Monday, March 29, 2010

Bridging The Gap Between Us

Posted by Anonymous.

Everyone asks, "Aren't you afraid?"

I want to tell them that I am. But not for the reasons they think. I'm not afraid of being a young mom, of giving up the "best years of my life." It's not that, or delivery, or how my husband will handle school, work and his new son. I am afraid because I am doing the hardest thing I have ever done in my life: I am letting you back into my heart.

I thought about you every day when I was a little girl. I wondered if we had the same nose or if my hands would ever be the same shape as yours. I heard my mother cry all alone in the bathroom because she had been shamed and now had to struggle alone. It would be years before she told me about the other women, the drinking, the time you'd broken her back. At that time, I thought maybe I had asked for too much simply by asking about you. I thought she must be regretting something awful that caused you to leave her. She never said a single bad word about you. I thought you must have been the most perfect person in the world.

It's funny how even when I found out that you were nothing like the picture my mother painted, I always wanted to protect you. It didn't matter how many times the counselor at school pulled me aside and asked about my busted lip [or my broken ankle, or the bruises on my arms, or my black eye, or the cuts that later appeared on my arms...] I always had a plausible excuse. Because I loved you, and I loved that we had the same nose and the same shaped hands. My mother left me with you hoping that you had changed, thinking it was the best chance for me to grow up in a house and not in a series of apartments with her new boyfriends. I came to you hoping that you could be everything I'd dreamed a father could be. "You were a mistake," you said instead. "Just do something useful; get those dishes. Don't forget to iron my work clothes." Those were things I'd never done before, but I learned how just to make you happy. To cook, to clean, to make the best grades, to hide my tears and physical pains with a cheerful smile.

Eight years later, when they pulled you out in handcuffs, I cried. The officers asked, "Weren't you afraid?" I shook my head because I couldn't speak. Of course I wasn't afraid- you hadn't meant to shoot at me. You'd missed on purpose. You'd just been drinking again, and I didn't want you to go away. "It's okay. Put him to bed and he'll be okay tomorrow!" Oh, I pleaded. Even knowing that tomorrow you might find out that I had been hiding my pregnancy and miscarriage from you. You told me all about that boy and what he wanted, you tried to save me by banning him from our home. And when you were right, you had to make sure that I remembered for a long, long time. "Please. I don't want you to take my daddy away!" I'd take it all back- wishing you would disappear. All the self-doubts and suicide attempts. The resentment. The regret for all of those feelings. being so confused about whether I hated you so much I loved you or loving you so much I hated you. I'd swallow it back up and we could just forget it all.

They didn't listen. They placed me back with my mother, who cried and cried when she saw my arms and face. When she the bullet holes in the wall for herself. When she realized in full the chance that she gave me. I saw you in court and you sat next to me. "Sweetie," you said. "My God, what did I do? What have I done? Can you forgive me? Can we just forget all of this happened?" I wanted to say, "Yes, yes, let's forget and go home. I haven't even done the laundry yet and I know you need your work clothes for tonight." But my mother's lawyer screeched at you from across the room- "get AWAY From her!" My mother couldn't understand why I mourned the loss of you again. I'd lived my whole life wanting to please you and now I'd ruined my chances forever.

Five years later, when I wobbled up to your doorstep before my grandmother's funeral, I held my husband's hand so hard that he had to ask me to let go entirely. "I'm so sorry that I'm afraid" I told him, wondering what you would do. Would you scream at me? Would you throw your fists at me? Would you blame me? Or worse, would you pretend not to see me? It felt like the years of therapy had melted all away. I felt sixteen all over again, watching them shove you into the back of the police car. You answered the door and you hugged me. "I knew you'd come back, Honey. I just knew you'd forgive me." You held my hand, the one that was now not just the same shape, but the same size as yours. You blinked back tears, you talked to me for hours. You gave me Grandmother's fur coats, her handwritten recipes, money to help us get home. You begged me to keep in touch so that you could make amends. I asked my husband what he thought as we were driving home. He simply said, "Your father looks like a sad old man that can't hurt you anymore." I realized then that you'd turned 50 this past year. And indeed, perhaps you couldn't hurt me anymore.

I called you two months ago to tell you that I had made your dreams come true- I was finally able to give you the grandson you'd always wanted. A little boy after so many daughters and granddaughters. I was so scared to pick up the phone and dial those old numbers. Afraid you'd pick up and say, "I was lying all along. I can't change. I'll find you, I'll make you pay for disappointing me!" Instead, you laughed and cried and asked me all about my son. You asked if you could come to be with me when I gave birth. You asked for pictures and constant updates. I hesitantly gave you my phone number then and you even called me the other day. You scolded me so lightly for making you worry about our little family. I felt my heart seize up before you said it was only because you want everything to go perfectly. You got serious. You said, "If I could take it back, I would, you know? I did a lot of things that I'm ashamed of, and I wish I could make it up to you. The best I can say is that I am sorry; I know you don't want excuses. You don't have to trust me- but I'm glad you do. It's the best gift anyone has given me."

I hesitated last night before putting the envelope containing Jackson's ultrasounds into the mailbox. Just for a minute. And then I thought, "Why am I so afraid?" [Forget that voice that kept asking me if I would do the same things to my son, if I'd pass on my anxiety just by him being within me, if I could even do this, if you would come back into my life and hurt me so deeply again.] I pushed the letter in the box and pulled up the flag. I walked inside and I didn't dare look back. If I did, I might have run back out and snatched my son away from you. I see now what my mother was hoping for. I see now what she tried to do. And as I try to do the same thing almost two decades later, I pray for the best just like she must have done.

So, Daddy, we can still have the relationship we were supposed to. Please don't disappoint me this time. Keep your word. Make it up to me by loving my son the way you should have loved me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Etiquette Rules for Facebook (A Guide for Fathers, Dung Beetles and Glenn Beck)

Posted by CFM.

Today, I became a fan of a dung beetle on Facebook.

Apparently, someone thought it would spark revolution if this tiny creature gathered more virtual pals than conservative blow-hard Glenn Beck. Thus far, Glenn Beck is outpacing the dung beetle by about 450,000 fans. It's discouraging, but it's not keeping me up at night, because Facebook is not real.

I am not really a fan of dung beetles.

Dung beetles do not really care if I like them.

I fanned the dung beetle without putting much thought into the decision. I take it for granted that everyone involved realizes my relationship with the dung beetle is fleeting, a momentary announcement to my friends via my profile page, and nothing more.

When it comes to Facebook etiquette, though, there are different expectations for interactions with dung beetles than there are for, say, fathers.

My father friended me on Facebook.

Then he unfriended me.

Then he friended me again.

This is the most I have heard from him in more than 10 years. Our relationship before that wasn’t great, either, after many rocky years during which my parents divorced and remarried various people with whom I did not get along. As I entered adulthood, I made a few efforts to reconnect with my father. I was rebuffed, I gave up and I tried not to think too much about him until he showed up on Facebook.

I really don't give too much thought to out-of-the-blue Facebook friendship advances when they come from casual high school acquaintances I have not seen since I successfully grew out my bangs and learned to walk around without my gaze glued to my shoes. (I don't think those two events are necessarily related, but they did occur at about the same time.)

When a person I barely knew back in those bad, old days of high school casually friends me, I assume that person, like the dung beetle, understands our Facebook connection does not actually make us friends.

I politely accept those requests, flip through my yearbook to place names with the (17-year-old, outdated images of) faces, then forget about these faux friendships until a status update about weather or dinner menus reminds me of these tenuous connections.

All of this is absolutely fine for Facebook friendships with former adolescent acquaintances.

Blood relatives, though, should follow a different set of etiquette rules on Facebook, I think.

A personal message should be required to accompany the family "friend" request.

In the case of my father, something like, "I remember when you were born! What's up?" might be appropriate.

After I accepted my erstwhile parent's foray into Facebook friendship, I wondered about his motives, but also about what he would gather about me from my page.

I'm not a 16-year-old angry girl anymore. But maybe that's not clear from status updates like this one: "Put this on your status if you know someone who deserves a smack in the face with a shovel."

Does a relative who chose not to RSVP to my wedding want to know that my gangsta name is Rebizzle, that I have never gambled in Las Vegas or that I am a member of a group called, "Can this dung beetle get more fans than Glenn Beck?"

Probably not.

But I hope he hangs out in my Facebook photo albums. I hope he sees his three-year-old granddaughter dressed up like a fairy princess for Purim last year, and my younger daughter’s first birthday when she cried even as she shoved cake into her mouth and the two of them bundled up in their warmest clothes to revel in a rare deep South snowstorm. I hope he sees all that and realizes that my little girls are pretty awesome in pictures, but they are way, way better in real life.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Damaged Beyond Repair

Posted by Anonymous.

I found out about a week ago that my husband has been fooling around with a sales rep that he is doing business with. My world has been in a tailspin ever since. I feel such tremendous hurt, embarrassment, shame, and pain that I can barely breathe. We have been together for almost 20 years, and married for 10. We have 4 beautiful kids. We are in the process of buying our dream house. And then this.

I feel like I've experienced a death... the pain is so intense. As far as I can tell - and as he's told me - I discovered it before it got to the physical level, but somehow that doesn't bring me much comfort. I can believe it happened. I can't believe this is my life now. I don't know what to do. I am constantly reliving every moment every day. Every hour. Every minute. I feel like I am never going to be okay. Like I am never going to be able to recover from this pain. I can't eat or sleep. I've lost 10 lbs. in just this week alone. I feel like I've been robbed of my future, and wonder if my past has been all lies. My heart aches for my kids, for they don't deserve this, and have no idea that something is so terribly wrong. I don't know what the right thing to do is, and I am just frozen in the pain and sorrow.

Are people able to recover from such things? Can you ever really learn to trust again? I don't know how I am ever going to go on from this... I wish it never happened.