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Family Life

Serious chat with my mum

My grandfather, John

Before the war

I didn’t question this all that much. He was born in 1925. He was a featherweight boxer, it was reputedly his career. He had two brothers. One died from tuberculosis. The other during the war, I believe.

His time in WW2

He was in the infantry, the section this article defines as the Dogs of War.

Summary of beginning of said article:

  • Those that willingly joined the military and the best recruits were specialists. Many men joined technical roles or other more prestigious roles.

    • Only 5% of the men who volunteered in 1942 chose the infantry or armor. This led to a severe shortage and in turn, many unskilled people in infantry.
  • A lot of people died in the infantry division so there was constant replacement troops so men rarely built proper teamwork or had an even distribution of combat experience.

    • Statistics compiled in March 1944, before the army had even engaged in the great campaign to reconquer Western Europe, showed that the infantry had suffered 53% of army casualties, despite making up only 6% of its personnel.
  • The US made the infantry division egalitarian. The Germans had elite and low-grade units. The low-grade could be used strategically allowing the elite to consistently outmatch the US division.

And, he described his time in the war similar to this:

  • He constantly survived by sheer luck. He described it as countless miracles. Over and over most of his troop would be killed but someway, somehow he lived. He carried with him countless trinkets for good luck and attributed those trinkets to keeping him alive. Basically, it was basically a miracle that he lived through the war.

    • As a side note, he was a part of a troop that liberated a concentration camp.
    • There is quite a bit more worth knowing in from this section

Eventually he came back to NYC

He married Lorraine. My deceased grandmother. And worked at some government agency (an extension of the MTA) that worked on the subway cars. He was a mechanic. My mother was born on 1957. They lived in the Bronx, near the East Tremont Avenue stop on the 6 train.

He was dapper. “He looked like Frank Sinatra.” He was a constant drinker. I believe Evan Williams or Seagrams were his drinks of choice. He drank just about every single day. And constantly smoked. He was also a constant reader. He would read several books every week. And a barman. He would sit at a bar and do whatever he did there, suppose chat and chat. A man with a loud mouth. And a beer belly. A skinny man with a belly. Supposedly, very knowledgeable about a many subjects, could talk eloquently throughout his life.

I remember playing the card game war with him quite often.

My grandmother, Lorraine

She was born, I think in 1930. She was an independent woman prior to becoming a married woman. She had a good job (for a woman at this time) downtown in Manhattan as, I believe, a secretary. She took a lot of pride in this work. A beautiful woman. Dressed well. But when my mother was born in 1957, she became a housewife. And was full of resentment for the rest of her life because of this fate.

She and my grandfather never got along well. Lot’s of arguments and anger. She was also a constant smoker. She loved to chat with lots of people. Often, she would sit on the stoop outside the apartment building they lived in. And had her group of friends, who she would do her lady things with. While my mother was a child the population of the neighborhood was much more white but they gradually left while my grandparents stayed put, to live out their final years.

While I grew up, my mother would often talk on the phone with my grandmother. My grandmother was dramatic and hated her life. Hated my grandfather. As mentioned before, there was continual resentment that she did not live the life she wished (to be a career woman). She spoke of suicide quite often with my mother, and she never knew what to say about this. She died a few years after my grandfather, in a bathtub.

My childhood, the negative things

A primer

My home, as a child, was small. Every space was open. Privacy was simply impossible. And my parents had a tumultuous relationship. They just never got along well.

My family never talked about real things. We were the “eat dinner while watching tv” type of family. There was never times where the conversations were related to subjects of a deeply personal level. We constantly lived on the surface. The main reason was my father. It was simply impossible. There was an emotional non-attachment. He cared and felt but he was unable to express his inner self. This all sounds funny. Inner self that is, but the more I live the more I realise that, if one wants a meaningful life, they need to speak in an unfiltered way. And, in my family this form of conversation did not exist. I know that my mother wished to talk this way, but the masculine energy overpowered her ability to do so. One can argue that she could have been stronger, but history speaks for itself in my opinion.

This environment of safe, unfiltered communication would have been of value. So I wonder further why things were this way.

My mother and my father

My mother was attracted to my father initially from a physical and a social perspective. He looked quintessentially like a hippie. Long red hair, a red beard, plaid shirt, etc. And he was always happy. He had a magnetism. He tended to attract people. Similar to my grandfather. But, it was a facade. At these times he was drinking or high or on psychedelics. Deep down he was not much of a people person. He did not love to be around people. He needed substances to be the person that people expected him to be. That beaming happiness that attracted my mother she quickly realised to be the person he presented, not the person he really was. Close minded was what he was.

And how it connects

Our family could not just be in the moment together. We lived in this world of having to do things. We watched tv while we ate. When we went to things, when we traveled, we always had to be on the move… doing this and that. Even during the little times, ideas trumped affection and kindness. My mother speaks of an analogy about my brother, who has a habit that she says my father exactly had. When she tells him a story he will listen but tap his fingers, signifying impatience. And when she is finished he would say things like, “you could of said that in 20 seconds” with some form of disdain. Our family never learned to recognise each others traits. To accept one another. Have gratitude for one another. Try to help each other become better than we were before.

What I know now

The problem, above all in a selfish perspective, is that I was not able to figure out who I was as a child. Perhaps, it was a mental deficiency. But I realised this strongly when I returned to college in my later years. I never learned such simple things as what a career is. As the fact that school leads to a future. That reading is something that expands your mind. And so much more simple but hard to start skills.

Though, the thing was that my mother knew all these things. She built her career gradually even while having to take care of three children. She got her master’s degree. She constantly read.

But her fear to speak up, or the real truth, her inability to. This lead to these lessons being a part of my inner thought rather than the thoughts and words that I lived by. I had to go through life and unearth these thoughts from the depths of my mind. I’ve struggled to turn them into words, and beyond that, into actions. And, it’s still something I am fighting to turn into reality.

But, history speaks for itself. I better feed it the right words.