November 28

Maybe he was always broken?

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The black plastic case was cracked along one side. The rectangular container had about twenty photos in it. A chubby baby resting soundly. The same chubby baby staring into the camera. A bright-eyed toddler, smiling at the camera with two front teeth missing. A young child, wearing a green camouflage shirt, hugged a yellow labrador puppy tightly with a giant grin. Another photo of the same boy, this time smiling widely while holding onto playing cards of every late 90’s early 00’s child’s obsession, Pokemon.

The little black rectangle housed memories of a time the person in the photos had chosen to mostly repress. A time before feelings of prolonged sadness would mix with periods of intense anger. These were a small collection of reminders of when the boy in the photo felt like he mattered to someone. Before a budding distrust in women would permeate his value system.

The pictures were from when he didn’t feel abandoned by those he loved.

They were reminders of what family, love, and innocence were.

A seventeen year old boy looked at those photos daily, tracing a finger over the figures in the photo while secretly hoping he could go back. Entertaining ideas of maybe, just maybe, he could fix the child in those photos just enough so people would want him and neither mothers nor mother-like figures would turn their back on him. If only he could go back, he could repair the bonds before they were forever severed.

Nine years.

Nine years he spent dreaming of going back.

Nine years he spent crying himself to sleep before screaming into a pillow angrily asking WHY. 

What did an eight year old child do to cause so many people not to love him?

Nine years of feeling not deserving, not good enough for a family.

Maybe he had always been broken. The fault, maybe it lay in the fact that he was always broken and was just too naive to see it.

The black rectangular case, for as long as he remembered, carried the stress fracture along the small strip of plastic running across the bottom.

Was he always fractured too? Nobody wants damaged goods, was that what he had always been?

When the photos inside the case were destroyed, a casualty of being in a box in the care of someone instead of on his persons, it became clear there was no going back. Water washed away the smiles, the child, the toddler, the baby; the past. Not only was the little box that stored the last remaining remnants of a time he couldn’t go back to destroyed, now were its contents.

And he remembered.

He remembered the cord that stretched from apartment to neighbor for electricity. He remembered the man holding a door and threatening to knock his mother out with it, while he stood there ready to fight someone three times his size. He remembered the door closing behind his babysitter, someone who had no business watching him, turning to him with wicked smile across face. He remembered trying to tell someone what had happened but fearing that he would upset them.

He remembered the in between the photos, when he waited outside, knocking constantly on the locked door, as his mother hung inside with friends. He remembered holding onto a stick that had ribbon and a small figure on it, their “talking stick” and wanting to hide it in hopes that the fighting would stop.

The photos were gone. In their wake was the reality that you don’t repress happy times, but bad ones.

The answer to his happiness wasn’t in those photos, nor was it in his past.

Tears burned down his cheeks, as blood spilled into his mouth from where he bit his lip so hard the skin broke.

The past, and most of the people from it, were gone.

Looking down on cracked white glossy paper, he knew they weren’t coming back either.

 I have had a few little boxes in my life that have held meaning to me in some form or another. The Metallic Box is another one, one I actually still hold onto and have written about. Some day I hope to write about my mother’s cube of photos that included Weno’s obituary on it. 

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November 23

Thanksgiving Mehness

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Thanksgiving is a few days away. As the turkey begins to thaw and the grocery store cashiers break up a fight over cranberry sauce in aisle seven, I find myself feeling ambivalent to the upcoming holiday. Holidays have always been hard for me, maybe its part of being raised in the “wasn’t hugged enough as a child” category.

In all seriousness though, being a constant guest to other’s special occasions has taxed my holiday spirit. The coffers were all but dried up by the time I had children. Where most spend their autumn and early winter excited to spend time with family members that they don’t always get to see, I spend it sipping my pumpkin spice and prepping myself mentally for the onslaught of images of happy families that will undoubtedly fill my Facebook newsfeed. Generations of togetherness, gathered with smiles and an abundance of love.

To say I am jealous would be underselling my envy. If you turn down the angry music, sarcasm and peel away the tattoos, I am nothing more than someone who spent one too many holidays feeling like I shouldn’t exist.

In my early adulthood (late childhood might be a more appropriate term) I had created strong ties with friends. These ties weren’t genetic, these people did not share my blood. They shared my sadness. The holidays were lonely for them too. Black sheep, cast outs, fuck ups, we banded together to celebrate on the days when families gathered. Merry band of misfits, not having to sit uncomfortably trying not to be seen in a room full of strangers who expected more from us than we had to give.

When I made a family, with the wonderful woman who took the time to peel those layers away (Us disenfranchised youth are like ogres, which are like onions, we make people cry or something) I thought all that might change. I thought, “Hey, now I have family I feel love for. I have family who makes me feel wanted.”

We still kept our table open, for those fuck ups without places to be on a crisp November day. Their will always be a spot at the table for those in need of it. I know my table has become uneasy for most of them sadly. We banded together in the bonds of not having anyone and I broke the rules by making a family of my own.

This year, there will be an empty chair at the feast. My wife, who works in a super secret highly confidential job (I don’t know how much of her job I am allowed to disclose, she does social work, helping people with disabilities learn how to live on their own or something like that), will be at work.

Now, yes, tons of families everywhere spend holidays missing someone at their table. I am not sitting here on the floor crying at my lot in life. Okay, maybe I am a little. The truth is, the people she works with, they need her more on this holiday than I do. All my selfishness in the world can’t deny that. It doesn’t make spending the holiday without her easier on me.

A part of me wants to cancel the event, get Hungry Man tv dinners and watch football with my kids. Even when I don’t mean to, I have already prepared myself for the letdown of the holiday season, it would be nothing for me to sit it out and pretend it was any other day. I could change the date, have a Thanksgiving another day of the week I suppose. Maybe then I could make all holidays fall on convenient dates, Ezra’s birthday is no longer the day after Christmas! I decree it will be right after tax returns, like his brothers.

I spent so long feeling incomplete on holidays, I am just not ready for that feeling again.

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November 20

The Meaning of Christmas

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With Christmas fast approaching, it is time to put on winter wear, drink a cup of coffee (out of a Christmas approved cup, obviously), and brave the shopping centers in search of presents for children. While doing so, it is important to make sure not to present shame other families by putting an over abundance of gifts under the tree. At the same time, there is that tugging need to give kids what we might have wanted but never got as children ourselves.

When the fuck did Christmas get so difficult? Thanks a lot, social media, for adding a whole new level of etiquette to the holiday season. Don’t these people know it doesn’t matter the color of the cup, as long as the rum is mixed evenly with the eggnog? (Two thirds rum, the one third of eggnog softens that burning sensation just right, you’re welcome)

Christmas should be about getting kids the stuff they need, like gaming systems that will keep their attention so the dishes can get done. There needs to be a tin of butter cookies to eat before purchasing the gym membership I will use for the first two weeks of January during the “New Year, new me!” phase. The  crafts are getting out of control this time of year, so a popcorn tin needs to be bought and emptied so it can be refilled with craft items while we sob at the realization that no longer are we becoming our parents but now we are becoming our grandparents. We are one season away from asking for a Life Alert button.

As we Instagram pictures of us dropping clothes off at Goodwill and donating canned goods, lets not forget to grab a selfie with the Salvation Army guy because Karen on Facebook doesn’t think we know the true spirit of the holidays. Fuck you, Karen- I saw that red cup in the background of your profile picture, Christmas hater.

As social media sets itself upon Christmas, no longer is holiday spirit measured by the amount of lawn ornaments and lights hung up, but now on the amount of likes the picture recently shared of baby Jesus in the manger got. If that picture doesn’t pass thirteen likes, the holiday season is officially ruined.

Tis’ the season to be jolly, not jelly. It is the time of year to argue over real trees vs. fake one. Those pine needles, they linger until July. It is time to drink too much spiked egg nog out of coffee cups, while drunkenly signing up for caroling for the third year in a row. You can’t hold a note, not even if the fate of Ol’ Saint Nick depended on it. Seriously, why do you do this to your self?

It shouldn’t be about what the Karen’s of the world think. The Debbie Downers, determined to publicly reprimand the choices of others during the wintery season. Hearts are supposed to grow three sizes from being clogged with cholesterol and kindness. The Christmas Carol is supposed to be played too many times in all its leg lamp and Red Ryder BB gun glory. You’ll shoot your eye out!

It is a time of year to do things with family, like drink too much with that uncle or aunt who may have a drinking problem we turn a blind eye to because they are so goddamn funny after a few glasses. To go sledding down hills and build snowmen. To place the carrot not on the snowman’s face, because no White Christmas is complete without a little dirty humor.

It is a time to provide, in whatever manner you see fit, for those you care about. Little faces lighting up brighter than the christmas lights. Rosy red cheeks and ugly sweaters. The holidays are for togetherness with the people that matter to you. It should be spent drinking out of whatever cup you see fit, while handing out as many presents as you want. Happy Holidays is, quite literally, the greatest alliteration in the history of alliterations. Let’s put the Happy back into Happy Holidays with some rum and a whole lot of love.

 

The Meaning of Christmas

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November 18

Home of the free and land of the brave.

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I do not fear terrorists infiltrating refugees.

I fear opening my computer and seeing another child’s lifeless corpse (GRAPHIC) washed up on a beach. A child, whose life could have been spared, taken from this world too soon because this world chose not to stand up for and protect that little boy when it had the chance.

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We have reached the crossroads, I believe, of our generation. Where a decision needs to be made. Lives depend on it.

The future rests on it.

Do we allow ourselves to be swayed and our actions moved out of fear? Could you imagine if the world chose to be as passionate about people as they are about violence?

The fact of the matter is, if the Western World turns its back on people out of fear, then we are losing. Not just a war with a faceless enemy. We are losing as human beings.

There are people who need our help. They need the U.S.A. to show itself as not just the war machine but also as the role model for how to take care of people. There is a need for our humanitarian efforts to rival our military might now more than ever.

This November, I haven’t felt very thankful.

Why is there even a discussion? We have children washing up on the shores of beaches, families fleeing destruction, in hope, HOPE, of some sort of comforts of safety.

To date, there have been over thousands of airstrikes on the region these people are fleeing from. If a bomb falling from the sky does not take their life, there are men with guns going door to door, from different factions and sides of the battle, with one simple message; “Join or face imprisonment.”

People flee the destruction of their homeland, at the sliver of hope their kids will live to see another day.

Home of the free and land of the brave. 

I don’t feel very brave right now. As the fear of ISIS grows, we are afraid to shelter those displaced by a civil war and subsequent ravaging of their country. Turning our back on children, shrugging our shoulders as we justify taking the easy way out.

Meanwhile, the body of a small child washes up lifeless on a shore, their potential never realized. That child could have changed the world.

They still can. Their life is not in vain.

We need to do the right thing.

I grew up believing that this country, my country, stood for something. As the leader of the free world, we were there to protect the world and those in it from evils. I grew up proud to be an American.

This country did not let the innocent die at the hands of the wicked. It didn’t sit back while woman and children suffered.

No, when push came to shove, we came with our boots strapped handing out some sweet fucking freedom, courtesy of the red, white and blue.

I want my country to be more than a military might. I want my country to have pride in doing the right thing, even when it might not be the easiest thing to do.

In the face of danger and fear, we do not wilt. Our moral compass is not swayed by the actions of those that would seek to hurt us.

Do not let terror win.

Beating ISIS will take more than a bombardment of airstrikes. This battle won’t be won with guns or violence. It will be one by showing them that we are not divided by anything but how we choose to treat people. We will show them, through our morally right actions, they cannot deter us from caring for those in need.

“Core to ISIS’s narrative is that the struggle between the West and Islam is fundamental: that the United States and Europe are, and forever will be, at war with Islam and thus all Muslims.” Source

Homs, Syria Yazan Homsy/ REUTERS
Homs, Syria Yazan Homsy/ REUTERS

 

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Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door. – The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus (In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.)

 

 

 

 

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November 8

Why I Stopped Responding to Comments

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My son tugs on my arm. I pull away from his little grasp, “Just a minute, Bubba”. I have to finish my post on Facebook about my dad feat of the day. He looks up at me, for what must be the billionth time, with the same sadness and disappointment filling his eyes as every other time I tell him just a minute to do something on my cell phone.

There was a time, when I first started my page and the subsequent blog, I was on top of everything. Comments, other blogs, all of it I read and responded to with due diligence. Lately, you might notice I don’t answer anything. I fell off the social media landscape.

The reason is simple. I stopped feeling like a genuinely good dad.

Punk Rock Papa is a space I can revel in the joys and mishaps of parenting and growing up in general. It has been my place to boast about my kids and things we have done. I got to be a real parent, with other real parents, talking about the day to day and the awesome journey that parenthood is. It was about being involved, both in my children’s lives and in the parenting community, giving my triumphs and failures a voice, along with other parent’s who valued honesty about the bad days just as much as boasts about the good days.

There is a balance, I am sure most other bloggers with families must have to find, where it is important you are spending enough time in the real world as you are online. Unfortunately, I had reached the point where I lost my balance. Social media was becoming a full time job. Messenger pinged, comments flowed in on my page, on my blog, all the while I stayed with face glued to screen while my sons were learning to just do stuff without me.

Looking at it, I was sitting there talking about how much of an involved dad I was, while being completely uninvolved. The only genuine thing I was doing? Being a pretty genuine piece of shit to my kids. Awhile back, after looking into my son’s eyes and seeing I wasn’t being the good parent I purported to be, I stopped pretty much all of it. I stopped responding to people online, privately or publicly. My blog promotion went way down, as did my traffic, while I took back my children’s time for them. I stepped back from the groups and the chats and commenting to focus more on my family I had been ignoring.

Yes, I still read comments. Occasionally, you might catch me in a lull in my house where I might even respond to them. Sure, it takes a good thirty seconds to respond to one comment.

Thirty seconds per blog comment. Five blog comments would be two and a half minutes. If four decide to respond? Another two minutes. A back and forth on my blog goes from thirty seconds to answer a comment to a half hour conversation.

That is just my blog, on my page I have over 3,500 followers (Who are all wonderful people. What brown spot on my nose?). I ask a question and get anywhere from twenty to sixty responses. Let’s say I only get twenty responses, that I only have to respond to, say, twice. At thirty seconds a response, we have twenty minutes I could have spent chasing my sons around and wrestling with them, filling my house with laughter and joy.

I would rather take the traffic hit on my page and blog (which I have, enormously actually. My views and reach have been cut in half. Now I am that person crying about their “stats”. Oh well.)  than make my son pull on my hand trying to play with me for twenty minutes before giving up on his old man and writing a fresh stanza to “Cats In The Cradle”.

So, while my numbers may not grow anymore, I can sit comfortably genuine in giving myself a pat on the back for being an alright dad today. I am sorry if I don’t get to anyone’s messages, we have a crazy kitchen dance party coming up that will just take up all my time. I am proud of my fellow parent (Ick, I identified with you) bloggers who are able to maintain there balance. This Punk Rock Papa just hasn’t been able to do it.

Besides, if I wasn’t busy with my kids making amazing memories, I wouldn’t have any stories to write and share with you. I thank everyone for their comments, even if I don’t respond to them- they are read, I just am not sacrificing my children’s time to play online.

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