Friday, March 26, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

The most amazing thing happened last night!

I almost got into a fist fight with my best friend from back in the day.

We were both waiting in line to get seats for our local high school production of Damn Yankees--me, with 2o of my Young Women, and she, with 10 of her kids.

I kid not. She really has ten kids. (And she's still skinny.) Her mom had ten kids too. (And she's still skinny.)

I was like "Hey, lady, you and your ten kids are crowded us!" And she was like, "Oh, yea!? You wanna make something of it?"

Then just as we were about to start pulling hair, a flicker of recognition crossed between us.

"Mary?" I gasped, and then we fell into each others arms in a fit of giggles.

Talk about whiplash!

I don't remember when our friendship began, but she told me last night that she distinctly remembers vacuuming my living room floor before my baptism, which fascinates me because the only thing I remember about my baptism was that after it was all over I told a fib on the way to the city dump and spoiled the whole thing.

I don't remember when our friendship fizzled out either, but it must have been quite some time after her family moved to Eureka to live in an old church with her cousins. We commuted back and forth on weekends for a while, but eventually the long distance relationship took it's toll.

You can't tell, but we were sporting our Donny and Marie t-shirts in these photos. You have no idea how many hours we spent stretched out across her bedroom floor listening to Marie Osmond sing Paper Roses and wishing we had a brother who wore Purple socks.

The coolest thing about Mary's bedroom was that it was actually the cry room of that old church in Eureka, which means that half of one wall was a window overlooking the sacrament pews. The cry room was situated above the chapel and was designed for mothers with disruptive children. The idea was that the mothers would be able to see and hear the church services, without the church services being able to see and hear them. A brilliant idea, which also came in handy for catching her cousins, who lived in the rooms on the other side of the cultural hall, in the act of plotting secret missions to take over the church.

The crazy thing about seeing Mary last night was that she has a memory like a mouse trap.

"Remember that hit song we wrote?" she said and then she sang it: "We are the dancing dolls. We are the dancing dolls. We turn around and touch the ground. We are the dancing dolls."

Startling how heelarious I was even at the tender age of ten.

"And remember that year I came to your Bicentenial family reunion in Mt. Carmel?" she said. "I still have Todd Lookinlands autograph in my scrapbook."

I had completely forgotten about that autograph. And about the fact that not only do I see famous people, I'm also related to famous people.

You all know Bobby Brady, right?

Well we just so happen to be blood kin.

I've never met him, but his brother, Todd, came to our Bicentenial family reunion.

Lookie, this is him in 1976--the very same year we got his autograph--with Elizabeth Taylor in The Blue Bird. He went on to play the chicken boy in Karate Kid and surfer #3 in Big Wednesday. The list goes on and on but I don't want to sound like a Braggedy Ann.

Todd Lookinland wasn't the only thing Mary remembered about that reunion. She also remember singing Blowing in the Wind and If I had a Hammer and Leaving on a Jet Plane at the top of our lungs all the way down to Mt. Carmel. And she remembers asking my mom if she was going to have any more kids. Apparently my mom laughed and said "I don't think so, I've already ruined seven of them."

What a silly goose mom.

The most surprising thing Mary remembered was my dad's sense of humor. That image of him usually gets upstaged in my mind by his presence, yet absence in my life. He was present, yes, but withdrawn and depressed. Or Present, yet strung out on pain meds. Or present, yet nursing another serious bleed caused by his hemophilia.

It was surreal almost, listening to her talk about him. "He was always so funny," she said and then she repeated a story as if she were telling a joke about how on the way to the reunion she asked him to stop at the next bathroom.

"Why?" he said, "Do you need to take a bath?"

"No, I need to go to the restroom," she told him.

"Why, are you tired? Do you need to take a nap?"

Three words: Ba dum bum

He would have made a great Crash Test Dummy, don't you think? And I would have made a great side kick.

But he's been absent, yet present in my life for 28 years now, tomorrow.

March 27th.

In fact 28 years ago today I was a freshman at Provo High School, trying to decide what I was going to wear to the big dance at Timpview. I spent most of the day at American Fork high at a choir competition wrestling with a strong, persistent, almost urgent, nagging feeling that I needed to go see my dad, who lived in an apartment five blocks from my house. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen him so it didn't make much sense to suddenly pop in. I thought of dropping by and asking if I could borrow ten bucks to buy the hot pink double breasted bolero from Lerners I'd been eyeballing for the dance, but I never borrowed money from my dad so that didn't make sense either.

In the end I borrowed ten bucks from my tithing, walked downtown to Lerners and bought the bolero. When my hot rollers went out while I was getting ready for the dance and my mom told me to go ask my dad to fix them. Again I ignored the opportunity.

Sometime during the dance that night, while I was praying with all my heart that Keith Sperry would catch me on a slow song, my dad overdosed.

It's strange how things stick to memory when your life is about to change colors. I distinctly recall going outside during the dance and pausing and looking up at the sky, inky and vaguely punctuated by a spattering of random stars. I distinctly recall inhaling deeply even though I had no idea what was about to hit me.

For one moment in time I stood alone in my hot pink bolero, paid for by God, while the moody March air wrapped her arms around me and chastised me, gently.

"I'm sorry kid," she said, shaking her head, "but you're going to regret this night for the rest of your life."

Regretting something you did is a heavy cross to bear, but regretting something you didn't do, that you could have done, and SHOULD have done, is a whole different animal.

I've gone back to that night many times in my mind, as depicted in my short story Letting Daddy Die, which many of you have already read, but this year, thanks to Mary, I'm not going back. This year I'd rather drive shotgun to a family reunion in Mt. Carmel and sing Blowing in the Wind at the top my lungs.

This year I'd rather smile and giggle at my dad making like a crash test dummy.

LY, Dad!

And ba dum bum


DeNae said...

The regret shouldn't be yours. No one should have to regret not seeing someone before that someone made a terrible choice. I know it was an accident. But you were a kid being a kid, and kids aren't responsible for all those missed opportunities, especially when they didn't create the problem in the first place.

My dad died last year. He was present - but terribly distant - my whole life. Relationships are complicated; they're supposed to be. And no one gets it right all the time.

The road to hell may well be paved with good intentions, but I believe with all my heart that the road to heaven is, too.

Love you!

Garden of Egan said...

I loved reading that. I had a roller coaster of emotions.
I'm not sure if I like laughing and crying at the same time. It messes with my head.
Great that you could see a long lost friend.
Celebrate tomorrow.
I agree with DeNae.

Heather and Kyle said...

Ethan is doing ok? He got his helmet last Friday, and since then he is having a hard time sleeping and then he has wet his pj's every night since then. Ya long time no see

Tiffany said...

That post made my heart hurt and my eyes sweat.

You are such an amazing writer.

Martha said...

Yeah, try to smile and giggle. We'll be thinking of you guys tonight because we're having a BBQ at our house. It's Kuhio Day don't you know and there's no school or work for us. We've already been to the beach and now Swirl is taking the kids to the movies. I'm taking a nap.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

In true Crash Dummy Style you got me to be happy and sad in one post. I'm sorry about your loss but mostly your regret over it. I know how regret feels and it's an ugly thing.

Lub ya girl and there is nothing better than connecting with old friends!!!

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

I don't really have words to say. I agree with Denae about the road to heaven. I agree with Shelle - ly girl.

I know for me personally I am so grateful that you shared this with everyone. It has made a difference in my life. And during many of the black days of last year, I held onto the thought that I did not want to inflict such loss upon my own children. I will tell you that I am sure your dad thought you would be better off without him, and that nobody would miss him. That is the horrible thing depression can do, alter reality. So long ago there was not the same awareness that exists today.

So from one nutty hamster to my favorite crash test dummy, I hope tomorrow is a happy day. It is amazing how friends can make the unbearable bearable, isn't it.

Sandi said...

Isn't it amazing that your dear old skinny friend "just happened" to see you right before this important day? It was meant to be! How wonderful that she could remember fun, and funny things to share with you--I am so happy you found her right now! Love the pics of you the pic of you and your this story!

OldBoatGuy said...

Yea, life is hard sometimes. And life is wonderful most of the time. I'm glad you shared.

I can see your daughter in those old pictures. What a wonderful reunion.

The verifier is "tipsy", that's what I am now tipsy, teary.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What an emotionally charged night eh? It's always weird to run into old friends and feel like you never left them.

I love this story. Thanks for reminding me to move on and not regret the past.

Stephen said...

I enjoyed your post a lot, although it was a BIG roller coaster ride from finding your long lost friend to the death of our father. Maybe I am just too close to actually events.

springrose said...

I am quite certian that your Dad would not want you to feel this way! That some how you could have changed his mind. Generally if someone has set their mind to drugs or dieing you can't change their mind. Just prolong the enevitable. I have regrets about my grandfather when he died. I missed the last day I could have spent with him. I was planning on going in to see him on Sunday afternoon and he died on Sunday morning at 3am. I have felt horribly guilty. I did a lot for him before he died, but I missed a day and now I feel guilty. I think that is what Satan wants us to focus on. Not the good, like the stories your old friend told you. I agree with Sandi. I don't think it was chance that you saw her again the night before your most horrible memory. You can change this day. To a day of celebrating his life and the good that he was. Not the horrible weight he carried with addiction and not being a part of something wonderful like you and your family! It all comes down to choice, his, yours then and your choice now. YOu were young then, now you are older and wiser and can choose to change how you feel and how your kids view your father! I hope today you have a great day remembering the fun side of your father!

IWA (e - va) said...

I love reunited with old Friends! Glad you found her!

Ive already said this before but I love how you are so real in your writing... Love his jokes! Now we can see where you get your crazy humor from.

In the pics of you and mary, Your boys (all 3 of them) look just like you.. and i had know that.. but really, they look exactly like you!

Barbaloot said...

I'm so glad you ran into a friend that could remind you of your dad's sense of humor and happy things! You deserve to have those good memories.

And I'm so glad that when I got on your blog today Peter, Paul and Mary were playing. I love them.

And also, you went to PHS? How did I not know this? I feel like you're younger than my youngest aunt, but did you know any O'Briens?

April said...

Sometimes we are so emotionally tied to a person we lose sight of their good attributes. It's like not being able to see the trees because of the forest. I am grateful when others are put in my life to help me with that. YEAH for beautiful gifts!

I am Lorinda W- you can call me LoW said...

Oh goodness gracious! That was an awesome post. I remember when you snuck up on me last year and wrote such a post and boy howdy, you got me again!

I am so glad you are remembering the funny things. I hope when I die, that's what my kids remember, and not the mean/sad/aggravating things I've said and done. :(

Jami said...

You and Mary are so beautiful. I can't believe you wished you had a brother who wore purple socks. I wished I had a HUSBAND who wore purple socks. Why do you think I joined the church? (OK, not really to marry Donnie, but still!)

I can imagine your dad having a fantastic sense of humor. Things like this tend to be passed on from generation to generation.

Do listen to DaNae, by the way. Children are filled with the belief that if they just did something different their parents wouldn't have divorced or died or moved to Montana or worn that horrid plaid-and-floral tie. We carry that belief with us into adulthood sometimes even when our big grownup brains know better. It's quite the job convincing the subconscious though.

Love ya!

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Oh, so much to say. Thank you all for your sweet words. I had a wonderful day. I LUB you all and appreciate you sharing in my joys and sorrows.

I will respond to a few specifics here in my next post. And I'll come back later and reply to ya'll.

SWIRL said...

lub ya Crash-
love the child hood pictures! Adorable--- way back when.. no fairl you didn't have embarrasing bangs-- or snaggle teeth!

So so SO glad you had a wonderful day! {{hugs}}

SWIRL said...

oh- you would have laughed at Martha's BBQ...
she innocently invited me... and I asked... how many people are coming? (cuz you know I am a small group kinda person...) she said, Well just you guys and the Akana's.

Guess how many people were there? It was the Hauula Hike all over again. (no not really that bad.)
She is just a gal who likes to PaRt-ay!

val of the south said...

I'm so glad it was a good day for you. I love that you share both your joys and sorrows. You got me thinking about the good side of my dad too, and I needed that. You are truly a full service friend!!

Love ya tons!

T said...

great - I started out wishing we had one of those cry rooms for our chapel (even though my "baby" turns 6 this week) and I finish it out by desperately needing a cry room of my own. or at least a tissue because you've made my eyes sweat somethin' fierce.

Bean There...Done That said...

Ah geez,I needed that! Thanks a bunch for your tender thoughts and words.

So, how are you related to the Lookinlands??????? Their mother was once my father's sweetheart. Pretty sure they kissed. ; o}

Did you notice that the "Sunday Hat" has been downsized from a Top Hat to a Beret?!?! Must be a sign of Spring. (wink, wink).

Braden said...

Wow. That is a very poignant post. I've been crazy busy lately, so I am late commenting. In a way I'm glad I am because I would have tried to say what DeNae said, but would have said it so much worse and less powerfully. So, I'll send pixellated, but sincere, support and good wishes!

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

I've been in blog absentia of late. I'm sorry you're having these eyeball sweating sun squinting moments.

There's no sense looking back on something that happened when you were just CT kid. You have to look forward. Just keep remembering that.