It’s been a minute? Or two? Or…like…six months?
I have returned to this blog many times over the last six months with an itch to write. To vent, to yell, scream and cry on paper/screen. But, then, I’d close it out following an exasperated, ‘never mind.’ This is typical me, though. I tend to let things build up and then to sit down and write about it all will feel like a more daunting task because by then, there’s a lot that’s piled up and I’m more likely to be saying, ‘oh, yeah, and there was also THAT time….’ I suppose the moral of that story is to NOT stop talking, to keep reaching out and to keep addressing what's on your plate before there's too much shit on it and you don't know what to focus on first.
I’m actually taking my own advice and working on this shit-storm of a blog entry in a word document first – for I’ve learned that things don’t always auto-save. And so, this will probably be a long entry. Might want to make sure your coffee/tea/caffeinated beverage is close by!
We’ll start with January.
COVID struck on Christmas Day, 2020. J spoke to her parents to wish them a Merry Christmas and her mom looked HORRIBLE. She was wheezing, she was feverish, she was having trouble breathing. ‘Just the flu,’ she said, ‘I’ll be fine.’ All of the sisters (J has four sisters) urged her to go to the ER and she said, ‘if I don’t feel better after taking a nap, I will.’
This would be the last time J physically heard her mom’s voice. By day’s end, she was admitted into the hospital with a positive COVID test. J’s Dad also tested positive, but my mother-in-law had some serious pre-existing conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, previous stroke, COPD, emphysema, all of that on top of a terrible immune system) so they were understandably much more concerned with her. On the 26th, she texted J and her sisters and told them that they were going to intubate her and ‘hopefully it won’t be for very long.’ Sadly, she remained intubated until she passed away on January 15th. During that 20ish days, she’d been put into a medically induced coma so that her body could heal, she suffered a brain bleed and was transferred from one hospital to another via airlift. After they’d run some tests, they would discover she’d also had a massive stroke. On the 14th, my father-in-law called all of his daughters and said, ‘it’s time to come.’
J drove to her sister’s house, where the doctors arranged for a Zoom call between the medical team and the family. They basically said that the stroke had been quite severe, and that if by some miracle, she were to come out of this – (also not likely, for her lungs were SHREDDED), that she’d likely not know who anyone was, or how to take care of herself anymore. She’d not be able to walk, she’d need to be in a nursing home. The family made the decision then to say goodbye and drove to Boston together. They were allowed up two at a time and were able to spend fifteen minutes with her. My father-in-law went up last, and the call came as soon as he’d come back down.
My mother-in-law was gone in less than a minute. The machine was the ONLY thing keeping her alive at this point. As soon as they turned the machines off – that was it.
J spent a few more days in Massachusetts at her sister’s house. We would touch base daily over FaceTime, and more often than not, she’d be either high or drunk – which I definitely don’t like because of my previous experiences with people who were high and drunk - but also understood. She’d just lost her mom – y’all know how much I butt heads with the Oompa but I don’t think I’d handle it well if the tables were turned. And so, I bit my tongue, and actually suggested she take an edible when she was feeling overly depressed. Lesser of two evils, right? We don’t have a lot of hard alcohol in the house, either.
In the meantime, I was just about to start my final semester. A paper-heavy semester. Let me see if I can remember – there was a ten-page assignment right off the bat. There was to be three exams between February and May; each requiring ten to twelve typed pages. There was a field paper that needed to be turned in at the end of the semester (this one a ‘free writing’ sort of thing as it was a personal assessment of our field experiences), there were 30 journal entries needed to be submitted, and then there was the ‘monster paper’ – my Capstone paper totaled out to be 63 pages. There were also seminars for four hours every Thursday night via Zoom, and there were countless meetings we’d have to attend in order to accrue the ‘field hours’ we needed (340) before the end of the semester. I’m sure that I’m missing a couple of additional assignments that were sprung on us, but think I’ve effectively shown just HOW MUCH writing there was to be done last semester. The short answer - A LOT. To top it off, I was working with student clients at the University's Gender and Sexuality Center five days a week. There was ALWAYS something going on.
Perhaps that’s why I had no motivation to revisit my blog. Either way, there was a lot on my mind with school and with a grieving wife at the same time.
I’ll talk about my father-in-law, now, since he’s #1 on my shit list at the moment.
Literally the day after my mother-in-law’s passing – he said to all of his daughters: ‘when your mother was alive, my job was to take care of her. Now that she’s gone, my job has changed – now my new job is to make sure you all walk right with God.’
A little background on my in-laws. They are extremely religious born-again Christians. There is one sister who went to church with them and has become very involved with the church. This sister is single and bitter in every sense of the word. There are two sisters who are married with children. There is one who is married without children. And then there’s J – who is unmarried and has been living in sin (with another woman, yours truly) for the last twelve years. Our relationship has never been one that my in-laws condoned, though they were never in a position to contest it, for J is a grown ass woman who would have put them in their place. Mom would make comments every now and then – and J (or one of her sisters) would shut her down. So, she started making comments privately to her husband, and now my father-in-law has made it his personal mission to get J onto the ‘right path.’ He ordered all of his daughters to ‘buy a bible’ and told them all that he would be calling them two nights a week to make sure they’re all reading. We all know that he’s fine with his other married daughters, for they’re all married to men – and that his golden child is the sister who is devout, as he is. We all know that he fully intends to see that J, the only lesbian daughter of his, will ‘straighten out.’
Now, those of you who know me – know that while I have issues with religion, (my uncle, a PRIEST, sexually abused me from ages 3-6, my mother swept everything under the rug despite the very obvious signs of child abuse – and even better, actually made me confess my sins to my uncle so that I could receive communion during Sunday mass) I do NOT judge others for their religious beliefs. What people choose to believe is entirely their business. What’s NOT okay is forcing onto others YOUR ‘set of rules,’ so to speak. It is NOT okay to condemn someone for feeling differently – hell, if you do, you agree to disagree and move the fuck on, it’s no one’s place to say what’s right and what’s wrong – and certainly it’s not my father-in-law’s place.
He’s persisted, though. He’s called twice a week and EVERY time, will ask if J’s done her reading. She lied a few times and told him yes, while she doesn’t even own a bible. He began to say things that are disturbing, to say the least – including that she’ll not see her mother again (in the afterlife) and that she’ll be ‘left behind’ if she continues on the path she’s on. And I’m clear on this – other than her sexual orientation, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the path she’s on. She’s a good woman. She’s kind, she’s loving, she’s compassionate. She works hard, she loves hard. And I’m crazy about her – as are my kids. We have TWELVE years of history. But because she’s in a relationship with a woman – she’s not ‘right with God.’
So, if we’re to translate her Dad’s words - this means….if she stays with me, she’ll be left behind. This is what I’m getting from it. Unless she’s willing to leave behind our 12-year relationship, she’ll not see her mother again.
I’m so enraged at him. Is THIS what the fuck you tell your daughter, when she’s JUST lost her mother not even six months ago???? Before she’s had a chance to GRIEVE this massive loss? Where the fuck is the compassion your so-called church supposedly encourages?
I’m angry, overall. Very angry. At him, for being this way and adding to her already-mounting stress. At her mom for not being able to give J the reassurance that she’s loved and accepted and who had left this earth (if she’s to believe her Dad’s revelation that her Mom never could accept our relationship) feeling this way?
I also can’t help but feel responsible. I know, realistically, that this isn’t my fault and that I’m not to blame for the way all of this shit’s gone down. I’m not at fault for loving my best friend and wanting to marry her (which is happening, by the way – whether he likes it or not) and wanting a life with her. But then there’s also that pestering thought that if I wasn’t in the picture, J wouldn’t be going through all of this right now. I know that’s not a thought that is helpful, but for now, it feels true and I hate that her Dad has made me feel this way.
After twelve years of keeping my distance around them, I know now that they’ve always considered me to be representative of what’s ‘derailed’ her. They ARE that selfish and closed minded. They may have liked me as a person, but they definitely did not embrace me as one their daughters’ to-be spouses. And deep down, I knew that and was always respectful. Whenever we’d go visit them, I’d purposely keep a distance from J. I would not kiss her in front of them. I would not hold her hand whenever they were in the same room. I would not show affection when they were present. I knew it chafed them, and so I went out of my fucking way to make sure they were comfortable whenever we were visiting. Now, granted, I’m not an overly affectionate person unless I truly love someone and am comfortable with them – in those cases, I’m a hugger – but they made me feel weird showing affection to the person I love the most. And that’s not fucking okay. It’s not.
I watched as J began to crumble under all of this pressure. It was a slow process – a five-month long process. The edibles made a regular appearance. She wouldn’t want to get out of bed sometimes. She’d come home with her eyes puffy and red, having cried on her way home. She threw herself into work. Her depression worsened. She went back to therapy. The anxiety got worse, every time her father called.
She made another trip to MA after we went to the services in the beginning of February. She went alone, for she intended to go to lunch/dinner with her Dad and to try to talk a little bit about how all of this was making her feel. We all (me, her bestie, her sister) encouraged her – tell him how you feel, it’s gotta be said, he can’t be this pushy, it’s not going to help…
Long story short, it didn’t go well. At all. They did make it to the restaurant, where J ended up in tears over some of the shit he said. He acknowledged that she’d been through abuse when she was a child, (and this, you can imagine, pissed her off because if he knew – why didn’t he say anything or intervene?) and that this is what he believed was responsible for her ‘wrong choices.’ He didn’t care that she was upset, in tears or unable to speak. And as if that wasn’t enough – he then took them to a secluded location and forced her to ‘pray’ with him (consisting of her ‘repeating after him’ her promises to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ) before he would let her get out of the car. She was shaken, overwhelmed, and this, if you ask me, is what broke her. On her way home, she FaceTimed me and told me she needed to take a break from her father for a while. And sure as shit, she sent him a text that night letting him know that she didn’t want to talk to him and that she would call him when she was ready.
He stopped calling, which is good. There was a little bit of a reprieve from all the bible thumping.
In the meantime, I finished up school. Graduation was on a cloudy and cold day in May, but it still was a lovely event. I’ve finally done it….met my goal of finishing up school. I’m now officially a social worker with a degree – and while I should be beaming with pride, right now, I’m just going through the motions. It hasn’t been easy contending with school during all of this, during a time when my better half is struggling so much. And of course, feeling like I’m contributing to her pain by just existing. (A thought I’m trying like hell to chuck into extinction, for if it wasn’t me, it’d be some other lady – you just CAN’T ‘fix’ or ‘undo’ gay!)
Oh, and this isn’t even OVER, yet.
Her sister (the one who is closest to him/the church) called in the middle of May and said they were planning a surprise 70th birthday party for their Dad. They are all aware at this point, that J is not really on speaking terms with him, yet they kept calling and saying things like, ‘you should come, he’s still your Dad, it’s his birthday, we’ll all be there for you, it’ll all be fine…’ And J, being the type of person she is, knew she’d feel like shit if she didn’t go. And so, she decided to call him prior to his surprise party that she was planning to attend, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t deal with the force-feeding of their religion anymore. She knew she’d be seeing him soon and as they hadn’t talked in a couple months by now, she didn’t want for it to be awkward. Her intention was to call him and reopen communication/smooth the waters so that when she saw him, it would feel a little more comfortable.
That didn’t go well, either. He still persisted and told her that everything she was doing was wrong and that he never could come to accept our relationship. She took that to mean, basically, that he never would be able to accept her. If being forced to pray and recite words she didn’t mean didn’t break her, this conversation certainly did.
She decided after hanging up that she could not and would not be attending her father’s party. She cried herself to sleep and said she wasn’t sure how to deal with losing him, too.
She called me the day after (A Thursday) – asking me to meet her at the hospital.
I frantically asked what happened, thinking the worst. Accident? WHAT hospital?? WHY??
‘Nothing,’ she said, ‘but if one more thing does, I’m going to completely lose my shit. I’m signing myself inpatient. I HAVE to do this and I HAVE to disconnect from everything and everyone for a while.’
I dropped everything, got into the car and drove an hour to the hospital where she was. Went through the intake with her. It was the scariest thing in the world, to be handed her phone, her personal belongings, her keys, even her earrings, to take home. She’d be transferred to a psychiatric facility on Friday morning, and she’d have her assessment on Monday. She would be able to wear her own clothes, but as a precaution, all of the drawstrings would have to be cut. She’d be allowed slip-on shoes, but nothing with laces.
This was really happening. She’d had a mental breakdown, and this man (I refuse to call him my father-in-law anymore) being celebrated on that Saturday, was responsible for putting her there.
On my way back to the hospital on Thursday night (I’d driven an hour home to pick up clothes for her to wear at the other facility, then an hour back to the hospital, then an hour back home) I released a string of swears, probably met my cussing quota for 2021. FUCK! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! SON OF A bit*h!
Drove TWO hours on Saturday morning to the new facility (further away than the first hospital) and wasn’t able to see her – for some reason, she needed her meds dropped off – so another four hours in the car on Saturday (the daughter and dog took a ride with me) just to plop a bag down at the front desk. More swearing ensued on the way there and on the way home. The daughter, thankfully had her earpods in and the dog – well, he got an earful but at any rate, was just happy to be with us for the ride. Of course, now there was a plan to make that ride a second time to pick her up and bring her home when it was time.
While she was in the hospital, I threw myself into job training. (That’s right – I didn’t mention this, yet – before she’d gone inpatient, I’d had an interview and was told that as soon as I finished a 40-hour online training to be a Registered Behavior Technician I’d be hired!) I was done with training by the time she was to be released and was told to report to training on the following Monday, which was last Monday. I’m officially employed, now – but as with graduation, the excitement, the anticipation – all of that? It’s been a ‘mehhhh’ for me.
A couple weeks ago, when she was on the inside, I will admit that I felt so disconnected from everything and everyone. The few friends I’d shared this information with were absolutely amazing and supportive and I love ‘em all. They listened to me, they offered a shoulder, they encouraged me to vent if needed, and to get out of the house every so often. They’re the ones who know damn well that if I don’t have a reason, I stay home and isolate. They know who they are and how thankful I am to them.
It also bothers me that aside from one sister relaying messages of what J needed and one other sister checking in with me on the day she went inpatient, NOT ONE other person in her family even bothered to see how I was doing with it all or if I needed anything. I didn’t. What I needed was sitting in a mental hospital, but it’s the principle. It WOULD have been nice to hear from the sisters. Would have been nice to hear that they wished her well. And over the last few months, I’ve felt increasingly awkward with the ‘bonus’ family I’ve had for twelve years. I’m not sure how to get past these feelings right now, either, because honestly, I don’t know if they’re blaming me (even if only partially/silently) for being the forbidden fruit/cause of the friction between J and their father.
Anyway. I just couldn’t really talk about all of this. I didn’t know how to put into words what I felt. I didn’t know how to vent it all, because there was anger, yes. But there was also sadness, frustration, and downright exhaustion. All I wanted to do was whatever was needed for work. I slept like shit. I woke up every morning wanting to text J but would be reminded by the phone sitting on her nightstand that I couldn’t. I felt WAY off, physically, mentally and emotionally. But because the one who’s supposed to hold ME up was not there, I plowed through it all, just so that I could stay functional. I withdrew into the shadows, and just did my thing. Got up in the mornings, took the dog for a walk. Sat in front of the computer for hours, completing the training. Did my job here at AS – because that’s a major part of my daily routine and I wasn’t about to change that. Forced myself to take care of myself and get up and eat (cooking for just one is just lame!) and lazed in front of the television. The kids were with their Dad for the majority of the time so I just kept to myself. Safe to say I had a little bit of depression of my own, but I think that it was more of an unsettled feeling than depression. The love of my life is hurting so badly and I can’t help her. That intrusive feeling of responsibility, too, has been nagging. That doesn’t make me feel very good at all.
She was discharged after a week and went back to work yesterday. She’s looking better, she’s feeling better. I was a little reluctant for her return to work, given what just happened, but she has been working on a plan of her own – to map out her day the night before, and to not bite off more than she can chew with work. No extra shifts, no swooping in to another’s rescue. She’s going to take it slow as ‘75% of her problems right now are family-related’ and to be sitting at home with nothing to do would likely give her more time to dwell on that other stuff. She’s also come to the realization that her family right now is just not ‘safe.’ She maintains contact with one sister (the one whom she called from the hospital daily with updates) and is finding it odd that NONE of the others (or even her Dad, who has been made aware of her hospitalization) have reached out to see how she was once discharged. She was home for an entire week and not one person - other than this one sister – picked up the phone to call. Surely, she wouldn’t answer the call from Dad if there WAS one – but as for the rest of them? Shame on you! They are, in my eyes, TOXIC as all hell, and all a part of the problem. None of them will ever read this, but mark my words – she’s noticed who has reached out and who hasn’t. And right now, I don’t give a fuck whether you want to talk to me or ask me how I am, but she’s YOUR sister. Y’all ought to be fucking ashamed of yourselves for not reaching out to her when you know damed well that she sat in a psychiatric hospital for a week because of the father you ALL share.
I started my new job last week, literally the minute she came home. They didn’t waste any time and weren’t kidding when they said that the position was contingent on the 40-hour training. AS SOON as I sent in the certificate of completion – the call came in to report to the office on Monday last week. There have been trainings on how to complete the appropriate paperwork, there have been HIPAA trainings, and other fun ‘feet wetting’ trainings. I am now waiting for a permanent client, but in the meantime, working on learning the ropes through trainings and shadowing. Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, I take on a temporary assignment – so this’ll help me to gain some groundbreaking experience before the permanent client comes along.
Allrighty. I think that sums up the gist of the last six months. I don’t mean to be away from my blogs for too long. It’s really not in my character to be. I’m used to being able to sit down and to write, but there’s been way too much head traffic lately. Thankfully, that traffic has eased up a little and I am able to navigate through most of it and decide what I can share for the moment. I WILL try to be more attentive to these self-care needs of mine but know better than to make promises when it comes to my blogging.
All I can promise is to try to do these little mental dumps every now and then - and hope nobody minds. LOL.
Hoping all of my friends here are doing well and are hanging in there. Know that I love you, regardless of your religious beliefs, of your gender, your race, your sexual orientation. I DO NOT CARE how you identify - what matters is being a good person and I know that here, I am surrounded by good people who will support and do not judge. For that, I am appreciative and eternally grateful. It is also the reason I am finally feeling a little more comfortable sharing what's been going on in my world over the last six months. I feel safe here, and I thank all of you for contributing to that feeling of security. It's been hard to feel that way offline, lately.