Merry Christmas… Call the Police!

(a vignette)

My father’s parents lived in Shaker Heights on Van Aken Boulevard, a wide street with a grassy strip in the middle to accommodate the Rapid Transit tracks running down the middle.  The cars were powered through a metal rod that scooted along electrical wires strung on poles along the tracks as they clickety-clicked along.  Row after row of clean three-story brick apartment buildings with manicured lawns seemed to pass by as I sat in the backseat of the car.  Set back from the street, they were fancy, but boring, almost all the same except that every ten buildings or so, the shutters at the windows would change from white…to green… to black…then repeat.  So you wouldn’t get lost, maybe.  Upper middle class Cleveland, Ohio.  Alvin and the Chipmunks sang on the car radio in their helium-soaked voices:

♫ Christmas, Christmas time is near,

Time for toys and time for cheer.

We’ve been good, but we can’t last,

Hurry Christmas, Hurry fast.

Want a plane that loops the loop,

Me, I want a Hula-Hoop.

We can hardly stand the wait

Please Christmas don’t be late
… ♫

I loved Alvin; he’d jump at any chance for fun or to satisfy his curiosity, the little devil.  He could be naughty as he wanted, touch anything he wanted, and just had to put up with a scolding from Dave now and then.  No biggie; Dave always let him sing with the group again in the end.

I’d asked Santa for an Alvin for Christmas, the little fuzzy guy with a baseball cap and gold A on his shirt; you could wind him up and he’d play the song with his little music box hidden inside.  Wow.

Gram and Backee lived at ‘The Drake Apartments’, 19606, and we were heading there for Christmas.  My great-grandma Nan would be there.  I loved her.  She’d send us little things all year that she‘d cut out of magazines or from the backs of cereal boxes, and tiny dresses she’d crocheted for our Ginny dolls.  Last year she’d given me my very own can of ripe olives for Christmas; she knew how much I loved them.  She had a halo of white, fluffy hair and wore wide-skirted silky dresses in dark colors, and chunky, lace-up medium heels on her feet.

My sister Linda had named my grandfather Backee (it was pronounced ‘Bah-key’), because she couldn’t say Grandpa at first, and the name stuck. 

He was a tall man with silver-grey hair, parted on the side and combed into order with some kind of stuff that kept it in place.  He looked just like the picture of his father in their hallway above the telephone.  A stuffy-looking guy with an ugly black suit and white shirt with a Herbert Hoover collar and a watch fob; he kind of looked like he’d been carved out of wax.  And he didn’t look all that nice, like the first thing out of his mouth might be A-hoom.  . . .

Backee had worked in management at Republic Steel, and was a no-nonsense man who could wilt you with a look; he looked like he thought he was important, and maybe you weren’t, so much. He could smile, but it was an absent-minded sort of smile that didn’t last long.   Maybe the Important Thoughts in his head crowded out the nice ones.

He had lots of cameras and lenses and light meters, and he took pictures when they traveled.  He also grew loads of flowers in the rooftop garden space he rented.  I never asked him how they got all that dirt up there, but I sure wonder all these years later.  The only good times I remember that he and I ever spent together were in his garden.  As he worked, he would tell me the names of flowers and I’d ask him questions, though I had to squeeze answers out of him in the same the way you had to press on a slightly dried up tube of toothpaste.  He would sometimes pluck a snapdragon bloom for me to play with; a gentle squeeze to the part where its jaw would be, it sort of talked; wah-wah. I liked that.  And sometimes it made Backee smile.

Gram was short and chubby, with watery grey eyes that held some unknowable far-away pain; a little pinch of muscles between her eyebrows made them into an upside-down V, like she was always thinking, as she sort of slumped over with her burdens and sighed, “oh… poor, poor me.” Sigh.

She had those bull-doggish deep crevices on either side of her nose that headed toward her mouth some old ladies get.  Her skin smelled kind of musty and chalky: Old Lady Smell.  I sure did hope I’d never smell like that!

My dad was their only child.  He was smart and handsome and huge as a bear, six feet and four inches tall.  Some kids were scared of him, just because he was so big.  He’d graduated from college, gone to the Coast Guard Academy, and was in the service for awhile.  He was company clerk, and didn’t even know how to type!

Our mom said Gram and Backee were always cruel to him, and that during the Depression, Gram and Backee owned seven cars, but my dad only had one pair of jeans with a hole in the knee to wear to school.  That must have been awful, but they were mean to him in other ways, too, like they didn’t know how to love anybody. She told us lots of bad stories that made me cry.  Isn’t there a rule that parents are supposed to love their children?

They didn’t really like me, either, and I didn’t know why.  My mom thought maybe it was just because Linda was born first, and maybe there just wasn’t any room for me.  Or something.  They gave her lots more presents, and it didn’t feel right. My sister must have been embarrassed, because my mom said she had tried to give me one of her presents once, but over time she got used to it, and seemed to think she deserved more. They thought I wasn’t as smart as my sister, so Gram wouldn’t even teach me how to knit or anything like that.  Other kids had grandparents who loved them; I knew that much.

Backee called my sister Princess, so once in a while he’d call me Kitten, (Eww.) right out of Father Knows Best.

I was sort of a tomboy, and always had skinned knees and bruises and dirt-stained feet from going barefoot so often in summer.  Well, sure my dad had wanted a boy, but I liked baseball and fishing and everything.  And anyway, when the summer families came back to our island, it was great to have more friends than snotty Peggy Dallen next door; her cranky father was some big-wig at Standard Oil.  If I wanted to play with the boys, I had to be ready for rowdy boy-games and adventures.  We were allowed to roam the entire Catawba Island on bikes, and we did.  We’d make the rounds most days, and had favorite spots: this tree, that stone wall to walk atop, this long hill to ride up repeatedly, so that we coast down fast, our feet off the pedals, allowing them to spin as fast as they would.

We’d take graham cracker lunches into the woods and hunt for fossils, and make forts under huge fallen trees, their roots coated with earthy smells.  We carried our marbles in purple velveteen Seagram’s bags, and played string-circle marbles with puries (the best) and cat’s eyes… for keeps.

Gram and Backee didn’t like my tomboy ways, but at least by then there was something concrete they could grouse about.  They were always telling me to wash my feet, as if the dirt weren’t permanent; jeez.  And to be a lady. And you had to wear gloves to church!

So there was all that tension with the Grands, but the larger problem lay beyond me:  they really didn’t like my mother.  Mom said they thought my dad had married beneath him, and blamed her for it.  They really meant she wasn’t good enough for him.

My mom’s mother had been killed in an auto accident when my mother was twelve; she became the mother to her little brother and sister, and ran the house.  It must have been hard, and it had made her pretty bossy, even for a mother.  My cousins called her Auntie Alice, the Camp Director. One snap of her fingers got your attention fast.

When we finally got to Gram and Backee’s, we went into the little room we always slept in.  Backee had left a copy of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus on the dresser for us to read.  Hmmm.  Here was old Francis Pharcellus Church giving Virginia a load of happy crap.  The way my parents and sister looked at each other whenever they mentioned Santa made me know he wasn’t real.  (When we got back home, I looked him up in our encyclopedia: Santa Claus, an imaginary being…)  But it was sort of hard to disappoint them all, so I pretended to believe again, just for this one last time.

Later I made a snowman (my sister didn’t want to help) outside in the courtyard of the apartments, and Backee gave me one of the corncob pipes we always gave him for Christmas to stick in its mouth.  We knew he didn’t really smoke them, but it was sort of a tradition by now to give him one.  His real ones were nicer.

It was hard to sleep that night with the noise from the Rapid Transit trains, and the light from the streetlights that leaked around the curtains.  The time dragged.

But finally it was Christmas morning, and Santa had been there in the night, and he’d   brought me an Alvin.  And a Deluxe Pillsbury Baking Set with its own light-bulb stove. (I think it was a hint.)

A lot of sort of mean things were said that morning, mainly about gifts.  Thank you for the pretty beads, Virginia.  Beads?  Beads? Those are the finest pearls money can buy…, like that.  Poor Grandma Nan.  She was so kind, and Gram was so mean to her; you could see it confused her.  Was this her daughter?  How did this happen?  And Gram and Backee never liked the things my mom picked out for them, so their forced smiles said it a lot, and the fakey way they said ‘thanks said a lot’.  My dad sort of tried to pretend he was there, but really wanted to flee to the teevee room.  So it didn’t seem all that Christmasy, if you know what I mean.

Later, when the adults were in the kitchen getting dinner ready to serve, tension oozed out into the living room; maybe the tones of the raised voices alerted me.  I peeked in, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Gram and my mom were drinking, the men, too, in the den, and probably more than was good for them.  Old Fashioneds; you could tell by the colors, the orange sections, and the shape of the glasses.  Finally dinner was served.

We all sat at the big mahogany table covered in white linen and trays of food and candlesticks and flowers.

Maybe someone said a blessing, or maybe someone poured some wine; I forget.  Had Backee carved the turkey?  I don’t know.  Nor do I remember what or who started the cascade of events that followed.  There must have been cross words, and louder voices, but suddenly my grandmother hit my mother in the face. My grandfather stood up; my father stood up, and everyone was yelling.  Backee hit my dad.  And it must have been when my one of them stood up, the movement lifted the edge of the dining room table up and tipped it over. Food and drink and china and silver and crystal crashed to the floor. Our German shepherd, Q squealed; she was trapped beneath, but finally wriggled out.  Poor Nan was against the wall under the window, looking frail and frightened and unbelieving amidst the pandemonium, her mouth in the shape on an O.  I panicked.  I didn’t know what to do, but we clearly needed help.

So I ran to the telephone in the hall, and picked up the receiver to call the police.  Television, I guess, was my only point of reference for violence: surely this fight met the standards of police help, didn’t it?  But then I realized I didn’t know how to call the police; I called for my sister’s help, but she didn’t come; probably thought I was an idiot…  My mother came, though.  She put the phone receiver back in the cradle and held me, and said it would be okay.  Okay.  Soon it would be okay.

I remember nothing more about the aftermath, or the gathering of our belongings and getting ready to leave.  Someone had rescued Grandma Nan, and she sat in her favorite needlepoint chair, looking so tiny and fragile and wounded.

When we got to the door, my father told us to go out and wait by the car; I wouldn’t go.  I was terrified that the two of them might hurt my father again, and I wanted to help him, and begged him to come with us now, or let me stay.  No, he wanted to stay to talk to his father.  I finally let myself be sent to the street, carrying my little suitcase and new toys; I dumped my Pillsbury Bake Set all over the sidewalk, crying and shivering.  How had this happened to my family?  We weren’t like this. When at last my father emerged from the apartment door, I melted with relief.  He looked so far away.

Backee was with him, and before my pop turned toward us: they shook hands. Shook hands?  His face was waxen and he had tears on his face when he got to the car and saw us, he shook his body a little, and straightened up, attempting to move on, take charge…something. I don’t remember the ride home, or much discussion about the hideous events, though there must have been some, musn’t there?.  Maybe my parents talked softly; probably I slept, Alvin clutched tightly against me…  Me, I want a hula-hoop…

It was good to be going home.

We wouldn’t see them again for more than a year.

Not long afterward, we moved away from the island to North Royalton,  a Cleveland suburb, and left no forwarding address for the Grands.  (More like ‘Royal Hellhole’)  Perhaps ‘making up’ was a useless proposition.  A couple years later, on a Sunday, my sister and I were sitting in the sunroom watching television.  On one wall was an enormous lithograph of the Grand Tetons; the Big Breasts, we’d giggle.  The glass wall to the south looked out onto an overly-sunny concrete patio and a neighbor’s fence behind an expanse of dry grass; ye gods, it was ugly, and we never went out there.

I must have sensed movement, and looked out the window.  Like a chimera, my grandfather shimmered out of the trembling air off the patio concrete and took shape.  He stood still and looked right at me, not smiling, and once I began to believe he was real, I panicked, but let him in.  It turned out that he had hired a private investigator to find us.  I went and got my parents, who were napping in their room.  Uh-oh.

Somehow relations were re-established, some form of detente; some accord must have been reached, but my parents never explained things fully to us.  Whatever rules were made only operated on the surface; the underlying themes never changed, and they were a-holes until they died.  Both of them outlived my parents, oddly enough; he of his third or fourth heart attack at 47, she of suicide at 49.

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janis b's picture

The nostalgia is palpable, much that is precious and some not so much. Good that you didn't reach the police and things were eventually resolved to some extent.

"Isn’t there a rule that parents are supposed to love their children?"

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wendy davis's picture

@janis b

and for the hilarious updated chipmunks production number as well. fancy chipmunks shakin' their booties; my stars. ; )

even all these decades later, i'm undecided as to whether or not re-establishing a relationship was a god thing...or not. i did figure out what some of the new ground rules my
parents had required were, but in a way it made them more toxic, not less. but they sure did allow me to see that while therapists, shrinks, tend to focus on the effects of toxic parenting, grands can be even more formative to our psyches, given that grands are supposed to provide unconditional love. tragically, our adopted son had that in his DNA somehow, and for a long time tried to paper over his paternal grandparents' lack of love. i know for some a black/azteca and a ute child might just be a bridge too far to love, though.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

You captured me from the beginning. It made me think of our own family upheavals. I still remember my older brother lamenting, "I used to proudly tell people we didn't have any problems within my family." But we did. Our oldest brother didn't come to dad's funeral. Such is life.

The motto I live by: You cannot choose your family, but you can choose the relationship you have with them. Pleasantry

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"If there is not justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government." Emiliano Zapata

QMS's picture

@Raggedy Ann
Thanks for sharing.

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Listen to your higher mind.

wendy davis's picture

@QMS

i'm glad you not only read it (it's longish) but liked it as well.

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wendy davis's picture

@Raggedy Ann

and boy, howdy, it's all to easy to believe one's family isn't dysfunctional. mr. wd used to reckon the same after watching and hearing about mine. later in life he'd come to recognize so much of what he'd buried, though, and had vowed not to parent our chirren as dishonestly as his parents had done. what he'd been catechized to believe of his family history was that they were all heroes, including the grandfather who was captain of the guard at the nebraska state penitentiary. "the inmates even gave him cards and gifts at xmas!" was his bio. rotflmao!

but i'll say that i tried for a long time after our parents had crossed over to hang on to a relationship with my sister, against all odds (i won't list her hideous deeds). but one day she hung up on me in a rage after i'd asked about her inner life (she claimed she didn't have one), and i broke off the relationship. my life is far better without her than with her; how awful is that? my mum and her sister had been adult friends forever.

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Raggedy Ann's picture

@wendy davis
I broke with my sister six years ago. There were four of us - I get along with brother #2 and I'm the baby. Oldest brother is suffering for his deeds - stroked out and confined to a bed at 86, his wife with dimentia (fitting as she drove the wedge between him and us, but she was his choice, which I respect).

As for my sister - she cannot face reality. She wouldn't even call me to find out what happened when her out of control drunk son created havoc at my house. She asked HIM what happened and it stopped there. I was/am done.

Such is life! Pleasantry

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"If there is not justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government." Emiliano Zapata

wendy davis's picture

@Raggedy Ann

had a similar experience. but i'm so glad you're still connected to one of your brothers. sometimes we just have to save ourselves from our family members, don't we, and try to create new extended families.

i've been depressed lately, and given that i love party lights and fairy lights, i asked mr. wd if we might put up our polyester christmas tree early for that reason. it's taken us a few days to get it almost-finished, him blind w/ cataracts, me on a crutch, tra la la. it's rather avante garde let's say, in its color scheme of purple, blue, and clear fairy lights, but as i was putting up decorations, i was once again touched by grandma nan's many vintage contributions, all made of felt, beads and embroidery.

peace and solidarity to you, raggedy ann.

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mimi's picture

I would may be try to tell some Santa family story, but I don't think I ever will, my American virtual friends wouldn't feel comfortable and me neither, I think.

My only end of wwII surviving grandparent I got to know at age six was my grandpa on the father's side around 1953 (he died 1954). He smoke a pipe and when he cleaned that thing it stank. I loved him just because he gave me a real electrical iron for children and I felt so proud, he trusted me to handle a real electric iron. I felt he took me as an adult. Wow. My parents wouldn't have done so. I don't know but I never forgot that.

Not being loved the same or treated the same, siblings feeling it and never forget it. It haunts them in the underground til death and their children know it too and it haunts them and on and on and on ....

Why is that so?

And as Santa is coming, I have a wish on my list. Can he just answer my question, what I am, if I don't want to allow the right-wing people today to salute with "Heil Hitler" and don't want to celebrate "Adolfs Birthday" in Germany?

Am I an authoritarian free speech surpressing fascist-leaning neo-something or am I an authoritarian free speech surpressing leftist-socialist commie?

I never liked those Über-Free-Speech defenders in the US who made me feel like a German fascist, just because I don't like folks "saying Sieg Heil etc' in today's Germany.

Is it "Free Speech First" or is it "America First" or is it "Decency last" or what is it now? I feel so dumb. Help me.

Help

And you would allow dancing on Hitler's grave? Yes. How about pissing on Hitler's grave. Acceptable? Coming to imagine it, I would be haunted by the thought that my piss is such a potent fertilizer it would make the new Hitler rising up from the grave. O horror.

So, may be I just wait til I am in my grave, and then I might finally know what I think of people peeing and dancing on me. Thank God, I am dead then, supposedly. But who knows that for sure? I never got that after-life thingie. Did you?

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wendy davis's picture

@mimi

you did just write a wee story, and quite well, i'd add. bless grandpa's heart for the child-sized iron! my pop was clueless about tools, and although there was a drawer with some hand tools, he'd kinda given me free reign to use them, and i love turning my hand to small repairs, including on my toys. someone along the way gave us an old treadle sewing machine, and voila, i learned to sew my own doll clothes.

yeah, i had some aspirations (pretensions?) of being a writer earlier on when i wrote vignettes and character sketches of our neighbors in this small SW colorado canyon at tpm café, later for the firedoglake readers diaries. but clearly i would have needed to learn to add dialogue, without which a story is far less...demonstrative, maybe.

now as to free speech absolutism, i used to agree with the aclu. but that was all theoretical, wasn't it? the thorniest issue, of course, is where one draws a red line in these days of uber-nationalism and hate speech.

now as to favorite chirren, i will say that my sister being such for the grands was far more toxic to her in the end than to me, but yes, it was painful and hard to understand. they were the ugly amerikans the best money could buy™, and she ended up just like them in her bigotries and privilege.

but you may be asking a deity those Qs, no? as for after-life thingies, i don't know, as i'm not a believer of any sort, more of the apatheist, 'let the mystery be' sort.

but a long-ago local friend's son committed suicide a number of years ago at college, and he swears they see his spirit around their house, and he speaks with them. (beats me) he's come to use the term 'transitioned' (as to another realm) rather than 'died'. but hell, yeah, piss on his grave if ya like, don't worry about bein' fertilizer for his zombification!

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mimi's picture

@wendy davis but tonight I read through your grand story in full and it kept me hooked.

One side of me would like to comment on the ability to 'forgive' someone who hurt you. I feel a little shellshocked how you could deal with how your parents had suffered so much that it looks as if it made them die tragically and too early.

Another side of me would like to remain silent, because I still feel I would be hurt if people would misunderstand me.

It is only now (me being 70) that I truely understand what a strong mother I had. She appeared to be totally dependent from my father, but she was stronger than him. We just couldn't see that as kids. My father made one mistake with regards to my life (that he had no clue it would be for me a reason to leave and break from my parental home emotionally and physically). I could not forgive him for it or forget it or not get enervated over til ... from one day to the next it didn't hurt anymore. It surprised myself. I could leave the past behind though I never knew why, nor did my father know what had bothered me so much during the 20 years that followed that event.

All I learned up until lately is that my family members never changed their spontaneous thinking they had fifty years ago. And that they don't know consciously themselves what they really thought and what it meant to me and later to my child. So in the end it is not worth to even try to understand what actually was going on. It is either too banal or too complicated or too much undisclosed or faked and denied away. It is just mind boggling how humans are capable of completely black out realities that anyone who wanted could see. I still wonder about it. I have given up to understand it. There are just things humand decide not to want to see and therefore they don't exist for them. I decided to not go on thinking about it. It's futile.

Thanks for sharing your story. It's a bit hard to imagine what it had done to you.

And btw. nice to understand where and for whom you wrote. I always wondered about that. At least I heard of those blogs, but didn't read them regularly. I know now I should have...

Give rose

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wendy davis's picture

@mimi

your reticence to recount more than you have, darlin' mimi. and i'm so sorry that what your father did to you (and is still clueless about by choice?). you haven't said if you or your mum had tried to tell him, but i expect that's incidental by now. but i find i'm in total agreement that people so often fail to admit to their own darkness inside, as it's so much easir not to, and keep up the lies (see m. scott peck's People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil', for instance.) hiding our dark sides can become generational...until someone stops it.

but you're saying that your anger faded with time? awesome, really. as in: you filled your life with more loving relationships and extended family?

now my mum does and did think my dad's parents could have relieved some of the epic stress he was under after his first heart attack, recounting how wouldn't matter. but my mum's suicide was due to multiple causes, including a car accident that left her a mess, and the fact that my dad was in the process of divorcing her when he died. and yes, i've written that story, and it's not a pleasant read whatsoever.

but forgiveness is likely key when not doing so causes us to hold rage, think of revenge, etc. i will say that one body-centered therapist with whom i studied and had private sessions with...noticed that it was clear that i had parented my own parents in many ways. and he was right. i spent a lot of my life going back and forth tending them in california, schlepping my mum to CO, then to ohio, and elsewhere trying to find her a place to live with her sister. in the end, i brought her here, and after her third try, she did manage to end her life.

sister linda was never asked to aid them, oddly...or not. sigh.

but i sense that i'm getting way off track here, mimi? i'll hush for now, okay, and come back and see if and how i failed to answer you?

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mimi's picture

@wendy davis
just saying that everyone, who was involved in it, is dead by now. And when I mention to the ones still alive what it was that made me 'go' and then made me 'come back, again and again', don't believe me and are 'surprised'. That's when I gave up. What for should I continue thinking about it?

It just fades away ... and me too. So, whatever it was or is has no importance.

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wendy davis's picture

@mimi

i hope that it's all faded away for your child, as well. my sense is that you'd have helped her by not hiding the truth, this stopping the generational family dysfunction in your own way. blessings on you both, mimi.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

It became vivid in my mind. I could see those old places. And smell them. Mostly I saw you, mapping the world to make sense of it. The constant calculations that a bright sensitive child makes in order to hold it all together if it came to that. How interesting to live on an island. I'm not a good story teller, I never developed the skill. But that makes me appreciate all the more your ability to weave a spell in my mind that almost feels like my own memory.

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wendy davis's picture

@Pluto's Republic

than for a reader to be there, experience the memories as one's own, and conveyed in mere words, amigo. and you've touched my heart with young wd 'mapping the world to make sense of it'.

well, strictly speaking, catawba wasn't an island when we moved there. dunno when, but a causeway had been built from port clinton onto the island, although one could still ferry to other islands to the north on lake erie. but what a magical place to have grown up! in some ways it actually did prepare me for what was to come later, sort of a touchstone of relative sanity, practical skills (i even had a wee flower garden), dealing w/ childhood fears, including a peeping tom, falling thru the ice while skating, etc. although, it didn't prepare me for the move to the beastly and terrifying experiences of north royalton, or 'island bliss to urban hell', another story altogether.

thank you so much, pluto. i'm so glad you were right there with me.

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dkmich's picture

Some people are not made to be parents. Should require a license. Hope it didn’t scar you.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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wendy davis's picture

@dkmich

or at least wound me. to the degree that i've healed, i'd like to think i have. to say the truth, in my everyday consciousness, i wasn't able to forgive the grands. but ahhh...in my dreams i first forgave backee, then gram. now as for my sister, lol, she can piss up a rope, and i've reminded mr. wd that when i die, he doesn't even need to let her know. yeah, i know i'd be healthier forgiving her in my heart, but...so it goes for now. ; ) side note: mr. wd uses her married name as a cuss word.

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dkmich's picture

@wendy davis

On the surface, I always like to maintain diplomatic relationships. I find strength in the fact that your enemy may be able to control your body but they can never control your mind unless you let them. I'm glad you made peace with your grandparents. I hope your mom and dad did too. When I hear stories like yours, I am reminded to be grateful for the wonderful childhood my great big extended Italian family gave me. Your story was beautifully told.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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wendy davis's picture

@dkmich

i learned that in spades. and my parents both died a couple decades earlier than they...without making peace with them, but i won't bore you with the whys of that. how great it is that your family is different than many of ours; 'la familia' and all that.

as a side note: before my father died (he'd left my mum by then) i'd discovered that he'd had a child by a woman i used to baby-sit for on the island. it likely would have been her fourth child, adrian. i've so wondered what became of her, and if she knew her parentage.

on edit: could she have been the sister i'd always longed for?

but family secrets are not just anomalies; they are epic in my experience.

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earthling1's picture

I was hopelessly hooked. I couldn't put it down. Great stuff, Wendy.
Now trying to salvage a toasted omlette.

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wendy davis's picture

@earthling1

salvaging was great counter-point; i loved it. how nice to hear that you were hooked, earthing1. ; )

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wendy davis's picture

you may grok why i'd been hearing this song in my head as i was putting this diary together.

with all due respect to johnny, a christmas kitsch re-mix as the antithesis:

sleep well, and peace to us all in the new year.

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lotlizard's picture

My brother and sister-in-law, who are still alive, not so much.

Two liberal people of color in Portland, Oregon, with two kids, who told me to my face that they were cutting off contact because my presence, as an LGBT person, would be bad for their kids’ normal sexual development.

Dysfunctional family relationships are like a lifelong curse. The shadow and sadness and scars are always there.

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wendy davis's picture

@lotlizard

with relatives who'd maligned you in that way, lotlizard, unless and until they'd had some damoscene epiphanies and apologized profusely, made amends.

i'm so sorry that they'd so feared who you are...that their kids will never get to know your love and caring, nor you theirs. my sister is a gay and black bigot, her husband as well. how to strange it seems to me to need to feel so superior to any 'other' that bigots use it as a malignant weapon. i'm staring at this white bo space not knowing what else there is to say.

this is nanci singing about other bigotries, same shit, different 'others'. 'it's a hard life wherever you go'. always brings tears to mine eyes.

blessings and peace to you, amiga.

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lotlizard's picture

@wendy davis  
even some of the most divided and otherwise dysfunctional families are able to manage a truce and come together to share festivities for a week or two.

My brother and I can’t even do that.

And of course there’s that co-dependent asymmetry where I still care and hurt and feel needy, but he seems content, totally indifferent as to whether we ever talk again, let alone see each other face to face, in this life or not.

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wendy davis's picture

@lotlizard

around the world may seem to call detente in the name of 'peace and good will to all' spirit, but my guess is not during long visits, at least that's been my experience. but at least in amerika, depression is rampant around christmas, although data on suicides (myth or not) seems to be a bit of football.

i may not get what you're saying about your codependent asymmetry as far as feeling pain while bro doesn't, unless your need feels like 'need of approval'. but we may just be talking past one another, so i'll honor your analysis.

but in a similar way, our adopted daughter has disowned us, and says that's she's quite at peace with her versions of the indictments she's laid against us, but mainly...me. with attachment disorder...even the adopted mum is blamed first and heaviest. she will not respond to our emails or phone calls. and she's 33 years old now, and i'd thought we'd come far past situation. for a few days, she'd emailed or called me three or more times a day. we were...adult friends, which relationship i'd valued so greatly after all the hell we'd gone thru w/ her for soooooo long. double sigh.

now our son takes his 'value', thus pride, from those around him, and hears those voices more loudly than our modeling and teachings. he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife live about 9 hours away, but he's going to try to score a week off from work and come down here in early january so we can bat some of this stuff around.

nanci griffith said it right, didn't she?

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