#Blogtoberfest Day 21: Go Dodgers

So excited that the LA Dodgers are going to the world series that I just had to change my profile pic to me in my Dodgers hat. My first pro baseball game was at Dodger Stadium when the SF Giants played the Dodgers and the Dodgers won. My aunt was living in San Francisco so when she came down to visit, my stepdad and brother stayed home while the women went to the game – lol!

Later, I would learn that my father and his family were big Dodger fans, although my dad once said, “The Dodgers will break your heart.” I grew up in Orange County so after that game I became an Angels fan and later lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 23 years so I was a SF Giants fan. The truth is, we’re all fans of baseball.

After I met father and family, I learned that my grandfather pitched for the Memphis Chicks until my grandmother asked him to give up the game and help her with their three little boys – my dad, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Don. He did and started singing and playing in a band. She didn’t like that either with all the woman hanging out there. Later, toward the end of her life I was able to hear her say on a family video that she regretted asking him to give up baseball because it was his dream.

I’m sad for grandpa, never knowing if he could have made it. But what I’m sadder about, still, is growing up without knowing my father and his family, even though we all lived about half an hour apart. (see Myths of the Fatherless for that story.)

Grandpa, top of photo, dad on the far right, at Dodger Stadium for the Angels vs Indians game

Blogging the Grief (#poem)

Tropical air breathing
Lifts me when I’m grieving
The death certificate arriving
Reminds me I’m alive and thriving

Those around me ignoring
Dismissing me like that floors me
I was here before them
Who I am is without shame

Their secrets they hide
Until the day they died
They dumped on me
Instead of taking responsibility

Emotions overcome my brain
Their reactions are so lame
Where do I take this grief inside
Do what I always do, blog it online

Attack, deny like mixing a song
Delay, if need be, anything to not be wrong
Like the phoenix rising from the dust
I stand tall and in God I trust

Beyond the Sea: Playlist Tribute to My Father

It’s been a rough month and a month of celebration at the same time. Besides losing Skipper, our 18-year-old cat who was more son than pet, my father passed away this week, exactly two weeks after Skipper.

Some of you know the story. After I met him as an adult, I wrote about it in Myths of the Fatherless, to share some of the epiphanies I had had after that experience. That biological fathers matter in a special way that no step father, no matter how special, can.

On the fiction front, I also wrote Letters on Balboa Island. He absolutely loved it. Maybe because he saw himself in the lead character, Rick. Rightly so, as I imagined him as I wrote the novel.

My heart is breaking in so many ways but mostly because I just didn’t have enough time with him. But I will cherish the memories I do have and the connection we had as father/daughter, the things we loved, like music (especially Jazz, crooners like Sinatra), fine dining, wine, seeing the world through a romantic lens and Las Vegas, where you can/could experience all of the above.

He was definitely larger than life and he will be missed by many.

John Holmes, 1933-2018

The songs in this playlist are songs that come to mind as I remember him, as I rejoice in our good-bye hug when he pulled me close as I started to pull away and he held me tighter, and for the father/daughter dance I play in my head as I feel a Heavenly dance when he reaches out to me with a promise of things to come.

I will always treasure his words, “I’ll always have San Francisco,” where my parents honeymooned before he was shipped overseas and where I lived for 23 years. So, of course, I wrap up this playlist with Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

The Day I Died

According to my mother, I died the day she was called to school to speak to a counselor in my junior year of high school after moving from sunny Southern California to the gloomy, rainy, dreary grey skies of Oregon. She yanked me out of school, scaring me half out of my mind. I asked, “What’s wrong?”

She said, “Somebody died!”

My heart thundered in my ears as my fear escalated. I asked, “Who?”

“You!” she said with force in that dramatic way of hers when she wanted to control a situation.

The truth is, my English teacher and I had had a misunderstanding about the due dates of a particular project. I thought I was supposed to hand in the paper at the end, but, according to her, I hadn’t been handing in my weekly papers. I had no idea it was supposed to be weekly. How I could have misunderstood that, I’ll never know, because I was an “A” Honor Roll student. This was a new progressive school, unlike any I’d known before, with study periods sprinkled throughout the day in various study nooks. It made sense to me that the project was due at the end of the term – like my science paper.

The situation escalated when the school counselor called my mother in to meet with him. Mind you, none of this was known to me until the day my mother yanked me out of school, declaring my death. The counselor supposedly said, “When a student changes this much in a short amount of time, they’re usually on drugs.”

Drugs? Now I was supposed to be on drugs due to a misunderstanding? Drugs were the last thing on my mind. This was the late ’60s/early ’70s when adults were hyper watchful and suspicious about kids taking drugs. Of course, I only have my mother’s word for this conversation. As I would discover much, much later in life, it was difficult to know the truth about anything because she lied even when there was no reason to lie.

But she might be right about that moment being the day I died, because, honestly, I think I died as soon as she’d decided to leave our beautiful new home in Orange County, California where I had the best year of my life. As editor-in-chief of the school yearbook in the first graduating class, I had many privileges such as being the first editor and naming the yearbook, singing in the choir, and even featured as a soloist in the spring program. Life was looking pretty rosy in that moment.

Not only did we leave this beautiful home, friends, and family and school, but we moved to Oregon and lived in an old 1930s farm house where the kids’ bedrooms were all upstairs where there was no heat. My small container of water I kept for my eye liner froze over. That’s how cold it was.

Not to mention our enrollment in her mother’s religious cult (Jehovah’s Witnesses) where we gave up birthdays, Christmas, in fact, all holidays had to go plus that door-to-door pushing JW magazines with the threat of total destruction at Armageddon, thereby, avoiding “bad associations” (“worldly” friends at school) and the places they hung out (the choir, and all school activities beyond the required). And then there were the male chauvinistic elders who policed our behavior. Eventually, I was totally indoctrinated.

But God had plans to turn things around for me. Fast forward twenty-five years when I met a lovely Christian man at work and we both converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church in Cupertino, California and experienced the most amazing Sacramental Orthodox wedding.

When I informed my mother of this decision, she called me at work (again, for the most dramatic effect), and said she’d called to “Say good-bye.” As a Jehovah’s Witness, she officially would have to “shun” me. Of course, she admitted later that she never really believed in the religion and didn’t consider herself spiritual at all. I concluded it was more of a crutch, a tool to control, than it was any deeply held religious beliefs.

From that moment on, I set out on a journey to find the truth about so many things, including my biological father, which led to discovering the type of person my mother really was. Looking back, I see that, not only did she deprive me of my father and the rest of that side of the family who all lived within thirty minutes of our home, but then she took me completely away from the place I called home, leaving behind everything that was important to me.

Much later I would discover there’s a name for mothers like that and the daughters who must endure their cruelty. They’re called “Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.” or DONM. We hear the word “narcissist” tossed around lightly on social media these days but this is something far more than what we might think. One book I recommend is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistc  Mothers.”

Soon after I met my father, I wrote about meeting my father for the first time and the lessons learned in Myths of the Fatherless but often my fiction has a similar theme. One work in progress is called “She’s Not That Good.” I’m also working on an album I’m calling, “Fathers and Other Strangers.”

So my real life didn’t end at all back then, but the real life I was supposed to live just began.

 

My Favorite Words: Not What You’d Expect

I saw this article about favorite words written by one of my favorite writer friends, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, on Twitter this morning. We were in the same Chick Lit writing group back in the day. Anyway, her post sparked this blog post about my favorite words and why.

I first became aware of having favorite words in the first grade. A classmate of mine named Lucy obviously loved the word “Lucy” because she’d write “Lucy Lucy Lucy” all over the place.

But my favorite words were “said” and “David.” This seemed really strange to me. Why “said?” Why “David?” I liked the sound they made. The beat of the “d.” It wasn’t until I met my father’s family, who happen to all be musicians, especially drummers, that I understood first of all, why I loved the drums so much (“All my kids play the drums,” my father said), and why I loved “said” and “David.” (The story of that meeting was published in Myths of the Fatherless.)

If you listen closely you can hear that “said” and “David” sound like drum beats. So my love for words wasn’t really about being a writer and lover of expressing those words. No my love for words was about the sound they made. The drums. Music. And that’s why I switched from pursuing writing fiction solely to broadening out to songwriting and learning all I can about producing modern Electronic music. So many drums. So many sounds.

Dear John (#poem)

I did not know you, no you were not the first man to break my heart
The sadness came when the other man, the one I knew first turned out not to be who he claimed to be
But once I knew you, I couldn’t understand how we’d been kept apart
Once I knew you, I couldn’t understand how you could walk away, once you knew me

She wrote you a letter with ink and a feather that started with “Dear John”
You were fighting a war so far from home, and she threw you over for another man
You got drunk on bad rum screaming about the stranger who stole your wife and baby – would it be a son?
But daughters need fathers and didn’t you think she’d grow up some day with a hole in her heart where you should have been?

She heard many stories of a tall handsome hero with charisma who sang and danced
She came looking for you with a heart you held in your hand
On the day that she met you she was too late to impress you for your heart to someone else it belonged
She sent you a letter with ink and a feather that started with “Dear John”

The Promised Land (#poem)

Tiny little towns lie in the Valley paved with gold
Pickup trucks and cowboy boots lined with filth
Rickety shacks and outdoor houses she didn’t have to choose
Coats catching fire, coffee burns or so I’ve been told

Two families from the same place take different paths to the Promised Land
One chose north, the other chose south, but it didn’t really matter
Picking fruit or Hollywoodland, mine chose the latter
I ended up with the one that was fake, but I played in the sand and got a nice tan

Too young to understand what true love is, it’s not for me to say
It’s not what I would have wanted for her, but others wouldn’t have changed a thing
It’s their version of the Promised Land of sun and Golden grain
Muscle beach, curly hair, eyes of blue, and a quick roll in the hay

They hold on tight to the lie he didn’t give her a ring
Those are the same who like to say I have no legitimate claim
This is about my life, I say, this is not some twisted game
Close to my heart for so very long, it’s my God-given dream