( Last insertion and THE END: Nr. 27 February 29, 2000 on page six. )
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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,.. 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
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 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
April 7, 1999
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