Category Archives: Family

For Brother

When you’re a kid, trying to find your place in the world, there’s always that one person that you look up to more than anyone else. Be it an older student, your best friend, a cousin, or Britney Spears. You look to them for guidance, support and friendship; all of those things that a good role model (not Britney Spears) has to offer. 
For me, that person was my brother.

It made no difference to me that he’s six years older and male with vastly different interests from my own. He was always the first person I turned to.
Of course, we fought as all siblings tend to do. What else would you expect? I’d tell on him for something and he’d use me as a moving target for roping practice (not as cruel as it sounds, I promise).
Regardless, I knew I could count on him to take care of me even when he didn’t really feel like it. Looking back, I know there were many, many, many times that I annoyed the hell out of him. That time he had to get on the bus to yell at a kid that called me “stupid”; or when he started coaching my softball team instead of playing baseball for his own; or carrying me around Six Flags cause my legs wouldn’t stop shaking after getting off  of the “Dungeon Drop”. Through all of that, I never heard him complain. Nobody wants their baby sister hanging around all the time but he never made me feel like he didn’t care. 

I never felt more safe than when I was with him. It didn’t matter if he was driving 100 miles per hour (which never happened, Mom) I knew that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I trust him with my life, as I always have. My protector. 
He’s always been the strongest person I know. Never giving up, never losing. I learned so much from him; lessons that I could not have learned from anyone else. 

Everyone gives credit to the parents for molding them into the person they are; but I owe as much to my brother. Without him, I don’t know who I would be. 

I love you, Brother. 

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.” – Unknown

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Defining Dad

Growing up, I had everything a child could need, and most things that I wanted. I had a great Mom, a wonderful big brother, and a singularly amazing father. My Dad was the greatest, he worked hard everyday of the week to make sure that my mother, my brother and I were taken care of. When he wasn’t working, he was spending time with us. He took the time, in the middle of his busy schedule, to play with us, come to our softball games, my dance recitals. He took us on hunting trips, fishing expeditions, four-wheeling and a ton of other things that I took for granted then.

When I was 10 years old, I discovered something that a part of me had always known; my dad was not my father. My mother told me in secrecy the story of my biological father (who I refer to as my donor). She told me of the abuse she suffered at his hands, of her narrow escape from him when I was just a baby, his vow to find me and take me away from her; and the lengths she’d gone to keep me safe from him. The details of the story were heart breaking and when it was over my mother asked me to make a decision that no child should ever have to make. She asked me to act like nothing had changed, to continue to love my Dad the way I always had. I didn’t even have to consider it, I would unquestioningly continue to be my father’s daughter. I was wrong, however, to think that I could act as if nothing changed, it most certainly had.

I began to see my Dad in a whole new light. Here was a man with no legal or biological obligation to care for me, yet he did. He provided for me, he loved me, he sacrificed for me, he put up with my screaming friends every time I had a sleepover. I no longer took for granted the little things, I appreciated it all more than ever.

When he and my mother divorced, he didn’t divorce me. When my mom remarried, he didn’t stop being my dad. At fifteen I had my name legally changed to Bialas and I never gave more than a passing thought to the man that had a hand in creating me, so to speak. I grew up, grew strong, started a new chapter of my life in California, and my dad, Billy Bialas, remained a constant part of it. He still is today.

Six months ago, I faced yet again, a difficult decision. Better equipped to handle the choice but still not quite ready to face it. My donor, Mike, contacted my grandparents in an attempt to find me. They gave me his phone number and a bit of information to heighten my curiosity. As it was, his health was fading and he had something to give me. I held onto the number for a week before I ever got up enough nerve to make the call. Actually, it wasn’t the nerve I was lacking to begin with. More appropriately, my curiosity piqued and I had to know what this man wanted now, more than twenty years later. The conversation was a short one, I volunteered little information about myself, most of what I did tell him was less than the truth. I didn’t trust him. Eventually he sent me a substantial amount of money. As a college student, struggling to make ends meet, it was easy to accept his generosity. Many people, my mother for example, believe that it’s no so much generosity as him giving what is owed to me. I feel that the only way he could owe me anything was if I felt that he did. The only way that I’d feel he owed me was if I felt that I’d missed out on something by not having him in my life, and I didn’t. I missed out on nothing. I accepted the money he offered me without hesitation. I even took him up on the trip he agreed to pay for to meet him and the rest of my estranged family.

The trip was a great success. I flew to Alabama, in the beginning of December, rented a car and took one of the all expenses paid days to visit my friend; a bonus for me. I met my brothers and sisters; cousins, nieces, nephews, all of whom I loved instantly. Mike was a different story. I accepted him as a troubled child might accept a step father they perceived to be trying to take over the role of Dad. I still didn’t trust him, and I didn’t like how he assumed that I would consider him my father. It made me uncomfortable every time he referred to me as “his”, I almost cringed when he said “You’re home now.” For three days I was itching to get in my ugly rental car and drive away, preferably back to the comfort and familiarity of my friend in Alabama. Despite the strong desire to run away, I stayed.

When I left it was with a deep satisfaction. The satisfaction stemmed not only from finally meeting the family I’d never known, but from showing my donor the strong, independent woman that I became with no help from him. If I gained anything from the trip, aside from getting to know the other other side of my family and the fifteen hundred dollars given to me as a Christmas present, it was the reaffirmation of who my Dad really is.

My Dad with my little brother Brayden

He is not the man who in the last 6 months has given me more money than I make in a year in a futile attempt to make up for the twenty years of my life he missed. He’s not the man whose DNA contributed to my biology. My Dad is the man who has been present in my life as far back as I can remember. The one who accepted the difficult responsibility of raising a girl as his own daughter. He’s the man I’ve been able to count on for any and everything for the last 20 years. There is nothing I could do in my life to repay him for everything that he’s already done for me, but he’s my Dad and nothing could ever change how much I love him.


My Memaw

Where do I begin?
My Memaw was an extraordinary woman. It’s hard to describe the impact that she had on my life because there aren’t just one or two quirks of my personality that were influenced by her, all of me  was is.
I can hardly go a day without being reminded of her in some way. A certain song, a particular show, a phrase, a sound, a cookie, a [insert random item], anything. I couldn’t sum up Memaw, and I hardly expect a single blog post to give you any insight into the person that she was. I could write an entire book about her though, I’m afraid that it would be terribly long and exceedingly biased coming from the standpoint of her ever-so-slightly-spoiled granddaughter; so, I won’t even attempt it. I’d rather share the lessons I learned from her, and keep the memories to myself. I’m just selfish that way.

Lesson 1: “Life is uncertain; eat dessert first.” (Ernestine Ulmer)
That was one of Memaw’s favorite quotes. When I was a little girl, I thought it sounded like a great excuse to eat cake for dinner but now, older and somewhat wiser, I’ve discovered the true meaning. At least, what it means to me.
Make time for the people and things you enjoy. Life isn’t all about what you need sometimes, you should do what you want. Maybe, you’ll discover that what you wanted was all that you really needed.

Lesson 2: Beauty is in the (lazy, crossed, half-blind) eye of the beholder.
Memaw was a photographer, which meant her job was to find the beauty in everything, and she did. I have never been able to forget one of the times she took me along to take pictures. We were wandering around the site of some crumbling stone structure in the middle of nowhere. It was hot, dusty, there were no trees around under which to take refuge from the blazing sun, just dry prickly brush everywhere. She stumbled upon a rusted old  box spring that someone dumped there. She stared for a minute and then began clicking away, picture after picture of the piece of junk.

“Memaw, why are you taking a picture of THAT?” I asked as I kicked it with my light up tennis shoe-d foot.
She just said, “I don’t know, it looks neat.”

That’s how it always was with her. She saw things in people and broken down pieces of discarded crap that no one else did. She taught me that sometimes it’s worth a second, third or tenth look.

Memaw standing proudly with her photography display.

 Lesson 3: Be compassionate. 
She saved a horse from the glue factory once. I didn’t realize at the time that my answer to her question “would you like a horse?”, was irrelevant. She’d already made up her mind without me. But come on, what kid in her right or left mind would say “no” to their very own horse?
We called her “Angel” and she lived out the rest of her days on Abba Yakni Ranch.

Lesson 4: Take Chances.
Even if everyone else thinks you’ve lost your damn mind, don’t give up on what you want. In the car with her one evening the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack came on. She turned to me and said, “This is my song for you. Promise me you’ll always dance.”
I promised, thinking too literally again. I still try to keep that promise.

Lesson 5: Everything works out for the best.
Whatever may be falling apart today, is just making room for other things to come together tomorrow. Everything will be exactly as it is supposed to be.
I learned a great many things from Memaw: the importance of being nice to everyone, and of friends and family; the value of Oreo cookies at midnight and I Love Lucy marathons. The greatest lesson, I struggle with everyday.

Lesson 6: Believe in yourself.
You can do it, anything.
No matter how confident I appear, or how hard I try to prepare myself, I still have times of doubt.  I doubt myself, I doubt that everything will work out. Memaw never did. She always told me that I could be whatever I want to be. She hasn’t been proven wrong yet.

My Memaw

It has been eight years since she passed away, and I miss her every minute. I fear that one day I will forget all of the times that I spent with her and even as some memories fade, others become more clear. I won’t forget what I learned from her, those lessons are a part of who I am.

We still talk sometimes, her and I. She shows up in my dreams every so often just to chat and remind me.


My Mother

I have tried to begin this post about seven different ways. It is the hardest one that I have yet written.

“My Mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
Though everything I write
is a poem to my Mother.”
-Sharon Doubiago

How do you describe your greatest influence, the most important person in your life? The one who loves you unconditionally, no matter how many times you break her heart; the one who has been there for you, protected you, taught you, sacrificed for you, loved you, forever. How do you justice to that? There aren’t words enough; it can’t be done.

There is no one on this earth, no one that I have met or will ever meet, greater than my mother. Life was never easy for her, especially not after my brother, and then I, was born. She has powered through situations that many women will, thankfully, never find themselves in. It has taken me twenty-three years to get to know the woman that I call “Momma”, and I am always learning new things about her. You would think after so many years the mystery would be lost but she surprises me everyday. It makes writing this even harder. How do you describe someone you are still getting to know?

I gave her Hell as a teenager. What more could you expect? I defied her, I rebelled, I fought against her. She didn’t understand me then, I thought. The funny thing is, I’ve come to realize that it was me who didn’t understand her. I didn’t take the time to get to know her, to hear about her life. I didn’t know the woman she was before she was Momma. I didn’t know of the sacrifices she made for my brother and me. I was unaware of the lengths she was willing to go to protect us, or how hard she worked to provide for us. We always had everything we needed; clothes, toys, food. She woke us up in the mornings, got us ready for school, fed us, then went to work where she would stay until long after our school day was over. When we all got home, she cooked for us. And I don’t mean microwave dinners or grilled cheese sandwiches. Momma went all out. Chicken fried steak and gravy, meatloaf, lasagna, enchiladas, dumplings, pot roast, things that took hours to make. I actually used to think that microwave dinners were a treat because we never had them.
She baked cakes for our birthdays, and sometimes just because. No matter what, we always had a hot meal. No chef can top her cooking.

Not only is she the best cook, she’s also the best doctor. She wasn’t the kind of mom that poured Robitussin down our throats for every sniffle (though back then it tasted so good that I wouldn’t have minded), she had her own remedies. Sprite and saltines for upset stomachs, soup for colds and band-aids for everything else. When I woke up in the middle of the night, crying due to leg cramps, she came in my room and massaged my feet until I went back to sleep. She didn’t complain about having to stay up with me all night, she just did it.

She could be the most intimidating person when she was mad, even at 5’3″, but she was always fair. A fact that I never admitted to her then.

That was all just in a day’s work, not to mention the endless cleaning. My brother and I were given chores but that didn’t mean mom got a break. It all needed to be perfect, though to her it never was. She cooked, cleaned, healed, played, laughed, loved and always sang. I used to get so frustrated because when I was mad, if I said something that reminded her of a song, she sang it. Right in the middle of me being dramatic, she’d just start singing. Her favorite was that Rolling Stones song, the one that goes, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find, you get what you need”. She never sang the whole song though, just the “you can’t always get what you want” part. It drove me crazy and she knew it. I think that’s why she did it. It doesn’t bother me now, because that’s just who she is.

My mother has always been there for me. She supports my every decision, even the ones she disagrees with. She keeps me level, reminding me that things won’t always work out the way that I want but they’ll always work out for the best. She has become my greatest friend, biggest fan, the most important person in my life.

 

I am who I am because my mother is who she is. Loving, supportive, hard-working, independent, strong, intelligent, beautiful, amazing; any of those, all of those. Nothing I say can even begin to clue you in to this wonderful woman. I wish that I could give back some of what she’s given to me. I wish that I will be even a fraction of the woman that she is. I hope I make her proud. And on this day, her birthday, I hope that she knows just how much she is loved and appreciated.
Happy Birthday Momma!


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