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Monday, May 9, 2016

my relationship with my dad on Mother's Day

What evil despot doesn't want an obsidian chessboard built into the floor?





Can't help remembering Eddie Izzard's British space program skit (from Dress to Kill) when I see the moon over my elevator.



I've also started the structural support for a roller coaster and started testing the stained glass wall mural thing.

Family is a funny thing, isn't it? All this pressure around Mother's Day and most of us have so many problems with real life junk that it's almost impossible to either live up to it or play into it or coast over it without some kind of trigger going off.

Was talking to my dad a couple weeks ago, he confessed he shot my niece's dog, and yes, it was over his chickens, which are allowed to roam freely on another person's property but anyone else's pets are not, but this time he got back way more than he dished out. I've been chuckling every little bit over the sass he caught back, and I'm sure that's putting it very lightly. I didn't hear penitence in his voice, but I did hear 'oopsie' behind the having me look up schnoodles on the webs, which I'm wondering if he paid for, or at least offered to pay for. I hope so, anyway.

I grew up with my dad killing dogs over stupid trivial things, flogging dogs half to death over killing one chicken, and mercilessly taking puppies away and killing them until his favorite dog could no longer stand to be around him and ran so far away that he finally gave her to someone kinder. I was sitting in college classes (I commuted every day) when Dad shot my own dog because it killed one of my chicks. I really need to repeat this. MY dog killed one of MY chicks, a little ball of fluff, and my dad SHOT THE DOG. That chick cost me about $2. That dog was a rescue and had just gone through a spay surgery and shots that cost me $50. I never got an apology or an offer to replace it, and I never expected either after the way I grew up. The emotional abyss ran so deep between us that I barely even questioned it, although the anger has never gone away.

My dad is not a bad person. He never beat me growing up, never drank, never cheated on mom, never gambled, never anything bad that you can think of. He was there for every holiday (even though he didn't believe in them), there through thick and thin right up to the day my mom died, and he's still there for all of us in his own weird way. Incidentally, he visited the nursing home nearly every single day during the 5 years my mom lived there. The staff said they'd never seen anyone do that before.

My dad was a mixture of somewhat kind and extremely pragmatic. I know now that he's probably deeper on the Asperger spectrum than I am, and I have come to realize I myself am a difficult person to live with. I am much kinder, but I'm still extremely pragmatic. I grew up not crying because I was raised to be tough, but as I've grown away from that, the crying doesn't stop.

I had to have my own dog put down a few years ago by a vet when he was only 4 because the arthritis eating him up and freezing his spine had become so horrible than even daily pain pills for horses could no longer stop the pain, and when his kidneys started failing, I made the decision and then cried for days. I had never cried over a pet before. I don't know if my dad has ever cried over a dog. I know when he was a boy he had a pet chicken out of 250 that would come to him to be held, and while I don't know what drove a young boy into a chicken pen to hold a chicken, I do know that he and all his brothers left his family farm (they are Mennonites), and only one ever came back after both parents were dead. I've heard the barest stories about his father being hard to live with. Somehow, chickens have become extremely dear to my dad, and he will break his human relationships over any other pet killing a chicken. Since I eventually also lost it over a chicken, I think I get it.

That might sound dumb or strange, but not when you've been broken. I'm pretty sure my dad was broken at a fairly young age, and he found a way to survive. He cut the parts off that hurt and kept going, like I also learned to do growing up. He was never hard on me like his dad was on him, at least not physically and verbally, but intellectually he put me through the ringer forcing me to debate religion and politics at ten years old, and emotionally epic failing by having me help carry the puppies to where he killed and buried them. I'll never forget seeing puppies' heads stomped open.

Something was very broken in my dad to be able to do that. He didn't have any emotion doing it, didn't explain it away to me or even think about my feelings. By the time I was ten I could handle pretty much anything, even my dad, and I was the one who later pointed out that allowing a dog to have puppies over and over and killing them over and over was a bit of a waste of the dog's health, but he still thought spaying was more of a waste of money. You don't waste that kind of money on a dog, even if you love the dog.

Mother's Day is weird for me. I've written in the past about making it through Mother's Day to the end of a college semester and then having an abortion, after which I wept continually for months. After a lifetime of seeing animals killed (I grew up on a farm), I allowed the pragmatism to extend into my soul and mortally wound it. I came to the conclusion that no one had ever broken me more than I broke myself.

Mother's Day triggers every bad memory imaginable. My mom, of course, yes, all those years in the nursing home and beyond. But there is so much more stacked up in my head, like all the sheep, goats, and cows that Dad had to help birth without a vet. He was very good, but his hands were too big, and some of the mothers didn't make it. I felt so helpless listening to a goat scream because I wasn't strong enough to turn one of the babies all tangled up in her myself. We should have called the vet, but of course, that's a waste... I watched him perform a cesarean on a cow and then autopsy the stillborn calf, whose liver was already yellow and crumbly. The cow lived, but obviously could never have another calf without being properly stitched, so she was sold for slaughter. She was a sweet cow and had lived through so much, but was hustled off into a big truck to a scary place with horrible smells and noises and was probably terrified right up to the end. I don't think my dad was capable of giving that a second thought, but it still haunts me for whatever reason. But my dad visited a nursing home to eat lunch with mom nearly every single day for 5 years even long after she was immobile and unable to talk. What really gets me about that is how many spouses aren't able to show that level of commitment for some reason. I know it was really hard for me to handle visiting, and I even fled the building a few times feeling very sick, so I completely understand. But maybe my dad was so broken he could tolerate the shockwaves...? For all the refusal to help her with her diabetes when she most needed it while they still had the time (he didn't believe what diabetes was, or that high blood pressure was a bad thing {was that a waste, I wonder...}), for all the blowing off he did of her feelings through past years, he was there for the entire decline and was probably the reason she lasted so long in her condition, even when she clearly needed to let go. He couldn't let go. And then after it was all over, I spent a year with him on the phone going through those shockwaves crashing over him. I don't know if he ever shared with anyone else what he shared with me, but he was a very miserable and wretched soul, and I forgave him everything, even though from my point of view it looks very much like my mom didn't survive being married to my dad. He never beat her, was never unfaithful, but the emotional neglect was just too much. Why did she stay? I think she could see how broken he was. She was all he had and all he loved all those years. She may have used religion as an excuse for the duty of staying, but she hinted a few times at how devastated he'd be if she ever really did leave. I have modeled my life on that level of commitment. Recognizing how broken other people are is something that doesn't come easily or naturally to humans, but I've written before how drawn she was to the broken people in this world. how to give to charity, Charlie Brown

I have a fascination with incongruity and irony. I speak often of both. I have looked deep and long into the abyss that is being human, and I see many broken people surviving the best way they know how. Oftentimes they don't realize they continue to break more people, like a row of dominoes through ancestral time. Oftentimes we don't realize we perpetuate what breaks us. For all our wit and wisdom, humans can be so very stupid, and I used to loathe that with all my being. I was angry with God since I was a child for making me be born a human. Over my years in this body in this life, however, I have grown to see people as broken and sad underneath a society of masks, and I ache to find words that will help change this.

I am a mean person. I say very mean things to people when I feel they're about to pass their last opportunity to jump free from their broken ways and save themselves. To choose to continue breaking the next generation with our broken ways is unacceptable to me. I'm afraid I've been pretty harsh on a few people. And I'm about to get harsh here, so if you can't take it after all this, you really need to switch to another page right now.

I raised my kids to be tough. I showed considerably more kindness than my own parents, but I did NOT make their roads soft. I didn't feel sorry for them, not because I didn't know how with my Aspergers, but because I see kids who turn out awful when parents feel sorry for them and make their roads soft. Poor, poor pitiful me. I never once thought that growing up. If I had, I'd have killed myself at least 20 times by now and be swilling in alcohol and drugs so deep you'd never find me again. Sometimes I lurk around on social medias and have to turn it back off before I tell people what a big bunch of whiny babies they are. Really. There are so many of you continually tweeting about how miserable you are. I'm glad you have an outlet, but dang, change something. The two friends I lost this last winter, the two who tagged me the most day in and day out for years, I finally couldn't take it any more. If people wanna drink themselves into self pity stupors, fine, be my guest, but I'm not going to pat anyone on the head going aww, poor you while they do it. The day I broke free was the day I started stabbing. Oddly one of my memories this mother's day was losing a friend who was angry at both her moms and bombed my private messages on Christmas Eve about it. Must be nice having two moms. Someone mourning losing a dad couldn't grasp the pain I've been expressing all over Pinky blog this last year about finally dealing with losing my mom, and made the horrible mistake of dumping venom all over me on a holiday over something that was probably self inflicted to begin with. Well you know what? Life sucks. I said it, I lost two friends. Well, I said more than that. And that's the last time I contact people I don't know in real life privately and ask if they're ok, because I got sucked into a neverending whirlpools of self pity that required layers of head games to navigate. Some people don't want to be saved. Expecting someone to sit around and drown with you is extremely selfish. If either of those people had been part of my family, I'd have said a lot more, and I have family that can attest to the way I establish how I feel about creating our own messes and dealing with the choices we make.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." From 25 Great Quotes from The Princess Bride

True kindness is acknowledging other people's pain. I love my dad. I know he loves me. I know Mother's Day yesterday must've been like a Schrodinger's cat day for him. He was two people, the broken one who misses Mom really bad and he's all alone now, and the survivor that stays on the surface and doesn't dwell. I have no idea if he has a middle ground, but I suspect he's been growing one since she died. I'm feeling a little delicate, but I know I need to call.

The chess board floor in my evil lair represents all the chess I played with my dad. I was preteen and the only one who would tolerate sitting through being bullied all over a chess board. He wasn't kind, and he never let me win. When I finally started winning, he stopped playing. I've never stopped playing. I may not have people to play with me, but nearly every day a chess board pops into my head, even after all these years. A chess board is part of my personal coat of arms. All those dark and light squares and the pieces that move around them represent many things in my life.

I remember my mom in the background while Dad and I butted heads over that chess board. I think she was relieved he had something else to focus on besides arguing religion with her. I know she was wary of me even having a relationship with him, worried he'd turn me to his side on the whole religion debate, and even told me later my dad was going to hell because he'd been baptized wrong. She didn't sound at all sorry about it, although now I am able to look back and see the anger was probably a cover for sadness and regret. The things we torture ourselves with... But I do remember watching my mom out of the corner of one eye while I watched my dad's thoughts all over the board with the other eye. I learned the whole parry and thrust strategy in the middle of a ruthlessly intellectual and emotionally bereft marriage. My mother was the white queen, my dad the black king, and nary the two would ever accept the other until my mother's memories had been wiped with strokes and her body relieved of duty to her husband. And right up to the end, he was at her side, never wavering, despite all the disagreements and misunderstandings.

I don't need a chess board in my own marriage. We put it away years ago. My own husband is the opposite of my dad, a man of deep feelings and few words, and kinder than anyone I've ever met, even on his crabbiest days. He too survived being broken, but like me, he decided as a child that he would never be like what he went through to his own kids. That personal decision changes our paths.

We can change future history, and keep changing it, generation by generation. I believe in a future where one day we will all see kindness as logical, and pragmatism as a waste of being alive. All my life I heard "It's not necessary", and what I've decided is that we are all very necessary, and the beings and things we love are all necessary.

Until we learn this, we will continue to break ourselves and everyone around us.

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