Dad’s Notebook – SOL Day 9

Dad’s Notebook.  Dated from  2002 , from deep in my drawer as I’m looking for my favorite pens..

One of my special pens I’d buried all over the house.  Open a drawer, you’d find one.  Close a door, one would fall out.  I’ve been dry for months, though, no pen in sight, happy enough to just get something down in any chance moment.  The writing instrument just hasn’t mattered lately.

When you want to write, you’ll write..

Anyway — opted for hubby’s I found in his bedside drawer as I hunted for said pens.

I’m a thief.  I’ll ask for forgiveness later..

Opened my own desk drawer, pulled out a nest of random notes — buried underneath was Dad’s prayer book in a composition notebook.

I know I’ve written a lot about my Dad.

We had a complex relationship.  He was a burden on our marriage, never allowed us to delight much in him, but I knew he loved us in his odd way — just as he knew we loved him.

Through it all, before we lost him to Alzheimer’s, I needed that tether during that period of my of my life.  I know I rationalized loving my Dad, even though he was mean… and ugly..  and not nice .. and was suspicious of what-have-you (made up plenty of stories.. boy!  what a storyteller!), but I’m thankful I had the sense not to push him on my family.  We simply, very quietly, withdrew from his life .. with those occasional surprise re-emergings to catch him off guard.

Now, I just cherish.

Several years ago, when Dad’s memory finally kept him from communicating, Mom gave me his Notebook.

It had Dad’s prayer list in it.  Ever person he fought, combated, and cursed —  my mother, my sister, my husband, my brother — he had an ongoing prayer in there for them.

I want to believe he felt regret, and that maybe this was a way to find amends. For himself, at least.  His way of reaching out into the empty he forged, to pray privately for the people he was angry at, the people he believed had abandoned him — like the abandonment he must have felt most his life after his own father died when he was 2.  Maybe to find relief from the grief he created in his own life.

I know his prayers were sincere because he never lorded his prayers over us.  Never bragged if he perceived his prayers were fulfilled like some “religious” people I know, never ingratiated himself on us because of the private time he spent thinking silently about us.  He ingratiated himself on us for everything under the moon, beneath bridges and across vast distances, for everything else.. He told us so.

But not those prayers.

Those prayers. . I never knew they existed.  Had I known he prayed for us at the time, maybe things could have been different.

But he never said.

He never told us.

I’m left with his Notebook .. and I wonder.

I’m comforted to know he had a private Notebook he retreated to, too.

It’s nice knowing I have something in common with my Dad.

It’s nice knowing through this post — this very moment — I’ve come to define  what ailed my Dad for my whole life I knew him:  his issue of Abandonment.

Wow.  Even now, I’m still getting to know my Dad.  Through his Notebook.  Something he left behind for me to hear part of his voice.

The silent one.

 

 

Woman in a Red Coat – SOL Day 5

scarfAn older woman sat in front of us in Mass today.

Beautiful red trench coat with a hood, a beautiful red silk scarf peeking from beneath her short hair.

She reminds me of my mother… This is something my mother would wear.

Something she would wear.

Right now, she is relegated to one of 3 outfits my brother decides she can keep at her nursing home. She doesn’t see the sun, nor can she comment on the light sprinkly weather we had in Texas today.  She doesn’t fix her hair.  The only red in her wardrobe is a beautiful knitted throw I gave her for Christmas.  Hopefully, it hasn’t gone home with my brother who is always concerned about “theft.”  — Yes.  “Theft” in quotes.  There’s never been an incident in the place he chose to keep her.  If anyone steals anything, I’ll just buy her another, and another.  I wish I could buy her a red trench coat.  And another.  And another…

I wish I had my mother.  With me, so I could dress her, baby her as she babied me.

So I can dress her the way I remember her.

There was her dust blue coat she’d wear when we went to the Shrine for those long walks from the parking lot.  The same coat she’d wear when she had morning duty at her elementary school.  She’d forever wear a scarf over her head, like a 50’s-movie-star.  Mom was my Hedy Lamarr.  Full of beauty, full of slight wisdom, full of fight for my Dad.

There were parts of her I wish I could remember — what she did, how she responded to life, how she led her family.  I make it up as I go along.

When she was the age I imaginer her, I was a young 20-something, a 30-year-old Mom living in another city, trying to survive.  We weren’t close.  But now that my life has settled, what I have are the memories as she calls to me over the years.  I imagine what she would say, how she would guide me.  I make it up as I go along.

I am with my 9-year-old, who’s been my 9-year-old forever.  She is the exact age when my Mom and I were Besties.  The last of my 3 older siblings had just left the house, family drama was reduced to a minimum, and it was just me, Mom and Dad.  Life revolved around school, the market, church and my backyard.  I was The Baby, and I hadn’t yet been relegated dish duty or any absurdities of young adulthood.  I was the apple of my parents eye.

They’d wake me, I’d eat my little breakfast Ma made for me and travel with her to work, where she was a teacher’s aide for Mr. Martinez, a math teacher.  He was a god to her.

“Aye!  Mr. Martinez!”  my 50-year-old Mom would say at a joke he really didn’t intend to crack.  He wasn’t confused by my mother, but charmed.  He was the son she wished she could have.

There was grading with Mom, lunchtime with Mom, after school tutoring with Mom, open-house with Mom, pastel coloring bulletin boards with Mom, running the mimeograph machine with Mom, overhearing gossip with Mom, eating those extra apples from the lunchline with Mom, her big pockets stuffed with fun erasers and shiny pencils she’d find throughout the day with Mom… loving education with Mom.

 

When I relive these treasures, like I am now, there’s an energy from the past that draws me closer to my youngest.  I live the past and the present in the same moment, a communion of my memory and what will become a memory for my daughter in an instant.  I relive my life with my baby.   And I live with my mother — I am with her, I feel it.  I take a deep, deep comforting breath and I can feel myself sitting just a little straighter, the way Mom would want me to.

Si, sit up, Mijita.  And don’t walk too fast, she’d say as she rapidly snaps the gum in her mouth. You know you’re alway in a rush…

Thanks, Ma.

 

Needle – SOL Day 2

Slice Image

Just jammed my new mechanical pencil into the palm of my hand.

I tell my daughter to fetch me a needle and my glasses — I want to take care of this before my palm festers, twinges… something.

She takes awhile to hunt for the sewing case, but I remember the perfect, perfect needle I found when I was cleaning out the junk drawer (the irony isn’t lost on me).  Long and sleek, like the ones my mother used to hem skirts, I didn’t want to bury it away to never be seen again.  I held the needle, new and steely-hard, amazed something that could so easily pierce flesh had the power to mend what was damaged.  Then I turned to the calendar in our kitchen wall, and pinned it to the top corner of the Month of January, just like my mother used to.

Its so strange how the habits of our parents come visit us out of the blue.

For the graphite stuck in my palm, I remembered my Dad removing jagged glass, cactus needles, and wood splinters, all while I was growing up.

He never, ever hesitated — even though he called himself the business man on the planet, him and his world of “problems!  problems!” that he was called to rectify — he always had time for his little girl and her little injuries.  Always.

When Ronnie had something stuck in her foot, he’d drop everything.. everything.. and keep me near him until he gathered the necessary supplies to do his little surgery.

Gently angle the needle against the skin, gently peel, peel every layer of dermis until reaching the culprit, avenge the injury with antibiotic cream and a bandaid.

Do you remember, Dad?

Si, mijita.

My Mom’s Heart – SOL 2017

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From a 3rd Period Notebook entry I wrote during Writing Time with my students..

It’s late at night, the dishes are washed, the counter’s finally clean and I notice the solitary hunk of stone sitting in the center, waiting to be picked up.  At first glance, I thought it was a potato, but when I touch it and feel it’s heft, I smile.  The smile turns to levity when I realize it’s a rock in the shape of a heart.  It’s almost a spiritual experience..

“Who’s is this?” I call from the kitchen.

“The rock?  Oh, I found that,” the 22-year-old replies from his room.  All these years and the kids still collects rocks.  He’s learned well from his momma.

“It’s mine, now!” I tell him.  “…’cause it reminds me of Granma.. and it’s in the shape of a heart.”

My son squeaks out into the living room in his pajamas.  It’s not so much that he wants to see the rock.. He wants to hear the story..

***

My mom didn’t talk about love much when I was growing up.

The only time she did was after Mom and Dad had an argument.  The moment Dad would storm out the door with his guitar to drink and sing the night away with, she’d  turn to me, saying “don’t marry  a man like this.  You want someone to love.”

Actually, I don’t know how accurate that is, because I don’t even recall the word “love” escaping from her lips and tied to a noun, pronoun, or even a Proper Noun in a single sentence.   .. until I grew up and met my husband.

That’s when she’d tease us and say “puro love!  puro love!”  She’d purse her lips, twitch her eyebrows, and jab the air with her index finger, pointing to the ceiling.  This was her wink-wink-way of letting us know she knew  we were intimate.  This wasn’t perversion.  It was her way of speaking of love-making in the puritanical world I grew up in.  She knew my husband and I loved one another — our story played out in front of her.

Other than this, no mention of love.  Hugs and kisses for sure, but I don’t remember any talks, any soothing recollections passed down from the family.. nothing.

There were only her rocks.

I must have been in my early 20s when I finally realized her rock collection meant more to her than memorializing a little trip or event in her life.

We’d be walking in the back yard, moving her water hose from one tree to another or weeding one of her plants when she’d pause for a moment and double over – entirely at the hip.  For a woman her age, I thought she was keeling over.

“Ma, what are you doing?”

“I’m getting a rock.”

“Why?”

She’d hold up her little find — a brown stone no larger than the dip in the middle of her palm.

“.. Ma, it’s a brown rock.”

Another moment to cast a knowing glance to her know-it-all daughter.  “You don’t see it?”

“No.  What is it?  What do you see?”  With my mother, any moment could become a mystical encounter. Tea leaves, curanderas, fire walks were the norm then.

“It’s a heart.”

I stood in silence, waiting for her to reveal what she knew.  Mom always knew.

“When I see these, I think God’s trying to tell me something.  I think he loves me.”

Religion reigned through punishment in my family, doled out by my punishing father for a punishing God. Dad was the authority in the realm and spoke nonstop about it — not Mom.

She never mentioned God, either.   Her silence on both faith and love was a sound rejection of my Dad and his belief, so it’s no surprise she found God’s love hidden in the castaway pebble that could be so easily overlooked by those who refused to see.

Her simple, profound statements echo through time and speak more to me than any dogma my father interpreted and tried to pummel in our souls during those years.

Today, I have yet to enter my mother’s house and find her rock collection that I know is hidden away somewhere, like her faith,  her love, and that brief moment I witnessed my mother encounter God’s simple love.