This will be an occasional diary series written from the perspective of someone who has lived more than half his life without parents and no extended family either, I'm now 58.
This diary series is about finding my way in the world, about an eventual path to my personal recovery, how events, my environment and the people I met in my early years as a teenager and young adult, altered my life and helped pave that path and smooth that journey, how my circumstances affected and informed my outlook, my early politics and approach to people in general throughout my life.
This is also being written for those who are still struggling, perhaps younger than I am.
There is a way through, we all have to find our personal path, this was mine.
My father left when I was 16 and with him left any connection to his side of the family. He was a clinically diagnosed, violent schitzophrenic who was hospitalized for a time and when his parents and siblings decided to end their relationship with him because of the embarrasement and danger he posed, they ended their relationship with me also. I have no idea if he is still alive and have had no contact with his side of the family since.
My mom passed away almost 10 years later within six months of being diagnosed with cancer at 53. Whatever tenuous relationships existed between my increasingly dysfunctional, mostly alchoholic aunts and uncles from her side and me, disappeared when she passed away. She was the sibling that made sure there were family get togethers and important holidays celebrated and when she died, those invitations stopped too.
My father was a bully in every sense of the word, both physically and emotionaly. I was knocked around quite often, sometimes severely and though the external marks would heal in time, the emotional scars, the wounds that weren't visible on the surface cut much deeper and some of those issues I still deal with today. Although I experience periodic bouts of depression, I did not inherit his illness and I was never an alchoholic.
Please note that there are no triggers in this diary and as always, thank you for reading.
I listened to Mazzy Star performing 'Fade Into You' through my headphones
as I wrote this. It's a mood piece and can be background music as you read.
The sun finally slipped behind the ten foot leafy corn tops, our first full day at our family farm almost complete at eight forty, the entire western sky a warm tangerine and it is serenity still here on this early June night, no breeze brushing across the grass, not a single leaf in transit, only the fireflies momentarily dotting the darkness silently leaving their slow motion, crisscrossing phosphorescent trails. It is quiet enough to hear my own breathing sitting on the small steps to the 130 year old farm house, white and wood framed that sits on 3 tidy acres, an almost square parcel, a postage stamp carved into a 100 acre plot, surrounded, fort like by an impenetrable, closely planted wall of corn on all four sides. From these well worn concrete steps through the densely planted century old trees you can spy the gravel road, a quarter mile long canal like passage through a double sided wall of corn plants standing sentry to the county road, our entry is unmarked except for the house directly across the road.
There is one landline phone, no internet service and an old t.v. and all of us consider this place our private slice of the universe.
There is a quiet and humble history on this property, in the trees that were climbed by the children who grew up on this farm, in the still visible foundation outline of the once huge barn, in every dented and gouged pine door casing, the ancestry of my wife’s family is explained in these details and always further illuminated in our post dinner conversations. Country folk love telling stories and with very little fanfare and a matter of fact manner that belies the profound humanity, the empathy like a ribbon that runs through this family, tales were told tonight too.
My wife and her younger brother spent their summers on this farm, it was a working farm then with a huge pasture for the steer that Pap butchered, chickens and horses, the crops were soybeans, corn, hay and peony plants. The multistory post and beam constructed barn was enormous by all accounts, the heart of any farm and this barn served as the center of activity and endless hours of discovery for the kids too. The horses and ponies were a favorite, my wife spent her time learning to care, feed, walk and eventually ride these horses so much so that Gram ordered Pap to build her a racetrack behind the barn. This was no small affair, the size of this track would take out a significant portion of the pasture and there were ‘conversations’ between Gram and Pap about the wisdom of this idea but as so many of the stories are indicative of the strength and conviction of the women in this family, Gram prevailed.
She always did.
Gram and Pap grew up during the Great Depression and talked often about being ‘dirt poor’, their families barely survived, scratching out a living however they could in this farming town in southern Indiana just outside Evansville and it’s doubtful that they would have described this same piece of land as a slice of the universe then, as we do now. She learned to cook at a very early age, her scribbled recipes, a shaky penciled script written on stained and wrinkled, blue lined loose leaf pages are coveted by the women in this family, every family had but a few until my wife compiled them into a book and each family then received their own copy one Christmas.
Gram set aside her Avon side business in 1970, took her cooking talents and became the head lunchroom cook at the local elementary school, always adding an extra helping of whatever was on the menu that day to the plates of the very poor among the students. There were four kids in particular, 2 brothers and 2 sisters whose family was considered ‘dirt poor’ even then, lunch was their only nutritious meal of the day. Gram invited these children to the farm every day on the pretense of playing in the barn with my wife and her brother and play they did. The boys built an enclosed fort from the hay bales behind the barn and when they all felt very adventurous and were sure no adults were looking, climbed to the second story rafters of the barn and jumped, one by one into the huge 12’ high pile of shelled feed corn below.
Actually, this story was just revealed to my wife’s parents tonight, to their rolled eyes and ‘Oh, no you didn’ts!’, and we all had a great big laugh at the secrets kids can keep.
But the real reason Gram brought those 4 hungry kids to their farm after school was to feed them, they all shared dinner together and whenever she could, unbeknownst to Pap or anyone else, she would slip them each a silver quarter and send them back home.
Decades later when Gram died, the 4 grown adults who all still lived in the area, all successful now, came to Gram’s funeral and told the whole family this story, the story the they were all learning about as they listened, the tale of a woman quietly sharing what she had with those less fortunate. The 2 sisters and 2 brothers then asked if they could place a small suede pouch they had brought with them, into Grams casket to honor her memory.
8:05 PM PT: Thank you fellow LIGHTS for republishing my diary.
8:05 PM PT: Thank you fellow LIGHTS for republishing my diary.
9:25 PM PT: A big thanks again to the Rescue Rangers for allowing me to be in The Community Spotlight, my favorite place here at dkos.