Friday, June 28, 2013

My father, when he went, made my childhood a gift of a half a century.

"I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father."  
Today is my father's birthday.  May brought us the 23rd anniversary of his death, and though some years are harder than others, most of the time I can pass the important dates with a smile on my face. Today, I'm finding it hard to smile. I was just looking at old pictures of him and it hit me --- him watching TV in the basement, the sound of his laughter carrying up through the floor. His pot belly. His practical jokes. The way he smelled after he brushed his teeth. The stubble on his cheek when I kissed him goodnight. Listening to his stomach gurgle when I was still small enough to curl up in his lap for a cuddle. I even remember (fondly) the many times I burned myself on a lit cigarette when I would try to hold his hand in public. Something I had forgotten about until recently when I started dating a smoker. 

I think that's why I'm so upset today; I've spent most of the last 23 years telling myself it was good that Dad was dead because I'd made such a mess of my life and would only be a disappointment to him. When I was a little girl, I always had it in my head that I would never get married; I knew I would die alone, and I was okay with that. I like being alone. I'm not very sentimental when it comes to things like love and relationships.  I spent over 20 years building a wall to shut people out, and I got really good at it. I'm still really good at it, but I'm getting better.  The wall is unstable and I'm  trying not to care that it will crumble and leave me exposed and vulnerable. That's where RockerBoy comes in.  

I've known him about 30 years, as we went to the same grade school, junior high and high school.  We were never what you would call actual friends, but I always remembered him fondly. He was a nice boy and remained that way as long as I "knew" him in school.  We were the same class for 4th and 6th grade. I don't remember if we shared classes in junior high, but I do recall seeing him in the halls, and he was always smiling or laughing and walking that strange, unique walk of his.  Sophmore year of high school, we had guitar class together. He barely remembers the class, or the day that the teacher paired us up and sent us into this small, dark room to learn some stupid song and play it for the class. It wasn't even a year after Dad had died, and I had a brace on my leg as I was still recovering from a limb-lengthening procedure. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck, self-conscious that I looked like a cripple and I couldn't play very well, scared shitless that he would look at me. We practiced the song and went out to play it for the class and I totally fucked it up and wanted to crawl under the piano and die. 

That's the last clear memory I have of RockerBoy, except for the night my then-boyfriend and I went to see the school's Battle of the Bands.  RockerBoy's band was playing and I got all excited and told my boyfriend, "That's my friend, RockerBoy!" and Then-Boyfriend got mad and wouldn't talk to me the rest of the night because he was too much of a pussy to go out and find a band of his own.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the dawning of The Great Facebook Pandemic. I forget how, but I'd started getting friend requests from people back home. I'd moved from Chicago to Portland in 2000, mainly to get away from my past. I was still running into the people who made my family's and my life hell in jr high and high school.  I'd wanted to be a Goonie and live in Astoria, Oregon since the movie came out, so when I knew it was time to move on, I headed for the Pacific Northwest. And I haven't been home in 13 years.  So when I started getting friend requests from people I'd gone to school with, I got nervous and anxious and agonized over whether or not I should Accept or Decline. Aside from when I lived in upstate New York, I didn't really ever feel free until I moved to Oregon. I didn't want people from my past to invade my life through my computer. I didn't want to have that connection anymore. I got over it eventually and started letting my past in, and I was actually really happy to reconnect with these people. I had fun catching up with a lot of them, and I was excited to find, when I logged on to facebook one day, that RockerBoy had sent me a friend request. The only reason I hesitated to accept the request, no lie, is because of that one day in guitar class. "Oh god what if he remembers how badly I fucked up that song we played!?!"  As it was, he barely even remembered me being in the class; turns out while I was still running around the forest preserve with my dog, most of my classmates were getting high, starting bands, having sex and/or blowing things up. RockerBoy has no recollection of us ever playing that song. Thank god. I literally sucked out loud.

As the months went on, RockerBoy was a near-constant presence on my facebook. Commenting on things, liking my pictures and whatnot. He called me hot on more than a few occassions, and I always argued with him that I wasn't. It never occured to me that he was flirting. I would talk about him with my friends or show them something he'd posted and they would look at me and roll their eyes. "He's flirting with you, jackass!" and I'd say, "RockerBoy!? No, he's just a really sweet guy. He's like that with everyone."  And they would shake their heads and wonder why they put up with me. 

One day RockerBoy sent me a message on facebook saying he needed help with his clown comic and what would be the best way to send me pics. We exchanged phone numbers and he would send me pictures and I would suggest names, etc. In 2011, I started seeing the brother of a friend of mine and RockerBoy made some "broken-hearted" comments. I think it, in a very small way, occured to me that he might actually be telling the truth when he called me the girl of his dreams, but I'd always think, "That's ridiculous. He's RockerBoy and I'm the weird, nerdy girl nobody liked."  I was delighted to find that, like me, he still watched Svengoolie, loved zombies, Christopher Moore and the hair bands from yester year. 

December 2012 rolled around and I was in a dark place. Shit was getting to me, I was stressed out, not sleeping, waking up with a bloody nose, passing out at work. I was starting to consider death an acceptable alternative to the smoldering ruin that was my life. My friend talked me into doing a "facebook fast" for all of December, and I felt bad for missing RockerBoy's birthday, so when January rolled around and Mom and I were planning a trip to Florida, I senet RockerBoy a message and asked him for his address so I could send him a tacky Florida postcard to make up for missing his birthday.  (I take pictures of my three Stormtroopers holding birthday messages written on notecards for my friends. It's a thing. I'm weird.)  That more or less opened the flood gates, and we were in pretty much constant contact via either email or text. 

I was still dialing it in in regards to living my life, and then one morning I woke up to an email from a friend telling me something horrific that someone we both care about had done to himself.  It was a wakeup call for me, a stark reminder of what can happen if you let yourself dwell to long in the dark.  I decided to go back on my anti-depressants and force myself to stay positive. I had my regular three month consult with my NP (for my ADHD meds) and we talked about what had happened.  Though I was no longer a part of his life, my NP said that I could still support him by staying positive for him.  So that's what I did. I forced myself to stay positive and to keep going, and in the meantime I was still "talking" to RockerBoy every day and the more I learned about him as an adult, the more I realized how much I liked him. He would send me these huge, rambling emails and that made me so happy because they were exactly the same kind of emails I would write to my long suffering friends and to which they very rarely responded. I didn't fault them for it; they have families and lives. I sent him a reply, opening with "Marry me" because I loved his emails.  He wrote back saying it was funny I'd said that because when we first started talking to each other, he'd told his friend, "If I lived in Portland, I would totally marry that girl." And that's when I woke up and got a clue. 

Like me, RockerBoy had long since given up on finding a partner to get old and cranky with. Neither of us anticipated something like this happening. One night I got an email from him, just a random email telling me he'd been watching some gladiator TV show and going through withdrawals because he hadn't heard from me. Then he checked his email and there was a message from me. He said he'd watched this show about the Secret and positive thinking, law of attraction. You think of what you want and focus on the good and "you'll be all super cool and set for life. Sounds easy, so obviously I'm in. Naturally I started thinking of you. And some cash prizes, but mostly you." As if that weren't enough of a jaw-dropper, he then preceded to tell me that, when he stopped dating, he made up a list of things he wanted in a woman but knew he would never find. He said, "You've completely crushed that list, hit all targets and are victorious in all bonus rounds. I guess that secret thing kinda works." I couldn't have been more surprised than if I'd woken up with my head stapled to the floor. 

A few weeks later, I was in Florida with my mom, still in constant contact with RockerBoy. By then I'd already accepted the fact that I had feelings for him, too, but I kept a distance. He was back home in Chicago, and I was out in Oregon and we hadn't seen or spoken to each other in 20 years. I was concerned he'd developed a misconstrued perception of me via facebook. I had been telling him for a couple of years that he should come out and visit, that I thought he would love Portland.  While in Florida, I told him to come out to Portland for a visit. He'd been talking about leaving Chicago anyway, for good, so I said, "Come out here for a visit. If we actually like each other in real life, we can go from there and see what happens."  RockerBoy's sister is a flight attendant and she had free passes for him to fly out here. I suggested that instead of doing the touristy thing and exploring Portland, I book my friend's family's little cabin out on the coast and we do nothing but watch Svengoolie and catch up on our lives for five days. I took the tail end of April/first week of May off of work and "booked" five days at the coast. It was perfect because he'd be here for May Fourth: Free Comic Book Day.  We're both nerds and he's a huge comic book fan, but neither of us had ever gone out for Free Comics Day; I figured we'd head back into the city, get some free comics and head back the coast. I was adamant that we watch the sun set over the Pacific at least one night while we were out there, and he could fart all he wanted because I can't smell and find farting funny.

On April 28th, I picked RockerBoy up from the airport. We stayed at the beach for seven days (venturing out for comics and doughnuts).

He never left.

He's been here two months to the day. We've spent every day for the last 60+ days together and I never get tired of him.  And I hate people. I'm an introvert and if I don't get a certain amount of time to myself, I go mental. I've never dated anyone who I could stand being around for extended periods of time. I love being with him. I look forward to seeing him.  Though it ruins me, I love to hear him play my guitar and sing his songs. Did I mention he wrote a song about me? I have yet to hear it because he left the lyrics in Chicago, but still. He. Wrote. A. Song. About. Me.  WTFBBQ!? This is unknown territory for me. I'm at a loss as to how I should deal with this man. It took me a while to get over the fear that he was fucking with me, that it was all a joke. Then I realized he left his friends and family to be with me, just packed a bag, hopped on a plane ... and stayed. 

 He says, looking back on our facebook bantering, he's been in this relationship a bit longer than I have. The other day he was on his phone and went back a couple of years to this picture I'd posted that my sister took of me taking a picture of her with my "new" camera.  RockerBoy had commented that he loved the picture. I responded and he said he was drunk, at a gig, looking at my picture. "There's a song in there, somewhere."  I  was fangirl excited (on the inside, played it cool) that RockerBoy was looking at my picture while he was at a gig, but I didn't think anything of it.  As he read the old comments, he looked at me and said, "How the hell did you not know how I felt??"  Haha! 

And so here we are, two months later. My dogs love him. He loves my dogs. My friends love him. (Tomorrow we're going over to V's house so RockerBoy can jam with her husband.) He's absolutely, hopelessly in love with Portland. And with me. And, I'm not afraid to say, I'm in love with him. I love his beautiful eyes, his voice when he sings, the way his crazy dorky mind works. I love it when he calls me babe.  I love stealing his Superman hoodie, and I love how he's seriously addicted to hummus and maple bacon doughnuts. I love his forthrightness, that he fell in love with my brain, and I love that he feels protective of me. What I love most of all is that we're from the same place. Growing up, we lived a five minute bike ride away from each other. He and I are next to each other in our 4th grade year book. 

I haven't looked back on my 26 years in Chicago very fondly since I moved to Oregon, but RockerBoy feels like home. Like home before things got bad and everything fell apart. Muggy summer nights with lightning bugs sparkling in the field behind our house, school field trips to the Field Museum, the book fairs at our old grade school, lunch tokens and chocolate milk Fridays. We both survived. We got through the bullshit and betrayals, the losses and the pain. 2,000 miles apart, we sunk so far into despair that there didn't seem any point in turning back. But we turned away from it and found our reasons for living again.  And then we found each other. 

I don't care that we're both about to turn 40, that we've "missed out" on those 20 years since high school. Whatever happened between 18 and 39, good or bad, it brought us here. I've got my very own hot, dorky rocker boy who loves to go hiking with me, chases me out of the house with slugs on a stick, and built a fort in the woods behind my house. I got him addicted to maple bacon doughnuts, he got me addicted to Kid Rock. 

If my dad were alive today, he would be happy for me. He would love RockerBoy because he's honest and hard-working and loyal and he doesn't treat me like shit. Dad would have loved the fact that I moved 2,000 miles across the country just to end up with the asthmatic boy from my home town. 

My heart hurts when I think how the two of them will never know each other. I can picture very clearly what it would be like if Dad were still alive and here with us in Oregon. Dad would be annoyed that RockerBoy likes the Cubs rather than the Sox, but they'd bond over old Batman and Star Trek episodes.  Don't even get me started on the Star Wars stuff. 

I miss my dad and sometimes I think I would give anything to have him back. But then I wouldn't have ended up in Oregon, wouldn't have reconnected with Rockerboy. And Dad would still be in pain, fighting his past and losing every night to a bottle of vodka. If I could, I would have him back just long enough to tell him I'm sorry for how I treated him before he died. To tell him how much I've missed him and how much he meant to me. I won't ever get a chance to make amends, but what I can do is honor him by not wasting another 20 years living in fear and regret. Make a life with the boy from back home and never let the bastards grind us down. 

Yeah, we're old and creaky and prone to crankiness when there's traffic. STILL A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT.

I love you, Dad.  Happy Birthday.


Anonymous said...

I'm in love with your love story. Happy birthday to your pop.

Katie said...

I just read all of this. I'm so glad you're happy and out of that dark place of passing out at work and shit. So glad that I will pretend I didn't read that you like Kid Rock now.