Huntress of the Lens


Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I had the idea yesterday while talking to my Big Daddy that I could work on this blog for days and make it really good, and then drop it on Father's Day. He and Heart-Mom will be in some place far across the country seeing the world's largest ball of string, or a glass frog factory or something by then. Maybe they'll be driving that stretch of highway that crosses the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains (or the Appalachian Trail, I can't remember.) When they're on the road there's nowhere to mail a gift, he gets a phone call and a blog.

My problem is that last year I started writing blogs and everyone already got their Epic Tribute Blog, either on their birthday or some other appropriate holiday. No matter how much you love someone, it's hard to write more than one Epic Tribute Blog unless you wait a few years between essays for them to do some more fantastic or sentimentally mentionable things. The truth is, this has just been one more year of me learning to live my life and my Big being a steadily unfailing source of support and encouragement the whole time.

Don't get me wrong, that's the meat and potatoes of my emotional well-being, but there's not a lot that's new to say about it. This year, I wanted something really profound, one of those blogs I know he forwards to his friends as yet another way of bragging about me, which he does all the time. I figured I'd start early; work on it for hours and fill it with delightfully well-crafted sentences and evocative analogies. Then I realized that it was this blog and I was writing it already. I will once again fail to hit the target dead-center on that date called "Father's Day."

In younger and more selfish years, I have missed it altogether, claimed that something was in the mail, been late and claimed that I was actually three days short of being a whole day early. Young, selfish, completely absorbed in my own life; my only evidence of caring at all was the level of guilt I was able to produce and wallow in when I didn't get it spot-on. I have also done this with his birthday and that dreaded commercial nightmare (with its horrible sound-track) Christmas.

My Big has never missed once. The closest he ever came was to ask me in different years if my birthday was the 6th or the 8th. Being his only child (that we know of, I fantasize that there is a sibling somewhere that I can find and reunite with. He says "I don't know honey, if you do they'd be in Korea.") I always find it funny that he asks me to clarify my birthday. One year I said "Jeeze dad, you only have one kid! You get it confused because your wedding anniversary with Dottie is May 6, and my birthday is February 8." These are two dates I've had memorized my whole life, everyone knows when their parents' wedding anniversary is, don't they?

He comes back with "I didn't get married in May, I got married in August. We had a big fight over the canopy over the cake because it was the dead heat of summer and her mother said the cake would melt. No canopy, no wedding." I whipped out my handy set of ten fingers and began counting off the months between August and February, and he said "I've always wondered when you would do the math on that." Dottie just changed the day she claimed as her anniversary, Big waited for me to do the math. This is a fundamental difference between the two of them, she'll lie, or make up a new reality and tell you her truth (which then becomes THE truth, not the same as lying at all) and He'll just wait for me to ask for more information and allow me to come to my own conclusions.

For a couple of years I wondered if he was my bio dad, or if she just picked the very best man around to pin me on since she was apparently "in trouble" and marriage was the only acceptable way to remedy that situation back then. I thought that would make him even more amazing, if he were not my actual father, but a super-hero that took on Dottie as a wife and parented me so tenaciously and devotedly. Then I looked at pictures of his mother very close, pictures of us together and his whole side of the family and abandoned that notion.

The topic he brought up during our phone call yesterday was "Why do you suppose that your mother still has such a negative effect on your current life, when you had input from two different parents and she didn't really have that much time to actually damage you?" That's a paraphrase, I just like to show that I know when to use quotation marks properly, but I may not be quoting directly, just to be honest. It was a question very much like that though.

It never dawned on me that it might be hurtful to him that I go around being so wounded and bleeding, unable to let go of her influence on me, when he worked so hard to create a 6:1 ratio of positive to negative effect. He didn't say that it does hurt him, but yesterday was the first time I formed that thought and wrapped it up in "I wonder" paper. He and my Grandmother had far more access to the moldable, developing and becoming me, it would only make sense that I would have taken more away from those interactions than some sociopathic abuse dealt by my psychotic mother here and there. Wouldn't it?

I think the key is that your mother is your mother, and will leave marks that are somehow wider and deeper because they get you first. I brought up his mother. I think a lot of who he is, the very brick and mortar of his way of seeing the world and walking through it; his ability to find the red dot on the map that says "You are here." was given to him by her.

"Work hard. Don't feel sorry for yourself. I have the confidence in you that I will let you attempt anything that comes into your mind. Learn to count on yourself, that way if someone dies you can still make a damn good life afterward. Do good things quietly, don't draw attention to yourself for your acts of compassion. Never listen to someone who tells you you are incapable of doing what it is you want to do. Sit up straight and take a sweater, you'll catch your death of cold."

This is but a brief list of the kind of personality-forming messages I think my Big would have received from his mother. Instead of scars she left him with practical, tempered-steel inlayed designs that describe who he is as a person. My assertion was that we were both equally affected by our mothers, we just had vastly different people play that role. I also pointed out that in the midst of all my wallowing in my own childhood trauma, both here and in my breathable life I mention him, and his mother far more than I ever do Dottie. I think they had the bigger influence, but if your whole body is fine and you have one broken little toe I think it's the toe that gets the attention.

We also talked about the possibility that as an artist I may need my wounds and my woe, my melancholy and bottomless sadness to be who I am. He asked that I please not cut off my ear.

It was a good talk we had yesterday. He always makes me think, often makes me laugh (especially at myself) and tells me how proud of me he is. When he asks "How did she manage to do so much damage?" I could answer "How could you have saved me from her, from myself, to allow me to become who I am today?

Everything is a contest. You won that one Big Daddy.

So there it is, eleven (legitimate) days early this year, who knows what I may be writing about on June 20? Maybe Mason Jars or wallpaper. Every day is Father's Day if getting to be me is the celebration of the father I have.

I love you Big Daddy.

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