Monthly Archives: April 2024

first love

first love

The years get blurry, but somewhere around 2006 or 2007, my sister Debbie and our mother sold their house in Old Bridge, NJ and moved to Florida.  For as long as I could remember, my mom dreamed of buying a trailer home in Florida and just moving to sunshine.  And then they did it. Debbie quit her job, they sold their house before the bubble burst and moved.  Debbie quickly got a job with a big bank in Orlando and they settled in a few apartments in Sanford and Lake Mary, until they finally decided to build a house in Apopka.  Life was good in those days.  Debbie found “sisters” in Cynthia and Nancy. They were happy.  Spending too much money, but they were companions, with the same sarcastic, argumentative kind of humor that equally cracked each other up as it drove them crazy.

They lived together all of those years, in Old Bridge, then in Florida, in the Apopka house, then their townhouse, the apartment, the St Catherine rental, and eventually the Independent Living apartment….until July 2023 when the unavoidable unraveling began.

There is so much to say, too much.  I’m jumping into the middle, but I’ll try to make this part make sense.  In January 2022 my mom was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.  It was the beginning of my mom’s rapid downward spiral in her health.  By this time, Debbie had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (so much to say about that another time). The two of them could not look to the other for support — but they did.  They were immoveable on that point. They wouldn’t, (looking back maybe it was really couldn’t), leave each other. 

The years 2022 and 2023 and the first half of 2024 were the hardest of my life.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Our little family, the only people on this earth that were mine….we were falling apart, and my need to try to save them was eating me alive with every action I took or failed to take., with later regret.   My mom had 2-3 very serious stays in the hospital.  In Jan – Feb 2022, I was rehabilitationg mom at our house in St Catherine, while Debbie was taking care of herself at the house around the corner.  Mom was angry, unhappy, she didn’t want to do what the rehab folks, or the nurses or doctors told her to do.  She just wated to go back home to Debbie, back to the way it was going to be. Back to the downward spiral. Eventually she went back home to Debbie and I went home to Maryland, to work and trying to live my life there.  I was torn in two.  The fear of what was going on with them while I was away was overwhelming.  The frantic phone calls from FL about how one of them fell, or was taken away in an ambulance.  Some nights, I would lay in bed in tears, having a panic attack that felt like a heart attack. 

I was talking to them together and separately about change.  What if mom came to live with me in Maryland? And we found a nice Assisted Living home that could give you quality of life Debbie? The answer was silence, or distraction, or argument, or angry name calling.  Every way of saying No.  It became clear with every fight that this was only going to go down one way.  Tramatically.  Some unsurmountable tragedy was going to happen and we had to just wait for it to come knock on our door.

The knock came in July 2023.

Debbie was taken away in an ambulance in the middle of the night.  She was having trouble breathing.  By this time, she and Mom were living together in an apartment in Independent Living at the Carriage House.  My mom called me the next day to tell me what happened.  I was in Maryland, so far away.  Before I could make plans to fly down there, she called me back to say that my brother was there, and she was leaving to go to his house in Georgia.

And that was it.  My mother left Florida that first week of July 2023, went to Brunswick, Ga….and I would only see her two more times right before Debbie died.

You see, I don’t have a relationship with my older brother.  He touched Debbie and me in disgusting ways when we were young girls.  It was a shame that we had to bear this secret and hold it in our bodies and souls for our entire life.  I finally got up the courage to ask Debbie if he did it to her too, and she said yes.  I cried, I’d really hoped she would say no.  We both understood what it meant to be completely and entirely alone in our experiences as little girls. 

I’ve never been in my brother’s home. Any interaction I have had with him has been at a distance for a handful of family events. In 2022 when he and his wife came to FL because my mom was in the hospital, they asked to stay at our home down there. It was an unraveling for me to have him in Peter and my home. I exploded in anger at them in email. To this day his wife probably doesnt understand why. She may not know what her husband did to us when we were young.

But when he took Mom to Georgia… was a moment neither Debbie or I wanted.  In his act of taking our mother to care for her….he took our mother to a place we couldn’t go.  We couldn’t go to the home of the man who molested us as a boy.

Debbie would eventually go to Hospice in Georgia.  I’ll explain that next time.   This….this is the story of how I lost my mother.

On July 7th 2023 she called me.  It was her goodbye call. I didn’t know that, until it started to happen. She was particularly loving to me.  She said many loving things to me, about how good of a mother I am.  And that I was a good daughter to her. 


I asked her why she was talking in past tense to me.  Like  something was ending.

She was tired.  She didn’t want to talk any more. And that’s what it was.  Goodbye, Diane.  Goodbye, mom, I miss you.

And it stayed like that, until Debbie began to die.

I’m here to tell you, you can Lose your mother, even when she is still alive.  And it’s the kind of long, painful, daily Loss that squeezes your heart every day.  The kind that gets worse instead of better the more you try to fix it.

The ultimate lesson that this part of my life has taught me, is that you can’t fix some things.  And my unyielding need for this to be repaired causes me to go “back into battle” with my mom…only to come out more hurt than before.  My husband Peter and my daughters have been trying to lovingly help me understand…..”Diane, Mom, … your mother isn’t going to give you what you need from her.  She doesn’t need what you need. She doesn’t understand the feelings you have. She is only going to make you feel bad about needing more from her. You have to try to accept that.”

I’m trying.  Every day. 

And one day, my mother will go to heaven, into the loving embrace of my Dad and Debbie…and I just have to hope she knows how much of my love she will take with her.

I will love you forever Mom.  You were the first person to love me and I will miss you forever

Your Diane.

First profound loss

First profound loss

“They” say, we come into this world alone, and we will leave it alone. But what happens when someone you love goes, and you have to stay?

Never having something can be a deep sadness. Longing and pining for something is a lonely walk through life. But having something, and then being deprived of being with that something you once had……that is Loss. When I was 13 years old, my father died. He was in the hospital. He had espohegeal cancer and had it surgically removed. The doctors wanted him to have chemotherapy or radiation or whatever existed back in 1979. But my dad didn’t want to do it. Back then, the treatments often killed you, if the cancer didn’t. I remember he came home after the surgery. He was recovering. Oh it was so hard for him to give up smoking those Muriel air tipped cigars he loved. My older sister Donna smoked cigarettes and I remember my dad, creeping out of his bed, all bandaged up and in pain. But the draw of stealing one of her cigarettes was stronger than the pain of recovering from the surgery that cut out part of his esphogus and lifted his stomach to reattach it. Awful thing, nicotine. It killed my father. It took the only dad I would ever have. He went into the hospital for …. some sort of infection that developed. It felt like a matter of days…and then in a surreal moment, my mom was sitting on my bed at 6am when my alarm went off for school, telling me that I didn’t have to go to school that day. Daddy had died. And my world as I knew it had died too. He was 56 years old. Just like Debbie.

Sudden loss is like being swatted like a fly. One moment, you are flying through the air, batting your wings, blissfully moving forward, going somewhere. You know, living. Until….WHACK! Your father just dies. And you are flat against the sheets in bed. Crushed by life. Crushed by death.

The hardest part for me was the believing. For a really long time….a few years, if I am honest, I didn’t really believe he was dead. My mom asked if I wanted to go see Daddy before the cremation. I said NO, with wide eyed shock. How could you ask me that mom? If I saw daddy….dead….how would I ever be able to close my eyes and see him un-dead ever again? Our family didn’t do death well. We didn’t have a funeral. My dad wasn’t laid out for friends and loved ones to see. No, my father just went to the hospital. And then never came back. He died. And whatever…whatever happened to dead people, …is what happened to my dad. But to my 13 year old mind and heart….I often dreamed that my dad would just come back one day. That he’d pull his brown Oldsmobile sedan into the driveway and walk into the kitchen. Only, the Oldsmobile was already in the driveway. And dad hadn’t come. He’d never come home again.

It took me years to process his loss. Maybe I’m still. The Loss of my dad was so scary. I felt untethered from the planet. I felt like anything could happen to me now, without him. I was at the age where I still possessed little girl dreams. Ridiculous dreams. The kind that probably wouldn’t come true. I was only just beginning to think about my own life. The one I would one day live independent from my parents and the home I grew up in. Without my dad…I didn’t know how to transition from dreamy dreams to real life dreams. I didn’t know what I could be. What was realistic. I didn’t know how to see myself in the world. That also took me years….and alot of mistakes…to figure out. For a long time, I chased security. Permanence. I wanted to be safe again. I wanted to go back to before. The time before ordinary life felt scary. I searched for someone who could help me feel like that. It was another very long time before I learned that no person would fill the Loss that lived in me. I don’t think that I’ve ever healed it. Even today, as a very grown woman….life scares me.

Loss. It is a deep hole.

You lose more than the person you loved. You lose more than their physical hugs and affection. Their laughs, the warmth that radiates into the home from their being. I lost my way, on my way, to growing up. My mom was lost too. She did her best. It was hard. We all lost direction for a while. Hours became a day. Days became weeks, then months, then years. But for a very long time….I was a scared, lonely, lost 13 year old girl living in a young woman’s body. Surviving in a family that did not talk about death or grief or coping with loss. We just cried alone in the dark in our beds, visited daddy in our dreams, woke up the next day and swallowed it down. And did it again. and again. and again.

It was dysfunctional. It was all I knew for a very long time. That was the first big loss of my life. A wound that still hurts. She still cries for her dad, that 13 year old Diane.

Ciao for now…..Diane

To Loss and Back Again: The gift of grief

To Loss and Back Again: The gift of grief

It has been 95 days since my sister Debbie died.  She was 56 years old and succumbed to the devastating effects of Parkinson’s Disease on January 5, 2024.    This wasn’t the first loss of my life, but it was the one that hit me the hardest and has likely changed my life so unexpectedly.

I’ve decided to tell my story.  A little bit each day.  Here in my familiar place.  This story is, well, …it is my life.  So,  it’s still unfolding, (which is good news 🙂 ).  I imagine the process of writing will help me wrestle with ghosts and fears and (hopefully) drive them away, or make them into smaller “Casper-like” friendly creatures that I can live with more readily.  I imagine it will also help me reimagine the rest of my life,  without some of the people who have been the principle sources of my childhood memories and sources of love … until loss came.

Doing “the work” that life requires takes many forms.  Life’s journey is a winding road, equal parts delight and pain, I have found.  This piece of my work will be called, “To Loss and Back Again:  the gift of grief”.  Some gifts come whether you want them or not.  I’m learning that it’s all very much in the receiving. 

See you tomorrow.

Ciao for now….Diane