Memory is a curious thing. Not quite truth, sometimes closer to lies, but still the primary method through which humanity relates to the world. Memory can be shared, inherited, lost, found, purged, and sought. It can be twisted, by time and by human machination. Tell a story often enough, precisely enough, and to enough people and it becomes a part of their memory without ever having happened at all.
But the reverse is also possible. It happens all the time, most benignly, with children who’ve seen something Mom and Dad don’t want them to see. Tell someone often enough that what they remember isn’t recall and the impressionable will write it off as a dream or forget about it completely.
How do we know what’s true? Who do you trust?
Everyone has memory. Everyone has a dozen nature and nurture factors to effect that memory. The same experience is never remembered identically. Life doesn’t mean the same thing to any of us.
I was conceived in the back of an old Chevy Nova. Only one of my parents was in love, and she was an eighteen year old statistic. Low income, single parent family, Daddy issues (hers had died when she seven), brother issues (three of ‘em, two great, one physically and sexually abusive), Mommy issues (doted on the boys, about as nurturing as a fish, put all the work on the grieving, abused female child). It remains a sad, familiar song all across the globe, and for Mum it led to self-esteem issues, poor relationship choices, and too much partying. I don’t know that you’d have called her a dealer, but she could get you the mild stuff if you needed it. Dadai thought he did, and he also thought him somewhat of a ladies man.
They dated, if you can call it that. From what I’ve gathered, Dadai was just after sex where he could get it, whenever he could get it, and sex and drugs went together in the seventies right along with the rock and roll. Dadai was a bit older than Mum. Came from a likewise poor family in a similar little shit town, with an abusive father and a sainted submissive mother who stayed together because she loved him more than her self-respect or their thirteen children. Of course, times were different then, or some such nonsense. And, of course, an ego like mine can’t understand staying with someone who betrays you and your family.
At any rate, Dadai found in my Mum a perfect victim. She loved him, that I do know, so much so that she believed he was going to break up with his fiancée for her. Oh, yeah, at that time, Dadai was a real gem. Infidelity, in this case, seemed to be as much nurture as nature, since his father actually told one of my cousins it was fine “as long as you keep what you have at home happy.”
Mum got knocked up, but had apparently begun to see Dadai for the cad that he was. Either that, or she thought fleeing to Texas with his unborn child would force him to choose between us and his fiancée . From here things get tricky (okay, so it’s all tricky, since none of it is my memory). Mum claims she left to get a fresh start in Dallas. Dadai and Memaw (Mum’s mother. Also what Southern girl doesn’t have a Memaw?) claim she went to give me up for adoption. Mum claims she hated Dallas (easy to believe for a small town SC girl); Dadai and Memaw claim that Memaw tracked her down and told her to get her butt back home.
I was born in October. Reportedly, Dadai was too hopped up on something to get Mum to the hospital, but since I wasn’t born on the side of hwy 15, they must’ve managed it. Dadai’s nurse sister didn’t want his future ruined by his illegitimate, druggie baby and demanded a blood test.
This is the only thing everyone tells me the same:
Dadai took one look at my ugly mug (and, oh, trust, me, I was an ugly baby…red, red skin, wrinkled face, perpetual frown for all that I’d been born laughing-weird, I know) and he knew I was his. In heart if not in biology. In that moment, the future, the fiancée, the volatile relationship with a woman he really didn’t want…none if it mattered. One week later they were married, bastard daughter present and probably still scowling.
This has colored my memories of my Dadai my entire life. That he could see me and love me, so totally. That my Mum, even when she was bashing him for being an adulterer, an alcoholic, and all around bad father (which he was), even she kept that part of the story.
So you see, I grew up feeling loved. Before I became a precocious and fun toddler, I was loved. My Mum loved me, I knew that. Not long after conception one of her precious brothers died. At 21. Orphaning a daughter and devastating Memaw and Mum. I filled a hole in the grieving heart of a nineteen year old who soon found herself trapped in a loveless marriage. I learned early what it meant to have someone need you. I also learned to hate it. But I loved Mum, and she loved me, and Dadai had to have loved me from the start.
Everywhere I turned, people loved me. Dadai’s large family (minus that nurse sister…I don’t think she ever liked me). His dad (yes, the rotten father and husband) doted on me; his mom called me her rose bud in an attempt to pretty up easily one of the ugliest babies she’d ever seen. Memaw’s first granddaughter (the aforementioned orphan) was lost to her after my uncle died. Her mother took her away and Memaw filled that spot with me. I was a patch job for everyone it seemed, but instead of feeling like a replacement, I felt like a hero. Shiny, adored, placed up on a pedestal (which quite frankly, I loved).
It wasn’t until I was much, much older that I realized how lonely it can be being a hero. And how no one can love you forever when you’re up on that pillar. Eventually, they hate you for their having placed you there to begin with. Especially if you don’t have the good grace to crack the foundation and topple down to crawl among them.