Friday, October 22, 2004

My Mistake…

There seems to be an obsessive preoccupation on the left over the fact that Bush has never answered the question: “Name three mistakes that you have made.” Mind you, thinking individuals realize there is no way ANY incumbent –of ANY party –seeking reelection, would answer this question. Should Bush just write and film the Kerry/Edwards commercials for them?

Some here have erroneously come to the conclusion that I think myself perfect –and that I can never admit when I am wrong…the same shortcoming they pin on the President. This got me thinking about all the mistakes that I have made throughout my 33 years on this Earth –and what I would change if I could. What would I answer if someone asked me to bare my most significant mistake for all to see and judge? Think about it…it’s a hard task to undertake –and if it was truly a mistake, a painful recollection to dredge up...

...In my teens, I was constantly embarrassed by my family- not by anything they did…by the fact that they were... I am the oldest of five kids (plus any number of foster children, transients and pets that could be found living under our roof at any given time), and we lived off modest means. My father, a firefighter -who was a wall-paper scraper to make ends meet, and my mother- a stay-at-home mom. On a wing and a prayer they managed to send us all to private school –and hence, barely a scrap was left to spare. In my selfish hormonal teenage state I saw this as a cruel disservice –how could they send me to a school where I ‘couldn’t keep up’? If I had gone to a public school in Philly, I would have been one of the ‘rich’ ones…we had a single house with a front AND back yard…but there…forty minutes from my house, nestled in the suburbs of Philadelphia…I was one of the ‘financial aid’ kids… At Christian High USA, I went to school with the daughter of the second name you think of when I say ‘box of chocolates’, the two sons of a 76er, a brother and sister duo that received Porches for their 16th birthdays (911s not 944s), and a kid who was driven to school everyday in a stretch Rolls and never could say just what his father did. This is what I was up against –at 14, 15, 16 and 17. Not once did I say ‘thanks’ for the great education I was receiving, the ardent sacrifice made to give it –or- the shelter I was given nestled on the lush 10 acre campus with the duck pond. I stored resent and self-pity about my own misfortune at being poor in a pool of rich.

I joined sports to find a way to fit in, meet people and not have to go right home after school. I played field hockey, ran the 50 yd. dash, played softball and was a cheerleader. My father came to EVERYTHING (mom never came –she didn’t like anything that involved watching ‘other people’s kids’ --a trait I think I may have acquired). Most parents never came to anything…they were lawyers, doctors, Sixers and Candy Makers and their kid’s sports teams were not priority when there were Porches to buy. But my Dad was there –every game –cheering me on. Did I ever thank him? No, his reward was to be ignored. I was ashamed that he showed up with paint and wallpaper chips clinging to his jeans…in the ramshackle white Mazda, purchased second hand, that had definately seen better days. So I continued to turn my head –as he continued to cheer…seemingly unfazed.

It seems there was always this wall there between us – an unexplained awkwardness. At times it was almost tangible. In my early twenties, I would sit next to him on the couch, a Flyers game the bond between us, daring myself to say ‘I love you’ or “I’m sorry I was such an incredible shit” out loud. “1, 2, 3….say it!” “Now…say it…” I never did. I couldn’t. The words were trapped in my emotionally-bound soul…the soul that I inherited from him.

The summer I turned 16, my father went to Uganda to build houses for missionaries there. He asked if I wanted to go, which surprised me. I actually played with the idea, which surprised me more…but the thought of being in the jungle with no electricity, flat hair and no boyfriend was more than I could fathom. This remains my biggest regret…my most consequential mistake. The hair is flat now anyway, the boyfriend is long gone –and I missed the experience of a life time…a chance to finally get to know my father…

I was horrible, ungrateful and selfish…and this is what I would have to answer if asked for my biggest mistake…


11 comments:

Kat said...

I can name three mistakes and one of them is exactly what you were talking about. When I was growing up, my Dad worked two and three jobs. We lived on the edge of a middle class neighborhood. We went to a public school that was decent and had all sorts of people, including some that drove Saabs and Mercedes to schools and wore all of the latest fashions.

I wanted that very much. As a teenager, I remember going shopping for new school clothes. Jordache and Nikes were the top. I wanted some very badly. My parents took us to K Mart to shop for clothes. No jordache jeans or nikes for me. Just some knock off jeans with some embroidery on the pockets and some cheap kmart brand tennis shoes. I was so embarrased. Of course, some kids could be mean and I remember one girl saying something about "cheap" knock offs.

I think I was angry at my parents for not helping me be "in". I totally ignored the part where my Dad took two off duty security jobs (he was a police officer) a month before school started so he could put the extra money away and buy me and my two brothers (all teenagers) some new clothes.

I was quite an ungrateful welp. It wasn't until I moved to Philly when I was 20 and had to make it on my own that I started to realize how much everything cost and what it took just to support myself, much less a growing family. Even then, I had no idea how much money my parents didn't make until 6 years later, I came home for a visit and had my check sent to me at the local office in KC. My Dad said he would cash it for me at his bank.

We drove up and I signed the check and handed it to him. He was holding it while he waited for the teller to send us the container in the tube. He asked me how much I made. I didn't think anything about it and said $28k. he didn't say anything for a moment and then he said, "you done good, kid". Later on, in an offhand way, I asked my Stepmom how much my Dad was making at the Sherriff's department. After 18 years, he was making $31k/year.

I was shocked. Really shocked because I realized right then that my Dad had managed to keep our family of 5 on much less. Then I started remembering the times I was mad because we couldn't do things. Or the times we went camping or fishing for vacation and I wanted to go Disneyland. And the time that my Dad sold his blazer so he could buy me the '78 Firebird for my 17th birthday and then sold some of his tools so he could get it painted and have glasspacks and other things done to it so I would be "cool".

I remember being embarrased when other kids came over to our house.

In short, I had the narrow vision of a child and never thought of all the things my parents sacrificed for me until I was in my 20's. And it wasn't until I moved back to KC 7 years ago that I really understood the things my parents had done for me. If they hadn't always urged us to excellence in school and join after school activities and such, I would not be where I am today. They wanted us to be more than they were. That's the mark of excellent parenting.

fortunately, I've been able to thank them personally these last few years. What they seemed to enjoy most is just having me come over and talk. Drink some coffee and shoot the breeze.

But it takes a lot of growing up to get there.

Mistake number 2 would be the time i refused to get married to my fiance in a hurry up affair when he found out he was being stationed in Panama. I told him it was only a year and we could do it when he got back. The reality was, I couldn't picture myself in Panama (selfish, I know, my excuse was that I was 24 and still stupid) or just being a Navy wife. After six months apart, he called and said it was over. You'd have to know that we had fought with both of our respective families about us because he was hispanic and catholic. My folks didn't think he was good enough for me (one day I will write about the first time he met my Dad, funny now, but definitely one of my more embarrasing moments) and his mom didn't like the fact that I wasn't catholic or hispanic (I wasn't good enough for her son). And then we broke up. funny how the world works.

I would say that my third biggest mistake was letting my feelings for my best friends husband get in the way of a ten year friendship. Let's say that I hated her husband with a passion and he didn't much like me either. In my defense, I caught him cheating on her while she was 5 mos pregnant. In short, she took him back. I got angry and said stupid things. I guess she felt she couldn't rely on me anymore. They had moved to Florida. After two years there, they broke up again. then she took him back again. I said some really mean things to the person that was like a sister to me. We didn't speak for ages. I finally tried to call her back, but her number was disconnected. I couldn't find her again and we haven't spoke since.

Those are my three "mistakes". It's all about the people.

92Alpha said...

ALa,
I LOVE YOU!

riceburner147 said...

Although Ala is one of my MOST favorite people in the world and is indeed ALMOST as smart as me (haha) I do have one thing to say........

Ala, I know GOD. I went to school with God....and you Ala are NOT God !

(Great post, it warmed my heart)

riceburner147 said...

PS... let us not forget your propensity to write on the wall next to your crib with poopy !

Subsunk said...

ALa,

Many times when we were young we failed to tell our parents how much we loved them or appreciated their sacrifice. But you just did.

As a father who sometimes doesn't see eye to eye with my children, I know of the sacrifice you speak of. And I know that I am not sacrificing to make them love me. It is solely because I love them. Althogh it might be nice to hear they appreciate it, it is not ever necessary. My father always told me that even if I were to pull out a gun and shoot him, with his last breath, he would tell me how much he loved me.

He died when I was 21 and had been in the Navy for 4 months. He served 3 months in Burma in WWII, and 3 years in the Army during that war. He never personally saw any of his children get married, have their own kids, serve a full life in service to the country or cry over others selfless service. But he has watched over me all my life, and I have loved and missed him ever since he left us.

Be thankful you had the chance to tell him how much he meant to you. And never feel regret again over not having done so. You are blessed for telling him so, (even if he is no longer with you).

I admire you and your posting. Keep up the good work.

Subsunk

Ron Brynaert said...

"Mind you, thinking individuals realize there is no way ANY incumbent –of ANY party –seeking reelection, would answer this question"

1992 Debate TranscriptBUSH: I think everybody's paying too much taxes. He refers to one tax increase. Let me remind you it was a Democratic tax increase, and I didn't want to do it and I went along with it. And I said I make a mistake. If I make a mistake, I admit it. That's quite different than some. But I think that's the American way.

BUSH: As regarding Mr. Perot, I take back something I said about him. I once said, in a frivolous moment, when he got out of the race: If you can't stand the heat, buy an air conditioning company. And I take it back, because I think -- he said he made a mistake. And the thing I find is if I make a mistake, I admit it.

GENE GIBBONS (Reuters): Mr. President, you keep saying that you made a mistake in agreeing to a tax increase to get the 1990 budget deal with Congress. But if you hadn't gotten that deal, you would have either had to get repeal of the Gramm-Rudman Deficit Control Act or cut defense spending drastically at a time when the country was building up for the gulf war, and decimate domestic discretionary spending, including such things as air traffic control.

If you had it to do all over again, sir, which of those alternatives would you choose?

BUSH: I wouldn't have taken any of the alternatives. I believe that -- I believe I made a mistake. I did it for the very reasons you say. There was one good thing that came out of that budget agreement, and that is we put a cap on discretionary spending. One-third of the president's budget is at the president's discretion, or really the Congress, since they appropriate every time and tell a president how to spend every dime. We've put a cap on the growth of all that spending, and that's good and that's helped.
But I was wrong because I thought the tax compromise, going along with 1 Democratic tax increase, would help the economy. I see no evidence that it has done it.

So what would I have done? What should I have done? I should have held out for a better deal that would have protected the taxpayer and not ended up doing what we had to do, or what I thought at the time would help.

So I made a mistake, and I -- you know, the difference, I think, is that I knew at the time I was going to take a lot of political flak. I knew we'd have somebody out there yelling "read my lips", and I did it because I thought it was right. And I made a mistake. That's quite different than taking a position where you know it's best for you. That wasn't best for me and I knew it in the very beginning. I thought it would be better for the country than it was. So there we are.

LEHRER: Mr. President, just to make sure that everybody knows what's going on here, when you responded directly to Mr. Perot, you violated the rule, your rules. Now --

BUSH: For which I apologize. When I make a mistake I say I'm sorry.

BUSH: Now, I say whose country is this? This is ours. Who will get hurt if we lay those papers on the table? The worst thing is, again, it's a mistake. Nobody did any of this with evil intent. I just object to the fact that we cover up and hide things. Whether it's Iran-contra, Iraq-gate or you name it, it's a steady stream.

Learn how to google.

exfbonnie said...

Ala - What a very beautiful post. I cringe when I think of how embarrassed I was of my parents from time to time...and not so much my dad...but my mom. SOmetimes both parents. Ughhh, I dont like to think that that was an issue, but it was. How awful...when looks matter. When we think there weaknesses will reflect ours...only because it is, in a way, except we seemed to be more conscious about it.

Love the picture ALA! And what courage it took to post this. Having the strength to write about things like this is very courageous and humbeling and beautiful.

ALa said...

Rab...OK, I should have said any incumbant that wanted to WIN!....... :)

riceburner147 said...

rab: someday, when you grow up, you will (i hope) cringe when you realize how insensitive you are. here is a post that rips at the heart of ANYONE who has an ounce of decency and you choose to use it to comment on some inane point. What you need (tho i am sure you are not aware of it yet) is to find someone with the sense and intelligence of Ala and spend time with them (without speaking your nonsense) until you learn how to be a caring human.

Bigandmean said...

riceburner,
When I read the insensitive claptrap left by rab I intended to say something but then I read your comment. You said it much better than I could have. I would have been too insensed to be rational and would be tempted to resort to my primal nature and call him an acerbic little creep.

That just wouldn't have been right. I mean the part about me calling him a name....that wouldn't be right. Now the part about whether or not he really is an acerbic little creep.....that's right on.

Thanks for saving me from embarrassing myself.

Ala,
I suspect that your Dad was instrumental in making you who you are.

Many of us made the same mistake you did when we were growing up.

My Mother wanted to be involved in every aspect of my life when I was in high school. She was a totally involved and doting mother and I was constantly fighting her for my independance. She tried to set me up with dates with her friend's daughters. She would talk to my teachers, many of whom were her friends, and know before I did if some girl in one of my classes was interested in me. She joined so many school related organizations I used to joke that she spent more time at my high school than I did.

I played football and only once during a game did I get hurt bad enough not to bounce back up right away. As I laid on the ground in pain, already embarrassed with what looked to me like thousands of people looking on, I saw my Mother start to climb a fence so she could get to me. I bounced up and pretended to be better than I was so Mom would climb down and go back to her seat.

I shut her out of my life after that as much as I could. I guarded any and all information about my life and told her nothing that I didn't absolutely have to. I continued doing it until after I got married and had kids of my own.

When Mom was in the hospital for the last time and we all knew she'd never leave, she and I were alone together and I finally got up the courage to tell her I was sorry for shutting her out. She didn't hesitate. She said "that's alright baby, I knew you didn't mean it and besides, I still found out everything anyway".

After all those years, I realized that I hadn't really shut her out and she hadn't been "gotten" by my behavior the way I had intended. She didn't mind at all. I'll guarantee you your Dad never gave it a second thought either.

Aunt Bitchy said...

ALA:
I must say you have changed
a lot...even I like you NOW!(smile)

(held my tongue with other comments...just waiting for a wise comment from cheeky)