Thursday, January 29, 2009

Typical Day

OK so I needed help with getting a blog started. I found a place that gives ideas to be creative. I didn't know I needed help but it turns out I did. Who knew?
The idea is to tell of a typical day in high school. If I can remember back 35 years I will do just that.
I would start out by walking to my friend's house for breakfast. . In the winter we would have hot cocoa with buttered toast. In the warmer months it wold be Pop-Tarts and coffee. I can't even imagine it now.
Shortly after eating we would leave to walk the 6 blocks to school. I gave ourselves plenty of time because we had much socializing to do before we went into the building. We would stand across the street from the school smoking. If we stood there we only made the property owners upset but the school officials couldn't do anything to us. We were so clever, LOL.
I would go to home room and get checked in for the day. I was there and then I wasn't. I liked first period, English I always stayed for that class. Second period was math I think and I always skipped out. I do remember that fourth period was American History and that period I spent in the Vice Principal's office. He refused to let me transfer to a different teacher and I refused to go to class. I couldn't Skip out of the building for that period because he would miss me.
Lunch hour was spent either outside smoking or in the bathroom smoking. I knew just where to go to avoid detection from the hall monitor.
If I was actually going to leave the school grounds there was a certain door that made my escape safe to attempt. There was a long hall and the door to freedom was at the end of it. This was located next to the wood shop room. That teacher was just the absolute best to my teen age addled mind. He would act as my lookout. If he saw a hall monitor he would engage her in conversation long enough for me to make my getaway. Freedom at any cost was so important and he knew understood that.
After achieving this freedom, I would join friends in the parking lot and we would make further our escape by way of a car. We wold drive around and do, oh all sorts of things. Things that if I had ever caught my son doing, he would not have been allowed out of his room even now.
I didn't actually go to many classes. I liked English, Creative Writing, and Speech. I never missed those classes.
I think the graduated me just to get me out of the building permanently. I know that five years later when I brother followed me some teachers groaned when they read his last name off their attendance list. Poor kid.
My day was typical for me but no so typical for most of the students. I left to have fun, to get high,and to attend anti-war rallies.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Phantom Memories

On Friday night I stopped by here to see if the writing assignment for the week had been posted.I was looking forward to a new assignment. I saw the new assignment and spent today trying to decide what to write about. I saw the words as Phantom or Haunted.
I couldn't decide if I should write about the year I lived in a haunted house or about how after 25 years I am still haunted by memories of an old boyfriend. Imagine my surprise when tonight, I saw that the word was only Phantom. It changed my perspective on what would be appropriate.

My childhood is divided into two parts. My brother and I refer to these as BW and AF. These mean Before Work and After Work. How our lives were before my mom went to work and what they were like after she went to work.
I remember having my mom home all the time. I was able to walk home from school to have my lunch. Mom always had it ready and waiting for me. It was such a special part of the day to have lunch with my mom. I couldn't do recess at school but I didn't care.
I remember helping mom with the household chores.I was too young to have any chores that were all my own but mom was patient and let me help her.She never tried to hurry me along.
I remember dusting the venetian blinds. Mom would dust the high ones and I would dust the lower ones. I remember mom sweeping and I would hold the dust pan for her. To this day dusting and sweeping are my two favorites household chores.
I remember hanging laundry outside to dry in the soft summer breeze. I probably got more clean laundry on the ground that what actually made the line but mom never complained.
I remember helping mom with the baking. We made bread and cookies and cakes. Oh not all of that every week but some of it each week. Mom always had some baked good to give to anyone in the neighborhood who had a need. I remember at Christmastime, our dining room table was expanded. All 6 leaves were put in, it must have been 12 feet long. The table became lined with all sorts of holiday treats. And of course mom had her little helper by her side.
I remember on Saturdays we would hurry through any chores that needed to be done. I don't know who was more excited that day, mom or me. When everything was finished we would sit down at the piano. Mom would bring out the song books and begin to play.She knew all the words and would sing. I pretended to know the words so I could sing too. We would spend hours at the piano. We would sing, "Little Brown Jug", Bicycle Built for Two", "Oh Susannah", "Camptown Races", and many more songs. I still have the old music books.
I have great memories of that time in my life. My brother has few and they are vague. He is five years younger than me. My mom went to work as I started the sixth grade, my brother was entering the first grade.
No longer could I go home for the much cherished lunches. It became my job to plan and cook the evening meal. I had never cooked anything all on my own before but I learned quickly.
We started going to the Laundromat on weekends to wash our clothes. Mom was too tired to try and do them in the evening. It was no longer fun to help with laundry.
My home which had once been so clean became what is known today as a "garbage house". I don't think the garbage had been carried out the last six years we lived in that house. I know we had a dog but I don't remember taking him for a walk or putting him out. I had a cat but I don't remember cleaning a cat box. I don't remember dusting or sweeping or even doing dishes.
Now the changes didn't become apparent over night, because I think mom tried to hold it together, but it got to be too much for her. It took me a long time to realize what happened to my childhood. I didn't get it figured out until I was an adult. My mom had a very demanding job. She was a case worker for AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children).She was not a social worker but most of her clients treated her like one. She gave so much of herself at work that she had nothing left to give us at home. My idyllic childhood changed with the onset of AW.
My brother and I share the same AW memories but he has only phantom memories of BW. He was just too young. He tells me that my memories of BW can't be all that accurate. I disagree. I like my BW memories.
Maybe my memories aren't accurate. I don't care. Maybe they are phantom like. But you know what? I would rather have phantom like memories of BW than no memories of that special time with my mom.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A pilgimage

I have probably had more than one pilgrimage in my life, but only one has left a mark on my heart.
I mostly grew up without knowing my dad. He was not a nice man. He was in and out of prison when I was a child. I didn't even know his brothers and sisters. It was like I was non-existent to his family.
That is until March of 2005 when my aunt called me. She was here from California and wanted to get together for lunch. I agreed because, well I was curious to what she wanted after 49 years of not knowing her. We had a wonderful lunch and I fell in love with her immediately. We promised to stay in touch.
And we did stay in touch. We emailed, phoned, sent funny cards. We wished each other happy birthday, and Merry Christmas.
A year later she called me again, this time from her home. She asked if I would like to get to know my dad. If I could forgive him for being such a thoroughly distasteful man. I told her yes that I could because I had put my anger toward him to rest a long time ago. My dad was living with her at the time and he wanted me to come to California to "meet" him. The arrangements were made. I went in June of 2006.
Nervous is not exactly the word I would use to describe what I was feeling as my plane barreled toward San Fransisco. I couldn't sit still, I couldn't close my eyes. I was nauseous. I didn't know if I was scared or excited.
I was in California for 2 weeks. My dad and I started out rather tentatively exploring our feelings about me being in California. He rambled on with an apology for a couple of days. I finally stopped him and asked if we couldn't just start from that day and love each other from then on. I think he was surprised that I could love him. He agreed to my plan. We started getting to really know each other.
My weird sense of humor comes from him. Parts of my temper and stubbornness are from him. My sense of fairness is definitely his. He was surprised at how much we were alike. He was proud to be my dad. I was proud to be his daughter.
My two weeks in California went faster that either of us wanted but we promised to never lose each other again. I trusted him to his word.
He didn't live in California much longer, only another month. He decided to move back to Illinois. He packed his belongings, his cat, made the arrangements, and left. He didn't even tell his sister he was leaving until the day of his departure.
I admit I was negligent in keeping up on what was happening in his life. My only excuse is that I was dealing with some really nasty stuff on my home front. When I finally called to talk to him my aunt in formed me that he had left. I go his new number from her and called him immediately.
We talked for 2 hours that day. I don't remember most of what we said but I do remember the feelings that we had for each other.
After that day we talked weekly. We sent cards. He wrote massively long letters. I think he wanted to make sure that I knew how much he loved me.
In May of 2007 we found out he had stage 4 lung cancer. We knew that his time was now limited. The doctors said 6 months. He was too advanced for radiation or chemotherapy. I wanted to take to my bed and weep. I didn't though because I knew he needed me. We were strong for each other.
Our phone calls became twice a week. His letters became longer. He lived too far away for me to go to see him. In fact, he forbid me to even try. He told me that if I did come to his house he would throw me out and never speak to me again. Even though it weighed heavy on my heart I honored that order.
In December of 2007 my pilgrimage ended. God called my dad home. I am so thankful to have been given the privilege to know this man. In the short time we had together I learned a lifetimes worth of father daughter information. After more than 50 years I had been given the gift of a dad. My heart is full.