A Little Thing

My Dad’s memorial/wake/celebration of life thingy was yesterday (I started this on Sunday so “yesterday” was actually Saturday) and I wrote a little speech thing to kind of get the sharing ball rolling:

“I write a humor blog and when I have had the occasion, in the past, to do live readings I usually start off by talking about one of my greatest inspirations; my Dad. Those of you that knew him well, knew him peripherally or just stood in the same room with him for any length of time whatsoever, knew that Scott was rude, crude, crass, foul, vulgar, uncouth, tactless, classless, tasteless, coarse, obscene, profane, blue, purple and perhaps even off-color. Scott wove cussing into every day discourse with the stealth of a ninja and the precision of a surgeon. He loved dirty jokes. In fact when I was 6 he taught me a joke, the meaning of which I was totally unable to grasp until I was a little bit older but that did not stop me from sharing it with everyone at the family reunion that Summer. Here it is; What do a 747 and a peroxide blonde have in common? They both have a black box (pauses for laughter). At 6 years old I genuinely thought I understood this joke in that I believed that the black box that the bleach blonde had, referred to the box in which her hair dye came from the store…turns out I was wrong about that. 

The story I usually tell people about Dad is so inappropriate that I almost don’t want to share it today….almost. [BOAT STORY]
(This was actually copied directly from my notes wherein I did not write out the boat story. And no, I will not write out the boat story. I tell it at the beginning of nearly every live reading I have ever done, so chances are a lot of you have heard it. It would also lose something in print because if you cannot hear it in Scott’s voice [which, of course, at this point is impossible] you should at least hear it told with my impression of Scott. It would be no good in print…and also I don’t want anymore hate mail this week. Long story still pretty long, if you want to hear the boat story you have to come see me read…or just bump into me in line at the grocery store; I’ll totally tell it to you there)
My Dad taught me that it was better to laugh first, and last and every occasion in between. I am deeply blessed to have his wonderful sense of humor as well as his high tolerance for alcohol, his impossibly Scandinavian whiteness, his love for having fun, being outside, setting things on fire, camping, fishing, star-gazing, rivers, beaches, animals, loud music, laughter, dancing (not well, but dancing nonetheless), drinking, eating, and bullshitting. I think one of things I admired most about Scott was that he could make friends with anyone, and often did, as we can very well see looking around here today. Thank you all so much for coming, and I hope we can all share some wonderful memories and celebrate a man for whom we all cared very deeply and who cared very deeply for all of us. 
Sharing Scott’s love with all of you has served only to grow it, not incrementally but exponentially. Scott always had room for one more, at his table, in his home, in his heart whether you were human, canine, feline or my old roommate Rob’s rabbit that he didn’t want anymore, Scott would welcome you. And for those who would say that his passing so early on in life is a tragedy that could have been prevented; prevented with prudence or moderation to them I would say that there are those of us who would prefer to live our OWN life as opposed to a LONG life by someone else’s rules. Thank you!”
It was an awesome day! A difficult, nerve-wracking, heart-wrenching, confusing, sorrowful, unforgettable, awesome day and I really, really, really appreciate everyone who came out to show their love for Scotty. Everyone who laughed and cried and drank and shared, you made my day and I am sure a lot of others’ day as well. A few “thank yous” and “shouts out” to people who went above and beyond the make the day not only bearable but actually pretty darn okay:
I wanted to thank Skyler Cesarone for the beer, albeit Scott would never have touched an IPA I was very grateful, as I am sure most attendees were, that everyone could come together and raise a glass in Scott’s honor. Thank you so very much! Also, it was great catching up!
Sharon Lambert, I know you’ll never read this which is why I feel free to say that while I am fully aware that your eagerness to host my Father’s wake was not entirely egalitarian I nonetheless thank you so much for your hospitality, your reaching out to make the day possible and above all, your friendship with my Father which I know he valued a great deal. Also, I will be by later on tonight to pick up my Mom’s coat. See you then!
Those Pedersen Women, all of whom have married names now, and all of whom are my Sisters-in-law and for that I count myself amongst the luckiest gals alive. Thank you all for seeing that glazed look of confusion and uselessness in my eyes and knowing that it was your time to shine. When I could not handle it all three of you knew exactly when and how to take charge. You are a blessing to me and to everyone who knows you, of that I am sure!!!
Thank you to everyone who stepped up to share a story! I am sorry if there were any that I missed while I was out back sobbing in the horseshoe pit.
I know that just because we had a memorial does not mean that memorializing or remembering is over. It does help me, in the broader scope of things, to start to move on if such a thing can be done, but I will be celebrating Scott’s life every day for the rest of mine! I love you, Daddy! I miss you more than I can aptly express and I just hope that you are comfortable and happy and proud, wherever you are! XOXO

Not All Stepmothers Are Wicked but Mine Was

I recently read the Facebook post of a friend’s son who was having some trouble with a step-parent. It seemed like it went well beyond the normal teenage, “you’re not my real dad” bullshit. It sounded like the step-parent in question was really, truly awful. In any case I just wanted to reassure this young person that what they are feeling is valid and that others have been there before. I wanted to share my story with him…maybe it will help, maybe it will help me.

My parents split up when I was 10. To be painfully accurate they told my brother and I they were getting a divorce exactly one week before my 10th birthday. To be fair they had their reasons for the timing; I was born on their 3rd wedding anniversary and who can really blame them for not wanting to suffer through another celebration of their love for one another that no longer existed. I remember my 10th birthday party; it was perfect, a beach party on Lake Sammamish at Idlewood Park on a gorgeous August afternoon. I got the “Lil’ Swimmer” Cabbage Patch doll after which I had been pining. Everything should have been wonderful but I could not feel anything. I knew I was supposed to be happy, but I just could not find it inside myself.

But time marches on as it is wont to do. Less than a year after the divorce my Dad remarried, choosing for his second wife, in his infinite wisdom, Gail Deering. A former high school…girlfriend is the wrong word but you kind of get what I mean…of his who had recently appeared back in his life…as if by MAGIC! In any case she would have had you believe that in all the interim years she had done nothing but pine away for my father. What she was really doing in those interim years was getting pregnant at 17. She married the father of her twins (yes twins, a boy and a girl), Joe. Joe died when the babies were about 2, I think it was a car accident or motorcycle accident and I am fairly certain that alcohol and/or (most probably “and”) drugs were involved. At that point Gail decided that raising two babies on her own was too hard so she left the twins with her mother (who had obviously done a stellar job with her) in favor of biker gangs and heroin.

It was a good life but one can only make a respectable living off the money they earn hustling pool and arm wresting for so long before they start to yearn for life’s simpler pleasures; settling down, making a permanent home somewhere, reconnecting with your abandoned children and their social security checks, etc. And that was Gail in a nutshell; she was always trying to run a hustle. She never worked while I knew her and she was almost always in the process of litigation with former employers over an on-the-job injury or an L&I claim or a disability claim. She worked very hard to not have to work. Which was good because her lifestyle of drinking all day didn’t really jibe with full-time employment anyhow.

Gail was an alcoholic (at first). Not to say that my Dad is not an alcoholic but to this day I could count on one hand and have fingers left over the amount of times I have actually seen my Dad “drunk”. Gail was drunk every night. She was a large, brutish woman and a mean drunk. I always marveled at my Dad’s ability to maintain a blind spot for what a mean-spirited human being she was. I had never met anyone prior to Gail in whom I could find absolutely no redeeming qualities. And I did not want to feel that way about her. I did not want to play out some ridiculous, archetypal, fairytale horror show starring none other than THE WICKED STEPMOTHER! But that was what I got.

Once when I was twelve, and spending the weekend at my Dad’s, Gail and Dad had been drinking all day which led to Gail and Dad fighting all evening. I watched my father get so angry with her that he put his fist through the laundry room door. Her response to this was to hit my father over the head with a dining room chair. She literally broke a solid-wood dining chair over his goddamn head. In the midst of the chaos and the screaming I demanded to be taken out of that house immediately. I gathered up my things while Gail flung a litany of curses at me and my father. I was a “spoiled little bitch” and “a wimp” and “a little fucking princess” for not wanting to watch my father endure another blow to head with whatever piece furniture was next on her hit list. My Dad agreed to take me to his mom’s house. I don’t know why I did not ask to be taken home, to my Mom, but I think there was an unspoken agreement that that was a humiliation my Dad was simply unable to bear after all the other indignities he had suffered. I stood on the side of Highway 9 in the driving rain while my Dad called his mother’s house from a pay phone. There was blood running down the side of his head and out of his ear when he turned to me, while waiting for someone on the other end of the phone to pick up, and said “I think I made a mistake.” That was 1992. Fifteen years later he finally left her.

For fifteen years I was mostly estranged from my father because my stepmother made it too difficult to have a relationship with him. For fifteen years I wondered how he could be so blind, how could he not see what she was doing to us? For fifteen years I genuinely and earnestly wished my stepmother dead. For fifteen years of I was afraid to visit or call my Dad because I would have to go through her. 

In the last 10 years of their marriage Gail’s behavior grew more erratic as her alcohol and drug abuse grew more inclusive and indiscriminate. She abused prescription pain killers to the point that she had gone into cardiac arrest twice in as many months and she wasn’t even 40 years old. She began to traffic drugs, selling pain killers that she would get from her croaker of a doctor and using the money to buy meth or other street drugs. All the while my Dad remained either in denial or complacent due to the income brought in by the selling of drugs.

Towards the end she was painfully thin (having always been on the heavy side before), covered in sores, withered well beyond her years and always high on one thing or the other. But it wasn’t until she got a gun that my dad decided that whatever he might have to give up, it was not worth risking his life. He took off in the middle of night and left her, his house, all his belongings, every photograph, every possession and he had never been a richer man, for he was free.

I remember when I found out that he had left Gail; it was as if I became 50 pounds lighter. I was thrilled for my Dad, thrilled for us, thrilled at the possibility of a real relationship with him! And I was so angry that he hadn’t done it sooner. I don’t know if I will ever fully forgive him for the years we lost.

About 3 or 4 years after my Dad and Gail had split up he called me. I was at work; I remember it was just after Bo was born and I was sitting in the slipper chair at the shop nursing him when my cell phone rang. It was my Dad, telling me that Gail had (finally) died (of a drug overdose because DUH!). Into the phone said the first thing that came to my mind, “Well,” I sighed, “Ding-Dong!”. I had wished for it for so long, so many times but I knew that when it actually happened I would feel a little bit bad, but you know what? I totally didn’t, that bitch can rot in hell for all I care and I am glad she is gone. She was a fucking cancer and she corroded everything she touched.

I know this story doesn’t offer any salient advice or some great moral or lesson…other than if you wait long enough, all the people you hate will eventually die. I just wanted to let my young friend know that I understand what he is going through and if he ever needs to talk….well, you know where I am.

Also, sorry this isn’t funny. I promise to be less depressing very soon! XOXO