Today is my Daddy's 83rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Daddy! We are among the few in our age bracket who still have our father. Though he doesn't always have us. His mind betrays him in the cruelest of ways. He doesn't always know for sure - anything. He often calls me by my niece's name. I joke that even when I was in my twenties, I wasn't tall, and blonde, but it's a way to mask the pain.
Watching the progression of this disease is both stunning, and terrifying. Having watched so many of our elderly relatives succumb to the cruelty of being lost before we lost them, the fear is there. But it's necessary to move on. I have children, a husband, and I'm still here.
Yesterday was one of those incredibly busy, how did I get myself roped into this, kinda days. Both of our teenagers play in the high school marching band, and there was a big game. If you've got kids involved in activities - you don't need it spelled out. Your schedule belongs to them, and the administrators, coaches, teachers, even their social life. But during dinner with the high school sophomore, the following exchange occurred:
"You're really lucky that neither my brother nor I (they really do talk that way - explains the English test scores) have any desire to do anything stupid like some teenagers."
Me - "Well, I believe you're discounting what my part in this process has been for the last 16 1/2 years." (including the time spent parenting the high school junior, and admittedly said with a slight sarcastic undertone)
Teen - "Well, you must admit that some great parents have idiots for kids, and there are also lousy parents who have great kids. There is luck involved, and perhaps genetics." (did I mention he's taking a psychology course - run for your lives)
At this point, being the exhausted coward that I am - I abandoned this discussion. I would prefer not to hear my parenting categorization until we pass the teenage years. Maybe not even then. Plus the kid has a point. This year has been full of horrors committed by teenage boys, and young men. Boredom, bullying, religion - I really don't care what the reasons are - evil is evil. And I do agree that sometimes great parents have lousy kids, and vice versa. Parenting is a crap shoot.
If you had told my two brothers and I, when we were younger, that we would rally together as well as we have to be there for our father, I feel confident in speaking for all of us - ain't no way. Daddy was not the best father. I won't speak ill other than to say that no relationship between parent and child is easy, but he made it harder than it had to be. But each of us children found a way to move on, and to become parents ourselves, and each of us have found lessons we have embraced, and recognized that he did try, and no parent is perfect, and that he has always loved us the best way he knew how. In other words, maturity happened. Parenting is hard, hard work, and none of us do a great job at it every single day. But like most of life - it's so important to give it a try, a serious try. And along the way, you may find forgiveness and love.
So Happy Birthday, Daddy! We love you, and thank you. (I'm the one who sent the ECU grill cover - don't let my brothers take credit for it - just kidding.)
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I was at the local breakfast hangout in Clayton, North Carolina; that’s either Jones Cafe or McDonald's depending on quality verses how little time you have. I was at the latter. When I walked in that morning (fresh from having dropped my son off at Mother’s Morning Out, my brain full of all the things I could get done without being tugged, hugged and called on), I passed a table of women girding themselves for the days shopping spree. I recognized one and waved in passing. The restroom was calling.
Two of the women from the table came in to freshen up before heading off to an exhilarating day (their words, not mine), of shopping. One asked the other, “Who was that lady you waved to?” The other lady proceeded to give her estimation of me, unknowing that I was listening behind the safety of a stall door. She gave quite a descriptive that made me feel as if I were unfamiliar with myself. “Oh she thinks she’s really something, but she’s just a housewife.” She ended with whose wife I was with other adjectives of demeaning description and concluded with, “She likes to think that she’s a writer.”
What would you do? I thought about it for a nanosecond, which seemed more like an eternity; time always seems to slow down in moments of uncertainty and unkindness. Oh, I’ve faced much worse than the few disparaging words of another, but in that moment I was faced with the hurt only a full grown “Mean Girl” can deliver. Should I stay in the stall and let them walk out? Do I go out with both barrels swinging? Do I swallow the thoughtlessness and carry on?
I walked out, head held as high as I could muster and said hello to both of the women. I smiled, and I told them that I heard every word they said, and that it was fine, with one correction. “I am a writer regardless of what you may think of my writing.” I washed my hands, stepped around them and said I hoped they had a great morning. I was shaking as I walked out to the car, breakfast forgotten, and drove home to clean. Cleaning is a sort of therapy that helps me quiet hurt, gives me time to think, and boy does my home look fabamundo when the job is done. Don’t tell me I should clean for cleaning’s sake, it’s the most boring job on the planet as far as I’m concerned, but when I’m angry or hurt, look out cleaning products ‘cause here I come.
Still, cleaning doesn’t really cut it. Long before I was married and had children, I knew that the part of me that was true, was the part that wrote. It didn’t matter if it was music, lyrics or verse. Writing fills my cup. Between that and singing, I always felt whole. While I live and love for my family, my children, and their future, what keeps me alive is writing. Am I good? Dunno. Do I want to be? Sure. If I’m told I’m lousy at it will I stop? Nope, not in a million years.
Everyone has something, or at least I hope they do. Whether it’s family, career, healing, fighting for justice, decorating, cooking, painting, photography, or one of a million more other loves, something fills all of our cups. To create something that is wholly one’s own, whether recognized by others or not, is a gift to be used. It is a blessing. I could not be Mary unless I had one of two types of keyboards, or a guitar nearby. I may not be good, but I love what I do. I suppose what really got to me was that these women, who didn’t really know me, had honed in on the one thing that sends me. Sounds melodramatic I’m sure, but none-the-less true. It’s too bad that some have to strike out at others to feel good about themselves, so I say a little prayer. “May the Lord bless them and help them find a way to themselves...and may the Lord keep them far away me. Amen.”