Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Homework (Part 1)

So I'm under strict orders to digest the past and then shit it out and be done with it. Flush away the resentment and the hurt, tuck my reading material under my arm and get on with it. Move forward. Yes, that's right, it's time for your weekly dose of me working through my therapy online.

The summer I turned 13 began with me being blissfully unaware. I was a TEENAGER! Finally! I had already learned the awful lesson that having your period wasn't something to get excited about, share at a sleepover, or wax poetic about in a Judy Blume novel.

I'd also figured out that dandruff, bad hair, acne and braces were not a winning combo for securing dates. But hey, I could still fantasize about River Phoenix. I was THIRTEEN!

I rode my bike through laneways and around cul-de-sacs, spending my allowance on Big Macs and a Tuesday showing of A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon or Who's That Girl? at a TTC-accessible mall-theatre of choice.

I was also in summer school. Not for dummies, but for enrichment and free babysitting. It was the first summer in my entire life where my mom had a job outside of the home.

The classes weren't at our local school, so my dad would drive me and my sister there and back. I took Computers (which meant waiting for my turn to play Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) and Drama (which was just the beginning of my future drama nerdness).

My dad had been acting stranger than usual as of late. He'd insisted my mom go back to work. He was working two jobs himself and he was tired and cranky much of the time. My parents seemed distant. When we asked my mom about him, she would tell us he was still heartbroken over his father's death, or he was very tired. I think she knew -- she must have known -- but the truth was too scary, too horrible to face.

He was driving us to summer school one morning, exhaustion dripping from his face. I was oblivious, flipping between Top 40 stations trying to find Jody Watley. He hit the brakes -- HARD -- and the car jerked to a stop at a crosswalk in front of St. Aidan's, a startled school girl looking right at us.

"Oh my God. I almost hit her," he said. I remember nothing else. Not whether he was shaking, not whether he swore; all I remember is that I didn't think it was as big a deal as he was making it. He'd stopped in time after all. We drove the rest of the way in silence.

The phone rang at 1 am that night. It woke us in our teeny house. The details are fuzzy, but I must have asked my mom if everything was alright. "Your dad says he's too shaken up over almost hitting that girl today. He's going to his friend's cottage."

He worked nights, leaving just after dinner and coming home while we were sleeping. But it was the first time in my life where I was conscious of his absence.

We'd been hearing about this "friend from work" in recent months, but frankly, I was excited that my dad finally seemed to have a friend. He was a loner mostly, preferring books to people, and though I craved some positive attention from him, some validation, I'd come to accept that in some broken way.

The idea of my dad having a fishing buddy, like the dads on TV, brought joy to my naive heart. Sure, I wished it was me he was taking fishing. Heck, I would even gladly share that outing with my sister, but if nothing else having a friend showed that he had a heart and some promise as a "normal" human being.

Then came the day he announced we'd be going to his friend's cottage...

To be continued...

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