Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Luck Discussion, pt. 2

What forces determine the kind of life a person will have? When my parents were here at Christmas, my dad told me this: My grandpa's grandmother was deaf and unable to speak. Her father asked my grandpa's grandfather to marry her because "some man had taken advantage of her" and she was pregnant. My grandpa's grandfather, also deaf, though able to speak, so I reckon he was not born deaf, but lost his hearing, figured that he'd not have a wife otherwise, and so he agreed. My grandpa could be cruel to his kids. It's something I've never been able to reconcile myself to, not his treatment of my dad and my uncles, but my grandma, who I think of still as a kick-ass woman, staying with him. I know those were different times, but it's still hard for me to understand. Once, after my grandpa was dead, I asked my grandma about his parents. The first thing she said was that my grandpa's mom had a temper, a terrible temper. And so, I guessed the same thing you're guessing now, that this is how things came to be how they were when my dad was growing up. But this new knowledge, that her mom had been pregnant with another man's child when she married her father, sat me bolt upright. Imagine how scary that would be to have a baby you can't hear crying. Or imagine marrying a man because your father made you. What of this other man? Did he rape her? Did she love him? Was she lonely and curious and lacking the religious indoctrination most folks got in that time? I'm hoping for lonely and curious. Imagining being raped because you can't say who did it, carrying that man's child, and being forced to marry someone you don't love is too hard, or not hard enough, I guess. Do you hate that baby or love it? Do you hate your husband or love him? What of the children that came later? I love it when my youngest nephew comes to visit. He's a little firecracker. But he's so fast and he's always up to no-good, chasing the cats, over-feeding the dog, sneaking out the door because he wants to go look at the trains. It's hard to keep up with him. But he's noisy, so you just have to keep an ear open and you can pretty much stop any trouble before it starts. Still, it's scary. What if something happened to him? You can see where I'm going with this. I don't condone beating anyone, but if it's imperative that your kids behave because you cannot hear them, because you cannot tell when they're crying out for help, and not just you, but no other adult in the house can hear, and you're in this fucked up situation through circumstances you had no control over... I can see how it happened. That's all I'm saying. I don't know. It could be that her dad beat her and his dad him on back to the beginning of time. But when I heard this story, I just felt like "aha, so this is how it starts." Everyone tells me I look just like my mom. Actually, I look very much like her mom. I have blue eyes like my dad's brother and am left-handed like he was. I'm the fourth generation of women in my family to go to college and I'm afraid of heights, just like my dad. All of these things, physical and physiological traits, are easy enough to accept as inherited. Whole therapeutic industries are built on helping folks overcome the things that happened to them. And the premise of many a sociology article and true crime biography is that, if someone commits some atrocious act, something must have happened to him to make him that way. And we all know the guy who can't catch a break, whose wife is cheating on him with the boss who's firing him. But more than that, we talk about runs of bad luck. We seem to have some sense that we can get in a rut, that once things start to go wrong, they have a tendency to continue to go wrong. We also know the girl born lucky, for whom all things seem to come a little easier. Whether you accept a sociological or mystical explanation for it, is it so hard to believe that one's luck might also be inherited, shaped by your family and friends and those that came before you?


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