Tuesday, July 2, 2013
I think of it often, too often for my comfort, and I wonder how any human could, would, do what she did to her child. "Times were different back then," she said.
On that, I call bullshit.
She had given her other four children away, and when I think of it, I continually come back to the question of why she didn't give him away as well. I guess, though, in a way she did.
I never thought of it much when Dad would show me all of the houses he had lived in as he grew up in New Orleans. I didn't stop to think that when I was with my parents, we only lived in three.
I didn't give it much thought that he was in Catholic boarding school, back then it was free if you lived in that Parish, and were Catholic.
My grandmother's lineage was Evangelical Christian. She only "converted" to Catholicism to send him to boarding school. So, yes, she did give him away. He was only home on the weekends from first grade until he graduated from Holy Cross High School and left for the Air Force.
One day she told me something I can't get to leave my heart, my memory, the part of me that's a mom.
She said after he was born she went back to work, I didn't find that strange at the time she brought it up in casual conversation, even though he was born in 1938. What she went on to tell me haunts me to this day. She would put him in his playpen in the morning, go to work, and the neighbor lady would go upstairs every four hours to feed him and change his diaper. She told me as if it were no big deal, she had no emotion, no shame, no remote ounce of remorse as she spoke.
That was the beginning of my Dad's life, abandonment, disregard, and emotional torture. I cannot bear to think of the uncomforted screaming, the neglect, the lack of attention he was exposed to as an infant. It explains a lot though.
It explains why he never told us he loved us, my two younger brothers and me, when he was sober. I don't think we ever heard those words come from his mouth, unless he was brimming with alcohol, until my Mom was killed. It explains why we had to ask to sit by him. It explains why we could never hug, or touch, him. It explains why life was as it was while my brothers and I grew up.
I think it also explains his choice of career. He was a corporate pilot. He flew Presidents, rock stars, movie stars, and Texas oil men. He was gone all but about three to four days a month. He was always on call.
What a job to have. Your boss calls you, tells you to ready the jet, and fly to Jamaica. He would lie on the beach for weeks on end until the boss, or the boss's guests, were ready to return home.
Then the oil bust happened in 1983. The oilmen sold their jets, and Dad became an instructor. Once again he was surrounded by rock stars, movie stars and politicians wanting to learn from the "best."
They had his attention, his kids didn't, but that's how I grew up, like him in a way.
Even though he never said the words, "I love you," when he was sober, yes, Dad was an alcoholic, I knew he did, but I wanted more of him. I idolized him. To me he was bigger than life. I would listen with awe, and pride, of his stories about LBJ, John Wayne, Led Zepplin, John Travolta, JFK, John Connally, among others, as well as sordid stories of the oilmen and the "Boy's Club."
I knew of Bilderberg, Skull and Bones, and other "secret" societies and their members from an age when most kids knew only about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
I would sit at his feet and listen. To me that was showing his love, drinking a bottle of Vodka and telling us stories of his adventures and the people he was surrounded by.
When I grew older, I wanted more. I wanted to hear the words, "I love you." I wanted him to hold me when I cried, I wanted a pat on the head, but none of that came to pass until Mom was killed.
I was sitting at my dining table tonight, looking at a piece of stained glass that has hung in that window for 15 years. My Dad made it. It's simple, but to me, it's his love overflowing.
My favorite flower is the Tulip, and one my favorite colors is red. He made it for me when I had moved to the Northwest from Texas. As I gazed at the colorful pieces of glass, I realized how much he did love me.
He made that piece for me, no one else, but for me. He also made me a stained glass lamp shade and various other pieces. Not only did he make them for me, he drove them half way across the continent. He drove for four, very long, days to make sure they arrived safely to my home. As he gave them to me, and told me about each piece, it was my love, my approval he sought.
Yes, after Mom was killed, Dad did tell me he loved me. He told me he never knew how much people needed to be touched and held, how much they needed to hear they were loved. After she died, he told me he loved me every time he talked to me, he hugged me every time he saw me. After she died, he told me how much he regretted not being there as my brothers and I grew. I knew, though, it was all he knew, all he had known.
Those last thirteen months of his life he was able to express his love for us freely. I flew down each month for a week or two to be with him, to emotionally support him. It was the best thirteen months of our relationship. My Dad and I formed a bond I never thought was possible. Yes, my Mom's death was tragic, I still can't find the strength to grieve, but it gave me a gift I would have never known. Her death, while devastating, gave me a father,
But as I gazed at the pieces he cut and placed together for me, I knew he had always loved me, he just didn't have the tools to say the words, to hug, or to touch, because he had never been shown himself.
Yes, he loved me, The tulips tell me so.