Friday, December 29, 2006

Be Careful What You Say

Daddy was excellent with little kids. Here are two examples from the Christmas that Richard was four and Julie two. First we see how interested he was in whatever they were interested in, as he examines Richard's new toy rifle.

The second picture is one of Ted's favorites of Julie. We see her here weeping in despair as her Grandpa looked on in consternation. She knew that whatever treat he was having, he would always share with her. So, when she took a spoon over for her share of the Pepto Bismol, she couldn't understand why he said no. I don't believe that he had ever said no to her before. It wasn't that she didn't get the treat; it was that Grandpa had said no, and she couldn't understand it. As you can see, it was rather traumatic for him, as well. He had no idea, at first, of how to console her. If I remember correctly, he found a treat for both of the kids that would help her manage things.

But, when we hit the teens, when it became possible for us to get in trouble big time, he got scared. He could picture all the things we might do, and he clamped down. I got draconian groundings for minor infractions (once I was not allowed to go to the New Mexico State Chorus competition because I had not emptied a waste basket that he had sneaked into the house and hidden between his dresser and the wall so that I hadn't known about it) which I later learned was to keep me home so I wouldn't get pregnant. So, I moved in with my Great Aunt Julie when I was 16 and lived a virtuous life until I was in college.

When I was 21, and had dropped out of college and was being a hippy, I discovered I was pregnant. Because the father was involved with the young men who would later become the Grateful Dead and using drugs, I decided I would raise my baby by myself. I had a relative who hadn't told her parents she was pregnant until very late and her parents had a hard time accepting the baby. I didn't want to put my family or my baby through that, so I determined that I would tell my folks right away, and two days after I got confirmation of the pregnancy I was on a Greyhound from Berkeley to Stockton. Mama picked me up at the bus station. (Daddy had long ago refused to go because I always came into town in my knee high gladiator sandals and other hippy regalia and he was on the City Council and didn't want to be seen with me. Particularly when I pulled out my pipe and began to smoke [although it was only cherry tobacco].)

As I remember the conversation in the car, it went:
Mama, "Joy, you've lost weight. What have you been doing?"
Me, "Morning sickness -- Mama, don't hit that tree!"

Mama told me we would talk about this after Daddy went to bed. Which we did. I wouldn't tell her the father's name nor would I agree to marry him. She didn't know what to do, but was clearly afraid to tell Daddy. As was I. We even called my recently widowed Aunt Flossie in the middle of the night and she promised to come over as soon as Daddy had gone to work.

So, come morning, Daddy got up, could see that Mama hadn't been in bed all night, came out to the kitchen where Mama and I looked pretty bad, and said, "Are you pregnant?"
"Well Sweetheart, a baby is always a blessing."

Which is just like him -- great in the big things, lousy in the small. If he had been able to handle the fear that I would get pregnant as well as he handled the fact of it, all of our lives would have been easier.

One of the things he used to say to us as we were growing up was "I'll make a Christian of you yet!" Meaning, he would teach us to obey. So, after a few years as a Buddhist, Colleen married a Palestinian and became a Muslim, Forrest is an agnostic, and I'm an atheist.

I don't know what all of this proves, but it seems to me that you have to be careful what you say. My own father used to say that my hair would be cut and the pine tree in his mother's front yard chopped down over his dead body. And by the time he had been gone for two years, I had short hair and Grandma Hunt had a stump.


Anvilcloud said...

Are you saying that the guy in the band wouldn't have been a Grateful Dad?

Maya's Granny said...

A.C., Excellent.

Ginnie said...

An interesting post. Did you know that "The Grateful Dead" was the first band to promote sobriety? If you go to any of their concerts and want to stay "clean" you look for the yellow balloons...that is where all the sober audience gets together. They were the first to start that and now many bands do the same.
The groups will actually have AA meetings sometimes while the band is having an intermission...and it is a great way for young people to realize they can still enjoy the music without the destructive life style.

Suzann said...

What a wonderful memory to share. Thanks. Oh the paths life has taken us since San Francisco in those days. Happy New Year.

Lorna said...

I loved your story about coping with pregnancy while keeping your Roman sandals....those were the days!