Dear Dad

I’ve spent the last two nights staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. Writing is how I process things, but I have so many things to process I don’t know where to start. First I found out who my dad is, then I connected with relatives and learned so much in such a short time. I was so happy, elated. But also overwhelmed. It’s a lot. And at a time when you have to rely on strangers to help you out, I was fortunate to find some good ones. But then the attacks started. People told me I was wrong and an embarrassment to their family name. A family name I don’t even want. A family name from a family in small town in Kansas. It was a little absurd.

The truth is, I have a family, I don’t want another one. And I know they are trying to cope just like I am. They are angry with me because they can’t write the narrative on this one, but it’s misplaced anger and besides, they shouldn’t get to write the narrative. This is my life, my dad, my story. It shouldn’t be this difficult to be compassionate, but for them it is. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be kind. My family made me who I am, with a little bit of DNA from my dad, and a whole lot of loving from my mom and my sisters and my brother and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

Yet here I am, wishing I could talk to my dad one time about that little bit of DNA. I have no idea where to start tonight, but I have to start getting something out so I figure I’ll start here.

Dear Dad,

I know you are gone. And I’m not sure where you are. I’m not too religious, don’t believe much in life after death. I don’t think we are reincarnated or made to burn in hellfire damnation for our sins, which is probably good, cause it sounds like you were no stranger to a good time.

It’s only been a few days but there is a theme occurring each time I talk to someone new about you: Oh your dad was funny, they tell me. Oh, your dad was so sweet. The best Uncle! The nicest guy. A little rough around the edges, but he’d give you the shirt off his back.

Opinionated. Kind. Thoughtful. Chubby.

Seems we have a lot in common.

My mom said you drank beer. Lots of beer. That you took her to your bar once to eat sandwiches. That you played pool. Do you remember that? You called her a wallflower. Started dating someone else to make her jealous. It worked.

She told me when I was 10 years old that you had a massive heart attack and ran your car off the road. I didn’t know then that you were my dad. She never told me that, I truly don’t think she knew. I think she wanted me to belong to someone else. And I think when we believe something so much, we make it so. But I remember that day. The day she told me, the day she said your name. I remember thinking that we had the same initials: M.M. Like an M&M.

Years later when I came across your obituary in my mom’s old dresser I wondered more about you again. You must have meant something to her, something special to have this old, faded cut out from the newspaper. She obviously still thought about you from time to time.

My sister said you were the nicest boyfriend our mom ever had. She said you called her princess, gave her a ring. She said you wore overalls. Always wore overalls.

I know you knew about me, but I don’t think you knew I was yours. You asked, but you weren’t told the truth. A mom trying to protect her kid, her heart. I’m not mad at her. I’m not mad at you. I’m sort of tired of being mad at anyone.

The thing is, I spent a lot of time being mad at a man who I thought was my dad. A man that I thought deserted me. A horrible cheating man. But it wasn’t him. It was you all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find out sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t push more for the truth. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for help.

You have a son-in-law. I think you’d like him. I hope you’d like him. He’s kind. Genuine. He can work on cars, he can skin a fish, he can run a budget for a multi-million dollar company. He works so I don’t have to. He supports me in all my crazy ideas.

You have a grandson. He’s 12 years old. He has blond hair and blue eyes and he’s smart. Really smart. He’s funny too. Talkative. Opinionated. The real life of the party, always has been. Doesn’t get that from me or his dad. I think maybe he gets it from you. It’s a funny thing, genetics.

It’s a funny thing, family. Yours doesn’t want me. Don’t worry, I’m okay. I don’t have much room in my life for them. They aren’t like me. We are different at our core. But I do want you to know that I tried. I tried and will keep trying, other cousins, there’s so many cousins, Dad! Someone will want to know me, someone will want to know my son, see him grow, watch what he becomes since you can’t.

I don’t know what you look like, Dad. I can’t close my eyes and remember you like other people can because I never met you. I used to dream about you. Not you exactly, but who I thought you were. Who I hoped you were. When other kids at school who would make fun of me for not having a dad, I would tell them that you were dead. I just wanted to stop the teasing. I didn’t know it was true.

I was only nine months old when you died. You were only forty two. Forty two is young, too young. I turn forty this year. I wish you could have made it longer. I bet you would have tried, like me.

I think we’d fight. Over politics, certainly. Over other things too. About you drinking too much. About you eating better. About me living so far away. About silly things, and not silly things. But at the end of the day I think we’d hug. You’d tell me that it will all be alright. I’d say see you later. Drive back home, 1000 miles away. Knowing I’d see you again next time.

I’ve never said this to anyone because I never had the opportunity to say it, but I love you, Dad. I know I didn’t know you, but I figure I won’t really ever have the chance to know you so what is the harm? Or maybe I will. Who knows. Not me.

The flowers are still blooming where I am, the rain still slicing through the sickly sweet air. And I don’t know where you are, but I hope you’re happy. Please know that I am. Finally, I am content. I’m the happiest.

M.

History and Hope

The front page of the Altanta Journal Constitution today says, History and Hope. The headline speaks to the fact that we have a new president in the White House and the first female Vice President, who also happens to be a member of the BIPOC community. Of course this thrills me to no end, but I am co-opting the headline today to apply it to my own life because y’all, you all, I got my DNA test back this week and I have finally found out with certainty who my father is and, are you ready for this, is is not the man I thought it was my whole entire life!

Some backstory, my mother had a couple of boyfriends around the time she got pregnant with me. One was a married man that she was in desperate love with, and one was sort of just this guy she kinda knew who made her laugh and she thought was cute. They’d play pool together and eat burgers at his beer joint in Easton, Kansas. But when she found out she was pregnant she stopped messing with both of them, told the one she loved I was his baby, and convinced herself of that too. He of course didn’t want anything to do with me, denied I was his, but of course still hooked up with my mom because he was a piece of shit. And therefore I have spent my entire life thinking this asshole, piece of shit was my dad and that he didn’t want anything to do with me. That’s a lot to deal with, in case you don’t know.

The other guy, the fun-loving funny man whose nieces and nephews called “Uncle Mikey” called my mom to ask her back out one night when she was big and pregnant. She said no. She was still in love with the other guy. Then he asked if she was still pregnant with “the baby” and she said yes and, this is where the story gets confusing because my mom told me one version several years ago and has since recanted the story. She told me several years ago that he then asked if the baby was his and she said no, that it was the other guys, even though she had no idea which one of them was actually the father. Today she told me he never asked and she never said that. I suspect self-preservation on her part, but I’m going to let her sit with that for a bit and ask again another time.

Anyway, none of it matters because several months later, in the summer of 1982, when I was nine months old, my father, the fun-loving boyfriend whom my sister says wore overalls, died of a massive heart attack while driving down the road. He was 42 years old.

(Long sigh)

There is so much more to this story. So much more. And I have already connected with five first cousins through 23andMe and already have access to a family tree, know the names of my grandparents and have learned a lot about my dad. I promise to tell you guys more but today I just want to do two things: 1. Thank my sister Belinda who has been so supportive (she has her own DNA story that mimics mine and is working through it) and 2. Tell y’all that if you have ever, ever even considered one of those “weird” DNA tests for whatever reason, DO IT! I implore you. It could be life changing.

As for my dad, well, he’s out there somewhere. Wherever people go when they leave this life and for the first time in my life I can smile when I think about my dad. I still can’t put a face to a name, waiting on some cousins to come through with some photos, but from what they say, and my mom and my sister, he was the kind of guy you’d like to hang out with, and I hope so much that I have made him proud.

History and hope this week, y’all. All around.

M.

Post About Sam’s Club Toilet Paper, for Real, That’s What the Whole Post is About

Welcome class, I do believe I have lectured on the wonders of Sam’s Club toilet paper previously, but I’m glad you’ve come back for another discussion today. First, let me say that if I could give Sam’s Club toilet paper to all of you I would. Like if I won the lottery, which would be hard to do considering I don’t play the lotto, but if I did the first thing I would do is give the world Sam’s Club toilet paper. Then, I would buy 20 acres, a pack of llamas, and donate the rest to charity. Now, before I get into the wonders of Sam’s Club toilet paper (from here on out referred to as: SCTP) let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we all know Wal-mart is a horrific company that underpays their employees, cuts corners, forces manufacturers into cut-throat deals in the name of low prices, and takes out small businesses whenever they come to town. But the truth of the matter is there is nothing I can do about that, ergo every year I pay to have a Sam’s Club membership (actually we started piggybacking on my MIL’s membership this year because why not? Fuck Wal-mart!) just so I can enjoy the SCTP that I have come to know and love. That is to say I am stuck now. Addicted. I can get TP from no where else.

Let’s talk about that other TP. Most of the other TP is what Jerimiah refers to as “John Wayne TP” because it’s “rough and tough and don’t take no shit off anybody.” Ain’t that the truth. Here I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill store brand TPs, your Walgreens brand, your Up and Up from Target (I’m sorely disappointed in your Target), your Kroger brand, and what not. Now Member’s Mark is a store brand. That’s the brand that SCTP is. It is Member’s Mark, but it is quite obvious that Sam’s Club is not the manufacturer. I had a teacher in elementary school whose husband worked for Always Save, which is an off-brand food brand that they sell in those bright yellow boxes. You know the kind I mean, if you were ever at my house in the 90s you saw them in the pantry

Anyway, she told us once that Always Save gets their food and products from the name brand places, but because they don’t have to pay for branding and advertising and all that they can give deep discounts. It’s the same elbow macaroni, for instance, that the name brands sell, it’s just in a different package. She said they would literally get shipments of bags of pasta sauce, green beans, etc from the same places that Del Monte, for instance, is getting them, but instead they just go into the yellow label brands. Now this was back in the 90s, things may have changed since then, and there are definitely differences in the taste of some products (that why I can’t shop at Aldi, I can taste the differences) but this got me thinking about TP. And how there can’t be THAT many TP brands out there, instead Member’s Mark probably pays a brand to make their own label. So you know me, I Googled it.

But… all I could find was information that suggested Member’s Mark TP was made by Sam’s Club in the USA. So maybe it is in fact it’s own brand. I mean I am okay with that, I was just hoping for some secret. I did however, come across the Consumer Report article that exploits the scamming of the toilet paper industry and how they have been shrinking their rolls and upping their prices for years (Hint: They are particularly mad at the brand known as “Angel Soft” for it’s dishonesty and trickery, especially because it is sold mainly at places like Walmart and Dollar General, which means it serves low-economic communities and they are taking advantage of those people.) Nevertheless, here are some other brands to be weary of:

Now Kirkland brand is the Costco equivalent to SCTP and although I’ve never tried it, I’d be willing to. But I can’t bring myself to get a Costco membership for a myriad of reasons.

Now I know what you are thinking: Well this is just like, your opinion man. I get it. But there is actually a whole thread on Reddit about how SCTP is the best, and if you are so inclined to do your own TP test, you can can buy SCTP at Walmart.com. Just click on the image below. It says “out of stock” now, which they have had trouble keeping it in stock during the pandemic, but it will be back shortly I just know it! If you want to read up on other toilet papers and compare them this is a fun little article, and not just because they editor’s pick for best TP was Member’s Mark. That is just a coincidence.

But what makes Member’s Mark so good, Missy? Great question! It is soft like Quilted Northern, strong like Charmin, and a fraction of the price of the other two. In fact, aside from the problem of lint coming off (which is a problem they know about and are working on, but all the softest brands have that problem) it is the best toilet paper I have every had in my life, and yes I have tried many other brands, plus it comes in a minimum, MINIMUM of 45 rolls at a time, which is fantastic (if you have the room to store that much tp) because you don’t have to buy TP all the damn time! Bonus! And did I mention the price. On average, you can buy this 45-roll pack for about $20! TWENTY MFING DOLLARS!

So there you have it, a whole blog post about Sam’s Club Toilet Paper. I told you that’s what it was about.

M.

I’ll Have a T&T

I’ll turn forty in nine months and while I’m excited about this (I reject the idea that your life fades away into nothingness at forty) there are some unavoidable things that displease me. Like how the eye doctor told me that I’d need readers soon. On top of my prescription. Or how any abrupt change to my medication, diet, or daily activity cause me gastrointestinal upset. Or my new favorite, my routine desire to have a “T&T” which used to mean that I wanted Tanqueray and Tonic. I would say to Jerimiah for example, “I’m making a T&T, do you want something?” Or I’d be at a bar with friends and I’d ask the bartender for a “T&T extra lime.” But as of late I’ve been walking upstairs while I yell, “I’m going for a T&T” which now means, I’m grabbing two Tylenol and some Tums; a T&T.

It was a slow burn from the T&T of my youth to this one. First I stopped being able to control my emotions with a T&T. Then I couldn’t hold the liquor. Soon, in the last couple of years, I’ve rejected liquor all together and now exclusively drink white wine and White Claws (in the summer only), and in fact rarely drink white wine at all anymore. But the new T&T, that’s a regular occurrence brought on by stress, new medication, and I suspect cheese. A rather large abundance of cheese.

I’d love to go in depth here. To really explain my “later in life” situation, but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m too busy at the moment. I’m headed to bed, right after my T&T.

M.

The Right Words

I’ve been trying to find words. That’s actually something I do a lot. The Oxford Pocket Dictionary sits on my desk, in part, because I am always looking for words. The right words. The good words. That is to say I’m trying to discover what I think, how I feel, and put that into words. But this week has been hard. It’s hard for me to smile this week. It’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to feel happy, for the “right” words to come when all I can really think are sad words. I want to write words that are jovial. Carefree. Radiant. But what is finding me is Maudlin. Saccharine. Indignant. Here are some words that are finding me:

I told you so.

Liars.

Now you know how school kids feel.

Terrorists.

If you support this…

Pissed.

And while these might not be a helpful response to the situation, while people are calling for unity, these words and phrases are my truth. They are what I am feeling. I am battling within myself now. Do I let this go, do I let people say and do what they want, even if what they say and do is hurting others? I think we all know the answer to that, but then why do I feel so bad?

“I told you so.” That’s what I want to say to my friends, many of them “previous friends” who voted for Trump in 2016 and who still, up until this week fully supported him even though their own doubts were creeping into their throats. I told you so. But I’ve heard that “I told you so” never helps. It’s an unhelpful phrase. So what do I say?

“Liars” that is what I see when I watch and listen to Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham and Mike Pence. They never apologized for their support of a crazy person. A crazy person who 80 million of us knew was capable of what we saw this week. They knew it too. They also know they had a hand in it and they are liars. But I have family and friends, real people I love and respect coming out to say that they are proud of these men. I am not. It was too little too late. What do I say?

“Now you know how school kids feel,” should not come as a surprise that this was my first thought. Early on when the siege was happening there was video of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She was on her hands and knees in the gallery of Congress, a police woman next to her yelling to “Get down,” and I saw the fear on her face and I thought this is exactly what our school children face in our country on a regular basis. This is exactly what many of us have been saying for far too long about guns, about security measures, about the results of a generation of children who can’t go to school without looking, knowing, being trained, to find the escape route.

“Terrorists.” These people are terrorists. We need to stop calling them protesters. Protesting is what we saw this summer when people were protesting for equal justice under law and for civil rights. The people who stormed the Capital were terrorists. They were there to overthrow our government. To bend the will of the people to their decision. We can’t say apples to apples when it is in fact apples to white supremacy.

“If you support this then you are (insert any number of things).” This one I’m torn up about. I wrote on social media if you support this unfriend me right now. And I meant it. Still mean it. I can’t be friends, not even fake, social media friends with you if you can in any way shape or form understand or empathize with the people who broke out windows, who desecrated our Capital, or who took down an American flag to replace it with a Trump one. I can’t make that make sense and I can’t sit with that and I don’t want to be associated with you. But in this moment we are called to unify. My desire to bring peace and civility is inching up in my throat and I am conflicted. Still, as of right now, if you support those people you and I are fundamentally different and I can’t be around you. And I do believe you should be called out for your way of thinking. You need help. But still, as I write this I am thinking of ways I can help you. But I’m mad, so I will need time.

“Pissed.” I’m pissed, y’all. I woke up on Wednesday so happy with my state. So proud to call myself a Georgia Democrat. A DeKalb County Democrat no less. We made history. We swung a whole state. We changed the course of our nation and for that I am humbled and grateful. But now I am pissed. I’m really pissed and I don’t want to be. I hate this feeling, this anger rising up. Of course this is how I felt in 2016 too, so while I am pissed today I know I will not always be. And when that anger subsides I know I will be left with a desire to make changes. And I know that means I will. We will. As a collective.

But for today, I am pissed. And I think it is a rightful feeling and emotion. And I won’t be made to feel shameful about it by people who are saying, “We need to come together now.” They are right, these people. “We” as in the decent people in our country, need to come together. But “we” as in the racists, the homophobes, the “Stop the Steal” people, the terrorists, no. There is no coming together with them. We have given them too many tries to get it together and this was their last one.

I remember a time when I could say, “I don’t care who you voted for, I still like you.” That isn’t the case anymore. If today, you would still walk to the polls and cast your vote for Donald Trump, then I don’t want you around me or my family. You’re toxic and sorely misguided. You’re a racist. You are willing to put your beliefs above the collective country we ALL belong in. And I won’t stand for it anymore.

I’m pissed. I want to say I told you so. Explain that those people are terrorists, white supremacists, that this is EXACTLY who we are as Americans, regardless of how many times Papa Joe says we aren’t. This is us. We need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make a change, or this will continue to be us.

Hmm. I guess I did find the words.

Be safe, friends.

M.

Georgia Election

There I was, promising my family I would NOT go to sleep until Ossoff was ahead in the polls. Then there I was, passed out with my phone on top of me when he was still down by 400 votes, but the truth is I went to sleep happy and excited because I knew what was about to happen. I knew that a lot of people in Georgia (and not in Georgia) worked their asses off to get people to the polls. To get people to understand what could happen. What is possible in a state like Georgia when people vote. It wasn’t possible for some people to see until November. But that win for Biden, with just over 12,000 votes, well, it lit a fire under people. It made us realize that yes, actually anything is possible. It is possible that the revered of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr’s church, could rise up and become the first Black senator in our state. It was a glorious sight to behold.

And listen, as I write this Ossoff is ahead in the polls, but they haven’t called it for him just yet. I’m expecting them to shortly, but already it is said that Chatham, Fulton, and DeKalb (my county) counties are cheating and lying and stealing this election. I don’t have words to say about that, except that we still have some work to do, as a state, as a county. But the truth of the matter is that it’s always hard to lose. It’s always hard to explain something like this. Explain why the people who have always been in power, are losing their power. So while I understand what they are doing, the science and psychology of it, I won’t let it stand. Not in my presence.

Today Congress will “debate” the presidential election, but the constitution, the power of the people, the “right” thing will prevail. Now we can look to the future with those who want to come along with us, and for the others, well, they can stay back and scream and yell. We don’t need them, we’ve made that clear.

Today is a good day, America! WE believe in you, Rev!

M.

Thoughts on Zoom

Is it just me, or do you have a hard time reading the natural end to the conversation with your therapist via Zoom? I adore my therapist, but these Zoom calls have been increasingly difficult. Same with my rheumatologist, who has a heavy middle-eastern accent. It’s hard to hear her and hard to decipher her words through her mask in person, but via Zoom is even worse. I feel really bad because I already have a hard time with accents and naturally ending conversations, but it’s been even worse over the last year because I feel like I am always on edge, always forgetting things, always have a ton on my mind, and it’s getting worse not better.

Last week I called the meeting quits a good ten minutes before my session was supposed to end because I was like, well is she done writing? Is she checking her clock? Does she have notes to do before her next patient? It feels like there are just way more things to worry about via the Zoom calls and I don’t feel like I can read the room, mainly because there is literally no room to read.

To make matters worse we are so “close” in a Zoom call, like closer than we would be in real life, that it makes me uncomfortable. Have you noticed this? Like I can see the fine lines and wrinkles in people’s faces on Zoom. I can see if something is hanging from their noses. So I sit way, way back away from the computer because it scares me. Meanwhile some people sit with the computer so close all you can see is their face. Back up, y’all! Back up! It’s too close.

I don’t know what my issue is, not really. I just know that Zoom freaks me out. It always has. Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, whatever you use or want to call it. It’s not my favorite, most effective form of communication and I hate that this is how we have to do things now. At the same time, I can be in my pajamas for therapy, so… I guess it’s still a win.

M.

I’m Back!

Hi-dee ho, neighbors! Remember Wilson from “Home Improvement.” It’s been a few days. Wow, that is weird to say. Because last year I wrote a blog post every day and this year I couldn’t decide what I was going to do and then decided, fuck that I’m gonna take a break. So there you have it. A break was had. For two days. Actually, I’ve been writing everyday still, but I just haven’t posted everyday because I’m not trying to write a blog post everyday this year, instead I have decided to take that time and write toward my thesis everyday, which seems like a much better use of my time. That is not to say that I don’t like my blog, or love you all, or think it’s important to be here and share my wild, crazy stories about toilet paper and swallowing a dry White Castle French fry down my windpipe and vomiting on the side of the road somewhere in Tennessee, that’s a good story I needs to share sometime, but you know thesis work should come first, considering I start that beast in the fall.

But I’m back. And although I never really left, I’m excited about this new year and hopeful that we can accomplish some great things. I am patiently waiting for my turn at THE vaccine, and I am planning a couple of vacations that we will partake in as soon as it is safe. Other than that I am eating leftover chocolate from Christmas, I started new medication, and I bought a keyboard and have been furiously teaching myself “Fur Elise” because I literally have that much time on my hands.

I hope you have all found things that bring you joy, lighten your heart, and propel you into goodness this year. I hope you are staying safe, wearing a mask, social distancing, and following CDC guidelines as best you can to ensure that we all get through this alive and well.

Big hugs.

M.