Today was Cohen's first recital. It was the end of her drama class. It was the end of the first thing I ever signed her up for that I had to get up early every Saturday to take her to. It is the successful end of an endeavor to get her to make some new friends so that when her birthday arrives next week she will have her first party with friends instead of just adults.
Grandma had to take her to drama last week because Dan and I were working, and when she brought her home she said she had talked to Grandpa about what Cohen does at drama and he decided he wanted to come see her recital.
Drama was a closed class. I dropped Cohen off and sat in the hallway for 45 minutes with the other parents every Saturday for the past few months. No windows. No intermission. Just coffee and adults.
I was so desperate to be liked when we arrived that first week. I have no local mommy friends and the parents there seemed fun and funny. My kind of moms. But like a big chicken shit I brought a book and cooed over the new baby - who was only 2 weeks old at the time. I thought for sure he would be an icebreaker but nil. Just a "He's cute, blah blah blah," as you were.
By the second week I left the book at home and "put myself out there" a little more, reminding myself that while these other parents seemed like capable people they were not mind readers. They could not hear me thinking witty retorts to their jokes and comments. And what do you know, at the end of week two, with some out loud participation on my part, some friendships were sprouting.
Two weeks before her final performance I handed out the invitations to her 3rd birthday party. It is amazing the childhood insecurities that resurface when handouts or invitations are involved. Will anyone RSVP? Will anyone come? Will I buy a bunch of puppy party favors and drain my soul into hand crafted home made cupcakes only to end up with another year of watching her grandparents give her all the things her father and I can't afford? That blows.
I spent the past two months harvesting relationships with the other parents in the hall, staying after class to play and share snacks so that Cohen could have the chance to have a real party. Just because I can't manage to make friends locally and can only bond with anyone via Verizon Wireless does not doom Cohen to the same fate. My goal was to see children playing at her party. To hear what a kid in this family sounds like when their friends show up.
I didn't have that when I was kid. I moved a lot because of my dad's job. Often times I didn't know anyone at my school. When we did stay in one town long enough my parents' reputation did not take long to precede my party invitations. My parents were alcoholics with a zest for life that could not be contained. Not when I was having a friend sleep over. Not when I ran out of friends that would come for sleep overs anymore.
My best friend in the fifth grade was Becky Rice. Her mom worked at the Christian Church in town. My dad would stand in the back of the kitchen, blaze up a dooby and slam back schlitz with my mom late into the night. Until someone would say something and a fight would break out. He punched through a window on the front of the house that night. I remember when Becky told me she couldn't come over anymore because she had told her parents what had happened. I remember not understanding why she would have told them. Didn't she know they would never let her come back? Only at 31 did I realize - yeah... maybe she did. She was scared. She didn't want to come back, and who could blame her.
The level of anger, alcoholism and drugs that had become a hum in the background to my childhood was a deafening blast in hers. And while I consider myself a predominantly functional person these memories circle me like sharks when I pass out invitations to this day.
But I did what I do when I face adversity. I overcame my fear, got past myself, and lightened the fuck up. gave myself the pep talk, "It's a 3 year old's birthday party not a remake of Carrie, get over yourself."
So I handed out the invitations and right off the bat got enough responses that when I walked into her class this morning to watch her recital the traveling song from the opening of Madagascar ran through my head. "My peoples, my peoples, take me to my peoples!" But the song wasn't playing for me, it played for Cohen.
The other little girls in Cohen's class are so much like her. As much as I love the uniqueness that is my daughter and as much as I enjoy the compliments we get regarding her uncanny ability to bring virtually anyone to their knees with her candid nature I am overjoyed to see her in the company of other like herself. Every kids deserves that at some point, no matter how long it ends up lasting.
My parents had called and said they would be running late. I'd be a better person if I were the type to lie and say I felt no anxiety about my father coming into this part of my world. After a life of hard living my father is 4 years and 2 months into a 5 year life expectancy. He is in end stage renal failure, a diabetic with a heart full of stents, missing most of his small intestine and colon. His veins are so fragile, so small, he has to be checked into the hospital to have anything administered intravenously. In a freakish combination of the terrible pain he lives with daily and a lifetime of addiction he consumes between 120-160mg of Oxycodone a day. He drives an electric wheelchair and frequently passes out with his hand still on the lever keeping the cart in motion.
So while I am sitting at the recital enjoying Cohen's performance and thankful for Merrick's quiet attentiveness... while I am counting my RSVP "eggs" -so to speak- "before they hatch" I am also wondering how it will go when my father enters the room. Will he be on his motorized scooter? Will he unapologetically run over a child's foot? Will he have talked my mother into extra pills for the special occasion (something he does often) and have that weird wandering eye thing going on where he takes too much pain medication and the eye he is blind in roves the room half open while his good eyes stares without shame?
When the door opens, fifteen minutes into the recital, I can see my mother is pushing my father in his regular wheelchair and I am prematurely relieved.
They cross the length of the room and I am glad he has come. I appreciate that he feels he missed my recitals and wants to be here for Cohen's. I try to remind myself as he talks too loudly that he is old and unique. I try to value his child like nature as he interrupts the children to try to talk to them as they put on their performance. I fake a smile when I see that as I am across the room taking pictures my mother has chosen this moment to have my father hold Merrick for the first time. I go about what I was doing until the moment is broken as Dan and I meet eyes, both wondering what the source of some horrific sound is. It's a low groan. I can only describe it as the sound you might hear listening through the door while a grown man labors out a huge shit. A drunk face down in his own barf growling a feeble protest to accusations he has had to much to drink. Perhaps the sound is not verbal - originating from some other orifice all together. No. The sound is my father growling at my baby in his arms.
I am mortified as I look over at a wall filled with parents holding video cameras trying to tape what is probably also their daughter's first recital. I imagine them playing their video for friends, for the kids when they are older, for anyone ever and I imagine my new friends having to answer the question, "Oh my God? What is that weird sound? Was a dog dying next to you? Were there 15 bobcats in heat in unison behind your camera?"
The growling is meant to soothe the baby, I assume, but instead scares him. Merrick begins to cry and with no regard for the performance my father again raises his voice and waves his free hand at me to say, "Er, Lawton, do you have a... a... (searching for the word) a nipple?" My embarrassed mother exclaims sharply, thereby making it worse, "A pacifier Brandon, not a nipple!"
Dan catches my eye just in time to make funny what, without him in my life, would be just another horrendous afternoon at the fate of my parents.
Another funny thing happened then... life went on.
I was the girl with the weird dad again, only instead of getting high in front of my Christian school mates he donned a pain medication induced lazy bug eye and made inappropriate remarks throughout my daughter's first recital. And I was still me. Nothing was lost.
Dan and I took my parents and the kids to IHOP after the show and my dad dined like a king. Demanding more butter for his pancakes, asking for the "god damned ketchup", and holding his cup up for the waiter to refill his coffee. He joked about how Merrick could only think of food as I put on my nursing cover to breastfeed. He almost stood leaning back in his wheel chair to get the waiter's attention when I needed syrup and no one was paying attention to me.
In his element, when I visit him at his house and he is just Grandpa in the wheelchair he is always getting in trouble for running into walls and tables in his electric scooter, for passing out with full cups off coffee in hand. Out of his element he could do something for me by getting the waiter to bring me syrup, and he almost fell out of his wheel chair trying.
He couldn't pay for the meal. My mom handles the money. He couldn't offer to let Cohen ride from the recital to the restaurant, I had the car seat. And he couldn't sit quietly through a recital because he was unable to contain his excitement at seeing children run and play while he got hold a baby!
Wow. It took writing this out to get that.
Life is deep right now and I am wading. Focusing more on not falling than journal-ing my route right now. I am adjusting to being a mother of two. I have a lot of issues resurfacing as my father's health continues on the roller coaster of "I could pack the next 5 years of your life with embarrassing or frightful moments or I could just die tomorrow." Postpartum has never come easy to me.
Thanks for killing those tulips Cori - it was just what I needed.