Sunday, June 16, 2013

For the Record...

For  the record, and for all the world (well, my facebook world, anyway) I want it to be known that I love my dad. I may not tell him as often as I should, but I want him to know it, and that I love that I have lovely memories of growing up with him. For some reason, I was never allowed to call him Dad or Daddy, but that's O.K. I call him Tay or Tatay, which means dad or daddy.

I love that when I was a little girl, Tay would take my sister and me to play hide and seek among the trees at the golf course on Sundays. I love how he could never find my sister Dee or me whenever he was the seeker. I love that Tay would sing us kids to sleep with “O Danny Boy” and “My Grandfather’s Clock”. I loved that he would whistle "Yankee Doodle" to signal that he was home, and to this day, whistling Yankee Doodle gives me a feeling of warmth and comfort. I love that because of Tay's whistling, my own family developed our own family whistle: the Jim Hammer variation of Yankee Doodle. My children could be spread out throughout a church sanctuary or a basketball court, or Costco, and one of us whistle our tune, and the kids would stop what they were doing or saying to find the source of the whistle. They respond to "The Whistle" to this day.

 I love that I grew up in a household full of people, related or not. If you were a cousin of the wife of the vegetable lady at the market, and you were in town for a couple of days and needed a place to stay and you knew my dad’s name, you were welcome to stay with us and sleep wherever you found space in the house. I love that Tay invited strangers to stay with us...indefinitely. One time, we even had an entire family of Hookers live with us -- five of them. No, seriously. HOOKER was their last name. I love that my children grew up in a home that also welcomed strangers, only they didn't stay strangers for long.

I love that Saturdays meant bank day – we would get our allowances -- prorated by age, with a 25-cent difference between us by birth order (but you got a 25-cent raise every year, so that we all got a set amount at 10 years old, at 11, et cetera) – on Saturday morning after my dad paid the bills, and then we would all head over to the bank to make deposits, then to “Uncle Mike’s” to spend. I love how my dad always made us save some, spend some, and give some away.

I love that Tatay taught me to love words and how to use them effectively. I love how he made up codes based upon our experiences. For example, one Christmas season in Guam, he took the family to go shopping at Town House. While the rest of us shopped, he and my younger sister Jean got bored, so he took her to get some ice cream. From that time, whenever he would say, "Let's go get bored," it meant let's go get ice cream. Another time, while driving at night around Oxnard, we got lost and ended up on Hemlock Road, where there was a Foster's Donuts. From then on, "Let's go get lost" meant let's go get donuts. I love that inasmuch as he taught me to love words, he taught me to me to love The Word even more.

I love that Tay fought with my mom in front of us kids, and I love that they also made up in front of us. I love that he smooched with my mom in front of us, to our disgust, and I love that Jim and I smooch in front of OUR kids, to their disgust.

I love that Tatay isn't perfect. I grew from his triumphs and learned from his mistakes. I love that he's weathered storms, survived crises, endured hardships. I love that bullets whizzed by him as he crossed a bridge in WWII, just before it blew up, and that a terrorist's gun jammed just as he pointed it at Tay and pulled the trigger.

I  love that after fifty some years, my dad still flirts with my mom.

 Happy Father's Day, Tay. I love you . For the record.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Grilled Tuna Melt Sandwich

Someone at work asked me one day  the secret to the  success of my 30+ years of wedded bliss for a total of 35+ years with the same guy.  My initial response was my personal relationship to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, but she wasn't satisfied with that answer.  She wanted a more specific response.  Something more believable.  More ACT-ON-able.  After three months, I've finally come up with one good response:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.  I'm not too crazy about making a grilled tuna melt sandwich (GTMS).   

At first I counted making a GTMS a privilege.  When we first started dating and Jim told me he really liked it, I learned how to make it by watching his mom prepare it for customers at the cafe his parents owned.  Then I would go home and try it out on my brother and his best friend, who were more than happy to be my tuna melt guinea pigs.  Once I perfected my technique, later in our relationship, I would make it and take it to his work for his lunch.  I made it for him at least once a week for at least a year.

After we got married, and I was working two jobs and going to college, my tuna melt making days dwindled to once or twice a month until the kids came.  Then I would make them for the whole family.  One day I noticed that the kids would scrape off all the tuna, and it was then I realized that I could actually shave a few steps AND a few minutes in prep time by altogether foregoing the tuna and just making grilled cheese sandwiches, which the kids seemed to like better, and Jim didn't seem to mind.

One Saturday, as I was making grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, Jim asked, "Could you make mine a tuna melt?"  At first I was irritated, because it required dirtying a bowl,  a grilling pan, and several utensils; two slices of perfectly buttered-on-both-sides bread, a can of drained albacore tuna, mayonnaise, and a slice of American cheese.  It also involved making sure one side of each slice is grilled just enough to melt the butter, while the other side is grilled to just to the right golden crisp, while making sure the tuna is not too hot, but the cheese is melted just right.  Annoyed as I was, I made it anyway.  From that day, whenever the kids got grilled cheese sandwiches, Jim got a grilled tuna melt sandwich made JUST the way he liked it.

One day, about ten years into our marriage, Jim did something that hurt me, and he knew it, but he didn't do anything about it right away.  He just went about his usual chores, as if nothing were wrong.  After a few (ok, MANY MANY) minutes of seething, stewing, and storming, I did what I usually do after many many minutes of seething, stewing, and storming:  I sought Scripture,  and to be honest, I did NOT like what I found.  In essence, I was supposed to PRAY FOR the person being mean to me, be kind to him, do something nice for him without expecting anything in return, use a soft answer, and use words fitly spoken.  NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR, LORD!  

Then, in a what sounded like a whisper, I heard, "Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"I don't think I heard you right, Lord.  That, or YOU didn't hear me right.  HE was mean to ME, for no reason.  I am the victim here, God."

"Make him a grilled tuna melt sandwich."

"But Lord, I am so mad at him, I don't even want to be in the same room with him, let alone make him his favorite lunch!"


So I made him a grilled tuna melt sandwich.  In the process, I recalled the other times I made it for Jim:  the first few times when he came over for lunch, on Saturdays when he worked at the tennis courts, at the beach while I gathered the ingredients, put them together, and prepared them over the heat of the stove, I was reminded of all the great times I risked throwing away if I chose to let my anger control my actions. By the time each side was just the right touch of golden crisp and the cheese was melted, so was my icy heart.  

I made a grilled cheese sandwich for myself, and then I took both sandwiches and two glasses of Kool-Aid on ice out to where Jim was.  His eyes lit up in surprise when he saw the GTMS.  He set down his rake, took the tray and set it on the nearby picnic table, and held open his arms.  I walked into them, and he wrapped them around me, and said, "I'm sorry for being a jerk."

From then on, whenever we would get in a fight and it was CLEAR that Jim was in the wrong, I would make him a GTMS.   It helped me move the focus from feeding  MY anger and to feeding HIS hunger.  The process gave me time to cool down, and helped me remember what was important. 

So, if she were to ask me again today the secret to the longevity of my marriage, I would say without hesitation:  Grilled tuna melt sandwich.