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Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Father's Day

For all the fathers in my life:
     For the one who first raised me, Ronnie Holderman, who had smile too beautiful for a boy, who laughed when he was drunk, who fended off his own parents the day after I was born and they suggested he and my mom put me up for adoption. I am so grateful for those first four years with him because likely he saved me. He planted an idea in my head that I could be loved and fought for.
     My most vivid memory of him was him feeding me Spaghetti-o's straight from the can, giggling as my 19-year-old mother hollered at him, telling him, "That's white trash. Ya'll quit it."

      To my second father, Walter Robinson, Jr., who made me fear every time a man raised his arm near me, who made me unsure of myself, who made me believe that more men were like him than anyone else. It has taken me nearly a half of a century to truly forgive you for what you did to me, but I am also grateful.
     I will never say to a beaten woman, "Why don't you just leave?" because I know now how firmly her feet are planted in the quicksand, how every move she makes to get away pulls her deeper into the muck, and how she wouldn't know how to survive outside that world because this is the only one you let her see.
     You bred in me a compassion that is only gained through living the experience. And yet, the things that I loved were that you and my mother had a rock band and in some ways - even today - that made me feel cool - and when you confirmed what I already knew - that Eddie Valen was the best guitar player ever made on this Earth - I felt wonderful knowing I was right.

      To my father, William Seeger, whose face I see very morning in my mirror. I am so lucky that you gave me my grandfather's voice. It has taken me through doors, placed me in the wings of stages, put me in spotlights, and let me say things that simply words weren't big enough for.
     I wish for you constantly, wonder if I will ever be able to see you alive again. I'm glad pieces of you are in me.
     I will always remember the taste of clove gum when I think of you, because I remember you offering it to me when I was young, my little fingers touching yours as I reached for it, and me thinking, "I'm a part of that," and being filled with joy.

      To my uncle,
Bruce Bailey, who at 15 was already struggling with how to be an extraordinary man, setting an example for who I should choose to be with as an adult, who taught me hard riddles, told me glorious stories,and tried so hard to do what was right even when he wasn't positive what that might be. He was the pattern cut that I measured all men against as I grew older - and luckily I found someone so very like him.
     My greatest delight was hearing him telling a story that had me as the main person. He would retell how, after I had been offered several scholarships, he had congratulated me on winning them, to which I had replied, "I did not win them; I earned them." Knowing that words I had uttered had earned a place in his story collection has always made me proud.

      To the father who helped raise the man who became my husband,
Philip Van Gelder, whose teachings of how to live are still the standard his children are guided by, who continues to fill gaps and holes in my life, who shows up to change my taillight in the dark because he wants me safe, who danced with me, on my wedding day, standing in for all the fathers who could not be present, representing himself as my welcoming committee to my new family. He has the corniest jokes, and the best laugh. And even when he struggled through dark times, and we all watched and worried for him, he came the other side, showing us all what strong stock we all are, and how resilient we can be.

      To all these men, I say thank you. Each one of you has shaped me. Every day, I try to be better than I was the day before, to make you proud, to make it worth the influence, time, and love I was granted from each of you.

      Thank you.




      Thank you.

      Happy Father's Day.

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.

For Moira...


Even the word makes me sick to my stomach to look at.

The “b” look like a fat potbelly on an unkempt pedophile.


While it happened to me as a child, I kept quiet as I was taught. They would take us away, separate us, my sisters and me. That’s what we were told. If we talked, we would be spread out like dust.
As I grew older, I mentioned it to a few people – maybe as an excuse for my own strange behavior, maybe as a warning. Eventually, I stopped talking about it. I even stopped writing about it, not to hide it, but because so much of it I had already dealt with.
Occasionally, I am asked about it, but it’s rare. It’s also very private.
Today, I watched so much of the word explode in front of a friend of mine. Her family, too, had done so many hideous and disgusting things to her and her brother.

When she and I first met, we commiserated over our upbringings. Both our abusers had been calculating and maniacal. Both our oppressors had died before we could stand up to them. Both of us were able to talk to others about it, but it wasn’t known to the world at large.

But her story was different.

Her mother was famous. Her mother was revered. Her mother was Marion Zimmer Bradley.


When these horrific abuses originally happened to me and I was racing towards adulthood, I felt like I was scurrying about, sorting events in my mind like moving boxes, trying to understand the contents, where to put them, how to deal with them, trying mostly to not open them, just so I could function in the world. My critics were those just outside the rim of my life: co-workers, classmates, people who knew about me, but not of me.
People fell away from me because I was too scattered, too forgetful, too wrapped in a world that no longer was happening to me. Watching people leave or simply having them disappear was terrifying. I spent years still being emotionally 12 years old because I could not move beyond it.
I did. Thankfully. But I did it with only the barest of people knowing the depths of what happened.
My friend, she braces as her world is cut open, the insides that have begun to heal are examined by the whole world. None of her critics will be around to sew together what they are now so carelessly tearing apart.
Most of what’s been published about the abuses against her, I had known for years. She had been very frank with me, even all those years ago. Then, she seemed more fragile, too close to what had happened to be able to take on people outside who might condemn her, the victim, for not doing something bigger, more, or different; for forcing the shock of reality to stare down their fantasies. She still was rubbing shoulders with her mother’s death and the impending implosion of her marriage. She could not have taken anyone else on.
All these years later, she’s finally talking – not yelling, not screaming, not banging on doors. She simply wrote about it, responded to questions.

I take that back.

I don’t think it was simple.

I’ve read her responses, her own comments. I think she’s thought about this. I think she knew one day this was coming. I think she was prepared. I think when the questions were asked, she finally knew what she wanted to say about it and how she wanted to say.
She wasn’t calculating. She had just finally dealt with it. She knew why she didn’t go public with the information originally. She knew why she was comfortable doing so now. She knew that her past was not going to change. She knew that talking about might change someone else’s future.

 I’m proud of what she’s doing. Her voice, subtle and gentle, invites others to say the things we’ve been taught to hide, to come out of the corners where we were told to go, and to lighten the world around us so there are no more monsters lingering under our beds.




copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I mean it. I have horribly mean cats; don't make me use them.