Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A special kind of post.

Today I’m not going to whine about added weight or write about running or really…anything that has to do with beer, dogs or health. Today is not going to be gut splitting funny (which I always thought I had a weird sense of humor, but it makes me feel better that there are A. others out there just like me and B. there are others that think I’m funny sometimes), although I really can’t write totally serious about what I’m writing about, because the subject was NEVER serious. So you might giggle a little, but you’ll probably be a little sad too. (Just warning you.)  Oh, and it’s a long one. So prop up those feet.
Today is about Mike. My dad.
Mike came into our lives a little bit differently than some people’s dad’s come into their lives (or really vice versa-you come into theirs). But at the same time, some of you might just relate to this situation too.  My parents divorced when I was in middle school. It was meant to be; I never held a grudge or had serious issues with it. It just needed to happen.  Then, after awhile, my mom met Mike. I think I was about 13 or 14.  They met at the golf course. He played a lot and she was a bartender during the summer, not only to make a few extra bucks during her teaching break, but if she worked at the club, she could play for free (and so could my brother and I.)
I really don’t remember the details, but they dated for a short period before they decided to get hitched.  And once they decided that, Mike moved in with my mom, my brother, and I.  That was a little different.  First, I didn’t really get to know Mike very well before he moved in. I mean, he came over, I knew he was dating my mom, I knew that someday they might get married, but I tried not to think about it.  Second, I was perfectly content having my mom all to myself.  And that was totally interrupted by some dude who made weird jokes and drove a Tahoe (which I secretly thought was so cool).
He never had any biological kids, so he walked in at the WORST possible time to try and become parent of the year….2 teenagers going through puberty. It was special.
As you can probably imagine, I didn’t just magically fall into some father/daughter loving relationship like what happens in those cheesy Lifetime movies.  I fought tooth and nail to make it very uncomfortable for him, putting it mildly. I did what every teenager does to their parents….I was rude, selfish, bitchy, moody, angry….basically a really tall and skinny gremlin with brown hair. But he took it, and never said a word.
I remember one time my mom and I were yelling at the top of our lungs (I have no idea about what now, imagine that). She’s standing at the bottom of the stairs and I’m at the top. (There’s no way in hell to have a knock-down-drag-out-yelling match with a teenager in one room…it has to be in separate rooms, causing you to raise your voices to ear piercing levels.)  About 10 minutes in, Mike comes around the corner and says, “HEY! Can we just sit down and talk calmly about this?” Both mom and I look at him and yell, “NO!!!” We stomp off in different directions and slam doors (because slamming doors also happens a lot when you’re a teen and arguing).  He had to just be standing there, staring at thin air and wondering what the hell he got himself into. (I would have gone screaming in the other direction by now.)
My hating life and the situation went on till I was about 22 or so. A long time. Way longer than it should have. For some reason, at 23 I kind of ‘came around’. I started working on my self esteem and going to counseling and staying out of the bar district of college (well, not totally, but enough to pass most of my classes).  This is when I really looked at Mike with a whole new perspective.  He’d stuck around. He hadn’t left or treated my mom or my brother or I like dirt.  He was a good guy. A really good guy.
Me and Mike at Father/Daughter Day at KSU, 2000.

Mom, Me, Mike, my brother Michael
College graduation, May 2007
Also, about this time, was when his weird health problems started. I’m a little fuzzy on the order of everything that happened, being that it was awhile ago, but the doctors thought that he might be getting MS. Then he had this weird artery hemorrhage on his forehead that he had to have removed through surgery. His liver basically shut down.  He also started stressing out about a lot of things. He got migraines terrible, to the point of getting sick and having to be in bed, no lights, no sound, no movement.  That wasn’t all, there was more, a lot more, but to keep this novel shorter than the length of the dictionary, in the end....he got cancer.
I found out a lot about Mike in the last 7 or so years that I had my head out of my ass.  He helped out with some of my college bills, just like any old parent, which I had no idea he was doing at the time.  He worried a lot about me when I was depressed.  He used to talk with my mom about it all the time. Didn’t know that till later either. He was a writer. He wrote all sorts of short stories and little bits of Indian history throughout his life.  (Mike was Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian) He cared, a lot, about other people. He helped a lot of people; someone he knew on the Reservation or just a perfect stranger. He acted like a kid most of his life. He had ‘toys’ like bulldozers and cranes (no shit, we had a huge construction crane as ‘yard art’ for about 5 years, we lived in the country, so no one really cared.) I’d come home from college and ask mom where Mike was and her reply was, “oh, he’s on his machine, riding it around the property.” “Doing what,” I’d ask.  “Oh, just riding it.”  And you’d see him, up on the hill, just puttin’ along in his bulldozer, with a huge smile on his face.
Mike teaching me to drive the bulldozer. Seriously.

Something like this was sitting next to the driveway in my mom's flowerbeds.
 He had the best sense of humor I’ve ever known a person to have. He used to pretend that he was a government spy and that his real name was George. No last name. Just George.  At Disneyland he walked up to a statue of a gorilla and pretended to have a conversation. He said that it was the government giving him his next ‘mission’. (That was SOOO embarrassing for a 15 year old, aka ME!) He also would never tell his real age. He thought it was so funny when people came over to wish him a happy birthday and he’d say, “Oh, I’m not 50, I’m 46.”  Totally straight faced. And people would BELIEVE him!  When my parents moved to the Reservation he didn’t have a full time job, so he was at home a lot. He was at home every morning when my mom would leave for work.  He took that opportunity to go out to the driveway as she was backing out of the garage and pull his pants down and moon her. Every. Morning.  I was also lucky enough to see that FULL moon on many occasions. It scarred me for life.
Family South Dakota Trip, I think 2008
Ryan, Me, Mom, Mike, Michael, Jennifer, and their daughter Trinity

Mike's 50 + 365 day Birthday Party, 2010
He didn't get a 50th, so we had a big deal on his 51st.
Whether it was ironic or fate or whatever, Ryan (my husband) and Mike had damn near the exact same personality. So when you got those two together, my mom and I were never safe from the ‘torture’ that was bestowed upon us. They were constantly picking on us and being ornery. Any ditzy thing that my mom and I would do (which happens more often than not) they would just feed off of it and never let us live it down.

Father Daughter dance at my wedding, Sept. 2009.
Mike was an incredible person. He had the biggest heart. One of those few people that you will never forget and wish that more people were like him.  I could go on and on.
Mom and Mike after the ceremony.
Michael Alan Ne-se-Ka Jensen passed away one year ago today. Five days after his 15th wedding anniversary and a 20 days after turning 51.
His funeral was one to remember, and it might seem weird that I tell you about it, but you’ll understand after you read this: It was so humid that day. Sweat was just pouring out of our skin.  We barely made it to the funeral home and in the doors without getting huge pit stains.  We all sat down and the pastor started the service.  About 20 minutes in, just after the pastor had given the 'church' service part and a song had been sung, it was time to ‘share stories about Mike’.  That’s what Mike wanted, people to come up and share anything and everything, funny or sad.  Just as the pastor was saying, “Anyone, please come forward.” The lights go out.  Pitch black. We all just kind of look around and shrug. I look at mom, she looks at the pastor and says, “Well, Mike never wanted a funeral service anyway.” And the pastor replied, “Well, I guess he’s not getting one then.” We all laughed.  The lights stayed out for the rest of the service. Numerous stories were told in the small glow of the flood lights, funny and heartwarming. And when the last person sat down, the pastor started to ‘close up’ the service. Right then the lights came back on. I am not kidding you.  We all giggled again and looked up and each one of us was thinking, ‘Nice trick Mike.’ (We talked about it afterwards that we could just picture Mike up there, right next to God, saying, “OK, let's shut off the lights now, that’d be pretty funny.” Then he and God would have a good belly rolling laugh at our expense.)
We didn’t find out until the lights came back on that a huge storm rolled through at the time of the service.  Mike’s Indian name, Ne-se-Ka, literally means: Rolling Thunder.  Coincidence?
I wanted to write about Mike because he was a very important part of my life, and he still is a very important part of my life. And I wanted to share all that importance with you all. It's funny how life works out sometimes. I would not be in the same place now without Mike.  And I don't think he would have been in the place he had been without me.  Everything is a circle. Every action has a reaction.  And I fully believe he is up there right now, watching me write this, and smiling because he's so proud of me. 

I will never forget him and he will forever be with me.


  1. This post made me cry. It is such a beautiful tribute to someone who meant/ means a lot to you. My mom also got remarried while I was in high school and I haven't had thebest relationship with my step dad. I am very close to my dad. Your post makes me want to have a better relationship with my step dad.

  2. seriously - full on crying at work... geesh! What a lovely lovely post!!

  3. Awesome, awesome tribute post. Beautiful! :)

  4. Reading this made so many memories of what I went through with my step dad. I too lost him to cancer about 2 1/2 years ago. It was very quick and shocking. He had put us through a lot over the years but in the end he made my mom happy and gave me my sister who is one of my best friends. I am a firm believer about spirits giving us signals that they are there and thinking about us. Every person that I know that has passed has given me one or twelve :)
    He is looking down at you proud and touched about this post. He is all around you forever.

  5. I loved reading this, my dear friend. I'm so glad you wrote it. I'm also glad that not only did you have such a wonderful presence in your life, you realized it before he was gone. Hugs!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Mike sounded like an amazing man. I'm sure he is smiling down on you now!

  7. That was a beautiful post. He seemed like a really amazing person!

  8. This was such a baeutiful post. You have me crying. that was a wonderful moving tribute to Mike and I bet he is soaking it all up. I also laughed many times during the story, what a great man for staying with your Mom and loving you like a daughter.

  9. I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind words and remarks. I really appreciate you all and thank you so much for allowing me to share this part of my life with you!

  10. What a lovely tribute, Laura. I'm sorry for your loss. He sounds like a very special man. I lost my dad in 2002 and I still miss him too.

  11. Laura, Thanks for the memories!!! I love you, Mom

  12. I am extremely proud of you Laura. I sure do miss him and I would like to believe the dreams of buffalo I have been having are related to Mike.
    I had never heard of the mooning bit...I can see Mike doing that with that big ol' smile of his.
    The biggest honor of knowing him is having his legacy live on with little NaSeKa.
    I Love you Cuzzo.

  13. Oh my gosh, Laura... Mike would be SO proud of you!

    I'm very touched that you were able to share this. I imagine you typing this, with tears in your eyes (and on the back of your hand), with your love literally pouring out on paper... He knows you love him, Laura. And, no doubt, he loves you too...

    Sarah @ Thinfluenced

    P.S. My grandfather, Bob, passed away one year ago on June 21st this year---which is coming up. My grandparents raised me. There is a huge hole in my heart, stomach, and soul knowing he is gone. I still catch myself in tears randomly. I love him like crazy & miss him even worse...

  14. This post is so beautiful. Thank you for telling us about your wonderful dad.

    I am so happy you were able to build a relationship with him.

    Again thatnks for sharing.

  15. This is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful guy. We were puppy raisers together. I so loved Mike, and he obviously loved you. We miss him and his quirky sense of humor. You are right that the funeral was one of a kind! I still chuckle when I think about sitting in the dark, and I'm absolutely convinced that he pulled the switch!

  16. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Mike. He was indeed, such a special person and he will live in my heart forever.
    aunt allison

  17. Laura, Having been blessed to know Mike and enjoy some of his company, it was with heavy heart and tears to get the word of his passing a year ago. He has been on my mind a lot lately knowing the 1 year anniversary was due. It was my honor to have attended his services, but it was more of an honor to have been one of his friends. He IS a great man. His spirit is still here. In you, in the people he has helped, in all of us whom he has touched. God Bless.

    Bruce Vinkler, Chicago.

  18. What a beautiful tribute -- he sounds like an incredible person. I loved your father daughter dance photo -- it brought tears to my eyes.

  19. Laura,
    Nice narrative. Mike touched a lot of us. When I first met Mike it was at your home in Wamego. He just basically said welcome and gave me a figurative key to the house. His generosity knew no bounds. I remember he used to call me up during the day when he knew I was at work & busy just to see if I would answer the phone. I always took the time to take his calls. It was an honor to know him. I miss him him & his pesky phone calls dearly. And think about him every time we get a thunderstorm

    Warren Jones
    Sutton NH

  20. Laura,
    What an amazing story for you share. My family is so lucky that Mike brought you all into our lives. You and Michael were so special to him. You have a quite a talent for writing! I had no idea.
    See you soon.

  21. Laura,
    That is a great tribute to Mike, someone earlier said he would be so proud. It was very clear that he was so proud of you and your brother and loved both of you and your mom very much. He was one of those rare people that could walk in to a room full of strangers and leave a room full of best friends.


    Jim Hornbostel

  22. Wht a wonderful, amazing tribute to your father....I know he is lookingdown on you anis SO proud of you and all you have accomplished in life.

    Beautifully written.

  23. Great We are so happy to have you in our family -forever! Jack J


I love hearing from y'all, so leave a comment!