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Our wedding day, June 29, 1996. Bryce, Michelle, John and Tina (who you cannot see because mom is pregnant)

As John grew older I began to realize that little boys living in apartments was not a good mix. I decided that it was time to begin looking into renting a house. One evening I asked John if he would prefer to remain in the city or move out into the country. John responded as I knew and hoped he would. “The country”, he replied excitedly and definitively. Being a country girl at heart, I was very pleased with his response.

We found an adorable ranch style home on an acre of wooded land. The house was quaint and homey and we were very happy there. John spent much of his time outdoors in the woods and by the creek.

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Our first house

We found a little Methodist Church to attend and we became quite involved there. This move from Catholicism to Methodist made me nervous because I knew my mother would not be pleased. She felt that Catholicism was the only true religion and everything else was a cult. I was correct in the assumption that she would not be pleased. My father, however, pulled me aside and said that his grandmother, Ethel Newel Buchheit, was a very devout Methodist back when Methodism was very conservative. My dad seemed to have no problem with me switching denominations. Years later when I mentioned this conversation with my dad to my mom, she said that I was wrong. She informed me that my dad was very upset over my “conversion” and never told me about my great-grandmother.

After attending this Methodist Church for three years, I met the only man I would ever love in my life and my second husband. It was the day after Sweetest Day (a Hallmark Holiday which only seems to be celebrated in Ohio), October 18, 1995. I awoke in a depression and was not planning on attending church, especially since John was spending the weekend with his father. At the last minute, I changed my mind for reasons I can no longer remember. In honor of Sweetest Day, our church had an outdoor event in which tables were set up outside. I took a seat underneath a tree in the church yard. When the event began, a man I had never seen before approached the front of the set up tables dressed as Casanova. After this everything is a blur. I never believed in love at first site until this moment. The moment I laid eyes on him it was as if I had always known him and I was immediately in love. He stood at the front with red roses in his hands. He looked my way and our eyes locked together. He has the most gorgeous, piercing grey-blue eyes. After the pastor finished speaking, this man went around to all the women and handed them a rose. When he approached me and handed me the rose, it seemed as if time stood still and the world ceased to spin. We stood there gazing into each others eyes.

For the next five months this man, Bryce, spent much of the time staring at me and hardly speaking to me. I discovered that he has a beautiful singing voice and is a very talented drummer. He was very involved in the music at our church and was in the choir loft every Sunday. I would be sitting in the congregation participating in the service when I would feel as if I were being stared at. I would look towards the choir to find Bryce staring at me. He would look away as soon as I caught him.

Apparently other church members noticed our gazes and thought something should be done to speed up our relationship. The Methodist Church is well known for having many committees and Bryce and I were conveniently assigned to the same committee. This did help…but only somewhat.

He began to speak to me more but was still very shy. I was raised with the belief that the woman never makes the first move and asks the guy out. In fact, the woman should never make any moves whatsoever. I was beside myself trying to figure out why he would not ask me out.

Finally, one Sunday after church when John was at his dad’s (March 27, 1996), I was sitting on the steps of the altar counting the money for our committee. I heard someone approaching and when I looked up I was surprised to see that it was Bryce. I assumed he was going to discuss committee business with me but, thankfully, I was wrong. He wanted to know if I wanted to go for coffee or lunch. I was so happy and immediately said yes.

I later found out that it was my mother-in-law who was the motivating force in getting him to ask me out. My mother-in-law would tell Bryce that nothing was going to happen unless he asked me out. She would even try to give him ideas on places to take me.

We had lunch at a small local tavern called Chester Tavern. The tavern is still there but under different ownership. I have never returned since that day, although Bryce will occasionally stop in for a beer. I think maybe this March 27 I will try to talk him into taking me there for dinner again.

I quickly realized that Bryce’s reluctance to make a move was going to be a recurring theme. I decided to ask him over for dinner the following weekend to keep the ball rolling. I made my wonderful Italian roast beef (I was still eating meat in those days) and he was hooked.

We began to spend more and more time together and eventually decided to get married. We were married on June 29, 1996 at the church we both attended with a reception afterward in the very church yard where we first laid eyes on each other. At the time we were unaware that I was a few weeks pregnant with our daughter, Tina, on our wedding day.

Planning the wedding was difficult because my mom was exhibiting a great deal of jealously. Bryce was her biggest threat out of any man who had been in my life because she knew we truly loved each other. Since it was my second wedding and I only cared about marrying the man I love and not a fancy wedding day, the wedding was small and fairly casual. My mother-in-law did much of the planning and cooking which angered my mom. She reminded me that this is the mother of the bride’s job. My thought was that she had done this before and has two other daughters’ weddings to plan. My mother-in-law had only sons so I did not see a problem so long as I got married. I really believe rules and formality need to be done away with. They only cause problems.

On Thursday, June 27, 1996, my sisters and I were in my car doing errands for the wedding which was in two day. I can no longer remember why, but we needed to stop at my father-in-law’s house for something. My mom called me on my cell phone wanting me to do something for her. I told her that I needed to stop at my father-in-law’s first. This threw her into a fit of anger and she began screaming to father “oh, my god, Ken. She called him her father-in-law and she is not even married yet.” With not even 48 hours to be married and knowing I was definitely getting married, I did not see the problem. My sisters and I were very upset by this, as they also could hear her screaming through the phone. It seemed to me that my mom did her best to make my wedding as difficult as possible. I never told Bryce about what was going on until just about a month ago. It took me over twenty years to reveal this information to him.

On May 10 of that year (Bryce’s birthday), I had my parents and Bryce’s mother over for cake and ice cream to celebrate. My dad has a good sense of humor but on this night he made a joke that made me angry. He was reading my newspaper (we had actual newspapers back then). When he came to the obituary section he said that these days he checks to make sure he is not listed there. I remember I was at the counter cutting cake and I froze as soon as the words left my father’s mouth. It is rare that I ever show anger towards my parents but this time I did. I swung around to face my father and said, “dad, don’t EVER say that again.” Of course, he thought it was funny and laughed. Little did I know that my dad was coughing quite a lot lately.

That evening driving home from my house, my father had a coughing fit and his lung collapsed. He went to the doctor the next day and was immediately sent for testing. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer was terminal but my mother refused to let anyone tell my father this. With all the health care laws about privacy and my father being a full grown man, I do not know how the doctors let her get away with this.

By my wedding day my father’s hair had begun falling out. My dad’s hair was his only vanity and although I could not care about his hair (I only wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle), I felt badly for my father.

Shortly after returning from our honeymoon, we discovered that I was pregnant. We were both so excited and happy. I desperately wanted to have the baby of the man I love. This pregnancy was much different than my first pregnancy. I was very ill but since it was only my second pregnancy, I was unsure as to whether some pregnancies were like this. I spent a lot of time lying down with nausea, headaches and body aches. I began to wonder if my baby was also ill and in pain. Therefore, it came as no surprise when on August 15 I began bleeding. Bryce and I immediately called the doctor where I was scheduled for an ultrasound. We were heartbroken to find that our daughter’s heart beat had stopped.

I was scheduled for a D&C and remember very little of that day. I do recall being wheeled into the operating room while crying hysterically. I was told that I needed to calm down and stop crying or they would not be able to do the procedure. I remember thinking that I did not want them to take my baby away. I also remember afterward that the doctor told us that they do not know why our baby died but that she was terribly deformed and never could have survived.

I immediately spiraled into a very deep and dark depression. Bryce was very concerned and unsure of what to do. Back then, no one ever thought that you can have post-partem depression after a miscarriage. Bryce thought that since I loved motherhood so much and desperately wanted another child, this would be the best thing for me.

I quickly became pregnant again and the whole family was happy about this.

This pregnancy was just like my pregnancy with John. I felt great the whole time and assumed my new baby boy, Ricky, was going to be just fine. I went into a total state of shock when on December 11 I began to bleed. When my doctor informed me that our son’s heart was no longer beating, I burst into to tears. The doctor responded with “I do not understand why you are crying. It is just like a bad cell. Like a pimple.” I remember being in disbelief that this man just referred to my son as a pimple. Again we were informed that they did not have a reason for why this happened but this time our son was a perfectly formed baby boy.

I went back out into the waiting room where Bryce and my mom were waiting for me. I ran into Bryce’s arms crying that I do not want to do this anymore. Needless to say, my depression worsened and psychosis began to set in. I confided in Bryce quite a bit about my upbringing and my relationship with my parents. His family is the complete opposite of mine and he could not understand this.

Added to my grief was trying to balance my family with my in-laws. My mom kept a running score card as to how much time I spent with both families. Although she insisted that they be equal, they were very skewed. There was always more time with my family because in my mom’s eyes, our family was the only one that mattered. She had difficulty understanding spending time with my husband’s family because she rarely had to spend time with my dad’s family. Most times were spent with my mother’s side of the family and I really did not get to know my dad’s side as well as I would have liked. We used to go to the farm every summer but this was put to an end when my paternal grandmother noticed my depression and tried to talk my mom into taking me to a therapist. There was a huge argument and we abruptly left to not return for many years. My mom tried to tell me it was because my dad’s family did not like Italians but I knew this not to be true. My mom seemed to feel that since she only spent time with her family then it should always be that you only spend time with the wife’s family. This appeared to be very unfair to me, especially since I know how much my husband loves and enjoys his family. I also quickly learned never to mention how much fun I had with my in-laws. Having fun outside of my family was not permitted; however, it is very difficult NOT to have fun with Bryce’s family because they are all very funny and know how to have a good time.

My mental illness began to spiral out of control, the cutting returned and my husband spent quite a deal of time taking care of me. I think he felt that maybe spending less time with my family would be helpful. This was not acceptable to my mother, of course, and things became very intense. We were supposed to go to my parents’ house one day and I could not take the stress of it. I tried to take my life that day and Bryce called the ambulance. I became very upset at having to go to the hospital and being separated from Bryce and John. I was also terrified to go there and never liked hospitals. I think that I was very upset because I was caught before I could succeed in my suicide attempt also. I did not know at the time that Tina and Ricky were assigned to protect me and would let their father know every time I was in danger. This is the only reason I am still in the physical realm today. My parents showed up at our house while we were waiting for the ambulance and they argued with Bryce in our garage. Bryce confronted them on the way I was treated my entire life. My mother took great offense to this. It seemed her life’s goal was to make sure that no one ever found out what went on within our family, including my husband. She spent my whole life worrying about what I said to my friends and others. She would constantly question me about my conversations and accuse me of talking about her all the time. In reality, my friends and I spent the majority time doing other things but my mother could not stand that I confided my husband. It ended up that I did not have a relationship with my parents for months.

My mental illness became so bad that we moved from our home into Bryce’s mother’s home so that he could have help caring for me and raising John. Unfortunately, I related every maternal figure to my mother (except grandmothers) and thought they were all just like her. I began to imagine that my mother-in-law acted like my mom, said the same things my mom did and had the same motives. This made life extremely difficult for us all.

I became a nervous wreck every time the phone rang in fear of it being my mother. My husband and his mother decided to get caller ID (a fairly new invention at the time) to put my mind at ease. This was helpful to me until one day I noticed that my sister was calling. I love my siblings very much and was not afraid of my sister calling but of why she was calling. I was afraid that it was either to pass a horrible message on from my mother or to tell me that father had crossed over due to cancer. The first time my sister called I did not answer the phone. I remember hanging on to the door handle of the stove to keep myself from collapsing and I was shaking like a leaf.

When my sister called the second time, I had pulled myself together and took the call. She told me that my father was in palliative care and that the doctors believed that he only had a few days left. She also said that my mom did not want me there but my dad wanted to see me. She said the he was actually standing up to our mother and saying, “I want to see my daughter.” I knew that going to the hospital would mean that I would be sucked back into the family and the drama but my father wanted to see me and I wanted to see him. Bryce, thankfully, did not want me to go alone and accompanied me.

We spent three days traveling back and forth to the hospital to spend time with my dad. He privately spoke with each one of us. Shortly before slipping into a coma my father asked to speak privately with me again. I saw the anger dart from my mother’s eyes and knew I would have hell to pay for this later. Later when my mother demanded to know what my father said to me, she refused to believe what I told her. Even a couple decades later she still refuses to believe it.

My father crossed over at 8:05 pm on Tuesday, July 29, 1997. I will never forget that moment because it was beautiful. I realize that this is an odd thing to say but if everyone had the ability to see the things I do, they would understand what I mean. My dad’s crossing over has been the only one I have been present for. This is odd for a hospice worker to say but I always seemed to arrive minutes after one of my patient’s crossed or not be scheduled to be present. As my father left his physical body, the entire room began glow the most beautiful shade of gold I had ever seen in my life. The sense of peace and beauty in the room was palpable. I wish I had the words to describe it properly but I do not think they exist.

When we left the hospital that night I ended up in the elevator alone with my aunt and my mother. Bryce had left earlier to take care of John. This ended up to not being a good thing. While in the elevator I was verbally attacked by both my aunt and my mom. I was told that I could come back into the family but my mom would no longer put up with disrespect. The tirade seemed to go on forever and much more was said and it was not pleasant. My father recently told me that he was with us in the elevator and was not happy with the scene. He apologized that I had to go through that.

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John and Christian

A month later I became pregnant for the fourth time. This is the only time mental illness served me well. Due to my extreme depression, it was decided that I should see a high risk OB/GYN in order for this baby to have a better chance of survival and keep my depression from getting worse. I was sent to the best doctor in Cleveland who took time to do tests to figure out why I had two miscarriages. She discovered that I have a blood disorder that is activated upon the birth of the first child. It causes the body to believe that the fetus is a foreign and dangerous object and attack him or her. My doctor told me that I needed to take a baby aspirin every day without fail and to do so until she told me to stop, which would be at 22 weeks. Although I had one minor scare, we successfully had a healthy baby boy, Christian. – Michelle

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