Friday, July 20, 2012

The Great Wide Open




On the night of September second, 1973, my father stopped his own clock.
After..... the mechanics of disposal take on a soylent green efficiency and before you can click your heels  three times, the person you knew is gone. All that is left is a fading memory of what they used to be.
That and the great wide open.
As horrific as that night was. And how I wish there had been a way to side step it.  I am not sure I would change much. Not looking back at it  from the 40 years out.
I would never wish that end on a soul. Especially not my father. But his single minded dedication to being the agent of his own undoing lets me grant him permission to be a dumb ass and give my self a break long enough to realize that I became who I am because of what he did. As opposed to having his desires and failed aspirations dominate and mold me into someone I am not.

My relationship with my father had just started that frictional phase. That phase when the nascent man starts chafing under the yoke of his fathers expectations and rules.  Before it became critical, he was gone.
I have wondered about the years after his death. I drank a hell of a lot. Within a year I could out drink most adults. I was 16.

Was alcohol the answer
It was if the question is what's for breakfast?

 Did I do what I did to blot out the memories of that night?
Or did I do what I did because there was no one around to tell me not to do them.
Does it matter if you're having a good time?
I didn't go out and become a criminal. Except for underage drinking and indulging in the chronic. Back then the legal age to drink was 18. 
I think it was the opposite. Before that night I hunted and fished and  blasted the shit out of anything that moved. I was a bit of a bully. I think I could have become a lesser Barbarian. 
After that night I never picked up a gun again with the idea of killing an animal. I still had to. If a skunk or possum was having a go at my grandmothers chickens. But it was duty and not killing for sport.
 I grew my hair down to my shoulders. My polite demeanor became completely real. I practiced the guitar until my fingers bled and then I practiced some more. I played with some professional's and I had to act adult if I was to be allowed to sit in.
I smoked a little pot. And maybe a little more pot.
Nixon had just stopped drafting kids for war. So I had that much going for me.
I drove a 66 Volkswagen with out a baffle in the muffler. People could hear me fire it up from a mile away.
Those were the best years of my life. So help me god I wouldn't change a thing about them.
Call me a weed, but I bloomed where I was planted, and I bloomed with absolutely no influence that didn't appeal to me.
Especially not my mothers.
I went from being the most root bound, up tight, boy scout, (in the literal sense of the word) to being  unfettered as a bird and tripping the light fantastic. Emphasis on tripping.
I wasn't  disrespectful. There was no rebellion. There was nothing to rebel against, and no one to rebel to. I was as polite and humbled by the presence of elders or anyone deserving of respect as I ever was. But I did what I wanted when I wanted to do it.
I found an after school  job. I finished high school.  I moved out and started college after I graduated high school. But on a Friday night I earned the right to do what I wanted to do and I did exactly that.
There was no confrontational breaking free from the ties that bind. No one really gave a shit what I did or didn't do. And I liked it that way. 
I might have gone the manifesto route that typical teens have to go. All the edicts of independence and the lists of rules that were not going to be adhered to from this date forward.
But no one gave a shit. I would have issued edicts to no one.
There were no rules to run afoul of.
There was no one to give me any rules to follow.
I had the least captive audience in the history of adolescence.
And I liked it that way.
In that respect my fathers death was the most liberating and serendipitous experience of my life.

PS* I did live with my grandmother until I was 18. And writing this does give me a clue of how the Barbarians actions had been processed by her. I had completely forgotten this conversation with her until now. The first time I came home about 3 in the morning, she had waited up and was going to give me the clamp down parent act.
I almost slid into the part of the petulant child, but didn't. All I said was Really? You want to give me grief for coming in late on a Friday night knowing all that mom had going on around me all my life?
And she just said," Well call me when you are going to be late getting in."







30 comments:

Tundra Woman said...

Those sound like good years, q. You were "good to go" by the time all this evolved. My forays into booze and pot came post HS. I don't remember having anywhere near that much freedom as a teenager and the years from 18 to 25 were nightmares.
The one exception was my exposure to Combat Vets. You missed the draft by a hair-what a mess that was. As I was attempting to finish undergrad and work I started running into them all over college campuses. They were easy to spot-the only ones with short hair and a helluva tan in deep winter. These were men, not boys; old men in young men's bodies. Usually a bunch of them would get a place off campus and that's where I could be found. Not only did they have the best music, the best pot (and OMG, the pharmaceuticals courtesy of the VA) but the most elaborate electronics. Teac reel-to-reels were ubiquitous. (I always think of these as the signature "Coming Home" talismans.) I was very shy, but I would sit for hours and just listen to them talk and take in the music. As long as they paid no attention to me I was fine. They both frightened me and drew me in. I learned more about politics, war, economic inequality, the effects of trauma of all kinds in those places than I ever learned sitting in a college class room. They were products of the working class and poor, so foreign to my upper class/wealthy world. What patient teachers they were to this pretty much cloistered "good (TOO good) girl." It was like having a bunch of brothers. I didn't have any growing up.
Those young men-and they were MEN-informed the course of the rest of my life. The only thing I could possibly offer them was conversation and my interest in music, particularly the Blues. Dad exposed me from a very early age. Psychob would have been apocalyptic if she knew where Dad and I would go on our little jaunts...to Harlem, in and out of these hole-in-the-wall juke joints. All though he was a HUGE bigot in general, he knew good music when he heard it and this 7/8 yr. old little white girl and her father became common sights in his "favorite" spots. What he was doing was really risky in the 60's inner-city, but I never felt fear...I felt "family" when we'd go in and the regulars got use to seeing us. I had NO trouble staying awake while they played their magic. We went to all kinds of Broadway shows, concerts, operas etc. as a "family," but this was Dad's and my "time." I believe it was because of my willingness to listen and spend time with Dad, he could trust me to keep my mouth shut. That's probably why he disclosed to me he had been married previously, his first wife committed suicide in post-partum depression (she hung herself, he found her body) and I had another half-sister somewhere in this world.
Blues and Combat Vets have remained constants in my life. Aside from my late DH, I've never felt a more enduring, deeper love or commitment to anything else in this world. I have been so fortunate in so many, many ways. Sometimes I do believe there IS a Combat Vet in the soul of every ACoN.
TW

q1605 said...

TW. Your 18 to 25 period I think is more or less the same time period of my 15 to 21 year old period.
Early seventies?
The Beatles had broken up. The war was winding down. I had listened to my grandmother gnash her teeth about me having to go all my life and I was finally starting to sweat it myself.
The blind altruism of hippies was starting to wear thin and disco wasn't even a blip on the horizon.
It was a good time to be alive and to be free. Sometimes I wonder how directly each "police action" has expanded our freedoms. It's nice to know that there are people willing to lay their life down so mine might be better.
It's too bad politicians waste all the good that underlies that spirit.
It's too bad about your dad's first wife. I think of suicides like Neil Young sang about junkies.
Each one is like a setting sun.

Tundra Woman said...

Yep. And it also explains the "Rebound Marriage" Dad got into with Psychob. She, of course just decided to do a "Clear Entry" on Dad's life-a regular "Service Pro: As if it never happened." My half sis (who was 6 mo. old when her mom died) was raised by the maternal grandparents who were furious with my father for re-marrying AND converting to a different faith for Psychob. He did try to call her without Psychob knowing: Once he was in his study with the door closed, so I knocked and walked in to find him hanging up the phone in tears. Apparently half sis had told him, "I don't have a father." I had no idea yet about all this but it was really weird to see Dad crying.My SM brokered a "Peace Accord" years later between Dad and his first daughter. I met her and I knew who she was as soon as I walked in the restaurant. She was Dad all over again in appearance.
Half sis is a lovely woman and has fought depression all her life, as has her daughter. We don't keep in touch simply because we don't have much in common and she's of the "Born Again" persuasion which is fine with me. Unfortunately her efforts to convert me from a non-practicing Catholic/full-blown heathen became..tiresome. But I do like her and I know she means well. After Dad told me all those years ago about his previous marriage and child, somehow Psychob found out-he may have told her-I sure didn't. Huge blow up with her and Nsis who told me, "I'M the OLDEST! I should have been told FIRST!" My thought was, "Well, if you'd spend some time with Dad instead of picking his pocket, you just might get to know him." She and Psychob treated him as an ATM and with about as much interest. He was an interesting man; dropped out of school in the 10th grade and went to work on the Mississippi River Boats. He's from that last generation of self-made men. Of course he was also very lucky as well.
Interestingly, SM never met Nsis and was conveniently at another residence when Nsis (who decided to "FORGIVE" Dad) was looking for a resort-all expenses paid vacation at one of their homes. She also helped her sneaky self to a picture of SM-not the one that was shown in the frame but the one behind it which put the kabosh on any further in-person visits. She'd call and whine about being "So burned out" and Dad and SM would "just be leaving to go on a trip." They both knew better than to EVER set her loose alone in any of their homes. She did not meet half sis either, who asked about my full Nsis. That was...awkward. So I said, "Look, why don't I give you some examples of her behavior?" and gave her some of the least offensive and more current I could think of...like how she treated the homeless man who was poking through her trash while Nsis ran out into the middle of the street screeching, "I'm being RAPED!" and other such magnanimous gestures. She heard from Dad and SM how Nsis treated Dad and passed on the opportunity. Nsis apparently holds me responsible for not informing her of Dad's death-WTF? I hadn't spoken to her in years and that was up to SM. The reality is none of us thought of her and about a week or so after his death (I stayed with SM for about a month after) SM said, "Oh NO! What am I going to do when your sister calls?" I didn't even know she still called so I said, "Punt. What else can ya do?" Somehow in the 15 yrs. of Dad's and SMs marriage, Nsis failed to comprehend how odd it was that SM was NEVER around during her periodic visits for "R&R" until the sneaky shit was exposed and the "Resorts" were firmly closed.
So, I have the Family Tree from Chaos: Fulls, Halves, Steps/Step-Adopteds/Cluster Bs-By-Marriage, by Blood/Suicides...and those are just the one's I'm aware of! ;)
TW

Tundra Woman said...

("Oh, to live on
Sugar Mountain....
With the barkers
and the colored balloons..."
TW)

q1605 said...

You can't be twenty
On sugar mountain
even though you think your
leaving there too soon

q1605 said...

Jaysus TW. Your family is just like mine. Only different. My mother was forbidden to go to my fathers funeral so by extension so was me and Sis.
I know now as I know then. I didn't want to.
As weird as that sounds there was no way in hell I wanted to be a part of that circus. His side of the family comprises about half the county and I could see nothing but histrionics waiting for me. .

Tundra Woman said...

"There is a town in North Ontario...
With dream comfort memories to spare....
All my changes.......(etc.)
We were helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.."

And we were just that.
May we all find our town in North Ontario, where ever it may be. I've found mine and I'm hoping my other brothas and sistahs do as well.
TW

Tundra Woman said...

Who forbid your mother to go to the funeral? Was his side of the family holding her responsible for his suicide? (Likely so, no?)
Dad's funeral would have been the LAST place SM would have wanted to meet Nsis. Oh, and when Nsis called some 6 weeks later and SM told her Dad had died, after Nsis asked, "When?" Her NEXT question was, "WHAT did TW GET?" SM responded very evenly, "TW NEVER ASKED for a THING."
Apparently, Nsis was so horribly "traumatized" by this event she "had to go to therapy. And TW SHOULD PAY FOR MY THERAPY!!!"
Speaking of histrionics........
TW

q1605 said...

My fathers mother did. Years later me and my aunt were talking and she started crying about not standing up to her mother. I was surprised she still thought about it. I told to quit beating herself up about it.
That I had no desire to be in the middle of that after what had just happened.
This is one of those things that illustrates how most people never hear of, much less connect all the dots.
She said I am just glad that he (my father) had the presence of mind to do it somewhere else.
Ummmm. Do what?
Kill him self. I am glad that he didn't do it around you.
I asked where she got that idea.
She said I know my brother well enough to know he would have never dragged you into the middle of all that.
(mind you this is some 30 years later)
I said Emma. Her name is Emma.
He went out of the way to make sure I was right there in the middle of it all.
I them told her the story you know better than her.
I think it freaked her out. I don't think I have seen her since.
She lives in central Texas but at that time we both lived in the same town.

Tundra Woman said...

(head/keyboard)TW

q1605 said...

Well T-dub, you can't hold it against her. If you never heard the real story you would err to the side of what makes the deceased look most like your perception of him.

Anonymous said...

wow, I had no idea that Emma didn't know what happened? She never once talked to me about him or what he did.

Meanwhile, I enjoy the memories of long lazy afternoons reading National Lampoon magazines then.

Sis

Tundra Woman said...

No DOUBT The Barbarian may have been "barred" but I bet she presented as the "All-Concerned-About-The-Kids" and "Grieving Widow."
What could gma do? No doubt she was persona non grata as well. And it sounds like Dad's side of the family had her side out-numbered, out-gunned and were absolutely furious with The Barbarian. Which is understandable yet I can't believe HIS family wasn't urging him to divorce her for years before. It absolutely WAS his "choice" but it wasn't his finger alone on that trigger.
BTW, where WAS The Barbarian that night?
TW

Tundra Woman said...

Oh wait-you did say she was at gma's as well...and didn't do a damn thing to protect you and made up this huge story about how she ran outside, held him in her arms as he was dying blaa-blaa-blaa, right?
(She was out there checking for a pulse and adding up the life insurance, wondering if they paid out for a suicide.)
TW

q1605 said...

No sis. I just figured the facts were well known and accepted. She started in with the the good thing he.....
And I was kind of dumb founded. I asked her where she got that idea. She came off with a slight indignant I just know.
So I dished it out. I went into small detail. I guess I relished it a bit.
Watching her anguish. But she had lived in denial of something I have thought about every day since. She needed to play catch up.
TW. I don't remember the barbarian having much to say around us. She had just been handed her all you can eat penis meal ticket and was salivating on who's cock she would fall on first.
Plus she needed a husband to suck the life out of. She damned sure wasn't going to go out and get a job. I mean really! Her work!
I am sure that on the phone or if people stopped by she played it for what it was worth, but without a funeral to gear up for things were eerily quiet.
Sis came and went and I went with her.

Anonymous said...

When I flew back for the funeral, hmm, which was held while I was literally on the airplane. And I had told all of them to wait for me to get there. Kind of hard to get there when it happened over a Labor Day weekend and banks were closed till Tuesday. Anyway, when I showed up, the funeral was all over with, and our 'mother' acted like it was a big whatever. Seriously, she didn't even talk about it. So I was standing there thinking, wtf did I even go back there for then and spend every dime of my savings for airplane tickets?
Then I realized Q needed someone sane there.
Sis

q1605 said...

Boy Howdy did I. So if you flew in on Tuesday that means Monday was the only day I spent there with only "them."
The day he snuffed it some guy got ran off the road and demolished granny's gate. Since Monday was labor day he came back and fixed it. I sat out there and talked to him and his buddy and next thing I knew you were there. I didn't tell him what had gone down since he plowed through the fence. So he just acted normal.
I sort of remember the day of his funeral. I thought you were there. I think I was mortified about somebody from Dad's side of the family volunteering to come and take me and let me tell you. There was one place I DID NOT WANT TO BE!
And that was there at the funeral.
I was still had that gunshot echoing around in my head. I didn't need a bunch of people I barely knew all telling me about how I was _ this tall the last time they saw me.
I don't even want to think about if you had not given me a place to stay. People were all ready seeking me out asking questions I didn't have answers to.

q1605 said...

Oh TW. What was said from my fathers mother was that she was bringing an ice pick and if mt mother showed up she was going to stab her.
So in the ways of the Barbarian, if she is excluded we all are.
Only this time it was what I wanted too.

q1605 said...

TW. My father had spent the week end calling my grandparents and aunt and uncle telling them of his plans and why he wanted to snuff it.
The Barbarian running off with some swinging dick was nothing new to any of them. At this point this shit had been going on for 20 years.

Tundra Woman said...

Oops-I thought she made up some big story about being there blaa-blaa-blaa.
Sis, It doesn't matter if it's your LAST penny-they WANT it and they don't CARE how inconvenient/difficult/expensive it is for you to GET there.
That's still traumatic as hell-even if he DID "threaten" forever. What, did everyone just expect q to unload Dad's weapon one-more-time? Which you had done the day before?
Yep. This is just what kids are conveniently located for..stop the parent from offing themselves and "clean up" any residual feelings they have themselves. How fortunate you had Sis, q. She truly was your "mother."
TW

q1605 said...

Yeah she was there when he did it. She just didn't get up out of her seat.
I really didn't pay attention to the Barbarian.
This mind fucking was beyond the pale.
It was a big farm with a big barn. I was still basically a kid and I could disappear like an apparition.
I found somewhere else to be.
Hay loft. There was a creek that ran through the back.
Any where but up there.

q1605 said...

I don't know how to convey in words what those first few days were like.
I wanted to waggle my fingers in my ears and scream la la la la to drown things out, but the sound wasn't coming from outside me.
There was no way to escape it.
And no matter how I tried to convince myself that none of this was really happening, there was always something driving home the reality of it.
To the barbarian, he snuffed it and they came and carried his carcass away.
I sensed her detachment from the beginning and knew there was no comfort from her.
I think my grand mother was walking in her own personal hell.
And when sis showed, she was at best shell shocked.
It was all for one and every man for himself.
We pulled it together.
But no thanks to Barbara.

Anonymous said...

I think B. looked on it all as an inconvenience. For a few days she couldn't go dancing or drinking and had to stick around. I bet within 2 seconds of his death she planned to go live with the guy she moved in with a few weeks later. Whom she never mentioned to me until a few years ago when she spilled the beans about it, saying she figured out quickly he just wanted someone there to do housework and cook for him. Irony! So then she split and went to Houston to snag husband number two. But I remember that for at least 6 months after he died I had heard no word from her and our grandmother didn't tell me where B. had gone. Maybe even she didn't know?

Sis

q1605 said...

It's hard to explain the affect of the Barbarian to people who never dealt with her.
She could commit or be committing the most heinous act and look up in the middle with this what the fuck are you looking at look and make you question yourself about questioning her.
Not a mean look as much as a not giving a fuck what you thought. Like you were an ant that she wouldn't waste the energy to go out of the way to take a step in your direction to squish you like the bug you are.
Not animosity. Just her not registering you as any thing that warranted the briefest of concern from her.

Anonymous said...

...."Just her not registering you as any thing that warranted the briefest of concern from her."

I think that's why we need to see her as just a previous blip on the radar of our life, a bump in the road that we stepped over in order to continue on with our life and not look back.

Sis

q1605 said...

Sis, we are always saying that we were props for dad to keep him thinking he had a nuclear family to provide for which gave her a place to suck blood from. As soon as he was dead she was gone. Even if you had not given me a place to stay there would have been no thought from her about taking me with her.
That spring I visited her in Houston on spring break. I sort of thought it was a good idea.
Looking back as an adult, me coming down was met with the same posturing as her kissing dad in that picture.
Just the why are you crowding me posture.

Anonymous said...

It is so bizarre now that I think about it. A normal mother would be trying to nurture her child and reassure him that there was still a home there. Always when you project an image of what is normal next to what she is, it's glaringly obvious she has a screw loose. I think you're right, you were being used by her as bait to keep dad around supporting her, but then when he died you would just be an obstacle to her attracting another victim, errr..... spouse. No wonder she wanted to ditch us all pronto.

Sis

Tundra Woman said...

They all have their own personal "Service Master" franchise........
"Like it never even happened..."
TW

Anonymous said...

Was thinking while ago -- we won, we beat her. Every time we enjoy life and laugh or even have a life, it's antithesis to her programming and b.s. Anytime we don't let her affect us or others, we won. Generations will go on who never even heard of her, and they will be happy.

Sis

q1605 said...

There is no winning with her. Just varying degrees of loss.
Thinking we have won is to subscribe to that illusion she dwells in.
She lost. We lost. Everyone lost.
We can pick up what hasn't fallen away and carry on. But our lives will never be what that could have been had she been normal.