Category Archives: awareness

Brotherly love.

My brother and I were never particularly close. 

Close in age, certainly.  We are less than three years apart.  In the photo above, that is me on the left.  My brother is the chubby baby in the Giants onesie on the right.  We are two years and nine months apart, yet you can never imagine two people so different.

My brother and I were brought up in a very abusive household.  Our parents, well-meaning as they might have been, were a non stop source of stress and strife in our little lives.  They fought constantly, every single waking moment of the day and night.  She was a shrew, my mother.  Nagged to the point where you could no longer stand the sound of her voice.  (It still makes me cower a bit when she raises her voice.)  My father, the man I have come to call “the sperm donor”, was a self-absorbed, egotistical hippie type who never quite grew up enough to understand that you no longer get to be a “free spirit” once you make the commitment to having a wife and children.  Sure, you can be an individual, but you do not get to live your life as one.  There are three other people in the picture.  Three other people who matter, who count on you and who you need to give thought to before doing the selfish things that stop you from being a part of that family unit.

My father, in something so cliche it embarrasses me to mention, left my mother for his secretary (cringe) back in 1973 when I was merely 7 years old.  Not that this was his first affair, mind you. This was merely the one that “stuck” and the one that finally took this man out of his home and into hers.  There was a part of me that was so grateful when he left.  For years, I had endured listening to their fights that would end up with punches thrown, furniture being flipped over, disgusting and vulgar things said right over my head and the endless tears that my mother would cry each and every time he walked out that door and away from “this bullshit”.  I came to feel that I was a part of the “bullshit” he needed to walk away from and, as every child does, began to blame myself for my father leaving.  This was further confirmed when my mother, in moments of distress and uncertainty of her future would say thing like, “he never wanted any kids to begin with.”

Great.  Like I ASKED to be born into this?

For years, I resented my father.  Years. Hated him with a fervor and a passion that no little girl should ever have to know.  When I got stuck having to go to his house on the weekends, I was moody, irritable, out of sorts, angry.  I felt deep venom for my mother for leaving me with this man who obviously did not want my brother and I there and truly made us, or at least me, feel like we were cramping his bachelor lifestyle.  He had a girlfriend (the secretary) named Yvonne.  She was a red head. Tall. Thin. Gorgeous.  And their lifestyle consisted of walking around nude all the time.  It’s just what they did.  And while that’s fine monday through friday, it is probably something that should have been curtailed when your 9 year old daughter and your 6 year old son would come to visit.  They smoked weed.  A LOT of weed.  We were never really “watched” or cared for.  It would make me feel so uncomfortable being in that environment.  I don’t think it effected my brother the same way it did me.  He sort of found it all funny…that he got to see “boobies” at Dad’s house.  But for me, a young girl on the precipice of my pre-teen years, it made me feel out of sorts.  I used to sit in the loft of his apartment and just get lost in books.  Reading for hours on end til my mother and whatever random flavor of the week she was dating at that time would come and pick us up from his place on the west side of Manhattan. 

As I got older, savvier, I learned how to take the train back from Riverside Drive in Manhattan up to Queens Boulevard in Queens.  I would run away from his apartment, letting myself into my mothers apartment with my key.  (Those of you who were “latchkey” kids would understand why a 10 year old would have her own key to the apartment.)  Most of the time, my mother would not be there.  She’d be out, somewhere, with whomever she was dating.  Sometimes, she would be there with her boyfriend and I would get stuck back on a train, heading back towards Manhattan after listening to my mother screech at my father at the top of her lungs about how the HELL he could not even notice his daughter had disappeared. 

Simple.  He was too stoned most of the time to even notice whether I was alive or not. 

“I thought she was upstairs, reading,” he would stammer, trying to stifle his laughter. 

“You’re an asshole, piece of shit,” she would continue.  Blah blah blah.

This was my world.  The world of the broken home. The world of having two sets parents who were so self-absorbed and involved in their own worlds that they never really saw the magnitude of what they were doing to their children. 

Truth be told, I think the divorce took a much deeper toll on me than it did on my brother.  My brother stayed in touch with “bio dad” long after I made the decision at 11 years old to never see him again.  I hated him, all he stood for and his selfish ways.  The last time I saw my father as a child, it was at my 11th grade graduation.  He showed up, after the ceremony of course, with some flowers.  I took a single photo with him and that is the only memory that I have of him that stands out in my head.  I saw him again, when I turned 19, in a chance meeting at a Florida mall while I was on Spring Break with some girlfriends.  We talked.  Ironed out a few things.  Said some things that needed to be said, but by this time, he was older…the age I am now, actually, and it seemed like life had beaten him up so badly, I couldn’t muster up all the venom and rage that 9 year old me wanted to throw upon him.

A mere 6 months after that chance meeting, my father was dead.  Killed by a heart attack caused by cocaine usage.  He was driving on the I-4 interstate when the heart attack occurred. He jumped the median and slammed into a Pepsi tractor trailer going in the opposite direction. 

In my utter distress, in my lack of being able to wrap my head around this…I made a joke out of it.  A morbid joke.  Something to the extent of “this time, Pepsi actually beat out Coke.”  No one appreciated the joke.  I was called “insensitive”, but I had experienced such a disconnect between me and this man that all I could rely upon was a macabre sense of humor to get me through.

Fast forward to now.  Right now.

My brother is having an affair.  He told me about it.  He didn’t need to.  I knew it was going on.  I could tell.  All the tell tale signs were there.  “My wife doesn’t understand me,” he would say.  He sought my advice and was appalled when I told him to go the hell home and work things out with your wife.  He thought I would have taken his side, told him to go…be happy!  Do your thing!  Live your life!  But as I looked at him, all I could see was my father.  He looks so much like him.  He sounds so much like him.  And in that, he represented everything I ever hated about my own selfish father. 

Recently, his wife found out about his affair.  She called me, crying, asking if he could come down here to stay with me for a few days.  He wanted to “clear his head” before making a decision about whether he would be staying with her or leaving her and her three beautiful children for this girl who “understands him”.  Of course, I told her.  Let him come down here.  Let him be with me and my family.  Let him see what a loving family unit is supposed to look like.  Let me talk sense into him.

He came…and it was the worst three days of my life in a very long time.

I have never seen such selfish, self absorbed behavior since my fathers existence on this planet.  He spent the entire weekend texting this girlfriend of his.  He ignored me when I tried to talk to him.  He ignored my kids, my grandkids who he has scarcely seen since they have been born.  All he wanted to do was go out and party.  “What is there to do in this town,” he carried on.  “What’s good?  Where are the clubs at?  Who’s coming out partying with me tonight?” 

And all I saw was my father…and the rage slowly boiled in my blood.

“I thought we were going to have some family time,” I said.

“Yeah.  Yeah, of course.  We’ll have family time.  But it’s the weekend.  So, let’s get this party going!  Where’s the Hard Rock?  Let’s go gambling!  I got a grand burning a hole in my pocket.  Let’s do this.”

Not the faintest hint of moral dilemma in his eyes.  No thought to his grieving wife back at home.  No thought to his three children, ages 9 through 13, who are suffering right now, listening to mommy cry at night as they go to bed.  The three of them acutely aware of what their father did…but having to suffer the consequence of his insanely selfish actions.  There was a lot of arguing between my brother and I. I would try to talk to him, try to get his face out of his phone and off the texting that was going on between him and this random girl (who, incidentally, DOES know my sister in law and apparently, does not care about sleeping with her husband).  I tried to keep my brother focused. 

“Go to the mall with your nephew,” I told him.  “He’s missed you.  Go spend time with him.”

My son reported back to me that Uncle spent his entire time at the mall walking alongside him with his face buried in the phone.  We went out for dinner.  Same thing.  Out for breakfast with family. Same thing.  Went to go visit my husbands family.  Same thing.  Face buried in that phone…no consideration to any one else.

And I finally exploded.

My brother declared he had to “get the fuck outta here”.  Apparently, the whore that he had taken up with was giving him ultimatums about coming home.  He was pacing the floors, gotta go gotta go gotta go gotta go.  Change my ticket change my ticket change my ticket now now now now now now.  It was around then that I released the wrath of 9 year old me all over him.  Everything that 9 year old me ever wanted to say to that stupid, selfish, piece of shit father of mine came flying out of my mouth.  Only now, it was 45 year old me, screaming it at my baby brother…who looks like the man, acts like the man.  We fought ferociously to the point where he was punching the dashboard of my car, jumping out of it in the middle of the highway and me, considering throwing my truck in reverse to run him over and leave him to join the same fate as his father…dying under the wheels of a truck.  All of a sudden, that wild rush came through me…and the fury was too huge to fight.  I couldn’t contain it any longer and in that instant, I wanted him to die…and I wanted ME to the be the one who put him in that box.  I wanted him to suffer for the things he did to me, but it wasn’t him. It was my father. I wanted him to suffer for the things I knew he was about to put my beautiful niece through.  She is now the same 9 year old little desperate girl that I was at the time, and I knew what lay before her.  I walked this road before…and I felt so justified in just removing my brother from this world to spare her all the pain.  Let her father die while she still loves him and still wants him in her life.  Let him just die that way…before she grows up hating him, blaming him for every failed relationship in her life.  Never trusting men ever again because she couldn’t trust the one who gave her life.  I just wanted to hear his body under the tires of my truck as I rolled over him again and again and again.

Fast forward once more.

I am at home.  He is gone, back on an airplane New York bound, on the way to ruin the innocent lives of my precious niece and my two nephews.  On the way home to destroy whatever little is left of my sister in laws self esteem.  He is going home to break everyone’s hearts.  My parents.  Her parents.  All the children involved.  And the last thing he said to me…”This isn’t about YOU, this is about ME!  It’s always been about ME!”

Yes.  Yes, “Dad”.  It was always about you.  And because it was always about you…hearts died in the process.

I turned on the song “Helpless” by Neil Young.  It is off the album “Everyone Knows This is Nowhere” and was one of my fathers favorite songs.  I put my head down and I cried.  I cried long and hard from a place so deep within me that I knew I was no longer an adult woman, but that little girl whose father destroyed her self esteem, her sense of security, her trust and faith and most of all, destroyed her life.  I wept so hard for this broken doll inside of me.  The pain was palpable.  I could feel her within me, so angry for never getting a chance to tell the real man who ruined my life what I really thought of him.  Angry, that now my relationship with my brother, my one link to that time in my life is now irretrievably broken. I cried for loss.  I cried from abandonment.  I cried for the realization that I was left to my own devices by my daddy when I was only 9 years old, the same age my niece is right now.  And wept harder still…because I know now, as a 45 year old woman, that I can never, ever get those moments back, nor can I save my niece from becoming a 45 year old woman who is going to inevitably look back with the same pain, grief and anger.

It’s been two days since my brother left town.

He sent me a text message.  “Left my sneakers there.  Can you ship them to me?”

No apology.  No “I’m sorry” for hurting you.  No sense of responsibility for the devastation he left in his wake.  No regret.  Just concern for his sneakers.

He is, after all, his father’s son.

And I sit here, my heart still torn wide open, trying to wrestle with the fact that I have all these open wounds that I thought were long gone, but realize now they were just scabbed up, waiting to be torn wide open to bleed, to fester, to become infected.  It is a painful realization to find out that what you thought you were so far past in your life, you never really resolved after all.  You just buried it deep down, burned it in a box and scattered the ashes somewhere.

Eventually, the winds of time blow them back at you.  You suffocate in their thickness as they choke you and blind you. You shake your head to clear your thoughts, to gain some sense of vision and clarity.  Then suddenly, you realize.   The game remains the same…only the players have changed. 

And like a lost little child on a subway heading to Queens at 2am…you brave it alone.

Home is only a few more stops away. 

Because she needs to know…

Because she has rescued my weakened psyche more times than I can count.
Because she has reached out to me when everyone else has turned their backs.
Because she knows my heart better from 2500 miles away than some people who are right next to me.
Because she understands me, even when I don’t.
Because she makes me throw my head back and laugh.
Because she keeps secrets.
Because she is painfully and brutally honest with me, even when I beg for a lie.
Because she protects me.
Because she gives me advice, unsolicited or not, and I can take it…or not.  And it doesn’t matter.
Because I can give her advice, unsolicited or not, and she can take it…or not.  And it doesn’t matter.
Because she is one of the handful of people I can rely on.
Because she doesn’t let me fall off the deep end without standing close by with a life preserver.
Because I can talk to her any time of day or night and know that I am a welcomed presence.
Because, despite having green eyes, she never looks at me with jealousy.
Because she knows the difference between jealousy and envy…and lets me be envious of her thin bod.
Because she is the only blond I simply cannot make fun of.
Because I like her 95% of the time and the other 5% I forgive her.
Because she likes me 5% of the time and the other 95% she is laughing at me.
Because she knows that orange pants automatically make you a loser.
Because she needs to know that she gets thought of at least once a day by me.
Because I think she is a level of controlled awesome and Canadian coolness that I could never achieve.
Because she needs to know I admire her and always have.
Because she needs to know that the sun has shone a bit warmer since her presence in my life.
Because she needs to know that she’s one of my favorite people in the world.
Because she needs to know…that she is a friend in every sense of the word.
Because she needs to know that I’m not ready to let her go any where.
Because we have a date in 2016.
Because she needs to know…she is loved.

And she always will be.

I love you, J.  Holding your hand across the miles.  Right there with you.  Never letting go.

Ever. 

On second thought…

You don’t deserve that much of my bandwidth.

I’ve given enough of my time and energy to you. It’s all been positive and good and loving.

I’m not going to ruin my track record now because of your shitty life.

You made your bed.  You lie in it.

Stay jealous of me, though.  It might inspire you to reach higher.

Peace.

Focus 52: "Line It Up"

 The prompt for this week was “line it up” and this being Memorial Day, I thought what better than to show a bunch of soldiers lined up, doing what they do best…protecting our freedom.  I knew that I wanted to find a touching photo online, perhaps a somber looking sunset with a flag at half mast while the silhouette’s of soldiers lined the bottom of the photo.  But, as I was perusing Google Images for ideas, I saw this photo.  I tried to find out who the original photographer was, but to no avail.  This, for me, was a beautiful way to endorse the prompt, salute Memorial Day and remind everyone that at the very basest level of any soldier is their heart.  Their ferocious, lion strong heart.  They are brave, true enough, but they are also tender, putting their job above their personal needs, the needs of their family and friends and above all, their own lives. 

In my life, I personally have not been effected by the loss of a soldiers life, but a friend of mine lost her beloved husband last year, a mere two weeks after turning 30 years old.  He was a baby.  A child himself, practically, with four little ones of his own.  Beautiful little ones, the oldest who may some day have faint, distant memories of his daddy…and the youngest, barely old enough to ever remember what her father looked like.

This is Sgt. Keith Adam Coe.  He was the beloved husband of my friend Trina, a girl I have known since she was barely out of high school herself.  I had not heard from Trina in years, though my best friend was still in touch with her here and there over the years.  Last year, my bestie told me that Trina lost her husband, Keith in Iraq.  He was killed in action.  I tracked Trina down on Facebook.  We talked.  We shared photos of Keith and her children and, we cried. Keith was killed by a roadside explosion in Northern Iraq on April 27th, 2010.  He was a dedicated and loving husband and father by all accounts.  My heart broke having to hear my friend of over a decade relay the pain and anxiety she was now feeling with this loss.  Scarcely thirty years old herself, she now finds herself widowed…the ultimate sacrifice of war.

I think about Keith and his friends, the fact that Keith did indeed die a hero while rescuing a friend.  It makes me both mournful and prideful.  He died doing what he loved and a job he was proud of.  He gave his all to protect his country, our liberties and our freedoms.  I find myself realizing, as I get older, that Memorial Day is more than beers and backyard barbecues.  It is about the men and women of the military giving the ultimate all to provide for their families and protect this country.  No matter what your politics are, no matter what side of the war fence you sit on, it is so important that you support these men and women who are merely doing their job.  You may not like the fact that we are at war. I sure as hell don’t, but I am not naive enough to believe that every soldier fighting in that war believes that they should be there fighting it either.  However, they have a job to do, no different than any of us.  They do their job even if they don’t necessarily agree with the politics behind it.  They do what needs to be done, sometimes at the expense of their own personal values.  There is honor in that.

On this day, for this F52 project prompt of “Line It Up”, I choose to line up a group of soldiers in the shape of a heart and hope that Keith Adam Coe knows how much he was loved and is missed by his family every single day. I truly hope to never have to hear that any of my friends have lost their spouse to this war ever again.  It hurts me, unbearably to the core, to know that Trina’s little ones will be growing up without their father.  But, if I know Trina as I do, she will make sure that their daddy is incorporated into their lives.  She will do fun things with them to honor him.  She will keep photos available to her babies and, as they get older, she will share the more intimate details about their father with them.  And, they will grow up to admire their father for his ultimate sacrifice, for his giving, loving heart and for being so very brave. 

God bless you and rest you well, Keith Adam Coe.  And to all the spouses, significant others and children of the men and women who serve so diligently…God bless all of you as well.  May your loved ones stay safe always.  May they always be protected, loved and most of all, supported by their fellow Americans.

Happy Memorial Day to all who have served.  And please, if you come across a soldier in your travels today, offer him a handshake and a thank you for a job well done.  It is the very least we can do for those who make incredible sacrifices so that we may enjoy our freedom.

Focus 52: "Close Up"

This is a close up of my mouth in a very unfamiliar position.

Closed.

And, because of my closed up mouth…millions of women, like you, like me, are going to die.

Closed up mouths lead to the take over of closed up minds.  Closed up minds equal the doors of Planned Parenthood closing up as well.  

With the recent passing of a Senate bill in Congress that is now going to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood, you will now start to see changes.  Changes that I personally have not seen since the 1970’s.  You will start reading about women, dying, because they could not get basic gynecological care due to lack of funds.

So what does a close up of a closed mouth have to do with this?

Complacency.  Because women did not speak up.   Because women did not protest this with outrage, with vehemence, with determination.  We, the fairer sex, have once again allowed suited men (and women) in Congress to enter our uterus and determine what our rights are.  Even though providing abortions is a small part of what Planned Parenthood does—and is isolated from federal funds within the organization’s structure, by law—the amendment passed 240-185.

Is this the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade?  Are women in our lifetime about to be relegated back to the days of back alley abortions?  Will we once again read about women who fall prey to quacks with dirty folding tables and rusty scalpels performing our abortions, leaving us bleeding, mutilated and dying?

What Congress does not seem to realize is that abortions are only one EIGHTH of what Planned Parenthood actually does for women.  This organization also does pre-screenings for diseases such as cervical, breast and ovarian cancer for women who cannot otherwise afford to have these services done.  They provide testing for HIV, AIDS and various other sexually transmitted diseases.  They offer education and birth control for low income sectors of our society.    Let’s not forget that Planned Parenthood makes sure that the rate of unwanted pregnancies and teen pregnancies stays extremely low.  Without their services, it is estimated that there will be 1.9 million unwanted and preventable pregnancies each year.

1.9 MILLION.  You read that correctly.

In a society where we can scarcely afford to take care of the population that exists right now, can we actually afford to supplement an additional 1.9 million more babies coming into this world?  This has little to do with abortion, but much to do with lack of birth control for those who cannot afford the doctors visits to obtain birth control, let alone the monthly cost of purchasing it.

It is not hyperbole to say that women will die as a result of this bill. It’s the horrible truth. Women who are uninsured will avoid seeking annual exams, pre-cancerous lesions on the cervix will be missed and will develop into cancer, breast masses will not be detected early – some women will die.

In addition to this, more will have unplanned pregnancies. Abortion rates, ironically, will increase. Only these medical interventions will be peformed by those not likely to have proper credentials, equipment and who are seeking to prey on the weakest members of our society – the poor. 

Sound outrageous?  It is.  And if this makes you angry, you should be.  You need to be on the phone calling your senator, you need to be planning how you’ll support the person who runs against the incompetent moron in your district who voted for this reprehensible bill. This must be stopped. We cannot blindly allow women to step back into the dark ages of back alley abortions and black market adoptions. 

Are you part of the reason this bill passed?  Rip the tape from your lips, open your mouth and start yelling.  Yell for your daughters.  Yell for your granddaughters.  Yell the way women yelled back in the mid-seventies when they decided that they were no longer going to allow government to take away our basic fundamental rights of reproduction control.  Those women yelled to protect our future.  We should be yelling for the next generation of women and girls who may fall victim to this heinous crime. 

I’m yelling.  I’ve been yelling.



You should be too.