Saturday, June 3, 2017

Detaching Attachments

He who cannot rest, cannot work;
he who cannot let go, cannot hold on;
he who cannot find footing, cannot go forward.
-Harry Emerson Fosdick

This is the summer of detaching attachments. These days I am blogging not just because I like it, but because it helps me keep things in perspective and reminds me of the order in which things have happened and have to happen, because my previously sleepy, small life has increased in velocity and has been spread thin out in so many directions that I barely recognize it.

My Grocery Stores
When I first came to live here in this part of Georgia there were few choices for organic foods and they were a distance away but practically across the street from each other. One was called Harry's Farmers Market, a small, chain and the other was a small crowded co-op that did not even have an automatic door. The co-op was doing very well; it doubled in size within a few years and added an automatic door (you never appreciate those as much as when you are trying to open a small door with a cart going in and out). A few years later Whole Foods bought out Harry's, a small chain, although kind of kept the original name at this store.

Harry's was always quite busy even after it became Whole Foods, but for the past few years the parking lot has only been half as full as it used to be even on the weekends. I could easily see the slow change because I had the same piano lesson day and time for ten years in a row, so I shopped there about the same time every week. Since then we have bounced around on days because of the Home Learning Center schedule but it is still quite obvious that Harry's must be losing money. Whole Foods has been trying to move and it finally found a location about six miles northwest on the outer rim of a busy retail area and near a mall. There were construction problems that delayed the move for two years, but now it is official that the store will be there in the fall of this year. It is not terribly out of the way for us, but it will add driving time with lots of traffic lights.

The co-op is the greater concern. It also has been losing money every month for over two years, at least. I know this because I have been a board member for about a year and a half. Whole Foods moving could make things better but more likely things will be worse. Many people shop both places because although Whole Foods has more selection, it does not carry certain items that the co-op does and likewise the co-op does not carry much in meat or dairy. I cannot see the co-op still being in business two years from now if people drawn in by the new unique businesses now revitalizing the area do not begin shopping at the co-op. The only other thing that I believe would save it, would be to move it, before that is not even an financially possible, but to where is now another issue.

The organic market here has changed so much. We have a new chain called Sprouts that has aggressively been planting stores all over the Atlanta area and now there is one on the way into my favorite stores from our house. The problem I have with Sprouts is that they really have few organics, but lots of that shopping experience that appeals to the Millennials with a coffee shop and lots of bulk bins. I just was not that impressed personally, but every time I go past it, the parking lot is pretty full.

People rave about Trader Joe's, which has that Harry's flavor. There is one about six miles to the east of the co-op but none near our route, as they like to be in the high traffic areas surrounded by high-price real estate. I think that their prices are a bit high, or used to be at least, as I have not been in one for more than ten years. They are not as committed to organics as I would like either.

Since Kroger's is carrying more organics and cheaper, our local one is as well, but organics still do not sell well near my home, that may be in part because many people grow their own foods around here. Often I get items that have been marked down to half because they are within three days of their sell-by dates. I had not been going there because they stopped carrying the butter I liked, which is the main reason I would go. But we ran out of apples so I stopped in and looked everything over as they have expanded their natural market area and ended up buying a few more things, like huge container of organic mushrooms that had been marked down. I used some raw in my salads for a couple of days and sauteed the rest!

The Queen Mother
As you know by now, since I have written about it enough, we are working at getting things settled in Florida with the Queen Mother, who has been less that cooperative on many levels. I am not completely insensitive to how things have changed in her life and her feelings about it; in fact, I have tried not to let it in too much how I would feel if I had fallen, went to the hospital with a life threatening infection, then to a rehab for the 100 days allowed on Medicare, ended up in nursing home, and then realizing that I would not ever again see my home that I lived in for 50 years. If I let all those empathic thoughts in too much, I could barely do what needs to be done with her estate.

I try not to feel the sadness, because all those things, the collectibles, to which she is attached had actually paralyzed her. She said she had thought about going into an assisted living place earlier but what would she have done with all the collectibles? I told her that was going to fall on Alan and me no matter what. All her attachments she bought over the years, they cannot and never really could offer her any comfort or love nor could her house and the people who could, she did not really invest in. I was talking to her next door neighbor about how the Queen Mother would talk, on the phone mostly, to a former neighbor right across the street and then talk about her after hanging up, complaining and often said they were not friends, but the next door neighbor said the Queen Mother told her they were best friends—easy to say now that she has moved away to live with her daughter, I suppose.

I honestly could spend days in tears for the Queen Mother, because she is so lonely and never really got that things are just...things. And yet, when we have tried to get her to talk about what she would like to keep or have with her in the nursing home, she only can think of what she cannot have and will not discuss it. Like when my husband asked about which of the beds she would prefer, she said her own, which is a queen and too large. She also has a full size and a twin or single that would fit better not only in her present room but for her assisted living space, when she is able to be moved. She insisted on the queen and her reason was because she had new sheets for that bed...really! But, decisions of practicality must be made and if she will not participate in making them, then it falls to us...and that is the hard part: we want her to be happy, but the reality is that there is no pleasing her, so no matter what we do or how we do it, she will be upset and blame us.

This is my reality in regards to the Queen Mother. For years, I tried to prepare myself knowing it could be and most probably would be this way, but it is hard for me to accept just the same. She is not willingly going to give up many of her attachments.

My Husband's Daughter
This is an attachment that detached long ago, but your child is always your child. Although I probably have not mentioned it here before, my husband had a daughter from his first marriage. There was a lot of things that happened in the first three years of our marriage I wish had not or that I could forget, including harassment, moving and hiding the child, false police reports, false accusations, the mother losing custody for a year to us, several court hearings each year finding the mother in contempt of court for not allowing visitation, and more. The more the mother refused to let my husband see his daughter, the more he was consumed with trying to see her.

Without going into more details, we finally were given a new judge, who looked at the case that stretched over ten years and stated that he did not even know where to start (I think mostly because the last judge did not follow through with contempt charges against the mother and he could not understand why the other judge had given my husband custody and then taken it away for no reason, especially after we all were assessed and the conclusion was that my husband would be the better parent for her), but by then the judge felt the girl was old enough to be asked if she wanted to see her father and she had been well coached to say "no." We were hopeful that the new judge would enforce contempt of court if the mother refused visitation, but instead, the judge said that he would not take visitation away, but he also would not enforce it. Once the mother knew visitation would solely be on her approval without fear of contempt of court, we did not see that little girl anymore.

After she graduated high school, (just a month after my daughter was born), she contacted my husband. The conversations were courteous and but nothing was discussed about the past, however the damage to their relationship, we assume by design from her mother, seemed to be beyond repair. A few months later she was pregnant and her boyfriend left her. We offered to have her live with us, help her through college, and such, but "no." We offered to come when her first child was born, but she said she was afraid that would upset her mother, who did not know yet that she had contacted us. My husband had the opportunity to just meet her for lunch once when he was working in the state she lives after her first child was born, but she said no to that. There were other opportunities but she always said no. She got back with the father and has had three more children since. In fact, we only got a few phone calls that first year and a few email messages over the years since and Christmas cards with pictures. She has turned down every opportunity to meet with him in person, except once after her second child was born and only in a public restaurant after his parents requested it and they would be there as well. It was as if she wanted him only to be a father-on-paper and not really be involved with him.

However, when the Queen Mother was injured and in rehab, this same woman offered to live in the Queen Mother's house as a "caretaker" with her "little family." When we stated by email we were selling the house, she still persisted and tried to make us feel guilty about the memories that would be lost. You see, she has been trying to move back to Florida for years because her other grandmother lives there. Once she pulled her kids out of school and put them in school in Florida while helping her grandmother after she fell and broke her hip. But, no matter how much she tried to find a job in Florida, it just never worked out. And even though she was close by for those months, she only visited the Queen Mother once. So I was a bit confused about how she just could not understand that her father would possibly refuse her offer of living in the house as a caretaker (and rent free) as a favor to his mother.

Finally, to help her understand, I wrote that what she was requesting required quite a bit of trust and we had not had the opportunity to build that kind of relationship with her. To drive the point further, I asked her if would she be willing to allow any one of her children spend the afternoon alone with us (which I knew she would not since she will not even see her father in person herself)...and explained that kind of mutual trust takes time and effort to build and we really did not have the time when it came to the house and its expenses, that it was to be sold as soon as we could manage it. She went silent for many of the following weeks.

This week, however, my husband received an email with two lines. One said that her uncle told his daughter, her cousin, that the Queen Mother was back home and asking if that was true. (We think he made this assumption because we sent an blanket email to all her email pals that she could be contacted by phone now, but all we did was transfer her home phone number to her new cell phone.) The other was that she was going on a road trip coming this way (meaning she is again seeing her other grandmother) and wondered if we could meet.

I had to think long on this because she lived with us for a time and I loved her, but as an adult she has had so many opportunities to have a closer relationship with her father and everything she did points to she did not want it to be anything more than emails now and then. (Now you may understand why the Queen Mother did not want the contact info of at least one of her three grown grandchildren on her new phone...and the other two have their issues also.) So, my thoughts sadly go to why now?—which matters little, really. The truth is I do not wish to go there or have my daughter dragged into it. I purposely put off having a child until she was nearly an adult so that any child we had would not be affected by all that we had gone through. I also spent years of my life chasing down my family, trying to stay in contact with them, and yet I may get a call from one of my three siblings on the average of once in five years and rarely a Christmas card. Both my sisters were married in the same year and I did not even get an announcement, let alone an invitation; I found out on Facebook a couple of years afterward. So, I am used to dysfunction in my own family and after years of trying I realized that it takes both parties to want to make a relationship better, that I cannot make it work all on my own...I do not make the effort to chase after them anymore. I used to feel guilty about things like that like I could have done more, tried harder, something, but those chains are broken and now I have no regrets, because I know I really tried and they did not. Although I do leave doors open and my arms ready to hug them, I no longer push, pull, or even coax for them to step through it and accept my love.

Likewise, I tried mending things between my husband and his daughter for years also, but I am just...well, I am done with it. I have been concerned that the Princess is naturally curious about her half-sister, but they are 18 years apart—her oldest is just one year younger than the Princess—and the father that she thinks she knows or remembers has been tainted with lies told all her life, while the Princess sees her father as he really is. I think it would only cause problems as the two visions of the same man can not be reconciled unless the older one is willing to recognize she has been thinking of him all wrong. I told my husband that I will support his decision if he wants to see her, but I do not want to be involved until their relationship is in a better state and he had already come to the same conclusion. The sad part is he thinks she only wants to meet to see what she can get from her grandmother's estate, but he is willing to meet with for a meal out with her alone to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Summer Camp
The Princess had saved up all the money she would need for summer camp, but we had told her that we would pay half. She handed her money in early to get the lowest fee, but Wednesday night she found out that only three teens had paid so the church was cancelling it and would be giving the money back. I was torn between feeling relief that one thing was taken off my crazy summer schedule, but sad because this would be the last year the Princess can go unless she goes as a leader. However, she also has friends from another church that planned to go that same week so she may be able to go with their group...although their youth pastor recently quit so we are not sure about that either.

Youth Pastor
Speaking of youth pastors, I was also given the news that ours is stepping down. I so wish I had been wrong, but I knew that it would be coming when she announced her engagement and I expected it shortly after the wedding. One of the reasons we were not in a hurry to move was because of the youth pastor and the relationship she had with the Princess. I knew that her priorities would shift and knowing her, I knew that it would not be a gentle change. However, the Princess is not the emotionally needy child she was a year ago so she is taking the news better than I am, I think. This also means we lose our housesitter and we really need one this summer.

Youth Band
The Princess stepped down from the youth band this week, at least temporarily but likely for the entire summer as last summer they stopped practices all together. We think it is a good idea as she has another gig that I will post about a little later. Actually, my husband was ready to have her quit when he stayed to watch the last practice she attended. The Praise and Worship Pastor was helping, but he only was there for about 20 minutes then he left to prepare for the Wednesday night service. After he left, practice fell apart and all the kids were messing around on their cell phones for 40 minutes. The Princess says that usually does not happen, but they are still practicing the same three songs they have been since before Christmas. One singer acts like a prima donna, stopping in the middle and constantly wanting to change keys back and forth to find the one that makes her sound the best. They have no date for performing the songs. It is just not productive and certainly not what the Princess is used to doing. We always have a performance date that she is working towards. I thought playing with a band would be a good experience but for the most part it, there is no real commitment to making the band work. My husband is even considering changing churches again so that she has a better opportunity with music through the church.

My Aunt
I have been warned by my cousin that my aunt's mind and health are failing fast and if I want to spend some time with her, I should come this summer. This reminds me of the time that my mother's health was failing, while I was taking care of my husband's father after the Queen Mother had her first bout with septicemia and was in rehab for many weeks recovering. Here I am caught up in working on affairs for the Queen Mother's and trying to find time to squeeze in a visit with my aunt, in between the times when her own family will be coming.

In Closing
There are more things going on than I have time to write. As I wrote, the velocity of my life definitely has sped up. Yet, I personally have let go of so many things to which I was chained, but I am living on varying degrees of stress and exhaustion on a daily basis right now. That fast I did, I gained about half the weight right back. Eventually, I will lose it again, when I am up for the effort.

My Lord, life changes are often unwelcome even when expected, but some can prove to be refreshing. I thank you for revealing to me what attachments are worthy and good in my life and of what ones I can and should let go without regret or guilt. 

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.