Parents: The Other Side

xmas 09 025Am I a hypocrite? I talk about missing my sons, and how far away they are and how it breaks my heart, but in all that I never really talk about how I am with my own parents. It’s complicated. But I often think of them now, and how I don’t see them much, or keep in better touch.

My parents were an important part of my sons’ lives, but before that, when I was young, they never seemed to care where I was or what I was up to. They didn’t come to my first (group ceremony in Detroit) wedding, although my mom helped me choose a graduation dress that could double as a wedding gown, as I did both in the same month.

Before that, they didn’t know (or care) when I quit school at 17 to hitchhike around the country. My mom & I had a huge fight and I left home on her order when I was 15. My dad was living on his own at the time, but he said I could stay with him. I did. For a few weeks, and then I was off again on my adventures. I was homeless but happy.

They were supportive when I decided to go back to school and get that diploma, but things were still rocky between my mom and me. Dad tried to help and when it became clear I could not live with my mother, he provided a small home on the other side of town for me to live in until I graduated high school. Yes, I lived alone. Until my boyfriend (soon to be first husband) moved in with me.

They did help after the divorce, when I was at rock bottom. And they came to my second wedding, which was a full stop shindig, my betrothed footing all the bills. I didn’t have any special mother-daughter moments. She didn’t shop for a wedding dress with me or give me a wedding shower for husband #2. My parents came to my third wedding, too, and by then my mother was ready to believe I’d never stick to anything. That was 29 years ago this September. Still together.

When Mom did call me, or I called her, she remarked without fail that she didn’t keep up with her own mother until her parents were getting old, and that she thought it was weird when parents and children stayed in constant contact with each other.

I never agreed with that, but I wasn’t going to say so. I was fine not being in close contact with her, but I always wanted something more with my sons. I just wasn’t sure I deserved it. Or that they would be open to a mom who bugged them all the time on social media, texting, phoning, visiting.

Unlike my own mother, I would love nothing more than a daily (or even weekly) text, email, or phone call. But I hold back from initiating contact lots of times because I don’t want to bother my kids. I remember how little real estate my parents took up in my head when I was starting my family. I wonder if maybe it’s the same for all young people, or was I conditioned not to care?

Since my parents are not online (lucky for me as this particular post might hurt their feelings) I can’t email them or text. I try to remember to call, but since they moved full time to Florida, we’ve visited once. And I was sick the entire time. We haven’t been back since.

I think I should give the folks a call today. After all, they are getting older. And so am I.

*photo of (from left) my brother Bill, me, Dad, Mom, brother Bob.

Valentine to 11 Years

This month marks 11 years here at A Writer’s Diary. In my life, I’ve achieved so much more than I ever thought possible. I was a high school drop-out who became a college teacher and the published author of five books. How’d that happen?

As a young woman, I didn’t have aspirations above getting married to a guy I loved, having kids, and being a homemaker. It was a weird dream for a freak, which is what people called kids like me back then, in post-hippie days. It wasn’t a put-down. We proudly flew our freak flags.

So I should have been joining a commune or something. Instead, I hitch-hiked all over the country my junior year and then begged to be let back in school for my senior year. I didn’t think they’d let me skip a grade, but I guess they wanted to get rid of me:) I graduated with my class.

I married my true love the same month: June ’73. A year later, we were divorced and I was licking my wounds in Key West, a 19 year-old divorcee on the run. Key West was different then. It was, put simply, paradise. But I was heart-sick over some stupid rebound guy, and didn’t ever fully appreciate its wonders. Mallory Square was just people holding beer bottles heading down to an empty area where we watched the sunset. No stores, no performers, nothing to distract us from that natural beauty.

Then the bad ex-boyfriend begged me to come back to Detroit, and like an idiot, I did. I’m still here, but he got the boot a long time ago. I promptly moved in with a musician boyfriend ten years older than me. When I saw his sister’s new baby, I was struck with unexplained baby lust. I wanted one. Really, really bad.

The muso said no, as he should have, and after I left him for the next husband, took off for California with another girl. I got married this time with all the special things my first group marriage by mayor didn’t have. And in the 7 years we were married, by the time I was 25, I had 2 sons, who remain the best things I ever did in this life. They grew into amazing men.

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My divorce from their father, when I was 28, made me reassess my life. I had almost no college, except for a creative writing class I took. Because I was always a writer. I had my diary, I wrote journalism in junior high, graduated to poetry for the next ten years, and when I was pregnant with my first son, wrote my first novel.

This was all stuff that happened in the most natural way. I am a reader. I have always been a reader. But what slowly dawned on me was the fact that I was a writer, too. And I reasoned that teaching was a good job for a single mom writer for three big reasons: June, July, and August. Also, I was off school when my kids were. Perfect!

Ha. Teaching the kind of alternative kids that I had been was the hardest thing I have ever done. I applied to grad school and did that at night while teaching stoners with small attention spans during the day. Then I applied to teach at college. Then university. Then started taking chunks of time off to write.

I wasn’t a single mom for long. Marriage #3 has lasted 28 years this month. My sons were 5 and 7 when I married Al. They don’t remember me being married to their dad. They don’t remember I spent 5 years as a SAHM before the bug to move on bit me again. It was more than a bug, it was a troubled marriage. Almost 30 years later, I’m exploring divorce and child custody (as well as addiction) in the novel I’m writing.

So, how did this dream life come to me? Well, sure I did the footwork. But it’s been a pleasure. When you do what you love, life has a way of working out.