Silent Screams (and other odd sounds)

This is what I'm thinking RIGHT NOW. It may not be what I'm thinking tomorrow.


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Watermelon and Memories

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I woke up this morning and saw the watermelon on my kitchen counter.  Trevous gave it to me about 1 ½ weeks ago and I just couldn’t cut it; so it sat there, staring at me.  Its various colored light green covering just looking at me from its perch on my kitchen counter.  I wanted to cut it and taste the sweet red flesh from inside but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Just like my father working in his garden, I wanted the watermelon to last forever but I knew on some conscious or unconscious level that keeping them forever was an unrealistic goal. 

My father gave Trevous the plant that bore the watermelon.  When Trevous gave the watermelon to me my eyes filled with tears but I brushed them quickly away.  There I was, hiding my pain once again so that nobody would feel sorry for me, but they did feel sorry for me whether I cried or not.  My face has held the pain from my father’s death the moment he stopped breathing.

Trevous told me that the watermelon had been the only one that grew from the plant that my father had given him.  Now I don’t know if watermelon plants bare more than one fruit but it didn’t seem to matter; the watermelon was a link to my father and I didn’t even say “No, you go ahead and keep it, my father gave you the plant,” I took it greedily. 

And so it sat on my counter, the watermelon; a fruit that nobody in our household held a passion for as my father and I did.  Much like a hunter waits for the first day of deer season to snag his first buck, my father and I hunted the produce stand for our first taste of a locally produced watermelon.  Of course, out of necessity, we’d critique it as to its color and sweetness.  We’d examine the edges, the rhine to see if it had caught a frost or become frozen during its growing or shipping stage.  Our expertise in watermelon scoring was unique at best. 

This morning, my father’s voice rang loudly in my ear, “Are you going to cut the damn thing or are we going to look at it until it rots?”  Yep, I’d heard those words spoken many times when I didn’t cut the watermelon in a timely fashion.  I’d smile back at my dad and say, “okay, okay, I’ll cut it.” 

Today, I cut it.  The watermelon spits its pink juice onto my shirt as I plunged the sharp steel blade into it and I silently cursed.  I sliced the watermelon in two and tears immediately swelled up into my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.  I missed my father so much in that moment as I looked at the red sweetness that had been hidden by its thick green rhine.  I removed the flesh from its covering and tasted it.  It was sweet but warm; nothing a refrigerator couldn’t fix.  When my father would reach into the container for his first piece of watermelon he would jokingly yell at me for ruining a perfectly good watermelon by removing its rhine.  “Watermelon is meant to be eaten with the rhine left on not removed like you do,” he would remind me. “Oh well, maybe next time I’ll keep it on,” I would tease him but he knew I wouldn’t.

My tears are wiped from my eyes now and the watermelon is safely tucked away in the refrigerator until it becomes cold.  As I eat it, I suspect I’ll remember my father lovingly with each and every piece.  Thank you Trevous for giving me such a tangible memory.


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Forgotten Gratitude

File Feb 29, 9 44 13 AM

Sometimes life can feel so oppressive that even taking a breath can feel difficult.  Sorrow and pain consumes us on all sides so rapidly that it seems that it is all we have ever known and there is no end in sight.  It is at those times when even a small problem becomes too heavy for us to bear; a small problem becomes the exact thing that “breaks” us.  Our burden, we think, is too heavy.

During those times, since I can not make sense of what is going on at the moment, I have to look at something other than my problem to find serenity.  I can get lost in my problems; consumed by them as sure as a fire consumes the oxygen that we breathe.  I can get so lost in my difficulties that I can’t see anything except “poor me” or “why is this happening to the people I love?”  It is in those times of desperation that I have to look at the things that I am grateful I have; however difficult it may be to find them at that moment. Today, I need to look for those things I have forgotten to be grateful for.

First, I am eternally grateful that I have a God who loves me despite of myself.  My Higher Power does not fit into a box but is universally encompassing.  When I turn to Him for comfort, He is there.  When I tell Him that I hate him, He understands that too because He knows my heart is screaming out from pain.  When I turn to Him and apologize for my words, He takes me in His arms and comforts me without resentment.

There are so many other things that I sometimes forget to be grateful for.  I am grateful that my eyes can see.  I am able to look at my children and see them in all their glory.  I am able to look out my window and see the change in the seasons.  I am able to see the colors of the rainbow when it appears high in the sky.  I am so grateful that I have the vision to experience all these things and so much more.

I am grateful that my skin has felt the soft kiss of a loved one, the wind as it whirls around me, the cold of a snowflake as it lands on my nose, the water of the shower as it sprays down on me, the slippery sensation as soap glides across my skin.  I am grateful that I have the proprioceptors to experience all these things and so much more.

I am grateful for the scar on my chest that tells the story that I have had two heart attacks and open heart surgery and have lived to tell the tale.  I am grateful that others have seen that scar and have told me it is my “beauty mark” that God has given me.  I am so grateful that I have had this experience because it reminds me that life is fleeting and I need to live each day fully.

I am grateful that I have hands that have held my newborn children. I am grateful that my fingers have felt the warm tears of those I love as I wiped them from their eyes.  I am grateful that I still get a chill when my husband takes my hand in his and walks down the street with me. I am grateful that these hands have performed CPR on people who have survived and I am also grateful that these hands have held the hands of others while they took their last breath.  I am grateful for these hands have experienced all these things and so much more.

I am grateful for my sense of smell that has experienced the scent of a rose, the smell of a newborn, the clean smell of the air just before a summer rain.  I am grateful for my sense of smell because it has warned me of potential danger from smoke and fire.  I am grateful for my sense of smell because it has allowed me to experience all these things and so much more.

I am grateful of my sense of hearing because it has more than one time made my heart leap with joy as I listened to my children laugh.  I am grateful for my sense of hearing because it allows me to listen to barking dogs, birds singing, the ocean waves, the soft sound of rain as it falls as well as the thunder.  I am grateful for my sense of hearing for these experiences and so much more.

I am grateful for all the people who have helped shape my life:  my husband who has taught me about forgiveness, kindness, mercy and love; my children who have taught me unconditional love, patience, as well as to give without wanting anything in return; my family who accepts me despite myself and my few friends who keep me in check and tell me the truth no matter how painful that truth may be. I am grateful for those who have hurt me and hurt those I love because they have given me life lessons which makes me try my best not to hurt others.  I am grateful for all these people and so many more.

I am grateful that life is dynamic; neither the good nor the bad last forever.

I am grateful that I can breathe.

Just breathe.

 


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Hats Off to the Working Mom

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I entered the work force long before my children were born and stayed in the work force long after they were born.  I have worked weekends, holidays and birthdays.  I could be found at work caring for other people’s children while my mother watched my sick children at home.  I have worked the grave yard shift so I could attend all those “special” school events.  I have gone hours upon hours without sleep so I could attend a softball game or a band concert.  I caught a few hours of sleep here and there on the fly so I could be “in attendance” in my child’s life.  I have been criticized for being a working mother and I’ve been told that my child’s life would suffer because I chose to go to work.  I’ve been told that a “good” mother sacrifices her needs and wants to stay at home with her child

Hmm.  I struggled with the guilt of being a working mother for years and years.  I felt guilty when I couldn’t attend the Parent Teacher Organization meetings and I felt less than a “good mother” when I couldn’t be a Home Room Mother for my child. I felt the pang of guilt when I had to decline from being a chaperone for field trips and I felt a little “different” when I attended school functions dressed in my scrubs while some of the other mothers looked as if they were going to a high-class restaurant.  When I look back on my appearance, I saw me without make-up, my hair a little messy, and my work shoes costing more than than the stiletto hills of my peers (but looking far less classy), and my fingernail short and not painted.  I saw the other mothers as beautiful models who wore designer clothes, fine perfume and well manicured toes.  Yes, my perception was skewed.  I just didn’t see it that way back then.  I was programmed to believe that mothers stayed at home and catered to their children.

Although I was a horrible mother for working during my children’s formative years, I was also a “fool” for carting them and their friends to and from school functions, softball games, soccer games, athletic practice, school dances and chaperoned parties.  My peers who stayed at home to care for their children did not seem to have time to drive their children to and fro to various activities.  It seemed that the schedules of the parents who did not work seemed to have multiple conflicts with their children’s activities.

Although being a taxi for my children was inconvenient at times, I was more than glad to do it.  I always (to my knowledge at least) knew where my children were and what they were doing. I learned that being the taxi driver to a bunch of children allowed me to fall into the background which allowed the children to say more than they normally would have if they remembered I was driving.  Out of guilt, and out of love, I wanted to do what I could for my child to be a part of their life.

My children are now adults and I have had the time to reflect on the damage I have done to myself and my children.  First I will address the damage I have done to myself.  In feeling guilty about my career, I conceded that I was a bad mother.  Looking back, I was not the type of mother who actually wanted or would have liked to be a Room Mother.  I preferred to interact with children on my terms not the terms of others.  This interaction was more beneficial to all involved.  It made me happy and I hope, it made them happy as well.  How did my working adversely affect my children.  I’ve thought and thought about that question.  Being a working mother made my children more independent and enabled them to make decisions on their own. Yes, they made poor decisions at times; but those poor decisions enabled them to learn and make better decisions in the future.  To be honest, I can’t see where my working harmed them; in fact it molded them into adults that could trouble shoot and make good decisions.

I have often asked myself, “Why did you work when your children were young?”  That answer is easy.  I needed to work.  I didn’t have the luxury to be a stay at home mother.  My children needed food and clothing which would have been sparse if I stayed at home.  Working enabled my children to participate in activities they would have not been able to participate in had I been a stay at home mother.  Working enabled my children to pursue activities which they may not have been able to participate.

In a perfect world, I probably would have been a stay at home mother because that is what society thinks I should have done to be able to label myself as a good mother and role model.  Now that I am older and I have the luxury to look back on my life I don’t need labels. I can honestly say that I was and am a good role model BECAUSE I was a working mother.  Working enabled my children to grow into productive citizens who value others as much as themselves.

Each mother needs to do what is right for them.  Each mother needs to search inside of themselves and ask the question, “Am I doing the best I can with what I have?”

Working mothers juggle life.  My hat goes off to those mothers who work endlessly at juggling being in the work force and managing a home.  Loving the child…..that’s the easy part.  Don’t feel guilty.  Know that what you do is as close to being a super hero as you can get.


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What To Do About Today’s Youth

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As I pass my mid-50’s the words “What is happening to the youth of today?” echos in my mind as words so many “older” people said way back when I was young.  I thought the words were meant to be demeaning to the youth of then but now I am not so sure.  I hear myself saying those words today, but I say those words out of concern and fear of what is happening to the youth of today and what will be happening to our youth in the future.

As I look back upon my youth, I remember it being pretty simple.  I wasn’t concerned with designer clothes, purses or shoes.  I lived simply and so did the majority of children with which I went to school.  There weren’t an abundant amount of local malls to hang out in with my friends and I didn’t have “older” friends who could drive me around town.  We didn’t have beepers, smart phones or computers.  The World Wide Web hadn’t infiltrated my daily activities and I got dirty playing tag football with the neighbors.  Life was good.  I was fortunate.

Years later, when I became a mother, things were a little different.  Most mothers worked outside of the home as did I.  Things changed from working for “need” to working for “want” but we deceived ourselves in thinking that those “wants” were needs” and I include myself in that category.  After awhile, all those “wants” did become “needs” in the eyes of our children and we became helpless to turn back the hands of time. For many parents, perhaps we did this out of a sense of guilt that both parents worked outside of the home and the “traditional” home of our youth was altered.  Lovingly, we gave our children our money because our time was too scarce. In confusing wants and needs, could we, as parents, have raised a nation of children who lived in an time of instant gratification which was and will be unable to be fulfilled in their future?

Parents my age, for the first time in history, will probably have a greater income than their children will obtain.  Many children have moved into the same house they grew up in with their parents, bringing with them their children as well.  The grandparents, who are making more money than their children, are oftentimes supporting not only their children and spouse, but their children’s children as well.  Five year old grandchildren, living with grandma and grandpa, have televisions and X-boxes in their room, bought by the grandparents. In many elementary schools, it would not be uncommon to see a 7 year old girl dressed in the most fashionable shoes with lights that flash or carrying a book bag with the Vera Bradley brand.  If the income of the our 25-30 year old parents are less than their parents how can this be?  Could it be that Grandma is buying the clothes?  Could it be that Grandpa is supporting the extended family? 

So, where is all of this mumble jumble going?  It brings me back to my fear and concern for the youth of today.  What happens when our generation becomes too old to support our children and our grandchildren?  What happens when the expectations of our children will be unable to be met?  By giving our children their wants instantly, how much did we help them?  By giving our grandchildren the best of things, how will that color their future?  When a generation has lived in abundance not created by their own hands that abundance is oftentimes not appreciated but it becomes an expectation – something deserved. 

I believe that each of us, as parents, did the best we could with what we knew.  Each of us did what we thought was the best for our children and we did it with love.  I have two daughters.  As with all things hindsight is 20/20 and I know I have made mistakes in raising my daughters.  I have done some good things as well.  I do not have grandchildren but I don’t have to have them to see that so many grandparents are doing to their grandchildren what they did to their children – giving them all they can whether they need it or not.

I was fortunate.  My children didn’t ask for much growing up.  They were not tempted by everything new and glitzy.  Since my children did not ask for much, when they did they generally got it.  Perhaps they didn’t get it that day, or that week, but more than likely they got it.  I say I am fortunate because I could easily have fallen into the “give them all they want” syndrome.  I am not immune to loving my children monetarily.

I love the youth of today.  I just hope they can survive our parenting.


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A Heart Still Broken

It has been 3 months and 8 days since my baby girl Faith left me for another world and it has been 1 month and 8 days since my Red King Rory left me to be at her side.

On good days I see them playing together in an open field.  Faith is running with her hair flying around her and the Red King is at her heels protecting her from all sorts of harm.  After a little while, they stop under a big oak tree and Rory stretches out his long body while Faith curls up near his nose, her body almost as big as his head.  They momentarily look at each other and then close their eyes.  My eyes strain not to close just so I can envision them longer, but soon the vision fades and the realization that they have both entered a grander plane floods me.  I should be happy for them but I have to shamefully admit that my heart remains broken.  It seems I can not fully adjust.

Faith’s death was painful but understood.  She had been ill for quite some time and when her final end came, it was not unexpected.  I was able to mourn her loss but still understand that she was made whole after her death.  Rory’s death was untimely, unexpected and much more painful.  He was playing in the yard, collapsed and was gone within seconds.  I didn’t have a chance to hold him like I held Faith during her last few minutes of life with me.  I was not able to sing to him the song I sang to Faith as I rocked her in my arms when she took her last breath.  I was only able to hold Rory close to me after he died and kiss his nose as I so often kissed it when he slept; but this time I knew he would never wake.  I cried out to God, but he wanted Rory for himself or he knew what Rory’s destiny would be if he had not died that day.

After reading all I could about how to “get over” the death of a pet, I took some advice and two weeks after the death of Rory, I bought a puppy.  Wyatt, is the new addition to my house.  He is the same breed as Rory but I have to sadly admit that I do not feel for him what I felt for Rory.  Right now, when I look at Wyatt, I see a beautiful Doberman Pinscher puppy that is so eager to please and be playful; but there are times when I look at him, all I feel a deep feeling of  loss for the companionship that Rory gave to me. If the truth be told, today, I would trade this little eager puppy for one more day with my Red King.

I did what was suggested and bought a puppy; not to replace Rory but to help heal myself from the pain.  I should have waited.  I pray that someday I will be able to give Wyatt the love he so richly deserves.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…


 


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In a Heartbeat – Man’s Best Friend

When my oldest daughter finished her residency and was able to devote time to a pet, we started to search for the “perfect” pet for her.  Since she was going to live alone, she decided a dog that would afford some protection would be a good idea.  Since I had owned a Doberman Pinscher previously, I suggested that perhaps that type of dog would be a good one to consider.  I knew Doberman’s to be protective as well as loving.  They are often called “velcro” dogs because they tend to stick to the owner like glue.  My daughter said she’d consider one but wanted to see a few first.

We went to a reputable breeder who breeds Doberman’s not for profit but for the love of the breed.  On the premises were 6 adult Dobermans:  2 black, 2 red, 1 blue, and 1 fawn.  All of the dogs ran freely on her property so it wasn’t surprising that they all met us as we pulled in to the driveway.  They barked briefly to alert the owner of the property to our presence but then stood and looked at us warily.  It wasn’t until the owner came out of the house that we made the first move to get out of the car upon the owner’s assurance that the beasts before us would cause us no harm.

The breeder took us into the house where a massive black Doberman met us at the door, sniffed and then turned away.  In a large box in the corner of the room was a red Dobergirl guarding her Doberpuppies.  The breeder quickly let the Doberpuppies loose in the  house but kept the Dobermom in the corner.  As the breeder explained to my daughter exactly what Dobermans are like as a pet, one of the puppies came and sat near my feet.  He had the biggest paws I had ever seen on a Doberman and his legs were lanky and clumsy.  As the other Doberpuppies tried to gather at my feet to see what this visitor was all about, the Doberpuppy with the big paws kept every other puppy at bay.  He would not let any other puppy near me.  The breeder joked about him not letting me go home without him and I just laughed knowing that I didn’t need a big goofy Doberman to chase my two small Yorkies into a frenzy.

Since my daughter didn’t want a puppy for a few months, we looked at the Dobergirl who was due in about 5 months.  She had been breeded to the massive Doberman who met us at the door – so had the goofy, big pawed- red dog that wouldn’t let any other Doberpuppy near me.  We left that day with a lot of information.  My daughter left with the breeders phone number and the due date of the Dobergirl about to give birth.  I left with the goofy red dog who would later look like this:

My husband was not a happy camper when I brought Rory home.  He complained that he cost too much, he was too big for the Yorkies, and he would eat us out of house and home.  He was right, I was wrong.  Rory stayed and moved into our hearts.

As with most Dobermans, Rory quickly became the classic “velcro” dog.  He followed whoever was being the most active at the time.  He especially watched closely his blue ball, which became his constant appendage.  He never went anywhere without it.  He even slept with it.  A trait so endearing, that we couldn’t help but make sure he had two or three blue balls all the time, just in case one met with an untimely demise.

Soon, Rory took over my husband’s heart and the two developed a routine.  The routine was:  What Rory wants, Rory gets.  Rory waited patiently for my husband to get home from work, but the minute he walked into the house Rory would grab his blue ball and demand that my husband play with him.  Of course, my husband would call him a big red ass or say some other un-flattering name but Rory was persistent.  If he didn’t get the attention he wanted right then, he would thump my husband in the leg with his blue ball.  The exchange was a ritual and fun to watch.  Rory demanded attention.  He felt he had to the be center of our world because, after all, we were the center of his.

In a heartbeat, the attachment occurs:  the love between a dog and his master.  If the truth be told, I am unsure in a human/canine relationship who exactly the master is.  I’m pretty sure it is not the human.  Rory was the master of us all.  He played us like a finely tuned violin.  Rory pouted if he didn’t get his way, whined if you didn’t pay attention to him, caused mischief with the Yorkies at times and was the best friend a person could have.  He was more than canine, he was more than human, he was …Rory – The Red King.  Rory was a part of the family and lived in our every heartbeat.

After a long day, Rory felt it was his right to stretch out on the sofa and relax after a long tedious day of playing and protecting the homestead.  Of course, his blue ball was always close at hand.  At 120 lbs, Rory still thought he was a lap dog.  If able, he would cuddle up as close as possible as if to warm his body with ours.  An annoying, but endearing quality all at the same time.

Yesterday, while running and playing outside; something he loved to do, Rory left us in a heartbeat.  He was running and playing and then all of a sudden he looked up, collapsed and his spirit soared into the universe.  He left my world to enter another dimension.

Red Dog had a good life.  Red Dog had a happy life. Red Dog had a short 4 1/2 year life.  Red Dog will be remembered by me always.  I miss him more than words can say.

I love you Red Dog, Red King, Red Drooley…….  I love you Rory.


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Fine Italian Dining

In a little while I’ll be leaving to attend the local Italian-American Heritage Festival.  For most Italians, it is a festival not to be  missed.  My mother loved going to the festival.  For her, it was an opportunity to meet up with a group of friends who would reminisce about the past.  While others were chowing down on pasta, meatballs, sauce, and other Italian dishes, the friends that my mother would meet up with rarely consumed such festival cuisine.  Why would they when some of the best Italian food ever tasted came directly from their kitchens.

Since I was privy to some of the best Italian food ever consumed by human beings, and since there is little else to do at the festival, I didn’t attend often.  I only attended when my mother couldn’t find anyone else to take her there.

Today, as I was thinking about attending the festival for the first time in what must be over 10 years, of course my thoughts turned to my mother.  I can see her face as her eyes would light up when she suddenly spotted someone in the crowd that she knew.  I can hear her telling me how “I” should know who they are, but in reality if I knew them I didn’t remember.  I remember her friends telling me, “I remember you when you were ‘this big'” and I’d smile just a second before the Italian (and hands) started to fly.  Today, I wondered if my mother thought of her own mother at the Italian-American Heritage Festival as she socialized with so many people.

I wonder, is it the connection to the not so distant past the draws so many people to the festival?  For Italians, it certainly can’t be the food!


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Teacher….I Hope You Learn

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Yesterday, I read a post at All Access Pass about how teachers leave impressions on their students.  I can’t tell you how much I agree with the post.  Each adult, especially those in positions of authority leave lasting impressions:  some good and some not so good.  I’d like to relate a story of a first grade teacher who left a lasting impression on my youngest daughter.  The impression was such a strong one that my daughter can vividly recall it to this day; twenty one years later.

One day in early February, my daughter jumped off the bus at the end of our driveway, ran past me and quickly took something out of her book bag and threw it away.  Thinking she was acting rather strangely, I went to the trash can and picked out of the trash a paper “groundhog” that she had cut out and colored at school.  I turned and held up the ground hog to her and asked her why she wanted to throw it away.  “It’s ugly,” she said.  “I hate it.”

“Well, I absolutely love it.  I’m hanging it up on the refrigerator,”  I replied as I cut a piece of tape and hung it to the refrigerator.

“No you’re not.  You hate it.  I hate it.  It’s ugly.  Throw it away.”

“Absolutely not!”  I replied firmly.

The conversation was over and she went off to her bedroom to change clothes.  She never mentioned the ground hog again until her friend since birth, Heath, and his mother came over for a visit later that evening.  Since Heath’s mother and I were close friends, the children saw each other frequently.

Heath’s mother and I settled into tea and conversation when my daughter’s young friend ran into the kitchen to tell his mother some exciting news and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the groundhog taped up on my white refrigerator door.  “Ohhhhh…we weren’t suppose to bring our ground hogs home, you’re going to get into trouble” he said to my daughter in a sing-song fashion as he turned around to see if she was following him into the kitchen.  Suddenly his demeanor changed as he said, “Oh, that’s right, you were allowed to bring yours home.”

I stopped talking to Heath’s mother so I could ease drop more clearly on the children.  “What in the heck was the deal with this darn groundhog?  Was it going to come to life and eat us all while we were asleep?”  I stood up and un-taped the groundhog and called both of the children to my side.  “Which one of you is going to tell me the story behind this groundhog?” I asked both of them.  Both of these innocent six year old children stood silently for what seemed to be a long time before until Heath spoke up.  “She was allowed to bring hers home, none of the rest of us were allowed.”  Still confused by the whole situation I asked him why my daughter was allowed to bring her groundhog home and the rest of the class was not.  Waiting for an answer that I thought would involve my daughter acting out at school or doing something terrible with her groundhog that would make her teacher want to send her home with her groundhog in tow, I was heartbroken with the next words I heard Heath speak.

“Our teacher said her groundhog is too ugly to hang up with the rest of our groundhogs so she let her bring it home.”  My daughter eyes filled with tears.  I looked at her then at Heath and then at her again.

“Is that true?”

She just nodded her head and began to weep a little bit harder.  I froze.  I hugged her but didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t take back somebody else’s words.  I couldn’t make right what a teacher had made wrong.

When I regained my voice and the anger and resentment started to build in me I asked Heath to tell me exactly what had happened.  He was reluctant at first to spill his guts about his teacher but the friendship he and my daughter shared won out.  He explained to me that each child was given a picture of a ground hog that they were to color and then cut so that the teacher could hang it on the wall for when the parents came to meet the teachers.  He said that my daughter was having a hard time cutting her ground hog because the scissors she had didn’t work.  (She was using right handed scissors and she is left handed.)  He said the teacher got real mad and grabbed her ground hog and held it up so we could all see how ugly her ground hog was.  He said she kept saying, “Isn’t this the ugliest ground hog?”  Then he said the teacher told her she could take hers home because it was just too ugly to look at.

My hands curled into fists as I listened.  My lips tightened.  I could feel my whole body tense.  I had made my plans. The next morning, the teacher and I were going to have a little face to face and she was going to see things from a whole new perspective.  My husband, being the voice of reason after I explained to him what had transpired, asked me to wait until the end of the week when I had a pre-arranged parent teacher conference scheduled and I would be a little less angry.  (He was hoping I’d be a little less angry.)  Much to my chagrin I complied with his wishes.

That Friday couldn’t arrive soon enough.  I was not less angry.  I was, however; more in control of my emotions.  I walked into my conference with confidence and a smile.  I sat and nodded my head so sweetly as this “teacher” told me how wonderful my child was.  She went on and on about how much of a joy it was to have her in her class room.  Her words ran out of her mouth like Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup over a stack of hot cakes.  It was incredible.

I stood up and walked the short distance to all the beautiful groundhogs that were hanging on the locker doors.  “Did the chidren do these groundhogs?”  I asked just as sweetly as I could.

“Why yes, aren’t they adorable?”  the teacher replied.

I nodded my head looking at each and every one until I came to the last groundhog.  I turned to her and said, “I don’t see my daughter’s groundhog.  Where is hers?”

“Oh, she was sick the day we did those.  She wasn’t in class.”

“Really?” I replied.  “I don’t recall her missing any school this nine weeks.”

“Yes, she missed this day.  I asked her if she wanted to do one but she said no.”

“Really?”  I once again replied.  “Hmm, funny.”  I turned and looked her square in the eye.  “Wait, I know where her ground hog is.  It’s on my refrigerator at home.”

“Oh, that’s right.  She brought it home but she wasn’t suppose to,” explained the teacher.

I shook my head.  “No, that isn’t what happened.  She was allowed to bring it home because you told her it was too ugly to hang up with the groundhogs the other children did.”

“She’s not telling you the truth.  She’s lying.”

I smirked at the teacher and said, “You know, I might have believed that but she wasn’t the one who told me about her ugly groundhog.”  I had her.  Busted!  Get out of this one you fine specimen of a teacher.

The teacher, in all her babbling glory, attempted every explanation to ease her discomfort.  I looked at her and didn’t say a word as she babbled on and on.  She knew I wasn’t buying a thing she said, and I didn’t have to tell her.  The truth was out there in the form of an innocent boy’s words.

After her attempt at explanations I folded my arms across my chest and said to her, “Care to try again because I’m afraid I just don’t find you credible at this point.”

Was this teacher done?  No.  She went on to tell me how many times my daughter did NOT wear a dress to school.  She told me that my daughter lets her friend Heath carry her books for her; and what is worse, SHE carries HIS books at times too.  She went on to tell me how she gets Heath’s coat for him if he is running behind at the end of the day and he does the same for her.  She explained that she’s a tom-boy and likes boy things.  She hinted that her playing basketball, baseball, football, and tag with the boys would probably lead her down the road to (gasp) homosexuality.

She was in deep.  The more she rambled the more I couldn’t believe that she was molding young minds.  The thought sickened me.  It still does.

Years later how does this affect my daughter?  Every time I asked her to cut things using a scissors she tells me she can’t because she has “cutting” issues.  We smile at each other because we both know what that means but the reality is…after 21 years she really does avoid cutting things out with scissors.

So, what kind of grade do I give this teacher?

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Living Without Faith

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This is Xander.

Xander is 10 years old. Xander has been Faith’s “brother” since we brought him home.  He and Faith were born a year apart.

Initially, Faith didn’t really care too much for Xander.  He was an intrusion into the household and to her lifestyle.  She was used to being the only “child” and now she had to share attention with this other canine.  Xander’s manly charms eventually won her over and they became best buddies.

Even though Xander was the man of the house, Faith was the boss.  Xander may have had the louder bark, but Faith was the dog that always set things in motion.  Xander wouldn’t think to bark unless Faith allowed him to do so.  It was Faith that did the commanding in the household; not only did she command Xander but the rest of us as well.  If Faith did not get her way she would refuse to “speak” or look at any of us.  Faith was the only animal I had ever encountered that could not be bribed by food.  No amount of her favorite food could coax her into becoming your friend again once she was ticked off.  If she were particularly mad, she would walk close enough to you to make you think you might be able to touch her only to dart away quickly leaving you looking rather foolish for even trying to pet her.

As Faith grew weaker over the years, Xander took up his pseudo role as boss dog.  The role seemed to be reversing and any stranger entering the house might have thought Xander was the dominant dog but if that same stranger stayed just a little while in our home they soon learned that Faith was still in command.  The smallest dog in the household was the largest life force.  Faith was the queen and all bowed down before her; even our Doberman when he finally became a part of the family.

The only time Xander didn’t listen to Faith was grooming day.  Faith didn’t really care for the groomers but Xander loved to get bathed, brushed and smelling good.  Xander thought he was so handsome on grooming day often strutting back and forth in front of the mirror to look at himself.  Faith, on the other hand, would rub her body against anything she could to get that nasty grooming smell of of her but before she could do that she had to escape Xander.    The groomer use to say she could put both dogs in one cage before grooming but she had to separate them afterwards because Xander would not leave Faith alone.  Once home from the groomers the torment was one.  Xander would chase Faith around the house just to ….  well, you know…and Faith wanted no part of that.  She’d eventually have to hide under a dresser where he was just a little too big to follow her.  The scene in my mind still makes me smile.

The bond between siblings is strong; even if those siblings are canine.  Xander now sits at one door or another waiting vigilantly for Faith to return.  He sits by the either door most of the day and night.  He sits, he doesn’t lay, and he cries.  He cries softly but he still cries.  Sometimes, I catch my father and Xander crying together.  Xander doesn’t know that his and my father’s beloved Faith is buried just beneath my father’s window, very close to the place she used slept under my father’s desk.

She is so close.  Her presence fills each and every room.  I can almost reach out and pet her….almost.

 


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A Different Kind of Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m pretty sure that there will be 10,258,265 blogs today that at least mention Father’s Day.  I’m also pretty sure that about 1 out of 3 families who have a living father will have a picnic or some other get together to celebrate Father’s Day.  I will be among the 33% of families who will celebrate with a picnic.

Today, as I was preparing food for the picnic my mind drifted back in time to when my daughters were 6 and 3.  I was sitting on a park bench at the softball fields watching my oldest daughter practice and my youngest daughter play with the other children in the dirt pile.  Halfway through the softball practice my husband arrives at the park and immediately my youngest daughter runs up to him gleefully calling, “Daddy, Daddy.”  In my mind’s eye he picked her up and twirled her around, but in reality I think he just picked her up to kiss her.  

Shortly after my husband’s arrival my oldest daughter runs in from the field to the park bench where I was sitting.  Nearly in tears she blurts out that the girl she was standing next to in the field told her that her sister and her could not have the same daddy and that one of them had a different dad.  My eldest daughter’s dark brown eyes were as big as saucers as she demanded to know, “Whose daddy is he?”

Since I really didn’t have a clue what the two children talked about in the field I was more than a little confused.  My oldest daughter’s heart was breaking before my eyes before I realized that she thought the man who she had called “daddy” over the last six years might not be her father.  After understanding her fear, I reassured her that the person she knew as “daddy” was indeed her father.  Slowly I saw the heartbreak leave her eyes and for a moment the air was light again.  Her head tilted to one side letting me know the wheels of her mind were spinning.  “Then who is my sister’s daddy?”  Once again I was lost.  What the heck was she talking about?  I could feel the tension mounting in her body once again as she wondered about her little sister’s paternity.  

Not having a clue what craziness had entered my daughter’s little head, I clasped her hand in mine and we went for a little walk to the end of the softball field so we could be alone.  We sat on the grass and I asked her to explain what in the world she was talking about.  There, at the edge of the softball field she explained to me that the little girl in the field had 6 brothers and sisters and they all had different dads.  The little girl explained to my daughter that kids could have the same mommy but they couldn’t have the same daddy.  

I sat for a brief moment not knowing what to say.  My daughter’s eyes were burrowing into mine waiting for a reply.  All I could do was hug her and re-assure her that her and her sister did share the same father.  Briefly, in a fleeting manor, I also explained that some children can have different fathers and different mothers but that didn’t mean that the person who lived with them didn’t love them just the same.  

I suppose she was happy with my answer because she smiled as she got up from the ground to join her friends at practice.  I watched as she ran to meet up with her friends.  My eyes first focused on my daughter and then on the little girl who told my daughter “her” facts of life.  

I think of that little girl often.  I wonder how her life is and has been.  I also wonder why I thought of her today on Father’s Day.