Democracy’s funeral

I don’t subscribe to cable service. I haven’t had live TV since I lived in Sydney, Australia, and that was never really an option once we subscribed to Quickflix (Australian Netflix).

I have no live TV at home, therefore, I have no “other channel” to tune into on January 20. Big Brother can’t track my interest in the History Channel or National Geographic, instead of the inauguration. Shouldn’t have typed that keyword. Should not have typed that.

I read about how viewership worked and how there are nominated viewer families today, and how non-measured families don’t really matter because of how extrapolation to 7 million viewers occurs.

Patton Oswalt in his Facebook post last night tried to tell me how it really worked. He was throwing spaghetti to a wall and hoping it sticks. It didn’t for me; I still don’t get it. Long story short, I liken viewership to proxy voters. Math. Hard. Sad! “What have I become??? Writing like he tweets???” *maniacal laughter, tears*

Point. Right. Like Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one.

Love him or hate him, it’s time for everyone to grow up and work with Donald Trump. Or so I’m told.

We fought tooth and nail. We hit all 5 stages of grief like it was Coachella, and then got backstage passes. We signed petitions for the Electoral College to prove itself useful. We held the media accountable despite arrows from “he who must not be named”. Now we have to work with him??? You have got to be kidding me.

I thought about it for, like, a second, and I realized… I’ve worked with people like him before.

My advice? Take furious notes (detailed, dated, corroborated where possible), cc HR (the media?) and bring them to any meetings/interactions if possible, and Cover. Your. Ass. Like radioactive astronaut suit cover.

I wanted to wear black today, mourning the death of democracy. I didn’t. I wore instead my dad’s flannel shirt. I’m going through today by honoring and remembering my father, instead of tuning in to the American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. He used to wear it when I was a kid. I’m channeling my inner optimist despite every inclination to spiral into a dark depression for the next 4-8 years.

My parents fucked with me. Once I’d exhausted my mom, she would tell me to go tell my dad he wanted me, basically getting rid of me. I didn’t get what she was telling me to say at the time. So I waddled up to my dad and said like she said, “Dad, Mom says to tell you you want me?” Don’t shoot the messenger. Then once it tumbled out my mouth, I realized my mom had pawned me off on him. He’d chuckle, audibly or with his eyes, and inevitably involve me in whatever he was doing at the time. He’d break it down to the point of unbearable minutia. Educational. Like PBS educational. Like, pay him money to shut up educational.

My father was a very private man. Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation reminds me so much of my father, it’s uncanny. From the gruffness to the mustache. He didn’t have an easy childhood. Despite his faults, he was a really good dad when he had his dad hat on. He wasn’t one for online banking platforms despite being a Silicon-Valley-in-the-80’s techie. He never wanted to hand people working Costco exits his receipt because he felt it violated his privacy, so he’d get into arguments with them on our way out. He didn’t believe in cloud computing or shared networks, or Facebook. He was a private, gruff man. I see his point.

This Inauguration Day, I think I need to throw out a shout-out to my Kung Fu Panda Popfarts. I think I’m going to honor my dad. I think he voted for Barack Obama. I think he loved me. I think he’d watch this inauguration like the Hobbit, or Star Wars, or Dune, or Rome. He’d be entertained. He’d go see it in the theater, only to fall asleep. He’d know that this was a total joke. That Donald was merely a reality TV star after ratings. But he’d see it as art, too. He’d smoke some weed and laugh. He’d hold his ground on voting staunchly liberal. He’d make it all better, for me.

I remember when I was 17, I bought my aunt’s 1988 Toyota pickup truck off of her when she wanted to buy a new car. I learned how to drive a stick in that car. I only had one “accident” in it that I couldn’t take care of myself. It wasn’t really an accident. It was stupid, really.

I was parked in our garage while both of them were at work to keep my un-air-conditioned little Yoda a bit cooler in the warm San Jose summers, and I was going to drive the kids next door I was either babysitting or hanging out with to 7-11 for a summertime slurpee, or to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. It’s a bit fuzzy around the edges. 20 years does that to you.

Anyway, I opened the garage door, as we did not have an electric door, back then. I started my truck with one leg hanging out the driver’s side door. Summer heat. Summer vacation. Brain vacation. I threw the gearshift into reverse and began backing up… but I hadn’t shut my driver’s side door. Bent. Backwards. On the garage door frame. In front of the kiddos. Fuuuuuuuuck.

My dad, within 24 hours, had gone to a pick’n’pull, located a beige 1988 Toyota pickup with an in-tact driver’s side door, paid $200 (1/6th of the price I paid for the whole damn truck), and had it installed. Not all heroes wear capes.

Granted, some of the door’s ligaments didn’t exist. Some were literally rubberbands I put there to keep the door from swinging all the way 180 degrees open. Beige on white was absolutely intolerable as well, so within another 72 hours, I’d procured touch up paint in 3 shades of blue: slate/silver, turquoise, and royal, and had an ocean wave painted on that beige door. White touch up paint around the window to frame it out, because details.

I honestly don’t remember if I thanked my father for what he did and how quickly he did, and meant it. He fixed it. He didn’t get many opportunities, and he didn’t rise to every opportunity. But he did then.

My dad would watch beautiful women go by. I’d see his eyes having to look at them as they walked by. In those moments, I told myself that was not the kind of person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like that. But even in making mistakes themselves, our parents teach us things about the way we want to be. Perhaps the reason I am so plain myself is to dodge the gazes of men like that. But I digress.

He never once grabbed them by the genitals though, or bragged about what he could do to them. I would like to think, given the chance, he’d draw the line there, somehow pull off daddy of the year by insulting Donald Trump, putting him in his place, dishonoring him publicly, ruining every narcissistic thought in his head, and knocking some sense into him. I mean, I might be reaching for the stars, but maybe he’d try. He’d know Donald Trump was a terrible person.

So into today I go. In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, “I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” I’ll have to take my memories of a scandal-free White House and classy first family to be my sunshine the next 4-8 years.

I’ll miss you, Obamas. Like Joe Biden in one last meme, I don’t wanna be Obamaself.

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The future appears bleak. I had little to no hope in general in life going into this. I was not prepared for this on November 8, and I’m not ready for this now. He is not my new normal.

I’m no stranger to having to accept that which I do not like. It can be nigh on impossible when what you must accept goes against everything in your mind, heart and soul. When it’s so against your grain, you feel no point in existing in the same universe as what you must accept. Swallowing bitter pills doesn’t get easier with experience, contrary to popular belief. If anything, it’s worse. We would like to think we’re too old for this. We deserve better. It’s not really happening. Alas. Here we are.

When I see you at democracy’s funeral (or when I don’t, since I won’t be viewing the inauguration live), don’t say hi. My sunglasses are my armor. My headphones play silence, worn only for appearance of preoccupation. Don’t make eye contact, or I’ll cry. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

There was so much time to do what we wanted. So many steps forward in 8 years. So much growth. We’re not perfect, but we tried. Only to be cut off. By this American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. We’re all grieving, in our own ways.

Today, surround yourself with art, music, love, bohemia, everything cultural and original and real. Everything this “administration” is against. Protest in whatever way you feel comfortable. Make a memory. Hug your loved ones. Take solace in a shared grief.

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Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

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I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.

The ambulance and emergency room

I feel like I never should have gotten out of bed 4 days ago. Thursday morning, I boarded a flight to Newark, NJ, bound ultimately for New York City for my first business trip in my new job. I didn’t really want to leave because I’ve done a fair amount of home repair and nesting. I didn’t want to find someone to take care of Cheddar kitty in my absence. But away I did, as there was no backing out once everyone else that had to attend settled on the dates of the trip.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind travel for work – I’ve done it enough, that’s for sure. I just love being home right now.

My flight to Newark was originally scheduled for 7am, which meant a wakeup for me by 3:30 to get in a shower and little time with Cheddar before a taxi to the airport. I didn’t sleep well that night, so I was awake before the alarm went off at 3:30am. I checked my phone… and my flight was delayed 3 hours due to aircraft maintenance. This was no good as part of my business meetings was a dinner the night before with the other company and our key contacts there. I had no prep as to who would be attending that dinner (come to find out later it was some very high up people), and I’d already woken up early for my flight to find out I was going to be grossly late for that dinner. Further, that 3 hour delay put my arrival at 6pm, peak hour for travel from Newark into midtown, where our events were to occur.

I’d never been in this situation before, and I didn’t know whether I still had to arrive at the airport as if my flight was on time, only to hang around just in case there was an update to this. I took my chances, rightly stressed myself out doing so, and decided to stay back and change my taxi pickup to 2.5 hours later. Since there was no more sleep to be had, I busied myself with chores so I’d have less to do over the weekend once I got home. That would make it all the better to come home to.

The flight itself, once it finally did depart, was bumpy. Imagine that video for the BMW commercial where Clive Owen is driving Madonna around, and she’s getting thrown around the back of the limo as she’s not wearing a seatbelt. That’s how my flight felt. One of the bumpiest I’d been on, but for the flight back to Seattle from Newark the next day, but I digress…

I went to the dinner, arrived late as suspected, only to be seated next to an older gentleman who took the friendly banter on a wrong turn to politics, fervently supported Donald Trump, and hijacked the whole table’s conversation to express those passionate feelings.

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I didn’t sleep well that night, in a new place, and funny enough, I miss Cheddar stomping all over me, cuddling me, bugging me, and generally being a sweet nuisance.

Our meetings kicked off the next day, and while some parts were interesting, others were not, and my lack of good sleep made me incredibly tired during a couple of times throughout the day. Finally, it was time to head back to the airport, but not before snapping a photo of Radio City Music Hall on this, the 3rd anniversary of my father’s death. Yes, I managed to distract myself fully from the weight that day usually has since he passed in 2013. It’s a hard day, and I get emotional. So all of the crappy feelings and lack of sleep just seemed to make matters worse. I cried in the taxi on the way back to Newark airport. Not much else to do, sitting in rainy traffic trying to get off the island on a Friday afternoon in June, at the same time as everyone else.

This flight was delayed too, due to a late arriving aircraft before us, and just took forever to board. As indicated, this flight was bumpy too. I had a woman seated behind me who had to be wheeled onto the plane, and pulled with all the might of her overweight frame on the back of my chair every time she got up and sat down. Whose legs were so long, they kneed me in the lower back the whole flight. Who dropped her massive noise reducing headphones onto my head.

We finally arrived, I didn’t kill this woman, though the moments leading up to deplaning and finally being away from her I thought I seriously might. Luckily I’m well trained in the art of not acting on the outside how I feel on the inside.

It was a quarter to midnight by the time I got home, and I couldn’t be happier. Cheddar kept pouncing on me during the night and into the morning, I think just to check I was still there since I’d left him overnight with no cuddles.

Saturday morning, I woke up and treated myself to wonderful breakfast, bound and determined to better my outlook, down the hill from me at my local historical diner with old tools affixed to the wood paneling, the Shanty. After that, the downhill slide took a turn for the worse.

Suddenly, and without warning, a horrible, crippling lower abdominal pain overtook me after breakfast as I tried to push through and do some grocery shopping while I was out. By the time I got home from the grocery store, I was grunting with every breath, hunched over, and sweating profusely. Once I managed to get in my door after what felt like forever, I went straight to the bathroom and lost that entire breakfast in one violent vomit comet. I collapsed to the floor, still in pain, still soaked with sweat. It was then I thought, food poisoning. But I couldn’t hate on that amazing biscuits and gravy with hash browns smothered in green chile chicken pepper sauce.

Then, when the #2 that usually goes with food poisoning never arrived, I freaked out even more as I lay half conscious on the carpet, desperate for any breeze but too tired and in too much pain to move to flip on a fan. Gallbladder. A friend of mine had hers out and I understood it to be a painful affliction before it’s removed. Appendix. No, it wasn’t on my right side though. This sat low, and a little to the left, near where my lady bits are, so then I thought about something exploding in an ovary, naturally.

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In the end, after waves of nausea subsided enough for me to pull on clean undies, shirt and pants, and pack a small bag with my wallet and phone, I managed to plant myself outside my condo’s front door and call 911 for an ambulance to help me. I knew it would be expensive, but I have no one here that I wanted to call to help me. I probably could have, but in the end, I just went the way of the professional.

I could not straighten out my body, as I was keeled over in pain. It felt like forever on that stretcher curled on my side, pushing my face into the pad as if that would somehow ease the pain. I finally got into a hospital bed, they started an IV, and the tests began.

They did blood tests, urine tests, and a CT scan after injecting my blood with iodine, all leading to inconclusive results. They released me, noting my gallbladder and my appendix were both fine, and I assume the CT scan would have shown any issues with the lady bits. All the doctor could note was an increased white blood cell count in my blood. 

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At this point, after overhearing one of the paramedics mention norovirus (which had me right freaked-the-fuck out), and then postulated diverticulitis, I googled the latter. It was pretty much exactly my symptoms, according to WebMD. I was discharged without a diagnosis, but I’m going to another doctor hopefully tomorrow who can help me get on some antibiotics and pain meds to help if it is. The emergency room doctor only gave me a prescription for anti-nausea medication. I didn’t bother filling it. Perhaps he missed the part where I was in the most pain in my entire life.

After taking a very lightheaded and surreal Uber home from the hospital, I am on a self-induced liquid diet, and trying to eat some solid foods. I have no desire to eat; I just know it wreaks more havoc on your system if you eat nothing at all. Every time I eat though, I cramp up in my stomach, I feel bloated, as nothing but liquids are passing through me.

I’ve put myself on a strict regimen of binge watching episodes of Twin Peaks, since I’d never seen the show. I’d taken my friends to Snoqualmie Falls the previous weekend, and it turns out those are the falls filmed in the famous opening sequences and in scenes of that show.

I feel absolutely shitty, which is ironic. I’ve never had digestive issues like this before, and certainly nothing a doctor could not diagnose right away.

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All I know is I’m ready for some good days again, after the crappiest 4 days I’ve had. I’ll be working from home tomorrow and hoping I can get that second doctor appointment to hopefully find some reprieve from the pain.

Thestrals

In two previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (The art of getting by and One sigma).

There is a particular quote from that film that, unfortunately, has made its way back across my path again tonight, and I’m not pleased to see it so soon. “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

Tonight, I tried my best but managed to awkwardly comfort an old friend who had been on the phone with his father in South Africa, while he remained helpless in New York City. His father did not make it past that telephone call. Life has taken away again. No matter how prepared one might be for that call, one is never prepared for Life After It Happens.

Tonight, I was Luna Lovegood soothing Harry Potter upon seeing, for the very first time with disbelief in his eyes, the thestral he never knew was there. I tried my best to not say the wrong thing to my friend as he, too, was introduced to the thestral he didn’t know was there. Thestrals are fictional winged horses with skeletal bodies, with faces like reptiles, and are a bad omen according to the Ministry of Magic. These beasts were used mainly to pull the carriages that take experienced Hogwarts students from the train stop at Hogsmeade to the Hogwarts grounds/castle. More importantly, thestrals can only be seen by people who’ve witnessed death at least once. Harry had never seen them before that moment until he did, due to one thing or another upon arriving to Hogwarts.

I don’t want to be the one who sees the thestrals, too. Ignorance can be bliss. I’ve had the grave task of welcoming a friend to this horrible club no one tells you about when you hit your 30’s. True, people lose parents at all ages, but it begins happening with much more frequency in this stage of our lives, but with no less impact. I’m not the only one of my friends who has lost a parent in the last 3 years. I know friends who lost both parents before that, too. It’s not a competition. The hurt is massive. The emptiness, confronting. I don’t take comfort that my friends have lost parents, too. But it helps to know that others sort of know, in their own way, what it feels like. It’s not wished on anyone. But it’s somehow comforting when someone else has been through it, too.

Don’t panic. I see them, too. They won’t hurt you. It’s a little frightening, now that we know they exist. Yeah, this means we’ve seen some shit.

To my friend and newest member, may your heart ride with winged horses, above the deep, low valleys of sadness that exist between you now, and you years from now, when it hurts a little less. I love you.

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Memories of dad

My dad passed away on June 13, 2013. It’s been 2 years, 3 months, and 6 days. Time has proven an ally in reducing the pain, but there is still a dad-sized hole in my life nothing fills. And dad was a wide, short man. It’s not a small hole.

I went home for the funeral, and while I was there, my mother gave me some of his old shirts that I still have with me today. They hang in my closet, amongst my clothes, but they don’t get worn often, if at all. They’re not on display. They still smell like his closet. They’re just there.

Last night, I wore an old flannel of his to a professional mixer. It was big on me, but comfortable. It would suffice as a “Friday shirt” in a swanky environment. I swear, when I put it on, any social anxiety and awkwardness disappeared. I started conversations and navigated LGBT professionals who got too drunk too fast with ease. I made people laugh. I laughed, too – despite the inner turmoil I’ve been struggling through on a daily basis, especially of late.

I have a memory of him, in that particular flannel, one year when we went to chop down a Christmas tree. We drove along in his truck in silence, listening to a Pink Floyd cassette tape, watching the scenery go by.

I’ve missed him lately. In Sydney, I used to go up on our roof deck, play a Pink Floyd album on my iPhone, and have some champagne or a glass of red. There were 4 chairs in our outdoor furniture set, so I could easily imagine him with me on any one of those chairs. We’d listen to Pink Floyd together and enjoy the silence and the view.

My version of that back in my tiny apartment with no roof access in San Francisco is putting documentaries on Netflix, ones he’d like, being the big National Geographic and public television buff he was. America’s Secrets, Wildest Africa, Antarctica, whatever is available. There’s room on my couch next to me. So when I miss him, he comes here to visit.

I don’t have much to say, I guess it’s just the presence he had in my life. I always knew he was there. He never elbowed for room in my life. He was content to be in the shadows, much like the wind beneath my wings.

He and my mom would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary tomorrow, September 20. They married in upstate New York in 1975, and I came along almost 6 years later.

It’s something you don’t notice til it’s gone – the invisible love and trust your parents have in you (or in the case of my mother, the much too visible love evidenced by shrines to you all over her home.) When one of those foundational legs is kicked out from underneath you, when there is no more wind beneath your wings, your flight is cancelled. You cannot stand for long on one leg. You try to fill the parent-sized hole in your life, but nothing fits.

If you’re lucky, you have a new family of your own. The pain subsides, knowing you’ve carried on the family name or bloodline with a new generation of which your parent would have been proud.

I am not lucky enough to have that. That hole can make you feel so empty that sometimes you think nothing can ever fill you up again.

No one loves you like your parents. And no one ever will.

Things left unsaid

It seems weird to celebrate my father’s birthday today, but not for the reason you might be thinking. He passed away about a year and a half ago, semi-unexpectedly. The year he died, he would have been 67. This year, he would have been 68 on December 2. Why would you celebrate a day of birth when the person has already passed? Well, I certainly don’t want to celebrate his life on the day he died. Some arbitrary day chosen at random also doesn’t seem appropriate. So while I don’texactly understand why, I’m celebrating what would have been my father’s 68th birthday on as good a day as any other.

I had mixed feelings about the day. Last year, on this day, I was a mess; the same mess I was as highlighted in this post. This year, I had an opportunity to go to Atlanta for work on his birthday, which I took. I wanted to distract myself, and not spiral into a swirl of sadness, anger, and general messiness again.

I’ve made a semi-plan of what I want to do to celebrate his birthday this year. I want to order food and have it delivered so no one sees me in my messy state, but the food I want cannot be delivered outside of lunch time. So I will need to go out and face humanity while I’m emotionally naked and mentally raw. I have now procured said food – comfort food, of course. Atlanta’s good for that.

I downloaded the new Pink Floyd album, Endless River, which was released this year. I haven’t listened to it yet, and it’s an album he’s never heard. The first track is appropriately called “Things Left Unsaid.” I’m going to play it, all the way through, so wherever he is, maybe he’ll hear it and know I’m thinking about him. I’ll probably cry, yes, the tears are already forming in my eyes as I type this and prepare for the emotional evening ahead of me.

Is it wrong that sometimes I think of what a jerk he was, and his faults? He was a gruff man; he hated opening presents on Christmas morning. I was ever the impatient and enthusiastic child and his faked (or real – I never asked him) sullenness always sort of brought me down a bit. He drank, somewhat heavily when I was young, to the point of passing out with the stove on a couple of times and catching mom’s pots on fire.

When he was 21, he dove head-first into a shallow lake, and broke his neck. He did not die; but he did live life on the edge, seemingly unafraid of death. His rough and rowdy ways stopped when I was 8, however, when he suffered his first of what would be many strokes. It was massive, and that prompted his first open heart surgery. They broke his sternum and went into his chest cavity, replaced multiple heart valves with some pig valves, and some mechanical valves, and installed a pacemaker. Suddenly, he was on blood thinners to prevent build-up on the machinery in his heart, which meant no more than 2-3 drinks per night. With blood thinners, he was basically a walking hemophiliac, when he wasn’t before, so he would not stop bleeding if he started.

In my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal and my poetry from when I was young, I penned a piece with an opening line, “If life is a song, my music is wrong, or so my father thinks.” Early in life, I didn’t get on with him at all. My mother was my primary carer. When my mother would tell me to go find my dad and tell him he wants me, I never realized that she was trying to get rid of me and pawn me off on my dad every once in awhile.

On those forced interactions with him, he was actually pretty cool. We used to go and get our Christmas tree together. We would drive a couple hours south to Monterey, or somewhere in the middle of nowhere, every year, to cut down a Christmas tree. He would play Pink Floyd on the cassette deck in his truck. He made the cassettes himself from all the records he had on his giant 80’s sound system and speakers. We wouldn’t talk when he would drive; we would just be. We’d listen to the music, I’d have no idea where we were going, and I would just look out the window. I love car rides, and maybe that is the reason why. Just the scent of fresh cut Christmas trees reminds me of him. That smell will forever be tied to him, as well as Safeguard soap, Right Guard spray deodorant, and Old Spice aftershave on rare occasions.

However, after the trauma of witnessing his stroke and seeing him in the hospital at such a young age, I was always fearful in the back of my mind that he would have another stroke, while he was driving with me in the car. It made me reluctant to go with him sometimes, but I never told him why. I always masked it in mom’s complaints of his fast, reckless and offensive driving.

As I grew older, slowly the Pink Floyd cassettes were replaced by a classical music station. He said the music made him calm, and he found he wasn’t such a bad driver with it playing.

He would always do the job of the actual sawing and cutting of the tree. He and I would pick a tree – he wouldn’t pick the first one he saw, though. No. He always led me into the middle of the tree farm, which had acres and acres and tons of different kinds of trees – Monterey pines, Douglas firs, and so on. Once he’d sawed the trunk of the tree, he’d kick it over, and he’d carry the base of the tree while I carried the top of the tree, horizontally, up to the cashier. He’d hem and haw about the price, say it was way too much, be a gruff prick, for lack of a better word, so we’d chuck the tree in the back of his truck (it had a camper shell so no need to tie it down) and be off.

We’d pull into the driveway when we got home, and mom would meet us outside to see what we got. He had a whole ritual of re-cutting the bottom of the tree, though he just cut it fresh, shaking loose all the dead needles inside the tree he could, then putting it into the tree stand. He’d proceed to hose the tree down entirely, preventing us from decorating the tree that day. He said it was to remove the chances of any rogue spiders or bugs, which was enough for me to be happy with that practice, since I hated bugs. Good idea, dad, hose that sucker down entirely.

No more thought from him was given to the tree when it was dry. Then, the next day, after it had dried overnight, my mother and I would put a Christmas tape on his 80’s sound system and decorate the tree with the same ornaments every year. My grandma made 2 ornaments for the tree – one was a knitted pink yarn thing, maybe a bell? Mine was knitted from lavender yarn. My mother told my family on the east coast my favorite color was purple when I was a little kid, and boy, they never forgot it. Everything I got my entire life from my New York family was lavender or purple or both. Grandma even knitted me a couple afghans, both a mix of purple, white, and lavender yarn. My favorite Christmas song was Rockin Around the Christmas Tree and Candle in the Window (a not so famous Alabama song).

My father would have no part in anything else Christmas, until he got to complain Christmas morning about having to get up early. When I was little, I made the mistake one year of making him get up at 6am, after he had stayed up late, probably drinking, and assembling presents for me. After that, dad had to wake up on his own, or we had to wait until 9 or 10am before waking him up.

He and his sister, my Auntie Chianti (see this post for more info on her), would fight like cats and dogs, and in the early years, sometimes their mother, my grandmother, would come for Christmas too. Her English was not-so-good, but hey, she was a babysitter so my mom, dad, and aunt could drink. Inevitably, my grandma would tell them all what drunks they were, and she stopped getting invited to Christmas. Also, because my dad was the only male, he would get yelled at to shut up by either my mom or my aunt, and he’d go into the computer room and pout, abstaining from any holiday festivities. Also in the early years, my parents used to play board games like Trivial Pursuit, Rack-O, or Risk to pass the time. I was too young to play, but I tried anyway. I did ok at Rack-O, but their Trivial Pursuit was the genus edition, which meant all questions from the 60’s, so whoever was paired with me always lost. I was too young in the early years to play Risk.

As I got older, my mother and I fought more and more, with her being mostly responsible for watching me as my dad disconnected further. He worked a lot, stayed up late, and slept in late. That left her dealing with an angsty and angry teenager. My mother and I grew apart, and I found a new ally in my father during college.

It was over my birthday in college that my mother had a mental breakdown. She was taking non-prescription antidepressants, some form of Paxil she got from the Indian reservations in southern California. If you know anything about antidepressants, know this: you must wean yourself off of them over time. She stopped taking them one day because they were doing what they were meant to do, and making her better. Ceasing so suddenly caused her brain synapses to fry, basically, messing with her brain chemicals, receptors, and her state of being.

My father had to take her to the psychiatric intensive care ward of the hospital. She thought it was Saturday; it was Tuesday. Her boss called home, asking why she hadn’t come into work, or why she hadn’t called in sick, as she was required to do. She was sitting in the suburban street gutters, splashing in the water runoff from someone’s sprinklers down the street.

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I don’t want to go into all the gory details, but that was the first time I saw my father as a real person, and we bonded. I drove down from Chico when he told me what happened, a good 4 hours away. Happy birthday to me. He felt guilty. Personally responsible. He thought it was his fault. I asked him why and how it could possibly be his fault. That is when he told me that from the time I was a kid up until recently, he’d been getting cocaine for the two of them to enjoy recreationally. He put a stop to it recently, said no more, and he thought her stopping using cocaine was the cause of her breakdown.

This leads me to my coming out story. In my utter shock and disbelief, as I pictured many questionable scenarios and memories in my mind that probably included her use of cocaine, I said, “I’ve got a better one for you, Dad. I’m gay.” I’d been living in sin with my girlfriend at the time, and we’d been together about a year or so. I’d only really come out to myself maybe a year and a half before that. I’d told all my friends, but I hadn’t told my family.

He got to be who he really was as a person with me, no judgment. There was no response from me criticizing them for their life choices. There was only acceptance. In kind, he said he was disappointed because being gay meant my life would be harder, but he honestly wasn’t surprised. He still loved me and wanted the best for me. He used to say I was the son he never had. He never understood that I wasn’t questioning my gender, I just loved women. Hell, no wonder he wasn’t surprised. He caught me with a Playboy magazine when I was only 10 years old. I always used to joke that one day I’d write my memoirs, and the title would be And They All Said, “Duh.”

Right before her breakdown, my mother had also bought a bike, and decided to ride it without a helmet, before that nasty little law which saved a lot of lives came into effect. She, of course, got into an accident and fell off the bike, hitting her head on the curb. She had a golf ball sized lump on her head, which is actually still visible today.

We postulated over many beers at our neighborhood pub, Britannia Arms in San Jose, that it could be the nonprescription Paxil, the bump on her noggin, or the removal of cocaine from her system that caused the breakdown.

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After my mother’s breakdown, my relationship with my mother became further strained. She was diagnosed manic depressive and bipolar, and her mood swings would move so rapidly, she could cycle through a whole gamut of emotions within 10 minutes. I’ll never forget the screams in that ward from the other patients near her. Those were full-on strapped to the bed, restrained, straitjacket crazies. Terrified the living bejesus out of me. To this day, now that I am on a mild dose of Zoloft for my own depression, I talked to my doctor thoroughly about the weaning-off process because I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.

After that night at the bar of our mutual coming out, my dad and I realized just how similar we really were. We tried to support each other.

Dear reader, I hesitated to put this down in words, but if I lied or withheld the truth, I wouldn’t be doing justice to the relationship I had with my father. One of our primary bonding activities later in life, after the walks, the cutting down the Christmas tree, and both of us trying to find ways to cope with my mother, was a bit unconventional. I have to admit, we smoked weed together in the garage, by his workbench. It would be just our time – mom wasn’t invited. Not the typical father-daughter activity, indeed. But it was ours. We would have deep conversations; he’d tell me about Germany before he and my grandmother moved to America. He’d tell me about what he knew of his side of his family. Then, once we were good and stoned, we’d go inside and watch a movie, much too loudly. By then, my mother was usually asleep as her early bird schedule directly contradicted his night owl schedule.

Across from his workbench, he had his own home-made art studio, consisting of 2×4 sawhorses holding up plywood. He’d put the canvases on the table, and take one of his many brushes (he probably had at least 30) and do oil paintings with his spare time.

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I have 4 of his paintings, and my mother has the rest. I have memories. But on his birthday this year, I wish instead I could have 92 minutes tonight with him to listen to the new Pink Floyd album he never got to hear.

In the night, there was a rainbow

I haven’t heard anybody articulate something I connected with in a long time.

Then I found this.

I just want to add, “Me too!” to all of this. Every single word of it. Except maybe the Sarah bit.

“Grow, explore, take risks; infuse yourself into life, even if it’s always changing.” In the creative process, sometimes I feel I have nothing interesting to say. I think being interesting isn’t at all about what others find interesting. It’s what’s interesting to you. What is interesting about me? Profound stuff, here.

“Rediscover wonder, reinterpret and create something from life.” You do need to spend some time reassessing and observing and just stepping back sometimes. Look at how you’re seeing it. In what context, in what mood, in what light?

“What proof is there I existed?” Right now, I have no idea how to answer that. My dad painted, for a number of years before he passed away. To me, the proof he existed is in what he created: beautiful oil painting of landscapes, wooden pieces built with his own hands, and photographs of things he saw, but most of all, photographs of me.

Probably my favorite line from this TED talk is, “Impossible is trying to connect in this world while everything is blowing up around you.”

Brilliant. Couldn’t have said it better myself. This past year, my world did blow up, as far as I was concerned. But I found through connection, not isolation, I made it through the hardest time of my life, ever.

I did the impossible and I connected with you, somehow. You need to know: you saved my life. The only way I can thank you is by proving I exist, creating something, infusing myself into this life.

So I’ll leave it at that. And… Happy Father’s Day, Dad, wherever you are.