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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sometimes the Pain is too Great

This story is about my beautiful daughter, Kathleen. 

Regardless of everything else, this has been my place for sharing my life.  In many ways it is my daily journal and a place where I can share my enthusiasm for my life, my family, my children, my impossible homeowner remodeling experience.  But, for me, it is also a place where I can share my deepest sorrow.


My life is mostly happy, mostly joyous, mostly blessed.  I have a wonderful and loving husband, and a healthy family, with 3 wonderful children at home, and 2 adult daughters who I love dearly.   I am blessed that my mother has lived with us for 10 years and that God gave me and my family the strength to care for Bob's parents for 4 years.  And,  yes, they lived with us, too, for that time before my father-in-law passed away in 2005 and we had to put his mother in a nursing home for Alzeimer's patients.  She doesn't remember any of us anymore.  It is so sad. 


But, even with all the happy posts and stories I have shared with you, I suppose there has to come a time when we all must feel some pain, and unfortunately, that time for me is now.  I hope you will understand and bear with me during this difficult time.  Writing it down is healing for me.  I am otherwise, completely overwhelmed with grief.


I am a failure.  A complete and utter failure as a mother.  You see, when I was 19, I had a beautiful baby girl - Kathleen.  And that was nearly 30 years ago.  I wasn't married and I was scared out of my mind for what I had let happen in my life.  I was stupid.  I was naive.  I was a child having a child.  I had no business bringing this precious child into the world, but I did, and although I am glad I made that decision, it is now the most painful thing in my life to endure.  But, and yes, there is a big whopping "but."  Nobody should have to endure what my daughter, Kathleen, is enduring now.  Not only am I suffering, but she is suffering more.  Far more.  And she won't let me help her. 




If I had a magic wand, I would change everything except for her life in my life.  I just wish I had some idea how my childish behavior back then - all those years ago - would destroy her.  I needed direction, guidance, and love.  Kathleen needs those things all the more now.  And I looked for it in all the wrong places back then.   I was insecure and scared, and although I had my mother, I felt terribly alone.  But that is not an excuse, just an observation.   I won't make excuses here.  I am fessing up to it all.  This just takes time I suppose.  I just need to get it all out.  If you can't read personal and painful expression, then please change the station.  Because this is going to be one hell of an emotionally driven story.




It doesn't matter that Bob and I are raising Glen, Kathleen's son, or that we have raised him as our own since he was 2 weeks old.  He is 8 years old now and a precious angel and smart as a whip. 




It doesn't matter that I see Kathleen in everything that Glen does and in every thing he is. 




It doesn't even matter that Kathleen has failed to contact him, communicate with him or with us, or has completely separated herself from her son and her family. 



It doesn't matter that Glen has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome or that maybe, very possibly, Kathleen had the same thing growing up.  But back then, nobody knew much about Autism or Asperger's.  None of this matters now because you see, Kathleen needs us, but she doesn't want to give in.  She wants to do it all on her own.  Always has.  She doesn't want anyone's help.  She has shut herself off from the world, from her son, and from her family.




This is a photo of my daughter, Kathleen, taken 1 week ago by my mother
who is visiting my brother in Florida where Kathleen has been living
for 2 years with a friend in an apartment in Lakeworth, Florida.  I do
not know who this is anymore.


When I got these pictures in the mail yesterday from my mother, I dropped them on the floor, and then I fell to my knees.  I am utterly destroyed.  I feel the need to take my daughter in my arms and hold her, feed her, help her, stroke her hair, and tell her that I have always loved her and always will - unconditionally.



I feel a need to take my daughter's feet in my hands and wash them, and kiss them, and tell her I am sorry for not being the mother that she needed growing up.  That I will do anything I can to help her and will she please forgive me for my shortcomings and let me help her.  "Kathleen, my precious daughter, please forgive me.  For any and all the pain I have caused you in your life, please forgive me.  I am begging you."


Kathleen was a beautiful baby.  Gloriously happy. Spunky.  Full of life and curiosity. 



She always seemed to have a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.  You know the kind, the one where your baby looks at you and you swear they know the world inside out?  That was Kathleen.



Kathleen had an enthusiasm and an interest in objects that seemed almost as though she were inspecting every inch of it.



As she got older I realized that she had a special gift for art.  She is extremely talented and we knew this early on.



Her drawings, even at the age of 2 years old, were extraordinary.  I knew in my heart that Kathleen was special and that she would be an artist of some kind someday. 


She used to say the darndest things too.  One day, while dropping her off at school when she was about 7 years old, she said, "Mommy, I am not going to school today.  I am going to spend the entire day with you."  I said "Really, and why is that?"  She replied "Because I already know everything and I don't need to go here anymore."  Well, of course, I insisted she had to go to school.  She wasn't very happy with me.



As she got older, Kathleen's artistic ability took off and she began to show an interest in fashion and design.  We got her involved in some modeling schools but she eventually lost interest. 



She did wonderful though.  She was a natural when doing fashion shows.  She didn't have a care in the world when she was on the runway, and she would strut her stuff on stage to Madonna's "Vogue" with personality, beauty, and grace.



Kathleen had the most beautiful face, the most beautiful smile, the most introspective eyes.  I couldn't believe she was my daughter.



We lived with my mother in Florida during her pre-teen and early teen years.  I was struggling with owning a salon in Boca Raton and keeping that afloat and all the while fighting a horrible custody battle over Kimberly, my 2nd daughter, whose father, Doug, was in the Army, was remarried, and living in Missouri.  That experience was hell, but more importantly, it consumed me, and at that time, I thought I wouldn't survive the fight. 



The problem I faced with being consumed in my business and the custody battle was that I didn't give Kathleen the attention she needed.  I wasn't there for her like a mother should be.  I neglected to show her, through my actions, how important she was in my life,  and so each day passed; and, I guess she was just existing in her grandmother's home, as we all were, involved in her school and her activities and with her friends and her sister, Kimberly.



You see, I had married a man in the Army when Kathleen was 15 months old to give her a father,  then my father passed away when I was 5 months pregnant with my 2nd daughter, Kimberly.  And 10 months later we had Kimberly, born with a tragic heart condition that required immediate medical attention. 



She had to have open-heart surgery when she was a slight and delicate 7 lbs and 3 months old.  She has since had to have 4 open-heart surgeries.  Her own life has been a tragic score of events that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.   I only wish I could take it all back and start over. 



I wish I knew then what I know now about being a good mother.  I wish I had appreciated my babies more back then.  The emotional loss is excruciatingly painful and almost unbearable at times.  But, I have no one to blame but myself.  I was an adult.  A very young adult, maybe, but still an adult.  The choices I made had a profound effect on my daughters.  It changed who they are.  It changed who they would become.  I had no idea.  My mother offered support, but not the emotional support and guidance that I needed to be a better mother.  I don't blame her by any means.  I needed her, yes, but as mother's go, she was doing the best she could.  She was alone and she needed her own children.  She needed me and my brothers.

Kimberly, thank the Lord, is healthy, happily married, and living in the cold breezes of Minnesota now.  I cannot take credit for her being the good girl that she became, because although I raised her and loved her for the first 7 years of her life, from then on she was raised and cared for by her father and his wife in Missouri where she could be close to her doctors, and out of the throws of emotion and turmoil that I was facing as a young, inexperienced, and troubled mother of 2 young daughters.



By her mid-teen years, I had completely lost control of Kathleen.  I did not keep a check on her friends and I was too wrapped up in my own life, fears, relationships,  and insecurities.  I was blind to what was happening to my daughter, and ignorant to how much she really needed me.  I was so wrapped around the axle and emotionally driven that I almost couldn't function normally.  The responsibilities for my children and my life were frightening and tragic.




Kathleen suffered during all those years that I cared for Kim and shuffled her back and forth to the hospital.  Kathleen was always in someone else's care - my mother helped care for her mostly, and Kathleen and she became very close.  Still, the one person Kathleen needed the most wasn't there for her - her mother.  And that would be me.  I mean, I was there, physically, but "there?"  Nope.  I wasn't there for Kathleen.  Honestly, though, what did I know at 21 about raising 2 children and a having a child ill with heart disease?  Nothing.  I knew nothing.  And to make matters worse, I lived each day in the throws of emotion.  I let my emotions and my feelings rule every aspect of my life.  I needed to get a grip on things and I was completely clueless.  Sorta what you call living by the seat of your pants without the seat.



 Her childhood was marked with me searching for love, searching for my mother's approval, searching for my identity, searching for answers.  I was a mess.  Fortunately, I was never one of those persons who did drugs or smoked or drank.  I didn't do any of that.  Thank God.  If I had, I probably would have been 6 feet under a long time ago.  I did tell my girls I loved them, every single day, and I hugged them often.  I also yelled a lot back then and had a habit of throwing a fit out of emotional necessity for an outlet for all my pent-up distresses and frustrations.  That was wrong, completely wrong.  I'll be the first to admit I was a mess in my 20s.



When Kathleen was in her mid-teens, she got into the wrong group of friends and that is where I lost her.  Things spiraled out of control after that, and there was no turning back.  She dropped out of school in the 10th grade and left home when she was 18.



Two years later, after spending her life jumping from one friend's home or apartment to another, Kathleen got off a plane and presented us with a precious baby boy - Glen Everett.  And then, she never again looked back.  She walked away 2 months after she and Glen came to live with us, got on a plane to New York and her life was to be forever changed.


She lived in a horrible apartment in a bad neighborhood and then moved back to Florida, then back to New York, and now back to Florida.  Spiraling down a tragic lifestyle that none of us can understand. 




She tried her creative hand at fashion design and was doing well.  Other designers took notice of her work and it looked as though she may actually be successful at her creations.  Kathleen had always been creative, artistic, imaginative, expressive.  How unfortunate - she must have got that from me.




No, I do not believe for a second that Kathleen has ever done drugs.  I do know that she smoked at one time and for all I know still does, although I don't know how she affords it.   And for anyone who cares to know - I do not smoke and never have.  I have never done drugs, and I don't drink either.  I think alcohol and beer  and wine all taste like Nyquil.  I'd rather have an iced tea.  Call me old school,  but I think cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol are disgusting, smelly, nasty things to put into one's body.  Yuk.  So, when Kathleen started smoking and drinking casually with friends, I didn't say a word, but I was left speechless.  I don't judge her though.  I really don't.  I guess I'm the weirdo, not her.



Despite the difficulties and challenges she faced, Kathleen lived in New York for a number of years.  She went there with 100 dollars in her pocket and a dream.  That would scare the hell out of me, but we're talking about Kathleen here.  The one with no fear.  The one with creative energy to knock out a wall, the one who could teach me a few things about being strong and fearless.



Her teens were filled with visions of a teenage gothic - black lipstick, and black nails.  Black hair, and black eyeshadow.  Black clothes and a very black life.   She was drawn to the Renaissance Festival and made a big splash on the pages of the newspaper a few times.  She was enjoying this time in her life I suppose, and now that I look back on it, I think she just wanted to be somebody else.



There was never any talking to Kathleen.  She refused to listen then and she refuses to listen now.  She seemed depressed and angry, hateful and cruel during those teen years.  It was frightening.  I am trying to listen and understand her.  No, I wasn't an emotionally absent mother, but I might as well have been.  Kathleen ignored me completely and I just let it ride.  The days came and went and Kathleen got older.  We became emotionally distant.



I need to understand what has brought her to this place in her life where she has lost her spirit and will to live.  I am trying to understand why she would let herself fall apart and not even try to pursue a happier, healthier, life and lifestyle.   I am so confused and I feel a desperate need to help her.  She is my child.  She is my daughter.



But how?   Before it is too late I need to find the hand of an angel to guide me in my words and actions so that I can help her find her way.  I pray there is an angel on Kathleen's shoulder right now, for without that angel, she will continue down this road of despair.  I am so afraid that road is near a dead end.  How do we break down this wall?



"Kathleen, I love you babydoll.  I love you and adore you with all my heart.  I can't begin to understand the tragedy that has been your life, or the pain that you are feeling.  I don't pretend to understand anything anymore.  I do know this - that you are the most important person in my life right now.  You have always been important.  You have always been special."


"But now, I hear you screaming at me.  I hear you, Kathleen.  I hear your angry words and I feel your pain.  It doesn't have to be this way.  I promise you I will do everything I can to help you.  Help you back up on your feet.  Help you find your way back to your life.  Help you find your passions again.  I'm here for you my sweet and precious Kathleen.  Please don't let go.  Please, sweetie.  Please come home where we can give you all that you need and more.  Oh - so much more." 

Please tell me it is not too late.  Please tell me there is hope for you and hope for me.  Please tell me that we will find our way back into each other's arms and hearts where we belong.  Please Kathleen.

I love you with all my heart."  - Mom


(written by my dear and precious friend of 35 years, Alison Caltrider - artist, writer, friend, and soul sister)

There is a Place where the heart is pure and golden

Where love is undefined, but real

There is a Place where giving of oneself is unconditional

There is a Place where accepting of others is unconditional

There is a Place where the light is constant, but never so bright,

One can’t look upon it in wonder

There is a Place where we think darkness can envelope us,

But we find the darkness is an illusion,

Only to realize the light

There is a Place where we are embraced by the love of

Divine Wings

There is a Place where we find ourselves whole and good

Where we see others in love and grace

There is a Place where there is no need to forgive,

It is beyond human comprehension

There is a Place yet to be discovered within ourselves,

Where wisdom has always resided

We are in this Place at all times,

But in our human experience, we forget

In Our Spirit, we always remember, and the Clarity of who

And  what  we are is always present

We only have the present, but it’s the Place we need to be

It’s the Place that shows us these things

It’s the Place that never ceases to exist


Alison Elaine Caltrider


Thank you Alison - I needed your words.


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