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Today I have been thinking about my mother and the legacy she left me. I spent a lot of time being angry at her for things I expected from her that she wasn’t capable of providing me. I was angry that she died from an overdose of prescription pills. Everyone was told by my grandfather, her dad, and my sister that she choked on vomit in her sleep. She used medication to attempt to control her emotional pain, to quiet the regret that ate away at her soul. It was that anger I held against her that prevented me from giving her the credit she deserved.
I was her oldest child and her darkest secret from what I’ve surmised and secretly hoped all these years. All that aside, she deserves the credit for the woman and mother I came to be and am. After all, we are all flawed.
It is because of her that I love to write. She introduced me to VC Andrews novels, Bob Dylan, Styx, Barry Manilow, Saturday Night Live, the comedy of George Carlin and too many other things to mention. She was the one when her husband left us said f— it and took us to Disneyland before we had to make the long car ride back to Kansas. She taught me how to be prolific at cussing like a sailor. As a matter of fact, it was her mastery of the seven dirty words you can’t say on TV that got me expelled from Mothers‘ Day out.
That day started like any other of my childhood. She dropped me off at the Methodist Church in Olathe, KS. I was the class clown. The old ladies spent a lot of time putting me in a chair in the corner or redirecting me from activities such as putting plastic beans up my nose and spewing them out at the kids who were enjoying my performance. This day we were to learn the real names of our parents. The teacher started at the opposite side of the table from me asking what does your mom call your dad. I remember feeling terribly confused and struggling to figure what they wanted to hear. I froze when it came my turn to respond. I honestly didn’t understand what it was they wanted me to say. Other kids had said things like Phil, Tom, Brad and Bruce. I was fumbling through my muddled mind for something to say that will appease the gray haired lady before me. She knelt down to my level in an attempt to help me muster up what my father’s name was. “Come on, Tammy. You can do this. You know what your mommy calls your daddy.” she cooed at me ever so gently. “What does your mommy call your daddy?” her voice was so sickening sweet. I fumbled through my tiny brain looking through all my memories old and recent to come up with an answer. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. A smile began to beam from my face. I had it.
“Asshole. She calls him asshole.” the room erupted in laughter and three of the helpers/teachers left the room in giggles. One of them immediately called my mother. That was one of many times my mother would utter the phrase “God damn it, Tammy! Don’t fucking cuss!” It wasn’t until my junior high school years that I would see the hilarious irony in that admonishment.
All humor aside, my mother was complex and lived a life full of little inconsistencies. Hers was a difficult existence. Ostracized in her youth, for being an intelligent young woman. When I was young I idolized her beauty. I craved her attention. I grew to respect her for the struggles she faced head on and survived. I mourned her loss long before she actually passed away.
She made me who I am. The uber intelligent writer, the outgoing, flirty party personality, the attention whore, the comedienne, the master of curse words, the fighter of unwinable wars and the home schooling, girl scouting, super mom. The type of mothering she gave me determined exactly the kind of mother I would be to my own children. Despite the fact that a lot of my parenting is in spite of how she parented me, it still is due to the way she parented me. I never gave her credit for that before she left and for that I am sorry. When I left work after I got the call she died John Denver’s song “I’m Sorry” came on the radio and I felt a peace come over me as I heard the words to the song. I knew she never intended to be the kind of mother she ended up being. Just like all of us, she had her moments of awesomeness and her low times. In the end and through it all she was my mother. She brought me into this world and deserves credit for who I am and how I view the world.
Mom, I’m sorry I have judged you so harshly. I’m sorry I expected things from you that you didn’t have the ability to give me. I’m sorry I couldn’t see you through your addiction. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you the credit you deserved. I don’t think there are enough words in the universe to express my gratitude for the life she gave to me. I, like many others, have recognized the important things too late to do any good. I’m sure that she knows, now. It just isn’t the same as being able to rectify these feelings while she was here. I made a rose garden as a memorial to the life and spirit of my mother. It was flawed but it was mine and comforts me in her absence. Happy Mothers Day.
May 6, 1990 a very handsome young man took me to a place I had never been before to teach me to do something I had never done
before. He was patient with me. His words were kind and encouraging. I didn’t have to explain to him that some of his instructions confused me because my dyslexia got in the way of me understanding left from right. My baited hook spent more time on the beach and in the trees than in the water. Still, he was sweetly leading me to enjoy this simple little park. OJ Watson is the name of the park he taught me to fish.
I was already beginning to look forward to the time we spent together. I had conned him into taking me home from work just a month before. I felt terrible when he ruined his transmission because I realized that I left my purse in the Taco Bell we went to for our first date. He was an expert at making me laugh, and feel at ease. Through his eyes I could see I had value.
It dawned on me about a week ago while we were riding down the road that it would be 24 years since that momentous day at OJ Watson park. We were walking up the bank back to his silver and maroon El Camino. He stopped by a tree and looked down towards me with a shy, awkward smile. As I got closer, he pulled me to him. Holding my hand, he asked me if I could be his girlfriend and date only him, no one else.
Twenty-four years later it is still only him and no one else. Honestly, this moment in our collective history has usually been an afterthought. We generally don’t pay it any mind except to say “Oh, yeah. It was that day.” This year, this time around I suggested it would be fun to go visit where it all began.
The weather was perfect. It was almost identical to the way it had been when we were there as kids. The part of the park where he asked me to go steady was fairly deserted. We were disappointed to discover that part of the area was turned into a railroad track with a bright red covered bridge with white outlines (like the barn from a Fisher Price farm play set). The tree where he asked me was still there. I could still see my hook getting flung on the ground behind us as I attempted to learn how to cast a line.
After we walked around for a while we made our way to a picnic table in the shade close to the pond. We sat down and enjoyed some Crazy bread we got at Little Caesar’s Pizza. There was a cute little male mallard duck swimming in the water just in front of us. I separated a small chunk of bread from my stick of crazy bread and tossed it to our new guest.
We reveled in the years that had passed between us. We marveled at how little the park we had that beautiful moment between us had changed. We were amazed at how we had grown and changed. He had taught me how to fish at this park. He taught me that he was a good guy willing to be good to me. He showed me I was not a piece of meat but a human with thoughts and feelings. It wasn’t until I chose to let him in to be trusted that I was able to open up to who I really was.
I am amazed at the rarity of our situation. I am in awe of how as we grow old we continue to grow closer despite all the drama and crap that life has thrown at us. I am blessed with his presence on a daily basis. He is my champion in all ways. It still makes me smile when I see that sweet, shy boy standing in front of me trying to ask me to make him the only one in my life. I am grateful that he made that simple request because it has led to a life filled with magic and wonder. Thank you OJ Watson park for such a wonderful memory.
Come check out the new additions to my poetry page Poetic License!!
NaPoWriMo has lit a fire in the poet part of my soul as well as reworking some of my older pieces.
I have pleasantly discovered that by lowering my expectations I have opened the door to freer experience and less emotional bullshit. The world through expectations is one fraught with land mines. I’m too old and life is too short to dodge the slings and arrows of others, let alone the bombs I create for myself. That’s what expectation is. A bomb that you have constructed based on your own beliefs, feelings or needs. I know this all sounds like disenfranchisement and a completely cynical view of the world but I assure you it’s not.
Let’s explore some expectations and see how they really work.
Buying this expectation cost me a large chunk of my self esteem.
I have also since learned that learning happens for everyone,
every day, every where, no matter what.
This also cost me a huge chunk of my self esteem.
He couldn’t give what he didn’t have.
He has to live with his choices while I have found power in letting go.
They are individuals with their own specific path.
I have no control over what makes them happy.
They are their own people.
There are things in life more valuable to me than money.
As I get older my self esteem increases exponentially.
I am relishing the release of preconceived notions.
I enjoy taking advantage of my growing wisdom.
My gray hairs are a beautiful silvery gray.
There are many others that would just bore the socks off everyone. My point is that when you expect, it is a game of emotional roulette.
I have been on a journey of shattering expectations. Recently, my husband helped to goad me to break free from an expectation of women that has always bothered me, sitting to pee. When I was a girl, my mother’s friend was at our home with her son Brandon. Brandon and I were summarily dismissed to the backyard so the two friends could drink and gossip the day away. I heard him exclaim “I gotta piss!” I turned to witness him pissing on my mother’s roses. I was five at the time but it fascinated me. My husband knows that since that day I was always envious that men could pee standing up. Just another one of my weird quirks.
We were watching an episode of Honey Boo Boo and the girls had wanted to do what I had always wanted to do. They attempted with a funnel. It did not go well but my husband started the conversation. “I bet if you stood up and put a little pressure behind it you could do it without a funnel.” Feeling inspired I stripped my pants off and ran out of the house to see what would happen. It was a success. I was excited by this and we talked about it more when we were in bed. He challenged me to give it a try in the house. I did and I haven’t sat down to pee since.
Letting go of expectations has led to some amazing discoveries for me. I suggest you try it, too. Just don’t expect anything and anything could happen.
Our connection was deeper than the grooves of the albums you shared with me. As my mother, you were often mean and contradictory but when it came to the music I was a trusted confidant. When you left all I wanted was to keep those small discs of vinyl that brought us together. I didn’t get them but that doesn’t erase what we shared when those magic pieces of vinyl spun on the turntable. It connected me to your joy, pain and the things in your life that you just didn’t know how to say. My earliest memories are of your music surrounding me and filling the room. There was so much wrong with us but when those shiny black discs made their way from the crisp, colorful paper covers everything was right. I miss that, now you’re gone. I still have the music. Styx was on TV last night and I was immediately taken back to sneaking your Grand Illusion album from the stereo stand and listening to it while waiting for you to come home from work. Praying that I would hear your car pull in the drive to be able to dispose of the evidence quickly enough. That was when I was a little girl. When I was older I have memories of attending concerts with you. Bob Dylan was our first. God, that sucked so bad. He was so drunk and that asshole in front of us attempting to school his jail bait date on the importance of Dylan’s music to the sixties counter culture movement and how much we laughed at how asinine that guy’s comments were. The Phil Collins concert that we scared the shit out of each other driving from KC to Wichita late at night passed that haunted cemetery. I haven’t been to a concert since you died. I don’t know why. I just haven’t. Maybe, it would hurt too much to experience it without you. Perhaps I have lost the interest in attending concerts as I’ve aged. After all, it’s just a grand illusion, to be here missing you, missing the music, missing that connection, mostly missing us. The bond we shared over our love for the feelings that could only be expressed through sound.
It amazes me that one instant can alter the course of your life so severely. Looking back to before our adventure began we were drowning in despair and heartache. It wasn’t always that way for us. We were blessed with a beautiful family and we worked very hard to get a home in the country. This home was what we thought would ensure our future, make us whole, etc.. After all, it was the American dream. Then came the financial collapse and we were caught in a struggle to save what we believed to be our only purpose, home ownership. We were clinging to what we believed was our only real dream. We were at the whims of the courts and the bank. We were simply shells. Going through the motions of living and struggling to keep what we felt made us complete. There are no regrets for our circumstance. We mourn only the energy wasted on languishing in our own misery to keep what might not be ours to have.
Then he saw an ad for a really cheap but nice motorcycle. I had never been on one before but knew that Mike had grown up on a dirt bike and missed that feeling. This one small purchase removed the sword of Damocles that hung heavy above us. Whatever happens with our original dream happens. The real life we are living on the bike is what matters to us now. We live and die by the trip.
I never understood the fascination with sitting on top of a motor on wheels flying down the road. I do now. It is hypnotic, euphoric and sublime. I have known nothing that is as intoxicating as a ride on the bike. I’m strictly a bitch in the bitch seat because I can’t wrap my mind around being able to command such a powerful beast into following my lead. I’d much rather wrap my arms around my man and enjoy the ride.
That is what this blog is about. Our adventures on the road, the instant friends, the weird moments, the potholes and the unusual detours. I call this our shared midlife crisis because we’re both at that age [you know our kids are leaving the nest ( well technically, they should leave but are no longer our legal responsibility and whatever they do to the house, they do)]. Don’t get me wrong, we love our girls but we did have them early in life and suffered for it in order to come out on the other side young enough to enjoy our post-children lives.
That age I spoke of is 40 and 42, respectively. It still blows my mind that just this one thing opened the door to a world that we are ready to discover. The odds have always been against us. We met when he was 16 and I 18. We are members of Gen-X. We had our children young and have only the school of hard knocks to thank for our education. We really, according to the statistics should not be together. I am also awestruck that we have discovered a new, and exciting hobby (ala midlife crises) together. He didn’t go out and get the bike for himself. We got it together.
We are learning who we are as adults without children and finding out that we really did hit the spouse lottery. It was all entirely by accident. I couldn’t be more grateful. It is in the stretches of highway when all you can hear is the mixture of wind and motor that I marvel at the life I have with him. I am a total pussy when it comes to heights, speed and anything that would logically lead to pain. So, my nature makes me adverse to the motorcycle world. It is only the fact that every atom of me has faith in him that I dare sit on a motorcycle.
I’ve learned in this last 6 months of riding that fear has a larger hold of me than I had thought. Fear is still a large part of my decision making process but when it comes to Mike and the bike, I choose Mike and the bike over all. I know the reward far outweighs the risk when it comes to Mike and the bike. I’ve also discovered that we are both gypsies at heart. Fellow travelers, wanting only to envelop the soul of the road, needing only to dance with eagles and horses. We have embraced the world as our home and have embarked on a journey of discovering its many rooms. I look forward to having you all along for the ride.