aging · Family · health · ME/ CFS · relationships

Genetics

I search for father
in this pain, recall
limbs wrapped,
liniment-lathered,
how he cried out
relief beyond reach

judged his suffering
as emotional –
a karmic penalty
for a life of tyranny –
compassion lapsed.

Now, I fight with legs
that will not settle,
arms that ache to bone,
moments inconsolable
spiralling into moodiness

seems I misunderstood –
overlooked the possibility
of genetics – pain compounded
by the guilt of impotence

curse my failure
to express sympathy,
offer comfort – the habit
of retracting into defensiveness
enacted till his death –

softness not a component
of the barriers that stood
between us…

Family · memoir · new project · nonfiction · writing

Four Voices

At the age of four, I moved with my family into a new house that my father had built, on the outskirts of town.  The day of our move my mother disappeared, and left to my own devices, I defied my father’s rules about staying out of certain parts of the house and discovered secret places, the beginning of my awareness that all was not as it seemed.  When my mother returned, she was carrying a new baby sister, and all was seemingly well, until one day she too discovered that the walls had secrets.

Four Voices tells the story of growing up in a family where secrets defined us; and examines the relationship between a daddy’s girl and her father, split between two worlds.  All names have been changed for this story.  Part I, starts at the end of seventeen-year-old Betty-Ann’s home life, and can be read here.

I have attempted to write this story for most of my life, however; I was always missing an essential piece – my father’s perspective.  Now, armed with new understanding, I offer you a tale of tragic misunderstanding and hope for healing.

Feedback is deeply appreciated.

 

Family · recovery

For You, Dad

Anti-establishment
and flower power
formed the backdrop of my youth.
Women burning their bras,
Hippies holding sit-ins,
War in Vietnam.

Ideals began to form.

Beatles and Rolling Stones
were household names,
and school children took
the Pepsi vs. Coke challenge.
Twiggy and Mary Quaint
set the fashion stage.

I lived in creative times.

A flower-toting leader,
dating well below his years,
wooed his lovers and his nation
with a French accent,
and called in the army when
the FLQ threatened peace.

Passion awakened in my heart.

Open concept was my classroom,
education free-style.
We had a Wong and a Suzuki,
and watched the Black Panthers
on a sometimes-coloured TV,
and learned that we were WASPs.

I was on the edge of compassion.

Talk shows revealed infidelities,
and debated homosexuality –
criminal or mental instability?
Equal rights meant equal pay
while Country Clubs posted exclusions
and institutes housed the nonconforming.

I started questioning.

Home-made prevailed over store-bought,
and a Valium suppressed mother
kept my father’s castle,
and we went to church on Sundays
and practiced perfect smiles
and learned to pretend.

Enlightenment comes at a price.

Too young to understand the dynamics
of my brooding inner turmoil,
I raged at the discrepancies,
and swung with a fast right,
fighting for a justice
I could not articulate.

I learned to hate.

The consideration my father preached
was a one-way street.
He spewed racism, and sexism, and abuse;
over-worked, over-drank, and
railed against a world
where he could find no acceptance.

I discovered we had secrets.

Teen pregnancy, LSD,
and schizophrenia invaded
our patriarchal fortress,
internal combustion threatened,
yet we held fast to our façade –
happiness and solidarity.

When Dad came out I wasn’t ready.

High school came, along with disco;
Barbie dolls were traded
for platforms and menthols.
While Rocky Horror gained a cult following
my father revealed his own cross-dressing
ambitions and asked us to call him Liz.

I learned to run away.

Halter-tops and tight blue jeans
attracted adverse attention,
the police told me after the rape.
I crawled back home and began to cut
unable to feel through the armour
of numbness I had donned.

There was no way out.

Donahue paraded real life transvestites
before a disbelieving audience,
while psychiatrists spoke of deviant addictions.
Electric shock treatments broke my father,
he begged but I pushed him back in the closet.
We would not speak of it again.

I steeled myself against life.

Landlines, now, are disappearing,
Televisions smarter: Reality the new fiction.
Songza picks my playlists.
Integration and differentiation
are the educational goals I seek
to fulfill in my role as teacher.

Relief followed my father’s death.

LGBQT is on the forefront
workshops teach about sexual orientation
and gender identity,
and I learn that it is hormones –
not addiction – that decide,
and the realization pierces my heart.

There’s been a tragic misunderstanding.

My liberated, forward thinking mind,
strangled by a self-serving heart
slammed the door on possibility
eclipsing the brilliance and creativity
of the soul that was my father.
I never knew his authentic self.

There is no going back.

The river runs within me now,
a deep and endless stream.
The shards of my former reality
too shattered to mend; I stumble
humbled by the inadequacy
of this human existence.

I write for you, now, Dad.