THE RELATIONSHIP A PERSON HOLDS with their family is complex and often impenetrable. Bonded through flesh, DNA and sometimes marriage, when you combine all external factors, it becomes virtually impossible to act like civil human beings.
With family, your shortcomings, virtues and hidden demons are regularly served up like second helpings of potatoes during dinner. And without notice, yelling and complaining become the one accepted form of communication. I can hear my mother’s smoker lungs yelling at me now,
“Make sure you know the family you’re marrying into. Whatever you think love is, it isn’t. It is all one big, ugly lie.”
I offer you the same unsolicited advice. You can fall into a serious, sexy relationship with the Hugh Grant of Montgomery, Alabama, then find yourself spending the holidays with Faye Dunnaway in “Mommie Dearest”,
“NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!!!”
Scientists should study the dysfunctional family. It could save all of us millions of dollars in therapy and antidepressants. Maybe the scientific community has studied this epidemic of terrible lives but they just haven’t made their way to my rusty gate.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that half the shit that makes you who you are is a direct result of what your mother said and did to you during the first and last five years in her house. My mother, who claims that I am a younger version of her, has been committing suicide for the last thirty years of her life. It’s a very pitiful death that begins in her mouth, travels down her throat and lands in her liver. Alcoholism--mother’s closest friend, the cause of her rage and a battle that she’ll never win. My father never speaks of her addiction, or the toll it’s taken on their marriage.
I know I wasn’t the one who drove her to the bars, nor did I cause the minor little incident leading to her weekend stay in Milledgeville’s Central Hospital. I knew that the truth would come out eventually. I knew that one day I would be able to take advantage of my folks, and they would finally have to grow up and be adults. Unfortunately this day will probably come at a time that’s too late to reap the emotional rewards.
I started out life as a Galapagos turtle. Hard shelled on the outside, slimy skin on the inside. I have a wide girth and a small neck that is hidden within the folds of skin that eventually turn into my barrel shaped chest. Ugliness lurked inside of me, and the true person could be found deep within the outer shell. From the moment I popped out into the world, I had no chance of surviving with any sense of normalcy. My parents even endowed me with a Turtles name, Myrtle. I wasn’t named after a song, a do-gooder relative or prominent woman in history, instead, after Myrtle the Turtle, a “beloved” children’s book about a Galapagos turtle that is small, cute and shy. And in the end, Myrtle the Turtle has to learn that coming out of her shell is not going to be the end to her petty little world.
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by Stephen Graham Jones
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