A Bit of a Memoir

Today, Thursday 2 June 2011, is one of those days, where it’s hot and sticky outside. The heat seems to deaden the air. Everything sits still, because it’s afraid to move in the heat. Even though moving causes air, which hits your skin and cools you off, but it’s like you can’t stand to move. Instinctively, you don’t want to move, because you’ll just sap your reserve energy. Not even the leaves are moving. No air for their reprieve in the baking of Summer.

I can barely stand to go outside to give my dog a potty break. It’s just… nasty. I know, years and several pounds ago, I could handle the heat, only because I had no choice. I didn’t grow up with an air conditioner in my home, so I made due, I had to. I lived with my parents, and my 3 brothers in a 3 bedroom, 1 & 1/2 bath house built in the 1970s. Air conditioners, central, wall units, were mostly unheard of or terribly expensive. Our family made do with fans and open windows. I think, at one point, when we were younger, my dad could’ve afforded a wall-unit for some of the rooms, he chose not to. He was a penny pincher.

So many secrets I remember from then; my childhood, my late teens. Some of the secrets I keep from myself, others I keep from the rest of the world. You know, when you think about it, no one truly knows your experiences, except for you; unless you share them, or if they were there with you. Even if someone was there with you, though, your experiences would be unique to you. I think that’s something that makes human beings so unique. Our abilities to remember our experiences, to retain them as memory, thus developing our individual world through them.

My father comes from a long generation of people who lived off of their lands, they were farmers who sold their goods at the local market: tobacco, vegetables, cows, chickens, eggs, etc. Whatever was sale-able  at the time, that was how they lived, and how they made their living. There was a lot of “heritage” in my dad’s mind. He wanted to pass on what his father’s father’s father’s father passed on, to us kids. But, with our generation as it was, the 1980s, something happened in the U.S. There was no surge of family farms, living off the land, and making their living from it. I think it was the advent and popularity of the computer age. Other things became priority. People were no longer reliant solely on physical labor. As a society, we’ve come to use our minds more, it seems.

Farming has become an almost obsolete task, only really for the rather old who have their children to help them with it, (those who had been doing it throughout their lives), or someone with a lot of land, who has the equipment, et cetera, because of the expense and time needed to truly develop good crops. There is nothing like fresh home-grown fruits and vegetables. But, the majority of our fresh foods are either grown and groomed from large companies littered throughout the U.S. or imported from overseas. That is a loss to the way of the world of some fifty years ago. Now, we’re being flung into genetically modified foods, with very little acknowledgment to the farms, farmers of the past. I do miss what my father and his family were trying to teach me, that what you make from the Earth, can go a long way, if your respect it. But, when I was a teenager and younger, I could not see past what was happening with my life, to observe those lessons.

Member’s of my father’s family each had parcels of land that they could use as needed, that they had received from their forefathers, but there isn’t much left in the family now. What with land development, people needing money, for what ever reason, most of that land has been sold off, or lays forgotten, wasted, including a lot of my dad’s part. I remember several years ago, my dad stating he worried that if I got any of the land, I would sell it. I probably would have, but sadly enough, he just doesn’t have much of his legacy left to see that his genetic line carries on. He is much older now, well into his 80s. He is like the lonely plantation owner, monitoring the land solely by himself.

Even though my parents had 5 children, plus 1 lost child, a still-birth between my older brothers, my father is the only one living in the house now. My sister, the oldest of the 5, has 2 boys, they will be the only ones to carry on my father’s family’s genetic code, not his name, because she took her husband’s name. My oldest brother, never married, never had kids. He died a few years ago, heart failure, after a long bought with cancer. I have 2 other brothers, I don’t know if either will have kids to carry on the family name. Then there’s me, I’m the “baby” of the family. I know I won’t have kids. I will be 42 this year. I am “past child-bearing years”. That’s okay though, I never really wanted any.

When growing up, I felt such dislike, distrust, dis-everything toward my parents. They lived their lives without much consideration for the brood they had created. At least, that’s what it felt like as being one of those brood. My father wanted his kids to do something, as some part of a personal goal for him, I don’t know what exactly, possibly what his parents and generation instilled in him: have kids, til the land, pass on your name, so that this world can grow. He is not someone you could talk to about it. At times, I did think he had had kids, a farm, a job, a wife, land, so that he could be like his siblings, like his own parents had put forth to him… take this land, make something out of it. Other times, most times, I thought he did it all, so that he could run a small tribe of farmers making his image in the community look good. Which is something he was very concerned about, throughout my life. I also think he had kids, so that he would have a household to control. But, then something happened.

The home, the centerpiece of the land he was entrusted from his parents, caught fire in the late 1970s, it burned to the ground. There was really no saving the home, it was built with tender wood, it went up quickly. Everything, our entire life, was in that building. It all burned. I don’t remember the fire, there are sketches in my memory surrounding it, but I’ve never had a good memory. By the time we got displaced, my mind and memory felt like that of 40 year old already. I would lose time often and I felt I had already lived a long life, so as I got older, I had a lot more difficulties with memory. In fact, over the years, at least the last 20, I have tried very hard to train my brain for better recall and to think clearer. I can say it’s difficult, because, instead of growing into a strong sound memory, it was as if I was trying to grow out of memory. I assume that is because life was hard to deal with, and so I “didn’t think” about it. That first moment of releasing your brain from paying attention to wander off, can be hypnotic and exuberant, because then you don’t have to think about things that bother. A lazy brain can be a bit easy to obtain, but hard to come back from.

In the house when it burned down, was my mother, who always had a history of mental problems, at least since I knew her, my brother who was 5, I think, I would have then been 3, as we are 2 years apart. My brother says he and I started it. I don’t remember it, at all. Now, today, my brother talks about the event, he has a rather good memory, with a lot of guilt in his voice. For all of my life, I believed what my dad would say to her, about her, that my mother had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. The place had burned and it’s a wonder we got out alive… I was shocked when my brother told me, he and I were in the lower level closet where there were lots of old wool coats playing with matches. Something happened, probably the pack all caught flame and he dropped it. He says today, that I could’ve died, it would have been his fault. So, as we grew up, he felt a lot of guilt towards me. Like I said, I don’t remember the fire. I’ve seen the news clippings from the local paper doing a story, but my own personal memory, is like an empty slate. Mostly, I think I could not handle my childhood, so I didn’t. We moved into a home that a local renter “donated to us”. He had many properties, but as a good man, he allowed us to live there, rent free, for a while. I didn’t like the house. It was frightening to me. It was a ghost house. It was a 2-story and white washed, with a frightening vibe. To me, it felt haunted.

I’ve heard stories, and subtly remember that my mother would wander, she never got her driver’s license, and so, she was stuck at home, with us, only able to go out at her friend’s folly or my father’s will. But, she always wandered, mentally and physically. She would walk for miles, to visit friends, to get out and see people that lived near by. Some days she would catch a ride with a friend into the nearest city, as where we lived was so rural. Sometimes, she would take us kids. This would incite my dad. His wife was making him look bad. My parents would fight a lot. There is a history between them, that I won’t get into, but it drove them to hate each other, getting violent with each other often. They were from a generation though, that did not believe in divorce, instead they chose to stay together, hating each other and terrorizing the kids. I know, before and after the fire, I had a lot of disassociation. A lot of moments of “not being there”.

I believe my dad knew the truth, that it was not my mom who had started the fire, but my brother and I. But he blamed my mother for the fire and everything else that made him hate his life. Our lives were destroyed in that fire. We were housed, clothed and fed by donations of the local community. I think it was truly upsetting to everyone, I’m sure. Our childhood toys, all of our photos, clothing, my father’s army uniforms and such, my mother’s clothes, everything was gone, to be replaced by a stranger’s things. We then became stranger’s in our skin. These were not our blankets to wrap up in, because we’re cold. This is not my bed to sleep in. I had never thought about us in the past in such an in-depth way, until now.

I think, this is why I can lay my head anywhere for a rest, go shopping at a used store for things I need, and why I’ve always felt deep shame and mistrust, because at a young age, I had to let go of my world as it was developing. My ego, you could say. In my 20s I learned, accepted, that I had a spoiled personality, one that would keep me from really living. Fear is a controlling factor in my personality. I am afraid to succeed, because I am afraid to fail, but I am also afraid to succeed. It’s that hidden meaning.

It’s been years since the fire, we are as we are. My sister and her family live miles from our childhood home. My middle brother, he lives with his common-law wife, I think he is terrified of committing to marriage. My youngest brother, who is still older than I, lives with his boyfriend. He is a photographer, he captures the world in images, as he wants it to be. He tells his story for the world, as he wants it. My father lives in the house alone. I used to fear him. I used to hate him. Now, I feel sorry for him. He is waiting for everyone, his heritage, to come home. My mother, who I think was so tired, died last year. Dementia was the cause. She had many years of being medicated for psychosis, depression, you name it. She had an overdose of Lithium a few years back, it was an unintentional overdose. Lithium levels can build up in a person’s body. She went down hill fast after that. But, I think she was ready to die. Once though, when she was diagnosed with Dementia, she lived perhaps 6 months after. Her major systems failed. The Hospice Nurse said that she probably had a stroke or even perhaps a heart attack in the time after the initial diagnosis. I had not seen most of my family members in at least 20 years, but I had gone to the hospital and the facility to comfort my mother. They don’t hold as much over me as they did before she got sicker and died.

I used to blame my father solely for my families problems, at times I did blame my mother because she just wouldn’t “get better” or “snap out of it”, but I think I saw the world as I thought it was. Now, I know I saw it wrong. I think there was more at play, than one person’s faults. I do wonder though, how different I would be, if the fire had never happened.

This is the first time I have ever written my own Biography. I think every person should consider writing their own story. At least, consider. What would you say about your childhood, your adulthood, and how each affect your daily world? I don’t blame my parents for my problems, my mistakes, I know they’re all mine. My world is colored with them. But, I also remember the good. I am with someone, been with them for over 20 years, and they help me see beyond the boundaries that I built, years ago.


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