The following was originally written a few years ago but not posted anywhere. I reviewed and edited it to post here.
As I wonder what I should post next it occurs to me I should “begin at the beginning” as the old cliché goes. But the beginning is so far away, more than 47 years in fact, and even if I could remember my birth I doubt it would make for an interesting beginning – except perhaps to my mother and as she’s deceased she doesn’t count.
Not that I doubt her interest in my life; I’m sure she had some interest in me, being my mother and all. However, I lived quite a few of my first 18 years with the woman (and the various boyfriends and husbands who paraded through our lives). I think that history gives me a little experience to go by. My initial perception, looking back all this time later, is that she was selfish. But then I’m selfish (more on this later) so it’s quite possible I’m projecting my own failings onto her. Who can know what someone else thinks and feels unless they choose to share that? She didn’t choose to share it, at least not with me so I have no actual knowledge of her motivations or desires.
My 47 year old self looks backward over 30-some odd years and remembers a grown woman groveling to whichever man was currently in her life in order to have a roof over her head, food on her table and clothing for herself and her children. How can I consider that selfish? I believe my mother endured verbal and physical abuse because she honestly didn’t know what else to do. On her own it would have been difficult, if not impossible to earn enough of a living to support herself and her children. The selfish part is that she forced us to endure the abuses with her. But I can ask myself now what was her alternative? With only a high school education, she was unskilled and her work experience patchy at best. Her only family was not in a position to help her much, even if she would have asked them.
The step-father who sired my youngest brother turned out to be a yeller, and was physically violent as well – SURPRISE! I don’t know how much my other brother heard or understood, he was probably only about 6 or 7 at that time. And even though I was in junior high school I don’t have a clear enough memory of my mother and step-father number two (or perhaps it was number three) together to know for certain whether he left or she kicked him out. I just know one day he was gone and it was quiet again – blissfully quiet. Until the next time.
Her next husband while I still lived at home came from a close-knit family. Or perhaps I should say tightly-wound. I honestly think they were closet psychotics who did not understand the concept of staying in the closet. On the surface they were the picture of a nice, suburban family: elegant old grandmother; crusty patriarch; doting matriarch; three grown children and assorted grandchildren.
Upon closer inspection it became clear they were anything but nice. The grandmother was the only one who had any redeeming qualities – I fondly remember visiting her in the bungalow the family kept for her. The parents were well off, middle class and typically narrow-minded. They clearly favored their oldest and youngest children. As the first born, P could do no wrong in her parents’ eyes. If only her husband could have kept his pants zipped she might have been a lot happier. The baby of the family was also perfect even though it was obvious even to adolescent me that he wanted to be anywhere but with the family (I’ve completely forgotten his name but that doesn’t surprise me since he was so often missing from the scene).
My mother, God love her, married the middle son who constantly sought parental approval. As an adolescent I didn’t have a clue to his psyche but I have a clearer perspective now. On top of everything else, J was her junior by an unknown – to me anyway – number of years. His family was not pleased. He had a hair-trigger temper too; you never knew what would set him off (I don’t recall why he put his fist through my wall that time, I was just so glad it was the wall and not my head). And lest I forget to mention his most impressive feature, it would take four or five of my mother to make one of him. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but in the dictionary, next to the word obese should have been his photograph. That of course wreaked havoc with his self image and it didn’t help that his co-workers teased and mocked him. (Please note: I do not attribute his nastiness to his weight alone, though I think his weight made him unhappy so he had to make others unhappy. I think his main problem was his hypercritical parents.)
See? Wasn’t this is more intersting than hearing how long my mother’s labor was?