Sunday, October 18, 2015

Deep Roots of Our Family Tree

The last 6 weeks have been some of the most challenging weeks that I can recall since some major shifts in 2012. They have been filled with reunions with dear friends and family members, laughter and tears and countless frustrations. I have not had the needed enthusiasm to write this blog post. This is the longest I have ever gone between blogs. This morning, I sit on my childhood front porch in the low autumn sun and crisp air of rural Pennsylvania, amongst warmly colored leaves and skillfully carved pumpkins.

If given a thousand guesses, I would never have guessed that I would be sitting here today. When I was of age, at 21, I jumped at the opportunity to move across the continent to another country (Canada) to get away from my family. Far, far away. A childhood of trauma and abuse haunted me and I needed to escape to save and heal myself. Yet here I am, at ground zero, helping wholeheartedly the person who was once my greatest fear.

Let me step back in time a bit to paint a bigger picture. 

Me at 2. I had a fascination with native outfits and art even back then. 

I grew up with my parents and two siblings, me in the middle. My younger sister and my older half-brother. My parents married when he was 8. He and my dad always butted heads as long as I can remember. So did my dad and my little sister. I was always called "the perfect one" by my siblings. And I was. I did everything I could to be perfect to avoid the wrath. This came with many longer term side effects that I later learned about. As I have come to learn, many fathers (and mothers) are super stressed for lots of reasons and aren't sure how to deal with that. Anger, violence, yelling, name calling, threats are how it shows itself.  As kids, we didn't have a choice but to do our best to survive through all of those tense and scary years. When I was about 7 years old, my parents were in a severe car accident and my dad walked away with a bandaid on his forehead, while my mom was hospitalized for a long time and underwent many surgeries to put her back together. She was never quite the same after that, but nevertheless, she did a great job at being our mom.

Fast forward 25 years and my parents finally separate now that all of us are out on our own. Shortly after, in the following years my mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. Three times...ending in a double mastectomy after about 8 years of chemo, radiation and surgeries. Ugh.

Fast forward to September of this year. Tanner and I visited my mama and her partner in North Carolina, like I try to every couple of years. I could see that my mom was feeling stuck and numb in her life. She had very few friends, hobbies or joys, but a supportive partner. I told her all about the healing center that we were clients of on Vancouver Island. She agreed to a conference call with the staff. After one call, I could see a marked shift in her body, energy and speech. It was amazing. She has proceeded to begin a long-distance healing guidance program to work through some old traumas, of which she has many (like many or most of us). This is the center, among several others, where I was able to take workshops to forgive and heal from the past wounds of my own family trauma. This has allowed me to return here to give back to my dad. Everyone needs to feel loved and supported.

In addition to this work, my mama chose to make some major efforts to eat healthier and she quit taking any more antidepressant medications. Just face those emotions I said! She went through a few ugly days of physical withdrawal symptoms, but on the other side she was a brand new person. Relearning who she is may be challenging. I spoke to her on the phone after her first guidance session and her words brought tears to my eyes. "I feel like I have woken up from a coma!" Wow. She continues to inspire me after all she has been through. Thanks Mama Linda.

After a couple of weeks at the warm Carolina coast, we drove north up the east coast to the autumn colors in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania. My dad still lives in the home we grew up in. It is way too big for one person with 6 bedrooms and 4 acres, garage space for 5 cars and an airplane hangar with a workshop. He simply can't keep up!!! He's approaching 70 soon and his health is far from what I would call thriving.

So when we arrived here he asked that we stay a while and help him to fix the place up outside and in so that it can be sold in the spring. We said we would take it one day at a time and see how far we get with cleaning up. We always knew he was a collector of stuff. I didn't realize how bad it had gotten from him living alone for the last decade. Many days in the first two weeks I wanted to simply run away. After a few short cries and pep talks from Tanner, I am able to keep persevering, knowing that soon or later us kids will be here sorting through the heaps. Laughter helps a lot too. He has expressed immense gratitude for us staying here to help him sort out his life, literally.

My dad took us for a drive to New York, just outside of the city where I was born. He still has another house up there which has a pretty awesome view of the city in the distance, although over the last 20 years the trees sure have grown tall and partially blocked the cityscape. We also went to the cemetery where many of my dad's ancestors are resting in peace. We visited the site where my grandparents are buried. It was bittersweet and we left a sacred tobacco offering, which we taught to my dad. I think he thought it was odd, but he went along with it anyway.

My grandparents at their gemstone table at a fair in the '70s. 

Tanner reached into his pocket and pulled out two small gemstones, one swirled pink and one smooth blue. They were part of a huge gemstone and crystal collection that my grandma had gifted to me when I was a little girl. I had them all proudly displayed around my bedroom for nearly 15 years as a child. In 2004, however, I fled to Canada and left them all behind except a few tiny pieces of gemstone jewelry. I thought that boxes of rocks were too heavy to cart across the continent. 

We have reunited with many of the crystals and gems now and this time they are coming with us! Tanner said he didn't know why he put those two stones in his pocket that morning and we showed them to my dad. He said we should bury them just above the headstone plaque as a gift to grandma and grandpa. So we did. It felt really special to give back to them and to the earth after all of these years. 

Great Grandma Allan in her SA uniform

Great Grandpa Allan in his SA uniform

We have also been sorting through boxes of antique family photographs and labeling the dates and the people in them. My dad loves telling old stories about relatives so he's been thrilled to tell and retell Tanner about our family history. My great grandfather, John J. Allan, and his wife Phoebe were the leaders of the Salvation Army in North America in the early 1900's when they came over from England. They brought religion and assistance to people everywhere and traveled around the globe spreading the gospel and helping those who's souls were "in need of saving". Now, I don't necessarily agree with the whole missionary thing. But it was what it was and the Salvation Army is still helping millions of people every day. We have been donating boxes and bags full of my dad's unwanted stuff to the local SA thrift store. He has a box full of medals and paraphernalia from my great grandparents that my dad intends to donate to the Salvation Army museum in New York.

The hoarding and fear of scarcity problem has become increasingly apparent each day that we are here digging through mountains of clutter. My dad has a huge resistance to throwing anything away. One of his famous phrases is "you never know when you will need one of these!". I will refrain from too much detail or photos to maintain some privacy for him but all I can say is that my mental clarity and ability to think straight had been clouded over since being here. Material clutter=mental clutter. Simple. So as we continue to clear out one cupboard and one closet at a time, it's getting easier to breathe and think.

Something else that has transpired here is some interesting health concerns. My dad invited us both to come with him to an appointment with a woman who does live blood analysis. It was fascinating to see what was happening on a cellular level in his blood. I said that I would like to do it too so we went back a few days later and saw my blood. 

It was much worse than I imagined it would be! In a nutshell, lots of parasites (Mexico and Guatemala?) and lots of bacteria that shouldn't be there from an invisible infection somewhere in my body (an old root canal?). She also told both my dad and I that we have all 5 blood markers for Lyme Disease. Now, I can't speak for the whole world here, but in the northeastern USA, this disease has been a huge controversial topic for about 30 years, maybe more. It was originally thought to only be transferred by tick bites, but now it is said that other insects can transfer it too. Some say it doesn't exist and others are living helplessly with an unexplainable debilitating disease. For myself, I feel pretty darn good. I have some health issues, like all of us. Do I think I have Lyme disease? No. Do I want a happier blood test next time? You betcha. So I am following the wellness protocol that Lynn suggested for me to try for 90 days. On week two so far. It's practically a full time job taking supplements and teas an tinctures and all of these little brown glass bottles look like my own little witchcraft shop. She told me that starting the parasite cleanse a few days prior to the full moon will make it most effective. Interesting...I plan to try this.

Now, to end this mini-novel on a happy note: this guy has been the highlight of our visit to this part of the world!

He's Ben. He's almost 9. He is our only nephew and we think he's pretty much the coolest kid ever. He has asked us if he can travel the world with us and live with us and loves spending his time with anyone who will take him "to a body of water" so he can "catch creatures to observe them". He is so in touch with animals and nature and is as deeply sensitive and empathic as I was at his age. We jive well. Uncle Tanner is his super buddy too. Three peas in a pod. Love. Love. Love.