Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Saying Goodbye

You grow up thinking your parents are indestructible. My mom has always been the rock of the family. And Pops? Well he could handle anything that came our way. Looking back on my childhood, I suppose Dad wasn’t quite as handy as I thought. The tools in the garage may have always gotten used, but the cars often dripped some kind of fluid. We may have picked out our own Christmas tree from atop the mountain, but there was often a trip to the hospital and stitches involved. The patio and yard walls may have gotten built, but they often leaned a bit. And the roof may have gotten re-shingled in the middle of summer, but there were many bent nails along the way.

This isn’t some flowery tribute to a perfectly flawed man. I remember having family barbeques and guests gushing to me about how lucky I was to have such a sweet father with an amazing sense of humor; it made me gag. I barely remember him ever even speaking to me as a kid and he certainly wasn’t cracking jokes at breakfast. The only time he acknowledged my existence was when he was yelling about something I may or may not have done. He would come home from work and we’d do our best to disappear while he sat in his chair, reading his newspaper, and nodding off until dinner. The same nonsense would occur after dinner, unless one of us caused a commotion that interrupted his snoring. He and mom sacrificed so much for us kids that attention for each other just took a back seat.

After his retirement, I saw a different side of my father. The endearing, goofy guy that others knew all along finally showed himself to the family. His craftiness was spent on his children’s homes and his eyes glistened as he played with his grandchildren. He had a different pair of suspenders for every day of the week and he basked in our teasing of his ensemble. Time spent in his chair with the newspaper became interactive as he would shout out crossword clues that had him stumped. He still wasn’t perfect and often drove me nuts, but I got to know the man who gave me life and I enjoyed his company.

I am thankful for the “no-nonsense”, “get your hands dirty” character my father instilled in me. There were a lot of life lessons he taught me, both through conscious effort and his actions. Heck, you may have to hold the handle down, but I fixed that damn toilet myself! And the fire extinguisher was on standby as I replaced all the light fixtures in my house, but they look darn pretty! Despite being the baby of the family, I spent many years observing and mimicking independence and strength; my greatest asset and perhaps my biggest downfall.

My dad passed away this holiday season, quickly and relatively quietly. He wasn’t angry or miserable. His aging body was beginning to take hold and I think it was a good time for him to pass on to the next life. Some of my family and friends have expressed concern over my reaction, and some will likely be upset that I’ve turned to an online outlet. But dad was one of my first subscribers to this blog and, while I haven’t posted often, I suppose it’s been our way of keeping in touch. I know Pops was proud of his growing family; he never hesitated to express his pride in me. And perhaps that’s all I really needed from my father. I’m thankful I can say goodbye and remember him now with a fond smile and a glistening eye.

Open Eyes

I took a quick road trip to my hometown this weekend. I drove right past the crowds and the news vans and the roadside memorials, choosing not to make this trip about the sensational tragedy that took place last week. Instead, I spent hours reconnecting with my best friend from kindergarten. She’s my “be fri” and I’m her “st ends”, as evidenced by the corny, broken-heart necklaces we both still have from grade school. We talked about work, life, love, and our lack of appreciation for what’s right in front of our faces in this never-ending quest for happiness.

As I departed I looked out at the beautiful desert, reminded of the days when we learned to make prickly pear jelly and dried fruit leather out on the porch. I drove past my elementary school where my first and only screenplay was acted out in front of the whole assembly by the cool, older sixth-graders. As I went by my junior high I wondered if the mural still hung in the library, and my mind wandered to those mornings when I got out of class to help paint it with my first major crush. I giggled again like a schoolgirl as I envisioned him painting his “autograph” on my cutoff jeans; I don’t think I ever washed those.

Why is it that so often it takes a terrible act to force us to take stock of our lives? I’m not claiming to be happy or to have found the meaning of life, I’ve been the textbook definition of alone since birth, I’m overweight, sick of the city, and unsatisfied with a typical 9-5 job. But today I’m surrounded by amazing people, I have experiences of which others only dream, and if I can just remember to see the beauty in each and every day, I might just make the world a better place.

On the drive back across the desert, I passed by an orchard I’ve seen a million times. I pulled over and truly saw it for the first…

She Ra

On this sleepless night my mind is preoccupied with the dwindling time before my big sister deploys to Iraq. I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without it becoming a reality, perhaps a combination of luck and the perception of her indestructibility.

You see, I grew up the youngest in a very large family and she was like a surrogate parent; mom and dad were busy just putting food on the table, ensuring our education, and getting us all to church every Sunday. When the other siblings viewed me as a nuisance, she strapped me into the seat on the back of her bike and hauled me around everywhere they went. When they’d all go out in the desert with bows and arrows and she found I didn’t have the strength to even hit a target, she went to the swap meet and bought a little 25lb fiberglass bow, fixing it up just for me. She cured any fear of reptiles by sitting me down at the neighbor’s house and allowing me to spend hours playing with his baby snakes. She taught me how to drive both automatic and standard by the time I was 12, requiring me to stop on a hill and start back up without rolling backward. She took me to the shooting range and showed me how to handle various guns. And she even took me out dancing to my first bar when I was 14.

I’ve always viewed my sister as She Ra; the only woman who can fix a car, scale a mountain, cry at the beauty of a waterfall, slaughter a deer, and have a great meal on the table… all in a day’s work. She has no patience for pettiness and would be flabbergasted if she were ever forced to watch a minute of “reality” TV. When we shared a room growing up, she’d put ABBA Gold on the record player until I fell fast asleep with visions of dancing queens in my head. But tonight I have no such sedative, as soon she’ll be shipping off to a combat zone.

In my current “city life” I hope she doesn’t think I’ve brushed aside what she’s taught me over the years. It all played a formative role in my independence, keeping me grounded, and gives me confidence every day. I have faith that no one is more prepared than she for this journey. But I must come to terms with the reality that, as a colonel, she has a giant target on her back. I just pray that she doesn’t end up a feather in someone’s cap. There are lots of nieces that are eagerly awaiting her next piggy-back ride or her insightful addition to their tree house, and nephews needing her guidance on how to survive without video games and make it past the breakup with their latest girlfriend. Underneath that uniform she’s still my sister who is fascinated every time she scuba dives, transfixed by the birds while sitting on the porch, roused by a competitive game of ping-pong with her big bro, and entertained while staying up late to do our nails.

Love ya, Giraffener… know that we’re standing right behind you with pride and hope to get you home safe soon.