Friday, March 18, 2011
Chapter 1, The Second Half, I Have Set My Face Like a Flint
“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives." Maya Angelou
There were also many pleasant memories for him of childhood, and skills that he gained from both his parents that would help him to achieve success at all he put his hand to. They both were possessed of especially productive work ethics, and early on conveyed the principles of this most important life skill to him. He buried all the negative elements his parents forced on his childhood, choosing instead to dwell on whatever positive traits such as their work ethics, love of music, and his father’s knowledge of tools and his talent in their use.
He relentlessly gleaned everything good he could find in both of them into his storehouse of information. So when early into their relationship, the woman who sat beside on the car seat that day, had first began her probing questions about his childhood, he had answered reluctantly at first. Desiring to preserve only positive remembrances, and not realizing that this strategy at times, crippled his ability to accurately assess situations and people, he wanted to hold back negative facts concerning his parents and their character. He at first found this digging in his mind that his wife persistently did uncomfortable, but strangely to him, it built between them a relationship like none he had known. It left him with a new kind of peace as each bit of information was pulled from him, examined by his adult and now experienced and confident mind, as well as her gentle and loving one, and finally pardoned and released. For so long he had held these thoughts in the confinement of the recesses of this mind to prevent their running rampant in his life and doing damage. He had not realized that in the light of his personal success and achievement, they no longer held any threat, for he had overcome all of them, and there was no longer any need to imprison them. Once she had opened the flood gates of the negative memories, he was able to gain insights that would serve him well. By the time he discussed with his wife that day what the general had said, she had already helped to tear down many of the old walls constructed to hold these threats of his childhood. This had exposed him to the harsh reality that sometimes people you looked up to failed miserably, no matter how much you desired them not to. So on that day as she earnestly advised him that the general’s words were inaccurate, he could evaluate the situation, the general’s words, and those of his new wife, and come to the same conclusion as his wife. However, he still could not bring himself at that point, to consider that this man he had long admired, could possibly be capable of the corruption he would later uncover.
As he had stood as a
five - year- old boy that day in the street, while his mother told him how she could not stand to look at him, because he was so much like his father, and was nothing but contemptible in her sight, his only defense was to willfully forget her words. She had further pronounced she was taking him to live with his father as soon as she packed his clothes. Over and over in childhood he would use this skill of forgetting her harsh words, she was after all, his mother. She would berate him often for her entire life, even as she watched his many significant personal accomplishments, which seemed only to bring out her ire toward him even more. Often she would verbally attribute his success to unwarranted “luck,” refusing to acknowledge, it was in fact, his own hard work and devotion that resulted in his triumphs. Whenever he experienced some trial, it seemed she viewed him more favorably for awhile, at least until he overcame it. Later he was able to realize this favor came from her realization of her own profound failures in life, and her ability to console herself with the notion that in fact, he was fallible too. For her his accomplishments seemed to only point out how little she ever became, despite her own intelligence and talents, and all she had lost, especially the love of his father, who remained the only man she ever truly desired. When his father had left, his mother had fought savagely to get him back, but in what the colonel now realized was wisdom, his father had resisted returning to his mother. The colonel knew his father always loved his mother deeply, but in the fear of what they would do to one another, had the strength to leave. It would torment his mother for all her days that he became a better man after leaving her. She would partner with many men for short periods of time as he was growing up, but always find them lacking, and carelessly dispose of them without any regard or thought of their feelings.
His mother had come from her own difficult childhood. By age nine, she had lost both parents, and two brothers were lost to her in WWII. At fourteen years of age, she began working in a hosiery factory in Kentucky, but despite her lack of education and sophistication, her beauty and passion afforded her opportunities. In fact, the squandering of those opportunities, in pursuit of her passions, fueled the resentment and bitterness with which she lived her life from the time of his birth. He told his wife in one of her sessions in which she relentlessly probed his mind, how his mother had been married to the vice-president of Walters Plumbing Equipment, a huge and successful company. He explained that his father was an uneducated and illiterate soldier from New Orleans when he met his mother and stole her heart while stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. His mother’s passions had ruled her life, and she had left the wealthy man to whom she was married, and followed his father back to Louisiana, bringing her small daughter with her. The pregnancy which resulted in his birth, would soon have told the wealthy man of his mother’s infidelity. The only evidence of the wealth that she had left in order to marry his father that the colonel had ever known of, was the custom made mink coat that his mother wore on special occasions.
The depression and resentment, that was to rule the rest of his mother’s life, came from the fact that, despite her leaving wealth and prestige for the soldier from Louisiana who never learned to read or write, she could not hold him. The things that had attracted his mother to his father, called to him when they returned to New Orleans to marry, and he would party and drink until all hours of the night, leaving his new wife alone at home with a newborn son. As soon as the colonel was old enough to be left with his older half sister, his mother began attending the bars along with his father. Even that could not keep
him, and as the realization of this gripped his mother, her own weaknesses led to behaviors that provoked the violence of his father. The arguments were loud and long, and lacked any reason on either of their parts. More frequently than not, his mother would pursue the issue, hounding and hounding at his father, until in a fit of rage and alcoholic haze, he would hit her with his fists, doing physical damage. Even then, sometimes in her resentment, she would continue to provoke his rage purposely; the colonel had never understood this.