Monday, January 30, 2006

Monday Madness

PRATTLE


Is it possible the weekend is over already? Yeah, I guess so. We vegetated (mostly) the weekend away and I guess I'm ready for work this week.

We did manage to get some rearranging done that we wanted to try out, and the only other thing I managed to get done was to replace my old, faded HRC sticker with a new one, and a marriage equality sticker from N.O.W.


I suppose these two stickers, displayed prominently on my back window, should attract some loonies on the expressway. What the hell, my commute in has been so boring lately!

Actually, I lied, I also knitted a lot this weekend, and managed to get a block done of a yellow duckie. I decided I was going to make up blocks of different characters and children's items and put them all together to make a blanket for the new baby. Here's a picture of the duckie, except I did mine in a soft yet still bright yellow.



I think I'm going to enjoy this project. It doesn't seem so massive when you do a block at a time.

I also spent some time futzing around with my new Ultimate Sweater Machine. I got frustrated with it because it kept jamming, but I'm sure I'm doing something wrong with it. I mean, when I was just playing around with about 20 stitches and a small ball of yarn, it glided smoothly and I went through the ball in less than a minute, had a square that was approximately 6" square. Then, when I decided to try a larger amount of stitches, it jammed. And jammed. And jammed. I could pick up the stitches by hand and weave them in, but that sort of defeats the purpose of the machine, doesn't it?

In all, I still love knitting by hand as well. It's calming, relaxing. And, I could never just sit and watch television, I always had to be doing something. I'm a multi-tasker by nature so knitting suits me just fine.


HEART HEALTH

Friday, February 3rd is National Wear Red Day. The idea is to wear red to show your support for women's heart health, and women's heart care. If you join Go Red For Women, you can get a free red dress pin -- I'll be wearing mine on Friday. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and studies show that some women don't even know that they're having a heart attack, because the symptoms for women can largely differ from those men have experienced. Women talk to their doctors about osteoperosis, arthritis, cancer, and gynecological problems, but rarely do they discuss their heart or heart health with their doctor. On the flip side, many doctors easily dismiss a woman's concerns about cardiac symptoms because they tend to be so vague and different from the classic symptom of pressure in the chest and numbness in the left arm. Women can feel symptoms through their neck, their back, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, or fluid retention. Sounds a lot like PMS too, doesn't it? Pay attention to your body and, if it doesn't feel right, see your doctor. Insist that your doctor addresses your concerns.

About 6 or 7 years ago, I had an ecocardiogram (ECG) done and it was found that, at some point in my life, I'd had some sort of cardiac "episode" that caused some slight scarring around the heart. A mild heart attack, and I never knew it. Scary, isn't it?

Take care of your heart. Walk for at least 20 minutes a day, or get at least 20 minutes of some type of aerobics in. Hey, don't tell me you don't have time. If you have time for lunch, or time to watch TV, or time to shop, you've got time to walk or move in some way for 20 minutes each day. Make time.

MUST SEE QUEER STUFF

Ang Lee won the Director's Guild of America's top honor recently for best director in a feature film for Brokeback Mountain. Lee also won Best Director honors recently at the Golden Globes, as Brokeback Mountain took the top honors for Best Picture. Heath Ledger claimed a Golden Globe nomination for best actor, and the movie also won top honors for Best Screenplay. The film has grossed $50.8 million so far in the few weeks that it's been out, but for some reason it hasn't been as widely released as such films as Chronicles of Narnia and Big Momma's House 2. It is expected to snag several Academy Award nominations (announced tomorrow), which usually creates an increased interest in a film. Perhaps this is what they're waiting for. I know that, even though it's been out for 4 or 5 weeks, it just got to our theater last week -- and we ALWAYS get movies the day they're released. We blew off going this weekend in favor of some much needed down time, but now I wish we'd gone.

Last night's episode of The L Word nearly put me to sleep. It seems that the writers have found nothing to write about, other than to make Bette and Tina's relationship just as rocky as it's always been. I liked Tina last year -- pregnant, but proud, decisive, and shooting straight from the hip. This year, all she does is whine about money and expect Bette to be a stay-at-home mom and wife. As if. BORING! And now she's going to have "feelings" for men? Where's my eyeroll icon? Honestly? I like Helena more than I like Tina right now -- and that just ain't right!

Max/Moira. Apparently we're going to explore transsexuality this year. But I like Moira/Max. I think they could develop this character much better than to have her consider testosterone injections and a penis. This group of women NEED someone as profoundly different from them as Moira -- they could learn something about other people, and themselves too.

And Carmen? That girl is H.O.T.! Shane is one lucky dyke. What I would give to just touch that flawless beauty! I know Lisa would forgive me, and I'd forgive her for the same thing. *sigh*

MEDICAL ID

It occurred to me a few days ago that, with all the meds I'm taking these days, it might be prudent to ensure that I have information with me at all times concerning what meds I take, and even the dosage. For example, the anti-seizure med actually recommends a medical ID bracelet identifying the medication so that first-responders know that I'm taking it, as it can react badly with some first responder used meds or drugs. I picked up an order form at the local pharmacy, and found that the cost of this type of bracelet isn't all that bad. You can get bracelets, pendants, even dog tags with your information on them. Ninety-five percent of first-responders check for medical alert jewelry when treating victims of medical emergencies.

Allergies to drugs are also important to indicate on these IDs.

Check out some great IDs here.


I'm starting to sound like a public service announcement, aren't I?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.....

Peace.

Normal.

Rest.

No trips to the southern tier this weekend. No plans to visit Bob and Wanda (they live an hour away, too). We went to bed last night around 11:00. I'd had a glass of wine and, with the new meds I'm on, it hit me hard. (I'm on an anti-seizure medication now, which is supposed to have some success in treating RLS...we'll see.) Anyway, we went to bed, Tigga curled up with Lisa on one side, me on the other, and Simba at our feet. Crashed and burned.

I woke up this morning, looked at the clock, and saw that it was 9:30. Shrugged my shoulders, snuggled up against Lisa's back, put my arm around her, and that was the last conscious thought I had until the phone rang. It was Mary next door, inviting herself over for coffee. It was 11:15. I'm usually up by 8:00, 9:00 at the latest on weekends. Clearly I'm exhausted. Or was.

We were going to go to the 1:00 matinee showing of Brokeback Mountain but just didn't feel like going out anywhere. It was a shame, really, that it was 50 degrees and sunny, and we stayed inside all day but that's what we felt like doing. We did some cleaning and rearranging of furniture, and have decided we're going to rent a couple of PPV's tonight (Fantastic Four and War of the Worlds). We're just in the mood for something that's not terribly intellectual and that we don't have to think too much through. *shrug*

I promised myself no phone calls today. None to Wanda. None to Le. None to father. None to daughters. None. Take a day off, Pat!

OK -- don't mind if I do!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wendesday's Wrap-Up

I went to my father’s court appearance.

I was both surprised and pleased at the amount of family support he had.  In addition to me and my Aunt Wanda, my oldest daughter, Michelle, showed up, as well as my brother and his wife, and my nephew and his wife.

My father cried when he saw me, and just held my hand like a small child.  It broke my heart to see how frail he looked.  His suicide attempt and the subsequent dialysis took a huge toll on him, and I’d wager that he doesn’t weigh more than 120 pounds or so, if that much.  His eyes were dull and bleary, his skin very pasty looking, and his face was drawn and haggard.

We found out that he’d taken a large amount of codeine and codeine based products (Tylenol with Codeine, Percocet, etc.).  He apparently took the codeine on Sunday night and, on Monday morning woke up on the floor of the motel room, unable to move.  He did a lot of damage to his kidneys, and spent 10 days on dialysis.  He also had fluid in his lungs.

Basically, it was just an appearance, and they assigned him a lawyer from the public defender’s office.  I spoke to him afterward and told him to make sure that the public defender didn’t just try to get hold of him by leaving a message at the front desk of the nursing home and calling it good.  My nephew Bobby, who was standing by, got a bit pissy with me, telling me that HE would take care of the public defender, yadda, yadda.  I chose not to fight that battle for the time being.  I told my father that I love him, and my brother wheeled him away.

The Crime Victims Advocate was there – and I said hello and shook his hand and introduced myself.  He and I had spoken on the phone several times prior to the court appearance, and it was good to put a face to his name.

We went to see Le and Vanessa after that, and I was home by 7:40.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, unable to shut down my thoughts.

My first priority this morning was to call the public defender’s office, because I wanted to give his lawyer some information that might help in his defense.  Maybe I’m grasping at straws, and I’m unable to clearly define what my motivations are, but all I can think is that it’s the right thing to do – just like being supportive of Le and Vanessa is the right thing, so is providing any information in my father’s defense.

All of the incidents with Vanessa happened over the summer.  My father readily admitted to me that he did, in fact, act inappropriately with Vanessa, so that’s not in question.  What’s in question (in my mind) is why he acted in this manner.

My father doesn’t like kids at all.  He fathered 5, and was a father to none.  He picks on his grandkids and great-grandkids if they engage him in any way, but I’ve never seen him with a child in his arms or on his lap, and I’ve never seen him play with a kid, unless it’s a specific card game that he plays – and that game is too complicated for little kids.  He doesn’t engage children, they have to engage him or he seems oblivious to their presence.  This just doesn’t fit the normal profile and behavior of a true pedophile.  Pedophiles typically work with children, go out of their way to be with children, engage them readily and easily, and interact with them very well.  This just isn’t my father.  Not now, not ever.

I was talking to a friend of my father’s – a very close friend.  Steve B. owns a tow truck and was a “partner” of sorts in my father’s repossession duties.  They’ve shared a lot together over the years and have always been very close.  It was Steve B. who first called me with the news of my father’s suicide attempt.  Steve recounted an incident to me that occurred the third week in January last year.  

They had been to a horse ranch where Steve goes riding a lot, and then went to Salamanca to the Indian Reservation for cigarettes.  My father told Steve that, the last time he’d been there, he’d gotten out of his car and the next thing he remembered was laying in the parking lot feeling “weird.”  It troubled him enough to tell Steve that he thought he should have someone with him at night when he took cars – someone who could drive for him.

This past summer, while visiting my aunt and uncle, my father just fell down.  He didn’t trip or pass out, he just sort of fell over.  Bob got him up and into a chair, and my father complained that his left side felt a bit numb.  My aunt told my father that he should inform his doctor about what was happening – so my father called the VA and they told him that the next time it happened, to come right in.  My father told my aunt and uncle that day that this had happened to him several times – one minute he’d be fine, the next minute he’d find himself on the floor or the ground.  My aunt worried that he was having “TIAs” at that point.  (A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a transient stroke that lasts only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke but do not last as long. Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours. Symptoms can include: numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; and difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.) ** sourceNINDS  This is the same time that things were happening between him and Vanessa.

At this same time, his treatment of Le became really nasty (more so than what is normal for him).  He’d call her a “…dumb, fucking bitch,” tell her “I ought to punch you in the fucking mouth,” and he began to accuse her of wanting to leave him as soon as she got her green card.

At Christmas time, when he was with me, he became furious with Le because she’d missed the exit on the expressway to get to our house.  She had never driven to my house by herself before, and he was absolutely furious with her.  Furious to the point where even *I* was shocked by his reaction.  “Stupid fucking bitch, I should punch her in the fucking mouth!”  It was unreasonable, given the situation.  Completely unreasonable and uncomprehendable.  

Lisa went to get Le, and my father sat and shook his head and said “I get too upset with her, and treat her badly, and I need to stop doing that.”  I think his behavior surprised him, too.  It seemed, at that point, that he didn’t understand his own behavior.  Later that night, he noticed that Vanessa’s new knitting kit that I’d given her for Christmas was open.  He became enraged, saying that he’d told her not to open it until she was ready to learn from me, and said he “…ought to beat her ass right into the ground.”  Again, completely over the top for such a small thing.  I chalked it up to stress and after-effects of the stroke.  

Unfortunately, from what I’ve read recently about strokes, all of his bizarre behaviors and thinking over the past year could well have stemmed from damage to his brain suffered from these “TIAs,” depending on what part of the brain the “TIA” occurred in.  The frontal lobe controls our social behavior, judgment, mood, and personality.  It controls how we know what we are doing within our environment, how we initiate activity in response to our environment, judgments we make about what occurs in our daily activities, emotional response, expressive language, assigns meaning to the words we choose, and stores memory for habits and motor activities.  Damage to the frontal lobe has caused loss of simple movement of various body parts, loss of spontaneity interacting with others, loss of flexibility in thinking, persistence of a single thought, inability to focus on task, mood changes, changes in social behavior, changes in personality, difficulty with problem solving, and sometimes an inability to find the word for a common, everyday object or occurrence.

Perhaps I’m grasping at straws, but I think this may merit consideration by the public defender, as well as the district attorney.  It certainly doesn’t excuse what my father did in any way, and I’m not looking for excuses, but it may well explain it.  That is, of course, if these “TIAs” affected that part of his brain at all.  And, if these “TIAs” caused some behavioral changes, then I think they should be considered as mitigating circumstances.

I’m not looking to get the charges dismissed, because I think my father still understands the difference between right and wrong, but I question his ability to make sound judgments now, and I question whether his judgment was impaired then.

I believe his suicide attempt was not just a gesture designed to get sympathy, because he took enough codeine to do the job right.  It was sheer luck (call it good or bad) that the codeine didn’t do what he intended it to do.  However, the night of his suicide attempt, he bought coffee for the following morning.  He withdrew $700 out of his checking account ($500 of which he didn’t have in there).  I’m convinced that his suicide attempt was purely impulse-based.  Call it a knee-jerk reaction.

At the least, I believe my father’s mental capacity was diminished at the time the crimes against Vanessa occurred.  To what extent, I have no clue, and we may never know.  As I said earlier, I don’t even know what part of his brain was affected by the stroke and by the “TIAs.”  

I spoke to my nephew this morning, as I was more in the mood for it today than yesterday at the courthouse.  I told him that I need his help, and that my goal is the same as his, and that he has to tear down the walls he’s put around his grandfather so that other people can help.  I laid out to him completely what my strategy is, and he seemed receptive and willing to go along with me.  I told him that I need him to keep his grandfather’s spirits up, not an easy task.  I also told him that I’d contacted the Public Defender’s office and would be talking to my father later today.  Hopefully, he’ll stop being pissy long enough to realize that I’m not going to turn my back on my father, nor will I let him get prosecuted without every consideration being made.  After that, the legal process will take over, and I’ll accept whatever it dishes out to him.

As far as the Public Defender’s office goes, the receptionist told me that their “usual procedure” is not to talk to family members, but to have family members put their information or questions in writing.  “So, they’re not really interested in defending their clients, they just put everything on paper for eyewash, to make it LOOK like they defended someone, right?”  I then threatened to file a complaint with the state bar – all of a sudden I had a telephone appointment with my father’s lawyer, for next Thursday.

Now, I’ve often described my father as a “bastard” and a “son-of-a-bitch,” but you must know that, this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, either.

Some years back, I had a family case that I needed legal representation on.  Given that I live in “the big city” and the case was down in the “cow town,” I knew that local representation would be better than a big city lawyer.  As luck would have it, there was a lawyer in town that once was my English teacher in high school.  I hired him for the work, and was very pleased with his efforts – I won the case.

I called his office this morning, and spoke with a woman who told me that a criminal case costs thousands and thousands of dollars.  She asked me if I was willing to pay that for my father, and I said “Willing, yes.  Able, no.”  She then told me that my father has the right to ask for a specific attorney and that “Gary” did public defender work, but I didn’t hear that from her.  I left my name and phone number, and hung up feeling for the first time like I was getting somewhere for my father.

I’m now waiting for my father to call so I can tell him to request “Gary” instead of the putz he was assigned.

On a lighter, brighter note:

I started a new baby blanket (in addition to the one I’m doing for my grandson) for Linda’s new baby.  Rather, I started a block.  I decided that I’d knit up blocks with motifs on them – apple, dog, cat, duck, bear paw, baby footprints, fish, stuff like that.  I’ll do them in different colors and, once we’re able to determine what gender the baby is, I can assemble them into a blanket in a manner which would be gender appropriate.  So far, I’m having a great time doing it, and I’m enjoying working with the baby yarns.  The smaller needles hurt my hands a little (I have a touch of arthritis in both of my hands), but once I get into a rhythm, I seem to be able to relax my hands better and they’re not so bad.

Joe has been on a “bulk up” program – lifting weights, taking protein shakes, etc.  He’s put on about 15 lbs. since he started, and is now up to a whopping 155 lbs.  As a 5’10” senior in high school, he weighed only 135 lbs.  He’s really filled out and is looking good.  He works out religiously and is just as solid as they come.  He’ll never be like Schwarzenegger, but as physiques go, he’s got a really good one.  Let’s not forget that he’s devastatingly handsome as well.  

Lisa has finally gotten over that nasty bug she had.  Yesterday morning was the first time she got up and didn’t sound like she was going to hack up a lung.  I miss her.  We’ve not had much time together, with me running back and forth to the southern tier at least once a week.  When I’m home, it’s long enough to eat dinner, and go to bed.  We always, always, always chat a little when we go to bed, but I still miss her.  I miss being comfortable with her in the evenings.  I miss flipping through the channels trying to find something other than CSI re-runs on Spike TV to watch.  I miss normal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tuesday Tidbits

Canada's elections are over and, while the "wrong" party (for us) won, there's still good news. You can read about that at my other blog. Briefly, it looks like our Canadian marriage will be safe for the time being.

I found out that my father had been in a psychiatric center down in Elmira for a short period of time. My brother indicated to me that our father is now back at the VA center and "finally able to sit up on his own." Huh? He could sit up before, I say to myself. So, I ask Steve what he means. He says that father's lungs had been so full of fluid, he couldn't sit up. Steve also indicated that he doesn't know how father attempted suicide and hasn't asked.

Tomorrow is father's preliminary court hearing, where they'll appoint him a public defender. There's a part of me that for some reason feels the need to be there, so that he sees a friendly face. But then there's that other part of me that thinks that I can't look him in the eye, knowing what he did. I'm still conflicted -- he is, after all, my father.

Bob and Wanda have been sick with whatever crap it is that's been going around -- the same stuff Lisa had. It hit Wanda pretty hard, most likely because the woman is 72 years old. To make matters worse, Bob has suddenly developed a blockage in the femural artery in one of his legs and will need surgery very soon to correct that problem. I'll take that day off and go sit with Wanda while he undergoes that surgery.

We had a quiet weekend. Finally took the darned Christmas tree and decorations down on Saturday and reclaimed the family room (more commonly referred to as "Joe-land"). I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon and early evening playing my new Tiger Woods PGA Golf 2006 game. It's pretty cool -- you can create yourself and then, as you win money, you can buy better equipment that ups your abilities. I had a pretty good time being a turd and striking Joe's familiar pose. Lisa sat and watched the whole time, and we chatted and just had a nice, quiet afternoon.

Sunday we watched the Steelers trounce the Broncos, and Seattle win a seat in their first superbowl after handing the Panthers their asses. I make no bones about admitting that the better team(s) won. Jake Plummer's performance improved dramatically this year over previous years. He stayed in the pocket and made good decisions, throwing only 7 interceptions the entire season. Of all starting quarterbacks, he finished up 6th overall.

But, how can I begrudge the win to a guy who wears number 7 in honor of his idol, John Elway? Ben Roethlisberger has shown himself to be a steady, reliable, "get the job done" kind of guy who has become a real leader on that Steelers team. And, let's not forget, he's got some awesome resources in Hines Ward, the Bus, Willie Parker, and Cedric Wilson to name a few.

The question is, can they take the Seahawks? They're a 3½ point favorite over the Seahawks as of today. All I can say is, if both teams play in the Superbowl the way they played Sunday, it will be a fierce, hard-hitting, and exciting game. The odds-makers are showing 47 total points, but I don't think it'll be anywhere near that. It'll either be way lower because of a fantastic defensive struggle, or it will come close to breaking, if not setting, a superbowl scoring record. My pick? Pittsburgh in a squeaker.

Denver's long-time offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, has accepted a head coach position in Dallas. Huge loss for Denver, if you ask me. Kubiak was the backup for John Elway in the mid-80s, appearing in a playoff game when Elway was injured. He may not have been a big name in the NFL on the field, but has a brilliant offensive mind. He's seen Denver through the John Elway era, Brian Griese, what's his name, and now Jake Plummer. If he's got talent to work with in Houston, that will be the team to watch next year. Good luck, Gary!

Hillary Clinton was in town yesterday, re-entering the "fray" on health care and prescription costs. Our senior citizens are confused by the new policies and are drowning in sea of paperwork. In the meantime, they can't get their meds because of the cost or the beaurocracy. Health care plans in the Rochester area are among the best in the country and, when she was first lady, Senator Clinton used the Rochester model as an example for the nation. I love my health insurance, and have absolutely no issues with it. Everyone should be able to say that. Everyone should have some sort of health coverage and access to needed medications.

The Spring semester started yesterday, and I'm buried under a ton of work -- still flying solo these days. I refuse to stay after 4:00 and, if I have to, I will put in for overtime, even if it's only for 3 minutes. I will not support the decision to not fill the vacancy here by killing myself to keep the workload up.

Thank God for Prozac.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Date night was wonderful!

We didn’t really have a plan other than to just cruise through a specific area of the city and see what restaurants there were that we hadn’t gone to yet. We decided on Outback Steakhouse, even though I’d been there once with my daughter. When we went in, we were told it would be a 45-55 minute wait and we decided that was okay, even though we were both pretty hungry. It turned out to be only about 15 minutes, though. BONUS!

Lisa had prime rib and I had a really good sirloin with sautéed mushrooms. I was full to the point of bursting, not having finished my meal. Lisa, of course, was up for dessert. We had our remaining food boxed up, Lisa had a chocolate brownie sundae, I drank coffee, and we chatted about nothing in particular. It felt good to just prattle on about mundane things in the world, at our jobs, and our life together. It was unspoken between us that we wouldn’t mention anything concerning my father that evening. We succeeded in doing just that.

After dinner, we went to Joann Fabrics looking for a good baby blanket pattern or book with patterns. We weren’t terribly impressed with the selection, as most of it was crochet, so we decided to go to Borders.

I can get lost in a book store, easily. I found a couple of really nice books with blanket patterns (one specifically for baby blankets), and continued to just browse. I came across a book entitled The Complete Chronicles of Narnia – something my Aunt Wanda had wanted a lot for Christmas. Her birthday is January 25th and we were going to drive down over the weekend to see her, so I suggested to Lisa that we get it for her for her birthday. Lisa agreed and, two hours after getting to Borders, we went to the checkout line.

Back in the car, Lisa asked me if there was anything else I wanted to do or anyplace else I wanted to go. We decided that home sounded enticing and that’s where we went. Lisa chuckled and said “Obviously we’re old if we’re home by 11:00 on a date night.” Well, in my mind, if your “age” is defined by what time you get home from a date then I’m old. *shrug* Do I care?

Saturday we went down to my Aunt Wanda’s. Lisa helped Bob install some cabinets that he’d made for the kitchen, and Wanda and I sat and chatted. She sewed on her quilts, and I knitted. At 4:30 we sat down to watch Denver and New England battle it out for the next round of playoffs in the NFL. Denver won handily. When Champ Bailey intercepted Brady’s pass in the end zone, and ran it back 100 yards, it was hard to contain all my excitement, as my Aunt and Uncle are staunch Patriots fans. Don’t think for a minute, though, that I didn’t cheer him on. I just kept it low-keyed.

Sunday, while Bob and Lisa installed cabinets, Wanda and I went down to visit Le and Vanessa. Le is looking really good these days, and Vanessa doesn’t slouch when she walks any more. Both of them seem to have really blossomed in the week or so since everything broke. Vanessa had an exam (at the request of Child Protective Services) to determine if any “damage” had been done to her, and she was highly annoyed with the fact that she had to tell her story all over again. I chatted with her a little bit about it. She says it’s hard to talk about with people that she doesn’t know. There’s a child advocacy center here where I live, and I’m going to try to get her in there so she only has to tell it one more time. I explained to her what the place is and asked her if she’d be willing to tell her story one more time, at the center, and they’d make sure she didn’t have to tell it again. She agreed to that. Today I have to make some phone calls and try to find out if we can get her in there, even though she’s already given her statement(s) elsewhere. She’s a great kid, I can’t say enough about her.

Tomorrow, Le has an appointment with an immigration lawyer here in the city. She’ll drop Vanessa off at school at 7:00 for band practice, then drive the 90 miles up here and meet me at my house. I’ll drive her into the city for her appointment, and attend with her (at her request).

No further word on my father, other than the fact that he’d been released from the hospital in Corning after his suicide attempt, but we’re not sure where he is now, or what his condition is. We only know that he’s alive.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Back to normal, I hope

Yeah, while things have been traumatic, dramatic, and trying, they're slowly getting back to something that resembles normal.

It's been a tough week. Last night Lisa informed me that we were going out on a date tonight. I'm to leave my cell phone home -- be unreachable for anyone who might feel the need to poo-poo in my Easter basket.

I just hope she doesn't think that, just because she buys me dinner, I should put out.

The Aftermath

Sunday, I slept in. It was 9:00 before I got up. I vaguely remembered Lisa waking me up in the recliner to go to bed. My mouth felt like the entire US Army had marched through it with dirty socks on. I was lethargic, and when I looked in the mirror in the bathroom, I couldn’t stomach the hag that was staring back at me. I draped a towel over the mirror.

It was a quiet day. I sat and knitted, did a load of laundry, knitted some more while watching the two wildcard games that were on. I napped, at one point, during the first game. Lisa and I had anxiously awaited the beginning of a new season of The L Word that was to start Sunday night at 10:00. I was a major turd for the whole day, not feeling the least bit guilty for having done so. Just after The L Word ended at 10:50, my cell phone rang. I picked it up and looked at the caller ID display. It said “Dad,” but I wondered if it was my father, or if it was Le calling from her cell phone or her house phone (I’d not yet differentiated between the two in my cell phone’s phone book). So, I answered it. I heard my father’s voice and I just hung it right back up. I just couldn’t take it. A few seconds later, it rang again, and I let it go to voice mail. The message sounded ominous – “Pat, this is Dad. Irregardless of what you may think, or think of me. The reason I called is just to tell you, no matter what happens, I love you. Thank you, Pat.”

I looked at Lisa, who also had one eyebrow raised. I commented “Sounds like a suicide good-bye.” She agreed. But, in the end, I couldn’t call him back, and couldn’t dredge up the sincerity for any sympathy for him. We went to bed.

Monday, I tried to stay focused on things at work, but had a difficult time with it. I kept hearing my father’s message the night before, and I kept thinking about all the events of recent days. Somehow I got through the day and, when I got home, I saw that I had a message on the answering machine. It was from Steve B., an old friend of my father’s, asking me to call him back because he needed to talk to me. Steve and my father worked together repossessing cars. My father would locate the vehicles and, if they were able to be driven, drive them away to a lot. If not, Steve would hook it up to his tow truck and tow it away. It’s required to report repossessions to law enforcement, so Steve and my father, over the years, had gotten to know many law enforcement officers, particularly the state police. A friend of Steve B.’s, a state trooper, had called him Monday morning and told him that the state police had responded to a call at a Best Western motel in a town not far from where my father lives. It was for a suicide attempt. It was my father. All Steve knew was that my father was alive and had been taken to a hospital in Corning. His friend had told him more than he should have, and had no further details.

That was four days ago. And that’s all we know still, other than the fact that he’s still in that hospital, under psychiatric care/suicide watch.

As the days have gone by, I’ve gone from being angry to feeling sorry for my father. As my Aunt Wanda keeps saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” That’s sort of where I am, except I still can’t bring myself to want anything less for him than he deserves for what he did to that little girl. I feel badly enough that his life has taken him to a place where he no longer has any hope, but not badly enough to even try to advocate for him where he is.

Vanessa is going to be okay. Better than okay. Since she’s gotten this burden off her back, she has been remarkably well. Her mother is getting counseling for her, but I think that Le will be more scarred from this than Vanessa will. When she’s 40 years old, Vanessa will look back on this as something that happened to her and nothing more. Child Protective Services asked Le to take Vanessa to the hospital today for an exam. Le has decided that she will not only do that, but take Vanessa to her family physician and have both of them test for the HIV virus. I think it’s a good idea, even if it’s just to ease her mind about herself and her child.

My father has a preliminary court date on January 25 (Wanda’s birthday). It remains to be seen whether he is able to go or not.

In the meantime, we’re going to establish a fund for Le and Vanessa, to help them with their legal expenses in obtaining permanent residency in this country. She would have gotten her green card next month, after having lived with my father for 2 years but this whole incident complicates things a little bit more. We’re going to do can/bottle drives here (there’s a 5 cent return on all cans and bottles), and we’ll pitch in whatever money we can from each member of the family. If you’re interested in helping out, send me an email for information.

And there it is. The story, in all it’s ugliness. Hopefully now we can get back to living our lives with less drama.

And we've already gotten a good start on doing just that. Yesterday my younger daughter, Linda, who lives in Colorado called to tell me that, after trying for a year, she's pregnant again. As luck would have it, I just finished a knitting project Wednesday night and am now free to start a new one. I just have to find a pattern for a baby blanket that I like.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Part III - Admissions

Friday morning, I had a bit of an epiphany.  I had asked Lisa the night before if she thought that it was true – that my father had done unspeakable things to Vanessa.  Lisa said that she tended to believe Vanessa – as I indicated before, I did too, for the most part, but still had those little niggling doubts.  Anyway, I realized that getting a green card and staying in this country is very important to her.  I knew at that moment that Le wasn’t behind it because it would be too risky for her and I knew her well enough to know that she wouldn’t jeopardize her status in this country.  It was my last straw to grasp at – that Le had, for some reason, put Vanessa up to it.  I knew then, in my heart, that it was all true.

I went to a much needed, and much appreciated chiropractor visit.  As tense and stressed as I had been, I was as stiff as a board, and sore to match.  I got to Wanda’s house just a little after 10:00, and we settled in with hot cups of coffee to chat.  I took my knitting along, which seems to help calm me, and we hashed over the situation.  Wanda laid out the situation as she knew it.

I don’t need to go into specific details, but I found Wanda’s account of Vanessa’s testimony to be shocking.  There were some things that Vanessa apparently said that I felt made her very credible.

Around 3:00 I packed up my stuff and Wanda and I got into my car and started the 20 minute drive to Le’s house.  I had left my cell phone in the car while inside visiting Wanda, and noted that there were several voice mail messages – two of which were from my father.  Unbeknownst to us at that point in time, he’d already been arrested, taken to the courthouse and arraigned, and released on his own recognizance.  He was charged with five felony counts of child molestation and five misdemeanor counts of child endangerment.

I played the messages on speakerphone.  His first voice message said “Pat, it’s me, Dad.  At least give me the benefit of the doubt.  Give me a call on my cell phone.  I don’t want to die.”  I rolled my eyes, and said to Wanda “Can you say DRAMA?”

The second message was a bit more emotional (on his part).  “Pat, for the love of God, please, please, please call me.  Call me.”  The last “call me” was said in a cracked voice, and I believe he was crying.  

While I was listening to these voice mails, a got a call waiting beep and saw that it was my father.  I let it go to voice mail and, when I got done with the first two voice messages, I played the third.  “Pat, it’s me again.  Don’t forsake me.  At least talk to me please.  Tell me to go to Hell or whatever.  At least please, please call me.  I have a way to make a solution that, where I won’t have to go until I die.  Please call me, the number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.  Thank you, Pat.  God Bless You.  I don’t know what to do.”

Wanda just shook her head.  I said “I’m going to call him.  I want to know what he thinks he has to say to me.”  So, I dialed his number.  When he answered his phone, I just said “What the hell is going on?”  He told me that they’d charged him with five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts and that each felony carried 25 years maximum and that, with his health problems at his age, he wouldn’t last 3 months in prison.  What went through my mind immediately was “You should have thought of that before.”  Instead, I simply asked him “Did you do it?”  His response floored me.

“Yes, but I didn’t hurt her.”

Didn’t hurt her?  Fhut the whuck?

He went on to tell me that I should get Wanda, Peggy (my other aunt), Le, myself, and any other member of the family “who is concerned” together and go meet with the District Attorney to see if we could talk him into dropping the felony charges.  In turn, he’d plead guilty to the misdemeanors and even do 30 days in jail if he had to.  What a sport.

I told him that, like everyone else, I was having difficulty “processing” and would need some time.  He understood, and we said goodbye.

At just about 3:30, we waited for Vanessa’s bus, and when she got off it, we took her up the hill to her home.  I asked Wanda and Vanessa to stay in the car while I checked the house to ensure that all was well.  The previous night someone had tried to break in using a screwdriver or something, as there were pry marks on the door.  My guess is, it was my asshat nephew wanting to get the keys to that vehicle.  After ascertaining that the coast was clear and no break-in attempts had been made, I went out and got Wanda and Vanessa, and my overnight bag and my knitting bag.

Wanda and I set to work immediately on getting my father’s clothes out of the closet and the dresser drawers.  We had filled 3 large lawn and leaf bags by the time Le got home.  Bob came down about 6:00 and I ordered a pizza for everyone.  Just as we sat down to eat, I had a major “DUH” moment, and said to Wanda, “Would you think the investigators would like to know that my father admitted it to me?”  You could see the light bulb go on over her head, too.  She called the investigator and then handed the phone over to me.  The investigator in charge of the case was home for the weekend (had his kids for the weekend) but said that another one would be stopping by before 9:00.  Just as we were finishing our dinner, the phone rang.  It was the other investigator, asking me to come down to the county jail (where the sheriff’s office is).  I put on my coat, grabbed my keys and cell phone, and headed for the jail.

It was dark.  It was snowing pretty good, and came down lazily in different directions.  The wind was blowing at a pretty good clip.  It was pretty damned cold out, even for me.  I half-chuckled at the thought that the world, at that moment, seemed to reflect what I was feeling.  At the same time, I felt very detached from myself, as if I was outside of my body watching events unfold, as in a dream that I would wake up from at any moment.  It was all very surreal.

The investigator was female and set me at ease almost immediately.  We talked a bit about my phone conversation with my father and then she suggested something that made the blood rush to my head and pound its way through my brain.  “Would you call your father and see if you can get him to admit to it again while we record it?”  I’m not a cop, I don’t know how to lead suspects into confessions without spooking them, this was my father and they were using his trust for me to nail him.  These are the thoughts that raced through my brain as the question was asked.  In the end, I agreed because protecting Le and Vanessa was more important to me than any thought of what would happen to my father as a result of my cooperation with the police.  

I placed the call, and the recording device was turned on.  

I told my father that I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around all that had happened, and needed to get some things straight in my mind.  

I asked him “Was this something that just happened?  Did you prey on that little girl?  Did she come to you?  What?”  

He said “She climbed into bed with me.”  

“And that gave you license?” I screamed at him.  

“No,” he said, “I’ve never been more sorry for doing something than that.”  

“Where was your head?” I asked him.  

He replied “Up my ass, I guess.”  

Indeed.  

“Was it just that one time?”  

“Yes.  No.  No, there was the time I gave her a bath.  I bathed her in [baking] soda because she had a rash then I toweled her off but I didn’t touch her in an inappropriate way.”  

I’m thinking, if it wasn’t inappropriate, then why mention it at all?  

He kept saying that he couldn’t go to prison, that he’d die there, things like that.  I was sickened by the whole mess.  The investigator was scribbling notes to me to get him to describe what he’d done, but I made the call that they had enough incriminating statements to make a good enough case to persuade him to plead out, and not have to put that little girl through a trial.  I don’t think the investigator was all that happy with me, but she later agreed that he’d made plenty of incriminating statements, without being specific.

It was after 10:00 by the time I got back to Le’s house.  Bob and Wanda had gone home.  Le and I sat up and chatted until around midnight, then we turned in for the night.

Saturday we began the task of going through my father’s belongings.  We boxed and bagged things as neatly as we were inclined to do, trying to keep some semblance of order.  It seemed to be cathartic for Le – as the day progressed, her spirits rose and rose and rose until she was singing to herself while performing the task of getting her husband out of her life.  I was pretty proud of her – she’s a strong, stoic woman.  As is her daughter.

We found three videotapes hidden away in a cabinet.  One was called Luscious Liquids and was basically just suggestive material with women being covered in various liquids (like Cheez-Whiz) and ever so slight T & A shots, but the women were mostly clothed.  Seemed harmless enough.  The other two nearly floored me.  They were both male on male gay porn.  Not a lesbian scene in either one.  Not one heterosexual scene in either one.  Just male on male porn.  Really hard core stuff.  I’m still stunned at this, and don’t know what to make of it.  

We spent the rest of the day finishing up as much as we could.  Tired and dirty, I left Le’s house for the 90 mile drive back home around 8:00 Saturday night.  I stopped off at Wanda’s for a few minutes to pee and to deliver my father’s passport to her for safekeeping (just in case).  I got home a little after 10:00, just in time to see the last quarter and a half of the Jacksonville/New England Wildcard Game.  I poured myself a tall glass of wine, sucked it down, and fell asleep in the recliner shortly afterward.

Next:  The Aftermath

Part II -- The Investigation

What follows I’ve picked up second-hand, unless otherwise noted.

My father got a weekend “pass” out of the nursing home for the New Year’s weekend. Apparently, on Sunday the 1st, a friend of his came to visit him, along with the friend’s wife and small son. Le apparently said something that didn’t sit well with my father, so he picked up the billy club that sits on his desk, and threw it at her, hitting her in the head. His friend protested this treatment, and my father threw his friend out. I’m unclear about anything that may have happened that day after that incident. All I know is that Le took him back to the nursing home on Monday the 2nd.

Later that night, Le and Vanessa were talking. Vanessa floored her mother by asking her “Mom, do you think I could have AIDS or be pregnant?” Le told her daughter that she couldn’t have AIDS or be pregnant because she was too young to have sex. Vanessa asked her “What would you say if I told you I had sex?” She then went on to describe to her mother the things my father had done to her.

Not surprisingly, Le was furious, ready to commit murder. In Brazil (where Le comes from), the police are not good people. She has quite a distrust of police and government agencies, understandably. So, she did nothing about the revelations regarding her husband and her daughter. The next evening, she spoke to my Aunt Wanda, telling her about the conversation with Vanessa the night before. Wanda insisted that it be reported to the police, and arranged to meet Le the next morning (Wednesday the 4th) at 9:30 to go to the sheriff’s office. My Aunt Peggy (my father’s other sister) went with them. At this point, I knew nothing about what was going on.

On Wednesday morning, just as I was pulling into the parking lot for my chiropractor appointment, my cell phone rang. It was my father, wanting to know if I’d heard from or seen Le. I told him I’d not seen nor heard from her since the day they picked Vanessa up from my house. He said he’d not heard a thing from her since Sunday. I told him that I was sure Le had told me that she had to work that week, at the college she was taking classes from.

I tried Le’s cell phone. It went directly to voice mail, indicating to me that the phone was switched off. I suspect she shuts it off while she’s at work, so there’s no distraction. I almost expected that. I decided to call my oldest daughter, who is a student at the same community college as Le to see if she knew what office Le worked in. After getting the name of the office, and a general number for the college, I called and was able to reach Le. She seemed short, almost distant, which is highly unusual for her. She’s normally warm, personable, and chatty. I just assumed she was uncomfortable with talking on the phone while she was at work. I told her that my father had called me, said he’d not heard from her since Sunday, and I merely asked her if she was okay. She said “Yes, I’m okay.” I left it at that, asking her to call me later when she got out of work.

After I hung up, I started to dial my father back but decided against it for the time being. Instead, I called my Aunt Wanda to see if she knew anything about why Le hadn’t seen my father since three days before that, and if there was any reason that I should refrain from telling my father I’d spoken to her. If you heard a loud “THUD” last Wednesday (the 4th) around 9:00 AM, that was my jaw hitting the ground when my Aunt Wanda began to lay out for me the events of the previous two days, as she’d heard them from Le. She was insisting that Le fill out a police report and obtain an order of protection, and wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. They were due at the sheriff’s department at 10:00 AM. Like me, Wanda is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a close family member. She knows what scars are worn, what psychological effects this has on its victims, and she was not about to let Vanessa’s extraordinarily bright light get dimmer.

So, I waited to hear. And waited. And waited. And waited.

And little niggling doubts penetrated my brain. Would Le have put Vanessa up to this? Would Vanessa have made this up? Is my father really capable of this deviant behavior? I suppose I was in denial, looking for ways to explain a possibly innocent touch, or rationalizing that Le’s spoken English isn’t all that good, and maybe Wanda misunderstood something she said. Anything but the truth. In the end, I decided that it was too risky a move for Le to put Vanessa up to this. And, being a child, Vanessa had too many details that she was way too young to have any knowledge of (based on the limited information Wanda gave me). In the end, acceptance came over me and I waited for the call.

It came in at 7:30 PM Wednesday night. An Order of Protection had been drawn up and, because it would not be in place that night, an order was given to the VA Center Campus Police to ensure that my father did not leave that hospital for any reason that night. Asking Le to deliver to them my father’s computer and all peripherals and storage media for that computer, they were planning to file charges the next day.

There was an extensive interview with the sheriff’s investigator and, after Vanessa got out of school, she was picked up, taken to the sheriff’s department, and interviewed extensively by Child Protective Services with the investigator present. The details were sufficient enough, and credible enough that the sheriff’s department acted quickly and decisively. I spoke briefly with Le, told her she had my support and to not be bashful about calling if she needed anything. I promised to check in with her the next day, and hung up.

I fell apart that night. How could he snatch away that exquisite innocence from that beautiful little girl? How could he assume that she was his to do whatever he wanted to? How could he do the things he was accused of doing, and still look his wife in the eye every night? How could he? This is an old wound for me and, as I fell apart, I raged at all those sick fucks out there that destroy the promise of an innocent child’s life. I raged at my father for the betrayal. I raged at my stepfather for the cruel acts he performed against me. I raged at my mother for either not seeing, or not wanting to see. I raged at God for letting this happen to any child. And then I looked at myself. Were there signs I should have seen? Things I should have picked up on? Had I done enough with the knowledge I had to protect that child?

I realized I was going in the wrong direction and that this wasn’t about me. And then I realized that I have something to offer that child – based on my own experiences. She was concerned that, if my father was no longer going to be her “dad,” would I still be her sister? And, while my Aunt Wanda assured her that I would be, I knew she needed to hear it from me.

The next afternoon, I called Le to see how she and Vanessa were getting along. They were both in surprisingly good spirits. Le described Vanessa as “relieved” to have finally gotten it off her chest (and my father off her body), and that she was very proud of her daughter. I asked to talk to Vanessa and, when she got on the phone, I could hear from her voice that she was okay. I told her that I was very proud of her and that I just wanted her to know that she would still be my sister, if she wanted me to be hers. She quickly said “YES!” I think she was relieved to hear that, as well. I told her I love her, and asked her to put her mother back on the phone.

I asked Le if she and Vanessa wanted to come up to my house for the weekend – sort of get away from all the “asshats” that have been popping up around here throughout this whole thing. She calmly and matter-of-factly thanked me for the invitation but declined, saying that she wanted to get my father’s personal things together over the weekend. I asked her if she wanted help (as I was scheduled to be off the next day). We agreed to meet at her house just before Vanessa’s bus was due to drop her off from school. Le told me that my asshat nephew (son of my asshat brother) had been to her house, demanding the keys to the GMC Jimmy that my father owned. When Le refused to turn them over, Bobby (asshat nephew) got belligerent. Wanda was there when this happened, and she got between Le and Bobby (Wanda’s 72 folks…remember this), put one hand on his chest and gave him a slight push backward toward the door. He lunged forward menacingly and, as he did so, Wanda stood her ground, lifted her chin and said “Go ahead, hit me.” Having served a few months in the county jail for drunken behavior as well as terroristic threats, Bobby apparently decided that he’d seen enough of the inside of the county jail, and backed down.

After I hung up with Le, I called Wanda to see if she wanted some company the next day until it was time for me to meet Le. She knew I needed to talk, and I think she did, too. I told her I’d be down Friday at about 10:00 or so.

More still to come

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Where Do I Start?

I’ll pick a recent spot and hope it can make sense.

On December 11, 2005 my father had a stroke. Initially, his entire left side was paralyzed but, within a few days, he had pretty much everything back from the waist up. The hip, leg, knee, ankle, foot, everything on the left side below the waist is still pretty much useless.

I saw a side of my father that I’d heard about, but never witnessed first hand during that first week he was in the hospital. His young wife Le (pronounced “Lee”), 35 years his junior (and 16 years my junior) couldn’t do anything right as far as he was concerned. She was entering final exam week at the community college she was attending and, while home trying to study for exams, he would call her a dozen or so times throughout the night. He insisted that Le be with him at the hospital every minute that she wasn’t in school, not caring that her young daughter was home alone every night (Vanessa is 10). Le constantly fretted over the safety and security of her daughter home alone, and worried about her being lonely and without any human contact after school. Genuine concerns, real concerns, but concerns my father dismissed with a wave of his hand and a barely audible “harrumph.”

On December 19th, my father was transferred to a nursing home at the local VA center for rehabilitation and physical therapy. He wasn’t happy about it but, since his VA benefits are the only medical coverage he has, he really didn’t have much choice. If he checked himself out AMA, he’d lose those benefits as well. So, under duress, he allowed himself to be transferred to the nursing home.

The VA Nursing Home is, well, interesting. I suppose it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen the inside of a nursing home. The last time I recall having seen one, it was to visit my stepfather’s mother – and she passed away in 1968 when I was about 13. The ward my father resided on was full of old(er) folks, many with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Most incapable of any sort of self-care, including feeding themselves, and there’s a not-so-faint odor of feces that permeates the air. Because many of the patients are prone to wandering, anyone coming or going to the ward needs to be “buzzed” in electronically. This meant that my father couldn’t come and go without needing someone to buzz him out.

The day after he was transferred to the nursing home, I received word that he was threatening to leave because he felt that he didn’t belong there, and was convinced that Le had sent him there to be rid of him. So, that Thursday morning, through driving snow, sometimes whiteout conditions, and treacherous roads, I made the 90 mile trip down to see him.

I stopped on the way to pick up my Aunt Wanda. Poor Le had a Physics exam that day and apparently my father had called her all night long, making it impossible for her to really do any studying. Wanda had advised Le to just not answer the phone and stay home and study for her Psychology exam that night. When we arrived at the nursing home, my father was miserable, cursing and loudly proclaiming that he was worried about Le, unable to get hold of her.

He explained that, since she was from Brazil and had only been here for last winter and this winter, her winter driving skills were all but non-existent, and he was extremely worried that she might have been in an accident, laying dead in a ditch somewhere, maybe needing help, without anyone knowing where she was. Since he was so agitated, I went outside and called Le on my cell phone and told her she’d better check in with him. About 10 minutes later, she called my father to let him know she’d gotten home okay, and was not going to venture back out in the bad weather but would, instead, stay home and study for her final exam. This enraged him. He ordered her to make coffee and bring it over. When she argued with him, he screamed “Listen you stupid, f***in’ bitch, I told you to make coffee and bring it over so you’d better get your ass over here if you ever want to get your green card!” He didn’t want her out there driving in the bad weather when he didn’t know where she was, but didn’t think anything wrong with making her bring him coffee.

Through that evening, we heard him tell her “Eat shit and die,” “I ought to punch you right in the f***in’ mouth,” and “You’re just a stupid f***in’ bitch.” It infuriated me to hear him treat her that way. I came home with a severely bloodied tongue.

I managed to convince my father that staying at the nursing home was in everyone’s best interest, as Le was not capable of lifting him up and down out of the bed and out of a chair. How would he shower, use the bathroom, get into and out of bed? As much as he didn’t want to, he admitted that Le couldn’t care for him at home.

I arranged to have him released from the nursing home on a “pass” from Friday through Monday over the Christmas holiday. I picked him up on Friday, picked up Vanessa, and brought them both to my house. Le would follow the next night (Christmas Eve day), as she still had some Christmas shopping to do.

We had him up and walking using a walker the next day. He progressed very rapidly and was genuinely pleased with his new “stupid pet trick,” as I dubbed it. That evening, he began to get “cranky” again, because Le hadn’t yet arrived. About 6:00 Le called to say she’d missed a turn or something and didn’t know where she was. She’d been preoccupied with worrying about her low gas gauge and, in reality, was only about a mile off course and only a couple of miles from our house. My father was infuriated and screamed and cursed at her on the phone for getting lost, telling her “I oughta punch you right in the f***in’ mouth.” I fussed at him for saying that, and sent Lisa to go get Le. I told my father while Lisa was gone that, with it being Christmas, I’d like to get through the weekend without him talking like I’d just heard him talk to his wife.

The holiday weekend went well, all things considered. That is, right up until Christmas night when Le took him into the guest bedroom to retire for the night. My father began fussing and cussing about Vanessa’s knitting set that I’d gotten her, extremely annoyed that she’d opened it when he’d told her not to until we were ready to knit. I told him that an hour ago I’d told Vanessa to give me 10 minutes and we’d sit down and begin the instructions and I had gotten distracted and forgotten about it. “I ought to beat the shit out of that kid” my father growled. In an icy cold voice, I heard Le say “The worse thing you could ever do is hurt my kid.” I wanted to high five her right there on the spot! My father, surprisingly, remained quiet.

They left the next morning. At my insistence, Vanessa remained behind with me for the remainder of that week.

Vanessa is an exceptional child. At the age of 10, she has intelligence, maturity, and wisdom beyond her years. Yet, at the same time, she is still a child. In conversation with her, one would never know that up until two years ago, she only spoke Portuguese. She has absolutely no detectable accent, and has a broader vocabulary than most adults I know. At the end of the last school year, she stole the show in the school’s academic awards ceremony, taking every top honor for her grade. She also has a musical gift – she plays the flute in the school band, and has an uncanny ability to figure out songs and melodies on her new keyboard, without any formal training. Not just picking them out with one finger, but playing like a pro. She is sweet, perceptive, loving, and very personable. I adore this child – me, who doesn’t take well to other peoples’ kids. I taught her to knit and we both struck “the pose” on the sofa, one on each end where it reclines. We sat and knitted and ordered pay-per-view movies (Polar Express and March of the Penguins). We had a great time, chatting, knitting, and bonding. She said to me “I always wanted a little sister or brother, but I love having a big sister!” Vanessa said to me “Pat, you have the body of an adult, but the heart of a teenager.” That was quite an observation, as I’ve always called myself the biggest kid in the house.

I was surprised to find myself getting all choked up and teary-eyed when my father and Le came to pick Vanessa up the Friday after Christmas. I turned to Lisa and said "That child has an exceptionally bright light that my father could easily dim."

There’s the background. More to come…

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Im devastated

I’m devastated.

There’s just no other way to describe what I’m feeling today.

I cried a lot yesterday.  I felt like a lot of old, healed wounds were picked back open.  Were it not for the love and support of Lisa, Joe, and my aunt, I could have easily fallen into a large, black pit of despair, which would likely have swallowed me up, never to release me.

Briefly, it was revealed yesterday to me that my father has apparently done something to his 10-year-old stepdaughter.  Something that made her worry about having AIDS or being pregnant (as she’d learned in school that AIDS and pregnancy come from sex).

An order of protection has been secured against him and, in all likelihood, against my nephew as well (he’s been harassing my stepmother the past couple of days).

I can’t add much more at this time, as my emotions are in a confused mass.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lots going on right now -- some familial issues that need to be dealt with.

I'm distraught, angry, sad -- name an emotion, and that's where I am right now. After I get caught up at work and get some things dealt with regarding my family, I'll be back. For now, I've moved the "memoirs" to a new page I've entitled "Chronicles of Yawnia." Check it out.

Back with more later.