Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day

Note:  I wrote this yesterday, on Father's Day, but I didn't know if I should post it.  Tonight, I read Liz's post, and told her:  Wow - it's like we wrote the same thing!  So, I'm going ahead and publishing this entry, and although Liz's writing is more descriptive, I think you'll see that we were on the same page.  

Oh, and mine is even MORE late. 

It's Father's Day and facebook is filled with posts about dads.  I just lost my dad on May 14, and it leaves me without anyone to parent me.  This past Mother's Day, I heard Garrison Keilor say, because he lost his mom last summer, "nobody feels much sympathy for a 70 year old orphan.".  I suppose that's true, but missing your Dad on Father's Day is universal once he's gone.  I sure miss mine.  

Looking at photos of my kids' dad on facebook,  I miss Ray. But I miss him in a different way because we don't have him around to share this Dad-honoring day with his grown-up kids.  

Ray is and always was a good dad.  Besides so many good qualities, Ray brought fun to our home, and took notice if I was too uptight or stern in keeping things in order.  (With four kids, who knew order?)  Ray always planned time for the kids, making tours around their school calendars way in advance.  We took trips keeping in mind what the kids would enjoy.  

One of Ray's specialities was helping Karen finish her science projects (which always ended up being done at the last minute), or achieve the "Super Reader Badge" from the Victory Drill Book.

When Phil was little, Ray said he'd rather be home every Friday night, watching "Dukes of Hazard" with 4-year-old Philip, than traipsing off to sing or be on the road.  He liked just being with his kids.

Ray called "Elizabeth" his little dandelion, because her super-curly hair practically floated away from her head.  He loved to brush and fix her hair - if she would let him.  

Sara, our 4th, came along, and Ray never let it show that financially things would be tighter than ever.  He just worked harder to make our family work.  Since we didn't have a separate nursery, and she shared our room for about a year or more, she sometimes would wake up if he came in from a concert late.  No matter, he just got her up - to PLAY!   

It's been a long time since Ray and I were bringing up those little kids.  Now there are six GRANDKIDS to watch, and it's up to our kids to be the parents.  YAY for that!  The little ones all know their Pappaw Ray lives in Florida.  They LOVE it when he visits them, taking them to McDonalds, or the zoo, or wherever the "fun place" is for the day.  They adore him and their faces light up when they see him.  

Now, not to be a downer, but not all divorced gay granddads are as fortunate.  Yes, some have abandoned their responsibilities, abandoned their families, leaving them in terrible straits.  And just as bad, some families ostracize the dad/grandpa/brother, etc., by shunning him for coming out after having had a family.  How awful. 

When Ray and I saw our first counselor after his disclosure, she asked me three questions:
1) How do you feel about being here?
2) Do you think if Ray prayed hard enough, that he could change to straight?
3) What do you see as the best possible outcome?

I was crying plenty as I tried to answer each question...
1) Awful
2) No
3) I wanted Ray close enough to still enjoy our kids.  I didn't want to make him stay around so long that we became bitter, and I couldn't bear that we'd end up fighting and hating one another.  Mostly, I hoped that we'd still be family.  

I would say that we've done a pretty good job to accomplish #3.    

 It could have been different, but  even though he had to miss some events, when he was home he played video games,

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Handwritten letters.

Remember LETTERS? 

I watched an old movie by Wes Anderson.  Two 12-year-old campers fell for each other, and one wrote:  "Write to me," and gave an actual street address.  The setting was 1965, when I would have been 12 years old!  And I remember going to the mailbox back in those days, hoping for a letter. 

Sometimes a letter came from my Aunt Evelyn who lived in Kentucky.  She didn't have any little girls, and she was just about my only aunt.  How I loved seeing the return address, in her handwriting, "615 Maple Ave."  She had taught me her address, in case I ever got lost, the summer I spent a week at her house when I was 7.  Back then, a long-distance phone call was a big deal, where sometimes two of us would horn in on the extension phone, and we had to make everything count when we took up those expensive minutes that showed up on the bill a month later.  But a letter you could hold and read, re-read, and keep in a drawer.

Letters from my brother in Viet Nam were welcomed in the late 60s.  His handwriting was distinctively his own, and my mom couldn't wait to hear from him so far away and in danger daily.  Once, he even wrote just to ME, his little sister.  I treasured that letter.

When I had a boyfriend, we'd send letters back and forth, and I always used special paper.  I remember using a light blue with torn edges.  It was exciting to get home, check the mailbox, and read the sweet words, carefully selected, and then write a reply.  

What is it about getting a personal handwritten note that means so much?  Today we don't do it enough.  Even though we still have "snail mail," and cards and letter are not totally forgotten, it's not the norm. I know that checking the inbox can be a thrill.  Texts are INSTANT, and they usually go through without fail.  But it's not the same as when we had to wait DAYS for a letter, saw your own name in familiar handwriting, and recognized the return address.  I don't want to ever forget how much that meant and how it felt.