My daddy was a bastard
See more » My Life is an Open Blog
I spent most of my first five years with my paternal grandparents. I remember their house clearly. My first dog, Dodo. And the neighbor who called me "Bo." Grandma Lucille always remained the church-going family saint. I've always been grateful that she stopped my father from naming me "Montgomery Portress Lee." In the days of Montgomery Clift the first name would've been OK. But I grew up with Let's Make a Deal's Monty Hall.
My first image of Mack Emory Lee dates from when I was about six. There's a dim awareness of his being there before but mostly just remember the places. My parents moved around Savannah lots when I was kid. Don't know why.
My first recollection of him is clear. I was a fan of a TV game show called Video Village. It was played by kids on a life-sized board. They walked across the game at the spin of giant die. My parents had promised to by me the boxed version. My father told me to brush my teeth. Since it was just before breakfast I thought it'd be better for me to clean my teeth after eating. He got mad and told me I wouldn't get the game. I didn't.
My second memory is of him whipping me. Across the street from our apartment was a colonial graveyard. On the other side of the cemetery was a playground. Evidently I'd been rude to the lady who ran the playground. Damnifiknow.
My mother whipped me for something not long after. I didn't let myself cry for fear he'd awake and do something worse.
A few years later I remember him asking my mother, "Gwen, can I have some pussy?" I don't think I understood the request but I was disturbed, disgusted I think. After the birth of my baby sister she stopped sleeping in his bed.
My mother said I was present when he knocked her teeth out. About the time I was four. Not long after he started to hit her. She fainted before he could. He thought she had died. He never touched her again.
He never hit me I always was waiting for him to beat me up in a fit of temper. Imes I would tremble anticipating the blow that never came. This left me with a fear that I would hit someone I love. A guy who read this on my original web site thought my 'latent potential' for physical violence was sexy. I never have, I'm a pretty pacific person. Not a fighter at all, ever.
Daddy could pick up the back of an early 60s car, bend bolts in his hand. Repelled by him I was repelled by his machismo. This shaped my sexuality. Even people who should know better have accused me of having a taste for 'freaks.' The nightmarish side of my childhood has left me forever uncomfortable with gender unless it is flouted or transcended.
He was anything but tough in some ways. An electrician he worked for his uncle a contractor. The uncle retired and offered daddy the business gratis but daddy declined. A rich realtor whose houses he wired offered to set him up in business. Again he said no. He was afraid of the responsibility. Eventually he became head electrician ad the Chatham County Board of Education. He made less money but felt more secure.
My parents took me to bars often when I was little. I would play the jukebox. I'd forget the honky-tonk that I listened to back then only to rediscover it was joy in about the time I turned forty. There were large poker games and a particularly harsh soda called Squirt.
One night he got in an argument over possession of a bar stool. They went into an alley to settle it. The other guy had a knife so daddy wound up in the hospital.
My father's chief passion was fishing. Mostly with large nets he'd put out at night but sometimes with a pole or rod and 'reel. He liked to hunt was well. Almost always with a rifle. He did have a season using bows and arrows. We ate lots of fish which I hated, particularly catfish stew. And fresh venison. More rarely a wild boar. Once he brought home the carcass of a cougar and skinned it. Don't know what happened to the pelt.
He loved a place called Morgan's Creek and we went there many times. I didn't share any of his pleasures. I was bored, tired, hated it. I did like swimming in the river. One time I cut my foot on broken glass but didn't know it until I walked out to the shore. I didn't get treatment early enough and sometimes the foot will ache.
Having to go camping and sleep on the front seat of the Volkswagen van, memories of doing thing likes that don't connect much with any age. Once he made me fire a pistol. It was too loud and I refused to shoot it again.
I couldn't have been the son he wanted. I was solitary and spent most of my time reading. When he was arrested because of a telephone call I'd made from the house I expected him to crush me. Disorientingly enough he didn't get mad. That I'd gotten into trouble was something he could relate to.
His heavy consumption of Kessler's whiskey cut with Donald Duck grapefruit juice took its toll. He fainted a couple of times out on the river. The doctor said quit drinking or die.
No more Saturdays fishing, hunting, whoring. Hell had begun. Suddenly in my early teens my father was home many weekends. Parent-like he wanted to meddle in my life. If a monkey were to give birth to a fish there couldn't have been a greater mismatch.
About the time he had to sober up I wandered into Christianity and got saved. My father decided to follow my example and get dunked himself. The Holy Spirit replaced bottled spirits but it didn't make him nicer.
It did mean going to church at least twice every Sunday. And when clarity asserted itself over naive piety I had to feign being a Christian. He would've browbeaten me incessantly; probably thrown my books out. Once having picked up my copy of Goethe's Faust he expressed fear since it mentioned the Devil.
I don't remember many events. A violent temper tantrum when my mother had made hamburgers on a night when he expected fried chicken. I once typed "I hate daddy" over and over again and he found it. Days latter he mentioned and and got an insincere apology.
After I'd left home he foolishly asked me about my sexuality. I told him what he didn't want to hear. Raging that he was a "man's man" but that I was a "man for man," he told me to get out of his life forever. Eventually he decided that I'd said it only to hurt him.
My mother had planned to leave him when I was 18. But when I was 10 she unexpectedly produced my baby sister.
But by my mid-teens I was so miserable she decided the time had come. Big Mack did not agree. He pulled out one of his rifles and told her that if she left he'd blow her brains out. She didn't doubt him so we stayed.
A few years after I'd left home she'd had all she could take and did leave. She told him she just wanted time to think. But he couldn't accept it. He divorced her on the first day it was legally possible. His first wife had been waiting twenty-odd years for him to come back to her. He called her, they remarried and she moved from Chicago to Savannah. Talk about an unlikely dream realized.
I met her once, a harmless but daffy woman. The was a surgical nurse so skill and competence lay buried somewhere beneath. She'd cashed her paychecks but randomly left her money in drawers for years. My father bought a very fancy van with it once they were back together.
He'd begrudged my mother the household money that he gave her. He once confessed hiding money from her in a light switch. He was the one who collected boats and guns while she'd worn the same winter coat for fifteen years.
Within two years he'd die of cancer of the lungs and the spine. The last words I heard from him were worry that I'd go to Hell.
I was in San Francisco and didn't got to see him. Later I'd get a letter from Vivian, his first and last wife, addressed to "Richard Evans." She'd cut off my last name. I accepted an inheritance of $50 so my sister would get some money that she and momma needed.
When he died I was upset. I called Gordon and spent the evening with him. It was a big change in my map of my world. But I never loved him, liked him. I've never missed him.
Very different: Remembering my momma