14 January 2012
I was out having my morning coffee/smoke and was thinking about you this morning, and I realized with some regret that I have not used what some people call my gift of writing to compose words for you that are so important and long past due in needing to be said.
In the past, I have used my writing ability to vent, air frustrations, blast, surprise, hurt, and wound people, including you. But for all of my life and all of the little cards and things I've made for father's days or birthdays, I realized I have never tried to compose something that would be of value to me in passing on to you.
Now that I have grown older and I can no longer see the value of using my ability to air gripes, as well as cringing fiercely at my past for having done so, I'd rather tell you what you mean to me, what your presence in my life has done for me, how your passion and culture and influence on me has built my very identity, and how very much I appreciate it. It is the very essence of me--you.
No doubt you have wondered, in the days thus far in your own life, how someone you took in your arms and raised as your only daughter could surprise you in such monumental ways. Both in negative ways and positive ways. I feel like I have been responsible for a great deal more of the negative than the positive, but this time and for future times, I hope this to be a positive thing, because I am tired of being negative. As to the ways that have been negative, all I can say for myself is that I feel much sorrow over being a dumbass.
Fortunately for me, you were right about the stages I would come to in my life: the teens being that awkward and angsty life stage where there is a general contempt for all things ungratifying; the twenties being when you start to realize your parents aren't completely unreasonable but your are still fighting all of your ideals; and now in my newbie 30s being a shift in the tide of change where I can already sense that what I learned in my 20s, I can either throw away or apply it to my life.
I have been looking forward to my 30s and 40s because I heard that's where a person really, truly lives what they've learned. And for me, ever since Kyle was sick, when I was in my twenties, I felt like I had lived twice but suffered the frustration of not being taken seriously and being disrespected no matter what I did or how hard I tried to carry myself with grace and dignity.
But you have always treated me with respect and dignity. And you have taught me things I will never forget and which I pass onto my children. Even though I am unworthy of such love, it is because of your love that I am able to understand just a sliver of the kind of love God must have for each one of us. I am able to love my children in the same way. You have taught me how deeply children are to be loved because it emminated from you and underlined everything; so now it is the foundation that underlines my girls' lives.
I know that the boys have taken more opportunities than I have to tell you I love you and solidify the bond between each of you, and I know we have taken moments to do the same, but I don't think that, for the entirety of my adult life, I have taken the time to tell you just like this, in this way, in these words, in MY way what you are to me and what you mean to me.
You are my father, my reason for being alive. Without you, I would not be here. Without your presence in my life, I would not be who I am. I would not be made up of every good thing you have taught me and that I have learned.
It's true that any prick can have a baby, but it takes a real man to be a daddy. You are that daddy. So many people I know whose fathers were absent in their lives. They have to struggle with love, acceptance, even relationship compatibility. They have to struggle with self identity, self worth. If I ever struggled with those things, it was because of decisions I made or from living so damned far away, which created its own insecure monster at the time; not because of you. People with more family around have been more insecure than me because I realized being a Cazares means being a survivor. I was always able to draw strength from my deepest laid roots and remember that as crappy as it was to not have family around, I was able to quit feeling sorry for myself, lift my chin from the mess, and see that you were always there.
I also know that, maybe, as you read this, things I have said in the past will come back to contradict themselves and that, as recently as last year, have slapped you with my words and been wrong. There have been so many times I have wanted to say I'm sorry for, but the times when I have disrespected you are what bring me the most shame. There are specific moments in my life and in yours that I've wanted to speak for. For having been a brat, a red-headed step-child-like temperament, an insecure waffle trying to cover up my insecurities. For blaming my insecurities on you. For forgetting where I came from. For not talking to you more often over the years. For allowing myself to be influenced by everyone and everything all the time when that is NOT what you taught me to do.
I am a survivor.
Because of you.
You are a pillar of strength and resolve; it has taught me how to be strong and have resolve.
When I think of you, I am a stronger person. I forget my weaknesses and insecurities and remember where I came from.
When I think of you, I remember where I came from.
Our family and our blood line has been blessed with these strengths and I cannot forget them; but for you and me, on the eve of the anniversary of the day you were born, I celebrate another survivor being born and recall with profound richness all that you have taught me to be.
I will never forget this.
You are my role model, my hero, my teacher, and the very reason for my existence. You wisdom, your knowledge, your humility is awe-inspiring and I am humbled and excited that I am the one who gets to call you "Dad." I miss you. I wish we were closer. I think we have a reservoir of love between us that remains not fully tapped because of the distance, but I have confidence that it will not dry up. I love, you, Daddy, and I wish you a very happy birthday.
All my love,
11 January 2012
So this afternoon I'm sitting in waiting room, flipping through a glossy home decor mag. I hear two ladies talking and every few words I also hear, "Sweden.." I glance up. Make eye contact. Smile. Look back down at my mag. Continue flipping.
I don't like waiting rooms. They remind me of all this stuff. But I'm a cool person, so I just read; and again,
"Sweden...." followed by nervous, waiting-room banter laughing and then, "must be the Swedish blood."
I can't help my nosy people self. I glance up again. Make eye contact again. Smile again. Look back down at my mag. Again. I'm bubbling. My heart is pounding. "I'm Norwegian!" I almost exclaim because, you know, Scandinavian is Scandinavian.
And this time, instead of sucking in that hot breath of air that reels just after one heart thump of stage fright to explain that I'm Mexican (also) because I don't look a beat like some hot Latina goddess, I feel a brand new sensation creep across my frontal and occipital lobes. I probably look Norwegian!
But I don't. Exclaim anything, that is. I'm trying to stay tuned in and tuned out simultaneously. It's not all that uncommon to run into every kind of nationality these days. Chances are, if they're not directly emigrated and aren't speaking with an accent, they're probably mutts, too.
I'm way too enthralled anyway. To me, it seems like I could have an "in" if I take advantage of the eye contact, engage in an understanding laughter, as though I have used my non-existing Swedish heritage (actually I have SOME) to define some common behavior that simply "must" be culturally exclusive to the Swedes.
It works! The nice, pretty ladies are laughing, looking my way, and they non-verbally invite me into this world of instant empathy with even brighter smiles and relieved laughing. I smile back. It really worked!
I still have it, oh yeah.
I actually stop reading (or looking at duh purty pitchers, okay?!) and slide my hand on top of the magazine, right over the page, and engage right back.
Laughing with them, as if I completely understood, I raised a finger, as though I were saying "aye" to a motion and in by best sympathetic chuckle said,
It was total dork move, but did you realize it was the first time in my life that I actually associated myself with my Norwegian roots in a public conversation (or conversation-type exchange) with strangers?
I was very proud of me.
09 January 2012
It was not a vehicle I cared to have, but I didn’t have much say in the matter and was sternly told that it was not beneath my station in life to drive it. I had to take what I could get because I didn’t have the money to complain and my dad had scrambled to doctor it up for me just the previous day.
It was scary as hell. Mom was as equally terrified watching the contents in the back of my truck wobble, so she took the lead and I was able to calibrate my speed somewhat by following her Grand Marquis.
At close to two in the morning, we finally crashed on the only bed in the apartment only to lay there wide awake with late-night fears of the uncertain – my mom worried about her pregnant daughter and questionable means of transportation while I worried how I would fare completely and totally on my own without a job to speak of and no money in any other account.
We debated momentarily whether to answer the phone or leave it, but the incessant, unending ringing made us pick up to silence on the line. The perfectly harrowing end to a perfectly harrowing day.
08 January 2012
What was worse was learning that flute and piano players came a dime a dozen. They have always come a dime a dozen. That's why certain instrument families are highly competitive. That's why I gladly switched to bassoon. Anything to get me out of there.
I did swallow the desire to complain. Mostly. I choked down the newness and unfamiliarity of a campus that was largely made of concrete. (No lie, even the walls in the main arts building were gray, lifeless, prison-type concrete.) I tried with a tremendous case of the "I don't want to!s" to be in the practice room as much as I could.
Because that's just what a Cazares does. They jump in feet first without thinking about it, being tough and proactive, and think about the sting of it later. Or the consequences.
I went to class feeling gross and sick. I sat in theology as the nun went on and on about her syllabus. I tried to follow my Spanish literature professor during night class.
That's if I made it to class.
I was late to morning music theory that year more than I was on time, because even if I could make it breakfast without heaving, I was often rushing to the washroom after breakfast. I actually even quit wearing makeup because it would all wash off as I cried, bent over the toilet, wondering what in the sam hell was wrong with me.
Did you hear that? Me! The Makeup Queen! The girl would not even so much as leave her house without it. Not wearing makeup. That's how bad it was.
I was beginning to think there was seriously something wrong with me. I could not, no matter how I tried, surpress the overwhelming feeling that something was terribly wrong.
I thought it was culture shock. Food poisoning. Something. Anything. Maybe the french food was not sitting well in my stomach, the clove cigarettes, the smashed-down wilted grass, the collective scents of just about every nationality of people in the world. Smells set me off and even apples I bought to try and sooth myself didn't set right with me. Smells and flavors filled my nose like a pungent spear.
The lacking bit of interest he showed in my distress didn't help.
I was fighting the raging fire in my esophagus so hard that I found myself relenting to having a trash can in my seat so that I would at least be at liberty to. If I could get anything to come out.
Everyone on the bus was aware of my situation.
It was like everything pointed to me being pregnant or something.
Denial is funny, funny, strange thing.
The hell adventure didn't stop there. I was college-bound promptly the next day. I had the whole day I got home to rest, then it was up and re-pack for oh, I don't know, roughly the last hour and day of my childhood I would ever see again.
It was another 400 miles or so of traveling. I didn't even puke until we were at a gas station at the bottom of the hill where the campus was. Yep, I waited a good chunk of time before it came blasting out of me onto the floor in the back seat of my mom's car.
Mom and I said our good-byes outside on the sidewalk, shortly after getting my stuff set up in my room. She looked at me strangely and, without much ado, turned around left. Scared as a little baby in a dark room full of monsters, I screamed at her not to go. I did so without moving my lips.
No play on words intended.
* * *
So, after a round of this horrifying thing that was making my body do all these things and feeling the suspicious eyeballs of my parents, all the stress of the new surroundings, and noticing that it just wasn't going away, wasn't a bug or the flu, I finally relented to calling my mom, who asked me point blank if I was pregnant.
Whoa, wait a minute. I laughed it off nervously. No. Way.
She was so calm about it.
In fact she was so calm, it was eerie.
After I got off the phone, I handed my roommate, who had a job in the city, the last of my care package money and asked to get me a pregnancy test.