I ran away from home once to the nearby Bell Theatre, where I often viewed musicals and comedies with my family. I wanted to escape from quarrels, to find in the dark a life as shimmering as the stars.
The Sound and the Fury with Yul Brynner and Joanne Woodward was playing that night. Before long, my father came to take me home. I was eleven, too young to flee my family. He rescued me, as he would later, while away in school, sending me cash folded into his letters.
My father resisted my mother as well: Thanksgiving he refused to eat her green peas and mushrooms, dubbed them buckshot and devil umbrellas— word play an antidote to bickering.
Years on, I taught Faulkner’s novel, remembered the night my father took me home, his small notes on the underside of silver paper lining his cigarette packs.
My father awoke blind at age seven, casualty of a viral infection. With his sight restored six weeks later, lessons had been etched in his vision. When his children were born, he added names as rich as chocolate over cream: Joy, the eldest, was his Piggy; Laurene he called Boosie; Duckle Dunn he dubbed me.
Sometimes I thought we were as feeble as Chinese maidens, foot-bound to home, yet when he broke his ankle, he filled his days as my playmate, trimming paper dolls to please me. He didn’t intend to cripple, spent himself in ways my mother couldn’t imagine.
What later disabled his dreams, birthed his despair? Phone calls to beg orders for the oysters he peddled after his business failed? Brothers who betrayed by siphoning customers? How I learned to resent his failures: the overdue rent, unpaid bills. Only grief when he died could stir me to see.