daughtersofnormabates











{December 29, 2012}   Graduation

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Graduation

As high school graduation got near, I lacked a clear plan of what to do next. I considered going to college, but I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough. Daddy warned us that college “separates the men from the boys.” He finished three years at Georgia State, playing on the college basketball team and majoring in business. He didn’t get his degree because he had to  marry my mother, who was pregnant with me. That might explain why my mother never wanted me. She blamed me for her unhappiness, because she didn’t really love my father. Maybe. My other theory was illness. A few days after I was born, Mother had intense pain. She thought it was birth pains, but as days passed, her pain worsened.  She had to be raced to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. She was in the hospital for many days. My father was unprepared to take care of a newborn, so Maw Maw, her mother, took care of me. Thus, I never bonded to my mother, nor she to me. If that’s the reason we never got along, I’ll never know. What I do know is that my earliest memories of her are of unprovoked rage at home and phony niceness to other people in public.  I knew that was odd behavior, even when I was a little. So I rejected her even as as she rejected me. I became “Daddy’s girl” because he was all I had. Though he failed to protect me from her, I still felt that he loved me. I had to believe that so I could survive my childhood.

It was graduation week and my classes were finished. I’d made straight “A’s” all year. I planned to vacation in Miami with friends after the ceremony, leaving on graduation night. I wasn’t driving because my green LeMans was old and couldn’t be trusted on a twelve hour drive. Two nights before graduation, I had dinner with my boyfriend Filbert and his parents. Afterward, we watched TV in his room. I fell asleep and when I woke up, it was almost midnight. My curfew was eleven o’clock! I leapt up, said goodbye to Filbert and raced home. I hated being late since being even fifteen minutes late could start a huge argument. I raced up the driveway, parked the car.and ran through the carport. My brother was waiting for me when I walked in the door.  He seemed happy but agitated.  “Lynn, Lynn, come outside. Just for a minute…” “What are you doing up?” I asked. Daddy and Mother were no where in sight. “Where’s everybody? Gone to bed?” I asked. “I don’t know. Just come outside for a minute” my brother insisted. “I have to show you something…” “Okay,” I sighed. I figured It was easier to walk outside with him than to argue. I stepped out into the driveway. At just that moment, Daddy raced up the driveway driving a brand new white car. “Oh,” I said. “Daddy bought himself a new car. Nice,” I said.  Daddy got out of the car and handed me the keys. “Here’s your new car, Lynnie,” Daddy said. “What!?” I screamed. I didn’t completely understand. This is my car? This new car is mine? I jumped up and down and squealed. “Oh, Daddy! Thank you, thank you so much…” I was crying when I got into the driver’s seat. I looked at the dashboard. it was all lit up with red and white lights. A new car smell! I looked at the mileage gauge; six miles. I rolled down the windows, waved and beeped at Daddy and my brother. “Whoo hoo!” I yelled and pulled down the driveway in my new graduation gift.

I drove around the neighborhood for thirty minutes, rubbing the leather steering wheel, testing the lights, the radio and wipers. I just couldn’t believe this car was mine! My daddy was the sweetest man in the world! I had no inkling that he was going to do this. It made me so happy. For the first time in my life, I felt valued. I pulled over on a side road and turned off the engine. I sat for a few minutes in awe of this act of generosity. I felt tremendous gratitude for my life. I wanted to get out of the car, fall on my hands and knees and kiss the earth, but I was afraid if anyone looked out their bedroom window, they might call the police. So I sat there in the dark, alone in my car, giving thanks for the abundance of life.

It was late, so I headed back home. When I pulled up the driveway, all the lights in the house were on. That was odd because all the lights weren’t on when I left. I didn’t expect anyone to wait up for me. I parked the car and went into the house. My brother was pacing in the living room. “Lynn, Lynn!” he cried. “Daddy just drove himself to the hospital.” “What?” I screamed. “What happened?”  “Mother just hit him in the face with a frying pan.” “What?!“Is he okay? Why did she hit him? Where’s Mother?” A scene of violence raced through my mind like film speeding on a fast track. My brother’s face was pale. “Mother and Daddy were fighting and Mother hit him in the face with the frying pan. He was bleeding pretty badly. Mother ran out of the house, screaming at him. I don’t know where she went.” My brother was shaken up. All this happened while I was gone? I didn’t see my sister. I think she may have been hiding in her room in the basement. I saw Mother’s shoes lying by the couch. “Look, if Daddy drove himself to the hospital, he’s probably gonna be okay,” I said. “I’ll look around and see if I can find Mother.” I went out to the driveway and called for her. It was dark in our wooded backyard and there were no human noises anywhere. I got in my car and pulled down the driveway. I wasn’t sure where to start to looking. Where would she run off to, with no shoes in the middle of the night? I drove around the curvy streets of the neighborhood slowly, stopping at every house to see if she was hiding in the trees or shrubbery. I drove down Nickajack Road, down a dirt road leading to the pool club where we were members. It was a dark, narrow road surrounded by pine trees. There were no lights and I barely had room to turn my car around. I drove down to the covered bridge on Concord Road and stopped by the side of the creek, looking to see if she was walking down the tall embankment. She wasn’t in sight. It was futile to drive around without a clue to where she was, so I headed home.

When I got home, my brother met me at the carport door again. This time, he looked frightened. “Mother’s home” he whispered. “Where is she?” I whispered back. “She’s sitting on the screened porch. She’s got a gun. She said she’s gonna shoot Daddy when he walks in the door.”  The screened porch was just off to the side of the living room and kitchen. I kept my distance but I could see her sitting on the white wicker couch in the dark. She wasn’t moving. I thought about calling the police, but I was afraid that if I did, it might make the situation more dangerous. “Look, you go to bed now. It’s late.”  My brother had school tomorrow. “I’ll stay up and warn Daddy before he walks in the door,” I told him. “It’ll be okay. She’s probably just bluffing. Run off to bed now. It’ll be okay.” My brother tiptoed through the living room, past our Mother, waiting in the dark with a gun aimed at the living room. I paced the floor, trying to make sense out of what was happening. Why did she hit Daddy in the face with a frying pan? Is she that mad because Daddy bought me a car? He just bought her a new BMW last year. None of it made any sense. But when it comes to my mother, it didn’t have to make sense. I turned off all the lights and sat in the kitchen. If it’s dark, I figured, she can’t get a clear shot.

It was past 3 am when Daddy’s car pulled into the carport. I ran to the door to block him from coming inside. I turned porch light on and could see a large bandage across Daddy’s lower lip and chin. I flung the door open. “Daddy! Daddy! Don’t come in!” I cried. Daddy kept advancing. “Stay outside. Mother’s sitting on the screened porch with a gun aimed at you right now. She said she’s gonna shoot you if you come in.” Daddy looked tired. His eyes were red and his face looked bruised. “Aw…she’s not gonna shoot me,” he said and walked past me. I held still and watched my father walk directly into the line of fire, through the kitchen, past the fireplace, through the living room. I waited for it, but there wasn’t a shot. I heard his footsteps in the hall and then his bedroom door shut. The jingle of his keys, belt and coins flung onto the chest of drawers. The switch of his bedroom light. I turned off the porch light and tiptoed through the living room. I could see Mother sitting on the wicker couch with a gun still aimed into the room. I passed my brother’s bedroom, the door to my sister’s room in the basement and my dad’s darkened room. I locked my bedroom door, afraid that Mother might sneak my room in while I slept. I climbed into bed and closed my eyes.

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