Mulling it Over
My wrist still aching with big finger-marks bruised onto it, I contemplated what had just happened over and over the next day at school and how strong Old Weller was. “It’s not nice to play on people’s beds...” (*echo* “people’s beds...people’s beds”...), as he stated while throwing me. This affected me in some small way. I just didn’t know how to react at the time. I wasn’t all that angry, but I didn’t want to let it go, either. And hey, it’s one thing to get leaned on by mom or dad, but another to get heat from others who are not your guardians.
So I’m mulling all this over, and before I know it, several years pass. The only time I went back to that house after this was with mom and grandmother, and during that time, not so much as a raised eyebrow did I get from Old Weller. But surprisingly, for my next birthday, he met me with a smile and gave me another shiny brown stone necklace.
Verbal Abuse & Infidelity
My mother’s mother had a saying: “Let’s clear the air!” She was always about speaking her mind. She believed in meditation and had her own stash of “I like me” books. Easles, canvases, paintbrushes, and colored rulers from local hardware stores used to stir cans of paint were all around her house. To this very day, her pictures still captivate me.
So over the next couple of years, I learned a few things, things that didn’t sit well with me. I never understood it all growing up, but looking back, it is quite clear. She sought approval from her father, my grandmother did, and her father never gave that to her. No one was ever good enough for him, and everyone was either a nuisance or a waste of time. It was best to stay out of his way. And then my grandfather came along and she was respected and validated and treated like a lady. They were so happy. They had three kids—my mother and her younger sister and their older brother. We cousins played together for so many years. These were our best years. But grandfather had been deceased since 1977 due to cancer, leaving her alone to care for two aging parents (one of them a scolding, verbally caustic monster).
I didn’t tell mom what had happened at the Weller house, but I did hint at how bothered I was with the way he treated us. It’s amazing what you can learn when you put your ear to the ground. I had no idea that my great grandfather divorced my great grandmother and ran off with some hussie he met during the second world war at a bar. Grandmother Weller only took him back after the tramp got tired of him and rejected him.
When he wasn’t running around with the ladies or his buddies at the local Masonic Lodge, he was catting around, leaving my great grandmother to take up work as a single mother at a cafeteria in a nearby city, and when that didn’t last long, at a parachute packing plant during the war. Grandmother Weller did great things there. She had the colorless photos of grateful soldiers hugging her and friends at her place of work, still tucked away in massive volumes of really old pics. You could spend a week going through them if you took your time. And they are still to be found at mom’s place and out at mom’s sister’s ranch. Another thing that is amazing is how none of this matters to you until you get much older.
Somehow, she held her own those two long years before accepting back Old Weller, but I got the impression that it was mainly to allow making ends meet a little easier. Damn, they struggled in those days. I never heard an end to how hard it was. When he came crying back, she let him in and finally forgave him. And the rest, as they say, was history.
When I learned that my grandmother’s sister was given a black eye by the ghoul, I wasn’t surprised. “You look like a whore!” he said before she headed out for a night on the town. “Wipe this stuff off your face!” *pow* But grandma was quick to reply: “Well, she actually just turned away and he reached up to wipe off excess makeup, and his hand connected with her face.” “Yeah, right. Whatever you say!” went through my head. “Well, he was verbally abusive,” mother would say. I could never get any more details than that.
It was now about to be summer of 1988. I remember getting this turquoise t-shirt that said something like: “Resist Peer Pressure” or something like that. Mind you, this was just after the JUST SAY NO! obsession of the mid-1980s where all the teachers thought badgering students and making them into crazed misfits would keep them clean! They had no idea that by resisting so strongly, they were only increasing the appeal. Funny...but I digress; and yet, I remember the shirt because after I got it, mom took me over to the Wellers. “We need to help them out cleaning. They can’t see well anymore.” mom said.
So we went for a cleaning day. Brother was still in grade-school. I was in junior high in my last year and we didn’t have school that day. I remember my legs being still sore from trying out at basketball practice. A coach recruited me because of my height, but soon found out (as I did) that I sucked and didn’t want me after all. I was actually relieved, as this way, I could go back to playing the then-new Super Mario Brothers for NES like I really wanted to.
We arrived and spent the day going through more of the same old crap I always hated being around—not to mention the dust stirred up by going through it all. I remember still having a rough cough and this didn’t help things. I was allergic to damn-near everything back then. I remember I had my inhaler with me.
Throughout the course of the day, grandma and mom wandered back over to their house. I have no idea why. I sat in the back yard of the Wellers by the boxes we were going through. And as before, I started getting into stuff—but this time, I had a reason to. But I didn’t work every bit of that time. I fooled around a little.
And out comes Old Weller, always worried about kids getting into his near-petrified stuff. “You better come inside.” he said. And then, it all ran through my head – everything I learned about him that year, it just sort of came flushing back into the forefront of my mind – and it didn’t make me want to accommodate his wishes one bit. I think I said: “I’m supposed to go through stuff.” And then I kept doing what I was doing, knowing he was slowly coming toward me. The anger started to build. I had waited several years for what now seemed to be a rematch. “You come inside. You’re just a boy.”
I knew he was losing his mind and I didn’t care one bit, not at that moment. My adrenaline was pumping like an athlete. I felt like I felt at school when I was just about to get into a fight. There was a sycamore bush and electrical outlets I was sitting next to as the sun beat down on my head and arms and that new house siding. “I’ve been waiting for this day!” I thought to myself in a menacing tone…just as he reached down and firmly grabbed my hand like before. Yep, this was round two!