March Madness

This month sucks. We’re only five days in and I’m pretty much over it. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that, yet again, we were pounded by some snow this morning. I love winter weather.

No, I’m just over it because I’m depressed. And I’m depressed because the date of my grandmother’s death is quickly approaching: it’ll be one year on March 27th.

One year since I’ve last seen her… held her hand… looked into those wet, blue eyes. One year since I’ve last studied the lines in her face… the smile on her lips…  the curls pinned atop her head… the sweater she knitted herself twenty years prior draped over her shoulder (she was always so cold at the end).

Son of a bitch, I cannot do this. I can’t. The tears are forming and the heart is breaking again. I miss her so much. Oma, I miss you. So much. So, so much.

***

I remember March 2009. I was kind of down in the dumps. The baby I should’ve had would’ve been born had I not lost it the summer prior. A friend was having her own baby. I wasn’t. I was moving. I was empty inside, trying to focus and think about anything and everything other than babies. But they came from the woodwork, I swear. Left and right and dropping down from the sky, it seemed. Everywhere I looked there was a baby or a mama about to pop one out. Life felt so unfair.

Every March that rolls around, I still think of how old my would-be baby would’ve been. (This year, she would’ve been five.) I’m so blessed to have a happy and healthy four-year-old so it’s not so hard anymore; I don’t get too sad when March rolls around because I do know that I’m one of the lucky ones—the ones who can have a baby after a loss (or even at all).

But this March is different.

***

It’s been an interesting year since she’s passed. At first, I was really so much better than I imagined I would be. I think it was because of all the mourning I did (but tried not to do) the months leading up to her passing.

Then Mother’s Day came less than two months after her passing. My first one without her to mail a card to, to buy flowers for. It sucked, but certainly not as much as her birthday did weeks later.

Other than that, I’ve been okay. I’ll see something or hear something or feel something or smell something that reminds me of her, but, up till recently, I’ve been able to swallow the tears and, instead, smile.

Smile because of how blessed I’ve been to have more than forty years with such an amazing woman. Smile because of how blessed I am to have such wonderful memories.

But these past several months have been very different. I’ve been so down, melancholy.

 

I just really miss my Oma so much.

Lucy

Daddy named her Lucy the day he gave her to me. We were at a carnival and he won her for me by shooting water onto a tiny target to make a small horse win a race against other shooters—mainly me and my brothers Andrew and Mark. From all the toys he could’ve picked, he chose the little rag doll with the orange dress, and as soon as the attendant gave her to him he smiled and handed her down to me.

“What’s her name?” I asked while hugging her.

“How about Lucy?” Daddy answered, whistling and singing an old Beatles song.

“I love her so much, Daddy!”

Lucy’s arms and legs fit perfectly in my hand so that I could drag her around with me wherever I went. She had this long gold curly hair and she wore an orange and green dress. I tried changing her clothes more than once but it never worked; the dress was just a part of Lucy. Sometimes I’d put other clothes on top of the dress but after a while, I just let Lucy be who she was.

I was seven when Daddy gave her to me. I remember a lot about that time. We all went camping and stayed in a pop-up camper with no running water or electricity. But we had so much fun. Lucy was at one of the carnivals near the campground we stayed at. That was also the vacation when I learned how to swim because my older brother Andrew pushed me into the pool. I wasn’t so happy about that and it took me a day before I’d go back near the water but then when I did, I wasn’t so afraid of going underwater anymore, and I started swimming through the water with my whole body submerged. It was pretty awesome the way the whole world just kind of turned into a blur as soon as I was under the water. I loved pushing the water away in front of me and kicking my legs at the same time to glide along. I imagined myself up in the sky, finding my way through a big white fluffy cloud.

That was the best summer vacation ever.

Mommy made french toast over a campfire for breakfast one morning, then fried some fish we caught one day for dinner one night. We went on hikes through the forest and slapped our skin to rid itself of bug bites. We ran and hopped on the hot sand dunes to get into cool water to go for a swim in the lake. We ate ice cream and ice cones like it was our job.

I don’t remember a lot from my youth but some things can’t be forgotten. And every time I see Lucy on the shelf next to some of my favorite books in the world, I always think of that summer and smile.

Life was really good then.

 

**********************************************************************

on food and eating and obsessions and, of course, NUTELLA

I overeat.

I eat when I’m not hungry.

I eat when I’m bored, tired, excited, nervous, sad, happy, giddy, infuriated… you name the feeling and I’m eating whilst that feeling is being felt.

I remember sleeping over at my cousin’s house when we were like 10. Kenya is only 6 months older than me so we pretty much were BFF’s. I was in the bathroom peeing and Kenya was in the kitchen toasting bread for breakfast that would soon be lathered with Nutella (we were way ahead of the Nutella craze). As I sat on the pot getting excited about how my teeth would soon sink into crunchy toast with smooth, warm Nutella (that would get stuck to the roof of my mouth because I’d accidentally put too much on), I heard Kenya’s voice travel down the hallway: “How many pieces do you want?”

“Two,” I shouted, thinking that I shouldn’t have the three pieces I really wanted. But at the same time that I spat out my response, Kenya completed her question by adding, “One or two?”

I immediately felt like an idiot. Like I had been caught. Like Kenya, who was into ballet and boys, would know why I wasn’t: because I loved eating food and lots of it.

Did you catch that I was around 10 when this happened? Isn’t that kind of an odd thing to remember? How many fucking pieces of toast with Nutella you wanted when you were 10?

I’m that person that generally remembers very little from back then… partly because there isn’t a lot to remember (boring) and partly because I blocked a lot out (parental split), or partly, perhaps, because of the daily usage of marijuana in the first couple years of my 20s.

Regardless, I don’t remember shit, yet I remember this one time, 30+ ago, when I wanted at least two pieces of toast to my skinny BFF’s one.

Sick. I’m sick. There’s got to be some kind of switch or something in my brain that’s not flipped in the right direction.

Right now, my stomach hurts from today’s food consumption of McDonald’s Egg White Delight (no bacon) Meal (with hashbrown) and large coffee (five cream); an amount of mini Reece’s peanut butter cups that I lost track of after like five; half a blueberry muffin; potato chips; a Smart Ones pasta meal; more chips. It’s 3PM. I still need to eat dinner, too. And it’s Taye’s late night so that means Lovie and I are on our own so that means I’ll probably eat shit.

Not literally of course. (Well to some I’m sure it is literal shit but … you know what I mean!)

I’m not sure what my point is to this, really. I’m fat. I own my fatness. I’m “okay” with being fat, but I’m not. I think it’s the food and my obsession with it that really bothers me. I feel like I can’t NOT think of food. Yes, I need it to survive and all that jazz, but it’s truly an obsession for me.

Maybe I should start smoking again.

 

Aside

finally seeing things

“You know who I’m really upset at?” Papa shouts from across the table. “Matty. That’s his mother. He should be ashamed of himself.”

“He’s only thirteen,” I answer. “He’s just following Katie’s lead. The people you really need to be upset with here and in just about any situation are the adults. The parents. Why can’t they ever take some responsibility for their own actions?”

I was on my second drink of the day. It wasn’t even two in the afternoon. We were gathered around a large table at a new German restaurant. We were talking about how my niece Katie had recently set fire to her mother’s wedding gown and posted the video on Facebook.

My dad was upset at the news of all of this. He didn’t see the video as Katie took the video down after her older brother called her out on it on Facebook. But Papa’s still very upset because the wedding gown wasn’t Katie’s to burn, it was my sister’s–Katie’s mother. So my dad, near 80, found it extremely disrespectful. “You don’t do these things with family.”

It’s hard not to agree with that.

But then when he says he’s “most upset” about what Matty allegedly did in the video–laugh and be present to the torching of the gown–because Matty is a child and should have more respect for his parent? That’s where I draw the line. Of course a child should have respect for his parents, but that respect needs to be taught and nurtured before it can be reciprocated.

“That’s like saying Jordan should be the one to talk to Marco when Marco was the one that walked out on Jordan,” I shouted.

Jordan looked at me and smiled. Not a Ha-Ha-Life-is-So-Grand smile but an Aint-that-Some-Shit smile… because his father (my brother Marco) walked out of his life when Jordan was all of 13, and eight years later, Papa thinks Jordan should be the one to contact Marco. Simply because Marco’s the parent. That is Papa’s reasoning. The parent trumps the kid, apparently. No matter the situation.

Fuck that, I say.

The parents are the ones who are the adults. The parents are the ones with the responsibility of setting good examples for their children…their children who are still learning and growing and absorbing oh so much.

 

My eyes are finally opening up to things I haven’t seen my whole life. For years and years I wondered how my siblings could be so self-absorbed to ignore my dad most of our lives. I wondered how I could be so different from them if we all grew up in the same household. But here’s the thing: they’re both very selfish–much like my parents. Seriously. What kind of parent lets their kids see them get arrested? What kind of parent gets wasted in front of their kids over and over again? Mine. But I’ve let it go because–get this–they’re my parents.

Man my eyes are opening up. Finally. At nearly 41, I’m starting to finally see things clearly–and it’s even uglier than I ever imagined it being.

I kind of wish I could go back to being blind to it all.

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.

 

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

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)