Archive for the ‘Part Three’ Category

My father always sends me a birthday card. Typically, I glance at it and trash it. This year, the card really caught my attention — so much so, I decided to keep it. I don’t think I’ve ever kept anything my dad gave me, mostly because nothing he gave me ever meant as much to me as it did to him. In fact, nothing he gave me has ever meant anything to me. I suppose, to be unfairly harsh, it’s too little, too late.

Shortly after forcing me into his family, he presented me with a gift. I would like to describe in great detail the presentation of this gift, which clearly meant so much to him, but I can’t recall. An excited smile and wavering voice play in my memory, but it’s possible that the incident was quite serious. All I really remember is that I did not share his emotion; this gift ignited in me a different kind of emotion altogether.

I learned, after I opened the gift box, that my dad had started keeping a charm bracelet for me years and years before. Each charm represented a place his family had gone without me, and now I had beautiful reminder that I wasn’t part of their family. (Even though I didn’t want to be, of course, but I still found it rather rude.) Quite insulted by the collection of national monuments clanging about, I took it as though he was brushing aside my life with my mom — my entire childhood! It was like the little dangly pieces were dainty reminders of what my dad thought I had missed, but I felt I hadn’t missed a damn thing. I seethed with hatred; “Obviously didn’t miss me that much if they clearly had so much fun the whole time.”

I held my hatred within and thanked him, then I promptly threw the offensive collection of silver into the bottom of my jewelry box, literally burying it. My dad was clearly a complete jerk.

Now, 16 years later, I see better what his intent was. He wanted me to know that I was loved and remembered all those years.  Did his life go on?  Of course — it had to, but he never forgot his only daughter, and he was trying to tell me that.  I feel sad that I wasn’t able to see outside of my own head. I feel sad that I honestly do not know what happened to that bracelet. It’s possible that it’s packed away somewhere.  It’s more likely that I treated it as the garbage I thought it was when I moved out of his house. I really don’t remember; I only remember hating it.  If I found it today, I still wouldn’t love it or wear it, but I’d definitely keep it.  It means love, even if it doesn’t quite know how to say it.

The birthday card was much more clear:

I see a young lady
out in the world,
following her dreams,
doing good,
and making a difference.
Then I think,

Hey, that’s my kid.
That’s my pride and joy.

Happy Birthday
to a daughter
who’s so inspiring.

And loved.

And though I cannot honestly say that I reciprocate the feelings, I am learning to appreciate — and to believe — his.

This one’s going in my Life Box.


Recently, a thought popped into my head that had never visited me before:

It would have been really, really cool to grow up with a big brother.

I’ll just say it, even though it’s harsh: My mom took that opportunity away from me. Not because she never had a son, although she didn’t. No, I’m speaking of how she literally stole me not only from my father, but also from my big brother. I didn’t meet him until I was 12. By then, as it was with my father and my grandparents and everyone else “on that side,” it was simply too late*. Too much damage had been done and too much of my life had been built on lies. A sad by-product of the entire ordeal was that I lost a big brother.

I found out after I met him that my big brother is really, really cool. We’ll call him Blake, because that’s what I’ve named him.

When the police found me and sent me off with my biological father on a crisp, December evening, I was terrified. Believing that the man driving me hours away to I really didn’t know where just might pull over at any moment and rape me, I fully realized for the first time that I didn’t have a friend in the world. No one really knew me, and no one could help me. (I went to bed unmolested — as I did every night thenceforth, since my fears had been planted and nurtured by my mother — but I was still friendless nonetheless.)

I woke up the next morning knowing that I couldn’t really just stay locked in what they were calling my room. I don’t remember anything about those first conversations, because I was pretty much shut down, but I do remember bonding with their dogs. I also remember Blake. The first meeting escapes my memory, but I do have two very cool early memories of him.

  1. He took me to see Lion King. He was 19 years old, and he took his scared, sudden little sister to a kid movie. I have no idea if anyone asked him to do it, but I doubt it. He’s not the sort to really do things other people tell him to. More likely, he saw a kid as screwed up by her parents as he was, and he was giving me a couple of hours away from them. I love that.
  2. We made a song. I still have it on tape somewhere; if I found it, I wouldn’t even be able to listen to it! Bummer. He had all kinds of recording gizmos because he’s a musician, so he got a few funky tracks going, strummed his bass here and there, and we laughed, talked, and made funny noises into the microphone. All of this went down in the wee hours of the morning — again, away from the parents. I love that.

I didn’t really let him in, but I can see now that he understood me more than anyone else in the world, and I have really cherished these and other memories that followed. Man, if we’d gotten to grow up together, we would be really, really close. I miss what could have been.




*As a side-note, sometimes it is too late. Well-meaning people sometimes like to say it’s never too late about things they don’t understand. It is. I like my brother more than any other blood relative, hands-down.  He is my very favorite.  However, I love my mother so much more, even though I can barely stand to be in her presence. It’s complex, but it’s done. I can move forward, but I cannot undo.

The Elephant Room

Posted: July 7, 2010 in Part Four, Part Three, Part Two

Dull gray.  Silvery gray.  Blue-gray.  Goldish gray.  Not gray at all.  Trunks, tusks, toenails, tails.  Everywhere.

It was a herd.  An eclectic herd so large that it needed an entire room devoted to it.  I will say that it made gift selection easy; you always knew that my mother’s mother would be delighted by any elephant paraphernalia.  (I’ll let you in on a little secret, though; she did always prefer the African elephants because of their ears.  The Asian ones just looked somewhat silly.)

You see, my family collects things.  Ridiculous, cluttery things. Here’s a small sampling from through the years:

  • Mom→Giraffes. Stephen King books.  Head vases.  Shot glasses.  Coca-Cola items.  Cookie Jars.
  • Sister→Unicorns. Holiday Barbies. International Barbies. Dragons. Wizards. Lighters. Santa Clauses.

When I was small, I liked small things like kittens and puppies.  Voilà!  I became a collector before I knew it — right down to the bedsheets.  Becoming fascinated with angels, I sat back as my family pounced on the new idea.  Oh, and I loved snow globes, which I called “shakeys.”  My grandmother seized this one before anyone else and started my collection of shakeys with angels in them. (She still contributes, in fact — every Christmas.  This is the only vestige of my “collector” days.) As I grew, I eventually collected The Little Mermaid — dolls, clothes, sheets, books, school supplies — and Elvis memorabilia.  Let’s just say my room was thoroughly decorated.

Then I moved.  I brought my things, but no one added to any of my collections anymore.  I stopped collecting, but I didn’t really notice.

When I re-entered my family’s lives after high school, I was a different person.  One does a lot of growing up between 12 and 17, and that I had.  But having not watched me grow, they picked up where they left off.  Several awkward thank-yous and an entire collection of singing Elvis ornaments later, I think they got the message:  “I’m different now.”

They have never liked the difference, I have never again “fit in,” and they have never been able to talk honestly about the obvious.  I guess my own little elephant will have to just keep following me around. (Oh, but she is an expensive little thing.)