Date: Mon. 24 March 1997 9:56:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Please Tell Me About Yourself
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond, but I have been busy on a project and trying to put my feelings into words at the same time.
Yes, it was after the accident that I became The Man of the House. I didn't place myself there though, I was pushed up there by the Women of the House. I was at my father's funeral when it hit me that he was never coming back and I started to cry. My Aunt Isabelle grabbed my hand when I was wiping the tears from my face. She dug her fingernails into me, hard, and hissed, "You can't cry, you have to be The Man of the House now, you have to be strong for your Mother and sisters." I sat there, looking down at my hands. I could see the fingernail marks my Aunt had left there and my tears. They were really my last tears--I don't remember crying since then.
When everyone gathered at the house afterward--mostly my Mother's family, my father didn't have many relations--everyone kept looking at me and smiling, saying, "I guess you're The Man of the House now." That's all I really remember about the time after my father's death.
So I was nine years old when I became The Man of the House. English was my mother's second language so I was at the lawyers office when he was explaining the store's life insurance policy. It was quite a scene: this important lawyer from Montgomery in a room with my Mother, her two sisters and my three sisters, explaining the corporate benefits policy to me and then me translating it into Spanish for the ladies. Basically it was a small pension, barely enough to live on, and a lot of long words I didn't really understand. Mother signed the papers and we left. Do you know what the lawyer said when we left the Piggly Wiggly's office? "So, it looks like you're the Man of the House now."
I learned how to pay the bills, balance a checkbook and all those Man of the House duties. My Aunt Isabelle got my Mother a job as an embroiderer/lacemaker with a dress maker in town, which meant she could stay home and take care of the girls. We kept the house, but Aunt Isabelle and Aunt Louisa moved in with us.
Things began to get back to normal for the women. They had a "man" to take care of the worldly things and each other to turn to for emotional needs. I became the same cipher my Father was, present but not really there.
Things would have been so much easier if I had been a girl.
I have been thinking about my Mother and I now realize that I was very angry with her. I sent you a fax of her and me. When I was a kid I just wanted to shake her and yell, "I am real, I am your son, I am not Him."
I can understand now why my Father ran around with other women. Mother was so distant and childlike, almost like a doll--very pretty, but hollow inside.