Thursday, October 30, 2003

Sorting Out

I brought home some clothes from my brother. The ones I couldn't fit in my suitcase (and the one my mother loaned me) were went on later by Mom and Karen along with (inexplicably...) a Gevalia coffee maker my mom ordered for me(!?) Yes, it's true I love coffee, but the whole thing is confusing to me. I'm not sure why she ordered it, and I don't want to be committed to the regular coffee deliveries - ah, well... It was meant with love.

I also brought home things of my father's that my brother had been keeping. My dad and I had a very - ahem - rocky relationship. He died when I was 16 and we were not on good terms. The last years of his life had been one disappointment after another (both financially and health-wise) and he took out many of his frustrations on the target least likely to defend itself - me.

In subsequent converstions about this ongoing - well, okay - abuse my mother would alternatively defend my father's character and deny the abuse, but it hovers over our family like a nasty smell. The abuse took the form of verbal insults (terrible things you wouldn't call a dog, let alone a 14 year old girl) and physical violence.

I'm not alone in this. I think it's probably more common than many would like to admit (and also not as common as one might think from watching the sensationalized TV news magazines) It led to my runaway period (when I was 14/15) and I can say with all honesty that if my father hadn't died when he did it would have been very, very difficult for me to attend college. He refused to sign my application because he thought college was - well - I'm not sure what he thought it was, but he didn't want his kids going. I left high school and went to college when I was 16 (I turned 17 that Fall)

So now I've inherited things of his I never thought I'd have -things I'd trained myself not to want because of the bad memories and because they just didn't seem to belong to me. My brother admired my father - feared, perhaps - much more than I. Revered is the word I guess I'd use. My mother has almost succeeded in making my dad the first Methodist saint (his cannonization process continues - it would be interesting to watch if I didn't have the history that I do with him)

My father was an amazing man. He was mercurial, gifted, angry, selfish, painfully talented - not the best father material. He had been a photographer with the 2nd combat camera unit during WWII and took some of the first still and moving images of the liberation of Dachau.

A selection of these photographs, along with many others has now been passed down to me in the leather attaché where they were stored. I've also acquired his flight suit, his dress uniform, medals, the knit jumper he wore under his uniform on each of his missions (he was in the Army Air Corp, based primarily in England) Fascinating and wonderful stuff - just stuff I'd never envisioned owning. Now I have to find some way to do honor to it.

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posted by Annie at

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