Sunday, August 5, 2012

2012.08.04 One Sad Little Story

Writing a memoir creates a mind set for long term memory.  Fine with me since my short term one is beginning to lag a bit.

Today I thought of a high school friend. Her face passed in front of me and I wondered how she had survived. She grew up with a severely alcoholic father who used to slap her behind and call her Bessie Broadbottom—then laugh with ghoulish gusto. She laughed too but I knew it wasn’t funny. I used to wonder about sexual abuse even back in the 50s in a suburban CT. shore town!

My friend’s mother was passive, sweet, and preachy religious. But she too had a steel magnolia edge.  It was obviously how she controlled her internal chaos and ignored her husband.  She told her daughter that she could have married Mr. Mack of Mack trucks and have lots of money and happiness.  Cruel revelation I thought. 

Growing up with cruelty made my friend unpopular in school because she was pushy trying to excel and be popular. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t like her much either but stayed friends because I felt sorry for her.

She idealized me and my family, wrongly really because I was in a similar cocktail situation but with far more love in it. My dad’s sarcasm was martini-induced and he never called me names or sexualized our relationship.  My mom’s denial helped her kid herself and skim the surface of life.  It irked me but helped me sharpen my awareness and thus my spirituality: dig deep for truth. But I never thought my parents were cruel and I knew I was loved.

When after college I got engaged my friend was excited to be invited to the party and later to be one of my bridesmaids.

I was far less excited about the idea of a big party than my mother who wanted a traditional event with lots of people; she wanted my father to announce with pride that his daughter Lynda was to be married, a little speech just for me. I felt shy and uncomfortable but my friend thought that would be the greatest thing in the world ever to happen to any girl. 

She missed the big announcement arriving late to the party because her father had to have “just one more drink” at the restaurant.

I will never forget my friend’s face when she rushed in to find she’d missed what she had so wanted to be present for. It exploded, awash with pain, rage and helplessness, almost feral, when she turned on her parents like a trapped wild beast, and said “You made me miss it.” 

Moments like that are ripe for despair.  They are prayers.

The voice of despair came some 30 years later after I was ordained and through my phone answering machine. My friend  located me because of a high school reunion list and dialed. I got the message and recognized her voice, drunk with alcohol and pain.

“I want to do what you do,” she said twice and hung up leaving no number to call back.

Oh, God.