I’ve been thinking some more about this as related to the previous blog What Makes A Good Man, about the kind of man my father was – or more accurately the kind of man he wasn’t – and that was a man willing to stand on his own two feet.
One while acknowledging life’s inequities doesn’t embrace them as an excuse – in other words willing to face them and fight back, to understand he isn’t the only victim and it serves no purpose to victimize his family.
Sociologists undoubtedly would say my father evidenced one of their “syndromes”, perhaps even make excuses, easy enough for others to do when not caught up in the reality of drunken rampages, no food on the table, and the fear of his presence that clung to his family like smoke from the inner rage that burned within him.
He professed a great pride in being one of the people, thought of himself as some kind of warrior, and yet everything he did was anathema to both – something I see a lot of today.
My mother wasn’t a big woman, she was in fact small in physical stature but a giant in those areas where it mattered the most, and willing to take the brunt of the blows that otherwise were directed at her children, which often led to wild free for alls as they in turn would attempt to intercede for her……I hated the sonofabitch, and even though he’s passed on still do.
Some of my earliest memories are fantasies about the day I would become if not a man, at least big enough to extract some payback, and though I tried up until the age of twelve when he left that day never arrived.
Every time my thoughts would stray to him I regretted the lost opportunity – I recall the time when I was about six or so and he had my sister who was three years older than me pinned to a wall choking her.
It was just me and my sister in the house and I think I must have lost it as I grabbed the nearest thing handy, one of those faux gilded picture frames of the kind you’d find in KMart or some such place and went on the attack.
Every genetic memory that existed came into play, I was whooping, hollering, and swinging.
It must have startled and confused my father as I was able to get in a couple of good licks before he reacted – put a gash on his forehead and as the blood began to run down his face, and yet knowing what was coming I was elated, for a brief fleeting moment I thought of myself as a warrior, one who had counted coup.
They say payback is a bitch, and indeed it was that day – I wound up with a broken collarbone after being knocked across the room – I landed by a rifle, a lever action 30-30 Winchester, thinking it to be loaded I grabbed it and would shot my father where he stood had it not of been for my lack of familiarity and his quick response.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when I pointed it at him, the shock, and yes, even the fear, nor the slow smirk and anger that replaced them as I struggled to keep it pointed at him.
Different stories were floated about how the collarbone happened, from falling out of a tree to falling off a horse – but I knew the truth of it and never forgot.
The ignorance of my father was so profound that after a day or two of denial that anything was wrong he decided “our ways” were the best approach and attempted to fix the break himself.
I passed out during his “healing ceremony” and can’t relate the particulars, but I woke up with some kind of bandaging that Karloff in the movie The Mummy might have been able to pull off but wouldn’t work anywhere else.
A mystery related to that remains to this day, a copper penny was taped to the area of the break, the explanation was it would somehow facilitate healing. Taking matters into her own hands my mother spirited me off to the doctor.
As the days passed I made a vow to myself that this man would never extract another tear from my eyes, that he would never have that satisfaction or so much as a whimper from me, that he would have to kill me first, and it was a vow I kept at great cost.
My mother shed countless tears and tried to apologize to me for things that weren’t her fault, the way of mothers. In the end she was a woman caught in a “domestic” nightmare like so many others.
Thirteen years later I saw my father again, he was the same loudmouthed drunk I remembered. He enraged me when saying I didn’t understand, I didn’t know my mother and how she had contributed to the situation, that he was my father and I needed to show some respect.
I would have shown more “respect” than he could have handled if not for others restraining me.
Respect for the sacrifices and pain endured by my mother, my sister, and any who had the misfortune to dwell in his presence.
In the end though I guess it’s better that others interceded as I had a lot of pent up rage and no telling what may have happened. I had spent the years following his departure fighting “at the drop of a hat” as my mother characterized it in what may have been an attempt to rid myself of childhood demons, or maybe just something as simple as I had been hit enough and wouldn’t take anymore.
Both my mother and sister have passed on now- my mother some would say in the fullness of her years, though I would argue that and say more years were due her, my sister before her time due to an aneurism.
I did the best I could to make life easier for both as I became a man, I felt it was a duty, and though it may sound like I cling to the past and won’t let go, that isn’t true. You can let go of the influences but not the memories.
I view such memories as motivation to always strive to be a good man, and I devote the same energy to that as I did to those battles with my father. I no longer fight at the drop of hat, but I know right from wrong and won’t back away from that understanding if discussion fails to be a resolution.
Life is what it is – it can be good or bad depending on the choices we make as adults, we can’t control all the influences but we can control our reactions to them – for me it’s about trying to make lemonade from lemons if life is passing a few lemons my way, that’s a lot better than embracing a victim mentality and offering it up as generic excuse…..unlike my father I choose to stand on my own two feet.