Tag Archives: memories

Creating The Villain

They tell me I simply need to let it be; to pay no mind. But how is such a thing possible? The anguish that was caused; the heartache; the grief; these are attributes of my character, in the sense that they have shaped my emotional, intellectual and mental understanding of the world, of people, and the way in which these things interact with one another.

Wait, scratch that. I know it’s possible to let it be. After all, if I don’t, then he’s winning.

But, what if I don’t want to? What if I need him to play the role of the tormentor? What if I need to relegate him to evil, dictatorial villain?

What if I need to know that a person like that will struggle, experience hardship?

Don’t I have some say as to how he does this? Am I not part of the social barometer that demonizes infidelity, abuse, hypocrisy? If not, then who? Not, quite assuredly, god; the latter of which I find to be especially frustrating. To live forever, after this? Really?

Presumably psychologists would say that I was losing it; that I, to some degree, am failing to see the picture. I beg to differ. It’s really quite simple.

A is evil.

A causes B pain.

B’s pain surfaces when A’s damaging effects are witnessed within context of familial structure.

In order to absolve pain, B must do one of two things:

B can steer clear of the rest of family.

B can implement the “A as villain” approach.

If option 1 occurs, B suffers.

If option 2 occurs, B finds solace.

Or perhaps B needs to get over it.


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Mom, Dyslexia and How I Came to Perceive Words

My mother is dyslexic. Really dyslexic. Needless to say, this is by no means meant to belittle her. Dyslexia is something she didn’t choose, so I don’t hold it against her. It is, quite simply, a part of her, something she was born with, akin to her penchant for breaking out in song and dance a la Gene Kelly, as I’ve written about before, in a story that I never seem to finish:

It was that way once. Long ago. Lampposts, then, were not just the large candy cane flashlights they appear to be. Then, so very long ago, with a smile on my face and my cheeks as the rosy red warriors they so often seem to be, I swung from those metal cylinders, like Gene Kelly in Singin’ In the Rain. And I reckon, the response is in fact instinctual; or rather, to be more specific, it’s genetic.

I can thank my mother for that. She had a penchant for Mr. Kelly. He danced like one should dance, she had always said.

Anyhow, I bring this bit of information up for one reason: it is through her dyslexia (she struggles mostly with spelling) I learned to look at words in a way I had never experienced before. It was unique. Life-altering. But, of course, I didn’t really know it then. Sure, I recognized that I was learning how to spell. And not just the simple words (although she had trouble with those as well). But the more challenging words too; the ones with the “silent” non-emphasis and the ones that seemed to go on forever and ever without the loving respite of a vowel insertion.

I think fondly of the chores, handwritten, on the sad, yellow legal pad she would give us every morning. Letters traded places with one another, or were never found. But it didn’t matter. For the most part, I could figure out what she was trying to say.

And after a while, I didn’t really see the spelling mishaps. The jumbled letters were (still are) simply a result of a broken filter between her thoughts (always quite clearly articulated orally) and the paper upon which she was writing.

So I became her own personal spelling machine.

And yes, even though the spelling machine poked fun at the dyslexic from time to time, it mostly helped remedy the filter of a mother he loved (still loves!) dearly.

Thank you, mom.

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Spencer’s Story: Volume 2

When his parents were gone on those church trips, the boys were usually left in the capable hands of any one of the four teenage girls that lived in the neighborhood. But to be capable in his parents’ eyes is to keep Spencer and his two brothers from bleeding from their eyeballs or some such injury that would land them in the hospital. To be capable in Spencer’s eyes was different, though. It was everything.

It meant he didn’t have to scrub the toilet. It meant he didn’t have to find clever ways to avoid his father. It meant he didn’t have to do as Jesus would do. Wine from stone aside, it just wasn’t that appealing.

Miah and Marcus reacted as most kids would. They went crazy. And as long as the messes were cleaned up before the parents’ arrival, and they kept it within the confines of their bedroom, they were free to do what they wanted.

But, one Saturday evening in August of ’92, things turned out differently.

“Alright kids. I need to make a phone call. Keep it down,” Tiffany, the first-year college student from three houses over, said to Spencer, Miah and Marcus shortly after the Grum parents pulled out of the driveway.

“Who are you calling?” Marcus asked.

“Yah, who ya call…”

“Guys, stop it,” Spencer interrupted. “Lets go to the bedroom.”

“But I want to know who she’s calling.” Miah responded.

“It’s none of your business. Let’s go. Who wants to play Monopoly?” Spencer said.

“I do!” Miah exclaimed.

“I get to be the boot!” Marcus replied.

“I’m the race car!” Miah said.

“I’ll be the thimble, okay? Let’s go.”

Monopoly always seemed to work. It was the one board game they owned that still had enough pieces to make it playable. They had a checkers set that was once used as ammunition for the boys’ grossly inaccurate, and mildly racist reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The checker pieces that found their way up to the roof never were retrieved.

For the next two hours, the Grum boys sat cross-legged on the floor in their bedroom and played Monopoly. The structure of which typically went something like this:

  1. Game opens with delight, fervor
  2. 30 minutes pass without much change
  3. Miah expresses desire to make his one procured property a “super duper,” that has the power to burn its unwanted occupants with molten lava
  4. Marcus and Spencer roll their eyes and deny the request
  5. Another 30 minutes pass by with a handful of houses purchased, mostly by Marcus and Spencer
  6. Marcus is distracted by Miah’s constant fidgeting and promptly–and throughout the remainder of game–complains
  7. Miah expresses delight at having once again annoyed his older brother. He does so by making “neener neener” faces
  8. Spencer waits patiently
  9. Spencer places mansion on Boardwalk
  10. Miah and Marcus charge Spencer with cheating
  11. Spencer laughs at his brothers’ inability to handle time consumption
  12. Miah calls Marcus and Spencer a “poop eater” and quits
  13. 10 minutes later, Marcus quits for lack of money
  14. Spencer puts the game back in its box, happy to have distracted his brothers for the two hours

For Spencer, the time spent post-Monopoly matches was undoubtedly the best. His brothers, annoyed and pouting, kept mostly to themselves. The babysitter found solace in her phone calls. And he was met with a calming respite from the pressure.

Mostly, he didn’t have to keep up appearances. He wasn’t his father’s little soldier.

He was himself. His own self.

His own self.

His own self.

These are the words that played again and again as he fell to sleep on the floor in the dining room that evening in August of ’92.

When he woke hours later, with a hand around his ankle, the words seemed so far away, so distant and foreign and never to be reached again.

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Father’s Day, Now and Then

In my childhood, Father’s Day was just like every other Sunday. Singing to the great big man upstairs at church where the teacher with her colorful spotted smock pranced from corner to corner of the room trying to get us all to concentrate on the to and fro of “he’s got the whole world in his hands”; dressed up in our “Sunday best,” a sort of masochistic exemplification of my father’s ability to yell and scream and tell us all that our image matters, that we need to look sharp, and that our non-collared, non-ironed t-shirts were just another means to curse our holy father; and rendered mute and cowering as the monumental martyr explained to us that Jesus would be doing quite the opposite of what we were doing.

In retrospect, this is all a bit dramatic and saddening, but that doesn’t really matter much anymore. Today, I have a Father-In-Law.

And his name is Rich Dobson.

He isn’t spiteful. He isn’t angry. He isn’t a cheat or a liar or a bigot.

He is wonderful, and I am thankful to have him in my life.

Even if, at times, it’s difficult for me to show it.

Love you dude.

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Investments in Anguish, In Hope

There have been times I have wondered if I would’ve been better off without him. If things would have been easier, or happier. If the lack of anger would have calmed the household. If the lack of money would have kept us on the ranch, or in the house with the bars on the windows. If I would have found myself between combative enemies, or if, quite simply, I would have existed without a father.

I wonder if the scars, once healed, will stop itching. I wonder if the itch will remain as long as he exists, on some levels, as “part” of my life. I wonder if I need to curb the itch, put an end to it – to find a more thoroughly calming peace.

“It’s not about you,” a friend once said. I remember being annoyed by this, and asked her: “how can it not be?” I was living it. Invested to the extent that I wished for my mother to live a life with some semblance of peace and joy. Invested to the extent that I yearned for my father to recognize the pain he had caused.

I was invested in anguish, in heartache, and in the hopeful consequent newness  that just wouldn’t come.

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It Was All Just Forgetting

In the end, it was all just forgetting. Purposeful, conscious forgetting. Forgetting the abuse, the anger, verbal lashes, the 2 by 4 and the time I made that one mistake. It was about forgetting the combativeness; the jarring highs and lows between enemies, the parental pairing that was “god’s” will. It was forgetting the other women, their presence contradicting the so-called truths he had professed, over and over and over again.

And yet, in this world, forgetting is living. Wholly conscious and relevant as the guide to my “how not to.”

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I Once Hit a Deer With My Car

I once hit a deer with my car. In fact, it was a truck. A new truck. And the animal died instantly. To be sure – to escape the feeling of uncertainty, never to know if it was going to suffer and cough and bleed out for the remaining 10 or 15 minutes of its life – I pulled over and got out and tracked back to watch it bleed out.

It was awful, to be sure. I remember thinking, if you’re not entirely dead sweet little deer, if you’re only half-dead, I don’t believe I have the willpower to stomp on your neck, or pull some pistol out of my car, if I had one, and pop one in your skull.

I’m glad it was dead before I got there. Sad that I killed a deer, but thankful that it went quickly.

Poor little deer.

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The Day I Stopped Eating – Volume Five

As I alluded to in Volume Four, I am better for having experienced it. The attempts to mediate the marriage, the depression, the weight loss and near death – these are experiences I’ve gleaned much from. The marriage, regardless of my irrational attempts to save it, was heading for the drain. And I ask myself if I would have changed it or done it differently – or not at all – if I had a chance to do it over.


For a moment I’d like to put aside the underlying martyrdom or pseudo masochism in that  statement, and focus instead upon the practical consequences if I hadn’t tried anything.

To preface, I will say that I am fully aware that my attempts were all for naught. Even when they had to work together to figure out how to keep their son from dying, and while they shared in their general desire to keep me alive, they differed in their respective assessments and approaches.

So I think about the practical consequences if I hadn’t tried anything, if I sat idly by. Would I be the same person I am today? I can’t be sure. I do know that the things I had gleaned and learned make up a great deal of my philosophical take on the life one lives, the inter-relational dynamics they experience and build upon, the religious understandings they abide by, the social constructs they fall into, and the like.

I wonder if I had been more removed from the madness of it all, if I would have a different view of my father. Of my mother; if I would be less a critic of my dad, or less a default (often to a fault) supporter of my mom; if I would feel differently about adultery and its impact on the family; if I would think differently about Christianity, about God; if I didn’t give off the impression that I am the resident relationship guru; if I would be less patient, less guarded; if I would fear less the colloquial understanding that kids take after, and often become, their parents.

So I wonder, and I ponder, and I muse about it all.

I am happy. And if that experience had something to do, on any level (which I am certain it had), with my state of happiness, I am grateful. Because, at the end of the day, it’s really all about how one learns, how one gleans, how one assesses and reacts to the people, the experiences and the world around us.

See previous installments with Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4.

You See? I Am Happy. Happy With Leg Kicks and Beaches and Adorable Dogs.

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The Day I Stopped Eating – Volume Three

The cheating, if you want to call it that (frankly, I don’t; let’s call it abuse; let’s call it hate), was such a foreign concept then.

I had seen it in movies once or twice. The story in which the person cheats, but the counterpart eventually forgives them for whatever reason. They could have been “under the influence,” made a lapse in judgment, lost their mind, succumbed to the wickedness of Lucifer himself.

But, to put it colloquially, this ain’t the movies. And while my mother certainly did forgive him, and invite him back, it wasn’t anywhere near redemptive. Redemption is for the movies. For literature. For those in want of redemption.

He didn’t want it. Not truly, anyhow. He claimed to want it. He professed his pain, his anguish, his sorrow for being such a let-down, a fallen sinner, “only human,” and all of that nonsense.

Hell, he claimed such things, to want forgiveness, to be redeemed.

He wept to be seen. Tears for the outsiders. Forgiveness from the guilty altruists, the pseudo-martyrs.

Meanwhile, he sneered inside.

After all, he’s only human. They’re supposed to sin. Be forgiven.

Not anymore, I say. Take your tramps, your convenient faith, your illegitimacy.

I am done with you.

More to come your way in Volume Four (if you haven’t read the first two: here’s one and two)

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Angry, In Other Words

The lip biting was just another form of anger. Another physical means to show us that he was angry, and that he was trying to, with some semblance of effort, keep himself from taking out the backhand, fist or otherwise.

It was the 2 x 4 I remember most vividly. Looking around for something that would do just that much more damage, he found it propped up against the wall in the garage. I rack my brain to discover the reasons why, but I can’t seem to unearth them. The only memory left is of the piece of wood.

Angry, in other words.

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