Some families have great genetics. Everyone lives until they’re 95 even though they drink, smoke, and eat sides of beef. This is not my family. On my father’s side, we have heart disease, diabetes, and anxiety disorders. My father and one of my half-brothers died incredibly early. My father was 49 and my brother was 35. This is why I exercise daily and don’t allow myself to become the size of a small whale.
On my mother’s side, we have breast cancer, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, and anxiety disorders. This is also why I exercise daily and watch my weight. In addition, because of the strong breast cancer history, I also endure more medical tests than the average woman. I had to start having mammograms at 30, and now, I have to have an annual breast MRI, too. It’s not so bad, though. Unlike the mammogram, breast MRIs do not hurt. There are a few other great things about this procedure. Here they are in no particular order.
New Google Material – During the second part of the MRI they inject you with a contrast fluid. In my case, it was Dotarem. In today’s super-litigious society, doctors must inform you about any and every possible risk greater than a toe stub. So, I received a full-page document that basically said, “So far no one has died from having Dotarem injected, but you know, we don’t really know for sure if it’s harmful, but we think it probably isn’t, so maybe don’t worry about it for now.” Okey-doke. That made me feel much better. In addition to worrying about having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack in the tube, I now had to worry about turning into the Incredible Hulk in a few years. Peachy. You know I will be Googling Dotarem every time I feel remotely ill from now until I’m 97 and a half.
Pretend Spa Time – For this procedure, you have to, I mean you GET TO, lie face down in a face donut thing and listen to music for 45 minutes. It is JUST like getting a massage except no one actually kneads the knots out of your shoulders, and you can’t actually hear the music because all you can hear are magnets banging together, and your boobs sort of hang awkwardly in their own donut contraption. OK. I’m lying. It is nothing like a massage.
You EARN Treats – After you endure this nonsense, you can and should get yourself a treat. There was a Starbucks a couple blocks away from the medical facility, so I thought of driving there. After the test, I felt super hungry, so I settled for the Tim Horton’s that was IN the facility. I got a donut and a cup of coffee. I regretted it and vowed to always go to Starbucks. I’ve only lived “up north” for the past decade or so. I still don’t get the appeal of Tim Horton’s. Lesson learned.
No Glamour – When you are getting ready for your appointment, you will be amazed at how quickly you can get out the door when make-up, jewelry, and deodorant are not allowed. This is because there is a strict no metal rule in the MRI machine and these items can contain metal. Think about it – MRIs use MAGNETS to take images. If you had metallic eyeshadow on, well, I hate to think how that would play out. If you passed fourth grade you know what metals and magnets do.
No Bra—You get a solid 45 minutes of bra free time. Once you and your MRI tech work together to awkwardly (could she at least buy me a drink first) place your breasts in their proper magnet holes, and once the padded breastbone bar is in a spot where it doesn’t feel like your ribs will crack or your stomach will cave in, you can lounge peacefully without a bra. Maybe it is like spa time.
Open in FRONT—This is the one time in your life when you will be permitted to wear a hospital gown that is open in the front. YAY! At least your butt won’t hang out for this procedure. Just your boobs. Oh well.
Peace of Mind—If you are like me and have shitty genetics, getting a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram is a smart thing to do. MRIs catch things that mammograms miss and vice versa.
So, if you are getting an MRI soon, I hope this helped clear up some of the mystery. It’s not fun, but it’s not the worst thing ever. It’s non-invasive. It’s not a colonoscopy or a uterine biopsy. I’ve had both of those and the breast MRI is MUCH easier. There’s no prep, other than not wearing deodorant, jewelry, or makeup, and there’s just a small needle to deal with. If you are claustrophobic, your doctor can prescribe a tranquilizer for the procedure. I was able to get by without it this time because it was my SECOND MRI, so I knew what to expect. Plus, you are on your face, so you don’t really see the machine much. My facility was super cool and had mirrors in the face hole that showed me the room, not the tunnel I was in.
Have you had a breast MRI? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Also, if you have any questions, I would love to try to answer them.
Dear Generic Suburban White Man who was in the Kroger Parking lot,
Yes, that was me who screamed “FUCK!” in a tone that can only be described as warring tomcats. I appreciate your look of judgment at my choice of language, which is why I gave you the little wave with my unburned hand and the polite, “sorry!”
You see, in my never-ending quest to not have unnecessary trash to get rid of, I said no to the little green stopper at the Kroger Starbucks. Thus, when I hit a bump in the parking lot while holding on to my beloved flat white and my cart, the coffee when flying out of that tiny drinking whole and all over my even more beloved Kate Spade Purse.
And while my “sorry” and wave may have meant I wouldn’t yell fuck again, I did when I spilled the coffee two more times on my way to the car. It’s a good thing you had already driven away when I was attempting to open my car door with coffee all over my hand and purse. When I hit the coffee cup against the door, not on purpose, it spilled some more down the interior of the door, at which point I literally growled, “Fuck! How many fucking times am I going to spill this fucking coffee?”
After that, I went digging in my console for anything to soak up coffee. You see, I’m an incredibly neat person and I don’t hoard napkins or Kleenex in my car. Luckily, I found a Norwex mitten duster and a pair of yarn gloves, along with some hand sanitizer. I managed to clean the car door and purse. I licked off the top of the lid to get the large amount of coffee that had gathered there.
When I finally unloaded my cart and got in my car, I thought three things. One, I will always ask for that frigging stopper. Two, it’s a good thing I went to Pam’s Norwex party four years ago. Three, I really need to just let the husband do the shopping. (Yes, someone married this rude woman.) Something awkward always happens to me at Kroger.
That Short Chubby Chic with the Potty Mouth
I grew up in a single parent democratic household with many democratic family friends. I heard a lot about how Republicans were nothing but “warmongers” who would not help the poor. I was told that they wanted to spend all of our tax money on bombs not food for the poor. They sounded like horrible people to young Lisa, but I didn’t pay much attention to politics until Ronald Reagan was elected.
Reagan was elected when I was in 4th grade when I was a poor kid on reduced price lunch. I was upset that he beat Carter because I LOVED Carter. Our teacher made us watch the inauguration speech in class. One of my classmates, Kenny, yelled, “Tell ‘em Reagan!” I told him to be quiet and my teacher got mad at me. Later, when Reagan wanted to make ketchup count as a vegetable in the school lunch, I hated him more. That is one of the first times I felt like the lone liberal. The lone liberal actually sounds like a superhero who wears a mask and rides a horse, but it’s really not that exciting.
Last week, we found out that President Trump would be coming to our local high school. My liberal friends were posting about it on Facebook, saying that it would be a “circus” and they would stay away from it. I agreed. I had no desire to go. So, when my husband registered for tickets and said he wanted to go “see a sitting president” I was scared. At first, I really did not want to go. I got really anxious about it.
What we imagine is always worse than reality. I imagined being physically thrown out of the rally. I imagined being burned at the stake. I imagined being arrested. I imagined a lot of horrible things, and then I remembered that I don’t have Democrat tattooed on my forehead, or anywhere.
When the time came to drive over to the school, I was super stressed. So, the husband and I had a drink. I was not drunk, but my stomach stopped cramping and I felt like maybe I would not be lynched.
We had to park like a mile from the school. The speech was supposed to start at 6:30 and doors opened at 3:30. We got there at around 6:00 and heard that people had been in line since 8:00am. Why? Do they not have Twitter? You can “hear” him speak at any time.
So, we were at the end of a very long line. It was super-hot and I had worn jeans. I thought we would be in an overly airconditioned auditorium. I was wrong. We didn’t even make it in the building. We were put in an overflow area, a small grassy spot between the parking lot and the school, where a screen was set up. When my son and his girlfriend went to see President Obama a couple of years ago, they ended up in an overflow room with ac and seats. Not here. Even the overflow rooms were filled. We were standing outside and SWEATING.
As we were standing there, I noticed a lot of really smart people. They were the people who were selling things to a captive audience. There were hats, t-shirts, and even socks for sale. There were people selling water, lemonade, and iced tea. There was even someone selling beer across the street from the school. We bought a couple of bottled waters.
Honestly, everything was cool and almost normal, except for everyone being white. It was nothing like I expected. And then the president took the stage and the crowd became a little more energetic. Everyone applauded loudly. I used both hands to hold my bottled water to get out of clapping. There were chants of “build the wall” and “CNN sucks.” I kept quiet.
President Trump began his speech by talking about “the elite” who snub his followers. He said, “they are more elite than me? I have everything better than they have. And I became president. And it is driving them crazy.” The crowd cheered. I clung to my water.
Next President Trump, began talking about Senator Jim Jordan, the former OSU assistant wrestling coach who is a candidate for speaker of the house while being accused of covering up sexual abuse at OSU while he worked there. The president introduced him, “Jim Jordan—how great is he? Come up here, Jim.” There were chants of “speaker of the house.” Trump joked with him and asked him if he had wrestled at the high school where the speech was being held.
Jordan stepped up to the microphone and spoke to the crowd. The biggest cheers for Jordan came when he said: “embassy is going to Jerusalem.”
After Jordan stepped away from the microphone, President Trump took over again. He mentioned that “Maxine Waters is a seriously low IQ person.” Then, he started talking about our local Democratic candidate for Congress, Danny O’Connor. “A vote for Danny boy and the Democrats is a vote to let drugs and criminals into the country.” He followed up with, “they don’t care about the crime, they don’t care about the military, and they don’t care about your vets.”
I stood there and thought about how wrong he was. I have a lot of liberal friends. We care about our military and our vets. We frequently donate to veteran causes and send care packages to the military. I wish the president wouldn’t add to this already divisive political culture. I also wish he would get his facts straight and look at actual crime statistics.
But there was no such luck, Trump went on to say, “we want our country to be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not illegal aliens.” The crowd chanted “build that wall.” I clung to my water bottle.
A woman who was standing next to me leaned over and said, “he really is a great speaker.” I had talked to her earlier before the speech started. She is a teacher with a husband and at least one teen son, who was there with a red Make America Great Again hat. I had also chatted with her husband about jury duty. Like me, he was horrified by the brutal crimes that occurred in our sleepy little county.
By this point, my husband and I were super sweaty and just wanted to go get ice cream. So, we left early. As we were walking to the school’s exit, a man and his tween son started walking with us. The man told us they had gotten there early and made it into the school, but that is was very hot inside, too. For some reason, we got on the subject of animals. This man and his family had rescued a few dogs from shelters. My husband talked to him about our rescues and we all really bonded over our love of animals. I also chatted a bit with his son about how much I loved American Chinese food. He said, “You mean the kind with peas and carrots in the fried rice.” I said, “Exactly! Totally not authentic.” We laughed.
As we got near the exit, we noticed an old couple leaning against a cement pole together. The man we were walking with asked them, “Are you OK? I can go get my van and take you to your car.” They thanked him but said someone was coming to get them. He made sure they were ok and then we kept walking together until we had to go our separate ways to our parking spots.
As we walked back to our car, which as I mentioned was a mile away or so, I was lost in my thoughts. I had gone there expecting to be frightened by Trump followers. I had actually worn closed shoes instead of flip-flops in case I needed to make a run for it. I didn’t like what the president had to say, and I never do, but I was pleasantly surprised by his followers. They don’t have horns. They aren’t stupid. They are animal lovers, teachers, and parents. They really are a lot more like us than they are different. Maybe we should go to each other’s rallies more often, not to protest, but just to listen.
I’m still a Democrat. I still want to help immigrants and poor people. I think of America as a melting pot, or a colorful tossed salad of cultures, not a walled compound. Really, we are all immigrants. Let’s be nice to each other and actually talk to each other as people. Most of us don’t have horns.
Last week, I had my yearly lady garden inspection. Well, I suppose they inspect they whole structure, not just the garden. Anyway, as per protocol, I was a wee bit nervous when I got there. So, I was relieved when the receptionist smiled and only handed me two forms to review and sign. At least, I didn’t have to write a bunch. Then, she pointed out a third form, that was really an advertisement for CoolSculpting.
For those of you who haven’t Googled it yet, or who are otherwise out of the loop, CoolSculpting is a procedure where they wrap you in some sort of cold torture device freeze your fat cells. I could tell that the receptionist felt a little odd bringing it up since she was basically calling me a fat ass.
Receptionist: The third page is just, uh, well, we will be doing CoolSculpting and you can fill this out if you are interested.
Me: (looking down at the form with pictures of various chubby body parts with checkboxes next to them) Oh! I’m interested. I’d love to check all of the boxes.
Receptionist: (looking excited. They must get a bonus for everyone who signs up or something) Really?!
Me: Yep! I mean, you should probably just put my whole chubby body in an ice chest, but the husband would probably remind me that we have a kid in college so we shouldn’t spend money on stuff like that.
Receptionist: (looking down at her desk, and a bit awkward because there was a really heavy woman and a pregnant woman in the waiting room. Oops!) OK. (nervous laugh) Well, just sign those two forms and hand them back to me.
I stopped cracking fat jokes about myself and reviewed the two forms to be sure all of the information was still current. Then, I took a look at the CoolSculpting flier. Seriously, they had every possible body part that you could get a CoolSculpting contraption around other than the dreaded Fupa. I guess you can’t freeze a Fupa, even at the gyno office.
I don’t know how to feel about CoolSculpting at the gyno. I mean, isn’t this one of those places where women already feel vulnerable. You already dread sitting there with a paper blanket over your legs in meat locker level air-conditioning. Then, there is the part when you have to keep scooting down the table to the stirrups, and you hope you don’t fart or have any toilet paper stuck anywhere. And with all that stress already, they want to greet us with, “Hey, fatty! Let’s freeze that shit off!”
I don’t know how to feel about this, or if I need to feel anything about it. What do you think? Should the gynecologist offer CoolSculpting?
And, one more thing, if fat can be frozen, why aren’t Eskimos skinny?
When I was little, I used to tell my mom that someday I would get big and she would get little. I’m not sure if I thought that I would literally get bigger than my mom (I am) or if I would need to parent my mom due to her old age or dementia(no comment). Today at lunch, the manchild, who is bigger than me, had to parent me.
We were sitting in a cute New Mexican restaurant eating our burritos.
Me: Did you see that I tagged you in that Facebook post? I want to see that movie about Betty Boop.
Manchild: [swishing his ice tea around in his glass because this place is anti-straw and there was nothing to stir in the Sweet N Low] What movie?
Me: It’s based on a true story! [I LOVE true stories!] It’s about the woman who inspired the cartoonist to draw Betty Boop. Her name was Elizabeth Boop.
Manchild: [skeptical look with one raised eyebrow]
Me: I’m not making this up. I sent you the trailer. It shows her on a farm with her mom. She accidentally hits herself in the head with an ax and since it’s like 1930 they can’t drain the fluid and she ends up with a big head. [Even I am hearing myself at this point.]
Manchild: [picking up the phone to look at Facebook] Mom, did you happen to notice that Funny or Die posted this trailer? [does air quotes around trailer and speaks to me like I’m an 11-year-old who really need to understand that Santa is not real.]
Me: No. It’s real. Kelli said that she wants to see it too. [Kelli is smart. She knows it’s real, right?]
Me: IT’S REAL!! Chris said he would take me to the Marcus theater with the bar. It’s a real movie.
Manchild: Mom, it’s not real.
Me: [laughing and whining at the same time] BETTY BOOP is REAL!!
Waitress: Hi, everything OK? One check or two?
Me: One! I’m his mom. I know I look too young and all.
Waitress: [laughing and retreating]
Me: But, it has to be real. [pulling my phone out to Google Betty Boop Movie and not finding anything other than old cartoons]
Manchild: You can fixate on it all you want. It’s not real.
Me: [Pulling out my credit card] I’m going to look on the computer at home.
Manchild: And you will get the same results, Mom. Betty Boop is not real.
And sometimes, the children parent the parents. He got big and I got little. And, as an English professor, I teach students how to find good sources. I have failed.
Picture it! It’s a sunny Saturday morning. The husband, Chris, is unloading the dishwasher, and I’m throwing a scrambled egg sandwich in the microwave for the boy, who has to work. Poor boy. Anyway, I decide to make coffee.
Me: Do you want some Starbucks coffee? [I say this like I just offered my husband a treasure chest full of sex or something.]
Husband: Are we going to Starbucks or do we have some here?
Me: [walking to the pantry like I’m about to reveal what is behind door number three] We have some! I bought it on Thursday.
Husband: Good. I didn’t want to go there right now. [Chris is not a morning person.]
Me: You don’t have to. [Pulling out the bag of Starbucks from behind the chips] See! I got genuine 1971 Pike’s Place. Fuck!
Me: I bought decaf! Well, this explains everything! I told you I nearly fell asleep grading essays yesterday. Well, essay grading is boring, but still!
Me: And I wanted to take a nap at 10am. Now I get it! I drank decaf. No wonder it was on sale. I blame Mr. Roll Tide for this.
Husband: Oh, you were chatting up your friend again.
[Mr. Roll Tide is a stockman at our local Kroger. I love talking to him because he is from Alabama and proudly wears his Alabama hat. I’m from Florida and also do not route for the local team, OSU.]
Me: Yes! He was on the coffee aisle, wearing his Roll Tide hat. I told him, “Good for you for wearing that hat!” And he asked me if I was from Alabama. I reminded him I was from Florida. So, he told me to keep rooting for the Gators. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was a Seminole because he was so happy to remind me that Urban Meyer was at UF before he was at OSU. So, I got distracted and picked up decaf. It’s all his fault.
Husband: Of course. Well, just make whatever swag we have.
And that’s what I did. I made cheap Aldi coffee. Are you all crying for me?
I ventured to the outlet mall with the husband on Sunday. I wasn’t going to go anywhere because I just switched from Zoloft to Lexapro and I wanted to be sure I was “normal” enough to go out in public. Then, I said, “Screw it! Let’s go shopping.” I wasn’t really planning on buying anything because as the husband says, “We’ve been spending money like drunken sailors.” I’m not sure what that means as we have not purchased hookers or cheap rum, or any rum for that matter.
But then there was a Kate Spade store. Cue the harps. Everything was 70% off. My wonderful husband insisted that we go look around. This is why I love him. Well, there are other reasons, but his insisting that I buy even more purses is one of them. So, of course, I found two purses that did not even cost as much as one Kate usually does. I walked out of the store smiling with my Kate Spade shopping bag hanging off of my arm.
Then, we began looking in different clothing stores. The husband (we’ll call him Chris) was looking for good deals on Polo shirts because he only has 872 of them in every color in the Roy G. Biv rainbow. He needs more shirts, you guys. He’s got a uniform to maintain.
Finally, at G.H. Bass, he found the gold mine of Polo shirts. Can we call them all “Polo” like people in the South call all sodas “Coke?” Anyway, you know what I mean – short sleeve business casual and/or golf shirts with three buttons. They had a ton of them, so he grabbed a few to try on.
While he was in the fitting room, I must have looked lost because the manager (she seemed in charge so she must have been the manager, right?) came over to ask me if I needed help with anything. I said, “no, thanks” and raised my bag, telling her that I already spent money today.
That’s when my awkward light came on.
Manager: Have you seen our purses? [She points to a bunch of perfectly nice looking purses without Kate Spade labels.]
Me: I’m kind of partial to Kate. [I held up the purse I had hanging cross body.]
Manager: [Gets a serious look on her face] Oh yeah, especially now.
For those of you who don’t know or don’t care, Kate Spade committed suicide a few weeks ago.
Me: Yes, it’s a shame she didn’t just take her meds. I take meds. I don’t understand why people are ashamed of taking meds.
Manager: Me, too.
Me: I read that she self-medicated with alcohol, which is the opposite of what she needed.
Manager: Yep, because it’s a depressant.
My Brain: Hold my beer, Lisa. Shit is about to get awkward.
Me: Years ago, when I was going through my divorce. I wanted to kill myself. I sat in a closet and thought about buying a gun and shooting myself.
Manager’s Brain: Seriously Shari, you need to stop talking to customers you always get the weirdos.
Me: I was doing comedy at the time, and the next night I did a show, and everyone was telling me how funny I was and how much they loved me. I was thinking if they only knew.
Manager: Yep, you never know I guess.
Manager’s Brain: Shari, say something neutral and back away slowly. You are not the fucking suicide hotline.
Manager: I wonder what happened with Anthony Bourdain.
Me: Yeah, I wonder. Who knows.
My Brain: Just stop. You have been awkward enough for one day.
Me: [Looking around store.]
Manager: Well, look around. Let me know if you need help with anything. [walks away]
I bet there are a lot of people out there who talk about me at the dinner table. They usually have stories that begin with, “So, I had the weirdest customer/patient/client today.” You just know that manager Shari sat down to dinner with her friends and/or family later and said, “You guys, do I have therapist written across my forehead, or what?” Sorry, Shari!
Recently, I took a ten-day break from Facebook. It was supposed to be a month long break but I had to keep logging back in to use Goodreads, Uber, and the 97,000 other apps I have linked to Facebook. I needed a break because I was tired of the never-ending bad news in my feed about the government, murdered children, beaten pets, and random fires and floods. I was also tired of rolling my eyes at the vague booking, diary posts, and pictures of meals. So, even though my break did not last a month, I did learn a few things from the experience.
- I’m nosy. One of the reasons I spent so much time on Facebook is because I am nosy. I love looking up old boyfriends and high school acquaintances to see whatever happened to them. Guess what? When I was off of Facebook, I Googled them instead. I love Google stalking. I think I could probably be happy being a detective but my son reminded me that detectives do more than Google people.
- I get a lot of work done when I actually focus. So, when I was not Google stalking, I did get more work done by not having Facebook as a break option. Instead of taking a few minutes between tasks to make sure that one woman was still crazy or that other person was still overly dramatic, I simply moved on to the next task on my list.
- I still procrastinate my writing when I am not on Facebook. Sometimes, I think maybe I just don’t like writing as much as I thought I did. According to a therapist I used to see this is because I have a “fear of failure” so I “self-sabotage.” I tell myself there is no point in writing because it is so hard to get published. I tell myself I’m not that good at writing anyway. I would say that is accurate.
- I read so much more. Rather than scrolling through and seeing what everyone had for dinner, I opened a book, either hardcopy or e-book, and I actually read. I read memoirs in the hopes that this would inspire me to actually work on my own memoir. I’ve got stories to tell, but I keep muting myself. I guess we covered this in number three.
- I rolled my eyes a lot less. The only time I rolled my eyes during my Facebook break was when I watched the news. Facebook and the news remind me of how mean and unempathetic people have become.
- I’m just a more tolerant person when I don’t know about someone’s political views. I enjoyed talking to people in real life without seeing what meme they just posted.
- I didn’t miss much. You could log on to Facebook every five minutes or once a week. You will see the same things. There are cat pictures (yay), memes from both sides of the political aisle, news stories about shootings, bombings, and children being left in cars, and a plethora of awkward selfies.
So, I’m officially back on Facebook, but I am limiting my time. I have taken the app off of my phone and my iPad. I will only look at Facebook on the computer, and that will only be when I have completed my grading, discussion responses, and other tasks for the day.
What about you? Have you ever needed a social media break? How often are you on Facebook?
Now, don’t go getting too excited. This is not a story about how I was raised by a nice gay couple. Nope. I was born way back in the 70’s. Two men were not allowed to get married and adopt a baby. This was REALLY frowned upon back in the polyester and disco era. The only two men who could openly live together back then were Burt and Ernie, and they had separate beds even if they were in a one-bedroom apartment. Nope. This is a story of the two fatherly type men in my life – my never around biological father and my fantastic stepfather.
Like everyone else on the planet, I have a biological father. I mean, duh, we all need TWO parents in order to become a person, right? But I use the word “parent” very lightly when it comes to my father. Really, “sperm donor who cheated on my mom and left for good when she was 7 months pregnant” is more accurate. Yep. My mom finally had enough of her husband’s Mad Men level philandering and kicked his ass out when she was full of pregnancy hormones. He left, taking both cars with him. Asshole.
I saw my father about five or ten times in my life. When I was first born he told everyone that I “looked Asian” and that I couldn’t possibly be his kid because my mom was a big ole cheater. Not true. Then, as I grew older, I began to look EXACTLY like my paternal grandmother, his mama. So, he could no longer deny that I was his. He did, however, continue to deny to pay child support, but I digress.
The few times that I did talk to my dad as a kid, I liked him. My mom always told me what a crappy husband he was, and I knew that he rarely visited me, but I still liked him when I did see him. We seemed to share a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. He was intelligent, musical, and a little mystical at times. He read my Tarot cards and told me stories about the ghosts that haunted his house. I found him fascinating and like all kids of divorce, I used to wish that my parents would be back together. It never happened.
The last time I talked to my father was horrible. I was 14 and my mother had just married my stepfather. I was excited because my stepfather was going to adopt me and then I would have the same last name as him and my mom. We were going to be like a “normal” family. Growing up as the lone custodial child of a single mom (my brother lived with my father), I was always chasing “normal.” So, I was THRILLED that my stepfather was going to adopt me. I told my father the good news over the phone one night. He got angry and said, “Well then you’re not my daughter anymore.” He hung up. I never talked to him again. He died the next year, at age 49, of a heart attack in a Denny’s parking lot. I was 15.
At first, it hurt to lose my father, even though I barely knew him. All of the future “should have beens” came rushing through my mind. He should have been there to see me graduate from high school, and college, too. He should have been there to walk me down the aisle when I got married, both times. He should have taken me on vacations to spend time with his parents and his sister and her kids. To this day, I really don’t know his entire side of the family. I thought we had years ahead of us to work through our fucked up father-daughter relationship. We didn’t. To this day, I will not let someone leave or hang up the phone if they are angry with me.
I got out of the “my father died” funk when I realized he really wasn’t ever a father to me. Now, my stepfather, on the other hand, was a father to me. Not only did he teach me how to cook, clean, and not be an asshole, the man taught me that he had my back, right from the beginning.
Before my mom even married my stepdad, he was there for me. Since he was 19 years older than my mom and already retired, he took me to the orthodontist and other appointments when mom was working. So, during these drives in his 1977 HUGE green Lincoln Town Car, we had some good talks. One time, I told him about a boy at school who was picking on me. This boy was calling me “pig lips.” I never really thought much about my lips one way or another, but once this jackwagon pointed out that my lips took up half my face, I spent most of the time trying to pucker inward and hide the majority of my huge lips. My stepdad set me straight.
One day, he sat me down on the couch and put a pile of fashion magazines on the coffee table. He flipped through them and said, “Look at all of these gills (he was from Boston and didn’t pronounce his R’s). They get shots in their lips to make them fullah,” he informed me.
“Well, they’re stupid!” I said with all of the seriousness an embarrassed 13-year-old girl can muster.
He didn’t stop; he kept flipping through the magazines, pointing out the “gills” with full mouths, and telling me I had what women paid plastic surgeons to get. It took me years to believe him. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m glad for my pig lips because they look a lot less pruny than skinny lips.
One of the best things my stepdad ever did was teach me how to drink. He had a very liberal policy on alcohol. He figured if you don’t make it a “big no no” then kids wouldn’t want it so much. I think he’s right about that. My stepdad bought me my first drink at one of those private clubs in Boston (I don’t remember if it was the Elks, the Eagles, or what, but you know what I mean). I was 15 and he had just picked me up from the airport. I had flown up to meet him in Boston, where he was visiting family. My mom was going to fly up in a few days. On the way home from the airport, he had to stop by this lodge of sorts and talk to a friend. My guess is it had something to do with betting on something as the man’s only vice was gambling. So, we sat down at the bar to wait for his friend and my stepdad asked me what I wanted to drink.
“A screwdriver,” I said, being sarcastic and not really knowing what the hell a screwdriver was.
He ordered it for me, and the bartender actually gave it to me. I drank it. Now, this was not the first time I ever drank alcohol. It was the 80’s and there were these things called wine coolers that high school kids could somehow get from stores who sold to teens. I’ve got lots of stories about wine coolers, but that is for another blog.
After that, my dad let me have drinks here and there. On New Year’s Day when I was 17, I came home from a sleepover with my friends. I told my parents about how one of my friends had drunk too much and barfed. I had not had any alcohol at all, so I held her hair. My dad immediately went into a lecture on “how to drink.” Here are his rules:
- Stay away from the “dahk” stuff. (Dark stuff — Whiskey, dark rum, etc)
- Stay away from the sweet stuff. (No froo froo drinks)
- Don’t Mix. (That one is pretty self-explanatory. Stick with the same drink.)
- Pace “yahself. Just keep a little buzz.” (Don’t over do it.)
- Have some “watah.” (Stay hydrated.)
The man was right. I got all the way through college and young adulthood without barfing from drinking. I was 31 the first time I puked from alcohol, and that was the first of only three times. The three times that I have gotten sick from booze have been because I broke one or more of the drinking rules.
My stepdad was not only a great father to me, but he was an amazing grandfather during the short time that he was in my son’s life. After my son was born, I went back to school to get my Master’s degree. My mom and my stepdad babysat my son. They took him everywhere with them, to the mall, to the grocery store, everywhere. My stepdad even let my son “help” him build a trellis. Unfortunately, my son’s time with my stepdad was too short. He died when my son was 3.
Father’s Day is always kind of tough for me because I don’t really have a father anymore. I do have lots of wonderful men in my life who are fathers. First of all, there’s my husband, who, like my stepdad, took on the role of stepfather to my son. Then, there’s my son’s biological father who has maintained a good relationship with our son even though we live several states away. He also always paid child support, unlike my father. Last but not least, there is my father-in-law, who is a kind, warm, and friendly man. He would have to be; he raised my wonderful husband.
Here is my husband with his dad.
So, we’ve talked about me enough. What are you up to on this sappy Hallmark card holiday weekend? Leave me a comment. I love hearing from you.