONE... I've already reached the Acceptance phase.  He's been terminal for so long, completely dependent upon full time nursing care, and not a Daily factor in my life, that it was easy to get to a point of no longer thinking about him as my Parent.  I quit being able to depend ON him, instead having to deal with him depending on Me, that I had long since lost that feeling that "daddy should be here to pick up the pieces for me - why isn't he HERE when I need him, damnit!"

I haven't actually Missed having him around in quite a few years.  After tolerating having him live with me while he was on hospice, and the changes that wrought in our relationship, missing his presence is something I'm pretty much incapable of doing. 

Don't get me wrong, he was my father.... the man who raised me, provided for me while I grew up, advised me when I needed it (and sometimes when I didn't think I did) looked after me, cared for me.... when he didn't have any Biological stake in how I turned out, or even whether I survived into adulthood.  I will forever be grateful to him for taking in the children spawned by another man, raising them as his own, and doing his best to see to it that we turned into decent, productive adults.  (Even if he Did fail miserably with my brother.) 

But missing THAT man... the man who raised me, cared for me, and spent his life providing for me and my mother and brother... isn't the same as missing the man who recently died.  I've missed That man - the one who did all those great things while I was growing up - since the first stroke happened 7 years ago, and took That man out of my life, replacing him with a petulant, grumpy, overgrown child dependent upon others for everything from his housing to his personal hygiene.

No, it's not difficult to not miss him.  It's certainly no loss to me not to have to deal with the issues caused by his plethora of health issues.  At the end, those issues ranged the gamut from Emphasymia and Asthma, to brain damage both from multiple strokes and early onset Alzheimer's, to Bladder Cancer and Kidney Failure.  According to the death certificate, it was another massive stroke there at the end that caused his final demise.  But it could as easily have been the bladder cancer, the kidney failure, or an inability to breath from the COPD and Asthma.  It was a race being run by multiple disease processes, and the high blood pressure causing a fatal cranial event was simply the winner of the race.

I was correct those times that I surmised my life would improve when dad finally gave up his fight.  He was, even after the initial stroke, a good provider for his family.  He always had been during life, and it doesn't surprise me that it didn't change with his death.  Dad was pulling a pension for the past few years due to his forced retirement.  When he started pulling that pension, he was given the option of naming a survivor to continue receiving those payments (in a partial, slightly lower amount) once he died.  With mom long since gone to ashes with her death more than a decade ago, and dad's parents both gone either prior to his first stroke or after he was already laid low by that first one, and his only Biological child gone to the grave before my mom died, that left him three possible choices.  The first choice, in my mind, would have been to not name a survivor to receive the rest of his pension payments.  The second and third choices were of course me, and my brother.  Dad was in one of his more Lucid moments (which, unfortunately, were rather rare the last few years of his life) when he filed for his pension.  He even explained to me WHY he filed it the way that he did, though I remain to this day a tad surprised by both his thoughts concerning the issue and his capacity to Have those thoughts despite the brain damage he suffered from the stroke. 

He knew that he had become a major pain in my rump by that time.  He knew that I was overburdened with having to make difficult decisions, that my stress levels from dealing with everything were off the chart, and that my brother was consistently making things more difficult than they should have been via his intransigence.  Dad also knew that my brother would simply spend any funds left to him on alcohol and drugs to feed his addictions, which dad had tried (and failed) to get him broken from. Lastly, he was aware that my own health was chancy at best, since I had long since been diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia - the very things that put mom into the grave while she was still in her mid-50s - and that I would be exceedingly lucky if the Lupus didn't require me to go on Disability at an age when I would otherwise still be working and no where near ready for retirement.  He chose to name me as his survivor, to start receiving half the amount of his initial pension, when he died.  He did that so I would still have a means of paying my bills despite my failing health, and ... in his own words... as a compensation for all the hassles he was putting me through by surviving that initial stroke rather than dying before all the money he set aside for retirement got eaten up by health care costs.

No, I won't miss the hassles.  I will live better without the headaches and the stress.  The insurance policies will pay off a few long standing bills that have been waiting for what seems like forever.  (Which should help improve my credit score to a point where it's not in the basement.)  The pension will keep the bills paid, and make it possible for me to continue seeing my doctors (since I lost my job - hence my insurance - the day that dad died) so that I might possibly regain something of my lost health.  I won't miss dealing with His doctors, or the nursing home, or the seemingly endless bills with his name attached to them that I had to deal with, or listening to my brother whine about how I should have saved 'his' inheritance by not putting dad in a nursing home at all (and therefore not having to pay a nursing home Bill for dad with dad's money.)  I won't miss the trips (no matter how infrequent they were, there towards the end) to the nursing home, nor shall I miss having to lie to an ill old man and tell him that life was great and things were going fine even when they were in the dumpster.

What I will miss are the things that I've missed for 7 years now.  I will miss our chess games, discussing philosophy and religion.  I will miss our debates about politics, religion, philosophy, and life.   I will miss his insight.  I will miss his sense of the absurd.  I will miss the many times, even after I was an adult, when he assured me that no matter how old I got - I would always be his little girl, and could always count on him.  I will miss his love, his emotional and moral support through thick and thin, and the various things he did throughout my life to bring a smile to my face even when I would rather have been crying over some hurt.

Rest well, pop.  You earned it.  And the man you were before the strokes... the man who raised me, loved me as his own, and supported me even when I was wrong.. will be missed for the rest of a lifetime.

In loving memory of Daniel Raymond Williams, 7/21/1945 to 1/6/2013.