Jackie’s Boys

[Dear reader-friends: I’m back from a too-long hiatus over the summer of 2018, where I changed jobs and took a break from my planned 1990s posts here. It being the tenth anniversary of my parents’ deaths, I’d been working on posts about each of them. This is the first.]

My late mother, Jacqueline Adams, was an only child.

She was born on Sunday, Feb. 10, 1935, to Mamie Magee, her slightly neurotic third-generation Irish mother, and a well-to-do northern Indiana farm boy named David Raymond Adams. Her backstory: when Jackie was born, Daddy Ray had an affair with another woman (who remains unknown to Jackie’s first-born son—that is, me), and Mamie vowed to never have sex with her husband ever again (again, can’t verify the validity of that rumor).

I bring all this up now because 2018 is the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.

September was also the tenth anniversary of my father’s death, so both anniversaries have been at the forefront of my mind since the year began. I published a memorial for Mom in the Minneapolis paper back in May, on the exact day she died. In the memorial I used the third photo in this post, which occurred on a momentous day in my life: when my only brother Brian was released from the hospital (he’d been born a premie), in February 1962.

It’s an odd sensation to see these photos over 50 years later, after all the experiences that have passed through my life, realizing there was a moment when this actually happened—when I got to meet my new brother for the first time (below right of me on the sofa taking in the sobering fact I was no longer star of the family). Dad likely took the photos, but it could’ve easily been Grandpa Ray, who was every bit the shutterbug throughout his long life.

The thought that’s been running through my mind is something that probably didn’t occur to me much while my mother was still alive: how isolated she must’ve felt living in a household of two boys and a husband, as well as a still-present conniving and charismatic father. The only other woman was her mother, who as mentioned had her own issues with men. Mom’s “sister” was her first cousin Lois, as they were only a year or two apart and were raised somewhat together.

I witnessed Mom’s isolation growing as the years passed, and I’m certain she didn’t get much sympathy from either my father or brother—both of whom failed to understand her clinical depression. I became more sympathetic when I was diagnosed with dysthymia in 1987, but even that revelation didn’t bring us much closer. I may have resented it—I know I was in denial about my mood disorder for the longest time. Things came to a head in 1995 when I nearly took my own life. I’ll be digging into that awful event in the weeks to come, but for now let me just say my affinity toward Mom solidified after the mid-1990s.

My brother harshly criticized Mom and her depression, especially in the 1980s after he graduated high school. I hated him for it and tried to defend Mom whenever possible. But I know I failed in that and, toward the end of her life, it was largely because I was afraid of how her illness had consumed her—leaving just a shell of her former self.

My brother and I weren’t always so distant.

As toddlers, we scrambled underneath clothing racks in downtown Indianapolis department stores, hiding there while Mom shopped and we were eventually discovered by ladies sorting through the racks for deals. We were schooled by our parents to be respectful of our elders, so when we were showcased in front of our parents’ friends we were always quiet, attentive, and dutiful. You know, like “good boys.”

The thing is, I don’t really recall any solid bonding with my brother from an early age. We had (and still have) different temperaments. We gravitated toward different interests and friends. Brian was always more tactile and drawn toward objects and material things; I preferred music and reading and being in nature.

Since 2008, and losing both our parents, we haven’t grown much closer. Brian went through a divorce a couple years ago, and I suffered job setbacks and a disruptive household move. It’s been a very confusing decade. I’m certain our parents would be heartbroken by the state of things, both in the world and within our family. And I’m not sure what to do about it. How my mother (and, for that matter, my grandmother) would’ve regarded the “Me Too” movement is hard to say, but I know in middle age Mom read feminist literature and was plain-speaking about all forms of intolerance. I like to think I learned more about how to treat women from my father, who never disparaged anyone as far as I could tell.

I’m hoping life settles down and things change for the better. There’s some reason to believe that is happening. After all, my brother and I are still alive, still healthy, still exploring how we will lead the rest of our lives.

I hope he’s feeling as hopeful as I am.

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~ by completelyinthedark on October 19, 2018.

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