The End (part two)

…continued

I am frantic now. I want to get down the stairs and away from him. I don’t make it to them before he grabs me again. I don’t turn to him. Instead I gaze down the fourteen cement stairs, wondering where I would have gone even if I had a jump start on him.

Where are you going? To her? And you’re just going to leave your kids here? What kind of mother does that? Oh, I get it. You’re repeating history. Your mom walked out on you so you’re following in her footsteps.

He’s whisper-hissing it to me and I’m scared. He does this. He uses any memory I’ve ever shared with him against me when he wants to cut me down. He knows anything about my childhood or my children will suffice. He likes to boast that his childhood was better because his parents had money and they never divorced; he didn’t grow up in a trailer or at a restaurant booth. His mom always made him school lunch and went to his sports games. This is his go-to every time he wants to make me cry because it is easy and it is efficient.

And then the switch. The one that makes my resolve waiver. It happens suddenly and takes me by surprise.

Let’s go back inside. This got out of hand and you’re shaking. Are you cold? It’s not too cold out here but maybe you are shivering because you are always cold. Here, let me help you get inside so you can get warm. Give me your hand.

I look up, into his eyes. His pupils are relaxing, just like the lines around his eyes. None of tonight is going how I’m used to and this uncharted territory has adrenaline just pumping through my veins. I nod, because I don’t trust my voice. He guides me back inside, gingerly, like maybe I tripped and scraped my knees on accident, by not paying attention to where I was stepping. As we are nearing the front door, I hear the downstairs neighbors on their balcony, chatting quietly. Maybe they heard and they’re contemplating calling the police. I can’t decide if I like that idea or not because thoughts aren’t sticking in my mind right now. It’s unfocused and all over the place and I just want to take a nap. My eyes hurt, my head hurts, my body hurts. Something drips in my eye and I don’t know if it’s blood or sweat or tears. Lord knows I have literally put all three into this marriage. I try to be quiet because I know he is trying to be. He probably heard the neighbors, too.

This moment reminds me of this one time when we had to stay with his sister and her husband in Tijuana. They lived in this small three bedroom condo. The buildings were interesting; two condos per floor. The front doors were close to each other and one night, he and I heard the neighbor on our floor get home. He sounded loud and angry, drunk and wild. He wanted to get in to his home but his wife heard him coming, heard something that told her otherwise and she had dead-bolted her heavy metal screen door. He couldn’t get in. He pounded on it for so long, made enough racket that she finally relented and the moment he got in, he began beating her to a pulp. We could hear it. Could hear each blow landing, things falling around them, her screaming at him to stop. It was harrowing and traumatizing and I implored him to help her. When he did she ran out of there, straight into our open door. Together, her and I hid in the bathroom, where I helped clean up her face with a wet washcloth. Once the police arrived, other neighbors had come out and were standing on their balconies, unsure if they should help or not. I imagine this is my neighbors tonight. Unsure of what to do.

We get inside the apartment and he walks to the bathroom to wet a washcloth for me. A chuckle escapes my lips; now the washcloth is for me. I reach for a hoodie and sit on the couch. It isn’t very comfortable but it’s a lovely shade of eggplant. He comes out and hands me the washcloth and I just set it next to me because I don’t even know what it is for, other than to remind me that I messed up again.

I’m leaving, I croak out. I say it and instantly know this is it. This time I mean it. My voice is hoarse so I decide to repeat myself twice. I’m leaving. I’m leaving, and a large shudder goes through me; I’m uncontrollably sobbing because I’m so scared. He reaches slowly for my hand.

Can we talk about this? I didn’t do anything. Let’s not blow this out of proportion. I didn’t hit you.

You put your hands on me and pushed me with all your might down to the ground. I couldn’t breathe. That is not alright, I respond.  I’m leaving. This is it. I’ve been saying enough for ten FUCKING (my voice is elevating now) years and I have to fucking mean it! I am so loud now but I can’t help it.

We sit there, for at least another hour, as he pleads to work on things and I incessantly repeat I’m done and I’m leaving. I stand up numerous times and he keeps pulling me back down and then finally he doesn’t so I head for the door. If you’re going to lord the boys over me and won’t leave yourself, then clearly it has to be me. Please tell them in the morning that I will see them soon and I love them.

He follows me out. Please let me drive you somewhere. Please don’t just walk off into the dark night. Not at this hour. Let me drive you somewhere.

Fine. I agree and he locks up the house with my three babies inside it and we drive away. I’m worried but it should only be for ten minutes. He can drop me and get back to them. There’s almost zero conversation on the drive. I ask him to take me to the Safeway closest to her house and he parks in the garage. He turns the engine off and puts his hand on my thigh.

I’m begging you to rethink this. Don’t get out of this car…, and with that he locks all the doors. I’m still crying because I never really stopped, except they’re silent tears just spilling out like a lazy fountain. Don’t do this. Nobody will ever love you like I do. Think about what you’re doing to this family.

All I do while he’s talking is shake my head and repeat that I’m leaving. I have no other words left except those.

Give me my phone back, then, he angrily says. We’ve been sitting here for half an hour and I just want him to get back to the boys because I can’t anymore. I can get to her house on foot so I slam the phone down in the console. Fine! Take the phone. Take whatever you want. I’m getting out and I’m leaving.

No, okay, you’re right. Keep the phone. Here. Please, take it back. Take it back, he exclaims because I’m saying no as my body continues to shake. You’re such a bitch, he yells at me. Take the fucking phone! I grab it and reach for the door but he starts the car in one fell move and begins reversing. He shifts into drive and begins accelerating and then I have it! I get the lock undone somehow and open the door and before I know what I’m doing, and miraculously before he can reach over and grab me, I friggin jump out of the vehicle. I  take off running to the opposite side of the garage, away from him. I cut through some parked cars and across the street in front of me, fast and crouching with my footsteps matching my heartbeat. I keep running up a short hill of an apartment parking complex and duck between two cars. I have no idea if he’s behind me because I didn’t turn around once. I watched too many horror movies to know that wastes your time. I wait a few seconds and peek over the parking wall in front of me towards the store. My heart is pounding so loud; I shake my head because I can’t hear anything except that. Luckily there are no outside lights near me so I’m covered in darkness. I see him exit the parking garage as if he’s leaving and then circle the store and reenter on the opposite side. He does this two more times, driving slowly through it. When he leaves the last time, he drives down the road I had crossed. I can hear the car with its unique rattle, slowly going by and I hold my breath. I’m so scared he will find me. Why didn’t I run further?

I frantically turn my phone off so he can’t track me and just sit between two Lexus sedans, on the ground, in the dark, counting seconds in my head. Every so often I hear a vehicle driving by and I exhale with relief when I realize it isn’t the Jetta. After what feels like at least seven minutes, I peek up over the wall again.

Nothing.

The street is deserted and quiet. I wait some more time, try to relax my breathing, and then walk out from between the cars and back down the little incline toward the store. I barely feel the steps because my body is buzzing with adrenaline. I am vigilant and hyper aware of any vehicle I see but so far, so good. I decide to turn my phone on. Luckily he hasn’t texted yet but he might soon because our apartment is only 10 minutes away by car. I might have already burned that up so I dial Kulia fast. It goes to voicemail so I try again, immediately. Finally, she answers groggily; it’s already 2 am.

Can you pick me up? I ask her. Her next question is crystal clear as she asks if I’m alright. Please come pick me up, I respond, trying not to sob into the phone. My voice is desperation and she hears that. She asks where I’m at and I tell her I’ll be at the intersection by Safeway, right in front of the stop sign. Less than ten minutes later I see her pulling up and I jump in, still shaky but feeling safer. She holds my hand the whole way to her place and we collapse on her bed. I don’t say much and she doesn’t ask. She takes my phone and turns it off because the texts are starting, and we collapse on her bed. As she pulls me in she moves some hair out of my face and then maybe feels something. A knot or a bump on my head. Maybe a couple. Her hand is soft but I still wince because it hurts so bad. I fall asleep in her arms, finally calming my body down.

In the morning, when I finally turn my phone back on, I have 24 missed calls and 57 texts.

The End (part one)

I check my phone because I have a nagging worry in the back of my mind. Physically, I’m sitting in a booth next to Kulia and across from two friends, ready to sip my wine and dig in to the appetizer that was just delivered. Mentally, I’m away, back at that tiny apartment with a dingy, rented couch. I take small, quick breaths because I shouldn’t be here. I know that. Yet I am and it frightens me.

For the past three months, I have changed. I can feel it. I’ve been exhaling with force, depleting the bad oxygen from my lungs so they can take in more fresh air. I stand taller. I’ve said yes when I never would have had the gumption to in the past decade and what I have also noticed is that the ballsier I get, the scarier I’m making my situation. I now have to walk home from work because I refuse to have him pick me up. I want the movement and the time alone so I can think about my next moves. He has noticed, too, and I see him coming to grips with the inevitable. He’s been trying to be accommodating, encouraging me to go do things that he has never allowed before. A girls night dinner with friends on a Saturday evening? I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened in the past eleven years. Three times and the previous two should be history enough for me to know better about tonight. This is why I’m nervous.

I glance down at the screen of my phone and see notifications. I’m not going to look yet at what his texts are. I can already imagine and dinner hasn’t arrived yet. I just want to enjoy dinner. I feel my pulse quickening. It’ll probably be about the boys because he knows how to leverage responses from me. Last week he allowed me to go get a pedicure and then texted me the entire time during it about how selfish I was because we could barely put food on the table. My pedicure was taking food out of their mouths. You know, it is some shit to tell your person to go get a pedicure because they deserve it (really you’re just trying to gain their favor back and are grasping) and then pull the switch after they leave and call them names for doing what you told them to. I sat in that chair shaking my head, knowing I had to shit or get off the pot soon, and not knowing how to to do it safely. Can you imagine? You need to poop or you’ll die but you’ll bleed out once you do. What do you pick?

Anyway, dinner arrives while I’m playing devil and angel in my head. I’m half here for conversations but I cannot help it. I see the screen illuminate again. Another text. Things are going to get dire. It has been about five months since he drove off before I got home and had the boys tell me goodbye on the phone while he drove them to friggin ice cream. Five months of mind games and I need to leave. I know I need to leave. Three months since I told Kulia that I loved her and meant it. Two months since he pulled Samuel into the living room and told him he had to pick who he would live with, right here and right now. One month since he told me he could tell I wanted out but I was the love of his life and I looked him dead in the face and said that was laughable. I can’t be the love of your life, because you can’t love someone you beat up. You can’t love someone you would put a hand on. You can’t love someone you would say terrible things to. I told him all of that and braced myself for his response. Which surprisingly wasn’t physical. Last week I spent every lunch break with a damn phone book in my hand, calling one divorce attorney after another. Who would have thought that zero dollars in your possession would equate to zero help? Not even one piece of advice. Every single call I made felt like the noose around my neck was getting tighter and tighter.

I want to have fun at this dinner. I want to laugh and share stories; I mean, I do a little, but I can’t fully be here. In fact, I’ve been treading water and I’m probably about to drown. I’ve been pushing him to the edge and one of us is about to tumble. Why have I been so brazen? I should have stopped myself for my boys except I feel like I’ve been trying to pull a piece of my cage off and finally have a good chunk coming up and all I feel is this desire to rip with all my might and go. Two feelings, not mutually exclusive but simultaneous. Stay but go. Breathe but suffocate.

I excused myself for a bathroom break and decide to look at the screen finally. This damn phone has been busy. There’s about fourteen texts that begin pleasant.

Enjoy your dinner. 

If you have leftovers, please bring them home. I would love to try what you are eating. 

The boys say they miss you. They’re going to bed soon. Maybe you can take a break from your girls night and say goodnight to them.

I guess you’re too busy to call your children. I’ll tell them that. I’m sure they’ll understand.

Abraham has a fever. Where is the medicine?

Did you see my text about Abraham? There is no medicine. Do you even give a shit? 

…on and on and on. There it is. The dangerous progression that I knew was coming. As I’m sitting on the toilet, holding my hands on my head, I let a few tears escape.

Back at the booth, I tell the crew I have to cut my night short. It’s the last thing I want and I absolutely wouldn’t return if my children weren’t there, but this is life and I have to live with my choices. Kulia sees my face. She doesn’t let me chip in, gets the bill paid, and never once makes me feel bad. I ask her to drive me to a pharmacy first, so I can get Tylenol for AB. She waits as I go in, and then begins the somber ride back to my place. I say goodbye as I go to get out and she tells me to call her if I need anything. I’m shaky and if she sees it, she doesn’t mention it. Just squeezes my hand and lets me know I have her.

There are fourteen concrete stairs to the apartment that I have to climb. I take them slowly just to buy myself four seconds of piece. I reach the top, turn left and take however many steps it takes to get to the front door; it’s about twenty feet long. I see him inside and know he is angry just by his stance. He’s been waiting.

I walk in to a full blown argument that he probably began with himself the moment I closed the front door behind me two and a half hours ago. To be honest, I don’t hear most of it. I’m doing my best to prepare the dose of fever reducer for Abraham, picking up things around the living room. Anything to placate him. Its like the pressure release valve on the instantpot. I will let him release his steam and then hopefully he’ll go to bed. Except, this is different. This time, the steam keeps going.

Before I can react, he has grabbed my forearm forcefully. Are you even listening to me?

Yes, I’m listening to you.

The argument goes on and on. He wants reactions. He wants me to say something to tip him over the precarious edge he’s riding so he can blow up and hit me and feel justified in doing so. I know this so I’m mostly silent because I’ve learned my lesson years ago.

He throws me against the wall. I feel a sting and try not to react but it’s hard because these walls are made of cinder blocks. He’s now three inches from my face, saying one mean thing after another. I hear a door creek and turn to see Abraham, in his fever induced delirium creep out of his room. Mama? I move to comfort him but he slams me back against the wall. His forearm is against my throat and I’m doing my best to take short, calm breaths. He has never been physical with his boys in the room. AB is trying to hug my leg and get my attention but I can’t look down with the forearm holding me back. Since my left forearm is still being death-gripped, I use my right arm to pull him closer. He is really warm still and it’s worrying me. He can see it in my face.

Oh, you’re worried now? Your mom didn’t care you were sick when she was out with her friends so don’t expect her to care now, mijo, he hisses at Abraham. I want to tell AB to go to bed but I can’t talk. I can hardly breathe. Finally, I feel him let up. He grabs Abraham and takes him back to his room, tells him to lay down and go to sleep. While he’s in the other room, I grab my purse and put it close, put my cell phone in my pocket. He sees me moving and is pissed again.

You know what, I’m fucking over this, he tells me. He grabs my arm and begins to pull me towards the door. Get the fuck out, he says, as he’s dragging me. Stop, I plead. Don’t do this. Except, he doesn’t stop. He is using all his weight, all his force, all his anger to push me out of this house. I’m grabbing everything I can to stop him. I can’t be without my babies. I want to be rid of him, but safe in a house with them. He’s so much stronger than me that no matter my efforts, I’m almost out the door. As he gives one last shove to push me out of the door frame, I turn to him without fighting. Okay, I think, I’ll surrender. I put my hands up as if to do so but before I see it coming, he pushes me with all his strength, down the long walkway. I flew over half of it, land flat on my back, and feel my head bounce on the concrete. The wind is knocked out of me and for a second I think I’m dead. This is it, I hear my inside voice say. He killed me. 

I feel my lungs trying to grab air and as I struggle to fill them, I open my eyes to him leering over my face. He’s crouched down with a wild look in his eyes that terrifies me. I hate you. You’re the biggest mistake of my life. You’re the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever met and I hate the day you were born. I hate you. I hate you. You’re a piece of shit.

I hear him but I’m somewhere else. My head is throbbing and I can’t focus. He tries to push me up a few times, kicks me and then gives up. He storms back inside the house and I just lay there on the concrete floor watching stars dance around my eyes. I’m exhausted, both mentally and physically and I don’t know what to do. My fingers feel my front pocket. Okay, my phone is still safe in there. That’s the one good thing I can think of right now.

I don’t know how much time goes by but eventually he comes back out. I see the movement from my peripheral vision and I think now, get up. Don’t stay here. So I stand and turn. I head to the stairs. Oh no you don’t, I hear behind me, dangerously close.

Part Two

You should be crying, I tell myself internally. It’s really weird that you aren’t a mess right now. I’m standing in my small living room, where the total of five adults could barely stand shoulder to shoulder and not feel crowded, thinking about the oddness of my lack of emotion right now. I can hear my breathing in my ears and my heart in my throat. Hmm, that should be faster. Is it weird my heart isn’t racing right now? I’m trying to quiet my mind because I cannot quiet his anger.

I walked home from work today. That was my punishment for not answering his texts fast enough. Or well enough. Or loving enough? I cannot figure him out anymore. Or maybe I don’t want to. I can feel my life-force surrendering internally, more and more as the days get worse. Things will fall apart before you can rebuild them. I read that on Pinterest the other day. Has to be right, I think to myself. This is me falling apart. In front of my children and the man who has broken me. It was always bound to happen. Never even mind that our ten-year anniversary just passed, where he forced me to go out with him and pretend we were okay. He had pulled the stool out next to the one he was going to sit in and I thought, I’m onstage and this is a performance and one day I will get an Oscar from like, God or someone. There has to be someone watching this because it’s my greatest act and it is perpetual. I wake up and I’m on; I lay in bed and I’m on. I cannot stop pretending this is what life is because he will lose it and kill me, probably. Throughout the whole evening I kept thinking how it never should have come to this. Once, we were driving to visit my parents. He was holding my hand and asked me if I could go back, would I still marry him? My traitorous mouth beat my mind to the punch and told him no before I could stop it. Girl, aren’t you scared? I asked my mouth. You can’t be honest and not have it end in an almost broken nose. I remember that drive, too. Cars are dangerous.

I come back to the living room like a transition on a movie. Cut scene from the little bar with the anniversary dinner or maybe either of those car rides and pan back to hell. My little boys are in the tiny bedroom the three of them are forced to share and my oldest is standing next to his father, confused and wide-eyed. My poor baby. He doesn’t understand what is happening. See, that is why I shouldn’t have acted. I wasn’t saving them from this, I was only prolonging the inevitable. Focus!

It’s okay, I say out loud. Your dad is angry. Sometimes when we are angry, we say things that are confusing. You don’t have to make this decision, I calmly tell him.

Yes, you do, he yells back. Choose right now! Your mom says she wants to leave me so tell me RIGHT NOW who you want to live with? Tell me right now! PICK!

My son is shaking, he is so scared right now. I don’t know what to say, he squeaks out. I move to give him a safe embrace, but think twice. I saw the flash of insanity in his eyes right now when he guessed my intention. I can almost see the wheels of crazy cranking in his mind, trying to find the precise words to cut me in front of our child, except he isn’t thinking about the trauma this will cause him. His only desire right now is to make me understand what my words for the past few weeks will bring. What my declaration from this afternoon will bring. He wants me to know he won’t go without destroying me in any way he can.

Your mom is doing this to you, Sam, he hisses. This is her fault. She is the reason your life will never be the same. She is breaking this family apart and you deserve better.

I love you, I murmur to my son. I love you so much. Whatever is going on with your dad and I is between us and I’m sorry you are being forced to stand in the middle of it right now but I love you.

I know that will escalate things but I can’t stop myself from saying it either way. Somehow, after I mutter that proclamation, I feel a renewed energy in me. I stand up straighter and look him in the eyes. I hold my gaze as I tell Sam he can go to his room and play with his brothers. I’m almost daring my ex-husband to contradict me as I release my oldest from this untenable situation. I feel a fireball in my stomach, growing with each heartbeat, bigger and hotter. It rises to my mouth and I hear myself tell him that he needs to get it together, stop playing our children against me.

You love your mother, I spit at him. Why would you try to turn your children against theirs? What kind of MONSTER are you? I don’t know where this gumption is coming from but I ride the wave as I discover my strength. I have so much more to say but I leave it at that, before I become him too easily. If you think for one fucking second that THIS is going to manipulate or convince me to stay with you, think again, I assure him.

And I mean it.

What I wish I could say

Not too long ago I was perusing social media, reading everyone’s different posts quickly. One stuck out to me, where an acquaintance of mine had shared a photo of them with their ex. The caption said something about parents needing to be mature and put their differences aside for the good of the children. I could feel myself react, not because I felt it was directed at me but in a sense, the shoe sure as hell fits.

A few days later I see an article pop up on my feed on scarymommy.com. It was an almost love-letter penned by a mom to a step-mom thanking her for being her ally and maybe even her best friend. I’m going to be honest here, as I usually am. I skimmed it loosely. Not because the author’s words had no meaning to me, but because the letter didn’t apply to me. Yes, there are Bruce Willis’ and Demi Moore’s out there who can remain friends and co-parent successfully. They can do blended family dinners and respectfully shuttle the involved children back and forth like angels. I think that is beautiful and un-normal and amazing. For them.

That doesn’t work for me.

I refuse to allow people to make me feel bad for not harboring feelings of goodwill and grace for my ex-husband. Whether they do or say something that alludes to this in one way, shape, or form, I defend myself. Perhaps aggressively, perhaps coyly, but undoubtedly. In the past seven years since I left that abusive marriage, I have learned how important it is to set boundaries, remain steadfast in what I know is best for me and then best for the children (because I have to put my own oxygen mask on before I help them, just like those sweet flight attendants remind us every time we fly), and to disregard anyone’s idea of how I should behave if I know it isn’t healthy for my well-being. <–that’s my nice way of saying, Thank u, next, just like Ariana. That is okay.

I can be mature and not nice at the same time.

Lately I’ve done some leadership development at work with different groups of management and one thing I always stress is that we can say anything to our colleagues that we want, as long as we say it respectfully and with tact. I use this same advice in how I communicate with the boys’ father. I will use tact. I will be respectful. But I do not have to be nice. And if setting boundaries is a new concept to you, sometimes it can feel like you’re being mean. I don’t think so. I think it feels like you’re being clear and as my soon-to-be-bestie, Brene Brown likes to point out, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Boom. If that goddess believes it, then this goddess believes it. We are a society very used to sugarcoating words then calling people names if they say something straightforward and to-the-point to us. Say it anyway, if it needs to be. That is okay.

I get to decide who I trust.

Kulia often calls me a Mama Bear. I do my best to make INCREDULOUS face when she says it but she’s pretty accurate in calling me that. For a whole lot of reasons, I have  majority custody of my children. I think back to the letter from the mom to step-mom and how she says she trusts her wholeheartedly. That’s fantastic for them but unrealistic for so many of us. I cannot trust my counterparts and since I cannot trust them, every time we communicate or interact together, it is forced, strained, and awkward. That is okay.

Oil and water.

I spent the majority of my decade-long marriage hating the company (I don’t mean job-wise) I was with. His parents didn’t mesh with mine, his siblings didn’t jive with me, we didn’t share friendships. Every.single.aspect. of who we were together didn’t mix. It should be no surprise that apart we continue to be the same. Once Abraham asked if for his birthday he could have a dinner where we all joined together and without hesitation I let him know I couldn’t do that because I wouldn’t feel safe. When we share things with the boys, perhaps not with as many words or deep detail, I continue to tell them that I have to keep my safety at the forefront of anything I agree to. For a long time that meant I couldn’t be a part of pick-up and drop-off or even the communication to make that happen.  I have to say no sometimes but I am always honest. That is okay.

Parallel Parenting is not for the weak of heart.

Washington state (and I’m sure many others) have this bananas rule that when you file for divorce, if children are involved, both parents must attend a parenting class before the custody plan will be approved. I remember walking in to it thinking there wasn’t anything they would teach me in that class that I didn’t already know. I was pleasantly surprised. In that class I learned about co-parenting and parallel parenting, what ex-couples fight the most about, and the most important things your child(ren) need to hear right now. Co-parenting means parenting together, as implied in the name. Parallel parenting means each parent decides and does what they think is best while they have the child(ren). There isn’t any collaboration. To each his own. And the minute I heard it, I wrote it down and knew that is what I would be doing from here until eternity. That is okay.

**Side note, most parents fight over clothes. And children need to hear you give them verbal permission to love the other parent.**

I suppose that mother wrote that letter because ugly breakups are expected but not the only option. Just remember, if you find yourself reading something that gets you fired up, that it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person because you can’t emulate that same feeling or behavior. It isn’t apples to apples, no matter what some people would have you believe. Set your boundaries, live your life, and be safe, always, friends. That is okay.

promgroup

I couldn’t stop gushing over how handsome Sam was for Prom

 

Surviving

missingbeauty

I am almost 37 years old.

I am still at a point where the majority of my adult years were spent in fight, flight or freeze.

I have a lot of nightmares. Even when I am doing well and not getting bombarded with ugly memories, I will wake up drenched in sweat from trying to run away from him.

Ku and I watch movies or shows sometimes where there is a character in an abusive relationship. I’m usually shaking my head as it happens, both as a reminder that I am not that character and that I am okay, and also because I don’t get it. I lived that life for over a decade and I still can’t comprehend WHY. I’m not just saying why it happens. I’ve read plenty of articles and attended events where phrases like toxic masculinity and gender norms and rape culture are explained. They make sense and I can see where the change needs to happen. I always leave thinking YES, we can FIX THIS, TEACH THE BOYS! Except, it is deeper than that, right?

Why me, though?

Not to say it should have happened to someone else, anyone else, as long as I was spared. No. Not at all. I’m saying why did I allow it happen? Why didn’t I know better? Why didn’t I walk away? I can’t think of any situation where domestic violence makes sense. I also cannot think of one where it made sense that I would fall victim. You see, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA, honor roll, Honor Society, accepted to my first university of choice. I guess when I think about circumstances that people find themselves in, I think that education and book smarts should help play a role in how they handle themselves.

My book smarts didn’t save me.

My Dad taught me when I was young that I had to walk on the inside of the sidewalk and him on the outside because if it was reversed than guys would think I was for sale. This seems to be a pretty universal understanding, judging from popular culture. We have been taught to buy in to this belief that boys will be boys and consent isn’t always clear, and boys who are mean to you on the playground like you. That locker room talk is just that, and should be excused. Yet somehow, guys have a basic, universal understanding that if I’m closest to the curb than I am open for business.

Early on I learned that if a man behaves inappropriately to me than it is my fault. If I’m standing on a beach in Puerto Vallarta when I’m thirteen in a one-piece swimsuit and some male walks by and ogles me, I share the blame between myself and puberty. If I’m standing in a bar, chatting with the people I walked in with, and a guy walks up to me and inappropriately puts his hand on my shoulder to say things that I don’t want him telling me, I can’t make a scene because it would be rude. What I learned when I was growing up was that if a grown man did anything disgusting to me, such as rub his erect penis against my leg even when I was fifteen, it was my fault and that if I said something, I would be blamed. That easily translated to me being responsible if I was hit by my other half. We have been taught, as young girls, to be meek, quiet, accepting and to not embarrass our parents.

Before I got pregnant with Abraham, my ex and I were living in my hometown. It was a calm, beautiful summer day and my friend Yesenia had stopped by to make flour tortillas with me. My meanager, Sammy, was only two or three years old and playing in the living room. Everything was great that day, because it wasn’t always terrible. Except, my ex-husband didn’t like Yesenia and I hadn’t told him she stopped by. Of course his mom did, though and he came home from work so angry. I don’t remember the argument but I remember I got in my car and left. I drove to Yesenia’s house because I needed space. I couldn’t stay there one more second and I didn’t feel safe. I could always tell when he was going to get physical.

When I drove up to her house, I thought briefly about how he would probably guess where I was but I knocked anyway. I remember the wind blowing gently through my hair as she answered the door with a worried look and I distinctly recall sitting on her couch feeling calmer. What I can’t conjure no matter how hard I try is what he said when he called her house and made her reluctantly hand me the phone, my drive back because he threatened banging on her door until I left if I didn’t, or walking in to my house. And somewhere between the door shutting and me turning towards both him and his mom, he hit me. Hard.

She came in to the bedroom a short while later, and as I cried in to my pillow, she told me I should never have driven away, that I should never have gone to Yesenia’s, and that I should have stopped arguing before he got to that point.

I was blamed. And I spent many years thinking it was all my fault.

I’m still so hesitant to share my story. I would be lying if I said it was because I don’t want to be blamed. I didn’t deserve it then, when someone who witnessed it firsthand was quick to place it on me or by anyone who would continue to do it today.

We become a mean type of human when we use stories of survivors’ trauma to apply irrational justification. I hear a lot (usually as a joke lobbed at trying to ease the discomfort of a terrible truth that was just shared) of comments about how embarrassed my ex must be to have lost me to a woman. What I wouldn’t give for this to not be someone’s first response when we talk about something very painful for me, still.

In reality, his manhood was gone the second he hit me. The moment he dismissed my love and loyalty to manipulate me into staying. When he decided to use my feelings to make himself feel bigger. <–That is what is really embarrassing.

Bravery is an action that is hard to muster up.

I was a great student. I graduated in the top 10% of my class with a set determination to make something of myself. What took me a long time to realize was that even though I stepped back and chose to start a family over my education, I was still smart. Even though I fell into an abusive relationship, I was still strong. And when I got away, in those first few steps of freedom, I found the road lonely. I lost friendships. I fought with family. I was scared yet I was without quit in me. I was judged, sometimes to my face, even. I sat in my car and cried because I couldn’t immediately fix everything.

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I rebuilt, brick by brick, my insides. Somewhere in all the mess I had made, I began to see the beauty again. One of the best discoveries was that I could use my scared, shaking voice to recount my stories, share them publicly, and discover that I was encouraging women to stand up and leave. I don’t blog as often as I initially meant to about surviving domestic violence, but every single post brings at least ONE woman forward, who chooses to disclose to me a trauma she is currently or has gone through.

That fuels my fire. Telling someone your deepest secret is a big kind of scary. To each of you who has found the strength to break your silence to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And know I don’t judge you.

 

Jackets and Ten Steps

beginningsThe other day (I really mean it this time, because more often than not it could mean two days ago or twenty years ago, and that is just how I roll) I was hanging up some laundry and my eyes lingered on our coats/jackets/hoodies section. I mean, everyone has one of these in their closet, right? Outerwear to the outer-max, just busting at the seams. And that is what my heart was doing. It was muffin-topping out of my chest, as silly as that seems.

Six years ago, when I moved back to the mainland without my main squeeze (that would be Ku, don’t get confused there) I was in an in-between phase. No job to dive into, no money, and only two-thirds of my children. <– Yeah, you read that right. I was about to begin the divorce process and my couldn’t-be-ex-soon-enough had flown back with my baby-Moose three weeks before me. He was convinced I would get off the plane and into his grasp again, promising not to use my little as leverage, except I wasn’t born yesterday and I am not naïve.

Leaving Ku behind, as I boarded a plane with my two oldest, two suitcases and a carry-on heavy with anxiety, was hard. Not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but definitely top ten. After almost two years on Oahu, we were coming back with less than what got us there. That’s practically zilch, friends. We went straight to my parents house and I tried to navigate how to file for divorce, how to draft a parenting plan, how to feel safe again, and how to keep the law on my side. I’m lucky in that I was Aria throughout so much of my decade-long marriage, going to sleep each night throughout those 3,650-ish days reciting the times he had hit me, remembering practically verbatim the times he made threats against my person, screenshotting as many texts as I could, especially in those last months. Not that I had to try hard because none of that is easy to forget. What I’m saying is I had no troubles establishing a case.

As I searched for a home for the five of us, this duplex in Lynden presented itself. I called and made an appointment to see it, being lucky in that the landlord had barely posted it on Craigslist five minutes before. I drove straight there with a gas tank full of hope. I told him the truth about starting over and not having much, that my deposit would come courtesy of my Mom, who also was the reason why Moose was back in my arms. I even pleaded with him. Said please over and over. I don’t know what made him say yes but all I know is Mercury was most definitely not in retrograde, all the planets were aligned and two plus two equaled four.

We got the place.

We moved in so fast, and I’m not trying to be funny here. I mean, how long does it take to pack up two suitcases and drive over to your new spot and then unload two suitcases? But it was ours and I was sitting there trying not to cry in front of my mini-men, because now I had a place I would never worry about moving out of again, unless I wanted to. I remember sitting on the floor that first day and just looking around. And then I recall the doorbell ringing and it was a furniture company with a surprise delivery of a set of bunk beds with mattresses and two couches, because my Mom is an angel and didn’t want us to sleep on the floor. I took the boys to Safeway and we got groceries for the new place, courtesy of food stamps (I’m never going to be ashamed of that, mmkay?) and I almost cried when Sam asked if we had enough to get cereal. I don’t care what anyone says, but when you talk about money for two months straight, it ends up giving your kids anxiety about food and that’s a sad place to be in, but we were and we worked through it. I’m 99% certain Sam doesn’t remember that moment like I do.

We loved in that home for almost three years. <–See, that is a feel good sentence, but it’s incomplete. We called that spot the “Ten Step” because it was T-I-N-Y. Anywhere you were in the house you could get anywhere else within ten steps. It was probably 700 square feet, which is INSANELY small for five bodies, three of which hadn’t figured out how to aim properly into the toilet. The one toilet. ONE.

Shortly after Ku moved in with us, and as we began rebuilding, together, she turned to me and said, “We need coats.” The closet in the living room, meant just for that, was so empty. We laughed about it and then promptly got to it, filling that closet to overflowing, and filling our home in general, but more importantly, filling our hearts. We stayed longer than we should have, mostly because it was never the right size for us, but also because we had plans and we aren’t above sacrificing. Now we have an abundance of jackets.

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Ten year old Sam, in the Ten Step kitchen

It is not lost upon me that Ten Steps sounds like a rehab program, but in a way, that little home was. For me, at least. I had to learn how to stop attending every argument my ex tried to invite me to, and how to stop self-sabotaging my love with Kulia. That’s all just honest truth. Sometimes it was too good for me and she saw right through (and still does) all the fights I tried to start with her for no reason. I had to learn to not expect certain things when we argued and that I could lean on her to support me in all things my life. It was the first time I had to handle the boys being away and me being at home without them. The ten step helped my heart grow back it’s feeling every day we were there.

Sometimes, when people talk about their circumstances, they look at my chapter 10 and compare it to their chapter three. “You have so much going for you, you wouldn’t understand.” Or, “Look at all you have! I need to get there before I can (insert whatever it is they are holding back from).” The thing is, I freaking get it. So hard. Change is hard and rewriting your shitty first draft is hard, but the thing is, you can’t change what you won’t change. And you most certainly can’t change anyone else. I can’t tell you how many times I held back from leaving him. I gave myself all the excuses, so don’t think there is judgement here from me. There most definitely is not one drop coming from me. I took a long time to get the courage up to leave and he said a lot of lies to me that I started to believe over time, but let me tell you this, and listen closely:

As long as there is air in your lungs and your heart pumps blood, you can do it. You can start over and have nothing but the clothes on your back and you can make it. Everything can be replaced. Everything, except for the air in your lungs and the blood pumping through your arteries.

I promise.

So if you are sitting there, single-momming it, wondering how you’ll all eat and not still feel hungry but also keep the lights on, or if you hate your job and don’t know how you’ll handle being back in school while working full-time, or if you are living in a hell-hole and have zero dollars to your name, LIFT YOUR CHIN UP. You can abhor your circumstances but you can also turn them around.

Mmmmkmay?

 

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Abraham, Sam and Moose reppin Hawaii in the Ten Step

100 days in…

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Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

July 2 is officially one of my favorite memories. Not only were we at our absolute prettiest, but we managed to pull off the party of the century. I mean, that sounds pretty damn biased, but this is my blog and I am calling it what I please because regardless, I am the boss. And so, here we are, one hundred freaking days later and I feel as if I should post what marriage has become to me, what it has meant for our relationship, and where we currently are in our life. And because my friends need absolute facts, I’ll tell the story, because I have them. The absolute facts.

100 days in has proven that marriage is keeping track. If you get up at 6 am and change a chirping fire alarm while the other one sleeps, mark it down. Keep track and use it as ammunition ALLLLL damn day (that was day 99).

It’s matching outfits better because you’re married and this is not a drill. If your wife wants to match you or buy coordinating outfits, you just say YES because clearly she is off her rocker and you will only make it worse if you decline.

If there is four squares of toilet paper left on the roll and you don’t change it, you might as well put yourself in time out because you done just left you’re WIFE hanging and how dare you? She changed that chirping fire alarm and you can’t even change a ROLL OF TOILET PAPER? Never mind that there was four squares left and it didn’t look out. Never mind that noise.

Being married is basically an admission that you can dutch-oven your spouse. That is now legal and allowed and they can’t get upset about it, especially when they passed the gas and you want them to gag over their own odors. That’s even more permissible and they can’t get make one peep about it. Because you’re married, even if it’s only been 100 days. That means more than just being together for five years, even though it shouldn’t because it was one day. Something inside you changed and now they are STUCK WITH YOU. And trapped under the covers with their own undoing.

100 days is smelling the belly button gunk of your other half. You have to. No ifs ands or buts. DO IT.

It’s arguing over enchiladas vs burritos and then bringing that damn argument up FOR THE REST OF YOUR DAYS and it can be interchangeable who is doing the bringing up, which is super confusing but hey, roll with it.

You can now start calling all conversations arguments. “What’s for dinner?” can ABSOLUTELY be followed up with, “Why are we fighting? Why are you always hounding me? Stop yelling!” because you don’t have to make sense anymore. I imagine this is what turning 70 can also look like. Your wife asks you questions and then you just mumble nonsense back. Boom. Also known as one hundred days since I do. Because now you do.

You can decide to go plant based for a few weeks and then decide to keep going because your wifey friggin lives for cheese and now you want to push all the boundaries to see just HOW long she will put up with your ish of no cheese or meat. Just to see. Just to know how long until she loses her ish with you. That’s okay.

In the meantime, she might be buying all kinds of trendy meatless ish for you, because she wants to support your plant based nonsense and then when you try it, you ARE 100 days in so don’t feel bad about making the most disgusted face you can muster up with your lethargy (because you know you aren’t getting enough protein in but you refuse to fall for her meat and cheese traps) and belting out, “THIS TASTES LIKE DOG FOOOOOOOOOOOD!” Go ahead and just yell that from the rooftop. If you have the energy for it.

And when you know you’re reaching the end of her ledge of sanity, agree to eat half a meat burger with her, just so she sees a touch of light at the end of your looney tunnel. Just so she doesn’t run for the hills just yet. You gotta keep hope SORT OF alive. Like that hedgehog you made her keep in the house for a bit. Just like that.

One hundred days is finding all the things wrong with your body so she can croon at your sweet face how much she loves it. Get gradually, increasingly more repulsive about it to see how far she will take this love song she’s penning you. “I hate the way my butt stinks!” Say it in a whiny, about-to-cry-but-not-really-because-you-don’t-cry voice. She’ll respond with, “You have the sweetest stank ass I’ve ever been around. Yay you, darling!” No matter where that was going, you’re winning. You are friggin winning at life.

One hundred days is a lot of gross for one of you and fun for the other. What sounds better than THAT? I mean, win-win in my book! So, Kulia, cheers to 100 days! Let’s pretend none of those stories are about us and drink some wine tonight while we watch This Is Us.

Sound good? Say yes because you have to.

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You don’t understand

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Not too long ago, someone randomly came in to my office at work and began telling me their life story. This in and of itself isn’t rare. I’ve shared how people tell me things. Unbeknownst to me as to why, I hear a lot of people’s secrets, feelings, unplanned thoughts, odd life stories, etc. It’s been known to drive those around me crazy. My ex used to get so upset, not only because strangers talk to me, but because I always respond. I attribute that to my father, who taught me to reciprocate courtesies. “If someone takes the time to say thank you, pay them that same respect by saying you’re welcome. Don’t just nod or say mmhmm.” It’s always stuck with me. Incidentally, when someone throws some salutations my way, I reply back. I smile at them. I make eye contact.

One night I was in Safeway grabbing some last minute groceries and I was working my way up to the registers. I cut up the personal care aisle and was about to pass an elderly lady looking at some products, confused. She turned and gave me this “Help me,” look. I couldn’t exactly explain why, but something propelled me to say hi. She reached out, grabbed my arm gently, much like my grandma or a family member would. Soft but purposeful, loving yet attention seeking. She had a box of Monistat 7 in her other hand and a look of concern in her soft, tired eyes.

“Does this work?” she asked me. Not in a creepy, weird or inappropriate way. There was a sincerity to her tone, mixed with a slight hinge of embarrassment. I remember standing there, grouping my thoughts together. Whatever made her decide to turn and ask me shouldn’t be discounted, right? She deserved some help in my book, without judgement. I could have easily kept walking and pretended I didn’t hear her but that’s never been my style. We talked and I remember walking away feeling lighter, like I had helped someone when they really needed it.

So flash forward to me, sitting in my office one day with my door open when someone stumbles in and shuts the door. While I don’t like being caged in by people I’m not super comfortable with, someone I hardly know, I recognize that she’s needing a pair of ears and some heartfelt time. Before I can ask how she’s doing, because sometimes people need coaxing to tell you why they want to chat, her mouth opens and the word vomit spills forth. Stories are being spewed in a rushed, emotional way. There’s a smidge of anger fueled by a whole lot of hurt in her words. She hasn’t had the best life. I hear instances of being forced to choose between two shitty options. I pull up a chair, allow her to sit and just listen. I see it coming before she does, there’s no doubt in that. This also happens to me, so I greet that old friend of comparison and stay still.

“You don’t understand. You have someone who loves you. You’ve never had the shit beat out of you. Your kids don’t hate you. You don’t get hateful comments thrown at you for being ugly. I don’t even know why I came in here. You have an easy life and I’m just a loser. You don’t get it.”

I let her say that to me. She was comparing her chapter 15 to my chapter 35 and while it doesn’t make sense, why she came in to my office and told me things that made me want to cry, I let it continue. You see, she didn’t know my stories and I wasn’t about to interrupt her. People need to be loved and listened to and it has to start somewhere and somehow that gets lost sometimes. What she also needed in that moment was a lack of judgement because I could see how that one word has caused her so much strife in her own inner value. Somehow, in my upbringing, I became really adept at compartmentalizing and being “stage ready” as I call it. Growing up in a restaurant and working in it from a very young age made me build a chest where I stored reality so that when I was out and about, mingling with our patrons, I wore a mask of happy.

It’s one of the first things Ku shared with me when I started to open up to her. She thought I was happy. It’s not admirable, friends. It’s more of a coping mechanism I’ve developed which really only makes it harder for me to deal with my own demons. I could venture to say she never expected to hear what I shared with her. That’s how good I was at being “on.” So while I’m sitting here listening to a tortured soul assume that I have the greatest life on Earth, what I say is, “We all have battles we are fighting.”

It can be the Mom battle, because we have this vision of motherhood and how we will excel at it in our head. We tell our friends and family things like, “I will never do this or allow that and NOT MY KID….” before we have babies. We see others raising theirs and we shake our heads at their inability to do whatever we deemed is right in our book. Or we see Moms who look like they got it down pat so we find whatever we can to criticize that because how dare she look so perfect? It can be the health battle and how we cannot believe so and so tried that shake or this diet and “maybe try eat less shit.” We can’t lose one effin pound so when they have success we tear them down. “She needs a burger. Vegans are dumb. Oh, another gluten free idiot, because how could they? It most certainly can be the relationship battle because they can’t be that happy because that’s all they post or how can she let him talk to her like that? We mock their highlight reel and we mock their low moments because judgement is a given in this world.

Before we know it the “I would never” becomes our truth and we are so caught up in our own little wars that we don’t notice those around us waged in their own battles, too. That old friend comparison sneaks in and we can’t shut her up because she’s loud and she’s everywhere and we are failing. We begin to break down those around us because maybe that’s what helps us for a fleeting moment but in reality, we all need to feel loved, heard and understood. We need each other to make it. Something I’ve really grasped lately is that it takes a village. Yes. Not just for the raising of the little humans, but for us, too. It takes a village to get so much done. So if you find yourself speaking with someone else, maybe take a moment and don’t assume they don’t understand. Ask them if they do. You might be surprised by their answer.

And if you see someone reaching out to ask you a hard, embarrassing question, do them the honor of at least hearing them out. Ok? Because life is hard. It takes strength to ask someone for help. Especially if they don’t know you. And if you feel like you know someone with a “perfect” life, befriend them and listen to them tell you about their struggles. Really, really listen.

Now go forth and do some good in the world. Say something nice to someone if you find yourself making a judge-y inner thought about them. It just might be what they need to hear today.

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What makes you Family?

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Looking fly at Waialae Country Club before Ka’eo and Denalee’s wedding 5/27/2017

In my 9-5, our team recently took a Strengths Finder assessment. It’s meant to aid in leveraging where people’s strengths lie, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. After answering a whole barrage of questions, a report was comprised, giving each of us our top five and explaining them. I wasn’t surprised by any of my list. In my last few years of self growth, mostly due to personal development and being honest with myself, I sort of already knew them.

The definitions of each strength were what really filled my cup. Knowing I love to learn is one thing, but an assessment stating that I probably collect books blew my mind! How could it know!? The best one, though? One of my strengths is connectedness. Just seeing the word made me nod my head in agreement. I thought it meant something about my ability to connect with others. How I reach out and force friends to stay in touch with me. It’s easier now, with everyone being cyber-connected. But guys, I used to send LETTERS to my friends. I thought I knew connected. And then I read the definition and was floored.

Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgements and in possession of our free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.

That wasn’t all of it, just a smidge. However, I loved all the words it entailed. I have always believed that life is not a string of coincidences. How could it be when epic changes could happen from seemingly minute happenings in the world?

When I was in my seventh year of my own personal hell, my ex-husband decided we needed a trip. For his own personal reasons, that he didn’t disclose right away, he chose Hawaii. It’s one of those places that most of the world, at least from where I’m standing, dreams of going. I wasn’t a big fan. We almost never had money, and even when we did, it wasn’t managed well. He had control of that and it stressed me out to think what was being shelled out on this trip, when back home the boys were being fed with food stamps. There just wasn’t changing his mind when he wanted something. I remember being on the island of Oahu, driving down roads and seeing beaches and landmarks, gazing at them in awe.

Somewhere along a winding highway towards the windward side, he told me he was thinking of moving us there. I read it as: this will soon be our new home. It was pretty enough and promising enough that I gave no fight to the discussion. I sighed, asked him when and succumbed to the inevitable. It didn’t take away from how breathtaking Hawaii can be. The water is colors you can pick out of a Crayon box but can never replicate. You can see the bottom of the ocean, you can gaze out and see the curve of the horizon. The sun warms your face and slivers of that make it into your heart. Hawaii called to me and I let it. I remember the rest of the few days we were present, I would think about where we would land when we got there. What roads would become more traveled by me? Who would become my friend? How would my life change? I thought up so much and could never have imagined what Hawaii would come to mean to the boys and I.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, hopefully it is the story of Ku and I and how we met. You see, meeting Ku was when Hawaii stopped being a place for me and became a feeling. My ex later described it as the biggest mistake he had made. For me, it was the biggest gift. Not only did I find who would captivate my soul and awaken my heart, but we found a second family. You see, I know the boys are loved by his family. They are his blood, too, and there is this fierce protectiveness and almost possessive feel they give to family get-togethers. It’s like the Lannisters incarnate, minus perhaps, the incest.

I won’t compare Ku’s family to Game of Thrones. A) they are human. They are kind and caring and I never feel like I’m about to be stabbed in the back. There’s no b. I do that, often.

Kulia’s family welcomed all of us with open arms. It has never felt forced or weird. There is this sincere love that you feel deep in your bone marrow that is so genuine. So pure. Hugs warm you like bowls of chicken noodle soup on a fall day and kisses on the cheek radiate rays of sunshine down to your toes. Her family and their love for the four of us was unimaginable and perfectly imperfect. I know that’s a hard level to achieve for most blended families so I cherish it and work to keep it seamless. I think it’s because I have seen weird and judge-y and mean (did you see how I compared my ex’s family to the LANNISTERS?) so I can be grateful for what we have been given.

The boys recently traveled to the East Coast with their Dad. When they came home yesterday, the meanager asked to speak with me. He told me about their trip and feelings he had while on it. He shared some stuff that was sad to listen to, about how they felt awkward around new family they met for the first time. It’s so alien to listen to because oftentimes I neglect thinking about the other side of what the boys deal with. The amount of time they are with us makes me think of us being their main family. It’s fair and yet unfair, right and yet not accurate. They have a whole other set of people that have come into their life in one way or another and I should have been preparing them for what might come.

My meanager reminded me of how treasured they feel in Hawaii. “Mom, you know how all of Ku’s family just loves us and never makes us feel weird?” he asked me. I struggled to find words because I just know it to be true. “It wasn’t like that in Virginia. We kept being reminded they aren’t our Aunts and Uncles and we couldn’t call them that. Her mom kept correcting us. We had to call them Mr. and Mrs. It was just awkward. Everything felt awkward.” This coming from the son who likes hugging the least. The thing is, our boys are lovers.

It was hard to hear and all I could do was tell him I was sorry to hear it. I told him I was so happy he was home because it’s never the same when they are gone. I hugged him and let him tell me how his feelings were hurt. I reminded him how sincerely and genuinely so many care for him and his brothers. That some people take time and maybe have a hard time accepting change, for lack of better reasoning.

I just really wonder what makes family, family. Ya know?

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Sam, AB and Moose at our wedding, melting our hearts and making everyone cry happy tears

Dear Daddy

 

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Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

Dear Daddy,

I got married last Sunday, the 2nd of July. It was the day after my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, which meant a lot to me.  I know you didn’t go and I know why, but  I wanted to share the details with you, because you haven’t asked yet and I really wanted to tell you about it at lunch the other day, but I would have ended up crying, and nobody likes a sad lunch.

From the moment I woke up, I could tell it was going to be gorgeous. The sun was shining and so was my heart. I didn’t think about whether you would change your mind or not, like I had for the last few months. I just felt excited and ready for all the memories. Ana and I went to get some decorations done first thing, which was a great idea. You remember Ana, right? She’s played cards with you at the restaurant before and she’s my best friend. She thought you would come even though I kept telling her it was a lost cause.

The weather could not have been more perfect. There was a slight breeze and so much light. Light in everyone’s eyes, in their hearts. This wedding meant a lot to many, especially me, and I wanted you to see that. I know you don’t understand homosexuality and gay marriage, but I know you understand love. I wanted you to see it. None of us could stop smiling or laughing easily at everything. I remember looking at all our friends’ faces and thinking, this is how I want to live every day for the rest of my life. Smiling and laughing this easily. It was a jovial sentiment and it was catching. I just know your heart would have felt lighter. You just had to make it there.

On our way back to the hotel, Ana and I, we had a deep chat. About being perfectionists and how to let things go. I think somewhere in our mix of wise words, I decided I wouldn’t fret about you on my day. I was going to practice letting go and I felt at ease. She wanted things to be just right for me and I think in a way, she was being what I would have wanted to see from you. Kulia talks a lot about how her parents will be there for me when you guys aren’t and sometimes I think that’s unfair. Except, not this time. Her father is not a fill in for you but he was so full of love and excitement. He clearly wanted nothing but happiness for her on our day. For us. I know for both of us. Ana filled in for you.

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We got to the hotel and started getting ready. There was a mimosa bar and food. Hustle and bustle and constant movement. I didn’t have it in me to think about you anymore, from that point forward. I was practicing letting it go, remember? Either way, I was having my hair and makeup done and chatting about Kulia and I’s crazy last five years together. How far we have come and how unstoppable we seem. It’s undeniable, Dad. We.are.good.together. We make goals and meet them, we push each other to keep growing. We bought an amazing house that we built, together. The boys, who I know were your biggest concern, are thriving. They have never been better. I know you see this. We all do.

I was thinking about that chat we had, our first serious one-on-one, when I moved back from Hawaii. I remember calling you on the beach, to say words to you that I had thought about sharing for over a decade. I was in an abusive relationship that I had finally left. I told you how he had treated me and you said, “You gotta respect yourself and do what’s right because you haven’t been living.” And then in the living room, that first night, you told me that divorce wasn’t the end of my life, but rather the start of a new one. Daddy, this new life isn’t what you imagined but I think it’s bigger than we could have both thought up.

I know it bothers you that I married a woman. I don’t see it that way. As I walked down the aisle, and saw the smiling/happy crying faces of those who love our love, I thought about math. Daddy, 3 + 1=4. I know that’s how you see it. But so does 2 + 2. So does 4 + 0. The thing is, there’s more than one way to answer a problem. All of those equations come to the same ending. That is love, for me. I didn’t fall in love with Kulia because she’s a woman. I fell in love with her soul. I feel like that’s more important than gender.

As we said our vows, I saw my Momma, Berta, Emily, Grandpa and Grandma sitting there and realized my wish hadn’t come true. Even in the midst of my own fairy tale, I couldn’t bippity boppity boo you there. And Berta was crying so many happy tears, full of love and joy for us. I almost lost it, in that moment. I almost cried.

We said our I do’s with the sun in our eyes and in our hearts. I am sorry you couldn’t be there to hear Kulia promise to respect and love me until her last breath. Isn’t that what every father wants? Someone to love their daughter almost as much as they do? Someone to help raise his grandkids to be gentlemen, to be life changers, to love and to respect? This is what I have, Daddy. And the thing is, I know you love Kulia for how she is with me. I know you can see it.

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The night ended as it should. With a beautiful sunset, deep hugs, fun photobooth pictures that I know you would have had no part of, and silly dancing. Everyone was floating on a cloud of love. Mom looked so happy, so full of excitement for our family. Berta and Gracia were loving on us and the boys. Everyone was there for the right reasons and while I’m not judging you, I think you weren’t for the wrong ones.

It reminds me of when I was around 10-11 years old. Working at the restaurant taught me so much, and sometimes without trying to. I was working with Uncle Louis one day, may his soul rest peacefully, when these two ladies came in. One had short hair, the other didn’t. I was bringing them their chips and salsa when Uncle Louis pulled me aside, laughing. Those are marimachas, he told me. I had no clue what he meant, so he explained to me what lesbians were. He defined that slang, offensive word. It was the first I had ever heard of them, and I got awkward. You pulled me aside and asked why I was being rude to our customers. You told me everyone was equal and you wouldn’t tolerate that behavior.

Where was that guy on Sunday? Did you think of me at all?  You told me, after lunch, that you love me no matter what. Did you mean, even if you’re gay and married to a woman? Is that my biggest travesty in life? I didn’t start this blog entry to be upset with you, but a part of me is, Daddy. I know I’ve taken you for quite a ride with my life. This is by far the least offensive; I feel that deep down. Loving her is more right than so many other things. At the end of the day, I will never regret it.

I love you, Daddy. No matter what.

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These five locos