I was the first child born to two people from very different worlds. My father, the first of two, grew up in a home marked by stubbornness, harshness and unemotional business men.
My mother, a fourth surprise child, grew up in a home marked by love, togetherness and parental equality. My mother had always wanted children, but my father is able to, in hindsight, say that he did not. Thus, my fathers side of the story is riddled with fear and irresponsibility.He remembered very few details about my birth, even straining to remember if it was natural or caesarian.
My mother spoke a lot about the pleasures and pains of pregnancy, hitting on many small details about the days before the long-awaited birth and her feelings.
My father, Jeffrey, was born and grew up in Livingston, New Jersey. He was the first child, older brother to a sister, Jill. Now living in Utah, he is a business man that travels on a very regular basis.
Seventeen months ago, he started Alcoholics Anonymous and has been sober since. This summer, he published a book about his first year battle with the disease. The book is a harsh reality tracking his downward spiral. Thus, I know a lot about my father as a person that many children never discover about their parents.
In these past seventeen months, he has become a different person; he is more emotional, more adaptable and much more open to other people. As part of his recovery, he is extremely honest and is thus, very much coming into his emotions. As I talked to him about my birth, I got many brutally honest details that children never associate with their own births.
My father did not want to have children because he "thought it would be difficult to give up the lifestyle. I was selfish and egotistical."He was fearful that he would turn into his own father, a stereotypical business man whose priorities were in the working world.In my fathers book, I find that he has a lot of resentment towards my grandfather.
Thus, it seems natural that my father would then fear becoming like the man towards whom he had so much anger.He also had a poor relationship with my grandmother, often fighting with her about small things. I think that he grew up in a tense household in which his parents fought on a regular basis.I remember one story in which there was a lot of plate flying and breaking in one fight.
He began to drink at age 12. He was angry and bitter with his parents for the way in which he had been raised, swearing he would do anything not to become like his own parents. My father fought this new responsibility with fervor. They did go to Lamaze classes, but "being in town for Lamaze was putting a dent in my schedule."My father disliked trying to be intimate in an environment with so many other people, "My just spending time with your mom was difficult."They were fighting a lot at this point, no doubt a reaction to the fear my father felt for this new responsibility.
My mother, Lizzann, was a surprise child, born into a family with parents in their late forties and sisters at twenty one, eighteen and sixteen."I do not remember my grandparents, but I've heard many stories of the happy family life."
Mom was very close with both of her parents, but I have heard more about my grandmother, as my grandfather died when mom was 20.One particularly intriguing aspect is the equality that my grandparents seemed to share. Papa did a lot of the cooking and both worked. For a family in the 1950's, this seems especially noteworthy.
Mom grew up in a very large, family-oriented family and has many happy memories of family travel, events and simply hanging out. My mother remembers every single detail of her pregnancy and my birth. I think for her this was a happier time, or at least, she recalls it as being a happier time.
She is a sugar-coater, thus did not tell me about the difficulties that my father shared so freely. It was very difficult for her to get pregnant, but in June of 1982, it finally happened. She recalls being in the garden when she first realized something was up. She talked about getting fat, not entirely due to me as she gained upwards of 75 pounds and had an "everconstant desire for banana splits in which I indulged every night at 10:30. I kept all the makings in stock and could whip one up between the news going off and M*A*S*H coming on.
"My mother recalls that my strong willed and determined temperament began showing the moment I was conceived. I kicked, I danced and I ran in the womb. I was breech, refusing to turn so that my mother could give the natural birth that she had always wanted, "boy was I disappointed in that."
I was two weeks late, growing to nearly nine pounds. My mother did everything she could possibly think of doing to hurry me along: Israeli folk dancing, hanging more efficient closet organizers and planning extravagant surprise parties, all at nine months pregnant. I refused.She went into labor while eating a lunch of chicken tenders and "the best apricot curry chutney" at Larkspur Landing in California with her mother.She didn't want to alarm Nana, so they walked around in the boutiques while mom was in labor.
When contractions were five minutes apart, she drove a manual transmission home and called my father. My father was in a business meeting and "I asked her if she could wait."The actual birth seems pretty normal. My father says "every minute felt like an hour."
He remembers very few details, not even recalling which grandparents, if any, were in town.
My mother remembers every detail from the decor of the room to the names of the nurses. She had just seen "The Verdict", about a has-been alcoholic attorney who was selected to defend the rights of a poor woman who had been in a coma for several years. She slipped into a coma after asphyxiation during a c-section. She had been given the wrong anesthetic because the doctor did not read the chart to see that she had just eaten. "I went into the hospital telling everyone and anyone who looked the least bit medical that I HAD JUST EATEN A LARGE LUNCH!"
She had only five hours of labor and "they were not sure that they would get the anesthesiologist, the OB, the pediatrician to say nothing of a free operating room together in time."The epidural did not have time to take full effect, and she could lightly feel the incision.
My father talked about his fear the moment I was born. I was the first baby he had ever held. I think that moment, his first time holding me, was a tangible realization of how his life was forever changed. "I was scared of holding you and the reality and dropping you. I had never held a baby before in my entire life. I never wanted to. Too scary."He thought I felt like "a warm meatloaf." He held me for a few minutes, then left the hospital without telling anyone, "the thought of warm meatloaf made him hungry so he left and went out to dinner."
The mother-daughter bond formed immediately. Mom refused to be separated from me, keeping me in her room for the eight day stay in the hospital instead of in the nursery. "I loved just looking at you and wondering at the miracle that had happened. So many times during the pregnancy and after your birth I wished that your father had felt the same sense of awe."
Having a child changes life considerably, and I think my father took this impact particularly hard. He could no longer pick up and go. My mother remembers one fight in which he wanted to go to Hawaii for two weeks when I was two months old and leave me in California with a babysitter. He had a very difficult time with this part of his life, "I was not cut out to be a full-time father."
My father and I have not had an especially close relationship. However, as I get older we are able to converse on the same level and our relationship is growing. My parents divorced with I was three, about three months before my younger sister, Moira, was born. He moved to New York and we saw him once a month. He remarried in 1988 to a woman, Toby, with two teenagers of her own.
As Moira and I got older and busier, our time with our father has greatly decreased. I see him two or three times a year when I travel to Utah. My mother and I have had to do a lot of work on our relationship. My strong willed and determined temperament lead me into some defiant teenage years, clashing intensely with my mother and step-father, Gary.
Now, living away from home, our relation ship is much stronger and I have come to enjoy their company. My sister is very close with my mother. Perhaps this comes from the fact that she was the second child, with much looser rules and regulations. Or perhaps they are more compatible.For whatever reason, the two have had a good relationship that flourished especially when I left for college.
For three years Moira was basically an only child. I did not know my maternal grandparents, Poppa died before I was born, and Nana when I was only 3. My paternal grandfather had a stroke when I was 11 and is now living in a nursing home.
In the years following the stroke, he recognized me and would hold my hand tightly when I came into the room. Now, he is unresponsive. My paternal grandmother died suddenly in January after complications due to multiple strokes. Her passing was the first experience that I have had with death. We were close and I loved going down to Florida to visit her. Shopping and traveling were our favorite pastimes. She gave me the opportunity to travel the world!
I was only able to see her about three times a year, thus, I am just now dealing with the fact that she is gone.In many respects, my paternal aunt, Jill, has taken my grandmothers place. I rarely talked to her before, and I have seen Jill three times since Gaga died. It is as if her death has made the family a little closer.
Maggie Scarf talks a lot about the generations before us, and how our lives are shaped by those ancestors. The more I look at the genogram and think of the relationships that it represents, the more I realize that this is very true .My paternal grandparents had a difficult relationship. My grandmother died in January and in the months since, I have learned a lot about her life and relationship with my grandfather who is still alive, but victim of a stroke 12 years ago which left him paralyzed and over the past 6 years, unresponsive.
Theirs was a difficult relationship in which it would "cost him too much" to get out and leave her with nothing. So, they stayed married; that was what you did in those days.My parents' relationship was very similar I think, except for the fact that they did something about it and now are very happy living separate lives. My mother wanted the fairy tale and I think my father wanted to "do what everyone else was doing."
Divorce is a running theme in my family. My paternal aunt has three divorces, my parents each have one, my step- mother has two, my step-father has three and one maternal aunt has one. If the past does repeat itself, I wonder if that spells divorce for my sister, cousins and I.