At the young age of six, I was whisked away, along with my eight-year-old sister to start a new life in Albuquerque with my dad. Dad didn't want the divorce and he was gonna be damned if my mom was going to take away his daughters.
He was taking the kids.
He was gonna be in control so that he could see that they were not badly affected by the stigma of divorce.
He would figure out a way.
He was flying off with them; it would be just the three of them for now, somewhere better, if he could get lucky, if the wind would only blow the right way this time.
I'm not really sure why the hell he picked Albuquerque. Maybe Phoenix held too many reminders for my dad about his failed marriage. Maybe it had never brought him anything good and he wanted to try his hand somewhere else, somewhere far, but not too far from his other young daughter, just three years of age who my mother had managed to get custody of. Maybe he wanted to be far enough away from the frowns of his disapproving family and the muffled snickers of my parents' "friends". Maybe the I-told-ya-so looks were too unbearable.
My dad was around 29 years old at the time; tall, a full head of beautiful light brown curly hair, clear blue eyes, straight teeth that had escaped the eager, greedy hands of his family's orthodontist when he was a teen. My dad grew up in all-American, upper middle class family of nine children in Arizona during the 60's. He escaped Vietnam by just a couple of years, unlike his brother who my father, at age sixteen, saw buried. His father was a federal judge, his mother had a master's degree in Psychology but was a housewife and a devout Mormon. He came from a family with a history of power and success; his maternal grandmother had served in the Arizona State legislature in the 1940s (no small feat for a woman at the time), his paternal grandfather was a Professor of tax law. All of his siblings had gone on to law school, or had become accountants or had started to work their way up the military ranks.
Compared to them, my father had a head full of hot air.
My father had not a dime to his name, just some nice oak bedroom furniture and a clothes dryer, but nowhere to put it in our tiny apartment so it stood in the living room absent a washing machine (my mom had gotten the washer).
He had never gone to college like the rest of his family or travelled much out of the state. He had not done much of anything except disappoint his parents and my mother, who he had married at the ripe age of 19. He grew up in the Mormon tradition, but it was likely a life-style choice of his parents rather than being deeply ontological. They were at the same time cultured and well-educated, steeped in community and family, and very well-respected.
They were grounded, not like my father who was floating off into space, with all the others who would never make anything of themselves.
They probably didn't like that my dad smoked pot.
They probably didn't like that he had asked them for money to start a sales call center out of his apartment; to start-up a vending and snacks company (based on the "honor system"); to get his real estate license; to pay the IRS all the money he owed them; to buy himself a Ford escort to replace the giant brown Chrysler he had also been gifted from his grandmother.
They probably didn't like that he had opened his uncluttered mind to becoming an evangelical to soothe a failed marriage, a career that had gone nowhere and to find meaning in life. It must have been so easy to turn to that and it must have itched at and irritated their Mormon roots so.
Scoffed at by his family and ex-wife, he turned to his two young daughters to fulfil him. He learned to braid their hair for school. He did their laundry, properly sorted and all. He made sure there was a nutritious breakfast each day, specializing in chocolate chip pancakes on the weekends. He learned to make quiche and chicken enchiladas. He made sure they took their Flintstones vitamins. He had them see a counselor with experience on dealing with children of divorced parents. He bought an ATARI, somehow, who knows how he got the money, but they played Pac-Man for hours together.
He sometimes accidentally burdened them with things he probably shouldn't have shared with them, such as how lonely he was or how worried he was about whether the food would last all week until his next paycheck. He didn't have anyone else to talk to. It couldn't have been easy to find a female ear or heart with all the baggage and debt he carried.
And then I'm sure he would plant his feet firmly again and vow to never burden them like that again, to keep his head out of the clouds, to make them think everything was okay. Everything would be okay.
He had tears in his eyes a lot.
Utterly disappointed with life.
And those two girls picked up on every bit of his discontent and yearning.
Each day at the breakfast table with bowls full of oatmeal and Flintstones vitamins ready to chew and orange juice poured, four big eyes would stare up at him and give him some kind of motivation to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes those little people asked him if he was sad. And he would blink his tears away and smile and say, "No."
One time he took them to see the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon festival.
Maybe he stared up at that colorful New Mexican sky while the girls took turns sitting on his shoulders and maybe he wished he could glide away with them in one of those air-filled, stripe-spangled jewels, effortlessly through the crisp sky to somewhere else, somewhere easier.
I know one little girl wished it.
Three is a Crowd by JadeXJustice from Flickr
Untitled by TailspinT from Flickr
Mass Ascension by a4gpa from Flickr
Checkered Sky by JadeXJustice from Flickr
Above the Crowd by a4gpa from Flickr