I thought I would provide for the audience which does not consist of my actual relatives, a little background on myself and the family from which I sprang. Then they might be better able to appreciate my last post about my brother, Gandalf.
I was not planned. I happened. I had to be delivered prematurely. So my body didn’t get to develop completely. It explains how I lost my eyesight in my left eye, and if it hadn’t been for surgery, my right eye would also have lost it’s sight. It may explain my anemia, my terminal skinniness. It may explain why I have always had a foot in another world. No one thought I would make it. They fully expected me to die. I was in an incubator for quite a while. When I was told about that I always thought of chickens. So I was raised like a chicken, I thought. The last thing my parents felt like doing was raising yet another child. While there is no question but that I was loved, I was also very much a thorn in their side, at least by the time I was in college. I didn’t appreciate what I had, but then, what young adult does? I wanted to be independent and free of my Mother’s constant judgement, and so I left home, and didn’t return. Of course, by then, it wasn’t really home any longer. I paid a steep price for that independence. I became isolated from my family, only visiting occasionally, and then not at all. This spurt of facebook activity is a chance to catch up with the offspring of the family I left behind. Let me explain a few things about my family.
In order to understand my family, you must consider the parents. My mother and father were very different from one another. My father was shy, brutally honest, totally down to earth, endearingly childlike, but not someone you wanted to mess with. He did not suffer fools gladly. He spoke rarely, but when he did, it meant something. You did not want to piss him off. He was one of those rare individuals who is totally himself, no pretence, no bullshit, just the straight stuff right down the line. You could totally trust him, depend on his word. He was very difficult to get to know, but once you did, you realized it was a rare treasure, because it isn’t often on this Earth that you encounter a person who is completely there, with the total innocence and honesty of a new born baby. But that was my Dad. (I realize that new born babies don’t talk or anything, I don’t want to suggest that my Dad drooled and shit his pants. It’s just a metaphor, ok? Sorry, I was just reacting to my Dad objections to what I just wrote. He always hated for anything to be about him. Sorry to embarrass you yet again. Oh, yes He’s reading this. Don’t think he isn’t.) Now, as I sit here writing this, I know that Dad was my greatest fan. Even though I drove him to distraction, and once he wanted to punch me so hard that I would never, ever think of being disrespectful to him again. Other times he would kick me out of frustration over what a pain in the ass I could be. But for all that, all the disappointment and thinking I would never amount to anything, he still thought I was about the coolest thing around. He admired me. He admired my guts. Thanks for your support, Dad. While growing up, it felt as if there were a stranger living in my house, a strange, grumpy old man, who sat and watched tv, but rarely spoke. Are you my Dad? But you’re scary, I don’t want a Dad like you. He was a janitor, and that embarrassed me to no end. Once a pretty girl I liked asked what my Dad did and I just said “he works for the college,” I hated him when I was a teenager, and once I started yelling at him, letting out all my hate and anger, over how all he ever did was watch tv, he never showed any love, did he even know he had a family? what was his problem etc. He just sat there. I wanted to see what he was made of. I took it up a notch. I was a total jackass, but I didn’t care. Finally he jumps up from his chair and draws back his fist. I covered up my face, and said “Please don’t hit me!” He started laughing and said “I wasn’t going to hit you.” but I said “Oh yes you were!” I don’t recall what we said afterward, but I remember we talked a lot more and the conversations were always very honest. I knew from that time forward who my father was, and that I could always count on him to be there for me. I gained a father, and, I think, he gained a son. We bonded even more closely after my Mother’s death, and I treasure those brief months. He leaned on me, and I on him. We searched for what it all meant, all of it, life, everything. We listened to each other in a way I couldn’t hope to capture here. It was too intimate, too real for words. His last words to me were “I Love You” which he said with all of his soul. I miss him terribly.
And then there is my Mother. Although she did not have the documentation to prove it, my Mother was a Queen, and our family was her domain. She had such a powerful, regal personality that it was easy to overlook Dad unobtrusively sitting in a corner. She was effusive, full of life and love. She showed great physical affection, and fairly smothered me with that, until….Until I was no longer a little boy. Nobody gave me the brochure explaining all this. Just suddenly, my running up and talking baby talk, and putting my hands on her shoulders was no longer permitted. One must not touch the Queen, don’t you know the proper protocol? I made the mistake of saying “screw the protocol” and that is where the war began. We were as close as it is possible for a son and Mother to be, when I was a kid. She shared her world with me, I learned about flowers, birds, she shared her thoughts with me. It was as though she wanted to pour all of herself into me, so that I could be a little skinny boy version of herself. I loved her, but more importantly I depended on her for my very identity. I looked for her approval in pretty much all I did. She bragged about me, and worried incessantly about me. I think she continued to think she could lose me, and that terrified her. I was in awe of my mother. Her personality was like the Sun. She was literally a force of nature. My Dad practically worshipped her, and literally didn’t know what to do after she died. She was his life. I worried about my Mother, she talked out loud to herself, and I couldn’t fathom her mind. She was an enigma. As much as I spent time with her, there was a person deep inside that I wasn’t privy to. She was the Mother, in her regal glory, and I was the son. In that sense, our relationship was rather formal. Never was I able to penetrate that mask. I tried, and I must admit I wasn’t gentle in my probing. I think it is fair to say that my parents had no idea what they were in for. I was a fucking nightmare in many respects. I fiercely challenged everything that came out of my Mother’s mouth. But the full frontal assault that had worked with Dad, failed with her. She just cried and said she hated me. (who could blame her?) She had penned her hopes on me. I was following in her footsteps, becoming a teacher like herself. She was thrilled to death. She was beside herself in joy that I was going to find my way, finally, giving up my awful friends who had led me down the path to hell. I would be a teacher, I would be a good Christian. But none of this was my choice. I was playing a role for her benefit, and finally I had had enough. I resolutely refused to be anything other than myself. It was not my idea to be a teacher, not my idea to be a good Christian. I was sick of seeking her approval. We were truly enemies, and life at home was sheer hell for both of us, and I’m sure it wasn’t a picnic for Dad either. So I left. The last straw was her saying she hated me. I thought “fine. It’s the last you’ll see of me.” Our close bond had turned full circle to an absolute break. But slowly, over time, as she pretended that those events never occurred, and she was back to being my Mother again, the wounds healed somewhat. But we never reestablished the bond we had when I was a child. Mom was not the forgiving sort. I had been banished from the land!! Off with my head! I think my Mother was not entirely of this world, she had a vivid imagination, and spent much of her time there. She was brilliant, but enigmatic. She had a sensuality about her which would often collide with her regal bearing. Here’s an anecdote. I remember the first time I used the word Fuck. I had no idea what it meant, but I knew it was a bad word. I said it to my friend down the street. His mother overheard and banned me from their yard, and called Mom to complain. Mom took me out to the large tractor tire filled with sand in the back yard. I knew I was going to be given a chewing out, and was worried. But Mom couldn’t keep a straight face while explaining why this word was bad. She really started laughing when I, in my logical fashion, could not understand how the very source of life could be considered nasty and bad. It made no logical sense, and it still doesn’t to this day! But my Mother gave me a mixed message that day, it was wrong but it was also funny, and maybe even kinda cool. I believe I owe my perversity to my mother, because my Dad was incapable of it. But, I am sad to say, I was never able to connect on a deep and honest level with Mom. Any time I tried to talk to her we would argue, or even worse, she would search my face for blackheads, spit on a handkerchief and start cleaning up my face, even when I was in my twenties. But I loved her deeply, and was devastated when she died. I hoped to gain some insight into her by reading her journal, after she died. But she wrote about flowers, about the weather, and about birds, with an occasional perfunctory noting of a birth or a death, or someone coming down with a cold.
And so. there you have it. Two very different individuals. One shy and withdrawn, the other out-going and dominating any room she entered. You can, perhaps imagine what sort of family these two would produce. A family filled with highly individual, charismatic people, who are alternately, either performers without a stage, or deep wells full of mystery. A hint of insanity, due to overactive imaginations, and a desire to rule the world, or, at least our own domain. We are larger than life, and uncharacteristically shy at times. Although we are overflowing with talent, we profess to be nothing special. We may not have any money but we are not poor. We feel we are of a special clan stretching back to King Arthur and Charlemagne, and yet we are no better than anyone else, and no one is better than we. Welcome to my family.