Monday, May 29, 2017

For some, every day is Memorial day.

When someone you haven’t seen in ten years appears at the door...

I was looking through some photographs of my old neighborhood, friends and their families, which I've always said 'are just like Moonstruck'.  Not so much.  Not so glamorous.  Not so close.  Yes, the kitchen was the center of the home, and everyone just popped in and out, unannounced.  They just stopped by.  But that was pretty much only at my friend Linda's house - and that was very much like Moonstruck.  There were people in the neighborhood just like the characters in the film, but maybe not always as amiable as portrayed on screen.

Anyway.  Paging through the photo albums, combined with being in touch with a few old friends on Facebook, along with the prospect of a high school reunion in a few months brought me back to reality.  The 'Moonstruck' thing was all my fantasy, a romantic recall of what I had wanted that period of my life to be.  I wanted it to be my life, my home, my family.  Except I haven't seen many of these people in over 20 years - or longer.  I 'left' immediately after graduation - moved away as soon as I could.

If they say We should get together say why?

A few years later some of my old friends came looking for me, but once again - I left them.  My brother had married into one of the families, I enjoyed some time with them, but once again I left them.  Why did I keep leaving?

Now that I'm older, I think I know.  I think I always knew it wasn't my life, I wasn't a good fit, and I'm not Italian.   On some level, it helped to find out their fantasies didn't line up so well either.

 It's not that you don't love them.

In high school one of my friends whom I had always admired told me his mom felt sorry for me.  I think I must have told him that I didn't think she liked me - and that's when he explained she knew I came from a messed up family.  I guess everyone knew that, so I was really fortunate to be welcomed into their homes.  Although it could never remove the shame I felt.

As a newcomer to the neighborhood, we moved into a duplex while my dad was in the workhouse.  He had been chronically unemployed, in and out of trouble, we moved every year or so, left behind unpaid rents, my parents fought and caused trouble, and out of shame, I pretended to have a wonderful home life.  For a very long time I had no idea everyone knew how bad it was.  I was so busy trying to invent a normal life.

When they invite you to the party remember what parties are like ...

It still clings to me - that shame.  So over time I tried to flee, I disappeared.  My parents both shamed and defamed me, as it were.  They complained endlessly about how ungrateful I was, how they had 'reached out' to me, and how I disowned them and so on.  My dad beat my little brother warning 'don't turn out like Terry!'  My brother was sexually abused by a neighbor, and my parents blamed my brother and 'forgave' the perpetrator.  I felt guilty, that I had abandoned my brother and was no longer able to protect him because I had moved away.  Perhaps literally to save my life.  My dad once chased me out of the house with a meat cleaver.  Shortly after, I left with my things in a grocery bag, my brother pleading with me not to go.  "I have to leave."  I can see him standing there crying.  That still breaks my heart.

When I tried to get closer, to 'heal things' - Christians have to do that, the pain was so intense, that it took several days to 'get over it' - which is why I avoided 'reunions', holidays, and even weddings and funerals.

When they say Don’t I know you?  say no.

Recently, a younger cousin who is pretty much a stranger to me, actually said in an email, "I'm reaching out to you ..."  I do not even know him.  It was a thoughtful gesture, but I don't think he knows me at all.  When I was still living at home, we had very little contact with relatives.  My parents alienated them, and at times, one of my uncles forbade my aunt from even speaking to my mother on the phone.  Frequently the relatives were denigrated and slandered, more or less out of jealousy and envy by both my parents.  If the relatives were the victims of detraction and calumniated by my parents, one can easily believe mums and dadums did the exact same thing telling tales about their own children.  They were completely untrustworthy.

This weekend, I was looking for a photo of one of my uncle's paintings of his experience in WWII.  He died a couple of years ago.  He was one of the few who continued to keep in touch with me.  I discovered his obituary and noted he had a Catholic funeral and burial.  Years ago my mother told me he had quit the Church after divorcing his first wife and returned to the Lutheran church.  Long story short, I was deeply consoled to know he died a Catholic.  I only find out by chance when someone dies.  I suppose it's because I've been gone so long.  They think I don't care, or wouldn't show up for the funeral.  They try to think for me.  Sometimes they try to speak for me.  Other times they try to spare my feelings, maybe.

Tell them you have a new project.  It will never be finished.

This little essay helps explain why I avoid holidays.  It's not a complaint or a desire for sympathy - nothing like that at all.  It's just that the memories flood back on days like this.  For some of us, every day is Memorial Day, and so when the actual holiday arrives, it gets compounded.  It's difficult to explain.

It doesn't need to be fixed ... ah!

That is meaningful on so many levels:  It doesn't need to be fixed.

It doesn't need to be fixed.

Headings from Naomi Shihab Nye


  1. Hi Terry,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find your writing sometimes so very consoling. I am grateful for it. It is a complicated life and yet God is so good! It doesn't need to be fixed.


  2. Dear Terry,

    Your description of your childhood and attendant sorrow and shame and who you are now re the Faith, humor, your art and superb commentary reminds me of a very touching memory. I was at the Big Sur Folk Festival at Esalen in the 60s. Joan Baez and her sister Mimi were singing a song that overwhelmed me. Mimi's husband Richard Farina had been killed the week before in a motorcycle accident. And they are singing, their backs to the Pacific, "Pack Up Sorrows" with the words 'you would lose them, I know how to use them, give them all to me.' You have done that and are doing that and Jesus knows how to use them. Nothing is wasted and we, your faithful readers, are the beneficiaries. Biggest hug and blessings and thanks, P

    1. Wow. Thanks very much. I will remember those lyrics. 'you would lose them, I know how to use them, give them all to me.'

  3. Very powerful writing. Remember there was only one perfect family. Aside from the Holy Family we are all members of more or less imperfect families. Children suffer the most at the hands of immature and selfish parents. That is sad and a very great sin. Jesus told us so. I think of Heaven as a place where all our hurts are healed. Thank you for sharing yours. It is a difficult and brave thing to do. As we approach Pentecost I pray the Holy Spirit will embrace you with love.


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