Father's Day

July 21, 2009
By , Yellville, AR
After sixteen years of being alive, I always thought that any surprises I might get would be about the future. I've seen plenty of television shows, movies, and heard stories about shocking truths that people find out about their past and most of the time I think they're just made up for entertainment. Suddenly I was one of those television shows, one of those movies, one of those stories.
It was just another one of the sixteen father's days I'd lived through. It wasn't any kind of surprise when my granny (a.k.a. grandma) decided to cook dinner for father's day and invite my two uncles and my dad. We talked about camping in a few weeks even though everyone was being laid off and fired from their jobs so we didn't have any money. We hadn't gone camping in forever, but when we were younger, we went almost every weekend in the summer. Everyone was excited about going back to one of the places we went to years ago, and it was something to look forward to. It was turning out to be a pretty good day, and it would only get better.
We left after dinner, but decided to stop at my nanny's (a.k.a. grandma on Dad's side) and pick some vegetables from her garden. When we arrived, my cousin, his new wife, and their barely year old son were there, having had the same idea. They were a new couple, so of course were having troubles and Cindy (his wife) obviously thought red wine was the best way to deal. She had a cup of it in her hand, was feeding the horses over the fence with her naked sun running around screaming. None of this phased me. This was our family and it was perfectly normal. It was when she started wobbling instead of walking, slurring instead of talking, and spilling instead of drinking, that I realized just how hammered she was. Most of my family drank, but they were always more buzzed than anything and this was like one of those movies your teachers make you watch to absolutely disgust you about the thought of ever doing anything immoral. Except this was working.
She later began asking me and my younger sister if we'd start babysitting for her when she started work because the day care charged so much. We were both really excited simply because all the money we received was allowance. Believe me, in this small town with so many poor kids getting out of school in the summer, for a sixteen-year-old, getting a job is not easy. So, being the "deprived" kids we were (or thought we were), we both held back grins and agreed. We weren't concerned how much money she offered; we would save and since we didn't have bills or food to pay for at that point, we could buy almost anything we desired after only a few weeks of saving.
Before long, Nanny asked us to feed the stray kittens they had "adopted" that now lived in the barn. We took the food and drove to the barn, only to find them gone. It was strange; they'd stayed there for almost two months, relying on us, and suddenly they'd left. It was kind of depressing, but my sister and I believed they would return, so we left the food there anyway. A few days later they would show up at our house and we would return them to the barn, just like I knew we would.
When we returned, Mom and Cindy were on the front porch, and it was clear it was about something Mom didn't want us to hear. The only thing is, I didn't know how much she didn't want me to hear. It took almost twenty minutes of, "Okay, well, we really have to get back to the house..." before Cindy would let us leave. We left Dad there because he offered to plow their garden where they had just dug up some potatoes, and, though I didn't think about it at the time, Mom just wanted us out of there. After a few minutes she decided to go back to Nanny's and pick Dad up. It was about thirty minutes later, after I couldn't reach them by any phone, that I decided to drive back, just up the road, to see what was taking them.
When I arrived, Cindy, Josh, and Justin (their son) had left and my parents and grandparents sat on the porch, talking. I didn't miss the awkward silence, I just missed the reason why. I thought it was about Cindy being drunk, but it was a bit more than that. After a few more minutes, we headed back home, only for Mom to ask me to come sit by her under the dead maple tree. We sat beneath the broken trunk, where we used to spend countless summers swinging from it's long, strong branches. The previous winter a storm had come like few we'd ever seen. It made plenty of headlines; The Ice Storm That Froze the South; The Second Ice Age; and, my personal favorite; When Hell Freezes Over. Plenty of trees had frozen and then snapped, either because of the extreme weight of the ice or because of the moisture inside the trees freezing and cracking. It lasted almost a week, and the poor maple couldn't take it. It was older than the house, which was close to fifty, and had been contemplating death for a few years. We'd noticed a large crack in the truck even before the ice storm, and we knew it would be gone soon.
After a loud crash next to the house, Dad grabbed the chainsaw and cleaned up the debri, leaving a bare seven-foot-tall trunk in the yard. For some reason, dirt had accumulated in the center of the very hollow trunk, and now large plants were erupting from the trees' ruins. It was really quite beautiful and inspiring, that, always, from death comes life. It was truly a metaphor in our front yard.
Mom sat beneath the tree, picking at the grass. I'd known when she'd asked me to come sit with her that something was wrong. We were very close, like best friends, and I thought I could read her pretty well. Dad soon came out of the house and sat down beside us. Mom started out and I could tell she was about to cry, "Baby," She said to me, which she never did.
My mind raced; bad news was very familiar to me, and this sounded like the beginning of "someone's dying" or "someone's in the hospital" which happened too many times to us to count. We'd had three family members in the hospital at once before, and my mind immediately went to my boyfriend, who I'd been in love with, and dating, since I was twelve. We planned on marriage and if anything happened to him, well, I could understand how it was possible for people to die of a broken heart.
Then she started out, "You know about how before I married your dad I was engaged to Justin?"
Justin was Cindy's brother; he and mom had been engaged once, but broken up just before she married Dad. Justin had died from a drug overdose a little over a year ago too, which is why Cindy's son is named Justin. I'd always thought it ironic that mom had been engaged to him and now his sister was married to my cousin on my Dad's side. That's what you get, though, living in this small town. Everyone's related to you sooner or later.
I nodded and she continued, "Well, did I ever tell you the reason we called off the engagement was because he cheated on me?" Not waiting for a response, she sniffed, "Well, he broke my heart so bad that, for the next month or two, there wasn't a minute I was sober, or high, or both..."
Both of my parents had a rough past, but I accepted it and loved them anyway. I'd heard once that the most beautiful person in the world is the one who is the most broken. My parents were evidence of that.
She continued, "I was so upset that-" She choked, "I can't even say it. I slept with a lot of guys. I just couldn't take it and would take any attention I could get. Well, about three months after I broke up with Justin I started puking in the mornings and ended up taking a pregnancy test."
The first thing that popped into my mind was mom's recent morning sickness. She couldn't figure out what was causing it, but my sister and I joked about her being pregnant. Was it not a joke anymore?
"It was positive, and I had a baby. Almost immediately after that I met and married your dad." I was confused. Did she give the baby up? Was it adopted? I looked at Dad and he explained it all to me in the most shocking sentence I would ever hear, that still sends a bit of a shiver up my spine.
"I'm not your real Dad, honey."
My mom explained later she kept it from me for so long because she was worried about my reaction. She was afraid I'd hate her. To her extreme surprise, the first thing I did....was laugh.
My mom proceeded to cry and hug me, so incredibly relieved that I didn't hate her. We were best friends and she told me she would never want to ruin that. But, if anything, it brought all of us closer. It meant that we really loved each other and family was simply the people that loved you the most, whom you could always find surrounding you; not necessarily the people who shared your DNA. She told me as soon as they were married, Dad asked to adopt me. She said that was why there were so many pictures of me and Dad together; because they wanted me to really believe he loved me, raised me, and was my real dad. Just not genetically.
She said, "I told you when you were four and you just asked for ice cream."
I laughed and then became serious, "That's actually not a bad idea."

She rolled her eyes, but we ended up going to the store anyways. Getting shocking sometimes "saddening" (for people who really don't know the true values in life, this didn't sadden me at all, and shouldn't sadden anyone) news is always a great time for ice cream, and you should really milk it for all it's worth.
Mom called my aunt and told her, and I talked to her and we both laughed about it as I made horribly insensitive jokes. I realized then that nothing could ever change who I was. I'd always been the person who laughed about everything, knew that laughter was the best medicine, and had more common sense than most people (meaning that I knew we were still a family and it didn't change anything).
Mom explained to me the reason we left Nanny's house so quickly was because Cindy knew about me and was about to spill the beans. Mom said if she had said anything, she litereally would have punched her in the face, no joke. I believed her. Turns out, when Cindy was leaving, she was begging Mom to tell her I was Justin's baby so that she could have a part of him left, but Mom just shoved her in the car and told her to go home. I really don't appreciate what that woman goes through enough. I mean, I don't think I could've kept from punching her.
It was later Dad realized that I'd found out on Father's Day. It was later I realized it was probably the best gift he'd ever received; to know that, to me, he would always be my dad, and nothing would change that.
So, Happy Father's Day, Dad; you'll always deserve it.

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Bethani said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm
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