I suppose it’s a good thing I decided to dust this thing off.

Yesterday, I received a message from my little brother, informing me that I should probably call our mother. He mentioned that she was old and that she was falling apart so I should really call her. This, of course, set off alarm bells. Usually, if the two of us are messaging each other, it’s regarding his pregnant girlfriend or random other things. We don’t usually talk about anything of substance, so I was kind of concerned. I asked him what was going on, but received no response. This was either a calculated move on his part or he was busy doing whatever he does on the weekends. So, I called my mom and asked her why I had to call since my kid brother was telling me nothing new – we are all aware that my mom is old and falling apart… the two almost go hand-in-hand, one might say.

Thing is that instead of just falling apart, my mom was diagnosed with some serious shit.

She was finally diagnosed with diabetes, which isn’t surprising. She has had hallmarks of the disease for a few years now and I can recall when I was a teenager that she had a theory that she was pre-diabetic. Since my maternal grandmother was diabetic and for probably the same reasons as my mother (diet and weight), it’s really not surprising. And my mom admitted that when she told me, “I’m not really surprised.” Of course, the doctors said the usual advice about how to counteract it – exercise and diet. These are, again, not surprising facts considering it’s what I hear all the time. And the diet part seems to be working out very well for TH’s aunt who was diagnosed with it not that long ago.

I can handle that diagnosis, though.

It’s the congestive heart failure that bothers me.

This is something that my grandmother, also, had in later years. I honestly can’t remember a time where she wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table, not really getting up and doing anything because she couldn’t maneuver without losing her breath. And it wasn’t just lack of oxygen but just simply being unable to do so. And I remember the long, long lists of pills she would have to take daily (not all for the diabetes or the CHF) because of this disease. I watched my grandmother slowly die from this disease – going on oxygen and then having her lips blue more often than not because she wasn’t getting enough – before she finally went into that forever-night years after she had been put on oxygen.

This whole thing bothers me for a lot of reasons, but I think the most is the fact that this is yet another reminder that I have a parent and that, one day, that parent will die.

I remember when I was a kid, I would worry about what would happen to my kid brother and I if my mother ever went. Since our father had died when we were young, it was our mom or nothing. And now, I have to face that reality. I don’t really have to worry about where we’ll go since we’re no longer dependents. But I have to come to grips with the fact that, one day, I will live in a world where my mother doesn’t live anymore. And I will, one day, have to come to terms with the fact that, even though I am an adult and so is my little brother, we will be orphans. This, also, means that I will have to be an adult and do things to … you know … put her to rest when that happens.

I don’t think there is a really good way to deal with any of these things? And I don’t even know how the fuck you would do that.

I know there are treatments available and that, probably, my mom won’t pass on for years. It’s still kind of very jarring, though, to be informed that she was diagnosed. And that, one day, possibly, this is going to kill her.

My Exciting Life.

I very much forget that I need to unburden myself. I live so much inside of my head that I forget what it’s like to actually speak with other people about what I feel and what I think. Too often, whatever I say ends up coming back to bite me later. I may be able to think conscientiously and write in same form, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that my mouth works in the same way. I’m a fast-talking jerk a lot of times. What makes it worse is that I’ve found when I’ve been discussing things of a personal nature – ideas and thoughts, beliefs, and emotions – I’ve had this, also, thrown back in my face. That, at the core, is why I stopped writing here. Too often, I found that what I was saying was being used against me in personal battles and I realized that by publicizing what I was thinking or feeling, instead of people asking for clarification, they used it later to their own advantage.

I don’t really have anyone to talk to now. This has happened often enough to me – the personal battles being waged – that I’ve felt the need to keep a lid on everything going on at home and in my life. This is probably unhealthy. Well, there is no probably about that, really; it’s really fucking unhealthy. But even though I may have learned the lesson to keep my big fat trap shut and to keep my fingers away from my keyboard when it comes to personal items, I know that I’m going to end up exploding if I don’t actually say something. I have so much going on that I need an outlet somewhere and I can’t, in my honest opinion, trust actual people to be the receptacles of all of that.

So, I need to dust this bad boy off and go.

Considering the high amount of stress in my life, and there is a large amount, I am actually doing okay, which is kind of amazing. I really didn’t expect to be able to say that, or write it, in any context. As much as I feel like I am going to explode because of work or home, I am not depressed, I am not having suicidal ideation, and I am not at the point where I make a REALLY BAD DECISION (which is my MO). I don’t feel like I need to seek out a professional and discuss going back on Welbutrin like I did before I was fired from Greed, INC. And that is kind of amazing in and of itself because I am pretty sure that I am under more stress than I was back then. I believe most people call that a “win” and I fully categorize it as such.

I recognize, however, that the background of where I work and the type of work that I do is high stress and is not healthy. The work environment is, well, to be honest, a real fucking nadir. There is no other description there. The woman that I work for is one of those very conservative Christian Tea Party people who think that people should be grateful she willingly gave them a job at $13/hr. Considering the company is based out of one of the states with the highest cost of living, there is, in my humble opinion, nothing to be truly “grateful” for. She has used the phrases “pull yourself up from your boot straps” to discuss people on welfare and has made it her mission to, primarily, hire single mothers with children, recognizing that this category of employees means hard workers who desperately need the paycheck. She doesn’t offer health benefits (she found out it is actually cheaper for her to pay the fines since Obamacare went into effect) and has only decided to offer other benefits, such as 401K and bonuses, in the last six months. Almost like she senses that I am deeply dissatisfied and the tables are turned (she needs me; she needs me bad), I was given a bigger raise than I was expecting and a 401K… six months after my yearly review should have happened.

My largest client is a task master and their desires are completely outside what we actually do. There are a lot of high level projects, which are mostly coming to a close. This means that I may finally be able to actually work within a supervisory role, as I should have been, and be able to actually onboard with other clients instead of spending 98% of my time for a client with only 50 sites under its portfolio. (This is versus the other person who was hired around the same time as me who works with a portfolio with over 600 sites across the country who are not even nearly as needy as my one fucking “all important” client.) Since the owner of the company has recognized my dissatisfaction, she has re-written our scope of work with my largest client and I honestly hope it works to my advantage.

I strongly suspect my largest client will be back within six months, needier than ever. (They are making large mistakes and we are all waiting for the explosion.) Whatever the case may be, I know that I need to find another job.

The problem is that the things I feel that I deserve are not required in this current economy and I recognize that. I feel that I should be paid more than $30K a year, especially considering the work loads that I am willing to take on. I also feel that I should be given to paid time off that I can use to my own desire, where as my current boss feels that sick time should be used for doctor’s appointments and vacation time should be used for vacations only (pretty sure it’s illegal for her to mandate that), and have access to benefits such as health insurance, retirement packages of my own choosing, and more than 6 paid holidays a year. I guess I’m greedy. What [probably] makes me greedier is that I want to feel like the person that I work for honestly cares about my situation, honestly believes that I am a human being and not someone who greedily demands a paycheck. I want to feel as though I, me, this person that I am, is recognized based on my worth and not on what it says on my resume or what it says in my cover letter or what it says on my application.

I fully realize that what I’m asking for is probably next to impossible.

While I have been job hunting, I have had absolutely no bites. Most of the jobs that my background qualifies me for, I am unqualified for as based on what their little “qualifications” section states. More often than not, they would prefer a college degree. This irritates me since most of my jobs have been in fields that a degree is suggested but not particularly required. And just because I’m not interested in bogging myself down in massive debt to get a degree that probably really isn’t going to give me too much of a leg above others in my field seems to be my undoing here. It’s possible that I’m a little morose that out of all of the jobs I have applied for in the last three weeks, I have heard not a damn thing back.

Stress is high in our household, too. We live in a very small place and it seems to only get smaller as the years go by. My son is growing like a weed and we need to buy him a new bed – he’s rapidly outgrown the bed he’s been using since he was a baby. (It was one of those convertible things with like four settings to it.) He’s also broken the hell out of it and his legs are to the point where they dangle over the mattress. I have the money, technically, to buy him a new one but it’s the space in his room that holds me back. His room is probably best described as “half a room.” There is no closet and we’ve managed to squeeze a few things in that room, such as toys, a bed, and a destroyed dresser. If I get him a new bed, I have to also buy him a smaller bookcase, find a better way to store his toys, and get a smaller dresser as well.

And to make matters worse, I have nowhere to store things. We have a basement that is infested with rats that the landlord does nothing about. Technically, we have access to the attic that we share with whomever is living in the apartment above us (it’s vacant right now). But because of lack of storage, we’ve had to block off our attic access to make room for things. I’ve seriously considered getting a storage unit for things like Christmas decorations and Easter decorations, but I can’t even afford that [added] monthly expense.

I think, maybe, things would be less “OMFG WHAT DO” if TH had a job. He was working for his uncle’s company and then made a really bad decision about a month later. I managed to not fly off the handle because of his bad decision making skills, but what was promising to be a benefit to us – new job, new car, money – is no longer available. There are, as usual, talks about him working with his father (again), which of course will put added strain on our relationship since most of the jobs will be out Boston way and he’ll spend most of his time at his father’s.

Rock. Hard place.

Where are my choices?

I can remember that I had plans for my life. I remember when I found out that I was pregnant with my son and after the shock had warn off, I had so many beliefs about what life would be like. I never took into consideration the amount of toil that would go into what I thought life would look like. As I sit back now, six years after my son’s birth, I have to admit that what I had envisioned for myself and what is actually happening are two entirely different experiences. I haven’t quite accepted that, yet. I don’t want to end up one of those mindless drones who just toils through until I hit retirement age. But I have to admit that, with the way things are money-wise and personal-wise, it looks like that may be the case.

Maybe, though, I can toil at a job that I like for more money, though.

That still remains to be seen, though.

“Your Baby Doesn’t Want You Anymore.”

It’s over.
It breaks your heart in two.

It’s Over by Roy Orbison

Things have been incredibly difficult for the last two weeks. TH and I have been having difficulties of varying natures for a while now – some say he is at fault and some say that I am – but I always kind of assumed we’d plod on. I thought of our relationship in terms of the turtle who eventually wins the race. It would just continue to take its sweet as time until one day, we both realized that we had lived the rest of our lives together. That’s probably pretty pathetic. Point of fact, it sounds a little like romantic drivel, in a way. I’m not one for romantic flights of fancy anymore. I’ve grown up and grown past that, but I did just kind of always assume that we’d just always be together.

Imagine my surprise when he says that he’s going to move out. “I think we need a time out,” he says to me.

I wasn’t overly surprised by it. As I said, things have been pretty cagey between us for a while. But, I honestly never thought he’d have the gumption to say that to me. I always thought that if, push came to shove, and anyone was actually debating about leaving it would be me. But I have to admit here that I’m a complete idiot about things, too. I’m that asshole who will always forgive, will always forget, and will always take care of the basics. I will be the one to slave and make sure the bills are paid. I will be the one who takes care of the house. And I will be the one to constantly allow more and more irritations to build up until I finally explode.

It really is surprising that he actually took his balls in his hands and finally made a decision.

It looks like I’m a single parent now.

Betrayal Is Such a Silly Word.

Whenever you start thinking about the word, “betrayal,” you really have to stop for a moment and ponder about how ridiculous the word is. The word, “betrayal,” sends images in my head of kings being killed by their subjects; queens seeing someone else when they’re married to the king; and a seemingly innocuous kiss upon the cheek to signal the armed forces to swoop down and “save the populace.” Really, the word just heralds visions of chivalric missions written by Chétien de Troyes or Wolfram von Eschenbach. The unfortunate bit about betrayal, though, is that it is every bit as adequate a word today as it was back then. Only instead of betrayals that could span across nations, we just get it on a personal basis… which is probably why it hurts as bad as it does.

Last Friday, TH’s grandfather died. It wasn’t a shock to anyone, really; he had some major health issues for years. However, he was still a big part of the family and in other ways, he had been missing. That night, we went over to TH’s mother’s house to help her out. TH’s step-father was out of state getting his daughter’s car in Mississippi, so we went over to spend time with the family. As is normal in the family, there was some fairly heavy drinking going on. That’s just how they are – they’re social drinkers, though neither TH or I fall into this category. I think we drink all of once a month, if that, although TH will drink more often than I. He got pretty fucking drunk…

…and thought it was the perfect time to discuss our relationship, and my asexuality, at 12:30 in the morning. I was trying to fall asleep to some shitty fucking movie (Supernova) and he wanted to talk about our sex life. I shut him down. I was completely rude about it, as well. I will admit that I was over-the-top and an asshole about it. However, I had tried to have this discussion with him in July of last year and he made it seem like I was grasping onto straws with the idea of asexuality. He shut me down back then after I had requested that if we couldn’t discuss it, then he look into it and get back to me with his opinion on it. He never bothered. I think he actually forgot about it until, nearly a year later, he realized we hadn’t had sex in close to 12 months.

Either due to the passing of his grandfather and our lack of a conversation on Friday, TH hasn’t really spoken to me at all over the weekend. I figured it was probably a mix of both, honestly. I was a d-bag about it. In fact, I was such a jerk that I kind of felt bad the next morning. But, I figured he would come to me when he was feeling a little more on even keel. Not only is discussing a relationship right after you find out that your grandfather is dead not good timing, it’s just really a bad idea all around. Let’s ignore the pain I feel at the loss of my loved one so we can have some hard truths about our relationship? Oh, yeah. Perfect idea, that.

Yesterday, they had the funeral for TH’s grandfather. We all went – including R, which did not make me happy to have him there – and we all did the family thing. After the funeral service, we hung out at the club that TH’s family is associated with for a few hours. TH actually maxed out his bank account so that he could get drunk while there. (My face: -.-) R and I left fairly early on but I get the rest of the family went over to his uncle’s house to finish off their mourning or spending time together. Whatever. TH came home and then left again a while later since he had his mother’s car to go tooting along in. After he came home the second time, I think he was home for all of a half hour when he says, “I’m going to BFMA’s.” And I was pretty sure I misheard who the fuck he was talking about, so I asked. Nope. He really was going over to my best friend’s house.

Now, normal people would just assume that in all the time they have spent together with R in the mix that something happened between them. They’d immediately latch on to affair and run screaming from the hills. However, I know that the taste BFMA has in men is not my taste and she has never even remotely been sexually attracted to TH. I know that TH finds her sexually attractive, but I’m kind of over it since all of my boyfriends have always been hot-for-teacher over my best friends. It doesn’t matter what man I’m with or who happens to be my best friend – the guy I’m with has sex fantasies about her and I either have to learn how to deal with it or end the relationship. I’m still with TH, so obviously, I’ve learned to deal with the fact that I’m the ugly friend and my best friends are not. I’m only half joking there.

I decided not to freak out, even though it’s really fucking creepy knowing that your boyfriend and your best friend are talking about you when you’re not around. What made it worse was the fact that the two of them don’t even like each other! TH has told me time and time again that BFMA uses me all the time and that I should jettison her completely. BFMA has told me time and time again that TH is using me and that I should jettison him completely. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Isn’t it fucking hilarious that they both tell me the same shit about the other? If I didn’t fucking know any better, I would assume this is a jealousy thing on both their parts, but whatever. They were talking about me, to one another and they both fucking dislike each other.

When TH got home, I asked him how he felt about talking about me and our relationship to someone he fucking dislikes. He admitted that he didn’t like it. And I flew off the fucking handle. What the fuck is the fucking matter with these people? Is it fucking impossible to fucking realize that the way to have a relationship is to go to your spouse instead of talking to the one person who may or may not know what the fuck is going on? And no. BFMA doesn’t know a fucking thing that is going on between either TH or I because I haven’t fucking told her because it’s none of her fucking business and I’m not going to fucking give her grist for the gossip mill with her shitty ass piece of shit on-again, off-again “boyfriend” to discuss in the middle of the night. Not to mention, if I really need to fucking discuss what is going on between TH and I, then I’ll say something. But I fucking didn’t need to talk about it because, stupid fucking me thought he would be an adult and bring the subject back up.

And that was my fucking mistake because, you know, patterns from the last six years do not fucking show him as ever being a fucking adult.

And he’s not.

He is twenty-five years old and still acts like he is 12.

Whenever we have a “discussion” about our relationship, it is usually me doing all of the talking (or ranting) for who knows how long while he sits there and stares off into space. He gets that fucking glazed look in his eyes that says he’s actually only getting about one word in twenty and only responds when pressed with a monosyllabic response. No matter what I say or what I threaten, nothing ever gets fixed and nothing ever changes. When he’s working, he still doesn’t help me with the bills or with anything else. When he’s not working, he sits around and stares at the TV or his video games instead of cleaning the bathroom or doing some laundry or fucking anything besides being a lazy fucking bum. He does the dishes, though! At least there’s that!

He is a selfish asshole and I fucking put up with him because I still always believe he will change into the man I need. When will I learn that I’m with a little boy and not with a man? It may just be this time.

I think what makes this worse is that BFMA, when I told her not to do this again, came back with how upset TH was and she just was giving him someone to talk to. Nope. Nuh-uh. That will not fly with me because I know him and she’s a fucking idiot. He has online friends just as much as I do. While I was utilizing my resources, I.E. talking to a friend who isn’t going to go back to my fucking boyfriend with every fucking word I said, he was fucking making me distrust the one person in this area who was my friend. They are not friends. They do not like each other. The only reason he turned to BFMA was because he thought I would have said something to her about all of this by now. (And she’s read my asexuality entry, as her comment indicates, so I’m sure she had something to say on the subject.) Nope. Sorry. I’m not going to go running to her about every little fucking thing that’s happening in our life.

The lesson of the story, as far as I can see, is that TH is not an adult, nor will he be any time soon. BFMA is only to be trusted at arm’s length.

And me? I’m the one who gets fucked because I trusted, evidently, the wrong fucking people with my heart and my soul.

I Don’t Know How I Feel.

Not knowing how you feel isn’t really a rarity. As teenagers, we’re taught that our emotional development is out-of-whack in direct relation to our hormones. We go through our adolescence assuming that, one day, we’ll know exactly how we feel, though possibly not why. However, as we get older, the emotions don’t necessarily work themselves out. In fact, I have long periods of having feelings and not knowing exactly what they are and mostly, never really knowing why in the first place. Emotions and all that’s related is pretty fucking complicated – there’s no manual, unfortunately. I’ll tell you, however, that a manual could come in handy right about now.

This morning, I was sent an E-mail from my uncle with the title “passing.” In it was an obituary for my biological, paternal grandmother. Unh. Shit.

As anyone who knows me or who has read this blog knows, the family member that I’m talking about, I do not know them. For those who are unaware: My biological father was not around when I was born at my mother’s behest. He had a chance to make his presence known in my life when Daddy adopted me after he married my mother. A notice is sent to the biological father (or that’s how it was done in the 80s), alerting them that someone wants to step into their shoes. The biological father has the option of showing up to the hearing and contesting the adoption. My biological father never showed up. I’ve always felt that this was a telltale euphemism for any relationship I may have ever wanted with the man.

Don’t get me wrong, as a teen, I wanted a relationship. I was lost and alone and feeling awful inside all the time. For some stupid reason, I thought forging a relationship with a man who didn’t want me was a good idea. I never actually did anything. I had the house number and called a few times. When I got the answering machine every time, I figured it was a sign that I shouldn’t fuck up someone else’s life. It also didn’t feel right, really. My daddy was dead and had been, at that point, for seven years or more. The man I was thinking about would never fill the shoes my daddy was supposed to be filling. And as interested as I am in knowing things like the genetic and cultural heritage of my biological father’s family and as much as I really kind of need to know what sort of genetic diseases I may have passed onto my kid, I’ve left it alone.


When I was living in Texas, my uncle (the same who sent me the E-mail this morning) sent a letter with a newspaper clipping in it. The person features was my previously unknown half-sister. I was shocked and startled. What got me, too, was that the two of us look a lot alike. I’ve always been under the impression from the few photos I’ve seen of my biological father (from the 70s) that I actually look very much like my mother with little hints that a guy helped to make me. Seriously. However, after seeing her picture, I saw a lot of myself in her. The picture in the article reminded me of a class picture I took in the 7th grade. (Mom? Remember that one? You were so mad at me for wearing that green sweatshirt.) After finding out about her, I sent her a letter with information about who I was, where I was living, a little about myself, and ways to contact me if she felt so inclined.

She did, actually, contact me.

I have a sneaking suspicion she never told her parents, though.

So, there I am, reading this article and reading about the family. I got to learn what the full names of my biological paternal aunts are and their kids. Apparently, I have a second cousins now from that side of the family, too. It’s a very interesting article, giving me the basics of what my paternal biological grandmother did and what she left behind. I just spent a little time with my mother, asking her what this woman was like. She’s a complete enigma to me. Sure, technically, she’s a bit of my genetic heritage, but I don’t know anything. All I have from that side of the family are three 70s photos of my biological father at a family picnic at my maternal grandparents’ house and some family heirlooms (wooden birds, a couple of dishes, and some hurricane lamps). That’s the gist of what I know, aside from the pieces I’ve gotten from my mom since my half-sister is curiously incapable of telling me anything I want to know… like what kind of genetic diseases may run in our blood. (I don’t get it.) It’s not much.

It all comes down to, though, not knowing how to feel about this. A person I never knew and would have never known about if my daddy had his way (and you know, didn’t die) has died. She’s technically an ancestor of mine. Do I honor her? Do I muscle in on the funeral they have? Do I try to find out any details from the half-sister who doesn’t seem willing to discuss this with me? Do I do anything? Should I care? Should I have any feelings whatsoever?

I don’t fucking know.

Life is way too complicated and emotions? Doubly so.

Father’s Day.

That’s my dad. He was a Vietnam vet, working on an aircraft carrier. He fixed helicopters.

Today is that day where you honor and respect your father with a daffy card, a family get-together and/or barbecue, and poke fun at him with a shit-eating grin on your face. Unfortunately, I don’t get that particular aspect to the whole holiday. I join other families’ celebrations and laugh along with them, but I don’t have a dad that I can give a card to or say something amusing to. I don’t share a beer with him (not that I would ever since, you know, I don’t drink beer). I don’t eat a hamburger across the table from him, making funny faces at him in between bites. I get the above picture. A stone rectangle with his name, a small epithet, and the dates of birth and death. It seems kind of lackluster. In fact, I can assure you that it pretty much is.

So, the next time you sit down and you’re angry with your father or you don’t call him because you don’t know what to say or you don’t feel like saying “I love you.” Well, I recommend you come back to this post and stare at the stone I have pictured above. I would stare at it long and hard. And if you can’t imagine what it must be like to try and get a loving embrace from a stone… well, we can switch places for a week or two. And then you can tell me just what’s so much more important than giving a flying fuck about the man who helped mold you into the person you are today.

In the mean time. I’ve got a stone to hug and whisper “I love you” to.

My Father Was a Dreamer.

My dad was the kind of guy who would do anything for me. My memories of him are very twisted and difficult to discern. Part of this is because I don’t have very many of them. He was my dad for all of four or five years before he died, when I was seven. Another part is because the whole experience of him dying was beyond traumatic. I did my utmost best to hide the bits and pieces of my father in the dark recesses of my mind. It was my childhood mind trying to protect me from something so tragic and heart-breaking that there wasn’t any telling if I’d be able to bounce back. Obviously, I’m alive and well, so I’ve done some bouncing from the trauma. But it still lives in my heart and in my mind. He’s everywhere and nowhere for me. He’s in my dreams and in my fantasies and he’s right down the road, being all dead and whatnot. He lives in the blood of the veins of the people in his family and the memories they hold to share with me. He lives in the beating heart of my two step brothers and my half-brother. He lives in the mind of my mother. In me? Well. I know he lives on in me. But sometimes, I find it hard to figure out where exactly he is at the moment.

When I was two or three, my mother was a single parent. She was set up on a date with someone she worked with. He was in the printing department of where she worked. Printing was the family’s life blood for my father’s family. They were all printers and to this day, some of them still are. My uncle, the youngest brother of my father, still runs what’s left of the family business. Anyway. He showed up at the door while I was being my young self and doing whatever it is that I did at that time. When I looked up at this man who walked through the door for the first time, I said, “Daddy.” There was nothing more to it than that. As far as my little head was concerned, the man entering our house was my father. And while I don’t doubt he was in love with my mother and all her charms, I only just added to the package. A daughter. A daughter. He had two sons and chances are that was all he was going to have was boys. And here he had a woman he cared for with a daughter. He could be the man on the porch with the shotgun, scaring away the boys. He would be the guy who taught me how to dance. He would take me to a father-daughter dance and he would swing me around in his arms while I was laughing at whatever we were talking about.

Dreams. Dreams. We all have dreams and my father’s biggest, baddest, and boldest was being my father.

I remember that, as a child, the relationship between my mother and father was rocky. He wanted to be a parent and he wanted to be a husband, but he didn’t know how to fix the demons that were eating him alive. And really, there is no other explanation for his behavior. From the little bits that I’ve gleaned from conversations as a child and from the pieces my mother has told me, my father lived with some very big demons. He had a box of things that he carried around with him, wherever he went, and when he was dying, he asked my mother to throw it away. He said not to go into that box, ever, and just to throw it away. Curiosity is a dangerous beast, but he trusted my mother enough to know that she would do with it as he had asked of her. And she did. We don’t know what lived in that box or what sort of monsters were hiding there. All we know is that the box was a kind of cross to bear, his to be exact, and when he died, it went with him.

I remember that, one night, they were fighting and my mom took us over to my grandparents’ house for the night. I don’t know what transpired, but I ended up going with him instead of staying the night with my mom and little brother. We watched Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony on the TV in his room. We were up until late. Another time, he was taking me home from the baby sitter’s house when I started freaking out because there was a bee in the backseat with me. He pulled over, got out, opened the door, and ushered the bee out of the car so that I would calm down. He always made me feel like I was super-duper special and that he would move Heaven and Earth to make sure everything was okay for me. I know that my daddy wasn’t perfect and that he screwed up with a lot of things – one of those harsh lessons all children must learn: their parents are human. But, he did his very, very best to always make it seem like he could fix anything. And as far as I could see, as a young child, that was the case.

But, like I said. Every child has a harsh lesson to learn about their parents and that lesson is that they are human. They are not Superman or Superwoman. They are the sum total of their experiences and they put those into practice as best they can. My father succeeded in some areas and failed in others. We all fail sometimes, but my father’s failure was the biggest. He got sick. He lingered. He grew tiny. He died.

When I was very young, he got sick. I don’t remember when he got sick, but I think it was around the time that I started hiding in the pantry on Fort Pleasant. I remember I would hide in there, trying to fit underneath the cabinets because it was a hiding place. I was a princess in need of rescuing, or something. I remember watching him get smaller and smaller. He was never a big guy to begin with, so watching him lose weight was hard. He started sleeping with his eyes open and that was a weird sight. He had to go to the hospital a lot, but I don’t remember visiting him more than a handful of times. The one clear memory of seeing him in the hospital was, I’m pretty sure, at the Veteran’s Hospital in Holyoke. There were green floors and a big, huge doorway and in that doorway was my dad. He was lying all hooked up and I was playing in the hallway.

My dad contracted AIDS before there were new and innovative drugs to keep it at bay. When he got sick, it was the late 80s. It was still the “gay disease.” It was still unknown and misunderstood. All we knew was that he was going to die. I remember not telling anyone in school that my dad was sick. I don’t know what it was that kept my tongue in check. I wasn’t the most friendly of children and a bit of a loner, anyway, but I had some friends. I could have said something, but I didn’t. I ended up lying later – I told everyone he died of cancer. That was back in the days when most people thought that catching AIDS was as easy as catching a cold. They didn’t realize that kisses and hugs were okay. It wasn’t contagious like a head cold. It just was. And I got to watch bit by bit as my dad slowly went from the Superman that he was in my head to a skeletal figure.

There is something completely heart-rending about watching your parents die. There is something so painful and heart-breaking about watching someone you love and care about so much slowly but surely make the long journey toward death. As a child, you always think that they’ll bounce back. And I know for a while that I thought he would be okay after the right medicine. Isn’t that what doctors do? They give you the right medicine? But, this is around the time that I became disenchanted with doctors and strangely enough, wanted to start thinking about a career in the health field to help other people. You see, the doctors couldn’t fix him. His demons were eating him alive in the form of AIDS.

The night he died, I was awake. I heard my mom crying. I heard my dad yelling. I heard the two of them saying their final goodbyes and then I fell asleep. I dreamed about him. He was talking to me but I don’t remember what he said. And the next morning, I got up and my mom’s best friend was lying in the living room on the pull-out couch. And my entire world changed. The Superman who had loved and cherished me was gone. The father I had was gone. The man who was supposed to love me, hold me, dance with me, scare away prospective suitors, and make me feel beautiful all the time was gone forever.

I was angry. I was hurt. I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t stop the feelings that eat you up. I’m still angry. Why did you do this? I want to ask him. Why were you so stupid? On the other hand, I just want him to hug me again and make me feel safe. I need my Daddy. My mom needs my Daddy. My little brother needs my Daddy. Instead of being a cohesive family unit, or even a close approximation of one, we’re scattered to the winds. Instead of turning to one another with our pain and our hurts, we’ve pushed one another away and looked for a new start. Instead of bonding over the loss, we hurt each other more. And I blame him for that, too.

But I also love him.

And I miss him.

And I know that he’s watching over me. And I know that he hears me when I talk to him at his grave. And I know that he has a thousand words to give me, but I can’t hear them.

There’s a hole in my heart the shape of my father. And nothing will ever fill it.

Reminiscing: The Grandmother Who Was Not Mine.

For a very long while now, I have been trying to write an entry about my paternal grandmother. Hell, for even longer, I’ve been trying to write an entry about my dad, but I settled on my Gramma L first because she’s a bitchin’ lady. She’s one of those people who deserve to be remembered. The thing about Wilma (yes, her name was Wilma) is that in talking about her and writing about her, I think I’ll be opening up a big ole can of worms. It’s because of this that I’ve been putting her entry off and off. I’ve gotten anecdotes from my mother as I had asked for when I was writing about my maternal, dead grandmother. I have a general idea of what I want to say, but it’s been pretty difficult to get out there. It’s all of that armchair psychology horse manure that I like to do only once in a blue moon, really. It causes a lot of problems and I get the feeling that with this entry, I’ll end up doing that and dealing with those problems.

I don’t have a lot of memories of my paternal grandmother. She died when I was nine years old, about two years after the death of my daddy. So, to clearly say that I remember her is difficult. As time goes by, even the memories that I cherished of my father are replaced by things that I’d rather not have replace him. The same goes for the memories of my Gramma L. I guess it’s just the way that life ends up: you forget the things from your childhood as your memory spots are replaced by things like children’s birthdays, ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar, the kids’ favorite foods, grades in school, the time period in China that the Black Death showed up for the first time, and other ephemera related to growing up and being an adult or merely, miscellanea that thinks it’s a good idea to take over said spots.

My grandmother lived in a giant gray Victorian. It’s because of her that I have had a life-long obsession with the idea of owning a big gray Victorian with black shudders. Her house wasn’t very large: three rooms on the first floor and three rooms on the top floor, but it was wonderful. I loved going over there for the family parties and spending time there. There was a window seat in the dining room with pillows in the big bay window. I remember dreaming of sitting there with a book during the high days of summer. I remember being excited when I got to walk up and down the tiny steps that led to the front walk. I remember enjoying the swinging in the porch swing that was on the left-hand side of the wraparound porch. I remember running around the grass in the summer time and burying dog bones under the bushes with the other cousins. (My grandmother never stocked cookie treats or anything like that, but she had dog biscuits in abundance for her two dogs.) I also remember one summer where a cousin of mine set fire to the front lawn, but that’s not my story to tell. All I can say is that my clearest memories of my grandmother have to do with the big gray house she lived in until she died and that I never saw again after that.

Gramma was pretty big on building things. She liked to create things with her hands. This is probably why when she re-married to Papa, she chose a man who could build with his hands. He would create things, just like her first husband (who was a woodworker). Papa was big on making clocks, if I’m not mistaken, and re-building old cars (I’ll get into a post about him one day… and as a quick note, I found his Stanley Steamer while doing a whimsical search.) But, my Gram didn’t work on the cars or the clocks, as far as I know. She worked on sewing things and creating things. It was because of her, I think, more than anything or anyone else that my mom started getting into things like that. But, her biggest creation things were the building of dollhouses and the giant train set that was set up in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

All of us kids loved to watch this train set. She would turn it on for us to watch the trains go by, but I was more fascinated with the intricate details that went into creating the landscape. There were tunnels and houses and signs and people and bushes and animals. They were all so tiny. I can remember wondering just how much time she put into the creation of the thing. I know that it was a love of trains that my father had later in life because when we were packing up the basement before we moved to Texas, my stepbrother stumbled onto his train collection. I wonder if this was a bonding point between the two people who I loved the most and died on me, or if it was because of one that the other because interested. I’ll never know because, unfortunately, I can’t ask them. But, I’ve always kind of wondered what the correlation there was.

My grandmother had a pretty bad memory as far as birthdays went. I mean, probably, it wasn’t her fault. She had twelve grandchildren by that point (if I’m counting up correctly), on top of her five kids and their spouses. So, in an effort to keep anyone from feeling left out, she cooked up the best scheme in the history of ever, which was entitled Everybody’s Birthday. Oh, sure. We all had parties that family was invited to during the proper time, but my grandmother celebrated this one day a year for everybody. My mom tells me that she held it around her birthday, probably as a way for all of us to remember her birthday in turn: my gramma was smart as hell. So, every year, we’d get together and do something. I remember the renting out of a baseball diamond. The kids all had one diamond and were practicing how to hit the baseballs from the t-stand things while the parents were doing a real baseball game. Well… real is relative: there was alcohol involved. Then, another year, I remember we went to the circus, but this memory is vague. I was probably only three or four at the time, honestly.

But the thing that I remember most about my grandmother is how much she loved me. She always made me feel very loved and very happy. The thing is that on that side of the family, I never really felt as though I belonged. Sure, I did to an extent, but I did not really feel comfortable with them. I was a dork, a homebody, a reader. My cousins were all about toys and playing and Barbies. Later on, I was still a dork, a homebody, a reader, and self-composed while the rest of my cousins were interested in popular music, boys, and makeup. I never felt very comfortable there, but my grandmother made me feel as though I belonged. I remember a feeling of purity and light and love from that woman. I think, honestly, the learning that my daddy was not my daddy would have been a smoother transition if she had still been there to make me feel welcome and at home, but she wasn’t. And I got to sit around after the fact wondering if the out-of-place feeling I felt with that family was my fault because, technically, I didn’t belong, blood of their blood, or if it was just the loss of a woman who always made me feel at home.

The thing about my grandmother, really, is that she was larger than life. She loved everyone and everything. Okay, yeah. I’m sure there were things that she didn’t like or thought better of, but you would never know it. She was so full of vim and vigor that you were caught up in the spell she wove. How often do you hear of a woman who divorced her first husband, remained friendly with him, remained friendly with her ex-husband’s new wife and her kids, while also bringing the family together at least two to three times a year? I mean, yes. I’m sure the weaving of the miscellaneous parts of the family were also because of Grampa B and his nature, but I think it says a lot. She would gladly welcome anyone into her home. It wasn’t that we were all a ragtag bunch of blocks on the same quilt: we all belonged together.

And that, more than anything, is who my grandmother was, who my grandmother is, and who my grandmother will always be as far as I am concerned.

To Wilma, the woman who always made me feel like I belonged.

Reminiscing: My Grandmother Was the Chuck Norris of Our Family.

As a child, whenever I thought about my grandmother or I was at her house, I always thought of her as the be-all, end-all. My grandmother’s persona is something that I whimsically refer to as “dour Catholic.” This is that cool, standoffish persona that doesn’t convey cookies and playing with dolls. This is that remote personality that looks down from on high. In reality, whenever I thought of my grandmother, I thought of her as a god type figure. I think it was the remoteness of gaining access to her inner sanctum: everything was private and, as a child with curiosity coming out of my ears, inaccessible. There weren’t hugs and kisses and picnics and sleepovers and all of that jazz. The grandmothers that my friends may have had is not the grandmother I had.

I had Chuck Norris with old lady glasses, a cane, and a “this is how it is or you will eat my shoe” attitude.

My grandmother ruled the entire world from the kitchen table and you would never, ever forget it. She was the reigning dowager of our family, even though my grandfather was there to back her up. (And from what I’ve gathered, it was my grandfather who did the “this is the way it is” when my mom was a kid, it was my grandmother by the time I came around.) My family was matriarchal by design—there being three girl children and only one boy in my mother’s generation and a myriad of girls in the next—so when I say that she ruled the family, our lives, and the world, I can safely assure you that I’m not joking. She was the center of our universe. And it always began and ended with that damn kitchen table. (Aside: when I have the ancestral altar of my daydreams, there will be a kitchen table scattered with lists upon lists and fake flowers in the center in honor of my grandmother and her awesome ownership of three generations and counting.)

I’m going to pause here and talk about the kitchen table for a minute. In all of my memories of my grandmother, the kitchen table is the very center. She was always sitting at the seat in front of the kitchen sink and to the right of the old-school stove. She was always just right there, waiting for everyone to descend upon her in the visitations that we had numerous times a year. The kitchen table is some old table, completely round. It took up most of the kitchen area. It was covered in detritus of her daily life and newspaper clippings she found of interest. I can remember one about baby pimples that she passed out to the new moms of our family. But, the center of the table held a pot of flowers, although I can’t remember what kind. The rest of the surface was covered in her lists. She had thousands of lists, OCD being her big bad genetic inheritance. They were almost always of the hundreds of medications she was on her for her depression and her heart disease and her COPD and her other ailments. They were everywhere. There was mail and bills and reminders. That kitchen table was the central focus of her world and it was our central focus of her, too.

The reason the kitchen table was the center of the universe was because my grandmother was crippled. I don’t know when it happened. My recollections of her as a child always had to do with her cane. It was fascinating to my little brother and I. I remember stealing it (along with the SKELETON KEYS) and running around with it when my little brother and I would go over there. The story goes that the crippling was my grandfather’s fault: they were at a store and he ran into her Achilles tendon. This story has been passed along as a warning for all children of every generation of our family, thus far. I can still hear my mother yelling at my brother and I about grocery carts not being toys and the damage you can do to each other with them. “YOU WANT TO BE LIKE GRAMMA?!?!?” I’m not sure how these admonitions have affected my little brother, but I’ve heard my mom’s words come out of my mouth at both TH and TS whenever we go grocery shopping.

My grandmother was pretty big on gaining information in various forms. Before the Internet, our very own Mark Zuckerberg decided that the best course of action was to utilize the four children she had at her disposal. So, she would pass out “assignments” to someone about whatever it was she wanted to know. At one point, she asked my aunt to learn the last name of the guy who owns Manny’s TV and Appliances. On another occasion, she was reading a book with ninjas in them and demanded that my uncle ask his Japanese co-worker about them. (He did, for fear of his very life and limb or because he didn’t want to hear it. The guy gave a brief description and then did a karate type move and yelled something like: “Now you must die!” There’s no telling if my uncle illustrated said movement for my grandmother at the time.) Nowadays, you’d just hop on Google and look this shit up. Back then, networking was the only way to go.

I asked my mother to give me a few thoughts about my grandmother. She mentioned that my grandmother couldn’t carry a tune to save her life. I wasn’t aware of this; I think she had given up Happy Birthday singing by the time I can clearly remember. There’s also an amusing joke that runs in our family to this day, years after my grandmother has left us. There were three girls living in that house, with my mother being the youngest. Aside from knowing her son’s name off the top of her head since he was the trouble-maker, she tended to confuse my mom with my eldest aunt. We joke know and call my aunts La-Debbie and Landrea. Oh, another anecdote: My grandmother randomly changed her name and not in the legal way. Apparently, Joan wasn’t a good enough name for her so she changed it to Joanne at some point. This was an amusing source when my aunts were cleaning out the house since some things were addressed to her as Joan and others as Joanne.

In reality, my grandmother was tough-as-nails. She lost two babies to the RH-factor after my mother was born. This was before life-saving measures and abortive attempts. She had to carry both of them to term and deliver them naturally. This little sad story is probably something that helped to prematurely age her and maybe, just maybe, it helped to give her the “dour Catholic” persona I mentioned earlier.

There are other stories about my grandmother that I’m sure my mom would flip if I shared. But, those stories aren’t mine and they’re not about my grandmother.

My grandmother was that woman who could survive the Zombie Apocalypse. My grandmother was that woman who could get through whatever was thrown her way. My grandmother was the terminal hoarder. My grandmother used to laugh and end up in a coughing fit. My grandmother is that woman with the nasal canula to attach her to her oxygen tank. (The very same lines that my cousin, my mom and I used to crimp to see if she’d notice, since she swore she would. She never did.) My grandmother is Betty White with Chuck Norris mixed in…

…and she ruled the world from the kitchen table.