This morning I can laugh. Last night I was plunged into my inner child self, the sensitive, vulnerable little girl I learned, in my 40s, to call “Orphan Annie;” the one who was reprimanded, often, and sharply, by her German Dad, to the point where she collapsed, went invisible, died to the outer world. Why?
Her actual living experience was directly contradicted by him. The strong, cutting words felt like daggers to the heart. This was not a matter of being “first, or best, or special,” but of survival. Orphan Annie took over, pushed my fiery original double Sagittarian nature down, down, so that she wouldn’t be noticed, so that someday, yes someday, she might revive and re-emerge.
Orphan Annie took over at 3 years old. I “woke up” (again), when I was 26.
So why this note of seriousness — or is it serio-comedy — on a morning when what I’ve got in my iPhone to show you are clown pictures? Okay, first the clown pictures.
We were in the main hallway yesterday, heading out after lunch for some sun on Mount Saint Vincent’s beautiful deck overlooking Seattle . . .
when, all of a sudden, clowns!
Mom encounters the first few Seattle Seafair Clowns . . .
Actually, about 30 in all, including a sun-kissed angel!
Which reminds me of this doorway. Can you read the sign? It says “Angels Welcome.” Damn. It’s blurry. I’m lucky most of my photos are clear enough, since I’ve inherited that primary tremor of the right hand from my Dad, and sometimes it’s very obvious, especially when I’m hungry, and I took this shot on our way to dinner. Notice the ingenious handle thingamabob that includes a bungee cord. We wonder how it works.
Back to the clown story.
Once outside, Dad sat in the sun for exactly ten minutes (more, and he would start to burn, he tells me) and Mom in the shade.
Then, we moved to the swing. Mom got us to sing a few songs, and she and I got to watch the clowns get back into their four gaily painted vehicles to leave.
When I told sister Marnie about the clowns last night she said her husband, Mick, had been a clown for awhile, and that it gives them an excuse to flirt with the ladies. Yeah, even old ones!
Okay, now back to Orphan Annie and how the joke’s on me.
Last night, just before I left, I mentioned that they might want to say their daily rosary — a longstanding tradition: we were one of those families “who pray together, stay together” — before the night care person arrived at 8 p.m.
There we’d be in the evening after dinner, all of us kneeling up straight on the living room floor with the phone ringing off the hook and unanswered; for Marnie, no doubt, her many boy friends and girl friends — and me insanely jealous of her popularity, “saying the rosary.” “Not so fast!” Dad would boom. “Kneel up straight!”
Oops! That memory just slid in.
Back to yesterday: Dad replied, “Two nights ago, the night care woman said the rosary with us!” I replied, puzzled, “No she didn’t!”
Cuz I was here two nights ago, and when they said they were going to say the rosary, I said okay and went in their bedroom to read my book, “Moo.” Remember? You’re my witness. Okay? The woman, Charity, didn’t arrive until after they were finished. I remember this very well.
Oh yeah? Well, what I said set Dad off. His Mercury/Uranus in Aquarius, always sharp, like pointed sticks, full of what I call eruptions and abruptions and interruptions, just went ballistic. “Yes, she did!” he repeated, loud. Then, furious, “Are you accusing me of lying to you?”
Wow. I was totally taken by surprise. He’s been so “good” with me, this time. Has held his temper in quite well and though he still orders everybody about, he does it with humor, and thanks me sincerely for whatever I do for him.
All that I have learned in my adult life about not triggering this kind of explosion in people went into full-on mode. I tried to explain that it must have been three nights ago, not two nights ago, when the woman prayed with them, since that would have before I arrived. But he would have none of it. Just denied it. Told me “I don’t care what you believe. She prayed with us two nights ago.”
Well, with that, all the layers of enculturation, all the various defenses that I’ve built up to cushion me against this sort of early psychological and mental and emotional violence dissolved, and left Orphan Annie sitting there, naked, shaking, stunned, and needing to get outta here.
Just then, Mom asked, sweetly, “Would you like to pray the rosary with us?”
Well, you can imagine how crumpled my face, how awkward my response, as I said no, and walked into the other room with “Moo.” I lay there for the all-of-ten minutes it now takes them to power through the rosary out loud — feeling all the old feelings, knowing that this was good, this re-emergence of this ancient wound to my psyche that had so fueled the development of my “personality,” my “persona”; that this old festering wound had erupted so that I could, once again, integrate it consciously.
Is it ever over? Or do we continue to revisit old wounds, each time with more and more finesse, less trauma. It does seem, today, the day after this eruption, that my heart is even lighter than before.
Perhaps that’s the real meaning of “enlightenment.” Lightening up one’s being with each turn of the wheel, each arc of the spiral, as once again, we pass over that same old place, that wound that serves as a sort of lodestone, or touchstone, for that which we go on to learn in this lifetime.
When I could no longer hear their dialectic drone, and the rosary was over, I walked back in — and then surprised myself by trying again (!) to broach the subject. He would have none of it. His mind is not, and never was, really flexible; certainly not flexible enough to suddenly widen his field of vision to understand how we could both be right about our own experience, if we enlarge the context to include a third night — the night prior to my arrival.
I told him that what he said hurt my feelings, and that I imagine his feelings were hurt, too. He agreed. We both felt that the other had directly contradicted our experience.
We left it at that. I walked back to my little room on the third floor. And processed some more. And realized that the extreme emotionality of it probably came from the fact that the rosary is so important to him as a symbol of the Catholicism that I claim to be “recovering” from and that he uses as a framework to buttress and enclose his entire life.
Interesting timing. Indeed, synchronicity . . . As I write this, someone just knocked. A beautiful woman comes in. “It’s communion time!” she trills.
She asks them to begin with reciting the “Our Father who art in heaven” (again, powering through it), and then she offers them both Communion. (It’s Sunday, and they aren’t going to Mass.)
On her way out she asks me if I want Communion . . .
Back to my story. So, when I arrived at 8 a.m. this morning, Dad said, apropos of something else, that as a 96-year-old man he is sometimes confused. I take that as a veiled reference to last night’s altercation.
He and I are so damn much alike! And we butt heads like two charging rams, both strong-willed, strong-minded, and utterly divergent in our “beliefs.” He wants a strong framework that guides and supports him. I want to blow through all beliefs, in an ever-expanding spherical exploration of the infinite dimensions of the infinite universe.
And, we love.
Love is all there is. The joke was and is on me, who thinks that I was “beyond” this inner child stuff. Orphan Annie is right here, hiding, lurking, ready to be triggered by whatever is the next miscommunication with the being who sired me, in more ways than one and who still teaches me; who is still, yes, thank you thank you, my most honorable opponent.