Tizzy drives me to my dad’s after our night out. I’m grateful. Drew is out of town playing softball, and I get so unreasonably scared when I have to walk into our empty house at night. Except, it doesn’t feel unreasonable. Crazy things happen in this world. People do terrible things to other people, regularly. I’ve always been more aware of that than I want to be.
The night previous, I had sat in my car in the dark for many moments, paralyzed. I almost hadn’t been able to walk into our house at all.
Earlier that day, I had been to lunch with my dad, and half-jokingly told him I might be calling him late to come walk through the house with me, make sure there’s no monsters. He said, “Why don’t you just come crash at my place? You can sleep in your old room, I’ll make you coffee and bacon and eggs in the morning. I would love it, more than you know.”
And I think, how do I turn that down? The cat will be fine.
Tizz and I had been dancing in Salt Lake for Hailey’s birthday with her and Mason and Miles and some of their friends who I’ve seen on occasion. I realize I have a full-on complex now, about feeling old. I’m only 28, which really isn’t old. But being 28 around people younger than 23 has a way of showing you how much even just a year can count, how much it can hold, how much it does to you, opens or closes in you, changes you. Not that it makes me feel better or worse, but it’s new. It’s a new thing to get used to, I guess is all I’m saying. A new awareness, a new experience. And I’m sure I think about it, worry about it more than I need to. But that’s sort of my entire identity, so.
We dance and dance the way I only can with this little clan of people. Especially Tizz. It’s been sort of a pillar of our friendship from the beginning. It was one of the first major signs, the way we dance, that we are spiritual kin, members of the same tribe. It feels tribal to dance with her, mystical, conjuring. It feels better than most things.
Soul Siblings, is what they call it, her and Kenzy. That’s what we are. And it makes sense. They’ve always felt more like family than friends, the way we’ve loved and hated each other at different points. But at the end of the day, it’s clear. We know we belong together.
As we dance, I think about everything we’ve been through together through the years. It’s a strange feeling, to be able to say I’ve been friends with someone for 14 years. I moved a lot as a kid. That’s how old I was when I met them, 14.
It’s all so strange, growing up. It’s the strangest thing I’ve yet to experience.
It’s 3:30 a.m. when I arrive, and my dad is wide awake, watching a Bruce Lee movie with the volume at full-blast, because he’s hard of hearing just like I’m starting to be. Only it isn’t Bruce Lee, it’s Bruce Lee’s son playing Bruce Lee. A very “my dad” kind of movie. Of course, he knows the names of all of the actors and what year it was made. He always does. I don’t know how he always does. He had texted me earlier in the evening, around 11:30, “Meg, are you ok?” I responded that yes, I was, why? He said he was thinking of me and just wanted to make sure. I thought, how nice that is.
I walk in the door, and he’s stoked to see me. He always is. I think that I’m lucky to have parents who like me, who see who I am and let me know they accept and are proud of that person. I think a lot of people don’t really get to feel that way. I also have come to see that it’s a fair trade for all of the dysfunction.
I take off my boots and sit at his table while he warms up a noodle dish for me. It’s delicious. I always forget he can make pretty good food when it isn’t his tuna casserole. I scarf it down, not realizing how hungry I was.
I manage to wash my face and brush my teeth, and I pass out on his big, comfy couch with a million pillows and blankets as he continues watching Bruce Lee just a few feet away. It feels like sleeping in a cloud. I know it isn’t just the couch, it’s that I feel safe here. At home. Watched-over. Cared-for in the way only a daughter can feel from her dad. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that. I think to myself at some point that everyone should go have sleepovers at their parents house after they grow up, just every once in a while.
I wake up at 5 or so and move myself to my old room. I haven’t slept there in years. The window is open. He doesn’t like using the A/C, that’s the northern Californian in him. I panic a little at first, thinking that it’s too hot. Drew grew up sleeping in a basement, and likes to sleep cold. I’ve learned to like it as well. But then I remember this is how we used to sleep some of the time, my family, and that I enjoyed it.
When I was 11, we moved from the childhood dream of Richfield to this crappy little house in Orem. The AC wasn’t working yet, and it was mid-summer, very hot. I remember getting a towel wet, and wrapping it around my head before bed. It kept me cool enough to sleep. I remember having an odd sense of pride in finding a solution for myself. I got used to being adaptable, to learning the little tricks to things like sleeping in the heat. And anyway, my dad and I both like open windows, hearing the sounds of outside, feeling the fresh air. My fondest memories of him involve him insisting that we “Open up those windows!” whenever it was raining. I love feeling connected to that, and sleeping partly tangled under just a light sheet. There’s something about it. I suppose mostly it’s what I know, it’s what I came from. It feels good to be back in touch with that, for a fleeting moment.
I hate that part of growing up, the part where you have to give up your childhood in order to have adulthood. At some point, you have the leave your home, and you can’t come back again. Not in the same way. You can’t go back to being that person, that kid. You leave and, no matter how much you love your adulthood, there is some part of you that is bound to be a little homesick and heartbroken for the rest of your life. That’s the deal. That’s living, growing. That’s love, whatever that is.
I wake up later in the morning, and a trip across the hall to the bathroom shows me my dad ended up on the couch again. He seems half-awake. I want to keep sleeping. It’s so quiet and peaceful in this house. I didn’t always feel that way here, but I do now, and as I lay my head back down on the soft pillow, my heart is a warm little ball of gratitude.
I finally wake up again around 10:30. I don’t feel embarrassed for how late I slept, like I usually do when I sleep anywhere other than home. But I suppose that’s part of what home is about – having a place where you don’t need to feel embarrassed about the way you are, a place where things like that are just understood.
He’s already made coffee for me. I get myself a cup, and go back to sit on the couch. It’s a lovely sleepy summer Sunday morning with nowhere to be and nothing I must do. It feels right, like I’m in the right place. I love that feeling. It’s one of my very favorite feelings of all.
He asks, “Anything from mom?”
It’s always such a fraught subject. Mom. Such a big word. Such a black hole of feeling no amount of the heaviest cement could fill. I say, no, I haven’t heard anything. I knew she had tried to drive drunk, and that she was arrested last night. But that’s all. We move on to other subjects.
I like talking to my dad, and I like the way we don’t have to always be talking. He’s a really intelligent person, and has had an interesting life. I think I only just realized that a few years ago, which seems to be another part of adulthood, of your brain developing. That, oh, my parents are people. They existed before me, for, like, a while. Mind-blowing. I’ve started asking them both questions that I never used to think of or was too afraid to ask. It’s surprised me how much they enjoy answering. It’s surprised me how much I enjoy their answers. Life is surprising. I can certainly say that.
He gets up to go make me breakfast. How nice that is. I go into the kitchen for more coffee. We make eye contact, and both laugh. I don’t know why. I think we’re both excited inside that we’re just sort of hanging out, like friends. It’s fun to let go of the labels of what a child and parent are and just be people together. People who like being together. It’s cool. It’s weird. It’s sometimes awkward, but only when I think about it too hard. It’s just, when it comes down to it, I think my dad’s a pretty cool guy. I’m glad to belong to him.
Breakfast is swell. I eat it just as ravenously as last night’s noodles. I never used to like breakfast food, and am suddenly obsessed with it as of late. What is that?
We start watching My Father the Hero, which I’ve never seen before, and seems to oddly fit the theme of the present moment. We laugh a lot. It’s funny. There’s a part in it where the dad is trying to get his teenage daughter to come outside and look at the moon. He exclaims, “Look at the goddamn moon! It’s glorious!” I laughed really hard at that, because that’s how I always feel about the moon: Really! Excited! In an oddly angry! And aggressive way!
This reminds me of Tizz, of a video she took of me the weekend just before. In it, I am aghast, obnoxiously trying to get her attention. When I do, I point upward, to the moon. She somehow knew to be recording right at that moment. She’s good at that. It’s one of her witchy gifts, a manifestation of the way she sees people. She typed on the video, “She gets me,” referring to our shared Moon Love. I think about how much I love that, and that the previous night had been a lot of fun. Just pure, actual fun. What with mental illness, my inner Saboteur, I don’t have a lot of that. I look back on all of the photos I took, and revel in the feel and color that only being out at night in summertime can give.
I text Drew good morning, update him on what’s happening with my mom. I feel fine about it. But also I don’t. I don’t know how every feeling I have anymore is always double-sided. This, as well as that. One thing, as well as the exact opposite. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it is. There’s an anxious twinge in my stomach, but a peaceful warmth in my heart. There’s a lump in my throat, but a big stupid smile on my face. I don’t get it. I don’t know. But Drew is the only person I know who seems to fully see, understand and love that about me. I didn’t realize until we got together how badly I needed that. He is my life’s biggest gift, what I always wanted but could never articulate – a man every bit as glorious as the moon.
I think maybe I should go home, shower, get ready for the day. Be productive. Instead, I end up wandering back into my old room. I open up boxes my dad has put there, full of my old Breyer horse figurines. I find one I especially loved, pause as I look at it, and begin to cry.
I had forgotten this part of me that had been boxed up in an attic for decades. I hadn’t been to visit her in so long. I begin to feel a sense of buckling, under the weight of it all. All of the moments, feelings, memories, connections. How do we hold it all? How long can I continue on before I break or burst?
I hear my dad coming down the hall, and make myself stop crying. I wonder to myself why it is we instinctually hide our pain from each other, when what we need is to let it out, be seen and supported in it.
I realize I am suddenly having so many thoughts at once. I think I drank too much coffee. I think I need to lay down. I do lay down.
Just then, I get a phone call from my mom. She says she’s just walking out of jail. She asks if her new husband told me anything. I say, yes, he called and said you were pulling out of the driveway completely drunk and we didn’t know what to do other than let the police know. I had asked her earlier that day not to drive drunk. But when she gets in that state, she just can’t stop herself, from driving, from spitting white hot venom, from lashing out.
I worry about her constantly. Where she is, how she’s doing, What head space she’s in. I wish I didn’t. I wish that wasn’t how it always ends up. I wish that wasn’t seemingly the only way I know how to do love and life – through worry, anxiety. It’s crippling. It’s so heavy. I’ve done so much work to learn a new way, and sometimes I do well. But it’s always more work to stay there, and sometimes I don’t manage it. Sometimes I can’t.
She says she’s so sorry. I tell her I know, I’ve just been worried. She apologizes again, asks, “Why do I always do this?” And it’s sincere. I can tell. It’s one of those rare moments where she’s crystal clear, she’s all there, all her.
It’s hurting, I know. It always hurts her to be present. There’s too many open wounds in her soul for it not to. She needs healing, but it horrifies her. You can see it. You can easily tell in those rare moments in which she addresses it, or when it’s too built up and is making its way out of her, you can tell she’s scared to death. You can tell she thinks it might just kill her, to feel and face all of that pain. She’s only ever known to run away, numb, escape into oblivion again and again and again. It’s the only way she knows how to live.
And I’m grateful to know that, to have been able to come to see that truth in her. It’s a truth that has set me free from past anger and resentments. I don’t have to be mad at her anymore. All I have to do is love her.
I think about all of the things she’s been through. I don’t even know the half of them and I know it’s more than anyone should have to face. I think of how she protected me from them when I didn’t even realize it, how she was brave and honest with me so I wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes or feel the same pain. I think of how grateful I am to her for that. I think, when it really comes down to it, that it’s so much more than enough. It doesn’t matter that she’s still in it. Because she did everything she could to shield me from all of that horror.
Her love has always been so much more than enough.
“It’s okay mom,” I say, “I just love you, and I want you to be okay.” I wonder if we ever will be. I wonder if any of us will. But we have to keep trying, you know? We at least have to try.
I update my dad on what’s happened. I tell him it’s time for me to go home. I start doing the dishes, but he tells me to leave it. I stand in his kitchen, all of the dishes from breakfast scattered around, and I feel so at home. I feel at home in messes, in chaos. I think to myself, no wonder I’ve never been able to keep my room or car or purse clean. No wonder I seem to thrive when things are falling apart. I think to myself, my poor husband. How is it me he’s chosen?
I gather my things, say goodbye to my dad, get into my car. It always hurts, saying goodbye. I don’t know why. I know he lives just minutes away. I know he’ll answer any time I call. But whenever I pull out of that driveway, and see him standing there waving at me, there is a twinge, an ache. I have to swallow it down.
I then know in this moment the only thing to do is listen to Conor Oberst. “Next of Kin,” to be exact. This surprises me because that song has been one of the few of his I ever sometimes feel like skipping. It’s too real, too sobering for some moments. But this moment was exactly that. It also surprises me that I choose the one from Salutations, not Ruminations. I had always preferred the latter, the demo version, without the full band accompaniment. The first version of a song that I hear usually ends up being the one I love most. But I could suddenly see, feel the newer version in a way I never had before. It felt right, complete.
I turn up the stereo, but not as loud as usual. It feels like my thoughts need more space in the car today. I’m having so many of them. A download, Tizz & Kenz call that. I’m in a download, so I play it not as loud as usual. But still pretty loud. My windows are down. For some reason, I’m just in the mood to feel the heat, to love it for what it is, knowing that all too soon, it will be gone. I’m a mess. I haven’t showered or brushed my hair, which is blowing everywhere in the hot dry heat. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror above my steering wheel and feel more beautiful and alive and like myself than I have in many moons.
I pass people walking out of church buildings, I worry they feel irritated by my music. But I hope, in their cores, they could understand that in this moment I’m not trying to be irreverent. I’m doing my own worshiping, in my own way. I’m connecting to what feels like God to me, too. What has always felt like God to me – that combination of words and melody. Of poetry and song. How it fuels me, supports me, teaches me, challenges me, holds me, knows me. How it heals me.
I get home, and I write. I write and I write. I keep thinking, this download needs to end before I go to family dinner in a few hours. But it doesn’t stop. I take a shower, all the while randomly running to my phone to type out my thoughts. I hear a knock at the door. I see through the window that it’s Hailey and Mason. I think Mason is probably here to pick up his guitar gear, but then I see that Hailey is holding flowers. I open the door, and Hailey says they came to bring me these flowers because she read my post about my mom going to jail and wanted to make sure I was okay.
I hear myself asking for a hug. She obliges, and I feel myself start to cry. I say, “I’m okay, I’m really okay. Everything is fine.” They both nod, their faces a mixture of reassurance and concern, because we all know what I just said is both true and very much not true at the same time.
They come inside for a short while. I put the flowers in a jar because I can’t find a vase. Hailey says to me I’m not the only one who feels what I do, and compliments me on the way I can write about my feelings. It’s as if she somehow tapped into every little thing my heart needed that day. She’s good at that. It’s one of her gifts.
They leave, and in that moment I feel so cared for and loved and seen and supported and grateful and simultaneously more happy and more sad than I can ever remember.
Drew calls. Or I call him. I can’t remember. He’s about to leave St George. We tell each other about our days. I’m crying again, telling him that I am so in love with our life, but am so frustrated by the way I can’t seem to feel it, through all of the complication. Through the stress, the worry, the outside forces that always seem to hit me harder than I anticipate, throw me on my back. He listens, he’s there. He always is.
I go to family dinner at my brother’s house. I don’t mention my mom, it doesn’t feel right. My dad is there, I greet him and say, “Long time no see.” He laughs. I watch my brother and his wife be a family, and I feel warm. My three little angelic nieces seem to be able to sense from me that I’m open and raw, the way kids manage to be all of the time. Their big, bright eyes pierce my right to my heart.
I am requested by Elli and Emery to read them each a story before they go to sleep. I end up staying up on Elli’s top bunk, her laying next to me, Emery laying on my leg, for what felt like at least an hour. Our bedtime story sessions have never lasted so long before. Connecting to kids is usually so difficult for me. We start out reading stories, but end up just talking.
They tell me what life looks like through their 3 and 5-year-old eyes. I can’t stop thinking about how stunning, bright and pure they are. They know everything about each other’s lives. I remind myself, for the millionth time, to keep in mind never to overlook children. They feel and see just as much, if not much more, than adults do.
When I get home, Drew is home. I tell him that I know I have writing to do. That’s quite close to all I really know anymore.