Tuesday, August 28

Death, Family, Fucked

A few months ago my Great Aunt passed away.  This morning my paternal grandmother died, too.

I never really wrote about my dad's mom, except for this brief paragraph two years ago.  It was the last time I saw her.

I found out she died from my cousin's Facebook status: 

"rest in peace grandma always in my heart"

My jaw fell to the floor and I panicked.  Wait what?? Why didn't dad tell me?  OHMYGOD. Maybe he doesn't know!?!?  I called the house, his office, and finally got him on his cell.  He knew. He sounded shellshocked.

Nanny. Wow. I forgot she wanted me and Rip to call her that when we were kids. That feels like eons ago...

My dad Billy is the middle child of five. His siblings are Adam, Jeannie, Eddie, and John.  They lived with their parents, Tom and Mary on 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  I don't know how Tom and Mary met, but I'm assuming it was from the neighborhood.  Tom was a raging alcoholic and very abusive.  Mary was an alcoholic too, but rather than be abusive she just upped and left the kids to fend for themselves.  Naturally the kids didn't really stand a chance. 

DISCLAIMER:  Before I begin, I have to note that a lot of what I'm going to write below may be biased.  My mother hated my dad's family with a passion, so she kept us away from them as much as she could.  With good reason.

My grandfather Tom liked me because I was a Pisces.  We stick with our own!  He was always very nice to me and I like that he was a Sandhog, one of the construction guys who built the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  As a result he had really bad asthma.  I believe he died from lung cancer, but I'm not sure.  He's the reason I grew to love Seaside Heights.  He got a house there every year since I was three.  He also lent my parents the money to get my Boob Saga plastic surgery, no questions asked. Those are my nice memories of him.

He was still a disaster, though.  Apparently junkies and prostitutes were in and out of his apartment all of the time.  He was gross, having given up cleaning his place and taking care of himself.  I remember one time we were in a grocery store in Toms River and he pissed in an aisle on a bunch of dishtowels.  Ah, family.

Uncle Adam is the oldest and perhaps the most fucked up out of all the kids.  He's a super smart electrician, but always seemed to be scheming for money.  He was a drug addict and alcoholic, too. My dad said it got worse when he came back from Vietnam.  He was a medic, picking up screaming men with missing limbs bleeding to death.  He'd give them and himself morphine to ease the pain.

I've never shared this on Thighs, nor do I think I've really told anyone this in person. Adam married my Aunt Dolly who had three sons - Jimmy, Michael, and David.  When I was four years old, Jimmy who was 18, took me for a bike ride with his friends.  My mom didn't want me to go, but my aunt and uncle said I'd be fine.  Well, I wasn't.  To this day I'm not sure what exactly happened.  I remember being in a park with my pants down, his friends staring at me.  I don't remember if they had their pants down or if I was touched or not.  I remember we were near a chainlink fence near a major road.  It was nighttime and I thought the headlights were shining on me for everyone to see. I remember nothing after that, although I don't think it went beyond touching.  I wish I knew.

I didn't tell my parents until I was around eleven. We were getting ready to go to Jimmy's graduation party or something.  They were shocked and totally believed me, but for some reason still made me go to the party. This is one of the classic examples of my mom being out of her fucking mind.  She apologizes profusely to this day.  I'm not sure why I don't blame my dad. Nothing of note really happened except I stole a can of Budweiser that I kept in my closet for a year before trying to drink it.  I never saw Jimmy again and rarely saw Adam and Dolly after they doubted my story.  More on this shitshow another time.

Aunt Jeannie believed me, especially because she was the kid my grandfather abused the most. Yes, in that way.  Fucking disgusting shit.  She also became a drug addict and alcoholic, then a teenage mom. At least I think she was still a teenager.  She eventually moved to Syracuse and then to Arkansas.  I've seen her maybe five times in the last twenty years.  I really like her.  We have a bit of a soul sister connection.  She doesn't speak to her first son, but she has another son Matt who I've met once or twice.  The last time I saw him he was NASCAR-REDNECK-RACIST.  His Facebook statuses show that he's now a kind, open-minded, intelligent athiest. Very interesting 180!

Uncle Eddie skipped town when he was 16.  He didn't speak to the family for years, so I don't know much about him except that he lives in Wisconsin, likes to write looooong emails and Facebook comments, may be in the closet, and tried to commit suicide a few years ago.  I hear he's doing well now.

I was the closest to Uncle John.  We visited him, his wife Donna, and their three boys Johnny, Timmy, and Tommy (the one who wrote the FB status today) a lot.  I love them all to bits.  It was easier to visit them when they lived in Staten Island, but when they moved to Middletown, NY I stopped going up there as much.  Eventually John and Donna got divorced, the boys stopped talking to him and John moved to Tennessee with his girlfriend. I don't think I've seen them in ten years.

Having failed her children in many ways, Mary tried to redeem herself as a grandmother.  She became very close with John's kids, even moved up to Middletown to be with them.  They have a much stronger relationship with her than I ever did, so I feel really bad for them.  That's why I'm not mad at Tommy for his Facebook status, just mad at the circumstances. 

Last but certainly not least, my dad.  Shit, I'm crying now.  I love my dad so much.  It's really weird, this morning I was thinking how I hadn't heard from my parents last night and the thought popped into my head they died.  My mind went to their funeral, the phone calls I'd have to make, cleaning out the house in Jackson. I couldn't shut it off!  I guess that's why it hit me so hard when I heard Mary died an hour later.  I'm weirdly intuitive sometimes.

My dad was the black sheep of the family because he was normal.  Sure he drank, smoked, and dropped acid when he was younger, but once Rip and I were born he cleaned up.  He's a kind, gentle, and senstive man who somehow still loves his fucked up family. 

John took good care of Mary when she first went to the home after her stroke in 2010, then my dad picked up the slack once John moved.  My parents visited her at least once a month, even though she barely talked and clearly didn't want them around.  I know it hurt him.  I'm really worried.


I am sorry you had such a rough life.  I hope you weren't in pain before you passed.  Thank you for the birthday and Christmas checks. It was very generous of you.

Of course my biggest thank you comes from bringing my dad into the world.  Despite everything, he ended up being a good man with a good soul.  I am happy to be his daughter.

Rest in peace,



Ty said...

Sorry to hear about that :(
Thank you for sharing your story. I have gone through something very similar. By the way you write and express yourself, all will mend very soon.

THIGHS said...

Thank you, Ty. I really appreciate your comment. I'm sorry to hear you went through something similar. Have you ever heard of the cabaret duo Kiki and Herb? One of my favorite Kiki lines is, "If you weren't abused as a child, you must have been one ugly kid." It's awful, but I can't help laugh.