The eyes are the windows to your soul

cutting-cake.jpg

In my last post, I mentioned that I thought I had mislaid my parents wedding photographs.  Once I found them, and breathed a sigh of relief, I sat and looked at them.  I never really knew my father – he was a creature of legend both good and bad.  When I was young, my Mum tried her best to paint a balanced picture of Dad despite the unpleasant comments from family members.  These photographs were never displayed but I had seen them many times.  I was fascinated by the glamour of a professional shot and thought they were both attractive.  As a youngster I really looked much more like my father with our dark Mexican roots.

As I gazed at the shots, I realized that neither my Mum nor Dad looked happy.  They married after a couple of months of meeting but they were in their late 20’s, more than capable of making a sensible decision.  My theory is that they were pregnant with me and I know that my dad asked my mum to have an illegal abortion.  I had admired these photos for years, longing to have similarly glamorous wedding shots, but had never noticed the lack of happiness in their eyes.  The social mores of two Catholics not marrying after a pregnancy were overwhelming.  My mum told me that a distant relative offered to adopt me so the circumstances must have been dire.  Eventually my mum divorced my dad in 1976 on the grounds of mental cruelty.  He had already remarried in the States.

KathleenAndBeau

Then I found a photograph of my mum with a previous American boyfriend above.  If anyone recognizes him, you might have been my sibling!

My mum had mentioned that he was a really nice guy, Italian American, but that she hadn’t fallen for him.  Maybe she wasn’t ready but my mum looked truly happy in this simple photograph.   How I longed for a normal father like him when I was young.  As the years have passed I have come to terms with my Dad probably having some mental health and addiction issues (as did my Mum).  I have so enjoyed meeting members of my Dad’s family – seeing distinct resemblances both in appearance and also personality.  My mum’s bridesmaid, who has stayed close to me, told me many times that my Dad had a fascinating charismatic side that I had inherited.  To the right is a photograph of Teddy and I signing the register 38 years ago – now that’s a real smile.

We had not a single professional wedding shot…❤️

Sam Houston Dellinger — Stories of My Family

As most of you know, I am obsessed with finding new family members. For the most part, they are long since deceased but within the last few weeks a new, and very much alive, cousin has come into my life. Sarah’s great grandmother was my paternal grandfather’s sister (Nelle and Raymond Dellinger) so we are Dellinger 2nd cousins, one generation between us. We have been excitedly sharing information and photographs to help build a picture of our most interesting family. Sarah had never seen a photo of Raymond, or I of Nelle, so that was very exciting. If you look at Sarah’s gravatar image you will see a resemblance in our smiles. To my astonishment, Sarah thought that I look like a Dellinger. As an only child with little connection to my paternal side, this is all manna from Heaven. Curiously, we both have WordPress Blogs and write similarly. Now we are pondering whether the writing gene comes from the Dellinger side…and why do we have so much Swedish DNA???
Please enjoy this beautifully researched genealogy post below on Sam Houston Dellinger (my great-grandfather) and have a look at Sarah’s blogs – Stories of my Family and A blog dedicated to my love for books

The Dellinger side of the family is full of of fantastic stories. Samuel Houston Dellinger and his wife, Lillie (née Dillingham) were quite the characters and it is not surprising that their independent, pioneer spirit rubbed off on their children (though it manifested quite differently in some of them).

via Sam Houston Dellinger — Stories of My Family

The Bed

Her bed was an object of degradation. It reeked of alcohol and sweat. Too drunk to make it the bathroom, the bed was stained with urine. Sometimes it smelled of sex and the repugnant odor of her boyfriend. He hated my looks of disgust and barbed comments. It was all too easy for him to look past the sad eyes of a 15 year old girl whose life was falling apart. Mental illness and self-medication had turned her home into a hovel. There was no safe haven.

She had transmogrified from a caring, beautiful, working single mother into a burden for the only person she always loved – me. We went from fairy stories about my missing Prince of a father – handsome but troubled – to the drunken ravings of a mad woman. What made it worse is the ravings were true. My father had asked her to abort the unwanted fetus, me, and if she hadn’t had me her life may have been so much better.

My heart broke into crystalline pieces like a shattered fairy castle. The truth was there and I just chose not to see it. Perhaps I never needed to know all the intimate details of how my father betrayed us. One revelation was that an American relative wanted to adopt me but my mother refused to consider such a possibility. I longed for Aunt Jackie to rescue me but by this stage we were no longer in contact.

Sometimes I reacted with kindness to my mother’s sad life but mostly I became remote with sarcastic comments. After a neighbor asked me to take her home, she was drunk and incapable of walking the few hundred yards, I shoved her into the wall of the house in frustration. She just sobbed and asked me to forgive her. I could not.

In anger I looked at the bed and tore the filthy bedding from it. I recoiled when I realized that it was soaked in urine. Lifting up the mattress to see if it was as bad on the other side, I saw that she had torn open the lining of the bottom divan and it was filled with dozens of mostly empty bottles of whisky. My temper flared and I started pouring the remaining whisky down the bathroom sink to the sound of her plaintive sobbing. She knew that I had been checking to see how many bottles she was drinking. At her worst it was a bottle of whisky a day.

Post Cards from Kerry by Chatty Kerry

My lovely Antipodean friend, Calm Kate, interviewed me for her new website, “Meet the Bloggers”. It really made me think hard about myself and what I reveal. Now you know almost everything about me… Please go and check out Kate’s site and her other WP blog, Aroused.

Meet the Bloggers

Met Chatty Kerry early on and really delighted by her fresh openness on her personal matters.  She shares her health issues, voluntary work at the airport, family, travels, thoughts and insecurities .. she is totally herself in a very personable way.  She shares great photos of gardens, buildings and scenes both locally and during her exploits into other areas so it’s not surprising that she has published in magazines … must ask her how much they pay?  So if you want personal, travel and variety it doesn’t get much better than Kerry!

[Apologies to everyone for my lack of tech skills, Kerry decorated her interview with a delightful collection of photos to illustrate her points but I have no idea how to down load them from PDF or word document … maybe I will work it out and add them later!]

Where were you raised?

SanFran_CUSAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

I was…

View original post 2,114 more words

Nuns! Reverse!

Nuns reverse

It’s time for some Friday fun! As you know my family are ‘eccentric’ and I have no end of real life stories that would work well in a comedy script. My aunt, who lives in Ireland, married a man in her 40s – he was a little older. They moved from London where they both worked to a newly built bungalow on his family land in County Monaghan. I have no idea why we are a little snotty about coming from County Sligo but they do seem to be a tiny bit less ‘straightforward’ than some of her neighbors. I am really tip-toeing through this so as not to offend any of my Irish followers!

My aunt’s sister in law (her husband from Monaghan’s sister) had gone to join a restrictive French convent near Paris in 1939 and nobody saw her again until the ’70s when they relaxed their rules and allowed her to travel. By this stage she had turned into a strange quasi French and Irish person, uniquely naive and really eccentric. She spoke English with a French accent. So every year she came for a visit and from what I gather…’guests, like poisson, begin to smell after 3 days’. One of the rough straightforward neighbors had been begging to visit while Sister K was there. My aunt was unsure, concerned that some of her regular fecking might upset Sister K.

Finally, out of politeness, she had to give in and invited the neighbor along for afternoon tea. Perhaps she thought the occasion might lend some gravitas? All was delightful and both were probably incomprehensible to each other with strange accents. My aunt breathed a sigh of relief, as they went out the front door to see the neighbor to her car. Perhaps I should have mentioned that it was a gloriously hot day for Ireland, a rarity indeed. So, “goodbye, au revoir”, and the neighbor went into her car.

She immediately jumped out shouting, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I have burnt me fucking arse!“. Sister K’s face was a picture, “Mon Dieu!” and my aunt probably muttered, “For Chrissakes…” Ah, every time I tell that story, I burst out laughing and I hope you did too. Here is a clip for a Youtube video of my favorite satirical and hilarious series, Father Ted, about the Catholic Church in Ireland and the reason for the title.
Nuns! Reverse!

A Pastor who walks in the footsteps of Christ

Bob, Andy Nessie

Teddy with his late mum and dad

I wanted to tell you about my mother in law’s funeral service and give thanks to the wonderful Pastor. In the UK we call them Reverend or Minister but Pastor feels more familiar here in Texas. When my father-in-law died almost four years ago, a new Minister, Reverend Lindsey Sanderson, was just being appointed to their church. Both my mother and father in law were faithful members of their church which was built in a new town, East Kilbride, which was developed in the late 1940s. As a result, a retired Minister who knew my father in law personally performed the service.

Later, I reached out to Lindsey, who is a lovely young woman, when we had a previous crisis with Mum to ask if she could visit and pray with her. We couldn’t get flights immediately and it is a two day journey back to Scotland. At that time Nessie, my mother in law, performed her Lazarus trick and completely recovered from the virus. Lindsey continued to visit regularly and would send emails with current photographs that she had taken. She sang familiar hymns to her and prayed with her. This was an immense comfort to both Teddy and I even though we are not religious. We knew that Nessie was and so it would be a comfort.

On January 2nd we got a call from mum’s care home to say that she was suddenly deteriorating and it seemed like end-stage symptoms. She was very comfortable on end of life medications. Despite all our knowledge and 18 years with Alzheimer’s disease, you are always shocked. It was two hours before we were due to have a little drinks party with friends at our house. We looked at each other and decided not to cancel the party; why not celebrate her very long life? As it is a two day journey to Scotland from Texas so we decided to wait a couple of days to see how things progressed. The staff said she was staying stable and then we got the call in the middle of the night (we are 6 hours behind Scotland) to say she had died peacefully in her sleep on the 4 January 2016. The staff had gone into her room to wake her up and she had passed onto the hereafter.

As soon as we heard that she was failing, I emailed Lindsey to ask if she could visit. She went after Sunday services on the 3rd January and blessed her. When she emailed me in return I knew that this was the end. It’s a small town and Lindsey worked with us and the funeral director to create the perfect service. I was astonished at how appropriate and well thought out the service and hymns were. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to have a relationship with a Minister that truly did minister her flock with love and compassion. Thank you, Reverend Lindsey Sanderson, of The United Reform Church. This is their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/righeadurc

I know, I know – the irony of my previous post Facebook is the work of the devil! Clearly I was wrong and there are angels at work, too. I would also like to thank John Donnelly of Heritage Funeral Services http://www.heritagefuneralservices.co.uk/ (Thank the Good Lord they don’t have a Facebook page…) and all their wonderful staff. We arrived about a week after mum had died and had asked for a closed casket. Then I wanted to see her – I could see that this was unexpected for the staff but they went out of their way to accommodate me. They did whatever they do and she looked like a beautiful ageing fairy. At the last moment Teddy decided to view her too and was glad that we could see that her spirit was gone and all that was left was an exquisite death mask. Just before we left, they asked us if we would like music at the crematorium and Teddy said that she wasn’t really into music. I looked at him in astonishment and said, “She loved the Sound of Music”. As we entered the crematorium ‘Edelweiss’ was playing and as we left, ‘Climb Every Mountain’. During Lindsey’s shorter service there we sang ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ – a perfect hymn.

This is a link to the beautiful service sheet and hymns Click here to see the service Please look at it, especially if you have a relative with Alzheimer’s because you might love the appropriateness of it. May she rest in peace.

Liebster Award

liebster5A big thank you to Lisa, Life of an El Paso Woman who nominated me for a Liebster Award. I was going to say this is a No Award site but the Grinch has left my soul after a lovely day working on Christmas Day and I will accept with gracious appreciation.

The rules are: 1. Say thank you to the person who nominated you. 2.Pick 5 people to nominate 3. Ask 5 questions. 4. Post the pic in the post.

These are Lisa’s 10 questions –

1. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Everyone can celebrate it, no one needs to fight about what they should call the holiday (yes, it’s a happy holiday :)). There are no presents and most of us have something to be thankful about.

2. What is your favorite thing to cook or bake?
Nothing at all. Does salad out of a packet count with bottled dressing?

3. What’s the best thing about the city where you live?
My city is built in an indigenous forest. There are critters everywhere. We had the infra red camera out on Christmas and counted Betsy Sue the Possum and her two kids, Louanne and Chuck, two Woodrats, Willie and Winnie, the Raccoon twins, Rocky and Robbie, KATNISS, our feral cat who came back for Christmas. We think that Betsy Sue’s ‘husband’ was there too – Travis?

4. What are some of your favorite movies?
The Wizard of Oz and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. How is that for a contrast but they both have a moral tale…

5. What was one of the hardest thing you’ve ever done in life so far?
Move to Egypt and stay there after the Gulf War started.

6. Who are you the closest with in your family?
Does my husband count? If not, probably my dead mother, I see her in the mirror every day and somehow her words come out of my mouth in an involuntary manner. “Do you want a smack?”

7. Why did you start blogging?
To make me finish and publish my book. Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

8. Is the glass half empty or half full?
Mostly half full but I am happily medicated…

9. Are you a Star Wars fan?
Of course! Can’t you see my uncanny resemblance to Princess Leia? You should see me in a gold bikini and chains…

10. What was your favorite toy growing up?
BEBE! The doll that Daddy sent me

Now I nominate five people and give them five questions to answer.  I nominate –

A Vegan in Las Vegas
Tomorrow Definitely
The Ardross-man
Weird Guy With The Dog
New England Nomad

Here are my questions –
1. Who was your first TV/Film hero or crush?
2. What other place in the world do you think you could live in?
3. What would you like engraved on your tombstone or written on your obituary?
4. What food to you hate to eat?
5. Star Wars or Star Trek?

The Christmas Letter

zed in snow

Zhenny in the Christmas Snow

For some reason I thought it was perfectly okay to announce that my husband was laid off on the world wide web before telling family or friends. It is as if I am writing a diary to a special friend instead of hundreds of people. Once we started receiving email attachment and snail mail letters my husband thought that I should compose one. I had actually written a short note to put in my overseas mail but they were sent before the bad day. It was impossible to think of a way to write a letter. Should I do my usual, list our vacations, health issues and then just finish with ‘and BTW my husband was laid off’? I finally decided that humor and straight forwardness was the best bet. This is, more or less, what I wrote to friends and family (leaving out some personal details). My husband is A.

Festive Greetings friends and family
First, and most important, who sent the chocolates to Auntie M.? She thought it was me, so before any other relatives get embarrassed and have to say, “I haven’t sent you anything” please tell her who the culprit was.

I saw this marvelous quote from NBC News –‘Tis the season to get flooded with Christmas letters — often a litany of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer’. I thought that is a tad harsh but sometimes I have thought that and you might have about our letters… So without further ado, as soon as we came back from a fabulous vacation in Baha, A. was made redundant or laid off, as you say in the States. His company has been really struggling with both the oil price and the hostile takeover. They kept moving him from job to job but I could see the writing on the wall.

A. has been given a good severance package and we figure we have a year to get him a job in Siberia or Saudi… At first you are devastated – what next – but then reality sinks in and you think, ‘I could be living in Syria’. He is most likely going to become an independent contractor and has been given a verbal offer of a contract in the next few months. Given how bad things are, however, we will wait until there is something in writing before we open the cheap wine.

We applied for Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act and are eligible, but not able to apply until our health coverage runs out (3 months as we are, 18 months on Cobra). I was putting off applying for Disability as my doctor suggested I do, so I will think about it seriously in January. In the meantime we had a laugh when my earnings were predicted to be more than A.’s in the next few months between the book earnings and my occasional job as a writer for a local magazine. So far, so good and I am onto my third article.
Blogging is keeping me sane so there are endless blogs for you to peruse when you are bored. This is the one about A. being laid off
A Bad Day
This is one about our vacation in Baha
The Exciting Bus Ride
Our oldest cat
Mrs. Stripe

So have a wonderful holiday season, Merry Christmas, Super Solstice, Happy New Year. I am working on the 25th then will come home and cook my Teddy something reasonably nice for dinner. We swapped offices yesterday and didn’t start divorce papers so all is well and we had great fun at my fancy holiday event.

Love Kerry and A. xxx

We have had a few lovely responses from friends offering commiserations to practical help such as visiting Mum in the Alzheimer’s unit in Scotland. Many people we know work in the oil industry so there is barely anyone unaffected by this current downturn. Misery loves company! I laughed when I read the quote about Christmas letters. We have no children and have traveled frequently so ours probably sounded a bit like that in the past. You tend not to say that you have had vajazzling or many psychiatrist’s visits… Still, this blog is a way for our friends to know more than they ever wanted to about our sex life, my bad mental health and all the other funny things I write about. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL!

Skeleton in the family closet

aunt gladys
The beautiful lady above is a great aunt on my father’s side.  I knew nothing about her until I found all my American cousins through Ancestry when I returned to live in the USA.  Some of our family knowledge is disappearing with each generation dying but I found an older relative through my third cousins who was able to tell me precise details.  My paternal great grandmother, for example, for a formidable lady with black eyes and hair (Native American genetics) and a stern demeanor.  She married in North Texas and finally settled in Tucumcari in New Mexico.  One very cold November I went to visit her and my great-grandfather’s grave.  It was the strangest feeling trying to connect with a gravestone and the place where they lived.

Most of my relatives now live in California and I went on a wonderful trip to see some brand new relatives.  It was hot and I was wearing shorts.  My cousin, Lily, who was in her 70s by then gasped when she saw me and said I had the legs of the anonymous beautiful lady above.  At that stage I hadn’t seen a photograph but I hoped it was a compliment and it was.  We started chatting about her and it became obvious that one side of the family knew a secret about her that the other side didn’t. “Wasn’t she a high class hooker”?, said one to the shocked silence of everyone else.  Then it all started coming together – why did she have a suite of rooms in a hotel when she could have lived in her parents home?

My response, to break the tension, was, “Well if it goes belly-up in oil, perhaps I will have a new career with these legs!”  Hilarity ensued, albeit with one of those looks from my husband…  Before I wrote this post I checked about defamation of the dead because it is all second hand news to me.  I decided not to name her as I noticed there were some other relatives on our family website who might not know about these allegations.  My cousin remembered that she retired to Beverley Hills, smoked incessantly and wore adorable little mohair sweaters.  My great aunt gave her one of her sweaters but it had to be washed endlessly and put out on the line to get the smell of smoke out of it.

I have thought about her often and wondered why anyone would choose to become a hooker, high class or otherwise.  She is certainly a looker and ended up being wealthy.  What I would give to talk to her!

Help!

2mums and dad 001 I love this photograph of my mum (blonde), mum in law and dad in law. They are on a vacation to Spain that my parents in law kindly paid for. My husband and I are both only children, so almost always had celebrated Christmas with all three parents. One particular holiday, we were staying in one of the guest bedrooms of my mother’s house. Her house adjoined another terraced house and our bedroom had paper thin walls to the bedroom next door. My mum lived in a nice public housing estate which was full of working class people. The next door neighbor was an older lady, now widowed, who lived there with two sisters – the oldest was single and the other was a widow. They had been neighbors for more than 20 years and both were respectfully quiet – except on this occasion…

It was around midnight on Christmas Eve and we were being disturbed by strange noises in the bedroom next door. It sounded like furniture being moved around which was odd at that time of night. Then we heard a little voice shouting, “Help” out of the neighbor’s window. It was a quiet street and one of the neighbors across the street came out in her dressing gown and curlers, shouting “Who’s that shouting help?” She was a rather loud lady who sounded like a female Billy Connolly. By this time half of the street was out in their nightclothes trying to figure out what was wrong. Despite my mum’s own mental health issues, she was the voice of reason in the street and many people confided their problems in her.

No-one in the house next door had come out to explain what the problem was so my mum knocked at the front door and said, “Its Kathleen, let me help.” They very tentatively opened the door and were clearly mortified at being the center of attention. In those days Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, much like mental illness, was something you didn’t talk about. The oldest single sister had one or the other, had been deteriorating for months while the family tried to keep her illness secret. On this occasion she was delusional, thinking it was World War II and had barricaded the bedroom with the furniture to protect her against Nazi soldiers.

It took half the night for my mum to help the situation while the poor deluded sister was still shouting, “Help!” out of the window. None of us got much sleep that Christmas night. My husband and I were very young, still in our twenties, and didn’t realize how difficult the situation was. Life turned around to teach us a sharp lesson as my lovely mother-in-law who was glowing in the photograph above was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 15 years ago. She was advantaged by new medical treatments, brain scans and therapy but it is still so hard to cope with. Now, she is the only parent we have still living and resides in a special care facility. People sometimes make very thoughtless comments such as, “I would never put my parent in a home” but how could you manage without specialist staff, hoists and all the other equipment they have? I couldn’t even change her diaper because of back problems.

We try to visit her every quarter, one or other of us, but she no longer remembers me which makes me sad. Everything about the situation makes my husband sad as he only sees glimmers of her former personality. I used to volunteer at a Dementia Ward in a hospital in Scotland and I know that we are very fortunate that she is calm, happy and easy for the staff to deal with. It is lovely to see them hug or kiss her with her smiling in response as she no longer has language. Despite all of this, we still laugh when we think of the very loud neighbor lady with the Billy Connolly voice – her heart was in the right place.