Monday, January 05, 2009

if only ice cream would make it all better

It really doesn't seem like that long ago that I was a child living at my father's house.

That year my parents divorced.

When I close my eyes, I can remember with such precision and accuracy the look of the lot before the house was built. I remember the large pieces of schist that were stockpiled on an earth torn construction site, in the swatch of land that had been cleared of forests.

Those big pieces of schist.

I can still feel them in my eight-year-old hands.

They were gritty and heavy.

They were gray and brown with flecks of mica.

I carried the smaller pieces. My mother, brother and sisters carried the larger pieces. Together, we carried those pieces of schist in to the house to frame the three beautiful fireplaces that would soon exist.

In the kitchen, there were double ovens, a glass cutting board built in to the counter, a SubZero refrigerator that matched the cabinetry and an Insta-hot. By 1979 standards, it was gourmet.

There were Pella windows in every room that looked out on a swimming pool, pond and beautiful Concord forests, surrounding the house. When it was finished, the house would consist of four large bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms. The total square footage, including a finished basement, was just shy of 7,000 square feet ... situated on just over three acres.

This was the house that was meant to be home for our family.

This was the pool that was meant to be played in by the seven children, in-laws, and the twenty grandchildren that would come in later years.

But sadly, that house was never home for our family.

And that pool was very rarely used.

My mother never moved in to that majestic house. She and my father separated before construction was finished and mom moved far away, returning for the first time 15 years later to help me prepare for my wedding day.

My father's girlfriend moved in to the house before my parent's divorce was finalized. Over the next few years, every one of the children that was supposed to live in that house, moved away. Every one of the children that were supposed to live in that house moved away much sooner than they should have moved away.

When I close my eyes, I can remember with such accuracy and precision where everything was located in the step down living room, just off of my father's bedroom. I can remember the big brown marshmallow couch. The dark lamp that was carved like an Indian princess. The step table. The marble chess set. Many of these possessions had arrived from our old house on Walnut Street. These were comfortable remnants of an earlier, happier time.

A time when we were a family.

Thirty years later, I can still see and feel it all.

The feel of the carpet.

The squeak of the closet doors.

The portable electric heaters that we carried around with us from one room to the next.

The red heat lamp in the bathroom off the hall. And while sitting in that bathroom, looking out to the front of the house wondering, "Why? Why? Did they put a bathroom window at eye level from the toilet to the front door?"

I remember the sense of anxiety that always existed. I was a child in an adult's house. I missed my mother and I craved my family. Yet here I was living in my father's house. The best times that I can remember were when Dad and I would sit at the kitchen table and eat bowls of maple walnut fudge ice cream together. This was my father's dream. He worked so hard for it. He had picked out the land. Designed the house. Helped to build it.

This was Dad's house.

It has always been Dad's house.

Even when his wife of 23-years and his seven children were displaced by divorce. Even when his second wife of 24-years was taken out by the police in handcuffs for pulling a knife on him.

This house is his dream.

Tonight, I received a phone call from my brother.

My father is not well.

He has been in the hospital for the past week and the doctors believe that he will need to remain in the hospital until he can be discharged to a physical therapy facility. From there, it is likely that he will need to be transferred to a nursing home. Even though he has his friend, Mary, helping him at home, he cannot stand up unassisted. At the moment, he can no longer function independently. The prognosis is not good. Just a few months, if he doesn't improve.

Hearing those words was like a punch to my gut. For the first time ever, medical professionals have quantified the "anticipated" time remaining that my father has left. I pray with every ounce of me that they are wrong.

My father's health has deteriorated rapidly, not because of Parkinson's. Nor is it because his body is being ravaged by cancer or muscular dystrophy or dementia. In my opinion, it's because my father has lost his will to live. In my opinion, it all began with him selling his drugstore. And seeing his second marriage end in divorce.

Wondering, what was it all for?

My father has deteriorated from the strong man that I once knew. And his house has gone from something majestic to something sad. A place where true love has never once lived. A place that was supposed to be so much more. But a place that to my Dad, has always been home. It's all that he has left. After all of these years.

Within the past month, there has been so much turmoil surrounding my father that a rift has formed among my siblings that may never mend. There has been a reassignment of responsibilities for power of attorney and health care proxies. There has been name calling. Accusations. Even though I believe that everyone is doing their best to work on Dad's behalf, everyone is getting hurt.

Including and probably most especially, my father.

All Dad wants is to go home.

And all I want, all I have ever wanted, is for my family to love each other.

To look beyond what they perceive to be bad and see only the good.

Even though Christmas was last week, I think it is fitting that all of this turmoil has erupted at this time of year. Christmas is for giving.

Christmas is forgiving.

Forgiving the dreams that never came to fruition.

Forgiving ourselves as we forgive those who trespass against us.

My Dad's dream is to go home.

And my dream is to see my Dad happy.


  1. My heart breaks for you as I so understand your pain. This year for the first time in 15 years (as long as my parents have been divorced) my whole family (my parents, my sister and myself with some extended family)was together for christmas, with the exception of my brother who was murdered 2 1/2 years ago. We all just went through the trial and it built bridges that allowed for a forgiving time and a time for giving. I send you peace, strength and love during this difficult time

  2. This is an amazing post. I think rifts would tend toward healing if everyone read this.

  3. Such a touching post. I feel for you, having all this horrible family trouble right after Christmas. In my family, it often seems like Christmas stress and the "Christmas is about being a happy family" -phenomenon always causes blowups in early January; maybe things will calm down a bit in your family as well, as time passes? I'm so sorry about your dad.


  4. It's hard to comment on a post like that. Prayers for your family as you all wade through this tough time and prayers for your dad's health. God bless.

  5. Jen, I don't know your family (and I guess, TECHNICALLY, I don't really know you) but I can tell by reading this post just how much you love them. Each of them. And it starts with your love for your father. What a great man he must be. I'm sorry he's not improving to the level he could live independently. I'll be praying for you and your siblings...that you can be united in decisions (even if only on the surface) for your dad.

  6. Jen, I've been following your blog for a very short period of time. Your entry today really struck a chord with me. Very similar memories of my childhood, eerily similar. My mom, my rock, died three years ago and I wish too that ice cream would make it all better. Thinking of you and praying for peace during this difficult time in your life.

  7. Jen - I hope your family can come to some sort of agreement over what to do with your dad. My grandma (she past away this past Sept.) only wanted to be in her house, just like your dad. My dad was power of attorney & did that for her. It did cause rif between the siblings & we will probably never talk to cousins we once celebrated every holiday with, but I am Ok with that now. My grandma was a strong women & told me dad what he wanted. He granted her last wishes & gave her that. She had 24 hour care (a family friend 5 nights a week & my dad 2 nights a week) & was very happy to be at home (when she was lucid). About 2 years ago she had to to the hospital & then to rehab. While in rehab she got much worse, then when my dad pulled her out & took her home she got much stronger. I think it was because she was at home - where she wanted to be.

    I am writing you to say I am very sorry about your dad & his current condition. I am sorry all of you have to go through this. I just hope all of you can find it in your hearts to do what is best for your dad & hopefully can grant his wishes also.

    Lori (I follow you from the old resolve days).

  8. Jen,

    I started to read your post the day my mother called me and told me to look at the article you wrote about my dad in December 2008. Since then, every now and then I check it out……….I think it is great. I love the diary aspect of the whole thing, your thoughts, the pictures of the children and the funny pictures of you and Charlie.

    Today as I read about your Dad and family home and things that should have been:

    I just wanted to say, how sorry I am your father is so sick. My mother told me how tough things are getting for him last night. I am very sorry and I do hope he will recover. I know just how hard it can be for a daughter to hear her father is terminal. It is just devastating!

    I think you are right about the will to live, it must be strong. I also think one must have a strong faith. I think this has helped my dad through so much. “Being on the outside and looking in” and knowing about all the pain your family has gone through with the lies, deception and the divorce, I wonder how anyone could recover. The pain your family has gone through is terribly unfair and the scares are deep.

    My hope for your dad is he has a will to heal his children and at the same time he rediscovers his faith. My hope is that this will give him the will to live the life that should have been, that can be. To live a life much like the mother of his children ran away to live so many years ago.

    Jen, your dad is still here, there is still time and I know he loves you all very much.

    My hope for you is that you get to see him more then ever.

    Much Love, Lisa

  9. ((((Jen)))) I can only imagine how much you want to be home and help to recreate that home for your Dad. I'm sure he felt the love in your home when he was here visiting and that is the best you can do.

    Much love and healing.

  10. One of many cuzzins!1/5/09, 12:38 PM

    Hey Jen,

    That picture of you...thats how we all remember you.....sweet, innocent, adorable.

    It is hard for me to speak about your Dad. I never saw that beautiful house that your mother should have lived in. I remember hearing about it and hoping we would all be as welcome there as we were on Walnut St. Now, THAT was a great house, with really fun times. But, for the new house, your Dad chose someone other than my Godmother to share. One by one that person picked you all off. Us outsiders could see her evil doings, but you were too close to the situation. It took much too long for some of you to see through her.

    You have a really good family. Your sisters and brothers have had to take sides where siblings should not. You are all good people and I pray that you can work through your differences. It is hard to be so far away from the situation as you are. You get sandwiched between this one and that one, and it becomes a tug of war on your heart and soul. And, big wonderful as we are, can really be burdensome. Everyone has their opinions and everyone thinks they know best. All this with each persons own little idiosyncrasies, is recipe for disaster.

    I am sorry Walter is not well and he may not return to his house. I am also sorry that your family is torn apart again. You are all in my prayers and thoughts.

    Try to be calm and hug your kids when your not feeling strong. They will give you strength and they'll sense that Mommy is needing their support.

    Big hugs!

    PS - I don't know if any of your brothers & sisters read your blog, but if they do, I have a message. You all know me and I hope you won't be offended by my thoughts:
    Life is short. You have been through so much as a family. It is a tough world and money doesn't buy love. Shake off your pride and dig deep in your soul. Decide what is more important...being happy in life surrounded by family or being alone and miserable. Life is short. Any one of you could be gone tomorrow. Thats right. It happens all the time. So get your acts together, listen to each other and start compromising. You only have each other.

  11. I hope your first day of homeschooling went well. I think having your kids around you right now is good for you all.

    ((hugs)) and prayers for you, your family and your dear Dad.

  12. Jen, It is so sad to hear the news about Walter. Hopefully, he will know the way all of you feel about him and give him the stregnth he needs. You above all have always been supportative to both your parents, I know you have always (mostly) been a jewel to our family. Keep your own family safe and happy, love and respect your husband for the good man he is. There is a wonderful reward in having a lifetime of trust. Were thinking of all of you and I know Walter will not go without a fight Love Aunt Grace

  13. So sorry to hear about your dad. You, your brothers and sisters remain as always close to my heart. Difficult time for everyone. You all remain in my prayers. Marg.

  14. I am so, so sorry to hear about your father's poor health. It just flat out stinks.

    I know that the rifts in our family always seem to magnify around the holidays, so I hope a new year can bring some healing to you all.

    Also, I really just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to Joe-Joe's. The closest Trader Joe's from where I live is an hour away, so when I was in town for a meeting you can bet I had to stop and try them and see what all the fuss was about.

    I had a couple of other thoughts, but I think I need to get another (dozen) Joe-Joe's now.

  15. I'm so very sorry for your dad and your family. My sister and I didn't talk for nearly six months after my mom died. Tensions run high at the ending of a person's life. I just hope so much that your siblings can come together for your father's sake. It's just heartbreaking that that big home was never lived in by your siblings. (Can you imagine having 7000 square feet??)

    I'll say a prayer for your Dad. I hope things get better.

  16. Just back to say that your cousin Regina's comment was so wonderful and touching. It's so true. Once your parents are gone, you guys only have each other. You can't forget that, because someday you'll need each other.

  17. Oh Jen, I was so sad to read this post. Your heartache and anguish is reaching out. I wish I had magical answers for you. We will be sending lots of prayers from TX that your father takes a turn for the better and that they are wrong by years! We are also going to pray that the rifts that are abound right now will quickly be resolved.

  18. Oh Jenn . . . I am so sad to read this. I know you'll keep us posted. Hopefully I'll see you guys Wednesday . .. maybe we need an ED.