Past

May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground… -Fun.

I grew up wanting that small town and white picket fence. A home with a mom and a dad, two kids and a dog, because that was precisely what I didn’t have. We lived in the hills of Oakland. Nice area now, but I try to explain that in the 1970s it was a bunch of hippies. Not wealthy, just small homes with a view or trees.

We couldn’t really bike anywhere– the hills were too daunting. Anytime someone came over my mom would drive down the hill and meet them at the 7-11. Unless you were ballsy, you wouldn’t find our home on those windy roads. My brother had a wagon that he and his friends would pile into and roar down the hill. Steering is really crap on those things– still is, too, I think, wagon technology has not advanced that much in the last few decades– and he and his friends would tip over often with scrapes and tears and the like. No helmets in those days. Or parental supervision.

I really wanted to be normal. I know, what kid doesn’t. But I was very strange. A girl with short hair, but really a girly-girl in disguise. My mom didn’t let me grow my hair long, so I looked like a boy. Sure, I fit in with her dyke friends, but not so much at Thornhill Elementary. Still, it was the era of Dorothy Hamill, so I can’t complain too much.

My parents were divorced, which wasn’t too odd. Of the seven families with kids in that neighborhood, only two had non-divorced parents by the time I was in junior high. California in the 70s. So many choices…

But in school my stories always spoke of my mother’s roommate. No other mother had a roommate. I didn’t really notice for a long time and then when my mom explained that she was gay, when I was in the sixth grade, it wasn’t really a surprise, just another word for having roommate. It was all about language, not sexuality.

Then I felt really strange, though. And all the way through freshman year in college, I thought people might think I was gay, too. Especially female friends. So I made myself small, smaller than the shy person I’d been before even. Non-threatening.

And I’m not so different today, I guess, tho’ shyness in middle aged people is really more awkwardness than anything else. As a kid you assume you’re going to out grow it. On good days, yes. On most days, “same as it ever was.”

25 years

25 years. Today is the 25th anniversary of my dad’s death. August 12, 1988. My how time flies.

August 12s are generally terrible days for me. I really don’t know why. I think at first I was expecting it. But now, the crappyness seems to find me. I was generally minding my own business today, truly enjoying the day and boom! It hits me. Not once, but twice.

First, I over share at a meeting. I wish I’d stop doing that. Then I step out into the street, in front of car. I apologized, but the driver was pretty mad. So I got mad, too. In front of the kids. I wish I could go back and just say, “Thanks for not hitting me.”

Part of the problem is that I’m pmsing, over emotional, lacking confidence. (How is that different from other days? Good question.)

I wish my dad were here. Had been here over the past 25 years. And the 16 before that.  I don’t know that things would’ve been too different now, but I can imagine, right?

My mom is gay. (Ready for this story? Again? I know, it gets old.) In the early 1960s people didn’t do gay. For the most part. So my mom got married, and a few years later had my brother and me. And a few years later, in the freewheeling early 1970s, she realized and was ready to be her true gay self. Devastating my dad (who wasn’t perfect, it’s true), and getting divorced. I was three, my brother two.

Old school divorce: we saw Dad one weekend per month. Sometimes less. A few holidays here and there. (New school divorce is much more equal between parents.) So there was that. Fucked up kids because of divorce. My brother hell of angry, and me trying not to be noticed.

My brother and I navigate that shit, finish high school and boom. Massive heart attack kills Dad in one fell swoop. August 12, 1988.

And the last 25 years has brought so much wonderful crap. I really wish he had been here to see it. Not the shitty 20s, falling in and out of love, uncertain of a purpose or direction, but having to flip flop around, making mistakes until I figured it out. Then marriage, two kids, one with his eyes. A great career, not too different than his (a blog is like a daily column and science writing is not too dissimilar from sports writing. Well… Sometimes, anyway.).

My brother, still trying to find his way. Bored with all of that money. With a beautiful daughter and divorce himself. Maybe Dad could’ve taken him out for dinner, drinks and said, “One failed marriage, what’s the big deal? I had three!” Then maybe my brother would be willing to take the risk again, give up some of his heart and freedom, instead holding in so tightly no one will ever ever get in there.

It breaks my heart. Still. 25 years later.