Life

It’s Father’s Day

father daughter

I dread this particular 24 hour span. I’ve never had a great relationship with my dad and this Father’s Day will mark almost six years since I last laid eyes on him.

My brother has been insisting for months now, that more than enough time has passed and that I and I alone will have to make the effort to “break the silence”. I respond to his haranguing by telling him, “Why bother? I don’t have a father”.

I’ve felt that way for years.

I woke up at 3:15 that morning after fitful night’s sleep. I tossed, I turned; my mind spun like a Roulette Wheel. Millions of normal, emotionally healthy people would be spending this day with their fathers. Could I do the same? And really, what would it hurt to visit my dad? It would be easy enough to make the effort to visit with the man who, as my mother always said, “was merely present for my conception”. That’s the role he always played; a part well cast by her rage and his bitterness.

Besides, I needed reconciliation.

I made the long drive to the country. It was pleasant—more so than I remembered. Daddy always liked it here. He spoke about it all the time. When he was younger, he loved being outdoors, especially in this part of South Texas. I also spent some time here growing up. Michael and I loved playing in the barn and swimming in the river. I’d have to agree with my father; there was something about this land. Gently rolling hills; rich farm land as far as the eye could see. Pine and Mesquite trees dotted the landscape. It was nice. Quiet. Peaceful. I was stressing over having to visit my father, but the sheer tranquility of the countryside was having an amazing effect on me. I was starting to relax.

I drove up to the gate which leads to his property. I remembered it being larger for some reason. It was locked, as usual, but Dad always said we should come right in. The combination was easy to remember…. it was Michael’s birthday. Never underestimate the relationship between a father and his only son. I got back in the car and drove over the iron cattle guard; it had a jarring effect on my car. I’d forgotten how that felt.

Memories.

I parked the car, grabbed my things which were on the seat beside me and exited the car. I walked over to him. Would he recognize me? Would he know I’d even stopped by?

I started the conversation immediately.

” Hi Daddy. I know it’s been a while since I was last here to see you. I guess an apology is in order, but things have been crazy at home.”

I was talking fast, hoping to avoid any awkward silence.

“You remember Robert, don’t you? Well, he was just promoted to partner in his firm and the kids are growing like weeds.”

I reached for my purse; I was going to show him pictures, but thought against it. He was never close to his grandchildren.

“Teddy reminds me of you, Daddy. He has your hazel eyes and your love of fishing. In fact, he and Robert went out in the Gulf a few weeks ago and they caught seven huge Red Snapper. And Kate is my baby. You last saw her when she was five. Well, believe it or not, she’ll be 12 in October and in seventh grade next year. Daddy, she’s so pretty and so smart. She made all “A’s” last semester. Sometimes, I wonder if she’s really my daughter!”

I chuckled.

Silence.

The wind blew my hair in my face. I brushed it away and continued to plow through our conversation.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here today after all these years. Well, it’s Father’s Day and I felt I should be here. I felt that I had to make the effort”.

I looked down and kicked a few stones with the toe of my shoe. I could feel emotions welling up inside me.

I took a deep breath.

“Daddy, I’m also here because I can’t deal with this any longer. There’s so much I don’t understand. I need to know why you left the family. I want to know why you left me! I’ve always wanted to know the answer to that question!”

My voice was cracking.

“I was just 11 when you walked out and I didn’t understand the dynamics of marriage or divorce, for that matter. All I knew was that you left. You walked out one night without an explanation and without telling me goodbye. Do you have any idea what that did to me? The precedent that set for the rest of my life?”

I looked away, not wanting my tears to tell my story. The sun broke through the clouds and there we were, bathed in the warm Texas sunlight.

I took another deep breath. “Daddy, I believed for years that men leave and that love is expendable. If you get bored with your marriage or if you fall out of love, no biggie, just leave; exit. To hell with making the effort or fixing the problem, just go out and find a newer, younger, thinner model. Find a new family, too. See Daddy, I learned all of this from you! I learned that men leave and when they do, they leave broken people in their wake. I was broken for years. I never knew how to love. Daddy, I never knew how to be loved, either! It was horrible.”

I decided to sit down on nearby bench. The breeze was blowing through the pine trees. It created a hum…an odd discord actually that somehow, seemed fitting. Discord had always been the soundtrack of my life with my father.

I wiped away another tear.

“Life, post divorce was so hard for us, Daddy. It was a struggle in every way, but your absence was what hurt the most. I wanted you to be there when I got braces, when I had my first date…the proms. My graduation. I would’ve loved to have talked to you about the time Jake Shelton broke my heart in eighth grade, but you weren’t around. I hated that you weren’t there. But then again, you missed all of those things, too. And don’t even get me started about college! It was horrible and so were my twenties. What a waste!. I got involved in all these lousy, dead-end relationships. All were abusive in so many ways. I drank too much….did everything too much. But I guess I can’t completely blame you for my screwed up life. Your leaving was probably impetus for everything evil in my life, but no one put a gun to my head, either. I chose to live a wild life because running wild was easier than being responsible. Then again, you know a little about bucking responsibility, don’t you, Dad? Your lack of it constantly forced me to remind myself that I even had a father!”

I was getting angry.

“Allow me to break down what life was like for Mom, Michael and me after you left. We had no money and moved from that five bedroom home into a cramped two bedroom apartment. Mom practically lost her mind. She’d never worked before. She was the wife of a successful businessman, she never had to work. You never wanted her to. She was 39 years old when you left and she had nowhere to go and no money to take her there. She took menial job after menial job trying to support two children. She’d cry for hours sometimes, never leaving her room, except to retrieve another bottle of Vodka. God Daddy, back then, I always thought Mom was such a silly, spineless woman because she wasn’t handling the reality of your leaving very well. I would always say to her, “Come on, Mom. He left and he’s not coming back! Get your shit together!” I had no idea what she was going through; I didn’t know hard her life really was until I lived it myself after Joe left me”.

A large truck with a broken muffler drove by the highway and broke my concentration. Another breeze blew a strong whiff of the truck’s exhaust in our direction.

“Did you ever know why Joe and I broke up? History repeated itself, Daddy. Like you, he cheated on me. With a woman who worked in his building. According to Joe, she was everything I stopped being—thin, young, sexual and apparently, she was willing to put up with his shit. Imagine, that’s what he liked about her. Her tolerance? Well, by telling me that, he was damn sure right about one thing…she definitely did things I wouldn’t do! I wouldn’t put up with his crap. I kicked him out of the house the night he told me that. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of leaving on his own accord. In the end my defiance didn’t matter. He had the last laugh, I suppose. The bastard married her the day our divorce was final”.

I shifted my weight on the bench and continued the one-sided conversation.

“Men break your heart and Daddy, you broke mine. No two ways about it. When you walked out that door, I stopped feeling safe. In some ways, I still don’t. It didn’t help that you wanted nothing to do with me or Michael after you remarried”.

I brushed my hair out of my eyes then folded my arms across my chest. I shivered. Suddenly, a sunny June morning in South Texas, turned cold.

“Holidays, special events, school plays…we never heard from you. For my 14th birthday, all I wanted was a picture of you because I’d forgotten what you looked like. Of course, Mom didn’t have one to give me. She ceremoniously burned everything you left behind, including pictures and her wedding dress. She put everything into a metal barrel, doused it with lighter fluid and lit a match. You, your memory and all your stuff went up in a ball of fire that really, was fueled more by anger, than anything else. Mom made us roast wieners over the flames. She called the whole process her “rebirth”; a second baptism, this one by fire. I understood the symbolism involved and felt if that helped her move on, great. But it hurt me–more than I knew. For years after that, every hot dog I ate–regardless–tasted like burned taffeta”.

I winced at the memory. The only response was the breeze rustling through the pines. I took a deep breath and looked around me.

“Well Daddy, the kids want to take Robert to brunch this afternoon and I’ve got get back into town for that, but I’m glad I came here today. I think we both needed this, at least, I know I did”.

And that’s when I lost it. Admitting that released a floodgate of emotion. I started sobbing.

“Being here makes me realize how much I miss you. I miss you. It wasn’t that I couldn’t forgive you–I did–years ago. I just couldn’t forgive myself for thinking that I hated you as much as I did, but in reality, I never hated you, Daddy. I just didn’t understand. And no one bothered to explain. Mother made the fatal mistake of talking so badly about you in front of Michael and me. We heard about what a bastard you were day in and day out! She negated our existence by damning you and in our minds, that made you the enemy. To hear Mom wax about what happened, it was as if you stole her money, her youth and her dignity. It was as though you all but murdered her. But in some ways maybe, you did. You killed her spirit”.

I shook my head.

“Even so, I’m mad at Mom too, because for the longest time, she knew I thought I was the reason you left and she never made any attempt to correct it. Why did she do that? She let me think it was all my fault. I agonized over this. I thought if I would have made all A’s or if I would’ve won all my tennis matches or cleaned my room better, you would’ve stayed. The little girl that still lives in the woman I’ve become is only now beginning to fully grapple with everything. I mean, can you blame me? You represented my very first relationship with men. What happened with you set the tone for every relationship that followed. And my God Daddy, you never had any idea what you left behind. Look at your legacy. It’s represented by disappointment and abandonment. And all that pain. I stupidly thought if I failed as a daughter, I’d surely fail as a girlfriend and wife and I believed that.

I bit my bottom lip and just stared at the ground, kicking at a pebble.

Want to hear something odd, Daddy? There’s a part of me that’s looking for a Genie. Yeah, a Genie and I want him to grant me one wish. That’s all I want; one wish. I’d ask him to give us more time. See, I don’t want more time, I need more time. But I can’t have that, can I? That’s my biggest regret. So many years went by and we hardly spoke to each other. Geez, why was there so much anger, Daddy? Were we really that mad at each other? Were we? Or was I more mad at you? I guess so because I wouldn’t respond to your letters and I wouldn’t even answer the phone when you’d call”.

And then it hit me…he had actually written. He HAD called. I realized that my mother’s rage and anger distorted everything, including my point of view, but that morphed into something very convenient and sinister. I used this horrific father/daughter relationship to my advantage. It became my excuse; remaining a victim suited my agenda. That was easier than admitting my culpability in my own unhappiness. Pointing fingers at the son of a bitch father absolved the wounded daughter from all blame.

I buried my face in my hands, then sat on the bench, shaking.

“Daddy, I have to know if…if you can forgive me? Please? I can’t leave without knowing we’re OK. Do what I never could or would do for you–please release me, liberate me from this heartache! Free me from all the pain that’s kept me from living my life.”

That’s when I noticed it was there again. The silence. But this time, I welcomed it. No words were spoken. Really, at that moment, nothing needed to be said. Something was different. I then realized this is what Deliverance must feel like.

I don’t know how long I’d been sitting there. I looked up. The breeze felt cool against my tear-stained face. The sun caressed my entire body. I shivered in it’s warmth. It was incredible. I felt very much alive. I stood up, emotionally drained and weak physically, yet strong in my resolve. I wiped a few remaining tears from my cheek.

“Well, I’ve got an hour-long drive ahead of me, so I better go now if I want to make brunch”.

I paused.

“Daddy, before I go, I want you to know that I miss you. I think about you all the time and please know that I love you, in spite of everything. I wasted so much time harboring all this pain, but I didn’t know what else to do! Hurting was the norm and I’m so sorry for feeling that way. More than you know. I’ve squandered so many years because of it, so please….help me try to get a few back if I can….let’s start over, OK? Today, let’s begin again. We’ll do that by visiting more. I’ll come back soon. I promise. I mean, after all, you are my daddy, right?”

I stood there for a second, allowing the moment to imprint on my memory. I wanted to remember everything. Every detail.

I mustered a smile and whispered, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy”.

I placed a small bouquet of flowers beside his headstone and touched it briefly before walking back to my car.

.

 

Taking The Blair Challenge

That would be Blair, the creative force behind the highly entertaining blog known as The Shameful Sheep. I’d provide the link here if  I knew  how, but I think that would also require a WordPress upgrade and frankly, I just don’t wanna.  You see, WordPress and I seem to be drifting apart lately.    Commitment issues.   But Google TheShamefulSheep.com and enjoy the literary ride.

While I’ve never actually communed with Blair one-on-one, I think we’re somewhat alike.   It appears we view the world lit from a lightbulb  of similar wattage.   We’ve followed each others blogs, liked each others’posts and based on her writing style, I’d say we’d probably laugh at the same dick jokes.

While reading one of her posts recently, I noticed she was posed some questions to answer, so she then challenged her readers to do the same. Yeah, I know, it’s an old blogging chestnut, but to quote Poco, “When it’s all you’ve got– call it love” and frankly, I’m bored with politics and I’ve scorned whiney millenials and third wave campus feminists enough—this week—so, I thought what the hell, I’ll answer her questions and then some.

They are as follows, in no particular order:

1.  Think of the person you dislike the most in this world. If you had the ability to force them to eat a full plate of anything you wanted, what would it be?

I strongly dislike poseurs with extremely vague pedigreees.  Don’t claim privacy when refusing to answer probing questions on a blog in which you use your real name.   That said,  I would invite those on thatbparticular shit list to a banquet facility  where a meal of braised ocelot rectum and capers would be served on a bed of lice pilaf.    That would be followed by much needed vinegar and water boarding.

NEXT!!!!!!!

2.  What do you have an irrational fear of?

I have become more claustrophobic in my later years.  MRIs require total sedation but my most irrrational fear of all would be sitting in front of an open windows at night.

It was 1976 and my boyfriend at the time, got me into horror flicks.   Not so much the ones about ghosts and monsters, but about the ultimate thematic conflict, man  vs. man.   We saw this particular movie entitled, The Town That Freaded Sundown.    It’s based on a true story about the still unsolved post WWII “Phantom Murders” in Texarkana.    A hooded figure would attack high school kids “parking” as we used to say, on darkened backroads and in the woods late at night.    It was rather formulaic:  he’d kill the guy first, then rape the woman, then kill her in brutal fashion.  This had to happen a few times until the kids In Texarkana realized that going out and necking could be fatal.  A curfew was imposed, so let’s just say a lot of palms grew hairy that fateful spring in Texarkana.

Speaking of, this moratorium forces the killer’s hand.    He has to sate to his murderous appetite by moving  from the boonies into Texarkana proper.  So, he walks up to a house and the killer shoots Pa through the open window, then Ma gets shot in the face  through an open kitchen window.  And for some reason, those scenes have  bothered me ever since.  I’ve visited people who lived in in hi-rises and I’m talking upper floors ya’ll,  and I couldn’t sit or stand in front of an open window after dark.

3.   You’re going out to dinner tonight – what type of restaurant are you going to? Mexican? Chinese? American? Italian?

I like food from the many countries up and down the Mediterranean.  I also like  good Chinese and Vietnamese food.   But if specifics are required for tonight’s fare, since I’ve been trying to diet, I’d probably choose Chinese.  But on a good bulemic night, rife with self loathing, I’d choose all four restaurants.  Seriously.   I would….and I have.

4.  If you’re a blogger – do you have aspirations of writing a book at some point?

Yes, of course.   I’be been writing two separate screenplays in my head  for a decade now.   One is loosely based on my capicious three decade career  in Broadcasting (the “other” magical misery tour”) and the second book or screenplay would focus on  my gregarious maternal grandmother who loved fire engine red fingernails and wearing diamonds during the daytime.    ”Twas absokutely scandalous in small town South Texas circa 1963.

5.   You’re given an unlimited amount of money by Daddy Warbucks. The only stipulation is it must be spent on a dream you’ve had. What is that dream?

Hhhhhmmmmm…..if it was the slumber induced nightmare I had about Dennis Cucinic and Marla Maples’ uvula during horah in Minsk, then I’ll pass, but if you mean the dream in which I’ve had since childhood about encapsulating  the first giddy months of love in pill form, then yeah, I’d shove a shit ton of dough in front of some Big Pharma CEO and say make it happen,  Papi!

6.  What are you really good at?

I have failing at LOVE down to a science.   If one can fail well than I’ve been felled very well by failing.     On an up note, I do know which wine goes best with Xanax and chateaubriand.

7.   What have you never learned to do?

I know nothing about auto mechanics, I don’t how to play a trombone, figure out how the role lift and thrust play in flight and I’ve never taken the time to find out if Nero ever took violin lessons.

And gravity.    I’ve never understood how that works.   Or why Bruce Willis still is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Toothache Can Be An Allegory

The second presidential debate is now history.   I refused to watch it, because had I done so, my death would have been imminent.   You see, I have no patience and intense short-fuse rage issues these days.  The culprit is an abscessed “wisdom” tooth which has to be treated with antibiotics before the wretched thing  can be pulled.  Proximity to the brain, dontcha know.

Pain above the neck is acknowledged through a short,  very direct route to the brain.    Below the neck, it all has to go through the spinal chord.   Make no mistake, if I stepped on a nail. I’d feel it immediately, but feeling the intensity can be slightly muted by distance, mere inches in some scenarios.   As my layperson’s mind perceives it, it could be compared to booking a non stop flight versus one with a lengthy layover in Denver.   There’s always a layover in Denver.

I finally got tired of burping up insane amounts of oral pain gels and faced my fears and  went to my dentist, an occupation that has scared me since seeing The Marathon Man as a kid.    The  kindly dentist took X-rays which revealed I had  a rather odd wisdom tooth that was quite infected.     He knew it was painful.   I confirmed that it was.  I was quietly praying for a script of Fentanyl; he suggested Naproxen.

I have to wait three more days for it to be pulled.     I’ve had a migraine, an earache, a sore throat and as mentioned, rage issues for the past week and a half.   Chronic pain, which I’ve lived with daily since a car accident on 1991, can wear on your heart and soul.   I was precribed an antibiotic which began working, but I only felt its defense forces for the first time this afternoon.  It was only then that I had an appetite, could chew and be civil.   It was the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to yell at those  pesky kids to get off my lawn, even though I have no lawn and I live in a gated community.  I’m the youngest homeowner here and I’m still south of 60.    I can remember “Let’s Make A Deal” while my mostly senior  neighbors can barely recall Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Age schism.   And many of my neighbors are of the nosey, gossipy variety, who hate my dog’s entire elimination system.    I responsible in that I pick up where he leaves off, but I’ve  been written up in the past and for another pet owner’s lack of duty regarding dog doodie.

Pets are barely tolerated, but I’m afraid children aren’t allowed here.  Of course,  no where is that mentioned anywhere in the contract with the builder or in  the HOA by-laws because well, it’s completely Illegal, but here, I get the sense it’s unspoken.  If there are any local kids missing,  authorities might want to check out some of my neighbors.   I walked by one house recently and got a strong whif of gingerbread.

I’ll move soon, and rebuild  and do as the late John Denver once warbled, come home to a place I’ve never been before.  Like an old Etch-A-Sketch from my childhood, I’ll erase a good part of my past.    Well, maybe not erase,  but I’ll make the bad stuff of memories far less retrievable.

Here’s a tip for you:  when God…the Universe….Putin tells you over and over again,  your life and everything in it isn’t working, acknowledge it don’t ignore as I did, cut your losses and run, don’t walk to the nearest exit.    Don’t sit there hoping things will change as you maintain the same currupted mindset that only served a purpose when climbing the ladder, not while stowing it away.   Minding these no so subtle cues often means leaving what’s familiar, but not necessarily healthy.    Taking it further, it also means excising certain people from your past, not because they’re bad, but because one or both of you have changed to the point nothing in the relationship is salvageable.   These are people I once knew from my childhood, a million years ago, from cities large and small,  a million miles away.    Depending on perception, we were victims and/or the fortunate ones to be where we were, when we were.    But nothing lasts, nothing is static.    Many people remain loyal to things which they have every right to do, but these are things I can no longer believe in, creating  a schism of a different kind.

I’ve recently spoken with some people in the psychiatric world about the changes I feel within and around me.   I wanted to know if this need to separate who I am with who and what I was is normal, given all my circumstances.   They each replied in their own ways, assuring me that shedding is perfectly normal and natural.   Dogs do, it; as evidenced by the fur on everything in my house, cats do it and people do it.  We shed dead skin cells to make way for newer, healthier ones.  The White Coats say what really matters is what’s really about the intention behind the mental aspects  of shedding.    Makes sense, so I’ve thought about, lost sleep over it, allowed guilt to eat at my being and arrived at this point.   It’s time to remove  things, leave things, and think differently about things because for me, it was and continues to be in in my best interests to move forward and stop looking back.    I had to remove myself from the things that hurt; which had become painful; which to due to impulse, neediness and bad choices, I allowed to become painful.

Not unlike my abscessed wisdom tooth.

9/12/16

I still think a lot about 9/11, the  day that changed the world.     Some would say evil showed its ugly face on that day in the form of four hijacked 757s;.  less patriotic types might say America had it coming, especially on her own soil.  Others don’t care–it didn’t happen to them personally and still others mourn the loss of humanity.

Fifteen years has flown by.  Since that time, so many people have been born, so many have died.    What happened on 9/11 to some kids born since then might have the same affect on them as the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination has  on my generation.   It happened at Ford’s Theater, I know…in April, I think.

I was four when John Kennedy was killed.    I didn’t exactly understand the politics involved or the motives, but I knew a bad man didn’t like him enough to kill him and didn’t care how Caroline or John John  felt about it.    That’s how I saw it, I related to my fellow children.    That’s how my  four year old mind grasped that November day.

Fifty-three years later and I’m not sure I understand anything better than I did back in 1963 or in 2001.    It was hate that bought the planes down, three took buildings with it.  It was hate that killed JFK and hate that killed that black kid or that white kid or that murdered Asian doctor, the Palestinian college student or the Jewish merchant who’d been stabbed in the streets of Jerusalem..     Hell, if you want to be specific, hate even killed Osama bin Laden.

Or does it make a difference because ‘we’ hated bin Laden; united by a very strong emotion?

Well, September 11th, the marine barracks bombing in Lebanon, the USS Cole all happened because somebody hated Western ideals.   Were we attacked by the same united hatred , but in this case, it was hatred for us   For America.

I could recall terroristic tragedies that happened even longer ago, but admittedly, things get a little hazy after anything relative to Archduke Ferdinand’s murder.

I had a thought recently….the kind that would enter our gray matter after smoking some great weed.   What if God as we know it was really this massive alien or aliens and we were all put here for their amusement like Ceasar, the lions, and  the Christians in the colosseum????.    Violence being more sport than horror.

Sun Tzu (I think) believed that everything comes down to war. It’s the basic organizing factor of every society.   Well yeah, how can you know peace without knowing war?   Just think about it, somewhere at any given time on this planet, there are warring factors.     From an organized militia,  to ragtag guerrillas fighting in rain forests to football rivals facing each other every weekend in the fall.  Defense.  Offense.  Its the strategy of everything.

Is life just one big power play?

It feels like it is sometimes.     Who has the gold?    Who’s the king of the mountain?.   You hear stories about Wall Street tycoons or the star makers in  Hollywood who get the biggest thrills of their lives simply by fucking someone over a deal.

And don’t get me started on free will.    I think about the passengers on board the hijacked planes or the people who went to work at the Pentagon or either WTC tower that Tuesday morning.   They didn’t believe they’d  wake up that morning to die.    But 19 radical America hating Muslim zealots had different plans for them.    And then on United Flight 93, The Free Will of Man that existed on that plane became a tug of war.  Everyone on  board knew they were going to die and like the jumpers on the burning floors of the towers,  they received the ultimate Sophie’s Choice—-they got to chose how they’d die.  Again, I shake my head.

I don’t know.   I’m told that to try to understand God is feeble.   We’re not meant to understand God.   Well frankly, that sounds just a little too convenient for me.  Tolerance is more relevant than love and I can’t and won’t judge who or what you believe.  we must tolerate each others others different beliefs and yrs, even our doubts.    I know this;  a power far bigger than me exists, I’ve felt it; I’ve seen it in action minus the angelic choir in the background  and while I’d admit an existence, exactly how and why this entity operates as it does confuses the hell out of me.

 

 

 

The Icing Man Commeth

As in a man icing a birthday cake.

Yes, the old Laur will have traipsed Ms. Buck’s ‘Good Earth’ for 57 years.   Hard to believe.   It’s been an interesting  57 jam  packed years filled with amazing life experiences so incredibly groovy and so horrible, they could reanimate  Buddy Ebsen.

And some years could’ve inspired Dante.

Good and bad were and are always present,  just at different times for different  purple.

I keep getting asked what I want this year.      My answer is nothing.    Im  reminded  that everyday I spend  above ground is a treat and I am grateful.     And I want other things like global  love, world peace , equality,  no more profiteering from war and all the other typical Miss America Q&A response shit.    But my passion for al these things are waning.   Im hardly as passionate about any of it as I used to be.   I mean, I’m not willing to burn the flag, my haggard bra  or my AARP card in protest.     I protest with my wallet now.   For example, If I don’t like how little Dole pays its pickers, I don’t buy their pineapples.

And I used to think college protestors who burned the ROTC building or overtook the dean’s office were cool.  Today, I think they’re criminals.    To have youthful idealism is womderful, but keep it within a reality  based perspective.   Everything must change.    Like elongated boobs that were once taught and perky but  now hold a tray of canapes. They’ve changed.    Everything changes.    Life is about change and how we changed with the changes forced upon us.is

My whole family consists of pre-Clinton Democrats.      They aren’t now.     I used to be a blond.   The every increasing streaks of grey  amid the dark roots prove I’m not that not that much of a liar..     My tolerance has changed.     And I’m now far more confrontational.     If I see an ininjustice, I’ll say something.   If one is perpetuated against me, God help the perpetrator.  If warranted, I’ll use what few good bones I have left left in my leg aim directly at the crotch.    Any crotch..      A grocery cart rolled into my car recently.   You know that  plastic sign in the side insisting that all children be” carefully strapped” in  seats??

The cart now has a huge ding between the reo ‘Ps’.

As for turning 57, my brain is now taking orders from my body more than my brain,     I had a nasty car accident 27 years ago and broke 11 bones, so my brain gets overridden quite a bit.    Moving really isn’t all that easy and the accompanying chronic pain is no picnic  but if strong enough, you learn to live with your newfound abilities..

So….I guess what I’ll do my BD do is wake up that morning, take a post wake up nap, scratch whatever  itches—-bathing will  be based on a coin flip, check FOX News to see who blew what up, then go my almost 86 year old  mother’s house and stare at her third and final caesarean  section scar for 57 seconds as she reminds me how painful my birth was.    Her memory wanes.   I keep telling her she did not have me vaginally.  She insists she did and seems to recall the spinal block  injection that numbed everything below her waist was just a mosquito bite.

I’ll just sit there and agree with her, then make an apology for my painful birth she never felt,  but that’ll fall  on deaf ears.     As in literal deaf ears.

Then I hope I go back to my house sans people trying to hide behind furniture to surprise me, then I’ll light a votive candle and make the same 51 year old birthday wish  I always make.   It won’t come true, but after 57 years  it’s become a habit.   I can always hope.

Look, I know this makes me out  you be a cynic,  pessimistic and  jaded.   Don’t get me wrong.   Life is okay.    I go out early on clear Central Texas morning and see stars that I just know are looking back at me and only me.     I’l be thankful that while my boobs a do look WWII issue German hand grenades, they’re both healthy.   Ill smile because I’m NOT a mother of five in Mexico who struggles to feed her children.    Then I’ll smile even bigger becsuse I can  write a check to a charity that can help her her get all the food  she needs.

So  yeah, , I’ll 57 in a less than week.    Sure I’ve hardened;  gotten older, colder and in the process of being happy to be bored, perfectly ok with being alone, even being more intolerant of certain things, I’ll,be okay,   All those things, as unpleasant as they might be, means I’m alive.

But you know what?   On second thought, I do want something, but good damn luck trying to wrap it in a box, because all I want is some time back.     I want the time….just enough time to express my gratitude for all the things and people in my life.

And for all the things and people I’ve lost and will soon be losing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

grateful

Walls

Laura Kaeppler, Miss America 2012

This past Saturday night, I wrote a post about the excessive cringing I’ve been doing in my life lately. It’s the visceral response that I have when I think back on all the idiotic and in some cases, dangerous things I’ve done. We’re talking careless, reckless behavior. I alternate between feeling intense embarrassment, then shame…sometimes I feel both simultaneously. That’s enough to get to me think a bit about pulling a Lupe Velez…not that I ever could OR would do that. But I will admit, I am still appalled at my own  behavior.   Immobilized by my own audacity. 

Well, a post about all of that somehow degraded to  the subject of  Miss Texas, Kendall Morris making it to the Top Ten of the last Saturday night’s 2012 Miss America pageant, but not going beyond the top ten,  despite demonstrating what I thought to be the most talent of the nine other young women.   She was/is tall, young, and pretty. Beyond that she was/is this wonderfully fit specimen of womanhood. As handsome as she was/is, I suppose the woman who went all the way to be crowned and  then subsequently crooned by a CD of the late Bert Parks singing to her that as Miss America, she’s everyone’s ‘ideal”, was even prettier, talented and more fit.

Her name is Laura Kaeppeler.

For her talent, she sang opera, which I remember and to be honest, the performance made me cringe as much as reflecting back on that one particular Saturday night I spent drinking a lot of tequila in Nuevo Laredo. You can imagine the rollicking, frolicking evening I had. If you can, then please tell me. I don’t remember a thing. And something tells me I’m better off NOT remembering anything.

Anyway, see the pic above.  Pretty, right?

In the defining Q&A portion of the pageant, in which a question is selected randomly, she was queried via a slip of paper about the relevance whether ,  “a beauty queen should declare her political viewpoints or not’ . To that she answered…

 “Miss America represents everyone, so I think the message to political candidates is that they represent everyone as well. And so in these economic times, we need to be looking forward to what America needs, and I think Miss America needs to represent all.”

Not bad. ‘Twas a nice demonstration of thinking on her feet in a calm, cool and intelligible way.

Hardly this ridiculous mental prolapse:

The platform she’ll support for her one-year reign is supporting and mentoring children of incarcerated parents. She should know–her father served 18 months in prison for mail fraud. In fact, her dad was sentenced when she was 18, just as she was graduating from high school. That was five years ago and her views about having a jail-bird for a pappy are very reasoned and obviously, honed through experience. In her words,, “I know there are many of you out there and I was one of you, but it doesn’t have to define you.”

We are the products of so many things; genetic coding, environment, religion, birth order, gender,  social status  and of course, choices. The one we make and the ones others make that affect us.

I like what I think Laura Kaeppler stands for, though I don’t know her from Adam. And it’s because I didn’t know her that for a few moments Saturday night after donning that rhinestone crown, I thought her only problem in life was getting a zit. Being lovely, pretty and publicly “showing well” were her only concerns. While in  her line of work as a pageant contestant, that understandably, would be the case– having a father serve time in prison for a felony outweighs an acne outbreak anytime.

Laura Kaeppler is a bright, shining example of the Big Get Even that sometimes life bestows on us. No one has it all. I don’t care who you are. If you’re pretty and smart and decent, you’ve got a father who bent the rules to get ahead fiscally and was sentenced to prison for it. The family shame. If you’re smart and funny, invariably you’re built like a Rubik’s cube and that physical limitation only exacerbates your rampant carb addiction and lack of willpower. If you’re pretty and smart, you have the personality of a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil eraser. If you’re a man who’s handsome and rich, you’re a self-centered rectal fissure.

Now, this isn’t to say that there are some who actually defy this and have it all, but these are rare finds, indeed. The truth is, no one experiences pure joy, elation and balance all the time. By our very nature as fallible mortals, we must endure the yin and yang of existence. The ups and downs; the highs and lows. Nature…God…the Universe (insert your belief system here), I swear, puts governors on our lives.   Whenever things are going well, something has to happen to temper it.  As if a law of nature.  George Harrison once warbled, “all things must pass”.   Joy comes as goes as fast as the violent thunderstorm.   

We’re given enough, never too much.

We are born free, but bound.

A million years ago, I grew up in a small South Texas town with small people who defined me by where I lived and the family I was born into. As I child and teen, I’d always heard others thought me lucky.   My family lived and played in what I suppose could be construed as small town opulence,  but lucky because of that????   Why is luck to some, defined by what one has? The people who thought I was lucky couldn’t have been more wrong. The home I grew up in had six bedrooms. It was big and that’s what people first noticed. Eventually, that would become all that they could see; just the outside walls and their dimensions. 

To me, that always exemplified perceptions and how different they can be depending on the eyes that’s doing the looking— the have nots vs. the reality of those who have, whether real or imagined.

In a way, that was the only thing I saw in Laura Kaeppler on  Saturday night. What she looked like..the fleshy walls that show the world a very lovely face and body.   I know she’s pretty, but that’s all I know.    I don’t know what her hurts are; what her needs are….her wants.   I don’t know what makes her cry…or cringe…in the privacy of a darkened room at 3:26 AM on any given Tuesday.

I don’t know her.    I just know what I see, which allows me to see her as one who has…so I can grieve as one who has not.

All of this is just fine, really.   This common distortion means the walls are doing their job.

They’re made to keep the roof on and the elements out.

Walls also help keep secrets hidden.

Father’s Day: A Different Story

I dread this particular 24 hour span. I’ve never had a great relationship with my dad and this Father’s Day will mark almost six years since I last laid eyes on him.

My brother has been insisting for months now, that more than enough time has passed and that I and I alone will have to make the effort to “break the silence”. I respond to his haranguing by telling him, “Why bother? I don’t have a father”.

I’ve felt that way for years.

I woke up at 3:15 that morning after fitful night’s sleep. I tossed, I turned; my mind spun like a Roulette Wheel. Millions of normal, emotionally healthy people would be spending this day with their fathers. Could I do the same? And really, what would it hurt to visit my dad? It would be easy enough to make the effort to visit with the man who, as my mother always said, “was merely present for my conception”. That’s the role he always played; a part well cast by her rage and his bitterness.

Besides, I needed reconciliation.

I made the long drive to the country. It was pleasant—more so than I remembered. Daddy always liked it here. He spoke about it all the time. When he was younger, he loved being outdoors, especially in this part of South Texas. I also spent some time here growing up. Michael and I loved playing in the barn and swimming in the river. I’d have to agree with my father; there was something about this land. Gently rolling hills; rich farm land as far as the eye could see. Pine and Mesquite trees dotted the landscape. It was nice. Quiet. Peaceful. I was stressing over having to visit my father, but the sheer tranquility of the countryside was having an amazing effect on me. I was starting to relax.

I drove up to the gate which leads to his property. I remembered it being larger for some reason. It was locked, as usual, but Dad always said we should come right in. The combination was easy to remember…. it was Michael’s birthday. Never underestimate the relationship between a father and his only son. I got back in the car and drove over the iron cattle guard; it had a jarring effect on my car. I’d forgotten how that felt.

Memories.

I parked the car, grabbed my things which were on the seat beside me and exited the car. I walked over to him. Would he recognize me? Would he know I’d even stopped by?

I started the conversation immediately.

” Hi Daddy. I know it’s been a while since I was last here to see you. I guess an apology is in order, but things have been crazy at home.”

I was talking fast, hoping to avoid any awkward silence.

“You remember Robert, don’t you? Well, he was just promoted to partner in his firm and the kids are growing like weeds.”

I reached for my  purse; I was going to show him pictures, but thought against it. He was never close to his grandchildren.

“Teddy reminds me of you, Daddy. He has your hazel eyes and your love of fishing. In fact, he and Robert went out in the Gulf a few weeks ago and they caught seven huge Red Snapper. And Kate is my baby. You last saw her when she was five. Well, believe it or not, she’ll be 12 in October and in seventh grade next year. Daddy, she’s so pretty and so smart. She made all “A’s” last semester. Sometimes, I wonder if she’s really my daughter!”

I chuckled.

Silence.

The wind blew my hair in my face. I brushed it away and continued to plow through our conversation.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here today after all these years. Well, it’s Father’s Day and I felt I should be here. I felt that I had to make the effort”.

I looked down and kicked a few stones with the toe of my shoe. I could feel emotions welling up inside me.

I took a deep breath.

“Daddy, I’m also here because I can’t deal with this any longer. There’s so much I don’t understand. I need to know why you left the family. I want to know why you left me! I’ve always wanted to know the answer to that question!”

My voice was cracking.

“I was just 11 when you walked out and I didn’t understand the dynamics of marriage or divorce, for that matter. All I knew was that you left. You walked out one night without an explanation and without telling me goodbye. Do you have any idea what that did to me? The precedent that set for the rest of my life?”

I looked away, not wanting my tears to tell my story. The sun broke through the clouds and there we were, bathed in the warm Texas sunlight.

I took another deep breath. “Daddy, I believed for years that men leave and that love is expendable. If you get bored with your marriage or if you fall out of love, no biggie, just leave; exit. To hell with making the effort or fixing the problem, just go out and find a newer, younger, thinner model. Find a new family, too. See Daddy, I learned all of this from you! I learned that men leave and when they do, they leave broken people in their wake. I was broken for years. I never knew how to love. Daddy, I never knew how to be loved, either! It was horrible.”

I decided to sit down on nearby bench. The breeze was blowing through the pine trees. It created a hum…an odd discord actually that somehow, seemed fitting. Discord had always been the soundtrack of my life with my father.

I wiped away another tear.

“Life, post divorce was so hard for us, Daddy. It was a struggle in every way, but your absence was what hurt the most. I wanted you to be there when I got braces, when I had my first date…the proms. My graduation. I would’ve loved to have talked to you about the time Jake Shelton broke my heart in eighth grade, but you weren’t around. I hated that you weren’t there. But then again, you missed all of those things, too. And don’t even get me started about college! It was horrible and so were my twenties. What a waste!. I got involved in all these lousy, dead-end relationships. All were abusive in so many ways. I drank too much….did everything too much. But I guess I can’t completely blame you for my screwed up life. Your leaving was probably impetus for everything evil in my life, but no one put a gun to my head, either. I chose to live a wild life because running wild was easier than being responsible. Then again, you know a little about bucking responsibility, don’t you, Dad? Your lack of it constantly forced me to remind myself that I even had a father!”

I was getting angry.

“Allow me to break down what life was like for Mom, Michael and me after you left. We had no money and moved from that five bedroom home into a cramped two bedroom apartment. Mom practically lost her mind. She’d never worked before. She was the wife of a successful businessman, she never had to work. You never wanted her to. She was 39 years old when you left and she had nowhere to go and no money to take her there. She took menial job after menial job trying to support two children. She’d cry for hours sometimes, never leaving her room, except to retrieve another bottle of Vodka. God Daddy, back then, I always thought Mom was such a silly, spineless woman because she wasn’t handling the reality of your leaving very well. I would always say to her, “Come on, Mom. He left and he’s not coming back! Get your shit together!” I had no idea what she was going through; I didn’t know hard her life really was until I lived it myself after Joe left me”.

A large truck with a broken muffler drove by the highway and broke my concentration. Another breeze blew a strong whiff of the truck’s exhaust in our direction.

“Did you ever know why Joe and I broke up?  History repeated itself, Daddy. Like you, he cheated on me. With a woman who worked in his building. According to Joe, she was everything I stopped being—thin, young, sexual and apparently, she was willing to put up with his shit. Imagine, that’s what he liked about her. Her tolerance? Well, by telling me that, he was damn sure right about one thing…she definitely did things I wouldn’t do! I wouldn’t put up with his crap. I kicked him out of the house the night he told me that. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of leaving on his own accord. In the end my defiance didn’t matter. He had the last laugh, I suppose. The bastard married her the day our divorce was final”.

I shifted my weight on the bench and continued the one-sided conversation.

“Men break your heart and Daddy, you broke mine. No two ways about it. When you walked out that door, I stopped feeling safe. In some ways, I still don’t. It didn’t help that you wanted nothing to do with me or Michael after you remarried”.

I brushed my hair out of my eyes then folded my arms across my chest. I shivered. Suddenly, a sunny June morning in South Texas, turned cold.

“Holidays, special events, school plays…we never heard from you. For my 14th birthday, all I wanted was a picture of you because I’d forgotten what you looked like. Of course, Mom didn’t have one to give me. She ceremoniously burned everything you left behind, including pictures and her wedding dress. She put everything into a metal barrel, doused it with lighter fluid and lit a match. You, your memory and all your stuff went up in a ball of fire that really, was fueled more by anger, than anything else. Mom made us roast wieners over the flames. She called the whole process her “rebirth”; a second baptism, this one by fire. I understood the symbolism involved and felt if that helped her move on, great. But it hurt me–more than I knew. For years after that, every hot dog I ate–regardless–tasted like burned taffeta”.

I winced at the memory. The only response was the breeze rustling through the pines. I took a deep breath and looked around me.

“Well Daddy, the kids want to take Robert to brunch this afternoon and I’ve got get back into town for that, but I’m glad I came here today. I think we both needed this, at least, I know I did”.

And that’s when I lost it. Admitting that released a floodgate of emotion. I started sobbing.

“Being here makes me realize how much I miss you. I miss you. It wasn’t that I couldn’t forgive you–I did–years ago. I just couldn’t forgive myself for thinking that I hated you as much as I did, but in reality, I never hated you, Daddy. I just didn’t understand. And no one bothered to explain. Mother made the fatal mistake of talking so badly about you in front of Michael and me. We heard about what a bastard you were day in and day out! She negated our existence by damning you and in our minds, that made you the enemy. To hear Mom wax about what happened, it was as if you stole her money, her youth and her dignity. It was as though you all but murdered her. But in some ways maybe, you did. You killed her spirit”.

I shook my head.

“Even so, I’m mad at Mom too, because for the longest time, she knew I thought I was the reason you left and she never made any attempt to correct it. Why did she do that? She let me think it was all my fault. I agonized over this. I thought if I would have made all A’s or if I would’ve won all my tennis matches or cleaned my room better, you would’ve stayed. The little girl that still lives in the woman I’ve become is only now beginning to fully grapple with everything. I mean, can you blame me? You represented my very first relationship with men. What happened with you set the tone for every relationship that followed. And my God Daddy, you never had any idea what you left behind. Look at your legacy. It’s represented by disappointment and abandonment. And all that pain. I stupidly thought if I failed as a daughter, I’d surely fail as a girlfriend and wife and I believed that.

I bit my bottom lip and just stared at the ground, kicking at a pebble.

Want to hear something odd, Daddy? There’s a part of me that’s looking for a Genie. Yeah, a Genie and I want him to grant me one wish. That’s all I want; one wish. I’d ask him to give us more time. See, I don’t want more time, I need more time. But I can’t have that, can I?  That’s my biggest regret. So many years went by and we hardly spoke to each other. Geez, why was there so much anger, Daddy? Were we really that mad at each other? Were we? Or was I more mad at you? I guess so because I wouldn’t respond to your letters and I wouldn’t even answer the phone when you’d call”.

And then it hit me…he had actually written.  He HAD called.   I realized that my mother’s rage and anger distorted everything, including my point of view, but that morphed into something very convenient and sinister.   I used this horrific father/daughter relationship to my advantage.  It became my excuse; remaining a victim suited my agenda. That was easier than admitting my culpability in my own unhappiness. Pointing fingers at the son of a bitch father absolved the wounded daughter from all blame.

I buried my face in my hands, then sat on the bench, shaking.

“Daddy, I have to know if…if you can forgive me? Please? I can’t leave without knowing we’re OK. Do what I never could or would do for you–please release me, liberate me from this heartache! Free me from all the pain that’s kept me from living my life.”

That’s when I noticed it was there again. The silence. But this time, I welcomed it. No words were spoken. Really, at that moment, nothing needed to be said.   Something was different. I then realized this is what Deliverance must feel like.

I don’t know how long I’d been sitting there. I looked up. The breeze felt cool against my tear-stained face. The sun caressed my entire body. I shivered in it’s warmth. It was incredible. I felt very much alive.    I stood up, emotionally drained and weak physically, yet strong in my resolve. I wiped a few remaining tears from my cheek.

“Well, I’ve got an hour-long drive ahead of me, so I better go now if I want to make brunch”.

I paused.

“Daddy, before I go, I want you to know that I miss you. I think about you all the time and please know that I love you, in spite of everything. I wasted so much time harboring all this pain, but I didn’t know what else to do! Hurting was the norm and I’m so sorry for feeling that way. More than you know. I’ve squandered so many years because of it, so please….help me try to get a few back if I can….let’s start over, OK? Today, let’s begin again. We’ll do that by visiting more. I’ll come back soon. I promise. I mean, after all, you are my daddy, right?”

I stood there for a second, allowing the moment to imprint on my memory. I wanted to remember everything.  Every detail.

I mustered a smile and whispered, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy”.

I placed a small bouquet of flowers beside his headstone and touched it briefly before walking back to my car.

.