What better way to start Father’s Day than with an argument?
I felt forlorn as I shuffled toward the market, mind cyclically returning to the argument and meandering away from it. I thought about my own dad, whom I continue to love–from a distance–despite his transgressions, understanding that the hardness he endured shaped the hardness he later delivered. I thought about my sisters’ husbands, and how sweet they are with their children. And, of course, I thought about the day itself, and the daddy in all my days now.
Every day should be Mother’s Day. Every day should be Father’s Day. Every day, we should love and celebrate the loving people in our lives regardless of what we call them. But then again, every day we are overwhelmed with chores and bills, tasks and talks that make it easy for the poetic to fall prey to the practical.
It’s good to have a day to be reminded to see what lies beyond the shuffle, and be thankful for it. On such a day, gift-wrapped presents aren’t important, not compared to presents of loving presence that can’t be bought.
Father’s Day, like all these Hallmark holidays, is a personal day of reminder–not purchase–for me. Where did you come from? Where are you? And there is choice, too. Where do you want to be?
Where did you come from? I came from generations of abuse.
Where are you? Surrounded by love, outside of my house and even more abundantly within it.
Where do you want to be? Exactly where I am, with my son and my future mister snuggled together on the couch, their heads conspiratorially close as they discuss the old film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Three years ago, I celebrated my first Father’s Day with the father of my then eight-month-old son. I thought about what I missed out on in childhood, and counted myself grateful my son would never know hardships that played significant roles in both his parents’ lives. As I watched my son and his father then, it was already clear their relationship would be defined not by mere physical presence but a there-ness that would fill my son with a sense of his dad’s love even when the two were far apart. My son’s dad would teach him a strength that permits tears, even when other people are watching, and quiet, even when other people expect shouting.
Watching them together now, I see not just only this moment but three years’ worth of loving memories. Every day is a day filled with love now, even days like today that begin with contention. Every day is father’s day here. But I’m glad for Father’s Day, reminding me of all the cycles gone before and filling me with awe at the increasing beauty of each new cycle.
The past is done. The present, this Father’s Day and all the days around it, is every bit as sweet as I predicted the first time I saw my honey’s fatherly love for his newborn son.
It doesn’t matter if the day began with a fleeting argument. Looking at what’s lasting, I cannot help but celebrate that love, this day and all days.
“Omigosh. Your’e not my friend. I’m the boss. You’re not the boss. You’re not the boss anymore because you frustrated me.”
– my son, disavowing me for not giving him his dad’s cookie
Before my son started preschool, I had a 30-minute drive to decompress from my workday before picking him up.
After Li’l D started preschool, I had a 5-minute drive to decompress. I had very little downtime before I was alternately grilled, commanded and shrieked at. I adapted, mostly because I felt like a tool for quietly bemoaning what amounted to more time with my son and less drive time.
I recently started a new job. It was hard to make the change, but doing so was an excellent choice. My new job is a challenge and a joy. Perhaps best of all, there’s traffic en route.
Yep, you read that right.
I take two freeways between work and my son’s preschool. After work yesterday, the first freeway’s traffic was light. I didn’t think much of it until I reached the exit onto the second freeway. Seeing the slow-moving traffic there, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I started chuckling. Was I really grateful for traffic? Yes. Yes, I was. Traffic, baby! Oh, yeah.
Still smiling, I melted into the now, moving away from being mom-Deb, fiancee-Deb or negotiator-Deb and into just being.
By the time I reached Li’l D, I was feeling pretty darn groovy. I was feeling so groovy, it didn’t faze me that I was unfriended by my son roughly 378 times in a 30-minute drive. I wasn’t fussed that I was demoted from boss status, or that my son wasn’t going to talk to me anymore . . . after he finished unfriending me, anyway.
I’d had my drive time. I’d had time to decompress.
All was good, thanks to a little traffic.
Our son’s words
startled us, warning that
there is much we don’t know
about his life when we
are not there
to witness it.
why he might say such things;
huddled with our family;
so, so many
we visited his doctor,
who watched, listened,
and talked openly, touching
a hand to her heart when I told her
that, having lived abuse, I remain
sensitive to its possibility, even
knowing other possibilities
an abuser herself,
had many faults; and yet,
when I think of her, what I
recall is her ferocious advocacy
on behalf of her children.
of a better life for
each of her children,
and better lives still for
each of their children.
I know I cannot protect
my son from all the hurts
life will cast upon him.
But I also know,
Remembering my mom,
I will take every step I must,
away or toward.
I will ask every
potentially embarrassing question,
and risk alienation.
I will roar.
I will teach him to roar,
when roaring is needed.
I cannot protect him from everything,
but I can try, acting, roaring,
within my power to prevent
And when I cannot protect him,
I will make sure he knows
that breaks don’t mean
we are broken; that
hurts don’t mean
I am my mother’s daughter,
and my son will know
my mom’s love,
in addition to my own;
knowing me not only
for how loud I roar, but
for how wholly I love
Who the heck’s she talking about? I wondered after the words “middle aged” rolled off my doctor’s tongue. Thorough examination of the doctor’s office revealed that she and I were alone in the room, which meant she’d just called me “middle aged.”
No way. Nuh-uh. I mean, it’s only been, what? A decade since I graduated?
. . . from law school?
Still, a couple of months passed and I dismissed my doctor’s errant description. “Not yet. Got a few more years yet.”
And then. Then came my dear friend, 23 years of age, crashing in my living room after escaping a terrible relationship. She bubbled over with exciting stories about her days in her new state of residence. The stories alone made me want to crawl into bed as I interrupted her with admonitions for my son: “No, no, don’t eat that,” or “The dog is not a horse!”
She texted and talked with friends while I mapped out my grocery lists, cooked, and talked with my fiancee about exciting things like budgets and doctor visits.
It occurred to me I probably wasn’t quite as spry as I used to be, but I still wasn’t ready to don the title of “middle aged.”
And then. Then one of my dear friend’s girlfriends came to pick her up for a girl-date. As I dried my hands of dishwater, I introduced myself, saying, “You know, my doctor called me ‘middle aged’ recently. I didn’t buy it until just now, seeing you gals getting ready to go out just as I’m wondering which PJs to wear. In, oh, four minutes.”
They left looking shiny and vibrant in their cute clothing and perfect make-up. In their wake, I looked down at my comparatively frumpy clothing for a few seconds before my eyes landed on a stack of self-help books, conveniently located near a bag of clothing to drop by the dry cleaner.
So this is middle age, I thought. Somehow I imagined it’d be more depressing.
Do I creak a little more than I used to? Sure. Do I forego drinks because hangovers really aren’t worth it? Yup.
Do I miss five-inch heels and being out at 2 a.m.? Oh, hell no.
I’ve got way too many self-help books to read for that.
How do you define middle age? If you’ve already reached it, when did you realize you probably already had?
Thunder Thighs came home with me yesterday.
Yesterday I drove home with that representation in the passenger seat beside me, and thought about Thunder Thighs. Love. Laughter. How blessed I am to have an abundance of these things, even when my introversion sometimes–as now–make me yearn for more quiet time to recharge.
Although Thunder Thighs is my mom, and today is Mother’s Day in the U.S., mother’s love is only a small part of what’s in my heart today. The larger part belongs not to the love provided by any one person, but to any love provided by anyone who loves–not passively or from a distance, but actively with outreached hand, heart and time offered up to others.
Whether or not you hope to be a mother, once were a mother, are a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, or none of these things, I celebrate you today. I celebrate your acts of love and compassion. I celebrate your phone call to a friend, your donation to a shelter, your vigil with a friend whose father is dying, your care to a friend’s house when she is in the hospital, your watching a neighbor’s children so she can shop for groceries. I celebrate the light that you shine upon those within your vicinity, and thank goodness you are out there shining that light.
Upon my bedroom door there now hangs a reminder to cherish these things. My mom is no longer a phone call away, but there is love aplenty evidenced in each minute every day regardless.
Today I will look for loves’ signs, and I will celebrate each of them, no matter who originates any one of them.
No matter who or where you are,
may your day be full of love,
both received and given.
My twentieth birthday was a life-changer.
There were no epiphanies. No sudden, startling events that illuminated just how important the day would prove in the scheme of my life.
There was only a party–a movie party, to be precise. My sister took me to watch (or should I say, ignore?) terrible movies with her large group of nerdtastic, boisterous, crass guy friends. I was shocked and delighted by the guys’ shenanigans, but more so, how completely and immediately they accepted me. I’d never experienced that before, nor anything like it.
By the time I prepared to leave for South Korea a couple years later, I knew the guys. They knew me. They teased me incessantly but lovingly. I was at home with them, so much that I had mostly forgotten what it was like to be an island unto myself.
The evening of my farewell party, I was presented with a gift: a notebook in which all of my friends, some movie party and some not, had written out their recollections of and wishes for me. On the cover was a dragonfly drawn by my friend Piete, and inside were words that have inspired and sustained me for more than a decade since. Best of all were pages of sweet memories shared by my usually writing-averse friend Sarah, who taught me–and teaches me–better than anyone else I have ever known that friendship is in loving (if sometimes firm!) actions more than in any number of pretty words.
On my most recent trip to Oregon, Sarah, Piete and their twins joined my siblings and me for a romp to the park.
The kids were silly with tiredness as we walked home afterward. “Rock out!” my son shouted as he ran toward Uncle Piete.
With an impish smile, Uncle Piete replied, “Rock out with your chalk out!” I busted up laughing as my son, Li’l D, ran circles shouting, “Rock out with your chalk out! Rock out with your chalk out!”
The movie party felt alive in that moment. Those of us whose ages numbered in the double digits were still the kids we were back then, I saw, just with more experience, more love, and even a few kids of our own.
And now, our kids have each other.
I’ve missed Oregon more than usual recently, becoming downright melancholic at the thought of my family there–my siblings, my niece, my nephews, my godmom, Sarah, Piete and their kids. As if Li’l D can read my mind, it’s in these moments of missing that he grins and shouts, “Rock out with your chalk out!”
I can’t help but chuckle, a chuckle that bursts forth from deep within me. In that silly statement, past and present converge, as do my Oregon and California lives. My Oregon family is my California family, and I can hear all of its members so loudly with my heart that I don’t need to hear them with my ears.
I’ll be back in Oregon before long. I’ll be back with my movie party crew, exulting in the sight of the next generation playing and laughing together.
In the meantime, Oregon remains within me, shining out brightest of all when my son reminds me to rock out with my chalk out.
Preparing for my son’s first flight was nervewracking. I had flown many times myself, but was suddenly concerned about the impact of possible catastrophe on my son.
Not remotely satisfied by the general oft-spoken assertion “you’re safer in a plane than a car,” I did my own research about the safety of flight. What remains with me three years later is not any specific statistic but the four words in this post’s title.
This page documents the last words recorded on crashed airplanes’ black boxes. Most are as you would expect–expletives, queries, statements about unexpected obstacles–but there was this one that diverged.
“Amy, I love you.”
First Officer Warmerdam, who spoke those words, survived both the crash and the resulting fire.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I often think of those words. I wonder what, if I got a chance not only to choose them but have them relayed, would be my last four or five words. Boiling the hubbub of life down to this single question takes away any confusion or ambiguity.
Those words would be for me son. “Li’l D, I love you.” If I only got to leave a single enduring thing in this world after I pass away, hopefully many decades from now, it would be the truth imparted by those words.
My life is full of many truths, many loves and much bustle. Beneath all that is one singular truth: bustle is bustle, which comes and goes.
Love, on the other hand, comes and grows.
Today I got something remarkable in the mail.
I knew it was coming. I’d commissioned it, after all.
And yet, there is a difference between envisioning something in the abstract and seeing it with my own eyes, which are currently full of tears.
There were few traditions in my household growing up, unless you count my mom’s antiquing and Dumpster diving. One tradition I could count on was periodic weekend walks to the comic book store, where my mom would set my siblings and me free with a dollar apiece. She’d buy the comics that interested her, while we’d rummage through the ten-cent comic bins for our personal favorites. Mine were horror episodics, a la Creepshow, as well as Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Superman.
In law school, I got my sister the full set of Amethyst comics as a birthday present. I hadn’t had much cause to think of that, or the comics themselves, until a couple of weeks ago. I’d walked into an antique shop in search of a dresser. There were no dressers available, but I did find excellent conversation with the store’s owner, who reminded me so very much of my mom I felt as if she were standing just behind me, too intent in her own rummaging to chit-chat.
Another prospective customer came in and interrupted our discussion with a question. I examined the jewelry in a nearby case for a moment; when I looked up, my eyes landed directly on comic book magic: Amethyst and Superman in the same comic!
I coughed up $10 and decided that, for that single afternoon, I believed in signs.
I still haven’t read that comic. It’s not important that I read it, just that it exists. It reminds me of my favorite times with my mom, my Thunder Thighs, my forever superhero.
Every time my eyes landed on that magical crossover comic, I thought of another piece of comic art I was waiting for. I’d commissioned extremely talented, conscientious comic artist and friend Sina Grace to draw a piece borne from my blog “Becoming a Superhero.”
Because my mom’s life was so full of strife, I struggled to figure out how to do her memory justice. How could I help other people see her not as just a crazy bird lady but as the source of my own love, hope and wonder, not through accident but through emulation? How could I remember her that way, recalling not only her life’s many tragedies but also its victories?
“Becoming a Superhero” was the turning point for me. It was my answer. As long as I remembered Thunder Thighs, I was remembering my mom–my real mom, not not-Mom, the way she’d want to be remembered.
And as long as I not only remember but live the best parts of her, her love and laughter endure.
At some point I decided I wanted not just words but an image to serve as my reminder to remember my mom and use the remembering well.
I described to Sina what I envisioned, though that envisioning was in blurs and blobs. He asked bunches of questions and set to work, sending me a “blueline” (or very preliminary sketch) a few days ago to make sure he was on the right track. I loved it, and I said so. I was prepared to be enchanted by the final product, but again, I couldn’t really imagine what that enchantment would feel like.
Today I received a snapshot of the final image. I laughed and cried all at once, enveloped in the rush of remembered comic book shop visits, Thunder Thighs adventures, and the imagined forays of Dark Moon and Silver Star. My mom would love the image. I sure do.
The print one will be in my hands in a week or two’s time, but what’s important now is that it’s in my heart. Right there with my mom, my Thunder Thighs, my forever superhero.
I probably haven’t left comments on your blog recently.
Or replied to your last email, or seven.
Or tweeted you.
This doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you, or wondering what you’re up to. It just means my only internet is phone-based at the moment. If I’m posting online, it’s because I have something I really, really want to say before I forget. Or, like now, because it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’ve already streamed my quota of The Mindy Project on Hulu.
I’ve missed being online, a little, but I’ve savored it, too. Instead of constantly wondering what I am missing online, I have been immersed in savoring the offline. Instead of arising and running straight to the computer, I’ve laid in bed and listened to the trio of snores filling the air around me.
I’ve washed the dishes, made my rice, read my daily chapter of Just One Thing, and sat on the living room floor savoring a sense of home greater than the one I felt at my last place. There, two friends anxiously began a journey of seeing if they could build a family from friendship. So much was uncertain then, and is certain now. Read more…
“Mommy, you have pretty hair,” my three-year-old son told me as he reached to touch it.
“You do, too,” I replied.
“No, it’s not. It’s dark,” he said solemnly.
I tried not to show my alarm. “Who told you that?” I asked as I reached to ruffle his hair.
“Listen,” I said calmly despite the alarm still bubbling up within me. “You have beautiful, curly, dark hair. I wish I had your hair.”
“Oh.” Li’l D, no longer engaged in the conversation, got up and ran off toward more exciting endeavors. My heart remained stuck on those two jarring words: “It’s dark.”
I have no idea where Li’l D heard that “dark” is bad. I cannot undo his hearing it. But what I can do, and what I mean to do, is show him as he grows that misguided words are not all there is in this world. There is joy in abundance, beauty that cares naught for superficial distinctions, and the goodness of knowing that no matter what anyone else sees or says, there is a light inside each of us that demands to shine.
I will strive to teach him to see that light–in those who love him, those who dislike him for whatever reasons, and most of all, within himself.
If he can see it within himself, it won’t matter what anyone else sees.
He will be too alight with love to care.