content warning (CW): abandonment, drug mention, descriptions of abuse, death, police, war
these books really get me thinking about everything i’ve gone through in my life thus far, and it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but 20 years is a long time and i’ve been though my fair share of shit, so to speak.
i have some considerably morally gray opinions on criminalization, or at least stealing and thievery. i remember while reading peter bacho’s dark blue suit, there way a part in the beginning of the book where buddy recalls many of his father’s friends having criminal records of some sort, and is confused about why his father insists on calling his former friend a thief. i wrote in the margins of that page something along the lines of “well, did he steal for the sake of survival? or did he steal without morals, and break his friend’s trust? people who steal can still have morals and good intentions toward others. they’re just trying to survive”. as someone who grew up poor, it’s not uncommon for folks to have to steal something because they couldn’t afford it, whether it was food, or furniture, or other goods. it might not be socially acceptable, but sometimes that’s what you have to do for yourself, your family, etc. in order to get what you need. not everyone can afford all this nice shit that college kids buy for their dorms, like new blankets and happy lights and candles and vegan food stuff. we got that stuff from goodwill and value village, or the dumpsters/the streets if rich people were ever throwing out shit like their nice new pillows or other things like that. my mom still gets many things second hand from food banks and from our neighbor’s lawns if they ever decide to leave their stuff on the curb for others to grab.
i also feel some type of way about the military. i’ve realized over time that this generation is mainly connected by war, specifically WWII. in some way or another, we have been brought together by the shit that went down during the 1940’s. my mom was born in ’58, for example, and my grandpa paul, her dad, was born in ’10 and served in WWII when he came to the US. he probably saw some shit there and in korea when he served there. i’ll never know, because he passed before i could ever pester him with endless amounts of questions. reading parts of we should never meet, like when the family is hiding in the bunker in the first couple chapters, make me think about what he went through here as part of the coast guard. what do coast guard people even do? i have very little knowledge on military stuff. if you know, please feel free to tell me, just know that i’m not a big fan of militarization.
i found out a bit ago that my grandpa was a boxer for a time, but no one ever told me where. probably in washington or california. i searched for his name when we watched the filipino boxing documentary, but i didn’t see it in there. maybe i’ll find some records in the future, but for now i just need to focus on our final essay. grandpa research can happen when i have less homework to do. i have time.
i decided to write another poem thing for this post, so feel free to read it below. it’s another personal one but i’ve just accepted that i’m an extremely vulnerable and honest person when it comes to my background, so read at your own discretion. and please let me know what you think! i like feedback.
i’m in preschool. my mom and dad are fighting again. they scream at each other in a one-sided battle, passing swears between their mouths left and right. the sound is intoxicating. i can’t breathe through the anger, the resentment between them. i scream at them to stop. no one answers. i get shoved away my a hand that may have hit me away, with the face of a man behind it that i can’t recognize to this day. i fade into the background as he lands another blow against her cheek. he stomps out the door. he never returns. he never tells why. i hold my mom that night as i cry into her chest.
i’m six years old. my mother has a stroke while me and my grandparents (white grandparents) are away in las vegas for the week. i find out it was because of a bad mix of cigarettes and alcohol. i find out when i’m older, as i see my mother walk slower, more slurring and stuttering in her words, recovering from the stroke that paralyzed the right half of her body for some time, that both her and my runaway father used many, many drugs before i was conceived. what kind, how much, for how long, i’ll never know. they never tell me, and i find out these details in secret, through the walls, thin as paper, as my mom and grandparents and uncle’s talk (fighting? it was probably fighting) goes on behind closed doors.
i’m in second grade. my grandmother just passed away. i sit in my room after school, mindlessly playing my n64, wondering what happened to her. i wasn’t there when she passed, and it is hard to grasp the reality of her passing. my mother and grandfather get pulled over in the middle of an intersection on their way home. immediately they arrest my mother, for previous crimes (could you even call them crimes? i was never told what happened) as well as this traffic violation. a traffic violation. they take her away and put her in a jail cell for a week for a traffic violation. my grandpa comes home in his car alone. my school’s principal calls me into her office in the middle of class. i get up to leave, feeling a million things all at once. i can feel the children in the room staring at my retreating figure as i travel down the hall. am i in trouble? she looks me over, her blonde hair blinding me as i walk in. are you doing well cassie? she knows. i hold back my thoughts, my loneliness, the depression of a lost child seeping through the cracks of my smile as i tell her i’m okay, and go back to class. everything is fine, right?
i’m much older now. i learn that both my grandparents, both grandpa richard (who is white) and grandpa paul (who is filipino) both served in WWII, with them serving in the vietnam and korean wars, respectively.
i look into the glossy, watery eyes of my grandpa richard. his gray hair sits limply against his scalp, his sky blue eyes staring into the brown abyss of my own as he smiles at me gently, kisses my cheek and calls me squirt for the millionth time in my life. he pokes at my stomach and makes me laugh, like how he did when i was a baby. he passes during my last year of high school, and never get to sees me graduate. i long for his smile and goofy laughter as i cross the stage and receive my diploma.
i’m now in college. my aunt messages me over facebook at my request, as i had posted that day asking all family members if they had any information on my mother’s father. she sends a photo of a man that i recognize but faintly. i stare at the black and white photo of my grandpa paul, a beautiful tan man behind the grayscale of the photo, with a wide nose and almonds for eyes, as he smiles gracefully, almost giddily into the camera. i never remember meeting this man. he passed much too early in my life for me to know him. i long for his presence, one that i wish i had the privilege of being a part of. i long for his teachings, his guidance, his knowledge as various questions of what if’s pass through my thoughts. i miss the connection we could’ve had, had i been born earlier.