Tuesday, December 1, 2009


my father was stabbed at a bar in LA, walked across the street and died in highland park when i was three and half years old.

* * * * *

i had dinner with my grandparents last night.

these grandparents are not biologically related to me, or my dad, but they are all i have known as grandparents and all he ever knew as real parents.

they are some of the most AMAZING people i know. its insane.

they got married in their very early 20's and right after my grandma had gotten pregnant with her first child (and after only 6 months of being married) my father and his younger brother showed up on their doorstep looking for a place to stay.

they only lived in a tiny "honeymoon" house, they called it, at a mission site in LA. the only extra room they had was a walk in closet that had been turned into a kind of bedroom with makeshift bunk beds.

my father was 11 and my uncle 6. they had just moved to LA from seattle with their mother. she had been an alcoholic and from what my dad told my grandfather he spent most of his childhood cleaning up her vomit, dragging her out of bars, and wondering where she was. him and my uncle would sleep in goodwill bins (in winter, in seattle) when they went out to find her and couldn't.

she had had her own life of anguish which left her unable to be a fit parent. a native american girl that came from a government run orphanage. none of us know much about her, how old she is even. she is full of shame for her heritage and wont speak about her past or the other children that came before my father that none of us know. they were all given up.

so when my grandma and grandpa allowed my father and uncle to stay with them, in a warm home, with warm loving people, you could imagine how happy they were. my grandpa was telling me stories from when he first came to live with them. about their first christmas in my grandparents home. they gave my father tennis shoes and he slept with them all night clutched tightly in his arms. i can see how much my grandpa loved my dad and how deeply he cared for him when he speaks of him. i feel the same way about how much he loves me.

they ended up staying until they were grown. my grandparents had 4 children of their own after my dad and uncle came. when their kids were grown, actually even before their youngest was out of their house, i moved in. ever since i left they have still had a child at their house up until the past few months or so. their own moving back in, with grandkids... or people coming to stay from other countries. their home has continuously been open to people in need. the amount of compassion and grace they live in amazes me and seth.

it was so great, and so strange to hear about my dad. on the one hand it was just crazy interesting because i know nothing about him. nothing. i have asked a couple questions over my lifetime but really haven't learned much. its always been too embarrassing of a subject for me to even think about, much less talk about. on the other hand it was really hard because at every second i wanted to cry. my heart ached for him and the things he went through. i wanted to scream because i'm so mad i dont know him. hearing about him made me realize just how much we had in common, how much we shared that maybe he could have helped me with. i was nerve wracking because i felt so ashamed and embarrassed for missing him and wanting to know him. for talking about someone who is gone. it was intriguing because i couldn't stop wondering if he could see me somehow. if his soul is somewhere off the earth resting, if he is here in another body and doesn't know about me, if he's just gone. it was like a weird book i was reading or something.. hearing about a person who is closer to me than anyone on this earth, yet an absolute stranger. i feel close to him, when people talk about him i feel like i know him in my heart better than anyone, but i dont. i've never even heard his voice.

somehow he's still a part of me. and this brought me to another very frustrating realization. that just as much as he will always be a part of me, that he will always be in my heart and head, that he will always have a stake in my life, as a dead man, then so will my mother. who is very much alive. no matter how little i talk to her or think about her, she is a part of me. i have spent so much time wanting to deny her, get her out of me, forget her, make her disappear from my entire being and i'm JUST now realizing... i can't. ever. she is in me. there will always be things about me that sing of her. i have no control over that.

so there are these two people, both seem like strangers. like ghosts. two people i will never really know, but they live in me. somehow our hearts are connected forever.

with my mother this means i have to find the good in her and let that live in me. i have to be ok with that she is not all completely wretched. i have to love the parts of her in me, or i will only end up hating me.

with my father this means he's not gone. not completely. and it means he is real. he's not an imaginary story that someone made up.

my grandparents have boxes of pictures of him, pictures i have never seen. so im planning to go and look, and try not to feel like a freak for caring. i want to look into trying to find my family, all his sisters or brothers that came before him, there were 6. i want to go visit my real grandmother. before she's gone.

its always been so insane to me how seth knows so much about his family, how they have things to pass down. its not something i've ever wanted or thought about. i'd like now to create my own traditions, to pass down my things for my grandchildren, and to learn as much as i can about our gypsy style family. we may not be a normal family with china and silver, with family trees that date back to the year our family stepped off the boat, but our history is full of colorful stories, of mystery, pain, and life. its my own patchwork quilt that i am stitching together on my own...


Emery Jo said...

so beautiful.

A thankful heart said...

This was amazing. As a mom and your friend, this is heartbreaking to read. I am so grateful your dad was able to feel the love and warmth of a family, if not from his own mother, from one he found! Your grandparents sound amazing... I'm realizing just how many layers you have..the more your peel back and reveal, the more I start to understand you and the more things start to make sense and fall into place.

I don't think you should EVER feel ashamed or embarrassed about wanting to know about your dad and his family...EVER! You are his daughter, and this is totally normal to want answers...I also don't want you to think that a "normal" family uses china and silver and has lavish family trees! Most families are colorful, and very few use china, especially to eat on!! Some people are straight forward and might "wear" (so to speak) their family on their "sleeve", or maybe you'll have to dig a little...but brokeness, sorrow, lonliness, love, etc..lies in most families! Even when a family looks perfect.. it can't be and if they think they are...well...they're probably not!

I'm so happy for you and can't wait to hear more about your dad!! He's sounds couragegous and like an amazing big brother..like a protector and a provider!

meg said...

i had never heard this part of your story. You tell of tragedy so beautifully. what amazing and somewhat terrible things to realize.

Our Tribe said...

I have never read your blog before. I guess my 19 year old son reads it, so I heard about it from him.

Your writing is raw and honest and insightful and heartfelt and TRUE... I appreciate your willingness to live out loud, on the page.

Might I just encourage you that there is NOTHING weird or wrong or shameful about wanting to absorb information about your dad? About feeling he is a part of you and you are part of him? What little girl DOESN'T want to know about her daddy? (I think it would be "weirder" if you DIDN'T want to know - and by weirder I think I more mean sadder... because you would have simply pushed away the truth of how much we LONG to belong.)

Likewise, your mixed emotions about your mom make SO much sense!!! Of COURSE you are hurt and mad and abandoned and sad and bitter etc. because of your history with her... yet at the same time, just like with your dad - she will always be a part of you... and that natural longing of a girl for a sane, balanced, present, healthy mom is NORMAL... it is what you SHOULD have had, but didn't.

I am sorry you didn't.
I wish you had.
But from the little I have read of your blog so far (and I will be reading more), it sounds like although you missed your opportunity for a healthy parent/child relationship the first time around (with you as the child) you are working hard to make sure it is full and loving the second time around (with you as the Mommy). Keep up the hard work. Even though you are human and WILL blow it and will not be perfect, you are working hard and doing GREAT!!!

With love,

Flo Paris Oakes said...

Of course you know I completely understand about the being embarrassed part. I feel the same way, and I know people don't "get" it, but until they've gone through the same thing, they can't really say what's normal or not.
Sometimes I feel bad for feeling so thankful that there is someone else who understands exactly how I feel- I love you!
I'm glad you're getting to see pictures and things, I can't wait to hear more..:)