To Those Who Side with the Dad

“Just fuck him,” the first best friend used to say, “you can borrow my Pops.”

But he’s my dad, though,” I’d respond. “Why would he be like this?”

Because he’s an asshole.

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Yesterday the mom, brother, and I drove home to Alabama to visit with a member of our family (related by choice, not blood). She just lost her son without warning and I wanted to hug her and see her face and just feel her presence. She’s important to me. When my first best friend died I called her that night, sitting in the dark of my old apartment living room, on a chair in the corner, knees drawn to my chest.

“I don’t know anything, Hubba,” she said when she answered.

“I know,” I said. “I just needed to hear your voice.” And then she listened to me cry.

We got to make another stop on the way in and see another person whom I consider family and his wife and kids. (Look, our Alabama family is large and not blood-related but sometimes you do get to pick your family, and we did that with our Alabama people, and my luck runs deep that there are so many people I can call that I know will always answer.)

My heart felt full, my sentences were taking longer to tumble out of my mouth, and my slight twang had returned.  (I think that’s an involuntary reaction to crossing the state line.)

As we were visiting, I (as I always do) felt myself shift into the more confident, more comfortable version of myself that doesn’t mind being the center of attention and laughs too loud and kicks off my shoes as I lay down on the floor so I can join in on the gossip.

Whoever that girl is fades as we drive back north. I can’t explain it but I’m different down there. It’s my place.

…I have to be honest, I had one more mission for this trip – I failed – but I intended to go for a run while I was in town. Not just any run, but I wanted to set out on the path I used to try to run in elementary school. I tried to run it not for fun, but because the dad would tell me I needed to get my “running legs back under me” which meant I was fat. He would sit outside and watch as the sister and I went for a “run” because he told us we needed to do it.

I have always carried extra weight, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, and that was a bad reflection on the dad who liked to take responsibility for anything we did well but shied away from anything we did that wasn’t so great. Like being fat.

So I envisioned myself completing a run down there and then taking a picture of myself flipping the bird (in homage to the first best friend and also because, are you serious, I was in like 4th grade and I didn’t want “running legs” back then) but we drove back early and I didn’t get to do it.

What I did get to do, though, was hear that the dad was still calling people from MY home, the place where a tiny piece of my heart always resides, and telling them how terrible the mom, sister, brother and I are. Yes, y’all. Over a decade later.

Now, I could write an entire book on all the bullshit he put us through, and how he’s a genuinely bad person, and a liar, and delusional. I could title it What Not To Do To Your Kids When Their Mother is Divorcing You Because You Slept with Whomever You Wanted because You Need Constant Reassurance from Other Women and, Oh, Wait, Now One of Your Mistresses is Pregnant and You’ve Drained the Bank Accounts and Stopped Paying the Mortgage and Still Owe Back Child Support To This Day but I guess I won’t do that.

I guess I won’t write about the time we were in Applebee’s after the divorce, because the mom forced us to have dinners with him, and I made him mad and he screamed to the entire restaurant that I was a whore. Did you know visiting colleges with friends made you a whore, too? I didn’t know that until the dad told me. (Also you can’t make friends in college if you’re fat, that’s another thing he taught me.)

I probably shouldn’t write about how YEARS passed before any of us heard from him – we were all living in a different state by then – and he popped back into our lives and the sister and I, as we always used to do, shrugged and said: well, he is our dad. So we met him with the sister’s first kid (his first grandson) and hung out at a park and then he called us for a few weeks and we tried to make plans to get together at Christmas – years had passed, after all, and we were grown now and then, wait…..no. He calls and asks us to be deposed for his new divorce, because he needs statements from us, and the sister and I do it and then he’s disappeared again. He didn’t return our messages afterwards to get together for the holidays. He didn’t need anything from us anymore.

It would be immature of me to put out there that every year his son from another woman plays in a soccer tournament in my town, at a park about 2 miles from my house, but we don’t hear from him.

I would look silly if I told you he blocked me on Facebook over two years ago.

I am not going to add that after his stroke, his sister called me (my aunt who will probably not appreciate this and who handles everything with more class and grace than me and for that, I’m sorry) and said he might not make it, so the mom drove me to the hospital and waited in the parking lot as I went inside, past his new wife who hadn’t called, and begged him to get better. Or when he was sick at his new house (dying, again?) and I drove myself out there and knocked on the door and his new wife’s dad didn’t want to let me inside the house.

What would be the point of telling everyone that as he was moving out, I sat on my bed and cried, hard,  like the snot-down-your-face-heaving-crying, and he came in my room and I asked him why he would do this, why, why, why, and he looked me in the eyes and said, “Don’t you want me to be happy?”

Probably should leave out that before the divorce the sister, brother and I used to try to cope by telling whomever he was meanest to that day that he had pulled their name out of his hat and that tomorrow he would draw another name so it would all be okay.

It would be unnecessary to fill this page with all the ridiculousness of this man, like when I ran into him outside the first best friend’s funeral and had a strained but polite conversation with him… but then afterwards at the burial site he pretended he didn’t know who anyone was there, because that’s one of his favorite games to play, to pretend like he’s lost his memories.

No, I shouldn’t stoop to his level, shouldn’t put my business on the internet, shouldn’t add fuel to the fire. Because on a day to day basis it doesn’t affect me anymore (except my trust issues, body image issues,  and general disdain for all middle age men).

So I guess, per usual, I will keep my mouth shut except to say (OVER A DECADE LATER, ARE YOU KIDDING ME) that if you donned your Team Dad shirt after my parents divorced, if you ran our family business around town acting like you knew what was going on, if you still shake your head at the mention of my people because you think we are awful… Then I sincerely hope you never had to experience what we went through with that shell of a man.

I haven’t ever written much on it because, what would people think of me? That I’m begging for sympathy or that I’m a liar? Would I embarrass myself or my family? Would the mom, who is not without faults, of course, because she’s a human, but who held us all together all those years and never once thought of herself, be upset with me? The woman who made us visit with him, sang the common refrain he’ll always be your dad! and who still, to this day, will say, “I don’t think that’s true” if ever I bring up that he doesn’t give two shits about me.

Would I come off as some sad, silly little girl who can’t let things go? ….Turns out I most likely have been misrepresented all these years,  anyway, by the 1/2 of my parents who decided it was appropriate to, incorrectly and incessantly, attempt to garner sympathy from the residents of my small-town home by, well, lying. A lot.

I love my Alabama people so much that the word love doesn’t seem sufficient. I have family down there that would drop everything for me, do anything for me, and will always, always answer when I call.

The dad isn’t one of those people. He never was and he never will be, and I don’t write this for pity.  Please believe me that we don’t still sit around talking about him. I write this because over a decade later he still taints my most favorite place with his venom and I’m so over it that I can’t hold the words in any longer. I can’t even drive down there in the midst of a tragedy without hearing about more self-serving lies he’s spitting. I’m done. Honestly, truth be told, I’ve been done for a long time.

Need more stories? These are nothing. Nothing nothing nothing – these are just my less offensive memories smushed together in a semi-coherent way. I wouldn’t dare take anyone down the darkest roads.

If anyone has a problem with my truth, and it is mine and it is true, you know where to find me. I’ve always been here.

MKJ

On Turning 30

The husband turned 30 gracefully (men, am I right?) and without complaint.

I, however, spent the last month painstakingly counting down the last days of my 20s, as if on March 31 I would wake up an entirely different person. Last month of my 20s! 10 days left of my 20s! This time next week I’ll be 30! I’m so old. That rigmarole.

Today, I woke up as a 30 year old. The husband hugged me goodbye and called me the Birthday Girl, and then I threw on my Alabama hoodie, washed my face, and yanked on some pants. I let my dogs out. I drank a cup of coffee and watched them play in our front yard of the house we own. I put away some dishes, told the pups goodbye, and I got in my reliable car and drove to work.

As I was driving, I suddenly felt very calm about turning 30.

I’m not sure if it was my morning routine that did it, or that I was chatting with the sister on the phone, or that I had about 20 text messages already wishing me a Happy Birthday…. but I felt the anxiety slowly leak out of me. (For now… let’s be honest… it always comes back.)

30 seems like a big milestone because it is a big milestone. Especially when you’ve lost people along the way, people that never saw 30, or people who you’d love to get advice from about being 30, but they’ve passed on, too.

Whenever my birthday pops up I think of everyone who isn’t here anymore. It makes me uncharacteristically emotional. (My boss brought me cake pops and a Diet Coke this morning and I got choked up over it.) It’s actually only been since DJ died that I’ve done this — every year I get that he didn’t get takes away another tiny piece of my heart. I text his mom and (unfairly) lay my sadness on her and she makes me feel better. “Grief is a bitch!”  We agree on this sentiment.

Anyway, I spent this last month thinking about all the people I’ve been leading up to 30 – a rebel (so it seemed to me at the time), a bad-decision-maker, a bitch (still that, though), a selfish friend (sorry everyone that I’m so flaky and unreliable, I still love all of you), a heavy drinker (thanks, Statesboro), a bitter whiner (your family texts me on my birthday but you don’t…cool, dad)… and I wondered if all the good things I try to do now outweigh the bad.

I hope they do. All those people I was (and kind of still am) just mush together to make me…me. When I turned 20, I had zero respect for me. Turning 30… I think I’m pretty kickass.

Turns out I’ve got a real drive to help animals. I’m always open to donate to charities that benefit foster kids. I’m not as conservative as I once thought. I can run a 10K. I can set a goal and follow through. My best friends are my family, and I’m fine with that. I wrote a book (I mean, I’m not saying it’s good, but I did write it). I’d drop everything and do anything for the husband, who has the patience of a saint to deal with an anxious lunatic like me. My nieces and nephews bring my so much joy. (So do my dogs, obviously.) I take pride in my work. I’m more outspoken and steadfast in my opinions.

20-something me… 20-something me would never have been able to list anything positive about myself. 30 year old me is much more confident. Much more self-aware. Much more… happy.

None of this is mind blowing revolutionary writing. I know this.

But I think the point is that no matter what you’re doing, if you’re turning 30 or 50 or 22 or 86, if you’re actively working to be a better person and make the world a better place, I think you’re doing it right. All the ‘Do This Before You Turn ___ Age’ articles or all the posts from your friends about how their way of living is the best way… that’s all nonsense. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your life choices are less than theirs because you settled down, or you bought a house, or you don’t party until 3am anymore.

Just let yourself…. become yourself. And when you hit the next age milestone don’t let yourself down. Be better.

I spent 30 years semi-figuring out who I am, and I plan on spending the next 30 leaving a positive mark on this world using what I’ve got. You only get so many days. Do something meaningful while you can.

As always, I am forever grateful to the people who love me no matter what, and who have stuck with me through my 20s so that I can kill it in my 30s. I love you all.

Happy 30th Birthday to me! 30

MKJ

When You Can’t Say Nothing

Man, there’s a lot of bad shit going on. (Understatement acknowledged.)

I try to stay off Facebook because I can’t stomach it but I keep going back and reading how my gay friends are scared and my black friends are scared and everyone is pissed at everyone else because of guns or #BlackLivesMatter or people just trying to use the freaking bathroom.

I want to comment and say something, anything, so that my friends will know I stand with them and so I think and type and erase and type again… but I end up saying nothing.

Because if you think I’m nice or that I’m a lunatic or that I’m racist or that I’m not a racist- it matters not at all. These struggles are not my personal struggles.  I can only watch and try to sympathize and try to help but oftentimes I think any comment I write would ultimately be dismissed. Not because people fighting inequality are dismissive of support but because I can’t add anything constructive to the conversation besides: I’m so sad for you. This is awful. I hope it gets better.

And while it’s nice to have someone say something nice, my “I’m sorry” sentiments aren’t helpful when two black men were just murdered… back-to-back… etc. (etc. because this isn’t an isolated incident.)

Now, does my recognition of this (larger and more systematic) inequality mean I haven’t faced discrimination or had issues because, say,  for example, I’m a woman? No. Of course not. Acknowledging another group’s (larger and more systematic) struggle doesn’t diminish your own struggle. It’s not either/or. You can care about yourself and your rights AND care about other people and their rights.

Still though, I just read and try to understand.

Because of this, I want to share something I read today and a comment that followed. Reading it literally stopped me in my tracks, like… Jesus. I can’t imagine feeling that way. (I only sort-of know the person who posted it, and I’m blurring out the names, because they might not want me throwing their opinion out there.)

And if you don’t agree with me, or them, then you are entitled to your own opinion. I’ve never understood why some people can’t figure out that the only person who agrees with you 100% of the time… is you.

But you really should try to keep learning and growing and understanding. I don’t say this to sound holier-than-thou or to insinuate you’re a bad person (whoever you may be.) I say this because we only have one life here. Just the one. If you’re not trying to become a better, well-rounded, informed, and all-around good person…what are you doing here?

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I’m not going to offer any insight or words of wisdom (mostly because I’m not wise) but it does take everyone speaking out to cause change. I am not going to say nothing this time. And I hope that by speaking out this way, by sharing someone else’s heart-wrenching words… well, I just hope it makes someone else, at least one more person, really think about what’s going on in this country.

MKJ

 

 

header image from here. 

 

Blame It All On My Roots.

On February 13, 2016 I crossed one MAJOR item off my bucket list.

I made a bucket list back in elementary school. It had a number of things on it: kiss a boy, write a book, meet Michael Jordan, hit a home run… things like that. (I was young. Don’t judge me.)

Since then I have updated and changed the bucket list but one item listed remained constant:

See Garth Brooks in Concert.

Y’all, I LOVE Garth Brooks. I always have. All through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, and post grad school I have listened to Garth Brooks. (So, all my life. Since I remember having the ability to remember.)

Sadly, Garth took a long hiatus from touring. I had to accept that it was very likely that I would never see him in concert.  I didn’t think he would ever tour again.

BUT THEN.

Then he started this tour. I wanted so badly to go when he was in Atlanta, but we couldn’t. I wanted so badly to drive to Tennessee or Florida but we just couldn’t. I let go of the dream. Even though thousands of folks were seeing him on stage I made myself accept I wouldn’t be able to go.

Then Garth Brooks added another stop on his tour. He added a stop in a state he hadn’t visited in around 17 years. MY STATE. SOUTH CAROLINA.

While I don’t know that the husband completely understands my love for Garth Brooks, he agreed we should try to get tickets. It was seriously *that* important to me.

Tickets went on sale and I spent…. an undisclosed amount of time at work hitting refresh. We didn’t get any. They sold so fast through TicketMaster and the ones on the other sites that buy all the tickets and resell them (bastards) were 3 or 4 times the original amount.

I felt devastated. I called the sister and I said to her, “I really thought this was something I was going to get to do.” My level of disappointment was semi-embarrassing.

I sighed and huffed and puffed and then got back to work. But something…something overcame me. I felt like… maybe I should try one more time to find us seats.

So I did. I checked one more time and WE GOT THE TICKETS.

“WE GOT F***ING GARTH BROOKS TICKETS!!!” is what I’m pretty sure my group text to the family said.

All this happened in December. Fast forward to February 12,2016.

The husband and I drove down to Charleston after work. We found and booked the cheapest hotel closest to the North Charleston Coliseum back in December so we felt like we were all set. The sister and her husband also booked a room there for one night; they were driving down on the day of the concert to go with us. All the hotels surrounding the Coliseum looked safe and clean and okay. So we didn’t feel super worried.

We drove the 3 long hours to Charleston and finally arrived at the Days Inn Charleston Airport hotel. I’m linking to the hotel because I need you to look at the hotel and see what you think. It seems like a lower-end but semi-decent hotel? Right? Kinda bad reviews but not the worst. Right.

So we arrived and right off the bat I’m like, crap. Crap. This…. this “hotel” looks like somewhere I might get murdered. But the husband stayed positive and kept reminding me we were here to see Garth Brooks and so we went and checked in at the front desk.

We sauntered off to the room and I swear I thought we might get knifed in the parking lot. It smelled like old garbage and smoke and there were sketchy folks meandering about but the husband was right – Garth Brooks.

The room key didn’t work in the door, so the husband kept trying the key and then turning the door handle and confusion set in. Did we have the right room? Yes. Every second that passed that we stood outside I expected to be punched in the back of the head by a stranger.

The husband finally stopped trying to force the door open and that’s when he saw the shadow of a person moving around in the room. Through the slight opening in the “curtain” on the window we saw luggage. Someone was already in that room.

We booked it back up to the check-in area and I tried to go inside. The front door was now locked and I had to talk to the lady through the small hole in the glass. That’s never good. Anyway, she apologized profusely and gave us another room and another room key.

We set off again and this time we had to walk all the way down to the back of the property, in the dark, through puddles of some foul-smelling substance and past a man walking around that looked like he may be talking to imaginary people.

Still, though. Garth Brooks.

So we make it to the second door, tucked away in a deep, dark crevice of the property, and the room key works! We open the door and immediately feel a blast of thick, hot, smoky air. As my eyes adjust I see a very dirty bowl on the nightstand and some knives spread out on the dresser. There is luggage in this room, too. Also, there is a person in there. Then, the room phone starts ringing – loud and shrill.

Am I describing a horror movie? No, no. This was our Friday night.

We slammed the door shut and scurried back to the car. At this point the husband’s positivity had run out. I locked the car once we were inside and I felt the tears coming. I think I murmured something like, “I just wanted to see Garth Brooks” as I put my head in my hands.

The husband took action and started searching for other hotels. He finally acquiesced that we could not stay in this murder hotel. Even if they gave us an empty room we ran the chance of having some other person getting our room key and walking in our room… like we just did to someone.

We checked for a hotel within an hour of the North Charleston Coliseum and we found that nowhere had an open room. I started calling all the hotels, choking back my tears, but everywhere was booked.

I called the Days Inn 1-800 number and explained what happened and begged for help. The lady that answered my pleading call was so nice…and so wonderful…because she found us an open room for the weekend in the Charleston Historic District for… an undisclosed amount of money.

After weighing our other options (sleep in the car or drive back home) we decided to pay for the hotel. (Thank you, tax return. Thank you.) We got the last available room and we left the murder hotel parking lot, a little shaken and in desperate need of a shower.

Just so you know that I’m not overselling the horror of this hotel for storytelling purposes, here’s some Google reviews (which I should have checked…I REALLY should have checked these) that prove my point:

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ANYWAY.

The hotel we ended up booking was a vacation changer because we were dead in the middle of historic Charleston. So on Saturday the husband and I woke up early and walked the entire day taking in the sights.

For the record, if you want to dress like someone from Charleston, here are your options:

  • A Patagonia Puff jacket (or similar variation).
  • Leggings as pants.
  • An expensive workout outfit (even though you aren’t at the gym and/or on a run).
  • Skinny jeans and brown riding boots.

THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE WAS WEARING. Except the husband and me.

We saw as many sights as we could before the concert. Once the sister and the sister’s husband arrived we went and had an early dinner at Fleet Landing Restaurant – incredible. So tasty.

And finally, finally, finally, it was time for the concert.

All I can say is that I think my head nearly exploded off my body from the amazingly awesome Garth Brooks performance. I screamed my face off. My throat hurt. My hands hurt from clapping so damn hard. I sang the lyrics (because, y’all, I knew them all) as loud as I could. Every time he finished a song he started another classic and I could hardly stand my excitement. It…it just rocked. It rocked so hard. I can’t even find the words.

February 13, 2016 = one of the best, most fun days of my life.

MKJ