Belief, Lies, Turth, and My Dad

Friday my dad explained the park where the boys would be playing their soccer games at.  Though I grew up here, I didn’t explore the city much until now that I’m older with a family.  My dad was a police officer for 30 years.  He knows the city like the back of his hands.  As it so happens, the park was in one of his old beats.  He explained it would take me only 20 minutes to get there, but my dad has some super power of bending space and time because he can get anywhere in the city within 20 minutes.  It’s just not possible for ordinary humans.

My dad turned to Tornado E and rubbed his head.  “Sorry, little guy, but there isn’t a snack bar.”

Tornado E moaned.

We laughed

***

We finally made it to the park, just 5 minutes late.  God, I hate being late.

Tornado E: Mommy!  Can we get something at the snack bar?

Me: No.  You heard what Papi said.  They don’t have a snack bar here.

Tornado E: But you taught me never to believe Papi.

Uh.  Yes.  Yes, I did.  To help you learn that Papi jokes, teases, tells stories, lies all to catch you up.  It’s in his blood, like it is in ours, little dude.

Sigh.

Me: Yes.  I should amend that.  Believe Papi half the time.  When it comes to our city, believe him.

Maybe.  Sort of.  He’ll make up stories about places.

Me: When he’s giving your directions and describing the area, believe him.  He was a cop for 30 years.  He won’t steer you wrong on that stuff.

Other stuff?  Yes, most definitely.

Fond Memories

As we waited for a table for breakfast on Sunday, which happened to be Mother’s Day, the boys grew bored, even with their uncles standing right there to amuse.  But what’s more fun than messing with your brother?  Not much.  So my boys were touching each other, pushing each other, making jokes about each other, getting into each other’s faces to make weird noises, hugging/strangling each other, just messing with each other.  Nothing turned into a fight, it just hovered there.

My Mom: Your boys like messing with each other.  A lot.

Me: (shrugged) Most siblings do.

My Mom: You kids didn’t.

A montage of childhood antics flashed before my eyes.  The Face crying when the swing knocked him in the back of the head.  The Friendly Giant dropping and breaking my piggy bank as I wrestled The Face.  Turning and seeing The Friendly Giant with a clump of my hair in his hands.  Wrestling for hours over the damn remote.  Arguing over the green glass.  Fighting over the green glass.  Holding a finger just an inch away from the other person. Swearing I would break that finger if it wasn’t removed.  Walking into my room to find the Great Beheading Barbie Massacre of ’89.  Swearing unholy revenge on behalf of those Barbies and Skippers.  Trying to make the others talk during the Quiet Game.  Trying to mime that my brothers were cheating on the Quiet Game.  Complaining about being near each other in the car.  “His leg is touching mine!”  “Her hair is touching me!”  “He’s over the line on my side!”   The lecture we all received about how wrong it was to punch or kick someone in the groin; and our mother telling us she wanted grandchildren one day.  Breaking into a clean-underwear fight during our chore of folding the underwear.  (Much like a snowball fight but with underwear)  The Face asking if I wanted to see time fly as he threw my glow-in-the-dark watch across the room.  Learning that heads bounce off dry wall.  Telling the Friendly Giant if he didn’t get in the pool and play with us the vulture would get him.  Ferocious fights during Shark games or Water Polo.  Screaming s/he is cheating!  Never finishing a game of Monopoly because someone always stole from the bank and we end up throwing pieces and money at each other.  Fighting over video games.  Tons of cut-downs.  Tons of name calling.  Tons of pulling faces.  Tons of tattling.  Tons of pushing, hitting, kicking, shoving, scratching, and pulling hair.

Me: Yeah, we did.

My Mom:  You’re obviously misremembering.

Me: One of us is.

Listening to my Mother

I had low self-esteem as a kid.  My mom worked hard to fix it.  One of the things she use to make me do was say at least once a day, “Every day I’m getting better and better in every way.”  Yeah, I hated it then too.

The year I claimed myself was probably the worst year of my life.  Sure, there was my senior year in high school when I became suicidal, but I crawled out of that dark spiral and found a new stride.  Sure, in college I was stalked for several months by an ex-boyfriend, and I knew if someone didn’t intervene, I end up dead, but I had great classes, great friends, and a lot of great memories of that year.  Sure, 2010 my marriage imploded, and I went through a zombie week plus all kinds of emotional pain, but that was the year I had Tornado A, which really makes up for the other sh*t.  So my 7th grade year was the worse year of my life.  I was bullied, picked on, tormented, and all sorts of things I repressed until I put an end to all that.  That was the year I got my period and my first bra and puberty hit me hard with a clumsy, awkward phase.  The only bright spot is getting an A+ in math, which just shows what a crappy year that was.  But I learned from it.

Now Tornado E is having a hard time with friends.  Something about his quick-temper and often poor attitude, which would be forgiven if he would just play sports.  Which he won’t because obviously, I’m raising a nerd.  And the ex and my mother are beside themselves, trying to fix it.  And I won’t let them.

As a parent, I remind him to do something kind every day.  I am trying to teach him how to control his anger and to shake off a bad day.  But I will not interfere with his social life because my mom interfered with mine.

She was always full of advice.  Just hang out with them.  Ask them if they want to come over.  Ask if you can play with them.  Talk about what they want.  Tell them some jokes.  Here, take extra cookies to share.  You know what that did?  It opened me up to fresh hell.  And now I was being bullied, and my mom was disappointed I wasn’t following her advice.  Clearly.

The more I think about my childhood, the more I listen to how my mother talks to me.

You could stand to lose a few pounds.

You’re just not firm enough with your kids.

Stand up straight.  Suck in your belly.

Are you really hungry enough to eat a whole hamburger?

Hmm, those jeans are snug.

I have never seen your house clean.

When I was your age, I was going to school too and kept my house clean.

Of course I understand being home alone with three kids, your father was a police officer.

You should exercise more.

I don’t think you wanted to be a writer because you would have been writing this whole time.

My dad is justifying that my mom is in a lot of pain and doesn’t sleep well because of the anti-cancer pills.  But I don’t think that’s it.  And my dad has reminded me that when I was growing up my mom had horrible PMS.  But I don’t think that’s it either.  Because when I was in college, she didn’t have cancer and she was given Prozac for PMS, and every Sunday night my first semester, she made me cry.

You see, I didn’t get a job my first semester.  I waited a week to get my feet underneath me, and by then, all the campus jobs were taken.  I needed a job on campus.  Every week I reported my failure with my weekly call.  Every week my mom would scold me and admonish me, and I would hang up the phone crying because I was a failure.

A month into the cycle, a guy friend learned of this and began to beg me not to call home.  “Just don’t call, Fae.  You don’t need this.  She doesn’t have the right to make you cry.”  “But I have to call home.  I have to.”  Once he realized it was pointless to stop me, he began showing up in my room 20 minutes into the call, so that I had an excuse to hang up.  From there, he would cheer me up.

I wonder much tearing down did my mother do as she was trying to build me up.

And how do I deal with her now?

Rumor has it …

My mom: Someone told me you wrote a blog that said you thought Tornado E was gay because he liked watching a scene of two men kissing over and over.

Her tone was serious and slightly “parent.”  I looked over at her to make sure she wasn’t joking.  She can play straight but not as good as that.  Nope.  She was serious.  So my first thought was “what the f-?”

Me: What the hell?  I’ve never written a post on Tornado E’s sexuality.  He’s too young to have sexuality.

My mom: (same tone) That was what I was told.

My mind raced through the list of people who know about my blog and me and would talk to my mother.  And none of them would say something like that.

Me: I don’t know what to tell you, Mom.  I’ve never written anything like that.  Whoever told you that was mistaken*?

*Mistaken as in they are lying, and I want to know who it is because the way you just said that they are trying to make it out that I’m a bad mom and my kid is a freak, and no one has the right to judge my kid.

The moment passed, and my mom left the room as I continued to search for paper to write the grocery list on.  I entered the kitchen a few minutes later.

My mom: Your Cousin’s Wife said you posted a blog post about Tornado E being gay on Facebook.

Again.  What the F-?

I keep the blog separate from my Facebook account.  Very separate.

Think.  Think.  Think.  Th- OH!

Me: No.  A couple of weeks ago I read an article on Facebook where a father (and I could be wrong, it could be the mother) talked about his son watching Glee and identified with the gay character and liked the love scenes.  The father joked that if the boy turned out to be gay and made a dramatic reveal, the father and mother could brush it off and tell the boy they’ve known for years.  The main point of the article was that it was great that shows and movies portrayed healthy loving relationships of all kinds.  But no, I didn’t write it.  I just “liked” it.  Does that show up on the news feed?

My mom: Yes, I think it does.  Why would she think you wrote it?  She showed it to your Cousin, and he read it.  He told us yesterday when he was here.

Hmmmm.

Me: There’s no way she could believe I wrote it.  When you like or share something, it shows the original author.  She deliberately misinterpreted it.

My mom: Why would she do that?

I could feel my mom’s anger rising.

Me: Because she has self-esteem issues and she needs to put other people down to make herself feel better.  In her eyes and my Cousin’s eyes, I’m a bad mom because I let my son watch men kissing.  I’m a bad mom because I would “allow” my son to be gay.

My mom: Why would they think Tornado E is gay?

Me: Because he’s not “macho” like their boys.  He doesn’t watch professional wrestling.  Not that I would let him.  He’s not big on sports.  He cares about what he likes to wear.

My mom: Like your brother.  Like the ex.

Me: Exactly.  Tornado E is not what they define as a classical boy.  And really, I couldn’t care less.  Tornado E is who Tornado E is.  I just don’t want any one projecting this crap on him.  AND even if he was gay, or if any of my boys were gay, it wouldn’t matter.  I would love and support them no matter what.

My mom: I just don’t know why they are telling these lies.  Your Sister In Law told your Cousin he was wrong and that she has never read anything like that on your blog.  That it didn’t even sound like you.

Oh good.  My Cousin told The Face and my SIL.  So which means they’re telling everyone in the family.  That is awesome.  Easter is going to be a blast.

My mom: I just don’t understand why she would think you wrote this.  Or why you’re a bad mom.

Me: Because they want to.  Remember the Cousin thought I was gay because I didn’t run straight into the arms of another man after my separation.  As though every woman needs a man to be whole.  Consider the source, Mom.  These are crappy people trying to be white trash and taking their boys with them.

My mom: You should unfriend her.

Me: That is an awesome idea.  I’ve wanted to for weeks.  I’m sick of the “Like if you have the best kids in the world” or “Like if you love your kids” or “Like if your husband is your soul mate.”  God, it’s annoying crap.  Not to mention the ignorant “I hate Obama” crap and the “You can have my gun when you pry it from my dead cold hands” crap.

I watched my mom’s face.  She was calculating the damage to my reputation and what needed to be done with damage control.  She was hosting Easter.  She would be calling every family member.  She would put a stop to it.

Me: Mom.  I don’t care if they think I’m a bad mom.  I know I’m not.  Hell, I know I’m a better parent than they are.  They just can’t wrap their minds around not spanking your kid and being ok if your kid decides to wear nail polish.  I don’t rule my children with an iron fist.  The only thing I care is that no one judges Tornado E.

I hugged my mom.  Speaking of kids, I decided to make sure mine weren’t causing trouble somewhere.  I started walking out the door.

Me: And Mom, I would never watch Glee.

I’m a little confused

My Mom: Do you remember me working when you were a kid?

Me: Yeah.  Even when you weren’t, you were always involved with the school.  You were always at school.  Doing things for teachers.  Running the parent association thingy.  Doing stuff for volleyball or softball or Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.  You worked a lot.

My Mom: No.  Do you remember when I went back to work?

Me: Yeah.  I’m just saying that even when you weren’t working, you were still working.

My Mom: Fae, do you remember when I went back to work? 

Um, am I missing something here?

Me: Yes, Mom.  I remember when you went back to work.  You worked part-time for Sears catalogue.  Our carpool family sucked because they were always late.  The boys and I would fold laundry Tuesday afternoons.  (I went to a school that had half-days every Tuesday for the purpose of parents getting all appointments out-of-the-way.)  And Dad had to cook more, or we ate more frozen foods.  And I went shopping with you when you were buying a work wardrobe.  Before that you were going to school.  After that you did medical billing at home.  After that you got the job at Dr. B—‘s doing his medical billing.  So, yes, I remember you working.

My Mom: I was just wondering.  You were in fifth grade.  I didn’t go back until The Friendly Giant was in first.

So you mean most of my childhood was filled with you not working.  Which is what I said before.  Which was the path I planned to follow, you know, before I had to become a single mom.  Which proves that most mothers fluctuate between working and staying at home.  And what was the point of all this?

Me: So, if I was in fifth grade, then that would mean most of my young childhood, you were a stay-at-home mom?

My Mom: Yes, Fae.  But I went back to school when you were in second grade, and I was always doing something at the school. 

AH!  What was this whole conversation for?!

What are we talking about?

Mothers.  Damnit.

The Green Glass

Without fail every breakfast, lunch, and dinner served at home during my childhood started out with an argument between my brothers and me.  It was an ongoing battle.  The bickering had to be ended by our parents.  A precursor to the days of the TV remote fights that would last hours after the favorite show was over.  We fought over a Tupperware green cup.

“I want The Green Glass!’  “I want The Green Glass!”  “I want The Green Glass!”  “You had it last time!”  “I did not!”  “No!  It’s my turn!”  “No!  It’s my turn!”  “You already had a turn!”  “I haven’t had it in FOREVER!” 

I can’t tell you why The Green Glass was the best glass.  It just was.  Milk, juice, water, Kool-Aid all tasted better coming from The Green Glass.

Somewhere during the move from my childhood home to the house my parents now live in, which happened when I was in seventh grade, The Green Glass went missing.  It became a distant memory as the TV remote wars started.

Until a week ago.

I was rummaging for something in my mom’s cupboards when I found a stack of Tupperware cups.  The Green Glass was on the top of the stack.  My heart skipped a beat.  I smiled.

Me: MOM!

My mom: What?

Me: You don’t need these glasses anymore do you?!  I can take them off your hands!  I could always use more glasses for the boys!

My mom entered the kitchen.

My mom: What glasses?

Um.

Me: These.

I held up the stack.  My plan might be blown.

Me: You already have a whole bunch.  I can take these off you hand.  All I really need is one.

My mom: Do you really think it’s fair to take The Green Glass without discussing it with your brothers?

Me: Yes.  I’m the one with children.

My mom: And you’re going to share with the boys?

Me: Um.  Maybe.  Sure.  Why not?

My mom: (rolled her eyes)  Fae, you just want to beat your brothers.

Me: But MO-OM!

The Friendly Giant walked in the room, removing his sun glasses.

The Friendly Giant: Hello, Everybody!

Me: Hello, Dr. Giant.

He gave me a smile and a backwards nod to acknowledge my immediate acknowledgement to his allusion.  His eyes went straight for the stack of glasses.  Hiding them would be too suspicious.  Caught.

The Friendly Giant: The Green Glass!  Mom, can I have that?

Me: NO!  I’m the one with kids!

My mom: No.  They’re mine. 

She sighed and left the room.

Me: They will be mine.  Oh yes, they will be mine.

The Friendly Giant: Fat chance.  She loves me more.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

The Green Glass.  Front and center.  Because it’s special.

Back then they didn’t make blue but a type of orange or else we would have fought over the blue one too.

10 things about my Dad

1. My dad’s a storyteller.  It’s why I want time alone from him.  To hear his stories.  It’s why he was so good at police outreach.  People love his stories.  It’s why the community college wanted him without a degree.  Because he taught so well.  Through stories.

2. My dad’s favorite colors are red, white, and blue.  Which is to say, he doesn’t have one but is willing to pacify his young daughter who was trying to draw something for him.  Some dads lie to please their kids.

3. He’s a lone wolf.  He wishes my baby brother and I didn’t inherit that.  We also inherited his run-towards-trouble, not away from it.  He wishes we didn’t inherit that either.

4. He’s had a mustache since he started college.  My mom has been asking for him to shave it for years.

5. He wanted to be a cop ever since he was a little boy.

6. He never drank.  He never smoked.  He was always a Good Guy.

7. He worked for Pepsi before he was a cop.  He raised us all to be Pepsi fans.

8. I have complete faith he can fix anything.  Even when he grumbles that he doesn’t work on foreign cars.

9. He keeps mints in his pocket so he can give them to my boys.  Just like his grandpa did for him.

10. A few stories:

When my dad was three, his family lived at the top end of a T intersection.  Before work, his father would move my dad’s little sister from her crib to the master bed to sleep with his mother.  My dad woke early and turned on the TV to watch Howdy Doody.  One morning, my grandpa left for work.  My dad raced to watch Howdy Doody.  Someone ran the stop sign and plowed into the family home.  The car landed on my dad’s empty bed.  My dad regrets never sending a letter to Howdy Doody thanking him for saving his life.  Also when my family lived at a T intersection, my dad parked his squad car in front of the house, so if someone ran the stop sign, s/he would plow into a car, not my bedroom.

My dad tells how he and I sat on a bench once, eating ice cream.  “I feel sorry for grown ups,” I said as I swung my legs.  “Why?” my dad asked.  “Because your feet always touch the ground.  You never get to rest.”

The year they rereleased Snow White in the theaters when I was a child, my dad bought a poster.  He hung it up in my room one night when he got off his midnight shift.  The first thing I saw when I woke up was that poster.

When I went to college, I cried the night before I left because who would hug and kiss my dad in the morning before he went off to work and to say goodnight since my brothers were practicing teenage boy jerks.

It’s hard to stop the stories because there are so many.  He has shaped my life.  I turned to him when I questioned my faith because I knew he would be honest with me.  I turned (and still do) to him when I questioned a moral, a philosophy, a law, a political stance.  One of his favorite past times is to play devil’s advocate to me, especially when he can push me to annoyed anger, and then I yell “better a bleeding heart than none at all.”  He enjoys when he can trip me up with a riddle or a joke, miming reeling in a fish when he has me on the hook.  (I’m more fun to sport because I fall for less than my brothers.)  He’s my dad. 

My dad and me.

Note: Not only was I an ugly baby but way too skinny.  What where those people doing to me?