Friday, January 1, 2010

Reflections on the past from the New year

This I wrote several years ago:

What was Left Out

Current mood: indignant

Category: Writing and Poetry
Monday June 23, 2008

My dad is a poet. He's kind of famous in his own right. A few years ago, he wrote an autobiography. I went to visit New College in Oxford in 2002 where my dad was the guest speaker. The class was studying my dad. It's creepy to me. My brother's and I are not in it. It was explained to me that "IT wasn't about you."

That really wasn't the point. Part of me is relieved I'm not in it. I don't have to tell him he got me wrong, which he usually does. I didn't have to watch him gloss over the truth or just flat deny it.

But I cannot imagine writing an autobiography without mentioning my children. He goes back and forth in time a lot and even references points where we were definitely alive but nada. My brothers are not offended or shocked by this. Their attitude is "whatever". It's just more proof to me that he is an incredibly self centered individual.

Here's what else he left out.

His mother was Irish and his father was French and American Indian. His father abandoned the family shortly after he and his twin sister were born and I don't think he ever saw the man again so his mother relied a great deal on her family to help her out. My dad was always looking for father figures and was pretty close with his maternal grandpa and one of his favorite uncles was his mother's brother, Woody.

He had great affection for Woody, but I never liked him. He always made my skin crawl but I never thought about it too overmuch. He was drunk a lot and kids tend to be frightened by drunken uncles that are loud and talk too much. My dad grew up in rural Oklahoma on an Indian Reservation. His step father was full blooded Osage Indian and he was raised in the tribe. Most of this is in the autobiography. Here is what isn't.

Woody married a Ponca Indian woman named Jewell. They had a few kids and he spent his married life being drunk and unreliable and abusing the hell out of his wife and kids. Wish I could say this wasn't the norm in that time, that area, that culture, but it was. That didn't mean that it was patently okay cause it wasn't. There were quite a few folks who thought it was NOT okay to beat up on your wife.

I don't know how many years into that marriage this happened but the story goes, Woody and Jewell were driving, Woody was half drunk as usual and the car blew out a tire. Somehow this became Jewell's fault and a fight broke out on the side of the road. He beat her up pretty good that day and everyone driving by got a front row seat. No one bothered to stop or intervene. But something must have snapped in Jewell that day.

I'd like to think she was just done. Done with all of it and the public humiliation just sent her right over that edge. While Woody had his hands under the car, Jewell managed to pull the jack out and drop the car on him, trapping him. Then she walked away, hitched a ride and never looked back.

Woody survived it, albeit with a broken hand and a huge ego poke but he never laid a hand on that woman again.

I like the imagery of her dropping the weight of the car on the hands that beat her. My dad continued to adore his Aunt Jewell as well as his Uncle Woody even long after the divorce. But somehow he could never see that bad side of Woody.

Jewell was a seer, a highly sensitive individual and she could take your hands and tell you something you wouldn't understand for years. I was alternately fascinated with her and a little frightened of the intense way she looked at me. She did seem to me to be an overwhelmingly good person and when I finally heard this story (my mother told it to me, not my dad) I had so much respect and admiration for her, I hardly knew what to say. What a brave, terrifying and amazing thing to do. In general, I don't accept that violence is the response to violence but getting away is the goal and I think she did what she had to do.

Those are the stories I wish went in that book. But they live in me. He can't admit them because they would reveal too much about him. I thought that was what you were supposed to do in an autobiography.


Contra Yogini said...

Thanks for reposting this. A powerful piece.

Even more brave, to me, is that this woman was thought to be a seer. I can only assume she knew what lay ahead for herself when she got together with her abusive husband. I wonder why she did it? Intriguing...

VanessaMRR said...

I wonder if she could see much of herself- or her own journey or if she had even come into her talent at that point. I would love to have asked her more questions but it was not to be, she passed a few year ago.