3/20/07

Strange And Beautiful

Not to sound narcissistic, but I've reread yesterday's post quite a few times. I don't really know why.
I think I've never really felt this stuff. Until I wrote it yesterday.
I've always known it was there. I've talked about it with a select few, but I always regurgitated it as if I were telling someone else's story. I had somehow detached myself from it.

After I wrote this post yesterday, I felt like I was standing naked (post 2 children - UGH) for all the world to see. Even as Rav was reading it, I was dreading having to look him in the eye.
However, I said to him: What is interesting to me is that, from what I gather, mom wanted out. And yet she was a mess. Dad wanted this family, he wanted to make things work. And I know he was devastated. You would think my Dad would be the one who sort of went off the deep end. But he didn't. He remained strong. And I think he found solace and comfort in me. He held it together for me. And yet, the one that wanted it to be over, fell apart.

I think I've decided to end the narrative here and begin with the strong male role stuff, which is the reason I had been writing all of this in the first place.
To get there - to get to where I can explain how I held onto every bit of what my Dad said - the goofy/crazy things my Grandpop Donovan did, to pick my dad's brain incessantly about my grandfather (his dad). As much as the men that were in my life during my days with my mom were pure chaos, I had this other end of the spectrum that I held onto for dear life.
And perhaps this is where the answer was for me. If all I knew were the men that had paraded in and out of my life during these years, things would have been different.
However, I knew better. I knew that I had a strong, dependable, good man who was my dad. Thank god I learned early enough that not all men were bad.

I also would like to state here (and though any of you who are reading because you want to, will probably know this) I am not reliving this as a means to gain sympathy. Nor am I doing this to proclaim I am a victim.
That is the farthest thing from the truth.
In my mind-set, speaking from my context, these things helped shape who I have become. I don't sit here and say Because such and such happened, I haven't been able to do _______, or I have not had this happen because ________, everything bad that has ever happened is because ________.
That's no my bag.
I could have most certainly take many a different path.
And the paths I've taken haven't always been the best. But that was because of choices I have made.
However, by saying this is where I came from, this is what happened, I can say that I will choose a different path but those things have no doubt left their mark.
The only way I can make healthy decisions are to give some things their due and proper.
And then move on.
Sometimes learning things about one's past can also give you a better understanding of why they are the way they are.
If you look long enough into the window of my soul, you begin to understand why I am the way I am.
You begin to understand why being cruel, or mistreating children makes the claws come out. My children - or anybody else's.
You may even begin to understand why I have a hard time with conflict. Inside I'm yelling things aren't right, but the words just can't come out.
To this day.

OK, now that the disclaimer is over with. I could go on a bit about the ridiculous situations my mom & I were in. But that is just gluttonous at this point. I've set the stage - I believe you have an understanding of what was going on.

Something else I need to acknowledge here is that while in my mom's custody during most of the week and on her weekends, I was in my grandmother's care a lot (my mom's mom). As were my 3 younger cousins. We got on & off the school bus from my grandmothers house, we ate dinner there every night. During days off, or school vacations we were all there. We were more like siblings than cousins.
However, what set me apart is that I was the only one who either a)Knew her father or b)Had a regular, on-going relationship with her father.
The other 3 didn't.
I can't imagine what that must have been like when I would get picked up or dropped off. Every-other Friday & Sunday.
How that must have hurt them. Though it wasn't my fault.
I know it was an issue because things were said about it.
I've often felt bad that I had that support system or that I always had that upon which I could count on.

And all of that became fodder for which to cast stones.
But I didn't care.

I hung on for dear life for the weekends with my dad. This was my hope.
I'm not sure if my Dad knew what he was doing when he was doing it, but he created a place where I could really be myself. He fostered trust and discipline. He was firm and loving. I was always part of whatever process was going on. Things that ranged from first growing his beard, to his new relationship, to his marriage. I wasn't "seen and not heard". I was respected as a human being, yet I knew he was in charge. This wasn't a relationship of excess. And when I say that, I mean I'm not talking about me being the likes of Veruca Salt. I just mean that he treated me like a little girl. I was never asked to handle more than I should.

I always knew that if I needed to talk, I could go to my Dad. I knew that he would listen in a nonjudgmental way. And he would give me his honest opinion. Not just an opinion in my favor. If I did something he didn't agree with, he would tell me.

He didn't force my hand in a positive relationship with him. He held me close, yet loosely and let the rest happen organically. This is something that my mom didn't understand. She didn't understand why I "chose" my dad and not her (those are her words, not mine).

The other thing my Dad did, possibly unknowingly, was foster the feminist inside. I feel that by taking me fishing, being outdoors, going everywhere with him on our weekends (ranging from car shows, or to his side jobs fixing up old cars to riding the motorcycle with him, teaching me how to fire a shotgun and handgun (and do it well), to hunting, and other things I can't recall as I sit here typing) he set me up to believe - to know - that I can do anything. And that anything I wanted to try - if it made me happy - he was willing to let me try.

My dad taught me to appreciate the simple pleasures of our environment and wildlife. My dad talked issues with me, as well as, history. Dad introduced me to the beautiful things the world had to offer, to seek it out, to explore, to think critically, and to question. He taught me how to be insightful, thoughtful, compassionate, and fair. He did this all by example.
As time went on and I got older, my stepmother, Eileen, is the one who modeled and taught me about charity.

Of course, you know....music.

Everything my dad (and eventually stepmother) did was about enriching me, about guiding me, and modeling for me. Though they probably didn't realize it. While my weeks were filled with survival, my weekends were where I was thriving.

Those weekends spent at The Farm were (now that I look back) constant learning experiences. Grandpop Donovan who was so knowledgeable about tending his garden and gaining something from hard, physical work. Even in your 80's and 90's. You have too keep moving, be active, feel the fresh air.
Grandpop's groceries were interesting to me growing up. He ate modestly, but he wanted his fruits and vegetables to be of good quality. He was very picky. And he loved his wheat bread. He never touched sweets (god love him, I wish I could stay away from them).
What is probably going to sound funny is that Grandpop Donovan never once said my name. And that might sound harsh. But he was hard of hearing - he (being a very old man) had lost his teeth and never got dentures - so he couldn't speak well. He was afraid to try to say my name because he didn't want to mispronounce it. So he just always called me The Little Girl.

I have always been so thankful for the times dad & I were together.
And I catch myself doing things he did, without even realizing it.
Like pointing out which fields are soy beans, corn, or winter wheat to the kids.
Squealing like a nut whenever I see deer and pointing them out to the kids.
My crazy obsession with music and sharing it with the kids.

I'm certainly not a perfect parent.
My dad isn't either.
But he did pretty good by me. When we were together.
Being a dad was so important to him. Is still so important to him.
I see the way he looks at Gracie when we get to visit with him. And I know where his mind is drifting to. I've even heard him call her Jess once.
If I can be half the parent my dad was/is, I know I'll be doing OK.

I don't think this post does my dad any justice at all. And I don't know that I'm adequately describing the strong men I had in my life. I'm wrapping up this post thinking I haven't even really touched on it.

4 ripples in the pond:

jen said...

Friend. I am so happy to hear the power you feel in moving the words out and through. And I know you aren't asking for sympathy. In fact, I know you rail against that, but I still might need to reach out to the little girl part that was wounded, while fully acknowledging the woman she grew into. It's seperate and together all at the same time.

You do your dad justice every single time you write about him.

Tabba said...

Your words mean so much. Though I think what I was trying to say was that this is not adequately answering your questions....

Oh, The Joys said...

I agree with Jen - you did here and always do him justice. You make ME grateful for him. xo

Joker The Lurcher said...

i love how you articulate that all this is what made you who you are. that is the only way to process this stuff. it made you strong sometimes, weak sometimes, angry sometimes, sad sometimes and a whole gamut of other things. but that is who you are.

i was on the phone to my dad yesterday. its not such a positive relationship as you have with yours (but not as bad as it used to be). my dad was saying how if only his dad hadn't been so shitty to him he would have had a better life and how bad he felt and how hard it was to have self-esteem.

i found myself saying to my dad exactly what you said in this post - that i hadn't had the most fantastic start in life myself (in some part because of him) but that it had made me who i am.

it is a case of learning and growing. and in the face of chaos and fear and rejection finding some kernel of strength and wisdom to get you through stuff which most children never have imagined.

thank you so much for writing about all of this. sharing stuff makes all of us feel less alone.