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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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When I was a wee bit of a girl, about ye high as the old timers would say, (I’m actually still ye high, to be perfectly frank), I spent a lot of my time with my grandaddy in Dumas. My granny would wake me up early in the morning…we’re talking, like 5:00 a.m. She would cook me Aunt Jemima buttermilk pancakes in her microwave. She still has that same microwave, actually; at my granny’s house, appliances and other home furnishings seem to last for years. She would turn the microwave on for about 50 seconds and heat a stack of two pancakes. Then she would pull them out, rub them down with Land o’ Lakes whipped butter, and douse them in Caro syrup. I will never be able to walk down a grocery store aisle of of cooking oils and syrups and see Caro syrup without thinking of those early morning Dumas breakfasts. Most people in AMA don’t even know what Caro is; I will never forget it.

I always shared a room with my grandaddy; he had twin beds, and my granny had her own room, with a double bed that she slept in alone. I had never seen it any different, and I never thought to question it. I would pad down the hallway from the east end of the house and make my way to the stool at the bar in the kitchen. My granny would bring me my pancakes with a glass of Tang. Never orange juice; always Tang. After my breakfast, I would wash up and come back to the living room to join my grandaddy.

Around 5:30 a.m. he would walk to the garage door, right behind my little breakfast bar stool, and open the garage. Then he would reach down and pick up the brown shoes sitting beside the door. That was the spot for his shoes. They rested on a piece of newspaper. My granny didn’t like people walking around in her house with shoes on, so…(that’s probably why her carpet lasted so long, as well). I don’t know what brand they were; it would probably make this story more realistic. But they were brown, and had brown laces, and in my head the brand will always be Granddaddy Footwear.

After lacing up his shoes, it was time to hit the door and hit the road in his four-door Buick Le Sabre. We would drive down Dallam street, take a right at the stop sign, and head north to the Allsups. I loved morning coffee with the old timers at Allsups. They would always fawn over me and tell me silly jokes and congratulate my granddaddy on “makin’ such a good lookin’ kiddo.” He would chuckle and guffaw and pat me on the head, acting modest but lapping it up. He was proud of me and I idolized him; it was a nice symbiotic relationship. After the morning formalities, the fellas would gather around a common table at Allsups and read the paper and talk shit about God knows what while I would drink juice after juice and read comic after comic, with my granddaddy footing the tab the entire time. My favorite was Archie. I loved to read what new antics Archie would be up to, bouncing back and forth between the two women in his life, good girl Betty and sexy rebel Veronica.

I laughed at the love triangle back then. I didn’t laugh about similar situations later.

So this morning, we had our typical routine described above. When we got to Allsups, there were some new visitors, some lady friends of the old guys. That’s cool. They were cute. They pinched my cheeks and stroked my hair and oohed and aahed. My grandaddy made sure to introduce to all of them. I don’t remember one from the other; hell, I’m not trying to be rude, but to a four year old (and, to be honest, to a thirty year old), most old people pretty much look the same unless you are personally related to one, and even then it can be iffy in a crowded, smoky room (thank goodness I don’t run into my grandparents at the bar; I might not recognize them).

I can’t tell you what the woman looked like, is what I’m saying. But she’s an important player, so take note.

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully; the old guys had coffee with the old biddies and around 9 a.m. grandaddy and I went home. I don’t remember how the rest of my week went. I suppose uneventfully. My mom came to pick me up later that week and on the way home, I regaled her with Dumas stories of the grandparents. I don’t remember, but obviously one consisted of the morning Allsups time with the ladies. And I guess, 26 years ago, I remembered that lady’s name because I told my mom about my “grandaddy’s lady friend so and so…”.

And that’s when the shit hit the proverbial fan.

We went home and my mom called my granddaddy, her daddy. She was crying and she cussed him up one side and down the other. This post seems to reflect amnesia, but honestly, I don’t remember all of it. I just know that my mom said if he ever had me around that bitch again, she would kill them both.

Many years later I discovered that I had met the Other Woman. Isn’t that funny, that a man I considered to be devoid of all sexuality (seeing as how he didn’t even share a room with my granny) could have a girlfriend on the side, a sancha? Not funny, haha. Just…funny.

That was, I think, my first knowing brush with infidelity in my family. Later, it would hit come much closer to home. And I don’t mean L-Hole. That was simply the coup de grâce
for me. But this is where it began.

I wish I had something more profound to say. But this is it.

It is what it is.

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