Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A good thing happened today.  I spent the day with my dad and his wife at the hospital and I learned something I needed to know.  For years now, I've had as little to do with my dad as possible.  There were a couple of years back in my mid-thirties when I literally wasn't speaking to him.  It wasn't because I was mad at him, although I was, it was because I needed a break.  He's so intense, and being around him was so difficult for me, that it would take days to recover my equilibrium after spending time with him.  I just wanted some time off.  I kept up with him through my mom and my sisters (this was before my parents divorced), but I didn't see him or speak to him for a couple of years.

But even once we were back in touch, I never spent more than a day or two around him.  We'd have dinner with him, or we'd be at some big family gathering. Once or twice we spent the night at his new house once he remarried.  I'd be around him just long enough to realize, "Yup, he's still the same old guy he's always been," and then I'd be glad I didn't have to be around him much anymore.  Times have changed now.  His wife needs our support, no matter how I feel about him.  So the visit I made here earlier this month, and now this one, are the first times in a dozen years I've been around him for any length of time.  And I'm discovering that I'm stronger than I think. I've grown up a lot.  Which is such a relief, because I'm frickin' 48 years old.  Thank GOD.

There was that moment yesterday, which was indeed painful.  It cut right through to the core of the little girl I once was, confused and hopeful and trying to please, but just never quite getting him to see me.  But today, I spent the entire day with him, and even though he's still the same guy, he still makes cracks about women that are borderline offensive, he still looks at me and sees someone who is not even remotely related to how I see myself-- even though all of that is still true, it was OK.  I sat there with them, and we chatted between the blood draws, or sat and read, or watched Wimbledon, and I was fine.  I could handle it.  I wasn't terrified that he would somehow be able to undermine who I am, which I think is what used to scare me to death about him.  He was such a strong person, and had such an influence over me, and the way he saw me and saw the world were not at all how I saw things. It seemed like the "real" me was erased whenever I spent time with him.  But he can't do that anymore, because there's too much of who I am for him to erase now.  Ha. I guess I have my own columnar self now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cuteness is as cuteness does

One of the things I disliked about growing up in the south is the cute thing.  There are many ways that women can be in the South, but one of the favorites is cute, in a way that would be entirely unacceptable if you lived in, say, New York City or Seattle.  Southerners love perky women, adorable women.  And they probably wouldn't use the word "women" in this context, but I'm so used to it that I can't imagine a different way to say it.  Maybe gals.  I remember the first time I moved out of the south, it was such a relief to be able to dump the whole cute thing.  I suppose everyone has their cute moments, but generally speaking, I am not cute.  I am definitely not perky.  In my natural state, I'm kind of grumpy and prickly.  And I'm not talking about looks here.  Although being physically adorable helps, cuteness is a State of Mind.

My dad has always loved women--ladies, gals-- who were cute and perky.  The cynical side of me wants to add: women who catered to him, buttered him up, flirted with him and teased with him.  He also liked women who were "tiny."  It was the adjective he used most often to describe women whom he found attractive.  But my mom, my sisters and I are not tiny.  We are not huge, and none of us is really overweight, but we are relatively tall-- all four of us within an inch of  5'7"-- and we are not reed thin.  We were never described as tiny.

My dad's second wife is tiny. She is funny, lovely both within and without, with a heart as big as all outdoors and a laugh that you can hear from the other side of the house.  I don't in any way mean to criticize her; her generosity of spirit and her utter zest for life come through in everything she does.  But she is about 5'2" and can't weight any more than 105 soaking weight.  She is tiny, and cute, and at times you could even call her perky.  She comes by it honestly; she is a naturally extroverted, bubbly person.  And my dad finally has what he always wanted.  He said to me today, "She gets her hair up in a ponytail and gets in her Jeep [convertible], and she's the cutest thing in town."

And on the one hand, while part of me can get angry about the absurdity of a man who is 78 years old who still wants his wife to be "the cutest thing in town," another part of me has to admit it hurts.  I'll even admit to being jealous.  I wish to hell I could say that I'm beyond all that, I have my own self-esteem, it doesn't matter what he thinks, but it would only be partially true.  All those years that I tried and tried to please him, tried to twist and mold myself into being the kind of woman that he would admire.  I didn't always know exactly what it was that would do it, but I tried.  And it turns out all he wanted was something my sisters and I could/can never be.  Someone tiny and cute and adorable.  Someone not us.  He is happy with her.  He was not happy with us.

I can rage about it and I can be mad about how unfair it is, but I can't change it.  And after I let myself feel the anger and the jealousy and the unfairness of it, I just have to let it go.  I've been in therapy, I've read Oprah Magazine and plenty of self-help books.  I know how this works.  He is who he is.  It is far too late to change him.  He is happy with his cute, adorable wife, whom I love very much.  And I'm so, so glad that pleasing my dad is no longer high on my priority list.

So I'm feeling the pain and letting it go.  Wish me luck.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I typed out my last two weeks so you could see why I haven't posted, but then I thought:  new low.  Not doing it.  So I highlighted it and backspaced (remember when you whited things out?) and you'll just have to trust me, I have had no time.  And now, I'm about to leave and go South for another week.  Then when I get back, I'll have one week to finish up plans for a week-long family reunion involving 35-ish people that will be here (although we're having it at a conference center so I don't have to cook!  yay!), and then a few days after that, we're heading to the east coast for a week with my husband's family.

So I guess I'm on hiatus until August.  See you then.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I just got back from a 6 day jaunt to the land of my youth.  It started out a couple of months ago as a chance to see my younger sister's kids, including my nephew who just graduated from high school, while she and her husband went off to celebrate their 25th anniversary.  Then my dad got sick, and the trip got extended to include a side trip to visit him for a couple of days.  Which ended up including a trip back to the Christian camp where I was either a camper or a summer staff member from the time I was 13 until I was 20.  It was exhausting and exhilarating and amazing and........ exhausting.  I just got off the treadmill (which included 25 minutes at 7% incline, which I only do when I really need to work off some steam) where I decided it was like being on a rollercoaster with a steamroller drum attached, so you are utterly flattened by the time you swoop through the nadir and start climbing back up, then you pop back up like a cartoon character and get ready for the next run.  Plenty of fodder for posts in there, but I don't know how much time I'll have to think it through in the next few days since I am now way behind in the class I'm auditing and will have the quite the time getting caught up.

A couple of brief impressions, though.  my almost-18-yr-old nephew was amazing.  Of course I didn't tell him any of the cartloads of past shit I could have if he was going to understand all of the implications of what was going on, and he is thankfully exactly like every other 18-year-old and didn't really want to know.  But he was utterly supportive in his own completely unknowing way.  We spent about 24 hours at my younger sister's house, then about 24 hours with my dad, then 24 hours with my older sister, then another 24 hours with my dad, and then drove back to my younger sister's house for the last day (I told you it was wild!).  After the first stretch at my dad's house, which was difficult to say the least, I got in the car and my nephew ran back in to get something he had forgotten.  by the time he came back out, I had the stereo blasting Sleigh Bells as loud as I could without blowing the speakers on my sister's car, and he took it right in stride.  When i told him I needed a dairy queen (because sometimes a blizzard is just what you have to have), he just laughed, got out the tomtom, and found me one.  How amazing is that?  How do you even find a dairy queen on a tomtom?  What would we do without these kids who know how to run all our technology?  He was so awesome.  I didn't get to see my younger sister on this trip because of the way our flights worked out, but she and her husband were there in the way they have raised him.

And my older sister, who is also amazing, who when I was sinking down into a mire of loss and regret and self-pity, reached in a hand and pulled me out in a matter of about twenty minutes with a late night conversation after we finally got all the kids in bed.  I'm so lucky to have the people I have in my life.

wow, that sounds really melodramatic, doesn't it?  Really, from the exterior, it was a very calm, lovely trip.  I'm pretty sure that other than my brief meltdown with my sister, I handled it pretty well.  But I'm going to be dealing with the fallout for awhile, I think.