Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Southern Gothic Family Tree Strikes Again

I'm helping my 90 year old grandmother find her biological parents. In the process, I've discovered all kinds of horrible.

8 March 1938

My grandmother had heard that her biological grandfather, Joe, had died.
It made the newspaper. It made the radio broadcast.
Not because he was somebody.
Because he had shot someone to death and then himself.

Annie Maness.

She was half his age, married with 6 kids. Both Joe and her husband Lucian were carpenters. Her 13 year old son Roy had come home from school and found her arguing violently with a man inside their house at 1720 Holbrook. The man had a double-barreled shotgun.

It was Joe.

Roy and Annie grappled desperately with Joe for the gun, but failed. Annie ran from the house, through a neighbor's home, and back into the street where Joe shot her to death. Her death certificate said he'd shot her through the lungs.

He went back into the house and then shot himself though the heart.

All of this in front of her children. I was so horrified I couldn't stop swearing for a good five minutes. I'm still horrified.

A man who brings a fully-loaded shotgun with him to speak to a woman was going to kill her no matter what. There wasn't going to be a negotiation. He'd waited until the afternoon when all the grown men would be out of house. He knew what he was doing.

The newspaper report was so graphic it took my breath away. All I could think about was a young woman running down the street screaming, knowing she was going to die. Her little children must have been there, must have seen it. Her son, Roy - what must have happened to him? To his mind, to his soul? Watching a man he knew and must have had no fear of, gunning down his mother in the road. He was the only witness, "disordered" by what he'd seen.

Reading the old newspaper articles, I suddenly hated Joe. A carpenter, he'd lived his whole life in one place, married twice, had his own children and siblings.

What gave him the right to hurt her? To take her life away? What gave him the power of ultimate judgment? Was he crazy? Was he drunk? Or was he in complete control of himself, planning the horrible act in advance with cold logic? He killed her, and then in a final lurch of cowardice, killed himself, side-stepping justice. That made me furious.

I know his life had been very hard. Grinding anyone down. Wearing off their shine. From his own brood, he produced two children who were severe alcoholics; one child who's husband committed suicide forcing her to give up her kids because she couldn't keep them and work at the same time; one child who's heart just exploded one day for no reason at age 38; one child who ran from place to place in a constant search for an unattainable something that she never found, only to die early from cancer and get shipped back to the state she'd escaped in a pine box.

But he had no right. No matter what happened to him. They all had it rough. ALL of them.

I acknowledge you here for all the world to know, Annie Maness. Via con dios.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Punch in the Nose

We fed a stray kitty who now comes flying to us when she sees Sis. We keep cat food in the car just in case we see Fuzzy Face.

A little further down, we saw a family sitting on the grass by the edge of the main road. Four small children. Little spoken English. The man held up a sign saying he'd lost his job, needed employment and food for his babies. He didn't ask for money. Sis and I got them two bags of decent non-perishable food. If we see them again, we're going to give them the # of the local Catholic food bank. Having to beg for food is appalling, and yet so many people are in just such a desperate place. I know the feeling of having nothing, of being at the mercy of strangers, of needing until you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror.

I like to believe we're giving the darkness a punch in the nose. You always hear about bad things, crime, abuse, suffering. The news is relentlessly awful and depressing. We're taught not to share the little good human things as if it were bragging. Frankly, without these little human moments, life really sucks. Maybe I can't stop the bad things from happening, but no one can stop me from doing something nice.

Maybe that tired mother you held the door for so she could wrestle her stroller through went home with her faith in humanity restored. Maybe that kid you smiled at needed to see a friendly face. Maybe the arthritic old guy you helped at the gas station was an angel.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Because We Are Such Good Friends...

Mom is destroying me. The other night at my dad's I just broke down and cried and said I didn't want to go home. He sat me on the couch and I was mopping my face with tissues when his one-eyed black cat Maddie climbed onto the arm of the couch next to me. I had really been sobbing and I apologized to her, fearing I had upset her. But she reached her face up to mine and pressed her nose against my nose and held it there like a little kid who doesn't want you to be sad anymore.

Sometimes it's these unexpected moments of genuine kindness that really save us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Special Place

On Saturday, as I was putting gas in the car, this little old man - probably 80 years old at the least - stopped and said, "I love you. Where I come from, we love everyone and tell them so. My name is Daniel P. Martin and you'll always have a special place in my heart, darling."

I smiled really big and said thank you, then waved to him as he left.

I suppose that was weird, but I thought it was sweet. After all, people say nasty things to strangers all the time. He was just doing the opposite, and it's not what's expected. Good for you, Mr. Martin, for striking back at cynicism.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Phantoms In My Sight

I've been having terrible nightmares. And now, when I'm in a nightmare, I realize I'm dreaming and I know what I'm seeing isn't real, and I want so badly to wake up. Last night, I screamed as loud and long as I could, looking up at the sky, hoping Jenny would hear me and wake me up to the real world.

My brain has been conjuring the dead, putting what I've loved most in puppet form, the shape of the lost but without breath. I can't bear the hollow effigies. And when I finally do wake, I do my best to not go back to sleep. I won't go back down to the mockery of the sacred.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

U2 - Zooropa

I was 16 when this came out. I was listening to it on the flight home from school in Ireland. Back when U2 was more than Bono's sunglasses. Back when I felt like there was a chance. A chance for everything.

"Don't worry baby, it's gonna be alright,
Uncertainty can be a guiding light... "

Saturday, January 11, 2014

F*** You, Pain, You F***ing F***

In my mind, repeated like a mantra, I tell myself, "I am no one. I am nobody."

When I'm alone, I find it coming out of my mouth unbidden when I can't cope anymore. It makes the terrible wanting go away. I find it consoling to say it, to be no one, to be nothing. It keeps me from hurting myself.

I don't even care how that sounds.

I can say I'm fine. A no one is always fine. They have no self.

If I let go of my soul, I can keep going. There's nothing to kill. I'm a hole in the air.

You can't catch me.

I'm in so much trouble, and I can't even feel it.