What an absolutely shitty month, July turned out to be!
July last year was great! It was the first year that my wife and I had the pleasure of enjoying our @kidfreejuly (yes, we have that Twitter nickname) while all of our kids were enjoying PlanetArowhon. We went out for many dinners together, we tore apart the house and cleaned it from the bottom to the top culminating in a huge garage sale, and we even celebrated our wedding anniversary with our friends.
We were looking forward to more of the same this #KidFreeJuly. Very sadly, however, this July just sucked!
Kid free July began with my epic passing out routine, 45 minutes into an hour fitness class, and only got worse – I know, you’re thinking how much worse can it get than being the old dude walking out of a fitness facility accompanied by a stretcher and 2 EMT’s…
Well let me tell you!
A week after fitnessfailgate, my wife and I flew to the Big Apple, New York City, to meet our friends and enjoy a few days sightseeing, and attending a Billy Joel concert at the famed Madison Square Garden (a huge highlight for me).
We stayed in the lovely Carnegie Hotel, enjoyed a plush, comfy king bed, the snacks, and the 5pm wine and cheese. We had some fantastic meals, including one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life at the Candle 79 Restaurant.
We walked on the High Line, then stopped in the Chelsea Market for a bite to eat when my wife’s cell phone rang. She answered, and within seconds, spun in her seat to face me – a look of shock in her face – placed her hand on my arm and said, “Oh my G-d, I’m so sorry Warren”.
My mind began to race… You see, my mother has not been well. She was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of months ago, and given a year, to a year and a half to live. Hearing that was extremely difficult for me. My father passed away 17-years ago, after my wife and I had been married for just a year, and my dad never got to meet his grandchildren. Not a day goes by when I wish he could have met them and visa versa.
A year after my father died, my grandfather died. He was one of a kind. One of the kindest, sweetest men I have ever met. He was such an inspiration for me.
After losing my father and grandfather, my mother’s 2 brothers began to leave me, my wife and eventually our kids out of family functions, instead choosing to invite just my mother and sister instead.
I didn’t know what I may or may not have done, but for the longest time it really bothered me because it was a huge cause of stress for my mother and grandmother. I tried to figure it out and resolve it. I apologized for what I thought I had done, and for what I may or may not have done, and I even asked for a face to face meeting to put all of this behind us.
They never responded. Like, ever.
They kept leaving us out, and kept expecting my sister to choose them over me and her niece and nephews. Whatever… Everyone has family issues, right?
Getting back to that phone call, though… unbelievable.
My grandmother had passed away, just 8-days after her 96th birthday.
Born in the Ukraine, my Bubi was a true balabusta (Russian for homemaker), and to be honest, I thought she was never going to die. She lived alone right up to the end, and she was fully functional and fully operational, not like the Death Star from Star Wars. She was awesome, and for a long time, my sister and I had our grandparents to ourselves until it was finally time to share them with the other grand kids.
We used to visit all the time, help them out in their store, take care of their gardening, help around the house, and I was the only grandchild that my Bubi allowed to help with the hand washing of her dishes.
We were tight. I loved her dearly.
Even as the years progressed and as my mother’s brothers convinced her that I was the problem and they were justified in their actions, it took just one visit, or phone call for her to understand it was all crap.
I spoke to her on her birthday. She sounded great. This loss hurt.
So after receiving the news we quickly moved to make arrangements to leave NY, get to Northern Ontario, pick up the kids from camp and attend the funeral. The only wrench in the plan would be in they planned a quick funeral. We contacted Camp and learned that our eldest was in the middle of the wilderness on a camping trip, and while they had an emergency phone, it would only work if the trip leader called the base, at which point the could send a helicopter in to retrieve our son.
He was, however, coming back on the Sunday – just 2 days away – which meant any time Sunday in the afternoon, or Monday for the funeral would be best.
I reached out to my mothers younger brother to explain the situation, that we would need a bit of time, and it her could plan the funeral for the afternoon at the least, it would work out..
He basically said, tough shit, the funeral is planned.
I explained our intentions – my son being the oldest great grandchild, and knowing that he would really want to be there and speak at her funeral.
Again, I was told that there was no chance it was being moved.
Frantic, I offered to pay for the funeral, contact the funeral home, and let everyone know that the funeral has been moved from Sunday morning to Sunday afternoon.
He replied that it was the last he was going to talk about it, and that it was the last he was ever going to speak to me “as long as he lived”…
He went on to say that I didn’t attend the mourning period for my grandfather (called a Shiva) and that I hadn’t visited my grandmother in the hospital.
I needed a second to comprehend what he had told me because that Shiva was 16-years-ago and also because I was at that Shiva each and every day.
Yes, I had not visited my grandmother when she was in the hospital because no one told me that she was there, but I did speak with her several times.
Frustrated like never before, I unleashed my thoughts to him in text, and in typical fashion, faced with the truth, he chose not to reply.
So my wife and I changed our flights and just made it home in time for the funeral.
My kids remained at camp, completely unaware that their great grandmother, their last great grand parent, had died.
They were going to be CRUSHED when they came home from camp and learned the news… My heart breaks for them.
During the funeral, I was a mess. I was super close with my grandmother having done so much for her before there were any other grandchildren, and recently watched as my mother and sister picked up the slack and helped her out.
My mother was unable to attend her mother’s funeral and she had been rushed to the hospital and was not doing well in her own right. I know my mother wanted to be there, but the only bright side was that it saved her from hearing stories about how much her brothers did for my grandmother considering they had to pick up the slack only recently as my mothers health took a turn for the worse. They made themselves seems like such wonderful children…
Then, just 2 weeks after my grandmother died, my children arrived home from camp and after hearing what an amazing time they all had, I had the break the news that their great grandmother had passed away. You could have heard a pin drop, and that silence which seemed to go on for hours was quickly shattered with the sound of crying.
My oldest was really upset. Why didn’t we come to get him? He was not happy at all knowing that my mothers brother – who cut his own 3 children and 7 grandchildren out of his life – had refused to wait half a day longer for them.
It was their great grandmother!
My kids were crushed. Devastated.
Then I had to break the news about my mother, whom the kids were REALLY close to. They loved her so much. When they saw her, or spoke to her you could see and hear the unconditional love in their emotions. The feeling was very much mutual.
We went right from the camp pickup point to the hospital to visit my mother who’s health had deteriorated to being in the 3-month to 6-month range, and we had no idea what we were about to face…
My mother was not doing well this day. She was in pain, and although I had come and spent time with her, supported my sister, over the previous 2 weeks that she was in the hospital, my mother just wanted to know when she could see the kids.
When my eldest arrived, my mother smiled for the first time in a very long time and told him how much she loved him.
Over the next hour, while being whisked from room to room and from doctor to doctor, to learn that my mother had days to live, she managed to tell all my kids that she loved them.
Later that night, she passed away.
She held on long enough for her grandchildren to return from camp, before she succumbed to her ailments and 2 weeks after the passing of her mother, she left us.
What came next makes me shake my head as I write this…
My mother would have wanted the family to mourn together for the week-long Shiva period, but that was not to be the case as her brothers decided they were going to observe their mourning period about 10 minutes away in the condo that belonged to my grandmother.
At the funeral, the youngest of my mothers brothers ignored me, my wife and my kids, instead embracing my sister while saying “I’m so sorry for your loss”.
Against the advice of the Rabbi my mother’s eldest brother announced to the attendees that he had some “issues” with my mother and that they “made peace” and that out of respect for my mother, they were sitting separately.
Absolutely disrespectful. If making peace means apologizing for 17-years of family stress by treating one of her children poorly (and his family), then one does not then continue the pattern and do exactly what my mother would not have wanted.
Then, not 5 minutes after we had buried my mother, he texted my sister and asked her to come mourn with them. Completely disregarding the fact that it’s our mother who died and that we actually had a relationship with her and didn’t cause her stress over the last 15 years with made up stories.
They never reached out to me to see how I was.
They emptied my grandmother’s condo without even asking me if there was something that I would like.
None of them – 4 adults and 6 children – contacted me in any way to offer condolence.
My eyes were open, but they have been opened even wider now.
I don’t know why they continue to put my sister in the middle of their childish stupidity.
I’ve come to realize that the opposite of love is not hate – I don’t hate anyone – but indifference.
I’m indifferent to them.
But Karma… She’s a bitch…