Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Someone Tried to Kill Me... And Then Facebook Told Me I Knew Him.

When I was in fourth grade, I was kind of a weird kid. I was made fun of for everything. I was made fun of for being fat. I was made fun of for being a crybaby. I was made fun of for my lunches (an apple and some apple juice). I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do – hang out with the boys, or be girly. I had my first REAL crush. I was good a dodge ball and “wall ball” and foursquare. But not much else. I was easily distracted and was not popular. I discovered music and Atari that year. I also discovered pain. Real pain.

For most of the fourth grade, We had our desks pushed up together in five desk blocks. I sat across from this boy, Dan, who thought it was the most wonderful thing to watch me cry. He would do things and say things, just to, as he put it, watch the tears well up in my eyes. He thought it was fascinating. Other than having to deal with him sitting by me, we didn't really associate outside of the class. He lived in the same neighborhood, so I would see him once in a while bullying the kids smaller than us. But not much more than that. Sometimes, he was actually nice to me.

I wasn't bullied so much as I think people would just do things that would embarrass me or make me cry in some way. They thought it was funny. I once invited my crush to a skating party, and he said yes. But when mom and I went to pick him up, no one answered the door. Talk about a crush from a crush. Another time, I was trying to be a tomboy, and one of the kids got me in a headlock and I couldn't get out, so I bit him. He told on me, and I had to apologize to him in front of the class. Somehow, I agreed to meet a girl from my class “across the street after school” to have a fight with her. It seemed the whole school was in on that. I hit her with my red Tupperware lunch box while she gave me “dead legs.” Eventually our teacher came out and lectured us. We have been friends ever since.

A lot of turmoil happened. I had my first taste of popularity – I was invited to a classmate's slumber party. I had fun for the most part, but of course, I wasn't getting the attention I wanted, so I had a crying fit. Everything was fine the next day, but of course, that never lasts long. As soon as we went back to school, the unpopular ones were shunned. At least I knew now what I had been missing. At this party, I was introduced to The Go-Go's. I've never looked back. I still was able to discuss music with the other girls like I knew what I was talking about.

I learned how to ride a bike that year. I was a late bloomer, but I met some wonderful girls my age in my neighborhood that would not give up until I learned. Luckily, it only took me one day with them by my side. They lived across from the cul-de-sac that Dan lived in. I was always going over there once I learned to ride. I fell once and messed up my leg, and for a little while I was off the bike. But I couldn't wait until I was able to go visit my new best friends. On the next block over was a friend of my parents – he also had the only Atari in the neighborhood. When I went to visit my friends, and then found out they had the Chicken Pox, I had decided to go visit my parents' friend to play his Atari.

This is where things get weird. Riding my bike down the street, who did I run into? Dan. He ran out, like he wanted to chat with me. I just chatted away, like any normal kid. In the midst of chatting with me, he suddenly straddled the front wheel of my bike. I thought that was kind of weird. But, again... chatting away. I was getting a little nervous, because he kept getting closer to me. Without warning, he reached over and grabbed me around the neck with his fingers.

His hands slid around my neck and suddenly he stuck his thumbs into my throat. Both of them. I was amazed that I couldn't breathe. I tried to pull his hands away. I was able to remain standing, but I was choking out “help, help!” I was not able to pull away, his hands were too tightly closed around my neck. I had braced his legs against the front wheel of my bike. It was impossible to get away. At first I thought he was just joking around. But he waited too long and his grip grew stronger and he was laughing manically. I was suddenly terrified. I struggled, but nothing could help me get away from him.

I was about to give up. This boy was killing me. A boy! No more than nine! Killing me! Choking me in the middle of the street of a nice neighborhood, in the middle of a bright sunny summer day! A car drove by. No one stopped. They probably thought we were playing a harmless game. Another car slowly drove by. The person in the drivers side waved at me. It was someone I knew! I was unable to wave back. He stopped. It was the guy with the Atari!

He got out of the car, because he noticed that I had been struggling and didn't wave to him. He pulled Dan off of me, and shook him, yelling at him the whole time. Dan got freaked out and ran home. The man, checked to make sure I was all ok, and threw my bike in the trunk of his car and dropped me off at home. I was a bit shaken up, but more puzzled about why Dan did that. I didn't speak much to him after that, except when I had to, but that wasn't until sixth grade, and we were in band together. For years, there were weird stories about him that circulated the neighborhood. He just kind of disappeared.

I had forgotten about almost all of this until one day, I ran across his picture in the “people you may know” side bar on Facebook. His eyes stood out to me and I felt cold. I recalled what happened to me all those years ago (possibly around 30). I never ever want to see him or talk to him again. Sometimes I am curious as to whether he has tried or succeeded in killing anyone else. But I'm actually scared to find out.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Story of Crazy - Roomates, Round One

Me and Mickey. This was during the happy times J and I lived together

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who hasn’t had at least one crazy roommate. I may not have had very many, but I am certainly no stranger to the crazy.

In 1993, I moved out for the first time. I had started a new job at Disneyland, and since a friend of mine needed someone to live with, we moved into a little apartment together near the park. He was one of my best friends at the time, and I was acting like a little mother – because that’s what I did. I was also extremely naïve. I was barely 20, and had lived a fairly sheltered life. I trusted WAY too easily. J was a lady's man. He loved the ladies and he did anything he could to get in their pants. He was also a con artist. I still truly believe that we were very good friends and that for a time, he considered me family. But at some point, our relationship became something else entirely. We weren’t dating. We weren’t even sleeping in the same room. But I had a crush on him that made me cry on a regular basis. I would write lists of things that we “needed” to talk about, and usually the last thing on the list was about “us.” I think it all started out with me being the crazy one.

At first we had so much fun, being out on our own for the first time. We watched TV, had his family over to use the pool (which we got kicked out of because there were too many people), went to Disneyland, and had our mutual friends over. All the craziness that happened at our apartment would make another story entirely.

As time quickly wore on, J had a very hard time holding down his job. I had bought him a car so he could get out and do this. It was some sort of door-to-door salesperson job. He was free to decide on his schedule and then make his own appointments. Pretty soon, he would disappear for entire afternoons. He told me he got paid once a month, but only when he made a sale. I only saw one, very small, paycheck. So, I was supporting us. I thought he was leaving every day to go to work. I was wrong. We played, we ran up my credit cards (which up until then, I had been marvelous at keeping track of and paying on time), and did whatever we wanted to… well he did. He pretty much told me what I could and couldn’t do and who I could have over and who I couldn’t have over. I tried to win his favor by buying him everything he wanted. This included an amazing car stereo, a gold necklace, and a tattoo or two. But then I began to notice strange and large amounts of money missing from my accounts.

About two months into this mess, he stopped going to work. I didn’t really realize this, as I was at work myself. He came by a couple of times to see me at work, for which I was always glad. One time, he ran into one of my coworkers while looking for me. He told me she would be his. They went out later that week. She moved in with us the next day. Suddenly, there was a mattress in our living room. We had two TV’s there and they were both on 24/7. She would eat, but she would wouldn’t clean because of her “sensitive skin.” When she wasn’t at work, they were laying around sleeping or having sex, in the LIVING ROOM.

It was about this time that the money ran out. When I went to buy a personal safe. I felt in my gut that things of mine may be in danger of disappearing. I should have listened to my gut feeling. That's when my last card was declined, I went home and took two boxes of diet pills. This did nothing but make me sick for three days. Neither J nor his girlfriend cared. Things got really weird at this point.

I was happy that one of our friends who was a Marine had set me up with one of his buddies, and I saw him a couple of times. Unfortunately, I also “got” something from him. Meanwhile J had been freaking out on us. He took his girlfriend’s car to Northern California to visit some old friends of his. Apparently, he ran her manual transmission into the ground and also found some girls up there, too. When he came back, he and his very large knife took a nice rip out of my favorite Mickey Mouse poster which I had on the door to my room. At the same time, I looked so thin and unhealthy every time I visited my parents that they started giving me food which I hoarded in my closet with my bedroom door locked.

One night I came home from work, and found that my bedroom had been broken into, my food taken, and a few things ransacked. A contract that J and I had signed was gone. It had been written before we moved in together and stated that he would pay me back the $800 that I lent him to buy his car. Because of this, we ended up getting into an argument and he hit me over the head with a beer bottle. The beer, I assume, he got from my closet where I had been saving it for the weekend. I found out later that once he had gotten into my room, he coerced a friend into telling him where the contract was hidden. Once he found it, he burned it.

A few days later I needed to go see my Mom about a delicate situation which involved the aforementioned Marine. It was a Monday night which I remember because we had to wait for the football game to end and Dad to go to bed before we could talk. Dad asked me how things were going and I talked to him about how J had hit me with that beer bottle. We didn't really talk about anything that was important after that. Mom helped me out with my issue and I went on my way. We no longer had a phone, because we couldn’t afford to pay the bill, but I did still have a pager. It went off wildly the following day. It was my dad. He told me that I would need to be ready to get my stuff and get out on Saturday morning.

Friday night, I cleaned everything up and began packing. Luckily, J and his girlfriend were out until about 2 in the morning. They didn’t even really notice that something weird was going on. I packed up as much as I could before passing out because I was so tired. The next morning, Dad's page came bright and early. He was on his way with the son of one of his customers and a friend of his. They had both been released from prison recently and were raring to go. They brought a couple of huge vans and all three stalked into the apartment. One of the guys went over and opened the curtains in the living room near where J and his girlfriend were sleeping and yelled “rise and shine!” J was furious until he was told to sit down and shut up which scared the crap out of him.

Dad and his friends tried to take everything they could of mine, but I’m sure there were some things left behind. I just didn’t have a chance to pack everything up. I moved back into my parents’ house, but I was still terrified of J. The next time I saw him was on a Friday night, when I got paid. He waited at the top of the tunnel that led to the parking lot until I got off work. He said something to my co-workers to make them go away, and when they did he demanded my paycheck. He felt that since I'd run out on them I owed them my check for the rent money. I told him no, and ran to my car in the parking lot. He yelled out a bunch of threats! I drove around the corner to call my parents to let them know. They slept through the call.

J didn’t come around any more after that His girlfriend had not spoken to me since I had moved out, but after a while started showing up at small get-togethers with our mutual friends. I learned that after the whole fiasco, they left the apartment in the middle of the night, losing a few things in the rush – such as his floor length leather coat. Then she met a Marine from the same squadron as our friend. She came to work one day married to the marine and then she abruptly disappeared. J also disappeared. I ran into him a while later, after I had gone through bankruptcy to pay for all the credit card bills we ran up.

When he had been out on his “job,” he was tempted by a customer to use speed. That was all it took. He ended up going to this guy’s house every day and doing drugs. A lot of my money went toward paying for that. This explained a lot of things that hadn’t really phased me before, such as why the TVs were constantly on, why J was awake all night watching them, why he had such a bad smell, why he never ate, stuff like that. When he explained these things to me, he also apologized profusely to me for getting me involved in this and taking advantage of me. After that night, it would be almost ten years before I’d see him again. And at that time, that was alright with me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Story Does Not Have a Happy Ending

It was right before Christmas 2001. I was on my way to the freeway from work when I saw the kitten run out into the street. It was hit by a car. At first I didn’t realize what it was. I thought something had blown out in to the street. It wasn’t until I closer that I realized it was lumpy! It didn’t look too bad, so I pulled over to the side of the road.

It took me a minute before I could run out into the center of the street. It was rush hour before a holiday on a busy street, after all. It was moving a little. Unfortunately, as I was parking and trying to get out into the street, poor little kitty had been run over a couple of times. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to get it out of the road.

I picked it up and ran back to where my car was. I could still feel it breathing, so I felt there had to be hope. For some reason, I still thought that after looking the little guy over. He was tiny, no bigger than the length of my forearm, and black and white. I could see his labored breathing in my hand. He was covered in blood, but I didn’t want to move him around too much to find out where it was from. I grabbed a jacket out of my car and put it down on the trunk, and put the little guy on it.

I looked him over a little and realized that he may be in worse shape than I thought. He was pretty flat in areas, and very floppy. But amazingly, that wasn’t what caught my eye the most. One of his eyes was ok looking, and kept staring at me, no matter where I moved. But the other eye, well, let’s just say it wasn’t IN his head. It wasn’t gone, it was still attached, but no longer in the socket. That kind of creeped me out. But I soldiered on.

Now that I picked this poor injured cat out of the middle of the road, what in the world was I going to do with it? I had my cell phone, but because I didn’t know what to do, I did what anyone else would do. I called work. They have computers there, right? Plus, at the time, I worked for an animal magazine. Someone there should know what I should do! I got one of the sales people from Dog Fancy, Gene. He’s a very nice man with a DJ voice. I was hysterically crying at this point, because I not only felt bad for the kitty, but I was so frustrated with myself for not knowing the area that I had worked in for the last two years. He couldn’t think of much except to call the Humane Society or the city animal control, and he tried his best to calm me down. He didn’t have either number, and had to go because there were other calls coming in.

I ended up calling Information to get connected to animal control. I got connected, and surprisingly, someone was there. It was after five on a holiday weekend, after all. I can only imagine how crazy I looked, flailing my arms while on my cell phone, parked in the driveway of the parking lot and yelling into the phone like a loon while covered in blood from this poor kitty! I finally nailed down when they would be able to come out. But I wasn’t sure I could wait for them to show up, so I told the person on the phone that I would lay the kitty down in the grass next to the driveway. They agreed that would be fine.

I decided I had to wait. I couldn’t leave the poor little kitty alone. It was getting chilly and it was the holidays, after all, I wasn’t heartless. I waited with kitty and held him while he took his last shuddering breaths. I hope he went in peace. That started me crying all over again. And then the animal control truck arrived, it only took a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. The lady got out of the truck and took out a giant shovel. I told her that the kitty had passed before she got there. She understood and had me place the kitty on the ground, she picked him up with the shovel and put him into the back of the truck. She told me to have a Merry Christmas, got into her truck and drove away.

I did not feel right, but there was nothing I could do except go home. So, off I drove, sobbing all the way.

Photo credit: Pick Your Clan

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Trouble With Pests

Bugs and I have a love and hate relationship. They love me and I hate them. Just seeing some bugs or spiders will send me into a screaming frenzy. I've had terrible nightmares about bugs, spiders, and rodents. Remember those movies from the 70's with giant ants? Those are the kind of dreams I have. They have caused me to scream in my sleep. They have caused me to jump out of bed. As a kid, I even had screaming, sleep-running issues (as you can read from one of my earlier blog entries). I am not fascinated by bugs in any way, shape or form.

As a kid in the 70's, I spent a lot of time outdoors. Well, we all did. There wasn't much to do indoors. In Southern California, it was easy to be outside a lot, anyway. It was always sunny. We went to the beach, we played in our front yards, we ran down the street. I wasn't afraid of what was in the grass, it was just a place to lay down and roll around. Until I realized what was in there. WORMS!! Ewwwww! And sometimes, even a bee or wasp.

One day, I was playing around in the grass, probably near a planter somewhere. I stepped backward, right onto a wasp. While my dad went out to rid the world of a wasp nest, mom had me on the counter with my foot in the sink to take the sting out. Over the years, we dealt with more wasp nests than I could ever count. I avoided several areas of the outside of our house, including some of the backyard and in front of the garage, sometimes even the entry way of the house.

Dad, of course, did the yardwork. I remember him hosing down the wasps nests, and doing the cut backs on our bushes, and cutting the grass. At one point, he had to get up on a ladder to cut something back. Boy, did he piss off the bees. He was attacked by those big old black bees. Luckily, he was able to get down off the ladder safely. But he was stung about seven or eight times. This made me terrified to go in the front yard or near our plants for any reason.

But inside, that was a different story. Spiders, mosquitoes and ants, oh my! We even once had a mouse problem. We could hear them in the walls. It scared the crap out of me when I could hear them scratching their way through the walls. When I was young, like before the 80's, at the end of our street and behind our house were fields. We would take the dogs running there. But it also served as a lovely place for wildlife to live. When they started building houses behind us, the mice moved in. I saw one once. It ran across the hall and underneath our green wicker hamper. My mom was trying to chase it down with a broom. But that was the only time we SAW one. When we cleaned out my closets or drawers, we would often find mouse poop. Luckily, once the condos were built at the end of the street and there were no more fields the rodent issue seemed to disappear.

When it rains in California, it RAINS. It doesn't do this off and on drizzly crap that it does in the Pacific NW. When it rained, we would get ants. They would come in the power outlets and take over. Our house (other than my bedroom) was generally spotless. Dishes were done at the end of meals, there was no food stuffs (except my room) anywhere. The ants were never in my room, probably contrary to popular belief. There would be thousands of them in the kitchen. You could see the line of them from the power outlet to the butter dish and the sink. I think we threw away more butter because of that. But I would also find them in the bathroom for no apparent reason. They would be in the bathtub, they would be in the sink. There was no getting rid of them. Really.

Every year, you could always tell it was summer. You know how? My shoulders. They would be covered in bites. My mom used to say that I must have had sweet blood. I probably have some scarring on my shoulders from how much I scratched. The mosquitoes would eat me alive. I never saw them. I would just wake up one day, and start scratching. Maybe this was my alternative to never having the chicken pox. Instead of having those ten days of being covered in horrid itchy blobs, I got years and years of suffering through my shoulders.

Now we come to my two favorites: spiders and termites. Termites freak the crap out of me. Not that they did anything to me, but because they swarmed my room one day and sent me screaming from my room. I actually thought they were flying ants. As I ran screaming downstairs, my parents were understandably alarmed. They only laughed when they heard “flying ants” for about a second when they checked it out. My dad was pissed. Not at me, of course. But because we were getting infested by lovely house eating bugs. I ended up having to stay out of my room for several hours, while my dad sprayed. It was great going on vacation – every time, we had to set off those damn bug bombs. Ugh.

I have a very real aversion to spiders. I don't know where it came from. When I was really young, I went on a trip to the desert with some friends of my parents and their kids. Most of the trip was great. But they collected tarantulas and scorpions and put them into these plastic-y things. I swore that they were going to come alive, get out of that plastic stuff and get me while I slept. I still have nightmares about this sometimes. When I was an adult, I had to move home for a short period of time. I chose to sleep on the floor. Sleeping on the floor was not the best choice for one reason – I was eaten alive by baby spiders. I sure was pretty with all my spots!

Now, I will see something shadowy in a corner, I jump, thinking it's a bug. I see something move out of the corner of my eye, I think it's a bug. I even freak out if I see a beetle on the wall at work, or a spider in the light fixture. I'm a mess. I hope I get over it one day... But probably not. Uck, even thinking about it right now, is giving me the twitchies....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My First Trauma - AKA Lady Adventure Time

Males may want to stay away from this post. It's about girly stuff. Sorry. I was inspired by Hyperbole and a Half. My story isn't half as funny as hers (although possibly just as traumatic). Remember, this also may be exaggerated. This is MY memory, although my mother disagrees with part of the story.

In fifth grade we had “the video” and the lecture when they sent all the boys out of the room. And in sixth grade, it was discussed a bit as part of health class that was taught by the lady that was also our P.E. teacher, Mrs. McGregor. Going through these classes, well I don't know about anyone else, but I always thought – that's not gonna happen to me! So, being immature, and of course young, I didn't pay much attention. The fact that I did this in all my classes makes no difference here.

I was barely a month into my eleventh year of life when I started my period. I found out in my second class of the day, P.E. I was horrified. I had been wearing a white mini-skirt with white shorts underneath. I had given an oral report to my first class of the day. I was changing for P.E. class and happened to look down while taking off my shorts. O. M. G! What the Hell is THAT? Aw, HELL NO. I may be a girl, but this is NOT happening to me. My mind moved further... how many people saw this in science, and how many people didn't say anything? How many people laughed at me? How many people made fun of me? I started crying. Uncontrollably.

One of the girls who was near me in the locker room – quite possibly a famous person, as her last name started with an E and mine an F – asked me if I was ok. I whispered, quite shakily, or at least tried to whisper (it may have come out as a shriek at this point, as my voice often does when I'm crying), “I think I started my period, can you get Mrs. McGregor?” That got some sudden attention of what seemed like everyone in the locker room – the sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Again, I was horrified. Mrs. McGregor came running over, crying. Not because she was horrified, quite the contrary, she was EXCITED. If no one else in the locker room knew.... they did now. She fucking announced it. I don't think I have ever been more embarrassed at that point, or even possibly ever again as I was that second. She didn't seem to notice. She immediately sent me to the bathroom with the old fashioned pads. The kind with the belt that you have to safety pin into your underwear. How in the hell did these things work? I am pretty sure I made a huge mess of myself.

I finally made her understand that this “womanhood” was all over my WHITE clothes that I had to wear the rest of the day. My mom was luckily home that day with... you guessed it – cramps! I felt safe in calling her for help. The women of the P.E. Department led me into their office to use their phone. I picked it up and dialed home. I heard the phone pick up on the other end. NO. This can not be happening. Here is what I remember the conversation going:


(still sobbing) “Dad, please let me talk to mom.”

“Jenny, what's wrong?”

“Please, just let me talk to mom.”

“Not until you tell me what's wrong.” (he wasn't being mean, he was just worried)

“I stttttttarteddddd my perioooooooooooood!”

“Oh, honey, let me get your mom.”

I was hoping that I would never have to tell my father that I was, in fact, a girl. Well, too late, apparently. Mom took over the call and told me she would bring clothes for me to change into. My teacher called the school nurse, who walked me to the office. My mom came to bring me clothes. When she did, I think she understood how traumatized I was. Somehow she convinced the school (“we usually don't let girls go home for this”) nurse to let me go home.

My class was running the “Cross Country” that day, and I could picture them all seeing me while I was climbing into the car, seeing my stained shorts and laughing at me. I could not stop thinking about that once I got home and put on my pajamas.

Once school got out, my best friend's mom called because she found out. She apologized to me. That made me feel better. Not really. I also found out that one of the reasons that my teacher was so excited was because I was the first girl in my class to get my period. Lucky ME! I also became the center of all period related jokes. I seemed to be the only one that ended up getting the dreaded “pants spots.” Sometimes to the point of having to call my mom often to bring me fresh clothes, or bringing a jacket or sweatshirt to tie around my waist. Oh girls, don't tell me YOU never did that!!

My best friend started hers less than a month later. She didn’t tell me for a while, but at least she was lucky. She started hers at home and it was much less traumatic for her. One day, she just told me all matter of factly. Having gotten my period so early gave me so many more traumatic experiences for me to live through.

Oh, the event of “Becoming a woman.” What fun.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ten Years Ago, March First

I can't believe it's been ten years. I still remember the day he told us. I had just come back from my first week at work, after being out for 6 months because I had my own cancer to deal with. He had been sick for almost that whole length of time. First, he had breathing problems, which the doctors said was just pneumonia. Then he got puffy. Very puffy, like he was on steroids. After all this time, the problems still didn't go away. Finally, he was sent in for more tests. I came home that day to find him sitting in his usual spot. I knew he had been in for the results of tests that day, in fact, he had probably just got home. My mom wasn't quite home from work yet, but I knew she would be there soon.

I asked him what the results were. He kind of looked at me in that “dad” sort of way – halfway between – I may be joking and I may not be. And said, it's over. I didn't know whether or not to take him seriously. I started to crack a smile, thinking he must be joking. Then mom walked in. She was stressed, very obviously, and very rightly so. She hadn't even put her stuff down, and she asked what the results were. He looked at the table, then at her. They said it's lung cancer. He was serious this time. I watched the color drain from my mother's face, she turned a sickly gray color. I thought it was only in books that these things happened. She actually aged before my eyes. She steadied herself with the closest chair and sat down.

At this point, I really don't remember much else. This wasn't supposed to happen. Parents are supposed to be infallible. Parents aren't supposed to get sick, not before they are old enough to walk you down the aisle and spoil your children. I was supposed to be old and gray before i had to bury them. I felt like he had just begun to live. He was just getting his life back after I had been sick for so long. They both had. This scared me. And yes, I was selfish about it. I just got MY life back, too. I was finally allowed to live in my 20's. And not I had to deal with something I should have to deal with until I had a husband to help me along the way. Yes it was selfish. And I'm sorry that I was selfish. But I think, at least I tried to make up for it.

There are things that you may not know about my dad. Most people saw him as this awesome guy with passion. He was funny, hysterically so. He had anger, and everyone knew when he was mad. He had opinions, and everyone knew what those were. If you were lucky enough, he would teach you why those were important to him, and very possibly change your mind to match his own. He was a great father figure to many, many of my friends. Unless they were trying to do something sinister to eventually take advantage of me in some way, he welcomed them all into the fold and they loved him. He was very genuine of heart. He wasn't a good actor. He wore his heart on his sleeve.

As his only child, I got to see some things that no one else did. I know what he thought of everything and everyone. And why. But much of this was told in confidence, which most of you know, isn't easy for me to do. I am a gossip of the worst kind. Guess where I learned that from? But, for the most part, I was able to keep my mouth shut about things that were said in our house. No one made me laugh like my dad did. We were so similar in so many ways, that jokes to us carried for years. There are still jokes that even my mom doesn't get. We had such fun together.

One thing that he did for me, he always made me feel safe from outside sources. I remember the first time I saw him scared, however remotely. The year that The Night Stalker came to town. Dad slept with a baseball bat next to his bed. That was the only way he let on that he was worried. A year later was the first time I ever saw him cry. It was when my mom's grandfather passed away. He was eating dinner, and suddenly, he broke down in tears over his mashed potatoes. It was over as fast as it began. Those two events scared and scarred me. But I never felt unsafe, no matter what.

Oh, I could be terrified of his wrath – which always just included a lot of yelling and probably a lecture and being cut off of something. But never of anyone or anything else. I always felt he'd be there to stick up for me or pull me out of a bad situation. And until the day he died, he was. Even when this close [] to never coming out of bed again, he still scared the hell out of my first roommate.

My first roommate and I were great friend when we moved in together. Then he got into some ugliness and became not such a great friend anymore. The last straw for us all was the night he hit me over the head with a beer bottle. Dad arrived with two of his burly, ex-con buddies and moved me out that weekend. About three months before dad passed, we took him to Disneyland and took an adorable picture of him, all tiny and looking like a little old sickly man. He was all bundled up, and had the purest smile of joy. I showed that picture to the old roommate about a month later (mind you, this was about 8 years after living together). He told me “that man” still scared the crap out of him, even looking like that. Oh, the kind of fear that my father instilled in the men in my life.

He also stuck up for me in so many ways. Any time I had issues with companies or people harassing me, my dad was on the phone, harassing them back. No one was going to mess with his kid. No one was going to sell her a crappy car, or make her pay for something she didn't have the money for, or even continue calling when she was sick. Even though he was sick, could hardly breathe or walk, he still came up to my bathroom to kill a spider for me that was in the shower.

He was a kid at heart. He loved stuffed animals and had great pride in buying them or winning them for himself, my mom and me. He was so excited the day I came home with a rubber band six shooter for him. He loved shopping. He loved going to Disneyland. One time, we went, just me and him. It was one of the best times I had ever had. That night, he told me that it doesn't matter how old you get, always keep the kid inside you. It'll keep you young. He loved a good joke. He was the guy that bought me my first Mickey Mouse, instilling in me a forever love of Disney. He loved to teach. Especially sports or music. I have a hard time watching basketball now, because he was my Laker game partner. We would watch the games and yell together.

Once he found out that he was sick, he basically retired from his gardening business. He could never wait until I got home from work to tell me some juicy piece of gossip. And every day when I did get home, from work or school, he would make me sit down and tell him all the gossip from work, or what we did in class. He joined the football pool at my work. He met all my friends. He had them over for parties. It was weird for me, that the role he took when I was in high school or just out, he continued with my adult friends. And they flocked to him. And he loved every minute of it.

When I was sick, he took me aside one day and chatted with me about how scared he was. He told me that he should have been careful what he wished for. He didn't want this to happen to me, and he wished that he could have taken it away if he could. He started to cry. It made me uncomfortable, because I couldn't stand to see him cry. I told him he had to stop it because he looked like Grandma when he made that face. It made him laugh and the tension was broken (see what I mean about the weird private jokes?). Unfortunately, he did get what he “wished” for. He took my cancer away from me. And took it upon himself. And look where that got us.

Watching my father die was one of the most horrible, amazing, wonderful and heartbreaking things I've ever had to do. Yeah, those are weird adjectives to use, but the circle of life is weird like that. I'm glad that I was able to hold his hand while he took his last breaths. I would like to think that was a comfort to him. I hope he was able to find peace. I tried in those last few months to show him how much he meant to me. I hope he was able to see it. And although we had our ups and downs, as families always do, I did love him, and I still do. He was a great dad, and friend... once we were able to get to that point. I'll always miss him, and wonder what life would have been like if he had been able to meet my husband, etc. But I'm comforted in knowing that he would have loved him, and quite possibly the life I live. True, no one will ever understand those private jokes and the strange things that we used to talk about and the things that he taught me. But I guess that's what makes relationships?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: My dad was the coolest guy. Anyone who knew him knows how true that is, and those of you who didn't, you missed a great experience. I miss you dad, and I will always love you. Keep a space up there warm for me! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Holding Back

The other night, I was watching My Sister's Keeper with my husband. About 15 minutes into the movie, I started crying. As the next 30 minutes, my crying got worse and worse, until my husband had to turn it off and hold me while I sobbed into his chest. Yes, the movie is sad. It has sad content... It's about a family that is dealing with their oldest daughter having Leukemia, and their youngest daughter was constructed and born to be the donor for her older sister. The younger wants medical emancipation - the ability to make her own decisions about letting them take parts from her body, etc. The story is basically about the turmoil that happens once the suit is filed against the parents. It also includes many flashbacks of the illness of the older girl.

I don't know exactly what made me start crying. The book, which I read months ago, didn't have this effect on me. But once I started, I just couldn't stop. I ended up having nightmares that night that were so disturbing that my husband had to wake me up because I was crying and hitting him in my sleep. I vaguely remember the dreams, but I have no idea why I was hitting him.

I thought about it the next day. There were several things that struck me in this movie. The girl with cancer refused to get out of bed one day. She was depressed, she said. She was ugly. And everyone stared at her. I think this is the point that made me cry. The more I thought about it, the more I think I was catching up with the crying that I didn't do when I was sick.

I understand how this little girl felt, even though I was not young when it happened to me, the cancer that I had was not incurable or even unfixable. But, I had my moments when it was everything I could do NOT to lock myself in a room and sob myself to sleep. I really didn't feel that I had that option. I felt, for many reasons, that I needed to put on a brave face, both for my family and for my friends. I was not going to be "the face of cancer." I was not going to be weak, and bedridden. I was not going to be sick. I was going to laugh and enjoy life like I was doing before I was diagnosed.

I felt I expected to be in good cheer, and happy all the time. So, I did what was expected of me. I would go out, I would go to the place I worked and I would visit people and "be happy." I cried maybe twice. But usually it had nothing to do with being sick. I had a fight with a friend, or one with my dad. Some teenage girls made fun of the way I looked, and I was so upset, but I never cried about that. Most of the time, I kept my thoughts to myself. I was lucky in that first round, though. It seemed that I had a million friends. People seemed so happy to see me, I got cards from work almost every week. The one time I was hospitalized, my room was never empty. It was almost like people were vying for my attention.

After I started getting better, suddenly no one wanted to talk to me. People were cruel behind my back. Friends started dropping like flies. I went back to work and was treated somewhat unfairly. At the same time, my father found out he was dying of lung cancer. I truly felt I had no one to talk to. I couldn't go home and voice my fears or my sadness. Again, I had to remain upbeat, because we didn't want to upset my dad. And I didn't want to upset my mom, either. She had enough to deal with. When my dad died, I got apologies about the treatment I had received. Some people came back to be my friend, others never came around. But again, I never got to truly grieve in my own way. No one ever asked me how I was doing. My friends were more worried about my mom (and rightfully so), and so was I. I had to take care of her the first couple of months, our roles had become reversed. I made that promise to my dad.

Within two years of my dad's passing, I was diagnosed again with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. This time was different. The chemo that they gave me obviously didn't work the first time, and my body had already received the maximum amounts of those drugs in my system. they had to try something different. The day after I was diagnosed, I was formally let go from my job. I wasn't even given a chance to say goodbye. My car - that I picked out with my dad - died, so with the inheritance that I had, I had to buy a new one. I felt like my life was falling apart. Things had finally been going right. I cried about silly things. But never really faced the big picture.

The new treatment I was on required me to be in the hospital for 6 days at a time, every three weeks. So, I was alone. My mom tried to visit as often as she could, but she was still working. Friends stopped by once in a while, but I don't know if it was hard for them, or they just couldn't come by. I had one friend that came by, but as soon as she got there, her husband called and demanded that she come home. It broke my heart. I was in about my third treatment, when I realized something was wrong. I didn't feel right, and my head hurt. I was suddenly vomiting all over the place, which was something that didn't happen before that. The nurses had been treating me like a child, trying to help me use the restroom, and teasing me about things that rather annoyed me. But when I passed out and was scared and vomiting, they wouldn't come. A doctor came and signed my release papers without even looking at me. I went home. I looked awful.

Well, there is cancer awful, and there is this awful. This awful was when I went home that night and had no idea who I was when I looked in the mirror. My head faded into my chest and shoulders. I could barely move, and it caused so much pain just to do that. I finally had to go to bed. I couldn't sleep. My head just hurt so bad. I sat up in bed and called out to my mom. I told her it was time to call the ambulance. I tried to stand up, fell on the floor, narrowly missing the bottom of my dresser, and vomited. I was somehow in the state of mind to remember to turn my head so I didn't choke, and also to remind my mom that she needed to open the gate. I really only remember being lifted over the stairway, and then trying to pee while hoisted up on a gurney. The next few days were a blur.

I was terrified. I was alone, the doctors and nurses weren't nice to me. They put me in positions for extended periods of time where I had trouble breathing. They had me covered in suction cups to monitor my vitals, and every time I'd move, it would set off alarms. I am a side sleeper, and I had to stay perfectly still on my back. I was warned not to move. When they did an ultrasound on my chest area, they found that I had a myocardial infarction - heart attack. There were blood clots all between my wrists. It was caused by a staph infection at the site of my Hickman Catheter (chest tube). So my catheter had to be removed. Oh, and I had a sinus infection. That was why my head hurt. They told me that if I moved too much, one of the blood clots could break free and kill me. Yeah, I wasn't scared. At all.

After everything was said and done and I was in the ICU, people tried to visit. Ok, just two. My grandma flew down to help my mom. My best friend's Kevin and Heidi both came in. Two of my former coworkers tried to visit, but I was unable to accept any more visitors. My coworkers had dropped off a video tape for me. It was many of my old coworkers telling me to get well. A few of them were crying. I couldn't watch the whole thing the first time around because I would start crying and it was dangerous for me to get too emotional. I had to wait and watch it when I was a little bit more functional.

When I finally got moved into a regular ward after the ICU, the nurse I had the first night told me that I could very easily die in my sleep. Or something like that. Upon being released from the hospital a week or two later, this nurse tried to hug me. I vomited on her. This was a glimpse of happiness for me. After I returned home, strange things affected me. Too much noise made me sick. Sudden laughter or crying made me sick. My antibiotic made me sick every time I had to take it. My mom was gone once a week for three weeks, because she wanted to take a class on computers so she would get a free laptop for me. Grandma was around for a while, but had to go home. I was told not to come into work to visit, because it might upset my former co-workers. I couldn't drive myself anywhere because I was confined to a wheel chair. I went to visit another friend and he could barely even look at me. I was told that I was bad for business. Another friend took advantage of me while I was sick and vulnerable. I had very few visits from friends.

Around November, I got some happier news. I had been approved for Italian Greyhound Rescue Adoption. They found a dog that would suit me perfectly. I went to meet him and he loved me. I was unable to pick him up until after I finished my treatment, so they agreed to take care of him.

I finally had come to the bad place in my treatment. I was shipped off to Beverly Hills and Cedar's Sinai Hospital Cancer Center for a stem cell transplant. This may have been the hardest time for me. I was in what was called reverse isolation. Which is basically isolation without people having to wear clean suits. My mom tried to visit as often as she could. But it was over a 2 hour drive. I was there for about a month and a half. Mom was able to bring friends of mine with her a couple of times. My aunt and uncle visited once, but I was feeling so horrible, I could barely pay attention to them. I was lonely and wanted people around, but I didn't because I felt so awful. I had the laptop, so I was able to get some emails once in a while, but mostly I just slept and bought things with my debit card online.

Most of the nursing staff was very nice. And of course, being who I am, I endlessly polite, smiling and non-complaining, unless it was really bad. Then I would just ask for medication. It was loud at night (who actually can sleep in a hospital?), and one night i had to have a blood transfusion. The rule is: two nurses must come in to change the blood bags - one to read off the number and check the blood type - the second to verify that it's correct. One man came in, by himself and changed the bag. I reported him the next day. I worried all night that I would die or have an allergic reaction. Cedar's is a learning hospital, so often, I was pulled out of bed by doctors that were teaching so they could do strange examinations on me. I had a very hard time concentrating on the things they had me do. Then there was the nurse outbreak of chicken pox. Every person in the ward had to have a shot so they wouldn't get that or shingles. I was examined every day by a resident nurse, including between my butt cheeks. I had to have my "output" measured every day. And, as I wasn't expecting this to happen, my period started while I was there, and I had nothing. And none of the nurses would get anything for me. So I just bled for two days until my mom could get up there and bring me something. The whole experience was very humiliating, but I smiled through it all.

When it finally came down to having my stem cell transplant, I was given a Benadryl, and told to sit back, but let the nurse know if it started to hurt. My nurse had to stay in there with me for the entire time, to make sure everything flowed smoothly, and I guess to make sure I didn't have an allergic reaction or die. It was not comfortable. It wasn't painful, but it made me feel like I needed to get out of my skin. I wanted to sleep while it was happening, but I didn't want to bore that nurse, so I tried to stay awake and talk to her and be cheerful. I figured I could sleep when she left. I was fairly sick and weak, understandably, for the next couple of days. Within a couple of weeks, my white count was up enough and I was strong enough to leave the hospital and go home.

On the way home, my mom told me a friend needed to talk to me about something important. I called her and found out that her boyfriend died, suddenly, and in her arms. She was broken-hearted. And I was for her. I tried my best to comfort her, but I don't know how effective it was.

I got to pick up my new dog, and go home.

This time is a long time to hold back tears. Tears of anger, tears of fear, tears of loneliness and tears of sadness. I put on as much of a brave face as I could. Partly because it was encouraged - "It's all about attitude" "You have such a great sense of humor" and "What an amazing attitude you have." It was hard to be myself. It was impossible to show how I really felt. I was extremely hard on myself, and I still am, about that period of time. It felt so much, the second time around, like people I had never met, cared more about me than my friends did. It was like I lost my support system once my dad died. it killed me inside to think about these people that I saw all the time when I was well, that wouldn't even hardly talk to me when I wasn't. And if they saw me, they'd shoo me away. I don't know if this is a good reason for me to cry so hard and so long at a movie, or why I may feel resentment toward people that have been nasty to me for no apparent reason. But it's happening. And I can't control it. Not anymore.