Monday, May 16, 2011

I have never called into the void

I don't give them credit often enough - my parents are really spectacular people. As parents and disciplinarians they balance each other perfectly and have overcome a lot of hardship in their lives to be the loving, kind, supportive people that they are. Some of what they have had to overcome is very private and not for me to spew on the internet, but in my father's case there are two things I can share - he was adopted by the people who I knew as my grandparents, and he was drafted into the Vietnam War at the age of 18.

Adoption can be a beautiful thing, and in my father's case he was adopted by a family who also did a lot of foster parenting and tried to make the lives of children better. My Muni and Pop-Pop were very strict, severe people - my Pop-Pop was a carpenter and built the house my father grew up in and definitely believed in hard work. They were a strict Lutheran couple. Honestly, by the time I was old enough to have clear memories of them, they had softened a lot. My father loved them both fiercely, while at the same time feeling an odd mix of emotions about his biological mother - a woman he does not remember.

At 18 he was drafted into the Vietnam War and became an army ranger. During his time in Vietnam he came to lead a team of army rangers, a small unit that would enter into enemy territory and take out one particular target, and earned two bronze stars for his service. He also broke both of his knees and watched a lot of people he cared about die. When he returned from Vietnam he was subjected to the criticism of a country that was ready to leave Vietnam. Like most veterans of that war, he was not treated well. Since his time in Vietnam my father has done volunteer work with homeless and mentally ill veterans. He has confronted and overcome the scars that were left from service he did not volunteer for.

My father is a very strong man. In spite of these, and other obstacles in his life he is the kindest, most understanding and supportive father I could have asked for. I am definitely a daddy's girl, possibly obnoxiously so. He thinks he is super-conservative, but I would say that my father's desire is to see people be safe and loved in the world, without prejudice. He probably wouldn't put it that way, but I have known him for 27 years. He is full of love. My father and my mother enthusiastically support all my endeavors, including, yes, The TypewriterGirls. I love getting the question "what do your parents think of what you do?" because I can always answer, "They don't always get it, but they always support me and they come to every show." I am continually amazed at my father and mother's ability to be such good people and good parents in spite of everything in their lives.

They've shown me that you can work through difficult times as a couple - at one point both of them had been laid off from their jobs at the same time. It was definitely not the least stressful time of our lives, but they worked together and got through it and honestly, my brother and I were effected very little, I'm guessing because my mother is probably the most money-wise person I know.

When I was ill with a fairly severe case of Sydenahm's Chorea at the same time that my Pop-Pop was dying, my parents pulled together and made sure that I was taken care of by one of them every day. All day every day my father took care of me, took me out for car rides, and listened to what I had to say about my illness ("say" being a figurative term as I could not speak). In the evenings my mother took care of both me and of my little brother, and read Jane Eyre to me. My father and I visited my Pop-Pop in the nursing home weekly. He had Alzheimer's. We were both trapped in our bodies. It might sound kind of fucked up, but I was never closer to him than I was then. I was one of the last people he forgot.

I go to my mother for parenting advice a lot. She's honestly one of the smartest people I know. My dad says she is the smartest person we know. She's someone who is always able to look at things in her life from all sides. She calls me on my bullshit, and I don't always appreciate it at the time, but it's useful and I usually appreciate it later. She managed to be a working mother and at the same time be totally involved for both myself and my brother. She is the first person who read poetry to me. She cooked for our family every night when I was growing up. She insisted we eat together as a family. She read and read and read to me. Now I read to Ben every night.

Both of my parents are highly creative, whether my father would admit he is or not. My mother is a fiction writer and my father builds models and miniatures. They both work for a bank, but my father is a history buff who sometimes gives tours at battle sites and gives talks about the Civil War, and my mother leads writing groups at two libraries. They are more than their jobs and more than their children, and that means a lot to me as their child.

Whenever I need them one, the other, or both of my parents are there for me. I have never called into the void. My father is always ready to leap to my defense, to back me up, and he can be really, really scary when he wants to be. He knows how to command respect. He knows how to defend his family. I upset them, they annoy me, I get stressed when I have to go visit sometimes, but my parents have always loved me. They have always done their best to be the best parents they can possibly be.

I love them. I am very, very grateful.


Karla said...

That's a lovely post. I'm saying that here because Facebook comments on blog posts are never seen by readers you don't know personally, and a good blog post ought to show that it's read and appreciated!

Marian said...

You are amazing! And this is an amazing post! It made me get all teary eyed. :)

I can clearly see each of these things in your parents, and teh few times I've met them they have been wonderful. :D

You rock my socks.