It's been so long since I posted! In a way, I wanted to wait until something positive had happened on the housing front but nothing significant has happened yet. The 4th of July week was spent with family in Tahoe. We spread my Mom's ashes out on the lake and some off the dock at the house, where she loved to have coffee in the morning and sit out in the sun with my Dad. My Dad said some nice and loving words about Mom and broke down a bit. I tried to hug him and comfort him at one point, but he is not one to receive much comfort, at least from me. We all shed a few tears. For some reason, I felt very protective and loving towards the urn while it had her ashes. No one else seemed to really feel that, so I was the "bearer of the urn" and held it while the boat was going fast and bumping around. It did feel like more closure - for all of us I think.
Being with the older kids - J is seven now and E is five - was special and fun of course. They, especially J, had really planned out the 4th with lots of decorations and cards and brownies sprinkled with an American flag design. J had special outfits, and they all wore 4th of July pajamas, including little 4-month-old D, my brother's new daughter. Her older sister, V, is three now, and is much more fun to be around. She used to cry a lot and only want to be held by her mom and dad. Now she adores and plays with the older kids and is very brave and acrobatic, doing jumping somersaults on the big couch. One day, we went out and anchored the boat, then swam around, playing in the water and laying out in the sun. Fun! Another day, we drove over to a hotel across the lake and had lunch, then hung out on the beach for a few hours, sipping cocktails while up to our waists in cool water as the kids played and paddled little kayaks around us.
The sadder or more awkward parts of trip: realizing that I felt more of a sense of comfort and belonging with my family without my Mom there. :-( I feel grief and confusion about this. When my Mom was there, she often responded in prickly or sarcastic ways in the context of everyone being around (except with the kids), and I was generally aware of being a lower-class family member in her eyes; less deserving of respect and love than my two siblings who were her "real" kids. I know I have explored this topic before on this blog... I take responsibility for my part in rejecting her attempts to communicate with me when I was a teenager, and even pushing her away more passive-aggressively when I was younger, for reasons I don't fully understand but likely have to do with unresolved grief for my birth mother and that she "wasn't my real mom."
She was definitely much different than my birth mom in terms of emotional intelligence and expressing affection and love, as well as being playful - my birth mom was a teacher and loved kids, loved playing with kids and with me. Anyway, it must have been hard for her. And maybe this caused much of the unrelenting awkwardness and rift between us. I can say that when we were alone the last couple/few years, there were some really nice, comfortable times - caring for the kids, making food, catching up on stuff. I'm grateful for those times. But when we were with the whole family, this undercurrent of rejection that I perceived really hurt. Perhaps I was the proverbial "scapegoat" of the family, and she took out her unhappiness with my Dad on me, to some degree. I don't know. My Dad has anger about things that happened between he and I in the past, so they likely bonded over their disapproval at times. It's not a pretty thing to see or think about. In any case, this trip there was still the family culture of drinking, and my Dad was still generally focused within and difficult to talk with, but somehow, I felt more relaxed inside and comfortable in my own skin. I had a "place" in the family, equal to others.
That said, I talked to my Mom at times, expressing regret about how things were with us - that we weren't closer - and telling her I loved her and wished things had been different. Also, I felt more understanding and appreciation for how much she loved Tahoe and how much effort she put into making it a beautiful place (there are three houses there - the main house, the guest house, and the apartment over the garage - all comfortable and decorated beautifully). I felt deep sadness that she died too soon, with so much time left on the table in which she could have enjoyed the place. Life is not fair.
The last awkward part: all my immediate family except my Dad left Sunday, which I didn't know was the plan. I stayed until Tuesday, and my aunt (the one my Dad has "taken up with") and her son and his wife came on Monday to spend a week there. Over the weekend, my Dad was obviously thinking about her and texting her. And sometimes he wasn't present with our family because he was thinking of getting the place ready for them - making sure things were clean, talking about replacing the barbeque, etc. My sister said something at one point about him being present, which is unlike her, but I'm so glad she did. I need to tell her that. Anyway, then they came Monday and... it wasn't as awkward as I thought it might be. A little weird at times like when she's cooking dinner, like my Mom used to, and my Dad is sitting in his chair watching TV, as he used to. But we got along fine - she made an effort to be nice it seems - and my cousin and his wife drank a lot, but were comfortable to be around, too. I even surprised myself by thinking she and my Dad were kind of "cute" at times, like new couples are. Weird, I know. It helped that they weren't physically affectionate with one another in front of me.
So that's my Tahoe trip, the good, bad, and ugly. I'm in the July house-sitting situation now and so far, so good. It's "rugged" but not as rugged as where I was last month. I have my own studio room with half bath out back, which is great. Her neighbor is in the house but is gone a lot, as he lives nearby. We are sharing the eco-minded house and garden chores, as well as cat care. This cat is on his last legs for sure. I hope he makes it until she returns. :-/ I have some stuff to report about my last days at the guy's house but maybe later. Focusing now on house-hunting and simultaneously praying I get this job I applied for up North...