Wednesday, January 11, 2012


There's an old Judy Garland lyric that goes:

"At first I just stood and watched from the wings,
That's all my Mom and Dad would allow.
But as I got older, I got a little bolder
And snuck out for their second bow.
They kept me in the act because they needed me to milk applause,
until one night they did a crazy thing:
They left me out there all alone.
Papa said "You're on your own" and Mama shouted,
"This is it kid. Sing"

That last year, my 14th one, began with a guilt trip I carry with me to this day. As my birthday approached, Mama asked me who I wanted at my birthday party. And I said, "Jane, Belle, Ellen, Joanna, Lyn and Genie." And that's who came to an evening dinner for a 14-year old gay boy child. I had a good time. But later, (there's always a 'but later') after everyone had gone, Mama said to me, "You said you wanted everyone at your party, but you didn't say you wanted me."

Damn. There it is. The weight of a guilt trip. I was speechless, but managed to say, "Of course I wanted you there, Mama." But nothing I could say made it any better. Maybe that's where I learned to gravitate to lost causes. But I thought I could fix everything if they'd just let me. It wasn't until I was about 50 that I realized it wasn't mine to fix, those problems. Who knew?

Countless times I was woken up with him beating the hell out of her and then going to bed, leaving her literally under the breakfast room table, just as drunk as he was. She always claimed, "I would drink if it weren't for your Daddy. When he's sober, I'm sober." And, I believed that. Dumb kid wanted to believe it. But there she was under the table talking out loud to nobody in a drunken stupor - refusing to go to bed until the kitchen was clean because she didn't want to wake up to dirty dishes. Hell, they never woke up to start a kid's day off. I learned early on to feed myself and, as most of you know, I have a pretty unhealthy relationship with food. First it was Tony The Tiger and Frosted Flakes. Tony was my best friend. I would devour an entire box of those flakes every morning. The bowl and the spoon kept getting bigger and bigger - and so did my stomach and my ass. But I thought I was filling that empty hole in my gut, that hole which cannot be filled by food. Who knew?

And I would go to school and sit in the classroom with the shakes, literally unable to stop my hands from trembling - because of the damn battles I stood by and watched the night before. And my teachers would always tell me, "You are such a fortunate child." Right. But eventually, I got pretty tired of it and decided to fight back in the only way I knew.

Reel-to-reel tape had just become a common thing in the late 50's. And I would wish every night that I could tape those fights that went on in my house. That I could play them back for Mama and Daddy at breakfast and say, "See what it's like?" And I was certain that would make them change. But hell, they were never at breakfast, so what's the point?

One night in the early part of my 14th year, I hit on a idea. I would get drunk and show Mama what it was like living with that. So I started around 5:30 pretending to be getting sloshed like she did. Little by little my speech slurred and more and more I got drunk - or at least she thought I did. She ran around checking the liquor cabinet to see what was missing. She even called her best friend and said, "I think he's drinking." So my plan was working. At about 9 o'clock I came out of it in the middle of a sentence and said, "See what it's like? Do you see? Do you?" Daddy was not part of this drama because he was in the hospital drying out. But Mama saw it, and it only served to prove to her that I was growing up and becoming her equal, at least in effect. She had to deal with me on an adult level and I think it really confused her that I would talk back and hand back the crap that I was being served.

The night before she died we had an argument about what movie I was going to see. And she demanded I not see "Peyton Place" and I walked out of the house and went right to the Arcade and saw it in complete defiance. It was the last conversation we ever had. Saturday morning when I woke up I went in their bedroom and took money from my father's wallet and went to town. And they got up; he went to work and she went to Macon for that piano - and you've read what happened. My last encounter with my Mama was an argument. Words I can never take back. Words which haunt me to this day.
Be careful what you say.

Therapy, very expensive therapy, has taught me to forgive my parents. Forgive them for what? Adopting me? Making me the field on which they jousted nightly? I didn't know any better. I thought that was how it was supposed to be - that I deserved it. I learned to come to terms with by saying "They were great people (and they were) but they had no business adopting a child." That is not a popular statement when I make it to people who knew them. Not my problem. I lived in that for 14 years. And the abuse went on from my father even until he died. He didn't know any better. He didn't understand me. He loved me, but he was embarrassed by everything I did. Again, not my problem. But I fought him long after he died. Kept fighting him until I finally spent his entire financial legacy to me. My psychiatrist said "You won't bury him as long as you have that money." So I spent it.

"And Mama shouted, This is it kid, Sing". Well, this is my song and I'm singing it. How do you like it, Mama? I still love you, old girl. You tried. And I know you loved me. I really do know it. But......(there's always a but)


auntie dasch said...
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auntie dasch said...

Funny you mention "when I was 50" ... I just turned 50 and I had an epiphany between then yet way before epiphany. I tried to share it and got silence back from each person with whom I shared it because they don't come from a Hanoi Hilton like we did. I remembered when my husband's best friend died and left his cat to us in his will. This cat is the sweetest soul I have ever met in my life and a gentleman every second of the day. The second week he was here, there was an incident where he thought I was going one way and I was actually going another and we sort of tripped over each other and I thought to get mad. Then I thought, how dare you! That poor thing has just lost his father, has just been moved out of his home in to a new environment, he needs you, HE didn't ASK to come here, and that's when it hit me: IF I could go back (I would never want to go back) I would want to have all the knowledge I do now, to be able to help them deal with me and to scream, , but a very wise man I know (who writes a beautiful blog and has the courage to share his life with us wink wink) taught me a long time ago, and I know the true meaning of forgiveness and healing: there's nothing I can do to affect the past, a beautiful mantra.

I can't thank you enough for sharing all these things with us. I hope doing so is as healing for you as it is for us.

Remember I love you and the money is in the bank.