See he was driving me back to college probably late in the fall semester of my freshman or sophomore year…He was sober, or near enough when that trip started and once the car died, absolutely stone sober.
I don’t remember the reason the car died. Out of gas, transmission, overheating (which the dog ugly cream-colored used 1979 Cutlass with the black vinyl hood did often, since it’s heater was perpetually on. Even in July.)
I think it might have been out of gas, something that was technically his responsibility to monitor. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he worked so hard to get me where I needed to go.
This was way, way, way before cell phones.
Hiram College (at the time) was a tiny college at the southern end of Northeast Ohio, one block big…it had a post office, a bank, a pizza joint and one closed gas station. And on a Sunday night while it was snowing, there would have been nothing open anyway. It didn’t need to be “accessible” for me (on crutches at the time)…it was small enough.
We were stuck halfway up Hiram Hill. Behind the post office.
It would have been better if we’d been stuck at the base of that hill near the sports complex…because although that would have been a longer road to hoe, there were stairs set in the last half of that hill.
Back behind the post office, there was nuffin.’ Zip. Zilch.
It was a small hill, and would have been a moderately annoying scramble for a forty year old able bodied man. No phones nearby. Nobody on this remote road.
It was determined I would climb that hill with him. The cerebral palsy couldn’t matter, and I was too big to carry. I did have on these big nasty men’s work boots, the Hummers of footwear, my winter boots of choice. Like the blizzard I’ve spoken about before, we held hands and crawled up that hill together.
It was hideous hard. It seemed to take approximately 2000 years to get up that hill. All I remember was his yelling.
My perception was, I couldn’t do it. I was going to fall, I was going to get hurt I was going to freeze out there….and there was so much god dammed ice, my true nemesis. If my feet couldn’t get a purchase, my arms wouldn’t be able to do the job of yanking me another few feet. But his yelling was annoying and encouraging and resolute all at once and I got up that hill… I believe my crutches were still in the car, so the next phase was a careful walk across that icy campus, both hands holding tightly on to my Dad’s hands, once he’d called my Mom…
When I got to my dormitory, all I remember wanting is to get into my room with that rackety steam heat and warm up. I wanted my Dad to come in as well, and he did, to warm up and repeatedly express his regret.
I could tell there would be unpleasant negotiations and repercussions between my divorced parents once Mom got there forty five minutes later…to retrieve my stuf f and figure out how to get the car towed.
But he did what had to be done…a night in that car would have been worse than that scramble…a flash of caretaking in the middle of his alcohol driven irresponsibility…
So even if your Dad isn’t perfect, or is no longer with you, as my father is not.
Dust off some of the times he did right by you…dust them off and look at them on this father’s day, and they’ll illustrate what being a Dad is about.
Sometimes, your friends write you something really amazing….
and sometimes it takes you twenty years to respond appropriately. I’ve thanked my good friend Bridgett for this before, but never attempted a really specific response…It’s rather odd, because it’ll be a fifty year old woman “answering” the twenty/early thirty somethings we were back then…
But you know, time ticks. And you want to make sure wonderful things get acknowledged.
I’m going to quote a lot of it but not the entire thing. I hope she’ll forgive me for making it ‘public.’
And some friends, don’t step into the breach just during one decade, but several.
So, it’s 1991. During my fight with cancer, and my late husband’s fight with HIV.
She’s getting her Phd, and I’m getting over cancer, getting my marbles back into my head after a really scary interlude caused by too much of a particular chemotherapy med.
I needed some time away. Just a week or so. Time away from my regular life.
[my husband was ok with that. He recognized I needed some time…]
I figured I might even get some moments to play at being an academic again…so I asked to come. She said yes, and I had a time just to decompress.
In a little place in the midwest, an apartment that was nearly as quirky in it’s own way as our dorm room in college had been.
We had good times, I met her current crop of friends and associates and liked ’em. [particularly one earnest overcaffienated little fellow that eventually became rather important in her life 🙂 ]
And when I get back home, she writes me this card during a difficult transitional time for her…
“Some days, don’t you feel like you’ve stepped out of a Cubist painting? I mean, jangled, harsh, angular and the pieces all stuffed hastily in a space which doesn’t forgive edges? Yeah, me too.
And you were an honest and compassionate friend, given the intensity of what I was going through, and my emotional rollercoasters about it. [Don’t you *wish* somebody had clued me in about some of the underlying causes? I do.]
That was a tough tornado to stand under, and you managed it better than most did, kid. As you may remember, there were folks who decided they had to step miles out of the way of that. You did not. That in itself was invaluable, and something not many could have done.
Your support and humor these small oases of sane honesty where neither of us has to be ‘the stong one’ mean an immense amount to me. As ever you’re the person to know when all is against me and the person to run to when the call for “Halp!” issues [sic]
Since the big quest of my life has often incorporated a real need to be useful, it made me feel really good that I could back you up like that sometimes. Maybe I’ve got more of that to do yet. Who knows.
On speculating on how the fateful cards are dealt (or misdealt, according to human perception), I often think that sometimes you draw these amazing gifted and resourceful people for no reason at all other than to remind you that there are things in life you should have brains enough to enjoy and appreciate. And, every once in a while one should have the grace to tell them how much they are enjoyed and appreciated.
You’re welcome. Whatever I did, I’m glad it felt supportive. I’m glad it helped.
And fifteen or twenty years later, when I was (again) feeling so stressed and isolated, you first reestablished a strong online presence in my life.
That has been and continues to be, a link back to, and validation of those times when my intellect actually had value in the offline world, and that I still have some pretty good days, even though I never took up the career I was meant to. Any writing I’ve done since 2005 that anyone thought was any good wouldn’t be out there if you hadn’t planted the seed, that hey, this blogging thing might be a cool idea.
Then in ’09 when so many pieces of my offline life simply blew up in order, I called for help and got it. Just the support, tangible and intangible…one of the things that was ‘just enough,’ to get me back home…
You and I will keep surviving, not because of any moral imperative or external dictum, or even out of spite —
Wellllll, I don’t know about *that.* I think, for good or ill, in my case, I do survive just to spite the universe.
I also have to love any friend that is trying (and succeeding) at writing a supportive note, uses the words “external dictum,” and knows they’ll be understood… 🙂
–- but because we simply *have to* When presented that…burden of life, which is strapped on with determination you just have to stumble along and get picked up or sometimes carried along by your dearest friends.
Now, that was a pretty adult and prophetic piece of thinking…
Yeah, we both did that for each other back then and before then But the scales are so uneven now, I doubt I’ll be able to balance them appropriately, and that bugs me.
Perhaps the only way I can do it, is to tell any strangers reading this, that if you have that one friend…that one that has your back no matter what, and you examine your connection and believe you haven’t told them you appreciate them in a good while…then do it now. Right now. So that as time ticks, you absolutely know you’ve told them how cool they are.
My motto: “ If she can make it, I can make it.” Your motto; “If she can make it, I can make it.”
Seems we did. But *what* I’ve made of mine I really don’t know.
Thank you, my friend.
I’ve just had another longtime acquaintance diss my political and religious choices.
Sorry for the rehash, but I’ve just got to lay it out one last time so people get it.
We now live in a society where corporations are people, according to the Citizens United decision.
If they are people, they aren’t the kind I’d invite to dinner.
Republican, Tea Party, Independent, Liberal, Progressive friends/family listen the heck up because I’m tired, tired tired of laying this out in gory personal detail for you.
I cannot trust any big corporation ever again. If someone else wants to, or believes they must because it’s in the Constitution that they have to love big corporations or they are a traitor to the Great God Capitalism…then go ahead.
I cannot trust any big corporation ever again because in the 24 months from summer 1982 through summer 1984 corporate decisions were made that allegedly caused the death of my HIV positive hemophilliac husband. He was a difficult man.
[for the record I’ve recently found out through medical research and checking his record that it’s extremely likely that the degree of his legendary temper was caused, in part, by HIV related brain lesions. Changes the picture yet again. I just wish I would have known more about the lesion thing early on. ]
I loved him. He loved me. He told me I was beautiful every day. And meant it. The disability, the weight, were unimportant to him. He married me when he could have married an able girl.
He was the *only* man to stand up to my father in my name, to tell him to go to hell.
We had that chemistry thing. That was why we made the WTF decision to marry in the first place even knowing the ‘risk group’ he was in. (doesn’t ‘ risk group’ sound damn antiquated now?) We finished each other’s sentences. We played a lot.
And allegedly because of a decision meant to help the ‘bottom line’ by a number of big pharmaceutical companies to not retool and make the production of a life sustaning medicine safer as early as they could have…he’s not here anymore. It killed him by inches and he was fcukin’ brave about it…especially at the end. No human being should have to go through that and so many still do.
I. cannot. trust.any.big.corporation.
Another reason not to trust them that affected me quite personally.
Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida, was making big money in the eighties/nineties running a company that was busy defrauding Medicare.
My boss at the time thought that that company Columbia HCA, ought to be allowed to merge with his company in a Kaiser Permanente type mix. He wanted to change to a for profit company.
Well, long story short, that boss got fired for pursuing that, and my company was uncertain, unsettled and in transition for awhile.
This was one of the factors in my (looking back) unwise decision to relocate westward. It spooked me. I got afraid the company would vanish.
So, there is just no way I can support a party that supports big corporations.
Can’t do it. Will. Not. Do. it.
I can abstain from discussing politics offline. I’ve done that and will continue to. I love my family, they love me, and we do have bunches more to discuss than politics, and we don’t want to become estranged. So we make an effort.
Why did I go there at all?
Well, a purely pragmatic need for a support system became clear. In 2008/2009 I discovered a great nearby church that happened to be Catholic.
My decision was, “I’ll go, get quiet, meet some people, listen to the music…get a bit of help when I need it.” It’s five minutes away from my house. (I was still in Denver at the time.)
And then, God showed up. It was annoying really. I hadn’t had the best relationship with God. God got ditched in ’93 and I had no plans to actually reconnect.
“What in the heck are you doing here? You’re supposed to know everything, so you know I’m just here for regular reasons…not really looking for you. So leave me be!”
Too late. It was and is a profound experience. Uniquely personal. And that’s it.
Has this religion, have all religions made huge mistakes? Heck yes. Are there specific parts of the theology that really make me nuts? Heck yes. Am I going to use my brain to work out my day to day practice in a way that doesn’t make me nuts? Absolutely. I’m no mindless sheep.
Do I have to answer to friends/family/nosy-ass strangers for the mistakes or the parts of the theology that make me nuts?
And again, I think it’s the rudest thing in the world to go door to door for Deity. Won’t be doing that.
Have I turned into the Church Lady?
So to summarize.
Not supporting a particular political party because they support big corporations that *will do harm* financially or physically if let off their leashes does not mean I’m going to hell.
Being Roman Catholic does not mean I’m going to hell. Or Heaven either. It gives me no superiority or inferiority. It’s just one of my choices.
Good grief. Democracy and religious freedom. Ever heard of them?
PS. And by the way. Just by the fcuk way. It’s “Democratic Party.” not “Democrat,” party. Give us our full list of syllables, even if we are “animals,” threatening to “destroy the country.”
This one will be controversial, I’m sure. And mean, and not showing either of the female participants in their best light. But…
Why did it matter to me so much? It did. And not just on the basic relationship level. Always, always, why did I feel I had so much to prove among the able regarding my personal life, my romantic relationship? A lot of folk at the time advised me I was putting too much emphasis on it.
I was. I’m such a damn cavewoman about these things. It actually became something of a game sometimes, an old school catfight if an “other woman,’ showed up. But what I wonder is why I was…
A bit of a prologue is needed, from the time before I was really ‘dating’ my future spouse.
1980 or so.
He met her at a church function. She was completely able-bodied, and his disability was fairly invisible. At that time, or shortly thereafter they began to date and it got serious rather quickly. One of those couples that, when they are together, make it seem as though they are the only two people in a room. (My late husband, when he emotionally committed, did so fast.) At some point down the line a ring was exchanged and they got engaged. She was either already in, or joined the military shortly thereafter. He had begged his brother-in-law to drive him to her place of deployment to say farewell after a leave, and the brother-in-law, while grousing a bit, did so.
After coming home, he realized she had left a gym bag of hers in his closet.
I don’t know how he came to read her letters…whether he was then in the habit of going through other people;s things routinely (Something I didn’t permit in our home. Each of us had to ask permission before handling the other’s stuff), or when he picked it up, was the bag open etc.
Doesn’t matter. What did matter at the time was what he found.
It wasn’t just the shock of realizing she was also very seriously involved with someone else, someone near the deployment she was going back to.
There were particular paragraphs that noted with some scorn, that she had some guy back in the States who thought she was in love with him…very sarcastic in tone, he said, as if the two of them were laughing, via letter, about it. I often wonder, if unconsciously, she left it there on purpose, to be rid of him.
His mother, a very religious lady described his reaction to this as ‘possessed.’ According to him, he wept. Shouted. Sank into a serious depression. He did not leave the house for days. Truly devastated. And, appropriate to be so overset after such a betrayal.
When she returned from that deployment, still well before I knew him, he advised that there was some trouble getting the ring back, I don’t remember now if he did or didn’t…but there was some sort of highbrow kitchen accessory still in a box in his mother’s kitchen in 1985, and she often lamented about what the heck to do with it, since neither he nor she gave a darn about it. (A child of the Depression though, she just couldn’t bring herself to throw anything away.)
We were dating by that time, and he was working in one of those seasonal holiday shops in the nearest mall. I was visiting my dad and my dad’s latest girlfriend. She happened to live in the same suburb as my guy did.
As my cousin told it to me, here’s what went down.
The ex girlfriend found out where he was working through some mutual friends, and showed up, all interested in getting interesting, very hey, baby what’s up. As if the weird painful breakup had never occurred. My cousin and her husband happened to be there, visiting. My husband excused himself from the kiosk for a moment and proceeded to flee to a restroom and get physically sick…from just seeing her.
My cousin politely but pointedly mentioned that he was in a relationship with me.
She did not know me, and apparently did not care, she intended to go after him anyway.
He returned fairly quickly, advised her he wanted no part of her. She apparently advised him that she intended to show up in church that Sunday in the company of these mutual friends…He finished out his shift, shaky on his feet. He called my dad’s condo, and I got on the phone.
“Hey I know we were supposed to go out to dinner and a movie, but can you just come over?” He sounded so shook up, I wondered what was going on but said, sure.
We had the house to ourselves, and got comfortable and he calmed down and explained.
He needed hugs and reassurance that night, and got them. He wanted to make sure I was with him at church, because he advised he didn’t know if he could handle it.
I wanted to make d@mn sure I was at church too, because gossip ruled in that place, and also because I wanted to make certain she knew where I stood, and what I was willing to do to handle that archaic “hold on to my man,” thing. (It just irks me to no end that I thought of it in those terms, but I did, and there’s no sugarcoating it.)
I got so insecure, inside my head that weekend. If he really did want her, how could I compete with that? Not just able, but military…I was so sad. I thought, “Well, it’s been good, but here’s the able chick sweeping in. He’s shook now, but she’ll pester and pester and she’s probably better looking, and they have a history, and she can do more things, and doesn’t limp around and doesn’t have a lazy eye like I do…” All of the old, “Not good enough,” stuff came up.
After all I have three great male friends, all because, couldn’t get them interested romantically due to, at least in part, my disabilities…they let me down gently, but they did, and left me feeling inadequate (although they are friends to this day, and I’m now so pleased with that.)
I never actually saw her face till the end of service. By prearrangement we were in the last pew.
She walked in, in uniform, back straight, and didn’t even turn to look at anyone. Brown curly hair past the shoulder. A sturdy person. She sat in the front pew with the folk she was staying with. I had my best dress on, something that I fit into for only about two weeks. A periwinkle blue dress with an old-fashioned bodice top.
He had a death grip on my hand and sat through most of the service with head bowed.
He often made scenes and I could see he was mightily suppressing his urge to do so.
The service ended. “Here we go,” I thought. Here’s where I have to prove to her in about thirty seconds that she never even had the wisp of a chance with him.” Me, the gimp, facing down a military person. She turned. And happened to look straight at me. My impairment was much less obvious standing in a pew from that distance. I stared her down like murder. Her brows raised.
And then I smiled. Wolfish and obvious. the look up and down, slow starting, “Oh, you don’t impress me at all,” smile.
She looked for a moment like she thought of making an introduction…but when she left the church she simply rapidly walked past on the outside, my side of the pew, without another glance or word.
We heard one last thing about her, that she had later married and had a little girl.
Objectively I thank her for her military service, as I do all vets I meet. But that’s where it ends.
Why did I *need* to win that battle so much? I still don’t know. But I won it.
also supposed to be here now, and supposed to be here for some unknown amount of future time.
I’m tired. I’m tired of a particular bit of drama that centers around my arrival on the planet as an accidental event.
Yes, I know. I wasn’t planned for by either parent. Yes, I know, I wasn’t sought after. Yes, I know that my late father castigated my mother about being unable to deliver an able bodied boychild…instead delivering a girlchild with impairments.
My mother feeling ‘stuck’ in a lousy marriage to a lousy guy does stem from my arrival on the planet. If she needs help to wrestle through the damage he did I cannot be her therapist.
But I’m sick to death of taking any blame for that.
I’m pretty clear that as regards the wider world and the bigger picture, I’m supposed to have been here.
Oh, there’s a list
Reasons I’m supposed to have been here
Chipmunks up north wouldn’t have gotten the peanuts I fed ’em on vacation.
My first grade version of the ‘Sound of Music’ would have had some other Maria.
My whole street wouldn’t have heard my first attempt at public speaking (at age 5)
My father would have acted like a jerk for much longer….since after about age 10, I refused to leave him alone about his drinkin’
Belinda at gimp camp would have continued to beg other people to do things she could do herself.
Me, dancing…a necessary exercise in pushing the envelope. Also, one of my boyfriends wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun.
The mutual scorn of me and the general public at my high school (my friends, of course were exempt)
And those friendships that I made and have kept…still vital, pleasant things.
Most dissed me because I was disabled, and I held them in great contempt because they were stupid.
College, much less disrespect, but much more alchohol…And why in the hell did some of my dorm mates come to me for romantic advice? (Me, who believed at the time I was to remain the Perpetual Virgin?) The real friendships I made, though, they remain interesting and full of good things.
Customers at my various jobs would still be wandering around wondering what their bills or Explanations of Benefits meant.
I believe very strongly my late husband would have had a shorter, sadder, more difficult time of it without me.
My father, same notation.
I would not have learned so much or had as many good times without the friends I made in my thirties, even if they aren’t friends anymore. Unless my memory decieves, I helped them out some too.
One ex boyfriend really did need to be verbally smacked on the Internet. (It should have happened as early as 1992, but I did not know him then.)
Actually putting on the superhero costume and helping another friend leave a disturbing past behind.
My forties, my first decade as a political animal. Actually put my shoulder into it and pushed my Congresscritters and others via email.
Short version: It no longer matters that my arrival was accidental.
I’m supposed to be here.