Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Know When to Hold 'Em

Did I ever tell you about time time my mother and I were going through major life changes at the same time?
My dad was so stupid then. He would say things like, "This house isn't big enough for two women!" and laugh as he walked away.
Mom = Menopause. Me = Puberty and the onset of drug addiction.
We battled.
Fuckin' bitch.
I fuckin' hate you.
Hair pulling.
Wrestling in the back hall until we both cried.

The day after wrestling in the back hall my right arm was filled with one bruise after the other from shoulder to elbow. When my mom saw it she cried. She wept out her guilt and shame and called herself a failed mother. A disgrace.

"I don't care, I'm fine," I said.

She cried so hard in the kitchen that she doubled over and almost bonked her head on the counter. I got her into a half-hug and moved her away from the counter. Into the middle of the room. Where she wouldn't hurt herself.

She mistook it for a hug. Some sort of connection. She tried to grab onto me, pull at my shirt, wrap her arms around my waist, my neck, grab my shoulders and not let go.

I squirmed quickly away and mumbled something about 'I'm fine' or 'stop it' as I left the kitchen and went to my bedroom.

I dug a shoe box out of the top of my closet to resume removing seeds from a massive and hairy bud of marijuana that I planned to shove bits of into my bong over and over until it was gone. And then I would use a toothpick to carefully gather the resin it left behind and smoke it as well.

About 20 minutes into the seed picking my dad opened my bedroom door. There I sat on the floor with my legs spread and the shoebox full of pot in between them along with a small bowl for the seeds I was picking from it.

"Your mom's a wreck," he said.
"Yeah?" I said, only bothering to look up to get a handle on any sign that he recognized the fact that his 14-year-old daughter was cleaning up a pile of marijuana in his house.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"She said she hurt your arm."
"It's no big deal."
"Let me see it," he said, leaning into the room a bit further.

I held up my arm and watched as he winced, his lips pulling back slightly so that I could see his teeth.
His eyes searched my face.
I smiled.
He smiled.

"I'll tell her you're ok," he said.
"I am. Yeah."
"OK, kiddo. Good," he said, beginning to back out of the doorway.

And then he opened the door fully and took a full step into my room. He leaned over me where I sat on the floor and took in the shoe box and bowl. Marijuana. Seeds. My hands hovering in the air over both of them, wanting to remain calm.

"Whatcha got going on there?" he asked.
"Some stupid science project that I don't understand," I said, looking him in the face.
"Oh. Ha ha. Well. I guess I wouldn't understand it either. You kids sure do lots of things in school these days that we didn't do in my day. Ha ha."

I gave a little 'ha ha' to go along with his, shook my head and rolled my eyes as if to say, "Whew! School is crazy these days, Pop!"

He turned and went out of the room, closing the door behind him.

My dad eventually figured out what pot was and started mulling around the house finding it in closets, bathroom cabinets and my purse. He started confronting me about it; calling me into his little home office for a 'talk' and then making a dramatic gesture of flipping a baggie full of weed onto his desk or pulling my poorly rolled joints out of the inner pocket of his suit coat.

He drove around town with my one hitters, pipes, rolling papers and bongs in his car. He thought he was doing the right thing by ignoring the fact that my mother and I were beating the crap out of each other on a weekly basis and confiscating all of my drugs and paraphernalia and 'hiding' them in his car.

"Under today's laws you would be arrested for child neglect and drug trafficking!" I once screamed at him years later.
"What the hell are you talking about?" he screamed back.
"Your wife turned me into one giant fuckin' bruise and you knew it!" I screamed. "And instead of talking to me about using drugs you just kept finding my shit and driving around town with it. I wish you would have been arrested. I wish you would have gone to jail for having all of that shit in your car! HA! I wish you would have tried to explain that you were driving around with it so your daughter wouldn't use it. Likely story, dumb ass!"

He became fixated on the fact that I'd called him a dumb ass. That's all the conversation was; an exercise in diversion by focusing on the fact that a daughter shouldn't call her father a dumb ass.

And then it was over.

I like it when conversations like that are over. When it becomes clear there is simply nowhere else to go. When I can just apologize for calling someone a dumb ass and go on. I mean, hell, there are a million people I can talk to about fighting with my mother when I was a teenager and my past drug use. Why try to force him to do it?

What's the big deal? When did I become so attached to the idea that an issue cannot be truly resolved unless all parties involved are discussing it on what I've defined as a 'deep' level?

My parents came to my house this past Thanksgiving. I had seem my mom once in the past three years, and my dad not at all. We ate, talked, laughed, visited our horses. My dad told funny stories to members of my husband's family that he had never met. My mom helped in the kitchen and hugged me close.

I loved it. I liked looking at my dad's face, still cherubic in his mid-70's. I admired my mother's style and intelligence as he flitted about and heaped motherly bragging on everyone in attendance about how much she loves our house and my cooking.

All day that day I kept humming that old Kenny Rogers song about gambling.
"You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..."

I kept thinking I had finally just decided to hold 'em. That I had worn myself out with years of folding and walking or running away. And, though I'm sure some poker aficionado might tell me continuing to hold a bad hand is unwise, I can't say I'm regretting it at this point.

At this point I think the best idea is to invite them to my house again. To hold 'em. To talk with them and, if I feel a need to walk or run away, ask them to go with me.


  1. Lovely. I want to get there. I'm not yet, not even close but it's nice to know that maybe I can be.

  2. Powerful, painful and beautiful. Thank you.

  3. Not many who have traveled your path could ever get to this place of peace, acceptance and clarity to know when to hold 'em. Not me, not ever. My parents are gone. We connect now only through my dream visitations.

    You are a force Mongo, a representation for so many to know what could be, where we should be and what we should be paying attention to as we muddle through our daily routines. I am still struggling to get there - not to reconcile with my past but to accept my present and believe in my path, yet to be traveled.

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for gifting us with your hard fought lessons.

  4. Wow. Stunning memoir from a familiar voice. This is my first visit here, following a comment from Ruby @ The Cheek, and I am blown away by the content and other voices I recognize.

    I will be back …

  5. Tysdaddy!!! What an absolute treat to meet up with you again! My gosh. I've been a horrid blogger on my own blog and kept up with no one else's. I hope you're doing well.
    All - Look, this stuff is only recent. Thanksgiving was nothing short of surreal. I'm so glad it happened, and to be in this place that I didn't think existed for people like me. All I can say is that, once again, I am being faced with the reality that what I thought was impossible has become possible. I love this place (These Women's Words). For some reason it is the place that is causing me to be able to put into words the dropping off of shame, guilt, fear, rage, etc...that I thought I might just grapple with forever. Someone recently told me that I'm living at a level of forgiveness that she's only read about. I'm glad to be living it and writing about it too.

  6. it's kind of amazing, isn't it, when you can just let the things that no longer matter in the hereandnow just fall away. you're all in a different place now, and sometimes, it's best not to look back at where you were.