Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Realizing My Worth

Throughout the years, there have been times in my life when I have felt like nothing.  Like next to nothing.  Could it be because I had no relationship with my father until I was in my late 20's?  Could it be a boyfriend who made me feel that way?  Could it be betrayal by a trusted friend?  I always wonder, what did I do wrong?  What did I do that made you not want to be around me?   What did I do that made you break up with me?  What did I do that drove you to stab me in the heart? When you feel like that, it doesn't really matter what other people say to reassure you.  You feel how you feel and only the person who makes you feel that way can really change it.  Most of the time, they don't even know they are doing it so you're kind of fucked. 

When I was a kid, I probably didn't realize that dad's talked to their kids, played ball, helped with homework, whatever.  It wasn't until I got a little older that it really clicked that something was wrong here.  And by the time I realized it, I was used to it and I knew it was the booze.  And yet, there is still that piece of insecurity that totally fucks with your head.  It wasn't until two years ago that my worth to my father slapped me in the face.

He was ill.  Isn't that the biggest piece of cliche bullshit?  An illness pulls a family together.  But that's what happened.  He was ill, while on vacation in Florida visiting my sister.  When it became apparent this was not minor, my brother and I hopped a plane to FL.  I ended up staying a total of eight weeks (going home once for a couple days to get more clothes and take care of my life), while my father endured four surgeries ultimately resulting in the amputation of his right leg at mid-thigh, due to complications of diabetes.  And while recovering, he suffered a stroke.   The stroke was minor, thankfully and really only affected his ability to speak.  He can speak, but very often he's garbled.  He can't articulate what he wants to say very easily anymore.

As time went on, he did start to improve and I had to get back to my life.  One day we were alone in his hospital room, my mom had gone out to make a phone call.  So we were talking and I said to him, "you know, you're starting to get better, you know what that means?"   He shrugged.  I said, "It means I'm going to be going home."  Immediately my father burst into tears the likes of which I had never seen in my life.  I have never ever seen my father cry, let alone the sobbing cries he was doing now.  He didn't cry when his own father and mother passed away.  He didn't cry when the doctors told him his leg was coming off.  He didn't cry after he had a stroke.  He cried because I was going home and leaving him.  In a panic, I called my mother back in and she soothed him as I went out in the hall to freak out.

Then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it had nothing to do with me at all.  It was a culmination of everything he was feeling about his situation and somehow, someway it came out at that time.  This is where the self doubt, the thinking I'm shit, the idea that I've always been nothing, comes back to haunt me.  It couldn't be about me.  Why would it be?  So I was cool with it, it's business as usual.

And then, several days later when I am actually going home I asked for my mom and my sister to give me a few minutes alone with him to say goodbye.  It's not like we were never going to see each other again.  I was going home to make my home livable for him.  He and my mother were moving into my house while he continued to recover.  They would be coming home in a few weeks.  So I went into his room to say good bye and he knew.  He knew why I asked everyone to leave, and he laid their on his bed, shaking his head "no."  Did he not want to hear it?  Did he not want to say goodbye?  Did he not want me to go?  I told him I had to go, I had to get things ready and I would be at the airport waiting for him when he got home.  And it happened again.  That violent burst of tears as he grabbed my hand.  This time, I couldn't talk myself out of what I mean to him.  I felt it wash over me.  The gratitude he felt for my being there for him and my mother and taking control of the situation and the doctors.  The love, yes love, that I finally truly felt.  It only took 42 years, but it'll last me a lifetime.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Love Letter to Angelina

It's coming up on two years since I lost my Grandma.  I think of her so often, especially at times when I feel lost.  She was someone who always had my back.  She never judged.  She never criticized.  She listened with care, love and concern.  I could tell her anything.  And even more amazing, she could relate to just about any situation I found myself in, even with our 57 year age difference.  She had a calming influence and an easy way about her.  I doubt she would believe that about herself, but it's absolutely true.

She never questioned any of my rebellious activities.   She always told me I was beautiful even when I showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with a big black mohawk, torn fishnets and got totally hammered on the carafe's of Chablis she had on the table (which I called giraffe's of chab bliss as I got more and more drunk).  Back then food wasn't as important to me as drink.  Lots and lots of drink.  Looking back I want to smack my 22 year old self and tell me to pay fucking attention and enjoy the hell out of Grandma's food whenever I was given the opportunity. 

But now I make her perfect crust and amazing sauce whenever I make pizza.  I make her delicious sauce for spaghetti.   I make her insane cutlets.  I make her pies.  I make her breads.  I make her sausage.  I make her Easter cookies.  I use her 60 year old Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  Nothing ever tastes quite the same as when she made them, but whenever I make something of hers or use that mixer, I think even more of that beautiful soul I was so lucky to have in my life until I was 42 years old.  Is it ever enough time?

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
ee cummings

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Get Thee To A Nunnery

I recently had to go to my local Catholic church to meet with one of the nuns there.  How is it that these places do not change?  Walking into the parish office in 2010 was like walking into the parish office in 1979.  It was hot, the waiting room didn't have chairs but ancient re-purposed pews from a long ago church upgrade, and was filled with the smell of judgment.

There I sat, a recovering Catholic with no interest at all in becoming a valued member of the church community.  Me, with my purple hair and zebra everywhere. I felt like that 7th grader all over again, the one that was called down to the Principal's office because I dared to wear make up to school.  That day big bad Sr. Mary Oppression told me, this scared 13 year old, that I looked like a whore on Prospect Ave.  There are lots of problems with that comparison, not the least of which being that in 1979, 13 year olds weren't nearly as worldly as they are now.  So not only did I not know where Prospect Ave. was, but I also didn't know what a whore was.  But I looked like one, apparently, because I slathered Maybelline Strawberry Kissing Potion on my lips and a little blue eye shadow on my lids.  By her tone and disapproving look, I knew it was bad to be a whore on Prospect Ave.

As I sat there on that hard pew with the too erect back, waiting for my meeting, here, now in 2010, my palms started to sweat.  I got that anxious feeling I had so often as a kid growing up wondering what I did wrong and what will happen to me.  I suddenly felt self conscious about everything.  When was the last time someone walked into the parish office with purple hair and asked to see one of the nuns?  Maybe never, maybe yesterday.  Who the fuck knows.  All I know is I suddenly felt like a 13 year old wearing forbidden make up.   Then I just had to remind myself of a few things.  Number one, I'm an adult and as such, I expect to be treated fairly.  Number two, I was doing this for a very important reason.  My niece has chosen me to be her Confirmation sponsor and I will do it for her.  I may not be the best person to guide her in her journey of Catholicism, but she could do much worse than me as her guide on other matters. 

When the sister in question came out to greet me and show me to her office, I was relieved that she was dressed casually and not in the penguin outfit of my youth.  But there was some concern because she was definitely not young.  To her credit, she did not give me the stinkeye upon meeting me.  In fact, she was warm and friendly.    She showed me to her office where we talked about what being a Confirmation sponsor entails.  We talked about how different people experience God or faith or a spirit or whatever you call it, in different ways.  She was open and interesting and dare I say, progressive, for a nun in her 70's.  But there are expectations involved with being a Confirmation sponsor and one of them is being a member of the church.   Was I willing to return to church regularly?  It was a question I dreaded.   My answer to that was as honest as I could possibly be, I'm willing to try.  In the end I don't think she believed I would actually go, but it was good enough and I was given my certificate.  I am now officially a Confirmation sponsor.  What the hell did I get myself into!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Strange Juxtaposition

I started thinking about the blog I'm about to write and the thought "TMI" came to mind.  Then upon further thought it dawned on me that this whole blog is one big TMI so why should this particular subject be any different. 

Right now, I have so many things on my mind.  Things that cause a lot of turmoil in my mind (how my father has given up on life).  Things that cause me a lot of pain (a friends illness).  Things that make me extremely angry (getting my no good, piece of shit, stupid ass lowlife of a cousin out of my Grandma's house).  And yet, through it all, my libido rages on.  Am I seriously talking about sex?   I am.  So how do I reconcile the pain and anger with the total horndog?  Is it that this mid 40's chick is hot to trot?  Is it normal?  Is it strange?  Am I a nympho?  Are my hormones out of whack?  Well if they are, I don't want them fixed.   When I'm not obsessing on something tragic or annoying, I'm thinking about sex.  When will I have it?  Will it be soon?  Can I get some now please?  Is my husband going to put out tonight? 

I kind of figure it's partially my age, partially my hormones, and partially a defense mechanism so I don't go completely mad.  Quite frankly, I don't care what the reason is, it feels good to know I'm not dead inside from the madness of the world around me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Punk Rock Saved Me

One of my most memorable defining moments happened on January 26, 1980.  I had just turned 14.  I was up late, watching SNL.  In those days, everyone watched SNL.  It was the '79/'80 season, before the show went to hell and almost got canceled. Terri Garr was the host.  The B 52's were the musical guest.  The B fucking 52's!   This was so new to me.  It was my first exposure (other than my sister's insane love for David Bowie) that I had to anything remotely interesting musically.  My brothers were listening to Boston and Foreigner and other shit like that.  My friends were listening to Andy Gibb and the Bee Gee's.  But this, this was exciting and strange and good and weird and so many things.  They performed twice that night, the classic Rock Lobster and Dance This Mess Around.  I was mesmerized by them.  And in the course of that 90 minute show,  my life completely changed.

Why did my life need to change?  Oh it did.  Something had to change.  It's 1980.  I have zero relationship with my father.  I sometimes wonder if he knows of my existence.  He never speaks to me.  Never.  It had probably been years by this time since he had spoken to me.  It will be many more years until he does.  Every day he comes home from work so fucking drunk he can hardly walk.  He stinks of beer.  He falls asleep at the dinner table.  My mom screams at him until he goes to bed, and the next day we do it all over again.  There's my mom again, dealing with it so that we wouldn't be without a father, she wouldn't be alone.   I can't imagine what it was like for her then.  Worse than it was for me and my brothers and sister, no doubt.

My transformation was kind of slow, but steady.  The B 52's lead me to more new and more exciting music with each passing day.  It was soon after that I discovered more and more music... Adam and the Ants, The Go Go's, Billy Idol, more and more and more.  I wanted more, I got more and with my new love, I lost every friend I had.  They didn't like the music, they didn't like the look, they didn't like the attitude I was now sporting.  Well fuck them!  I finally found me and I liked it and I wasn't turning back into just another clone at my Catholic school.  I found new friends, friends who had similar revelations.  And we found more and more music.  By 1984 we were going to so many shows, it was almost a weekly occurrence.  We still had our beloved Adam Ant and Billy Idol, but now we had The Ramones, Dead Kennedy's, the Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Black Flag (have you ever seen Henry Rollins live in any way?  He's fucking genius).  It was intense and wonderful.  Everything was new and amazing.  Music saved my soul.  Music took me away.  Music made me happy again.  Thank you B 52's.

Link: B-52's - Rock Lobster (live on SNL 1980)

She Was Born During a Blizzard

"Did you know there was a blizzard the day we brought you home from the hospital?  We couldn't even get up the drive.  The neighbors had to come and help us so we could get you inside."  Yeah Ma, I know.  You tell me every year on my birthday.  The big blizzard of Cleveland, 1966.  Got it.

I had a rough entry into this world, so what's a blizzard compared to that?  Nothing but cold water.  My mom was born to two Italian immigrants.  My dad was born to two first generation Polish Americans (meaning, my dad's grandparents were both Polish immigrants).  Grandma L, as she will be called here, hated Italians.   Well to be fair, she hated everyone, but Italians in particular.  She made my mom feel like shit for over 40 years and my mom just dealt with it in the interest of family unity.  I'm not so sure I could be as pragmatic in the same situation.  Sometimes that woman really needed to be told off.  Like the day of my birth for example.

I'm the fourth of four children and it was time for me to enter the world.  A rather stupid nurse squeezed my mom's IV line while she was in labor and all hell then broke loose.  Whatever was in the line went into mom too fast, causing big problems.  Hemorrhaging, intense hemorrhaging, that the same stupid nurse discovered and started screaming and panicking about, yelling up and down the halls for help.   Dumb bitch, I hope she was fired.

Emergency C-section to the rescue!  Touch and go, lots of blood loss... Mom almost died, I almost died.  But alas, I'm here to tell the tale of surviving.  My little six pounds of life with a mass of dark hair, wrapped up in blankets and given to my mom to hold while family came in to offer concern, joy and love.  Well, all except for Grandma L, who upon seeing me for the first time in my exhausted mother's arms said these words, "It's just a shame they all had to look like you."

A blizzard by comparison really doesn't mean shit.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oranges, My Nemesis.

I hate oranges.  Hate them with a white hot passion.  I hate the smell.  I hate the taste.  I hate the zest.  I hate the juice.  Oranges are evil, pure unadulterated evil.  When I had a desk job, my boss loved to eat oranges every day.  She would peel and peel, slowly making me more woozy as that stench wafted from her office to mine. 

The trail to my orange hate was paved by my mother.  I didn't always hate them.  Hell, when I was a kid I pretended to be sick so I could munch on St. Joseph's Aspirin for kids.... those chalky orange flavored chewable tablets.  *shudder*

But then real sickness came upon me.  Nothing serious, but back in the 70's if you were a high strung kid they didn't really know what to call it or do for you other than to say, "snap the fuck out of it!"  Somehow, my mom was able to get some kind of vile tasting medicine for me from the doctor.  I have no clue what it was for, I was just a kid who was scared of my own shadow and meek as a kitten (um yeah, I grew out of it, obviously).  All I know is it tasted like shit.  So my mom, thinking she was masking the horrid flavor of the medicine, started to hide it in my morning juice.  That was probably the worst idea ever.  It went on and on, daily I had to swallow that dreck for what could have been weeks, months or years for all I remember now.  It absolutely ruined me for ever drinking orange juice again.  I've tried, and whenever I do I'm taken right back to my childhood and that mediciney taste.

So keep your fucking Dreamsicles to yourself.  I don't want any vile Orange Cream Pop Tarts.  No thanks on the punch with globs of horror (orange sherbet) floating in it.  And keep your fucking orange out of my chocolate!