I am privileged

Saturday, 1 July 2017 10:41 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"It Was Sarcasm. I Won't Do It Again."*

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I was just taking the privilege quiz only I had to stop because statement two made me laugh uncontrollably.

Statement two is: "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color."

The correct response is, "I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Because there were these girls, see, these black girls, who would circle me, back me into a corner and play the "let's pretend to be friends with this loser, then mock her when she falls for it" game. Were they doing it because I was white or because everybody else did it? Hell, it was a game the white girls played, why shouldn't they play it too? Or maybe it was my stuck-up, smarter-than-everybody else aura. (Fuck it, I was smarter than most of them, but I wasn't stuck-up, I was terrified and weird.)

This is not a situation where you can say, "Excuse me, but why are you doing this? I might need to know later." Mostly you can't do that because they won't tell you; they're busy pretending to like you and they'll deny they're doing anything at all but being friendly.

Do I sound paranoid?

I don't know why, when I was in the fourth grade, every time I went out for recess a little black girl in a lower grade—second? Third? Again, I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate, or particularly important at the time—I didn't ask why she came over and kicked me. Not just once; she'd spend the whole recess kicking me, if she wasn't stopped and I had no idea how to stop her. She was smaller than me—I was tall back then, and older. (Older than her; I wasn't older than I am now. That would make no sense at all.)

I have only the vaguest memories of this and they might not be mine. My mother worked in the school library and saw this happening from the window. The school administration wouldn't do anything about it because, apparently, part of reparations included little black girls being allowed to kick random white girls with no explanation. (I don't recall it hurting; what I recall is being utterly baffled.) My mother finally came out and dragged her away from me. I don't know if it happened again. I have blocked out practically all of that year of school, which you can maybe see why.

These incidents led to me being afraid of black people.

Mind you, I was already afraid of people in general—from the third grade on I was bullied by first white girls, then white boys as well. The incidents with the black girls prefriending me (Look! I made new word! It means: that thing people—usually girls—do when they pretend to be your friend so they can later mock you in a more personal way [because you've told them your secrets, or even just your likes and dislikes] and add how stupid you were for believing them).

Where was I? Oh, yes, that incident didn't happen until the eighth grade. In the meantime I had a lot of the same treatment from the white girls, but there was a big difference: I knew those girls! I'd been going to school with them since first grade, I'd been friends with them. (Why that changed, what happened exactly, I don't know. But being hurt by people you know makes more sense than being hurt by strangers. There's logic to it, it's not just chaotic. It's horrible, but it's less scary.) I didn't even know these black girls; I couldn't figure out what I could have done to make them want to hurt me.

There were no cultural differences between me and the white girls, nothing of any significance; that could not be said of me and the black girls. (It's really culture that causes misunderstandings, not race.) I seemed not to be able to talk to anyone without saying something wrong (smarter, stuck-up) and if I couldn't do it in a culture I understood, what chance did I have in one I knew nothing about?

I think that's when I started to freeze. Don't move, don't make eye contact, don't speak, just wait until they get bored and leave. Because running wasn't an option, and neither was fighting back. I couldn't even be rude, even though everything I said was interpreted as rudeness anyway, stuck-upness, superiority.

I think of myself as having a lot of privilege because I came from people who read a lot and thought outside themselves. With a high school education, I can talk to people and have them think I went to college. But I'm still mostly scared all the time because I do not understand other people at all, and that target feels like it's still on my back.


*John Dortmunder
carose59: TV (but he doesn't know what he likes)
I'd Read Somewhere That People Were Afraid To Invite Him To Dinner. I Wasn't; I Just Didn't Know The Man.

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I've been watching He & She on youtube lately and laughing my head off.

If you've never heard of it, He & She was a one-season comedy on CBS during the 1967-68 season. It starred Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, real-life married people as a married couple. They had no children, which since they weren't newlyweds, was pretty radical. And Paula had a job! (Their names on the show were Richard and Paula Hollister.) They lived in a New York apartment next to a fire station; the buildings were so close together, they had a plank between two windows, and their friend Harry the fireman (Kenneth Mars) would walk over to visit. The apartment had a number of problems, usually doors that wouldn't open or stay closed; this situation was usually made worse by Andrew (Hamilton Camp), the maintenance man. The comedy was smart, sophisticated, and so well-played. This show should have been the heir to the audience that loved The Dick Van Dyke Show. I can't believe everybody got dumb in just one year, but it's the only explanation I can come up with. I was nine when it went off the air and I knew it was a great show. I don't know what the adults were watching.

All of this was wonderful; all of this is enough to recommend the show. What makes it an eleven for me is Jack Cassidy, who played Oscar North. Dick Hollister was a cartoonist who wrote a strip called Jet Man. The strip had been made into a live action TV series, for which Dick was creative consultant. (This is all clearly connected to Batman, which was insanely popular at the time.) Oscar North played Jet Man.

Oscar North is an egoist. He carries autographed pictures of himself to pass out to his millions and millions of fans . . . at the grocery store openings he goes to. He invents a bizarre little walk—it's more like a dance—to do when he's out in his Jet Man costume, to simulate flying. He brings a life-size cardboard cutout of himself to a dinner party, as a hostess gift. He gets teary when he discovers holes in the picture of himself in Dick's office (Dick was throwing darts at it). "I've been damaged!"

I don't blame Dick. Working in an office with Oscar would be like having the Pirate King in the next cubicle. He's amazingly charming and hilarious, and when I was eight, I had a massive crush on him. Watching the shows now, I feel like I'm eight again; he just delights me.

I'm not the only one who loved Jack Cassidy as Oscar North. The part of Ted Baxter was originally written based on Oscar North, and Jack Cassidy was offered the part. I'm sorry he turned it down, because he would have been wonderful.

One of the ways in which He & She was an obvious successor to The Dick Van Dyke Show is that it's a kind show. People are nice to each other. The biggest problems Paula and Dick have are how to do things without hurting someone's feelings. The humor is clever and witty, not unkind. In one episode, Paula asks Dick if he's already bought her wedding anniversary present, and when he says he hasn't, she throws herself onto his lap and starts kissing him. His response is, "What do I get if I take back what I gave you last year?" In an episode where Paula finds out Dick's new background man is actually a pretty girl, she kids him, pretending to be jealous, but gets very upset when he's told to fire her.

Later: why I love Oscar North but loathe Ted Baxter.


*Nora Ephron
carose59: childhood (i should have been more specific)
Consonants, You Knew Pretty Much Where They Stood, But You Could Never Trust a Vowel.*

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I just finished watching American Nightmare, which is a documentary about horror movies—specifically, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Shivers, Halloween, and possibly something else I'm not remembering.

(Not that it's important, but I've seen four of these. The ones I haven't seen are Last House on the Left and Shivers. At least, I don't think I've seen Shivers. I could be wrong; I've seen a lot of movies I don't remember anymore.)

Anyway, I've been trying to write about George Romero's Dead series for a while now. This is not that post.

Pat and I saw Night of the Living Dead at the Emerson, and I was crazy about it. I insisted we see Dawn of the Dead when there was a midnight showing at Lafayette Square (which is on the west side of town and nowhere near home and scary to drive home from in the dark with a driver with night-blindness. But it's not like we didn't do that kind of thing on a pretty regular basis). And we saw Day of the Dead when it came out. (I was underwhelmed. I was even less whelmed when Land of the Dead two years ago. I, um, I fell asleep.)

But before any of that, there was something that happened when I was a little girl. This is what I remember.

I was at my grandparents' house with my father, his parents, and some . . . other relatives? I don't know if that's who they were; I don't know if I knew who they were at the time. Even thinking about this confuses me because I know my mother was at home, and what was I doing out with just my father, and why were at my grandparents' in the first place when there were other people there? (We weren't allowed to go over when there was anybody else there—and I mean anybody, even my aunt and uncle. Well, except when the Catholic relatives came to town. Then my grandmother brought them over to our house for my mother to entertain them. Oh, and when my cousin Patty Ann came to town flipped out, then my mother got to look after her. I would explain that to you, but I mostly don't understand it.)

Anyway, we were there for quite a while. I was about seven, and I was bored. I got sleepy, and I was sort of drowsing on the sofa while they talked. And at some point, one of my relatives started talking about a movie she'd seen. The only part of the description I remember hearing was the scene where the little girl kills and eats her mother, though I do remember something about the whole zombiefication of people, that dying did it to you. I remember that it could happen to anybody.

Now, you have to understand, I had nightmares all the time, and was afraid of the dark, I was afraid of "them." (I'd tell you who "them" is, but I don't know, I only know I was sure "they" could hear me when I went for a drink of water in the middle of the night, and that they would get me as I walked down the hall to the bathroom in the dark, and that they would take my mother away from me. I had serious separation anxiety problems about my mother.)

I remember being so afraid, so afraid I thought I was going to pass out, and for some reason being even more afraid of letting anyone know I was afraid. I was sure that when we got home, my mother wouldn't be my mother anymore, and I was—I was silently hysterical. By seven, I already knew not to let people know what I was feeling if I could possibly help it because they would laugh at me, they would hurt me. So I lay there on the sofa, panicking and wanting to get home before whatever they were talking about happened to the only person I could trust to keep me safe.

It wasn't until years after that I saw Night of the Living Dead and realized that was the movie they'd been talking about.

In American Nightmare they talk about the Vietnam war, and the images we saw on TV, and the subtext of Night of the Living Dead. For me, what the movie has been about since before I ever saw it, was about how people you trust can suddenly, for no reason you can understand, become people you can't trust, people who want to hurt you, kill you, devour you. Trust no one.

(As I've been writing this, I've been watching a thing on Superman on the History Channel, and they were saying that when they made the Christopher Reeve movie, they wanted it to be an epic, unlike any movie ever made. And I suddenly realized that, in presentation, it's very much like another movie: Gone With The Wind. It has the same feeling of, Here it is, the movie you've all been waiting for! Right off the top of my head, I can't think of another movie like that.)


*Maniac Magee
carose59: health matters (an intuition of mortality)
"So Don't Come Too Close Or I'll Infect You With My Celibate Prophet Germs."*
(Yes, I know, I'm going to hell for that one.)

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First, merry Christmas, everybody!

And let me just say that that small expression of enthusiasm pretty much depleted my energy reserves. It's Christmas Eve, and I'm sick. My mother, though sympathetic, will be amused.

Does that sound cruel? It's not. Underneath my headache, swollen glands, and all-over-yucky feeling, I'm amused, too. Monica Rose sick for Christmas (or, let's be honest here, any holiday, or birthday) is as much a tradition as tinsel on the tree. Believe me, it's one I've tried my best to outgrow.

When I was little, in grade school, it was strep throat. I remember Thanksgivings and Christmases through a haze of fever—imagine being eight years old, watching the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror with a high fever. I thought I was hallucinating . . . why did Spock have a beard . . . !?

By high school, it was inner ear infections, which left me dizzy and disoriented, and the medications for which gave me yeast infections.

Now it's whatever flu that's going around (the ones not covered by the shots) or sinus infections, which, really, are my own stupid fault. It gets nice out, warm, springish, and I go out without my coat, then I get sick. It's not just holidays, or my birthday, of course. But those are the times that stand out.

Though I'm sorry Pat no longer goes to see her family at Christmas, I'm glad she's here with me now. I hate being sick by myself. (I don't much care for it with other people either, but by myself . . . my imagination works overtime. Which should come as no surprise.)

I've spent two Christmases sick, alone, in this house. One was the year we moved in, and after my father drove me to work I had to call and have my mother send him right back after me. I spent the next two days in her bed, being looked after. Not the worst thing in the world, having my mommy look after me.

The other time was a couple of years later, and my fever went up to one hundred. That's when I started having chills and I lay in bed with my electric blanket turned all the way up, watching Gunsmoke because I couldn't bring myself to crawl out from under, into the cold. I didn't know yet that the only way to get rid of chills was to tough them out, to get out from under the blankets and move around. (I don't know if it's starving a cold or feeding a fever, but I do know what to do about chills.)

Um, what was the point of this? I dunno. But if you don't hear from me for a few days, it's probably because I'm curled up on the sofa, watching TV and drinking ginger ale.

Just like old times, right?


*Jesus (in The Pantheon)
carose59: grade school (unsettle the minds of the young)
"I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake!"*

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Third grade was also when I started cheating in class.

This was not bought on by my many, many absences, or even an attempt at better grades. It was brought on by addiction to stories.

See, third grade they moved me from the regular classes to what they called Programmed Reading. We didn't have any regular readers that year, we had work books, a series of twenty-something of them. They'd start you out where they thought you ought to be, and the stories got progressively more difficult, both in vocabulary and in concepts. By the end we were reading about the Greek and Roman gods and I was absolutely fascinated. And before that, there was a long, involved story that sounds like it was based on the Narnia books, at least according to the people I've mentioned it to who have read C. S. Lewis. It was about these children who went down in the basement one day, only the basement steps went down much further than they ever had before, and they ended up in some other dimension, or something. It was wonderful, and I couldn't stop reading it.

Which is where the cheating came in.

Because in Programmed Reading, you read at your own pace. They started you out at what they considered to be your proper reading level, then let you go. You'd read a chapter, then there would be a test to take. You take the test, score it, turn in your paper, and go back to reading. It was pretty much on the honor system, though I suspect there were people who were considered less-than-honorable, and were watched more closely.

I wasn't one of them. I was always, always a good girl. And the thing was, nobody would ever have suspected I was cheating because I really was a good, fast reader who comprehended what she'd read and could tell you the story back if you asked. I was doing just what they wanted in those terms.

I was just cheating on their tests. See, I found out pretty quickly that if you just mark down most of the right answers, rather than actually take the test, you can get back to the stories that much sooner. And, God, I had to get back to the stories! The stories were wonderful, and besides, it wasn't like a book, where you could take it home and read it all night 'til bedtime. The only opportunity I had to read these stories was in school. (This is how much I loved them—when we had free time, to draw or whatever, I would go over and get the books that came before where they started me, so I could read the beginning of the story. And let me just say right here that I love how experts think. Apparently it never occurred to them that it might be something of an obstacle to start out a kid in the middle of a continuing story, that it might somehow impair their interest and/or comprehension.)

Stories were such an escape for me, they got me out of whatever stressful thing was happening in my life (I really don't remember). But, you know, I never cheated at anything I was actually bad at, like math or geography. I can't figure out just what this says about me. I think it means I'm basically honest—that is, I represent myself as honestly as possible. Sort of like here—the things I'm writing are true, but the names are changed. Would the stories be any more true with the real names in them? Would I be any better or worse a reader if I'd taken their tests?


*Russell

Third grade blues

Saturday, 30 November 2002 08:22 am
carose59: grade school (unsettle the minds of the young)
Why Can't My Life Be All "Ups"? If I Want All "Ups," Why Can't I Have Them? Why Can't I Just Move From One "Up" To Another "Up"? Why Can't I Just Go From an "Up" To an "Upper-Up"? I DON'T WANT ANY "DOWNS"! I JUST WANT "UPS" AND "UPS" AND "UPS"!*

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I don't remember a lot of third grade. First I had mononucleosis, which stands out only because of the blood test (I fainted) and because my great-aunt called to talk to my mother about it. This particular great-aunt was a nun, and she and the other sisters talked about it, and they were pretty sure that mono was a venereal disease.

My mother had the strength of character not to start laughing until she'd hung up the phone.

Mono wasn't so bad, in spite of what it did to my reputation among the holy orders. I just slept all the time.

Of course, what grade school year would be complete without strep throat? I swear, I don't think a year went by without a bout of that. Nothing to get worked up about, you just feel like shit for a few days, drag around wanly for a few more, and life goes on.

The big trauma of third grade was coming down with shingles.

For anyone who doesn't know, shingles are caused by the same virus as chicken pox, so if you've had chicken pox, you can get shingles any time. They're generally brought on by stress. They generally appear on the chest and stomach, and they hurt. You put salve on them, then cover them a bandage, to keep anything from touching them. It sounds easy enough, and I'm sure that for people who were (marginally) fortunate enough to get them on their chests and stomachs, it is. I didn't do that, though.

I got them on the insides of my thighs.

Think about that. How do you keep the insides of your thighs from touching each other? My mother's solution was to wrap my thighs in saran wrap. It worked very well, but it created its own problem.

You have to understand, this was 1969. If you weren't around in 1969, you may not know what the skirts were like then, so let me tell you: they were short. Very, very, short. So, picture me, a tall, very stressed out blonde ten-year-old, wearing a (short) navy blue skirt, white blouse, knee socks, saran wrap around my thighs. I'm spending my days with one hand on my skirt at all times, to hold it down, and I'm moving very slowly because I'm desperately afraid someone will hear me rustling. I've got the self-conscious gene all the women on my mother's mother's side of the family seem to possess, and the fear of being laughed at is so strong, I just want to die. (I'm sure my mother would have let me stay home if I hadn't already been out three weeks for the mono and two for the strep, and probably some time at the beginning of the shingles. It's really pretty amazing I passed into the fourth grade at all.) Really, it's pretty amazing I ever got over the shingles, considering the stress they brought on.


*Lucy Van Pelt
carose59: childhood (i should have been more specific)
Between the Evergreens
Something Was Lurking.*


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OK, so I was six or seven years old. I used to spend a lot of time with my grandmother, my mother's mother. I'd spend weekends at her house, and if my father wasn't around, my mother would come, too.

Grandma and I were close. I was smart, I loved to read and recite poetry, I loved to write. Grandma was a great poetry-reciter, a reader. She clipped poems out of magazines and pasted them into a scrap book. She worked at a company that printed business forms, and she used to bring me home paper and pens and pencils. I loved the pencils that were red on one end and blue on the other. There was a desk I kept them in, and besides writing, I'd also cut up paper and make things. Airplanes, and ships, and I don't know what all (to quote the old Andy Griffith routine).

I also had a small box of things I played with. Most of them weren't actually toys, they were glass knick-knacks. The one I remember most vividly at the moment is a dachshund. There were also a bunch of pieces from an old Cooties game. I didn't know anything about the game, I just liked to put the Cooties together in different ways. Years later my mother bought me a Cooties game, sort of as a joke. We played it a few times, but they'd changed the Cooties and it wasn't much fun. I don't think I have any of the Cooties anymore.

I can also remember sitting just at the bottom of the attic stairs, cutting out clothes for paper dolls. I'd had paper dolls practically my whole life; I had them when my parents went to New York, when I was a very tiny little girl and stayed with my aunt and uncle. I can remember sitting in their living room, watching The Flintstones ("Yabba-dabba-doo!!"), cutting out paper dolls and making up stories in my head. It always took a long time to cut out the clothes, and I didn't enjoy it much, but I was such a perfectionist that I had to have all the clothes cut out before I'd start to play. So I'd make up stories about the dolls, going shopping, picking out the clothes, where they were going to wear them . . . .

But that's not what I was going to write about. What I was going to write about was one particular weekend at my grandmother's. Saturday evening, Grandma and I went out to dinner. I can see the place very clearly in my mind, can see the sidewalk and everything, but I can't seem to put it into words. It's like a dream, where when you can see all the details but when you start to tell someone, it doesn't sound right. Anyway, we had dinner, and that was a pretty big deal. I don't remember ever going out to dinner with just Grandma, before or since. After dinner, we walked past a pet shop, and in the window I saw one of those little plastic Ferris wheels that you put in parakeet cages. You fill the cars with birdseed and as the parakeet takes the seeds out, the wheel goes around. I thought was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I really, really wanted one, but I probably didn't say anything. I've never forgotten it, though. I wonder if they still make them . . . .

Grandma gave me a dime (a dime!) to put in one of those gumball machines that give little toys in clear, oversized capsules. I don't know if they still use this size anymore; the ones now are much bigger, about the size of a plum. These were about the circumference of a plastic bottle cap, and maybe an inch long. I loved those things, in the abstract. They seemed to hold things that, if I had them, would make me so happy. Like Crackerjack prizes, only I didn't like Crackerjack and wouldn't buy it just for the prizes. Prizes. Something wonderful hidden within. I had a terrible craving for them. Maybe I still do.

Anyway. I put my dime in the machine, turned the handle, and got my prize-containing capsule. We left whatever store we were in, and I opened the capsule. There was a tiny clear plastic box inside the capsule, and inside the box was a black plastic spider, all squeezed in.

It scared the hell out of me. I couldn't have been more upset if it was a real spider. I remember just looking at the little box, with something awful in it. I felt like Pandora, only I knew there was something evil in the box and I couldn't do anything to stop myself from opening it. My Grandma had given me the dime, it was a present, I had to open it. (Don't think I don't know how ridiculous this sounds, but I was a very serious child, it was so important to me to live up to the expectations of the adults. I was committed to being a Good Girl.

I stuck the box in my pocket, and pretended it wasn't there. When we got back to Grandma's, I took the spider-containing box out to the kitchen. I left it sitting on the side of the kitchen sink, left the kitchen, turned out the light. I went back to the living room, and we watched Lawrence Welk. I colored, played with my glass stuff, but I was sick and scared inside. There was an evil spider lurking in the kitchen. When I got thirsty, I snuck to the kitchen, afraid the spider would somehow escape, get me. I dreamed about it all night, nightmares, it was waiting for me, it was waiting for me.

My mother came the next day, and things were better. I think I put the spider box someplace I wouldn't have to see it. I know I didn't throw it away; it had cost a dime, and my Grandma had given me that dime. How could I just throw it away? So I hid it, and eventually it lost its power over me, I stopped thinking about it.

I was a seriously fucked-up child, and I never told anyone.


*Aldous Huxley
carose59: my mother's family (it seems to absolve us)
"Well, I Guess the Room Is Empty. What a Perfect Time to Set Fire to My Desk."*

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As promised, the story about my two cousins. My two male cousins, one of whom is three years older than me, the other of whom is seven years younger.

The first is from the summer I was twelve. We were staying with my aunt and cousin in Texas for a month or so. My uncle was off in Cambodia. Now, this cousin and I are both only children, so in some ways we're like siblings to each other, and in other ways we're just both spoiled-only-children. We've always been close, and we've always fought. Anyway, for some reason he bought me a present. It was an egg, sort of, made of–I can't think what it's called. Not papier mache, but something like that, a sort of paste concoction, the name of which is just outside the periphery of my memory. Anyway, it was about eight inches long, four and a half inches wide, and it opened up so you could keep stuff inside. I used to keep my old movie ticket stubs there, 'til I started seeing so many movies I would have needed a warehouse to keep them all in. Anyway, the thing about it was, it was day-glo orange, with white curlicues, and the centers of the curlicues were filled in with electric blue. (Hey, it was the seventies!) So, he comes up to me and hands me this thing, and with great pride tells me he saw it in the store and bought it for me because it looked like me.

Uh–yeah. Great. Thanks. A lot. Really, thanks. It looks like me?!? Quick look in the mirror, but I don't see anything to warrant this! I guess it was a reflection of my flamboyant personality. Anyway, even while it kind of worried me about the image I project to the world, I loved it.

But I got over it—the worry part, I just thought it was kind of amusing until the next Christmas, when I got a present from my younger male cousin. It was a bottle of perfume, the kind you used to be able to get in the five and dime. I don't know where you'd get one now–the dollar store, maybe. Anyway, it smelled mostly of alcohol, but the scent wasn't the big thing about it. The big thing was the bottle. It was clear, round glass, and the perfume itself was pink. And the top of the bottle had a big, bright pink, fuzzy head. And you know why my cousin gave it to me? Yep, you guessed it! He saw it in the store and thought it looked like me!

This just explains so much to me. No wonder half the guys here at work are afraid of me. I project a big, bright pink, fuzzy, egg-shaped orangeness with white and electric blue curlicues. I'm surprised I don't glow in the dark.


*Mr. Feeney
carose59: the rose behind the fence (Default)
All Persons, Living And Dead, Are Purely Coincidental.*

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More childhood stuff.

As I said in an earlier entry, my Grandpa died when I was three.

I don't remember much about it. It was also the summer my cousin was born, and the summer my mother, grandmother, father and I drove to Florida. My father was having a manic episode, his first since my parents' marriage, and nobody knew what was happening. At one point he left us in a motel in the Great Smokey Mountains, disappeared into the night with the car. I don't remember that, either. What I remember about the trip to Florida was the ocean. Nobody told me we'd arrived, and so I thought we'd come to this water we couldn't get over or around. I thought this was very bad planning on my parents' part.

But about Grandpa's death. He was alone when it happened because it was Band Day at the fair. It used to be I'd spend the weekend with my grandparents, then my mother and I would spend Monday with Grandpa. But this Monday was Band Day and we went with friend of my mother's. So he was alone, and he had either a heart attack or a stroke.

It was years before I found out that's what had killed him. See, he had this rocker, one of those overstuffed ones that turns around and rocks. I loved it, loved to sit in it and rock and spin around, only my grandmother would yell at me. Not because of the chair, but because it was sitting right in front of a window, and when I rocked hard, it would bang against the Venetian blinds, and, according to my grandma, they could fall down and cut me.

So for years I thought the Venetian blinds had got my grandpa. Oddly enough, that didn't frighten me. I kept sitting in his chair, and I kept rocking. I just watched out when I did it.


For a very long time my mother felt responsible for Grandpa's death. If only we had not gone to Band Day, she would have been there . . . .

She finally told me this, I think when I was in high school. (By this time I knew that the Venetian blinds had not been responsible.) And I remember thinking how wrong that was. I know I told her that's not how it works. I told her, if you'd been there, we'd been there, and just what would you have done, with your father having a heart attack and your three-year-old daughter there. Basically, we would have got to see him die, and I don't think either of us needed that.

I'll believe that the universe is random, that there is no plan. And I'll believe there is a kindness watching over us, sometimes moving us out of the way of bad things. But I refuse to believe in a bad plan, that my mother was kept from saving her father.


*Kurt Vonnegut

July 2017

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