Monthly Archives: April 2014

Remembering Daddy’s many girlfriends

Well, if you ever had a chance to read my story about my abusive father then you know my father had a bad habit of over indulging…not with food but with women. Oh, no, he could never have just one (at a time). Typically, he’d juggle three and sometimes four at a time. However, I must admit, I think three was his limit. Beyond that number he couldn’t keep up. The worst part of having more than 3 was keeping your name straight. Listen, I was his daughter and it wasn’t unusual for me to call him on the phone and have him hesitate because his first thought was, “Oh, no, which women is this?” AND it wasn’t unusual for me to make a snide remark like, “Daddy, it’s your daughter, MaLea…no need to shit bricks…I’m not a girlfriend.” AND his response was often laughter. See, he thought it was cute…funny. He may have thought I was teasing him but I wasn’t. It made me mad. I was mad that he treated women that way. However, he saw my comments like that as teasing. He loved that kind of teasing because it boosted his confidence. If he had more than one women, then he felt important, legitimate and loved.

OK, so the point of this was not to bash my dad’s bad habits. I’ve voiced my opinion about him and the man he was in my other stories. Instead, I want to talk about the women he dated. Folks, it was an interesting bunch…as interesting as my dad was. How did this come about? Why would I want to write about them? Well, I thought about this when I was driving my kid to school this morning. On the way I passed the house of one of his ex-girlfriends. I’ll call her Fay. I lived with her for a short few weeks during the summer of 1989 before heading off to Israel for a year long program. Through the years I ran into her at coffee shops and grocery stores. Sometimes when I spoke to her she’d be nice and at other times she was not. She was a character but so were all of them. Listen, they had to be to date my father. F.S was older than Daddy and gosh, she has to be in her 90’s now. I saw her at the grocery store just a couple of weeks ago and she really looked good. No, I didn’t say hello to her because the last few times I talked to her she seemed mad at me for what Daddy had done to her. Grant you, they had a right to be angry but certainly not at me. So, I just watched her from afar and thought about the first time I met her.

Fay was not Daddy’s first girlfriend…nor was she his last. I believe he met her through the sister of another one of his girlfriends. Yep, that’s right. Any opportunity he had to add to his collection, he took it. Fay was spunky and always suspicious of Daddy. However, she seemed to really like that about him because she continued to date him. As Daddy did with all of his girlfriends he moved in with them. First, just during the weekends and then during the week. He moved fast and furious and the women were taken by him. Fay was no different in that way but her personality was. When she disagreed with Daddy, she told him. AND, she would tell him in a way that was not the Southern, sweet, gentile womanly way. Oh, no, Fay would stand up to Daddy. Of course when I met her I was suspicious. I was suspicious of all of Daddy’s girlfriends. After all most of them he dated before I was even 18 years old and not one of them showed me any interest in me. AND none of them ever questioned why daddy was spending time with them rather than with his daughter (who was underage). And so, many of them I had no respect for. Fay was no different. I liked her spunkiness though. She was the first one who really stood up to Daddy and I liked that. However at the same time she had a meanness about her. Underlying I often felt she was a lot like Daddy and I didn’t like it. She was not warm and caring. She in many ways was the male form of Daddy. Needless to say, Daddy’s relationship with her was a tumultuous one. In fact she eventually got her own children involved and they had to call the police to keep Daddy away.

Most of Daddy’s girlfriends were women of the generation where the men were the head of the household and they were to be their supporters. They could speak up but there was an educate in how that was done. For example another one of Daddy’s girlfriends lived on a farm in the country. I’ll call her Carmen. Her farm was her husbands (who died many years prior) The land had been in his family for many years. She loved it out there and so did Daddy. He loved it. There was a lake that Daddy loved to go fishing. He loved the rough and tough way of life and Carmen’s home provided that for Daddy. Now, Carmen was much different than Fay. Yes, they were both Southern women but that was the only thing similar. Carmen was the stereotypical upper crust, Southern woman. She catered to her man…after all it was the woman’s job to keep the house, make the meals and provide whatever else that was needed to the man. And she did that and did that well. In fact when I was 15 years old and Momma had just died a few months before, Carmen told me I was a disappointment because I was not caring for my dad as I should have been. She told me it was unfortunate that my mom had died but it was time I stepped up to the plate and did what I was supposed to do. Oh and what was that, folks? Carmen was mad with me for not cooking and cleaning for my dad. She felt since I was the woman of the household then that was my responsibility. I’m sure y’all can guess that she and I did NOT hit it off. Meanwhile, my mom would have been furious. My mom who was of the upper crust Southern society raised her girls to move beyond the expected mold of women. Most of all to never conform to societies pressure of what women were supposed to do. And so, Carmen’s advice to me did not bode well. We were like oil and water for sure.

Earlier on many of Daddy’s girlfriends were Southern, upper crust, traditional women. They were women who kowtowed to their men and placed them of pedestals. AND of course Daddy LOVED LOVED that kind of girlfriend. There was Anna who had two homes. One in the city and one on the beach. Daddy having grown up on the beach loved Anna’s beach house. He thought I’d be impressed with her because of it but he always failed to remember I hated the beach. Anna would invite Daddy out there and on occasion invite me too. I HATED it! It was so boring! Daddy and Anna would encourage me to go out to the beach while they disappeared together somewhere. I’d be alone for hours never knowing where they were. I could have done that at home. Of course Anna was another one of Daddy’s traditional girlfriends. One thing about Anna, though, was she made it clear she was never going to marry Daddy. See, her husband left her lots of money but only if she didn’t remarry. And so, she had no interest. Plus, she knew Daddy was not going to provide for her. That always made Daddy angry.

Around the age of 21 Daddy began expanding beyond just the Southern, upper crust girlfriend. I’m sure it was more because he ran out of those available. One women was a fashion designer. She was interesting. She was always picture perfect. Daddy loved her. She was from California and was someone of a free spirit BUT damn was she business minded. She was the first one of Daddy’s girlfriends to have been younger than him. The others had been older. Her name was Venus and she clearly didn’t need a man to be successful. Daddy saw her as a challenge, I’m sure. He just knew he could “tame” her. But, eventually, she left and moved back to the west coast. There was the German woman who I can’t even remember her name. She was overly friendly. I remember once sitting in her living room and next thing I knew she was massaging my feet. OK, that was weird! And this was the woman who openly took showers with my dad while I was visiting. Then, there was the post woman. Oh my gosh! She was infatuated with Daddy for some reason. By the time he was dating her I lived on my own. She would call me at 2 and 3am crying and asking me where was my father. Yea, I made it clear to her I was NOT Daddy’s keeper. The most ridiculous girlfriend was the one who was 30 years younger than Daddy. And not only was she 30 years younger but she also had a young child. Yea, that was insane and I knew that was never going to last. Daddy was not kid friendly and the woman was my sister’s age for G-d sake! Of course that was short lived.

Daddy’s last girlfriend was a very lovely Japanese woman. Sadly because of her age and culture she endured a lot of Daddy’s abusive behaviors. She wasn’t one to speak up or stand up to him. However, she was the only one of Daddy’s girlfriends to give me a wonderful gift. After Daddy died she contacted me so that I could finally have my childhood photos and items that were my moms. Things Daddy used to threaten me if I didn’t do as he wanted. And even though this girlfriend defended Daddy’s behavior and mourned his loss in spite of his treatment to her, she was the only one who thought of me. For that I am very grateful.

This morning just as I was finishing this, I looked up Fay on the internet. I was surprised to see she had died this week. As I read her obituary all I could do was smile and chuckle. The words that were written totally exemplified the woman she was. And so, I think it is apropos that I end with her. I did not include her name and took out certain specifics about her to be respectful to her family. May all those who dated my dad who are no longer with us rest in peace. AND if you happen to see him? Maybe this time stay clear and find someone else!


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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in abusive fathers


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How do you say good-bye?



I’m in shock. My father in law passed away just a short 3 weeks ago…just a few short weeks shy of his 61st wedding anniversary. He had been in the hospital having some tests done to see what was causing him to pass out. They discovered 4 blockages and were talking about doing surgery. NEVER did anyone think this could happen. Of course it was the elephant in the room when he was in the hospital but damn, this could never happen to Edward. So what he was 82, had diabetes, sleep apnea and was over weight. He was a tall, big, strong man. He’d be fine, right? He couldn’t die. Yet he did and I cannot wrap my head around it.

When I think about the first time I met Edward, I smile. It was 1997 and it was Mother’s Day weekend. Carol and I had only been dating a month and she invited me to her parent’s house for their Mother’s Day gathering. It took a lot for me to feel awkward but I did that day. I felt Mother’s Day was a family thing and I wasn’t family. I was really nervous about going but Carol insisted.

That Mother’s Day was the first time I met Carol’s daughter, parents, siblings, niece and nephews. Everyone was very nice and so polite. Their world of politeness seemed so foreign to me. I know that sounds crazy but my background was vastly different. My family had no problem interrupting a conversation, talking over someone and voicing their opinion right then and there which usually included insulting the family member being spoken to. If you were going to make it in my family you had to have a thick skin and learn how to play with the big boys. It was just a way of life. And so, needless to say I know my personality was a bit (lets say) strong for their tastes. At that time I had no filter. What I felt is what I said. And if someone said something I felt was wrong, I let them know it. Listen, I admit it. I was rough around the edges and I didn’t know when to back down. And so, that day when I met each of Carol’s family members one by one, they one by one walked away from me until I found myself alone in the living room… where Edward sat also isolated from everyone else. I had already known from Carol that her dad wasn’t the sociable kind. Not only was he not so sociable BUT he was frustrating to have a conversation with…hmmm…sound familiar? That was no coincidence I ended up alone in the living room with her dad. Bashert, I say. It was funny because neither of us even cared why we ended up alone. After all, the problem was everyone else; NOT us.

While I sat on the couch in the living room Edward was in his recliner chair reading a book… he had all of his accoutrements (beverage, snacks, assortment of reading materials, writing utensils, crossword puzzles and TV clicker) on the side table next to him so he wouldn’t even have to get up (anytime soon) and be forced to be sociable with everyone in the kitchen. And so there I sat… quietly. After a good 10 minutes Edward peaked over his book and looked at me. He smiled and then went back to reading. Another 5 minutes went by and he peaked over his book again. I suppose my presence was a bit menacing so after the second time he peaked over his book he finally spoke to me. He smiled again and then asked me my name. I suppose at this point he felt obligated to talk to me and so he continued by asking me how I met Carol. I told him we had a painting class together at college. Now, it probably would have sufficed to have stopped there but of course I didn’t. I continued to tell him how much I hated painting and because of that I wanted someone to paint my paintings for me. I told him I thought Carol would be the perfect person. Folks, I can still see the surprised look on Edwards face. He was stunned…not about my bluntness but by what I was saying. No way in hell would his daughter be caught cheating. He knew he had taught her better and he knew she would never do it.

With a half cocked smile (as if to say this girl is crazy) Edward said in his classic way, “OK. That’s interesting. And why do you think Carol would have cheated for you?” In my own selfish cocky way I answered, “I just had a feeling.” Edward clearly was not happy with what I was saying. Not that he told me so but it was evident in the questions he asked and his facial expressions. The interesting thing was he knew his daughter and he knew she did not do my paintings for me. It didn’t take long before Edward couldn’t take me anymore. While sitting in his chair he hollered into the kitchen where his wife, Carolyn, was. He asked her when lunch was going to be ready. When Carolyn told him it was ready, he politely excused himself leaving me by myself in the living room. Now folks, I bet you’re thinking that was the beginning of the end of that relationship. You’d be wrong, though. Believe it or not that day was the start of a beautiful relationship between one tough punk kid (that be me) and one tough old man (that be Edward).

Time and time again during our visits to Carol’s parent’s house I found myself sitting in the living room with Edward while everyone else was in other parts of the house. Edward was always in his chair and always reading his book. But, the more often I came over the more quickly he’d stop reading to engage in a conversation. The conversations were usually political in nature AND were of topics we were polar opposites in philosophy. He knew how to push my buttons and I knew how to push his. Oh, what I’d give to go back to those days to be a fly on the wall.

As the years passed I began to change. I slowly learned how to communicate in a manner that was more tolerable (lets say). I began enjoying socializing with Carol’s family and being a part of the their conversations. And so, my time in the living room with Edward lessened. Over the last 5 years or so mine and Edwards conversations changed. He would tell me about his upbringing and about some of his hardships. It was during this time we both learned how similar our upbringings were. We were both abandoned by our parents and really had no supportive family to speak of. As a result we were both bitter in our own ways. For the first time we shared our stories and laughed about our similarities (and the differences). Our ages were vast but our lives were familiar to the both of us. What I loved was during this time he’d often tell me how proud of Carol (his daughter) he was. Her illness scared the hell out of him and he worried she’d never recover. He was not one to talk about her illness but I could often get him to talk about it. It made me feel good that he recognized that even though I was a hard shell to crack, I was somehow able to help his daughter and she was able to do the same for me. For whatever reason our relationship worked and both Carol and I were better people because of it. Edward saw that (in time) and accepted me into the family. Even though he had trouble calling me his daughter’s partner, he did introduce me to others as his daughter. He even was able to let go of his hard ways and place me on the Breland family tree. Folks, I cried the day he did. It was the most special gift Edward could have ever given me. Not simply because he did it. It was because I knew what it took for Edward to do it. He was a traditional man who felt marriage was between a man and a women. AND more so he felt strongly not to recognize any relationship that the government did not recognize. And yet, folks, he did it. He was able to see my love for his daughter as well as my love for her family. I took their last name and we gave it to our son. He saw that our relationship was no different than that of his and his wife. That meant the world to me. My biggest regret was that I never thanked him and I never let him know how much that meant to me. I may have changed in many ways over the years but my ability to thank Edward was still so very hard. I do hope Edward knew what it meant to me.

Over the last two years Edward and I didn’t have as many conversations…more often than not he would be asleep when we visited. And if he woke up while we were there it was only enough time for him to mosey into the kitchen to get a drink, say a quick hello and then disappear again for another nap. BUT even during those times we’d sneak in a discussion here and there. By this time though they changed…in a good way. We no longer had this need to prove our points or to push each other’s buttons. We could disagree and be alright with it. We understood our views came from our different upbringings and that was OK. It just didn’t matter anymore to have to be right. OK, so I’m sure it helped I was no longer that smart ass kid and I was able to let go. I think too it was because we had gained a love and appreciation for each other and a level of respect for what we each had experienced in our lives. Or maybe we were simply tired of those intense conversations. Which ever they were a far cry from that first discussions we had. To think that only took 17 years to happen… a testament to both of our strong personalities. We don’t give up so easily but I’m glad we did.

Listen, through out those seventeen years Edward and I had many heated and interesting conversations. Man, did Edward know how to press my buttons and I knew how to press his. It almost felt like an intense game of chess. He’d make a move and then I would. He’d make a point that I couldn’t respond, he earned a check mate. And visa versa. Both of us never shied away from giving our opinion as well as telling the other how mistaken the other one was. However neither of us ever lost our temper nor did we hold it against each other (at least publicly). OK, so we may have gotten mad and we may have even given each of our spouses a mouth full later, but that never stopped us from engaging into another debate. It truly was amazing how alike we were.

I grew to love and respect Edward for who he was. There was never a doubt he loved his wife and would go to great lengths for her. No doubt he loved his children even though he may not have known the best way to show it. And there’s no doubt he loved his grandkids even though he had a hard time relating to them. AND even though Edward and I had many arguments I really did grow to love that man as a father…all of his warts and all. After all he did the same for me. Now, isn’t that what family is truly about? Unconditional love…which is what he gave to our son. No, Judah was not his blood relative but he saw him no different than his other grandchildren. My heart melted every time our son called him Papa (and Gram). Something else I wish I had thanked him for.

Damn! I’m going to miss that man. His tall, large stature…the way he’d waddle into the kitchen after a nap to get a cup of iced tea which he’d pour into a styrofoam cup (he had brought home from a restaurant a few weeks prior). I’m going to miss his endless talking about the family tree and about his relatives. I’m going to miss how he’d smile when he would talk to Judah about something philosophical. I’m going to miss bringing over our dachshund, Moses, who Edward would hold in his lap and let lick all over his face. The belly laugh he’d give while Moses licked him was priceless. I’m going to miss how Edward would holler for Carolyn… he’d often leave the “lyn” off and Carol would answer instead. Edward would then deny it up and down when Carol would tell him he said her name. I’m going to miss his smiles and laugh when he’d talk to Judah. AND most of all I am going to miss our long winded conversations that often got our feathers raised.

I had a dream after Edward died where he and I were talking. I couldn’t believe how much he had changed. Edward was happier than he had been in years. He told me he no longer felt depressed and weighed down. In my dream he was laughing, smiling and telling jokes. He wanted me to tell Carolyn (his wife) how much he loved her and that he will never leave her side. He wanted me to tell her that he is in a good place and how he is finally free (from the restraints of his body). He wanted her to know how sorry he was for not being able to be the husband she wanted and needed him to be. He knows he didn’t support and love her as he should have but he didn’t know how. That was a great regret of his. BUT, he wanted her to remember those happy times. Those times they’d laugh and laugh about the silliest things. Those meals Carolyn would make that were so bad and how Edward never said a word and just ate them. In particular Edward spoke about the time he fell out of the bed. I remember in my dream holding my ears and telling him that was just too personal. (I did ask Carolyn about this and she told me about a time when she was changing the sheets on her bed. She was only wearing a shirt and underwear and Edward came into the room to grab her. When he did, it startled Carolyn and she jumped. That made Edward jump and when he did he somehow got his foot caught in the sheets (that were hanging down on the floor) and he fell down breaking his toe.)

Listen, real or not it doesn’t matter. What matters is it was comforting to have this dream. As much as I know many of us will miss him (warts and all) I do feel comforted he’s in a place where he is free and so so happy. I also feel strongly his spirit will live on in each of our memories.

You Edward, we love you and miss you.






Posted by on April 19, 2014 in Death, Dying parent, Parent's death


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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Weekly photo challenge