Taken from Dancing in Hellfire: The Story of a Transgender Woman in Mississippi, this is another little bit I’ve decided to share because it really highlights how shitty some parents can be. It’s interesting to ponder which of my two parents is actually worse, but I think the victory must go to my mother–she did, after all, straight abandon my sister and me and then disappear off the face of the Earth after getting on crystal meth. It’s hard to be a worse parent than that, really. It’s difficult to find passages that can be easily shared because they don’t require context from something that occurred previously, but this one is sectioned off by itself, so it should be okay. Hope you enjoy 😀
A Look At My Father
I would like to say that my father isn’t a bad man, but he is. That’s a difficult thing to say, and a difficult thing to accept, but I must stress the point that this doesn’t really make me love him any less. But I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made some bad decisions.
His own childhood was no walk in the park and was tarnished by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. My father has not shared a great deal of this with me, primarily because I can imagine what he’s talking about, and also because I’m sure it’s as painful for him as it is for me to bring up memories of my mother’s own abuse at the hands of alcoholics.
My grandparents divorced at some point—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her abusive husband to blaze her own path through life, and won the house in the divorce, and she proceeded to work at a college for the rest of her workdays, finally retiring at the age of 67.
True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was sent away by her mother for undisclosed reasons to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their arm. Aunt Edna, it seems, did not like my grandmother very much and was not overly kind to her. What set of circumstances caused Jennifer—I never heard my grandmother refer to her mother as anything other than her first name, which was “Jennifer”—to send my grandmother off to this farm? What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class in those circumstances? What quiet resolve caused my grandmother to learn the skills necessary to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s? Did my grandmother go to college?
These are questions that I would dearly love to have the answers to, but I’ll never get them; they are not things that my grandmother is keen to discuss. Questions about her past are usually met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it. She lived a difficult life, but she’s also the strongest woman I’ve ever heard of. I would dearly love for her story to be sung, but that’s what makes her so remarkable: she doesn’t want her story to be sung. Her humility and sincerity are matched only by the resolve and strength it must have taken to craft her life as she did at a time when women were “not allowed” to be more than housewives.
On one day of drunken, uproarious rampage, my dad had to hold a gun on my grandfather while my grandmother limped out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous, in a way, that he was old enough to do something about it. Because when my mother suffered the abuse beneath Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade and too young and weak to do anything to get in the way.
My father will tell you that he was drafted to Vietnam, but it’s clear from the involved timelines that this clearly isn’t true. This was a fact my sister and I only recently realized, when he brought up the Vietnam War again; since we’re both 80s children, it never occurred to us to wonder whether the timeline of the Vietnam War lined up with my father’s professed timeline, but one day my sister raised the question and said that she wouldn’t be surprised to find out he had never been there.
I thought about it for a moment, and we quickly realized that… No, he had never been in the Vietnam War. We quickly caught him in a lie: either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus would never have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. This line of thought led us to uncover a number of lies about his past, and in the little alternate reality he’d crafted around this lie about Vietnam he had to be older than our mother (which was obviously false—it was and always has been common knowledge that mom was 4 to 5 years older), his brother had to also be lying about his age, and they had to have falsified both of our birth records.
He then retconned his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, during another offensive that we did there, and I have no idea whether that’s true or not—I know that I was unable to find a military record online, and even signed up for one of the paid services that do that, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen. Whether he went to Vietnam or not, he did mislead my sister and me into believing that he’d fought in the Vietnam War, until we knew enough about it to realize that there was no way that he did.
The entire reason my sister and I came to discuss it was out of curiosity why our father, who has several medical problems that are probably quite serious, has not gone to a VA doctor or VA hospital to seek treatment—or even a checkup. He’s nearly in his sixties now, and I don’t believe he’s been to a doctor for a checkup since we stopped running around and buying painkillers together. No, that’s not a typo.
He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by looking at his past, which is filled with heavy drug usage, lies, and manipulation. He is somewhat less religious than other members of the family, but this only applies in certain ways, and, generally, he is a WASP as much as any other in my family—he continues to believe that Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican despite being effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from more liberal policies.
However, he and I don’t see eye to eye, and we’ve never really been on the same page. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I’m Bobby Hill to his Hank Hill, but that’s not terribly far off, though we do have some similar interests. He was, after all, the person who introduced me to Fantasy and tabletop roleplaying, which are things that I continue enjoying today. In turn, I introduced him to a particular tenth installment of a wildly popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he discovered far more secrets than I ever would have.
So there is some kinship between us, even though there are far more differences than similarities, and even though he has done me far more harm than good. He is also still my father, and I still very much love him, despite everything that has happened and everything that has been done. Truth be told, I pity my father, because the traumatic childhood he experience seems to have destroyed him; he left it with the mentality that the world owed him something, whereas I left mine with the feeling that the world owed me something and with the knowledge that, whether it owed or not, it would never give it willingly.
At some point during all of this moving around with mom, and while I was still in kindergarten, mom agreed to allow me to go spend some weekends with dad, which I very much enjoyed doing then. Back then, dad and I got along together pretty well, and we both loved our video games, so we almost always had something to do together.
My grandfather owned all the land in that area. Well, it may be that my Aunt May owned all that land and it passed to my grandfather after her death, and I think this is the case because, as always, there was quite a lot of hostility and a number of new rifts in the family following Aunt May’s death. At any rate, my dad didn’t stay for very long in the trailer in which we’d all lived, and I can’t say that I blame him for that. I’ve lived alone—it sucks. And living alone shortly after your wife took the kids and left… No, I don’t blame him, whatever his reason was for moving.
Luckily, all my concern about which of the Nintendos I was going to leave dad was for nothing, because he didn’t waste any time in buying a new one and replacing the one that was a pain in the ass. He introduced me to Ice Blue Kool-Aid, though, and it immediately became my favorite, because it was pretty good.
One evening mom had to go to a wedding, to act as a bridesmaid or something like that, and I didn’t want to go. Mom took me dad’s, and took Eric and Brandi to to the wedding. As I was playing a video game in the living room, dad lie on the couch and my grandfather sat in his recliner. “Just say the word, John, and I’ll have her taken care of. One shot—bang. All it takes,” my grandfather said, referring to my mother.
“Get up and go to Aunt May’s,” dad immediately said to me. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
I objected, because I didn’t want to leave my stuff, but dad shouted, “Now!” in a tone that I knew better than to argue with. As I walked to Aunt May’s, there was a loud bang—an unmistakable gunshot. I ran the rest of the way to Aunt May’s, terrified; I don’t recall what I told her, but dad sure enough showed up a few minutes later and got me. As we drove to the wedding, he explained that my grandfather had threatened to kill my mom, and then had shot at my dad when my dad tried to get his keys.
This was before my grandfather stopped drinking, and he was thankfully too drunk to aim properly, but there was also no telling what he was going to do. I saw Brandi outside and told her, terrified, “Grandaddy’s going to kill mom!” I was in kindergarten then, so I was six years old, but that’s still before we have it ingrained in us that overreacting in public must be avoided at all costs (for whatever reason). I’d argue that there was plenty for me to react to, though, because my dad took it seriously. And I don’t blame him—my grandfather had already shot at my dad at that point, so even if he hadn’t been taking it totally seriously before that, he certainly was after.
If you liked it, I wish I could say that the full manuscript is available on Amazon, but it isn’t yet. It will be a while before I finish it, I think–probably another month or so. I have someone working on what will hopefully be a pretty awesome cover, though. But you may be interested in buying my short story from Amazon, or in checking me out at GoFundMe. Or Liking the post, subscribing, sharing, all that good stuff. lol. This sort of thing at the end of posts is starting to take a rather long time.
Thanks for your support! It means a lot. I’ve already experienced a few emotional throes that I couldn’t readily explain, so the hormones are starting to do their thing. It will take a while to do their thing, of course.
Oh! Be sure to check out www.ebuyer.com as well, because I’ve been asked to guest write an article for them. The article will be delivered via eCard for Valentine’s Day, so I’m hoping that will boost some exposure, and I’m honored to have been asked.