Thursday, September 4, 2008
Memories . . .
Writing that last entry got me to thinking about the past, and my mother. That's her in the pic above, around the time I was six. Life had already dealt her many a cruel blow, and so sometimes she wasn't always smiling at this point in her too-brief life. Perhaps she was thinking about how to escape living the hell that was the Bronx, and her psychotic live-in boyfriend who would become the father to my little sister a year later. I'd like to think she's still a dreamer in this pic, the wistful hint of a smile revealing grand plans to gather up her boys and make a better life for herself ALONE.
She'd done it before, to escape our own father. Little did she know that that would be her final escape.
My mother got pregnant with me when she was 16 years old. She had me just two months after her 17th birthday. My brother, Jose, a year later, and my next brother, Eric, a year after that. All to my father. Something must have happened between them before the birth of my brother, Eric, for by the time he was born she was already living by herself in a six-story walk up trying to support her 3 sons while on welfare. In this photo, she took us all to the park one day. I'm 3 and a half -- that's me wearing the yellow Tweedy Bird shirt, and my brother, Jose, in front of me. As you can see, although my mother had great responsibilities at such a young age, she still liked to act like a kid sometimes and have FUN. I remember these moments the most.
My mother was not a perfect woman; she had her faults just like any mother trying to make sense of raising kids. She hit us when she couldn't bear to, cried when she thought no one was watching, and was very strict. She was also wise, compassionate, and caring. One night I had a massive headache and couldn't sleep. I was worried something was wrong with me and crawled out of bed to ask my mother. She told me not to worry, that the pain was from the fact that I was too smart, and that I had too many brains inside my head! I was only 6, but somehow that made me feel a lot better, knowing that the pain was just from being a genius or something. I went back to bed happy, and had no trouble falling asleep. She always knew the right things to say to me.
In the above picture, we're at Virginia Beach. I'm the one standing on level ground; Jose's the one trying to make himself look taller than me. My mother was happy in this pic, because she got to take her sons to the beach and play with us all day long.
This was the best birthday ever, in my estimation. My mother was great at throwing b-day parties for us, although she didn't have much money to spare. The decorations were reused from many prior b-days, the cake she made and decorated herself from out of the box, and she made sure all the kiddies in attendance had goody bags to take home and snacks to eat at the party. Oh, and why was this the best b-day ever? Because she got me a Spider-Man watch since I had turned 7 -- a big boy's birthday present! I'm showing it off here in the pic (I'm trying to stifle my excitement). My mother, forever clowning, dived into the background at the last second.
My mother's name was Carol Ann Banks. She died at the age of 26 on January 1, 1986 -- New Year's Day. I was 9 years old, and my life was never the same again. The one annoying question I get from people to this day is: why don't you smile more? Or: why are you always so serious? This is the reason why. The world stopped being a happy place for me the day the police came knocking on my grandmother's door to tell her that her daughter had been murdered. We were eating breakfast at the time, wondering why my mother had never returned home from visiting my sister's deadbeat dad. I was eating a hard-boiled egg when I overheard the policeman say "I'm sorry." I dropped the food, crossed over to my bed, and just sat down in the corner, leaning my head against the wall. Nothing seemed real. This wasn't the way it happened in the movies. They were just joking, right Grandma? She's just sick in the hospital -- we can visit her, right?
No baby, this is not Hollywood. The good guys and girls don't always win in real life.
It wasn't until later that night, when all the lights were off and I could finally be alone, that the tears came. Even to this day, there is a hollow, lonely part of me that will never feel joy. I do smile on occasion, and I'm easy to please and make happy. But deep down where it counts, there is still a little boy looking for his mom to make sense of the world for him.
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