Thursday, February 5, 2009
When I was 14, I acquired a second set of parents. Laura and I were beginning to spend a lot of time together, as teenagers do, so she got VonMom and VonDad, and I got Ma and Pa added to my life. I also acquired Sarah (I'd always been curious about what it was like to have a little sister). I couldn't have been luckier. It's hard enough to be a teenager, but one with pretty much four parents? That was me and Laura. It went like this: If I got bad grades, no problem, I got no phone usage, no going out on weeknights - well, that curbed Laura's phone usage and weeknight social life almost exactly. If Laura blew curfew? Well, I was in trouble too. Who else was I going to go out with? Besides, who had the driver's license in high school? Yep - Laura. For as awesome as he is now, VonDad was a hardass when I was a teenager. Granted, thank God he was, but still. Ma was also a tough cookie. VonMom was pretty much the 'whatever doesn't kill them makes them stronger' type, which was pretty cool. Pa? Well *grin* Pa was the awesome one. Pa was a cop, so his hours weren't your typical 9 to 5. Therefore, we spent a lot of time with him during the summers. Laura, Sarah and I would lay around in the pool that was always somehow ready and waiting when summer was just around the corner. Pa would go to Subway, or to get ice cream. It didn't take long before he knew exactly what my order would be, just like he knew his daughters'. One year when he worked some event that the President and First Lady were around, he brought home these really cool tshirts. They had POTUS and FLOTUS on them (which at the time I thought was so super cool) and I remember specifically he didn't bring home just two, there were a few extras, he gave me one right away. I think I still have it somewhere, because it's one of those memories. I've already shared the Medusa's story, and the chuckle and the shaking of his head are such a reflection of how he looked at Laura and I. Again, it was absolutely a "those girls" kind of thing. It was, is endearing. Over the years, as time goes, the time we spent with our parents lessened. Laura has a family, I have my stuff. I still looked forward to every opportunity I had to spend time with Ma and Pa. They even have their very own nickname for me. It would be silly from anyone else, but from them, it's got meaning. Sorry, it's entirely theirs' and I won't be sharing it here. I know he used it every time he saw me. We had an on-going joke, he and I. Laura and I actually grew up in two different neighborhoods. They were next to each other, and we lived only blocks apart. However, to go to Laura's I had to walk under a set of train tracks. The joke was that we each said the other lived on the 'wrong side of the tracks'. My parents' neighborhood is a little odd, and they have this cookbook, and Christmas decorating awards, and green thumb awards, all of which Pa thought was hilarious. So, me being me? OF course I gave him a cookbook one year for Christmas. Another year I drafted a fake letter from my parents' neighborhoods community club stating that even though he lived on the other side of the tracks they were giving him an honorary Christmas decorating ribbon. He thought it was so funny. Sometimes when he laughed, he had to wipe his eyes from the tears. He had a great laugh. He always treated me like a daughter. I remember one night I was on a date. I was pretty young, and I was out with a guy my parents didn't approve of. So, I lied to my parents and told them I was with Laura, when I was really at the movies with A. Well, neither A nor I had a driver's license, so we had taken the bus to dinner and a movie. Of course, the bus had stopped running some time before we were heading home. Shit. And this was before the time of cell phones people! So, I got all scared and worried. A was useless. He just sat there smoking his Marlboro reds. I swallowed my fear and called Laura. Who ended up picking us up? Pa. He pulled up. I was pretty scared. He drove A home in silence. He shot me one of those looks, a dad look, but he never said anything. And, he never told my parents. I was so grateful for that. I'd gotten used to napping with Ma and Pa on Christmas day. Every year for 20 years I've gone to their house for dinner. For the past however many years, Laura has done double duty with her in-laws, so I usually had some down time with her parents. So, yep, a few times we just moved from dining room to living room and we'd all drift off. After a while we'd wake up, chuckle a little, and get ready for Laura to come back or for dessert time to get under way. That's a comfort level that only comes from lifelong friendships, and love. I could go on and on about what a great man Christian Michal was, but I won't do that. I know that in the next two days I will have to say goodbye to him, and I won't hear his standard "Ok sweetheart. You take care. Say hi to your parents. Stop by anytime." I'm a better person for having known him, and having him in my life. I think he knew that I loved him, I take comfort in that. Truth be told, he's always been one of my favorite people. May angels lead you in, Pa. I'm going to miss you.