A Letter from a Little Brother.

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My brother Jay and I. 1967/ Photo by KidZond.

 

I have no shame. This blog today is my birthday gift to my Brother Jay.

Just so you know.

Figured it was best to be honest.

However, I write about family relationships mostly. And what could be more family than siblings relationships?

I have three siblings, fairly spread apart in ages. Jay is my closest sibling in age, 7 years older than me. Then my brother Gary who is 13 years older and my sister Karen who is 16 years older. Till I was 11, Jay had been a constant figure in my life. Not always for the better I should say. Being the bratty younger brother was a special talent I cultivated when I was little.

It took me years to get to know Jay, many years actually. As kids our favorite pastime was taunting each other. I would always pull the ‘Mom Card’ and rat him out, which you know, probably wasn’t the best thing to do. He’d find ways to get me back.

It’s funny, but back then the taunting, teasing, being mean to each other was so dramatic and a tad terrifying at times to me. Now? That time in my life are some of my best, definitely  funniest, memories.

Although we didn’t know it at the time, being the youngest two we had a lot in common. Our childhood was at a bad time for our Dad. He was in the manufacturing industry, making screws, nuts, bolts. That industry took a dive in the early ’70’s. So he went from job to job. We, being the youngest, and still at home, moved along with our parents. I had the luck of being 7 years younger. I could make friends easier. But when you are under 10 years of age, back in the 1970’s, all you had to do to make friends is hold up a football.

During a phone conversation, we counted how many different schools we had gone to. Jay had been to 8 different schools, I had been to 7. Jay was always the new kid in High School. Sometimes twice in one school year. This instability in our lives wasn’t good for us, it isn’t good for anyone actually. Adjusting to such instability was harder on Jay than it was on me. I didn’t understand it back then, only when I was older did I get it.

When Jay was 18 he joined the army, I was living in Mexico at the time with our parents. He wasn’t allowed to come to Mexico. A fight between our father and him. I don’t know the full details. Yet that parting was when I was only 11 years old. So I had known my brother as a child, not as an adult.

Years went by, and Jay came to back to the midwest to live for a while. We actually got to know each other as adults. It was a little odd at first, I think for both of us, I know it was for me. However I think we both aged well, and for the first time, really enjoyed each others company.

Back then when he first moved back (it would only last about a year before he moved back West) we could talk to one another, as adults. We moved on from being siblings to being friends. I guess that is the best thing I can say about my brother. I would pick him as my friend even if he wasn’t my brother. Lucky for me, I can have both.

Now, we talk fairly often. Easily once a month, sometimes more. Unfortunately we live thousands of miles apart. He lives on the West Coast, I live in the Midwest. So visits are not simple. Whereas his kids are grown, I still have a young family. Not easy for me to just jump on a plane for a weekend getaway visit.

Time and distance can be cruel when it comes to love ones. I have entertained the thought of moving closer to my West Coast family, our sister lives out there too. Yet my roots are here in the Midwest. As are my wife’s. His are west of the Rockies, where he lives with his wife Leslee and their cats.

We did get together last year. It was a fun time, and that week will live with me till the day I die. Especially one night we talked and drank, talking about Everything.

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From Left to Right. Karen (My Sister) Leslee (My Sister-in-Law) Some dude whose birthday is today. / Photo by The Annoying Baby of the Family.

 

When I think about relationships, family, friends, and even co-workers. I look very fondly upon my relationship with my Big Brother Jay. He’s one of those people who fall into the Real category. If you ask his advice, he’ll give you it, straight forward, no-nonsense type of advice. He will state his opinion if he needs to, remain silent when he thinks he should. We don’t always agree on everything, but we both are okay with having different opinions. If you think on it, that’s kind of rare in siblings. People in general for that matter.

Over the years I have found a deeper appreciation for our relationship. His wit and humor that reminds me so much of our fathers (without the bite to it). His complains about his receding hairline…I just shake my bald head at him. His love of cooking, which he has perfected to an art form. His love and respect for our sister, who at very low times in his life, was his rock. And his love and appreciation for his wife Leslee. A woman, who upon after our mother met her, said to him bluntly “She’s a nice girl, don’t screw this up”.

We are also in the same business, Trucking, so it nice to get advice on matters from someone who has your back. Knows the trade and can give you pointers.

What I wish most for my brother is for him to know he’s a great guy. Not prefect, not even close. It is his imperfections that make him perfect. Life has beaten the crap out of him at times, yet he keeps going. He does what makes him happy, and keeps it real.

Life isn’t easy, nor is it close to being fair. We all have regrets, we all wish things would have been different. Yet those things, those choices we make, shape us into the person we are. Many I know would have given up if they went though half the things my brother Jay has gone though. I doubt I could have been strong enough.

I told my oldest daughter Jenelle what my father’s thoughts on my brother Jay were. That my father said “Jay alway took the harder path, even though the easy path laid before him”. I disagree with my father’s assessment, yet my daughters reply was most eloquent.

“The harder path is more interesting.”

 

 

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I should just be an Author.

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Part of my HUGE pile of stories and plotlines. / Photo by KidZond.

 

“You should just become an Author.” My 7-year-old son said to me today. I was taking him to school, and we were discussing my new job and my new hours.

I told him that I took my new job because it’s days, and it also gives me more home time. The ‘price’ I pay for this is working Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Long hours, yet the free time, and being home with the kids to see them off to school and pick them up is worth it.

Then I added, “And I can write more, you know, become a famous author and we can travel the world. You know, so I could see new places and meet new people for my stories.” That’s when Nick had the simplest of solution. Just become an author.

If it was that easy.

I have been writing seriously for the last 10 years. Working on plots, styles, narrative methods, dialog, you name it. It’s been a fun journey. Yet the serious part always seems to elude me. I’ve submitted, been rejected, didn’t take it personally. I’ve read hundreds of articles on how to be a better writer, thousands of inspirations memes and quotes, listened to famous authors opine upon their craft and still…yeah.

Over time I have come to the conclusion I write like a sculpture. How so? Easy. If you have ever sculpted in clay (which I have) or know of the process, it’s a little weird. You start with a hunk of clay and pull parts away. Molding those parts to become the basis of your work. You will add this, take that, look at that small piece off to the side and maybe put it on, like it and keep it on, or hate it and remove it. In the end, you will have a round pile of ‘useless’ clay that will become another project. And hopefully you will have a finished piece. Or cover it in plastic to get back to later.

But it is that round pile of useless clay that may spark a better sculpture. One that you will really love. Sometimes, the small pieces become larger works.

Either way, you become attached to your sculpture. Even if after it is done, and you put it on a shelf, you will one day go back to it and smile. Thinking to yourself  “Wow, that sucked, but was fun” or “I should rework that piece, maybe paint it, or add this or that.” You rarely toss it in the trash. Because, well, you made it. It’s got a whole bunch of you in it.

When it comes to writing, advice is always nice. Honest opinions better. Yet I have found that the best advice is my own.

I can’t write for money. It would be nice, just to sit back, watch my works sell at an insane rate and have to hire a financial advisor to help me with my oodles of royalties. But I’m not that kind of writer. I tried that on a few stories, geared them for commercial success, but they didn’t have any heart.

It took a while for me to realise that I have to write for myself, and hope what I, like others, will too. That is a gamble, a big one. Yet if the story is going to go anywhere, I have to love it first before anyone else will.

Not good enough.

Like all writers, I suffer from self-doubt. That of course is what is holding me back. Well that and a little ‘Dad Issues’.

My father was a voracious reader, as was my mother. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t see a book in one of their hands. My mother was such an avid reader that she would get a quarter way into a book and put it down. When I asked her why, she told she had read it before. Dad was mostly into histories and biography’s. Thick tomes that he would stay up to the wee hours of the night reading and smoking his Mores cigarettes, a pall of smoke above his side of the couch, as he quietly turned the pages.

Yet my father was one of those people who belittled the achievements of others. If you had a great idea, my father had either thought of it, or told you why it wouldn’t work. It was this odd ‘Not good enough’ attitude that I believe has seeped into my brain and stops me from completing my books.

Even those novels and short stories I have finish, sit. Put into file cabinets or xerox boxes waiting for me to take them back up again and breathe life into them.

Yet my father’s ghost haunts me. Wandering through my mind to give me an excuse not to finish any of my works. I’ve cheated his ghost several times, yet those submissions fall under the umbrella of commercial works, going for that mythical Financial Advisor, just to have them tell me, that I may want to keep my day job.

“You know, Dad was pretty hard on you.” My brother Jay has told me often. He was right, dad was hard on me. I’m not certain why.

I find myself wanting to feed my father’s ghost. Find reasons to despise my own works. Even when I have finally convinced myself that I need to write for Me first, Readers second, his “No one would read that.” pops into my head. And I put my project aside.

Over the years I have conquered many of my fears, psychoanalyzed myself to the point I know where my arachnophobia, relationship problems, brussel sprouts hatred and fear of white rabbits with black eyes all come from. Oh, and Japanese Silky Chickens, the Hens, they give me the creeps.

I get myself, for the most part. Always something new to learn about yourself, yet for the most part? Yeah, I get me.

Except for my father’s ghost. That is still with me, and I still struggle to conquer that fear. That I will never be Good Enough, no matter how hard I try.

It is a totally irrational fear, one that should not have a hold on me. And maybe, from the proverbial mouth of babes, I should just be an Author.

 

Even if my works aren’t good enough.

The future for Authors…

…or where my first book is destined to end up.

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Books for Sale at the local Goodwill Store. / Photo by KidZond.

If you haven’t noticed, I like to write. Not just blogs about my family, but fiction. I tend to stick with the whole Fantasy / Science Fiction genre. I just find this realm my cup of tea. Sort of suits my creative personality.

Now even though I write, I rarely submit my writings. Because, well, it sucks. Maybe…not sure…but I am pretty sure it does.

But I want to write. It makes me happy and I have a passion for it. Writing for me is fun, entertainment, and well maybe, just maybe, I can make a few bucks off it all.

Maybe.

Then on a shopping expedition to Goodwill I found the used book section, and was humbled a bit. For several reason, let me explain.

There were a fair number of books on the shelves. Some of the books made sense that they found their way to the resale shelves. Children’s books, kids grow up, other Parents may want them. Cook books, because cooking is always a fad. Cajun cook books may have been all the rage 5 years ago, but now? Not so much.

Romance novels, well come on. Even their authors expect them to hit the resale shelves. Hope so I would think. People buy one for a buck, then buy their latest novel for $14.95. Great for marketing.

Other authors, many who have passed on to that great typewriter in the sky, well their books find their way to the resale shelf.

Others? They make you think. A story may be behind it. Books about becoming a new parent, what to expect when you are pregnant….

…Breast Cancer for Dummies.

I looked long and hard at that book. Did they survive? or did some love one sadly pack the book with other belongs to give to Goodwill? I wonder.

Books can tell a story about a person.

Unlike others who have that nosey habit of looking into your medicine cabinet, I will look at your bookshelf. What you read tells me a lot about you.

Romance lover? Then you probably are a hopeless romantic. Horror lover? Well, you like to be surprised and scared. You probably love rollercoasters and haunted houses. Science Fiction lover? Then you like to think of What If? and love NASA with a passion. Spy Novel lover? You always think someone is keeping secrets, you love cat and mouse games. Crime novels lover? You are always looking for the reason why behind everything, noting clues when something is amiss. Fantasy lover? You like to look at the magic in the world, see the connections that others miss.

Of course these are generalizations. You read to escape. To find a little bit of entertainment in-between the pages of that book in your hands. You want to forget about your problems and worry about the Main Characters problems.

And of course, when you are done exploring those other worlds, and those characters become fond memories just collecting dust on your bookshelf, or taking up room in a box in the basement. You end up giving up on them, shipping them out for others to find and enjoy. For a new generation of reader to find that escape you so loved.

For some, this bequeathing to new readers, may happen soon after you read the book, or years down the line. Then again, if you are like me, it will happen when you can no longer read the books, because, of course, the dead can’t read.

Yet eventually, one day, those books you read will end up on a shelf (if the book is lucky to survive that long) and will be sold for a pittance of what it original value was. Many may pass it by, others may pick it up and look to see if it peaks their interest. Some will smile at the book because they have already read it. Still, it will sit.

As a would-be author, this is my future. My books…you know, when I get around to writing them…will end up on a shelf one day.

I can take a little satisfaction that the library of congress may keep a copy. You know, if I publish.

 

Then of course, there is this…

 

Although I desire to be a writer, and have written many short stories and a few novels, they all sit in old xerox boxes and filing cabinets in my basement. Dozens upon dozens of storylines and plots waiting for me to get off my butt and get serious about it all.

Yet while I desire to be a writer, my youngest daughter will be. For in an odd twist, my autistic daughter loves to create stories. She loves the English language, and would give a ‘Grammar Nazi’ a run for their money. She has the potential to be a novelist, to do this thing that I desire, far better than I will.

And unlike me, who looked upon with a little sadness at the realization that my future books will end up on a Goodwill shelf, I think Alexis will relish the idea. Than even though her books may fall off the Best Sellers list, she will be delighted to know that they are still there, out there waiting for others to discover.

A little on the quirky side.

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Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

*Puppy dog tails not included.

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Rainbows, even artificial ones, are always fun. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I just want to set the record straight. I have three daughters. I get daughters, I get girls. I have 26 years experience with daughters.

Each is an individual, each are special and wonderful in their own way. I could not imagine my life without my daughters.

Understand I can shop for girls clothing like there is a blue light special from heaven. I can pick a girls toy out for their birthday and bring a tear to their eye. I can give that hug to take away the mean thing the girl on the playground said. Or agree with them that ‘boys are just stupid’.

Being a father of Daughters is a very important job. Huge, I mean Titanic in proportions to any job you will ever do.

Why? easy. You are the first man they will fall in love with. You are the person, that male figure, they will put the bar to that all men henceforth will have to achieve. And good luck to those guys if you do your job correctly.

Girls I get. Daughters, with all their complexities, I get.

 

Snips and Snails… 

 

Then the boy came along. Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. He’s the coolest dude I know. He’s smart, active, kind, generous, loving and a host of other nice things. I am very thankful to have him in my life.

But, and yes this is ironic, I knew nothing about boys. Yes of course I was one…very long ago. So when my son Nicholas came along, I had a steep learning curve.

The first thing I learned was that he was very different from my daughters. Years back, when my oldest was a baby, I got the bright idea of ‘tossing her in the air’. No, I did not bounce her off the ceiling, just so we are straight here. Just a little hop, didn’t even clear my finger tips. She bawled like a baby. Probably because she was one. Which of course, made me feel horrible and I promised to never do that again to a child.

So yeah, tossing babies was out. Should have known that anyways. But hey, first kid. Of course I didn’t do that to my next child, Kayla. Yet when Alexis came along I had forgotten what an idiotic thing that was. Um, she bawled too. Another reminder to myself, don’t toss babies.

Then, by accident, as I adjusted my grip while holding him up in the air (I think I was taking him out of his car seat) and I tossed Nick. He giggled. Another little toss, giggle, a little higher, full on laugh. He loved it. Can you guess which of my four children jumps on their bed the most? Yeah, the boy.

Then there was the time Alexis was super excited and well, she peed on the floor. I was changing Nick’s diaper. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even if your 3-year-old is peeing on the floor, never leave your son exposed and look away for a bloody second. He peed on me. So, clean up on aisle living room, little girl, little boy, and myself.

He likes to jump, loves to run. He learns something and goes with it. Like climbing, flipping, getting into things. Those child locks on cupboard doors? Three daughters never got into them, tried but never could. Nick busted them off opening the cupboard door because “The door was stuck”.

It is the physical aspect of having a boy no one tells you about. I’m not just talking about rough play, but the things like when you wife tells you to teach your son how to ‘aim’, because a wet toilet seat at 3 a.m. is annoying. A pissed mother is even more annoying.

Of course in this day and age, a lot comes with raising a boy. Like the plethora of Facebook posts that remind me not to raise a rapist. I guess I should find these offensive, but no, not really. The main reason is not only am I not teach him to be a rapist. I am also teaching him not to steal, not to bully, not to be mean to animals.

In fact what I am teaching my son is respect. Be respectful of other people’s things. Be respectful of other people’s feelings. Be respectful to those less fortunate than you. And of course, be respectful of other people’s personal space and bodies.

(of course in full disclosure, he still jumps on me like I am a toy. But that is just a father-son thingy.)

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Nick holding his First Place Award for his Pack’s Pinewood Derby Race. / Photo by KidZond.

 

…And all things nice.

 

In the end, raising boys is very similar to raising girls. Yes, they are very different. From the get go, boys and girls are opposites. Probably why they find each other so attractive years down the line. But raising them? There are a lot of commonalities. They are children, and all children have a general behavior. All children need direction and guidance.

Your son goes off of how you are as a father. Like your daughter, whom you are the first man she loves, you are the first man your son respects. How you handle situations will define how he will, as he grows up. If you get angry at every little thing. Well that sponge of a brain of his will think that is the way to handle situations. If you leer or make snide comments about women? How do you think he is going to feel toward women? If you think nothing of stealing, don’t be surprised if you son turns out to be a thief. Your actions, set the tone.

The picture above of my son winning his pinewood derby race is a great lesson. I didn’t think he would win. Neither did he. Yet prior to the race I talked to him about winning and losing. In both, be gracious. Make sure you congratulate the winners, and tell those who lost, “great race”.

I’m happy to say he was very gracious. He was sad a Den mate did not win, and wouldn’t move on to the next race. He never gloated, never boasted, was respectful and kind. Like a good son, and definitely like a good Cub Scout.

I’ve only had Nick in my life for 7 years. But I am getting a glimpse of the man he may become. I have to hedge my bet and say “So far, so good”. Yet to say with absolute certainty he will be a good man is tempting fate. He, like every person that has grown up, will face trials and temptations. Bad influences abound. Friends with ‘cool ideas’, or something he saw in a video on YouTube and thinks he should emulate.

And this is where I come in. As a father, you not only protect your children from others, you have to work on protecting children from themselves. Give them the tools to make the right decisions, let them work the problem, help them find the solution that doesn’t compromise their morals or ethics. Teach them to be a good person. Teach them to Be Respectful, and that includes being respectful of themselves.

 

 

[The views expressed in this blog are solely of the author. Opinions expressed in this blog do not represent the BSA organization, nor is the author directly affiliated with the BSA organization.]

 

The Family Secret of The Cat Lady.

Or how I learned to live with my Mother’s obsession with Cats.

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One fifth of my Mother’s Clowder (group of cats) / Photo by KidZond

 

Everyone has one in their family. Oh, you may not know it, or you may just ignore it, but they are there. Cat lovers. No…obsessed cat lovers. Meaning, if the house is on fire? They will let you know after they get the cats out first. Well, unless of course, they need your help first to round them up. Which they probably will, so, you’re safe.

It’s not like cat lovers are bad people, they are actually very loving and caring people. This is typical of any animal lover. Those who care for the welfare of animals, creatures who are by nature or design, mostly defenseless, will likely be kind to other ‘non-animals’. You know, people.

This was my Mother. She had always said you can tell about a person by they way they treated animals. Especially cats. She had, in her youth, left a boyfriend because he did not like cats. My Father loved cats. Well no, he was actually a Dog person, but he got along with cats. Not like he had a choice in the matter.

My earliest memories have to do with animals. I had always been around cats. I know more about cats than any other animal on earth. Mom wanted me to become a veterinarian.

(I had to say no to that, I wanted to make a living, not be her personal veterinarian and live in my parent’s basement till I was in my 40’s)

You realize that you know cats so well, that when I was in high school, during lunch, I could mimic a cat vomiting so well that my friends turned green. I won the “Who Could Gross Out The Table” contest by the way.

My mothers obsession with cats really took off after I graduated high school. I lived at home till I was 23 years of age. Worked odd shifts at starter jobs, came home at odd hours. I can’t tell you how many times I came home, tired from a long day, only to see my mother in her nightgown and robe peering out into the darkness with a flashlight calling for a cat.

Our cat’s had a curfew. I had to help find the cat.

When I graduated high school back in 1982, we had four cats. When I moved out on my own, my mother had six cats. The Clowder or Glaring as a group of cats are called, only grew. By the time my first child came along in 1991, my mother had some 22 cats.

Now my mother wasn’t “nuts” or “crazy”. She didn’t talk to herself…oh wait, she did. But she didn’t exhibit any symptoms that would require a psychologist. She didn’t like psychologist anyways, thought they were just nuts.

She did however, maintain a home, paid her bills, cooked and cleaned, even took on a part-time job after retirement. For the most part, she was a normal as anyone. But cats were a different matter. She had to save them, and by them? I mean every cat that crossed her path.

I remember this cute little short-haired black cat that she fed. See, mom was worried about cats outside, so she left bowls of food outside for the cats. This black cat was nice, very pretty, and well, in need.

“Mom, are you sure that cat is a stray? She looks pretty well fed to me.” I said to her one day when I was over.

“Well did you see how she eats? She’s starved!” My mother would say in a sympathetic voice.

The next time I saw the cat she had a collar on. She belonged to a neighbor. Mom couldn’t figure out why she came over to her house if the cat had its own home. I mentioned that maybe it was because of food she left outside. Mom didn’t think that was it. I suggested bringing in the food at night, she thought that was a bad idea.

Then the gray cat appeared, it was ugly, hairless tail, big bug eyes, really hungry because it just camped out on the back porch and ate all the food. On the second night of this pathetic gray cat’s camp out, my father told her it was an opossum. Mom brought the food in after that.

Stray cats were my mothers passion. Those poor cats that people abandon and left them to fend for themselves. She worried and fussed over them, taking them in, getting them to the vet, making sure they fit in with the clowder. My father and I worried too. I asked my father if I should put out a sign outside his house. “Please stop dropping off your cats at our house”. My father said it would just give out the exact location of the crazy cat lady’s house. He had a point.

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Loki relaxing in the grass. / Photo by KidZond

 

One thing about growing up with cats, it made it hard to bring friends over. Not quite to the point of social outcast, but close. The fear? My friends would say something bad about cats. Then I would have to hear about it. If a person didn’t like cats, or animals in general, those were not the sort of people I should be associating with now, should I? Of course there was the whole thing of not wanting people to know either. When you are asked if you mother has cats, yes, 22 at last count, is going to require answers.

“Is your mother crazy?” 

“Maybe, define ‘crazy'”

“Well that’s a lot of cats! How much do they cost to feed?” 

“About a Micronations yearly budget.”

“How does it smell in her house?”

“I can’t smell, my mother had my nostrils plugged when I was 10.”

Yes it did smell, yes it did cost money to feed the Horde or Clowder (Glaring? That word is just creepy). Yes it was annoying and sometimes embarrassing. Yes, I did think my mom was nuts…back then in my youth.

But you know what? It didn’t matter. Not just because she was my mother. Not just because I knew her life, orphaned at 4 years of age, and then bounced around from family member to family member till she married my father. No, it didn’t matter because of what my mother’s cat fixation taught me.

Everyone needs love.

Everyone needs a home and a place to sit and relax without fear.

Everyone needs a good meal.

Everyone needs to be petted. 

I learned that showing kindness is its own reward. To have compassion for those in need, even a stray cat, will empower you to help your two-legged friends down the line.

It may have been a simple lesson to learn, yet it was a powerful lesson.

Ironically, I’m more of a dog person. We do have two cats at my house, also a dog, and two smaller two-legged animals that talk back. Yet I have never forgotten the lessons my crazy cat mother had taught me. Compassion.

Dott relaxed

Our cat Dott, relaxed, because nothing is more relaxed than a cat. / Photo by KidZond

It may have been an embarrassment in my youth. It may have been a consternation to my father and the whole family, yet my mothers love for animals, specifically cats, did show her character. She was a caring, loving mother. A good woman. Salt of the earth. As long as you treated cats nicely. If not, well, may God have mercy on your poor soul. Because she wouldn’t.

And not one of us in my family would save you either.

The Tooth Fairy Replies.

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Not the Tooth Fairy / Photo by KidZond.

 

Dear Kayla,

As you know, your little sister lost another tooth. She is a very inquisitive child and wrote me a letter. I saw that you also wrote me a letter, even though you have had your adult teeth for some 12 years now. But even though you are 24 years of age, soon to be a mother yourself, I figured it would be okay to break protocol and respond to your letter.

Do you remember me?

Yes I do. I remember every child I have collected baby teeth from over my many magical years of service to humanity. Losing baby teeth is part of a childs journey into adulthood. With each tooth a little piece of their childhood is relegated to the past and they begin taking steps to becoming an adult.

Parents celebrate this passage by calling upon my services. I am a marker of time, a reminder that these precious moments are fleeting, and those pictures of gap tooth smiles, will too soon be replaced with pictures of other firsts. Pictures with a full set of adult teeth shining back.

I heard you’re giving out $2 now, what is that about? I got 50 cents and no letter!

Times change, prices change, children change. Your father received a quarter. You received 50 cents, your sister $2. Not every child gets $2, some get nothing. Life, is anything but fair.

In the grand scheme of things monetary gifts for a baby tooth comes under the category of It is the Thought that Counts. To carry on the tradition keeps me in the hearts of children, it gives them the power of imagination. That, is an awesome power. Without that power, humanity would never move forward. As silly as a Tooth Fairy may seem to you now that you are an adult, I, along with my other magical comrades, have a lasting impact on you. Even after I have faded from your personal beliefs.

You don’t write or call anymore.

No, but I will visit you one day. I will come to you in around 8 to 9 years hence when you must do your part of my job. It is a bargain we made, that I will exist in the hearts and minds of your children, and you will do the physical labor of my job. You may not find it fair, you may question if it is worth it for me to visit. Yet it is. I will bring a joy to bright little eyes, opening up a world of possibilities and of…Magic.

For in life, it is the dreamers that set the pace for humanity. They are the ones that ask the greatest question…What if? They will be the ones that discover medicines that will alleviate humanities ills, they will push the boundaries and reach for the stars, they will seek out solutions when others doubt solutions will ever be found. Dreamers are the ones who seek equality for the human condition. They are the ones that remember me the most. They believe that anything is possible.

While yes, in time, I will be relegated to the fond memories of childhood. Lose my magical abilities and be forgotten in the adult mind. It is the lasting impression, and that little smile on your adult children’s lips when they find the teeth that you requested I give back to you, in a small box, that you have kept as a keepsake. For in that moment, magic will once again be real, and they will know that I will be there for their children.