Chapter 6, Part 2

This is the part of the story where life seemed to have stopped for me. Kids are pretty challenged when it comes to change; they just don’t always transition very well. Considering where I had come from it remains a challenge for me; I have access to words so I can express these fine adjectives now which is quite a nice thing. My whole life changed in the 2nd Grade and as I sit and reflect on those changes it was the start of feeling angry, invisible, manipulated, depressed, a burden and yet hopeful with a side of creativity. Kids are also quite resilient and I was not an exception to this rule, but rather a shining example. 

My people pleasing came from a need to survive at a young age. Pleasing my teachers was very high on that list since I received immediate rewards for it. 1 book report due? Yeah, I would do 5 instead and not just because I loved reading. I wanted to see the smile on Mrs. T’s face when I turned them in and she never let me down. 

My school was a special little school. The class sizes were very small and the teachers paid close attention to you. This could be great if they liked you, but not so great when they didn’t. Mrs. T was the teacher everyone loved. She had us singing in class to learn to spell, reciting poetry in games and putting on plays to entertain our parents. She made school really fun! Unless your name was Darin and then your life was not so fun. 

Mrs. T taught me, although not intending to, that it is important to ease your way over to the person with the most power in a situation. Don’t get too close but let them know you are there and not a threat. Mrs. T was cruel to Darin. The kid was going through a nasty divorce with his parents (and I mean NASTY) and here he is just trying to survive. His crime? He couldn’t sit still and he was craving any type of attention. At one point he was gone from class for about one week and when he returned Mrs T told him in front of the class “You know Darin, it was so nice here without you. I’m sorry you had to come back.” OUCH! I have always wanted to ask him about this now that we are adults, but don’t want to bring up that pain again. Mrs. T showed all of us that she had another side to her and it was not the side you wanted to be on. 

So, as I saddled up next to her while not getting too close I noticed she also had favorites. 2 girls who were best friends and mom’s were head of Brownies; these two got to be the stars of anything we were doing in class. ANYTHING! They were Winnie The Pooh in one of our school plays, they got to sing the lead in the songs we recited, they stood out in front all of the time whenever we had anything happening outside of the classroom, all in all they were given a lot of power by the adults. I hadn’t really cared about them before, but now I needed to be their friend. It’s this odd pack mentality that comes over children if the adults don’t step in. Whatever these two were wearing, I wanted to wear. One of them decided to change the way she wrote a “2” on paper, and so I changed the way I wrote “2” on paper. I was conforming but the invitation was not quite there from them. 

As these new 2nd Grader rules were being carved out a horrible accident happened. My dad was at work and slipped 6 discs in his back. He has never been the same. My dad was my world. My protector, my comedian, my comfort and all of my familiarity. And, now he was in the hospital getting ready to have what would be the first of many surgeries. They cut him up, but they didn’t put him back together again. It was the beginning of his drug addiction which would last for 25 more years. You know that saying of having a monkey on your back? Well, it applied to my dad for a long time considering how heavy that monkey was on his broken down back. 

My daycare was literally up the street from my school. This is where I was when Oliver pulled into the driveway. Oliver had never come to retrieve me from daycare, but I was happy to see him. He seemed serious and didn’t really talk to me while we were in the car. When I asked him where we were going all he told me was “the hospital.” It never occurred to me on that car ride that something was wrong. I was one of those kids that just kinda liked goin with the flow of things. As long as I felt safe everything seemed okay. It was when we got to the hospital that my feeling of safety left me and didn’t come back for a very long time. It seemed a requirement to hand it over as I walked through the door to see my dad. It was the cost of a cover to get in, but there was no option to turn around. No refunds. Safety and I, well we broke up for a long time. Safety had abandoned me when I was living with my mom, but it came back when I moved in with my dad. And, now I could feel it leaving once again but this time it didn’t feel like a petty argument where we could make up. This time Safety was leaving with no plans to return. 

My dad came home from the hospital about 1 month after he was admitted. We had to play nurse to tend to his surgical wounds; I liked to play nurse because it gave me a purpose and I got to see where all of my dad’s discomfort was coming from. The doctors had provided him with a lot of pills too. At first he was goofy on them and then something went grey in his deep blue eyes. He opened one of those pill bottles and didn’t come back. He just slid on down into the abyss of it all. Addiction wasn’t as studied at this time and so when the doctor gave my dad liquid cocaine to help ween him off the pain killers he had been taking for 2 years now, he climbed out of the pill bottle willingly and stepped into the 80’s cocaine party. 

I can’t remember exactly when he went from just not coming home for a few days to not ever wearing short sleeved shirts again, but it was sometime when the state announced it was cutting funding to our schools. These cuts had been planned (BIG middle finger to the Gipper on this one) since the California property tax initiative had passed AND taxes on the wealthy had been greatly reduced. It was only a matter of time before the state became lean on cash and I guess the powers that be felt the schools were a brilliant place to start slashing (to be fair, mental health also got hit hard – all of the state mental facilities were pretty much closed and so now you have skid row in LA to handled these people who need assistance). Yes, I was caught in the crux of when California had the top schools in the country to when they started to fall (did I flip good ol Ronnie Reagan off yet?). The school where I was attending would close the following year. I was now sentenced to go to school where the “bad kids” went to school. They were taking me out of my social bubble where the grass was green on all sides to a school that was known for elementary school kids cutting class and getting into fights that drew a lot of blood. Great. Just great. 

The parents tried to intervene. The nightly news came to our school to interview the weeping students, but the verdict had been rendered and our little butts were being sent to another school. 

I had a couple of really good years of learning to trust adults again, but now I was back on that familiar rocky path. For a 7 year old, this was not great. 

 

Time just flies

I always intend to get back here and then life just happens. The interesting part is when I share my story this is where I get stuck. The cycle continues but I am determined to break it.

Our family is expanding along with transitioning my career; this is me slowing down (insert sarcasm and self criticism). Although my body has now forced me to slow down because literally my feet just will not let me move around so much. I now am acutely aware of where the idea for Fred Flintstone’s feet came from and whenever I get into my car I feel I should be calling out “Yabba Dabba Do!” The body is a pretty amazing thing the way it just knows what to do. What all this means is that I have a little time to write. And, so I will.

 

 

New post to come

I have been thinking so much about my little blog and that I really need to get the next part of the story out. Time will soon be on my side and I will be able to commit to getting back to writing. I am 4 short weeks from my goal I set out to complete 3 years ago and excited puts it mildly. If anyone is still out there, give me a few weeks and the story shall go on.

Happy Spring!

Just checking in ………

Man, I am so close to finishing up a goal I started September 2009 and I started thinking about this blog again. So, I found myself reading my old posts. It is interesting the memories we hold and the memories we find to be just almost out of reach. I am reminded that sometimes life reminds us to live.

Thank you so much for the comments on my stories (and rants). And, it seems people are still finding this blog and reading it. I hope to pick this back up in June of next year when I have crossed the finish line to my goal. Stay classy ………

On Pause

I am on pause if you may have noticed. I have some goals I am working on currently and so I have been neglecting this blog. I was originally going to delete it but I was asked not to …… and I guess I am one for flattery at times.

Please continue to send me emails, posts, etc. I will update as I can. Eventually I will look to get this story into a book :)

Part 6, Chapter 1

Life was pretty normal for a few years. I was a happy child who was blossoming in school, I was making friends and my parents were madly in love with each other. We took family vacations. I had birthday parties with friends (I will get to one a bit later in this post) and home life was calm. I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt comfortable.

I was just 6 years old so boys were not yet gross but they were nothing I really thought of. They were just boys. First grade felt like my coming out party. My teacher recognized I was a quick learner and she nurtured this. I was reading and completing more book reports than anyone in the class. In retrospect, I realize now my first grade teacher was likely “family” and so I now understand her extra attention to me in class. She would ask me to read out loud, she would praise how smart she thought I was and above all she did not treat me as if I was an outsider. School was something I looked forward to.

I felt comfortable in the first grade, but it was also the start of me learning that I might be a bit different than the other children. This was the year where all of the girls were pressured into joining Brownies. An after school activity that really only meant one thing: we got to sell those damn cookies but saw none of the profits. Brownies was, of course, led by the mothers. Most of the mothers were full time mom’s so these ladies turned Brownies into who’s little girl was the best with the most badges. Some of us were left out of this mess (and by some of us I mean me and the other girls whose mothers worked full time)  and I am thankful for that, but I was the one singled out to be asked “where is your mommy?” by none other than the mommies. It still kinda of angers me the way they would ask me this in front of my peers in the middle of one their mindless activities and I would like to say I can forgive their ignorance, but lets face it they were doing it to make sure their daughters understood I was different; I came from somewhere different and my family was different. It succeeded.

These same nosey mommies would start what would become a vicious cycle of picking me last for every activity when it came to teaming up. And, it was these same mommies who opted their daughters out of my birthday parties. You want to talk about your heart being sunk at a time when Battleship was one of the number one board games. Mine was a prime target for these women. Somehow, I never was invited to these girls birthday parties and they consistently declined by invitations. May I remind you that we were a class of maybe 18 students? You felt the sting even at that age even if you could not name it.

But, alas I did have a great 6th birthday at the child’s dream cave of terrible pizza and frightening mechanical animals, Chuck-E-Cheese. It was awesome. We ate too much, we ran in circles playing those games that spit out tickets for who knows what you can redeem them with and we had a blast. I do not remember any of the events of that day, which is unusual for me, but what I do remember is I felt really happy. Running off a sugar high is really all a child looks forward to on their birthday. I look at the photos from that day and you cannot tell that I have 2 gay parents. You cannot determine that my mother is not here for my birthday (and she did not call either …. a pattern for her). All that you can see is a happy healthy child with other happy healthy children she was happy to call her friends.

I often wonder whether any of the other girls felt left out by these Brownie/Girl Scout mothers. I wonder if they felt they were ostracized for not having the same family these women felt they had. These women would set the tone for a fear I developed when I am around groups of women.  I wonder if these mommies knew the damage they were inflicting on a little girl who was without hers.

Part 5 Chapter 3

Kindergarten came and went as I was starting to feel safe in my new school surroundings and safe with the familiar faces on the play ground. I had just turned 6 years old and it was time for summer vacation and our first real family road trip.

Oliver’s aunt lived in Southern California on the coast in Morro Bay. It was his favorite aunt. Oliver did not have to pretend about anything with Aunt Nena and she loved anyone who loved her favorite nephew. Aunt Nena was excited to meet Oliver’s love and his daughter. The plan was to go to Yosemite, drive down to Morro Bay, take a day trip to Hearst Castle and then the prize …. Disneyland! Disneyland is a 6 year old dream of all dreams! To see Mickey and Minnie en vivo was more than my little temperament could handle. It would prove to be the bargaining chip that would be keep me behaved for most of the trip.

What Oliver and my dad did not have much experience with was the stamina or lack thereof as it relates to a child. Little legs, needing food, nap time, and constant snacks were something you would think after having been around a child for the last 2 years they would have picked up, but they did not and my stubbornness was not something you could calm down once it perked up. It started in Yosemite.

Recall this is 1981 and two men traveling with a 6 year old was not acceptable if they were to present themselves as a couple. At second issue was a fairly new couple still madly in love and wanting to express themselves physically, but had agreed not to express such emotions in front of me. After a very long drive where I insisted on listening to John Denver’s “Rocky Moutain High -iiiiii Colorado” over and over and over again and my dad wanting to listen to the latest George Harrison tune we arrived in Yosemite to our rented cabin. The tree’s were breath taking, the sounds completely new and the smell of pure clean was not something I will ever forget. I was already a small child, but now I felt as if I could get lost amongst all of the plant life.

They unloaded the car, fed me and we went for a short walk. I started running on the trail. I was a newly uncaged animal that had been freed. My dad being the former basketball track star knew he could catch up with me at anytime and Oliver was content with soaking in the scenery. When they caught up to me I was captivated by a squirrel in the tree but more so I was pooped. The next thing I remember was being awoken by a loud roar coming from outside our cabin. My dad peeked out of the window and screamed “Shit! It’s a bear!! What do we do?” Oliver put me in bed between them and said “nothing go back to sleep.”

Morro Bay was our next stop and a favorite stop. They make salt water taffy in Morro Bay and Aunt Nena was prepared to greet me with it. Aunt Nena was wonderful. She was my nap buddy, my eating buddy and she moved at my pace in her walker which I thought was a mini playground just for me. She cooed to me and told me stories about princesses. She told me these were the same stories she used to tell Oliver; princess stories were also his favorite. It was difficult to imagine how we could leave her, but after two days and a very tearful departure on my part we did leave.

Hearst Castle has got to be the most frustrating place for a child. Do you know they have crystal clear pools that you cannot swim in? WTF? It’s a big tease and a terrible thing to do. We had a pool at our house that I could swim in whenever my heart desired, so how are you going to tell me that this one is off limits? I got into a lot of trouble for putting my hand in the water to test out whether it was the right temperature to dive into. Security came rushing over and apparently was going to kick us out. Well, this child was in need of a nap and a snack so as soon as I was scolded the photos ops were out of the question. I insisted on being carried through the rest of the tour AND would NOT turn around for any photos. The conversation went something like this: Honey, turn around for the picture. NO! Honey, please turn around for the picture and smile. I WILL NOT!!  Mickey and Minnie may not want to see you if they hear you have been a bad girl. NO! We have many photos of my burying my face in Oliver or my dad while they have a frustrated smile on their face. Folks, you must carve out nap time when taking a child on a trip. It’s just a must.

Disneyland was the last stop and the best stop. Sugar kept me going at full speed ahead and Mickey and Minnie kept me on my best behavior. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tea Cups, Dumbo, The Jungle Book characters, it was a child’s complete dream. I wanted to stay forever, but we were kept to just one day. What I sort of noticed at Disneyland was people staring at us. I thought it was unusual that people thought Oliver was my grandfather and that my dad did not correct them. I also recall hearing people ask where my mother was. A small splinter in my heart would open up, but my two dad’s would assure me that Minnie was just around the corner and a sugary treat was sure to follow. Their small way of distracting me and healing the wound as best they could.