Archive for the ‘last week with my older brother’ Category

my brother’s watch

July 24, 2010

I started this blog during the week of my brother’s passing, as it helped me to sort through what I was feeling. Upon his death, I started wearing his man’s watch. I thought about all the places it had been, how many parks where he spent his days and slept, all of his struggles with life and yet the watch was still running. It comforted me somewhat, to wear it, though it did not feel like me. It felt like him. It had a crack going across the face of it. I wore it to classes teaching, and used it to always know the time, since the clocks in my college haven’t ever worked.

Just before I left for this trip to Indiana, it stopped running, somewhere around 10am one morning. Perhaps the sand and salt at the beach got into it the week before. So the watch continued one year and 3 mos. after his spirit left this world behind. And I have now thrown it away. It was time to move on.

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my brother’s passing, one year ago

April 26, 2010

One year ago, I started this blog. The reason I started it was therapeutic, for myself to write down my thoughts, as I went to sit with my brother dying of cirrhosis of the liver. We had not seen each other for 25 years.

It is hard to imagine that was a year ago. I can remember very clearly, our visit, each day, his voice, the way he looked, the various people I met. He was somewhat out of it, sometimes totally coherent, sometimes not so much (which was a very familiar pattern for speaking with him on any day, any year!). We had no relationship, basically, except for a few words on the phone if he called when I was at our mother’s, before she died a year earlier. He was a user. He called mom for money. However, as I have said many times, as far as we know, he never hurt anyone physically, and he had a good heart. He said that himself that last week, “Oh they all know me, I have a good heart, and they know that here.” It was like he was trying to believe it, trying to believe they saw through his adamant and insistent addiction and mental problems.

He never could just follow the rules. Ever. He slept in parks, couldn’t stand to be enclosed. That week he told me parks and places I should visit. It was so funny, like he was telling me what to go see, because he knew it all, he had been everywhere, and seen it all. He occasionally told a joke or something he thought was funny. His face would light up suddenly, like a light bulb bright. He looked pathetic, sick, like a person with addictions who had been homeless for 20-odd years. But he was my brother. We had other memories, of other decades, other times. I reminded him of a few of them. Like the time he came home from hiking the John Muir trail, and wanted to hide in the closet and pop out and scare our dad. He was funny.

He was sometimes disturbing, like the day he kept telling me to take him out of there, and told me off when I wouldn’t. “I just can’ t believe you won’t help your own BROTHER.” He was 2 days to not being in this world. He got so mad, he was going to stand up and walk out. And all he could do was hobble! That was Dan, defiant and independent to the end.

But he destroyed his body and who knows how much of his mind, with alcohol, cocaine and other drugs.

He never withdrew his membership from the Baha’i Faith, which then allowed me to list his name in a Baha’i publication after his passing. That was very comforting to me. Some who knew him and me, wrote to me.

I do miss my brother. I miss the relationship we could have had. But addictions took that away. I miss my mother as well. Lord knows, I’ve missed my dad for 40 years, since he left us! It is lonely sometimes. No one in this world knows what we all went through, and there is no way to explain it, or any purpose in doing so. In that, I am very alone.

ACOAs – Adult children of alcoholics

October 9, 2009

Here is one post where I will try to state what I have learned about adult children of alcoholics (of which I am one).

This is off the top of my head (swoosh!), because I have read a lot of books, gone to a lot of counseling and attended many different meetings of ACOAs and Al-Anon. Counselors can be good or bad. It’s sad but true. I once had a counselor advise me to leave my family for 2 weeks. Sometimes they are idiots. Honestly, I think the most productive, positive group I attended was Al-Anon meetings. They are mostly wives and husbands of an alcoholic, and they are not run by a professional counselor. Those people have figured out how not to be co-dependent. They are very independent-minded, and they understand personal responsibility, and where it stops. Here are some of the most valuable things I learned.

  • Adult children of alcoholics are 40% MORE likely to either be alcoholics themselves, or marry someone who abuses substances. Now, why the heck would that happen?

 (Why this would happen: We gravitate to what we know, especially if we are in denial. It feels familiar.)

  • Children of alcoholics do not know what normal is. They struggle to figure this out the rest of their lives. How do you show love in a relationship? What do you share with others? What is okay to keep a secret? What is appropriate to say or not say? What is a healthy relationship, what is unhealthy?

 

  • They grow up in families where they cannot talk about the elephant in the room. There is an elephant in the room that is hurting everybody. But the person responsible for the elephant refuses to deal with the elephant. The children may, at times, throw the elephant out, but it comes right back. They may draw attention to it, but the person responsible for it keeps saying, “Poor me, poor me,” and remains focused on him or herself and makes you feel guilty. So after awhile, you also deny its existence. (It must not be there.) You even take part in attacking others when they say it is sitting there stomping around the room. This is a learned pattern. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Deny, deny, deny. It is not really there! You are exaggerating! But I love you! It won’t happen again! It’s not that bad. How can you do this to me?? Occasionally you tell other relatives it is there, but they don’t believe you. So you start to think it is something wrong with you.

 

  • You are very self-focused. Sometimes you, as well, get on the “pity-pot” as they say in AA.

 

  • Some children of alcoholics go on “auto-pilot”. They show no emotion, very detached from others, don’t get social cues, and they like it this way. That way they don’t have to “feel” what is truly going on. This is how they get through life.

There are different roles that children of alcoholics take on, related to the patterns above. From the outside, for a long long time you can look like a “normal” family. You keep the secret well.

1. Oldest child – becomes the caretaker. Becomes the parent. Tries to take care of everybody, covers up for the alcoholic parent. Sometimes becomes a super-achiever, doing well in school, doing well at a job, exceling at everything they do. It is exhausting. You overcompensate. Everyone thinks you are a wonderful person, so successful. You don’t drink. You are dying inside.

2. Second child – More likely to drink and abuse alcohol themselves. The partier, they stay away from home and act out exactly what the parent is doing. In trouble at school, etc. Also in total denial. (They are not alcoholic, they are just having fun!)

3. a youngest child usually becomes the family clown. This child gives up on making sense while everyone is acting crazy & they just entertain everybody.

Imagine as a child having to clean up your parent’s vomit and put them to bed. Sometimes you start locking your bedroom door so the parent won’t come charging into your room drunk at night and make outrageous demands, like get up and sweep the floor, it’s dirty, yelling at you in a drunken rage. And nobody outside your home believes what is going on because by this time, you’ve given up. People don’t believe you anyway. You are a child.

Yes, it is totally damaging. Yes, children are affected – for life. Children don’t know why the parent can’t quit their habit for THEM. It’s not about loving the child enough to quit. It’s about being addicted, physically, emotionally, mentally, to a substance. It is a disease, or like a disease. It gets progressively worse and it eventually kills you.

When we took my mother in for treatment, the week my youngest child was born, I had given up. My sister came for the birth of my child, and asked, “How long has mom been this way?” Mom had gone on a 3-4 day drinking binge along with our oldest brother who was living with her at the time. She DROVE HER CAR over to my house, to see the baby. She talked and made no sense and left. I just had a baby. At that point, I had other responsibilities. My sister and youngest brother took it upon themselves to drive her into a treatment facility, and leave her there. It was probably the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. And it saved her life.

No one believes this either, but it is true, I’ve seen the medical records. My mom was .69 alcohol content when she arrived. She should have been comatose or dead. It took her a full week to get SOBER. It is disgusting in every aspect. But that is the state she had come to. When she arrived, she was TALKING, and ASKING for A DRINK of the nurses!! You can almost laugh about it. I stayed home and made the call that she was coming in. They asked me, “Has she been drinking?” I was so in denial I said, “I think so.”

I think so??  I THINK so?? Yeah, she was nearly dead.

My mom was a classy lady. She had risen in status with our father in his position as university professor of mechanical engineering. She still looked good. She hid bottles in her car, all over her house, and in her purse. She kept a full-time job. She was so good at hiding it, no one ever believed us when we told them. She nearly died and we all were severely affected by the patterns of interaction it set up in our household.

This was all many years ago. My mom, showing her own indeterminable strength and spirit of faith (I truly believe that) never drank again. She stopped cold turkey. Thank God for that. I forgive her for all she did to us. I really do. And I can think of her now with love. She loved all of us, I know that. But she was nasty to me. She would be mad at me no matter how much I did for her. Then she would turn around and accuse me of not coming to see her enough. I have forgiven her for that. Maybe she did the best she could. Who knows? I certainly don’t. She was funny, she loved Purdue basketball, she loved me, I know.

In any case, the question for me is, to what extent do I still show these kinds of patterns. I still don’t know what normal is. From a pattern of keeping secrets, I now find that I can’t keep any information secret. I’m an open book. If someone TELLS ME NOT to pass on something, then I can do that. But they have to tell me.

I don’t do all for everyone anymore. Go to Alanon, you will learn that trick. It’s very hard though. Sometimes I still want to. I want to give my kids and grandkids the world.

My situation was compounded by the loss of my father through early death just before the loss of my mother to alcoholism. From the shock of the 1st loss, I have an innate fear of EVER bringing bad news to my kids. I try to imagine the worst that could happen, and prepare for that. Because that’s what happened to me. And I was in no way prepared for it. So I always think of the worst-case scenario and try to prepare myself for that to happen. Just in case.

My oldest brother died of addictions. Cirrhosis of the liver is what he officially died of. He was on the street, homeless, alcoholic, and I know he did cocaine (I don’t know how much). Spending the last week of his life with him, which is what started this blog, was a very happy time for me. I am so glad we had that week. I hate to think what it would have been for him to be alone the last week of his life. I knew, by intuition, it was time to go. My sister was unable to get away from work to come. She had been in contact with Dan before he became sick enough with the cirrhosis that he could no longer function. Due to their contact, we heard that he was in the hospital.

That week, I could talk with him, bringing back some memories for him, of us as a family. I knew he would soon SEE and BE WITH our dad and mom. I frankly wanted to encourage him to remember them and those times, so he would GO to them when he saw them. My brother in a wheelchair begged me to take him out of the hospital and nursing home. He wanted a drink! Out of it, he even told me he missed that good, cocaine rush. My god. He begged me for an ice cream cone. They kept bringing him this crappy thick-type water, which he hated. That was because he was having trouble swallowing. So I got him a delicious ice cream out of a machine on the patio – TWICE – breaking the rules. I didn’t know for sure, but he only had a couple days of LIFE to GO, when I did this for him! I am so glad I broke the rules. He was so happy too, so appreciative. I was able to spend an afternoon of time saying prayers with him. I asked him if I could read some prayers, and he said, “Sure! Go ahead,” and hung his head. I read prayers while he fell asleep. This was the day I rolled his wheelchair outside onto the hospital patio because he was so cold. We sat in the sun. It was a good time.

I am sad for the state of my family and what all pain it caused. But I am really at peace now, at least within myself. I am happy with things I did for them, in the name of God alone. I have no regrets there. Regrets in other parts of my life and regrets for my extreme immaturity and how long it took me to learn these lessons, yes. But not in my caring for them. It was not for their sake, but in the name of God, as a service. And I did it to the end.

I can only hope that no more damage comes to my husband, my children or their children in the form of patterns of interaction from the past. My husband’s family is stable and has taught me much. My husband has taught me much. The only way to avoid damage in the future is to face the truth square on, and consult with one another. I pray God that will continue to happen.

afterthoughts

May 13, 2009

While Dan was still alive at Community Convalescent, we were able to set up a bank account for him with his own money there. He had checks from the govt. he hadn’t cashed since Feb. It is amazing to me, the care he rec’d, from the state of California, all paid for by the state. Hooray for this crazy state! More such programs should exist for people like my brother. Dan had a $39,000. hospital bill marked “N/A” for payment. The Convalescent Center said they would take no money, since he was a Medical patient. The hospice care people wanted no money. The only people who DID take money were the crematorium people, and we have no way of knowing if they even did their job, let alone did it with dignity. They supposedly released Dan’s ashes into the sea. We were not allowed to go along on this trip, nor even know when it was to take place. (Maybe this is one reason why Bahai’s are not usually supposed to be cremated! The Baha’i Writings say to treat the body with respect, as it was the repository of the soul, which is a blessed thing.)

The balance of Dan’s account was just sent to us. Another person who Dan had given money to, is dividing that among the siblings. It appears that, lo & behold, my brother, of all people, is responsible in the end for me having an amount that will serve as a down payment on a house. How ironic is that? At the end, in our last conversation, Dan was all worried about his money, & he said a couple of times, after inquiring about it and trying to fool around with the checks in the book bag, “I hope I did that right. I hope I did that right.” I really have a feeling that he knew he was supposed to do something “right” with that money, for example getting it to his family, and through nothing less than the bounty of God, that has happened. It is nothing short of a miracle, really, as we had very little contact with him at all. I feel happy for him, to be able to do this for his family members in a last gesture.

Since his passing, I have had an image of Dan, healthy, happy, really like a big brother I never had, due to mental illness (and addictions). It is a nice image. It stays with me. As he said that last day, “I’m basically a nice guy. The people here, they all know that.” Dan’s heart was good. We do know that. He was an impossible man with impossible problems, and addictions which brought that selfishness which only addictions bring on a person. Total self centeredness. With those things lifted, he really did have a good heart.

He had a bunch of brightly colored, sharply sharpened pencils in his book bag as well. I gave them to Caspian, my 8-yr-old grandson. He is very proud to have them and has colored with them. Dan would be happy about that also.

roses in San Diego

April 29, 2009

san-diego-roses

obituary

April 29, 2009

published in our hometown paper today, Apr. 29th

Born in Lafayette on Feb. 2, 1946, he was the son of the late John and Martha Agnew, who were longtime Lafayette residents.
Mr. Agnew earned a bachelor of science degree in humanities and technology from Drexel University, worked in photography and created light shows for the Edmund Scientific Corp. He lived most of the past 20 years in Tucson, Ariz., and moved to California two years ago.
He was a member of the Baha’i Faith.
Surviving are two sisters, Carol Black of Newberry, S.C., and Susan White of Muncie; and a brother, James Agnew of Fishers.
Cremation will take place. Donations in his memory can be sent to Sharp Hospice Care, P.O. Box 1750, La Mesa, CA 91944.

sunset in San Diego

April 27, 2009

sunset in San Diego

words of Baha’u’llah on the afterlife

April 27, 2009

“Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of the ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.

Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.

The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those will he discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he has been associated . . . Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for anyone will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget (there) the life that thou hast had in the material world.”

connections

April 26, 2009

The soul is a precious thing. I think there is a closeness with a soul when they first leave this life. It is nothing spooky but another process. They are closer to us when they first go. There have been a few people who told me they thought of Dan this past week when they hadn’t thought of him recently. My daughter got up last night and painted a painting, when she hadn’t done that in ages! Another person felt maybe Dan played a little joke on him. It is yet another process. Perhaps they are reviewing their life. Perhaps they are thinking of their loved ones, anyone they had loved in this life. I have felt a great sense of relief since hearing of Dan’s passing, and I picture him today, smiling, burdens lifted, and no mental illness. It is a nice thing. Another friend wrote of Dan and described him as an artistic and gentle soul in many ways, and someone who liked to tell a silly joke and laugh about it. A number of times, Dan said something he considered rather funny, this past week, and he would suddenly laugh, his eyes lit up and his face smiling. Those were funny moments. Another person suggested that if Dan were born today, we may have had a better understanding of whatever mental conditions he was dealing with, and he would have had an easier time. But Dan’s life was Dan’s, and it is now ended. I am still in the process of detaching from all this past week. Today I threw my back out and feel extremely tired. I have to take it very easy this weekend. Still thinking through it all. It takes a while.

my brother – photo

April 25, 2009
farewell Daniel

farewell Daniel