Interpreting My Dad

Some of my kids used to take my Handycam and record silly videos with it, designed for me to discover later. One such video from several years ago has become famous within my family and among a few friends. In this blog entry, I attempt to interpret the inside jokes that formed the basis of this skit, borne of the various childhood stories and vignettes I’ve told my kids. After you read this, watching the video should make more sense.

It starts out with my daughter, CJ, depicting me as a child saying, “Hey… Hey, Tracy! Broooookennnn chimmmm-neeeeeeey.”

Then CJ switches headwear to denote Tracy and says, “Oh, Christine, you know that makes me scared!”

First off, I never call my sister Tracy, unless I am talking about her to someone else. When I address her, though, it is ALWAYS “Trace”.

Now that we have that cleared up, here is the story on the broken chimney.

When I was four years old, and Tracy was three, we were walking through the back alley from our old house on East 7th Avenue in Vancouver, BC. We were with our dad, heading up toward Victoria Drive, to pick up take-out at Chicken Chalet. On our left, there was a church building with a gym in the back. It had big black letters up high on it that said “GYMNASIUM”. I think that was one of my first big words to read, as I could see it from my back yard, three lots away.

That one evening, we saw that the chimney on the back of the gym was broken. Pale red bricks were smashed and scattered onto the ground. It appeared that a car must have recently crashed into it.

Later that night, after our parents said goodnight to us, my sister and I were talking quietly in our beds. I mentioned the broken chimney. My sister sounded all freaked out as she said, “I don’t like that!”

I didn’t realize it was scary to her. I dropped the subject, but thought about it for awhile.

Then a few moments later, I said, “Hey, Trace…”

“What?” she said.

In an ominous voice, I said, “Brokennnnn chimneeeeeey.”

Suddenly, my sister screamed and started crying. Our dad ran up the stairs and into our room. He picked Tracy up to comfort her. She was crying and crying, all scared. My dad was trying to find out what happened, and through sobs, Tracy said, “Christine said ‘broken chimney!'”

I was afraid that I was going to get spanked, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but giggle a little at the whole thing.

My dad didn’t find it funny in the least. My mom came in and took over on consoling my sister. My dad turned his attention to me, yelling angrily about how it is not okay to scare my sister. He dragged me by the arm as I screamed and begged for him to let me go, down the top flight of stairs, through the hallway, around the corner of the kitchen, down the basement stairs, across the cement floor, past the old wood stove we rarely got to use because it coughed smoke, and into the dark, scary, empty room with flat grey carpet. He pushed me to the floor, slammed the door shut, and left.

As I sat there crying, my dad popped the door open and yelled in, with his Serbian-accented English, “I show YOU how it feels to be scared. You stay here all night. You don’t EVER scare your seester!”

SLAM! And he was gone again.

I sat there in the middle of that rough carpet, cold, alone, and in total darkness, hugging my knees to my chin, hiding my face, crying. It felt like I was there for hours, but it was probably more like fifteen minutes. It was long enough to scare me out of ever wanting to scare my sister again.

I can’t even remember my dad coming in to get me, but how it usually went when I was in trouble – a state I was in all too often – was that he’d leave me alone for awhile and eventually return to talk to me in a calm voice, chastise me in a reasonable manner, explaining why what I did was wrong, sometimes giving advice on what to do next time, and in the end he’d hug me. That hug always made me cry all over again, albeit silently, with relief, and I clung to him.

So, that’s the bit about “broken chimney”. But it got blended in with another story, which resulted in the line, “I put you in dog house, all night, with dead bird”.

I’m not sure where the dog house came from. It might be a reference to our old black and white Sheltie, Toby, for whom my dad built a dog house. Or it might be merely an ad-lib. But the dead bird does have a story.

This was in our new house, the one my dad built for us in Tsawwassen, a suburb of Vancouver. I was around eleven years old. I wanted to wash my feather pillow, so I carefully cut open a seam and unstuffed it. I didn’t want to mess up the house with feathers, so I did it out in the carport, putting most of the feathers into a garbage bag while I laundered the casing, but a few spilled out here and there.

That evening, my dad called me to come downstairs and see something. He pointed at a few clusters of grey and white downy feathers on the ground in the carport. In a sad voice he said, “C’desten…” (That is roughly how he pronounced “Christine”). “Small burd was keel.”

I stifled a laugh. My dad asked what was funny.

“That’s from my pillow, Dad. I unstuffed it to wash it.”

My dad laughed and was relieved. He always loved animals.

It’s just a little story, but it has resulted in something my family and I often say whenever someone uses the word “small”.

One might say, “Would you like a piece of pie?”

The answer might be, “Sure. Just a small piece.

If so, it would follow with the one offering pie saying, “Small burd was keel.”

And the conversation would carry on as if nothing unusual was said.

Then there’s the part in our video where SF is pretending to be my dad driving along, talking about how when he was a kid, they played with sticks and mud. And potatoes. Supposedly he played with, or rather ate, potatoes. All day. ALL DAY.

He never actually said any of that, but the tone was about right for his basic manner. Impatient. Gruff. And he did talk about potatoes a lot. We’d be eating potatoes at dinner, and my dad would say, “I loooooove potatoes.” Just like that. Elongating the word “love”. So, that image comes to mind for me whenever we have potatoes, and I’ve told my family about it a time or two.

Then there was my dad’s frequent use of swearing in Serbian so my sister and I would not know what he was saying (though, as with most kids whose parents have a different language, my sister and I became adept at using those strings of words, and believe me, Serbian swearing is long, detailed, melodious, but nasty in interpretation.) SF made up some foreign-sounding words, but they sure weren’t Serbian. She doesn’t know how to sound Serbian, having not grown up with my dad, but her attempt sure made me laugh.

And the mention SF made of my dad saying “my old country, Yugoslavia”, yes, that was something he’d often say. “The old country” was how he referred to it.

It cracked me up that SF would pretend to be my dad turning on the radio and finding a song from Yugoslavia. That wouldn’t actually happen because:

  1. The only time I’ve ever heard Yugoslavian music on the radio was on Vancouver’s CJVB, a cosmopolitan station in the 70s, during the Saturday afternoon “Serbian Hour”, which I think was more like two hours, but whatever…
  2. My dad would not be driving while listening to that because he was usually drinking by that time on a Saturday.

Still, it made for good humour, and I also love how SF made up those strange words that don’t sound anything remotely like Serbian.

Lastly, there’s the segment at the end, where CJ is pretending to be my sister, saying, “Oh, Dad, stop singing!”

I think that part is twisted out of a story I often told that involved me, not my sister. One time, in my late teens, I was involved in a book. I sat in my room reading on my bed, and my dad barged in drunk on a Saturday afternoon (I know it was a Saturday afternoon, because it was daytime, and his only drinking times were Friday night and Saturday afternoon – one or the other each week, but rarely both consecutively) rambling on about something. I have no idea what it was, for I was engrossed in my book.

I kept asking my dad, politely, to please be quiet so I could read.

My dad would say, “Oh, sorry. OK.”

He’d walk away, only to return a minute later, picking up right where he left off.

I got exasperated, closed my book, carried it with me to the living room, and sat on the couch to read. He followed me, talking the whole way.

“Hey, Dad, I’m really trying to read here. Can we talk about this another time?”

And again, he’d say, “Oh, of course. Sorry.”

He’d walk away, and return again, starting up the talk, over and over. It was maddening. He was sufficiently drunk that I decided it was safe to get firm with him and say, “DAD! STOP TALKING!”

My dad was not the kind of person one would order around when he was sober, but when he was drinking, he was a whole different man.

That very last scene in the video, where CJ is back to her role of me, with blue swim goggles (not sure why the goggles, but I guess to differentiate from my sister, although we both swam a lot in our childhood), cracks me up every time as I can still hear “my dad” singing in the background: “Da doyyyyy… drrrrron ta daaaaa…”

Now, if you’ve not seen the video, and you want to, here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjCI9LvYXys

I can’t resist finishing this with Paul Harvey’s line – hear it in his voice, if you know it:

“And now you know… the rest… of the story.”

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Losing Hand-Written Work

On the eve of Saturday, July 20, I watched a movie called “Life Of Pi”. There were a few scenes that saddened me, but none so deeply as the part where the hand written notes flew out of the boy’s hands.

The next morning, I was cleaning my room. I had a few of my old journals in a pile, and set out to put them back where I normally store them – in a big bin with the rest of the past 23 years worth of them.

I remembered that a few weeks earlier I’d had necessity to temporarily store the bin in my 19-year-old daughter’s room in the basement, so I went downstairs and asked her for them. She handed me an empty bin, saying, “You mean this? I’d been using it for shoes…”

She pointed at a pile of boxes in the living room, saying, “The journals might be in there somewhere.”

It was a daunting mess that had accumulated as a result of my daughter having moved from one room to another, wherein she had rearranged various items I’d kept stored in the spare room, but I finally got through all of it after several hours.

None of my journals were found.

I searched the whole house and property, asking everyone if they had any idea where my journals might be. Nobody claimed to know.  One family member said they had seen them in the basement a few weeks ago, and, as they realized they were not in their usual place, they put them back to where I normally keep them.

I’ve been beside myself with heartache over losing these hand-written accounts that spanned half my life, dating back to 1990, including details of all my pregnancies, births, cute events from the childhoods of my kids, stories from living in the wilderness of Alaska, and so much more.

I’ve had a lot of trauma in my life, but the journals represented the everyday and the good. I could look back at them and remember that things weren’t always bad.

I wanted to save those journals for my kids as a legacy, but now they are gone.

It is hard to shake the fear that my daughter is lying to me about not knowing where they are. I suspect that she wanted the bin for shoes while she was rearranging her living quarters, sought out the bin, removed my journals, disposed of them, and didn’t give it another thought until I asked about them.  Even if she is behind this, I’d feel better knowing than not knowing, and I would forgive her if she told me the truth.  She knows this.  We discussed it.  Yet she insists she doesn’t know anything about their whereabouts.

My heart is broken. I feel like a large chunk of my physical body has been removed from me. I feel violated. I feel I am in limbo, not knowing for sure if the books are gone for good.

I cry sometimes as I think about it. I don’t know what hurts more – the loss of my books, or the thought that they might have been thoughtlessly taken by my own adult child who is lying to me.

With writing I do on the computer, I can and do back it up. With hand-writing that fills book after book, it would take years to scan and save it if I worked at it eight hours a day.

I am trying to be strong about this and get over it.  I know it is only a material thing, not a life, that has been lost.  Still, it feels like a part of my own life has been lost, and so it hurts accordingly.

I think back to how deeply I felt the pain of the boy in Life Of Pi losing his hand-written work.  Little did I know it was a foreshadowing of what I was about to discover had happened to me.

Have you ever had your hand-written work disappear? How did you heal up from it? Or did you ever heal up?

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Taking heart in the other post I published today:  A Beautiful Spirit

God Of Wonders

Video

The first time I heard this song was on a warm summer’s evening here in our little cowboy town in BC, in a huge tent, played on acoustic guitar by a guy named Cam who was visiting from another city.  Others too, cracked out their guitars and jammed.  Anyone who knew the words sang along beautifully and with heart.

That was the church fellowship that I used to feel was like family.

Most of those people eventually turned their backs on me when I left the abusive ex, because of their misconceptions and misguided ideas, but God never will.  He knows the whole story.

Flashbacks from this time a few years ago

Today, I keep having flashbacks of January/February 2004, when I was living in the women’s shelter.

I have had several flashbacks of going through the search for a place to rent.

It was January 25, 2004, when I made the final step in my escape from the abusive ex.

There’s more, but that’s all I want to say about that for now.

Here’s the long story, needing chapter divisions and grammatical revisions:  http://holy-sheepdip.blogspot.ca/2011/08/why-i-escaped-and-from-what-did-i.html

Farther Along

Video

Listening to this song, I think of my friend who has also been my family doctor for many years. He is the most compassionate and wise person I have ever met.

He was my friend before he was my doctor.

He is still my friend before my doctor.

When I was in the process of leaving the ex, my friend was there for me when everyone else in the church fellowship turned against me.  Even my friend’s wife, who I had thought was my friend, turned on me.

He prayed for me.  He heard my cries.  He wished me happiness.  He told me he loved me.  Oh, not in an inappropriate way – just the love of a brother in Christ, as it ought to be.

As he stitched up my face a few months ago, my doctor friend asked me if I’d like to study the book of Job with him sometime. We never did get around to it, both of us having such busy lives, but maybe we will someday.

If you ever read this, my dear friend and brother in Christ, this song is for you, because I know you like it.

Farther Along

Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested though in the wrong

When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand it all, by and by

Faithful ’til death, said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweep through the beautiful gates

Remembering a happier me

Video

For several weeks, due to various circumstances, I had been in a deep, dark depression, which started to lift a few days ago.

I am not sure what caused it to lift.

It could have been because of the prayers of friends.

It could have been because of the remedy given to me by my homeopath on January 18 starting to work.

It could be the various supplements from my naturopath, which I started on January 11, to get me on the road to healing from adrenal burnout, kicking in.

It could have been because of answers to unspoken questions in my tormented heart finally being answered from within the confines of silence.

It could be a combination of all of the above, or it could be something I haven’t even guessed.

Up until a few days ago, I didn’t care if I lived.

Now, however, I feel like I want to get better.

I am not sure how far this seed of hope will grow, but for now, I am grateful it is growing.

This video is from May or June of 2011.  I hope I can someday be that happy on a regular basis.