Editor’s Pick
JUNE 21, 2009 3:33PM

My Father Was the Villain of My Childhood

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Alone at the Rest Stop


Michael: My Father’s Day story would go like this:

     My dad was Irish. My dad was a cook. My dad beat my mother to a pulp. My dad left. I’ve never seen or heard from my dad again.

Melissa: (A) Didn’t he beat your mom because she wanted to buy formula for you?

Michael: (A) Not wanted to. Did.

Melissa: (A) Was he actually married to your mom? I thought she still lived with your grandparents.

Michael: (A) Well, they weren’t married at first, but then they got married after she got pregnant.

Melissa: (A) Oh, I see. I didn’t realize that.

     To say “again” implies that you had seen or heard him to begin with.

Michael: I probably had little one-month–old eyes going like this (googling eyes).

     So I probably did see him. I just didn’t recognize him as a human being.

     Because in a way, he wasn’t.

Melissa: (B) So lemme try doing my Father’s Day story now.

     (B) My dad is Jewish. My dad is a surfer. My dad married my mother when I was six. Four years later, I left. I haven’t seen my dad in over a decade, but I hear from him once or twice a year—usually around my birthday, which he can never quite remember.

     (E) I realize it feels weird for me to say “my dad,” since I’ve never actually called him that before. I always just say “Danny”.

Michael: (B) Does he ask you what day your birthday is every time he calls?

Melissa: (B) Yes, he does. He tries guessing, but he always gets it wrong.

(later)

Michael: I’ve never really understood what’s bothered me about families.

Melissa: There’s this artificial reverence—

Michael: Exactly.

Melissa: So even if a person has behaved abominably—

Michael: Maybe even especially if they have, because then the person gets the delight of getting to forgive them.

Melissa: Yes, but truly forgiving them is painful. It takes a certain degree of courage. But forgiving them doesn’t mean these people aren’t flawed.

Michael: Well, Melissa, what you just said doesn’t make any sense. Because in order to forgive someone, they must’ve erred in some way, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to forgive them for. That means flawed.

Melissa: Yes, yes. But I mean, a person acknowledging that other person’s frailties—but not in a pitying sort of worshipful way. Just an honest, straight-on, authentic way.

Michael: I guess it’s just when it begins to take on the form of worship that it begins to bother me. I don’t believe human beings should worship other human beings.

     I admire John Lennon. I admire him for the music he wrote. I admire him for the things that he rejected that he could’ve taken, I admire him for the bravery that it took to marry somebody whom obviously everyone else he knew hated, but I don’t worship him. I don’t think I worship anybody. If it was close, it would be you—

Melissa: “I worship you.”

Michael: Hahaha. Very good.

Melissa: (C) Maybe we have a chance of actually making this a short one.

Michael: (F) Haah!

     (C) I guess it reflects how little we have to say about our fathers.

     (C) I mean, my father was the villain of my childhood.

Melissa: (C) Yeah, weren’t you always afraid he was going to try and come get you?

Michael: (C) Yes. And on two occasions—one with my grandparents, and the other with one of my foster families, which was going through the process toward adoption—

Melissa: (C) But didn’t actually. Because didn’t they end up getting divorced?

Michael: (C) Yes.

Melissa: (C) So anyway, I remember you talking about that time your grandparents made you go and hide because they thought he had come to the house.

Michael: (C) Yes, that was very scary for me. Because we heard the knock, and seeing my grandparents so frightened frightened me, probably worse than I had ever been frightened before. So they scooted me off to my room and went over to the front door and then opened it. They were standing side by side at the door. I know this because, of course, I snuck out and popped my head in between them to see who it was.

Melissa: (C) And who was it?

Michael: (C) I have no idea.

Melissa: (C) Hahaha.

Michael: (C) It was a false alarm.

Melissa: (C) Well, wasn’t your father sort of a father to you, at least after your mother died? Which is practically from birth.

     (G) Whoops, I realized I said and even wrote “father” here, when I meant “grandfather”. No wonder you answered the way you did.

Michael: (C) He was gone before she died.

Melissa: (C) Your father was?

Michael: (C) Yes.

Melissa: (C) So they separated within less than six months?

Michael: (C) Three.

Melissa: (C) Are you sure about that, because that’s about when your mother died. She left him just before—or actually, he left her just before she was killed?

Michael: (C) The thing is, Melissa, I grew up thinking that my mom died when I was six months old.

     (C) But that doesn’t figure.

Melissa: (C) I know, that’s what I was thinking.

Michael: (C) My grandparents specifically said that my mom was coming home from a Christmas party when she was killed in an accident. That’s why Christmas was always such a morose holiday for us.

     (C) And I was born in September. I couldn’t have been older than three months when she died. And my dad left before she was killed.

Melissa: (C) Do you think he left because she kicked him out after the beatings? Or did he just leave because they didn’t get along and he didn’t want the responsibility of raising a child?

Michael: (C) He probably felt pressured into the marriage, and he obviously had anger problems.

Melissa: (C) He was probably an alcoholic, too, right? Or would that just be the drunken Irish stereotype.

Michael: (C) I don’t remember my grandparents ever mentioning anything about drinking. But I don’t know.

Melissa: (C) Well, that’s when the wife-beating usually happens. How old were you when you found that police photo of your mother?

Michael: (C) Mmm. I would’ve been in the fourth or fifth grade.

Melissa: (C) And you just found those photos in a drawer?

Michael: (C) No, a strongbox, a firebox.

Melissa: (C) You were snooping in the firebox?

Michael: (C) I had a snooping problem when I was a child.

Melissa: (C) I think it’s called childhood curiosity.

Michael: (C) Yes, but I don’t think I was surprised by a single Christmas present after about the age of four.

Melissa: (C) Yeah, you would actually unwrap the presents—and then wrap them back up again so your grandparents wouldn’t notice?

Michael: (C) Right.

Melissa: (C) So back to the photo, photos. Was it just one or more than one?

Michael: (C) One or two. I’m not sure I remember.

     (C) But what do these photos have to do with Father’s Day?

Melissa: (C) They have to do with the part of your story about your father beating your mother. That’s how you found out. When you saw the photos of her all bruised and swollen.

     (C) And that’s probably when you decided . . . well, how did that make you feel about him? Did you have any real feelings for him as a father? Or was he really just a stranger who did horrible things to your mother?

Michael: (C) I didn’t know he did that horrible thing to my mom until I saw the picture. But as I was growing up, my grandparents would tell me what a bad man he was.

Melissa: (C) So is that how you found out he beat her up because she bought formula for you?

Michael: (C) No. My grandparents told me that story before. And they even included that he beat her up. But in my child mind, getting beat up was, you know, getting beat up, and then you stand up and walk home. What he did to my mom’s face was horrific.

     (C) After I saw those photos, I wasn’t indifferent toward him anymore.

Melissa: (C) Did you ever feel like you missed having a father?

Michael: (C) No.

Melissa: (C) Me neither.

     (C) Actually, I preferred not having one. That’s one reason I resented Danny so much when my mom finally married him and we had to move in together.

Michael: (C) When I finally did have a normal father for the first time—with the family that almost adopted me—it was like the most natural thing for this person to be my dad, and for me to be his son.

Melissa: (C) Yeah, but did you ever really feel like a “real” son? Because it seems like you were always treated as slightly outside the family.

Michael: (C) No, that’s a misperception. Probably ’cuz I’ve just told you of the few times when I was treated that way, so those are just the most memorable things to you. But if you saw it as a pie chart, it’d only represent about two percent or one percent.

Melissa: (C) Oh, really? That’s funny, because I don’t actually know much about the 98 percent, then.

Michael: (C) That’s because it was just normal boring family stuff.

Melissa: (C) Haha.

     (C) I didn’t think you experienced any sort of normality, familywise, anyway.

Michael: (C) Well, even though I lived with many different families, each family in and of itself was normal, with their own particular peculiarities.

Melissa: (C) I was realizing the father figure who probably meant the most to you was actually someone you called an uncle, who wasn’t really an uncle.

Michael: (C) No. My grandparents would just always encourage their friends to let me call them uncle and aunt in the hopes of giving me some sense of family.

Melissa: (C) I just realized something.

Michael: (C) What?

Melissa: (C) Do you even know if your grandparents had any siblings? And if they had any children?

Michael: (C) No.

Melissa: (C) Whoa. I suppose if there were any relatives, living nearby at least, then you would’ve ended up living with them at some point.

Michael: (C) Right. After my grandmother died, it was always friends that my grandfather managed to talk into taking me in.

Melissa: (C) How long was it after she died that he did that?

Michael: (C) Before I had even gotten a chance to play with the bicycle I had asked for for Christmas—

Melissa: (C) Wait. Did your grandma actually die around Christmas, too?

Michael: (C) Yes.

Melissa: (C) Help.

     (C) You probably never really felt good about Christmas, then?

Michael: (C) No, because there were times when Christmas was great, like with other families. With my grandparents, though, it was terrible, because they were always thinking about their daughter.

Melissa: (C) Yeah, they were really just griefstricken shells going through the motions of trying to raise you, probably.

Michael: (C) Definitely. (pause) My grandfather twiceso after my grandmother died.

     (C) But once again, these things aren’t really about fathers. Although I’m not really surprised that a metaness post can’t stay on topic.

Melissa: (C) But it is ultimately about fathers—the absence of your father as you were growing up is signficant.

Michael: (C) Well, the thing is, I was just thinking, actually, I have a perspective of having had multiple fathers growing up.

     (C) If you count my grandpa, but not my biological father—

Melissa: (C) Go ahead and count your biological father.

Michael: (C) Well, I’m one of those your-father-is-the-person-who-raised-you–kind of people. You know, the person who cared for you, nurtured you, loved you. That person, whether they were your grandparents or aunts or whoever, sisters and brothers—those are your mothers and fathers.

     (C) Making babies doesn’t require that much effort.

Melissa: (C) Haha.

     (C) So you were counting?

Michael: (C) So without my biological father, one, two—

Melissa: (C) Wait. Can you name each one so I can keep track of who’s who?

Michael: (C) Fred—

Melissa: (C) That’s your grandpa.

Michael: (C) Right. Chuck.

Melissa: (C) The friends of your grandpa who first took you in?

Michael: (C) Yes, the truckdriver.

Melissa: (C) Chuck the truckdriver.

Michael: (C) Yes. Then Don.

Melissa: (C) Who ended up cheating on Betty with a witch named Carolyn.

Michael: (C) Well, she used to like to flatter herself that she was one.

Melissa: (C) Was she Wicken?

Michael: (C) That’s what I mean. She wasn’t serious. She was just witchy.

Melissa: (C) You don’t mean bitchy—

Michael: (C) No. Catty. Devilish.

Melissa: (C) Are you sure you mean “catty”? Like gossipy?

Michael: (C) Let’s look up “catty”.

     (C) “deliberately hurtful in one's remarks; spiteful.”

     (C) Okay, I’m using the wrong word then.

Melissa: (C) That’s what I thought. Okay, but we’re getting off track. You were up to number three.

Michael: (C) Don.

Melissa: (C) Right. Go on.

Michael: (C) John.

Melissa: (C) Which one was he?

Michael: (C) Remember? He was the one that Betty married, who shortly after convinced her to kick me out.

Melissa: (C) Ohhh. I don’t know much about him at all. I don’t think you’ve talked very much about him.

Michael: (C) I detested him.

Melissa: (C) I’m sure.

Michael: (C) I used to call him John Moldynoodle.

Melissa: (C) Oh! Now I know who you’re talking about. Hahaha.

Michael: (C) I mean, even the first moment I met him, he struck me as the type of person who was really after Betty.

     (C) Like a wolf.

Melissa: (C) Ugggh.

Michael: (C) Next . . . would be Ed.

Melissa: (C) The racist, wife-beating—

Michael: (C) He’s not a wife-beater! He would never have hit Carly.

Melissa: (C) He’s not the Africaaner?

Michael: (C) Yes.

     (C) You’re confusing him with Chuck.

Melissa: (C) Ohhh.

Michael: (C) Chuck beat up Sherry one night and would use boat oars to beat his children—his boys.

Melissa: (C) Not you ever, though.

Michael: (C) No, he never touched me. I only lived there for about two or three months.

     (C) Every time I was just getting settled in somewhere, my grandfather would come charging back and pick me up because he was so lonely and hated being separated from me.

Melissa: (C) And you were always so uncomfortable around him. I remember you saying how you were afraid he was going to drive off a cliff or something while you guys were driving.

Michael: (C) Well, that’s mostly attributable to my paranoia.

Melissa: (C) Haha.

Michael: (C) But also because he and my grandmother just always seemed so sad.

Melissa: (C) I’m sure they were. Deeply.

     (C) It’s too bad they couldn’t have embraced the blessing of getting to raise you like many grandparents who’ve lost a child would do, though.

Michael: (C) I don’t know. Maybe because of my AS, I wasn’t very reciprocal of their love.

Melissa: (C) I got the impression that they weren’t very affectionate. They were just too broken.

Michael: (C) No. My grandmother was the one who was so distant and not very affectionate.

     (C) My grandfather was the opposite. He loved me so much that he always wanted to hug and kiss me, but I hated that. And I don’t just mean in the way that kids hate it. I mean, I still don’t like being touched unless I’m expecting it.

Melissa: (C) Right, the Asperger’s—hypersensitivity.

Michael: (C) Yes.

Melissa: (C) Okay, sorry, I keep sidetracking. You were on #4?

Michael: (C) I don’t know the number, but it was Ed. Edgar.

     (C) The Red Baron.

Melissa: (C) The Red Baron?

Michael: (C) That was his handle. When CBs were popular, people had handles, and his handle was The Red Baron.

Melissa: (C) I see. So he was into the whole CB culture?

Michael: (C) Definitely.

Melissa: (C) And so even though he wasn’t the wife-beater, he was racist, right? He was from South Africa and raised under Apartheid.

Michael: (C) Yes.

     (C) He also liked eating cold, raw hamburger.

Melissa: (C) Like steak tartare?

Michael: (C) No, like straight from the package.

Melissa: (C) Hahaha.

     (C) Talk about primitive.

Michael: (C) Hahaha.

Melissa: (C) Okay, who’s next?

Michael: (C) Tom.

Melissa: (C) Really? Jumps all the way there?

Michael: (C) By the time I was living with Ed and Carly, I was in junior high. I lived with them until I joined the military.

Melissa: (C) Oh, okay. Gottit.

Michael: (D) Is there an end to this?

     (C) So how many was that total?

Melissa: (C) Okay. Fred, Don—

Michael: (C) No, Chuck.

Melissa: (C) Okay, sorry. Fred, Chuck, Don, Edgar, and Tom?

Michael: (C) You’ve left somebody out.

Melissa: (C) Who?

Michael: (C) John.

Melissa: (C) Oh yeah!

Michael: (C) He goes between Don and Edgar.

Melissa: (C) He’s the one I always forget because I don’t know much about him.

     (C) Okay, so that makes six. And if you were to count your biological father, who was a father of sorts, if not a “real” one, that would make seven.

Michael: (C) Looking at that list, I realize it actually goes Fred, Chuck, Fred, Don, John, Fred, Edgar, Tom.

     (C) I went back with my grandfather twice.

Melissa: (C) Oh, just twice? It seemed like more often than that.

Michael: (C) Well, there is one time I’m not counting. That time I talked about earlier when my grandmother died.

     (C) Probably within a few days of my grandmother’s death, I was in the backseat of a car driven by that person you mentioned that I called “Uncle”—

Melissa: (C) Right, Uncle Jim.

Michael: (C) Yes, and we were following behind my grandfather, who was in the car in front of us. And we were driving to Arizona. Phoenix, actually.

     (C) My favorite part was crossing the border into Arizona. Because they had a display of all of the insects that could be found there, and one of them was an
enormous tarantula.

     (C) Anyway, my grandfather had the idea that I was going to live with a woman and her daughter there, and it’s strange ’cuz I’m not even sure—they were probably just friends with my grandfather and Jim somehow. But the next morning, I was back in a car with my grandfather headed home. Because he couldn’t stand the idea of being parted from me.

     (C) All I know is that I was about to live with a very cool lady who had a very cool daughter who had a
very cool iguana.

Melissa: (C) Hahaha.

Michael: (C) So, it was when I got back with my grandfather that I found the bike that was intended for the Christmas present. The Cotton Picker, it was called. A rather unfortunate name. But one that made perfect sense at the time because it was the white version of the red bike, called the Cherry Picker.

Melissa: (C) Okay wait. Let’s get back to your “Uncle” Jim. He was really the truest father you almost had.

Michael: (C) Well, not really, because he actually spent very little time with me, and when he did, he was the total outdoorsman. He was more interested in doing his outdoorsman things.

Melissa: (C) But he brought you along to participate, so it sort of gave you a more family experience.

Michael: (C) Okay, but once again, you seem to equate one or two times with a lifetime of experiences. We went out camping on his boat two or three times.

     (C) For me, though, Uncle Jim was the embodiment of everything I
wanted a father to be that my grandfather was not.

Melissa: (C) Right. It must’ve been embarrassing to be raised by your grandparents.

Michael: (C) Yes, I was embarrassed. I was always trying to drop clues to people that these were not my parents, that these were in fact my grandparents. It was stupid, really.

Melissa: (C) Well, I think that’s something all children tend to go through—not necessarily embarrassment of their grandparents. But something about their parents or guardians embarrasses them because it doesn’t fit the Brady Bunch mold. But how many families really do? And how interesting are they? Like Tolstoy says, “All happy families—” Wait, what is it again? Let me look it up.

     (C) That’s it.

     (C) “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

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Comments

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I don't believe in happy families. Just happy moments. But, god, this makes me feel lucky.

This is a fine piece of work, scary in its honesty.
I am so glad, despite all of this, that you have found eachother and grown into (what seems to me from afar anyway) really wonderful people!
interesting- and not in a Freud sort of chin groping way- just in a 'so that's your background' kind of way
Finding sanity within chaos is a precious thing.


'Melissa: Yes, but truly forgiving them is painful. It takes a certain degree of courage. But forgiving them doesn’t mean these people aren’t flawed.'

How true! Rated...
So interesting, so sad-funny. It's amazing what people can live through and still be such good writers with excellent insights and cleverness. The part about forgiveness really hit a nerve with me. It's hard.
Right. You forgive them because they are flawed. After my mother died, a friend who was concerned about the depth of my grief, I guess, told me, "Your mom wasn't perfect." And I thought, "Exactly."
I am sorry to see that you appear to be writing Part 4 for the dystopic civilization panorama. :-) Or shall I use this: :-(
@“Hello,” she lied:

Delighted to see you here, Hello.

We thank you for your wise and empathetic words. How you manage to say so much in so few words remains a mystery to us, but we admire you for it.

We, too, feel lucky, and we are profoundly grateful for every happy moment together.

* * *

@mamoore:

“I am so glad, despite all of this, that you have found each other”

So are we!

We think you’re wonderful, too, mamoore.

* * *

@Julie:

Thank you for your perpetual inquisitiveness, Julie. We’re grateful to count you among our faithful flock of OneReaders :-)

* * *

@Elena:

We’re honored to welcome you here, Elena.

“My mother in law, when we we traveled through a city, would often say, ‘There is so much pain and sadness in those houses. It is more than we could ever imagine.’”

Your mother-in-law sounds like a compassionate woman. This quote makes me (Melissa) think of Chekhov, Alice Munro, Brian Friel, Eavan Boland—all of those writers who have so poignantly portrayed the sadnesses—as well as the sparks of grace—that reside in those domestic interiors.

“Blessings of much joy to you both in your lives together.”

Thank you, Elena. Every day together is joyful for us, and it is made even moreso by sharing it with dear friends like you.

Wishing you a blessed Father’s Day for the past, and a luminous Mother’s Day for the present.

* * *

@Mr. Mustard:

Dear Mr. Mustard, thank you for sharing your kindness of spirit and sharp mind with so many of us at OS. We’re relieved to know you still find us sane after all of our meta madness ;-)

* * *

@latethink:

Sad-funny. We like that. Probably one of the reasons we are so drawn to Irish writers is their brilliant sense of humor, which buoys them up in the face of centuries of oppression and conflict.

Your generous words mean a great deal to us. Best wishes on your own journey toward forgiveness.

* * *

@consonantsandvowels:

Exactly, indeed! How can anyone be “concerned” about the depth of one’s grief over a mother’s loss?! If by “concerned” you mean she thought you were grieving too much. She sounds like someone who clearly hasn’t had to experience such loss herself. She will someday, no doubt, but it’s unfortunate that people often have to be pressed through the wringer of grief before they can genuinely empathize with others in their heartache.

I (Melissa) think the loss can be even more cutting if the flaws are perceived to lie more in yourself than the departed. When my grandma (whom you already know a bit from our last post) passed away nearly two years ago, I was not only griefstricken, but guiltstricken, as well. She had written us a letter shortly before her stroke, and an exceptionally intense workload (coupled with a simultaneous exhibition—not to mention work on her documentary, ironically) had prevented us from responding as quickly as we normally would. Plus, we had purchased her a birthday gift that had been sitting unsent for a couple of months, waiting for all the chaos to subside so I could find time to jot off a letter. The gift was a DVD box set of Jeeves and Wooster, which as far as we know she had never seen. She was an avid Wodehouse fan and so particular about who voiced Jeeves in her many audiobooks of that series, we were certain she would find Stephen Fry the quintessential embodiment of Jeeves. And yet, it became one more unsent package, one more unfulfilled intention that imbued my grief with a sour guilt I am only just beginning to shake.

Wishing you solace and peace as you continue to heal, consonantsandvowels.

* * *

@GalaxyMan:

We appreciate your sympathies, GalaxyMan. No need for the :-( as we have been living on the :-) side of this story for many years now. And every new encounter has offered an occasion to learn more about the breadth and depth of human nature—a subject of study dear to your galactic heart, we well know.

* * *

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time and thought to share your heartfelt comments. We are so happy to be a part of this inspiring and supportive creative community.

m&m
This is the most profound and significant of all of the Father's Day writings. The two person dialogue makes it flow so wonderfully and this brings the reader into the whole experience. This is just so cool. I love to read your stuff.
do re - so re mi - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The music of our fathers in mata-speak. In a moment of 'full disclosure' I commented to Newton that the highest title I have been awarded is that of Uncle - Tio -

I have two children of my own and the title of father - is never truly awarded until I see them through the cosmic portal into their lives :)

Yes, biological contribution does not a father make...really.

Jumping up and down about the EP *bow* (most meta posts do Not ever make it) Peace, paz, peece!

peece!
dj
Hey, congrats on the EP!

My mother died many years ago, but the solace and peace is still greatly appreciated. I still miss her.

I enjoy knowing your grandmother was a Jeeves fan.

Guilt prolongs grief and remorse is so heavy -- I'm glad to hear you're letting it go. Be easy on your self. Your grandmother would be. You were just a busy human doing busy human things, it wasn't lack of love .
Melissa, I suppose another way of looking at it is that you had a very rich and varied childhood experience. It's now up to you to make the most of it.

Once again coincidentally, I see you had a Afrikaaner as a father as well. I posted a piece about that not so long ago if you're interested -- Ignorance and Evil.

And congrats on the EP.
@micalpeace:

We can’t imagine a higher compliment, micalpeace—considering how much we respect the source, as well as how much we’ve been savoring the exceptionally rich Father’s Day posts we’ve been reading all weekend. It’s hard for us to agree, but we certainly appreciate hearing it. Thank you again for always inspiring, in both your responses and in your own good work.
@dj:

DJ! We’ve missed you, old friend. Hope you’ve assuaged your soul and have found peece in contemplation.

“I have two children of my own and the title of father - is never truly awarded until I see them through the cosmic portal into their lives :)”

How blessed they are to have a father of your poetic sensitivity, wide and compassionate heart, and creative soul. We’re confident you will guide them wisely through the cosmic portal.

“Jumping up and down about the EP *bow*”

Aw, shucks. You’ve been here from practically the beginning and have been one of our most enthusiastic One-Readers, so we have you to thank for contributing to the creative feed.

newLISP v.10.0.8 on OSX IPv4 UTF-8, execute 'newlisp -h' for more info.

> [cmd]
(define (........)
(fn () (fn () (fn ()
(push (sym (select "smarten" 1 -2 4 2 -1 5 0 -7)) '(((()))) 0 0 0 0)
)))
)
[/cmd]
(lambda () (lambda () (lambda () (lambda ()
(push (sym (select "smarten" 1 -2 4 2
-1 5 0 -7)) '(((()))) 0 0 0 0)))))
> ((((........))))
((((metaness))))
> _
@consonantsandvowels:

“Hey, congrats on the EP!”

Thank you! It certainly was an unexpected honor.

“My mother died many years ago, but the solace and peace is still greatly appreciated. I still miss her.”

Time heals, but never erases the aching absence. But what a wondrously brilliant and compassionate person you have become. How proud your mom must be of you.

“I enjoy knowing your grandmother was a Jeeves fan.”

Yes, I have her to thank for introducing me to Jeeves and Wooster. She once said, “I don’t believe a person is truly literate until they’ve read Wodehouse.” She bought me my first Wodehouse, and I was off and running from there.

“Guilt prolongs grief and remorse is so heavy -- I'm glad to hear you're letting it go. Be easy on your self. Your grandmother would be. You were just a busy human doing busy human things, it wasn't lack of love.”

Thank you, consonantsandvowels. This means so much coming from you. You know my grandma so well, it amazes me. Several weeks after her departure, I found a letter she had written us that started, “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!” and went on to hilariously discuss how guilty she felt about taking so long to write us. She, too, was a perfectionist-procrastinator, and that letter expressing my own feelings out of her mouth was a tremendous salve. I remembered how, of course, we felt there was absolutely nothing for her to feel guilty about, and we tried to tell her that, as well. She practiced grace in her life and her words—now, it’s a matter of learning to accept that gift of grace for ourselves.

m&m
@Newton:

Newton: Melissa, I suppose another way of looking at it is that you had a very rich and varied childhood experience. It's now up to you to make the most of it.

Melissa: Actually, mine was the rather mundane version—it was Michael who had the rich and varied experiences :-)

Michael: And I do feel fortunate. I never felt sorry for myself as a child. It’s only as an adult that I’m beginning to realize how much I may have missed, not having a close relationship with a mother and father while growing up.

Newton: Once again coincidentally, I see you had a Afrikaaner as a father as well.

Michael: Yes, I lived with that family for about five years. Edgar used a term I had never heard before: “jigaboo.” And he used to laugh when I asked him what it meant. He just loved to rattle off all of these names for people he considered inferior to himself. He seemed to relish his hatred.

Newton: I posted a piece about that not so long ago if you're interested -- Ignorance and Evil.

Michael: Yes, we’re very interested. Thank you, Newton!

Melissa: Sounds fascinating—these are definitely topics very close to our hearts.

Newton: And congrats on the EP.

Melissa: You have played an important role in this process. Thanks for all of your encouraging responses and thought-provoking writing.
@Cindy:

What a privilege it is to welcome you to our meta-home, Cindy. You and Phoebe are much in our thoughts.

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Conversation is so soul-satisfying with an intelligent best friend. But must confess--you have lost me with the (A)'s and (F)'s and (B)'s and (C)'s. Can you explain to the uninitiated?”

Thank you for this thoughtful response, Cindy, with special gratitude for reminding us to initiate the uninitiated! Most of our readers have been following along as we’ve documented the creative process from the very inception of this blog. This journey has included developing a continually evolving typographical system to document the process of writing about writing. Our system in its current state—which could very well get tweaked in future posts—is used to represent the “metaing” of the original text and the chronological flow in which those metas were inserted.

Make sense? Probably not. Let’s try again.

The first uninterrupted conversation is unlabeled—that’s what we sometimes refer to as the top-level. It’s when we go back and start commenting on the conversation (metaing) that the lettering system is introduced. The “(A)” represents the first time we make an insertion into the original text, either as an addendum or a tangent sparked by the existing dialogue. This grouping of lines under a particular letter is what we call a “meta”. Metas added later in the process are assigned letters sequentially. Some of our posts have been known to get as high as “(Q)”!

Theoretically, the text should still be able to be read straight through without paying much attention to the lettering. Our hope is to make the creative process as transparent as possible and to make it clear when (and at which point) text has been added after the original writing. Often, the “meta”s get inserted as we read through during the acts of editing and performing, sometimes during the same time span, sometimes even later in the week.

We hope this hasn’t actually caused more confusion. It’s nearing 4 in the morning, and we’re growing somewhat incoherent. Please let us know if you (or anyone else for that matter!) needs further elucidation.

m&m
It´s the first time I´ve read a post by you, and I enjoyed it; it´s like reading a scene in a theatre play. Anyway I felt identified with Cindy at the confusion with the letters between parentheses, but I found your explanation.
Rated.
dont know what to say, it is disturbing... didn't get the A, B, C, E bit, or the italics, wd you explain please( if you dont mind).
loved the drawing
i: father was an alky, so was mom.
I: and you?
i:alky
I:now?
i:no...

she: stop blaming all yr problems on yr upbringing! we all had tough childhoods...
he: not like mine!!!! mine was the WORST!

I: have you asked her about hers?
he:i've tried & tried...
I:what really does it matter?
he: in some way, it matters NOW. It's in my muscles! they are all cramped up by avoiding the love i was offered! i cant get no love!
my heart is a black hole...i smash her to pieces and suck her in...
I:Why the fuck do you do that?
he: um...revenge i guess.
I:and she?
he: she's smashing ME to pieces too, but, in a different way...

I:What's the center of the gravity here?
he: what i NEED, right NOW!
I:& that Is...?
he: oh god i dunno...mother..father...help me
I: yre a selfpitying little baby...
he : mm hm
@Marcela:

Happy to see you here! We appreciate your great remarks, as well as your feedback on the system. Glad you found some clarity in the comment to Cindy. We’ll try to work on a tutorial for newbies in the future :-)


@Rolling:

Thanks for your visit and kind comments, as always!

As for the A, B, C, etc. bit, please see the clarifications in our response to Cindy above. We’ve talked about assembling a primer for newcomers, but for now, we’re hoping that will help you navigate the logic. The good news is you should be able to ignore the lettering and just enjoy the ride :-)


@Jim:

Happy to see we've inspired some self-analytical metaing of your own! We hope the little “i”/“he” triumphs over the self-destructive “I” and unsympathetic “she” :-) We're rooting for you (or should that be “i”?)

m&m
wow, this is amazing. i agree with what everyone has said, that it's so wonderful that you two found each other. and that you can tell your story with such extreme honesty with the support of each of you for the other. sorry, running a high fever and not making a lto of sense tonight. that is interesting about the aspergers, about everything. i'm so glad to find out that the We Melissa uses isn't the Royal We. :) love love love and gratitude
Boy, I think I've been looking for this phrase for a long time but couldn't quite nail it:

"There’s this artificial reverence."

Indeed, indeed.

Another phrase that gets me is "He/She did the best he/she could." How do you know? How does anyone know that? Not everyone is going around doing the "best they can." Sometimes, as in the stories mentioned, people are doing just the effin' opposite.

(Random note: I'm trying to figure out how you closed the italicized tags on Joan's comments. Once I forget to close them, even if I add a closed tag to a new comment, it doesn't close! I figured only the blogger can fix it?)
@Theodora:

Thanks for visiting, Theodora! We appreciate your enthusiastic and generous comments. No need to apologize whatsoever: you make perfect sense to us :-)

“i'm so glad to find out that the We Melissa uses isn't the Royal We. :)”

Hahaha!

Love and gratitude to you, as well, Theodora.


@Beth:

A warm and tender welcome to you, Beth.

Glad you liked that phrase. Hope it comes in handy for you sometime. It’s really quite versatile—there are so many sacred bovines it could be applied to!

“Another phrase that gets me is ‘He/She did the best he/she could.’ How do you know? How does anyone know that? Not everyone is going around doing the ‘best they can.’ Sometimes, as in the stories mentioned, people are doing just the effin' opposite.”

Indeed, indeed. Very well-put, Beth, and astutely observed.

“(Random note: I'm trying to figure out how you closed the italicized tags on Joan's comments. Once I forget to close them, even if I add a closed tag to a new comment, it doesn't close! I figured only the blogger can fix it?)”

I’m afraid I didn’t figure anything out. It’s just as broken as it originally was. Of course, this would (note the properly closed “”!) happen the first time I bothered to comment on one of Joan’s posts. I think it occurred after Dancing at Lughnasa. I was horrified to witness the run-on italics the instant after hitting “Post this comment.” I’m just glad I was able to respond quickly enough with a mea culpa for the typographical yelling.
So glad I finally got here! Not sure how I missed it in the first place . . . but wow, what a perspective! Although my parents came from fairly close-knit families, my wife and I have embraced a more egalitarian approach to our "family of choice" which includes us, our son, and those we're close to - primarily friends who are kindred spirits. It seemed to be the only thing that really made sense to us.

Loved this post - blessings on your journey together, and continued understanding of the past, present and future.
Meta.
yr response+ fascinating. the big I was the boss. he sounds tough & mean, because he is not Superego, but
Ideal Ego. Ideal Ego is the one from above,
pulling me up in the toughest way imaginable:

brutal honesty & criticism of everything...no, this may SOUND like superego,
which is just pigmother......criticizing & bitching....

yes, She exists, and is projected into little "she", alas...

It is the fate of a woman who loves a man to be projected into his head as his superego, while she languishes in her being, criticized for
her criticisms of "he",
which may or may not actually reflect Superego...

perhaps "he" puts words into "she's " mouth?
too bad, she deserves to be heard with clarity.....her love is contingent on so many things...


that she is not even aware of...like how mommy treated "he" in the bathtub when he was 4....how mommy referred to his penis or his anus or his squirming little libido....did mommy say the right thing?

these are the issues "she " unawarely deals with, as "he" struggles under Superego's chastisements...

but I, big I, is the Father perhaps...not the human father, but the .....well, "Father" is but metaphor for the growing transcendednt pull of selfbetterment in the service of the core...

the core demands: find the center of gravity here, and pity not yr ego,
which will die & be reborn..

but the egos in transition to glory, shedding skin after skin...
which floats into noospheric realms of books on the shelf
@mary gravitt:

If you knew how much we appreciate BBC humor (Britcoms—haven’t yet had an opportunity to explore the radio plays, but we must now!), you’d realize how much your comment means to us. Thank you, Mary, for your kind visit, as well as your wise words from Toni Morrison.

@Owl_Says_Who:

We’re so glad, too! We always appreciate your loving words and wish you and your family of choice many continued blessings, as well.

@Jim:

Your ongoing self-psychoanalysis always enlightens—we hope it brings you to a place of healing. Perhaps communicating these feelings to the “she” will help with the relational fence-mending. We can only hope and wish you solace on your journey toward shedding the floating skins and seeking truths in the noospheric realms of the books on the shelves.

m&m
Wow! What lives! I am glad you found each other and hope you are very happy!
@Delia:

“Wow! What lives!”

Look who’s talking!

“I am glad you found each other”

Thank you! So are we.

“and hope you are very happy!”

Yes we are, gratefully so.

We’re also grateful for your kindness from the beginning, Delia. Thank you.

m&m
Just "met" the two of you, but so glad you're here. Your posts and the accompanying comments are like a little vibrant community unto themselves, entire. I could just wade through all your stuff for hours. But the cafe is about to close.

Thanks for such honesty and beauty, derived from such trials - and I agree with what's been said so many times before in this conversation: so happy the two of you have each other. What a gift!
Your essay here reminds me that life can be miraculous: you two are generous, warmhearted, insightful, smart, and HAPPY together! Despite Michael's AS and sketchy upbringing. Takes my breath away. Makes my heart sing. Inspires me to one cliche after another *-)

Your explanation for Cindy of how you work is illuminating. As a writer and editor, I see now that you are, from my POV, revealing your editing process. Innovative and interesting.

Re Jeeves. Loved the series. My son has read all the books. And I follow Stephen Fry on Twitter - it's warming to have him in one's life. He, too, likes BBC radio drama.

And finally, how do you create italics in a comment? Does HTML work? I'll try it and see: is this in italics?>

Blessings.
@keenoctopus:

keenoctopus: Just "met" the two of you, but so glad you're here.

m&m: We’re so glad you’re here, too.

keenoctopus: Your posts and the accompanying comments are like a little vibrant community unto themselves, entire.

m&m: Welcome to metaland!

keenoctopus: I could just wade through all your stuff for hours. But the cafe is about to close.

m&m: Hey, you’re about to experience time-gifting through deception! Or maybe in this case, it’s delusion. As in misunderstanding. Oh well, you know what we mean.

keenoctopus: Thanks for such honesty and beauty, derived from such trials

m&m: You’re most welcome.

keenoctopus: and I agree with what's been said so many times before in this conversation: so happy the two of you have each other. What a gift!

m&m: Thank you, keenoctopus. We are, too.
@Hawley:

@Hawley: Your essay here reminds me that life can be miraculous: you two are generous, warmhearted, insightful, smart, and HAPPY together! Despite Michael's AS and sketchy upbringing. Takes my breath away. Makes my heart sing. Inspires me to one cliche after another *-)

Melissa: “Will miracles never cease?”

Michael: “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Melissa: “My cup runneth over.”

Michael: “Carpe diem.”

Melissa: “Time heals all wounds.”

Michael: “Pennies from heaven.”

Melissa: What does that mean?

Michael: Hahaha.

Hawley: Your explanation for Cindy of how you work is illuminating. As a writer and editor, I see now that you are, from my POV, revealing your editing process.

Melissa: Yes, exactly! As transparently as possible without it becoming completely incomprehensible. Attempting to document reality in a linear fashion is literally impossible. There aren’t enough dimensions to capture it.

Michael: There might be those dimensions. We just can’t inhabit them.

Melissa: I’m talking about on the page. The digital page, I mean. Linear. Text. One-dimensional.

Michael: Well, if we could become digital.

Melissa: But not really just one-dimensional, because as dj mentioned previously, this meta-text takes on additional dimensions once it enters the reader’s head space. I’d better look this up. . . . Look, see, I was right! dj. “Infinitely directional and dimensional as far as the void in the human headspace is concerned.”

Hawley: Re Jeeves. Loved the series. My son has read all the books. And I follow Stephen Fry on Twitter - it's warming to have him in one's life. He, too, likes BBC radio drama.

Melissa: We adore Stephen Fry. Just about one of the whipsmartest people we know of. And sensitive, too. Is Stephen Fry following you back? How on earth does he find the time to keep up with 54-thousand–plus tweeters?

Hawley: And finally, how do you create italics in a comment? Does HTML work? I'll try it and see: is this in italics?>

Michael: As you can see, your experiment worked, although it seems like you have a spare angle bracket :-)

Melissa: Thanks again for the neighborly visit, Hawley.