- I don’t like or feel healthy around edges, steep drop offs, cliffs, being a passenger on curvy mountain roads, windows in tall buildings, or “view” tables at rooftops cafes
- I am not so sure about men either, Grama says they want only one thing and she calls Grampa an “old battle axe” which I think means something like sonofabitch, one of those words that will get me in trouble if I say it
Mostly, I was raised by my mother with a lot of help from my grandparents through the time I became a teenager. The things that children deserve from their families were not always present, all at the same time, at our house. The only thing that was predictable at our house was that all hell could break loose at any moment. Either we were about to be evicted, which we were more times than I can count, or there was fighting going on between my mother and Elmer, my little brothers father. He came into our lives when I was about nine years old. He was also a good bit older than my mother; he had daughters that were her age, whose children were only slightly younger than my little sisters. He was an alcoholic. His drink of choice was vodka. He hid bottles, something I was familiar with, because Grampa had hidden a few around the egg ranch, which I found from time to time.
A child of nine should not have to know as much about alcoholism as I did.
When he wasn’t drinking, Elmer was a decent, hardworking horse trainer. He trained quarter horses and cutting horses. Cutting horses are the ones used when herding cattle, and when cutting particular cattle from the herd. He was one of those people who could do tricks with a rope that would amuse and baffle other folks on the ranch. He really did seem okay, until he was drunk. He never hurt me physically, but he did make me feel as scared for my mother as I had felt when she was laying on the road unconscious.
Our fears seem to naturally hook up with the fears in our past, gathering steam and power. It didn’t take long for me to be afraid of him. He was threatening when he was drunk, but it wasn’t until I was about eleven, and had poured out a bottle of vodka that I found, that he finally did cross the line from scaring me to threatening me with violence.
We were living in Escondido by then. He was working on a ranch somewhere training horses. He came in the house with his Ryder boots with the Spanish heel and his spurs. He went out to the garage, where I had found and disposed of his vodka. I was in my room, with the multi-tiered lavender bedspread, hiding behind the bed waiting for what was next. He came back in yelling about the vodka and asking who had taken it. Finally, after a lot of shouting and stomping around, the metallic jingling and scratching of his spurs on the linoleum, he grabbed me up by the arm from the floor where I was crouched, and asked if I had done something with his vodka. I confessed that I had poured it out; I didn’t want him to drink. I was afraid when he was drinking.
He threw me to the floor and said he was going to smash my head in with his spurs. He said he was going to stomp me to death. My mother ran to grab me from the floor. She pushed him until he slid into the closed door of my sisters’ bedroom.
By then, I was up and running out the front door, running as far and as fast as I could down the street. I don’t know what happened while I was running and running and running. I ran until I couldn’t breathe. It was a long, long way from where I lived. I didn’t have any place safe to go really. Anyone who knew my mother would have just taken me back home anyway. My mind raced as fast as my little feet without finding any solution.
After a while I walked home slowly and I went around the back, where I had buried my six toed cat, and peeked through the dining room window to see if it was safe to come back inside our house. The TV was on in the living room. Both Mom & Elmer sat on the teal hide-a-bed sofa watching Bonanza, like nothing had happened. There were dishes still on the table. Mine was empty. I quietly opened the kitchen door, tiptoeing on my stocking feet through the kitchen and dashed through the dining room to my open bedroom door. I closed the door, changed into my nightgown, crawled into my lavender bed and cried my self to sleep as quietly as I could.
The next day I went to school as usual.
The Value of
My Life in List Form
Gnothi Seauton: Know Thyself
The unlived life is not worth examining. –Anonymous
And I found this follow-up penned in beneath a sign quoting Socrates on the drinks case at my favorite lunch time deli in Salinas, California years ago:
The unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates
And a little bit of examination goes a long way! –Anonymous