I Quit Smoking Today

13 09 2013

Yes, I have officially declared out loud with my dog as my witness under the starry designs in the darkened sky, that I am going to no longer smoke cigarettes.

My aunt passed away this evening. She was my crazy aunt who I could always count on for honest, unedited advice; she was the one that would always make me laugh with her silly faces and her silly words; she understood things yet she still took chances and made changes and knew not to take life too seriously.

I was named after her. My middle name spelled just the same as her first name. Her daughter, only a few years older while her son a couple years younger spent summers and reunions together. I feel closer to them than I do my own brother, although there are days when I feel like he’s trying to maintain a sibling relationship.

I hate cancer. It killed my grandfather, it killed my grandmother just a month ago, it attacked my mom who is thankfully heading toward remission as I type this, and today it took my aunt away forever.

I know I’m going to research the hell out of cancer to see if I can get one up on it. I know there has been a lot of research done with this nasty disease so I shouldn’t have any problem finding information out about it. There needs to be some drastic changes for me. Starting with the cigarettes. Next, I’m going to be more conscious about my diet and I’m going to exercise twice as much as the minimal daily effort I normally put forth. I’m going to get in shape and beat this depression creeping up on me. There is too much that needs to be done.

When I went through my darker times with the person I no longer mention, I got to see firsthand what rock bottom really looked like. As I made what I hoped to be my final exit to that relationship (and later turned out that it was indeed the end) I fell in the arms of my parents of course, my biological mother, my aunt and my grandmother, all of whom took me in and got me back on my feet. I was stripped to the core and they mended me back together.

While I was staying with my grandmother, trying to find a job while saving some money from my unemployment checks, my aunt happened to be staying in town for a good chunk of time with my grandmother to do some mother-daughter bonding. They were taking a road trip for about a week and revisiting childhood places, old schools and neighborhoods along the way back home. I stayed by myself at my grandmother’s house, grieving over a failed abusive relationship, feeling completely vulnerable yet safe that I could sleep without worrying what was going to happen to me or what was going to set the bomb off today.

When they came back, we had several heart to heart talks about life and love and making the right decisions and having confidence in myself. There was this one particular day that my aunt and I spent the day running errands. She drove me around to get some errands run and then we made a few other stops during our outing.

We drove to the church that my grandmother attends and volunteers one day a week answering phones and doing office work. It’s the same church where my mom and my aunt were married at. It was in the afternoon in the middle of the week and nobody was in the sanctuary. They leave it open though for people to come inside to pray when they need to.

Inside the sanctuary, the sunlight shined through the stained glass windows that outlined the walls. The beautiful huge pipe organ that fills the air with music on Sundays. My aunt went up to the alter and began to pray. I remember this feeling I had while we were in there. It was like I was being hugged. I let my tears flow and got everything off my chest and out of my mind. At that time, my aunt had beat cancer and was on the road to healthiness and happiness. She knew how to prioritize and focus on the important elements of life. She had an awesome mission organization to help the orphaned children with HIV in Haiti. Together with her husband, they built hospitals, they taught, they nurtured, and they loved these kids as well as the many friends they encountered in Haiti.

When we were through saying everything we needed to say in the sanctuary, we then drove to the cemetery where my grandfather’s ashes were. My aunt lives on the west coast so it’s not like she gets to come visit every day. She loved and missed her father so much. She talked to his nameplate and told him about everything going on in her life with tears in her eyes. She talked about her grandchild and her kids and her daily endeavors. I thought that was so cool and it really touched my heart. We left some fresh flowers and headed back to my grandmother’s house.

My aunt told me how I looked better every new day. She told me that even though it was hard for me to get up out of bed in the mornings, and not because I was tired or hungover, but because I was depressed, still climbing up from rock bottom and I had a long way to go. But I was heading in the right direction. My aunt set some goals up with me and told me she was going to check in on me and see if I had made progress. We talked about me focusing on finding a job, my soccer coaching and my writing.

So, two months ago I watched my grandmother pass away on July 6th 2013, the day my grandfather was born and only a week shy from her 92nd birthday. My aunt was not able to come be by her mom’s side and with her brother and sisters due to her health. We Skyped with her so she could see her mom and tell her goodbye. There was about 15 minutes or so where it was just her in the room, on Skype, with the camera on the laptop facing my grandmother who’s breaths were already short with long intervals between them. We Skyped with her at the ash ceremony which she put together and carried out, the memorial service, and the reception that followed. We made sure she was there and as much a part of this celebration of her mother’s life as anybody else.

We just bought our first house and moved in the day before my grandmother’s service which was almost a month after she had passed. With siblings, family and friends coming from both the east coast and the west coast time was needed to make sure everyone could make it out. It was a beautiful celebration, just as my grandmother would want. We had so much family gathered in one place. We don’t get to see each other all together like that very often. So much has changed since the last reunion. My cousins all have children now for starters. It was a good time mixed in with the sadness.

Today is Thursday, September 12th, 2013. I was at work when I got the text from my mom that my aunt was in ICU going through her final stages. Having just watched my grandmother go through this I knew what that meant. At a little after 7pm eastern time, 4pm California time, my aunt passed away. She was surrounded by her daughter, her son, two of her sisters, one of which had just flown from Florida to spend her birthday with her, her devoted husband and his son from his previous marriage. His first wife died of cancer too. She was surrounded by love and for the ones like me that weren’t there physically, our thoughts were on her all day.

As I took a puff from my last cigarette before bed I knew that I needed to do something drastic. I’ve been in a funk lately and for good reason but I’ve got a lot of good going on in my life as well. I decided to quit smoking for my aunt. And my grandmother. And my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, my brother, my nephew, family, friends, people whose lives I’m going to touch in my lifetime, my dog, my bio-mom, and anybody who cares about me. It’s only dragging me down and I’ve been struggling with quitting. I’m ready to get out of my funk, start taking care of myself, finish editing my story which both my aunt and my grandmother loved, move toward my goals and just let myself be happy.

I declared this out loud. I made sure to get my dog’s attention and said it to her since she was the only one around. Today I quit smoking cigarettes.

Advertisements




After all these years, is it really important to know your dad?

3 08 2012

There’s been a lot of baby fever going around in my family these past several years. Some of my cousins made a head start and are raising toddlers right now while others set another pace. We celebrated my brother’s first born last October, welcoming a stud of a little boy into our family.

I love seeing the changes in people when they bring a child into the world. I’m going to tell you right now, I never pictured my brother as a daddy. Yes he’s responsible, a hard-worker, a devoted husband but a dad? He still acted like a kid inside a 40-something body. But he’s shown me another side that I absolutely adore.

My brother and his son hanging out with an Oriole.

I’ve met so many people in my lifetime that come from diverse walks of life. I do feel lucky to have been raised by two loving people who showed me right from wrong, passed down admirable qualities and worked together to make sure I had a great childhood full of experiences I’ll cherish forever. Some of my friends were raised by both of their parents together while others had separate lives with mom and dad. Some of them never knew their dad and some of them never knew their mom. Some of them knew both of their parents but one of them chose to never be around. Some of them lost a parent or two and had to take care of there own well-being or had another family member step in.

Family is and should be the most important feature of life. For the most part, they will always be around through thick or thin, you can depend on them, you can make mistakes and know that although they may not agree with your actions, they’ll be there by your side. Blood is supposed to be thicker than water, right?

Well does that same rule apply if you were adopted into a family?

I cannot complain one bit about my life. I may not have had designer name clothes and accessories or lived in the biggest mansion in Florida but I had two parents that loved me to death and made sure I never went without necessities. They treated me just like my brother, who was their blood-son and I never saw any difference between us.

My parents explained where I came from the best they could and were always willing to answer any questions I may have. It wasn’t like they knew a lot since it was a private adoption between two families, their lawyers and their doctors. Whatever information they knew of my bio-mom, even though they weren’t technically supposed to know (the names of the families were to be anonymous but the laywers forgot to cover them on some paperwork that my mom had to sign to take me home) they openly shared with me and were available in case I needed to talk.

I grew up not knowing my bio-mom but I had a wonderful mom and dad taking good care of me. They attended every soccer game of mine throughout high school, cheered me on at my cross-country races, applauded me when I won awards for my academics or other activities. They were there for me the first time I was dumped by a stupid boy and when I broke my wrist behaving recklessly on the school bus. They forked over money sending me to camps and putting me through whatever new endeavor I challenged myself with. They helped me with my homework, listened to endless hours of teenage drama and never refused to read any of the stories I wrote. They taught me morals and values and how to treat people, animals and the earth. I never felt I was missing out on anything.

I was in my mid-20s when someone I was closely related to searched for me and eventually found me in a town nearby. This woman contacted my parents and asked their permission to meet me, claiming that she was my biological mother. The message was passed to me and it was completely my decision on whether to pursue this or not. I didn’t HAVE to if I didn’t want to, but this woman would really love to meet me. And I can’t say I was never curious. I’m guilty of performing small internet searches using the name I was given as a child. My friends would always push me to seek my bio-parents out after hearing my story. I never wanted it to be a big deal. I had a family I loved and loved me back just the same.

Thoughts such as, “Do I really need to add more family to my life? Would it be awkward or strange? Would my parents get upset and jealous? Would I be ungrateful by getting to know another woman that knows me as her child?”

It was crazy for a little while. My emotions were a little stone cold, almost in shock or something, keeping at a distance while still all over the place. I was going through a lot of changes in my life that year. Relationships, friendships, sexuality, drinking habits, career moves, etc. I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with my feelings on that particular subject matter. But I did take her feelings into consideration too. And I arranged to meet her.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you what was going through my head. And yes, it was awkward at that Panera Bread downtown with the amazing parents that raised me sitting next to me and the woman that gave birth to me, and let me go to have a better life than she felt like she could provide, sitting across from me. The spotlight was on me and it was blinding.

We exchanged stories and pictures and that day marked the beginning of my relationship with my first blood-relative and bio-mom. It’s a day I’ll never forget. It was a day I was told the story of how I came to be here on this earth. And it was the first time I noticed resemblances between myself and somebody related to me. While my other friends told stories of how they have their father’s eyes and nose and their mother’s hair and hands I had to sit quiet without contributing. A lot of people would say I looked like my parents and we would always smile and say thank you for the compliment.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through the friendship with my bio-mom. She’s an amazing women herself with the biggest heart. It was like she, too, was part of the family I was raised with. I still can’t get over how lucky and blessed I was, and still am.

Since meeting my bio-mom, I’ve also met her mom and her brother and have enjoyed my time getting to know them. Are we this one big happy family? Not really. Do I benefit from having met them and keeping them in my life? Absolutely. We’ve taken the time to get to know each other and although the pace may be slow for some, it seems to be working out for all of us.

I had no idea what to expect when my bio-mom and her family entered my life. It was nice receiving some answers and making what had only been a fantasy illusion of how I came to be, an actual reality. I do feel like this discovery was meant to be. I’m not sure if I’ve changed in any way because of it but it’s definitely a bonus in my eyes.

Now due to the fact that my bio-mom had a bit of an unusual time growing up; she and her brother were raised by a single mom; her brother was hit by a car when he was around 8 and she was 12 which put him in a coma for nearly a year while clinging to life; her mother tended to her brother’s side while waiting for his recovery leaving her to take care of herself while still a kid; she was 13 when she got pregnant and forced to keep it a secret and never talk about me once I was gone; drugs, alcohol, and older boys played a part in the life of this teenager who was starving for some attention and love.

I wasn’t surprised when she told me she wasn’t sure who my father was because her memory had blocked that crazy time in her life. At the time, it didn’t seem to matter that much to me. She was more embarrassed with not knowing or having the recollection to give me an answer to that question. It didn’t matter to me because I already had so many amazing people in my life and felt supremely blessed. Since she never talked about the event to anybody, my bio-dad most likely doesn’t know I exist.

Lately though, things have been coming back to my bio-mom’s memory. Images, people, conversations and certain moments have been sneaking back in. She’s embarrassed to have to figure out “the one” between several different guys, recalling a time in her life filled with darkness and uncertainty. I’m definitely not one to judge nor should be since I haven’t walked a day in her shoes. So she was a little promiscuous as a child, her circumstances were not like other children her age. Her mom did the best she could but was dealt a few tough hands. She was a dreamer and just wanted to feel special. Attention is something children need. She was just trying to get by the best she could. Even though her actions were nothing like what I grew up with, I love her and would never pass any judgment on her.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on things, here’s where I’m at currently. Bio-mom says she would dig deep within herself and do whatever it takes to locate my bio-dad if that’s something I wanted to do. Digging up the past isn’t always the best to do if it’s a time of heartache and pain. I don’t want my bio-mom to go through any more unnecessary strife, especially on behalf of my curiosity. But is knowing who my bio-dad is only for satisfying my curiosity?

I’m struggling with this right now because I don’t know what would be the right thing to do. I don’t want to cause my bio-mom any grief. I don’t know if it really matters whether my bio-dad knows I exist or not. My life is fine and will continue to be fine. I don’t think meeting bio-dad would change anything. I’m in my thirties now, I know that he’s all grown up too. Some of the bio-dad candidates are married and have children or were married and have children. The only way to truly know would be to take a DNA test along with the candidates. Is it worth it? He may want to know me but there’s a chance he may not give a shit. I’m not looking for any handouts, never have, never will. It would be strictly for the purpose of knowing. How important is it to know the people who made you after being raised by people who loved you just as much? Will me interrupting his life hurt him and his family? I’m not expecting some big epiphany if me and bio-dad ever met or for either of our lives to change direction or even be greatly impacted by this. So is there any reason to reveal this information?

As of right now, bio-mom has decided that it may not be the best time for her to pursue this and is concerned that popping in this man’s life may cause more harm than anything. But if I really wanted to know, she would help me. Since I have no idea what the right thing to do is, I’m in search for some answers that will direct me down the right path. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.