Tag Archives: Experience

The Tank

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I picked up my daughter after work yesterday, like any other day. Her father called to speak with her from prison, which I allow, and they have exactly fifteen minutes to talk. I feel relieved that he called during our thirty minute commute back home because I needed a moment to myself to get over the crappy day I had; I always need a moment like this if I’ve had a bad day to make sure my attitude is positive around Victoria. Once finished, Victoria hands over the phone and I ask her about her day, as usual. We talk about the Thanksgiving lunch they had in class and she tells me all that she’s learned about the Pilgrims and Indians. I smile and tell her how much I love her. I always feel the need to reassure her, to make sure she understands that I will never leave her side…

“I love you…So, so much Victoria. I’m so proud of you honey.”

“I love you too Mãe. Thanks.”

“You’re my absolute best friend.”

“Mãe, you can’t be…You’re my mom.”

“What?! Sure I can!! I love you thiiiisssssss much!” *stretches arm out*

“Wooooow that’s a lot! Well I love you thiiiiiisssssssssss much more!” *extends both arms out* *pauses for a minute* “Actually…No.”

“Hmm…?”

“Actually Mommy…I have a tank!”

“I don’t understand amor.”

“Yeah. I have a tank inside of me. Actually Mãe, we all have tanks inside of us. I fill up my tank with love. Love for you, love for Avó, love for Avô, love for Pae and Titias and everyone!”

“Oh, is that right?”

“Yes! But my tank is mostly full of love for you mom. You’re my favorite mommy! But sometimes, my tank feels empty. Like when daddy doesn’t come and see me. But then! Then mommy comes and fills it up again! You’re a good tank filler mom.”

“Honey, daddy will see you soon. He loves you so much, he always wants to see you.”

“Yeah…Well…I know. It’s okay, I have you right? Always?”

“Yes, honey, always.”

“See! Mãe, do I fill up your tank?”

“As long as I have you, my tank is never empty”

She moved on to a different topic, as she normally takes control of our conversations. For some reason I couldn’t shake our previous conversation, I wondered where she got that from, or if she made it up on her own. A tank. My six year old has a better concept of how love works than most people, and how it affects us. We all have tanks that can be emptied and filled every day, depending on the circumstance. Some situations empty us, and others fill us, and some people do the same. We all have one, but is it empty? Full? Functioning? Cracked? Leaking? Who fills it? Who do we allow to empty it? Are we in control of this? I spent years with an empty tank not realizing that my “tank filler” was always there, staring up at me. Sitting there in all of her youth…And oddly, all of her wisdom. This little person teaches me something new every day.

I think what I would like to teach her down the line is that we shouldn’t rely on anyone to fill our tank…We should be able to fill that ourselves; everyone else is just the “top off”. How could I, when she’s the only one who fills my tank to the brim? Overflowing, making a beautiful mess inside me of emotions.

Is your tank full?

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Unrequited Love

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I saw this interesting video today about unrequited love;it was meant to be funny, and it was. But then I got to thinking. Most of the time when one thinks of unrequited love, we think of a one sided love that the other side is not aware of. Maybe you’re in love with your best friend and they aren’t aware of it, or you have a crush on someone who might have a crush on you back but you’re too scared to admit to this, leaving the two of you in a permanent “friend zone” vortex. These are common scenarios, but I realized that this is true for a lot of different situations. What’s worse? A love in which the other person isn’t aware of, leaving you to wonder for the rest of your life “what if”? Or…Loving someone who is fully aware of your love for them, and they neither throw you away nor keep you. You’re just there.

See, I know many who are in relationships where the love is 100% one sided, yet that person won’t leave. They’re treated as if there are a hundred million things that other person would rather be doing than stand in the same room as them let alone be in a relationship with them. Yet, there they are, Facebook official. All smiley and shit on their feed pictures but miserable behind the screen. There’s a particular couple I know who comes to mind and every time I think about it I feel so angry and sad that she is allowing this to happen to her. He was seemingly great at first and then his attitude changed and she was left wondering what happened. She would vent about how he didn’t care about her, how he chose his friends over her, how he was a cheater, etc. She would ask why he didn’t just leave, why lead her on? Why cheat? Why waste her time? I had to keep explaining to her that a love that is not reciprocated, is not a love worth having. That there are other people out there. She shouldn’t let herself get pushed around or used in such a way.

It’s such a childish thing to me, to be in a relationship you’re not happy in (unless there’s mental illness or emotional disease involved then I understand to a degree). These selfish people always wait until the other person is at the very end of their rope, ready to jump, to grow the balls to leave. Why hurt someone so purposefully? Why let someone feel that way, every second of every day, like life is just going to blow up in their face at any moment? I could never understand why people could have such a lack of self respect to let another treat them any less than they deserve.

We’re not all perfect, but no one deserves to have their time wasted or their heart toyed with. Maybe my mind is just not wise enough to grasp the concept that not everyone has the ability to be honest or to do good. That people really do get a kick out of messing with other people’s emotions. They’re completely capable of saying one thing and doing the opposite. They’re okay with lying to your face. They’re okay with watching you cry. They’re fine with witnessing the struggle in your eyes as you try to love them with every ounce of your being. Clawing at a relationship that will never evolve. Emptiness.

Have you ever searched for someone in a crowded room only to find out they were searching for you too, and there’s that moment of relief that you’ve found each other? Now imagine that same scenario, only that person is looking for someone else.

Unrequited Love. Tragic.

Avô

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You didn’t know him. In fact, if you did, you probably wouldn’t even like him. Growing up, we always heard stories about how terrible he was to his numerous children and to his wife. He was an immigrant who brought this family from the Azores to the United States to start a better life. I never understood this, in the Azores he had a good job and they did okay for themselves (from what I’m told). Everyone around us, judging him and talking about him as if we weren’t standing right there. “We” being his grandchildren, the people who saw a side of him that no one else knew or understood. Sure, we only knew him as our avô, but that’s just it…That’s what mattered to us. Yes, he was a hard man who rarely smiled and had a pretty aggressive personality, However, his grandchildren always made him laugh and smile. We were his weakness.

I remember the days when he’d watch me after school because my single mother worked all hours of the day and night to support us. He would walk to the school and we’d walk back together, hand in hand. I did most of the talking, of course, but he didn’t mind. He would listen patiently and finally ask if I’d like to help him in the backyard. He loved his garden, his pigeons and his paint. He ended up moving to a different town with my grandmother when my mom decided it’d be a good idea to move in with her boyfriend’s family. My grandparents lived in a small trailer where my avô had the freedom to plant and paint whatever he damn well pleased, and he did. I joke that the only thing keeping that trailer together, until this day, is all of the layers of paint. I spent a couple of weeks every summer at their house until I turned 18, after that, I visited at least once a week. I could sit and talk to my grandparents for hours, listening to their stories and advice.

My avô would sit at the kitchen table every day and watch soccer or some other crappy show on the Portuguese channel and complain the entire time. I think I was the only person who didn’t mind this, it always made me laugh. I would sit and vent to him about various things and he would just laugh and tell me how dramatic I was being. My grandparents didn’t speak English, so other cousins only really came around when their parents were around. I tried to make it a point to visit as often as possible since I lived so close by and I liked to help whenever they’d allow.

When  I became pregnant, my grandfather would always say he wouldn’t be alive to meet Victoria. The joy in his eyes when that day came was something that I will never forget. He would just watch her in awe, mostly  because it had been about 10 years since anyone in our family had a baby. Once Victoria started growing, she became more active and was no stranger to getting into trouble. When I would scold her my grandfather would knock me on the head with his middle finger and tell me to leave her alone…She’s a sweet angel. I always laughed at this and I would remind him that she’d be worse once the teenage years approached…In which he would remind me that he wouldn’t be around to see that.

 And he wasn’t.

        He fell ill, recovered, and then fell ill again. His hospital visits were becoming more and more frequent until finally he had to use an oxygen tank and was too weak to stand for too long. I started visiting more frequently, much to my ex’s dismay. I tried to keep things as normal as possible by doing what we always did with each other and following the same routine. I would walk in, give my grandmother a kiss, leave Victoria in the living room with her toys, and walk straight to the backyard because I always knew he was there. It was like he was waiting for me every time. I would call him from the door and he would whistle, letting me know where he was. It was always a hassle getting to where he was sitting, in the middle of his garden. Grape vines, tall leaves of Kale and various fruit trees he invested all of his time in, covered the entire area. I would peak through the hanging leaves and he would look up at me and smile while sitting in his favorite chair. I would give him a kiss and he would say, “you get uglier and uglier each time I see you”.

         This time, it was different, he was different. The process remained but his eyes were so empty. He looked so tired, but his humor remained. Right on the other side of his trailer was a cemetery, and we could hear mourners sometimes, it would always creep me out. He would say, “look at that, all I have to do is jump the fence when I’m dead!”, and I would giggle because it was uncomfortable but funny. I would sneak him packs of cigarettes because they’re what kept him happy. He had been smoking since he was 12, so quitting would just kill him faster. He would hang the oxygen tank hose on the fence and smoke his cigarette; sharing stories with me and joking about how my grandmother would kill us if she found out he was smoking. As strange as this memory is, it always makes me smile. He was always going against the grain, thinking his own thoughts, quoting his own words. I always admired that about him, he always reminded me to be my own woman and to not let anyone call the shots. He was my male figure at the time, the man I looked up to, there to give me advice when I needed it (besides my Uncle Troy). I hadn’t spoken to my father for four years at the time and didn’t start speaking to him until I left Robert.

         Shortly after when I went over, he was sitting on the couch with a vacant expression on his face, eyes glazed over. I gave my grandmother a kiss and walked over to him and sat down. He didn’t look at me, but I started talking to him anyway. He never responded but I knew he was listening, I also knew his time was coming and that scared me. His health deteriorated so quickly, I didn’t have time to take in what was soon to come. We’re never really ready are we? I got a call the next morning…He’s passed. In my kitchen, making breakfast, I turned everything off and walked to my living room. I sat on the floor, I had no idea how to feel or how to react; I felt so empty, so confused, I couldn’t even cry. I left my daughter with my ex and drove over to where my family was, it wasn’t until later that day that it truly hit me. He was gone. Who would pick on me and call me “too skinny” now? Who would tell me that boys ain’t shit and my daughter would punish me by being just like me? Who would paint the trailer and take care of the garden? Who would twist my ear when I said something stupid? Or talk about soccer with me? Or sit in silence with me and stare out at nothing, in a garden near a cemetary?

             I didn’t know. I just wanted him back. I was asked to write a eulogy in Portuguese 30 minutes before the funeral, which I was fine with, but I was nervous and scared and sad. The last thing I wanted to do was talk, if you could believe it. The service was beautiful and so was my cousin’s eulogy. I had no one to vent to or cry to during this time since my ex kept telling me, “Oh, my dad died, you’ll be fine and get over it. It happens everyday”. Not a hug. Not an, “it’s going to be okay”, nothing. I’ve never seen my grandmother react the way she did that day, in fact, I had never even seen her shed a tear before that day. She sobbed and begged for God to bring him back. I stood up to speak at the podium and I was surprised at how many people showed up to pay their respects, he didn’t have friends and didn’t talk to his extended family. It was nice to know that there were those who actually cared enough to show up, even if it was just for my grandmother’s sake.

           Months later, my grandmother had someone gut the entire backyard. She said she just couldn’t take care of it by herself, but I think it was mostly because it hurt her to see it. I think about him a lot. I remember one day, a month or so after I left Robert, Victoria came to me in the early morning and gave me a big hug. I smelled cigarettes and Old Spice in her hair and on her clothes, it was the strangest thing. No one else was in the house, it was just us, and she smelled just like my grandfather did. I couldn’t hold back my tears,I just held her close and she started telling me about a dream she had. “Avô was there and we were at the beach!”, she exclaimed. I looked her in the face and asked if she talked to him a lot and she said, “yes mommy, all the time!”. I am Catholic, but I never believed in any of these things before she came to me that day. Every once in a while she’ll talk about him until this day, or the smell of cigarettes and Old Spice will wake me in the middle of a dead sleep.

I miss him so. He’s taking care of us, I just know it. It’s been three years this past Monday, and I can still picture his piercing blue eyes.

Young Girl

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Young Girl

I see you. Holding his hand as you walk across the street, and I wonder. At nothing more than 15 years old, do you worry about what might/will happen? Or are you what I was like at your age? Are you so sure in your mind that it’s going to last forever, that you don’t dare think about this fantasy evaporating into thin air. Do you feel like he’s the perfect boy and are you positive he’ll grow into the man of your dreams? When he touches you, do you feel like no boy could ever possibly feel better than this one? Do your parents approve? Do you care? Does he call you names when he’s upset? Does he ignore you because he feels like it? Does he say things just to hurt your feelings because that’s what teen boys and girls do? Does he respect you the way he should? Are you ready for the heart break that is ahead?

We’ve all been there before, young girl. Just know that we are all rooting for you and your happiness, and if this teenage love does flourish into a relationship that lasts forever…You’ve beat all of the odds. But, young girl, please remember that if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be okay. There is a love that exists much deeper than the one you are feeling now. There is a man out there who will make you feel things, in your future, that you couldn’t possibly be feeling with this boy. This love you feel at this moment is shallow. It’s based on appearances, and popularity, and cool shoes. It’s based on pretty hair and the fact that everyone else is doing it. It’s based on his smooth way of making you feel giggly and your short shorts. Thinking about it now, a lot of adult relationships are like this. That’s not what you want. You want more. You want it to be based on the way he calls you every morning to hear your voice, not just some text. You want it to be based on how he talks about you to others, the twinkle in his eye when you’re brought up in conversation. The respect he shows you every day. The way he holds you when you’re upset. The hair on the back of your neck standing up when he brushes your skin with his hand. How he makes you want to do things for him, not out of obligation, but out of love. Those flowers just because it’s Wednesday. Those sexless nights filled with deep conversation and understanding.

This boy might break your heart, or you might break his. Focus on your well being and your future. Don’t let him pressure you into having sex at such a young age. Don’t let him treat you like shit because you are worth so much more than that. There is time for love. There is time for children and marriage….And sex….And passion. It may not seem like it now, but there is time. This boy will not help you finish school, he will not help you mature, he will not turn you into the successful woman I know you can be. He may not be a bad person, or a boy with bad intentions, but guard your heart for it is fragile. You’ll find that it will harden as you experience and grow, but there will come a time when you meet the man of your dreams and he’s able to soften your heart again. You’ll look back at this current relationship and think…Wow, I learned a lot from that relationship. I don’t even remember what I felt with that boy, because it was smothered by all of the things teenagers go through…Including hormones.

When you’re young, everything seems like it’s the end of the world. But it’s not. It’s just the beginning. When you love life, it’ll love you right back. I promise.