Click here, then read.
I have always been an early-to-bedder. This trait flies in the face of every time I have danced on a bar, shimmied my butt on a dance floor, gotten married, and eaten pizza with a best friend at 2 a.m. Those were the late acts of my 90’s show.
The truth rests with my family—my four older siblings and our parents. Two repeated sayings from my mother led me, in the end, to acknowledge that she was right about me: “She figures out how to make herself breakfast” and “It doesn’t matter where we are. At 8:30 p.m., this child sleeps.”
I have to give my parents props on this: they did let me sleep and wake up pretty much on my own schedule. I was the happy kid who couldn’t wait for the day to begin. I consumed the days and early nights as if they were meals.
As I grew, my longing for boys became a constant, as did my new desire to look good as a feminine creature. I remember one summer that I was growing so fast, I only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were easy to make and totally the right thing. My hips needed those PB&J’s. I remember that summer as one that my parents could never have controlled or changed. That's how powerful peanut butter can be.
And then we moved cross-country, from Minnesota to Pennsylvania, blammo. As always, it had something to do with my dad's job. The official word is that he had to save the Allegheny. My dad played cowboys and Indians for a lot longer than most, and he usually won. The unofficial word? Who knew. As a thin and skampy girl-child, I was not to be trusted.
I remember one time when my dad commissioned a county helicopter just to find out where the beer parties were.
Chop chop over the finest of clear-cut fields. "Is that your dad up there?" a fellow beer-swigging friend asked.
"Yup," I said. My own personal Vietnam.
While most kids harbor ill will regarding the 14-18 years, I don’t. My parents had turned into different people too, much different than the parents I thought I knew before. There we were, the three of us, trying to survive as a unit in our new Pennsylvania town after fleeing Minnesota. The fleeing part seems sad now. It was tougher on my mom than anyone else. Now I know.
I had never moved anywhere with my parents alone, just the three of us. We always had the older kids as buffer. But now…then…it was just me, the only planned child, and them: recovering.
While my parents had been nice to give me the upstairs bedroom, some other girl’s parents had thought to lay the blue carpet and put up the pink wallpaper. I had the girlie room I’d always wanted, but it was too late. By that time I just wanted to sip wine coolers and look for cute boys, smoke a stogie or two. I cared not about what my parents were doing or planning.
I sit here now, 30 years later, that long-off misadventure still charged, but only on my end. If my dad could name anything he wanted, I would get it for him. If I could name anything I wanted, it would be my dad. Simple equation.
I want to bring my dad to the ropes of the ring and give him the best of every coach, especially the “hang in there” part. I want every one of his new tears to reveal him as a prize fighter. I want to pour over my dad with ice packs and heat treatments. I want to cuddle my dad and rub his feet, clip him, make sure his hair is cut and clean.
I want the feathers in his mattress to be the finest, the sweetest words in his ear to be my mother's.