Tags: biofam

Faceless

What is WRONG with you???

LEGACY

I don’t suppose I’ve achieved enough success in my life yet to consider mine a rags to riches story, but I can certainly say I’ve come a long way from having been a child ward of the state.  Those days were an almost forgotten other world from here, way back around that bygone era when DCFS destroyed the only family I’d ever known by then.  No, wait... that’s not fair...

In reality, it wasn’t the state that ruined us...


Untreated mental health issues shattered my Mother.

Acute self-centered overindulgence wrecked my father.

Abject poverty devastated us all.


Alcoholism, unchecked rage, violence, and abuse...

     ...sexual deviancy, moral depravity, molestation and pedophilia...

          ...willful ignorance, purposeful neglect, and parental abandonment...

...these are the evils that irreparably damaged the first family that formed the foundation of my life.  The state department of Health and Rehabilitative Services was just there to pick up the broken pieces.  I lost everyone I loved in one dire night — stolen away to “the system.”

Through the lens of maturity, and the perspective of time, I can see now that was the best thing for all of us.  But even if I could have understood so then, it wouldn’t have made it any easier to sleep alone in an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers — thankfully, I can’t remember anymore how many nights I must have cried myself to sleep... these days I can only imagine.  In some respects, I became who I am today in that moment “they” came to our door and took us from our home... in other ways, I never fully recovered.


Before my world came crashing down around us, I had been raised on foodstamps, picking green bits off bread, learning to digest anything a goat can eat — a typical once-a-week dinner for our whole family was to sit down to a big pot of mac ‘n’ cheese with canned peas and weenies.*  Foodstamps alone were never enough, though — not so much we didn’t still have to hit up the foodbank twice a month.  And feeding isn’t all there is to caring for a family... there was the bookmobile, swap meets, toy exchanges, and free clothing drives — touring bi-monthly tri-state area flea markets were a regular staple of our routine. 


*(For anyone fortunate enough to not be in the know about such things, that’s boiled hot dogs sliced into smaller sections to spread further as fractions than as whole units... even in today’s economy, the total cost of that entire meal for the 5 of us would be around $2.17.  It wasn’t that good, but it was edible, and it kept us from going hungry.  If you’ve ever heard anyone speak of “po-folx fare,” this is what they meant.

If I hadn’t come to know her better later on, I might have wondered whether the reason my Mother became so fanatically religious (considering she’d been brought up on the rez) was to be close enough to local church organizations to take advantage of their donations and giveaways for the poor — or perhaps in the hopes that God would award her faithfulness with a better life.  I suspect, in Mother’s case, these two angles of zealotry were very likely not necessarily mutually exclusive.


My father was an over-the-road trucker.  He was often out-of-town for long stretches, and when he was back, he was generally irritable, with too much time on his hands, which — if we were lucky — he spent scouring local gun shops for gear to blow his paycheck on, drawing obscene images (the man was such a brilliantly talented artist, if not for the comic book character proportions, his work could have been mistaken for photography), or obsessively crafting WWII memorabilia.  While my mother at least claimed to pine over his dearth, we all got along fine without him when he wasn’t around, and learned to keep our distance from him as much as possible when he was — though that never worked out well enough for long.

Mother often toiled away, 2-3 jobs at a time, like she thought it would earn her extra jewels in her crown — including late night and swing shifts — so she wasn’t always around that much either.  But it wasn’t because she was so dedicated to supporting us she had to labor that hard just to bring in enough income for meeting our needs... no, that circumstance was mostly caused by her inability to ever find a way to hold down one job — something was always getting in the way of her success, and to hear her tell the tale (which she was only too eager to fire off at anyone who would listen), whatever “it” was, it was never her fault.  Her official diagnosis was PSD (paranoid schizophrenic disorder), but more accurately, I believe that conclusion probably resulted from the masking technique of BPD (borderline personality disorder), as this more comprehensive condition is wont to mimic others, and over enough time, I was able to identify recognizable symptoms.


My brother and sister and I pretty much raised ourselves for a few years — they would get themselves up and ready for school, with me crying as they caught the bus off to their 2nd and 4th grade classes, respectively, holding onto their clothes, begging them not to go.  (A favorite game of my brother’s was to pretend he didn’t notice when I threw myself on the ground and wrapped my arms around his legs to prevent him from leaving... he would pull one foot out, making a big production of going anyway — as if he hadn’t noticed me there, so he would have to end up taking me with him — walking towards the door for a few steps, dragging me along, until I couldn’t hold on anymore because I was giggling too hard.)  They would both shower me with hugs and tickles and smooches, promising to be home in the afternoon, “before you even know it!,” then wave and blow kisses from the windows of the bus as it carried them away, leaving me on my own until they returned.

He was 10, she was 8... I was 3.

I popped across the large lot over to the elderly neighbors who owned the land we lived on, snacking on kumquats from the bushes in their front yard, knocking on their door to be let in for an individual cereal box or a pop tart (which I feel pretty sure they probably kept around just for such occasions) and morning cartoons.  The 2BR/1Bath sharecropper’s shack we “rented” from them for the upkeep on it had been converted from a chicken coop when they’d become old enough to retire from active farm operations.  After breakfast, I took my dolls, and my books,* and followed my cat out into their orange groves, the two of us wandering together for the bulk of the day... it was easy to lose myself out there in the serene stillness and quiet beauty of nature. 


*(Mother had become overly ambitious about my pre-K home education once she’d recognized how smart I was as a young child, and had taught me to read before I could speak — though I was already talking up a summer storm by the time I reached 3 — but I almost never went anywhere without my favorite books.)

When I got hungry, I ate fallen fruit off the ground because those were the ones I could reach — I developed a strong, instinctive sense of what was too far turned, a taste for slightly rotten oranges, and an iron constitution — though sometimes my brother or sister packed me a bologna-n-cheese or PB & J to carry along, because if my father was passed out at home, it was never a good idea to be nearby when he came to.  Whenever I had to go, I would simply squat, making use of leaves and grass for hygiene materials.  On days he was on the road, though — which were preferable — I could hang around the house, watch Sesame Street, use the facilities, and make myself mac ‘n’ cheese, ramen, sandwiches, cereal, or toast (which about comprised the extent of my “cooking” skills in the kitchen, but that’s far more than can be expected of most 3-yr-olds).

My excursions out into the wild with my best friend came to an end, though, when my father murdered our cat — he grabbed him by the scruff, yanked him into his car and held him in his lap, got up to highway speeds, then tossed him out the window — I know about it, because he did this with my brother in the car.  I can only imagine how traumatizing that must have been for my brother — I think the intent was to intimidate my brother, to show what could happen to him if my father got too tired of him, as he was tired of caring for my cat.  I didn’t find this out from my brother until years later, after I’d spent weeks and months back then crying over missing him, calling outside and at night for my cat, never knowing where he’d run off to, wondering why he would leave our home, desperately hoping he would return.


My father was a drunk.  He routinely deliquesced into his knock-off lazy-boy, mostly naked, watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, while scratching his balls... when I was little, I would have sworn he had three stomachs, and at least two necks.  To this day, the smell of cheap yellow beer takes me back to dark, sticky, sweaty places, with hot, rancid breath dripping off bristly whiskers, stumbling flab rolls, and fumbling fingers.

My father frequently beat us.  With his hands.  With his belt.  With the matchbox car racetracks my brother got for Christmas.  With a freshly cut twig from a young sapling skinned of bark to the bleeding green underbelly, until it whistled in the air like a pan-flute, cracked like a whip, and welted skin bloody with the barest touch.

Well, no... that’s not quite true... he beat my siblings — especially my brother, the only other male among us, a natural threat to my sire’s totalitarian authority.  For me, his only biological offspring — his darling prodigy, his perfect creation, who could do no wrong in his eyes — he spared the rod, and spoiled the child... he just “loved” me “a little too much.”  My sister’s role was so much worse, though, as he and Mother often weren’t home at the same time for too long, and, you know... a man has needs.


My brother took it upon himself to save us — he knew he wasn’t strong enough to confront all 400# of my beer-induced-rage-filled progenitor himself, so he determined to run away — his “grand liberation plan” to form a band along the lines of the then very popular KISS, earning enough money as a rockstar to swoop back in as the valiant returning jukebox hero made good, and bust his sisters out of that toxic environment.  Pinching together every penny he had, he hitched to a neighboring town, and got as far as a 24-hr highway truckstop diner, where he had just enough to buy a coffee, before passing out in a booth, exhausted from the road, and the stress of it all.  Waitresses changing shifts hours later discovered him numb to the world with his icy cuppa joe well past a gradeschool kid’s curfew, and when one sat down to hear his sad tale of two sisters trapped in the abusive clutches of a monster, DCFS was called, and the jig was up.

He was 12, she was 10 — I was 5.


I remember Mother calling us all to her and issuing a tearful farewell, explaining why she had to leave (I never recalled the details, other than frantically, angrily, desperately pleading against her retreat), and I remember the child welfare people being at the door to collect us... for the first half of my life, I’d believed this was one recollection of the same night — it wasn’t until decades later, in my 20s, my brother clarified for me those events had been 2 years apart.  Our mother had responded to being confronted by my brother about what my father was doing to our sister by first furiously accusing him of lying and beating him, then making herself the victim (because somehow, whatever it was, it was always about her), deciding she was too beleaguered to deal with it, and walking out on us all.  We’d already endured two years of fluctuating between either fending for ourselves on our own, or surviving abuse without any maternal buffer of protection before my brother made his drastic attempt at a heroic rescue.

I’d had memories of Mother being gone, of missing her, of wishing she was around — but my toddler brain had squeezed the gaps together, and I’d just since rationalized she’d always been working during those absences.  That revelation of the truth hit me with the kind of hard-knock shock to the system that reframed my entire perspective on much of my life up to that point.  My brother also shared with me, part of Mother’s argument during that heated confrontation was to explain to him, my brother “just didn’t understand” my father, as he had no idea what that man had been through... then she told him a sob story about the nightmare of his grueling tour in Vietnam, leaving my brother dumbfounded and appalled, not because of the horrific nature of the tale, but because he knew it to be total *8@77$#!%*.  Outraged, my brother cleared the air for our Mother, by informing her — that wasn’t my father — that was Chuck Norris in Missing in Action!

Mother subsisted her entire disturbed life in a dodgy relationship with the truth, but that was primarily due to the effect of a condition resulting from her psychopathy, because she was able to lie to herself so convincingly, she then believed her own lies, which thereby effectively became her truth.  The same cannot be said, though, of my father, who was merely an expertly opportunistic manipulator of her vulnerability and trusting, gullible nature — as he was with anyone whose convictions could be twisted to meet his ends.  I know there are some who would say he had a condition, too, as alcoholism is a disease — and, let’s not even go there with pedophilia — but I’m not one who is of the mind to slap a medical label on inexcusable behavior in order to wipe the slate clean... people still have choices to make... no one gets a free pass.


My father was a racist and a bigot — Archie Bunker, without the “charm.”  He was the first to introduce me to the term “light in the loafers,” and although I understood the gist of who was being referenced (that is, I got folks like Jack Tripper and Liberace without really knowing what that meant), it took me years to understand what a man’s choice in footwear had to do with any of it.  I remember once getting berated and cuffed for being “limp-wristed” as I walked into a Kroger — my short, stunted arms and hands carried in the position they fell most naturally then, like a kangaroo — because I looked “like a faggot,” and what would people think???

I recall retelling off-color jokes I’d heard from him, which never returned a word of dissent.  By the time I got into school, I remember absentmindedly doodling in the margins of coloring pages the swastikas I’d seen around our house on the model airplanes he built, because I thought they looked cool, but not one of my teachers raised an alarm — though a counselor bothered to call attention to pictures of bunnies I’d drawn... apparently, their clawed hands holding Easter baskets were somehow thought to possibly represent boobs.  (???!!)  That was Florida in the 70s, though — priorities, you know
by that time, thanks to foster placement, “the state” knew entirely too much about the world I’d come from, and they never let me forget it.


The family that adopted me a few years later turned my world around in a mostly positive fashion — at least by elevating my social status to a respectable middle class, anyway — though, while the potential for my future certainly became brighter for that reason, there were enough damaging issues and destructive conflicts of a different kind in my new family, it might be a stretch to say I was completely out of the fire at that point.  I do remain forever indebted for their willingness to take me in, sharing their home and their love, for becoming a permanent fixture of stability in my life, and for creating an environment in which I could thrive among them as one.  There isn’t any merit in comparing heartbreak, obviously — and yet, even so, the overall impact of my adopted family experience was not inconsequential enough to be overlooked on the roadmap of my life.


My mom was quick to inflict black and blue bruises up and down my arms with a lightning ninja pinch any time I disagreed with her — because she saw any argument from me as a personal affront, lacking respect for her authority.  She regularly slapped me in the face, or beat me with the belt I’d saved up my allowance to buy her for Mother’s Day (leather, ornately embossed with intricately dyed flowers, engraved “Mom”) until I was old enough to fight back, and strong enough to make her stop for good — I was 12 then.  No pre-adolescent should ever find themselves in a position to get into a knock-down, drag-out, blow-by-blow brawl with any adult, much less a family member, but after 5 years of assault, 3 years of administrative custody, and nearly 5 years of battery justified by “tough love Christian parenting,” I’d had enough of violence, and I was done with it.

Mom is the adult child of an abusive alcoholic, resulting in severe codependency issues, and an extreme lack of self-esteem, to the point she needed to impose her every meticulous whim upon every movement of every individual susceptible to her control, as she otherwise questioned their love and loyalty, because she had no belief she was worthy of either.  As a non-blood relation, I was less trustworthy than most in this regard from her perspective, as I had no genetic predisposition or contractual obligation to love her.  (After years of soul-searching, this is what she admitted to me about why her love for me was conditional for so long, and this personal epiphany was what allowed her to grow enough to finally build a healthy relationship with me.)

And, because I hadn’t grown up in that environment, I hadn’t yet learned — as my brothers and my Dad had — how to “handle” her by the time I came to them.  (To this day — as my husband came to conclude on his own through observation, before he even knew any of this backstory — my Mom now lives in a peaceful, comfortably placated alternate reality, partially because through a lot of personal growth on her part, she’s progressed enough to have put a lot of the need to control others behind her, but also not insignificantly because everyone associated with her life has been well trained in how to “handle” h
her.)  It took some time (and some distance) for me to also grasp the unspoken rules of “handling” my Mom, as well, but basically, it amounts to recognizing, with her, there are quite a few more sensitive subjects than most people have with the potential to result in a volatile reaction, so therefore these must be considered taboo, and kept off the table — stick to the general guidelines, and stay out of trouble zones, and things usually work out okay... also, the older she gets, the more she’s learned to let go, the more mellow she is, the less she cares about a lot of it, and the easier it has become to get along... which I’m so relieved by, and proud of her for.


My Dad
had been raised in a much more relaxed environment, which pretty much had effectively only a few general rules, more or less amounting to: Trust God, love others, don’t be stupid.  Mom claimed she resented his lack of hands-on involvement with raising us — and this was the singular constant sticking issue between them that frequently threatened to damage their relationship — but he remained emotionally unavailable throughout my preteens and adolescence.  I believe that has more to do with her overbearing attention to particulars about every tiny detail of my life, from what I thought to the way I breathed (I do really wish I could say I was exaggerating about this, but I promise I’m not), which left him so out of his depth, he had no idea how to be of any help, and so he left it all up to her — one less thing for him to “handle.”

Mom frequently challenged him to redress his level of participation in the corrective actions she imposed upon their kids.  But, if it had been up to him, there probably would have been about 20% of the total discipline enforced throughout our lifetimes for all five of us — at about 5% of the severity.  For that reason, I suspect all of this was just the song and dance acted out between them for the purpose of allowing her to play the role of the overworked, unappreciated martyr... although him being the type who avoided conflict at all costs and effectively “checked out” didn’t help the situation any, I’m sure.


Though nothing I experienced in this healthier setting compared in magnitude to what I lived through during my formative years, by far the worst injury was being disowned as their daughter, “for the good of the church.”  They would tell you it happened differently, I imagine, probably touting something about my “choices,” asserting I was the one who left them,* while downplaying it as irrelevant anyway, because, after all, they’ve since come around from that prolonged period of estrangement (around 8 years), and we’ve all moved on from there.  That is, as much as we are able to, anyway... some things are harder to get over than others.

In contrast, I can honestly attest with assurance, I’m quite certain nothing I could have done in this world would have ever made my original Mother not claim me as her own.  (She directly vowed as much, herself, which, although I believe her, is still ironic, coming from someone who didn’t have any qualms about deserting us, and who later in life told me she didn’t love me anymore because I refused to lie to a judge on her behalf when she was arrested for beating me, even though there were other witnesses — but that’s another story.)  There’s not much worth pining over in that world of “what if,” though, as I’m sure if I’d hung onto any more than incidental exposure to Mother’s world, I would have found it much more challenging to maintain any appearance of “normalcy” in this life.  But she was the one who’d stipulated, when signing away her parental rights, that I could only be adopted by a “Christian” family, though I later found out, she was apparently quite livid when she learned I’d gone to a “Protestant” home, and not a “Pentecostal” one — so, all things considered, I suppose it could have been worse, and I’m thankful the agency didn’t give too much weight to her wishes, as I probably dodged a bullet, there.


*(They sat me down for an “intervention,” in which my Mom did most of the talking while my Dad held his hands in his lap and kept his eyes on the floor, as she explained my actions had rippling consequences in association with him being an elder in the church — ordained according to scripture, in which the Bible clearly defines an elder as, “husband of but one wife and father of all God-fearing children.”  Since it was obvious to them and any casual observer from my way of life at the time I could no longer be considered a god-fearing child, my Dad would have to be disqualified from the eldership.  Because there were only two elders in the church at the time, that would dissolve the eldership, as one single man cannot put himself in a position of power over the church, and that would then leave the church without leadership, which was an unfair position to put the believers of that congregation in — and so, therefore, if I didn’t change my ways, they would have to disown me as their daughter.

For the record, I wasn’t living a particularly “sinful” life according to their religion at the time — that came later, after I discarded the institution of religion entirely as a result of this “threat,” and now no longer have the same concept of “sin.”  No, their assertion of my “non-god-fearing” nature was due to my willingness to be outspoken in my open questioning of certain elements about total indoctrination, because I’ve never been one to merely accept at face value everything I’ve been spoon-fed, no questions asked — that’s just not who I am.  I was 17.
)



I write the story of this firsthand knowledge, not at all in the slightest to re-experience any portion of the painful scarred wounds of these calloused memories, but to capture whatever benefit the study of such moments in our shared family history might harbor to offer my son, before the ability to recall any of it has escaped from my mind.  Proofreading out loud to my husband — as I do — I expressed surprise at finding myself choking in places, but Minion countered, wondering why I wouldn’t naturally expect that.  That answer is because I would have thought by the time I’m more than halfway closer to 50 than 40, none of this should be raw anymore... and my loving partner wisely and gently reproached me with, “It may be in the past, and you may have put it behind you — but you will never get over this.”


It’s really remarkable, how resilient children are... it’s truly amazing what we as humans can be capable of bouncing back from.  Most importantly, though, it’s critical to recognize how much kids pay attention to every specific detail and every minute aspect of each new life experience.  It’s crucial to notice not just what they’re learning, but how... especially during those moments when we’re not intending to teach.

Many folks who place gratuitous stock in their “credo” believe the best way to instill their own standard of principles in their young is the good ol’ fashioned way — by bible beating it into them — the “tried and true family values” of Judeo-Christian ethics, passed along through the teachings of the good book.  I may have spent decades around religion, but that’s not how I became who I am.  It took me getting to this week of rumination in my life to come to the realization, most everything I now consider an inseparable component of my integrity, I have learned by experience — through the mistakes of others — by vigilant observation, and by clinging tightly onto what not to do.


My family was poor; my father lacked self-control...

...so I’m slow to splurge, careful with spending, an unabashed bargain hunter and dogged deal finder, decent at home crafting, great with repurposing, always appreciate the value of materials, treasure lost and tossed aside things, cherish what we have, and have an ingrained understanding of how to let it all go when necessary, because after all, it’s just stuff.


Mother couldn’t keep a job, because she couldn’t get out of her own way long enough to tow the line and work for someone else.  I may be cut from the same cloth as she was, but I can make and honor a commitment to an employer.  So far, I haven’t found a permanent business partnership to settle down into, but I do regularly have clients asking to get me back into repeat contracts, because I know how to go above and beyond the parameters of the project laid out for me, to meet and exceed expectations, to fulfill my obligations, and to keep my promises — when I say I’m going to do something, I find a way to get it done.


Our parents left us to our own devices...

...so I became efficiently independent and self-reliant, and though I still crave personal space and require alone time, I learned to make the most of every quality moment I am able to share with those I care about.


I was shown kindness by people with no responsibility to me...

...so I try to extend random kindness to others as often as I’m able.


My father was a cruel to animals...

...so I have spent a lifetime rescuing those who needed the most care and love.


My father was a drunk... so I don’t partake — and neither does anyone I’m closely connected to.

My father was violent, and abused our affection... so I’m slow to strike, and quick to cuddle.

My biological parents were both wholly incapable of speaking with anything resembling even a kernel of truthfulness to it... so I can sniff out BS from 13 miles away, and I have a strong moral imperative to be direct, honest, and up-front in every interaction of my life.

Mother left us... so I never got good at walking out... even when I should have.

My father was a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist... but I believe people and places are made better by diversity in gender, culture, and identity, and I strive to paint my surroundings with the kind of varied tapestry that more deeply enriches my life and those peripheral to my world.

My father was a bully and a tyrant, and there was nothing any of us could do about it...

...so I learned to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, to protect the weak and defend the vulnerable, and to fight against abuse of power.


Mom beat me... so I learned to stand up for myself.

Mom was overwhelmingly domineering and crushingly high-handed...

...so I learned to prioritize the important things in life that can be controlled — like my thoughts, my words, my choices, my actions, and most anything related to myself — and to never lose a moment of my life over trying to control anyone or anything outside of myself, which about covers most of the rest of everything else.

My dad was emotionally unavailable and uninvolved in parenting me and my siblings...

...so I married a man who is committed to be an active figure in our son’s everyday life.


My parents disowned me over religious differences...

...so I learned to think for myself, and to seek and find my own purpose and direction in life, without the need for guidance from a loosely interpreted, cherry-picked set of rules that has been debated over for centuries.


I have experienced a lot of repeating patterns throughout my life — beginning with childhood, and bleeding into adolescence and my young adult days — I kept running into a lot of the kind of noxious “love” that hurts, that has no healing, no heart, and no hope, because that’s what I knew best.  I floundered for a while, trying to find something that worked, by “looking for love in all the wrong places” ...kissing too many frogs that belonged back under the rocks they’d crawled out from.  But through a long period of trial and error — including plenty of mistakes of my own — I have worked to break the cycles of dysfunction, and I’m so very grateful to testify, I finally got there... eventually.


The Vedas teach us, the questions asked of us feed into our internal programming, whether they are initiated by someone else, or whether we internalize them ourselves.  When a question is posed to the mind, the subconscious will find an answer for it, to solve for “X,” laboring in everything we do, whether we are proactively cognizant, otherwise occupied, or even while we are at rest.  If you wonder to yourself, “Why am I so ugly,” your subliminal self will decipher this puzzle for you, presuming, according to your inner guidance, that you are indeed ugly, it will give you an answer, showing you all the reasons why you are so ugly — just as you presented — to satisfy your inquiry.

For this reason, I take great care in what kind of programming my words and actions present to our son’s self image and sense of worth.  Every night since he was tiny and whenever he is overly flustered, I repeat to him a mantra of traits about his character that make him special and unique — it continues to grow and expand along with him, just as the nature of his essence does — these words have a calming effect on him, because he understands instinctively, these words together belong only to him, and to no one else.  I am careful never to ask of him, “What is wrong with you???,” because I never want him to wonder that about himself.

Whatever’s wrong with any of us, it had to begin somewhere.  “That’s just what I was taught,” is no excuse for holding onto ignorant, backwards ideals, because whatever gets passed on to any of us, we always have the choice in whether or not to accept it.  “That’s just what I was taught,” is merely where it starts... it’s our responsibility to choose where it ends.

Ignorance, intolerance, hatred, selfishness, bigotry, and greed are the flames of a fire that has been raging since the dawn of man... but it’s a fire that must be fueled and fanned to spark new life into itself — we have always had the power to snuff it out with every new generation.  What is wrong with me might be the result of just what I was taught, but may I never be so caustically costive as to rekindle a flickering ember and breathe a fresh glint into that blazing inferno of human frailty — may I have the strength to hold my ground.  And though I cannot hope to cure the ills of all mankind, I can cap the outward ripple from the tendril that has engulfed me... so for my part, at least, may just this strain of evil be stopped — here, and now, with me.



LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 27 - Topic: “VALUES ARE LIKE FINGERPRINTS…”
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Morning After

Choose Your Own Adventure

THE LONG ROAD

My husband and I have been losing sleep lately, trying to convince our boy he’s not a vampire.  It’s not just the biting, and the refusing to eat people food, though, certainly those are problems worth addressing.  But how do you make a 3-yr-old understand abstract concepts like, we are diurnal creatures, child — humans are designed to sleep at night.  They don’t play and laugh and squeal and fuss and carry on the whole time it’s dark out, and then wait until dawn breaks after Mama and Papa have just barely drifted off for less than a half hour to begin screaming, thereby starting the cycle all over again... TWICE.  This is not how things are supposed to work, baby — and now Mama’s nerves are shot.

I’d love to claim not being able to pass out before near 10ish in the morning for a few fitful hours of dozing on and off until I can find the strength to force myself up sometime after noon is an isolated incident.  I really, really would — you’ve no idea how much I’d like that.  Seriously... this is not how I wanted to start this day — nor any other, for that matter.

We had a routine.  It was beautifully, gloriously functional, if a bit outside any standard of passing for “normalcy” these days — whatever that is.  Then the world turned upside down, and we drifted into the oncoming traffic of changes we had no say in. 
It didn’t happen all at once... like a frog in boiling water, we slowly steeped our issues in the compounded factors of forces outside our control.  I mean, sure, we made some shortsighted bad choices we’re stuck with the ramifications of now, but there’s not much to be done about that at this point, so... no use losing any more sleep over it.  And three months later, here we are.

Contributing to the population of the next generation changes how you perceive your place in the universe, and, to be fair, I knew it would.  But it colors so many of my priorities these days, it’s hard to separate the “what” of anything I do anymore from the “why.”  For example, it’s the reason I’m here, struggling to meet a pressing deadline after only the barest minimum of a brief recharge last night.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so arrogant as to believe the world needs a memoir from me... I haven’t done anything special enough to warrant one.  Well, not yet, anyway — but I’m still young...-ish.  And no, I don’t have any grand designs on making or changing history, but really, whoever does?

I mean, I look around, and I don’t like what I see.  I want a different world — a better world, for myself, my family, and every beast who breathes.  I don’t have a plan for making that dream come true right now... but I do have an uncanny knack for getting what I want in life, probably because I’m efficient in chaos — I’ve spent enough of my life in turmoil that I tend to thrive in disarray by enveloping myself in a bubble of centered serenity to push through... it’s my variation on “active meditation,” I suppose, which is the only type I can hope for, since I pretty much suck at any other kind.

There’s an organized kind of madness to my unruly disorder, though... it’s almost the only way I know how to get things done.  And I don’t know about you, but this handbasket is starting to feel pretty pandemonious to me.  I’m seething with barely contained outrage, but methodically controlled, and meticulously calculating; I know there must come a time for an end to all things, but I don’t give up easily; I’m tenacious, and I am most certainly not a well-behaved woman.  So, yeah, it could happen... stranger things have.  But I’m not a superhero, and that’s not why I do this.

Like all of us, I’m just trying to make sense of my world right now.  I write, because that’s what I can do... indeed, in this moment, perhaps it’s all I can do.  But I’m merely speaking from my own perspective, since that’s the only world I know, and it’s not nearly as vast as I’d like it to be.  So I try to expand my horizons, in what limited capacity I’m able.  I won’t delude myself — I realize I have a fairly small audience, for what it’s worth — but the target demographic is even smaller... less than 40#, to be exact.  He’s not much of a taskmaster, but he is a powerful driving force.

I just kinda have a lot of extra baggage on my mind of late, go figure — but then again, who doesn’t???  I came up with 48 distinct topics this week to offer anyone who requested a jumping off point, just in case someone needed a springboard for inspiration, and a handful to choose from, because, well — I’m just too much like that, I guess.  But I didn’t have a problem coming up with an idea of my own.  I keep a running spreadsheet of all my ideas, not just for such a purpose, but as a handy writing tool for chronicling the experiences I might want to share some day.  (Come on, now... don’t give me that look.  Everyone here already knows what a nerd I am, so stop shaking your head, for dork’s sake.)  I had a problem coming up with one I felt like sharing — one that YOU might want to read, that is.



BACKSTORY
I want to share his origins...

— the fairytale romance that sparked his life, and the journey of his arrival in this world —

...because I want him to know who he is.

•  How Minion once accidentally kidnapped a cat; how he also once gave an entirely new meaning to the notion of “putting the cat out.”

•  How we lost 4 beloved fids in our first 14 months of marriage, then fostered and rehomed a handful of others before we found the right balance for our family, so our house felt for a little where there like it had a revolving critter door.

•  How Firebird was delivered with the help of his Papa on the bathroom floor, and the scene was so chaotic, his birth certificate records the time of his birth incorrectly by at least 10 minutes.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because you’re probably sick of me cooing all over my brood, and besides... I’m not really a Mommy blogger.



HERITAGE
I want to share our family history...

— the good, the bad, the ugly, and the strange —

...because I want him to know where he comes from.

THE GOOD
•  Coming of age in a 5BR/3BA farmhouse my parents built from scratch on 7 acres of mostly woods 17 miles out of Tallahassee with a rural route box address, a clothesline vineyard, a chicken coop, and a 1-acre garden.

•  The priceless legacy of gentle worldly wisdom bestowed upon us by our great family patriarch.


THE BAD
•  How my Mom (his Granny) set the stage for our ongoing power struggle by picking a fight with me the first day we met.  How she never understood me, yet still insisted she knew what was in my head better than me, and effectively trained me to lie to her, by refusing to accept any other responses about what I was thinking besides the parroting back of carefully crafted statements she created for me.

•  How Mother died alone, and none of her children attended her funeral.


THE UGLY
•  Early childhood memories of abject poverty — Growing up on foodstamps in a 2BR/1BA sharecropper’s shack occupied by 5 of us, in the middle of a Florida orange grove.

•  How I was bounced around “in the system” across 17 different foster homes in less than 3 years before being adopted by a white family.


THE STRANGE
•  How I grew up with 3 brothers, but I have 4.  Well, actually, I have 1 brother and 1 sister... no, wait, I mean 2 brothers, I guess — I never met one of them, so I often forget to count him.  Though, if you add them all together, I have 6 brothers and a sister, total — but to be technically accurate, I’m really an only child.  I know, it’s confusing... Firebird might need me to help him sort it out.

•  How my peacefully inclined Dad, apparently miscalculating his gun settings and forgetting to aim for a warning strike (because decorated Marine officer instincts are hard to unlearn, even in muscle memory), once got up from the dinner table where the local preacher and his wife were seated for Sunday afternoon dinner, shot an animal rummaging through their trash, then sat back down to continue eating.

•  How my Mom & Dad once invited their best friends over for chicken dinner... while failing to mention they would first be helping with the killing & de-feathering of the chickens beforehand.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because I couldn’t get all the pieces put together in time.



MICKLORE
I want to tell stories of my life...

— the epic tales, and the not-so-impressive anecdotes of my personal history —

...because I want him to know who I am.

•  How I called my senior high principal by his first name, and how, on behalf of a Muslim friend, I organized an institution-wide rebellion against an oppressive school policy that permanently impacted school practices — because you can get away with a lot when you’re smart & charming.

•  The Minnesota Rite of Passage that is corn detassling with Jacques Seed Co.

•  Getting taken in at an impressionable stage of young adulthood by perfume pimps.

•  Challenging masculinity for 2 bucks a blow at the MN Renaissance Festival.  (Hey, I’m talking about heavy swung strikes with a hammer, you perv... get your mind out of the gutter — this is a family show! ;-)

•  How I accidentally moved in with my ex.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because some of those stories are attached to pieces that still sting, and every time I tried dipping into that well, I kept coming up dry.  (It’s hard not to feel pretty “basic” when faced with the prospect that by one’s mid-forties, every life story worth telling has already been told... though perhaps I might feel differently after I’ve gotten to sleep on it some more.)



MISCELLANEOUS
I want to present my random aimless thoughts...

— from the clever, to the nutty, to the downright ridiculous —


...because I want him to take life seriously, and think for himself,
    but I also want him to take himself lightly, and find joy in simple, silly things.

•  Why do we drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway?

•  Why aren’t iPhone chargers called “Apple Juice?”

•  If vegetarians have an issue between them, is it still considered a beef?

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because I haven’t had it in me to be that witty lately.



ACHIEVEMENTS
I want to regale him with reports of my successes...

— from the laughable happy accidents, to the fantastical legends —


...because I want him to believe in triumph, and strive for greatness.

•  How I came to be credited as a writer and filmmaker on IMDB.

•  How I soloed at the Headquarters of the United Nations for a Global Youth Conference on saving the environment, 25 years before saving the environment was a human imperative.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because I don’t want to come across as bragging, and because the stories themselves are really nowhere near as exciting as the teasers.



LIMITATIONS
I want to confess my struggles, vent my frustrations, and chronicle my failures...

— the pitiful, the painful, and the shameful —

...because I want him to know I’m only human.

•  How I struggle with executive dysfunction, and I’m concerned about getting diagnosed with spectrum disorders, because I can check off damn near every box in some capacity, and I’m terrified of passing my shortcomings on to him.

•  How despite being a passable writer, I’m actually a terrible communicator, and do a lousy job of following up with people I care about.

•  How long-term unemployment is hard on one’s self esteem, especially on top of the natural coping mechanisms regularly employed to address the effects of a permanently dysthymic disposition.

•  How imposter syndrome sometimes hits me so hard I feel paralyzed and powerless, and how often I feel like a complete and utter useless waste of the potential my life once promised.

•  How our dreams of home ownership have gone up in a cloud of contagion, and are now on indefinite hold until Mama finds work, or the world somehow rights itself.

•  How I’d like to find whomever engineered this shabby excuse for a dilapidated domicile and take them out.  No seriously, I want them taken OUT.  (Or at that very least, to be delivered a swift kick to the nethers.)

•  How Mama’s needs are always the lowest in priority to be addressed in our home, because that’s just the only way our household can function right now.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because I don’t like to be that vulnerable in public, and I hate to come across as whiny.



BREAKDOWNS
I want to recount cold narratives of the abuses I’ve suffered in failed relationships...

— from the over-abundance I’ve endured, so he may learn from my experiences —

...because I want him to know he should always speak his mind, even if his voice shakes.

•  How once you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re likely to continue repeating the same cyclical pattern with others, until you figure out how to break it.

•  How no one I’ve been involved with has ever hit me, but physical trauma is far from the worst kind of violence one can inflict upon another.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because even after many years have passed, I’m still not quite ready yet to give power to that evil by speaking its name.  I don’t know if I will ever be.



DRAWING A LINE
I want to speak to the pressing issues that cannot be swept under the rug anymore...

— from those that impose their twisted version of reality upon those they deem unequal or unworthy,
   to those that represent the gravest threat to all of us —


...because I want him to never have any doubts about where I stand.

•  How I find it hard to celebrate the “independence” of a nation whose promised guaranteed freedoms of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness continue to be denied for much of her citizenry.

•  How the term “White Privilege” is a damaging misnomer that fuels and further promotes racism.

•  How Black Lives STILL Matter, even once the news has stopped paying attention because there’s only so many dramatic, sensational headlines to be pulled out of any situation for distracting the sleeping masses until the public becomes desensitized, everyone’s feeds have returned to normal, and folks feel free to go back to ignoring microaggressions, blatant acts of racism, and undaunted domestic terrorism, by pretending it’s all just “politics,” and they really don’t want to have to deal with the “drama” of it all.

•  How white people are not entitled to “but.”  How white people haven’t earned our trust.  How white people don’t get to decide for you what you should be forced to accept.

•  How white allies need to understand, some POC may never trust them, but if they’re going to make a difference, they will have to just accept this, and still fight for what is right anyway, because only white people can eradicate racism.

•  How we refer to most US citizens by the origin of their ancestry, but we don’t get to call white folk Anglo-Saxon or European-Americans... it’s almost as if they believe they’re the default for this nation — the sole representation of the population deserving of and/or privy to all the entitlements that go along with that.

•  How maybe no one will ever see you as anything but BLACK, Firebird, but just remember, whenever some ignorant knuckle-dragger tells you to go back to where you came from, YOU are of NATIVE ancestry... Only YOUR people represent the FIRST Nation.  You were here FIRST.  This is YOUR home.

•  How anyone who doesn’t view the situation we’re in as conclusive proof that our system of profit before people is broken, either hasn’t been paying attention, or just doesn’t care.

•  How the US Government has repeatedly proven on an almost daily basis that a massive pile of dead bodies is no reason to implement any changes from the status quo, and the fact that you can’t even be sure which issue I’m referring to is the most damning indication of everything wrong with this country today.

•  Internment cages.  Martial Law.  Rampant Police Brutality.  Routine Mass Murder.  School shooter drills.  Economically Exclusive Healthcare.  Enemies of Democracy converted into allies.  Enemies made of our allies.  Vilification of the free press.  Systemic Racism.  Predatory Capitalism.  Political Corruption.  40M+ out of work.  135K+ dead.  ARE WE GREAT YET???

•  How everything US citizens have been socially conditioned — through great care and expense — to accept as “normal” is considered appalling in every other first world nation.  How Americans are the effective equivalent of gaslit victims of Stepford Wives syndrome, and we are long overdue for a global intervention.

But I couldn’t share any of that with you this week, because I don’t know what value there is in being just one more angry voice screaming into the wind, and I have a hard time wondering why my mine should matter, or how it can make any difference — though I’ve honestly been meaning to, and even trying at times for the last month or so — I just really don’t have the emotional bandwidth to get it done right now.



THE PROMISE OF TOMORROW
I want to serenade him with my dreams of a brave new world...

— from the far-fetched fantasies to the plausibly tangible conduits to change —


...because I want him to have hope for the future, and to believe in possibilities.

•  How I’ve sleeplessly expended mental energy spinning the theory that John Connor prepared his whole life to meet his father, probably imagining he would have to become like a best friend to him in order to create the special bond that would allow Kyle Reese to be convinced to go back in time, but the story doesn’t mention they were that close... in fact, it probably really didn’t take much more than a faded polaroid and a few shared memories, because, when people are miserable and desperate for change, they are willing to do whatever it takes, and can be talked into almost anything.  It almost makes me wonder how bad things have to get before we become our own science fiction dystopian fantasy, and whether there’s someone, somewhere out there in the world, desperately working to perfect a time machine to fix all this.

•  How I’ve burned more thought than is probably healthy imagining what I would do with 3 wishes from a magic genie, which really isn’t terribly useful at all... but at least it gets the problem solving gears turning, which is exactly the kind of
alchemy we could use more of right now.

•  The value and importance of every election, at every level, and every vote, and holding elected leaders accountable to upholding their promises, and to meeting the needs of the people we pay them to serve.

So I’m trying to share some of that with you this week, because it’s the most I could manage to pull off while running on empty at full throttle
... Snippets.  Fragments.  Bits and pieces.  Scraps.  Half-finished sentences, half-hearted thoughts, and half-baked truths.  This is all I have to offer “in these troubled times.”

In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter what I think you want to might want to read from me.  Not that I don’t cherish your friendship and treasure your feedback, but you’re not my primary motivation for doing this.  No, that distinction belongs to someone a fraction of your size.  And besides, I have never pretended I came here to win.  I have always had my own reasons for playing this game — now maybe you have a better understanding of them, and perhaps, even, a little bit more about me, as well.

Right now, it’s hard to feel like any light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the headlamp of an oncoming train
... even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there, so we’ve got to keep moving.  None of us can stop the troubled winds that stir a tidal wave of change — progress is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not.  Just this moment, though, progress can waitit will keep, no matter what any of us does — because, despite everything else going on as the world crumbles around us, first and foremost, I’m someone’s Mama, and that’s got to be the main course on my plate for the time being.


Of course, there’s so much more uncommon knowledge to be passed along to our progeny that goes into the home education portion of his upbringing... these are just a few of the pieces distinctly unique to our life experience, and by proxy to his.  Naturally, I realize I still have to temper the lofty ideals of raising this inquisitive spirit to become a free-thinking agent of integrity with the mundanity of simply transforming a young child into a functioning adult.  I mean, sure, I want to be able to get him all the nutrition his growing body requires without surrendering to letting him slather his food all over his toys for using them as a delivery device, but, hey... whatever works — it still gets the nourishment he needs into his system, and I have to carefully choose my battles — so I’ll take what I can get.


Progress is coming with or without the contributions of me and mine, but I’d sure like for us all to be on that train.  I hope, for your sake, my little Firebird, your generation won’t have to be the ones to bring about the kinds of changes that will balance the lives of so many.  I hope it comes soon enough for you to know it — to grow up in it, and for the time before it to have no more influence on your outlook for tomorrow than a footnote in the annals of your yesterday.

The world is progressing daily, by degrees... some more minor than others.  Years ago, John Lennon believed that enough to tell his son it’s getting better every day, in every way.  Although I suspect what happened to him while he was busy making other plans didn’t work out so well as he’d probably imagined.

When the world changes drastically though, in mass movements — the likes of which I have to believe we stand on the precipice of, preparing to bear witness to — it may seem like someone, somewhere, illuminated a light bulb above our collective heads, snapped all our cooperative fingers, and simply flipped a switch.  But in reality, there’s so much more ongoing in an unseen capacity, from currents created by the wings of those brave, unsung freedom fighting heroes whose diligent efforts have cleared the passage to prepare the way.  The path to getting there may be longer than we’d like, but there are so many already on the way... so many who’ve been traveling that road for such a long time, and I’m so very grateful they’ve never lost hope.

The road to
revolution has many lanes, and they don’t all move at the same pace, stem from the same source, or land in the same place.  Some protest.  Some riot.  Some speak.  Some broadcast.  Some call out injustice.  Some talk quietly with love and patience, gently changing hearts and minds.  Some organize.  Some host.  Some support.  Some donate.  Some learn, and grow, and do better.  Some teach.  Some create.  Some post.  Some write.

So we must be kind to anyone moving in the same direction, even if we can’t understand how they got there.  Just make sure to keep your eye on the destination, and your foot on the gas.  Because u
ntil we build our own utopia, my love, I will be here for you... holding your hand, and lighting the path, every step of the way.

(That is, assuming you let me get some sleep sometimes.
)


LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 26 - Topic: MISFIT META
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Starry Eyed Mama

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

MISFITS

I’m not in the habit of going around saying I have “daddy issues,” though, while I haven’t looked into any sort of official diagnosis, I will admit a professional who focuses on such things might be willing to apply a more formal variation on the term to describe some of my impulsively developed coping mechanisms as a result of learning functional reactions to the dysfunctional behaviors of that particular parental figure... on multiple occasions.  My biological father was an individual about whom I can only be grateful existed because without him, I would not have — and while I imagine I could probably fill a small book on our history, in this forum, the less said, the better.  My Dad, though, is a good hearted man who loves me, so there’s a lot of wiggle room there for forgiveness of everything else — mainly, his emotionally reserved nature, and his tendency towards conflict avoidance which lead him to be more or less absent in the conventional actions of raising me.

Not being a psychoanalyst, myself, I probably couldn’t accurately speak to in how many different ways these childhood concerns have impacted my life, though for a while in my past, they did create a rather unique pattern related to the types of men whose company I have kept for any significant period of time.  One long-term housemate once pointed out that single fathers who’ve been granted sole custody are enough of a rare exception out in the wilds of humanity, it’s quite frankly bizarre that I have been either directly involved or closely associated with at least five of them.  I hadn’t ever really given it much thought until he called attention to it... from my perspective, that was just my understanding of what was normal in my world.

Throughout my prolonged single years, I held so strongly to the conviction that whether or not I was fulfilled in life would not be dependent upon whether or not I procreated, I can honestly say I was never intentionally seeking out “good father material” in a male companion out of personal interest or any sense of “nesting” instincts.  Also, I have certainly never once for a moment sought out a man to place himself in a position of leadership or control over any aspect of my life — and have in fact violently rejected any who’ve presumed to take on an air of authority over our interactions.  Problems resulting from lacking positive masculine paradigms can manifest in multiple ways, but, in my case, an Electra complex, I have never had; a Lolita, I have never been — I have preferred, rather, to instead lean on the internal strength derived from within the power of being a woman, and to forge my own path with the tools readily available at my disposal.

Maybe, though, having had such prolonged exposure to the kinds of characteristics that make up a poor male role model, my sense of the measure of a man came about more from knowing what traits to avoid.  Maybe it’s just coincidental that — thanks to a revolving bedroom door of trial-and-error over a longer period of years than I’d care to admit to — I’ve tried on more than my fair share of “types,” and the only ones who had any staying power with me also happen to be accountable with their children.  Maybe it was less that I was searching for good father figures, and more that I was unwilling to settle for negligent partners — perhaps it’s just more likely that finding oneself in the company of responsible fathers is merely a natural consequence of surrounding oneself with reliably dependable men... it isn’t automatically a given that being a decent human will necessarily make you a good parent, but at the very least, it’s a requisite starting point.


Minion had been a father for nearly a decade before we became connected, but I’d never had a ringside seat to this angle of his experience until a few years ago, when I delivered his progeny.  Bearing witness to the life of your friend and lover as a mentor to your son brings a whole new layer into expanding the ways you find yourself capable of loving — and in many respects completely changes the entire nature of the game.  I do my best to show my gratitude, but so often I feel I come up short.

Years down the road, I imagine there will be plenty of terrible ties and crazy socks and discount grooming kits with cheap cologne from our little one — maybe eventually graduating into a phone call from college or another state — but for now, on Father’s Day, Minion gets a card from his baby, one from his pets, one from his adoring bride, possibly takeout pizza, maybe some sugar free candy, and he gets to kick back and take it easy for the day... in theory.*  It’s really only a drop in the bucket to try and make him feel a little special, to share with him how much we love him, and to show our appreciation for everything he does for us.  (*I say in theory, because Minion doesn’t cool his jets very well — there’s always something he feels he should be doing.)

Since these activities generally comprise the extent of our customary practices, I wasn’t expecting to spend any portion of my Sunday educating ourselves with new details about a variety of animal types.  But, as Minion was in the kitchen last night baking me a quiche for my breakfast this week (see previous side note), I happened upon this year’s celebratory Google Doodle for the familial occasion, and as our boy looked on in wide-eyed wonder, I realized I was stuck moving forward with the process.  So, with his input, together we produced our own homemade digital
tribute to his Papa.

Presenting this offering, I pointed out to Minion the paternal archetypes from the animal kingdom — including seahorses, penguins, and bees (Bees?!  Who knew???) — which naturally prompted us, being the nerds we are, to exercise an or so hour of Google-fu, researching into which animal breeds have strong paternal figures.  It seems, in addition to those mentioned, there are a variety of other creatures whose fathers take on active roles in parenting — with avian, canine, and primate groups having the strongest showing:

•  Arctic Wolves, African Wild Dogs, Foxes, Golden Jackals

•  Marmosets, Mountain Gorillas, Owl Monkeys, Tamarins

•  Flamingoes, Great Horned Owls, Grey Catbirds, Jacanas, Phalarope Sandpipers, Ratites

(Hey, I took the time to learn these random things, so now you can know them, too!)


In some of these cases, the male is the predominant caregiver for the young.  For some, it’s a team effort between both parents.  A few make their contributions to the family unit through their support of the mothers.

The Great Horned Owl, for example, is the sole provider of all food his entire family will consume from the time his mate — who is 25% larger than he is — first nestles down upon their clutch of eggs in the dead of winter; she will not move from that spot until her brood is at least a month old, after the month long-incubation period required to hatch them... if not for the diligence of her partner, the proud Papa, they would all surely starve to death.

Ratite** fathers (**category of related breeds, including Emu / Ostrich / Rhea) are the poster birds for stepdads everywhere: classic examples of what it means to take on the care of parenting on behalf of another, and they also represent the epitome of self-sacrifice, losing over a third of their body weight while they incubate the eggs in a nest — at least half or more of which likely do not even belong to them — for nearly two months without food, water, or rest... and then aggressively defend the young as their own once they’ve hatched.

The Grey Catbird — a native of the Americas, named for its “mewlike” call — shares responsibility for the feeding of their hatchlings between both parents, but prior to their arrival, the male sets his mate’s roost on a kind of makeshift “throne” ...literally putting his female partner high up on a pedestal to perch from.


I made a point to confess earlier on that before Firebird was born, I had a strong emotional investment in the hope he would be a girl, because, while nurturing a girl to navigate becoming a strong, independent woman capable of thinking for herself without the need for a man to control her was not just a great responsibility, but a daunting challenge, I knew how to do that — I believed I would be singularly equal to that particular task.  My Mom was the one who helped to put a positive perspective on my expectations for bringing up a boy, but in so doing, she also forced me to take stock in how much greater a conundrum it would be to steer a young boy into the kind of man
who would always treat women with basic dignity and respect, and I realized then... I have absolutely no idea how or where to even begin taking the first step on the road to that seemingly insurmountable task.  Fortunately, I don’t have to do it alone.


The primary function of every parent is to make of one’s children successful contributing members to society, with the secondary expectation of roles being to in so doing, also promote one’s own values forward into future generations.  I recognize what that might end up looking like could take on many different kinds of forms, but I have to act under the assumption that my kid might one day want to attract a partner, and create a family, so I need to make sure he’s properly equipped for either outcome, or both.  One thing is for certain... if one would ever have any hopes of becoming a good father, he must start out by first being a good man.  And, achieving that baseline can come about in large part through having a good father as the pattern to model after (though certainly, this is not the only way, as my Minion is evidence to... his character is primarily the byproduct of his Mama’s rearing, while the obstacles of his temperament and complications of his disposition he constantly struggles to put behind him are a direct result of his father’s abuse).


My husband recently made the statement to me that he “doesn’t understand feminism,” which is ironic, considering he’s married to an outspoken advocate for feminism, and is in fact, himself, a faithful feminist, by his very nature.  I explained to him that the notion of feminism is nothing more than an idea — much the same as “Antifa” is shorthand for anti-fascism, or being against totalitarian government — where the concept represents the radical notion that all women deserve human rights equal to those of men, and social treatment with proper respect and basic dignity on the same level as what men experience as their customary standard.  When he responded with confusion about why the idea would need to put women forward, rather than simply calling for equal rights for everyone (which is in fact exactly what it is doing), I further clarified that common oblivious response is about as ignorant and useful as the follow-up to BLM that “All Lives Matter,” which immediately placed the position of feminism into a relatable perspective for him.

To be fair, though, Minion isn’t being deliberately obtuse — his myopia comes from a lack of perception — something we’re all guilty of, at times, and must actively work to overcome if we want to be empathetic to the lived experiences of our fellow humans.  But while his words suggest he doesn’t get it, his actions declare the reason it doesn’t make sense to him is because he can’t relate to the kind of person who wouldn’t automatically consider all genders to be on the same footing as a matter of course... and in that respect, he really doesn’t get it.  Through our relationship, though, my husband has become more aware of the common hardships all women face everyday just for being women, and as a result, he has become more informed and compassionate, because when Minion learns, Minion
grows.

It may be, then, that I won’t ever really have to do a whole lot to teach my son how to treat women properly... perhaps, all I really need to do is point to the example in his Papa.  I really can’t expect my boy to be decent to girls, or to become a young man who is respectful of women, if what he sees every day in his home life gives him the impression that females are not worthy of reverence, or that males have the right to consider themselves superior.  But I don’t have to worry about that, because the man in our house tells a far different story of how the world works, no discussions required, in the little things he does every day that point the way.

These
are just a handful of the best ways the first love of my life is a partner to me, who in his action demonstrates to our son on a daily basis what kind of man is worthy of being emulated.

•  He cooks all our evening meals and breakfasts once a week
•  He packs me a lunch to take to work every day
•  He turns down my linens every night to be cozy for crawling into bed

•  He
does all the dishes, runs the dishwasher, and puts all the clean dishes away
•  He picks our toddler’s playpen area every
night and organizes the toys
    so our boy
has a clear space to play in the next morning
•  He handles
the greater share of our household cleaning

•  He performs odd handyman repair jobs around our shoddily engineered rental home
•  He’s the first line of minor fix-it mechanics for our aging automobiles
•  He is willing to ask for directions and get help when he’s stumped or in over his head

•  He gathers up all the garbage in the house, takes it to the curb and brings it back each week
•  He keeps the lawn
mowed, hedges trimmed, weeds whacked, and leaves raked & bagged
•  He cleans the gutters, soffit & fascia clear of debris

•  He winterizes all the windows in the house and the three-season porch screens
•  He keeps the driveways and walks plowed, de-iced, and salted
•  He maintains a winter safety kit in each of our vehicles,
    and performs regular routine maintenance to keep them in proper working condition

•  He runs errands as needed
•  He works every day without fail like clockwork
    at a dead-end job that steadily sucks away a piece of his soul,
    to contribute the financial foundation that stabilizes our household budget,
    and to provide for our medical coverage

•  He never walks out the door without giving me a goodbye kiss
•  He always greets me with a smile and a smooch
•  He speaks to me kindly and treats me with respect
•  He shows me tenderness and affection

•  He shares with me the inner workings of his heart,
    and whatever random thoughts are on his mind
•  He consults with me on any and all major decisions, not just for all of us,
    but even for himself, because he acknowledges my general knowledge,
    he appreciates my wisdom (he says it’s the reason he married me! ;-),
    and he values my insights
•  He recognizes each of us a equal partners
    in the functions of our family and our household

•  He laughs often — he takes great joy in simple pleasures
•  He finds amusement and diversion in his own personal interests,
    and does not require his family to entertain him
•  He relishes his family’s company, whether we are engaging in activities,
    or doing nothing at all, so long as we are together
•  He is kind to all animals, and cares for our pets gently and tenderly

•  He changes poopy diapers, diaper genie liners, and dirty litter boxes
•  He hugs and holds, kisses and caresses our son, and engages in active play with him
•  He sets and enforces healthy boundaries to keep him safe, and to train him

•  He vocalizes his mind, even when it doesn’t conform to the accepted norm
•  He speaks to others with decency, whether or not they have shown they deserve it
•  He does all of this without complaint, whether he is tired, or sore, or busy, or
run-down


I realize
this is only an incomplete summary of things the man does, and certainly a man is so much more than a mere measure of the things he has done, but how do we judge a person if not by his action?  It is in action we show our true colors to others... indeed, it is only in our actions, we can truly teach.  Minion, more than most anyone I’ve ever known, so perfectly represents his own ideals, his way of life is a living testament to a simple truth commonly attributed to St Francis of Assisi...

In all things, preach.  If necessary, use words.

The Misfit Manor household is not by any stretch of the imagination religious.  Minion is a wholly committed atheist, and me... I’m not quite ready yet to let go of the idea that there’s something greater than ourselves in the universe — something beautiful and undefined — but I certainly don’t allow hanging on to that hope to influence my expectations of others.  Still, in my experience, I’ve found it is people who do not cling so tightly to the crutch of religion who seem to maintain the strongest holds on their own core beliefs — whatever they may be — and these are the principals we pass on to others as we encounter them throughout our lives.


Minion isn’t by any means perfect, nor, either, of course, am I.  Like any couple, we have our issues, but we weather them together, as a unified team. 
We may not be a village within ourselves, but are blest to have two well balanced companions who love and respect one another equally dedicated to the mission of raising our child in a healthy and loving environment together, offering him equivalent measures of the feminine and masculine essence of the human psyche, which he perceives in equal parts from both of us, as we have each found a kind of harmony to both of these aspects of our own nature within ourselves.  It is our hope that our Firebird will so too one day embrace every element of his own generative makeup.

Right now my three-year-old embodies the kind of sensitivity that can cause a particularly overwhelming work of music to bring him to tears — just this afternoon, Thomas crooning a soulful, apologetic ballad made him weep openly, until I had to scoop him up into a cuddle, singing along with the cheeky tank engine to help my son find comfort in the beauty of it.  He didn’t get that from Minion... his Papa hasn’t retained that level of emotional expression into adulthood, thanks to having it beat out of him by his own father, but I’m grateful he’s not the type of man who would seek to squelch it in our son.  Firebird comes by his emotional sentience honestly, through his Mama, and that is a minefield I do know how to help him not just to tiptoe through, but to tap dance upon, with poise and grace, and perhaps even some exhilaration.


By this point, though we both bear the brunt of the burden as a whole, Minion and I have fallen into a kind of rhythmic routine around our respective parenting responsibilities — as I imagine most couples do — based on the roles that come most naturally to each of us.  While we never set out to intentionally define, “You do this, I do that;” we were just willing, as we have been with much of our lives — whatever it may be, come what may — to take it as it comes, and let things work themselves out the way they are meant to.  And that seems to be functioning just fine for us so far.

I’m sure
it hasn’t escaped anyone how much of a control freak I can be about many things, and when it comes to the well-being of my boy, I surely haven’t made any exceptions.  And yet, in many respects, I feel like it can be counterproductive to squeeze too tightly.  What I believe is most important is the freedom to experience the flow of life on your own terms, starting from the comfort of a safe and nourishing atmosphere as the building blocks of a foundation upon which to construct your own path out into the world.


Minion and I are neither indifferent deadbeats nor helicoptering anxious
wrecks.  We cannot shelter our child in the comforting mantle of wealth or privilege, as we have neither to give, but I’m certain we will be able to provide him with everything he needs — because we are in this together, and because through our partnership, we have built our love nest high upon a throne of deference and devotion, in the hopes that will bestow upon our brood every advantage we can impart.  I’m confident that should be enough to allow him to bravely face anything life can throw at him and for everything else, as long as we’re able, we will be right there with a helping hand to lift him up with the support he needs to make up the difference whenever he calls upon us, because that’s what it means to put love into action... and to pass it on.


LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 25 - Topic: THE CATBIRD SEAT
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Bedroom Eyes

The Wake of the Walk

DEPARTURE

There’ve been so many problems in my life that could have been solved by walking. So many cases where it was the right thing to do.  And certainly more situations than I care to admit to about which at times since I’ve wished I’d done it sooner.  But it was always a hard decision to be faced with, and never the easiest option available.

Mother walked.  Her response to learning her oldest daughter was being raped and her son was being beaten was to abandon all three of her children in the care of the monster doing it.  But — as should be obvious to any respectable human capable of rational thought — finding a crime is being perpetrated under your own roof, and choosing not to participate in said crime by removing yourself from the scene, doesn’t actually stop the crime from happening, but in fact perpetuates it.  So I hadn’t grown up with the greatest impressions surrounding the aftermath of what is left behind by walking.

I was 3 years old.

...which is an impressionable stage of development for any interminable injury...  Young enough to acutely ingrain patterns that would impact my life for the majority, if not the remainder of it, but too young to properly understand, accurately interpret, or effectively process what was actually happening.  Somehow, the residual imprint left in the back of my unchanneled subconscious transformed into the amorphous sense that, “Good people don’t abandon the ones they love.”

So I learned not to.

It would be decades — and far too many additional wounds later — before I came to include myself in the list of people I love who shouldn’t be abandoned.  I lost at least 15 years of my life in doomed relationships hanging onto the misguided notion that, “Good people don’t abandon the ones they love,” meant I had to nobly, doggedly, selflessly remain at the behest of any irreparably impaired loved one’s beck and call, regardless of how one-sided that love was, or how that loved one’s actions affected me.  Even at great personal cost to my own well-being.

Apparently, for the first portion of my adult life, the rudimentary repeating theme, “Good people don’t abandon the ones they love,” somehow stunted my sense of self-preservation.  After all, the bastards I stuck by like Tammy Wynette to her man were only pathetically self-loathing, narcissistic, emotionally abusive, manipulating alcoholic gaslighters.  It seemed I just couldn’t get enough of them.  My Daddy,
though, was a violent drunk, a slob, a hoarder, a thief, a pet killer, a racist, a criminal, and a pedophile.

But Mother shouldn’t have left him.


Naturally, I didn’t conceptualize my circumstances that way on any sort of cognizant level.  The intellectual acumen of my adult brain could fiercely grasp that, in fact, abandoning an abusive alcoholic rapist — assuming doing so includes taking along the victimized children and any others in the household at risk — is exactly the first step of the correct response to Mother’s discovery... The remainder of the appropriate response steps being: 2. Call the police and have his ass thrown in jail.  3. Get immediate and ongoing help for your traumatized children.  4. Contribute to his prosecution to ensure he gets a proper sentence that would prevent him from ever preying on any others in the future.


But consciousness and intelligence aren’t always the only driving forces behind the way we grow as people.  Many of our emergent characteristic traits are developed based on deeply imbedded hidden habits from our formative foundation.  In time, I would come to realize, the things we do to save ourselves from harm can be a deterrent to undoing damage done, and, more importantly... love isn’t always enough.


It was a long strange trip getting to that place, though.  It took me far too many hard-headed missteps to earn the skills and experience required to be
fully able to consciously comprehend how that primitive, backward, half-baked, unevolved, germinal subroutine of my basal, abecedarian emotional narrative maintained at a subliminal level had been driving my relational behaviors well into adulthood.  Or, how its latent, vestigial power of immolation remained at the cruxt of their dysfunction.  But somehow, I figured it out.

And then, I grew up.

“Good people don’t abandon the ones they
love,” is just as undeniable for me today as it ever was, perhaps even more so, now that I have so much more riding on it.  This truth remains a fundamental guiding principle of my life; an inherent certainty that cannot be expunged.  But now I can better distinguish, expelling toxicity is not equivalent to abandonment.  And running away isn’t the same as walking out.


I can’t easily say in a few words how it finally happened, but I can encapsulate a habitually duplicated pattern of personal history by summarizing, like a howling dog on a nail, eventually I stayed too long, and it finally hurt enough.  In some respects, I was fortunate to have escaped.  Not everyone is so lucky.  But I never question or protest why anyone can’t or doesn’t do it sooner, because I have walked a mile in those shoes, and I understand what it means to have so many varying degrees of factors contributing to that struggle, with some roadblocks heavier than others, and some obstacles impossible to overcome.  I can just be there to support anyone who finds their way out, and makes it to a safer space.


Yes, I made mistakes, and not a few of them.  I don’t know if there was any way I was ever going to be able to avoid them.  Sure, I’ve been hurt.  I’ve probably hurt others, too.  I never intended to be the villain in anyone’s story, but really, who does?

I protected myself too much.  I didn’t protect myself enough.  I didn’t love enough.  I loved too much.  I kept too much too close to the vest.  I gave too much away.

Somewhere along the way, I lost myself.


But I found myself, too.

And I also found the love of my life.  Mostly because I wasn’t looking for him.  I was able to experience unconditional love for the first time when I became able to love myself the same way.  I realized then that everything else I’d known up until that point had only been just a mere shadow of what was
possible.

And, though I didn’t know it then, I was ready.  Maybe for the first time.  And when I was, he’d found me. 


I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out who I am.  And I do like me.  But for most of my life, I’ve liked myself most when I’m alone.  I related entirely too personally to the warning Ive often shared, “It’s better to be alone than to wish you were.”  I was stronger on my own.  The “loves” I would never abandon had always chipped away at that strength.  They were a cancer that had consumed it.  Until I finally learned to be able to resist letting anyone else take that strength from me again.


Minion
didn’t want to minimize any aspect of who I am, though.  He just wanted to be part of it.  Not to overtake me, challenge me, or compete with me.  But just to share in my life.  And as I came to respect and appreciate who he is, I knew I wanted to be a part of his life, too.  Now, we’ve made a life together.


I’ve never really had a debilitating problem with self-esteem.  Some occasional nagging self-doubt, maybe, as we all do.  But I’ve never had a disparaging sense that I’m not good enough to be worthy of love or happiness.  I’ve always believed I’m deserving of a great life.

So I’m working on building it.  It’s been a long and winding road, getting from there to here.  But for the first time in decades, I’m in the right company, and finally on the right track.  And though it took a little while longer for me than it does for most, any different steps along the path would have taken me in a different direction, and I would have ended up in a different
place.

I know where I’m going.  I know where I’ve been.

It’s time to enjoy the journey.


There’ve
been so many problems in my life that could have been solved by walking.  But I owe the life I have to being the kind of person who didn’t.  And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.


LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 6 - Topic: SOLVITUR AMBULANDO
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Lightly Exposed

Tilting At Windmills

POTENTIAL

My mother used to tell a story about the circumstance of her life before I was born, and how I came to be.  She told a lot of stories.  Mother didn’t exactly have a close personal relationship with the truth.  I would take this one with a grain of salt, just like I did with so many others, but stories have a knack for seeping into your subconscious and coloring your perspective on many aspects of your life in sometimes unpredictable ways.  Especially stories drilled into you from a very young age.

Noxious stories could negatively impact you in damaging ways that have far reaching ramifications, which can be difficult to undo.  But maybe it’s possible that constructive tales of healing — even the crazy ones — might just hang out in the back of your lizard brain like a silent super power, at times giving you the preternatural adrenaline boost you need to achieve the impossible.


Before I was born, my mother had three other children, one through a youthful fling, and two by a previous husband who was not my father.  I never met her firstborn, but I grew up with the other two for a while, until we were all separated.  By the time I came along, Mother was a bit older for those days, though not nearly as much as passes for older today (a cultural shift I know a little something about!).  She certainly wasn’t past childbearing age, obviously, but was long enough in the tooth that another bun in the oven didn’t seem to be looming on the horizon for the near future in her world.


The story goes like this:

In the early 70s, Mother became increasingly sick over a period of a few months.  With symptoms that began like a flu bug, she pushed through for a while, but eventually the pain got so intrusive she struggled to function normally.  By the time it impacted her ability to work, she planned a visit to the doctor, which couldn’t have been an easy decision, as her family lived in abject poverty.

The news was devastating.  She had contracted ovarian cancer.  She likely didn’t have long left.

To say Mother was always a fighter would be an understatement, but it wasn’t just that.  She also didn’t always live in reality.  Mother refused to accept this news as her truth.

She made some basic modifications to her diet and exercise routine.  (Any changes would have to be basic, considering the family’s grocery budget was formed around food stamps.)  She was determined to get healthy, though, and beat the odds.  She felt a little better for a while, I imagine through sheer will.  But she still couldn’t shake the sickness.

Mother went back to the doctor — a different one, this time, for a second opinion — in the hopes of better news and a more functional game plan for overall improvement.  The prognosis hadn’t changed.  The same path was outlined in front of her, and the trajectory still lead to the inevitable.

Mother’s paranoid schizophrenic personality disorder caused a lot of problems for her (and everyone close to her) throughout her life.  But it made her nothing if not formidable.  Failure was never an option.

Armed with a greater sense of conviction, she resolved once again this thing would not get the better of her.  It would not be the end of her.  She had children to care for.  A husband to manage.  People to save.  God wasn’t ready for her to give up.  He wasn’t through with her yet.

Mother then turned to her church for help.  The congregation collected communally, while elders “laid hands” on her, and conducted a healing ritual, with much prayer, and probably a great deal of pomp and performance.  Afterwards, she went back to her life a new woman, this time feeling even better than she had before.  Until she didn’t.


In the summer of 1973, Mother once more experienced symptoms that by that point had become familiar to her.  Ever the dramatic, she was certain then the Lord was finally calling her home.  This time, there would be no more running.  She resigned herself to her fate, and began to put her affairs in order.  To facilitate doing so properly, she would need to know how much time she had, so she scheduled another appointment with a third doctor.  But she wasn’t sick.

At least, not that way.  She was pregnant.  With me.

Doctors ran multiple tests.  There was no more sign of cancer — only a tiny child growing inside her...

a miracle baby.


My mother believed from the day she learned of my existence until the day she died that God gave me to her to take away the poison that was killing her, to save her life, and to renew her faith, for the greater good.  Of what, I couldn’t tell you, but she swore up and down that I am in this world today only because it was God’s will. (Her marital relations had nothing to do with it, apparently.)

Mother said that day she prayed to God and promised to devote the life of her child into the service of his will.  Meaning me.  My life.  I have always taken issue with that.

I told Mother, my life was never hers to give away.  Not even to God.  Just because she’d “created” me, didn’t mean she “owned” me.  She’d simply respond that maybe not, but if I thought my life was mine, then I didn’t understand what life is.  And the sooner I came to terms with the truth that all of us belong to God, the greater my life would be.  :-/


There have been multiple moments within the history of my life that have made me feel like I may be a total failure as a person and nothing more than a complete waste of potential.  Knowing my mother’s expectation that my existence is entirely to serve the purpose of some higher power is not the least of those.  But, to her credit, Mother was never disappointed in me.  She believed all things work out according to God’s plan, even if we can’t see how.  I could have become an ax murderer, and Mother would have been convinced it was God’s will.  (I guess it’s a good thing for axes everywhere I never bought into all that nonsense! ;-)


What growing up under the influence of this questionable family legend has done for me, though, is to instill a deep-seated belief that anything is possible, even — or possibly especially — that which doesn’t seem to be.  I’ve spent a lifetime proving the impossible – isn’t.

For example:

When I was little, I never believed I would ever escape the small town life I came from.  Where I grew up in a sharecropper’s shack in the middle of an orange grove on the outskirts of anything considered remotely civilized.  Where I wore goodwill clothes with mismatching patches and mystery stains, shoes with holes, and anything donated by charity.  Where I developed an iron constitution from learning to pick the moldy green bits off the bread, and just stomach it down.

But I did.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

I never could have imagined I would one day perform before a global conference at the Headquarters of the United Nations.  But I got to.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

I never figured I’d make a film, much less one that would get me recognized by the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and earn me a credit on IMDB.  But you can find me there today, for my first attempt.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

When I was in a car accident, doctors told me I would never walk again.  But I did.  Because it wasn’t impossible.  Then they said I wouldn’t ever walk normally. 
But I learned to.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

I never suspected I would find myself guilty of planning and coordinating a heist to aggressively rescue a handful of severely abused exotic birds. 
But I did it.  And I don’t regret it.  Because it was the right thing to do, and it wasn’t impossible.


After years of estrangement, I didn’t think my adopted family would ever be a part of my life again. 

But they are now.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

After losing a decade and a half of myself to abusive relationships, turning down 9 proposals and reaching my 40s, I suspected I would never be married. 
But I am.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

After losing a pregnancy in my 20s, getting married in my 40s, and being considerably beyond grossly obese with a thyroid condition, I didn’t believe I could bear children.  But two and a half years ago, I had a beautiful
bouncing baby boy who is my heart, my joy, my reason for being, my everything.  Because it wasn’t impossible.


I never suspected when I accepted my first contract role right out of high school with no college degree, that more than 25 years later, I’d have expanded that experience into a functional career that significantly contributes to our household bills and helps to keep our family afloat, without ever having a “real job.”  But that’s how things have played out for us.  Because it wasn’t impossible.


I never thought of myself as a writer, but then someone turned me onto
this little online project called LJ Idol, where I discovered not only a modest talent, but a true passion for writing.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

I never thought anything I would have to say could be considered valuable, but then I began to share my experiences with others, and have been moved by seeing people take away
lessons from my life that have impacted their own.  Because it wasn’t impossible.

I never believed I could conjure up decent fiction concepts, but then I paired with a handful of other creative types during
partner challenges, who spurred me to realize I’m brimming with ideas.

Because it wasn’t impossible.

I wasn’t sure with only 6½ hours left to write before the deadline this week, I would get my entry in without having to take a bye.  But I got it done.  Because it wasn’t impossible.  ;-)


I haven’t lived an impossible life.  I’ve just surmounted tremendous obstacles, and overcome incredible odds.  Because that’s what it takes to get make your way in this world, one day at a time.


The truth is, I haven’t done amazing things.  Yet.  But I’d like to.  My life is fantastic, and I love it.  But it’s not all that incredible.  Though I want it to be.


For example:

I want our family to buy a house, even though I don’t officially have a “real job.”  Others might say that’s impossible.  But I don’t think so.  In fact, we’re so close now, we can almost taste it.

I do want to get a “real job,” with enough stability to assure me I won’t have to keep looking for the next project 2-3 times a year anymore.  Because constantly selling yourself becomes tiresome after a while.  Like every few decades or so.

I want to use the income from that stable “real job” to set us up with a firm foundation of financial security, and enough discretionary cashflow to fund side projects and hobbies that will pay for themselves.

I want to run a thrifting business that converts one man’s trash into another’s treasure (mostly to pay for my own thrifting obsession).

I want to own and operate rental properties that provide a second chance to the disadvantaged, in preparation for home ownership.

I want to start a Montessori style neighborhood co-op school that in addition to a standard educational curriculum, would also teach children about... developing a love for global cultural diversity, so they don’t have to be afraid of others who aren’t like them; caring for animals, so they understand the importance of safeguarding the environment; tending to a garden, so they have the means to feed themselves without having to suckle from government subsidized corporate mass marketing; managing finances, so they know how to secure their future; appreciating the beauty of art and music, so they can find joy in life; ...and a great deal of other important life knowledge they would otherwise graduate without ever having learned.

I want to establish a restaurant that caters to particular dietary needs.

I want to be part of a regularly gigging performance group.

I want to get back to filmmaking, even to do it enough that I can say that’s what I do for a living.

I want to achieve enough success though my many endeavors to be afforded the external resources that would... release me from the shackles of having to stay forever in the 9-5 grind; let me retire from the oppression of a “real job;” provide the freedom to be at home with my family, to travel the world, and to be able to make the choice about how I answer the question, “What do you do?”


Others might say these things are impossible, especially for someone who came from nothing.  But I don’t think so.  I believe anything you want can be accomplished as long as you have the will and the means to do it.  And if you don’t, well, then, you just have to find a way to get them.  Obstacles are meant to overcome.  And some are harder to break through than others.  But many things only seem impossible at first.  Until they aren’t.


The most seemingly impossible challenge before me right now is managing how we’re going to handle the takeaways from my husband’s cardiology appointment yesterday, which made getting in the right mindset for celebrating our 4-yr anniversary last night something of a challenge.  You see, among other wonderful things that make my husband special, Minion is also a mildly overweight early 40s diabetic with hypertension and a heart condition, who had a heart attack when he was 22, an angiogram a few months before we were married, and an aortic episode that landed him in the emergency room a couple weeks back.  It was pretty scary there for a few days, and I’m not going to pretend it’s not quite a bit still.

Minion has the body of a former athlete — one who maybe let himself go just a little — and is carrying about 30ish extra pounds or so, mostly concentrated around his midsection.  His cardiologist said he has to lose the weight, now, and fast, to get his blood pressure — which has been through the roof lately — back down to healthy levels, if he’s going to have any hope of being able to avoid having to undergo open heart surgery.

She wants him to work more exercise into his regular routine.  We will figure out how to do that.  (We have decided to get him a peddling apparatus for under his desk, and to have him take the dogs for a walk when he gets home in the morning before he goes to bed.)

And, she wants him to go on a fast for 90 days, but since he’s also a diabetic, that’s not an option.  The diet she originally wanted for him is $2000 a month of prepared meals.  But we don’t have it.

I would max out all our credit to make it work, if that’s what it took.  My husband would not be okay with that, though, because it would set us off track for home buying.  And to that I would say, screw getting another house.  I would stay in this tiny little hovel we hate that’s half the house we left, for two years or more, if it meant the difference between having him around another five years or another fifty.

But I know that’s not practical.  Because even if we could tighten our belt, pinch every penny we have, call in every favor we’re owed, and somehow pull it off, what happens when 90 days is up, and now they need more money for some other miracle cure, and we’re flat broke and barely able to make ends meet?

So, we’re going to have to wing it.

And that’s the most unsettling part.  How do we put him on a diet that’s “mostly” fasting, while still making sure he gets enough protein and nutrition to manage his blood glucose at healthy levels?  Especially without a roadmap to follow?

Well, not much of one, anyway.

The rules we have are:

No carbs, no sweets, no salt, no seasoning.  Many more portions of vegetables, some protein.  Mostly water and tea.  Which pretty much translates to: No fun, no taste, no joy; not much to eat, a comfortable relationship with hunger, and probably plenty of headaches.


Minion has been the member of our household who does most of the cooking, because that’s the way he likes it.  But I don’t want my husband cooking separate meals for the baby, for me, and for himself.  That’s way too much work!  The baby needs foods he can eat that don’t negatively impact his development, that we can’t change.  But I can certainly lessen the workload so it’s not an extra step for me.  What the hell — I could sure stand to take some pounds off.  And I’ve never even officially been on any diet.

So, we’re in this together.

Right now, my job for the next week is to eat all the remaining leftovers that were cooked with “old rules” that he can’t have any more, so we don’t waste what we already have.  Then I will join him in this misery for the next three months.  (Holidays are going to be a blast this year!  *sob*)

Boring, bland menu?  No sweat.  Solidarity is a strong ally, and my husband is worth the sacrifice.

Losing weight?  I can do this.  Because it’s not impossible.

Losing my husband — that’s unthinkable.


We are resilient.  We will get through this.  We have what it takes.  We will survive.

Because it’s not impossible.



Keeping the house “guest worthy clean” with 200# of dog and a 2½-year-old baby?

Now that’s impossible!



LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 4 - Topic: IMPOSSIBLE
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Wookie Tuckered Out

Where Worlds Collide

When The Night Closes In

MOTHER is lying in a hospital bed in Tarpon Springs, Florida, severely deformed, alone and dying; too slow for the pain she’s experiencing, too fast for the life she’s lived.  She’s frightened, and not at all ready, and there’s not a thing in the world I can do to help her.

I want to be able to do something more for her, I really do.   She’s a sweet old lady, made of whip smarts and a spitfire wit, a sharp sense of humor and a genuine reason to love me, but, the idea that she and I have the kind of relationship that would warrant the type of response one would typically expect at the passing of a parent is just one more of the many delusions that have comprised the majority of her 70+ years on this earth.  And it hurts me to say that, it really does.  But I can’t deny it’s the truth.

The reality is, she’s not my Mom.

Not really.


My Mom calls or texts me regularly to see how I’m doing, to get the latest status update and find out what’s going on with Mother, so she can pray for her, and for me.   We’ve talked extensively about the impact of this experience on me, especially falling so closely on the heels of my Father’s passing, just a few short weeks ago. 


The latest chapter in Mother’s ongoing adventure of hospital explorations came to my attention a few weeks back, when I got a call out of the blue from a stranger in her neck of the woods, who wanted to confirm that I am, in fact, her relation.   This member of her church spoke with me at great length about his concerns.  At first, it seemed he was informing me of her condition, but, upon closer inspection, I think he was mostly reaching out for help.  He’d been in her house by then, and was overwhelmed by its unexpected state… Her home environment was so slovenly that it more or less amounted to a biohazard worthy of a call to the CDC.  She was not entirely a hermit, as she still worked outside the home, but, she was reclusive, living like the opposite of Howard Hughes… no money, and an aversion to anything that gave off the merest suggestion of cleanliness, completely surrounded by the clutter and debris of a life of total chaos. 

I felt for him, and the position that his family, who’d effectively adopted her as a kind of surrogate grandmother, must have been in, trying to find some way to positively impact her circumstances, rather than returning her to this wasteland, where it was hard to understand how a human could function. 
He was very glad to talk to me, because I was able to shed some light on a better impression of what her life had been, and how she’d come to that point, with a perspective he hadn't had, and an insight that helped to make looking around her hoarder’s nest and observing her extreme neglect of her now grossly disfigured body make a bit more sense… to some minor extent.

But I couldn’t help him, anymore than I could fix her. 

I’d given up that battle more than 25 years ago, about the time I saw her last.

Turns out, however, that particular quandary wasn’t going to remain all that relevant.

Things went very quickly from bad to worse, and, suffice it to say, Mother has reached the end of the line, and will not be coming back home.

*****

I’ve lived a fair portion of my adult life expecting at any point on some random day to get a phone call from some stranger telling me that Mother had left this mortal coil.  I didn’t always know if there was anyone in her life in tune with her enough to even know that she had children, much less to be able to contact any of us.  I think everyone in our family would always have supposed I'd naturally be the one of us most impacted by her death.  At age 3, I’d been old enough to remember her, but young enough to get over being abandoned by her.  My brother and sister, 8 and 7 years my seniors, respectively, were not quite so understanding.  After Mother eventually acquiesced her five year long battle with the state in which she tried to convince anyone who would listen that she hadn’t been a paragon of everything unfit about raising children, my siblings were no longer of the optimal age to be adopted to another family, or to be able to move on quite so easily.  They avoided making any attempt to stay in touch or maintain a relationship.  I at least make a phone call on birthdays, holidays, Mother’s Day, and other occasions I know hearing from me would make her feel special.  But that’s about it.  I learned long ago that the only way to have any kind of successful interaction with a Paranoid Delusional Narcissist with Borderline Personality Disorder is to recognize the relationship for what it is, and to not try to expect anything more from of it.

Mother could never have been any more to me than what she was.  The kindhearted lady who created me was also a weary, tortured soul with neither the skills, nor the coping mechanisms to know how to raise me.  And, I really can’t fault her that, so I don’t.  I’ve long ago put far away in a box on a shelf any childish, foolish hopes for something more than she could give, and, I’ve learned to just love her for what she is, without trying to force her to be something she’s not.

But now she’s dying.


She’s been reaching out to me in these last few days, as a dying parent would to a child in an hour of need, and I don’t really know how to respond.  She plays a game of manipulation, a dance she knows so well it’s second nature to her, in which she rewrites history so convincingly that she believes it herself, and, for a brief moment, she almost convinces me.  She is not ready to die, she wants me to pray for a miracle.  She says God is not through with her yet.  She says she can’t go, she has still has so much more to do. 

She wants to fight.

     She wants to LIVE.


For half a breath when I got the call, I suddenly started into the mode that one goes into when you realize you are faced with one of those situations in life that waits for no one, and cannot be put on hold.  Death takes no reservations.  It gives you a number, and when your time is up, it collects.  It does not linger, tapping an impatient toe.  Death is on its own schedule.  There are no forbearances, and no reprieves.  It will come for us when it is ready, whether we are ready or not.  It is best to hope that we would be; that we could live in such a way that one day is just as good as the next.  But, it doesn’t always work out that way.  In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t.  Yet, Death is never convenient.  Death doesn’t care a thing about your agenda.

MOTHER is dying.

     Mother will be DEAD soon.

          I have to get ready, I have to prepare…

               There’s so much to do, I can’t think straight…


In that mode, I started looking at online airfare costs, coordinating if I could take off work, wondering what I could hire a hazmat team for, and, do they have 1-800-GOT-JUNK in Florida?

And then it hit me.

     …Wait a minute…

          This is NOT my Mom.

WHY exactly am I thinking about jumping through all these hoops???

I had to pause, to think, to regroup.

*****

Nobody wants to die, much less to die alone.  And, I feel for, her, I do… I don’t want her to go out that way.  But, I can’t think about mourning her death, because I’m still in mourning over her LIFE.  I mourn the opportunities that she’s missed.  I mourn the bridges that she’s burned.  I mourn the friendships she’s turned her back on, and the loved ones she’s driven away.  I mourn her body betraying her into the grave now because she has ignored every sign that it has been screaming at her over the last several years as it begged for her attention and her nurture.  She is dying as she lived... in denial.  And when there is nothing left but the end, I can’t suddenly turn back the clock and undo 70+ years of bad habits and bad choices, and pretend like I am the person she needs at her side to show her love and comfort and respect.  I cannot be something that I am not any more now that this is almost over than I could have been able to for the duration of our relationship up to this point.



I called her Pastor today.  I was happy to hear that a large portion of the sizable congregation is deeply concerned over her loss.  I was beside myself with gratitude to learn that they have already dealt with the disaster that is her home.  I am glad to know that she will not be alone, but that she will be surrounded by light and love, and supported in prayer and praise.  I am thrilled to realize she has such a strong connection in this second family she’s created from this church.  Most importantly, I am happy that they will help her to somehow come to terms with this, and accept it, in the hope that she can be at peace.


     Now there’s just the quandary of whether or not I  actually need to be there in those final days.

          How soon can I get there?  Can I afford a ticket?  How long will the trip be?  Will I still have a job when I get back?

     The nurses give me the impression the logistical puzzle is probably a moot point, anyway.

*****

I spoke to Mother on the phone.  I’m not sure she knew it was me.  She called me by a name I don't know.  She talked about a conversation she had with her daughter, someone she thought was in the room at the time, then realized she was confused.  She talked about a day at work like it was yesterday.  She talked about my brother (pushing 50) like he was 12.  She laughed, she joked, she sang... a lot.  She read me something, I think it was the back of a cereal box.  I don’t know if she wouldn’t have been doing the same thing whether there was a person on the other end of the receiver or not.

THAT's not MY Mother.

     I can't help but think it won’t be long now.

I still call her every day, just in case one day she's actually still in there somewhere.  It's always the same.  I remember the last time I actually spoke to her as the person she used to be... it was a good conversation.  I don't really mind it being the last time we talked, in that, I don't regret anything about it.  But, I just didn't know then that there wouldn't be any more... ever.  I keep hoping she'll have a moment of lucidity long enough for me to get through, knowing I may never get the chance... to tell her goodbye, and I wish for her to have peace.  But I may not get that chance... she hasn't really been the woman I have known my whole life for several days now. 

So, if she’s already gone… what’s left?  Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for those left among the living to remember the dead.  But what is there in that for me?  I can't go down there just to be surrounded by a bunch of strangers from her church, remembering a woman neither of us really knows the way the other does.



If mine was anything resembling a normal childhood, or ours was anything akin to a nuclear family, I’m certain that, distance be damned, financial caution to the wind, I would move heaven and earth to be by her side.

     But, it wasn’t, and, we’re not.

*****

My Mom gave us a brief scare a few weeks back, where she accidentally mixed up her Prednisone with her Ambien and landed in the hospital from an apparent overdose of sleeping pills by putting the two different bottles in the wrong place.  She’d gotten up on a Sunday morning, got ready for church, made some muffins, took her medication, and then promptly passed out, unable to be rousted.  Inside of two hours, four of her children (my brothers) were at her side, along with her husband (my dad), and their preacher.  When she was coming out of it, within minutes, we were laughing at her bedside, grateful she was going to be well, with no adverse effects to her health.  She was incredibly embarrassed, but very happy, and we’ve even teased her about her “Ambien Muffins.”  Because if you can't laugh at yourself, what's the point? 


Mom is concerned for me, through all of this.  She spends a few minutes preaching at me when we talked last; she didn't really mean to, it was just hard to pass up the opportunity to point out the lesson I could take away from this example of how a tragic life ends, and how she hopes for so much better for me.  Of course, her idea of better for me is a life closer to the one she understands.  I'm just not there.  I don't know if I ever will be, to the same extent that she would want me to.  She believes in something I just don't, and, I envy her that undying conviction, but, trying to find it at this point is just a little more than I can handle right now.  She apologizes, says she wants me to be comfortable talking to her, and doesn't want to overwhelm me... I know she means well.  I love about her that she has learned to pray for me in that respect without being angry, because she has come to be able to disconnect her love for me from her desire to save me, and, it's the most amazing thing she's ever done — for her, for me; for both of us.  Now she leaves the fate of my soul for me to work out with my God, and she just loves me anyway, so that her sense of responsibility for me no longer has to come between us. 

And I love her for that most of all.




I don’t want to lose my Mom anytime soon.  But if I have to be ready to, I can be.  Because, when her time has come, there won’t be any concerns that she hasn’t done everything that was asked of her.  Whether she fades away over a period of weeks or months, or she is taken by a bus tomorrow, she is fulfilled, and she is ready.  She is loved, and, if it is possible, she will be surrounded by that love in her final days.  We will mourn her passing, but we will celebrate her LIFE.

No, if I am given the opportunity, there will never be any question as to whether or not I’m going to be there at the end of days for my Mom.

     Ø     My Mom, who raised me from the time I was 10.

     Ø     My Mom, who put in the hard work of growing with me through the changes of my life, 
             from at-risk youth to troubled teen, to independent woman.


     Ø     My Mom, who made herself vulnerable to me, with all of my walls and defenses, 
             who demonstrated tough love in the face of my indifference, and stood her ground 
             in the path of my aggression, knowing that she wouldn’t escape unscarred.

     Ø     My Mom, who made mistakes along the way, but who took responsibility for them, 
             who learned there was still more learning to come and more growing up to do, 
             and who found a way to rise above it all, to work through it, and to overcome.

     Ø     My Mom, who has discovered how to forgive, and to let herself be loved.

     Ø     My Mom, who, over time, has come to want nothing more for my life than I want for myself. 

     Ø     My Mom, who finds a variety of ways on a regular basis to tell me that she loves me… 
             for no other reason that she just wants to make sure I know.



*****


We aren’t born with instructions.  There’s no right way to figure out how to get through this life, and, for sure, life is the only endeavor from which none of us will ever make it out alive.

Life doesn’t always work out the way we want, and certainly, death doesn’t either, but, for many of those among us who’ve ever taken time to give thought to the way we might choose to die, there’s a commonly desired image in mind for when we get to that stage.  We may not always have the choice, but, if we do, we tend to lean towards the option to be surrounded by friends and family and faces of those we love, and who’ve loved us along the way, offering comfort and compassion as we pass into the next stage.  But, if we die as we have lived, then, if we want that, we have to be living a life that brings that love and support of family and friends all along the way, throughout the journey, so that it can be there with us at the end, just as it always has been.

And a life like that doesn’t come with batteries included.  You have to build it as you go, piece by piece, one brick at a time…  a smile, a laugh here; a gesture, a hand there; a kind word, a hug… a moment of time... maybe just a cup of water.


With the materials you lay down, you’re paving the road to whatever comes next.

*****


God be with you, Mother. 

I love you.  I will never forget you.

Rest in Peace.




LJ Idol | Season 8 Week 12 - Topic: SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
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Camo Teddy

Shaken, Not Stirred

The Breaking Point

My father used to be fond of telling a tale about me as a toddler, which has stuck with me into adulthood, and gives some validity to the way I relate to the world and move within it even to this day. 

I haven’t retained a lot of memories over the years about the man who contributed to my conception, but this story struck a chord with me where other glimpses into our past together have either faded away, or just don’t otherwise see the light of consciousness too often.  I couldn’t tell you if it was true or not, but, knowing me, it feels like something that very likely could and would have happened, and so I’ve hung unto it as if it was since I first heard it in my teens, clinging to the notion that it proves there are certain elements of my personality which are so ingrained in my nature, they’ve just always been there.

I’m sure I couldn’t do justice to his way of relaying it, but I think I can pass along the general idea.

*****

Mother and Father both agree in their recounts of my childhood that I was an uncommonly easy-going and happy baby even from infancy, always smiling and quietly cooing or giggling, except when I was separated from trusted family members and in the presence of strangers, in which case I screamed bloody murder until someone I trusted was once again in my field of vision, whereupon I would be content to completely ignore my beloved caregiver, and go about my own activities, such as they were.

The setting of the incident Father loves to hoot & holler over was one fairly routine Sunday meeting, during the time that Mother and Father were still married and living together as a cohesive unit with my half-brother and half-sister, and we’d all bustled into the family vehicle together, along with my playpen, as well as all the additional equipment and other assorted accoutrement that usually attend the conveyance of a child under 2, including a rather large array of toys for wee tykes.  Mother was a firm believer in proactive learning, and would only suffer her offspring to interact with devices which doubled as educational enhancements to early development.  (By that philosophy, she’d taught me with the use of creative flash cards to read before I could speak, and always spoke to me in the same manner she would to any other human, regardless of age, so it made for some interesting conversations growing up, but highlights of those can be shared another time.)  For this reason, our family always brought our own playpen with our special toys to church whenever any of us were of the appropriate age to make use of them, and this day was no exception. 

Father had set up the tot-corral at the back of the sanctuary, as was his habit, while mother went off with my siblings to Children’s Church, where she was a facilitator of children’s worship services.  There was a formal nursery in the room just behind the chapel, complete with a window and PA system, so parents wouldn’t have to miss any of the sermon, but Father knew that the parishioners there liked me quite well, and that left to my own devices, I wouldn’t be inclined to disturb the assembly, so long as I was in the presence of a familiar face, and had plenty of materials with which to entertain myself.  Father would keep a watchful vigil over me from a nearby vantage point throughout the weekly proceedings; as an over-the-road trucker, he'd normally spend longer hours than humans were built for with his hindquarters glued in a sitting position, so he appreciated any excuse to stand.

On this particular church morning, another father of a small thing flurried through the double doors at the rear while the address was already in progress, red-faced and sweating from what surely must have been a harried entrance.  He was not a regular member of the congregation, and had missed the posted signs pointing out the available nursery for cherubs such as his.  Spying my playpen, he assumed it belonged to the organization, and dropped in his chubby tub of progeny, at the corner opposite to the space I occupied, like fighters in a ring.  Father raised an eyebrow at this, wondering if this potentially turbulent scenario spelled out trouble waiting to happen, but, knowing my tolerant demeanor, he determined to merely keep an eye on it, without causing a stir for the obviously beleaguered visiting young family.

Apparently, this new addition to my normally solitary environment appeared to be about 6-8 months older than me, and probably twice my weight.  I'm told I looked him over as he began surveying his surroundings, but mostly ignored him, not considering shared space to be an interruption of my standard routine.  The kid began playing with my toys, one by one, and I made no fuss over this.  I had grown up with other kids in my home, and was not naturally possessive of things.  It would seem, though, that the little infidel had not been so benevolently reared.  Like an overly pampered princess, he could find no joy in any single one of my playthings, and so was naturally compelled to experience and/or break, collect and hoard them all.  I made note of this, but did nothing.  If there was some distraction available to me, I was content.

For a while, this arrangement was sufficient.  I had a few toys within my reach, and he began to pile the rest of them around himself, one by one, like a pudgy dragonling drawing treasure into a nest.  He busied himself with shoveling the lion's share of my toys into mounds, working up a sweat while pushing them on top of one another with his miniature sausage fingers, and I was content to pretend he didn't exist. 

This went on for a while, each of us keeping out of the other's way, until he had exhausted all of the baubles in his general vicinity, and began moving towards the remainder.  He crossed the expanse between us on his knees, and continued his quest to control all he could accumulate, which seemed to be everything he assessed.  This had him mustering from my corner, and I left him alone to do so.  There were plenty of toys to share, even with a stingy brat. 

Until there weren't. 

When the young tycoon had finally amassed my entire fortune into his quadrant – all but the one I was using at the time – he came to get the last remaining trinket for his trove.  He grabbed it right out of my hand, and brought it back to his den, while I watched.  I understand I cocked my head like a curious puppy as the last of my novelties disappeared from my grasp, and wandered over to the other side.  I waited until he settled into his own space, and then crawled myself across the now empty space, retrieved a single item from the edge of the heap nearest me, and returned to my corner with it.

As soon as I had done so, the puckish scamp snatched it back.

This pattern went on two more times, until the third time he swiped a toy directly from me.  On that occasion, when he returned to the top of the hill, I ignored the low hanging fruit at the outer ring, and invaded his inner circle.  This time, I swiped the toy he'd taken from me right out of his plump and stingy digits, whapped him upside the head with it, and retreated back to my corner.  After a few seconds of blinking in shock, it took him that long to go from sniveling to bawling.

sniff...

     sniff-splutter-snort...

            wh-wh-whimper...

                WhiiiIIIiine...!

                        WaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaahhh!!!!!!!

It was all my father could do to stifle a chortle outburst and contain himself to muted titters as the weary guest sire scooped up his screaming urchin and hustled out to find the nearest noise dampener.

And I went on about my day like normal, completely unstirred.


*****

Whether this anecdote is an historically accurate account of a moment in my childhood or the fantastic fictional concoction of an overly proud parent, I may never know, but, I've always liked it because, somehow, it just feels like me. 


In life, people will push your boundaries.  They'll take them as far as you will allow them to, but, at some point, you have to know where to draw the line that says, THIS far, and NO further.  And when you're pushed, you have to know what you'll do in response.  In my case, I either learned this lesson very early on, or I simply came into the world with an ingrained understanding that most of petty little annoyances and minor grievances in life will never really matter all that much...

...until they do.

And when they do, there's no need to fuss about it.  There's no changing your circumstances by throwing a temper tantrum or tattling.  Just find the simplest solution, and take it.

Then get back to business as usual...

...because life goes on.



LJ Idol | Season 8 • Week 11 - Topic: OPEN
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and pass it on... 
                                                                                                                                               ...and thanks for stopping by.

Matching Rainbows

...Til the Fat Lady Sings

C’est La Vie


When my cell rang last Monday night, I was a little surprised at the display on the caller ID, because it wasn’t my birthday.   It wasn’t Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or even Mother’s Day.  I was just in the process of making dinner, same as any other random weekday evening, as far as I knew.
 
I listened, mostly.  Generally, that’s all anyone can do whenever she talks.  Usually, she barely takes time to breathe, much less to allow for a response, but if you can manage it, you might be able to slip in a half-interested “hm-hmmm,” every now and then just to let her know you haven’t fallen asleep or left the room (even if sometimes, I actually have).  This time, though, there was a greater sense of urgency about her rambling, almost as if she were in a hurry, which made her dragging out the process of getting to the point a bit more excruciating than normal, and I had to force myself to consciously resist the urge to put the phone on speaker and set it down.  I had to find out what she wanted.
 
When she finished, I thanked her for the information, and went back to my routine.
 
After we’d eaten supper, watched a bit of TV, and Chiclet had showered and headed to bed, I said aloud in no particular direction,

“My Father is dead.”
 
I don’t actually remember what Homebuddy’s initial response was.   I followed up in a bit more detail, relaying the few sensible snippets of fact I’d painstakingly sorted from the discombobulated babble Mother had driveled through the phone.  Wait, no, actually, he wasn’t really dead, in fact… not completely, not yet.  He’d been pronounced dead at the scene when he was discovered alone in his apartment, face down and unconscious, apparently not breathing.  He was taken to the hospital and placed on life support after he’d gasped for breath as paramedics struggled to hoist him into the emergency vehicle.  Mother said she’d called everyone she knew in her church group, and they’d have a prayer vigil going all night long.  (Not surprising… I’m fairly certain she’d do the same thing if she really wanted a new pair of shoes.)   She wanted me to know that it wasn’t over just yet, in case I wanted to pray for him too.
 
     Wait, what?
 
Somehow I’d managed to let her say it without choking.  Pray for him?  Me?  This may not be over yet, but it will be soon.  I'm sure I could just hold my breath until then.
 

Called the folks and told them, mostly so they didn’t find out later and end up feeling hurt that they didn’t hear it from me… not really sure why they’d want to know, but just in case.
 
 
Mother called again Tuesday night.  No change.  I didn’t hold my breath quite as well this time… I nearly got dragged into a ridiculous argument.  I felt my ears getting hot and hung up before it could escalate. 
 
Dammit.  I hate doing that.   Guess I’m not nearly as stoic about this whole thing as I might would have thought, or maybe as I imagined I should be.  

Called Mom.  She reminds me that I’m not crazy, so it’s good to get another perspective. 
 
 
Mother called back Thursday night.  Still no change.  Dillon’s going to pull the plug tomorrow.
 
     Dillon? 
 
Apparently, he’s an uncle.   Turns out there were a few.  I never knew, though I suppose it doesn't really surprise me... never knew a lot of things about the man.   I learned a bit about his background… his father died when he was only 7, mother remarried and had three more children, then husband #2 walked out on them only a few years later… something of a picture of the man starts to form. 

 

Mother gives me a phone number for my uncle, says I should call....  Michigan?  When did he move there?  12 years ago?  Not really sure what there is to be gained from talking to this total stranger but, I guess, he shares some undetermined portion of one quarter of my bloodline, though, I don't really know what that amounts to…
 
       Mother… MotherMOTHER!  You have to let me go if you want me to call him…
 
       
              Hi.... 
              We've never met or spoken, but I believe my Mother may have told you to be expecting my call...
              I guess you could say I'm technically your brother's next of kin...



Talking to Dillon is... surreal.  He has a pleasant tone and demeanor, and I genuinely liked him almost instantly, but it's hard to know what to feel.  He has a history with my father that I can never know, and yet, my history with him is one I can never tell.  To each of us, there are two very different men in our lives who bear the same name. 

Dillon doesn't know about our past.  He didn't ask, and no one told him.  He loves his brother, and I couldn't see any reason to diminish his impression of the man.  He knows that my father didn't abandon his family... he knows that he lost us, and that something that drastic doesn't happen by making all the right choices.


My uncle apologizes for the circumstances under which we are "meeting."  Nothing to be said or done about that.  We exchange a few niceties, and a bit of general get-to-know-ya basic history... how do you sum up the last 4 decades in a few minutes?  What highlights of your life do you share with someone who doesn't know you at all, but has a legitimate interest in wanting to?  What do you ask about the life of a man who is responsible for your existence, but you've spent the last quarter of a century trying to forget?

There are no easy answers.

      But I listen.  And I learn. 

      Was my father still drinking?  Really?  Never?

              I guess people can change...


Dillon walks through the process... he'll go in at 10am, sign all the paperwork, and they'll turn off all the machines.  It shouldn't take more than 15 minutes.

I can begin to feel my face betray me.  My temples pulse, my eyes narrow.  My jaw sets, almost as if instinctively to steel against a quivering bottom lip... my nostrils flare, holding back a sniffle.   And then...

       What the...?  Are those tears?  Am I crying??
 

By the time Homebuddy arrives, I've completely lost my grip on any sense of control.  I don't even entirely understand why.

Homebuddy isn't the best at handling emotion, but he has been around this particular block more than once or twice. 

He told me,

       Emotions can't be "logic"ed.  They can't be reasoned with, they don't need to be sorted... you don't even have to understand them.  You just have to experience them, in your own way.  There's no right or wrong way to how you go through this.  Just let yourself go through it naturally however you do, and know that you will get through it.



I took Friday off work.  The phone call didn't come at 11, or 1, or 3.  My "new" uncle touched base with me by 5.  He hasn't forgotten me... it just isn't over yet... still.  He is gone... there's nothing of him left, but ...it's just a matter of the mechanics shutting down now.  Fifteen minutes passed, hours passed... days passed.  Yeah, I guess he was always kind of stubborn like that, come to think of it.




       Dillon, tell me... was my father a good man?



I don't know how this will end, and I don't know what to make of all of it...

     But this I take away...
 
          Know that no matter what happens, life goes on.

 
So, dwell on it.  Or don’t.  Feel it.  Or not. 
 
       Scorn. Weep. Rage. Sleep. Whisper. Scream. Race. Sing.
 
Dream.
 

     LIVE.
 
          But when you pray, however you do it, move your feet…
 
                 And BREATHE.
 
 

LJ Idol | Season 8  Week 1 - Topic: WHEN YOU PRAY, MOVE YOUR FEET
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South Park Mick

Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

An S for My Birthday

One of the most memorable gifts I ever received came in the form of a single letter. And I don’t mean the type you pen to your pal overseas.

For my 21st birthday, my Mother gave me an “s.”

Now, this was a very special “s”...not the kind you’d expect to see peddled by some Lefty-like huckster out pushing characters on any old Sesame Street...

No, this one came attached to the end of a sibling.


But, wait... maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.


To lay out a little history (which may prove relevant, in case there’s a test later)...

The bulk of my formulative years brewed the quintessence of my persona in a tiny little sharecropper’s cottage smack dab in the middle of a central Florida orange grove, which I shared with an overworked and generally absent mother, the drunk who donated the sperm that became me, and a couple of diamonds-in-the rough with my maternal bloodline in common.

My sister and I used to laugh and play together, and were very close when I was much younger.  I recall fondly our games of
Tickly Tickly Under the Knee ...she did such a good job of pretending to be sad because she thought I didn’t love her when I laughed, burying her face in her hands and sobbing, until I was beside myself in desperation to prove that I really did love her.  She used to push me on the tire swing, and braid my hair, and we’d make forts together, and draw, and read.  She was as good a big sister slash best friend as a 5-year-old could ever hope to have.  But, we didn’t stay close, unfortunately, as the circumstances of our lives took us in very different directions.

My mother worked at least two, if not three jobs, from the break of dawn until late at night, and was perfect, I was sure of that.  She was always tender and gentle, she sang to me sweetly, and I could never feel anything for her but love and devotion.

My father, an over-the-road trucker, when he was around, was never sober, was half the time passed out, and, when he wasn’t, well... you just don’t wanna know.


I have very specific memories of moments in my childhood, though some of them have been twisted and reshaped by time.  Some of the most vivid mental images I’ve retained from vague recollections have been half distorted by the blur of passing years and the fuzziness of childhood dreams and nightmares.

But I know there was a night that my Mother came to us and told us she was leaving.  I remember her crying.  I remember her telling us she would be back for us.  I remember crying, too, and begging her not to go.  I thought I was 5 then.  I thought the next night was the dark, rainy evening that
HRS showed up at our door to collect us.  I do remember the dark & rainy, hot & humid, typically tepid Florida summer night that a rather large, sweet, pretty black lady named Mrs. Simms showed up at our door to take us away, with some other official type people whose names and faces have disappeared, but whose general presence I recall.  I don’t remember being sad or making a fuss... they were nice people, and I was an easy-going, precocious child who generally liked and got along with everyone.  I remember making them wait while I carefully packed all my prettiest dresses.  I remember being excited about embarking on a new adventure.


Sometimes, though, the brain paints the picture most needed to get one through whatever is next to come, leaving out the worst details, and bridging the remaining gaps they leave behind as if they never were.  That’s what my 3-year-old brain did.  It simply spaced those two events together, as if they'd happened back to back, skipping over any lapse of time between, so that I wouldn’t have to believe that my Mother left us there alone to fend for ourselves for two years.  It told me that all the times I remember being without Mother was simply just because she worked so much.  It told me that I hadn’t been abandoned, that I was just extraordinarily self-sufficient, and every time I remember wanting Mother, she was always going to be home soon... she had always just been working, and probably came in after I was asleep.  But, I didn’t find out about these little corrections in history until much later.



That night they came for us, we left the home I grew up in together, the three of us—my brother, my sister, and me.  We spent that first night away in an overnight shelter with a local black family.

(We were in the part of town where pretty much everyone was black, and, if you weren’t, but lived there anyway, then, to the rest of the world, you might as well be.  It took me years to figure out I was supposed to have noticed any difference between people.  In my section of the world, as a child, it just never occurred to me that it should matter.  For all practical matters, to me, it still doesn't.)

That was the last night I would share with my siblings as a family under one roof.  I was 5 years old.


My brother and sister were older.  As teenagers, they had fewer options available to them, and much less chance to be taken in by a solid family who would want to give them a good stable home filled with love.  They went to a Youth Ranch in Clearwater.  As an adult, I can understand that, on some level.  But, even as a remarkably resilient child, losing my brother and sister, who were closer to me than any other humans I knew, was the most devastating blow of all, and losing my brother, who for all intents and purposes was the only genuine father figure I had, was a tragedy beyond any I’d yet experienced.

I spent the next few years bouncing from foster home to foster home.  Florida in the 70s wasn’t exactly known to be a model of organization in the area of social services, though I’m not sure much has changed over the last few decades. By the time I was 8, I was on my 17th “placement.”  It was Christmas, 1981, when a young family with three boys came to visit me at the place I was staying in Eustace. I guess I must have impressed them, because I went home with them the next day.

I was adopted by the following April.


I’m sure every teenager has general issues of growing pains and adolescent angst to be sorted out during that most volatile stretch of human development. Add to that a troubled childhood, and a new set of parents, who haven’t been broken in to either the hazards of raising girls, or the joys of bringing up brood members without blood ties, and you get an extra helping of discord in family relations. As a sensitive and judicious juvenile, both brilliant and headstrong, I had to experience that moment of “what if” for myself, firsthand, and no external influence could convince me otherwise. So, at 14, dissatisfied with my household of non-biology, I set out to rediscover my roots.

I was disillusioned, naturally.

One of the more pleasant details of my reunion with my Mother, though, was rummaging through old photos of hers, and coming across one of her on a badass motorcycle with a handsome young man decked out in black leather.

         “Good night, Mother... rob the cradle much?” I chuckled.  “Who is this drop-dead gorgeous young stud you’re with in this picture?”

                    “Uh, that’s your brother, dear.”

Whoops!  When I asked about him, hoping we could look him up, and perhaps I could reunite with him, as well, she got tight-lipped.  Apparently, my brother had become a model.  And gay.  Mother didn’t approve.  They’d had a falling out.  She didn’t know how to reach him, and that was all she would speak of it. I was disappointed... in some respects, it was like losing him all over again.

She had stayed in touch with my sister, though.  I spent a day at my sister's apartment, got to know her fiancée, went swimming in her pool, and had an afternoon of shopping at the mall with her, sharing a bit of sister time, the way both of us never had the chance to growing up.


My visit with my natural family was short-lived, though, perhaps a bit longer than it should have been.  I was stubborn, after all.   My family-by-law was good enough to take me back in when everything went horribly wrong, and I contented myself to leave the unanswered questions on the path behind me for the time being.


Fast forward three quarters of a decade to me at 21. I’d been living on my own for a few years by then, and Mother and I hadn’t been communicating since I left her 7 years earlier. That is to say, I hadn’t been responsive to her attempts at communication.  I just needed my own space for a while, to figure myself out, and to get over what had gone down between us.  But, she was ever as diligent with her care packages of ridiculous dime store knick-knacks and gas station jewelry.  She always sent a card, and a brief summary of what was going on in her life at the time.  Over time, the messages started to get shorter, maybe as she started to lose faith that I would ever respond.

That year, the card read simply,



                                  "Happy Birthday Darling.  Love you.  Miss you.

                                  —Mother

                   P.S. Your siblings are asking about you."


I stared at it for what felt like hours, but was really only a few seconds, the full weight of the message zooming into focus as if it was the only the thing in the world.

There was an s there.

    An S on the end of that word sibling…

         She didn’t give a name...

    She didn’t say my sister...

She said siblings.

SiblingS.


I might have waited half a breath before I scrambled to whatever part of my home I kept whatever scrap I’d saved her number on.  I might have called information for it. I might have had it memorized.  Or I might have gotten it from my Grandmother in New York.  I really can’t say for sure... it really isn’t all that relevant.  I was going to call my Mother, and I was going to find my Brother.

I don’t remember how the conversation between us went.  Seven years was a long time to have passed between us, but, my Mother has always been the type to pick up as if we’d just spoken yesterday, and she never makes me feel guilty for not giving her more time when she has me, because that’s not how she wants to spend the time she has with me.  I got off the phone with her equipped with the best jewel of knowledge I’d received in almost 17 years.  My brother’s home address, and his phone number.


I felt about 10 years old when I called.  I got a woman... I was sure she was his girlfriend, or fiancée... she could have been his wife, for all I knew (it seems that whole “gay” thing was just a temporary phase).  She told me he wasn’t home, he was working.  I was bursting with excitement.  I wanted to tell her who I was, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spoil it... what if she told him, “Your sister called,” before I could reach him?  What if he called my sister, and didn’t realize it was me?  I must have called every 15 minutes for the next two hours, or however long it took him to get home.  I was sure he’d be in trouble, that she’d think he was having an affair.  She later told me she hadn’t thought so, that I’d sounded so young I couldn’t possibly be someone of an age to have his interest, but she was curious.  To her credit, she was so sweet, and kind, I felt like I was already in love with a new member of my family, just listening to her be patient and forthcoming with me.

When he eventually did return from wherever he’d been, I spoke to my brother for the first time after an absence from him that had lasted over half my life.  I don’t remember, but I’m sure I must have wept joyfully.  I remember he talked to me like no time had passed, like he’d loved me just as powerfully and with as much strength as when we’d last seen each other.  I remember we talked late into the night for hours on end.


My brother is a permanent part of my life now, and never won’t be again.  He was a better father than the man who sired me, a more suitable role model than any man I knew, and the standard by which I judged all men, the rodstick all who encountered me had to measure up to and pass.  In time, I would learn to become gently disillusioned with him, too, the way that every young woman must when she realizes her icon of strength is only human, and fallible, as he inevitably has to stumble.

But that was years of growing up away, and even the clumsiest fall from grace could never change the way I love him.



LJ Idol | Season 6 • Week 16 - Topic: BREAKING THE FAST
This post has been brought to you by an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, share the love, and pass it on...
                                                                                                               ...and thanks for stopping by.