Over the last six months or so, I’ve made it a priority to go to bed in my room and fall asleep without the television. The goal isn’t too hard to focus on since I only have one television and I keep it in the living room. So far, it works pretty well and I’m able to fall asleep without it – a task I never would have thought possible a few years ago when I used to need the television on just to sleep.
While I’ve mostly gotten over that habit, there are still some nights when I just need the TV on. On these nights, I walk with my blanket and pillow to the futon in the living room and turn the television on. The simple act always reminds me of you and your insomnia. I flip through the channels and try to avoid your shows – always the crime shows – in an attempt to not think about you. But try as I might to avoid the latest episode of Law & Order (and the 20,000 variations of it), my thoughts still go back to you. It isn’t long before I settle into my makeshift bed and put on The Daily Show – of course, it reminds me of you.
We used to watch that show all the time. It was our way of bonding over politics, a starting place for our debates and discussions. Arguments over President Bush’s policies, the Wars in the Middle East, healthcare, education, just about anything. While it was all about the politics, it was never really about the politics. It was all about developing an opinion, seeing things from another perspective, and learning to speak my mind.
I remember one such occasion during the summer of 2001. We had just moved from Seattle down to San Marcos, California and our condo didn’t have much furniture in it yet. It was morning and we were reading the newspaper while we ate toast. I always loved the opinion section and you always loved the news. Something in the “Letters to the Editor” section caught my eye and I was suddenly furious. I started to rant about how incredibly wrong this person was and how my opinion was better.
“Why don’t you tell them that then?”
“Tell who what?” I was confused.
“Why don’t you write to the newspaper and tell them your opinion? Give them your take on things?”
“I’m 12.” I said flatly.
“So… why would they listen to me?”
“You won’t know if you don’t try. Worst they can do is not publish it. But at least you will have gotten your opinion out there.” You shrugged the whole thing off as if this was the most obvious idea in the world. I was in shock because you actually thought a newspaper editor would listen to me.
“You just want me to stop ranting, don’t you?” I asked.
“I’m just saying that if you feel so strongly about the subject, then you should write in.” The smile on your face gave you away.
But I followed your advice anyway and wrote in. And then not-so-slyly attacked the newspaper every morning for the next two weeks, flipping like a mad woman to the editorial section. And each morning I tried to hide my disappointment when it wasn’t printed.
Until one day, it was printed. And as soon as I saw it, I screamed. And jumped. And screamed some more. You worriedly looked at me. I pointed down at the newspaper, way too excited to form a coherent sentence, and continued screaming.
“ME! MINE! LOOK! AHHHH!” The excitement was overwhelming and you only smiled.
I quickly grew to love speaking my mind and debating. By the 10th grade, I had joined the debate team – which is saying something since we met at 7:00am every morning and often had competitions early on Saturday mornings.
You were the one that taught me to speak my mind and express my opinions. You were the one that taught me to “back it up” with facts and sources. You were the one that taught me to speak up, even when I feel like no one would listen to me. And it was because of you that I inherited a determined stubbornness that always seems to play out in arguments. I guess my craving to be right comes from you too. (But how boring would I be without it?)
We were good at arguing and I think we spent nearly every moment of my teenage years perfecting those skills. I pushed your buttons. You pushed my buttons. You screamed. I screamed. It was our version of normal. And yet, as much as we screamed (and we screamed a lot), we seemed to always be able to forgive and go back to being our typical laughing selves. I still feel sorry for our poor neighbors though.
During my teenage years, I was really good at speaking my mind but not so good at knowing when to bite my tongue. While I’ve certainly improved my diplomacy and wording skills, my big ole mouth still gets me in trouble once in a while. But then again, if I didn’t get in trouble for running my mouth once in a while, I wouldn’t be able to call myself your daughter, would I?
It still feels unreal that it has been two years since you have passed and two years since I’ve had a great argument. Oh the things I would do to be able to argue with you again…
In Loving Memory ~ Sharon Doerflinger
June 20, 1959 – February 28, 2010