Panorama of San Bernardino

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dad's Voice

You could hear Montana in his voice. Dad's voice was gentle and gruff at the same time. It sounded like fishing in fresh lakes, ice cold beer, country music, and snowy mountains. It’s been more than a decade since he died and the only thing I can hear in my head is him saying his favorite phrase, "Girls! Where are you?" He always called us his girls. He loved me and my sisters fiercely. Dad was over protective, more maternal than paternal and we needed that. 

Dad had lost a daughter and always said he was never going to lose us. "I would never leave your mom or you girls," Dad would say crying when he was drunk. He would point out the blue angel tattoo on his arm, "That's Debbie.  She died when she was three, the babysitter threw her against the wall."  What he didn't tell me is that he was sleeping with the twenty year old babysitter. I found out about all that much later. 

By eight or nine, I already knew why someone would leave Mom. It was her rages, when the nice mom left and the monster came over her. In those rages, Mom would yell, scream and hit at whatever was in her path. As an adult, my husband tells me I am often cruel and abrupt and snap for no reason, I suppose we model what we see, but I try to keep it under control. It is a matter of degree and I hope my degree is far less rage filled. Sometimes, I am not so sure. 

Don't we all eventually become our fathers or mothers?

Unlike Mom, Dad rarely got angry, Dad never got upset even when he was drinking (which was often). Dad was a happy drunk and would put on a Laser Disc movie and make us girls homemade popcorn, the margarine seeping through the brown paper Stater Brothers bag.  

Dad loved him a drive-in theater and we frequented the one in Montclair. Dad preferred horror and science fiction. He also adored all of the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor movies along with the Herbie the Love Bug movies. And he took me to see the Bad News Bears. And suffered through Little Darlings with us covering his eyes and ears.

When VCRs came out, if was if God had invented the device just for him. Dad was so happy taping movies on the television set and labelling his VCR tapes with his illegible handwriting. 

Music moved Dad the same way it moves me. His musical loves were Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys and being a true feminist in his musical tastes, of course, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline. There was always loud music playing in our house.

Dad had a way about him. It was as if he owned the world in his blue jeans and cowboy shirt all held together by his Big John belt buckle. Dad was never intimidated by anyone. As a young child, I remember him going up to people and introducing himself. He would always shake their hand. People gravitated toward him.  He had the best laugh. He would guffaw with his whole body, slap his knee even. He loved to play practical jokes, and he would even take out his false teeth and bulge his eyes out to make someone laugh.

The depression came later, when he was older, beaten down by life’s tragedies and deaths.

I remember when he lost his daughter Barbara, my half sister. We were in high school when she was killed in a car accident and she died instantly. Barbara was in her late twenties. And she had four kids that were in the foster care system, kids that she was working on getting back.

I came home from high school and Dad was crying. Mom didn't go to work and so she was there when Dad locked himself in the bathroom with his gun. He sounded like a wounded animal, howling out his sorrow as I sat in my room covering my ears until finally the wailing stopped. 

Thankfully, Dad didn't shoot himself that day but I think that's when the depression started for him. When his voice changed.

Dad’s new voice still sounded like Montana but this new voice was slower and sadder. Like old whiskey in a bottle. The new voice sounded like empty country roads, dried up lakes, lonely truck stops and honky tonks. Like the saddest country song you had ever heard. Dad was never the same.

Dad lost himself at the casinos, shoveling much of his monthly social security check into the slot machines, hoping that the machine would pay him a big jackpot and change everything, 

After Dad died, me and my sisters were cleaning out his apartment and I took all of his Dean Koontz paperbacks along with his Reader’s Digest condensed books and those damn old VCR tapes (MASH seasons one and beyond, Superman on ABC and every Twilight Zone episode) and placed them on a table outside of his senior apartment while my mom watched. 

I wondered to myself, and might have even said it aloud, “who would want this junk?” The piles of books and VCR tapes were gone within the hour and I shook my head as I watched senior citizens come with their carts and leave scurrying away probably to go watch old Mash episodes (commercials included). 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I could be happy

There is an Altered Images song called “I Could Be Happy”. And I wonder, what would make me happy, today on my birthday? Don’t ask me how old. Past forty it really doesn’t matter.

I think happiness is contentment. And fulfillment. Feeling as if you accomplished your goals. And feeling loved.  I definitely have the love. But, the realization of my goals is more fuzzy.

Sometimes, I wish I could be happy with what I’ve achieved. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as a deputy public defender. And I’m grateful that my hard work paid off putting myself through UCR and USC Law. I get paid to help people.

But there are two things that nag at me. Two things that are always on the outer reaches of my mind.

The book and baby. Which will I accomplish? Neither, or one or both? Sometimes, dreams are surreal. The reality of it may look different. But I want these dreams to come true. I really do.

The book may be something different than I ever imagined, including memoir essays, film like scenes and poetry. Mixed genre. And maybe the baby will not be a baby but an older child.

And, then maybe, I could finally be happy.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

While my pen gently weeps

To say this has been a hard week is an understatement. Lying in bed, listening to the Beatles song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (off the White Album), I am struck by how the song captures grief. Not in the words so much as the sound the guitar makes, and how the strings almost make you cry just hearing them.

I feel as if I am a string that has been plucked dry. I can't cry anymore, or so I think, and then I start bawling again. Just to watch the news and see the faces of the victims makes me ache deep inside.  My heart feels bruised. No wait, beaten is a better word.

The saying "there are no words" is a cliche but it is true. How do you capture the immeasurable grief we are all feeling as a country, as a people? It almost feels like we have turned a corner and the worst is yet to come. I try to remain an optimist but it is hard.

I am so damn angry at the shooter and the damn horror of it all. I keep reminding myself that there is joy left, but I can't seem to find it right now. I just can't. These thoughts are ugly I know.

Maybe I am not a writer here, but a mere ranter. The poet in me is lost.

But maybe, we are not meant to feel better in times like these. Maybe all we are meant to feel in times like these is pain and sadness.

Dear reader, I wish I could make you feel better. That I could find meaning in it all. That I could write a beautiful blog that could heal us all.

Instead, all I have to end with is this: please forgive me, but I feel as if my pen is crying.