Family Planning with Foster Care

As of Thursday we will be officially done with our foster care classes, 30 hours of discussion on discipline, loss, grief, strength, and needs. We have filled out every piece of paper known to man, and when finished with that stack of paper, we were handed new stacks to fill out. We filled out profiles of our family, discussing how we live our lives and who makes our decisions. Do we have any communicable diseases or a jail history? Our marriage license, my divorce papers, social security cards, driver’s license, health forms, FBI checks, and insurance forms have been turned in. However, as time consuming as the classes have been, the hard part is just beginning.

Sometime in the not-so-distant future, a social worker will come to our house to interview us and make sure our house is a safe and healthy environment. They will make sure that our smoke detectors work and check to make sure that medication is under lock and key. We will sit down to talk and I will inwardly fret that we have framed horror movie posters in our living room. While we have pleasant conversation, I will fight the desire to blurt out, “Please know that I don’t approve of murder and the wearing of a mask made from human skin. We just really like Rob Zombie.” On my fireplace is a painting done by Selena that says, “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.” I will quickly explain that it is the opening line from a book that I found to be beautiful and I am not a knife enthusiast. Still, the home visit isn’t the hardest part.

Once our paperwork is stamped with a big red approved, we wait for a phone call. At some point a child will need a family and they will call us to see if we should be that family. On what I can only assume is the worst day of that child’s life, we will meet. They may be scared, angry, or confused, and it will be our jobs to put them at ease. To give them structure and support. Hopefully we will bond and make a difference in a child’s life. Perhaps the child will need a forever family and we can be that for them. But in the here and now, all we can do is wait.

Carvell and I talk about our “faux baby” sometimes. We wonder if it will be a boy or a girl. After a lifetime of female children we have a difficult time imagining life with a boy. We wonder if they will be a different race than us and make plans to be mindful of cultural differences. We talk about football season and how different it will be with me trying to care for another person in the stands. That may seem like a silly thing to wonder about, but football consumes us from August to December. We eagerly anticipate adding to our family while also fearing other aspects of foster care. How do you parent another person’s child while also absorbing them into your family? We know there will be visits with the birth parents and then the emotional fallout from those visits. We are mindful of court dates that may not go in the way that we think is best for the child. We are unable to plan for our life with a new child because we know nothing about them, not their sex, age, interest, motivations, needs, or wants. Our “faux baby” is a concept that is waiting to become a reality. When you are expecting a child through pregnancy you have nine or so months to plan and dream, but when you want to adopt through foster care you can only wait until the moment you receive your first phone call. Still, I don’t believe this will be the hardest part.

My concern is I don’t know what will be the hardest part. Will it be the dealing with a system that is heavy with problems? Will it be the time, energy, and changes to our family structure? Will it be the emotional and physical issues that can come from abuse or neglect? There are more questions than answers and I am someone who likes answers. I can worry an issue until it is a twisted knot, loops turning in on each other until it is a maze that cannot be undone. While I struggle and worry about what happens next there are also things that I know for sure: In Kentucky there are approximately 6,800 children in the foster care system and my family can help at least one of those children.

 

 

That Time My Kid Was Kind of an Ass

As a parent I have always felt like my one job is making sure that my kids aren’t assholes. Overall, I am feeling pretty good about my success rate. The oldest two are neither racist nor homophobic. They are witty and have opinions. They work, travel, and have varied interests. I know that Kiaya would never walk down the mall corridor with her hand in someone else’s back pocket.  I don’t think that Selena would do that, but I do think she may have at least once made out behind a mall Pro Active machine. Selena has a larger sense of whimsy than her older sister. The one I worry about is Saidee. She is the youngest, only six as of this post, and she is our princess. She is sweet and loving. She weighs a lot and still wants to be carried to bed every night. She is our third daughter; she is both the youngest child and an only child, due to the large age differences. She also had an invisible vampire friend named Spike.

The girls and I are TV people. We love it and many of our conversations revolve around the lives of fictional people. We talk about them, dissect their intent, worry about them, and question their decision making. Here are examples of text messages I receive:

“What is Meredith going to do without Christine? Christine is her person, Momma.”

“If Jesse dies I don’t know what I will do. They won’t kill Jesse, will they?”

“I have really thought about it and I think I could be Jax’s old lady.”

“I need you to make sure Supernatural and The Walking Dead are Tivoing.”

These messages are not unusual; they happen at least twice a week. One of our biggest bonding experiences is a love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I watched the show when it was originally on and I may or may not have cried once when I missed it. On a list of 100 things I wanted in a mate, number one was someone who will shut-up while I watch Buffy. They don’t have to like it, but they do need to be silent. Kiaya was the first to jump on my Buffy bandwagon and later Selena. It was Kiaya who introduced Saidee. They would spend long hours cuddled up together watching on the portable DVD player and later the laptop. The questionable parenting skill part comes into play when I bring up that Saidee was three when this practice started.

Saidee was never scared of the violence, she was oblivious to the sex, and didn’t get the humor. What she did get was the knowledge that if something went wrong you could blame Spike. Spike was a few hundred years old vampire who looked like Billy Idol. Actually Billy stole his look from Spike. He was funny, crafty, evil (but with a heart of gold), and the best part was he wasn’t all whiney and put upon like Angel. The three year old was pretty quick with blaming everything she did wrong on that blonde vampire. Some of his crimes included: coloring on the walls, coloring on shoes, throwing toys, shredding paper, and trashing bedrooms. Spike was a busy invisible friend/petty criminal.

To Saidee, Selena’s room is a fascinating land of things she isn’t allowed to touch. It is a toddler Vatican, filled with figurines, paintings, art supplies, and treasured baby dolls from Selena’s youth. Much of Spike’s atrocities took place in Selena’s room. We once found a strip of blue fabric on the floor. When I asked Saidee what it was she shrugged her toddler shoulders and said she didn’t know. When we found a second strip we began to investigate and noticed that “someone” had taken scissors and cut up the bottom half of Selena’s sheets.

“Saidee why did you cut up the sheets?”

“I didn’t.”

“Saidee, it was you, you are the only other person in the house.”

“I didn’t do it.”

“Saidee, really.”

“It was Spike.”

At this point we have tears.

“Saidee it wasn’t Spike it was you. Please, admit it.”

“It was Spike. Or it was my toes.”

I put a high premium on creativity; but come on, this kid and her vamp were just being assholes. Kiaya and Selena were busy when they were little, but their busy was nothing compared to the busy that Saidee and Spike laid down. I refuse to blame the 15 year age difference. I am still young and spry, right?

One night I had been in the back of the house and had lost track of the toddler. Only a few minutes had passed when I started walking towards her bedroom. With each step I took I heard a small voice.

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

“Spike did it.”

With each step I took her voice became louder and more insistent. It held a panicky waiver.

“SPIKE DID IT!”

I found her covered in lipstick. Most of her face was covered in a lovely Revlon wine color. It was on her hands, the wall, and the mirror. She cried hot tears and swore that this was all the work of that blonde vampire. Carvell had come running and we were unable to stop laughing.

“God, Heather, that vampire is a fucking asshole,” he laughed.

Eventually Saidee stopped blaming Spike. We tried to convince her that he had moved, that he had packed his bags, blacked out his windows, and drove off in his DeSoto. She really just outgrew him and no longer needed someone to blame her crimes on. Oddly, I miss him sometimes or more likely I miss the three-year-old she was.

One of Spike's crimes, of course.

One of Spike’s crimes, of course.saidee spike 1

 

Why I Believe Dolly Parton to Be the Most Universally Beloved Person in the World

In the 6th grade we had to pick a song to sing in front of our music class. There I stood in my awkward adolescence. My stomach was round and my breasts were insubstantial. My hair was a dirty blonde Prince Valiant. My stomach was in knots and there is a high likelihood that I had a fever blister. In my Sears “Pretty Plus” outfit, I opened my mouth and started to sing.

“Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in between
How can we be wrong
Sail away with me
To another world
And we rely on each other, ah-ha
From one lover to another, ah-ha”

This song was at that time the most beautiful and heartfelt thing I had ever heard. Kenny and Dolly were in love. You could tell by the emotion in their voices. These two people couldn’t stand to be apart. I assumed they were married and lived in a big Nashville mansion with mirrored furniture. Because, how could I have assumed otherwise?

Every time I saw Dolly with her tall blonde wigs, huge breasts, and tiny waist on the big screen I felt sure she was in a relationship with her leading man. She was too beautiful, too sweet, and too sexual for each of those men to not fall in love with her. Her impish giggle and business sense make for a powerful aphrodisiac. Now, I know that she is married and has been since the beginning of recorded time and it seems like Carl knows she is both powerful and beautiful too as Dolly once said, “He (Carl) says he’d think less of any man who didn’t fall in love with me. But he really respects what I do and would hate to stand in the way of that. He always makes me feel pretty, even when I’m not.” So, what I am seeing is a smart, powerful, talented, beautiful, sexual, and loving woman.

While Islands in the Stream is what introduced me to Dolly, what sealed my love is hearing Jolene for the first time. Jolene is for me a Nick Hornby moment. When I sing Jolene I absolutely must close my eyes; I must be fully engaged in the moment when I hear this song. If it comes on while I’m driving I have to pull over. Jolene is just that strong.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can
Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene”

That is some painful shit right there. Who hasn’t felt that about a relationship they were in? I know I have. That terrible ache of feeling that you aren’t enough compared to someone else. For some reason I do not fully understand (deep seeded emotional shenanigans, maybe?), I was under the impression that Jolene was a sister of Dolly’s. Think about that. Knowing you are losing your man to your beautiful sister ups the pain level to an eleven.

I have yet to meet someone who does not have a guttural reaction to hearing Jolene, and it doesn’t matter who is singing it either:

Olivia Newton John = heartbreaking

The White Stripes = heartbreaking + haunting

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes = heartbreaking + fast

Miley Cyrus = heartbreaking

Fiona Apple = heartbreaking

The list could go on forever, because everyone knows that this song is as beautiful and heartfelt as it comes. To put the power of Dolly’s writing in perspective I Will Always Love You has been a number one hit not once but three times. Twice with Dolly and once with Whitney Houston who helped it to be an earworm for the entire year of 1993. But, back to her business tactics for a second, Dolly was so savvy that she owns the publishing and copyrights on all of her songs. When Whitney Houston did that song for The Bodyguard soundtrack Dolly received all the writing and publishing royalties. She said, “When Whitney did it, I got all the money for the publishing and for the writing, and I bought a lot of cheap wigs.” I enjoy the quip, but with a booming theme park, a water park, The Dollywood Foundation, The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and various other business ventures, I am pretty sure the money didn’t just fund her wig collection.

Dolly is at heart a writer, business woman, and a philanthropist. She takes her perceived stereotypes and breaks them up. You can’t help but love her.

So, out of curiosity, what are your favorite Dolly Parton stories?

Lord, don’t even get me started on my love of 9 to 5 and Straight Talk.

A Hooker with a Heart of Gold

When I was in fifth and sixth grade I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. To be more specific I wanted to be a payload specialist. I studied the movie Space Camp backwards and forwards. I memorized movie lines and could discuss rocket boosters. On family trips to Florida I most looked forward to visiting Cape Canaveral. When the Challenger exploded I mourned for the lost life and the space program. It was my mother who finally brought me back to earth, “Heather, not everyone is meant for college.”

You may be thinking that was mean, but I promise you it wasn’t. I was a terrible student. I never did homework and my ability to do basic math is laughable. What my Mom was trying to say was, “we all can’t be doctors.” She was a logical woman. If everyone had the ability to be a president, CEO, lawyer, doctor, scientist, or astronaut, there would be no mechanics, receptionists, teachers, actors, writers, or cashiers. Everyone is not destined for greatness. It may seem mean, but sometimes the truth is harsh. I dropped my dream of working for NASA, but I still had other dreams.

Molly Ringwald needed an understudy and I was up for the part. I would have been the kind of understudy found in that cinematic gem Showgirls. Poor Molly would have slipped on a rosette that had fallen from one of her kicky vests and I would have gracefully accepted the lead in For Keeps. I loved “Moll” (it’s my private nickname for her) in every movie she did. In Sixteen Candles I cheered for her when she sees Jake after the wedding. In Pretty in Pink I cringed when she created the world’s ugliest dress. In The Breakfast Club she ate sushi. I was pretty sure that I would like sushi someday. As you can clearly see I was obviously meant to be Molly Ringwald. After a while it seemed clear that Molly had her career under control and I moved on to my next career, artist.

My life as an artist peeked when I received an art award in the third grade. That was it. My artistic talent never matured past that. This was a short-lived phase because I looked dumb in a beret. I did spend ten years working as a graphic artist, but I was kind of terrible at it. My design was rarely creative and I once listed my own phone number as the ISBN number. I am self aware enough to recognize when it is time to drop a dream. It was time to forget about a life in Paris.

The biggest and most exciting thing that happened to me up until age 16 was that my best friend, Kristi, had movie channels. These movie channels helped to form my next great career idea: hooker with a heart of gold. I was fascinated by the movie Angel. It is a sweet story of a fifteen year old girl, who is best in her class by day and a teen prostitute at night. The absolute best part of my hooker obsession was that Angel was a three-part series. Three parts! Someone created three full screenplays on this one character, and I have written one line of a novel. It seems so wrong. The hooker with a heart of gold is one of my favorite Hollywood themes. If Ricky Business is on then you will find my ass planted on the couch. If Pretty Woman is on then no laundry will be folded. If I catch the opening scenes of True Romance you will hear me sigh and say, “I wish someone would kill my pimp for me.” My hooker obsession was at an all time high when I tried to convince a boy at Kingsway Skateland that I was a prostitute at night. Because nothing screams teenage whore like a pair of over-sized glasses, a perm, and a white Swatch watch. After a while “selling my body to the night” seemed like a bad career choice and I went with my true love, writing.

I have been many things in my 38 years. Mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, special education assistant, graphic artist, administrative assistant, and a case worker in a child support office. However, the one thing that was a constant through all of the things that I have been was that I like to write. I like to tell stories. The other day I had a moment of clarity. Every week I sit in front of a computer and I type. I come up with a thought that I want to discuss and then I discuss it. I put words on a screen and then I put it out there for people to read. Sometimes I get great feedback. Other times I hear almost nothing back, but guess what? I am writing. Acclaim and greatness may never come my way, but still I write. I am a writer and I am more than a little proud of myself.

The Occasional Failure: My Life as a Parent

I need to get something off my chest. Sometimes I couldn’t give a damn about the newest art project Saidee brings me. Sure, I love the sweet attempts at spelling. Sure, I love the script that is slanted slightly upwards. But, damn how many pictures of hearts, peace signs, and flowers does one mom need? My daughter is a paper hoarder. Her room is a disaster and filled with pages of computer paper, construction paper, print outs, and coloring books. Each page has been deemed a masterpiece by her, and we cannot get rid of it.

I worry that this makes me a horrible parent and instead of tiger mom I may be sloth mom. My children are bright and articulate and truly good humans. They display problem-solving skills and humility. Overall, I have been an okay parent, but I am starting to get older and perhaps a little weary. As Saidee climbs out of the car each morning she makes an open heart symbol with her hands and says, “This means love, Momma.” I reply, “I know baby, and I love you too.” My question is who is the asshole that taught her the open heart thing? I know I didn’t teach it to her, but someone did, and that person will need to raise this child if I find Instagram pictures of her making duck face and doing the heart thing.

Every morning after the heart symbol she climbs out of the van, her Hello Kitty backpack on her shoulders. A line of cars sits patiently behind us as empty Diet Coke bottles and Egg McMuffin wrappers blow from the open van door. I understand that what I am going to say is a gross exaggeration, a hyperbole if you will, but the child climbs out of the van as if I drive a monster truck. I smile and wish her a good day all the while thinking, “Damn, just get out of the van.”

I love being a parent. I truly do. It is just that I am tired. All day, every day I make decisions about people’s lives. Some of these are clients and some are family. I try to keep a house clean enough that a social service isn’t beating down my door. I try to make sure everyone has clean underwear for the next day. I try to make sure everyone is fed. I try to be a good employee, friend, mother, daughter, wife, and sister. But sometimes I just want to yell, “NO! I WILL NOT GET YOU A DRINK. NO! I WILL NOT PUT ON PBSKIDS.COM. NO! I WILL NOT MAKE YOU SOMETHING ELSE TO EAT.” I just want to sit here and watch the last 20 minutes of Veronica Mars in peace. Sometimes I just want to be alone, if even for 20 minutes.

On Saturdays, Saidee stands next to my bed till I wake up. She wakes me up with a sheer force of will.

“Momma, I’m hungry.”

“Okay, eat a Pop tart.”

“You bought the weird ones.”

“Okay, I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

“Momma, I’m thirsty.”

“Drink water.”

“I want Diet Diet Mew Mew.”

“Saidee you can’t have Diet Mountain Dew for breakfast.”

“Why?”

“Cause I said so.”

“Why?”

“Baby, I’ll be up in a minute.”

“Will you put on baby shows for me?”

This will continue until her bedtime.  As a parent I want to promise Saidee that I will not let her wear pants with words across the ass. I promise to watch her next dance routine. I promise to make up and sing silly songs. I promise to let her eat a tub of Cool Whip with her finger. I promise to let her be a kid. I promise to be a perfectly imperfect parent, but sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I want to yell, “Just go the eff to sleep.” Super mom I am not.

The Sordid Life of Barbie and Ken

My Barbie dolls lived a sexually charged and politically incorrect life. These dolls were loose in the moral department. They had sex, affairs, and a promiscuous teenage sister named Amber (Skipper) who wore no underpants and snuck out of the bedroom window and into new wave concerts. My Barbie dolls lived a life of scandal that would only have been shown on Network TV after 9 pm. Perhaps they could have rivaled Dallas for ratings.

I would build elaborate houses in the living room with doll furniture that Santa would bring me: hard plastic couches, always in pink with tiny soft pink pillows; a dining room set with a table that had two different settings, one of which was a shiny mirror that was only for formal meals. The furniture that I didn’t have was created from household items. When I needed a coffee table, I could create one using beef bouillon cubes. The gold cubes were perfect when stacked, and flashy enough to appeal to Barbie’s ascetic. Her bed, originally a shoe box, was filled with paper towels and toilet paper to make it extra plush. I finally received a real Barbie bed with a pink canopy and covers; in that bed Barbie and Ken had sex, always in the missionary position.

In the fourth grade we moved to Farley and my Barbie became part of a blended family with another girl’s Barbie family. They vacationed together, swimming in an above- ground pool, the kitchen floor getting wet as we pretended that they were diving from a high dive. The water sloshed over the sides as my doll flailed and pretended to drown. The Ken doll from the other family saved her. Amber would try to wear Barbie’s clothes. The clothes were much too adult and ill fitting, but Amber wanted to be older and there was no stopping her. The doll families continued to vacation together until my Ken doll had an affair with the neighbor Barbie. They would meet in undisclosed locations to sneak time together. I don’t remember how long the affair lasted, but I do remember the aftermath. Barbie ran Ken over with the powder puff pink jeep. I ripped off one of his legs and wrapped toilet paper and band aides around him. Ken was now an amputee and would never cheat again. From that point forward I would throw Ken to the side and say he was “at work.” He had betrayed his Barbie family and was no longer important.

I would play with these dolls for hours, inventing story lines and make believe worlds. The story lines and sets were elaborate. Amber’s favorite band was The Stripes and they were new wave. I, to this day, have no idea what “new wave” is or was. I only know that it sounded like something someone cooler than me would listen to. New wave was to Skipper as Elvis Costello is to me. Looking back I am fascinated with the way I played and created these worlds. My family was functional, but the world of Barbie was anything but. Amber longed to be older just like I did. Barbie adopted Cabbage Patch Kid action figures and I wanted to adopt someday too. Their lives were complicated but glamorous. In my mind these stories needed to be told and this was a safe way to tell them. As I became older I didn’t have the safety of Barbie to tell my stories through and I became a middle school liar. My lies were woven into intricate patterns that would rival any tapestry.

Now I sneak and watch Saidee play dolls and I know that the stories are just as torrid. More than once I have caught naked dolls next to each other and I say, “I know what is happening here.” Only to get a reply in a slightly panicked voice, “They are just laying there.” She is using her imagination and I am deeply happy that a five year old with a Kindle Fire, access to an Ipad, Direct TV, and a vast DVD collection still plays dolls and creates make believe worlds.

As I write this, I have a story that I want to tell. A story about a girl: the girl is crippled by self doubt and anxiety and she scratches words onto her arms with her hangnails. She never does any permanent damage, just scratching enough for the slow sizzle of heat to ease her mind a little. The girl goes through her daily life dreaming of big adventure. She holds her car key tight in her hand, ready to take off and live the life she wants. The story is there and I want to tell it. I just wish the story telling was as easy as it was when I played Barbie in the fourth grade.

The Casualness of Family

I have written a great deal about my Mom and what she meant to our family. She was a good and kind woman who loved us strongly and boldly. She touched many lives and is greatly missed, but there was always someone standing beside her and that is my Dad. He is a man who loves my sister and I a great deal. He also loves his grandkids with the same ferocity that Mom always showed.

I was never a Daddy’s girl that title went to Kara without a doubt. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. If Dad went to get wood for the stove then Kara followed behind. If Dad took out the garbage then Kara was no more than three paces behind. She was his shadow, following behind him as he did the simplest of tasks. He coached her sporting teams and helped her practice batting and catching. While, I never was one for sports or the outdoors he drove me to the skating rink and took me to friend’s houses. Kristi and I would jam ourselves into his beige pickup truck and he would drop us off at the mall on a Friday night, and then at 9:30 he would be waiting at the front to pick us back up. Never did Dad make us feel like he didn’t have enough time for us. Never did we feel like we weren’t his first priority.

As each of us become parents we silently think about the way we were raised and what we want to do that is different or the same as our parents. I know that my Dad did that too. He, like many, made a conscious effort to not be like his father. He was there every day. He worked hard to provide for his family. He had an amazing work ethic, working when sick or hurt. “Make hay when the sun is shining,” is the adage that my Mom always used. He loved Mom and was not afraid to show it. Never, not one time, in my life have I ever wondered, if he thought Mom was beautiful. It was always obvious to anyone that he thought she was radiant. He set out to be a good husband and father and did a damn fine job of it if you ask me.

 If I close my eyes and picture Dad I think of our house on Herman Avenue. I see him sitting on the bed with his brown leather bible in front of him. He is propped up with a nasty pale blue backrest that Mom was desperate to throw away. This was the norm on a Saturday night. Dad working on his Sunday lesson and Mom coming home from work with a to-go box filled with fried fish and French fries. My mom would sit on her side of the bed and pull out a wad of one dollar bills from waitressing. Kara, Dad, and I would sit on the bed and pick through the box of fish while Mom told us about her night. It was the casualness of family that I remember so fondly.

Once I cut the knee out of a pair of jeans. Guess jeans, which in the late eighties was like ripping a hole in a brick of gold. I wanted to look like the girls in Poison videos on MTV. I was never going to be thin, buxom, and have hair that resembled a lion’s mane, so I decided that the least I could do is have the knees of one of those girls. In my defense the jeans already had a small hole in the knee, but that ended up being a moot point. I took a pair of scissors from Mom’s sewing box and started to cut on each side of the small hole. The line was as straight as a scalpel incision and in no way resembled a hole that would have been created by falling on the front walk. I cut, and little by little, the small tear took over the whole knee. When Dad returned home at precisely 5:17 like he did every night I started to spin a tale about how I had fallen (which was true) and ripped a hole into the knee of my jeans (kind of a half truth). That night my father said to me the two words that I dreaded the most, “Un-cool, Heather.”

I have no idea what happens after, “Un-cool, Heather,” is uttered. I assume that building fall and the sun is covered by a thick black fog. Birds stop chirping and the world is silent. Hearing, “Un-cool, Heather,” is a sign that my father is so angry that he is sitting on his hands in an attempt to stop from committing a most heinous crime. That night that I cut my jeans Dad put me in the car and drove me to Kingsway Skateland. He was literally so angry at me that I could not be in his sight. I have done some things in my life that deserved a little wrath. I cuss like a sailor. I have two illegitimate children. I have tattooed myself. I have pierced myself. I will talk endlessly and with little shame about my sexual escapades, but I have never seen him as angry as the night that I decimated my Guess Jeans. Luckily I escaped with little more than a lesson learned and a story that will live in Young family infamy.

Our family has changed forever and Dad’s place in the family is forever altered. I will never forget the sound of Dad’s voice when he made the phone call that Mom had died. I will never forget how much we laughed and cried while planning her funeral. The love of his life was gone and now he had to bury her. I cannot understand the pain he must have felt when he had to turn his back and walk away from the room she died in. What I do know is that I am thankful every day that this man showed me what love is. He showed me in a sometimes imperfect ways what a man should be: kind, loving, strong, funny, flawed, and a staunch defender of Guess Jeans.

I love you Dad.