When I attended Southwest Junior High, the one smart thing I did was to enroll in band. It contributed as much to my preservation as anything else might have. Band opened doors for me, allowed me to participate in something without being athletic and gave me an opportunity to look, learn and listen to some great people. Like nothing had before, I could socialize and watch the workings of normal people. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of normal people around me – just not ones I could interact with socially. Band allowed me to listen closely to others and see that my situation in life wasn’t normal by any definition.
The point of this post isn’t so much about how important band turned out to be for me but to demonstrate how life always seem to come in give-and-take doses for me.
One year, the band director Mr. Morris managed to get me a scholarship to band camp. Whether he paid for it out of pocket or someone else donated the money, I can’t be certain. What I do know is that there is no way I would have ever been able to go were it not for his involvement. It would have never occurred to me to even ask mom and dad for the money. The band camp was held at the U of A campus in Fayetteville.
It was one of the best weeks ever in my life, even including being trapped along on an elevator for a couple of hours.
When I came back home from band camp, instead of going to my house, I went over to my paternal Uncle Buck’s house. I was still on a mental high from everything I’d seen and experienced during my time away at band camp. It seemed like life might be worth experiencing and that people didn’t all think I was weird.
Mom and Aunt Ardith were of course drinking even when they drove over to pick me up. I could smell the beer just getting into the car. They continued doing more of the same when we got back to my aunt’s house. I went back to Jimmy’s bedroom on the other side of the house to play around on Jimmy’s console computer and watch television.
I don’t know how much time passed but horrific screaming interrupted my thoughts. It was my mom, screaming my name at the top of her lungs. It sounded like someone was pulling her tonsils out with a fork. Jumping up, I flung open the bedroom door and ran down the hallway.
Aunt Ardith was straddling mom with her knees by her ribs, using handfuls of mom’s hair to yank mom’s head up and down, hitting it against the RCA console tv. Mom’s head was making a ‘clunk’ sound each time Aunt Ardith threw her head down. Mom was screaming at me to get Aunt Ardith off of her. Aunt Ardith looked at me with murder in her eyes as I told her to let mom get up. Instead of letting go, she asked mom if she was going to shut her f%$%^ing mouth if she did. Mom cursed at her. Aunt Ardith gave mom’s head one final clunk and then got off her.
Mom took several seconds to get shakily to her feet and then attempted to hit Aunt Ardith. Aunt Ardith pushed mom’s fist away and slapped mom so hard her head swiveled and she had to sit down on the floor again, still crying and cursing. My aunt lectured my mom about her need to make everyone mad and start fights.
(Sidenote: I would have never hit Aunt Ardith. Yes, she could be angry at times. But she didn’t hit me in violence or scream at me needlessly. I never saw her hit mom unless mom hit her first or so vilely screamed at her that she was pushed into it. Aunt Ardith was my gateway to normal experiences that most people take for granted.)
Without a word, I turned and went back to Jimmy’s bedroom. In less than 2 minutes, mom stormed into the bedroom, cursing me for letting her get beat up. She screamed at me to go get in the car. Mom was so drunk that she kept hitting the doorjambs as she walked. How we made it home I’m not certain.
Incidents like this one made me doubt the truth of any good moments in my life. It seemed back then that it was impossible to enjoy life without getting a punch in the gut in return.