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Posts Tagged ‘broken’

My first memory of going to look for my dad at 3:00 a.m. (or thereabouts) dates back to 1984; I was four. I’m sure these late night / early morning adventures took place long before then; after all, my mom and dad had been married for three years before I was even born, so this behavior I’m sure was nothing new. But my first clear memory of looking for my dad dates back to about then.

Have you seen the movie Christine? When the character Dennis Guilder drives away from Arnie’s house at night, troubled and and a bit angry, that song, “As I walk along, / I wonder what went wrong, / With our love, a love that was so strong / ….”. I don’t know who sings it; the Misfits maybe? It seemed like a throaty girl voice, like Carly Simon or Janis Joplin before the cigarettes and whiskey (with an e because I’m thinking she didn’t waste her time or money on proper Scotch). Anyways, that sound is playing in the background as Dennis drives away and the streetlights make these weird shadows, these shadows shaped like the rearview mirrors that bend and melt and drape over the over his face and the interior as the car maneuvers down the streets.

My first memory of looking for my dad was exactly like that, except my mom was driving the car, not Dennis, and she looked a lot more than troubled and a bit angry. She was also crying a lot. I was laying down in the backseat, being quiet, probably still half-asleep from being drug of bed for this early morning rendezvous. My mom smoked, and sang, and cried, and occasionally cussed. She asked me if I was ok, and not to worry, just go back to sleep.

I don’t remember if we found my dad that night. But many nights were like that. And, at the end of the day (or early the next morning, I guess) he always found us. He always found his way back home. I thought that was a good thing; I didn’t particularly want to know where my dad had been. I knew he had been bad places. I knew he had been drinking. That was a constant in my life; I never knew my dad any other way. Later I would learn that drugging and whoring was a big part of the drinking lifestyle, as well, or at least his.

But as a little girl, I just wanted my dad to come home and my mom to quit crying. And when he came home in the mornings, admittedly she would cry and yell even louder and more intensely than before, but it would normally get better. My dad would always hang his head in shame and mumble something about how sorry he was and how he would never let it happen again. Normally he would want me sitting in his lap while he apologized and sucked up to my mom; I was some sort of shield, I guess, from her wrath and fury. Within 24 hours, all would be well.

And then three days later, he’d be gone again. Rinse, lather, repeat cycle above.

She would punish him sometimes, of course. I remember once we actually found him at some scuzzy, fat, white lady’s house over off of Buchanan and the Boulevard, across the street from Horace Mann school. She brought his clothes over in a black plastic garbage sack and threw them in her yard. And he came back a few days later.

One of the funnier things I saw my mom do was pack him a special lunch before he went to work one morning following his typical late night shenanigans. I knew what was in that pail, but he didn’t. I’m sure his workmates had a damn good laugh when he opened his lunch pail at noon to discover a pile of bologna, still with the rinds, thrown into his pail with a few slices of cheese, still in the wrappers, a bag of chips, crushed to powder, and some moldy bread. Oh yeah, and a water bottle of hot ugly AMA tap water. Hee hee, take that cheater!

This went on for 20 years or so, at least that I am aware of. My dad always found his way home. And mom always let him back through the front door. The locks were never changed. But, she changed.

He changed, too. Out of necessity more than anything else. My dad is 63 now. His health is failing, both mentally and physically. He’s too old to drink and drug and whore. Now he drinks two beers and he’s tanked. Falls asleep on the couch. A shot of whiskey for his toothache, perhaps. Quiet, family man. It’s nice. I wish I could have had that before my brother and I had grown up, but it is what it is. I’m glad he’s better, although that’s really a relative term.

My mom…I cannot say she has changed for the better. Something died inside, a long time ago. I was either to selfish to see it or in denial. But there’s no looking the other way now. She’s broken. Damaged. Hollow.

I suppose in some ways I’m more like my mom than she realizes. I have her flaw of being a doormat to people I love and to people I think love me, even if it’s in the smallest possible way. Maybe that’s why she gets so angry with me.

My mom didn’t have a choice. She had a kid to raise, no education, and no skills. She suffered through that marriage for me, and later, for my brother. Now we’re grown up. She’s still suffering. She looks at me and says, you have a choice; you have everything I didn’t; I sacrificed everything, so you, my daughter, wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes as me, as my mom, your granny. You can take care of yourself. You still have a chance at happiness, even though you’re thirty. Don’t make the same fucking mistakes I did.

Change the locks.

Don’t let him keep finding his way back home.

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I had a conversation yesterday with a close girlfriend of mine. I’ve know this chick for a few years; I’ve actually known of her much longer than I have had the pleasure of being a part of her life. I used to always admire her from afar because she is one of those girls that part of you wants to hate, but deep down a bigger part of you wants nothing more than to be her friend.

No need to bore you with details about her looks; suffice it to say she is beautiful in a real way: voluptuous body, flashing blue-gray eyes that can be seen from across the room, never a hair out of place from her stacked ‘do and always with a full face of makeup. She is the kind of girl who doesn’t go out of the house, not even to go get a coke from Toot n Totum, without being dressed to the nines; stilettos are her shoes du jour.

She grew up on the rich side of town, went to the rich school, and hung out with the richies. I grew up on the north side of town (there are actually people in AMA who admit to never having crossed the Boulevard to my old stomping grounds…this slays me), attended a school with a less than stellar reputation (we were one of the first schools to add a daycare to our campus, in order to accommodate the numerous 9th graders who were pregnant and at risk of dropping out of school), and was raised around families that had to make decisions about whether to pay the water bill or buy food for the week…not exactly the kinds of decisions she was used to making, or even realized that other people grew up having to make.

When we were younger, I can guarantee she would have never give me the time of day; shit, the stuck up bitches at my ghetto ass school didn’t even give me the time of day. But people grow up, and for some of us, our friendship boundaries widen; we make friends with people we wouldn’t have in high school because we don’t give a shit anymore. We realize that old adage is really true: high school doesn’t mean shit.

So, in our mid twenties we met each other and slowly became friends. And it was slow, believe me. Because even as adults, we are two different people. (Well, from the outside, anyway. At the end of the conversation that I am recalling, I realized how alike we really are…) Picture it if you can. The two of us, sitting next to each other at the bar: She is tall and curvy, with supermodel cheekbones, icy gray eyes surrounded by smoky black liner, shadow, and mascara; her lips are plumped with Max Factor plumping gloss and her hair is reflecting the light because of her Paul Sebastian glosser. She is wearing a red carpet, plum colored, short, snazzy cocktail dress, like she should be at a club in NYC, not a dive bar in AMA. Her legs, planted into a pair of Manolo Blahnik high heels, are strong and shapely and tanned and glistening, like her hair; everything about this girl sparkles. Her rings, her bracelets, her smile.

And next to her is me. Voluptuous, yes; I’m half Latina, so I’m shaped like a guitar. Large bubbies, not on a J scale, that’s for sure, but as I’m 4’11” and not 5’9”, that’s probably a good thing as I’d tip over. My hair is dark chestnut and espresso, and is half curly and half wavy; ringlets in some places. Olive skin, full lips, fact cheeks, and dark brown, slanty eyes. I’m the kind of Hispanic that looks kind of chinky. Natural makeup; powder to cut the shine, a dab of mascara, maybe some gloss. My clothes are bohemian, not club stylish. My jewelry is nice, but most of it is in my face. And, probably most eye-catching are the colorful sleeves I proudly wear; most of my clothes consist of spaghetti straps and halters as to display my body canvas.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m pretty, but in a totally different way. And on a totally different, lowered scale. We don’t look like two girls that would be sitting at the same table. But that’s what we became, and now three years later she’s sitting on my couch and telling me about her broken breasts.

Yes, you read that correctly. Her broken breasts; her mark as a failed daughter and mother.

She had tried to breastfeed when the Sweet One was born. But she simply didn’t make the milk. Her mammary glands, for whatever reason, were refusing to emit enough fluid for baby. So, she started buying formula. This, in her parents’ eyes, was absolute sacrilege.

They accused her of being lazy. Too lazy to feed her own child. She responded by trying to pump more; she would sit in her room for hours, breasts attached to the state of the art, best that money could buy breast pump machine, while the suction drained her breasts of the milky life that was supposed to be hidden within. Her parents would await anxiously in the parlor (people like that don’t have living rooms) and when she emerged from her room, they would harangue her with cries of “How much did you get? How much came out?” as if her value as a mother could be measured by the fluid ounces of milk the machine sucked from her breasts. And each time, with growing despair and defeat, she would answer sadly none, no milk, maybe just a half ounce after several hours of agony.

They gave her dirty looks, sucked their teeth, tskd tskd, and rolled their eyes. See how lazy you are, they said; your breasts are even lazy; your mammary glands suck at life, just like you.

Her mother went and rented a high tech, more state of the art machine than the own they had at home; it was 100 dollars a day to rent from the hospital, but she did it, and she came home and gave it to the Sweet One’s mother and said, Quit being lazy, go pump, go be a good mom. She hooked up her breasts; the machine sucked and pumped. Nothing; the Sahara Desert had more chance of fluid nourishment than her breasts.
Her parents gave up; took the machine back to the hospital. Cleaned and packed up the breast pump at home. Went and bought formula. Sighing and tsking tsking all the way.

What could I have done, she asked me tearfully. I took fenugreek and other herbal supplements; I did exercises, I did everything right; why did my breasts fail? Why did I fail as a mother?

Why did I fail as a daughter?

At her house, everything always looks perfect. Who knew inside of that house of perfection were broken breasts.

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