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Friday, May 14, 2010

Role Models

Been struggling with Five-for-Ten's topic of the day since ... well ... since I read it when I started.  Courage was an easy topic.  Happiness fell into my lap.  I'm a man, so Lust should be just plain fun.  Yes ... whatever.  But Memory?  What do I want to talk about?  I've related cute stories of my past in my blog before, but that's "a memory", not "memory" ... what could I possibly say about "memory" ...

I've been texting those closest to me, and mom just texted me back "well, there was a book called I remember mama.  arent I interesting enough?" ... I LOL'd, but it did it ... I started thinking ...  If I were to look back at what shaped me, who would I write about?

Of course I'd start with mom.  Her temperament and mine are so similar it's scary.  When things are going well, we "hum on the same frequency" and bystanders can't keep up with the conversation.  When we fight, fireworks go off and houses burn with our gaze.  I remember her supporting me, emotionally, through High School and College.  I remember her impromptu remodeling of the house ...

I went off to play video games at a friend's house.  I was probably 17 or so at the time.  When he dropped me off at home, the garage door was open, and you could SEE THROUGH THE WALL into the living room.  He said "Wasn't that wall intact when I picked you up?" ... "Yes" ... "I think I'll pass on hanging out.  Looks like you have a lot going on!"  We had been talking about knocking that wall out for a long time, but it was a support wall, so we were waiting on the logistics.  I remember the sheepish look on mom's face (and the shit-eating grin) when she said, hammer in hand, "I just wanted to see through ... it started as a little hole" ...

Then, there's dad.  Dad, who graduated with a Master's in Math from U.C. Berkeley and proceeded to drive cab for years, because he couldn't get a job teaching.  Dad, who after the cab company went bankrupt went back to school to get an MBA and became a CPA.  My favorite memory of Dad is from about the same era as my memory of mom, when we were looking to get a new stereo for mom ...

Walking through the Good Guys, Circuit City, and every other electronics store we could find.  Daniel (who eventually blossomed into Alyson) in tow, looking at stereo systems.  Dad asking "What do we want?  What do all these numbers mean?" ... me explaining it all to him.  Daniel looking at me in the car on the way back, after having spent better than $1000 on stereo equipment asking "How did you wrestle that much money out of dad?  There WERE cheaper systems there!  I can hardly get gas money out of him!" (remember...he's an accountant).  I just explained that it's easy to touch mom for $20 here or there, because she's a soft touch ... but if you want to spend real money, all you have to do is convince Dad that the price difference is worth it, and he'll spend money like water ...

I can't leave out Grammy.  When I was growing up, she was the matriarch of the family, much as mom is now.  She held things together, reminded us of who we are.  At times she ruled with an iron fist, and at times with a gentle touch.  I remember her couch (I'm sure there were several, but they were always in the same place, and they all blur together) ...

I remember sitting on the couch (she called it a "divan") next to Grammy playing Batman and Robin while watching TV.  I was a toddler.  It didn't matter.  She was always willing to be Robin to my Batman.  I remember when they cut the skin cancer out of her leg and it became harder for her to move from that couch.  I remember headed out the front door (we owned the house across the street), and before I could make it to my car, she was shouting "Hey, Douglas, where you going?".  I remember her hauling herself out of that couch, bad leg and all, to walk to my cousin's house to babysit him when he was dying of leukemia ...

Along with Grammy comes Grandpa.  He was rough around the edges, a foundry worker who had lived a life of hard, relentless work to support his family.  He wasn't big on sympathy.  He taught me that if you did something yourself, even if you could afford to have someone do it for you, you would get more out of it.  I agree.  I remember him working on his car ...

We were coming home from Church  Grammy had already passed, and Grandpa could pretty easily have afforded to have someone do his brakes for him, but NO.  I looked across the street to see him with the car up on jack-stands, him underneath doing it himself.  My Grandpa had taught me some rules for working on a car, one of which was that you never, never climb under a car WITHOUT A SPOTTER.  Yet, there he was.  So, I walked across the street to spot for him.  I stood there, a good 6 feet away, when the drillbit he was using to punch a pin (note ... drillbits are NOT punches) shattered and a piece of it flew out and hit my eye.  After several trips to the ophthalmologist it was decided that my eye would be fine, but that I'd have internal scarring ... I think it was the only time in his life I ever heard him apologize ...

I remember my wife, when we were younger.  I refer to her, often, as my ex-girlfriend or my High School sweetheart, but the truth is we never actually dated.  But I remember falling in love with her ...

I was headed to Australia with the Boy Scouts for the World Jamboree.  I remember my mother driving me to Christina's house, but I didn't recogize where we were going.  Mom wouldn't tell me, and, if I remember right, I'd never been there before.  We got there, and there was Christina with all my friends throwing me a surprise "Bon Voyage" party before I took off to the other side of the world.  I knew then that I'd never have a better friend ...

Last for today, there's Alyson, nee Daniel.  My sister, nee brother.  How to talk about someone who you grew up with, but never knew until adulthood?  Someone whose bravery was trapped inside, never shared.  Someone who suffered mightily yet never let on ... not until later ... much later ...

I remember sitting at my mother-in-law's dining table, playing Munchkin.  Daniel said he had something to share, and Marjorie stayed home.  Daniel explained, over a card game, that he was suffering from Gender Dysphoria, that he had always felt like he should have been born a girl, and that he was going to start doing something about it.  I remember the look on his face as he revealed this, knowing that it may be the end of our relationship ... or the beginning.  Or both.  I remember, after recovering from the bomb dropped on me, her asking me if I would mind if she presented female on the drive back to OR (she was driving me up the next day).  I know I said sure ... I don't remember it at all.  I remember the look on her face when she asked me to be with her while she told mom and dad ...

These people have shaped my life!  I look back on all the things they taught me:  Mom taught me to go with my gut, Dad to research and spend my money when appropriate.  Grammy taught me to watch out for everyone around me, Grandpa taught me to TCB.  My wife taught me that a good friend is more valuable than anything.  My sister taught me, and continues to teach me, what it means to be brave in ways I could never imagine.

I hope ... no, I pray ... that when my children are pushing 40 and they look back at the lessons I've tried to pass on to them over the years ... I hope their memories bring as much joy and sadness ... as many smiles and tears ... and as much learning as my memories of these key people in my life bring to me.

They'd at least better pretend to ... I couldn't survive that kind of rejection ;-)

        aka: goofdad

BTW, as well as being Five-for-Ten, it's also Fatherhood Friday.  All you ladies visiting from Momalom, go check out the guys blogging as well.  There aren't many of us, but were getting there!

8 comments:

postmommy said...

What a beautiful tribute to all of the important people in your life! It's so amazing to look back and see all those lessons we've learned, that we didn't realize we were learning!

Thank you for sharing!

Chris (@tessasdad) said...

If even the memories aren't necessarily good (speaking from experience), you can draw something positive out of it. Those experiences make you who you are and hopefully you can impart your knowledge gained from those experiences into raising your own kids.

Nice post :)

Anto said...

Nice memories. A well written post. Its a fact that in due course of time our memories teach us a lesson. I am glad that your post made me to think back my childhood days. Thanks for sharing. Simply loved it!

Amber said...

There is so much we can learn from people and our memories associated with them. See, that is what shapes us into the people we are (or aren't).

It is obvious that you have done just that.

BigLittleWolf said...

Here from Momalom. What a wonderful way to approach this exercise - those who have shaped you.

Enjoyed reading these thoughts and moments.

Keith Wilcox said...

That's nice, man. I'll bet you'll be included in these lists some day -- people who shaped who I am. I hope my kids include me in theirs. I have a few special people who I think shaped me, but I'd have to really think about it to come up with who is responsible for which bits. Maybe that's a blog post for another day for me.

S. K. said...

Thanks, your childhood was a blast!
remember when we smuggled a knife into the concert?--I know, it was just Daniel's pocket knife, but that was funny.
and MY memories are precious, all the way back to that fat baby, my first, mylove.

Jen said...

I love that you shared memories of your family. So different and formative. I wonder what my children remember. If their memories of their childhoods will be anything like my own memories. I'm so glad you joined Five for Ten. I've really enjoyed getting to know you!