Granny, I Hardly Knew Ye

I never met my Father, who was killed by a teenage drunk driver on Valentine’s Day, on the 610 loop in Houston. He’s buried in Conroe, Texas, and I haven’t been there to see him – or rather his stone – and anything beyond an incidental visit while in Houston seems a monumental waste of time and money, replete with irony: flying to see a monument to a man, in death, who never lifted a finger to see me, in life. I do have his face, essentially, a few pictures of him, an old home movie, and the flag under which he was interred, but that’s about it.

When I was 19 and on hiatus (read: suspended for a semester) from the University of Florida, I took my suddenly free time to visit Lake Charles, Louisiana, meet my grandparents, uncles, aunt, and cousins, and actually live in Houston with my uncle Charlie, Jr. (a man who made a living with a coke scale and a pool cue before he found the lord) and his lovely wife Sonya, for a few months. My Grandparents did their best to take an interest in the new kid on the block, but our bond wasn’t very strong. I think they were exhausted from the fallout of my Dad’s seven marriages and roller coaster life. They still didn’t know what to do with the other kid, my half-sister, Cassie

Back in Houston, Charlie & Sonya dragged me to megachurch, First Baptist, where I got saved, but not even Jesus could save me when Charlie got the second month’s phone bill, which was around $300. I had been engaging a boyfriend back at UF, Clark Daniel Shoemaker, for hours with the phone stretched into the pantry. I called CD that last night, to have a final chat, and Charlie got an earful, just outside the pantry door. The jig, as they say, was up.

An exemplar of Christian kindness, he threw me out the next day, and I never saw them again. Some of his last words: “Your Father would be so humiliated that his son was a queer, and I’ll do everything I can to keep you from ever finding your sister, Cassie. She doesn’t need you to complicate her life.”

It took me almost 20 years to find her. He had her phone number.

Dad’s Dad, Charles Page, Sr., died some years ago. I wouldn’t have found out at all had it not been for the efforts of my sweet cousin Missy, who was always good about getting in touch periodically. Thanks, Missy.

Dad’s Mom, Leota Page (neé Punch), died this morning in Lake Charles. I don’t know how old she was, but I’m sure Missy will fill me in.

All three are gone now, and I’m not really sure how to feel. I’m not grieving, except for maybe on a reptilian brain level that instinctively knows that one of its own has passed. I’d cite a morbid curiosity about why I never heard from any of them, except Missy, for the last 21 years. Wow, they must have taken that queer thing really seriously.

I’d say the feeling is like that of phantom limbs, although I never had the limbs in the first place, to miss. Rather, they’re like miscarriages: people who might have been, who might have meant something to me, but nah, not happening.

No matter. Everything is closed now in Lake Charles, but I’ll call in the morning to send flowers to sit next to the casked (or urn) of a woman I hardly knew, but to whom I owe my existence in some tenuous way. Missy and her mom, Sherry, will take comfort in seeing that I observed Leota’s passing, as will Uncle Harry. And Charlie, who cares what he thinks, anyway?

That’s The South in me: love me or leave me for being a queer, at least they’ll know I was raised right.

4 Responses to “Granny, I Hardly Knew Ye”

  1. Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Wow. When I was thirty, my dad’s dad showed up at my work one day (I had never met him before). He said “Are you Matthew Thompson?” I said “yes”. He said “I am your grandfather”. I said “nice to meet you”. He invited me to a family get together, and I said thank you. He left. I didn’t go. I never saw him again. A year later I heard from my aunt that he passed away. The whole thing didn’t seem real, it was very creepy. Sometimes the past tries (in futility) to connect with the present, but never amounts to anything more than a weird feeling of wondering what could have been.

  2. 2 waltzinexile
    Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Raised right and then some — all thanks to your awesome Mom (which I know you already know.)

  3. Saturday, July 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Sometimes we are who we are because of someone and sometimes it’s in spite of someone. Sometimes, it is both of those things for the same someone. Leota and I have that in-common. You are so unique and exquisite because of and in spite of Leota and me. I think that you had more to do with that than you might think. You have always been able to take the best that people have and dismiss the worst. As for your Uncle Charles…well, let’s just say that all I remember your father saying of him is that he had big ears and a simple mind. You learned from him the hypocracy that still plagues humans. You also learned, even more, who it is that really loves you and reveres your entire person. Other than you, Missy and Cassie are the best things to come from that batch in Louisiana. I picked the right man to father my child. He gave to you his tenacity,independence, stunning charm and good looks.
    The hairy chest? That’s from the Van Wycks!

  4. 4 Missy
    Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I want you to know that I am very proud of you. I think your mom and your grandparents did a fantastic job in raising you. Even though I was raised around this family I don’t feel any closer to them than you do. I don’t remember your dad, except for his funeral. I was 4 and all I remember was standing by a casket draped with an American flag. What seems so strange to me is that I miss him. I think of him often as I think of you. Mom said that I would have loved him and that he would have loved me. I like to think that’s true. Instead I just feel very blessed to love you.

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