In some ways I had a very good childhood. In most it was bad, very bad, but as time passes I find myself able to appreciate certain aspects of it more than I used to or see things in ways I’d never considered before.
This post is very hard for me to write, there’s an Ativan under my tongue as I type these words, I kind of feel like barfing and I already cried a little, but I think it’s got to come out anyway.
If you’ve followed my blog for any great length of time then you will know that I was the result of a teenage pregnancy which set the stage for one of the most fucked up lives imaginable. I think this was just fate. I used to blame people and get angry and sad but now I just accept and do my best to “live in the now” on the advice of my brother who’s a total prick, who I haven’t seen in 3 years and who I often wonder if I’ll ever see again. And I’m not sad when I think that the answer to that question is most likely “no”.
My life, up until this point, has been both tragic and charmed and now, at the age of 30, I appreciate the richness of both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. When I try to visualize my life, when I think about painting my life, I think of a pencil drawing of a girl in the corner of a cell with a barred window, sitting in a sunbeam, hugging her tucked up legs. Her hair covers her face, which is mostly buried in her knees. Perched on the window sill is a black and yellow wild canary. That’s been my life.
But enough with the dramatics. This post is about my dad, of which I have, or rather had, two. And one of them is going to be here in about 3 hours to replace my broken bay window so I’ve got to hurry this along.
When I was a baby something happened – I don’t really know what and at this point I don’t care – and my biological father, then 17ish and known as “Phip” disappeared. He reappeared once when I was about 2 or 3, the only childhood memory I have of him, but that was it until I found him on my own when I was 12 – but that’s a whole other story.
When I was 5, my mother met a man named Ken Cox whose father was a friend of the family (I think?) and who worked with our neighbour Mike in his father’s industrial waste management business, I guess you’d call it. From what I understand, they picked up scrap from de Havilland in Toronto, which is where they made airplanes, most notably the Dash 8. I wasn’t really all that involved with their courtship. I remember Ken coming over to my grandma’s, where my mom and I lived, for dinner once but that’s pretty much the extent of my memories until the wedding.
In the beginning things were pretty okay. I had a dad and I thought that was great. Then my brother was born and I was pushed away a bit, but no more than any other first-born when the second one comes along. At the time we were living in a small one bedroom apartment above my grandpa’s carpet store, across the street from the town clock that gonged every hour, on the hour.
But then my mom opened her paint & wallpaper store and not too long after that we moved into our first house, which is when the trouble began and my parents started to not get along (which is putting it mildly). The truth is, we could barely afford the house and because we didn’t have a washer and dryer, every Saturday my dad, my brother and I would have to go to the laundromat. For whatever reason we stopped going to the laundromat closest to our house, we went to the one in the town we used to live in and in the town we used to live in was an infamous flea market and while our laundry was either washing or drying, my dad would take us to the flea market and he would buy all kinds of toys for my brother but none for me. And when I asked why, he would say it was because I got spoiled enough by my grandparents and my brother didn’t. This is why I have a massive complex about everything my kids get being equal.
Anyway…despite the fact that my dad would be a walking, talking, sandy vagina most of the time because my parents were on the verge of divorce, he was who I was closest to and the one thing we had in common was our love for TV and movies which started in the very beginning when we lived in the apartment and he would watch Saturday morning cartoons with me and then in the afternoon while folding laundry, we would watch old Conan and kung-fu movies, which I guess at the time weren’t really that old. He was the one who lobbied for me to stay up past my bedtime to watch Alf, which I loved.
Well, over the years a lot of shit happened. After the separation (my parents weren’t legally divorce until my daughter was 3 months old) my dad and I stayed close but he was so bitter about my mom that it was hard to be his daughter as he was pretty much the president of the He Man Woman Haters Club and while it was becoming quite evident that he favoured my brother, being his biological child who lived with him, he still invited me over every Friday night to eat subs from Mr. Sub, which back then had THE BEST finely shredded lettuce, and to watch The X-Files. (By this time I was 15 and living on my own, I’m totally glossing over timelines here.)
As I grew older though, so did he, but where I grew wiser he grew more and more bitter about my mother. He was like a rabid dog who, even 10 years after the fact, simply could not let it go. It didn’t matter that they’d been separated longer than they’d been married, my mother was the biggest whorebag slut who ever walked the face of the Earth and he wished her every plague and gory death you could ever think of, which he thought of a lot and explained in glorious detail. That one life event consumed his entire being and the older I got, the more I reminded him of her and the crueler to me he became.
The final straw was when my son was born and I was in the hospital. It was about 3 minutes after I’d given birth when the phone in my room rang and my mother answered it. It was my dad. She informed him that it was a healthy baby boy, gave him the length & weight and told him his name and was completely civil about it. My dad apparently asked to speak to me but at the time I was birthing the placenta so I was kind of busy and my mom said I’d call him back.
Well, that was the beginning of the end. For whatever reason, he held it against me that my mother answered the phone and made me pay for it at every opportunity. It was tradition, due to the separation, that every year at Christmas we had Christmas morning and afternoon with my dad where we had dinner, then Christmas evening at my grandma’s for dessert and presents (mom’s mom) and then we’d sleep over at my mom’s to have Boxing Day brunch and presents with her the next day.
On my son’s first Christmas he was crawling age and we (me, my kids, my husband) went to my dad’s on Christmas morning like tradition dictated and we opened presents. But something was amiss. There was not a single present under the tree for my son. And when presents were finished and we were all hanging out i the kitchen while my dad worked on Christmas dinner, when my son crawled over to him, my dad stepped over him like he was an old dog, while at the same time lavishing praises and having conversations with my daughter. Basically, he refused to even acknowledge my son’s presence and purposely left a BABY, his GRANDSON out of his holiday gift giving.
To make a long story short it wasn’t too long after that that my dad and I parted ways and we haven’t spoken since. It’s been 6 years and with the way he is, I doubt I’ll ever see or speak to him again, although I do live in fear of a death bed reunion and I wonder all the time if, when that happens, I’ll go to him or not. Most days I think not.
But here I go writing about my bummer of a childhood again, which I promised myself a few years ago I was going to stop doing and that’s not what I intended this most to really be about. The fact of the matter is, this man was the only dad I knew for most of my childhood and despite the fact that he’s a rotten cervix and I have no intentions of ever speaking to him again, it’s still sort of automatic to think of him in certain situations. There are triggers.
For example, today I found out that they’re remaking “V”, which for you young’uns was a few mini-series and a TV series about an reptilian alien race that ate rats who were secretly trying to take over the planet to use humans for food and to steal our water. Well, even though I was probably WAY too young to watch it, I watched it with my dad and when I learned of the remake – which I’m hoping will be Battlestar Galactica good, but I’m not holding my breath – I instantly wanted to tell my dad and found myself sort of sad that I couldn’t. I want to know what he thinks of this remake. When the remake comes out I want to know his thoughts on it.
When Blake and Wes and I went to the drive-in last weekend and saw Star Trek, I was an emotional mess both because the movie was a masterpiece but also because I watched the reruns of the original series with my dad and I remember so well him telling me that the most amazing part of that show was the fact that everything in it would one day be a reality. And he was right, sort of. I mean, cell phones were invented because of Star Trek and I wonder all the time what he thinks about that.
And I wonder, since we were both really into the X-Files, what he thinks of the show Fringe, which is basically an X-Files/Sliders rip-off/hybrid, the latter of which we were also into. And does he watch LOST? What does he think of that and if he does watch it, did he enjoy Cloverfield as much as I did? (I saw Cloverfield TWICE in the theatre! The only movie I’ve ever watched twice in a theatre! I’m agoraphobic, I don’t go to theatres!)
Probably an embarrassing fact, but my dad was REALLY into Beverly Hills 90210 when it aired. I remember one day coming home from choir practice (you heard me, shut up! it was CHURCH choir too, so fuck off!) and 90210 just coming on and I went to say something and he was like, “Shut up! 90210‘s on and I’ve been following it since the beginning, tell me later!” and me thinking that was SO funny. So naturally I wonder if he watches the new 90210 and of course, what he thinks about it. I bet he hates it, but at the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that he never misses an episode of Gossip Girl.
But there’s a dark side to all of this as well. My fear is that he doesn’t enjoy anything anymore. The last time I spoke to my brother he told me my dad was working nights at the warehouse and I assumed that as a result of that he was missing the best TV had to offer. I fear that all he does is work, then sleep, then eat, then smoke, then go to work, repeat. I fear that he has no joy in his life. He was already on his way to that fate by the time I left him, he was a bitter shell of a person.
I usually attribute my artistic tendencies to my mother, who’s an artist, but truthfully, it probably had more to do with my dad who was, to put it mildly, naturally gifted. When I was really little, he used to airbrush cars and metal. I remember this old hood of a car that used to be behind my grandparents’ garage that had an airbrushed green scary looking octopus on it that he did. He also painted my grandma’s delivery van for her furniture store.
Most of my early childhood after my parents got married, involved going for drives after work or on weekends, on unpaved backroads in the country to photograph old barns that my dad would then draw in pointillism absolutely perfectly. When my mom opened her wallpaper store, they framed a few of his drawing and they sold right away. My mom bought him a drawing table and these really expensive pens with superfine nibs and he drew for a while, mostly fantasy creatures and aliens inspired by Heavy Metal magazine and Jim Henson, but after my parents separated he didn’t really draw again no matter how much my brother and I begged him because his skill was truly amazing. My mom will probably hate me for saying this, but out of the two of them, I’d say he had the upper hand when it came to art. It just came naturally to him and he had this massive imagination evident in both his art and his storytelling (usually scary stories).
But he stopped doing it. It was one more thing that used to be joy in his life that he didn’t let slip away but he actively pushed it away just as he pushed me away just as he pushed his family away and every other thing that gave him joy besides Wiser’s Deluxe whiskey and Craven A cigarettes.
I often wonder if he’s online. I wonder if he’s reading this right now. I wonder if he thinks about me and wishes he could relive childhood curiosities with me like V or Star Trek. I guess I’ll never know.
It’s funny though. I spent a good portion of my childhood wondering almost the exact same kinda stuff about my biological father, who, as I said, will be here in a couple of hours to fix my bay window, and now it’s flipped, like an hourglass, sand running down the time until…well, the end of Ken I suppose.
Some days I picture a future where he and I laugh about the things I did as a kid and everything’s okay and the sun’s in the sky. But most of the time I picture a frail, cancer-ridden old man in a hospital bed telling me he’s sorry. Or worse, telling me he’s not.
And that’s all I’ve got in me. Happy Monday.
Edited to add the V trailer, it’s beneath the cut.