Friday, February 27, 2009

A Good Man

Per yesterday’s post, today’s topic on the little rolled-up slip of paper is, “What quality do you admire most in your father? Why?”

Well, like most girls, I admire my father for a lot of things – and those things have changed over time. When I was really little – like 3 or so, I used to love the smell of coffee on his breath in the morning (actually, I still do). I may be the only person in the country who actually likes coffee breath!

When I got a little older, I admired how physically strong my dad was – how he could pick me up and swing me, or get down on the floor and wrestle with me, and I could pound on him with my little chicken arms to my heart’s content without fear of hurting him. As I got into school age years, and beyond, I admired (and still do) how smart he is, how hard he works, how willing he is to drop whatever personal things he has going on to help someone he loves, and how he still opens the car door for my mother – every single time.

But I didn’t discover and/or realize what I admire most until I was well into adulthood. I knew my father had an unhappy childhood – we were never particularly close to his side of the family, since they all lived “back east” and we lived “out west.” He would talk about how many chores he had on the farm as a boy, and how his mother had to sign a waiver to let him enlist in the Air Force at just 17. He left home then, and never looked back.

For awhile in my early 30’s, my father and I carpooled to work together. As we sat in bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic, more details about his childhood emerged. He told me how his father (my grandpa) had a terrible temper, and would beat my father regularly. Sometimes, when “Harold” (as we refer to my dad’s father - often with the word "Weird" in front of it...but that's another story!) would be “on one,” my grandma would give my dad a sandwich and tell him to get lost – to go spend the night in the woods, and don't come back until his dad had calmed down (usually the next day). My father was only six years old at the time.

We recently saw a picture of a razor strop – a long piece of leather used for sharpening razor blades in “the olden days.” My dad said something about it making a good “whuppin’ tool,” so I asked him if his dad had ever beat him with one. “We didn’t have one,” he replied, “or I’m sure he would have. He beat us with everything else.”

I also asked him if Harold just wailed on the kids, or if he beat Grandma, too. “Oh yeah,” dad said. “He beat her, too.”

Recently, with the events of my divorce and the ample evidence I have that The Tool is definitely not the kind of man I want my daughters to grow up to marry, I have begun reflecting on the qualities that make a good man. Largely, they are the same qualities that make a good dad, too. I have been very worried that my girls, who pretty much adore their father the way most daughters do, will think that their dad can do no wrong, despite evidence to the contrary. I worry that they will accept the things he’s done, and the choices he’s made, as “OK.” Worst of all, I worry that they will grow up to select someone with equally shifty character traits as the father of their children, and thereby have to endure some of the hurts I’ve suffered over the last year or so. I would desperately like to save them from that pain, if it’s at all possible.

So – back to the topic at hand. I realize that many abusers are people who were, themselves, abused. I don’t have to look much beyond the character of The Tool’s family to figure out how he came to be the way he is. So the thing I admire the most about my father, is that despite the fact he came from an abusive household, he never, ever purposely hit me or physically hurt me in any way. Oh, sure, sometimes he’d give me a playful swat on the butt that stung more than he intended it to, and there were some times when we were wrestling that things got out of hand (Don’t they always? I can still hear my mom saying, “OK, that’s enough! Somebody’s gonna end up crying!!”).

But the point is, long before “breaking the cycle” became the buzzword for preventing child abuse, my dad made a conscious decision not to raise his own family the way he was raised. He didn’t want to put us through that drama/trauma. He made that promise to himself, and he kept it – no matter how disobedient or whiney or smart-alecky us kids were, or how tired or mad or edgy he was. I can’t imagine the kind of self-discipline and strength of character that required, over and over and over again, for the 30-some-odd years he had kids in the house.

Witnessing his triumph, even when I didn’t completely understand the struggle, gives me hope for my own situation on two fronts: one, that the cycle CAN be broken. Just because my girls have a father who turned out to be not as good of a man as I had hoped or wanted (let alone as good as I once thought he was) doesn’t mean that they will automatically accept character traits like their father’s as being indicative of “a good man.” The kind of man he is doesn’t have to mean that he will automatically be the kind of man they want to marry or be with as an adult. And two, since my girls can know my dad, know what he’s done for us, know where he came from and where he is now, they will know what a REALLY good man is all about.

Finally, since this turned into kind of a Dad Tribute Page (and it’s not even Father’s Day!!), I will leave you with this poem, attributed to Hilda Bigelow:
I had a father who talked with me --
Allowed me the right to disagree,
To ask questions – and always answered me,
As best he could, and truthfully.
He talked of adventures; the horrors of war;
Of life, its meaning; what love was for;
How each would always need to strive
To improve the world, to keep it alive.
He stressed the duty we owe one another;
To be aware that each man is a brother.
Words for laughter he also spoke,
A silly song or a happy joke.
Now time runs along, and some say I'm wise –
That I look at life with seeing eyes.
My heart is happy, my mind is free,
For I had a father who talked with me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blogging Ideas

If any of you are like me, sometimes you have both the time and the inclination to blog about something, but you haven’t the foggiest idea of what you should write about. Then, when you are too busy to do any updates, ideas come flying at you right and left!! But then, when you sit down to blog again, damned if you can remember any of those stories that seemed like such good ideas before!

I guess a potential solution to that problem would be to write notes to yourself. I am not a very good note-taker – I guess I just figure if I have time to write a note, I have time to do the whole shebang. But my mother is excellent at notes. She is the Note-Taking Queen. I bet Post-It could stay in business on her contributions alone. I can remember times back when I was still living at home when the entire front of the microwave was absolutely covered with “little yellow stickies” that said things like, “Milk!”, “Donna’s B-day!”, or “Call insurance!”

Which brings me to today’s topic. I bought this neat little thing at a craft fair awhile ago. It is a lidded jar, full of curled up slips of paper, and on each paper is a topic. The idea is that each day, you pull out a topic, and by the time the jar is empty, you’ve written your life’s story. On the one hand, it sort of feels conceited to write my life’s story – who am I to think I’m so special that someone else would want to read about me? But on the other hand, I think, “Wow! That would be SO COOL if I had my grandma’s life story, written in her own words!” So I decided to do this project, not so much for y’all, but for “future generations.” Assuming I don’t kill my children before they have a chance to grow up and create those future generations – it’s iffy on any given day!

Anyway, today’s topic is, “Did you and your mother share an interest in any special activity?” At first, my response was, “I don’t really think so!” I mean, it’s not like we have a hobby that we do together or anything. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that family is our hobby. All of the activities that we do together and like the best, revolve around family. Whether it’s shopping for someone’s birthday, or celebrating the holidays, or catching up on how everyone is during a marathon phone call, family is the common denominator that links us together. And it seems like when you are doing things with and for the people you love, ANY activity is special.

So yeah, “Family” is the special activity my mother and I share. Because it sure as hell ain’t note-taking.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

They're Still Cute!

As Cydanie has gotten older, she doesn't say as many of the really cute, funny things that I used to get such a kick out of when she was little. I don't know how much is due to the fact that she has a much better command of language now, or how much is because she is more self-conscious than she used to be... Either way, I miss all those little gems.

The other day, though, she proved she still has it in her. My mom and dad have been helping me so much at my house - putting in shelves, unpacking, organizing, changing out the water heater, etc., etc., etc., while I'm at work. I try to make it up to them by, at the very least, making them lunch and/or dinner or treating them to the occasional Wendy's or pizza or something. It's the least I can do.

So, we're sitting on whatever available surface we can find (things are still a bit of a wreck!), eating dinner. I can't even remember what I made - chicken pot pie, I think. We ate, watched a little TV, and finally around 7:30-8:00 PM, my dad got up with a groan.

"C'mon, Mother," he says (he always calls my mom "Mother" unless he's mad - then it's "PEG!"). "Let's get going." He's walking along to the front door, hobbled over with sore muscles from all the hard labor he's been putting in. "Man, I'm tired!" he groans.

And with total and complete innocence and sincerity, Cydanie says, "Because you're old?"

We all busted up laughing! Poor Cyd didn't get it. "Well, he is!" she says to me, full of indignity.

So yeah, she's still got some of those things in her, and they're still cute. I hope they never go away completely.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Geez, Louise!!

HOLY CRAP I can't believe it's been six weeks since I've written anything!! In my defense, though, it has been a really crazy six weeks. Let's see, we've had health scares (weird mammograms and colonoscopies and junk like that), mortgage paperwork problems (being almost divorced apparently requires three times as much paperwork as being either completely divorced or completely married), fights with children (what else is new?), turning 40 (sigh....), having my purse stolen (from the DI, of all places - shouldn't there just be a bunch of good LDS people hanging out there, instead of thieves?!?), moving to the new house (a lot of work but with A LOT of help from my most excellent family, we got out and in all in one day!), having the sewer back up and flood the basement two days after moving in (seriously - I am not making this up), moving Cyd back out of the basement and upstairs with me while repairs are made (I am no longer fond of having a room mate), and having not only my homeowner's insurance but also my home warranty company BOTH refuse to cover any part of the flood (seriously, I am not making that part up, either)...yup, I think that about sums it up. You'd think my life could be a country song lately!

Seriously, I was thinking about asking this Native American woman that I work with, if she would come out to my house and burn some incense or something to chase all my bad juju away. Or that maybe I needed to light some candles, or sacrifice a chicken, or go to church, or something to break this crazy cycle of craptastic luck I've had lately!

It may be too early to say, but it turns out that the chickens are safe from me, for now. Things seem to be looking up. My insurance agent persuaded the insurance company that after only being in the new home two days, he hadn't had a chance to finalize my policy so they couldn't assume that I had declined sewer and drain coverage. So, they are going to cover putting things back to rights, after all. Yay!

And, I picked up the rough draft of the final divorce settlement and stipulation from the attorney last week. There are a couple of little errors (mostly typos) that need to be corrected, but still - we are VERY close to that being final, too.

And, my new place is kind of getting squared away, little by little. I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to my parents for all their help. I truly don't know what I'd do without them.

So all in all, I think the destruction and dismantling portion of my life has about run out of steam (knock on wood!), and I can finally concentrate on the rebuilding and creating part. I am holding out for nothing but good Karma from now on!! However, if you want to light a candle, say a prayer, or perhaps even have a chicken that is on it's last legs, anyway - I think I could still use the good thoughts. I'm just sayin'.