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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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.

 


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All for a Little Fun in the Sun

Pool opening day is a special event for my whole family  The joyous union of my children, husband and father coming together for such a special event is almost more than any sane person can comprehend.  The mere thought of all us standing around the still-covered pool looking first at the pool cover then each other sends chills down my spine.  Opening the pool this year was even more special than some of the previous years.  Pool opening, as well as many other special events in the life of a family, are memories that will endure a lifetime.  Thankfully, most of “special moment” memories are distorted just enough in the future to make the family laugh instead of want to strangle each other as the actual event unfolds.

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While the pool is still covered hope remains.  I can only imagine that those standing around the “beast” are offering up silent prayers (like I do) that this years unveiling will go smoothly; that all those involved will remain at least on speaking terms when the event is complete.  Personally, I pray to my Higher Power that my tongue will be seasoned with kindness and my actions will be controlled so as not to “accidentally” push anyone into the pool.

In my humble opinion, herein lies the main problem when opening the pool.  Nobody listens to me.  Everybody involved has their own idea how things should be done and when things don’t work out; others are blamed.  In my opinion, if everyone would just let me run the show things would run so smoothly.  Instead, my father has to point out my mistakes, and I, in turn have to point out my husband’s mistakes, and my husband has to point the blame on one thing or another that our children have done wrong until there isn’t anyone else to blame except for the dogs (and trust me, they get blamed as well).  Don’t get the wrong impression, we don’t just start out yelling and screaming at each other.  We start out calmly and build up to a frenzied crescendo like any other respectable family does.  As the mid-day sun rises and the temperature increases; so do the tempers.

All of the fussing and fighting up to this point is expected and may be even a little understood as normal.  It’s only when the “disaster” happens that tempers really flare.  Now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, like I say to myself, ‘if they would only listen to me disasters wouldn’t happen.”   My point exactly.  If only everyone would do exactly as I say, things would just work out flawlessly.  Life and pool openings would be nirvana.  Well, needless to say nobody listens to me, life isn’t ecstasy and disaster happens.

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Something like the pool cover falling into the pool dumping all the debris the family has meticulously tried to avoid happens.

Silence.  Pure unadulterated silence.  Nobody says a word; all hoping that the mud slowly infecting the pool is only a figment of our imagination.  This can’t be happening.  No.  Stop.

Without warning, the first swear word is uttered…and then another…and then another until the only words spoken are the words one can not find in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  Fingers are pointing, blame is being laid at everyone’s feet without anyone really knowing how the hideous event actually unfolded.

…and so, summer is officially here…let the fun in the sun begin….


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Find my Tuxedo

Tomorrow we have a family wedding to attend.  My father has been grumbling about attending since we received the invitation.

Dad:  “Why the hell do we have to go to that wedding, I don’t know those people!”

Me:  “Dad, those people live right behind us.”

Dad:  “I don’t know her [the bride].”

Me:  “No, you don’t know her.”

Dad:  “I told you I don’t know those people.”

Me:  “Dad, stop.  You know all our relatives that are going.”

Dad:  “I don’t like my relatives.”

Me:  “Oh, so you don’t like me?”

Dad:  “Sometimes I don’t.”

Me:  “That’s okay, because sometimes I don’t like you either.”

Dad:  “Really?  Why wouldn’t you like me?”

Me:  “Shall I give you all the reasons or just the top 100?”

Dad: “Hmm.  I know what’s happening here.”

Me:  “What’s happening?”

Dad:  “You’re trying to change the subject of why we shouldn’t go to the wedding.”

Me:  “Hey, don’t go.  Just don’t expect me to make excuses for you.”

Dad:  “You know I’m going.”

Me:  “Have you decided what you’re going to wear?”

Dad:  “My tuxedo.”

Me:  “Fine, I’ll look for something for you to wear.”

Several hours later…….

Me:  “Dad, do you know that you don’t have one pair of pants that don’t have grease stains on them, grass stains on them,  or paint stains on them, or a whole somewhere.”

Dad:  “That’s your fault.”

Me:  “My fault?”

Dad:  “You hide my damn clothes.”

Me:  “Dad, if I hid your clothes good enough, you’d  have a pair of pants.”

Dad:  “Just pick me out any damn pair of pants.  They are my pants, I’ll wear them if I want.”

Me:  “How about if I buy you a pair?”

Dad:  “How much is this wedding going to end up costing me.  I’m not the damn bride you know.”

Me:  “I know.  You don’t know the bride, remember?”

Dad:  “We’re just going to eat right?  I don’t want to go there all day.  I have things to do.”

Me:  “Dad, I’m going to the church at 2 and the reception at 7.  You can come with me or I can go without you.  It’s up to you.”

My husband:  “Your dad and I will just go to the reception.”

Me:  [Evil eye at the husband]

ImageDad:  “Fine.  I’ll go to both and ruin my day.  Just get my tuxedo ready.”


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I Love my Dad BUT………

My dad is 80 years old.  He lives with me.  He doesn’t live with me because I need to take care of him; if anything he takes care of me.  He lives with me because he took care of my mother for 12 years before she died and was utterly lost alone.  He never really asked much of me so when he asked for my family and I to move in with him, I couldn’t say no.  I knew the road would be bumpy but he’s my dad and love conquers all right?  Image

I really don’t know how to describe my father other than to say he is a grumpy, opinionated man with a great big heart.  I’m not really convinced he’s really grumpy, I think he just acts like it because he can.  At 80, he tells me he can act any way he pleases or say anything he wants because he has seniority.  “Well Dad, what was the reason you could say and do anything you pleased 40 years ago?”  Oh yeah, I forgot.  You said you could do what you wanted 40 years ago because you were “the parent”.  Growing up, my father had a reason for everything; and his reason (if it was unreasonable) always came with a free smile.

I believed everything my father said as I was growing up. He would never have thought of lying to me.  His strong voice and piercing brown eyes told so many truths of long ago.  I marveled at how brave he was enduring such hardships of his youth.  My father told me of the horrible winters in Puerto Rico when he would have to walk to school in his bare feet in the snow. He spoke of the time he was hunting in the jungle for food and a lion charged him and just when he was about to be eaten alive, the lion roared so loud that my father pushed his hand into the lion’s mouth, grabbed a hold of the inside of his tail and turned him inside out.  He said turning him inside out was very messy.

Perhaps turning the lion inside out and making a mess is what has made my father “very messy.”   In my father’s 80 years of life, he has learned to put “something” on every flat surface in my house.  If the surface is horizontal, he has something on it.  Currently in my kitchen  I have vegetable seeds, garlic for planting, a water hose nozzle, a Yankee’s hat, 2 pair of eyeglasses and a bath towel on my kitchen table.  In addition to the not so standard items on my table are the “standard” items of a dirty breakfast and lunch plate, a dirty coffee cup with dried on cracker crumbs, a couple of spoons, three half-full glasses of juice or iced tea,  and a piece of uneaten toast.  On my stove, in addition to the splattered grease on the stove top, is the frying pan and spatula used to cook eggs   On my breakfast bar I have two screwdriver, an old torn towel, car wax, a box of some sort of fertilizer, plant food and a small shovel used for planting.

Yes, that is what I came home to just today at noon.  I looked around and was so angry and frustrated that tears immediately filled my eyes.  As I angrily picked up all of the mess and put things where they belonged he walked into the house with his shoes full of mud.  “The produce is looking good even after that initial frost.  I think I saved most of the garden.  The cabbage looks good at least.”

There he stood in his “gardening” pants, mud on his shoes and hands looking proud as hell.  What could I say?

“Yeah Dad, I can’t wait to eat the tomatoes you planted.”

He walked out of the side door muttering, “I’m going to have to cut the grass tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.”