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May 21, 2008

thanks for your stories

I am trying to write something at the moment that is thematically centered around that moment when you realize that your parents are human. It's a strong and uncomfortable rite of passage into adulthood. Thank you for reminding me that is universal. Maybe i will try and write the whole story with your help.


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Comments (18)

This moment came for me in a regretable drunken Karaoke rendition of "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M in the days of my undergrad: I finally realised that when my parents called me every sunday it wasn't just to annoy me.

The actual feelings of parenthood they expressed to me in those weary afternoons were an actual verbalization of caring, rather that intrusive entrances into my new far away life.

In fact, after this point I forgot about the controlling element I associated with my parents and considered them more as anchors to something more comforting than endless cans of larger and a bed covered in pie and contraceptive devices.

Posted by: Sequestered at May 21, 2008 6:57 PM

In my late teenage years, my sister's band played their first show at a major venue, opening for a well known headliner. Of course the show as well as the after party was populated by people that she was bound and determined to impress.

Now, our mother has a history of having one drink too many and doing something devastatingly embarrassing, or that's how it always seems at the time. And though, I know pretty much for a fact that we are all capable of this, it has always seemed somehow inexcusable for my mother being that she's an adult and all.

Anyway, as expected at some point on this particular night, she looked like she was having a little too much fun at the afterparty. And because my sis had to be the gracious hostess of her band's own party, she begged me to diffuse the situation and send mommy dearest on her way for the night. I did as I was told, but not without significant resistance. finally the infamous moment of realization came when as parting she told me , "I get it, its all over."
"what's over?" I asked.
"My youth." she squeaked out.

Now, while I new this was largely drunken melodrama, It was the first time I looked at her and thought she's just as vulnerable to criticism as any human being.

Posted by: anonymous at May 22, 2008 7:56 AM

I was 17 and planning to go see The Graduate as part of a double date. My mother found out and went into a tantrum, "Do you know what's in that movie? Frontal nudity!!, You can't go! Yada yada..." So I went to my dad, explained my case adn he sighed heavily and said "John, I've got to live with your mother....." He didn't finish the sentence and didn't have to. And for the first time I realized they weren't the unified parenting force I thought they were.

Posted by: oran at May 22, 2008 9:44 AM

I was 16 when I realized my father was not superhuman. He was a successful artist, physicist, and anthropologist. He had rejected corporate culture and traveled the world for years before settling down and building a house by hand in some rural mountains. He was intelligent, caring, and a great story-teller. He was anything he wanted to be. And consequently, I had an easy childhood. I think he worried that I would 'hit a wall' when I ventured out into the world on my own since I never had to try very hard. I guess there is a happy medium between having an easy life and developing a good work ethic, and he was worried he hadn't given enough 'tough love'.

When I was 16, my father had a motorcycle accident that damaged his back. He was not paralyzed, but was bed-ridden for over a month, and recovery was slow after that. He lost over 30 pounds, and was no longer able to do physical activities without being very aware of protecting his back. Up until then, if there were two logs, he would carry the bigger one. Suddenly, I was the one carrying the bigger log as he had to play it safe. Looking back, that seems very momentous (and metaphorical). Yet, at the time, another event was far more influential. It was some lazy afternoon and I was playing video games instead of doing chores. I was more outdoorsy than the average teenager, but I was also an expert at procrastination. My father was laid up on the couch, not able to get up and probably in a lot of pain. He told me to do my chores multiple times, and after being told "yeah, yeah I will later... " several times, he screamed at me, calling me lazy and spoiled. I think he even threw a salt shaker across the room out of frustration.

It was not the first time he had yelled at me, but it was the first time I was aware that it wasn't so much my actions, but a result of his misdirected frustration. And I realized that coping mechanisms (avoiding pain both physical and emotional) are very much a part of being human -- as is being hurt and needing help.

Posted by: kyle at May 22, 2008 11:39 AM

Off the top of my head there were many times and circumstances that made me stop and realize my parents were human. Recently my dad published a coloring book, that he insists is his life's pursuit. He's a retired teacher and it keeps him busy but I can't help but think he sold himself short by going with a coloring book instead of fully developing the characters and storylines.

He excited about it and has become consumed by the legacy. Unfortunately, I don't have the heart to tell him that he has been scammed and it will take a minor miracle for him to recoup his investment. At the same time, he feels he is getting some recognition for his creativity and now has a few in store venues where he can promote his published work of art.

I recognize now how vulnerable our parents are to short-cuts in their retirements, but at the same time I remain supportive in his endeavor. The good news is that it keeps him busy allowing mom a little time to herself.

Posted by: Dana at May 22, 2008 12:59 PM

My mother has always made it clear that I am her first priority, her most important creation, her everything. The regular Italian mother syndrome, I guess. When hugging me goodbye, she says: "Who loves you more than anything else in the entire world?"

So I was walking through my college campus, talking on the phone to my mother. Somehow we got on the topic of a neighbor who used to babysit me, who had a disabled son. I have a few memories of those early years, mostly feelings of fear directed toward the older boy, or of being hit by him. I kind of paused in our conversation, and asked my mom why she hadn't noticed the bruises and cuts the boy had inflicted sooner, but allowed me to stay in the neighbor's care for over a year until she finally noticed a "bleeding bite mark," as she put it. Her reponse was to laugh and say: "OK, I'm a horrible parent." For some reason I pressed her, saying that it really had upset me, and that I still thought about it. She said: "Oh, stop being melodramatic. You're fine aren't you? If something had been really wrong, you would have told me."

My mother may love me best in the whole world, but I realized, in that instant, that she didn't protect me like she should have. That she was fallible. That the "perfect childhood" she always told me she gave me wasn't that perfect after all. No matter how hard I try, I can never really get her to talk about it seriously. And I still don't see how a bleeding six year old girl is funny.

Posted by: frenetic at May 22, 2008 3:18 PM

This is a wonderfully personal and deep question.

Posted by: Brad at May 22, 2008 5:09 PM

I have three older brothers, who raised me with a lot of tough love (well, I thought it was tough, I had to grow up a lot to realize it was all for love).

I ran to my mom after every incident.
"MOM! They told me that gullible is not in the dictionary! But I looked it up, and here it is, right here! But they don't believe me! Tell them that it's true!"
Or the time my brothers locked me under the deck multiple times, I ran to my mother to have her scold them.
Or the time my brothers put a rubber band on the sink sprayer so that when I turned on the sink faucet to do the dishes, I got a faceful of water.

It wasn't until I was a lot older that I vaguely remember my mom's smile wasn't in sympathy for me, but rather, in laughter... at me...

Posted by: Kemily at May 22, 2008 11:34 PM

The last day before my father left the house for good he cried (I can't think of another time I'd seen that) and he reeked of alcohol. I think that's the first time I knew he was drunk. So, he said goodbye to me all tearfully and drunkenly, and I thought he was pathetic. I was embarrassed for him It was very sad. I think I was about 12 or 13.

Once my step-father and my mother came to pick me up from a party, and my step-father, Bob, seeing me, adolescent, blonde and stupidly surrounded by several large, older men, exited the vehicle with a quickness and probably ready to fight.

He was sincerely concerned for my safety: I could tell. He didn't push anyone away from me, but he was pretty curt with the men who were talking to me. My mother tells the story like this: "Bob came running across the street like a little banny rooster!"

She always describes him as cute and little. She must diminish him. I think she must also diminish any genuine feelings, particularly good and noble ones. I think it's because she doesn't know how they feel. Which is also sad and embarrassing.

Posted by: TS at May 24, 2008 6:00 PM

The last day before my father left the house for good he cried (I can't think of another time I'd seen that) and he reeked of alcohol. I think that's the first time I knew he was drunk. So, he said goodbye to me all tearfully and drunkenly, and I thought he was pathetic. I was embarrassed for him It was very sad. I think I was about 12 or 13.

Once my step-father and my mother came to pick me up from a party, and my step-father, Bob, seeing me, adolescent, blonde and stupidly surrounded by several large, older men, exited the vehicle with a quickness and probably ready to fight.

He was sincerely concerned for my safety: I could tell. He didn't push anyone away from me, but he was pretty curt with the men who were talking to me. My mother tells the story like this: "Bob came running across the street like a little banny rooster!"

She always describes him as cute and little. She must diminish him. I think she must also diminish any genuine feelings, particularly good and noble ones. I think it's because she doesn't know how they feel. Which is also sad and embarrassing.

Posted by: TS at May 24, 2008 6:00 PM

I was in high school, and had the family car. My dad was at work late - he was a principal of a grade school a couple of towns over. I got there early from my volleyball practice, but I was still in my sweats. He was holding a parent-teacher conference but had told me to come in and wait if it went long. I sat in the back and watched the last 15 minutes or so of the meeting, and it struck me that my dad, this big authority figure, was actually pretty cool. He kept the lunatics in line, and he got to close the meeting. He made his way back to me, smiling and saying "Sorry honey, we ran a little late," and this mom hijacked him with a Very Important Question that she hadn't had time to ask during the meeting.
The Mom: "I don't understand why we require a B average to run for student council. What's the point of having elections anyway?"
My Dad: "Well... to elect officers of the class."
In that one moment, I realized how incredibly patient my Dad is.
Once in the car (he asked me to drive, too), I asked him about The Mom. He sighed, "Yeah.... she's a pain in my ass."
That was the very first time he broke the Authority code in my prescence. Every since that day, I watched for other code-breaks, and have been richly rewarded ever since.

Posted by: SkyWriter at May 25, 2008 7:59 PM

I'm 23 years old.

Despite seeing my family struggle through mental illness, bouts of alcoholism, my own hospitalization for psychiatric issues, and generally "growing up," that my parents aren't superhuman still scares the hell out of me.

To acknowledge that my parents are only human forces me to come to terms with my own humanity.

That's not something I'm really ready to do yet.

Posted by: joshua at May 26, 2008 10:31 PM

I was a young teen when I heard my mother say "Shit" in response to an action. I think she dropped something, but it could have been anything. I was so shocked to hear her utter an epithet -- then I wondered how many other times she was thinking of four-letter words yet didn't express them in front of her children.

My mother was a very well-brought-up southern lady who liked to drink rum, play blackjack for money and watch game shows. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she later let her guard down completely and began faxing me dirty jokes at work. I don't recall ever hearing her swear again, though.

Posted by: SoCalPam at May 28, 2008 12:24 AM

I was daddy's girl all of my childhood. being the youngest of three, I would tag along along with him wherever he went. always with him. riding around in his rusty, pea-green ford, I noticed he always had a T-pin sticking in his visor. always. there was was. sometimes there were two.

as the years passed, I wasn't so much his little girl anymore and he seemed to realize I had become an adult. apparently when you are an adult, you are let in on things about your family you never knew. he confided in me that he smoked weed. it seemed all the time. even when I would tag along with him everywhere he went. yes...he was smoking.
it took a year or so to put two and two together, but the T-pins he always had, they were there to clean out his piece.

I have never been able to see my father the same way. not because of his "recreational" habits, but because you realize things are not always what you see. inclduing your parents.

Posted by: salsa at June 2, 2008 11:31 PM

I was ruminating on this subject just recently but decided to avoid the emotions that come along with it and just draw a picture instead. Enjoy.

http://everybody-goes-awww.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-father-pirate.html

Posted by: everybody-goes-awww at June 4, 2008 5:18 PM

I am 68 and my parents are both dead. While I had recognized they were human in my teens, I had done so out of anger. It was not until my 30's did I recognize that they were both human and that life was fleeting. It came on a visit they made to Oregon, where my wife and I lived at the time.

We went down to Crater Lake. They were both in their early sixties then. For the first time, I thought that they looked old. It was only then that it really hit me that they would be gone some day.

I am now older than either of them and it helps me to understand my own humanity. They both lived for another 20 years or so. I hope to do the same and to remain as cogent and vigorous as they did.

Posted by: Russ at June 6, 2008 10:46 AM

Right now. Finishing my junior year and just starting to think about re-taking all those semesters I had so drunkenly skipped... I finally realize my mom does not have those magical powers I relied on when I was younger. I expected her to manage my life as well as hers, and got frustrated when the job wasn't done. It's a painful realization. Not only am I realizing that those supernatural parenting powers are non existent... but I'm having to deal with the immaturity and laziness that I've let build up over the years. Realizing my parents aren't going to have all the answers scares me. It means that I have to start trying to figure the hard questions out on my own. All I have to say is... thank god for google :)

Posted by: Jesi at June 10, 2008 10:16 PM

My dad has always had a way with words. He has the best one line sentences that can protect any moment of truth, hardship or confusion.

It's hard to come to the realization that he really is human, which means he is getting older. My dad had a heart attack when I was about 15, he survived it with full force. He's the most amazing person I know, getting through anything.

I think of the most saddening moments I've been through, and I remember them with my dad. His dad is still alive and well. I think with my sudden years coming to the point where I'm about to graduate, possibly get a house or something, my sister about to drive.. it's a worry factor.

I can't help but admire the persistence, a cognitive effort to take things one day at a time no matter what. :)

Posted by: Thomas Holloway at July 12, 2008 9:05 AM

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