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Another Thanksgiving…

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It’s a bittersweet holiday for me…again.  It is my favorite holiday but doesn’t feel the way it used to.  It feels empty to me. I spoke to my daughter today who said she wished I were coming for Thanksgiving, and I do too, but just don’t have the money to travel, and I have to work.

These are my thoughts about Thanksgiving this year.  Firstly, I miss my son Michael – and that hole in my heart…well, it’s still there.  How long it will take before it is gone?  Well, that I cannot say.  Secondly, I miss cooking for my family.  I always looked forward to getting up early in the morning and cooking and baking and coordinating everything so well that it would all be done at the same time and just in time for football.  Surprisingly, and you can confirm this with my daughter, I am a really good cook and my Thanksgiving dinners are the stuff of legends and not just in my own mind.

People I miss:  Michael.  My bro.  Cristal and Brian.  CJ and Craig.  Mary and Theresa. Patrick. Cesar. Tydis.  I love you all and would love to give you hugs and kisses.  Truly…

Things I miss:  My books, my music, my art…MY STUFF, which is sitting in a storage unit in Grayslake, IL that has an ever increasing monthly fee.  Taking Duke for trail walks in our favorite state parks.  Hanging out with people who know me well and love me.  I miss my buds so much.  I wish I could afford to come home for a little while and see everyone and get some of my stuff out of storage.

Things I am grateful for:  My daughter is happy and healthy and Brian.  My Boo-boo Duke.  My sweet kitty Owen.  My Wolfpack.  My warm room in a nice, clean, quiet house.  My friends at school.  My jobs and the people I work with.  My new car.  My single gear.  My school.  My excellent grades.  My relatively good health.

I just kind of feel depressed and sad right now.  It’s that time of year when I hibernate.  I have a lot of ideas, but no energy.  I really need a hug.  I need a kiss from somebody who loves me.  I would like to see my daughter – I feel like it has been forever.  I know I will never, ever see Michael again, but I have my memories.  What troubles me is they are starting to fade a little…and that makes me sad.  I fear pretty soon I won’t remember the sound of his voice anymore. I try not to cry because I sometimes feel like if I start I won’t stop.  It sits like a big weight in my gut.  Sometimes it feels endless and overwhelming.  Other times I feel numb and disconnected from myself.

I am so thankful however that I have the love, support and caring of my friends – who are awesome and amazing, my professors at school who are really decent human beings, and complete strangers who I meet in my daily life.  The kindness I encounter reinforces my faith in human nature.  I guess THAT is what Thanksgiving is all about – appreciating the simple things in life and being thankful.

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Happy Birthday Daughter

Well, today is my daughter Cristal’s 30th birthday.  Who would have ever imagined I would be the mother of a 30 year old?  I don’t even FEEL 30.  I certainly don’t feel 48.

Here are my thoughts about that.  First and foremost, I am very proud of my “Bunky”.  She was a cute baby, who had twinkly blue eyes, long legs and long skinny fingers.  She was very adamant about being fed every two hours.  So much so that you could set a clock to her.  She was very loud, and when she cried she would turn all red.  She loved her baba’s and if she didn’t have one she would suck her fist through her onesie.  She never sucked her thumb, she would ball up her fist and just suck on her hand.  Her kitty Misty slept with her every night, even in her bassinet.  When she was about 8 months old she started crawling and before she was even one she walked – across the room – to her Lola.  She walked for Lola first…but it was still a proud moment.  She was talkative and mumbled and talked in her crib to her feet and her stuffed animals all the time and she loved her morning “Caffeee” with her Daddy.  She was very bold and daring.  She wasn’t really ever afraid of anything.  I still remember when she was two she wanted to dress herself…not too successfully, but you couldn’t talk her out of it.  “Me do it!” was her mantra.  Yeah, we went through the “No” stage too, but not as much.

She was also pretty damned smart. She managed to close the door to my bedroom after climbing out of her crib, putting her little white sandals on, on the wrong feet I might add, and walking her little nude body out the front door, down 20 winding stairs in front and walking down the block and across the street and letting herself into the apartment building and kept ringing all the door bells because she wanted to play with her friend up the street.  Her daddy beat her butt when he got home, I was just relieved the neighbor brought her home.  Little smart ass!!

When she got older she was very into girly things, and then not so much, and then again…and remains so to this day.  She was a very emotional teenager and any fight with Brian would result in a rapid and drastic hair color change.  I think she pretty much went through the rainbow and she always wondered “Why doesn’t Brian love me?”  I guess he proved he did, didn’t he?  He married her – TWICE.

She was a girl scout, sang with the Chicago Children’s Choir and was a model in grade school, played basketball in Junior High, Powder Puff football in high school and helped build a house and then she joined the Army.

She went overseas and proudly served her country and kept untold numbers of soldiers fed and happy.  She always wanted screaming monkeys and coloring books and crayons while she was in Iraq.  Those have always been the things she used to keep herself calm when she felt stressed.

We moved a lot, I went through two divorces and all the while, she was very outspoken and remained herself no matter what.  I felt bad that I didn’t really have a good dad for her, but she still turned out pretty good.  Yeah, her room was always a mess, and she never quite got her homework done on time – typical teenager, but she never got into trouble, didn’t do anything illegal, was only late coming home once, and always made me proud.

Her moods however, were always exasperating.  This is what happens when you have a Cancer for a daughter.  She loves the finer things in life, but really doesn’t like to work or to work out.  She always has good intentions however and she is much more disciplined now that she was then.

She has had important milestones: her first word, first tooth, first haircut, I was there for them all.  All the times she was sick, running a fever, was miserable and the one time she kept me up all night crying.  I still never did figure out why.  Then we have the first time she rode a bike, went down a slide, went to a museum, baked cookies.  She also has a lot of  moments that involved her education.  I was there when she graduated Kindergarten in Chicago (I still don’t understand WHY they do that…very perplexing), when she graduated Junior High in Hoffman Estates, High School in Schaumburg, Boot Camp in Columbia, SC, AIT in Virginia and College in Goodlettsville, TN.  I have always tried my best to be there for all the important moments.  Some of these trips involving a LOT of driving from home.  My happiest moment however was coming to Clarksville, TN to see her plane touch down on a cold, rainy, miserable day and bring her back home from Iraq.  I know she got embarrassed when I screamed out her name.  I saw her shake her head.  The only thing she wanted to do when she got home you ask?  Shopping.  Yup, shopping ALL DAY at the mall.  Ugh.  The one thing I hate the most is the one thing my daughter loves more than anything.  She is a mall rat to the extreme.

Through it all, there was Brian.  He has been the one steady thing she has always had.  He got her the first car she ever owned and sometimes against his better judgement and budget, he indulges her every whim.  However, that being said, they take good care of each other.  He works very hard to make sure things are taken care of and like his dad, he is quite handy and can fix just about anything.  If he doesn’t know how, he looks it up and figures it out.

She got me on a plane after 17 years to fly across the country and go as far west in our country as I have ever been to see her get married in Las Vegas. I was striving to avoid planes…not because I am afraid of flying, but because of the intrusion of privacy and the irradiation.  She got her dad in a tux…no small feat considering he doesn’t like suits, and wore a beautiful dress.  She looked lovely and Brian looked very dapper in his tux as well.  It was a lovely service and they both seem very happy.

I am very proud of my daughter.  She served her country admirably, put herself through and graduated college with her degree, Brian helped her clean up her credit and she bought a house and she is now pursuing her career as a self-employed photographer.  I couldn’t ask for more.  I miss my son and it is sometimes hard to think about her without thinking about him.  They may not have gotten along when they were kids, but they were always a pair.  It was always Cristal and Michael in my mind and heart.  It is strange to not have him here, but I am blessed and lucky to have a smart, strong, outspoken, daughter who is doing well for herself.  I am glad she is plugging along and doing the thing she loves and is making a go of it. The best I can ask for is that she at least try and do the best she can with her skills.

We don’t always see eye to eye or agree on things, and we never will.  I can accept that.  It doesn’t stop me from loving my daughter or caring about her or how things are going with her.  It still feels really weird to me to have a 30 year old daughter, and maybe one day she will understand how I feel when she had a child of her own.

I just wish her many more years of love, happiness and success.

Te amo a Cristal. ¡Feliz cumpleaños! Les deseo muchos años más de vida, el amor y la felicidad.

Turning Tragedy Around and Thanks Giving…

Well, I didn’t think this day would ever come, I was actually hoping against hope that I would be wrong and my son wouldn’t really be dead, but sadly, he is.  I woke up this morning and actually felt a little – I don’t know the right word, but I felt emotionless.  I didn’t feel anything.  It only lasted a moment or two.  It felt like it was any other normal day.  But it isn’t.  But then I started crying and I couldn’t stop.

I cried for the man Michael might have been.  I cried for his potential.  I cried for his sadness.  I cried for his fear.  I cried for his despair, and I cried for mine.  I cried remembering all the hard times and all the fun times and the fact that I would never have any, ever again.  But then I sat up and thought to myself…from death comes new life and I stopped crying.

I made a decision, then and there.  I decided I was NOT going to quit, but to persevere instead.  I decided that against all odds, I was going to make something of myself and live my one and only life the way I wanted to.  I decided that my life would be lived in a way that would make my son smile at me and say “You did good ma.”

I got up and went to the UPS Employment Q & A Session.  I turned in my documents and I wait now for a criminal background check.  I then happily went and paid off my Spring Quarter tuition so they would release the financial aide hold on my account so I could register for classes for Winter Quarter.  I met with my awesomely cool and amazing Student Success Adviser, Jason Brown, and found out I could sign up for only two classes and NOT lose my scholarships.  Whew….

I signed up for Drawing II and Foundations of Photography.  The good thing with that is, they are morning classes so I can get a full-time afternoon job, AND I can afford the balance of the tuition out of pocket with even a minimum wage job.  I plan on continuing my A average.  It’s the least I can do for myself. I also declared my major of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a minor of Printmaking.  I have plans for both in the written word and photographic mixed media pieces for gallery display.

I am not a quitter, I am a fighter.  I work hard and I always have.  I am not going to change now.  I am also NOT going to allow anybody to make me change my path.  I am going to remain true to myself and do things the way I think they need to be done.  People may not agree with me, but too bad.  It’s my life!  I gave of myself to everybody my whole life and now it is time for me.

I think Michael would be proud.  I hope maybe one day Cristal will be too.  We don’t always see eye to eye, but no matter what, we are family.  We are both adults and we each have to live our lives as we need to, to be happy and fulfilled.

I shall now endeavor to move forward and to continue working on my book about Michael, find a collaborative illustrator for my Duke books as well as work on my photography projects.

I know I will still have hard days and things that make me sad, but there will also be things that make me smile.  I miss my son every single day, but there is a little spark of my son left behind and I don’t know her yet, but she is my son’s spitting image and that makes me smile.

Thank you Michael, for being my son and for all the years of joy, sorrow, laughter and memories and for helping me grow into the person I am.  I am sorry you are gone, but glad you are at peace and free from pain.  I know you are always with me and that brings me peace.

I give thanks for my friends, my family and my fuzzy faces Duke and Owen.  I truly am grateful for all the love, support, and help when I needed it most.  It really means a lot to me.  Your generosity and kindness will never be forgotten.

From this tragic death shall come new life.  Mine…

I Don’t Know How To Feel…

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My life is going through another upheaval and quite frankly I don’t know how to feel. I am in the beautiful, warm, lush, loving and laid back city of Savannah, at SCAD doing what I have dreamed about doing since high school when my grandmother’s last words to anybody before she slipped into a coma and died were: “You are very talented.  One day you will be a famous artist.” Those words resonated in my brain and made me want to go to art school. I worked damn hard to get here, and I have a 4.0 GPA.  I am proud of myself, but it seems nobody else cares much and I have nobody to celebrate it with.  I thought I did, but I guess that was a pipe-dream.

My life is once again in chaos.  I have moved once again, and need to find another job once again…ugh!

My car, the ever trusty Beast seems to be on his last leg, and is gurgling anti-freeze, overheating, steaming, hissing, smoking and seems to be dying.  The case to my cell phone broke and I’M broke and can’t fix any of it.

To top that all off, Duke was attacked by Lil Bit the other day, for no apparent reason that Judy and I can come up with and while pulling her off him, I was bit in, yup, you guessed it, my left hand – AGAIN. Grrr…

I have been sitting here freaking out and feeling bad that I couldn’t go home and visit Patrick and trying to find ways of raising the money for a bus ticket to get back to IL.  I miss him and really wanted to see him and we have spoken a few times since he got home. We dated on and off for 3 years, and he is special to me, and for some stupid reason I thought I was special to him too.  I guess I was delusional.

We have writing back and forth non-stop since August of last year.  We learned a lot about each other, we made plans, we were talking about what we would do together.  I thought he wanted to be with me, wanted to have a relationship and a future, granted, he did say he couldn’t do long distance, because he wanted to talk to me, hold me, and love me in person and not over a phone.  I understand that, especially since during our correspondence, he laid his heart out to me – but then I got a letter from him before he was going to come home which upset me.  He  decided before he came home that he was going to re-read all my letters and then destroy them because they were just too much for him to carry and besides he has an eidetic memory and would remember everything I said. (??)

I was hurt because of all the time I invested in writing, all the photos I took, and printed, all the cards I bought and the things I said were so easily discarded like they meant nothing.  I just talked to him last week.  He told me he meant all the things he said in his letters, and that he really did see a future for us, but now he won’t talk to me, return my calls or texts and won’t tell me why.  I am very confused.

I really wanted to be with him, and just wanted to get back to a normal life.  You know, one where you wake up next to somebody you are happy with, who accepts you for who you are.  You go do what you love for a living.  You have the love of your kids, your dog, your cat, great sex, good coffee, good food, a car that runs, and enough money to pay your bills every month.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never had what most people consider a “normal” life, but I would like one. At least one where I am appreciated, cared about, made love to, kissed, hugged, cooked for, talked to, treated like I mean something and like my being matters, like my message matters, like my part in their life matters.

Why can’t I have that?  What is so flawed about me, that I am forever chasing after a dream only to get within a fingertips reach to watch it all slip away before I get to really know how blissful it would feel, if only I could get my hands on it?

Sigh…

I really felt like I could believe this time…

I really felt like I belonged this time…

But, I am not giving up…I won’t ever give up…

But I am really tired of fighting so hard, of trying so hard, of being rejected, and of feeling like the rug could be pulled out from under me at any time.

I really just don’t know how to feel…

“Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched, and those who have tried for only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives.”  ~ Anonymous

Michael Celestino Rodriguez

It all started with a simple request from my little girl.  “Can I have a brother?”  We looked at each other and decided it might be nice to have another baby.  Practice makes perfect or so they say.  Right?

Friday, December 6, 1985 was an uneventful day.  I was hugely pregnant with my son, but still able to move, bend AND see my toes!  However, my back really hurt that day.  But I did weigh 152 lbs. and was more than 9 months pregnant.  I think that was to be expected.

My son was supposed to have been born on Thanksgiving, but like my daughter, he was late.  I guess he decided that sharing his birthday with the populous of the world who were stuffing their faces to overload then parking it in front of the television and watching football while simultaneously slipping into a turkey induced coma was not to his liking.

I couldn’t wait to have my son.  Not only because he made me pee every half hour or if I laughed too hard, and gave me heartburn no matter what I ate because there was NO room left in my belly, but because I just wanted to get back down to my normal 120 lbs. and not feel like “The Whale who walked Logan Square.”

We already picked out his name; Michael. However Ricardo was still wanting his middle name to be Adam.  I told him no, adamantly, because his initials would be MAR.  Michael Adam Rodriguez = MAR = VERY unhappy mommy.

I didn’t want my son being called “Mar” which is defined by Merriam Websters standard dictionary as meaning:

mar – verb (used with object), marred, mar·ring.

1. to damage or spoil to a certain extent; render less perfect, attractive, useful, etc.; impair or spoil:

2. to disfigure, deface, or scar

The origins of said word weren’t very likable either:

Origin: 

Middle English: Merren, Old English: Merran – to hinder, waste; cognate with

Old Saxon: Merrian, Old High German: Merren – to hinder

Old Norse: Merja – to bruise

Gothic: Marzjan – to offend

(Gasp!!)

NOPE!!  Ricardo may have been big and liked to get his way, but this is ONE area where he wouldn’t!  I would NOT have my soon-to-be-born (like any damned minute!) son referred to as ugly in anyway, since I just knew he would be beautiful. I mean, come on, his sister was a cutie patootie – he had to be adorable too.  I don’t bake bad babies!!

I spent the whole day cleaning.  I felt this frenzy to make the house sparkling and fresh, not sure why but I did.  I mean I normally did that on Saturday anyway, but this was overdrive cleaning.  Nesting I would suppose.  I swept, I dusted, I did laundry, I scrubbed the sinks and toilet and bathtub, I washed the floors and dusted and vacuumed.  The house looked great and smelled better.  Cristal was being a good girl that day and just played and stayed out of my way for the most part as I recall.

After work Ricardo came home and took me out to dinner at Abril on Logan Square. It’s not there now, but that place had THE best Carne Asada.  We left Cristal at home with her Abuela and Abuelo.  We walked up there.  It wasn’t too far.  I was tired, and it was a really cold, clear night, but it was pretty out.  I had my favorite, Carne Asada and had a pina colada.  Just one.  Yum. Followed by flan.  Can’t forget the flan.  We walked back home, got Cristal from upstairs and I gave her a bath and put her to bed.  We watched a bit of telly and went to bed.  This is where things get weird.  It was my personal version of deja-vu.

Mind you, my daughter is two and a half years older than her brother.  She was born in Summer in 1983 at Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Hospital.  Her father and I went to dinner at Abril the night I went into labor with her.  I ate Carne Asada and had one pina colada and flan. The same EXACT dinner.  The similarities don’t stop there, which to me makes for an interesting tale.

I was asleep and my water broke while I was in bed.  I did my kegel exercises to check.  Water was still gushing out.  I was not peeing.  Oh crap!  I looked at the clock on the dresser; 1:30 am.  Oh my…NOT again!  It’s the same damned time!  WTF? How weird is that?  I got up, and unlike last time was hit almost immediately with a really strong contraction.  Owch!  Cristal took a little while.  I got hit with my first contraction with her while trying (unsucessfully, I might add) to iron a shirt (much to my mothers amusement) with a cold iron.  I had my bloody show and that is when I knew we needed to go.  I woke up Ricardo.

This time he woke up easily.  This time he wasn’t confused.  This time he didn’t get us lost on the way to the hospital and require a police escort.   We got to the ER, and I was sat down in a wheelchair and I was taken promptly to a labor room.  Strange, it’s the same labor room as last time.  In walked the nurse.  Same nurse as last time.  “Hi Carolyn, back for baby number two I see.  How is Cristal?”  She remembered NOT only me, but also my daughter.  From two and a half years ago.  I was taken aback, but it was nice. Her name was Cathy.  She was sweet and very patient and helpful.

Enter another painful contraction.  I had an overwhelming urge to shit.  She wanted me to go in a bedpan. Um, no, that’s not going to happen.  I struggled to get up.  I was in a lot of pain but managed and went to the bathroom against her advice and better judgement, but got things taken care of.  My son didn’t want to wait however and continued his assault on my uterus.

Let me tell you a little something about my daughter here.  She was predictable. Determined, but predictable.  You could set a watch to her.  In labor my contractions were EVERY ten minutes, then EVERY five minutes, etc.  You get the idea.  When she came home she needed to be fed EVERY two hours.  You could set an alarm.  NOT my boy.  He wanted to come out, and he wanted out NOW!!  He didn’t wait.  Once the contractions started, they didn’t stop. No breaks, no trying to figure out how many minutes apart.  There were NO minutes apart.  It was one big contraction.  I take that back, I had ONE ten minute break.  ONE.  That was it! I have the fetal monitor tape to prove it.

I sweated, I swore, I was hot and so I took off my hospital gown. Ricardo tried to put it back on me.  I threw it across the room. He was worried about people seeing me naked, pregnant, sweaty and cranky, I didn’t give a shit – I was in a hospital, I am sure they were used to that.  Not that I cared, I was hot and I was in pain and I was in transition and I just wanted the baby OUT!! Now!!  It was Ricardo’s fault I was like this and I was miserable and would NEVER, EVER have sex with him EVER again!!  EVER!!  I squeezed his hand so hard his fingers were white.  Hard to do on a Creole Cuban man, but I did. I thought he would cry.

Four hours and fifty-nine minutes later, at 6:29 am, after one last really hard push, my son was forced, slightly blue and very tired into the world.  He was 21.25 inches long and weighed 8 lbs. 13.5 oz.  He didn’t cry right away like Cristal did.  I was worried, but he was very tired because the labor was so hard.  All his fault I say.  He is the one who battled a war to get out into the world.  Seems that was the first of his battles and certainly not the last.  He was wrinkly, slimy and bloody, with a headful of dark hair and dark blue, almost black eyes.  They turned brown in about two days.  His father looked at him like he was an alien, but to me he was so cute.  He fell asleep almost instantly.

Later that day the nurse came into my room with my breakfast.  Scrambled eggs, canadian bacon, toast with jelly, and OJ.  I was starving and asked for seconds.  After I ate, I had to go to the bathroom, but they wanted to massage my uterus first to help things heal.  Owchie, owchie.  It hurt.  They brought in Michael.  I breast feed him.  He was still tired, so didn’t eat a lot.  They told me he was jaundiced and that was normal because he was a large baby.  He was taken back to the nursery and put under special fluorescent lights to help him heal.

Ricardo went home to go to bed for a while and then he had to get to work.  They came in and asked me what my son’s name was. Well, Ricardo’s middle name was Celestino – from one of his uncles, and so I named him Michael Celestino Rodriguez.  Cristal had my middle name, I figured giving him Ricardo’s middle name was  suiting.  And I liked it.  It was a beautiful name for my beautiful boy.

The day we brought him home, it was a freezing cold, blustery day.  He was all bundled up in his blue and white striped fuzzy suit and wrapped in a blanket.  His abuela and abuelo were very happy to meet him and they loved him.  His sister asked to hold him and give him a baba.  I sat her down on the couch and put him gently in her lap and she was giving him a bottle.  I took a photo, because I knew she would never remember or admit doing that.  Because of having a baby in the house, she wanted to go back to wearing a diaper and drinking from a bottle.  I relented on the bottle.

She was very helpful to me, even though she was really young.  She tried to share her stuffed toys.  She liked to make him smile.  Luckily for me, he would eat dinner, have his bath and sleep though the night. Then one day she said something I will never forget, which to this day, makes me smile.  She walked up to me one day and said “I don’t want him anymore, send him back.” I told her that was not possible. She said “He cries too loud and he’s smelly. I don’t want him anymore.”  Well, unfortunately for her, she was stuck with him and all in all, I don’t think she always minded too much.

However, there is still much more to be written and I will finish it, but today I just can’t.  I can however, wish my boy love and light on the other side.  He deserved that.  He was not an easy boy to raise and he put me through hell sometimes, but other times he made me smile or laugh til it hurt.  He was very sensitive and things touched and hurt him deeply and he didn’t always let on.  He could, however, talk to me about pretty much everything and anything, and for the most part he did, but there are still things about him I never did know and will now, never know.  I do know one thing however.  Having my son was one of the best things I ever did and raising him and knowing him for the time he was here on Earth was priceless and even though it was not easy and he put me through more trials than I ever dreamt possible, he brought me much joy and happiness too.  I loved you Michael with all I had.  I hope you knew that.

The City of Live Oaks…

Yes, I am here in Savannah, GA…finally.  This move did not go exactly as planned however, but needless to say, I am here.

Father’s Day…

Yes, it’s another holiday meant to celebrate the creation of a life, but nowadays it is usually used as an excuse to get a new barbeque grill, tie, tech gadget, tickets to a sporting event or being allowed to wallow in self-indulgence on the couch.  Father, daddy, dad, papa, pops, papi – whatever you call him, he’s one half of your biological make-up.  Half of your dna received from an act of love, lust, momentary passion, drunken stupidity or teenage groping gone too far – but one half nonetheless.  One strong microscopic swimmer – carrying your eye or hair color, sweet disposition or nasty temper, sharp nose or soft full lips, laid back demeanor or aggressiveness, funny ears or dented chin, uninspired learning or ambitious intelligence – on a mission…a mission of life.  The universe is huge beyond measure but it is made up of microscopic things.  We all start as a cluster of cells; seemingly innocuous but fully capable of wonderful and amazing things.

My cells starting to percolate on or about October 30, 1963.  I don’t know the exact details.  I’ve never heard the story and the one I did hear was quite disturbing but my mother was really drunk so who really knows if it is true or not.  My father says no.  Needless to say she told me I ruined her life and she didn’t want me and the only reason she kept me was because my father did.  THAT didn’t exactly make for a good evening, but visits with my mother were never fun, especially if she stopped at the bar on the way over.  Back to my creation…said percolation culminated in the not so wonderous event of my birth which I DID hear of in excrutiating detail, right down to having to be twisted, wiggled, repositioned and grabbed with forceps on my head to be extracated from my mothers birth canal because my shoulders were too big.  I still have pretty wide shoulders for a woman of my stature.  Oh well…I must have gotten that from my father.

I didn’t have a father growing up.  When kids in school would ask me about him I told them he was traveling the world, or that he had a job overseas, or that he was at war or that he was a secret agent for the government.  I didn’t know who my father was.  There were no pictures of my father in the house.  I did have a step-dad from the age of 8 on and he was in the military and he served overseas in Germany.  When he came home he seemed very sad and angry to me.  He was not always nice but when he was he was a decent guy.  He called me Termite because I chewed my nails all the time.  I was a very nervous little girl.  My mom was prone to wild mood swings,  my grandparents were religious freaks, my grandfather tried to molest me and when I told my mother she slapped me and called me a liar.  My Uncle Larry was the disciplinarian and being a Marine you can only begin to imagine the fun punishments he doled out.  So all in all, NOT a happy family.  My step dad was younger than my mom, had never had kids and I don’t think he was really prepared to be a dad and since he was the youngest in his family, he was used to being catered to and coddled.  Not a good combination for a dad – you know, a man who needed to be there – which he usually wasn’t because he was in some sort of stoned haze next to my mother who was sitting on her drunken cloud.  Neither one of them were there emotionally, except to yell or punish.  That pretty much left me in a very lonely place and I lost myself in books, playing with my little brother outside, coloring in my coloring books, playing with my stuffed animals and trying to create stories in my mind of what a real family should look like.  It wasn’t like mine.

Back to MY dad.  I didn’t even know his name – until I was 15.  Quite by happenstance as it were.  My grandmother had died and my mother was cleaning out her dresser drawer and found a small photo booth photo.  She laughed and flung it at me and said “Do you know who that is?”  I looked at the photo and saw a man looking back at me wearing a leather jacket, his dark hair up in a Ducks Ass, sporting a crooked grin.  He had a long indented chin, high cheekbones and a large nose.  I said “No, but he’s ugly”, not knowing I was insulting my own dad.  She laughed roughly and said “That’s your father.”  All I could think was why didn’t I know him?  “What is his name?” I asked her.  “Richard Sherman Lundry, Sr.  Your brother is Jr.”  She didn’t tell me anything else.  I have very faint recollections of her burning peoples faces out of photos with her cigarettes and then ripping them into pieces and putting them in the garbage.  I remember her grumbling over the years and telling other people that he hit her, but I never remember seeing her bruised at all.  I did however see HER yell at and hit my step dad, so I always wondered who really hit who?  I remember a man in blue work pants and heavy boots, who had a round, silver key chain with lots of keys.  The kind that you pull on and it snaps back.  I remembered that I used to love to play with that and he always let me.  I never knew where that memory came from – but later found out from my dad that it was him.  He was an auto mechanic and he had that exact kind of key ring…infact he still does to this day.  I remember a really bad fight when I was very little involving a man and my step-dad who was then known to me as my “Uncle John”  and I remember a man leaving.  That was my dad.  I faintly remember him taking me and my brother out for ice cream and to the park.  He always swung me on the swings and my brother always played on the slide.  For many years I had a recurring dream about being swung on the swings and then the park was empty and there was nobody there.  Weird dream.  It ended when I was 29 and finally found my dad.  Strange how your mind works sometimes.

I didn’t get to grow up with my dad and I think for many years that really affected me.  I didn’t have good marriages because I was not taught by a dad what to look for in a man.  I was not given any real foundation for what a good man was.  I was not cherished or treated like I meant anything to anybody.  I always wondered what it would have been like to have grown up with my dad.  I do know one thing – as far as being tough and self-sufficient I am my fathers daughter.  I inherited his fighting and entrepreneurial spirit and his left-handedness.  My mother was right-handed.  Because of them I am ambidextrous due to starting to write left-handed and being forced to write right handed.  My dad is a hard worker and so am I.  My dad is really smart and so am I.  My mother was the artistic one, my father the logical one.  My mother wrote poems, my father fixed cars or anything mechanical and he was also a carpenter.  My father was a fighter, my mother liked to fight.  My father left and created a life for himself, my mother got stuck and gave up on life. Infact, even though he is retired, my dad he still spends everyday working on some project or another or helping somebody fix or install something in their home or car.  He hates to sit still…

I tend to always seek out a Daddy type of person.  Somebody caring and nurturing.  Somebody who is cuddly.  I was seeking what it was I didn’t get as a little girl.  I didn’t really find it so I tend to do this for myself now.  I do care for my inner child unlike the people who were supposed to be in charge of that.  My dad also picked my name.  My mother wanted to name me Carol Lynn, but my dad named me Carolyn Marie.  I just recently found that out, but I have always liked my name.  It’s a pretty name.  I’ve never been nor have I ever wanted to be a princess, but I did want to feel special and loved and cared for.  I never grew up feeling that way – at least not from my mother and not from either of my ex-husbands, so I do it for myself.  My dad and I talk but we are not really close.  It’s hard when there are many years and much geographical distance between us, but we both try.  As for my step-dad we talk on occasion.  I cannot really blame him for how he raised me – he didn’t really know how.

Any man can father a child.  Just takes sex and an ejaculation.  But being a father takes blood, sweat and tears.  It takes long nights up with a sick child when you are exhausted.  It takes patience with late night feedings when you would rather be in bed.  It takes enthusiasm playing and reading stories when that is the last thing you want to do.  It takes gentleness giving baths and fixing boo boos.  It takes endurance with never-ending questions.  It takes tolerance with teenage angst.  It takes strength to watch them make mistakes and not want to fix them and to watch them leave the nest and go out on their own.  It takes a strong heart to see them hurt and not be able to fix it.  It takes lots of kleenex for all the proud moments.  It’s teaching your children no matter their gender how to be a good, honest, hard-working, responsible young people of character and integrity and that they are special, wonderful and worthy of being treated well.  Being a dad is more than just celebrating one day out of the year, it is being there every day, every hour, every minute, and every second of your lifetime for the progeny you created.

If you have a good father celebrate them – they are more than deserving.  If you are a good father be proud – you have earned the respect and love being bestowed upon you.  If you’re not – work on it.  It’s never too late to be a good dad.  It only takes a split second to become a dad.  It takes a lifetime to BE a dad.

Happy Fathers Day