Wednesday, April 04, 2007

If they told you, you would cry.

For the April Pulsate Olympics, sponsored by GNM parents. Wow, that feels dirty. :D

Both of my parents are still living. This really should come as no surprise - I'm young (26) and they had me when they were in their early twenties. My dad just turned 50 this past year, my mom is 48.

My dad has some serious health issues. He's a type-2 diabetic and he has congestive heart failure. He's had one heart attack at 43, followed by a triple bypass. He has high cholesterol and high blood pressure. He works 40+ hours a week at a physical job (he's an electrician - does installs of radios on police cars, buses, ambulances, etc, and maintains equipment at various 911 call centers and law enforcement and dispatch facilities). He has a 15% chance of living until he's 60. I get my love of reading, my tendency to question everything, and my temper from him.

He used to be a real asshole and probably could have been considered physically abusive - he and I are a lot alike and butted heads constantly, and instead of walking away like an adult should when faced with a mouthy child and teenager over something trivial, he let his temper get the best of him and he hit me, usually a slap across the face if he could reach, and whatever he could reach if not. And if he ever reads this (I have no idea if he does), I am going to get the biggest guilt trip in the universe. I'm not saying that I was completely innocent, because I was a mouthy little shit once I hit puberty (which is when he morphed into asshole dad). They should have disciplined me differently as a young child - I was indulged and allowed to get away with a lot. As far as I know he's never laid a hand on my mother, nor on my brother. I guess I was just special.

He's mellowed considerably. Now when he acts like a jackass (much less often) I just ignore him. If he hasn't learned any better, I have. He's so incredibly patient and gentle with Freyja that it's like a complete turnaround. She is grandpa's girl for sure. It's still really hard to trust that he won't lose his temper with her, though. He probably doesn't realize it, but I always brush off his offers to babysit if my mom won't be there. I just can't take that step and I don't know if I'll ever be able to. Again, Dad, if you're reading this - I really hope you understand. It's not you, it's me.

My mom has some health issues too. She has degenerative disk disease and arthritic knees, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and high blood pressure. She also works full time, on her feet. She's a pharmacy technician and as much as she bitches about it I know she loves her job. She's looking at her 20 year anniversary soon. The woman gets 6 weeks of paid time off every year, between vacation and personal time. She spends the majority of the time on home improvement projects or with Freyja (the only grandchild thus far). I get my artistic ability, my singing voice, my penchant for sarcasm and my compassion (I do have some, I swear!) from her.

That said, she's also passive-aggressive, overly sensitive, and easy to bait. She goes to church but I'm not really sure she believes, because anytime Kerwin or I mention Paganism, Heathenry, the Pagan roots of any given Christian celebration, you name it, she goes off like a roman candle. She doesn't get that me not attending church is not an insult to her or her parenting. Honestly, I think it's proof that she raised a child who can think for herself, which is a noble and excellent thing.

Growing up, we were lower-middle class until my parents divorced. Then we stayed with my mom, and we were poor. She refused to take any help (oh yeah, I get my overly prideful streak from her, too), and I'm sure there were nights when she didn't eat after working two part time jobs to make ends meet. I have to give my parents credit in that they never used my brother and I as pawns. They had a standard custody arrangement but any time my dad wanted to take us for an extra day or they needed to switch a weekend, they did. There was never any problem with my dad paying child support. He paid what was mandated and took care of other things we needed as well. There was very little, if any, playing one parent against the other.

My dad remarried, divorced, and then my parents got remarried. Yeah, I wonder the point of all of it too. Maybe they both had some growing up to do.

As much as any of that might make me hate my parents, I don't. Sure, I went through that phase when I was a teenager - I think most normal people do - but the real clincher in getting along with my parents and actually liking them was tied to my moving out. My mom and I can talk on the phone for hours and still have a hard time hanging up. My dad and I have bonded through our love of weird trivia and family nostalgia.

I'm terrified of losing my dad to his health conditions before Freyja is old enough to remember him. I'm terrified of my mom getting Alzheimer's like her mom, and not knowing us anymore. I don't want to think of the day when I can't call my dad on my lunch break just to say hi, or call my mom at night to tell her what Freyja did because I know she'll understand. Until then, I just make the memories as I can; for Freyja, and for me.

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