Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Post

So. Okay.
I've been trying to think about what to write on this blog for a while.
You ever get these IDEAS?
Like, you wake up one morning and think, "Maybe I'll write a story about cats conquering the world," or, "I think I want to paint something that has a ribcage in it," or...something like that? But-here's the thing-you don't know how to GET THERE.

About a week ago, I saw a commercial. You've probably seen one similar. A guy's fixing his car, and is having his daughter hand him wrenches, and she hands him one with a bow on it--BOOM--Father's Day commercial.

And I thought, "I want to write something for Father's Day."

Which is stupid, I thought immediately after.

Without getting into horrible, gory, detail, because honestly, most of you know the story, I haven't talked to my Father in a long time. About a year or so.

It took a long time for me to realize this, but my chance at having a father ended a long time ago. My Stepdad was a better, more loving, and even more supportive father than my real one ever was to me.
I'm not saying that my dad was always this horrible person. It's a sad situation, and I've removed myself from it because it was sucking me in to the point of me being seriously afraid of causing myself harm.

But he was there.
If we needed money, he gave it to us without hesitation. When my Mom was sick with cancer, he brought us food. When my Step-Dad died, he went to the funeral that I could not find the strength to go to myself.

It's hard to explain unless you've lived it.
He's tried as best as he can. But he has always put something else ahead of his children and people he loves.

And most of you who are reading this know it, so I won't bog down anyone with the depressing details.
You get the idea.

So, anyway, every year, when Father's Day rolls around, I always expect to not care. I see the cheesy commercials and laugh. I ignore the advertizements in magazines and junk.
But sure enough, that day is there, slamming me in the face, and I get kind of sad.

Not because I want to spend it with my Dad, but because the person I want to spend it with isn't here.

It's easy for me to write things about my dad. It always comes from an angry place. I've always been able to channel things like that. But whenever I sit down to write something about my step-dad, it just won't come out. I get ahead of myself and start missing him before I've even written a word down, and I give up before even trying.

But last semester, I had to write a non-fiction piece for class (The Creative Writing Class From HELL) and the experience from moving in with my dad, moving out, and dealing with what I learned about him and myself was still fresh in my mind.

But I didn't want it to be angry. At least, not all of it.

So I wrote this half-memory, half-comparison piece.

And GOD it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
I had to stop to cry. I had to take breaks so I didn't start getting anxious. I had to shut out bad memories that I didn't want to have, while at the same time, calling forth horrible ones that I needed in order to write the story.
And I finished it. And I loved it.

But besides a few people in that class, and my sister, Kelly,  no one has ever read it.

I'm proud of it, so I should want to share it.
I think it has something to do with the fact that very few things upset me.
Ask anyone.
Besides cruelty to animals and junk like that, very little makes me sad. And if it does, I keep that side of myself hidden. I don't know why, I just do it.
So if people read this, they'll know.
They'll know about some stuff that's happened. They'll know about some fucked up things.

I'm not trying to get pity. I'm not trying to make anyone uncomfortable. And I am definitely NOT trying to have anyone feel bad for me.

What I want to do with this is simple: reach out, tell some people that it's okay.
That you're not alone in feeling sad.
That it's okay to feel like someone that was once always there isn't there anymore, and that  it really sucks to be reminded by stupid things that most people don't pay attention to, like commercials about wrenches.

So here it is, I hope it helps. : )

                                                              Spare Parts
     I was sixteen when Bob died. My mother gave me a can opener. It was a week or so after his funeral, and she had come from his parents’ house, where they broke his belongings into pieces and were giving them away like it was Christmas morning.
      We were standing in the kitchen. I remember staring at the green wallpaper my mom and dad had picked out so long ago, peeling wherever it met the ceiling or the edge of a wall. I was making myself grilled cheese and tomato soup on the greasy stove that was clean yesterday.
     “Here,” Mom said, shoving the can opener in my face. It was one of those bulky ones, made out of shiny industrial steel with the handle dipped in a white, silicone-type material that made it easier to grip onto. It was clean and spotless as she set it down on the counter. I didn’t take it. I already had our old rusty one imbedded in the Campbell’s can. Mom’s hair was short then, dark and spiky with pieces of her scalp poking out here and there. “No thanks,” I told her, pretending to be too engrossed in bleeding the can into a pot on the stove.
     “It was Bob’s,” she said it like she was telling me there was milk in the fridge. “You want it?”
     I broke my knee when I was thirteen. I was getting ready for school when I slipped on a drop of water on the linoleum floor of our bathroom. They told me my knee was in two pieces. They split it open, screwed it back together, then split it open again six months later to remove the screw. I spent a school year and a half on home-bound.
     My two sisters and I shared a room. There wasn’t enough space for me to maneuver around in there, so I was on the couch a lot. I hated that thing. I swear it was made out of suede velvet and sand paper. It was tan with deep blue roses all over it, and there were peacock-like birds peeking out from behind them. Their white eyes freaked me out the most.
     My mother had a job then, as a lunch aid at the middle school. My sisters also had school. I was mostly alone until Bob came home. He worked for a construction company, driving trucks. He went on disability only when his bosses forced him to.
      I was in a lot of pain from the surgeries. The Percocet only seemed to knock me out and make me hungry. But I had Bob most days; he didn’t work anymore. I was never so excited to smell cigarette smoke in the morning as he coughed awake. He would go outside to smoke, but the smell trailed him everywhere. An invisible ghost in our house.
     Bob would make me grilled cheeses, the same way he did when I was nine. He would sit next to me on that scratchy couch, both of our bodies not working the way they should. His bulky body dipping it in on one side as he laughed in that raspy way that comforted me. Together we forgot how much pain we were in. The peacocks stared. Waiting for something.
     My mom married my real father when she was pretty young. When I ask people about my father, what he was like when he was before I knew him, they all say the same things. That he was a good guy. A good father. A fun guy. And they never left out how happy my parents were together. How they never saw one without the other.
     That guy, the one dusting ashes from the hard surface of the bar as his own cigarette glowed red in the dim light. The one throwing his fifth pack of the day into the garbage as he licked the foam of his beer from his thick black mustache. The one who asks you how is your wife, how are your kids.  That’s the same one that came home to his family and vomited three feet from where his three daughters sat in a playpen. The thick smell of bile and smoke filling the living room. That guy would piss his pants and curse at his wife saying, look what you made me do.
     Crutches are a pain. The doctors never tell you how much your arms and fingers will ache when you break your leg. As if it isn't enough to worry about ripping the row of staples down the front of your kneecap, putting weight on that titanium screw they lowered in.
     It’s nothing compared to Chemo. If my step-dad asked me for a cold rag while he vomited for hours on the cold linoleum, if he wanted me to stand in front of the stove to make him soup, I would bring them to him. I barely ever noticed the throbbing in my swollen Franken-knee. Not until he was asleep in his room and I was back with the peacocks. I would cry as cartoon network glowed on the TV in the distance.
     Three weeks before Bob died, Mom thought it was best that he moved out. My knee was healed then, but I was sitting on the couch anyway, waiting for him to come home. They let me keep the screw that they took out of me. I threaded it through a silver chain and wore it around my neck. There were these little spikes on it that made it easier to grip onto bone, and it scratched my skin when I wasn’t careful, but the thing had been a part of me, holding me together so long, that I wasn’t ready to get rid of it. I twisted it over and over again on its chain as my mother told me what she had done.
      Bob came into our lives when I was seven. He almost erased everything my father had done. We were finally a family. He took us fishing, and tucked us in at night. My mom would make dinner that we all sat at the table to eat. They smiled at each other a lot.
     By the time he left, the cancer had spread to his brain. The big guy I had always known was a tall, hazy shadow of himself. Like if you reached out to touch him, you’d only come back with a fist full of black powder. He was fading. He would look at you like he didn’t know where he was or who you were. His dark brown eyes would squint at you mid-sentence, as if he was thinking really hard. I guess it freaked my mom out, but not me. I could still see him.
     Mom told me she didn’t want to wake up one morning to find him cold and not moving.
     I didn’t know he was leaving. He said goodbye to me without the usual hug, probably well aware that he was disintegrating. He didn’t want me to see.
     My mother divorced my father when she was a little older. She kept all of his things. Old baseball cards, records he danced to with us when we were little, the peacock couch. She kept them all in the house we grew up in. She hung their wedding photos in the living room above the tan sofa. The white of my father’s smile always betrayed what we had all become too used to.
     We only saw this side of him in photographs. My mother signed divorce papers on the coffee table she and him bought at a yard sale before we were born. She would take a break from her paperwork and hang more pictures of them together. Smiling at each other on the walls of our mold infested house. Walls that were separating from the ceiling and the carpet because it wasn’t built on level foundation.
     I set my glass down on the coffee table and noticed two boxes on the opposite end of the couch. The kind that people steal from behind grocery stores when they’re moving.  A picture of my father dressed in a tux smiling loomed over me in a golden frame. I opened one box, carefully slitting the clear tape at the top. My nose filled with stale cigarette smoke as soon as the seal was broken. Inside were ceramic lighthouses. Bob loved them. Everywhere he went he would pick one up and bring it home. I never got to ask him why he liked them so much.
     The other box was virtually empty except for a few keys that probably didn’t open anything anymore, mismatched silverware with bent handles, and a chipped plate with red flowers painted around the edge.
    The lighthouses would go to people who never really knew him. The box of broken parts and silverware would probably end up in a junk drawer somewhere in the house. My stepfather’s ashes sat in a box in the hall closet. No one could agree where to scatter him, but they thought it was best my mother have this piece of him.
     I went back into the kitchen, my soup boiling over the edge of the pot in a stream of red magma. It seeped over the stove, grazing the silicone of the can opener. I grabbed a paper towel and wiped it off, shoving the heavy metal object in my hoodie pocket before and I spooned the soup into a mug and placed it next to my sandwich on the coffee table. I sat down on the couch near the window and turned on the TV.
     And I bit into my grilled cheese. It tasted like ashes.

1 comment:

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