Healing Childhood Emotional Wounds
WORK IN PROGRESS!
This is my story, but it could be yours. Childhood emotional wounds mold us into what we become in adulthood. Until those wounds are healed, we can not fully function in our fulfillment of love.
To the reader
This is my story and I take full responsibility in that this memoir is my own construction—based on my own memory, and from information gained later in life. However, I’ve told it as I remember it to the best of my ability. I know that everyone does not see the world through my eyes, but I’ve done the best to write the truth as I see it. I can’t decide what is true for others. My intent is to share the story that I know.
As memories go, the older I become the foggier or blurred they become. Some blend in together on the time line however, I have tried to stay true to the facts as required by the craft of memoir. None of the characters are invented. Some names and places have been changed for their protection, and I’ve blended some scenes, events, and shortened others to protect their identity.
All the scenes are based on personal experiences. Dialog has been recreated to the best of my abilities of recall or has been noted that this is what I think was said at the time of that situation. Therefore, dialog may be an approximation, especially in scenes so many years ago. Also, for literary purposes, some scenes and conversations are composites
This is your story but it could be someone else’s. We all have our own unique journeys in life, you know. So your road took you from New YorkState, to Pennsylvania, to Florida, Texas, and North Carolinas. So what? Who really gives a flip? Does that make you someone special?
Oh-h-h, I see. You think your childhood emotional wounds story may help others who have experienced emotional wounding in their childhood. That now as a senior citizen and in full time healing ministry, you may be able to make a difference in someone’s life. That this memoir may be the last book you write because your psychological clock is ticking quickly like a time bomb. Because of your heart disease, which by the way is in your DNA all the way back to your grandfather, you think you may drop dead tomorrow, next week, month, or year. However, it could be 10 years but you feel that heaviness, that self-induced stress, the pressure that all writers get, that you must write.
Then there is the family. Most have passed away now, so you feel relatively safe about the information you divulge. However, you just know, and can almost bet, on the ones who will disagree or flat out call you a liar. Every family has them. The ones who just don’t see things through your lens. The memoirist’s nightmare.
As you grew up, your heart was talking. But you weren’t listening? You know the feelings. They have been with you all our life. There was an ache in your heart that you couldn’t explain. You longed for deeper relationships. You searched for meaningful connections. Your childhood emotional wounds, whether conscious or unconscious, planted lies in your psyche. These developed a mentality that poisoned the place where love longed to reside. The deep cried out to deep.
Not having your needs met created pain in your heart and pain always seeks pleasure. You were constantly looking for the right answers and love in all the wrong places. You ended up chasing after counterfeit affections. You developed addictions to alcohol, sex, and whatever else that may have comforted you.
You felt like you had no one to love you and didn’t feel loved. You were not receiving affirmation that you were lovable. You had never been able to be intimate in your relationships. You would not let people get close to you. You would not allow them to hurt you.
You felt lonely because you had no one with whom to share your heart. You were afraid of rejection, afraid to trust, and afraid to open up your heart to receive love from others. You were afraid to make yourself vulnerable.
In the work place, you felt you had to be the perfect employee. This would win the approval of others. You strove to do the perfect job. If it wasn’t perfect enough, you would do it over and over again to try to get it perfect. Other employees around you who wasted time got the raises and promotions. So you worked harder to become more perfect. This left no time for relationships with coworkers and supervisors.
You used your workplace to fulfill your need to be happy. If only you had a better job. If only you lived somewhere else. If only you could run away. However, with each new job, each relocation, it didn’t take long before you were in the same rut.
You had never set out to be a writer in your retirement; it just fell into your lap. You weren’t interested in success or monetary gain for your work. In fact, if just one person is healed or has had a life changing experience from your books, you consider that a success. Just like some who have read “My Father, My Son.”
You have experienced the Father’s love. That was stage one of healing. Maybe you will on this healing journey for the rest of your life. Your ex-wife recently said, “I realize you are on this great quest to find yourself and to find something or someone to blame your cold nature on.” But that really isn’t it, is it? You are not writing this memoir as part of a quest for self-healing. You have already accomplished that although the process will continue for a lifetime. You are writing this memoir so that by sharing your story, your journey to God’s love, somehow, some way, just maybe…, just maybe…., someone will contact you after reading this and say, “Thank you, your memoir changed my life.”
In Jesus name.
In the beginning of my childhood
Even now, many distant years later, I still remember the inner pain from that day like a shocking bolt from a heart defibrillator.
It is 1950. Mom couldn’t take it any more. As an only child at the age of five, I sometimes wake up in a wet bed. I am the one wetting it. This has been happening often over the last several months.
“What did you do?” she yells.
“Why are you doing that?” she exclaims pointing her finger at the wet spot.
I stand there naked. I have left my wet pajamas in the bathroom hopper to my right. A faint odor of urine permeates the air. Escape is impossible. In front of me are Mom and the living room door. To my left is my wet bed.
Mom hurries out to the kitchen. When she returns, she has a large butcher knife.
“I’m going to cut it off, you hear me!”
A sharp pain jolts inside my chest. Screaming in terror, I grab my precious Pee Wee. My feet rhythmically pound the solid wood floor one at a time. The floor resounds like jungle drums beating out a rapid message of panic. My body begins to shake uncontrollably. Between gasps of air, I whimper, “N-n-nooo Mommy, no.”
Why is Mom like this? I have never seen her this angry before. I don’t understand. I can’t help it that I don’t wake up to go pee.
I remember last year when we lived on Erie Street in Utica, NY. A small downstairs apartment of a two-story house. The front door entered from the front porch. Just inside was my mother’s favorite maroon plush couch. On this couch was where I had my typewriter disaster. That toy typewriter had a rubber dial with letters. You had to ink them from a liquid ink bottle, then, choose each letter individually before pressing it down onto the paper. Somehow, I had an accident and spilled ink on Mom’s good couch. This did not turn out to be one of my better days. I don’t remember if she ever got that ink stain out of that plush dark maroon couch. However, the consequences of my encounter with my angry mom made a lasting impression. I think mom, as a child, learned parental child rearing from her experiences in Grandpa’s woodshed.
“If you don’t stop wetting the bed, I’m going to cut it off,” she bellows now. “Do you understand?”
Relieved and grateful for a reprieve until a later time, I quickly say yes. My body stops shaking. Gasping for air subsides.
However, the pain of a deep inner wound lingers. A deeply scaring wound. A buried wound into the catacombs of the subconscious, only to silently fester in the psyche. Encompassing abandonment, shame, fear, feeling unloved, unlovable, a misfit, rejection, and imperfection. Parents are supposed to reflect God’s love to their children, aren’t they? That is if God really exists. Mom is doing a great job, isn’t she? Daddy isn’t around to show me what God’s love looks like. The word love isn’t part of our vocabulary in this house.
Mom disappeared back into the kitchen.
My dark blue blanket with white sailboats softly caresses while I sit on the living room floor watching TV. Sky King’s airplane engine is on fire and he is going to crash and burn. If only there was some way to save him.
I don’t know what happened next. I can only imagine that mom called her sister Helen. They were close and talked to each other often.
Hello, said the voice on the other end of the phone.
This is Maryanne, mom replied. I can’t believe what I just did.
I just threatened to cut off Bruce’s penis with a butcher knife, exclaimed mom tearfully horrified.
Whaaaat? was the reply. Why did you do that?
He wet the bed again. How long is this going to go on? I can’t take it any more. I don’t know what to do about it. He was terrified. I feel so terrible.
Is he OK?
I think so. He’s watching Sky King on TV.
Didn’t you go to the doctor’s office a couple of days ago? What did they say about your lab test results?
Uh, cancer, mom said quivering. It’s breast cancer.
The angel of death was lurking not far away.
I am not quite sure what month and year it is, but I remember sitting in bed at FaxtonHospital, Utica, NY. Why am I here? I don’t know. Mom brought me here and then later went back home. The nurse turns me over and sticks something up my butt. Someone says “Enema” My insides are churning. I see other beds around me with other kids. In the middle is a semi circle desk with a glass window cage. A nurse stands there overlooking all the beds. They bring a cart. I am now lying on that cart going somewhere. I am in a big room. They lay me on a table with a huge light over me. People with masks on their faces are at my side. Someone has placed a mask over my face.
“Breath deep,” someone says.
I am dizzy. I wake up later. I am sick to my stomach. I vomit chunks of something that smells vile. Someone says it is from the ether. From this day on, I no longer pee my bed.
It was before mom’s cancer in 1950 that she bought a newly built house half way up the steep hill on tree lined Sanger Ave in New Hartford, NY. At the bottom was the high and junior high school. There was an intersection one block up Sanger Ave. That side road led past Kazangian’s grocery store and to the Catholic Church. We were located one to two miles from schools, church, a grocery store, and downtown New Hartford. A city bus stop was at the corner by the house.
New Hartford was a quaint little town with old tree-lined streets and cozy neighborhoods. The town park had a large white gazebo for band concerts in the summers. There were also tables and chairs set out for ice cream socials. I remember going there on occasion to listen to the band and eat cake and ice cream. Laughter and applause from happy people filled the air.
There was a corner drug store across the street that had a large assortment of candy. This became one of my favorite places to visit. Just down the street was the ice cream man with his ice cream stand. He would serve vanilla ice cream squares in a cone, turn it upside down, dip it in chocolate, and top it with nuts before the chocolate would harden. One bite and the chocolate would break into thin sheets. Then the cold ice cream would send sharp pains behind your eyeballs causing a brain freeze. The vanilla was sweet, smooth, and creamy. Oh, what a treat that was on a hot summer day. People walked far distances from their houses just to enjoy the chocolate and nut covered ice cream bars.
The last store past the ice cream stand was Wanamaker’s Furniture store. In the back of the store was the manufacturing facility where they made all the furniture they sold. I was fascinated that they made furniture. I wonder how they do that, I thought.
Our house was a small one-bedroom house with an unattached garage. The kitchen had enough room for a sink, a counter, a small three-burner gas stove, refrigerator, and a small kitchen table. The living room was large enough for a couch with a hide a bed and an old Philco radio with a record player. Mom slept on the hide-a- bed. The back yard was large, sloped, and fenced in. Along the back fence were raspberry and blackberry bushes.
We bought our first television when I was five years old. I no longer listened to Lone Ranger on the radio. Now there were TV shows of Captain Midnight, Superman, Howdy Doody, and cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Elmer Fudd and the gang. I loved westerns like Roy Rogers. I also loved Sky King and often dreamt of being a pilot. I still do.
My favorite toys were my Lincoln Logs and plastic red bricks. I sometimes built buildings from construction plans designed in my head. These magnificent mansion masterpieces were as large as the number of bricks or logs available.
It was time for me to start going to school. Mom registered me to attend kindergarten. What this meant I didn’t know. It was one of those situations that enter your life when your mother says, “this is what you have to do or else,” and that’s it. I never had a chance to find out what was the “or else.” So I walked with my neighbor Sue Wanamaker the several blocks over to the PointSchool near downtown New Hartford. I found out that we had play time and nap time. OK, I can handle this.
My kindergarten teacher sent a note home to mom. In it she praised my ingenuity during play time. I had taken large rectangular building blocks and constructed the sides and front of a plane. Then I built seats for the kids to sit on. We went on an imaginary plane ride with me in the pilot seat. My teacher was impressed. It really was no big deal. Chuck didn’t think so either.
Chuck Schoenley lived about a mile past my house in the other direction of the school. He would come to my house in the morning. We walked to school and then back home together, sometimes with Sue. Chuck and I became the best of friends.
Chuck, Sue, and I made it out of Kindergarten and into Mrs. LePage First Grade class. Reading, writing, arithmetic, art, etc., etc., etc. During that year I was considered satisfactory in all categories however I missed 19 half days in attendance.
It is around 1952 if my memory is correct. I came home from school to find my grandmother and my aunt waiting for me.
“Brucie she is sick. She is in the hospital. She has breast cancer.”
“When will she come home?’
“In a few days.”
This is the first I hear that Mom is sick. I think to myself that when she comes home, she will be all right. What do the words breast cancer mean? I wonder if it will go away. Mom’s cancer dominates her life with constant trips to doctors’ offices. She is in and out of hospitals undergoing surgeries or radiation treatments that make her ill. The cancer consumes her focus of her daily life and our future. Mom, my grandmother, and all my aunts raise me.
My Second grade teacher wrote on my report card, “Bruce should have no trouble in 3rd. grade. He is well adjusted. I have enjoyed him.” My third grade teacher Mrs. Garbus wrote on my report card “Bruce has very commendable work habits, but does not always pay attention. I have enjoyed Bruce in my class this year.” Then onward to Mrs. Moorhead fourth grade class. Disaster hits from a beach head named Moorhead. She writes on my report card that “I think Bruce can do better work. He is careless. He wastes time in school. A daydreamer.” Under parent’s comment my Aunt Helen writes in the 10th week, “Please help Bruce along. His mother is a very sick person.”
I never knew my dad Edward Brodowski. Mom has told me several times before dad was a tank commander killed in WWII. It never seemed that important to me. However, one day, mom called me into my bedroom.
She says, as I recall that day, “Brucie, I have some things to show you,” she announced as a matter of fact. I sit on the edge of my bed. She stands on a chair, reaches up, removes a square board cover from the ceiling, and brings down a box from the attic storage.
She sorts through a pile of pictures. “Here is a picture of his grave in Margraten, Holland. Here is a picture of him in his uniform. See, you look like him.”
Then she brings down a German eight-mm. rifle. A souvenir from the war. His dog tags. Some pieces of very sharp shrapnel. “This is like the shrapnel from the shell that killed him,” she says. “He drove into a town and turned the corner. A German tank was at the other end and fired a shell. The shell hit your dad’s tank through the turret. She shows me his medals and the paper bags full of his letters. Tears slide slowly down her cheeks. It is too painful for her. That was it. No more information is necessary.
Many years later when I am writing my book about “The Dad I Never Knew,” I would come in contact with Dick Kemp who was with my dad. Through him, I reconstruct dad’s last days. The German 180th Volks Grenadier Division and the 116th Panzer Division withdrew to set up new defensive lines running through the fortress town of Rocklinghausen.
There was a Panzer Tiger somewhere out there and they knew it. It was blocking their forward progress. Kemp was supposed to drive lead tank for Lieutenant Kaz, even though his tank was destroyed on March 28th. Capt. Peterson gave the order to Lt. Kaz to send a lead tank with Kemp and the second platoon out against the enemy. Lt. Kaz. told Capt. Peterson that he did not want to go head on against 2 AT (anti tank) guns and a reinforced Panzer Grenedier Regt. He told Peterson that it was suicide. He ordered Kemp to take the lead tank in which Kemp yelled out “No I’m not! Are you crazy?” It was then that Brodowski and John H. grabbed Kemp under each shoulder, lifted him off the ground, and physically carried him out. “Kemp, Brodowski said, are you crazy or are you just trying to get court marshaled?” Brodowski then went back and volunteered to be the lead tank. It was then that Capt Peterson decided that Ed Brodowski would lead off. On that 29th of March, Peterson gave command of the Second Platoon to Sgt. Brodowski. S/Sgt. Edward Brodowski was moved over from the Third Platoon.
It was March 30. Good Friday. According to Catholic Tradition, today is the day that Christ was crucified and died at 3:00 P.M. That would be at 1500 hours Around 1600 Brodowski’s platoon was moved up to support an Infantry company. It was thought that the enemy had a defense in that area and an attack was made to break through it. Kemp wrote, “Brodowski lead the attack on an area of houses and was met by a barrage of direct and indirect fire from enemy positions. It was a suicide mission. Lt. Kaz knew it and we knew it. As the attack neared the town, a camouflaged German tank drove out from behind a building. Ed delivered a withering fire at the Grenadier ground troops surrounding the Tiger.” The Tiger shot off a round that hit the right track of Ed’s tank and disabled it.” Johnny yelled out, we’ve been hit. We can’t move the tank. Let’s get the hell out. Then Brodowski slipped down from the turret into the gunner’s seat with McStay as his ammo loader. He knew there was no way that his 76mm gun could match up against the superior armor and firepower (88mm) of the “Tiger.” He could have bailed out with the others to come back to fight another day but, in Dick Kemps words, “ that hard headed Pollock Ed Brodowski was not going to back down against any damn Kraut.” There was a chance that he might have been able to do some damage. Picking out the place from where the German tank had fired, he directed three rounds from his tank gun at the German tank before his tank was hit again. This time under the turret hitting McStay and Brodowski. S/Sgt. Brodowski, Tank Commander, was instantly killed doing what he was trained to do. To fight for freedom against the tyranny and evil that infiltrated into the world.
So I never experience my father’s arms around me, holding me, playing with me, loving me. What does that feel like? Is it comforting affirmation? Is it exuberant joy? Is it tickle-tickle, kisses, motor boat lips on my belly,more kisses, laughter, tag your it, ha, ha, ha, you can’t catch me dad, gotcha, warm fuzzies, and more kisses?
My mother never remarried. Mom is not a hugging kind of person, who affirms that I am lovable, or that she loves me. I don’t hear her say I love you. She is just like her dad and her sisters. I don’t know if it is part of a cold Polish culture or just the impact of the War. They all seemed emotionally distant. You are just supposed to know they love you without verbal affirmation.
Learning how to play sports and do guy things just isn’t part of my childhood. My grandmother taught me how to crochet and hold yarn for her knitting.
Brucie, come, you hold this yarn around your arms while I roll it up into a ball.
One year I received for Christmas presents a fishing pole and an electric football game board. I don’t remember asking Santa Clause for these gifts. Why would I do that? I already figured out that the person in a Santa Clause suit was Uncle Pete. So, here I had an electric football game board that didn’t interest me. No one every showed me how to play football or ever explained to me anything about it. As for fishing, that turned out to be a fiasco.
Uncle Bob decided to take me fishing with him. Maybe mom helped him make that decision. So we went to a creek. Uncle Bob gave me a can of worms and my fishing pole.
“Put a worm on the hook and cast out your line,” He said.
Then he walked up the creek bed. I tried to figure out how to get that dang wiggly worm on the hook. I laid it out on a rock and stabbed at it. When Uncle Bob returned an hour later, I was still trying to stab a worm onto the fishing hook. We left and went home.
Mr. Schoenley, chuck’s dad, a member of some organization like the Kiwanis, had a large pond on his property not far from my house. Every year he would stock the pond with fish and have a fishing derby for kids. My family thought what a great opportunity for me to learn how to fish. They registered me for the derby. As I stood there trying to figure out what to do, the kid next to me cast out his line. He immediately caught something. It was the side of my cheek with his fishhook. I stayed the rest of the morning. I caught nothing. I really wanted to go home. My cheek hurt for days.
As I recall, it is also around 1952 that Mom made me take dance and ballet lessons in a little old red schoolhouse building halfway to downtown Utica on Genesee Street. I don’t recall ever saying, “You know, Mom, I think I would like to be a ballet dancer.” I just don’t see that happening, but there I am on a city bus with Mom, going to Patsy Smith’s Dance Studio. When we open the door to the school, I see a lot of little girls’ faces. They are dressed in leotards and ballet slippers; all looking at me looking at them. Not another boy in sight.
[BB1] Months later, they paired me up with a girl named Candice. Candy and I became a dancing duet at the age of seven. We were the only duet in the school. Mom pushed me to be the best. She had me practice my dance routines on the kitchen floor.
You might say at this time in my life that I was a strong-willed child.
“Brucie, it is time to practice your dance routine.”
“No, I don’t want to.” I was watching Sky King on the TV.
“You get in here right now mister. Do you hear me?”
“No, I retorted.”
Mom came out of the kitchen and grabbed me by the wrist. She dug her fingernails into me so hard that it broke the skin. She opened up the basement door.
“You go sit on those steps until you decide you will practice.”
The door slammed shut and I heard the sound of the door hook fall into place. I sat there in our dark basement wailing, while I watched the light underneath the door. What seemed like hours passed. The shadow of a pair of feet appeared under the door. I heard the sound of an unlatching door hook. The door opened. A ray of light, like a sunbeam through a cloud, fell on my face.
“Are you going to practice your dance routine now?” were the words floating down the stairs to my ears.
“Y-Y-Yes,” I replied.
I practiced for an hour repeatedly until my dance routine was perfect. It had to be perfect before I could stop practicing.
I enjoyed the tap dance routines with Candy. Shuffle, toe, step, shuffle, toe step. Slide, slide. For our ballet wedding dance routine, she was dressed as a bride and I the groom. She did most of the ballet steps, as I was her supporting partner, catching and twirling her. We were stars of the dance school recitals performing on stage at the Stanley Theater. Take a bow. Listen to that applause. No, really, listen to it. The audience is standing! Wow! They really, really love me.
My cousins Marilyn and Tom from Detroit would come once a year to Utica for a visit. I can remember being so excited that I could not wait to see them at Grandma’s house. There was something very special about Marilyn. We were one year apart. Actually Tom, Cheryl, me, and Marilyn were all one year apart with Tom the oldest. But, when Marilyn and I were together, some unexplained phenomenon would occur. Conversation was unnecessary. It was uncanny. It was almost as if we could read each other’s thoughts. We would finish each other’s sentences. Some sort of ESP. I can remember our aunts keeping watch on us with a questionable eye trying to understand the supernatural bond between us. Marilyn and I stood up together in Aunt Bertha ’s wedding. She was the flower girl and I was the ring bearer. From that time on, in the mind of that little girl, my cousin Marilyn fantasized we were also married on that day. I had a special love for her.
Marilyn’s dad, my Uncle Stan, appeared to be a very kind and loving man. I had a special bond to him that I never understood. He was always happy, smiling, funny, laughing, and seemed to take a special interest in me. He seemed to like me and made me feel I was his special nephew. He would throw his arms around me with a big smile on his face as if to say, “I really am glad to see you. I have missed you.” I felt jealous in some ways that Tom and Marilyn had such a special dad. If I had a dad, I would want him to be just like Uncle Stan. I wondered what that would be like.
I was ten years old in late summer of 1955. We were at Grandma’s house. It was located in east Utica where the Polish and Italian immigrants settled in the early 1900’s. We took the city bus to get there. It was the last stop on the bus route right at the old Savage Arms factory where they made guns and ammunition during WWII. Mom worked there during the War. It was just a short walk down the country road until we arrived at grandpa’s farm.
Grandma’s fragrant multicolored flower gardens were in full bloom with the aroma of their God created perfume. Butterflies and bees busied themselves gathering the nectar. The fruit trees were full of the forth-coming harvest of apples, pears, plums, and cherries. Birds sang their happy songs.
I walked through the high grass to the old apple tree at the back of the property. The scent of field grasses and moist earth filled my nostrils. Alone, I cherished the quiet and the opportunity to be by myself. I could sit here all day. As I sat on the ground, a sense of peace came over me. God’s breath blew a gentle summer breeze that tickled the leaves. The sun caressed me like my blue soft cuddly blanket with its soothing warmth.
Then suddenly I heard it.
The sound came from above breaking the silence. Then again, I heard another chirp, chirp and, looking up, I saw him–a Red Winged Blackbird. Black as coal with his red patched wing-shining brilliant in the sunlight. Conk-la-ree he belted out flitting from one branch to the next higher and higher.
Well now, look at you. Why don’t you come down closer so we can play? He jumped down to a lower branch tilting his head as if to listen. Chirp. See, that’s better. So what are you up to today? Would you like to stay awhile and talk? I think I will name you Red Wing.
Red Wing, my mom’s sick. She has cancer. Do you know what cancer is? Chirp, chirp. Me neither. They’ve removed one of her breasts and now she uses a foam pad in its place. She showed it to me. I think she goes in for radiation treatments, whatever they are. Sometimes when I come home from school, she is gone for days while grandma, Aunt Helen, and Aunt Bertha take care of me.
Chirp. I responded to Red Wing with my lips of bird whistles and sound imitations. I was trying to imitate Red Wing as close as I could. It must have worked because he stuck around.
We spent a long time communicating that morning in an incomprehensible language under the apple tree. It seemed like he was trying to tell me something. Then, just as suddenly as he came, Red Wing flew away.
I got up and walked past the nearby rabbit cages. Up the path past the old outhouse. On a hot day, you could smell the odor from a mile away. A one holer. I looked down in it once. Never did that again. Stunk. Got scared I would fall in.
Kittens followed me up the path through the tall grass to the house. Birds were singing in the neighborhood. Bees flew from one flower to the next. White puffy clouds like shapes of cotton balls filled the azure sky.
It was truly a gorgeous day. The kind of day that puts a smile on your face. The kind of day that gives you warm fuzzies inside. The kind of day you just don’t want to ever end even though you know it will.
Where have you been? Mom said to me as I entered the house through the back door into the kitchen. The entry had sort of a mudroom before the kitchen stairs. This is also, where grandma would store pans of food like perogies, gumpkies, etc, especially in the winter. I don’t remember grandma having a refrigerator.
Out, I replied.
Out where? She retorted.
I looked for you but I didn’t see you. Mom appeared to be very, very irritated.
I was back by that old apple tree.
What were you doing back there?
Talking to a Red Winged Blackbird.
Uh huh, she mumbled under her breath. I slowly slipped out of the savory kitchen while mom busied herself with what was cooking on the stove. Hopefully, what smelled so good cooking would sooth what was simmering inside of her.
Later that day, mom called me into Grandma’s living room. Grandma was sitting on the overstuffed dark maroon couch, mom in an overstuffed blue chair, and Aunt Helen leaned against the wall.
“Brucie, come here. I need to talk to you.” She placed her hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. Her grip was vise grip tight so that I couldn’t turn and run as often I did.
“If something should happen to me and I should die, where would you like to go live? You need to make a choice.”
I didn’t want to go anywhere, I didn’t want her to die, but Mom said I must choose. I thought to myself, Why are we even talking about this? Why now? I like where I am already living. I don’t want to move.
I looked for a way out. “I don’t want to go anywhere,” I screamed in panic with uncontrollable tears, gasping in between words. My head pounded like jungle drums. BOOM, boom, boom, boom. BOOM, BOOM, boom, boom. BOOM, boom, boom, boom. BOOM, BOOM, boom, boom.
“Brucie, listen, you must make a choice. You must make a choice now.”
There was nowhere for me to go. No one to turn to for help. My attempt to escape for the back door was thwarted by mom’s firm grip. If only I could look for Red Wing. Pain surged, anguish blossomed like a black rose. Trapped, hopelessness reached deep inside and took a hold of me.
“Well, I…I guess I…I…I would want to go live with Aunt Helen and Uncle Stan.” However, my mother said, “You can’t go there because Uncle Stan works for UticaStateHospital and they live in a small apartment on the grounds. There is no room for you in that apartment and the State won’t allow it.”
“Well then, I want to go live with my cousin Marilyn in Detroit.” “Marilyn and I are real close,” I thought.
Mom said, “That is not possible.”
I looked down at the floor and there across the room by Aunt Helen was my favorite large conch shell doorstop. I just wanted to run over and pick it up now. If only I could put it up to my ear again and hear the soothing sound of swishing wind rushing across the sea.
“Don’t you want to go live with your Aunt Gene, Uncle John, and your cousin Cheryl?
“No,” I blurted out. “Never.” I didn’t like them very much, for no particular reason that I can recall.
“I think this is the best choice and would be best for you. You can have Cheryl as a playmate and grow up together like brother and sister. So you will go live with them.”
“But…but…but, I don’t want to go live with Cheryl.”
“No more, that’s it, it is settled. I have made up my mind.”
My melt down slowly diminished to sniffles and gasps with an occasional quivering amongst emotional anguish.
I see in my minds eye me standing there. However, what happens next has escaped me. I would like to imagine that perhaps, just perhaps:
I walk over to the conch seashell doorstop, pick it up, run out the front door, sit on the front wooden steps, and listen to the sound of wind across an ocean in a seashell. Then I hear it.
I quickly look around. Where does it come from?
Chirp, comes the sound from grandpa’s front yard plum tree.
I look up, filtering the daylight through prisms of tears. There he is. It’s Red Wing perched on a lower branch. He is looking at me, looking at him, looking at me.
Chirp, chirp, he sings followed by a Conk-la-ree. My heart skips a beat. An instant glimmer of joy illuminates within me. I think he is telling me something. I think it is a message and he is the messenger. Conk-la-ree, Conk-la-ree. I am almost certain of it. If only I could understand Red Winged Blackbirdese.