Tag Archives: my kin

Rock The Vote

“My family and I saw your Dad with his campaign signs the other day,” one of my friends from school said to me one day.

And what a sight he must have been, I thought.

Embarrassment quickly flushed my face with a ruddy warmth.

“Oh my God,” I muttered. What else could I say?


My Dad spiraled down into a deep depression during his long unemployment. I remembered a time when I rushed to him when he got home from work asking him if he’d brought me anything. I loved office supplies and he would usually come through with some sort of fabulous-to-me gift, like a 4-color Bic pen or a regift of something one of his clients had given him.

I can understand better now the despair he must have felt to go from being the bread-winner and delighting his daughter with office trinkets every day to being unemployed. But Dad had let himself go, literally and figuratively, and at the time I only cared how it felt to me. Humiliating.

The unemployment rate was high, the job search was not fruitful. His resentment burned to a fiery anger. He started passing his time trying to cause trouble for those who had fired him, but that did not work out well.

Eventually he replaced these activities, as well as looking for work, with complaining about not having work and making our lives miserable. And the drinking, there was always the drinking.


Inexplicably, he became hopeful that life would improve…if only the incumbent were defeated in the upcoming election. He had bountiful free time to campaign. That poor, poor challenger…

Luckily, Dad’s favorite outfit matched his candidate’s campaign signs. This outfit also matched the color of my hot, flushed cheeks when my friend said she’d seen him.

You could not miss him.

He spent his days driving around the city with an enormous campaign sign mounted to the roof of our car. His campaign uniform was no different from the outfit he’d been wearing every day for God knows how long. He wore sweatpants, Converse sneakers, and a tee shirt that accentuated his beer belly so well that he probably looked like a tomato to my friend and her family.

Dad even created a campaign song for his candidate, which made me regret watching so much MTV in front of him. He changed the lyrics to the Cars “You Might Think,” which was a huge hit at the time.

You might think I’m loony, but all I want is (insert candidate’s name here).

To make this rhyme, Dad had to mispronounce the name. Dad sang this pretty much non-stop, whether out campaigning or at home. Even now, hearing this song makes me want to stab myself in the eardrums.

Annoying and embarrassing, but until my friend mentioned seeing Dad, I thought maybe I’d get through the election unscathed.

Fortunately, my friend wasn’t judging or teasing me. She thought my Dad was funny. All my friends did. When they came over, it was still early enough in the afternoon for the happy drunkenness, which they mistook (I hope) for simply happy.

There was never any doubt that the incumbent would crush Dad’s candidate, with or without Dad’s special brand of campaigning. At the time, I had trouble distinguishing whether these events were comedy or tragedy. Probably still a mixture of both, but at least I look back on it with laughter now.


This week’s RemembeRED prompt:

“Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word ‘red’ but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.”

I have never been a big fan of the color red, so I could only come up with two memories in which red played any significant role. Neither seemed worth writing about. But when I heard “You Might Think” Sunday night in the car for the first time in years, I took it as a sign.

Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay*

Sting sang to me through my headphones as my Mom drove our getaway car. The haunting sounds of the song “Fragile” perfectly matched the fresh wound of the argument replaying in my mind.

Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away, but something in our minds will always stay.”

I clutched my walkman and sunk into the seat, and tried to focus on Sting instead of my father’s rage, which still echoed, distorted and menacing.

On and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star…”

While Dad was not physically violent, the threat of violence always felt real. Anxiety weighed us down, more oppressive since my older brother left for school. Mom and I retreated each evening to her bedroom. Hiding there, we would eat takeout, watch TV, and pretend that the closed door protected us.

My prayers finally answered, Mom rented a house across town, closer to my school, further away from Dad. He wasn’t supposed to find out until the last possible second, but somehow he knew. He was blisteringly drunk, in a blind rage, and in possession of several serious weapons, but none of those things distinguished that night from many others. But now he was also armed with the news that we were planning to leave him.

How fragile we are…”

Mom said we needed to leave and hurried up the stairs to pack some things. I didn’t follow. Dad moved toward the staircase and I sat on the bottom step defiantly. I studied his face and worried we weren’t going anywhere. I blocked his path, partially to stall for time and partially because I believed I could calm him.

Perhaps this final act was meant, to clinch a lifetime’s argument…

Crying always made me feel weak, but my tears could quiet his rages. The tears dampened his fiery anger and he would slink off, still steaming about some perceived injustice, but knowing he’d gone too far. He’d made his baby girl cry. He was sorry, until next time.

So I looked up at him and managed to cry out “Why are you doing this?” before dissolving into tears. In response, he mocked me. It was chilling. I fled up the stairs and packed as much and as fast as I could. My head hurt and my heart ached while trying to decide what I could leave behind. I didn’t believe I would ever see anything I left behind again.

The drive to Gram’s house took less than five minutes, the soundtrack provided by “Fragile.” The song burned this night into my memory. Defeated, but safe for the moment, I sobbed as quietly as I could until I fell asleep in Mom’s childhood bed.

Mom insisted I go to school the next day even though the sight of my face in the mirror horrified me. The night of sobbing disfigured my eyelids and had nearly swollen them shut. I went to school but I wasn’t really there. My pulse quickened when I thought about what was supposed to happen at home, what might happen.

Indeed, my world transformed while I was at school. But the contrast between the past and walking into my new home after school was like stepping from black and white into the motion picture Oz in Technicolor. While I was away, my Mom made magic. She moved our lives to this new house. All of my things were safe, my room ready for me. My Mom was safe. Her friends were with her. Everyone was smiling. We felt lighter, we were free.

With this move, she rescued my soul and made all things possible.

This was 23 years ago and from the first day of our new life, the dark memories receded. But hearing “Fragile” still transports me to the night we had to flee my Dad. I feel the sting of my father’s mocking and the uncertainty about what the next day will bring.


*The title and italicized lines are from “Fragile” by Sting.

I planned on taking a little break from RemembeRED writing prompts so I could catch up on my considerable backlog of other post ideas. But this prompt resonated with me too much to let it go.

This week’s prompt: “Have you ever heard a song and suddenly you were swept back to a time in your life you had pushed to the back of your memory?…This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!”

I have been writing posts at least partially related to this prompt for several weeks. Earlier this year, I started an iPod shuffle challenge—listening to a complete shuffle of everything on my iPod without skipping any songs. Each week, I write about what I heard, including the random memories that certain songs evoke. The song “Fragile” came up in the shuffle several weeks ago and I wrote about both of the memories this song evokes for me here. This post expands on one of these memories.

Constructive criticism welcome, in particular I found it hard to show rather than tell. Perhaps because this is a critical piece of my life story, I am compelled to tell it.

When You Care Enough

Could it have been a coincidence that I found this purveyor of fine greeting cards right before my Mom turned 70? Probably, but what luck to find a card that gives voice to EXACTLY what I was thinking about this momentous occasion.

I’m extremely lucky to have a Mom who receives a card like this with good humor (and her sense of humor is probably the main reason she seems younger than she is). I remember quite vividly when she turned 40. I thought that was O-L-D. All her friends did too, so they gave her all kinds of “over the hill” novelty birthday crap. Now that I’m, ahem, a few years away from 40, neither 40 nor 70 seems quite so old.

I would love to use this card for every major birthday, but I don’t have the balls. For example, my father-in-law will not be receiving this card for his 75th birthday next month (at least not from me!). If Dave doesn’t end up reading my blog, I’ll be able to use this card next year when he turns 40. Fuck, he’ll be old.