Redhead, nurse, sister, daughter, aunt, newly-ex-wife, sucker for lost animals, currently owned by Percy the cat and Spencer the dog. In the middle of some major changes–trying to figure out what I want so I can figure out how to get there.

Archive for April, 2011

In my father’s defense…

…we made him a little crazy ourselves.
I’m not sure what posessed him to do it, but one afternoon we went to the mall. I don’t think I knew then how much he hates shopping, but he absolutely does hate it.
On this particular day, he took my brother (age 8), my sister (age 10), the next-door neighbor (age 10), and me (age 13) with him to the mall. I am certain that some of his gray (and missing) hairs were earned on that day. The goal of the mall trip was to buy a birthday present for my step-mother. The gift was purchased at some point during the afternoon. Then things started looking like a sitcom episode. This was in the decade when malls had arcades. I’m not sure how all the kids ended up in separate areas of the mall, but we did. My father would gather up one or two of us and tell us firmly not to move on inch. He then went out in search of the missing kids. When he would return, the original ones had disobeyed the “not moving” directive. I think this happened more than once. Whichever kid had been given the duty of holding the gift, did not manage to follow through. Either the gift was stolen when someone was playing a video game, or the kid simply walked off without picking it back up. My sister walked out to the parking lot at some point and did not find the car. (She was not in the right are of the parking lot.) She decided that we had left her behind and walked home (around 2 1/2 miles not on side streets). As this was in the days long before cell phones, my mother had no way to notify my father when she arrived safely. He eventually went to a pay phone and called my mother and got this information. Eventually, the neighbor, my brother and I were corralled and taken home. My father did not scream, yell, or cuss, but I think this was the most frustrated and angry he has ever been.

The neighbor kid got off without any repercussions she skipped merrily home. My sister, brother and I were not so lucky. We each got “bashes” equal in number to our age. Bashes were the name we had for spankings, and we didn’t get them often. The number was always determined ahead of time, and they were delivered calmly…we were placed over his knee, and “bashed” with an open hand over our clothes. Bashes were actually not so bad, it was more the knowledge that we had disappointed him to the point that he felt we needed them. What was bad was the sentences. One hundred lines per year we had been alive. That meant 1300 for me. “I will obey my father.” It’s a short sentence, but I still remember writing it forever.

Now that I think about it, maybe we made my father crazy before he made us crazy.

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We’re not as young as we used to be…

…but nobody else is either. I have been giving some thought to the idea of aging lately. Not in a frustrated, fearful, or negative kind of way…just pondering. A post at absence of alternatives put into words some of the things I have been thinking. Some of this post echoes what she so poetically expressed (however, not quite so poetically as I am doing the writing).

“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” ~Doris Lessing
I do not remember (if I ever knew) who Doris Lessing is. However, this statement is so incredibly accurate, and I know as truth that the feeling can start long before reaching 70.

I turn 46 this birthday, and as I will be as surprised as anyone to live to 92, that puts me firmly in the category of “middle aged.” How in the world did this happen? In my mind’s eye, I am 26 years old. I can no longer answer without thinking the question, “How old are you?” I have to think because the number does not match the way I feel inside. Inside my head I am 26 years old, lithe and spunky, bold and impulsive. I can still go into a store and purchase any piece of clothing that catches my eye. The only question is “do they have it in my size?” the questions about how much it reveals or hides of my middle aged body have not been thought before. The 26 year old inside my head knows that while there are many women more beautiful than she…heads will turn and she will be noticed as she pushes the shopping cart down the aisles.

The reality is different. I am 46 years old. I do have a middle aged body. I do not turn heads in the grocery store. In fact, at times I feel I have become nearly invisible. I say this as a statement of fact–not as a lament. It just surprises me when I see myself in photos or catch a glimpse of my reflection as I walk down the sidewalk. I work with people (real, whole, grown people) who were not born when I graduated from high school. How can this be possible when I am only 26 years old? The disconnect continues to assert itself.

Do not think for a single moment that I want to be 26 years old again. I have lived, loved, laughed, cried, struggled and fought for every single day of the nearly 46 I have been on the planet. I am comfortable with (and even proud of) the gray streak in my red hair. I did not stress over turning 30 or 40, and should I make 50 it will be a happy day. I have earned the gray hairs and the (few) wrinkles. I own them proudly and confidently. I like myself more than I did when I was 26. I am still spunky, bold and impulsive. I hope I am using what the years have taught me wisely–I certainly try.

I am happy where I am–to paraphrase an unattributed quote, “I am not 46 years old–I am 26 with 20 years of experience.” I’m good with that.

(However, if given the opportunity, I would trade this body for that lithe 26 year old one any day.)

One of the reasons I am so damned weird

I had lunch with my father the other day. He was texting at the table (rude, yes?) and laughing to himself. I asked what was so important and humorous that it needed to intrude on our vitally important father/daughter time.

Quick backstory–Poppa plays trumpet and many months ago a friend accidentally sat in a chair upon which the trumpet was placed. Friend was mortified, trumpet has been fully repaired. Trumpet sitting friend was at an event with other people my father knows.

What was my father texting? A photo of the smushed trumpet. To whom was he texting? A mutual friend of Poppa’s and the smusher. The instructions to the friend? Go show this photo to Bob and see what he has to say about it. He then proceeded to text the same message to two additional friends. Wiseass. Just imagine what we endured as children. I think I am remarkably well-adjusted to have grown up with him as one of my “grown-ups.”

Let’s Talk About Sex…

This week the internet has seemed to have a sex education theme to it. Somebody (I can’t remember who, but if it was you, remind me I owe you big time) posted a link to this incredibly hilarious account of Julia Sweeney’s somewhat accidental discussion of sex with her 8-year-old daughter about where babies come from.

Then, Mir allowed us a peek into the outing in which she took her 13 year old daughter to see the Vagina Monologues. She asked about how the topic had been discussed in our homes, and I am going to copy her more than a little.

My house was not always a predictable place when I was growing up. (How’s that for an understatement, Sis?) However, I do not really remember any topics being off limits. I don’t remember a particular conversation about “becoming a woman” or “where do babies come from”? I think Mother must have just spoken easily about things when they came up naturally. Or, perhaps, it was all the reading we did that was a bit above our level–my sister won the most notable award with “Rosemary’s Baby” at age 9. We read about sex probably before we even knew what we were reading, and eventually grew into figuring out. Mother was single after I was 8, and when we found her copy of “The Joy of Sex” under her bed, we were interested, but not horrified. The only particular conversation I remember was when I was 16 and started dating a boy with a car. Mother came into my room and sat on the edge of the bed. She offered to take me to get on the pill. I was offended that she assumed that I was having sex. I wasn’t, and I didn’t until five years later.

So, how did you learn about sex? School (either classroom or peers), awkward, stilted conversation with a parent, of just muddling along?