A Gift for Our Nephew

*In my effort to preserve family history, I recall these stories about my parents. Stories that shaped me and my sister, stories that should, and I hope, will be passed down.

My father suffered greatly over the years from a fungus that ate away at his fingernails & nail bed, yet another result of the toxic chemicals he used daily from his trade of house painting. These same chemicals would eventually destroy his lungs.

When he was very young, 19, and prior to finding a medication, his finger nails had to be scraped off, then, finally the doctors found a topical. The medication had to be painted on like nail polish. It was black, so it embarrassed him intensely, therefore when he would play his saxophone he would try to hide his hands by leaning deep or pitching high with his horn. Because of this condition he discovered he couldn’t wear rings daily. He wore his wedding ring, and his gold and alexandrite blue stone ring only when he played gigs.

Medications improved over the years, finally in a pill form, Fulvicin, however very harsh on the liver. But still rings aggravated his skin, eventually his wedding ring remained in his drawer. I took it out of the drawer decades later and asked my father if I could take it with the intention of cutting it in half to make a pendent for Julie & me to wear as a necklace. He said absolutely.

Once we got home Gary said you can’t cut his ring in half. And, with rediscovering the inscription from my mother on the inside, of course, my husband was correct. So instead, I had our jeweler make a tie bar out of Dad’s ring, and we added a diamond, his birthstone.

When Dad passed away I took the tie bar back telling my sister I had it. I held onto it, but when I saw the photo Julie sent me of our nephew and his girlfriend together, I knew Bobby had found his life partner. When it was clear he would be marrying the Love of his life, I gave the tie clip to my sister to give to her son to wear on his wedding day. My hope was to have been invited to share that moment of passing along Dad’s heirloom, but I trusted this was a decision for the mother of my nephew, and how she wanted to create this memory for her son and her both was for her alone to decide.

Mom filmed Dad receiving and opening his Father’s Day gift. He had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, exactly 5 years prior, to the date, my father passed away.

The faux alexandrite ring, Dad’s stage ring; At some point, before we ever knew Dad was ill, my sister and I were going through some of Dad’s things on his dresser. I asked my sister, when Dad goes, if she minded that I take the blue stone ring. It evoked the memories of when he played & I remembered it’s sparkle from the stage. She obliged that I would inherit it. When Dad passed away in our arms; myself, my mother, and my husband Gary on Father’s Day eve, I just couldn’t tell my sister on the phone knowing she would be too upset driving the 3+ hours alone through the desert. When she arrived that Father’s Day morning, I put on the ring and went outside to greet her, as I still could not say the words. She knew immediately, but all she could say was “why are you wearing the ring – why are you wearing the ring”, we collapsed into each other’s comforting arms.

Tattoo

Around 14yrs. old, peer pressure prevailed in my father’s youth. The gang he so admired decided that the brotherhood could only be strengthen by the ultimate permeant act of solidarity. A common tattoo. Unanimously they decided it would be an eagle, strategically placed on the inner left forearm. Naive, and not the case, typically the chosen location by heroin addicts to hide tracks. Dad was bullied in being the first to enter the tattoo pallor, along with assurances all would follow for their turn at the needle and ink after him. Dad’s recollection of the ordeal to me was graphic, and at a young age I knew I would never do to my skin what has become the 21st century common place; some in efforts to appear unique, express art, claim gang affiliation, tell life stories, express loss, or identify with an ancient culture.

Story telling involved dramatic body language as Dad described the pain and blood being wiped away as the colored ink was forced permanently deep. What seemed like forever, this boy yelled out, revealing he was far less macho, if at all, than the zoot suit persona each hoped to convey. The sounds scared his homies in the waiting area out of their commitment.

Nando, wiping away his tears before emerging from the inking room, to find no brotherhood. All alone, hiding his rite of passage as he entered his mama’s kitchen. Mothers always know when something is up. Grandma confronted him with questions, not waiting for his denial, she grab his shirt arm and revealed the scar of adolescence. Yelling different Spanish curse words, like Qué chingados es eso?! and wooden spoon whaling, she beat fear into my father. Years later as he told me the story, he shared deep gratitude for his mother and her rage. “As little as grandma is, I feared her”. “That fear kept me from straying too far from good”.

How different my father’s life might had been “if” when he emerged from the inking room into the pallor all his buddies stayed and fulfilled their tattoo pact. He might of been one of those tragic endings, many as criminals spending their lives in jail, some died a very early death, he was so grateful to have escaped.

Dad painted homes for a living. When Julie and I were small Dad would come home tired from work. We would tackle him, then he would lye on the floor. The two of us would crawl around him like little monkeys, slowly pulling the dried paint speckles from his hairy arms as he grimaced with his eyes shut tight. Mom would be preparing dinner. Then when we would couldn’t find anymore that would easily peal off, or he couldn’t take the pulling pain any longer, we would cuddle in the crooks of his arms. I often managed to end up on his left side, gazing and touching his forever eagle, that would then wrap it’s wings around me. Dad would end the cuddle session as he’d kiss us gently on each eyelid several times. I never would have guessed I would feel this way, but I so wished I would have taken a photo of his tattoo before he passed.

How I Met the Man with Boy Scout Eyes

After all the immature drama, and having my credit ruined twice by two former husbands, I was very reluctant to enter into another relationship. Although, I believe in Love, and I did hope there was someone “out there” meant for me, my equal. I was invited by my neighbor to attend his girlfriend’s birthday party. I hadn’t planned on going, mostly because of his roommate. Yet another poor choice on my part, in a fellow I dated briefly that ended badly with my daughter overhearing a derogatory remark he made about her, adding to her already low self-esteem stemming from abandonment issues….The worst of offensives.

With plans on meeting up with friends at The Majestic Ventura Theater, I started getting ready to hit the town, so to speak. Applying mascara, talking to the image in the mirror, and when telling the story, I always say “when they make the movie” I recall saying to myself “if you think you’re going to find a quality man in Ventura, you’re nuts”. Then, out of no where, I had a change of thought, and said “fuck-it! I’m going to that party, in spite of Dick, being there. Off I went, two houses up. As soon as I arrived this very nice looking young man came up to me to introduce himself. I thought rather bold, kinda goofy, especially with his comical about-face as he left after the introduction. I didn’t stay too long, maybe an hour at best, then found the host in the kitchen to show my appreciation for the invite and say good-by. Standing there next to Emil, from my left, across the kitchen table, my newly introduced stranger blurted out “Don’t Go – Go out with me!” Definitely grabbing my attention, I said “I don’t even know you”. His retort “Go out with me and get to know me”. I turned to Emil and said “who is this guy?” My attention back at this bold stranger, I realized he wasn’t going to relent. By this time he, we, had gotten the attention of the entire room, so I thought it best I get closer I quietly let him down easy, directly, without the attention of the entire party. My plan was to say “okay, cool your jets”. But once I looked into those blue boy scout eyes I changed my mind. Instead I responded with “sit down – I’m going to get a glass of tequila and interview you. (Glass mind you. Not shot) We sat for hours chatting on the couch. I nearly interrogated him with questions of every topic; Do you own a gun? How do you feel about women? Do you like to travel? Do you like children? Do you do drugs, etc., etc. Everything I could think of except his bank book balance. In retrospect, by the questions presented, he was indeed, interviewing me. In the wee-hours of the morning he walked me to my door and asked for my phone number. Still reluctant, I said “you can get it from Emil”. He slouched in defeat, pleading “Com’on!” So I gave him my number. Soon we were inseparable. I resisted falling too soon, even though he had already proclaimed to me he had fallen. By April my heart was his, and four months after our first encounter he was inviting me along, with his family, to a Mexican resort vacation. We would be heading toward LAX and on to Cabo San Lucus on Gary’s birthday. I had heard all bout “Aunt Suzy’s cake”, so I called his mother and got the recipe. It was a bunt cake with some cherry swirls throughout. I have this ritual that one must make their birthday wish on the moment they were born. That way the prayer of intention may be received by the universe. In that moment, contemplating when one took their first breath, all is possible. So, at 3:10a.m I turned on our bedroom lights and presented a replica of his family’s famous cake. With his eyes barely focused, and leaning on one elbow, he said “you made Aunt Suzy’s cake?!?” Clearly touch, he made his wish and indulged in a nice big piece. After all we were leaving for the airport, so he wasn’t skimping. As his stomach started to rumble, he said did you change the recipe a little bit because something tastes just a little different? Well of course I did. I am forever trying to make my creations better and heather. I confessed “yes, I made it out of bran flour”. I didn’t cut the flour with a little bit of bran, I replaced the flour with all bran flour. In minutes, Gary had Montezuma’s revenge before we even left the country. Once I realized my recipe debacle, I thought maybe we should just chuck the cake, we were leaving for nearly 10-days. Gary said we’ll stop at his house and leave it for his brother and roommate…without a warning!

We had an overall wonderful time in Cabo. I discovered, even with the objective of catch & release, marlin fishing is not my cup of tea. Too much blood. Baja is beautiful, and one evening Gary and I had a night on the town hitting all the tourist hot spots; Cabo Wabo Cantina, Carlos & Charlies, to name a few, ending at Squid Row. The party atmosphere was high and the music so loud that all the tables had butcher block paper as table covers, along with crayons for writing. Gary and I started playing tic-tack-toe, then he wrote “will you marry me?”. I wrote “YES”, he responded with “now I have it in writing”. I dramatically tore that section of the paper from the table covering and tucked it in my cleavage for safe keeping. Everyone at the table, who happen to be paying attention, enjoyed being part of the proposal.4673_001 I’ve been married to my life partner, the man who brings me to my highest good, for over 22yrs. I’m still happy, still very much in-Love, and never bored. Gary is not perfect, but he is perfect for me.