Memories of a Very Important Snow Day

January 10, 1980

He arrived to the birthday party that afternoon in a huge truck that was the color of light brown sugar.  A formidable opponent it was, for the 9 inches of snow that had blanketed Vancouver that day, as it was very tall, sitting on huge tires and had a sturdy black roll bar on the back.  Hopping out of his truck he looked just like an old west cowboy coming off of his horse.  I noticed the way my mom looked at him like he was something special and I wondered what it was about this rugged stranger that appealed to her.  He greeted her with a smile and discrete kiss.  I couldn’t help but stare.  Mom invited him into the house and took his winter coat and cowboy hat.

I stood half-heartedly hiding in the hallway of our little ranch rental home as my mom hung his coat.  “Hi,” I said to the man who stood next to my mom.  My natural curiosity never allowed shyness to win out and this was no exception.  “What’s your name?”

His voice was gentle and kind, and he seemed to be a little nervous as he answered me, “I’m Vance.”

I drew in an excited breath upon learning his name.  “My name is Vicki and it starts with a “V” too!”  I exclaimed!

“That’s what I hear,” he replied with a friendly smile “Nice to meet you, Vicki.”

As I played with my cousins at the birthday party, I kept an inquisitive eye on the man whose name started with a “V” and who so clearly had the interest of my mom.  He had a thick dark head of hair and he wore a long but groomed moustache and beard, both noticeably streaked throughout with gray.  His eyes were dark and warm and behind all the facial hair he had an easy going smile.  He wore an earthen brown suede vest that had a sheep sheer lining, a plaid western cut shirt with pearly buttons, jeans, and well-worn cowboy boots.  His clothes, his truck, his mild and humble manner, everything about him were mysterious to me, and all throughout the party I kept careful track of the attention he gave my mom.

To Be Continued…

Mom With Her Cowboy, Vance.

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Emotional Illiterate

I have been remembering a moment in the past a lot lately.  I know why.  It is because even 13 years later, I am still searching for the conclusion to the story.  It used to be that I was hopeful for a happy ending, but these days I am not, and I wonder if I will ever be able to just let him go.

It was the week of my 26th birthday and he had come to town.  Not to visit me, so much as to visit his father and that hurt a little bit.  We had taken a drive in a car he had borrowed from my aunt and he was doing his usual “memory lane” type of tour, driving by his old haunts, past the berry fields he worked in as a teen, the Catholic church where his family once attended, the newly renovated home where his family lived years before.  He seemed to be lost in the activity; I was just along for the ride.

Our visits were not very regular or frequent.  We hardly even spoke on the phone anymore and I was hoping for a change with all of that.  So much water under the bridge…  I had been in counseling for the previous few months attempting to sort it all out, with him, with my husband, with my future.  Ignoring the past and ignoring the pain was not an option anymore.   I was desperate to move on and trying to collect the courage to do it.

The sound of the rain and the windshield wipers filled the uncomfortable silence in the car as he drove the winding back roads of rural Clark County.  I stared out the window, watching the evergreen trees flash by, trying to gather my thoughts and summon my nerve. You can do this.  You are a grown woman with two babies of your own.  He has no power over you.  It’s not like it can get any worse. The intensity of the rain was unrelenting, it seemed as if even God was nudging me on.

“Dad,” I began.  I stared hard out the front windshield of the car and began again.

“Dad, I need to tell you something.  I know it’s been a long time coming and I need to make peace with it, with you.”  I continued to fix my gaze on the soaked pavement of the winding country road.  “I know for a long time I’ve held onto a lot of hurt over you not being around for my childhood.  I haven’t been fair.  I’ve taken my anger out on you by not letting you be a part of my life.  I was hurt really bad by you, and I’m sorry I’ve been so distant with you.”

Hot tears spilled down my cheeks and I continued on, “I wanted you to be my dad and pay attention to me.  It hurt when you didn’t call or you paid more attention to Dan than me.  It hurt when you said on the night when I graduated that we would start anew and then we didn’t…” I bowed my head and sobbed out all of the pain of the previous 19 years.  “I know you haven’t asked for it but I forgive you.”

The car slowed to a stop at the side of the road.  I looked through the raindrops on the window to see a little house on the side of the road and I felt the arm of my father come around the front of my shoulder.  My insides leapt for joy as I felt the brush of his arm coming around me.  A still calm came over me, and it felt like everything around me slowed down.  I wanted to savor every second of this moment.  A moment I had yearned for over so many years.  Maybe he too, would apologize for his part in all of this pain.  Since my childhood I had dreamed of this moment and it had finally arrived, complete with a compassionate hug!

And then he spoke, and I quickly realized that I was mistaken, as he pointed to the little house on the side of the road and said in an unemotional tone, “I think I had a girlfriend who lived in that house right there.”

I wish that I could say I pulled myself together and quickly realized that I was dealing with someone who was incapable of giving me what I need, that I was able to easily move on from that day, but I cannot.  I continued to languish in those feelings of inadequacy and abandonment for longer that I would like to admit.  Eventually I have come to realize that I am worth more than he has shown me and I have come to understand that I need to let my father go, but sometimes my thoughts turn to him and I wonder if there is any hope that he will ever be anything more than that man in the car on that old country road or if he will always be an emotional illiterate.

Wolves and Sharks

Ever heard the expression, “I told you so?”   Daddy’s feeling a little smug around our house this summer.  Let’s take a trip down our family’s memory lane to a few summers ago and discover why…

“Can you tell me again, Mom?  What exactly again are we doing at this camp?”  Our daughter’s question was filled with tense apprehension.  We were just 2 miles from the camp turn off and I could tell she was having second thoughts.  I reached for the cream colored brochure with a cheerful picture of a sun emblazoned on the front.  Turning to the page of camp descriptions, I read allowed all of the details about what she would experience during her week at camp.  Our younger daughter seemed satisfied with the description and relaxed in her seat.

“Do you need for me to read yours too?”  I asked our older daughter.

“Please!” she requested with eager excitement.  She had wanted to go to camp at Camp Shalom since she first heard about it, along with all the adventures her friends experienced there, when she was in the 4th grade.  Now here we were, only a mile or so from the winding dirt road leading to the camp grounds and she was bubbling with excitement!

“Villager Camp,” I began, “For campers entering grades 7 to 9.”

As if by canine instinct, my husband’s ears were suddenly trained on every word I spoke.  He couldn’t keep from interrupting me.  Before I could finish the description, he was barking questions.

“Have you talked to her yet?” he asked.

“Talked to her about what?” I answered.

“Well, there are going to be boys at this camp!  Boys who are in High School! Have you talked to her about this?  Does she know what…” his voice trailed off in frustration.   “Have you talked to her about this?”  As he spoke in his panicked ‘Dad’ voice I could see he was even having a difficult time driving.  The gentle curves of the country road were met with stiff handling behind the wheel of our mini van and I could tell I needed to say something soothing before all of us landed in a ditch!

“Honey,” I said to my daughter in a voice that attempted to both sooth my husband and not freak out my daughter, “You’re heading into Junior High now and at this camp the Junior High kids are in the same group as the first year High School kids.  Some of those kids are going to have more independence and experience than you.”  Clearly I wasn’t getting to the point quickly enough for my husband’s taste.  We turned onto the narrow, forest lined, dirt road leading to the camp and looking at me and my husband implored me, “Get to the point, Mommy.”

I gently began again, “Sometimes when kids your age get alone without the supervision of their parents they try to take advantage of the situation.”

For Daddy, this clearly was not direct enough.  We were taking the hills and curves of the little gravel road with a quickened pace.  “Easy there Daddy, we’re not driving the ‘General Lee’.”  I whispered just loud enough for him to hear me.  He was not amused.  The indent between his eyebrows grew deeper.

In the rear view mirror he looked back to our oldest daughter and began speaking in an urgent ‘Dad’ voice, “What Mommy is not saying is that there are going to be boys at this camp.  High School boys, who have one thing on their mind!” and then he turned to look back at her as she shrunk back in her seat and in a full ‘Dad’ voice, he blurted out, “They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu!”

We continued the rest of the drive down the gravel road with those pulverizing words grounding into our ears.

The dust began to settle both inside and outside our mini van as we slowed to a stop in our parking spot.  I glanced back at our daughters, who sat with uncomfortable looking faces, and I couldn’t help but think how mortifying that experience must have been.  Sensing I need to do some damage control before we got out of the car, I turned toward my blossoming daughters and their wilting faces.  In that moment I wanted them to know I believed in their abilities to make good choices, and that I wanted them to have fun.  I wanted them to leave me feeling confident and not crushed.

I stroked my husband’s hand, and looked at the faces of our stunned girls, “You know, Daddy is just feeling protective of you.  I hope you aren’t upset that he made a big deal of there being boys at camp.  I hope you can understand why he’d be kind of over the top about this kind of thing. This is all new to him too.”

Without a moment of hesitation our oldest looked at her Dad with her innocent blue eyes and said, “ It’s OK, Daddy.  At least I know you care enough about me to say something about it.”  With a disarming smile she said, “I know you love me.”

“They are wolves and sharks, and you are what’s on the menu,” 12 words that have lived on notoriously in our family lore.   Thankfully they live on in giggles and teasing as well.  I am grateful our girls know that their Daddy is looking out for them.   And believe me, nothing gets by Daddy…  Let’s fast-forward a few summers to 2010.

This summer we attended our nephew’s wedding in Maryland.  It was a beautiful wedding, featuring the cutest Ring Bearer I have ever seen!

Here is a picture of my little man getting prepared for his close-up!

But I digress…

Through out the wedding and reception festivities my husband kept a keen eye trained on his beautiful teenage daughters.  What protective Daddy would not?  It was at the wedding rehearsal that Daddy’s keen eye trained in on one young man.  Here he is pictured with my nephew (the handsome one on the right) and 2 other groomsmen.

**Que Villan Music**  Dun! Dun! DUUUNN!

Your looking at the guy on the left:

Just in case you were looking at the other left, you were supposed to look at this guy:

He was a groomsman and long time school friend of my nephew, and I can honestly say I did not see him do anything inappropriate.  He was perfectly gentlemanly and nice.  And pretty cute in his tuxedo, don’t you think?  Ok- enough commenting from the old lady here… But, he was the nemesis of my husband for the entire weekend.  Why?  Well, because he was male, and he was being nice to Daddy’s daughter.

Of course the wedding was beautiful and we are all thrilled with our nephew Daniel’s choice.  His new wife is awesome!  Welcome to the family Jillan!  Here is a picture of the big moment!  I love this picture of them!  She is radiating JOY!

The wedding reception was beautiful and was complete with a sit down meal and dancing.  I had a lot of fun clinking my glass to prompt watching kisses of the Bride and Groom and spent most of the other time wrangling a sugar fueled Ring Bearer out on the dance floor.  When the slow dance songs came on I was just thankful my son decided it was time for a smoothie break at the table!  It was all I could manage just keeping up with him!

However, my husband and his protective eye never rested.  Apparently the eyes of a man with teenaged daughters never do!  I was just settling in to my seat at our table when he swooped in to sit beside me.  I wondered if he was going to ask me for a dance.  No such luck!

“Do you see that?!” he said.  I could tell he was having a hard time containing the volume of his voice.

“See what?” I asked.  I honestly had no idea what he was referring to.

“That!”  He said, pointing to our oldest daughter out on the dance floor.

There she was.  Our girl was out on the dance floor, looking beautiful in her blue and green floral dress, the color a near perfect match to her eyes.  Her cheeks were a rosy flush, probably from the heat of the room, but maybe it was also because she was enjoying her first slow dance with one very cute groomsman.

I sighed.  It was so sweet, as her mom, to get to witness such an event.  She is growing up, and making her own way, and they just looked so adorable out there on that dance floor.  I knew nothing about this young man who was enjoying her delicate arms circling his neck, other than that he was a good enough friend of my nephew to be invited to stand up with him on his wedding day, but I was smitten by how cute my daughter was with him out on the dance floor.  Besides, the pair lived 1,000 miles apart and she was well protected by her loyal Daddy.  With him there ready to pounce, I had nothing to worry about.

My husband did not share my sentimental view of the moment.  “What do we do?” he whispered.  He was beside himself!

“Nothing.” I whispered back.  My annoyed husband sat close to me at the table, sitting with crossed arms and looking forlorn and with out a doubt wishing desperately he could change the unfolding situation.  The dance ended and our girl floated back to her seat.  These are the moments that make for good old-fashioned crushes and it was pretty obvious our girl had one.  My girl sat down next to me and began perusing the wedding program.  She tried to look casual, but I knew she was most likely examining with a careful eye.  Part way down the page her finger stopped and she could hardly contain her giggles.  She leaned over to show me what she found.

“Don’t tell Daddy he’s right!” she said through her giggles and pointed to what the program read.  I followed her finger to the list of groomsmen and there it was in black and white.  It said his name was Grason.  Grason Wolfe.

Daddy will not soon let her forget that he is always right.

Family Tradition

I grew up in a family full of tradition, rich tradition that had been passed from generation to generation.  Some of those traditions I still carry on with my own children, but there are some traditions that we have stumbled on all by ourselves.  One of my favorite traditions happened by accident, and at the time, not even by ‘happy accident’!  It all started on an important evening when I reeeeeeeally needed a babysitter…

When my husband married me 7 years ago he also gained what he affectionately refers to as his “Sparkle Girls”.  There’s a whole ‘nuther story to go along with the name, and I will tell it sometime for sure, but the point is, he was pretty in love with all three of us on the day he and I got married.  That husband of mine is a true gem, and without a doubt the man of my dreams!  My husband’s Sparkle Girls were 6 and 7 on the day he became their Daddy.   During our wedding ceremony, the four of us lit a common unity candle, symbolizing that we were all becoming one family.  Since the day they met, both of the Sparkle Girls and Daddy have foreged their own unique and significant relationship with one another.  It has been really beautiful to watch tenderness, respect, and love blossom between father and daughter over the last 7 years.

So, back on that important evening when the babysitter bailed and I longed to go out to a fancy, romantic, child free restaurant with my wonderful husband and celebrate our first anniversary, I was not very happy that our Sparkle Girls would be tagging along.  I wanted it to be just the two of us, but instead a family tradition was born.

This year we celebrated our 7th anniversary, commemorating it as we have for every anniversary meal since that first one, out together, celebrating the anniversary of our family’s birth.  Since that first anniversary we have added a son to our family and as we gathered around the steak house dining table, I delighted in the presence of my husband and our 3 children as we shared celebratory meal honoring not only our marriage, but the bond of family it represents as well.  Not to worry, we have had and continue to have our time for celebrating our marriage all alone as a couple!  This year we will celebrate by taking a trip to Italy and Switzerland this summer, all alone, but for now, this is one family tradition we cherish.

What are some of the family traditions that you share with your family?  I would love to hear about them!  Please come out of the internet shadows and share them in the comment section!  Just click on the word “comment” below and follow the prompts.  Thanks!

Our Family in 2003

Our Family in 2010

Damn-it-Danny

It’s Retro Week on Facebook this week, so time for me to scan a few baby pictures for the cause.  For those of you who haven’t caved to the masses and are not on Facebook, here’s a little explanation.  On my profile page, I have a small thumbnail photo, usually of yours truly, and mostly recent.  For Retro Week the unofficial mandate asked Facebookers to post a profile picture from the old days.  I had a cute one posted of my husband and I from our earliest days as a couple (and can you believe that picture is almost 20 years old !?),  but everyone had seen that one, so for the fun of joining in the Retro Week hula-hoop-la,  I found myself this morning with photo album in lap, sitting in front of the scanner.

I have very few photos of myself from before 1980.  All of the photos that encompass my first 7 years line just 35 magnetic photo album pages.  I know… Another project!  Hey, started scanning it today!   But anyway… Maybe today with the 5 year anniversary looming just 2 days away, I should have skipped looking and scanning which eventually led to crying.

It’s not that I look back at those years as particularly painful.  Truthfully, I don’t really remember most of them.  It’s not that I resent the life after those days either.  For the most part I had a very happy childhood, surrounded by so many people who loved and cared for me.  I had siblings, friends, family vacations, Easter Egg hunts and over flowing Christmas Stockings.  My memories are that it was as happy if not happier than the life depicted in those 35 pages.  Each picture that flashed up on my computer screen brought back some kind of memory, some from way back and some much newer.

An innocent picture of my brother and I standing in front of Medical Lake in Spokane, WA reminded me of a particularly funny story.  My little brother, whom I called Danny in the old days, was an exuberant and rascally kind of boy.  He had tons of energy, was very curious and never really could leave well enough alone.   I often thought his round blond head was cartoonish.  He reminded me of Dennis the Menace and his antics certainly lived up to that stereotype!

Vicki and Danny, circa 1977

Our family owned a small Chrysler sailboat and most of our family time in those days was spent sailing on the lakes around Spokane.  I loved that little pale yellow boat.  At 6 years old I was becoming quite a little sailor and could navigate all 15 feet of it through calm water with little help from my father.  I was learning the proper sailing terminology and I could see my father straighten with pride when I referred to the tiller and dagger board or called out, “Jib!”   He was thrilled when the boat would heel to one side and I wasn’t afraid, but instead peals of laughter poured out of me.  Looking at that picture I also remembered how annoyed my father would get with my younger brother Danny.  I don’t really remember any specific incident that Danny did, just that he was always into everything!

I remember one particular day my brother and I sat in the boat as my dad was cranking the boat back onto the trailer at the boat launch.   It was a warm sunny day, and we were leaving early.  Another boater, a woman, was standing waist deep in the water next to us as her boat was easing into the lake.  She was young and beautiful.  To me, with her Farrah Fawcett hair and orange macramé bikini top, she looked like she belonged in the movies.  Maybe it was my stare that prompted her to turn and talk to us.

“Well aren’t you cute!” she said as she turned toward our boat.  She looked at me with the smile of a Charlie’s Angel and asked, “What’s your name, honey?”

“Vicki,” I said as I studied every move she made.  She may as well have been life size Malibu Suntan Barbie and I wanted to be just like her.

“Vicki,” my name rolled over her Lip Smacker-glossed lips as she repeated it and somehow it sounded prettier.  She turned to my brother, who had become slightly bashful and said, “And how ‘bout you, what’s your name?”

This was my brother’s spirited reply: “It’s Damn-it-Danny!”

Laughter sparkled from her like it had just bubbled out of a can of TAB, and with that she turned back to her boat.

Damn-it-Danny…

Lately that nic-name he earned so many years ago seems so fitting.  He just can’t seem to come to terms with the relationship I now have with our father.  He means well, I think.  He and our father appear to have a thriving relationship, while the one I had drown years ago.  He sees that as my fault.  He protects him.  He blames me.  He can’t leave it alone.   He won’t leave it alone.

Damn-it-Danny, leave it alone.