Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tom's Oldest Son

(In order to understand this post you will need to read the comments from my last post, Crazy Heart)

I first saw Tom's oldest son when he was an infant.  Tom and his first wife were living on the Avenues in Salt Lake in a lovely old house that Tom was remodeling.  Tom's first wife and I had been friends in Junior High and High School.  We had  much in common, but the most striking thing we had in common was bad daddies who used us for their sexual pleasure.  Odd isn't it that two of the first women in Tom's early life had that in common?  We were smart girls, talented girls, pretty girls.  We were very barely holding it together to keep our craziness from being our undoing.  She was a dancer and a very talented one.  So Tom's oldest son got his father's musical genes and his mother's musical genes.  Is madness passed in the blood?  It depends on the madness.  I'm guessing not in this case.  But what might have been passed to Tom's oldest son is great sorrow that his father left him (when he was still a very young boy) and his mother in a small northern California town to go to LA and make is fortune as a Rock n Roll musician.  I call that abandonment.  I don't know what Tom calls it.

Tom moved into an apartment building in LA next door to Pamela Courson's sister.  Pamela was Jim Morrison's wife.  That's a pretty good contact for an ambitious rock n roll musician looking to make his fortune and a name for himself.  Tom told me that he fell in love with her and in very short order had built a door in a wall to make their apartments adjoining.  He was pretty handy with all his tools.

Remember that during all this time he was still married to his first son's mother and they were still living in a little town north of San Francisco, waiting for Tom to come home or send for them.  Who knows what anyone wanted, expected, imagined, longed for, but Pamela's sister got pregnant.  Jim Morrison got dead, then Pamela got dead, and Tom divorced his old wife to marry a new, pregnant wife.  So Tom's oldest son might very well have begun to feel like "the forgotten one" very early in his life. 

That second child of Tom's was a daughter.  Then there was another pregnancy and another son was born.  Were any of these children planned?  Maybe by Tom's second wife.  I don't know.  I know the first pregnancy was not planned.  They were nineteen when Tom's first son was born.  They were unmarried until the boy was born.  Tom proposed in the hospital where his first boy was born, just after the birth.  I don't know the exact details of any of this.  I only know what Tom told me.  But I can see damage in children.  I can recognize the psychic wounds of children who feel used and/or abandoned.  So can certain kinds of men.

By the time Tom and I were together again in the early '80s living in Tom's house up Emigration  Canyon,  he was divorced from his second wife and I was divorcing my third husband.  He had summer and Christmas holiday visitation with his two youngest children, a six year old girl who seemed very sullen and sad, a girl who read obsessively (a girl I recognized, since I had been that kind of girl) and a four year old boy (a robust and good natured little boy).  We took them to baseball games in the summer and skiing in the winter.  And most nights Tom went off to honkytonks to play Country Western music and I stayed with the kids.

There were a few years when Tom's oldest son joined us during ski season.  He was a delight.  He was so smart and funny and talented.  He did bring his own pot.  He always offered to share a joint with me when we were outside away from the little kids and Tom.  Did I wrestle with myself over the inappropriateness of smoking dope with Tom's teenaged son?  Probably not enough.  Was I a good role model or mother substitute for any of Tom's children while they were visiting us?  Probably not. But I was kind to them.  I did love them.  I still love them more than I ever loved Tom. I had made the choice early in my life that I was not going to have children of my own.  I didn't want to pass the crazy on.  I didn't want to be tied to a man because I'd carried his child to term.  My parents were crazy.  They'd done terrible things to me.  How could I know how to be a good parent?  How would I know who the bad men were?  They all seemed pretty bad to me, in one way or another.

There was the occasional year when Tom didn't exercise his parental rights to visitation.  But not only did he not see his kids, he didn't call them or write them or send them Christmas presents.  This seemed cruel and selfish in a way I couldn't comprehend.  Whatever Tom wanted, Tom got for Tom.  New skis?  Sure, why not. A new and better guitar?  You bet.  A Christmas card or call for his kids?  Not a chance.  I told him how I believed this neglect might make his children feel.  I'd felt that way.  My mother and my biological father divorced when I was five.  I never saw or heard from him again.  No birthday card, no Christmas call, nothing, ever.  I hardened my heart against the man who had no use for me.  I know how a father's neglect and abandonment affects a daughter.  I can only imagine how it affects a son.

Will Tom hate me for writing this?  Probably.  He will have rewritten his memory of his personal history.  Don't we all do that?  He will have forgotten certain details.  Like I forgot the detail of having his oldest son drive me home from Park City after one of Tom's gigs and my needing to pee befor we made it back to the house.  It made a very bad impression on Tom's oldest son to have this woman, this drunken woman pissing on her shoes as she squatted beside the car.  I was taking antidepressants even that long ago, and my nightly antidepressant knocked me out.  That would have been the "sleeping pill" he remembers me taking.  Did I force him to smoke pot with me?  If he believes I did, I must have.  We did smoke pot, but I don't recall ever having to talk him into it. Was my behavior appalling?  If Toms children remember it that way, then it was appalling.  And I'm very sorry I wasn't a better person, a better role model, a better example of how grown-ups behave.


darkblack said...

'I didn't want to be tied to a man because I'd carried his child to term.'

Neither did my first ex. Didn't stop her from roping me to the tracks in front of the Heartbreak Express for a full decade, though.

Multi-generational damage riding below the waterline - Ain't it a kick?

'And I'm very sorry I wasn't a better person, a better role model, a better example of how grown-ups behave.'

Fret not, sweet Utah...Those sort of people only gambol on the silver screen, or dance for our pleasure in phosphor-lit tubes.

For the somewhat more real among us, what you see is what you get...and tough shit if you don't like it because that's all there is - Perfection, unlike death, is never certain.


Utah Savage said...

Darkblack, I so wanted to be a better role model than I'd had. I wanted to be better than I was. I did not want to damage any child the way my family had damaged me. Did I succeed? Probably not by much.

Utah Savage said...

Darkblack, that last line of yours bothers me for this reason: What you see is seldom what you actually get. Everyone tries so hard to disguise the dark places, so few of us are right out front to be seen--in the beginning or sometimes ever. Great beauty can hide a monster. My mother is a pretty good example of this. My dad too. And their parents we monsters too. Nobody escaped the passing on of sexual abuse and the long term damage we either acknowledge or try to hide. If I'd had children before all the therapy and bipolar drugs, I might have been just as monstrous.

Dave Dubya said...

I've had years of experience in extreme psychiatric settings. I will tell you with certainty that "normal" is rare, and undesirable to me.

Being normal is an artificial state. “Crazy” people are real, even though their views may not grounded in reality. It is a reaction to reality. They may know this deep down. “Normal” people’s views are often just as separate from reality but they do not know it.

I guess what I’m saying is reality can be a frightening thing and everyone has their own way of coping.

lisahgolden said...

Memory is a tough thing. We're human and each of us do things that later we'd erase if we could. And sometimes memory lets us.

I suspect you weren't as bad as you think you were.

Utah Savage said...

I hope I'm not trying to exonerate myself here. I dish it out, I should be able to take it. And even though Tom's oldest son is in his 40s he was a child when he started feeling left out. I know from my own experience with decades of therapy that the real lasting wounds are inflicted in childhood and we spend a lot of time as adults with repetition compulsion trying to get it to come out right.

darkblack said...

'Everyone tries so hard to disguise the dark places, so few of us are right out front to be seen--in the beginning or sometimes ever.'

All that's needed is patient observation, Utah - Most people aren't disciplined enough to keep their masks on firmly forever, and those who strive to do such are usually politicians or predators...The type becomes easier to spot through their conspicuousness.

Perhaps what I look for or unwittingly see can't be easily hidden from me, even by one with deep damage and the fear needed to keep it hidden away as much as possible.

I've often felt that this may be because of the damage within myself, like my gay friends with their 'gaydar' - the dark shadows for some holding beacons for others.


enigma4ever said...

you are a wonderful lady....I just sat here and got caught what is going on...and love how you write all of it...memories and photos...and you apologize for not being a better person? you shouldn' and lessons are about what we all learn from each other...each and everyday...we all trip the light fantastic....which we means we all stumble and fall and bounce and learn from each other....that is how we learn...and grow...

I sense that you have touched many lives and taught more than you could ever know....