this is what happens when i think too much. dammit.

I had some trouble with my last post. I’ve written about it before, but this time it was very different because this time, my dad, who the post is about, ended up calling me several times throughout the writing of it.

The first time I really wrote about the incident was in my college days–20 years ago. I fictionalized it, of course, because that’s what I was doing in school–writing fiction.

Writing for me has always been very therapeutic. Truth be told it’s the only thing I knew how to do other than stuff my face with food. I was lucky enough to get into an arts college that didn’t require SAT scores, no admissions testing. I was lucky that my mom has always made so little money that my entire four years at school was paid through financial aid save for a couple hundred dollars every semester.

My dad covered that.

I worked through college, too. I’ve been working since I was 12. Obviously not truly legally till I was 16, but even at 12 I’d work my ass off helping at a family owned business to make some money here and there.

My mom was always so poor–all of her money going to booze and men. So I needed to buy toilet paper and shampoo at times. And when I was older there was the electric and gas bills that needed some help.

I’ve really harbored some ill feelings toward my mother most of my life. I blamed her for a lot of the things that happened–all the moves, all the new fucking schools, the shitty clothes, the lack of car. She was a drunk. She was a whore.

But she was my mother and I lived with her.

My dad, I saw on the weekends. Every fucking weekend. I lived with him for a couple years in college because it shortened the commute. He slept on the pullout in the living room while allowing me the only bedroom in the apartment.

My dad always got me things. It started when I was much younger–a new bike, meals out, go-carting, miniature golfing, clothes, Nike’s. I knew then that he was trying to buy me. And I knew it pissed my mom off because she couldn’t afford any of it (though she always had beer or hard liquor). So I tried not letting her know of the things he got for me, while I allowed him to keep getting shit for me.

I felt bad for my dad my whole life. He was such a good man. He just wanted to be married with children, to be a family man. But his wife had other plans and two of his three children wanted nothing to do with him.

And then there was me.

I wanted nothing more than for my family to be a family. I wanted us all together in one home. I hated the split weekends and holidays and vacations. I hated that my dad only ever seemed to want to know about my brother and sister when I saw him on weekends.

But I continued to go every single weekend.

I continued to bring home a check for my mom every Sunday when I’d return home–sometimes to find her in bed with some guy.

And I hated my mom through it all. She was a slut, I thought. She didn’t give a shit about me other than getting that check from my dad.

But the thing is, my dad wasn’t so fucking innocent. And I witnessed it all first hand. Yet I continued to push that away.

Why?

I’ve always remembered my dad getting arrested. I’ve always remembered the times we met in secret. I’ve always found it to be strange. All of it.

But I continued to just want my family together. And I continued hating my mother and blaming her for the demise of our family.

And now here I am, 30 fucking years later, and while I’ve felt for a long time that I’ve dealt with all of this already… all of a sudden, I’m wondering if I really have. Because all of a sudden my aging father, whom I truly do love and respect, is becoming more of a focus for me in my life and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t so fucking innocent.

He allowed me to see him get arrested.

He used me to find out about my siblings and my mother.

He kind of still is today.

But I need to let this all go, no? I really thought I did already! Dammit why am I consumed with all of this now? The past is the past. It can’t be changed, so why not just let it the fuck go already?!?

once upon a time, 30 years ago

The horn of the old yellow car honked. I grabbed my bag and ran out the door, down the steps, and to the car.

“Wanna go eat?” Papa asked after I kissed his cheek Hello.

“Okay.”

We drove to a nearby restaurant and I asked why we weren’t stopping at a place closer to his apartment, but he didn’t answer.

“You finished?” he asked before I was done.

“Sure.”

We got back into the car and instead of driving toward his place in the city for the weekend, he drove back toward the house I lived in with Mama, Marco, and Melinda.

“Why are we back here?” I asked.

“I need to get some stuff,” he answered getting out of the car. “Stay here.”

I looked around and noticed how desolate things looked—not a lot of cars, nobody walking down the sidewalk.

I suddenly felt all alone.

I looked toward the house to see Papa standing on the front porch just outside the front door which opened and quickly closed. Papa started pounding on the door.

I bolted from the car and up the front stairs trying to get Papa to stop.

He started throwing his body onto the door.

Sparky, the dog we’d recently gotten from one of Mama’s friends, was incessantly barking from inside as Marco screamed and cussed at us to leave or he would call the police.

Papa threw himself onto the door over and over again until he slammed so hard onto it that it popped open. Ripping off the side of doorframe where the chain was once secured, Papa started using it as a sword to guard off Sparky. Marco was at the other end of the house on the phone, pacing back and forth with the yellow chord tapping the floor and wall.

Sparky wouldn’t stop barking and trying to attack Papa.

Marco slammed the phone down onto the wall so hard it rang, and cussed at Papa that the police were on their way.

Everything seemed to happen all at once; I felt like I was dreaming, like it wasn’t real life.

I stood there screaming and crying while everything went on around me: red and blue lights danced on the living room walls; cops came in and lead Papa outside and down the front steps before turning him around to face the house and handcuffing him; Mama suddenly stood nearby me; Marco screamed and cussed non-stop as Sparky barked; the cops held Papa’s head down a bit as they sat him in the backseat of the car with the rotating lights; a cop asked Marco and Mama to stop cussing and to put the dog away.

I remember feeling like I was floating around watching and taking everything in.

I remember feeling like I was so incredibly alone.

I remember being told it would be a while before I’d see Papa again.

I remember realizing that there was no way my family would ever be one again.

I remember any trust I had in anybody withering away to nearly nothing.

I remember being not even 11 years old.

 

 

 

 

Serena and The UFO

Once upon a time a long, long time ago, there was a little girl whose name was Serena.

Serena had dark, short hair and bright eyes and big red lips. Serena never wore dresses—she actually hated them—and loved to play with the boys. Serena even wished she herself could be a boy one day, even trying to pee standing up like the boys.

Whenever she was allowed, Serena would walk, run, or ride her bike to the playground closest to her home. There were swings and slides and monkey bars and a teeter totter. There was even this merry go round type of ride the kids would jump on and hold onto while another one or two kids ran pushing it faster and faster round and round in a circle. But Serena’s favorite piece of playground equipment at this playground was what she liked to call The UFO.

the ufo fm

The UFO erected from the ground about halfway in the playground—just past the teeter totter and before the row of swings. There was a thick metal tube ladder Serena would climb and that would bring her right into The UFO, which was this metal round contraption with windows overlooking the entire playground.

If she was the only person inside, she’d hide quietly and watch. Sometimes other kids would join her and that was okay too, but mostly Serena liked to be alone in The UFO.

She liked watching everyone come and go into the playground—especially if they didn’t know she was in The UFO. She liked watching how people interacted—especially when they thought nobody was watching. She liked lying inside The UFO, feeling the cool metal against her legs and arms, trying to read the graffiti scribbled all around her. She liked closing her eyes and listening to the echo from the rest of the world outside The UFO shoot up from the ground below.

Serena felt special when she was in The UFO alone, like she was the one in charge. The UFO was her safe haven.

When she fought with friends or family, she’d run to The UFO for comfort. No matter what was going on, The UFO was there for her always. Right in the middle of the playground, amidst the newer play equipment and screaming, laughing children stood this old, rusting “UFO”. But to Serena it was like a warm, tight hug and she enjoyed visiting anytime she could.

Although Serena has moved more than a dozen times and has entered more than a couple decades since those days, she will never forget about The UFO.

_______________________________________

 

Inspired by the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge. This happens to be a story I tell my 3-year-old daughter sometimes when she begs for another story before drifting off to sleep.

 

Papa

So my dad’s turning 80 in less than two months.

papa

That number—80—is kind of freaking me out a bit; it isn’t exactly young. Both of his parents died well before they turned 80, and while Papa isn’t the oldest of the 8 kids in his family, he’s the oldest one still living. And none made it to 80.

Maybe that’s why I’m kind of freaking out.

I wonder how he’s feeling about it.

 

I’m an awful daughter. I hate listening to him complain. And that’s all he ever really does.

He moved into a retirement community a couple years ago. It’s his own little apartment so he can come and go as he pleases but only old folk over 65 are allowed to occupy the apartments. Breakfast and dinner is provided every day in the community “restaurant”—all included in the cost of rent. And he had to sign over most of his savings to move in.

It’s an old folks home, let’s be real here: my dad lives in an old folks home and he hates it.

But he kind of has no choice. He’s been alone since he and my mom separated over 30 years ago. He never dated anyone so obviously he never remarried or anything. He’s a lonely old man.

And I never visit enough.

I hate that he has to be in this old folks home, yet I’m glad he’s there. Ideally he’d live with me and my little family in an in-law apartment. But we don’t live in a place that offers such a thing and frankly, I’m kind of glad about this.

I have a three year old that I have to take care of; I just can’t take care of an 80 year old, too.

I’m horrible. A horrible daughter.

 

After my parents’ split, both my siblings wanted nothing to do with Papa. I was the youngest and I only wanted one thing: for my family to just be a family. I spent every weekend with Papa that I could until my 20s. I answered all of his questions. I kept all of his secrets.

I now realize that he went a little crazy back then. I found out years after the fact that he actually committed himself into a hospital for a while. He was extremely depressed, he claims. I also learned that he had a gun on him during that time. And of course there was the private detective that was following my mom around for a while.

It didn’t matter what Papa did though, I couldn’t turn my back on him. Just like it didn’t matter that Mama turned into a drunk bar/man-hopping vixen.

I still can’t turn my back on them. Neither one of them.

And now Papa is turning 80 (Mama will be only 66).

I’ve got to do something for him. Something more than just wishing him a happy birthday. Something that involves people coming to celebrate. A party of sorts. But where? And how do I pay for it? And will it be enough?

 

summer break

She glared into my eyes and clasped my wrist as tears started blurring my vision. I tried to hold them back, but couldn’t. I tried begging her to stop, but the words were trapped deep inside. She knew I was terrified and I swear she was grinning.

As if to mark me with a brand, she took the lit cigarette from her lips with her middle finger and thumb and jammed the ember of it into the palm of the hand she held so tightly it bruised.

I was sure the cigarette burned all the way through to the outside of my hand. I was sure she was crucifying me with it.

“If you ever so much as look away from me when I tell you what to do, I will do worse than this.” Her words spat onto my face.

The scream that escaped from me begged for her release but she clenched on even tighter.

“Do you fucking understand?”

“Yes,” I sobbed.

She threw my wrist away from her and I ran into the bathroom to shove my hand into the cold toilet water.

When I pulled my hand out of the toilet, and looked at my burned palm for the first time, I could see she hadn’t crucified me after all. There was a small hole in my palm, almost perfectly in the center, but it wasn’t as deep as it felt.

When Ma got home, Sissy told her I tried grabbing something from her and accidentally grabbed her cigarette.

“Why were you smoking inside?” Ma asked her before turning to me and barking, “And why can’t you keep your hands to yourself?”

Ma sauntered off to the fridge for a beer and Sissy winked at me.

 

 

Picture11-1

Aside

Nathan Lunds*

“My songs know what you did in the daaa-a-aa-aaa-ark!”

Every time I hear this damn song—particularly the delivery of that specific line—I think of you.

Dammit.

How…Why can a song from today remind me of you from 20 years ago?

Yes you were hot and I dreamed of becoming more than we were. Yes we took writing classes together in college which is how we met. Yes I went to a ton of your shows and even bought and listened to your CD.

But that’s the extent of who “we” were.

I was the fat chick who sat across from you in Fiction Writing, whose stories about an alcoholic loser single dad caught your interest. You were Nathan Lunds*, college student and local rock band singer.  We both smoked, we both had long curly hair, we both were short. But you were funny and articulate and outgoing—everything I was not.

So I lusted…secretly, of course.

I remember going to one of your shows with my groupie friend Ginger* who enjoyed the company of your drummer when he was in need. She drove, I got drunk. You needed a ride back after the show, Ginger’s drummer wasn’t drumming her, so she offered a ride. I tried not squealing when I learned we would be in the car together. Instead, I sat as rigid and quietly as I could, trying not to think about how drunk I was and about how you, the man I longed for, sat right behind me in the back seat of Ginger’s Chevy Beretta.

Hopefully I wouldn’t puke or fart.

We stopped midway through the drive so you could grab some fries and use the bathroom.

“How could you give him a ride home?” I asked Ginger when you were out of earshot.

She smiled at me.

Just because she was a friggin groupie who’d bang anyone who looked at her, didn’t mean I was…even if I kinda wanted to be.

The rest of the ride to your house, I had lengthy conversations with you and gave you my number and made out with you when we weren’t gazing into each other’s eyes.

…in my head.

“It’s this one,” you sang from the back seat.

Ginger pulled the car to the side of the road of bungalows. I stepped out of the car and watched you climb out from the back, smiling.

“Thanks guys. See you next time.”

There were, of course, plenty of next times.

But other than asking for the number of my best friend Aileen, whom I brought to one your shows, we never really hung out. You’d nod your head and say Hey if you saw me at a show or at school. But that was it.

Yet, here I am, 20 years later, thinking of you, writing about you.

Because of that damn Fall Out Boy song.

“So light ’em up!”

*fake names

Aside

this time

“Nooooooo! I want Mommy!!”

She keeps whining and thrashing about in bed. Just like most nights. Anything to get my attention. Anything to get me in her room again. Anything to stall closing those eyes and going to sleep.

“It’s Bor-ring,” she whines when I tell her to just close her eyes and relax–or, my personal favorite, “But then I can’t see!”

You’re so clever. You really are. You have an old soul. I’ve been told this numerous times about you.

You can see it when you look into her eyes.

It’s like she’s known me for years when we just met! 

She’s an old soul, that one.

I know they’re right, too. I know you’re an old soul. I know you’re much wiser beyond your two years. But I also know you’ve got to get some sleep.

Because if you don’t, I don’t; and if I don’t, the world best look out.

“Noooo! I want mommy. I want MOMMY!”

When I can’t take it anymore I go toward your room. The plan, like always, is to not even really look at you, but to stand in the doorway and ask what the problem is… only this time, your screams and whines are at a new volume I didn’t think was even possible to reach.

This time, it’s like I’m finally able to grasp what you’ve been trying to tell me all along.

This time when I quietly push the door more open, I can’t help but notice how terrified you are… So I follow your gaze to the corner behind the door. And I see him. The shadow. The dark shadow wearing a hat.

The burning vomit creeps into my throat as I take the most deliberate blink in all my life and when I open my eyes again, there’s nothing there.

I turn back toward you and you’re sound asleep. So peaceful looking.

I snap my head back toward the corner and there’s nothing… this time.

 

Picture11-1

the boy with the long dark hair

General* Elementary School. 1985.

We had just moved and I was starting General as an 8th grader. Of course I was the only new girl. Of course they all instantly hated me. I wore high tops and flannels. I didn’t wear make-up. I listened to Bryan Adams. I didn’t give a shit about fitting in, but it would’ve been nice to have a friend or two.

One girl did befriend me after a week or so. She was the skinniest girl ever. They called her Skeletor. I was evil because inside my head I laughed at this, but only because I understood it…why they would call her that: she was just SO skinny.

I also understood what an asshole that made me.

 

I remember walking home with Skeletor one fall afternoon. Our feet crunched the leaves littering the ground while a motley group of classmates’ cackles, quite a distance behind us, echoed. We didn’t really think much of it till we got outside Skeletor’s home and the group started calling out to us. Skeletor asked if I would be okay going home on my own (another 4 blocks away) or if I wanted to go inside with her.

I was too bad-ass to go in her house; I couldn’t let anyone know that I might actually be afraid of those assholes.

She went home.

I tried cutting through the alley.

The group of kids soon all circled around me. They called me names. Laughed at me. Taunted me. One girl then lunged toward me and took my back pack. They asked if I would cry. They wouldn’t give up. They kept egging me on trying to have a reason to pummel me. Then one boy with long dark hair took my back pack and threw it way up high in the air. It flew over all of our heads and landed more into the alley (we were just at the entrance). We all seemed to watch it fly in slow motion. I followed it by lunging my way out of the group and picking up the bag and running as fast as I could. I didn’t stop running until I got home. That’s when I finally looked to see if anyone else had followed me but, as always, I was alone.

I got into our basement apartment and collapsed against the door in tears. When I got the strength, I went to all the windows and doors to make sure everything was locked.

When my mom finally got home, I begged her to let me stay home; but the next day, not only did I have to go to school, she was kind enough to drive me there—something she never did before or after that day.

I waited till the last possible moment that morning to get in line to enter the school, and that’s when the boy with long dark hair came running into the playground. When he saw that I was the last person in the playground, he stopped running so fast. Our eyes met and before I dropped mine, he nodded his head a bit at me with a grin.

That’s when it dawned on me that he was trying to help me the whole time.

I never really thanked him.

 

 

* not real name

 

 I remember (freestyle memory)