Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The day my little puppy died.

For my 8th birthday, my parents bought me a little puppy. He was the runt. Though he was small in stature, he had the heart of a lion. So we named him Leo. This was the first time I had responsibility for another living thing. What I didn't understand was that even though little doggies love the taste of anti-freeze ...

Ok, I'm just kidding. I never had a dog. Well, I did but I don't remember it. It was when I was one years old or something. So long little Leo. We miss you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Departure

My oldest daughter turned 19 today. On my way to work I was thinking about that. The first thing that came to my mind was how she was when she was little. One particularly bittersweet event popped into my memory. Actually, there is a photograph of it. I first thought of the photo, then the event. I don’t know who took the photo. It might have been Jolene’s mother.

In the photograph, Jolene is somewhere around 3 years old and our backs are to the camera. We are flying a kite out at either Lake 11 or Lake 16. I don’t know which. Why did this memory come to me? Well That’s what I was wondering.

From the time she could sit up and play, each night we’d go into her room and play some game. Usually, it had to do with me trying to stack blocks as quickly as she knocked them down. Or we’d wrestle, or I’d tell her stories.

Every night I would drag my feet to play with Jolene the requisite 20 minutes or so. I didn’t want to play with her. I just wanted to sit and relax.

Every night I would enjoy myself so much playing with her that the session typically went for an hour or more.

She was smart and funny. She had a wonderful sense of humor. I was very proud.

Every night I would put her to bed. We would play a game, saying goodnight to all sorts of animals, warning them to quiet down because it was bed time and if they weren’t quiet, we promised the animals we’d make a sandwich out of them and say they taste like chicken.

At that time in my life, I was working 2 or 3 part time jobs. I was a sophomore at UNO taking 12 hours. My ex-wife did not work. I was exhausted. Jolene was the only part of my day I enjoyed. It was a rather dark time.

Eventually, my ex-wife had had enough of my screwing around at work and school all of the time and threw me out of the house (this is very close to the truth). I had wanted Jolene to have a normal life from the time she was born. The burdens she had were not fair in my mind. I left the house because the family was broken. She was a baby in a house where the parents were always yelling. I thought (perhaps incorrectly) that it was better to spend a couple of great weekends with her a month, than 7 days a week of fighting with her mother.

In my most painful memory, I tried to explain to my daughter that I was leaving while she (I’m crying right now) was standing in her crib bawling. Why was I leaving her? She thought I loved her. She was a baby girl losing her daddy. Her best friend. Her superhero. My ex wanted me to lie to her and tell her I’d be back soon. Maybe she was right. Maybe I should have lied. I did not believe it at the time.

Leaving my wife was easy. People did not understand that. They thought I was miserable because I was no longer with my wife. At that time I was only allowed to be with my daughter for very short periods of time. The courts had not decided anything yet and My ex claimed she did not trust me alone with my daughter. She’d let me visit for an hour or 2 here and there. The only visitation I had was with Jolene’s mother present, making it difficult to be myself around my daughter.

One time however, when she was 3 years old, I was allowed to take Jolene unsupervised to the lake where we flew a kite. The ex met us out there and took Jolene back home. I think that’s where the picture came from.

Before Ex got there, I got to watch my daughter as herself with me as myself. Her daddy showing her how to fly a kite (today she’d say she taught me, but she’s a liar).

As I stood behind her, watching her looking up to the sky, carefully holding the string the way I’d instructed, I had the strong revelation of the pain awaiting me in the coming years. I loved being with her so much. I wanted to have her knock the blocks down every day. But it would only be a couple of times a month for the rest of her childhood.

I believed that one day she’d want to come and live with me. She was smart and funny. Her personality was similar enough to mine. I reasoned that her mother would eventually have the same effect on her as she did on me.

Finally about the time she was 16 or so, she moved in with us. I was so happy for her. I had always wanted something for Jolene that I could never give her until this point. A home life she deserved. It was not fair that she should be in a crazy house where the parent heaped too much responsibility on her. She should be allowed to live her high school years unencumbered by her parents’ problems. We tried to do that as much as possible.

She’s in college now. She earned a full ride. I’m so proud of her I can’t express it. I only write about this because I’m hoping it will be suitable in lieu of me spending money on some gift.

That last line is for Jolene. Did I mention she has a great sense of humor?

Happy birthday Jolene.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Real Wesley J

The truth is stranger than fiction. At least that’s the old cliché. I’ve always believed that to be only partially true. I guess it depends on what truth and what fiction you’re talking about.

The other day when someone calling himself “Wesley J” commented on my blog, my first reaction was to take it at face value. I was confused by the vile, crude, illiterate nature of the comments. Knowing the real Wesley, I had not expected that type of response. On the other hand, I had never seen any of Wesley’s writing so even though he has always seemed intelligent, maybe it just didn’t translate to the written page. There are many extremely intelligent people who are simply cursed when it comes to reading and writing. Unable to convey the witty thoughts “forming in their brain”, they are limited to the basest form of human communication. Threatened by their clearly inadequate literary skills, they must resort to homophobic derision and name calling.

Of course, when the real Wesley stepped forward and explained that I had been duped, the fake comments made sense. Wesley’s explanation was articulate, like I would have expected.

However, the fact that the prank was engineered in the way it was shows the perpetrator is an intelligent person, which I can verify now that I have finally figured out who it is. Although there will never be the remotest hint of it in his writing, this is one of the smartest people I've ever encountered. I’d venture this is one of the few true geniuses I know. To hide behind my psyche undetected like that. Whew. Wait until I tell you who it is!

Before I continue I must warn you. “Wesley J” is tricky. This story has a few parts that I’ll unveil over the next few days. In between, there may be comments from “Wesley J”. They may persuade you that my conclusion is false. But I make this promise. After I’ve shown you who he is, there will be no doubt.

I’ve known the person now calling himself “Wesley J” since I was 14 years old. I met him the year I despised myself more than any other. When I turned 15, I said to myself,
“That was the worst year of my life. I doubt there will be any that bad again ever.”

So far, it’s true. After a bitter painful divorce when I was in my early 30's, and the ensuing extreme poverty, I can honestly say the joyless 14th year of my life was the worst ever. I was unhappy all year. Some call it growing pains or puberty. All I know is I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to be me. It was during that summer that I met “Wesley J” and we immediately became best friends.

But to talk about that, I have to talk about the comment of “Wesley J’s” that gave it away. Like I said, I know the guy. Even though we are now sworn enemies, he was most likely bored with my sorely inadequate guesses as to his true identity, so he threw me a bone when he lied and said he was in New Mexico. Only "Wesley J" and I will ever know what that truly means. But I'll let you in on as much as I dare.

Eleven months out of the year, my dad worked hard. He’d scrimp and save to put away enough cash for a big annual family vacation. These were great. Usually something big like Disney World!

On this particular year we were going to go to Florida for some fun and sun. At least that was the plan. However, my grandma had a dying brother who lived far, far away. My grandma never drove a car. At this time, she was about 65 years old. She was resigned to never seeing her brother alive again. My dad decided it would be nice if we modified our vacation plans so Grandma could see her brother. As it turned out, this change resulted in one of the most memorable vacations we ever had. At the time, there were 5 in our family. We had a 1972 Chevy Nova with no Air conditioning. We were going to be taking Grandma with us. We were also going to take my aunt (mom’s sister-german [ sic ]) with us because she would like to see some of her uncles/cousins-german [ sic ] as well (look it up. I just learned it today and wanted to use it). So with seven people, the Nova wasn’t going to cut it.

So my dad bought a big huge Ford Custom 500. It was the first car I ever saw that ran on “unleaded fuel”. It was roomy enough for all seven of us to ride in comfort to our ultimate vacation destination. The place relevant to the tale of "Wesley J". Because you see, my grandma’s brother, Marion, was dying of emphysema. On the suggestion of his doctor, he had moved himself and his family to the dry climate of Farmington, New Mexico. The hint “Wesley J” left for me in his last comment. Oh, he doesn’t live there anymore. He tends bar at an island resort. But he used to live there. Oh did I mention my great uncle’s last name? It was … Keeler!

(To be continued. Or not)