Oops, an Adult Already

Mother landed on her feet. She had learned enough in the store to go to an independent grocery store owner, and talked her way into a job. She was the soft goods buyer for his two stores. Sam Sacco was an honorable, Italian gentleman and she worked for Mr. Sam for years.

I started my junior year at Bellaire High School. Bellaire High School had a culture I had never experienced before. The high school was mainly attended by predominately Jewish, well-heeled children with full expectations of going to college, They were smart, and this confirmed to me the advantages of being well-educated.

We had religion again. Mr. Sam was such a devout Catholic that being religious was probably in Mother’s best interest. My parents were desperately searching for the answer to their constant trials and tribulations. This time we were going to be Episcopalian. In order to be accepted into the congregation of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, we had to take religion classes. Ron and I attended religious instruction. The priest who taught us remarked, several times, on how well-versed we were in the Bible. St Mark’s sanctuary was a quite, dignified place of worship. The parishioners sat down quietly, bent down to the kneeling bench and prayed, privately. St Mark’s worship service was filled with quite dignity, pomp and ceremony. I have always felt that St. Mark’s was Ron’s first true crossroad and would profoundly affect him for the rest of his life. At St. Mark’s he found a place where gentleness was encouraged and nurtured. It truly fit his temperament.

Margaret’s second daughter, Dona was a baby. Born with club feet, she wore tiny casts and later braces on her feet. I always was crushed when I saw the casts. She had no way of telling us if the casts were hot or itchy. I longed to make her comfortable. An ethereal beauty, she looked so fragile in her crib. Margaret hovered to the point of distraction to ensure her baby would be perfect.

Mother and Daddy were in a full-blown war. She threw him out. He drank and looked for work in various places in Texas. That meant to me, he wasn’t coming back. He started calling at times when he knew that I would be home. He gave me his hard-luck stories about being homeless, sleeping in the car and eating out of garbage cans. I later realized, this had to be absolute fabrication as he had the world’s weakest stomach. He gagged at the slightest, offensive odor. He needed me to buy into his story. He figured I would be the one to out-talk Mother on his behalf. I was a 17-year-old torn between two selfish parents. Positive I would lose my mind before they did, I called Lee to rescue me. I went to Kansas. The Ol’ Man went back to Mother. Hedging against a future divorce, he converted to Catholicism.

Wichita, Kansas was another forlorn place. It was bleak and cold. Lee and Kay generously took me in so I could complete my senior year. I went to Wichita High School North which had another culture for me. In the South, segregation was illegal, but white school districts were designed to minimize co-mingling. Wichita High School North had primarily Black kids. I went to school a half day and worked half days.

My year with Lee, Kay and the kids has good memories for me. I was busy working, skipping school, dancing and doing some Graham hell-raising. I quickly learned this was a path that I was not interested in staying on. Much to my surprise, Mother and Daddy came to my graduation. Kay probably strong armed them as she was always in my corner. I was 18-years-old with a dominate, quirky outlook on life. I rode with my parents back to Houston still feeling the tragedy of wasted chances.

Up to this point, music was an underlying theme of my family. The lives that were fraught with angst and ambitions, created by the music which had dominated the others’ lives hadn’t comprised or crushed me. Music was an intimate solace and a welcome restoration to me. The Graham family was just Southern and screwed up enough to have done Tennessee Williams proud.

Daddy gave me independence. Mother’s expectations to learn the ways and wiles of a Southern lady, I heard. Lee gave me a sense of fun. Margaret taught me it is possible to have order in chaos, and Billy forced me to be wary and perceptive. My shadow, for the first twelve years of his life, Ronald B. showed me that there is grace in gentleness, and it is endearing and enduring.

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Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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