(   Last  insertion and   THE END:    Nr.  27       February  29,  2000 on page six.  )

Jump to   page two
Jump to   page three
Jump to   page four
Jump to   page five
Jump to   page six

      Anita's Child

Run Away World of Japan April 7, 1999 1. As I gaze out my picture window,.....I can't help but think how dismal a beginning when I am about to engage myself in a long literary journey into the depths of my soul. I have decided that the time has come for me to tell the story of my life. It is a story that I feel should be told for my sake, my mother and my son. I'm just another wandering soul,"crying out to be heard". Just who will benefit the most from my revelations..I'm at a loss to comprehend. It could be my son,....or all the curious people who are bothering themselves to read what I have to say. I'd like to think of this adventure, as the sharing of a life experience. It would be nice if a few people benefit from my living example. I've decided that I will dedicate this story to my mother,..reddot Anita Purcell  The photo of Anita, is the only one in my possession. I had another print of her in full length, but I let my older brother have the copy. I had lifted them out from the photo album of my father. The photo is of dubious quality,....but the original print was battered and bent and cracked which altered most of the details in the photograph. If you notice,...you can't see the whites of her eyes, which means that I've never seen the "whites of her eyes". There were many a times I wished I could stare deeply into her eyes for the pleasure and comfort of seeing a pair of compassionate eyes. Before I go any further,...I should explain something. I'm writing this from scratch,....without strict proof-reading. The kinds of grades I received, for my lack of interest in doing homework,....prevents me now, from writing with correct grammar. Hope you will forgive my grammar. Though I love language, and love the magical tool of words, it will not guarantee and bestow upon me, good grammar construction. I will be writing in a free form...and just letting it all come out, while doing my best not to confuse you. 2. If you are in any way curious about my lost son Mario, he was born in the town I'm currently living in,...but he was taken away to the north of Sweden,...(more than 24 hrs. distance by train). He was born in the south of Sweden and his mother was born in the north, which helped to complicate things. I was unemployed when he was born, so it was very difficult for me to provide for a family. This created friction which eventually led to conflict. I wanted to continue photographing as an artist, having exhibitions, even if it provided no source of income. I didn't want to give up my pursuit as a photographer artist, but pressure was being applied and when I did not sway, drastic measures were taken to sabotage the relationship with my son. On top of not being gainfully employed,....nor married to the mother of our child, it deprived me of the privilege and respect to be the father of our child. In Sweden, if you do not marry, the mother of the child automatically receives full custody of the child. I had to sue to gain visiting rights. And when I received the right to have my son, over a weekend....the mother of the child, disturbed because I was able to meet my son, planned, with the aid of her own mother, a way to deprive me of my rights as a father. Moving far up to the north was their strategy to sabotage my chances of having a normal relationship with my son. What the mother did, in relocating our child to the north, was considered by many, immoral, but there was no law denying her the right to relocate where she pleased. Her selfish act, to make it almost impossible for me to meet my son, was accepted by the authorities, since she had full custody. My having visiting rights did not weigh in strong enough to curb her being mean and shortsighted. I complained to all the legal institutions, writing letters, and pleading for assistance, but no one dared to help the damned foreigner that I was. We foreigners are second class citizens. Without a job, unmarried and collecting social welfare, I was a superb candidate to exist as an invisible man. Time passed and only one single person made a feeble attempt to speak up on my behalf. So there was no alleviation in my agony of not being able to share the existence of my begotten son. I was told that since my visiting rights were not being respected, it would be necessary for me to sue for the second time. I set in motion the proceedings to sue again, but lost all interest when I realized that my lawyer was only interested in the fee she would be receiving, for helping me with my case. After several months passed, the lawyer told me that it would behoove me to accept not being able to do anything concrete, until my son turned 18. It would be an age when he would be able to decide for himself. I was taken aback by the heartless suggestion that I just let time pass and hope for the best. I refused to continue the farce of doing something about righting the wrongs that I was experiencing. I simply gave up and accepted my miserable fate, which of course planted the seed of bitterness. I am so bitter about the system that allowed this mean and selfish woman to deny me my biological needs, which is to nurture and shelter my offspring. The Swedish State supported fully the mother, while at the same time, usurping me of my role as a father. 3. When I attempt to go back, as far back as I can remember, I see in my mind's eye,......a caravan of black model-T cars. Not too many of them,...I guess about 4 or 5. I remember that it was in an open field,...away from the city. I even remember the color brown of the grounds. We were at some gathering,...that is all I can understand. I have no idea at the time why the people are gathered and why I am there. I was nearly two years of age and did not understand what was happening. Now I understand that it couldn't be anything else but a funeral,...my mother's funeral. I have no memories of her. All that I know about her,..besides the two photographs,...is hearsay from my father, his sister, brother and several of my cousins. Putting it together, I only know that she was a slender black woman of African decent, with a history that retraces back through Barbados and Grenada, and she presumably has her roots in Ethiopia. She was a good dancer and loved to sit on the floor playing bongos. No sounds were preserved. I don't even have a trinket she owned. Nothing of her was left for me to hold in my hands for memory's sake. In fact I didn't even know where she was buried until I took the initiative to find her burial site. When I was 18 and asked my father why he never took me out to visit her resting place,..to my dismay I heard ... "I thought it best that you forget about her....she was very sick. She wouldn't have been a good mother for you." (!!!) I was shocked at his decision to eradicate whatever memory I had of her. There were perhaps good reasons for him to hide his past. My mother was very poor, for one thing and I strongly suspect that she was perhaps a prostitute, the way my father hinted that she was "no good", as if there was nothing worthy of her to remember. Being poor also means a good chance of having poor health, which was true in her case. She underwent surgery in her late teens to remove her ovaries which were infected with cancer. The doctor told her at the time that her chances of bearing children were null, but that didn't stop her. Seven years later she bore a son,...my elder brother Robert. About a year and a half later,...I arrived, but I was not prepared to live very long. One could say that I was making a U-turn, heading back to where I came from, most likely. I was infected with the tuberculosis that was plaguing my mother while she carried me around in her womb. The chance of survival for the "blue baby" that I was, was very slim. I was dying and only an operation could save me. Thanks to my father's blood which was used during the operation, I managed somehow to survive. I would like to thank the physicians who performed the life saving operation in Gorgas Hospital, located in the former Balboa, Canal Zone of Panama. Chances of my mother bearing children were very slim...chances that I would survive at birth were very slim, chances of surviving a major operation that left scars on the side of my head,...neck,..arm and back,..contantly remind me that it is something short of a miracle that I'm alive and well, as I approach the new millennium in the best of health ever. Thanks, I would like to add,... to the garlic water that I've been drinking for the past four years. "Drink to your good health!". I've found the fountain of youth and good health. You may snicker about my bold statement....but come back in 50 years and I'll give you the latest report on my good condition, on my extraordinary good health. :o) 4. Getting back on track.....I remember often meeting my father when he arrived with a train, as it chugged into the station, letting off steam. In those days, the trains could be heard easily, far off in the distance with their loud muffled explosions. I'd always see my father hanging on to one of the rail cars and watch him jump off before the train came to a halt. No wonder I love trains. I think I wanted to be a train conductor already when I was a young lad, 4 years of age. The HUGE "iron horses", the "choo choo trains" with their loud booming sounds as they gathered steam to move those steel wheels, excited me. That was a happy period of my life,...living next door to the train station. From the station to the seaside. The next thing I know,.. I'm living in a large room, high ceiling, several beds and nuns in their capes. I ended up in an orphanage. Luckily I didn't have to stay there more than a year or two. Why the orphanage? Good question. Drunkards they were that were not interested in taking care of dark babies. From my cousin, I hear that my grandmother who had "a drop of black blood" in her roots, was not at all interested in having any "dark babies darkening her doorsteps". She could have helped her son, my father, to take care of us, but I think she did not want to divert any of her income to paying for the extra meals. What else can you expect from alcoholics? She was an alcoholic and so was my father. I heard reports that even when it rained "cats and dogs",...my mother was not allowed to spend the night in my grandma's home! She had to walk through the rain to her makeshift of a home,...a damp and humid dirt floored shanty home. There were nights when she had to carry two babies home through the rain, because my father lay too drunk to help her, sleeping off his stupor. So you can understand why she was afflicted with tuberculosis. I blame the death of my mother, partly on my father, for the negligence he displayed in helping and providing for the woman who was taking care of his children. His drinking always came first. He simply loved to drink, more than he loved his own children. To understand the racism that affected me in a negative way, to understand that it was happening to me,..within the family, makes all other racial heckling and taunting, pale in comparison. The racism I experienced in school and other institutions, just ran off my back like water. But let me tell you for a fact, racism hurts, especially when it happens within a family. That would be the last place you would expect to find it lurking, rearing an ugly head, to strike at the hearts of innocent souls. 5. Don't get me wrong now, I am glad to be alive. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can match being alive and well, being here to see how the life I've learned to treasure, develops. I'm so damned curious to see how things progress. I wish I could be around to see all the new magic we as a civilization, will create. To see new art forms, to see the multitude of ways we humans will be expressing our humanity. There will be art forms in the far future that I never could dream of. In spite of the rough road from the very start, I would never hesitate to fight again for the chance to experience this phenomenon called life. And the thought that we are not alone in this wide universe makes it all the more stimulating. Returning back to my past; it is remembered mostly with the likes and dislikes of certain foods. For example, I remember to this day how I loathed having to drink tomato soup. I loved the chicken gumbo soup. And pork-n-beans and peanut butter tasted so delicious back then. Today they have another taste altogether. I remember mango trees. Mangoes grew wild, and there were several tastes and consistencies in the mango fruit. Some had stringy fibers in the meat of the mango while others felt soft and juicy like biting into a papaya. In fact, one of the mango types carried the name papaya mango, and to this day, it is my undying favorite mango. I've had the good luck to find them once in a while in the store right next door to me, here in this small town of Halmstad, in Sweden. I also found in the same store, cassava and yam, a root plant which you find in tropical countries. Sometimes I feel that finding these produces, was just an answer to my deep longing to taste once again, something from my native country. The psychological satisfaction of tasting these, once again was like returning to a water fountain, after wandering long and far, in a hot and dry desert for weeks. To taste once again, the fried cassava, transported me to gastronomic heaven. Memory works in different ways for us all, I'm most certain. Maybe some of us are fortunate to remember only the nice things we experience. Others are perhaps scarred for life with all the hurt they've experienced. When I search my memory for things that happened in the past, I come up with tastes and smells, both good and bad. I can also remember most of the houses I've lived in after my sojourn in the orphanage. One experience that is a scar that won't heal, happened in one of those houses, a wooden frame house built on stilts, having a large screen door that banged each time I went in and out. Out in the backyard, stood a giant mango tree. I was five years old and it was the fourth of July. I could hear the sound of firecrackers going off and I got so excited. I had to ask permission first, before going out to play. So I put together the nicest words I could find to ask my stepmother "Mommy,....could I please go outside and play with the other kids?" and to my surprise I was both happy and very sad with the response I received. She said in a mild but stern voice, "Yes, you can go out,..but you know that I am not your mother, so you don't have to say 'Mommy' when you ask me for something." That hurt. A slap in the face would have had the same effect. From that day on, I called her by her first name,...using a 'y' ending which comes close to the 'y' used in the word 'Mommy'. It must have been compensation, I guess. So instead of Benilda, I called her Benny and she became my surrogate mother, and nothing more. She never gave me the mother's love I'm sure every child craves. I never in my youth, can remember the feel of a pair of arms embracing me. I always tried to imagine how it would have felt to feel her warm body close to mine, hugging me with affection. Adults sometime lack the wisdom to understand how the pain of rejection can afflict an innocent child. When you look at my photographs with a mother and child involved, now you will understand why I treasure the relationship. A relationship I never had. How I wish I could have been brushing the hair, of a 'mommy'...to make her look so fine. 6. One nice memory to offset the pain of that 4th of July rejection, was a December morning in 1947, when I was seven years old. I woke up to find that "Santa" had left me a brand new two wheeled reddot red scooter ! I was the happiest person on the block,...I'm sure. For the first time ever, I was able to experience a free effortless glide. The only thing that could come near to matching that glorious feeling back then, would be to ride a rocket into space. The next "free ride" was a pair of steel wheeled roller-skates. Happiness rides on the shape of wheels. To feel the wind blowing past my ears was pure pleasure. I can begin to understand those who have their cars buried with them. The thought of "wind in the hair" being an everlasting never ending experience. It just can't be beat. Someday, I would love to ride a rocket into the wild blue yonder and gaze down on that blue ball of an earth and watch the wind blown clouds and pretend that I can hear the rushing wind. Wind and wheels and rockets that fly. I want to go bye-bye with the sound of wind rushing inside my head. Well,..I'd better get my feet back on the ground again. Back to Trap Street in Ancon, Canal Zone. One day I was sent downtown to Panama City, to buy some lottery tickets for Benny. I don't quite remember the sum of money that I was given to buy the tickets. It could have been about two dollars. I placed the money in my shirt pocket and went off on foot. It was only about a ten minute walk from home. When I got to the vendors, I had to search for the numbers I was sent to buy. I happened to notice how one man kept eyeing me smiling at me for no reason. Finally I found the numbers! Then I reached in my pocket, in and around the pocket. Nothing was in it! Boy, was I shocked. I couldn't believe that I had dropped the money somewhere, that I had lost it. Or had I really lost it or was I the victim of the classical pick pocket thief? To this day I will never know that answer. The only thing I could do, to save my life, because I knew I was going to get the spanking of my life, was to turn to the police. I went to the nearest police station in the Canal Zone Sector, to tell them what had happened. I either lost the money or it was removed from my pocket. I was forlorn, I even broke down in a forlorn sobbing. I was frightened to go home. I was scared to death. The policemen who was more or less, filing my complaint, came up with a life saving solution. He gave me the two dollars, to my surprise. I was so grateful for his having saved me from one hell of a whipping. I don't remember what followed after that. I can't remember if I went straight home, or if I returned to the vendors to buy the tickets, return home, and finally hand over the tickets to Benny. I guess the fact that I was saved from a thrashing, has blocked the events that followed, after I left the police station. If that policeman is still around spiritually, I want him to know that I will never forget his compassionate understanding which caused him to dig into his pocket, to save me, from a "You lost two dollars?!" whipping. As I recall that moment, I can almost feel a gentle trembling, as if the nightmare of losing the money, was here again with me, to haunt me. I was only seven when this happened. I've been very careful ever since that incident. I've lost a set of keys on a key-ring, but I never lost another dollar, and I've never had my wallet stolen. I'm not the superstitious one to knock on wood after making that last statement. Well, I'm going to drag you back to another bad memory. And yes, my father is the star, stage center. Well not stage center exactly, because on this night, when I'm 8 years old, and it is past midnight and it is the start of a new year, I am actually in hell. There on a toilet seat, is my father, drunk, and using his two young boys as scapegoats for his having spent the whole night in another one of his " watering holes" but he is not about to feel guilty on this night. Instead, he has decided to hold court while he sits on his shitty throne. With a belt in hand, he recalls any incident which irked him from the year that passed. " Do you remember when you didn't empty the trash when Benny told you to do it, and she had to tell you three times?"and of course that certainly had happened a lot of times. "OK,...hold out your hands, that will be three spanks!! "...and the belt would whistle and crack sharply, as it met my outstretched hand. But, I attempted to use the quickest response to that whistling belt, by yanking my hand back, a split second before contact, and sure enough, the belt made no damaging sting in the palm of my hands, but I did let out a cry, to fake the contact. Benny was there with us, following what was happening and she noticed what I was doing, then laughing, bringing it to my father's attention, which enraged him even more, meaning extra spanks. Once again, recalling the memory, brings back the moment and my blood chills at the thought that I had no one to comfort me. I know that if I had been Benny's own blood, she would not have had her cold indifference to my suffering a senseless spanking in the middle of a New Year's night. Sometimes I wonder if drunks are lucky in that they always forget their behavior when they are deep in their drunken spree. "Did I do that?,...Did I nearly drive off the rode on the way home last night?"..."Did I park the car on the edge of a cliff and the car was so close to slipping over the edge?" This is not fair that they forget so easily! Like one evening when my father returns home, after several hours of drinking, he hears that one of the prize ducks we had out on the farm, had fallen down in the toilet hole, into the muck. He is pissed and can only think of saving the duck. He gets the bright idea of having me squirm through the hole, while he holds my legs at my ankles, and I'm supposed to reach for the duck and save it. But my father is not to be trusted! I knew that with his temperament, if I could not reach the duck from that position, there is no telling what he would have done in anger. He could have let go of my ankles, to let me join the duck. I faked not being able to get my shoulders through the opening. I hate drunks. I hate the way they reason. I hate the way they cause pain to the innocent. I hate the way they risks the lives of so many when they drive drunk. I hate the senseless punishment they hand out, instead of using whatever intelligence they might have, to use love instead of brute force.
7. Before I continue digging up my past,....I feel the need to explain the condition of my heart today....when it concerns my relationship to Benny and my father. First, I have to declare that there is no one on Earth that commands my fullest loving attention, but Benny, when she utters the words, "Butch, how are you?" It nearly brings tears to my eyes, when I think how sweet is the sound of her voice, when she utters my name, with her lovely intonation, and the timbre of her voice. There are not enough words to describe the tingling sensations, the goose bumps inducing words she utters from her throat. Once in a dream, she was on the verge of dying. I, together with some of my sisters, had paid her a visit in hospital. Her mind seemed to be in another place, and she was totally unaware of her mortal condition. We all knew she was soon to die, but she herself, had no idea of her inevitable death, which could happen any moment now. We had taken a walk around a nearby park, and on our return, as we stepped through the entrance door to the hospital, she dropped to the floor, joining another person, who was in the throes of being ravaged by internal pains. As soon as I understood what was about to take place, I panicked! I wanted out! I did not want to stay in the room, to witness her suffering. As I turned to quickly make my exit, the doors of the infirmary slammed shut, right in my face. I was trapped inside. Now I heard clearly Benny moaning in pain, and it tore me up royal. I've never experienced such a tormenting heartbreak. I must have been sobbing for several minutes, and awoke from the dream to find my eyes washed in tears.
Continues   Anita's Child




Run Away World of Japan


©
Carl Toothman
Halmstad, Sweden
April 7, 1999

reddot Return to  PART TWO