Google+ Followers

Monday, June 2, 2014


vada by cheyanne

Sunday was Vada's birthday party. I think her birthday was Saturday, but Sunday was a good time to get family and friends together and kids, a happy, fun bunch of people. Vada is now three. I asked her how old she was, she said, Four, and bent over giggling. She pulled a good one on me. I gave the camera to Cheyanne when I arrived, told her to take all the pictures she wants, she's the party photographer. She made me some charming pictures, pictures my eye would not have seen. This is why I give the camera to her when I visit now. It gives me a chance to see through a child's eye what I have witnessed, but would have taken other pictures. For me, she is a fresh eye, a freshness that is foreign to my own aesthetic. Mine is too educated. Hers is totally uneducated. Fresh as fresh gets. She asked me if I deleted the bad pictures. I told her there are no bad pictures. Sometimes what you think is a bad picture turns out to be a good one. It's all in how you look at it. Cheyanne and I have become friends, I'm happy to note. She's had a very troubled first five years, the formative years, so I want to support Cheyanne, affirm her for who she is. In her new home with daddy and his wife and child, a new mother, it's been a difficult transition going from no training at all unto almost being an aboriginal child, having to learn she has new rules to go by all of a sudden. It's been trying for her. And starting school at the same time. She still has periods of acting out her frustration, but less frequently as time goes by. A few weeks ago I was out on the deck alone smoking a cigarette. She asked if she could smoke one. I said, Sure. Will you tell? No, I won't tell. She never inhaled, telling me she's played with cigarettes before. She just puffed until it was gone and thought she was big smoking a cigarette with a grownup, somebody who could be her great grandpa. She loved it and I loved it. In my head I heard everyone I know coming down on me for giving a cigarette to a child. I laughed. Made it all the more fun. The thrill of taboo. I felt like it was a moment of friendship between us, on the order of a peace pipe. She didn't inhale it, but she tasted the smoke, that mystery all the adults in her life perform. She came to me later in the day today and asked me to help her clean her room. She had toys out on the floor and wanted help. I was glad to help her. It took no time with the two of us picking up. This is my friend Cheyanne.
cheyanne said, make a funny face
The kids have a new swimming pool for the deck that holds a few feet of water, fits good in a corner. The kids love it. Cheyanne's hair was still wet from splashing in the water with the other kids. It was the classic American family scene, men in the living room watching the race on tv, women on the deck sitting around the table under an umbrella smoking cigarettes and talking, keeping an eye on the kids, the kids playing in the water and a sandbox. Crystal took the baby wading pool shaped like a turtle with a turtle-back top to keep trash out and put sand in it for a good sandbox with a top to keep the rain out. Now the kids have a great playground on the deck with childproof locks on both gates to the deck. Crystal is cleverly resourceful at everything she does. She is furnishing the house with old furniture she buys for very little, takes it to the basement, works on it, sands, stains, paints until it's done, then it goes upstairs to function amidst her other finds. The table on the deck Justin made of six palettes and 2x4s. Not even a hurricane would blow that table off the deck. It would blow the deck off the house first. Crystal took a very plain house that on the outside favors a double-wide, and made it beautiful in just a few years. Justin put a new roof on it in two days this week with help from his friend Jesse. Flower beds everywhere. Crystal's yellow Dutch iris are in bloom today. Interior walls were all white when they bought the house. Kitchen is granny apple green with black cabinets and white trim around windows and door. The living room is orange sherbet. Hallway tan, Cheyanne's room pink, Vada's room yellow, and their bedroom a deep dark red that is gorgeous. Bathroom aqua. Crystal has created nearly all the furniture from finding something for ten or twenty dollars and fixing it up into a working piece of furniture. In Cheyanne's room, one wall is painted with flat black paint for drawing on with chalk. The whole wall. Kids draw on it, visiting kids write their names on it. Crystal helps Cheyanne with homework on it. It's always new. 
vada watches a kid cry on tv, by cheyanne
I'm having the same kind of friendship with Cheyanne and Vada I had with Justin, their daddy, when he was both their ages. It's almost inconceivable to Cheyanne that her daddy might have been her age, and that I knew him then, like I know her now. Justin needed support as a child. I was the adult in his life who witnessed what he went through at home, couldn't do anything to change it, but I was able to give Justin the support of an adult in his life who simply understood, and prayer. His mother and dad brought him up. I prayed him up. There was nothing I could do for Justin, considering he had the daddy from hell. I did too, and I knew he needed somebody who understood he was really all right, he's as good as he needs to be. I had the intent all the way through his childhood of somehow waking up self-awareness in him. I believed self-awareness would help him get through his rough time and create a life for himself on his own. I don't know what did it, but it took. Prayer, I suppose. There was no one way I approached waking up his self-awareness. Different ways in different times, different circumstances. Basically, I just supported him in who he was. I too knew his daddy was irrational. I actually stayed friends with Justin's dad and mom for Justin's sake. I felt like Justin needed support and I wanted to be there for him. I wanted him to know he had an adult friend he could trust. And I liked Justin the kid just as I like Justin the adult, now 31. We have close past life connections. I only told on Justin once, and I told him before he did what he did that I would tell. I was painting the upper corner of the outside wall at the peak of a house where the two sides of the roof meet. All the way up on my extension ladder, standing on the third rung from the top painting overhead. Justin was 8 or 9. He was shaking the ladder at the ground. It was on asphalt. If the ladder lost traction, I'd end up in the hospital and it would have killed him. I had to climb down the ladder and get after him. I went back up the ladder and he kept at it. I told him if he kept it up, I'd tell. He kept it up. I ran him off so vehemently it made him cry walking away. I felt terrible for making him cry, but I couldn't stop him otherwise. And I told, because I told him I would. I hated to tell on him, but he needed to learn definitively you do not shake a ladder when somebody is on it.
justin by cheyanne
Justin grew up in dysfunctional circumstances due to a case of undiagnosed, hence untreated, mental illness in daddy. All I can figure is his daddy really hated him from a past life experience. Of course, his daddy got it worse than he did. A long line of really mean behavior father to son, several generations back. It was the same in my own family line. Great grandpa beat grandpa's brother, Sam, with a chain in the barn when Sam was sixteen. Sam staggered to the road, walked down the road, hopped on a boxcar and was gone forever. He later settled about a hundred miles south of where he grew up, but never saw family the rest of his life. I knew him a little bit in his old age. I admired him in a big way for the bravery in making his stand. I believe the best thing a boy can do with a daddy like that is put him in the past, exactly like Sam did. I didn't run away, but I put him in the past at about age 7. From then on, he was the madman in the house no one had any recourse against. That was when my own interior life began. I hated every day of childhood. I was not a happy kid. Shy and depressed, seething with rage within, and no Prozac or Zoloft, deal with it. Lost confidence in God early, too. Prayers for relief, for a better life fell on deaf ears. No support from mother. Lost confidence in her at age 10 after trying not to for a few years. The particulars of what Justin and I went through are different, but the loneliness, the desolation, the despair, having no recourse, the rage are the same. As I have had to reparent myself in my adult life, Justin is in his process of reparenting himself. He sees that he is good at what he does, whatever it is, has a fast, sharp, retentive mind. His measure for himself, his goal is to be a good daddy who loves his kids and they love their daddy. He has created for himself an adult life with a woman so right for him he could not have found her traversing the world three times, because she was right here. Crystal was married to Justin's closest friend. He died. Justin and Crystal comforted each other in their grief and fell in love. Crystal is the element needed to help Justin in his healing. She has her own healing he helps her with. These are the people I call my home.
vada blows a bubble, by cheyanne
vada bites a corndog, by cheyanne
selfie by cheyanne


  1. Tj, you've been their rock, Justin's, and now Cheyanne and Vada. When Shannon was a kid, before the court finally placed her solely with her Dad at the age of 9, I sought counseling for me to be able to help her with what she was going through. She had night terrors for years. I learned not to touch her when she was having them, it only made it worse. Counselor said a child being raised in bad situations only needed one adult steady solid rock in their life. Shannon was fortunate - she had two of us (me and Karen, her angel day care provider). You are those kids rock.

  2. A little clarification. Counselor said, "Only one steady solid rock in a child's life gives them a far better chance of being a solid steady adult themselves."

    1. Lee, I wrote you a long reply, hit the enter key and all of it went away. Yes, I've been that rock for Justin, and am here to say it works. A local woman told me years ago, "Be good to a kid and you'll have a friend for life." I found it to be true. Not just Justin. When I see somebody grownup I knew as a kid, whoever it is, is my friend. One kid I know whose daddy was my friend for several years and died. Sometimes when he gets lonesome for his daddy, he drops by to see me, just to be here. Around 30 now. Now that my older friends are mostly dead, my new round of friends are the grownup kids I knew. They are people I can't think about too much without losing it, like now, tears streaming down my face.