Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pappa visits us on Daniel’s birthday: Sometimes fights are good for something

Fighting with my baby is painful, particularly on my baby's birthday

My oldest son and I are in a fight. Somehow we are communicating the arguments of our respective significant others. Daniel is speaking for his fiancée and I am communicating for my husband. At one point, I had to stop the argument to ‘fact check’ so that I could offer up the appropriate retort. In that long moment when I was searching my brain for suitably fitting words of reply I realized that the words weren’t absent because of any impending Alzheimer’s disease. The words weren’t there because I didn’t have a memory of what we were fighting about. For a lack of anything better to say, I told him I’d have his father call him directly. The situation becomes simultaneously more complicated and clearer with the knock knock of my mother at the door. She begs me to “please, please, please agree to go to Daniel’s birthday dinner with him. “

This strikes me as absurd. Why wouldn’t I want to go to our number one son’s birthday dinner? How did a fight about canceling Kellan’s visit to our house at the last minute become so complicated?

In an obviously rare moment of reflection I figure out that it is because our fight over Kellan overshadowed the second part of the weekend soiree, which was to have dinner with Daniel and family when we brought Kellan back or they picked him up. Daniel was feeling like we only cared about seeing his son and not him. All at once I felt awful. No one could replace Daniel, not even the child that he fathered.

How do you explain that there is always enough love for everyone, and that love is not reproducible. Unlike a dojong (a Korean name stamp) it is never the same twice.

We had a foreshadowing of this altercation the weekend before, when we were focusing on a grandson-visit and our grown-son felt left out. I hate it when I’m obtuse and stubborn.

I call Rich and leave a message. Then because I am shook up I go to sleep.

Rich comes home and immediately apologizes via iPhone. Daniel does the same via his iPhone. They say they’ll “start over” and talk after the NFL draft is over. They are fine in 5 minutes. It has taken me a full day of arguing and fretting to come to this point of what is non-closure for me (I guess I need an iPhone), but relief.

We wait for Daniel’s phone call.

In the meantime, all phones large and small in our house are freaking out. We get multiple calls on our land-line from the pharmacy telling Rich that his prescriptions are ready to be picked up. This is a new experience, the same recording over and over, one right after the other. China Taste, our local restaurant calls James twice on his cell phone to tell him that his food is ready to be picked up (he didn’t order any). Rich’s cell phone, clearly sitting on the counter in the basket calls me on my cell phone. I answer to silence. And now my freaking E-mail doesn't work.

I am aggravated at technology and perplexed at the multiple glitches that can occur at the same time in totally different communication systems, until it dawns on me. It’s my father: Daniel’s Pappa, who died almost 3 years ago. He is upset that we are fighting on the day before his Prunie’s birthday. I walk over to mom’s house and tell her that Pappa is here. She cries and says, “I’ll bet that’s it.” I call Daniel and tell him what is going on. He believes me. Dan calls and makes reservations at the Japanese restaurant for tomorrow and promises me he’ll let Pappa know that he’s okay. I have no doubt that my dad will be there tomorrow with us, eating Japanese food and celebrating. Just like I have no doubt that he’s here with us now.

The phone calls stop. My E-mail works.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Open Salon Interview by cartouche with dcvdickens/ My side/

How are you and dcvdickens related?

Dcvdickens and my husband, Rich share a half brother. I say that she is my sister-in-law but we’re unrelated. We may never have met if not for a family wedding, because it was with religious fervor that Rich avoided his half brother’s father’s side of the family. As far as he was concerned, his loyalty was to his mother, the woman that dcv’s father left for her mother. Then their common niece got married in NM 6 years ago. We didn't want to go because that “other side of the family” would be there, but our eldest son shamed us into going. Once we got there it was like meeting our long lost relatives. After about an hour, people were saying dcv and I were sisters. Our relationship has just grown from there. I love her.


I am a major Salon fan and have been since discovering Anne Lamotte here years ago. I gravitated to OS after starting a personal, more family-related blog on Blogger last summer. My sister-in-law, dcvdickens, the real writer in the family, had an OS blog, and after reading one of her incredible posts I decided to experiment by putting “just one” of my personal pieces “out there.” It was about the anniversary of my father’s death. Then, I found Gwen Cooper’s writing about her tiny rescue cat, and well, I was hooked.


I’ve posted little of my writing on OS. Much of it is still on my computer or on my personal blog. I’m shy about sharing it. For the most part I write for myself. My purpose is to preserve moments in time of my life that I think will be of value someday to the family I will leave behind. So, writing about topics as ordinary as our first Mardi Gras in Louisiana, the second anniversary of my dad’s death, taking the civil service exam, or the disaster that was my first wedding are very personal to me. I will post other more intimate stories someday, maybe. I just want to make sure that I’m not exploiting anyone by making my writing more public. The only reason I was able to post the piece about “How I Married into a Family that Eats Road Kill” is because everyone I might truly have offended is either dead or incapacitated, and for that opportunity I had to wait 25 years.


To a certain extent most of what I’ve written has been overlooked by the masses, although I have had technically 3 EPs, a couple of covers and a number Critical Mess’s Daily Scrawl Picks, all of which I’ve appreciated by the way. It’s been very encouraging. I’ve been very welcomed here. It’s been my experience that OS is not a place for braggarts and despite all of those posts about “the quality or lack thereof” of writing on OS, I do not feel it has been a place of elitists. I think that the longer I’m around, and the more other readers and writers become familiar with my voice, the more I’ll get read, or not [laughing]. I’m not worried about it.


I wish I could be more literary with this answer but the person that has most inspired me to write is my mother. We’re very close. As most of you know she’s been living in my backyard (in an addition we had built for her) for the last 5 years. I was an only child, and she worked as an RN on the 3-11 or 7-3 shift. Both shifts would place her out of the house either when I woke up or when I went to bed. Sometimes she’d work the afternoon and morning shifts back to back. I was alone a lot. Seldom was I with my dad due to his 24/7 work schedule as a labor organizer. I did spend a good deal of time with my father's very Germanic parents that lived 3 blocks away. I loved them, but they weren’t the most expressive people. In order for mom and I to survive we would communicate by writing notes, passing them between us by leaving them on the kitchen counter. So, from the very earliest of ages I learned how to write to communicate my feelings about family life.


If I can only say one, I’ll say Steven Axelrod’s writing about Sophie in “The One Who Got Away: The Survivor’s Tale” (Part 1, 2, 3 and whatever) because he loved her well, and he writes about that relationship in a way that makes my heart break. Sophie, whoever she is, is a very lucky woman. At times, throughout my life I have been “that woman” and God bless Steven Axelrod for reminding me of that. By the way, his book, “Just Like in the Movies” is available on I know because I bought it.


Tell us something about yourself that most people on OS would be surprised to learn.

I am an adventurer at heart. I met my husband in a restaurant called “Stanford’s” in 1982 in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica-- the most underdeveloped part of that country , mostly populated by refugees from the Caribbean. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer, had long wavy hair, a huge beard and an earring, and when I spied him at our “hotel” “The Maritza” earlier in the day he was reading "Silent Spring" (smart, irreverent, handsome and a man with a purpose: note to self, you must meet this man) . I sashayed up to him during dinner asking if it was appropriate considering that we were on the Atlantic side of the country, that I was not wearing a bra. [Blink. Blink. Smile]. Of course, he said, "yes, entirely appropriate."

Later, that night we had a beer and he asked me to go snorkeling with him in the morning. I excused myself early because I wasn’t feeling well, and spent the night puking into a hole of a toilet down the hall from my room (bad langostinos: lobster-like creatures). Just the memory makes me wretch. I was so ill that I left the following morning before dawn on a prop plane back to San José for medical care. Before I left, I posted my name and address on his door and asked him to look me up if he was ever in the Northwest.

A year later when he got back from the Peace Corps he stopped by my house on his way to a job in Chicken, Alaska. I had a boyfriend. He was two days early. I was irritated, but rather than cook for him I took him to a Jazz Club for dinner, and that was it. We have been together ever since.

Tell us something about yourself that you have shared on OS that most people in your real life do not know?

I confide so much more with people in my real life than I do with people on OS. My friends live all over the world: I have intimates in Louisiana, New York, California, Indonesia, Sicily, Sri Lanka and Mexico to name but a few places. We talk about the woes of child rearing, marital troubles, health problems, lost dreams, attained goals, and my soon to be lost job… I write a lot of E-mails [laughing]. I can’t imagine telling an OS friend any more about my personal life.

As an experiment, after reading this question, I decided to write an OS piece about something that I hadn’t yet shared with anyone. I wrote about potential staff layoffs at the university where I work in light of our looming budget cuts. It wasn’t a great piece. It didn’t take long to write. It was more like one of the many E-mails I write. But it was written with passion. Well, within 48 hours that piece had more ratings and comments than all of my other OS posts combined. It also rated a cover, and it was my first OS piece that was picked up by Google. It was also the first time I had a chorus of PMs suggesting I take the post down for fear that it would hasten my job loss, which was very sweet as it made me feel a part of the OS community. I learned that writing about something I’m passionate about, without diffusing it first through other means is probably a more powerful although not safer way for me to write.

For women: Thongs or briefs?

God, my husband wishes it were thongs. I have tried thongs but they are just so damned uncomfortable. At this point in time, boy briefs.

How much of what and how you write or respond in comments is reflective of the person you are in “real life”?

I am who I am and my writing style reflects that. I would say that my lack of pretense is one of my best traits.
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