Sunday, July 28, 2013


"You—after all I—how dare—why won’t—you—YOU!”
            I heard my father in pieces, punctuated by grunts or the crash of something falling and maybe breaking.
            “I—I--- I---“ was all my brother Sam could get out.
            He was loud, but not very eloquent, as usual.  He’s got all these problems – like trouble putting his feelings into words -- related to his being “on the autism spectrum”, whatever that means exactly.  For some reason it pisses my father off but mostly I just find it annoying. 
            “I love cats!” Sam yelled suddenly, which was followed by the loud thump of a body hitting the wall upstairs, and I could picture Sam head-butting my father.
            Loving cats and head-butting were two of Sam’s “things”.
            My mother, who prefers to be called “Judy” ever since she quit drinking and decided her real name, which was Brandy, was a trigger for her – turned up the volume on the TV in the family room.  She pulled me close into a snuggle and we continued to watch Project Runway as if my brother and my father duking it out upstairs were perfectly normal, which it was.   
            There’s this book I read that said a bucket of water is a bucket of water to me, a vast ocean to an ant, a cool drink to an elephant, and to a fish it’s home – it all depends on your point of view.  So when I say “normal,” well, that was like my bucket of water, only in this case the bucket of water was Sam and my father rolling around on Sam’s floor upstairs and Judy and I watching TV downstairs with the volume up.
            As I said, to us, this was normal.  To the social worker who visited last week, the same scene would be dysfunctional and maybe detrimental to the welfare of the children, i.e., Sam and me.  To someone reading this, maybe in my memoirs someday or in a piece of fiction loosely based on us, maybe the scene was tense or sad or even funny.  On the other hand, to our neighbors we were just noisy.         
Like the fish in the bucket, to me, it was home.

Sigh.  Such was my life.  Thirteen and so jaded.  Tsk, Tsk, my grandmother would say.  Laney needs to find her joy, to make her own happiness, to get out of herself, she would say.  She has said, actually. 
“All that time in her room and how does she find anything in that scrap heap?  Anyway, do you know she is on that I-thing until one in the morning when she needs her sleep if she’s going to grow,” she said once to Judy, as if I weren’t there.

“Oooh, I like that one,” said Judy, pointing at the TV as a billowy white dress came down the runway.
“Eh, it’s all right,” I said.  “Kinda eighties prom dress.”
“Mm, maybe,” said Judy, shrugging and sipping her Diet Coke.

“That’s it!” bellowed my father as he crashed down the stairs like a bull in a china shop – not to be all cliché, but he was six foot three and four feet wide and our house was an old colonial full of tiny room and tinier stairways, so that’s what him moving around was really like.
“I can’t take this ANYMORE!  I’m DONE!” he said, roaring past the couch where my mother and I sat.
“Daaaaa….” said Sam, right behind my father.
I looked up as my father left, slamming the back door behind him, and Sam sank to the floor in a ball, pounding on his shins with his fists.  Sighing, I looked back at the TV and stifled the urge to tell Sam to melt-down quietly please, or else take his problems elsewhere.
So you see, to Sam, what I thought was “normal” was actually devastating. 
To my father it was the last straw.