i have been processing a lot lately. reconciling my past and looking towards the future. summer also brings to mind some unfortunate memories as well.
when i was around five or so my family moved from the bay area to fresno. i hated it. i had to leave my friends and the neighbors (Ruthie, Janie, and Al) next door behind and start kindergarten with strange kids in a strange place.
it was also the first time i really remember the weather. fresno tends to skew towards the extremes, cold and foggy in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. for those of you who have spent time on the peninsula, you know that the weather pretty much as one setting and that is more or less cold.
it was in fresno that i learned how to swim.
i don't know why my father did things the way he did, how his choices and methods could be justified in his head, or if he even bothered at all. i wish i could say that there were memories i have that illustrated any admirable qualities he may have had, but i don't. honestly, i have spent a lot of time going back and searching for happy memories that involved him and i came up blank.
what i remember most is fear.
for whatever reason he decided that he was going to teach me how to swim. his approach was to hold me under water, throw me into the deep end, let go when i wasnt ready. i hated the pool, it was a source of anxiety, terror actually.
it got to be so that i would start panicing when i heard the theme song of different strokes on the television - i remember that clearly - and would search for a new place to hide. i knew that he come home from work around the time that show aired and it became a sort of pavlovian response. it was so bad that my mother (who had tried to intervene) began to send me to friends houses before dinner, that hour or two when he would want to jump into the water, grabbing hold of me and swimming to the bottom and just stay there until i felt like i was going to drown. kicking and screaming for help from mom or god or anyone as he pried me off the security gate and pulled me into the water.
more than anything it is the smell of the pollen, this sort of buttery smell, from one of the trees that takes me back there the most.
in a way though, he achieved his goal (probably not in the way he had intended) and not only did i learn to swim, i became a very strong swimmer after he left. i was helpless and i hated that feeling so much that it drove me to hold my breath longer, swim a little deeper, tread water until i felt like my arms were going to fall off. all of that so that one day, if i ever wound up in a pool with him again i would not only be able to endure whatever twisted lesson he wanted to teach but maybe teach him a lesson as well.
i never got that chance.
what i did learn from him has been mostly good examples of how not do things.
so this summer, two nights ago, after a lot of writing and meditation i went outside and sat on the driveway and i had my last conversation with my father. i told him that i forgave him for all of the horrible things he did (the swimming lessons were nothing when compared) but that i don't think i will ever forget. i told him that i no longer want to hold onto that part of my past because it has been one of those things that has kept me from having a future. that i hoped he found the peace he couldn't find in life and that i was done with him.
it was a beautiful night. it was water warm and a breeze that occasionally picked up enough to muss my hair. and when i was done talking - i lay there and looked up at the stars.
fresno, in the summer, was the first time i remember really noticing them.
edit: here is a picture from that summer - me with pepper.