Tag Archives: family

My dad licked me often

13 Jul

My dad was 34 when I was born – the third and fattest of his babies.

40 when he began kneeling down at my bedside, interlaced fingers, calm and quiet, listening to my prayers as I thanked God for mom, dad, sister, brother, dog, parrot, grandma, friend, teacher, neighbor, toys, food… The biggest atheist I’ve ever known, he waited patiently for me to finish and repeated “Amen” after me. And he always followed that up with a kiss to the forehead and a good tucking in under the sheets. I haven’t slept as peacefully since. Especially not on the night he discovered that, at age 13, I was attending Catholic mass not for my relationship with God, but to steal kisses from my first boyfriend as we sat on the back pew, barely listening to the sermon. Dad was pretty livid when he caught us holding hands outside of church. That was the last time I attended Jesus’ crib.

He’s tried but can’t hold a grudge for too long. And he’s got odd ideas about getting even too; in my Prime Pest Modus Operandus, I enjoyed (still do), flicking, poking, pushing, tripping the old man, slapping magazine or book out of his hands, turning off the computer monitor and running away, hiding his silverware as he’d help himself to seconds (or thirds), snatching a pen from his hand and tossing it across the room, standing in front of the TV, blocking his view… you name it, I did (do) it with the biggest smile on my face. He’d smile back too:

“I’m gonna get you. I’m letting you know that you can stop now or I will get you,” he’d say calmly.

I’d go on about my business of annoying him.  Suddenly he’d get up from the couch or chair and run after me. Locking myself in a room was useless because his patience has always outlasted mine. I’d choose instead to run as fast as I could and enjoy the thrill until I was finally caught. He’d place me on the floor and tickle ’till I couldn’t handle it anymore and then… he’d spit all over his hands and smear them on my face. That was his punishment and, what can I say… it was disgusting but I must’ve enjoyed it. A quick wash with soap would rinse away the foul smell of saliva and I’d go find him to shake hands in truce.

I had no revenge for all the snacks and sandwiches he’s stolen over the years, unfortunately.

“Oooh, did you see the cat zooming by??” he’d ask surprised, out of the blue.

I’d look, and in that split second, half of my sandwich would be making its way down his belly. The man will eat anything too. Blame it on having grown up poor, or just being a food fiend; he’s been known to eat cake sandwiches or banana sandwiches – yes, a slice of cake or a banana between two slices of bread. In two bites. No water. When I was little and didn’t have the appetite to finish my food (throwing away was not an option), I’d find my dad, step on his foot, and he’d open his mouth, like a garbage disposal. I always got a kick out of that.

He taught me to ride my first bike, even though he never learned how himself, having been too poor as a kid to own one.

Last month, on father’s day, I took him kayaking – his first time – and enjoyed the reversal of roles; he listened to my instructions and I calmed his nerves, reassuring him that the damn thing wouldn’t turn over and we would not drown in the Charles River.

My father was, is, and will always be my standard of a Man. It’s his birthday today, and I’m as silly as he is when it comes to showing emotion – we’ve never said “I love you” to one another. But the tears won’t stop streaming down my face as I think about everything he’s been in my life. I love my dad and I can only hope to find for a partner, a man half as strong, honest, and good as he is.

Daddy Love

4 May

When I was about 7 years old my siblings and I walked to school together. They were congested streets one might imagine to be safe, but not really – not in Rio. Where there’s commotion, there’s distraction for picking pockets, yanking gold earrings off a girl’s ears, opening a kid’s backpack, as he walks with his friends, and stealing a wallet. We learned to be alert from a young age. I carried my backpack in front of me, I brought my watch to school in my bag, and only put it on when inside school gates. I never wore my cool sneakers without dad by my side (or later, my brother). A lot of the kids did, and once in a while, someone would get to school sans backpack, with ripped ears or barefoot. They’d all be crying, of course.

We did our best to avoid trouble, but there was one kid – an attendant at a periodicals stand, who would yell obscenities at my sister and me. I understood some words like ‘cock’ and ‘pussy,’ but his language must’ve been so foul that I honestly didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do to us, but I  could tell it wasn’t good. No one would say anything to him, and he never missed us when we walked by. Since there was no other path to take,  my dad told us he’d take care of it.

He took the following morning off work and walked us to school.

Show me who the guy is, he said. As we approached the stand, my sister and I extended our arms and index fingers to their limits and said, That one, dad!

We waited a few feet away. The kid was sitting on a folding chair outside the stand. My dad went inside it, motioning for the boy to follow him. He looked confused and amused, but he complied.

Forty seconds later my dad came out and called us over. We stood outside the stand, close enough to see the kid inside, his pupils enlarged, looking like he might piss his pants – or already had.

Do you see these girls? You remember their faces, right? You say one word to them, you even look their way when they walk by, and I promise you, I will end your life with my own hands. Do you understand me, kid? Now apologize to them.

I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.

I hope so, my dad said.

He led the way out, my sister and I followed, huge smiles on our faces. Dad dropped us off at school and we milked that story during lunch and in between classes. Sure enough, the poor kid never spoke a word to us again; he never so much as made eye contact.

Moments like that were few and far in between; I never doubted my dad’s ability to go beastly to defend my honor, yet most of the time he was running away from me with my candy, helping me paint flowers on my bike, or giving me math lessons on our blackboard.

Years later I thought about the kid who harassed my sister and me, and realized he wasn’t older than 14, 15. I imagine if he’d had a dad at home helping him fix his bike, he wouldn’t have my dad threatening his life.

Sampson the bunny and second grade cheese

3 Apr

Until I was about eight, my father had a very well-paying job at Shell Corporation, but chose to leave it so he could  spend some time at home to enjoy his children growing up. My mother was a public school History teacher –  in Brazil this means she went to work every day but would sometimes go months without seeing a paycheck – the government “had no money.” My father tried self-employment after leaving Shell, but his business went under months after (something or other about thousand per cent inflation and all of his investments suddenly being worth less than a pair of dirty knickers). That was the toughest time financially our family had.  My dad spent over eight months officially unemployed, doing odd jobs here and there – he left early in the morning, returned for lunch, and was out the door again until dinner time. Out on interviews, at employment agencies, doing temp work, soliciting interviews at companies… doing whatever he could to bring home good news.

I knew things weren’t the same because amenities were cut here and there. My after school English language course was no more, our country club membership was cancelled, eating out became a special occasions only deal, and most memorably, the cheese I was consuming looked different. My ingenious, money-stretching mother started buying cheese scraps – the bits that don’t go into the deli bag after going through the slicer. Same taste, lower price.  But what mattered; tuition for the best school in the city, film and book rentals, trips to museums, zoos, parks, family quality time; those were as certain to me as the sun rising the next day.

Tivoli Park

I was 8 years old when my father resigned his position at Shell and I was PISSED at him for it. See, Shell sucked all the blood out of its workers but the company spared no pennies on Christmas season. Every year they rented out the largest amusement park in the city of Rio and bussed entire families of employees to spend a Saturday,  providing meal tickets and Christmas gifts. Oh yeah, and each family could bring a kid friend, who also got a gift. It was a LOT of fun and something to brag about at school. It’s no surprise I disapproved of my father’s decision to cut ties with the best company ever. I  remember sitting on his lap one afternoon as my mom prepared dinner a few feet away from us.

Ju, dad doesn’t work at Shell anymore. It was a very tough job and I had to spend too many hours there, and it wasn’t good for my health (he apparently was this close to a heart attack and the doc told him to lower his stress level ASAP).

You don’t? What are you gonna do?

I’m going to own my own business now.

You are? But what about the Christmas parties? Can we still go?

No, I don’t work for Shell anymore.

But, DAD, I never got my Barbie house! They’re gonna give me the Barbie house when I’m 10! Can’t you work there for two more years?

My mother must’ve interjected with some logical argument about having to make sacrifices in the midst of an unstable economy and a promise that I’d be able to use my sister’s Barbie house whenever I wanted.  I, a genuinely good and empathetic kid, spoke no more of the issue.

That’s how my parents dealt with everything; calmly, reasonably, and truthfully.  A toy wasn’t offered in exchange for good behavior; I behaved because that’s how I’d get others to respect and listen to me. I studied because the more I learned, the more I understood about the world around me. I thought twice on how to spend my money because I had to earn it – and that took time, effort, and lots of good behavior. I remember so well walking into a store to buy a stuffed animal I had been eyeing for months. It was a replica of a toothy blue bunny that my favorite cartoon character lugged around and occasionally threw at the heads of insolent little boys. She was feisty and so was I – Sampson the bunny had to be mine. It took weeks of chores and good behavior to save enough for that weekend afternoon when my dad and I walked into Lubene store.

Sansão

That one. I want that one, please. I inspected the box, the painted eyes, the plushness of his fur and took big whiffs of the new toy smell. This one would do. I parted with my money at the register and walked out, clutching to my dad with one hand and my new inseparable toy with the other. I still have the little guy – he survived a  left leg amputation, courtesy of my ex-boyfriend’s pit bull, but his toothy smile brings me back to these irretrievable days of joy and simplicity.

Before I get too drunk…

16 Mar

It’s 5:01pm and I need to leave work to shave my legs because I’m putting on a dress for my dear friends. I do love dresses and wear them all the time in warm weather, it’s just… been cold. For a long time.

I’m 27 and it feels a little strange. Does it? Or do I just say that because I feel the need to say something when asked “how does it feel???”

Well… it feels like Tuesday after three hours of sleep. It feels lucky that, after days of nonstop rain, we have clear skies and a bright shining sun. It feels safe to hear my parents’ voice on the other end of the telephone line, singing Happy Birthday in unison (with dad making a funny voice). It feels relaxed to have my doggie at work with me today, even though I let her outside and forgot about her for like, 20mins… it’s OK, she got tired of waiting and barked, so I opened the door for her.

I guess I feel alive, lucky, loved, and hopeful. I’m here and I’m healthy and that’s all I can ask for. Everything else will fall into place.

Happy Birthday to all the March 16th dreamy Pisceans whose hearts sometimes feel much too big to fit their chests, but somehow they make it work with an honest smile and a decidedly insatiable thirst for life and love.

Sex tape and diarrhea. Verbal diarrhea. Not during the sex.

11 Mar

I’ve been blessed with quite a few nicknames. My mother calls me Juzinha (it’s cute in Portuguese – zhu-ZEE-nya), some friends call me Ju (Jew, what I am not, but most of them are, hence the irony), others call me Juls (this one is very cute and conjures up the image of a well-mannered girl without the undiagnosed potty mouth verbal diarrhea syndrome from which I do most unfortunately suffer). I like Juls. It makes me feel wholesome.

Lately I’ve been going by Lady Ju. If GaGa gets that kind of respect, I don’t see why I shouldn’t – the presence of a vagina between my legs hasn’t ever been publicly questioned. I guess “publicly” is up for debate. And so is “questioned.” You see, for highly intuitive types, the 1% of the population capable of understanding the most complex of metaphysical concepts (such as, ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ and ‘how many fingers am I REALLY holding up?’), the essence of my persona has always been drenched in Awesome. Take successful young professional Matt WhatshislatnameIdunnohisoldblogwascalledPublicIntoxication-whythefuckwouldheputuphisreallastname, for instance; soon to be SIR Matt W. took one whiff of my blog and recognized the Awesome. But it wasn’t just any Awesome – it was Female Awesome. He referred to me as a girl, never questioning my XX status.

Alas, it appears as though not everyone sees things so clearly. My own sister – blood of my blood – claims to not believe in my biological womanhood. If I had easily-crushed-by-insensitive-remarks-that-make-me-wish-I-had-bigger-boobs-then-there’s-no-way-you-would-ever-be-able-to-say-that-about-me  feelings, I might be hurt by one, or a combination, of these libelous wisecracks she likes to make about my person:

you were born a woman because they were out of penis in the sky when you were being made.

seriously, you’re a man.

how do you expect to find a husband with these nasty nails?

why do you insist on wearing man shoes?

In my defense, I make my nails pretty for special occasions. And I’ve gotten compliments on my boots – the super awesome boots to which she refers as “man shoes” – from both boys and girls.

My mother doesn’t so much question my femininity as she does my manners, I suppose; she says I eat like a famished beast and often reassures me that there’s more food available, and insists I “calm down.”

Again, in my defense, my manners are most gracious and cultured when they need to be – but when I’m starving and hung over on Sunday afternoon, having had a last meal 20 hours prior, I might eat a little fast. Of everything, all together. ‘Cause that’s how I like it.

So my sister and mother have no faith in my man-snatching abilities. Maybe I should show them a copy of the sex tape I did when I was 19 (just kidding, I don’t have a sex tape. Or do I? If I did, how much would you pay to download it?). I say they’re wrong. The modern woman doesn’t always have to have painted nails to be feminine. She doesn’t have to wear high heels to work – it is in fact, perfectly fine for her to wear her man shoes while maintaining her girlishness. She may enjoy coloring her language with profanity (for emphasis), but it DOES NOT mean that she’s a boy, or is like one, or wants the blue sweater instead of the pink one (mmm…), or will end up alone with her dogs.

Because if I do end up alone with my dogs, it’ll be because no man was interesting enough to take my attention away from Tori clapping for a treat.

[I know that the more I stay home blogging and/or refusing to make eye contact with boys at the gym, the smaller my chances are of scoring a good one before they all vanish into the suburbs, buried by a mortgage and 2.5 children, leaving me with this or this – I don’t believe there will be much in between. But by then, my friend Masha and I will have made millions from the Female Private Touch Pillowtm and Vajuice blendtm, so it won’t matter because I’ll be travelling the world with as many hotties in tow as I can possibly desire. And a poet. Who sounds like Chris Cornell doing an acoustic version of “All Night Thing” every time he reads to me and feeds me chocolate covered strawberries.]

But honestly… I’m not worried about “ending up alone,” nor do I subscribe to the “all men are scum” silliness. Some boys are assholes just as some girls are bitches. And just as there is Female Awesome, there is also Male Awesome. And until I find the latter, I’ll be single… in Miami… with my friends… in two weeks. And I can’t wait.

OK, not so fun

9 Mar

FUCK IT.

I stuck a semi-funny post I was just trying to write in the draft folder ’cause that’s not where my head is right now. I was trying to be a good girl at work today; no IM, no internet, straight work. Then my mom’s number showed up on the caller ID.

Hi moooooooom!!!

Juliana. It’s dad. Your mom had a small accident, she fell down the stairs and hit her head. She’s awake and answering questions now but she was unconscious for a little bit after the fall so the paramedics are taking her to the hospital.

I froze. My dad told me not to worry, insisted everything was perfectly fine and that he was on the way to the hospital too. I had a lot of work to catch up on, so I decided to stay put. Twenty minutes later it dawned on me; my dad speaks horrible English. I called him to see what was up and he said he had just gotten to the hospital. He is an extremely proud man and though he wouldn’t admit it, I could tell he was feeling kind of lost. I told him to find his way to the emergency room, sit down and wait for me to call him back. I got in the car and called the hospital.  The operator transferred me to the nurse who was caring for her. She told me my mom was OK and I asked her to relay the message that dad would be there in a few minutes and I was on my way as well. Then I called my dad.

Go up to anyone behind a desk and say: “My wife is in the hospital. Please help translate.” Then hand him/her the phone.

I spoke with a hospital attendant who looked up my mom’s info and told me he’d guide my dad to where she was. I called again and my dad confirmed he was with her. Two cigarettes later I cried a little bit. My parents have been the most SOLID ROCKS in my life. My mother is a superb woman who takes equally good care of my father as she did (and does) with her children. My dad is an intelligent, kind, and protective man who, at that moment, couldn’t exactly be much help to her.

Seeing your mom on a hospital bed with an IV is not cool, but my dad despises drama, so I didn’t cry. I accompanied her as the staff moved her around for an x-ray and CAT scan, and went into the bathroom with her when she needed to go. I didn’t want to leave her side until she was back home with clear test results.

I’m in the kitchen now, my mom, dad and sister are watching American Idol in the living room.

Juliana, you need to go home. It’s getting late, Tori needs you.


Be quiet, woman, you hit your head, you’re confused.

It’s fucking scary to think “what if” scenarios, so I won’t. I’m just happy to be here, I’m happy to have a fucking amazing family, and I’m already happy for all the moments we still have ahead of us.

Childhood torture memories

2 Mar

I walked into my boss’ office to have a little chat. He speaks slowly and carefully – always – and I can’t really ever sit still, so I reached for a pen found on his desk and started chewing on it as I listened to him tell me about all the bits of money we (read: me) need to collect from different escrow accounts.

What are you doing? He asked, annoyed, in his Russian accent.

I don’t know. Sometimes I do this. I’ll give you a shinier new pen to replace this one. That seemed to satisfy him.

When my best-friend/co-worker/son of the boss/my-boss-diagonally, paces around in my office while conducting business calls, I like to untie his sneakers.  When my dad is watching television, I like to walk in front of it very slowly and drop things, forcing me to stand there a little longer as I try to pick them up.

I’ve always been annoying like that (at appropriate times and to those I love), though it rarely ever goes unpunished.

I’m the youngest of three kids and always got the shitty end of the stick when trying to “play with” my siblings. My brother is six and my sister is five years older than me, and they knew to use the age difference to their advantage. Maybe it was my fault for being an obnoxious, never-shut-the-fuck-up high energy kid. Maybe they were just mean. Either way, I generally took it out on my younger cousins, so overall, it never mattered and I always went back for more.

I wanna play, can I play, let me play!

FINE! You wanna play? OK, Here, we’re gonna play magician tricks. We’re gonna tie you to the bed and put this pillow case over your head and then you have to get out of the knot, OK?

Yeah, OK, awesome!

My brother and sister tied me to the post of their bunk beds, shut off the bedroom light and ran downstairs to watch TV. They were 13 and 12 and were in charge of me while my parents went out for a couple of hours alone, which, come to think of it, they barely ever got to do with a mortgage and three monsters to raise in a shitty economy with 1,700% inflation. So this was my siblings’ chance to get rid of me for a couple of hours and do whatever teenagers want to do without their 7 year old annoying sister around. They probably watched MTV.

At first I was excited to try to untie myself. I soon realized they might’ve tied the knot a wee bit too tight, so I called out their names. Nothing. Then I started to panic a little, then I cried a lot, then I pissed my pants  then I’m pretty sure I fell asleep, standing up. They came up to the bedroom and untied me and threatened to beat me up if I told my parents. They never would’ve, but I was a stupid child.

On another happy occasion, my brother and sister decided I needed a little disciplining; I was too young to be using curse words and they were going to let me know. I think I said “shit” and my brother yelled at me, so I said “shit!” in his face again. He dragged cute little me to the bathroom, all prettied up in my favorite lavender pleated skirt, sat me on the toilet and said, “I’m gonna wash your mouth with soap so you can learn to stop saying dirty words!” Either he or my sister held me down while the other stuffed a soap bar in my mouth. They overdid it a little and I puked on my skirt. I was crying and my mother called out my name. They told me to clean up, change, stop crying and tell her nothing was going on, OR ELSE!!! So I did. Stupid, stupid child.

So I’ve had strange displays of affection from my siblings. A little tough love.

A couple of nights ago I walked back to my car after spending a few hours at Trident and found a pretty white flower hanging from the driver’s door handle. I looked around and there was no one. I posted on Facebook, like the attention-whore that I am, something about it not mattering if the flower was from an admirer or a stranger who happened to pick my car: I was still smiling.

My brother commented, of course.

brother: the flower just fell off a tree… u just WANT to see a lover there.

me: when i finally slit my wrists, i’m gonna blame you and all the years of psychological abuse

brother: i’m sorry. i’m a practical person… when i see a midget, i see a midget,not a hobbit from the shire who has to get rid of a ring…

me: you have no imagination and lead an insipid, robotic life. i like hobbits.

brother: what u call an “insipid and robotic life” i call REALITY! oh, btw… your dog is not a “corgi and lab mix”, she’s a MUTT. or should i say… “IT” is a mutt??

me: in my world she is a fairy and i’m a princess.

In my defense, I’ve never thought of myself as a princess or my dog as a fairy (I’m sure I would’ve been beaten – emotionally or physically – if I tried). My brother and I just enjoy mildly offending each other whenever we can. He usually wins, unless I mention his age or hair loss.