Location: marengo, il, United States

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Strange Love (Or how I learned to relax and stop hating my Dad)

"‘Tis a lone road to travel, this dirt path that meanders about God’s green Earth. Yet there is the call of crows nearby, or the repetitious cry of a mourning dove, coming from some hidden spot among the wood, or up ahead, a place where the whippoorwill sings. The fearsome swamp-wampus is held at bay with a few stones secreted away in one pocket, while in the other is kept a small knife for sharpening sticks, in case two show up. But without the trees and the birds and the beasts, this trail would be abandoned in favor of another, for I desire to wander."

First, forgive me for coming up with such a terrible title, but today is Wednesday after all, and of course you know what that means. Wednesdays are simply a great excuse to do anything.

I left home in the middle of the night in a fit of rage, right after a nasty, ugly argument which took place at the bottom of the stairs. It was around eleven-thirty. My mother, who drank, had hissed an insult in my direction as I headed up to my bedroom. I stopped on the second step, turned around, and there I lost control of my temper.

My father, also a beer-drinker, would hurry to step in between us to break it up. I was seventeen years of age at the time, and had never once dared to talk back to my mother like I did that night.

Both my parents had strange backgrounds. Divorces, disownments, and displacements took place in both of their families. These things occurred for so many generations that it has become next to impossible to unravel and sort out.

Both of my grandfathers were mystery men. Both of my grandmothers, one a sweet old lady; the other a dark and brooding woman, lived nearby, but spoke no words of either man.

My mom often told how dad, who was born in 1903, had been forced to quit school in the third grade and go to work to support his mother. That bitter old woman lived in a small trailer behind the house I stormed out of.

Mother also told her own horror stories of growing up in a convent, placed there at an early age by her wild and wanton mother, along with her little brother, Otho. The sweet old lady, the one called grandmother, went to reclaim both of her children only after several years had passed.

She also resided in a matching aluminum trailer which sat next to the one belonging to the person we called Grandma.

My family life felt secure and fairly normal as a kid, even though mom and dad fought a lot. People usually nod, and then say all parents fight. I glower then, thinking of curses being hurled by both man and woman, along with lamps or heavy glass ashtrays. I cringe, thinking of loud thuds and crashes as a bookcase overturns in the living room. Sounds of breaking glass or the grunts of two people struggling made me turn to my pillow where I would pray for God to send company so they would act nice toward each other. On mornings after, the destruction that lay in the silent room looked surreal.

But it all seemed natural until the day I learned of plans to separate and divorce. I never understood the feelings that were to well up inside me when both parents privately took me aside to ask which parent I wanted to live with.

A year went by. Then my father called from Georgia, where he still lived. He and my mother made some arrangements, and afterwards he moved to Texas where he was to become my father again.

Yes, my parents remarried each other. How sweet, some might say. What a poetic ending, one could think. It was far from it.

The bitter taste I had in my mouth never left. Plus they took right up to fighting again, albeit more genteel this time. Only outbursts of words. Hissing and name-calling. Stinging comments.

So after the explosive rage against mother at the bottom of the stairs, I escaped from there by joining the Marine Corps. Sixteen weeks of boot camp turned out to be a cinch, and I got through it easy. Yelling and screaming, red-faced drill instructors never said or did a single thing during the four-month ordeal to make me afraid.

Much later, my first marriage and the twelve years of military service came to an end at the same time, and I went on from there to drift about the land.

Then I woke up one day feeling lonely and missing my father, the man who had thrown me “up in the elements” back when I was a small child. I wanted to talk with him about how I felt, and how much I missed his love and affection, and how deep I yearned for him. I would later shake my fist at life, for the meeting never happened due to his stroke.

Another lifetime later, and during a rough time in a third marriage, I had to succumb to counseling or else. At one point I was asked by an expert to, of all things, go home and write down good memories about my father. I scoffed at his naive request.

I have nothing good to say about him, I responded.

Try, he smiled.

So I did. And later I wept.

But after putting pen to paper, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote more.

I surprised me.

I discovered I had forgotten about that one.

Oh, and here is another. My goodness! How could that have slipped my mind?

I ended up turning in seven pages of good times by the end of the week, but it would take years for me to understand the source of anger hauled around for almost four decades.

I went on then to write down things about my mom. Later I learned the importance of forgiving them both, but without excusing the bad behaviors. Yet the anger inside seethed.

So I delved deeper.

Prayers were prayed.

Memories were searched as I continued to bicker with my wife.

I looked to find where the monster came from, but found nothing tangible; nothing to blame; no thing; no one source; no singular reason.

Am I mad, I wondered? How can I become so angry so fast for no apparent reason?

Religious people will state that their faith sustains them, but clichés fail significantly with some.

My faith, I can truthfully attest, has surely helped me realize that my anger is merely a trait to overcome; nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe I am indeed a madman, but when you can smile when the tears flow, it just might be a breakthrough moment for you.

I want to thank Janus for taking me to another level, and my friend Clive, who supplied me with the flow of Red, Red Wine. UBgreat.


Blogger Janus Torrell said...

Your welcome friend, thank you for the good reading. Keep the faith, sometimes you have to keep the faith so it can keep you.

5:27 AM  
Blogger The Fractal Cat said...

I held onto my anger for years. Then I turned it toward God. 'Charlie', and other good men, helped and along the way they gave many of the cliches that are out there. Strangely, the one that I remember most is one from Buddha... - "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
Interesting that many Therapists and Counsellors say that WRITING is good. From experience I would have to agree.

As with so many things, simplicity works.

5:32 AM  
Blogger James said...

One thing about grandparents is they mostly provide good memories for the kids.

Coming to terms and trying to understand why our parents have done the things they have done is truely a major undertaking.

In the end ONLY they truely know why.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Yes indeed, Janus.

Charlie is a likable chap, and his story should be read (Fractal Cat tells it well, too).

Well-said, James.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

I am told that my parents came very close to divorce at one time but I was totally unaware of it. As a child, I lived in my daydreams and paid little attention to the storms around me. Perhaps things were not as calm and peaceful as I remember them but I have nothing to compare with your trials, Harry.

"God turns all things to the good of those that love Him."

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents got back together after a near-divorce and I carried around that anger for a long time. How could she (my mom) say all of those horrible things about my dad and then just jump back to him? She needed the insurance? She had no where else to go? She still loved him? Yes, all were true, but waking up to the bickering every day did not teach me what marraige was. I was able to forgive my mom before her death. I am working on forgiving my father for that, and much much more.
Janus's blog was amazing, encouraging, tearjerking...inspiring.
Reading your story also helps the ache to dissipate and healing to occur. Mostly I give credit to God, he uses others and time and circumstances to help wounds heal if you let him.
I enjoy your blog ... feel free to check mine out

6:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home