Thursday, October 19, 2006
A Bad Hand, Badly Played
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you have your Halloween pumpkin yet? Those spooky decorations in your yard? Have you piled in the little packets of M&Ms? Oh yay! You're all ready for Samhain!
This year we at "The Gods Are Bored" are climbing the good ol' family tree, branch by lunatic branch. Today we get so far out on a limb we might just come crashing to the ground.
If you've been keeping up with "The Gods Are Bored," why thank you kindly! I'm honored. Anyway, you'll remember that my mama had two daddies, the one who claimed her legally ("Adolf") and the one who actually sired her ("Bubba"). And you'll further recall that Adolf and Bubba lived in the same house, with Granmaw cooking (and doing other things) for both of them. Bubba rented a room there long after Adolf no longer needed the dough.
Mama grew up in a household where expletives flew like fruit flies, where no one loved her (except Bubba when he was blotto), and where bigotry rampaged through the hallways. Curiously, no one owned a gun. Otherwise I probably wouldn't be sitting here typing this.
So Mama grew up with the conviction that screaming and cussing at the top of your lungs got results. And if that failed, you could always employ the fists or a suitable alternative. When I got old enough to understand the complexities of the English language, I found it odd that she called me a son of a bitch, since I was female and she would be that bitch.
(Channeling Ron Popile) But wait, there's more!
After turning 21, Mama was never a confident captain of her mental ship. For awhile she was able to teach, but after I was born she shut down. When I was two they shipped her to a padded cell in faraway Baltimore. The big-city doctor said she had manic depressive psychosis.
I still like that title better than bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder sounds like what happened to Captain Scott in the Antarctic. Psychosis, I guess, has become politically incorrect, but it sure describes Mama to a "T."
(Hey you snickering in the back row! I know half the posts I write for this blog make me sound psychotic too! But I'm not. I'M NOT I'M NOT I'M NOT NOT NOT!!!)
When you combine the worst possible bad-ass Cracker nurturing with a devastaing mental illness, it's kind of like shoving five Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke. Mama was either exploding like steroid-laden fireworks or lying on a couch with her face to the wall, waiting for her next shock treatment.
Have any of you seen Full Metal Jacket? That nightmare of a drill sargeant in the beginning? His name is Lee Irmey. I once stood in line (on Mr. Johnson's behalf) to get a script of Full Metal Jacket signed by Cpl. Irmey (USMC, ret.) When I got to the signing table, I looked him right in the eye and said, "You wouldn't have been a match for my mama, no way."
Have any of you seen Throw Mama from the Train? Welcome to my world.
When lithium carbonate got its FDA approval in 1976, Mama stopped having manic episodes every 8 months. But the lithium wasn't perfect, she still was mighty peculiar in public and a Lee Irmey terror at home.
I was probably the only student at Billy Bob Agricultural University (BBAU) who found dormitory life and cafeteria food to be an improvement of epic proportions over life at home with Mama.
"Oh," you're saying. "It's just an illness. How bad could it have been?"
When you're 16 and have to call the sheriff at 6:00 in the morning because your mama is trying to kill your daddy -- and then the sheriff shows up and you're friends with him because it's a damn small town, you tend to hit rock bottom. Don't ask me how I went through this without doping and drinking, I sure as hell don't know.
Mama got old before her time and died five years ago next month. Absent her toxic presence, I've been able to come to terms with how and why she was the way she was. I'm finally at peace with her, now that she's Asleep with the Confederate Dead. Once or twice a year I put pinwheels on her grave, sort of a symbol of the whirlwind that was her life.
Now those of you who have come to know and love me wonder how I can be so calm, cool, and collected. And how I can worship the Goddess, having had such a virago as a female role model. Three answers:
1. I got heaping helpings of my dad's DNA, which means I'm neither calm, cool, or collected, but I'm not bipolar either.
2. While living in the Mommy Gulag, I swore I'd never treat my spouse and children the way I was treated. Case closed, I never have.
3. The Goddess is awesome and wonderful.
Life hasn't been perfect for me in the past five years, but once you sift everything through those childhood memories, the little things don't bother you much. I do watch my daughters for telltale signs of that ugly (and sometimes fatal) illness, and so far so good. I hope so, because I can't go through bipolar disorder again.
Well. WooooHeee. We've finally gotten the slave-owners, racists, two-timers, and manic depressives out of the closet! And this heap of scary skeletons yields a happy ending, believe it or not. I'll tell you tomorrow.
I'M A SURVIVOR