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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I remember when my Grandma died.
I grieved like I’d never stop.
But I don’t think I realized, even then,
just what a void she was leaving in my life.
That came later,
in those times when I would have given anything
to have someone on my side.
She always was, you know.
I could be as wrong as I could be,
but I wouldn’t hear it from Grandma, oh no!
She was for me, no matter what.
She couldn’t help herself.
She just loved me that much.
At the time, I never realized
what a uniquely precious gift that was.
But I do now.
Every time I smell the scent of peonies,
I think of her in her brightly flowered silk dresses.
I remember my small hand
in her rough, work-hardened one
as we’d head down the sidewalk to church,
the summer sun beating down on our heads.
I always felt so proud to be with her.
I remember how she’d let me do
all the things other grown-ups forbade –
like jumping on the bed, “cooking” in the kitchen,
and staying up way past my bedtime.
I realize now that when I lost her,
I lost one of the best friends I’d ever have.
One thing does comfort me, though.
It’s said that if even one person remembers you,
then you’ll live on forever.
Well, I do, Grandma.
Believe me, I do,
and I always will.

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My Daddy

Sunday was the 17th anniversary of my father’s death.  It has been so long and yet, never a day goes by that I don’t think of him.  Since my mother died when I was eight, he was the biggest part of my upbringing.  I have his eyes, his handwriting and his creativity and I miss having him in my life.

I’ve often wondered what he’d think of this world I live in today.  Right off the bat I can say I know he’d think Facebook and Twitter are the most ridiculous things ever invented.  And I can see him unmercifully teasing any of his friends who “tweeted.”  He just wouldn’t think that was a very manly thing to do.

He would also be horrified to discover how little respect the United States has throughout the world.  To hear President Obama apologize to other countries for America would infuriate him.  My dad was unapologetically patriotic.  He and his two brothers served their country in the Navy, Army and Marines and fought for the American way of life.  No, he wouldn’t be pleased with the way our government is going at all!  You know those guys who always have a little American flag pin on their lapels?  Well, my dad was one of them. After they got out of the service, he and his brothers all became policemen.  We were a family that believed in law and order.

On the other hand, there are some things in the world today which he would find amazing.  Daddy was a gadget guy and I think he would marvel at the new technology that was unheard of in his lifetime.

Even though I, personally, am not particularly into cell phones, not to mention “smart phones,” I could see my dad with an iPhone.  And furthermore I can imagine him becoming obsessed with all the apps.  A phone that could serve as a GPS,  play games and make sound effects?  He’d be like a kid in a candy store!

I could also see him with a Kindle.  He loved to read and the idea of being able to carry more than 1,000 books around with him would certainly appeal.   And I know he’d be delighted with the idea that there are cameras that take pictures which you can immediately download onto your computer.  It’s too bad he never lived to see that.

If he was alive today, I think he’d be one of those senior citizens who aren’t at all intimidated by computer technology.  And the one gadget I’d probably want to buy him would be an iPad.  Since he was an artistic kind of person, I think he’d be blown away by all he could do with it.

Ah, but he’s not alive.  And I can only hope that he’s in a place where even greater marvels exist.

Meanwhile, his legacy lives on…in me.  I only hope I can do him proud.

 

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Something In The Wind

sky2Do you ever find that a certain kind of weather triggers a memory of a certain time and a certain place?  It happens to me all the time.  The other day, I stepped out onto my balcony, immediately being assaulted by a chilly breeze. The trees were wet and the day was very overcast.  There was a taste of autumn in the air and I was immediately transported to a moment in my sixteen year old life.

I had been fighting with my stepmother all morning, and had taken refuge out on our screened- in porch to escape the sound of her voice.  Out there, I could still hear her telling my dad what a trial I was.  She was saying I was too independent for my own good and had a smart mouth.  I could hear him trying to pacify her, like he always did, explaining that “I was teenager,” etc., etc., etc.  She pointed out that “her girls” were teenagers, too, but were nothing like me.  And then I heard the words that would change my life forever.  He apologized for me! Or, if you will, he betrayed me.

This had been what she had been waiting for.  Now she calmed down.  Now that she had made him turn against his first-born child, her job was done.  Their voices faded out of my consciousness as I fought back tears.  I gazed into that moody sky and realized the truth – that I was on my own, truly alone.  I wondered, as I had done a million times before, how my life might have been different had my real mother not died so young.  I could hardly imagine what it would have felt like to have a mother who really loved me, or a stepmother who hadn’t resented me from Day One.

What I’ve always had trouble understanding is how my dad could have changed so much.  When it was just him and me, he was my best friend in the world and I know he loved me.  He taught me how to play poker, how to draw, how to use my imagination.  We had so much fun together.  When he took on a new wife and other children, I guess he was just spread too thin.  He should have known the pain I was in.  He should have seen how two-faced his new wife could be, always talking about what a good Christian she was, while exhibiting cruelty to me whenever his back was turned. But, I guess he was only human.

Meanwhile, I’d go through the weekends, yearning for Monday when I could go back to school, a place where I was accepted, where I had friends.  When my teachers spoke to me, I didn’t always have to brace myself for criticism like I did at home.  It was a safe place, a place where I wasn’t the “one bad apple” who spoiled my stepmother’s idea of a family.

I gazed at the sky that day and knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t count on daddy to stand up for me anymore.  I would just have to stand up for myself until I was old enough to make my escape.  I’d have to look at myself in the mirror and say over and over, “You’re NOT a bad person!”  And so that’s what I did.

A few minutes later, my dad stepped out onto the porch, saying, “I want to talk to you.”

“What about?” I asked, hope rising in my chest.  Maybe he would apologize to me for her!

“I think you should go in and apologize to Mable.  I think you hurt her feelings.”

I started to protest, then stopped.

I looked long and hard at him, then smiled…and gave up hope.

And things were never the same again.

Star Signature

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Mom & CarShe was so young, just a girl really, at twenty-eight, but also a wife and a mother.  When she dolled herself up, she had  an old-school kind of glamour and loved vamping it up with red lipstick, flashy jewelry and exotic perfume.  When I’d watch her at her dressing table getting ready to go out, I remember thinking, “that’s how a princess would look.”

She had dancing eyes and a ready smile and had no trouble making friends, both men and women.  She liked being the life of the party, and oh, how she loved to dance!  When the music was playing, she couldn’t keep her feet still.  I remember her holding me in her arms and us doing the boogie-woogie around the kitchen.  She was so full of life and light.

Who knows what she could have accomplished in this world or how many lives she could have touched?

Unfortunately, we’ll never know because she died fifty-one years ago today…

– never to realize her potential,

– never to see her little girl grow up to become a woman,

Mom & little Me

– never to be forgotten.

I miss you, Mom.

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“Daddyisms”

My daddy passed away fifteen years ago, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about something he did or said.  Just yesterday I was leaning on my balcony rail, staring at the trees, and remembered how flustered he’d get, trying to get his whole family into the car to go somewhere.  He had five daughters and a wife and felt very much in the minority as the only male.  When the last one of us was ready and in the car, he always, and I mean always, said, “Well, we’re off like a herd of turtles!” The phrase was so much of part of him that I never, until now, thought about how funny it was.

He was just full of little adages.  Whenever I expressed doubt as to whether or not I could do something, his favorite one was Can’t never did do anything!” Whenever he was leaving the room to use the restroom, it was always, “Excuse me, ladies.  I’m going to see a man about a dog,” in sort of a snooty Jeeves-the- butler sort of accent.  If I worried that I was too chubby, he’d frown and say, “Bah!  You’re so skinny you’d  have to stand up twice to make a shadow!” Of course Daddy’s taste was women “who have something to grab onto!” To which I always replied, “Gross!”

And this language wasn’t just reserved for family.  One time I was eavesdropping as he and a friend were drinking beer out on the screened-in porch.  I don’t know who they were talking about, but apparently my daddy didn’t care for him.  I heard him say, “He’s so crooked that when he dies, they’ll have to screw him into the ground!” Such an image!  No wonder I grew up creative.

I figure a big influence on his language was his mother, my Grammy.  She, too, had her own way of expressing herself.  She was always “up with the chickens,” and my cousin and I were usually  “full of piss and vinegar,” an expression I’ve found myself using more than once.  She never “intended,” she “fixed.”  “I’m fixin’ to make some pies.” “I’m fixin’ to go to town.” To her I was “no bigger than a minute.” And the useless bum that lived across the street?  He was “uglier than homemade sin.” For some odd reason, that’s another one that has stuck with me, although I’m not truly sure I know exactly what it means.

So I obviously come from a background of very colorful and creative language.  But, looking back, I do have a favorite.  My dad was a policeman and was a sergeant throughout most of his career.  Whenever he’d stretch out on the sofa for a nap, he’d cover his eyes with his arm and murmur, “Wake me up when I make Chief!”

I’m smiling even as I write that.  It seems to exemplify the man my dad was – funny, hopeful, down to earth.  And yes, one day he did make chief…albeit of a smaller police force, so maybe there was a little magic in those words.  At any rate, much of who I am today can be attributed to the lessons I learned from my daddy.

And I miss him.  And I guess I always will.

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RR draws turtleDear Randi,

Yesterday was your birthday, and the first since you were born that I didn’t buy you a card and presents, since you cut all the ties that bound us together as sisters.

It’s funny how, even now, I remember with such clarity the day you were born.  It was a Mother’s Day and I was so excited that my little sister had arrived.  When they brought you home from the hospital, you were a wild-looking little thing, with dark hair sprouting all over your head.  But I still remember your intense little eyes with long eyelashes, appearing to study the world like a mini professor.  Daddy said you looked like a little monkey, but I think he just said that to make me mad.  Grammy called you her little Indian princess.  And all ll I felt was… love at first sight.

Through the years, you were my “little buddy,” constantly toddling behind me asking, “Whatcha doing?” and “Where are you going?”  You used to beg me to put makeup on you and to polish your finger and toenails, knowing I was putty in your hands.  I’d often find you out squatting in the yard, in your little shorts, crop top and long trademark braids, administering to a family of web worms you had discovered.  You’d pull me over and proceed to point out each one, telling me its name.  You were an absolute delight to me and our closeness grew from there through your teenage years and on into womanhood.

We had such a unique and precious bond, reinforced yearly by our “sister trips” to New Mexico.  We had our regular haunts there – Gila Bend National Park, the White Sands desert, Smokey the Bear’s birthplace for you and the UFO Museum at Roswell for me.  What times we had!  We could literally finish each other’s sentences and crack each other up with merely a look or roll of the eyes.  We were not only sisters, but friends… and you threw it all away.

But, you know what?

You may be able to forget all those times I helped you through homework and heartache.

You might revoke all those promises you made to me saying, “I’ve got your back, no matter what.”

You might try to negate all the loving things I did for you, too numerous to count.

You might nullify our bond, deny our sistership, and withdraw every scrap of love and loyalty you once had for me, but…

You can never, ever, erase all the memories I have of being your big sister, laughing with you, wiping your tears and holding you close to my heart.

Those are mine, and they always will be.

Love,

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When my dad remarried, I suddenly found myself with two stepsisters, one of whom I’ll call “Fern.”  Although she was close to my age, I never felt close to her because, even from a young age, Fern had decided her career – being a hypochondriac.  No cut was too small, no ache too insignificant for her to capitalize on.  Things that would just annoy the rest of us, would send her to her bed, moaning and groaning.

As she grew into adulthood, she managed to turn being ill into a competitive sport.  You have a headache?  She has a migraine.  You cut yourself with a kitchen knife?  She almost lost a hand.  You have an eye infection?  She’s going blind.  No one was allowed to be sicker than Fern.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Poor thing!  It’s a cry for attention.”  And, maybe it was.  But here is the sticking point.  She could be in bed with what she was sure was the final stages of malaria, but, wave tickets to an amusement park in front of her and it was “Glory Hallelujah!  I’m healed!” She’d spend the rest of the day riding every ride and having the time of her life. Or, after telling you she spent all night vomiting and was so weak she could hardly lift her head off the pillow, you’d see her an hour later, glued to Star Trek on TV and laughing her ass off.  Doctors could never find anything wrong with her, at least physically.  It was always very obvious that she was only sick when people were watching.

With this attitude, you can imagine what kind of employee she was.  She lost job after job because “it hurt my back” or “they pushed me too hard and I’m just too weak.”  She found the answer to this by becoming a life-long welfare recipient.  Now she could spend her days outlining her maladies to like-minded neighbors, all on the public dime.  I don’t remember her ever asking any of the rest of us how we were.  I don’t remember her ever doing anything kind or giving to someone else, because, in her mind, no one was doing as poorly as she was.  She was desperate for people to acknowledge how sick she was.

And then, she got her wish. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  And, rather than put her into a deep depression, it almost empowered her.  In fact, when my stepmother left me out of her will, including a share of the house my father wanted me to have, Fern was one of the most vehement that I receive nothing.  (After all, it meant more for her!) Even as she was dying, she was badgering the executor for this item and that of her mother’s, just as if she had stumbled on a big sale on eBay.  I remember once seeing a cartoon of a tombstone on which was engraved, “See?  I told you I was sick!”  In a sense, that would fit Fern perfectly.

She died on April 9th.

And, what do I feel?

I’m sad to report…I feel absolutely nothing.

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