My Dad Gives me Strength During my Trials (2014)

Every year for a few years in a row now, I try to come up with a Father’s Day Message that tops the one before. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, but I’ll at least try to be honest and tell it from the heart. Last year, I was a month out of of my “boring, corporate” job I’d just quit after six years, and my hopes that “something better” would come along were still high. The year turned out to be one of the most challenging I’d had since prior to starting with my old firm, due to an issue with marijuana dependency that led to a biochemical imbalance which was compounded by multiple adverse and abnormal reactions to psychiatric intervention. I tried quitting pot cold turkey, couldn’t sleep, was too embarrassed to tell my physician I’d just stopped smoking weed, and was placed on medications that were not appropriate for someone who was *merely* going through withdrawal.

Although some people have nothing but positive experience with marijuana, I had to come to terms with the fact that I have never used marijuana without a pattern of increasing use over months and years, and life sooner or later getting out of control. For me, it’s like Kryptonite. And psych meds are even worse. For me, 90% of the medications I’ve tried made the problems that they are supposed to cure ten times worse, and in the other 10% of the time, created side effects, some of which, like lactation, that are rare enough to only ccur in 1-3% of all users, and some of which, like tremors and rashes, which medical professionals decided were indicators that I should be switched to something else.

When I was switched in April from a medication that seemed to calm me down, due to side effects, to a medication I abreacted to, the abreaction was so severe I didn’t know if I could take it. This medication made me feel like there were bugs crawling inside my skull and the discomfort made every second literally unbearable. I went home to visit my mother and father and started to taper off of the medication while getting plenty of sleep, a quiet place to recover, and daily prayer with my mother and father.

I had to find another route to wellness, and it came to me through alternative herbal “brain food,” prayer, my father’s blessings, and abstinence from mood-altering substances including marijuana (and to a lesser extent booze and caffeine, which I indulge in abstemiously and should probably avoid altogether just to be safe). There were times I was afraid I would never be able to function normally again, times I worried about becoming homeless, or that I would be a “medicated zombie.”

It is only through the grace of God that I am here today, 102 days without marijuana and 30 days without psych meds. I have been able to pick up a part time job, and I have a gallery show next month at a prestigious venue in Culver City. This is a pretty rotten Father’s Day message, since, mostly, so far, it’s been about me.

What I want to say is that without my father and mother and Sunrider food, I could not have gotten through this past year. I am also grateful for the welcoming community at St. John’s Cathedral, especially Father Lee who counseled me as a second father. I am also grateful for St. Vincent’s church, which was always open for me to go and say my prayers, for All Saints, which is in my new neighborhood and open for prayer every day, as well as for the assistance of the Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. My gratitude for these things is the kind of gratitude and indebtedness you feel when someone saves your life.

During my crises, whenever my anger—sometimes justified, but all too often over nothing, and almost always inappropriately expressed—was too much for my fiance to handle, he called my dad. My dad treated Bruce like his own son, and I know it meant, and still means, a lot to Bruce.

Sometimes my dad would talk to Bruce in a soothing tone, and sometimes he would talk to me. I’m pushing forty, and yet, there were times when he didn’t know what else to do during the time when I was agitated and couldn’t sleep. Dad got on the phone in the middle of the night after we’d woken him with panic, and he told me Miss Mousie stories, just like he had when I was a little girl. I remember in our old loft, one story he told me about Miss Mousie’s job at the bakery, selling mousecakes for the Harvest Moon festival. He even did a spot-on Swedish accent when imitating the bakery owner.

I remember during my trip to Madison this spring, sitting in the prayer / piano room in my parents’ home, listening with my father to my mother play Chopin. In the Mormon church, LDS patriarchal “priesthood holders” give blessings, which is done by placing their hands on the head of the person receiving a blessing. My father gave me two of these blessings while I was home, and both times, as when he’s done this over the phone, it gave me a sense of peace and calm.

While I was home I also enjoyed hearing my father read some of his other stories in the fantasy category to me while I relaxed. I enjoyed hugs from Mom and Dad each morning, and prayers in the morning and evening. Most of all, I was blessed with the sure knowledge that my mother and father love me and want what’s best for me. They’ve tried to be more caring, more communicative, and kinder than their own parents. I hope they know that I love them as much as they love me. I hope they know how badly I want to finally and fully “grow up” and how sorry I am for all the mistakes I’ve made.

Finally, I haven’t given up on those Miss Mousie screenplays. Last year on Father’s Day I pleaded with God directly for Divine Intervention in getting those scripts funded – and fast. Today, the funding through a major player in the international world of animation, is still, and has been for many months, “pending.” It’s been so long it feels like it might not be real. And in Hollywood, you never know. You meet people every day whose “sure thing” turns out to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Of course I would like to think that the difficulties I went through since last Father’s Day were some kind of test to prepare me for success. I certainly learned that I should have been more grateful for my previous employer, instead of focusing on what I didn’t have.

My dad never turned up his nose at a low-paying job. My dad is eighty years old, and still shovels his own snow and takes odd jobs to earn extra income, then turns around and gives it to one of his kids who can’t pay for gas or the cell phone bill. As recently as a few weeks ago, when I was thinking I’d have to pack it up and move home, my dad was willing to jump in the minivan and drive 3,000 miles across country to come get me and move all my things. He won’t let us make an old man out of him. But he can’t help it if I would like to make an example of him.

The funny thing is, I know I get my temper from my dad, but he’s the calmest person I’ve ever met. Maybe there’s hope for me. Maybe someday I can develop the level of self-discipline, humility, and self-control that he exhibits. Someday, Dad, I want to be just like you.

Thank you for framing my paintings, picking me up from the airport, picking me up when I’m feeling blue, paying my cell phone bill when the phone is going to get shut off otherwise and it’s my own damn fault, never cursing in front of ladies, refusing to let us make an old man out of you, never troubling others with your pain and suffering, never turning up your nose at an honest day’s work, and telling us the same stories over and over. Thank you for deciding to be a different kind of man than your father who was violent and a “skirt chaser.” Thank you for loving Mom so much and writing her love notes every day that you sign, “Your Secret Admirer.” Thank you for being you—even if it means forwarding me political e-mails about Benghazi or President Obama’s birth certificate that I’ll never agree with, it couldn’t make me love you any less. Every time I hear your voice, my heart melts a little and I’m so grateful for every moment we spend together, especially in person, but even on the phone. You always make the hard things a little more bearable. You never met a stranger who you didn’t treat like a friend. You are, once again, the “best dad ever.”

Love you!

-Pumpkin

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