Where. To. Begin?

At the beginning of quarantine in March, being completely honest, I wasn’t in a good place.  I was overwhelmed.  Drowning in stress and pressure.

I needed a break.

A break from life.

My parents are snowbirds, and above all else, I knew they needed a break.

The past year has been overwhelming for all of us.  Them, especially.

When my grandma was moved into assisted living in 2016, my dad and his sister never saw eye to eye on the care of my grandma.  But, we dealt with it.  My dad making the tough decisions, being the bad guy.  All to ensure my grandma’s safety.

Responsibility was “shared.”

But over the past year, his sisters involvement declined.

Long story short, she stopped showing up.

So, we stepped up.

Lot’s of things happened.  Her husband fell.  Traumatic things happened.  We realized she wasn’t taking care of herself.  But, despite the desire to help someone, you cannot force someone to care for themselves.

You just can’t.

So when we discussed whether or not my parents would take the much needed few months break, I stepped up.

Willingly.

I took on the normal responsibility that I have for several years, helping collect mail, pay bills.  Adulting stuff.  But then I added in caring for my grandma.

Many times over the winter, I kept reminding myself that I am grateful for the time I have been given to spend with her.  Sometimes, I had to remind myself of that fact repeatedly.  Because, at 96, she isn’t caring for herself at the same level that she has so bravely and fiercely done since her husband died 45 years ago.

And then I had to take care of my brother after he broke his knee.  Which is an even larger complication.  Despite the fact that he and I had barely spoken over the last 8 years…he’s still my brother.  So I took the time off work.  And I was there for him.

Even while going through his surgery, I knew that God was working.  I can’t always say I agreed with or appreciated how He was working.  I still knew he was working.

And then quarantine happened.

Again, overwhelmed and stressed, and in desperate need of a break, I felt relief that I didn’t have to do anything except stay home.

Except, when you’re quarantined with just yourself, and your dog (who is ADORABLE AND AMAZING, but not a very good conversationalist) I found myself alone.  With myself.

There were days, there ARE days, I barely recognize myself.

Who is this person that I have become?

Though I tried to put on a good show most of the time, I started to spiral  Not completely out of control.  But I just haven’t been the person that I have become.  The person I worked so hard to be.

I was breaking down.

Now, before you get too worried…

I truly believe that in the process of breaking down, you lose a part of yourself.  But the key point being, you often lose part of yourself that you didn’t really need to be in the first place.

But let me tell you…even though some of those pieces needed to be lost…it’s TOUGH!!

My parents got home.  And things started feeling like they were on a slightly more even keel.  Except that’s a dangerous place to be.  Because, life happens.

My aunt died.

Plain and simple.  She died.  She refused to take care of herself.  The very last conversation my dad had with her was telling her to reach out.  She needed help.  But instead, she gave in.  And her health, that she had blatantly ignored for far too long, gave up.  She died.

My dad and I handled it.  We are steady.  And we deal with what needs to be dealt with.  And I continued to fall apart.

It hasn’t been easy, at all.  I have felt the absolute most despair of loneliness.

I know, and have known, that I am the caregiver in the family.  I have always known that I would be the one to take care of my parents.  When I moved home 8 years ago, that was a big part of the reason why.

I didn’t expect that to happen immediately.  Though, it did, because…life.

And I certainly didn’t expect to be doing it all alone.

I figured somewhere along the way, God would help a girl out and finally bring me my husband.

He hasn’t.

Not that I haven’t tried to force the issue.  Because, to combat the overwhelming loneliness, I signed up for online dating.  Again.

I met a lot of idiots.

One person, I thought I made a genuine connection with.  But for reasons I still don’t understand, it fell apart.  Pushing me even further into my pit of loneliness and despair.

I feel alone.

Heck…

I AM alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing and wonderful friends and family.  But for the big stuff, it’s just me.  And I’m not saying that trying to have a pity party.  That is the furthest thing from what I want.  It’s just a simple fact.

I am alone.

And while it’s tough to accept that when that is the last thing that I want, the last thing I ever thought I would have to do, I know that I need to accept it.  Learn to deal with it.  And keep moving forward.

I honestly don’t know where this crazy year will take any of us.

But…

From the very beginning, I knew that something good would come from all of this insanity.  I.  Just.  Knew.

I still feel that.

But looking at the last few months, the absolute unbelievable things that have happened.  I still can’t wrap my head around all of it.  I’m not sure it’s possible to right now.

One day, I hope that all of this makes sense.  It is my hope and my faith that all of it will.

But I will also say that this just sucks right now.  All of it.

Ok, I take that back.  Not all of it.  Because, let me tell you what else happened.  I needed to get out of Dodge for a few days.  So…I went to visit my brother.  He and I had conversations that we have needed to have for many years.  Conversations that he certainly wasn’t ready to have before.  But, we finally had them.  And I can’t say that I walked away smiling.  In fact, I may have referred to part of the conversation as the final nail in the coffin that I really am here alone, because he wants no part in helping care for our family.  But actually having the conversation was a step forward for us.

I cannot, nor will I, say that I’m in a great place right now.

But what I can finally say is that I know my worth.  And even though that is a HUGE burden to carry at times, I know my worth.

And that, my friends, is a start.

The Mysterious Ways God Works

I have had an absolutely weird, surreal week.

As adults, my brother and I have little in common, other than our shared DNA.  To be honest, we are alike, but we are drastically different.  We have different interests.  We have very different personalities.  And for the last 8 years or so, we haven’t had much of a relationship, at all.

I am a firm believer that no matter what connection you have with someone, like being family, you do not have to keep them close in your life if they aren’t healthy for you.

For a long time, this was my brother.

Whether he realized it or not, something shifted in how he perceived me, and he started out just being cold or rude.  This came to a head at a family dinner, where my entire family, and his now ex-wife’s family were all in attendance.  He got drunk, and started yelling at me, and calling me stupid.

I was done.

My parents continued to urge me to try to work on things between us.  And I tried for a really long time.  I did.  I put all of the effort into it.

I got little to no response.  And it certainly didn’t get any better.

Holiday’s were awkward.

And I finally realized something huge.  I wasn’t the one that broke our relationship, so I couldn’t be the one to mend our relationship.

A year ago, he announced that he and his wife were getting a divorce.  So I once again tried.  I didn’t get much of a response.

But he did at least ask our parents about me sometimes.

I finally got over myself, and decided to go with my parents for a visit, something I had not done in 7 years.

And, though still awkward, things were getting marginally better.

He actually asked if I would be able to take a day off work to spend a long weekend with he and my parents in December for Christmas.  And because he was the one that actually asked, I did.

We have yet, even to this day, to discuss what has separated us.  But, for now, I’m letting that sit off to the side, and just try to be there for him.  Mentally, at this point, he isn’t capable of having those kinds of conversations yet.

But then, we’re getting to how God can just work in mysterious ways.  Ways that I don’t always agree with.  But I put a great deal of faith and trust in how God is making all of these things work, and I’m rolling with it.

So…get this.

He fell and broke his knee (patella).  Broke it badly enough that he needed surgery.

Initially, my dad planned to fly in to take care of him.  But he would need to fly back pronto, because they had appointments that needed to happen.  Being the fantastic daughter I am, I offered to fly to Florida to hang out with my mom while he went to take care of my brother.  He then told me he would rather I go to take care of my brother, and he stay where he is.

So, that’s a firm no on me going to Florida.

Drat.

I did tell my dad, however, that if needed I would go take care of my brother.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and we find out what day surgery is scheduled for.  Which makes it even worse for my parents schedule.  And my brother calls me.

We talk.  We talk about whether or not I would even be able to take time off work.  Which, thanks to a “family first” attitude with the school I work at, it was no problem.

So I agreed to go take my brother to have surgery, and hang out and take care of him for a few days.

I briefly thought that I had lost my mind.  Which, realistically, is possible.

But at the same time, he IS still my brother.  And I might not like him all the time, but I do still love him.

I didn’t really sleep well after agreeing to go.  And my nerves were so bad that I thought I really might vomit.

So I get that God works in mysterious ways and all, but THIS???  This is absurd.

Right?

But I went.

And it’s still rather awkward between he and I.  We literally had not spent ANY time alone, without our parents for some type of buffer, in many, MANY years.  But we managed.  We actually talked.  He finally got over trying to be a good host, and actually let me help him.  And we acquired some funny stories along the way.

Ok, one of them he totally doesn’t know about because I didn’t want him to worry.

You know how I told you that in some ways, we are alike?  Well, being a klutz is one of those things we have in common.  Last fall, he was making salsa, and sliced the palm of his hand open.  Last Monday, I sliced my palm open while un-packaging my new flatware.

We compared – though they are on opposite hands, they are identical scars.

The story gets better, don’t worry…

So…Thursday.  Surgery day.

He, obviously, cannot eat anything.  So I ordered take-out from the restaurant down the street.  I was walking across the parking lot to pick up my food, and I trip.  And I fall.  And I bust the cut open on my hand, and I knew I had done some damage to my knees.  I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body, I thought I was going to pass out.

I texted my dad, and told him.  But I also told him I wouldn’t be telling my brother about it.  I didn’t want to worry him any more than he already was.

Both knees are pretty torn up, road rash, bruises.  They’re pretty.  But fortunately, the damage ends there.

This literally was an HOUR before we had to leave for the hospital.

I slapped some bandaids on my knees, and away we went.

EVERYTHING IS FINE!

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but someone with a broken patella, in a full leg splint, needs some help getting in and out of a wheelchair.  And with some laser guided precision, every single time he had to get up or down, he smacked my knees.

Still didn’t tell him what happened.

It turns out, surgery went great.  They were able to just remove some of the shattered bone, so he doesn’t have hardware in his knee (lucky guy).  I impressed his Orthopedic Surgeon with my vast medical knowledge.  Not because I’m in healthcare, but because I’m klutzy, and I have a lot of experience.

It was a very long day in the hospital.  And he spent the night.

But he realized that my experience and knowledge of having broken bones, and sitting around while other people have surgery, can actually come in handy.

He was able to come home the following morning.  And things were still going well.

I left after a couple of days.  He can physically get around just fine, fine enough, at least.  And I helped get things situated for him while I was there.  He relied on me to help him.

And, let’s just say, the whole helping him having surgery led to a greater sibling bond (because you have to do some weird, helpful things) that neither of us was really prepared for.  And we’ll probably never discuss ever again.

But here’s my big take away…

God works in mysterious ways.  In ways that we cannot even begin to fathom.  He works for people who don’t even believe in Him (like my brother).

I knew that many, MANY people were praying for our situation.  And throughout the past week, I have felt that prayer go with me each and every step of the way.

Life rarely goes the way that we think it should.  And bad things happen all the time.  But God truly does have a plan for our lives.  Though it often takes far longer and down paths we never expected to take, God can bring us through anything.