Category Archives: Family

Addendum to a Eulogy

Yesterday my dad should have turned seventy. He passed away this year on my birthday, so this weekend we’ve been missing him on his.

canoe and canoeist

daddy-daughter canoe trip, Northern Idaho 1987

Ironically, I could still practice my favorite joke-ritual, which was not to call my dad (whose depth of phone-phobia was rivaled only by my sister’s and my own) on his birthday. I even found him a card one year that offered a “no-call” option as a birthday present. (Actually, I usually did call anyway—and this week I’m glad of that.)

One of the horrible ironies of memorial services is the fact that grieving people are expected (worse: expect themselves) to brilliantly and eruditely sum up LOVE, as it applies to a suddenly-missing person, at a point in time when their hearts are most broken and their brains are most fried. In such a case, the best you can hope for is that God will get some of the right words into your mouth (or out of your pen), and that the other people missing him will be able to fill in the rest through their love and memories.

The single story I most wanted to share about my dad didn’t seem appropriate for either the obituary I wrote nor the eulogy at his service. Somehow, alcoholism (in the speaker or the deceased) doesn’t seem like it would be a welcome subject in those venues… But this story says SO much about my dad, and here’s a place where I can tell it.


My Thanksgiving Daddy-story…

When I first started thinking about getting sober, I’d string together 30 days and fall on my face again. Repeatedly. Furious and frustrated by my own “weakness,” I wasn’t above some blame-shifting into the bargain…

Facing my first (post-divorce) Thanksgiving without my kids, I’d accepted a plane ticket from my parents to spend the holiday with them. My godparents were arriving from out of state, and my mother planned to entertain in her usual exuberant and extravagant style, great-grandma’s china and all. It would have been a solid coping strategy… except for my dad’s drinking. Having just (again) made it to 30 days, my Sobriety was raw and shaky and completely lacking confidence. I knew I would end up drinking at that house.

image

my mother & my husband planting a rose bush the day Dad died

Still, I couldn’t very well tell my mother I wasn’t coming for the big Thanksgiving! So I swept aside the concerns of my new A.A. friends, packed a bag, took a cab to the airport, went through the security screening and sat at my gate… And didn’t get on the plane. Of course, that was even worse than if I’d made the decision rationally and in good time—now I had to call my mother and tell her I wasn’t on the plane she had already left the house to meet! And told her why. And to compound the awfulness, I took my miserable butt home and got really drunk.

Any guesses what my parents did? You won’t guess, so I’ll tell you. They cancelled their big Thanksgiving, called off the out-of-town guests, put the turkey and side dishes (everything but great-grandma’s china) into their car, and drove the 300 miles to my house.

Thanksgiving rose

Thanksgiving rose!

Dad walked in the door crying, folded me in a hug, and told me, “I love you. I’m an alcoholic.”

And that was the beginning of the end of his drinking. He took about a month to wean himself off of alcohol (safely and scientifically, as he did most things) and then he never drank again. If I have to pick one story to tell about my Dad, that’s the one I want to tell.

This year on Thanksgiving day my mother sent a photo to my sister and me: a single rose that had materialized (in November cold!) on the rose bush we planted the day Dad died. I agree with my sister’s idea: “Dad is saying hello!”


Impossible to “summarize” a LIFE! (BUT someone is expected to attempt it…) Dad’s Obituary, Sep 2016.

We lost a kind and gentle soul when Bob Dwelle died on Sunday due to complications of congestive heart failure.

Bob Dwelle

Daddy

Bob Dwelle arrived in this world on December 3, 1946, to the delight of his parents, George & Edith, and the possible consternation of his older brother Dick. Bob shared his brother’s impish sense of humor, as well as a penchant for getting both into mischief and out of scrapes. The stories they would tell on themselves and each other in later years might not fall in the traditional category of “moral storytelling,” but Bob’s young daughters delighted in the tales of their Wisconsin childhood.

An active and athletic young man, Bob enjoyed camping and canoeing, and spent his college summers leading  groups of teenage boys on lengthy canoe-treks through Wisconsin lakes and Canadian wilderness. As a Freshman at Carleton College in Northfield MN, Bob met Anne Zier, and the two of them married in March of their Senior year, incidentally becoming the first Carleton couple to be permitted to marry, or live off campus before graduating.

With his Carleton degree in Biology, Bob was admitted to the graduate program at University of Montana, where he bypassed the Masters program and went directly to work on a Ph.D. in plant physiology.  After completing his Ph.D., Bob accepted a position at the University of Idaho’s potato-growing Experiment Station, located in the small farming town of Aberdeen ID, despite the fact that he had never seen a live potato plant.  On the way to his job interview, knowing that potatoes were in the tomato family, he stopped at a likely looking field to scope out a real potato plant.  From that shaky start, Bob cooperated over the years in research projects with scientists around the globe, and gave papers in locations ranging from Peru to the Ukraine, from Israel to Germany, and taught Potato Physiology for years.

He and Anne soon added a pair of “tater tots” to the family with the arrival of daughters Janna in 1974 and Karin in 1977.  He was deeply involved with the Aberdeen community, within the church (St Paul’s Lutheran) as well as in community groups like Rotary and Girl Scouts (yes, Bob too), and served for some time on the Aberdeen City Council.

After a decade in Aberdeen, the family relocated to Moscow, where Anne had enrolled in UI’s Law School. With his typical generosity, Bob rearranged his career to accommodate this goal, and in the process discovered his deepest professional calling: teaching! The “temporary” teaching reassignment transformed into one of the most fulfilling aspects of his professional life.

The family remained in Moscow, where Bob continued to teach and rose to the position of Plant Science Chair in the College of Agriculture.  Bob’s graduate students became Family Friends, and wherever in the world the family traveled, they could be assured of welcomes in the homes of Bob’s colleagues and former students. During his career as a Potato Physiologist, “Dr. Spud” was able to indulge his own love of travel, and instill the same in his daughters. The Dwelles’ 1984 European Sabbatical (just one of many memorable trips) spanned six months and eighteen European countries, all meticulously planned in advance by Bob (by letter in that pre-Internet  era).

deep-sea fishing trip

deep-sea fishing with Dad off the Oregon Coast, 1992

Bob had to retire early from the teaching he loved, when his cardiac health became precarious. Before ill health took its toll, he served on Moscow School Board, but even later he continued to serve in positions such as Treasurer with Emmanuel Lutheran Church and preschool, and the Campus Christian Center.

“Plant-Guy” that he was, Bob delighted in his garden—but his greatest joy in his last years was the arrival of his three grandchildren, Christian and Elena Grace (both of whom affectionately called him “Boboo”) and Clara.

Bob… Dad… Boboo… We love you. God’s got you!


Singing in the Shower

Fozzie Bear : Singing in the Shower is all fun and games until you get shampoo in your mouth. Then it becomes a soap opera.

I’ve been chewing shampoo!

It’s fairly telling that my most “recent” post here dates from almost two years ago. It’s even more telling that I haven’t FELT like writing for two years. (That should be a red flag for a person like me, right?) And the real irony is that there was plenty to be writing ABOUT in those two years, which have played out like a soap opera on the screen of my life…  (To borrow the analogy from Fozzie Bear at the left, when suds get in your open mouth, your shower-song becomes a soap opera. I’ve been humming along as if everything were fine, when really I’ve been chewing shampoo!)

But after two years of twists & turns (or twisted turns) I found myself singing in the shower for real the other morning—which is a GOOD sign for me. Even though this particular rendition of “What a Beautiful Morning” took place in the uncurtained shower of a psych ward.

Clinical Depression isn’t new to me (or to this blog), but thanks to my little vacation psych-stint, my medical chart has a whole new line-up of initials added. B.P.A.D… P.T.S.D… O.C.D…B.P.D…. Bipolar Affective Disorder. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder. With all those disorders getting applied to me, I think an out-of-order sign is in order for my forehead!

out of order signJoking aside, I’m grateful. For each of those sets of initials, there’s now a treatment plan in effect. And with a new sense of perspective and self-awareness, I’m actually dealing with [cringe!] my emotions regarding events of the last couple years. I’m not good at emotions, but I’m tackling them.

In a blog that has previously served as a pretty comprehensive Journal of my Journey, I feel I should fill in that two-year gap with at least a “Cliffs Notes” catch-up before I start writing about THE NOW…  No doubt I’ll be treating a lot of this in greater detail at some point, but for now, for those who wonder what the heck has happened…

October 2014. Husband Keoni leaves me by means of his successful suicide attempt, literally in front of my eyes. I close our restaurant and try to contemplate an entirely changed life.

December 2014. I think (now) that the manic side of that Bipolar diagnosis can go pretty far in explaining my impulsive remarriage. (“Impetuous risk-taking behavior, anyone?) I will get to enjoy a few months of an imagined new life before I’ll start discovering all the lies on which that new life has been shakily constructed. In short, Dustin is a con man—among other things.

April 2015. Dustin doesn’t want me to work, but doesn’t want to hold down a job himself. When we do have money, he’ll do something like buy himself a guitar (which he’ll never play)  instead of paying the power bill. I’m becoming increasingly stressed about finances… And I’m utterly shocked at the sight of two pink stripes on a pregnancy test! I decide to treat this bombshell as joyful news (but note the revealing fact that I had to DECIDE on joy).

September 2015. Unexpected pregnancy may have been a jolt, but that’s nothing compared to the shock of Dustin getting served with divorce papers! The woman I had believed to be his EX-wife turns out to be his OTHER wife. (Well, one of them–turns out he hadn’t divorced his first wife either!) Oh, and it turns out that he had gotten fired from the “graveyard-shift job” for which he has still been leaving me most nights. Don’t know who “she” is, but she is not a job, and there’s not a paycheck. And now that I’ve kicked him out and filed for annulment, there’s not a husband.

baby ultrasound

growing a baby boy for Jennifer

My mother specializes in Adoption Law, and I ask her to find my baby a great family. When she introduces me to prospective mom Jennifer, I’m suddenly certain that God had a plan all along.

October 2015. I’m six months pregnant, unexpectedly single, and my van has just broken down. A kind man at my church sees me walking to Sunday services in hundred-degree heat and asks if I would like to borrow his extra car while I get myself sorted out. Jon has been widowed for five years, and he invites me to dinner when he gives me the car keys.  I’m not even thinking of this as a DATE (are you kidding?—did I mention “6 months pregnant“?) but I fall for him before the evening is over. (Literally. He picked me up on his motorcycle, and I landed on my rear in the parking lot trying to dismount. Ever graceful, that’s me!)

preemie premature baby

Greyson: 10 weeks early & just over 2 pounds

Baby’s not due till Christmas, but mid-October I’m in the hospital for an emergency C-section. Medically speaking, everything has gone haywire and sideways; I won’t get out of the hospital for several weeks, and tiny Greyson won’t go home with Jennifer for several months.

Jon visits me in the hospital and when he holds my hand I feel school-girl-giddy, even in a hospital gown and draped with tubes & wires and other unappealing accessories that comprise hôpital couture

December 2015. The annulment has gone through, my health is improving, the growing baby is a feisty fighter, Jon & I are getting serious… In other words, things are looking UP for the first time in a while. The illogical response of my alcoholic brain is to let down my guard—and pick up a drink. A LOT of drink.

“the new black” is NOT my color

After dropping my kids at school, I am arrested for Excessive DUI at eight in the morning.  Driving Jon’s car.  My kids are frightened and furious; neither one will talk to me for months. (Christian still hasn’t.)  Jon is furious but forgiving. I begin adjusting to life-without-license. Life-without-my-kids. Life-with-Probation-Officer.

On New Year’s Eve the ball drops—and so does Jon… to one knee, with a ring. I say “yes please!” My mother points out that I’ve been divorced, widowed, and annulled; I’ve gotten out of a marriage every way possible, so “how about if this one sticks?” Once again: yes please!

wedding day… waiting at the starting gate (OK, the church nursery)

February 2016. On the lucky 13th, a wedding. Not an impromptu spontaneous leap this time, but a real wedding. In our church, with our pastor, friends & family invited, “for as long as we both shall live,” Amen.

A week after our wedding we move into the 40-foot Fifth Wheel RV Jon has just bought us—he moving from his brother’s house and I from my now-too-empty three-bedroom apartment. Consolidating households and offloading extra STUFF is extremely satisfying. I’m offered a job working in the office of our RV Park situated right on the Boise River. I become fast friends with a near neighbor.

So….  This year has had its highs and lows… I gained a husband and a best friend and a home on wheels. I enjoyed my first seaside vacation in almost a decade. I lost my share in custody of my teens. I lost my dad. I grew a new person and gave him into the loving hands of an amazing mommy. I’ve enjoyed my job and RV living, but I’ve been virtually unable to get myself writing. I’ve had a more solid “safety net” (emotionally, financially) than I’ve enjoyed for years, but my moods have hit some new lows that don’t align consistently with the circumstances.

Newport Oregon

with My Jon on the Oregon coast

The above fill-in history should provide enough context for me to be able to write about my current life without confounding my previous readers, but there’s another bit to add today. The thing is, the last couple years have been over-full of drama & trauma—and until now, I haven’t actually dealt with a lot of that. I’ve been stuffing shit under the rug until I’m standing on top of a rug, on top of a pile of shit, and still maintaining that “I’m okay!” Yeah, that was awful, but I’m okay now. And “being okay” has seemed so important to my own self-image that I’ve even fooled myself into believing it. Throw in some additional un-diagnosed mental health issues, and my emotional life was becoming inexplicably dark. Hence my recent ten-day tour in a mental health facility.

It’s time to peel back the rug and start actually cleaning out the accumulation beneath. So here I am at the keyboard. And I’m happy to report that when I sang in the shower this morning, it wasn’t a soap opera. I’d call it a Praise Song.

sandal feet on the beach

feet on a fresh path…


Jon (Desert Storm combat vet) holding Service photos of himself, his brother, and their dad

Jon (Desert Storm combat vet) holding Service photos of himself, his brother, and their dad

An unrelated thought on this post-Election Veterans’ Day…

Heartfelt THANKS to all who have Served our country and sacrificed for others. 🇺🇸
We live in a country where people DO that for others, and THAT is something of which we should be proud. Let’s remember this week that we don’t have to be defined by our politicians–we can be defined by our heroes.


 


The Secret to Life…

There are some phone calls in life that a person wishes never to have to make. Three months ago I had to make several of those calls on a Sunday morning: breaking the news to Keoni’s children and his parents that he had just shot himself. strength quote, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

And “breaking” is precisely the word for this. Utterly in shock myself at my sudden and unexpected widowhood, I heard hearts break with every one of those calls—the daughter’s screams, the mother’s anger…  And I felt at the time as if I were the instrument of all that breakage. As my own shock wore off a little, my thinking shifted: yes, I’d had the heavy task of imparting news, but I wasn’t the one who’d made the choice that created that wake of heartache.

There’s no way around it: the sound of that single shot, fired inches from my face, signaled the abrupt alteration of every aspect of my life. It was literally the starting-gun to an entire new (unasked-for) chapter of Life, with an entirely alien new set of labels… Widow. Single mom. Unemployed. I had to close our restaurant at his death, and I was suddenly out a living as well as a spouse.

For now I won’t rehash the three months of grieving—and ongoing healing—except to say that it feels like it’s been a lot longer than three months. It seems like I’ve lived three years since that Sunday morning, and my grief counselor (knowing I have a biology degree) even explained the brain-physiology behind my apparent mental time-warp. I shared with her at one point how messed up my sense of time was; as an example, I’d called my doctor’s office in those first few weeks for an adjustment to my antidepressants, and then found myself wondering later why I hadn’t yet heard from the pharmacy in the week or so since I’d made the request. It took some focused thought to realize that it was only 3pm on the same day I’d called the doctor—but it honestly felt like a week. That severe “time distortion” continued for a good month and a half—so I felt as if nearly a year had passed already. strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over

My grief counselor also commented that I could be the “poster child” for having the tools already in place to heal from trauma. With a lot of prayer and unfailing support from friends & family, along with the social network and tools-for-living found in Alcoholics Anonymous, healing has been happening.

I won’t lie: I know now more than ever that it’s messy being human! I was so relieved to find laughter again in a day, but felt guilty at the same time. All too often, missing-him took the form of being angry at him. In packing for the move to a new home, I came across what seemed like a million mementos from the five years of our marriage, and I could never predict whether any one of those memories would make me smile, or rage, or crumple up crying.

I will also say, though, that I have been determined, even from that first week, that I AM NOT DONE LIVING.

(I hope that the other people who loved and miss him will not take it amiss that I prefer today to talk about living—and finding joy—rather than dwelling on grief or bereavement. The grieving process is by no means done, but “Grieving Widow” just isn’t a role I feel meant to wallow in—and I don’t intend disrespect to anyone by making the conscious decision to focus on Living rather than on Loss.) when you are down to nothing God is up to something

Those of you who have been reading here over the years have heard me say (repeatedly!) that God’s plans (especially in times of crisis) are better than anything I could come up with—and there’s a reason why “God’sHumor” is a good-sized tag in that sidebar to the left… Chief among the things I wouldn’t have thought to plan for myself at this point would have been meeting someone new. No, let me say it straight: coming to love someone new.

Wouldn’t have been my plan, but I’m at least wise enough not to turn away from the Blessings God puts in my path…  I met Dustin in A.A. shortly after Keoni’s death—he’s Sober and Spiritual, fun and feisty, intense and energetic, and (no question, the seal on the deal!) my kids took to him instantly.

poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating...

poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating…

Our first “date” outside of time spent at our A.A. home group was a demanding hike up Boise’s Table Rock plateau with my son Christian, followed in short order by stringing Christmas lights and putting up a tree (things I hadn’t done for seven years—and now I know the kids had missed it), family poker games, home magic shows, trampoline basketball, hiking and playing games of “Capture the Flag” in the Boise Foothills…

We were having dinner at the kids’ favorite cafe recently and I noticed the older couple at the next table watching us closely. When they finished their meal, the wife came over to us to say (actually with tears in her eyes) that we were sitting at what had been their family’s regular table, and it was a joy to see kids and parents actually talking and laughing together. “You have a beautiful family,” she told us as she left. It was that same evening that Elena Grace (who usually takes forever to warm up to people) chirped brightly from the back seat: “Mommy, you should marry Dusty!”

a hike in the snow

a hike in the snow

Even when the kids aren’t around, I’m enjoying our playful spontaneity… Just before Christmas we spent an evening at a local entertainment place (“scouting” before bringing the kids… yeah, that’s our story!) playing laser tag and racing go-karts. A few nights before that we sat on top of Table Rock to watch the sunset and moonrise. We play poker (always with something significant at stake; my new short haircut is the result of one of those games!), spend evenings singing country songs together, read aloud to each other, work out together… We laid down the “ground rules” right off the bat that Parenting & Sobriety absolutely come first in the relationship—and we’re beginning every day with coffee & prayer & A.A. reflections, and hitting an A.A. meeting together every day.

And yes—Living from the Heart, I’ve already followed my daughter’s directions.

Quietly, in the back yard with just the kids and an ordained friend to officiate (after Dustin asked Christian’s permission) I married him.

When Dustin shares during an A.A. meeting, he often wraps up with a favorite quote of his—and as we were slow-dancing in the half-packed kitchen at midnight (among stacks of packed moving-boxes) I was thinking we need this one on a plaque on our wall:

The Secret to Life… is to LIVE!

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EDIT November 2016: OK, it felt like a happily-ever-after when I wrote the above post, but there have been some twists & turns & lessons & LIVING in the two years since. In other words, there’s more coming…

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