Father-daughter flashback

I watched Oklahoma on TV the other night. It was a time machine that brought me back to 1966 when my father took me to see the play. What I recalled most vividly was Daddy hallucinating while John Raitt belted out a song.

My father had been mentally ill for years, since before I was born. While Raitt sang, Daddy muttered loudly to someone in his head and twitched in his seat, and people around us began to complain. Sounds of sshhhhhh!! and quiet!! surrounded me. I don’t remember what happened, whether we were asked to leave or Daddy settled down and we stayed to the end.

I was 20, in the glow of youth and blooming sexuality and glittering hopes and dreams. And I was mortified. Before Daddy’s meltdown, I had loved the way I dressed and secretly admired myself in the mirror, silk-blend suit and high heels and all. I felt I looked perfect for the Circle Star, then a classy theater venue in the Bay Area.

But I was edgy beneath all the excitement, because my father’s behavior was unpredictable. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

How differently I see that day now, and my father. Back then I was just growing into womanhood, half confident, half painfully self-conscious. I wondered why I couldn’t have a “normal” father I could be proud of, instead of Daddy with his rumpled clothes, nicotine-stained fingers and Thorazine-induced trembling hands. Subconsciously I was angry at him for being an embarrassment, a failure, a constant worry.

He committed suicide a year after we saw Oklahoma, at 50. I’ve survived well enough, had a career, friends, raised my daughter through college, but I really never recovered from the trauma. I drank alcoholically—though functionally—until my daughter was three and have ongoing anxiety disorder. I made many mistakes with my daughter that alienated her. We are now estranged, to my great sadness.

I’ve blamed and punished and judged myself for years. But since remembering Daddy and Oklahoma, I see things in a different light. I’m no longer a 20-year-old with expectations of Daddy, wanting to go to a glamorous play with a suave and handsome father. Now I understand that for some unknown reason Daddy couldn’t help it. He had a profound problem he was unable to overcome. But he did the best he could. He tried so hard to give his little-girl-turning-woman a special gala evening. Having made my own mistakes and unintentionally hurt people I love, I don’t blame Daddy now. And I’m working on not blaming myself. Daddy’s little girl is growing up.

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The downside of blogging


I love blogging, but I wish there was a more pleasant-sounding word for it. Blog rhymes with bog, smog, slog, sog and other unappetizing things. It also rhymes with fog, which is lovely, but the unsavory words that rhyme with blog far outnumber the beautiful.

Take bog, a swamp-like morass, a place where you might encounter an alligator or a huge poisonous snake or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Or you can get bogged down, in paperwork or odious chores. And how about smog, the scourge of modern civilization, hanging over the land in ugly yellow-brown tones and ruining lungs. And there’s clog, as in to cause to be backed up: a clogged toilet, yuk. People slog, as in plodding or struggling, perhaps to get across a bog. Which gets us to sogged. You would probably get sogged crossing a bog. And there might be a hog in the bog. You never know. Hogs are worthy animals, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not terribly attractive. 

Oops, I almost forgot flog. I’ll leave you to decide whether to spin the punishment or pleasure connotation of that word. Some people enjoy being flogged, but it’s not my cup of tea.

We have to take the good with the bad. I enjoy blogging immensely so I’ll just put up with the way it sounds. I’ll simply keep on slogging through my blog, enjoying every minute, and reminding myself that it also rhymes with dog, one of my most beloved things in life, and with eggnog, a joy of the holidays.

CHEERS!


“Blog” is derived from “weblog,” coined in 1997. It developed into the first digital diary allowing readers to add comments to others’ blogs.

Snail Mail Wail

In my neighborhood we get each other’s mail regularly. This also happens to a friend who lives in a posh suburb in the hills, on a street with only two houses. They get each other’s mail. Go figure.

When I get someone else’s mail, if it’s close by I’ll hand deliver it to their mailbox. I’m afraid to just leave it in our box for the carrier to redeliver the next day. Who knows where it will end up next? On a jet to New Zealand? On a pack mule going to a remote Indian reservation in Arizona?

Mail carriers are delivering precious cargo vital to our lives. They carry birthday cards with money to beloved grandchildren, letters to elderly far-away loved ones who don’t do email, sympathy cards, get-well cards, pride-filled graduation and new-baby announcements, Medicare payments, bank statements, DMV vehicle registration bills…all manner of crucial communications. 

It’s a noble mission. But I see carriers walking around with their cell phones, laughing and talking while absent-mindedly stuffing mail into the wrong boxes. It is distracted delivering! The other day our neighbor Glen, a couple of houses away, went to put some outgoing mail in his mailbox for the carrier. It was important quarterly reporting to the State of California for his construction business.  The carrier happened to be right there delivering his mail, so he handed his outgoing to her. Later that afternoon I picked up our mail and Glen’s was in our box. The carrier had stuck it there instead of taking it to the post office. Such a short walk. You’d think she could have kept it straight for two houses. I don’t think I’ll let her pick our lemons anymore.  

And once my sister-in-law, who lives right up the street from us, found a get well card I had mailed to my second cousin—or tried to—in her bushes. It must have been hastily stuffed into the carrier’s satchel and fallen out.

Some of us have complained to the postal service but we get replacement carriers who do the same things as the ones they replaced. It’s all been another life lesson for me, on the recurring issue of acceptance. Okay, sigh. I’ll just keep returning mail to its proper owners as best I can, and hope to God that our neighbors do the same for us. We just have to have each other’s backs.  


I’d love to go to New Zealand, but not my mail.

Animals are our teachers.

duck-587058__180One lovely afternoon I was strolling by the fountain-pool in our municipal rose garden. It is often filled with ducks and their ducklings in spring. But on this day there was just one mama duck, with only one duckling. I was instantly sad. I usually saw mother ducks trailed by five or six ducklings, or many more. What catastrophe, I wondered, had struck at her family? I assumed she had given birth to more than one. Perhaps a city-critter like a raccoon or a skunk, maybe even a family of them, went on a night raid in the park. Maybe a cat or loose dog had come upon them. Maybe a gardener unwittingly sprayed their sleeping place with pesticides. I speculated endlessly. My gloomy side had kicked in. However it happened, my heart was broken by this mother who it seemed had suffered great loss.

But perhaps, after all, she was not as troubled as I by her lost ducklings. To a wild animal, life is what it is. It’s very possible she was fulfilled by the one duckling left to her to love and protect and teach and care for. She doted, fussed, stayed close to it, and herded it back by the pool when it climbed out on the “duckling board” fastened to the pool edge. Maybe she didn’t define the quality of motherhood by the number of young left to her to care for. She just calmly and lovingly mothered the one she had, putting her whole being into it. I doubt she went around comparing reality to happy ideal scenarios like I do. She has a lot to teach me.