healing

I took this photo, unfiltered, this morning–wow what a view

This last year has been tough.

Dad died leaving a complicated estate for me to wade through and I’m still not done. My brother and I came way too close to losing access to our entire inheritance thanks to Marjorie–thankfully detected and corrected before Dad died. That was just the beginning of the gauntlet of complex banking and property/insurance/trust issues I’ve been working through for over a year now. I detailed that harrowing experience in the book so stay tuned for that story.

Plus my brother has been hospitalized twice, so managing him and taking care of our own lives with Lillian so she didn’t get lost in the shuffle; it’s just been a lot.

I told my husband this morning that I came on this trip as much to heal as complete the book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m writing, editing and re-organizing things for a few hours each day, but there is no urgency to finish things up as I’d planned. This is therapy for me, as is being here in Edmonds which is like a familiar safe cocoon. I love this little cozy studio and it has everything I need. I have my favorite haunts like restaurants, the Korean spa, the ferry and this view of course. It all nourishes me.

I think once Dad died, it really set me free to more deeply explore the abuse we experienced as kids and the impacts on each of us. It’s always been so much easier to focus on Marj, as we just didn’t love her, but the betrayal of our father, that’s the sting. With his being gone now, I no longer feel like I’m betraying him, by looking at how he betrayed us if that makes sense.

I keep finding myself winding back in to the chapters related to those traumas–adding, editing, honing in on what’s important and in what order to reveal it. It’s so important to me to at least look at our childhood trauma as a backdrop for the fatal choices Cindy made. It all fits together so clearly in my head and I hope I’m conveying it on the page.

Here is a snippet I’ve been working on this morning:

This juxtaposition of a life, led us to focus on the good times, while doing our best to deny and avoid the violence, desperately trying to cling to a vision of normalcy. At that age, the only thing you really want is to fit in and be normal. This very style of coping is evident in Cindy’s journal years later, when the stakes were far higher. Life and death, literally.

I’m in a whirlwind situation with so many confusing feelings. I need more than ever to give myself positive self-talk. I feel opposition in what I am doing and am not comfortable covering up the truth of what my new relationship with Michael is. It’s like I’m living two lives.

Cindy and I created our own little world, our own languages, our own forms of blocking ourselves off to Marj’s invasions, which angered her even more.  “No one can get close to you girls” she would say, blaming us for her emotional distance. 

Cindy warned me not to share too much with her, definitely not secrets.  “She will use it against you some day” she intuitively seemed to know as a tween.  Cindy was right, not that I always heeded her advice.  Marj, a social worker, did have a skill in extracting people’s most intimate stories.  She was easy to talk to. Yet in our case, she would stockpile the most vulnerable aspects of our inner suffering, then hurl them at us sometimes years later in the form of words like “well, as we all know, you’ve had problems with insecurity your entire life,” she’d say with a sympathetic looking nod. A passive-aggressive confusing message which made you think she was trying to help you, while feeling like shit at the same time. At one time or another, Marj heard from each of us the question “Why do you always need to see me in the most screwed up way possible?”. 

It was like our problems/insecurities/struggles gave this woman life.

I’ve been up writing for hours now, so time for a break. It’s a blustery day outside, so I’m enjoying staying in watching these amazing textured clouds float over the Puget Sound.

I was going to run some errands, like getting the tire light checked on my rental car, but I’m thinking I may just take a wander over to my friend DoorDash and be an inside girl all day today. It’s so nice to have no schedule and no plans.

It’s one of my favorite ways to live.

me. at the movies last night to see Tar with Cate Blanchett

I’m still here.

Just a quick update about the book. I have not abandoned it. Life just got very complicated with Covid, moving my father and brother to a retirement community near us in PA (which was not an easy task) and then our father shortly thereafter having a stroke and passing away on October 10, 2021.

In addition to assuming full caretaking of my brother, I’ve been consumed with a complicated estate settling and of course the grieving process of losing my father. While at the same time selling our family condo in Sedona, my Dad’s place in AZ, buying a large lake house in PA and moving all of that. As I said, it’s been a time. Good, hard, sad, glorious, all of the above.

Also, did I mention here that Rudi Apelt died in prison this Spring of natural causes? That has changed my life dramatically as I will never, ever have to attend a parole hearing again. Major. Thank God he’s dead.

But a couple of updates.

A production company out of the UK contacted me a few months back and they are doing an hour long TV show on Cindy’s case. I was interviewed for seven hours a few weeks ago, which was a bit of everything. Part of the reason I say yes to these projects, is I can’t tell you the healing that occurs for me because of participating in the process.

For this one, they needed as much video and audio footage that I have of her, so that pushed me to convert VHS and cassette tapes in to CD’s and a flash drive to preserve them. Also the hunting down of those things–plus photos–kind of forces me to open doors that are ultimately good for me to do. I think many survivors of homicide kind of box things away, and the grief gets lost in the violence. At least that’s happened for me.

This project appealed to me because there is a huge emphasis on telling Cindy’s story, which is really the point of the book as well. There is little focus on her killers and more on knowing and understanding her as a person. They asked me so many questions about our childhood/upbringing, how she was all throughout her life, our relationship, on and on.

In many ways, it’s been easier for me to focus on the crime, than on the loss. This pushed me to the latter and it was so good for me. Of course it’s not easy, lots of tears and pain comes to the surface, yet as I say, it’s better out than in. As any of you out there who relate, it’s always there. No closure ever comes. It’s just how much we are feeling it any given day.

So there’s that. I’ll know more soon about the air date but they said late Fall or early Winter.

Now to the book.

I’m headed back to Edmonds this Fall for three weeks to complete it, tweak some things and make a serious push for an agent/publisher. I’ve had a couple interested and frankly just blew it off as I just couldn’t put my energy there. So I’ve got a nice long expanse in my writing paradise to get this wrapped up.

I love my life in PA so much that it doesn’t make as much sense to leave it now, but Edmonds is where I’m doing this book and where I will finish it. Plus, it’s one of my major happy places on the planet and I can’t wait to get back in to that ferry riding, Puget sound, Pike Market, Olympus spa life and see my friend Pat again.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer. We are doing well. Well, I should say I’m crawling back out of exhaustion of the last couple of years. I actually cancelled all my summer travel and postponed my Dad’s rather large memorial service I was planning in Maine because I was just flattened. Rest has been my friend this summer (but still continual work settling my Dad’s affairs–sometimes it feels like it will never end).

My brother is doing especially well after a rough patch a few months ago. We got him some additional support and he’s living alone in the duplex we moved him and Dad in to with lots of activities and he’s really taken to it. He also comes up to the lake house with us and we will spend all our holidays as a family up here. It took some work and learning to get him to his highest functioning but I think we’ve landed there. He’s doing lots of cooking and baking from scratch lately–lasagna, blueberry buckle, strawberry pie. It’s great to see.

Of course, we all enjoy our family life with our darling ten year old Lillian who is just the sweetest kid and such a blessing in my life.

I’ve been gardening as usual–flowers and veggies–the tomatoes are coming in hot now. So I made and froze some homemade marinara sauce and told my brother it’s for him to make us a lasagna for Christmas Eve.

I’ll keep you posted on that show–and expect updates in October as I dive back in to the book.

It’s time.

Cheers–and thanks for continuing to care,

Kathy