All posts by Dianea Kohl

My IDOL for LOVE

My DAD – not my biological father whom I searched for at age 27. But that’s another story.

WHY is dad my idol?

I was conceived by rape; my mother felt too guilty and ashamed to want me. She met my dad-to-be when 5 months pregnant, returning from WWII, having met my dad-to-be as her diabetic patient.

They fell in love.

Often, I have written essays about the fabulous, extraordinary dad who chose to write his name on my birth certificate. How I felt loved as much as his 2 biological children born after me.

I can’t help it.

I could write a long list of WHY I love dad more everyday: as a baby he fed me, as a child he bathed me, carved a wooden doll bed, built a high swing set, and crafted a club house out of a radio-telescope crate brought home from his work as a radio-astronomer, played badminton with me after supper which he reliably showed up for at 5:30pm daily, opening his car door to lift me or my sister onto his lap to rumble up the driveway, asked his secretary to type my high school junior theme: Utopia, carved a water wheel with paddles turned by the small stream in our back yard, (I’m feeling sad), carved a whistle out of a willow branch during one of our many Sunday afternoon walks in nature, wrote vulnerable weekly letters to me while attending nursing school and early married life (tears appear), occasionally enjoyed clothes shopping with me, proudly led me down the aisle to my first husband, held my two young daughters often (crying now), etc. I must add feeling his shoulder next to mine while reading bedtime stories and supporting my questioning of mother’s rigid Christian beliefs of the bible.

Or I could write of the only-time he spanked me, the only-time I remember seeing his tender brown eyes glazed by a tear (sobbing). Or the only-time he ever yelled at me: STOP! As he was teaching me to drive our VW bug stick-shift.

Some family members still ask WHY I cry when speaking of how I miss his presence, he having died of a sudden heart attack in 1977. I miss his present: love (double meaning like being doubly loved.) As Adele Sweetman (apropos) writes in The SUN correspondence January 2023, “Missing her means you loved her…and that she loved you. Missing her means that all that love hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Just this past weekend, January 28, 2023, while walking my husband Dave across Cornell University’s campus to view several waterfalls, one from the suspension bridge, then across the arts quad, I spontaneously wanted to show Dave where my dad’s office was in the Space Sciences building, where a plaque in his memory I hoped still hung, where I had not been present for over a decade.

I was happily surprised to find the door open on Sunday, where I gloated proudly reading: “In MEMORY OF S. Michel Colbert, staff member of CRSR 1959-1977: “His talents, enthusiasm, and dedication were responsible in large measure for the design, construction and outfitting of the space sciences building in 1967.”

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist of 30 years because my space sciences daddy was way ahead of his time: an equally involved parent in the 50s, and 60s and then volunteering in the 70s for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service before it was fashionable for men.

My dad worked for Carl Sagan of Cosmos fame, where in The SUN SUNBEAMS he is quoted: “Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

LOVE… I think to myself.

I am who I am today in large measure because of dad’s extraordinary love.

At age 76, I am over the moon in love with my dad.

 

“There is an eternal (universal) truth and that is love.” – author unknown

 

COFFEE grows on me

For a longtime I liked the smell of coffee, yet never grew to drink it in college or brew it for my first four husbands. It is like loving to eat fresh strawberries but not liking strawberry ice cream.

Yet, when I travel to my second daughter’s home near Boston, coffee is ferried from Dunkin Donuts each morning as a regular routine. I’m asked if I want some and cannot resist joining in with a small cup, adding one sugar and one milk. On a cold day, it becomes appetizing like the connection of warmth I feel with my daughter whom I cannot help but love.

My warming up to coffee with my daughter’s family became routine when I visited several times a year in my sixties.

Now in my seventies, I’ve evolved from an occasional coffee at Wegman’s grocery store, swallowed along with a warm freshly made bagel, to making my own at home – yes, every morning. Who says elders can’t change?

I’ve even learned to use a French press…even enjoy an occasional hot coffee mixed with Bailey’s crème. With my fifth husband.

 

 

CRYing with what kinds of pain?

November 5th of this year, 2022, my spiritual husband, Dave and I were moving a double bedspring and mattress to my eldest daughter, Erin’s home on a sunny day, when I trip on the stairs, falling, aiming to hit mother earth with my arm, instead of my hard head, already fractured in 1991.

The pain in my right wrist was all consuming: I could not talk or be touched by anyone for minutes. (I had no pain with my seriously fractured skull, surprisingly.) Then I felt nauseous for maybe a half hour, while able to bend my wrist, before becoming swollen. Being a nurse, I knew I did not need to go to the ER as others suggested. Back at my daughter’s, who is also a nurse, I was given an ice pack and a caring evaluation, sweet as honey.

I tell Erin and Dave: “I am surprised that I did not cry. Why is that? As I cry easily when emotionally hurt.” I google several related questions with little if any scientific findings; one article written in 2020 states, “we recall emotional rejection more readily than physical pain.”

Years ago, when Erin told me, “I need to feel pain,” as we casually walked down the street, I was surprised! Yet, being a Marriage and Family Therapist with a primal therapy foundation, I am aware, as is she, that emotions repressed: not grieved, acknowledged, are screaming to be heard. Felt. Why our bodies develop physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomach aches, trying to grab our attention.

My daughter chose to be tattooed.

After an hour of applied ice pack, then donning a wrist brace and sling, I am hiking with Dave on the Black Diamond Trail, feeling the flow of a waterfall, while still stumped, yet pleased that my body knows what to do. That crying (endorphins, natural pain killers are in emotional tears, whereas basal or reflex tears are of different composition), evolves my soul to be happy. *

*A male client of mine years ago said, “Crying makes me happy.”

 

 

DATING…myself:)

Tinder.

I have wondered if I could ever sign up just for sex…when I hear a client struggle to please her boyfriend, who wants her to be “more sexually free.”

I am reminded of my fourth marriage where my husband wanted me to have sex with other men, come home and “make love” telling him he is the best lover. “In my gut” I resisted because I knew “my heart” wanted more than sex, then in my forties. And I was attracted to my husband, in love with him, not interested in other men.

Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, being aware of being triggered into some past emotional pain, I endured ten months without sex because Gregory refused, saying he was too depressed. I closed my private practice for a year to move to Venice, California to attend The Primal Center, hoping to become a certified primal therapist. We were required be in individual therapy and group therapy weekly. After six months Gregory agrees to go to therapy as a hope to save our marriage.

We had met through a personal ad in a local newspaper, The Ithaca Times. Before Gregory, I had found loving boyfriends through personal ads before the advent of cell phones and dating apps. I met interesting men on match.com and spiritaulsingels.com. that I ultimately leave, still looking for love that lasts.

After leaving Gregory, my interest in dating sites, or apps disappeared. Finally, I was happy living alone, until living with boyfriend, Steve, a past client from 2004-2005. Future boyfriends I met on the dance floor. “In my heart,” I felt I would someday be married a fifth time.

Now I recognize that healing emotionally in order to trust myself and the Design Of the Universe (DOU) brought a fifth marriage into my life. Being a lover of waterfalls, led by and shared with my best friend, Gayle, for nine years before she died of cancer in 2019 – I continued on my own to find new waterfalls using her guidebook 200 Waterfalls of Central and Western New York.

On a hot day in July of 2020, I drive to Skaneateles, NY to carry on my love affair with waterfalls, but first decide to cool off in Skaneateles Lake. While swimming laps, a man joins my swim, applying a big smile saying, “A beautiful day for a swim.” I continue swimming laps as he shares his gratefulness to swim but cannot keep up with me due to a heart operation a year earlier causing a near-death experience.

He remembers me saying, “It must feel great to be alive.” Not just okay. Or wow!

We are now together two years, since I asked Dave to spiritually marry me the day before Halloween 2020, knowing and feeling we were meant to meet while swimming, neither of us being in our hometowns!

Tender.

I NEED to FEEL pain TATTOO

It is the first day of fall in New York State where leaves turn to bright reds, yellows, oranges, even purples, like those decorating my oldest daughter’s body.

Over twenty years ago, Erin and I were walking the sidewalks of Ithaca, NY when she offhandedly says, “I need to feel pain.” Even being a Marriage and Family Therapist I am surprised, taken off guard, even dumbfounded.

Erin and I had been to therapy together a few times, attempting to heal the distance between us, created by the mistrust I had created (along with her dad) by not respecting her feelings, she not wanting a recent boyfriend of mine to move in. It was the one time I wanted my ex-husband’s help and support, as to whether to let Rick move in. Rick had been kicked out of his present living situation, me wanting to help, yet was conflicted as to what to do.

Chuck drove 45 minutes, so all three of us could be together to discuss this distressing situation with Erin, whose eyes are drowning in tears. She is 15. I should have validated her feelings as being the priority – but her dad supported me by saying, “Your mom deserves to be happy.” (Maybe he was trying to ameliorate his guilt for leaving his family, to be happier as a gay man.) Therefore, he did not respect Erin’s feelings as most important either. I was a registered nurse back then, not yet a psychotherapist. Chuck was a music teacher.

Still, I regret my decision to let Rick move in, despite my twelve-year-old daughter being accepting. I have apologized to Erin more than once with teary, “I’m so sorry.” But this has not healed her distrust of me, and maybe her dad, who left when she was four, and had been a daily constant love in her life.

Although she has been in therapy and chooses to buy a house in the same city where I live, there is a steady stream of distrust amidst easy hugs, where I love you is not heard from her lips. (Occasionally, I hear love ya, just recently love you as her dad is dying) I tell her “I love you” often when we are together, as I view flowering tattoos extending over half of her naturally beautiful body!

DRUG experiences leading to trusting love

     I was not the teenager, raised in a strict religious home, who rebelled in their freshman year of college, unleashed from parental supervision.

Yet, I was rebellious, never liked the taste of alcohol, which was the drug of choice in my dormitory; to my disgust as one Sunday morning I entered the women’s bathroom, where every toilet was full of vomit. I could not bear to push my foot to flush – I hightailed out to church, where bathrooms and congregation are clean, “next to godliness.”

Trying to smoke pot several times in the seventies caused me to cough so hard, I could have thrown up. Not fun, nor did it make me float to a better place. Three of my five marriages hitched me to alcohol-dependent partners, as is my son-in-law, whose mother died early of alcoholism.

Recently, I visited my daughter and son-in-law’s home, whose 18 and 20-year-old daughters were drinking with me and their parents. I am surprised to see them pouring their third drink early Friday evening. As a nurse, (and marriage and family therapist), I know two alcoholic drinks per day is researched as scientifically healthy. I am surprised again when the 18-year-old says it is the third drink that makes you buzzed.

I am surprised a third time as my daughter respectfully asks her husband why he needs to drink every night after work to relax. She adds that she takes a shower and plays a couple games on her phone to wind down after work. She seems to enjoy a couple drinks on the weekend, offering me a sweet red wine, or I may request a white Russian, sweet like coffee with Bailey’s Irish crème.

I tell my daughter before I leave, “I am proud of your role model to your daughters.”

I tell myself; I am a lucky girl! To be carefree. Others admire my freedom to dance without inhibitions. What a buzz! Carefree. Others ask, when will you grow up?

NOTE: Today is the first day of fall…I have searched my heart…wanting to trust that while my daughter does not wish to be published (will not be to my email list or by The SUN magazine), there are no names given…and anyone who reads this will understand.

The PHONE call I wish for

 

6613 is the phone number of my childhood; a party line – you would pick up the phone not knowing who you would be listening to. Click!

By the time I am in nursing school, I call 2725690, using many quarters to ring my dad, sometimes a request for money, especially after discussing whether I could dismiss feeling guilty for buying a $100 dollar wedding dress, being from a lower middle-class family.

It was always my dad I could count on. Although my mother would drive my belongings to Cornell’s Nursing School in NYC and back home, it was dad who wrote precious weekly letters, not only about his research, or architectural design of Cornell’s Space Sciences building, but more so about his relationships with my brother and sister, or mom and grammy. Feelings even about his childhood self. And me.

America has evolved to area codes, using phone cards to call long distance, and me to imagining setting up a phone booth in NY City adorned with a large-lettered CRYING BOOTH, when in the nineties I began writing books to encourage healing through tears, our bodies natural way to let go of emotional and physical pain.

When my dad suddenly died of a heart attack in 1977, I tried to run away from my grief by running marathons, EVOLving into visits to his family still living in Germany. Phone calls to my aunt Resi, who only spoke German, me ein bisschen (a little.)

Now that Resi has died, my cousin Gabrielle becomes my closest connection to dad, from whom I recently requested the tape of his voice sent long ago to his cherished baby sister, Resi, whom he wrote weekly letters to for many years. It arrived a week ago in July of 2022. I want to hear his tender voice as if over the phone.

 

 

 

ANNIVERSARIES are more than dates

DAD is the first word that comes to mind.

The day I was born he signed my birth certificate although he is not my biological father but had fallen in love with my mother who was his nurse on the ship Huddleston, returning from Germany after WWII ended.

They made up a story, that June 8th was their wedding anniversary, to cover up my mother’s shame of being five months pregnant after having been raped.

The anniversary of dad’s death, October 6th, 1977, and his birth May 4th, 1917, I have always recognized greatfully as I placed flowers on his gravesite twice a year, but more so by feeling his unqualified and unspeakable and enduring love. Through primal therapy in the 1990s, I learned to allow my tears of grief, which increased my visits to dad’s weeping cherry tree to monthly, to honor our love.

My mother had wanted to abort me, but the doctor said she was too far along, then adoption was considered, but my DAD said he wanted to keep me. That is the anniversary I will treasure, and as silly as it may sound, when I make my bed daily, I press my pointer finger to daddy’s chest in a photo that hangs close to my pillow, saying I love you and thank you for loving me the best.

Especially now, as Roe vs. Wade was overturned a few days ago, June 24th, 2022, me being aware – as a Feminist for Life – I can be grateful to be alive while knowing women have the fundamental right to choose an abortion, to have autonomy of their own bodies at this point in our human development. Roe vs. Wade had struck down the Texas abortion ban as unconstitutional. Now it is the opposite? Who can determine or interpret “correctly” what is constitutional?

Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe admitted in 2017 that she was paid by the evangelical group Operation Rescue to change her stance from pro-abortion to anti-abortion, becoming pro-abortion again before she died.

Who can I trust as much as my dad and his anniversary? I miss him more every day as my loving tears display.

CHANGING your MIND with AWARENESS

 

I leave my new-used jeep at Taber Street Auto to be inspected and walk to Wegman’s for my favorite warm-hot bagel of the day. I pass by what I assume is a homeless man, a large backpack strapped to his back. I read “SEEKing Human Kindness” blackened in bold letters on a cardboard sign held to his side.

I may be 100 feet ahead of him when I change my mind from bagels to walking back to whom I learn is Steven. I ask if he is homeless and needs some help. He says he is trying to get back home to San Diego, California.

I tell him, “I like your sign a lot!” and for once in my life I do not ask WHY he chose those words. Later, I realized I was more engaged with his kind eyes underneath a red bandana. I gave him 5 dollars and wished him well.

While writing at Wegmans, saying “Yum” out loud to my hot sesame bagel, I remember that I did not bring the license plates I am transferring to my new used jeep. “Oh shit!” pops out like my automatic transmission in the third of six gears.

When I arrive home, I easily remove the screws to place CRYBABE on the front and back of my jeep COMPASS, changing my mindful direction from feeling disappointed in my forgetfulness to pride for screwing on the plates myself.

 

Part II –    Over the years, decades, it seems I have changed my mind like the movement of a snail. Thirty-eight years is too long to free myself of our family’s religious addiction – controlled by fear of hell if you do not accept Jesus as your savior. Finally, I could no longer believe in the literal biblical ‘truth’ that love can be felt while engaged with fear.

Still, the trauma of not trusting my own feelings and therefore truth super-imposed itself like a scar, not being able to accept ‘prayer’ as a positive, because prayers in church were built on rote phrases like: in Jesus name, thy will be done, or I am not worthy, a song I played on the piano by memory.

Spring of 2022 I reached for a book I had begun in 1996 and set back on the bookshelf, after reading a few untouching paragraphs. This year Larry Dossey, MD pumps my heart with truths that allow me to say I pray, like for safe journeys which I have asked for throughout the years. And, with many greatfullnesses!

“Love released. Without it, prayers don’t dissolve…prayers are not something I do or say, but something I feel…It’s what we are,” writes Larry in Prayer is Good Medicine. Walt Whitman wrote, “children are prayer,” because of their genuineness and innocence.

TOOLS…for the body and heart

I am married to a carpenter, and he is married to a Marriage and Family Therapist. Our tools are hammers and communication skills, gathering arguments as if speaking different languages. I often feel helpless.

I want the windows undressed, without curtains, lots of light to walk naked in, not caring if the neighbors see our senior bodies, which are in good shape by most standards as if that matters.

During our nearly two years together, I’ve pushed and pulled to be allowed to scrape off the creamy window glaze applied by the previous renters. Argued. Cajoled. Insisted and persisted.

When Dave skillfully uses his hammer to take down the first plywood and foam over one of the six glazed back porch windows, he tells me he likes the new light shining in, wanting to see the birds, while riding his stationary exercise bike.

Because we have a commuter marriage, we alternate weekends: he driving from Depew to Ithaca, and me driving from Ithaca to Depew for another round of persuasion to free up another window; he arguing for privacy and me for light.

I gladly scrape off the creamy glaze using “elbow grease,” which builds up my triceps of determination, no ease to please. The razor blade held in the utility knife needs to be replaced often as it becomes dull like arguing but what I view as encouraging the benefits of seeing wildlife or enjoying a brighter kitchen.

One window per month draws out the process, finding it easier to use just the razor blade, instead of it being inside the utility knife. By the weekend of window number five, Dave offers a longer-handle tool that holds the razor blade more securely, making me job as scraper, or is it as scrapper, a thankful bit easier.

I find my happiness growing as each of the nine individual panes of each window is freed to the daylight. But my greatest happiness is hearing Dave say, “Thanks for changing my mind. I really like seeing my bird feeder, and the kitchen does need more light, and sometimes I can see the moon at night.”