Friday, August 14, 2015

Mother Loved Him Best

Mickey was always in trouble, from his youngest years until his death. Although I was only one year, five months, and five days older, I was charged with keeping an eye on him when we were turned out to play. This responsibility was laid on me before I started kindergarten and I know I failed miserably. For starters, he chose bad company. Our next door neighbor was one of his partners in crime. That kid actually ended up a career criminal and in prison. Early capers included raiding the cookie jar and kidnapping my dolls. From there, they progressed to stealing candy and comic books from the corner store. When they had been banned from that store, they branched out, walking several blocks down to Park Boulevard where three drug stores and two five and ten cent stores tempted them with things they could easily pilfer whether or not they needed them. Mickey liked to give presents to his girlfriends. From his earliest years, he always had a lot of girlfriends.

He didn't always get away with it, sometimes he got caught, usually when he had to explain where his purloined goods had come from. Punishment was generally a spanking and he got walloped with either a hair brush or a wooden coat hanger. I remember hearing him scream, "Help! Murder! She's killing me!" Spankings usually occurred in the bedroom he shared with brother Rick and he would be put to bed after. While he was screaming, I sat on the edge of my bed in my room next door with my hands tucked between my knees, rocking back and forth, tears running down my face. When our mother went back downstairs, I would go to his room and comfort him. I always felt it was my failure to keep on eye on him that caused him to get in trouble.

He loved animals and collected them without scruples. I was unclear on where they came from. Looking back, I suspect he just took them as casually as he stole comic books. He would come home with a critter and a story. He claimed he found a dozen baby quail in an abandoned nest and saved them. The shovel-nosed Mexican skunk (de-scented) he told us had belonged to a friend who could no longer keep it. He re-homed rabbits, turtles, fish and snakes. Dogs and cats were off limits after our ringworm experience.

As teen-agers, we had a horse, an old mare named Nellybelle. He learned to ride very well and before long was allowed to exercise the neighbor's horse, a beautiful, nearly unmanageable, Arabian gelding. He rode in horse shows and won ribbons. He had the ability to excel in whatever appealed to him. And he failed miserably when something did not.
Nellybelle is in the foreground, Rofan, the Arabian, is looking over the fence.

He was always seeking attention, love, and approval in self-destructive ways. His behavior swung from charming and polite to rebellious and nearly violent. He ran away when he was a teen and was picked up by the police in Fresno. I don't know if he had done anything illegal, but he was gone for several days. And everyone rejoiced when he came home. He quit high school soon after and went to work making blueprints for an architectural firm, but six months later decided to return to school. He went from receiving failing grades to straight A's overnight; from juvenile delinquent to president of the school choir. I was afraid of him during his teen years. I now think he was mentally ill.

Mickey joined the Air Force shortly after high school. He met and married Mary Ann while stationed at Luke Air Force base near Phoenix around 1962. He was assigned to the K9 Corps, a perfect fit for him with his love of animals and skill in handling them. On one occasion, he was marching in a parade with his dog. For some reason, he fell and was down on the ground in need of medical attention. His dog stood guard and wouldn't let the medics near him until he ordered her off. He loved telling that story, the excitement in his voice told you he enjoyed the drama of it

When discharged from the Air Force,  he, his wife, and newborn daughter moved to Fallon, Nevada. There they lived in a little house on the property belonging to our grandmother. Mickey trained to take over operation of the Spudnut Shop, the restaurant started by our grandmother and later run by Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill. At some point, after a big fight with Uncle Bill, Mickey walked off the job and abruptly moved his family back to Oakland.

When back in Oakland, he fell ill. He could not keep anything in his stomach and vomited whenever he ate. This went on for weeks and he rapidly lost weight as the doctors tried to diagnose the problem. Eventually, he was hospitalized, fed intravenously, and in desperation, an exploratory operation was performed. Nothing was found, but he spontaneously recovered and never had a recurrence.

He went to school and gained some skills in the emerging IT arena. One day while at work, he slipped on a lettuce leaf that had fallen in the stairway. His back was injured and he went on workers' comp. His inaugural back surgery was performed, the first of more than thirty surgeries. Medical emergencies became his career. He accumulated a number of other diagnoses from several of the doctors he saw and took many different drugs prescribed by physicians who were ignorant of the web of medical practitioners he used. One diagnosed lupus, another a heart disorder and prescribed blood thinners, a third thought he kidney disease.

While going through all this medical drama and trauma, his marriage ended with the realization he was gay. Quite likely, the stress of trying to live a "normal" straight life by the definition of the time contributed to his craziness. I am so sad he had to live with that conflict and inflict confusion and suffering on the family he created.

By this time, his pattern of crisis and medical intervention had become routine. It was woven in with a pattern of alienation and reconciliation with his birth family. Some storm would brew and Mickey would be incommunicado for a year or so. Then suddenly, he would reappear and there would be great joy and celebration. My parents were continually manipulated by this roller coaster relationship. We siblings grew weary of his machinations  and were a bit more callous about his comings and goings.

And we learned to predict his "stunts." You could be sure if Mickey was present at a family event and was not the center of attention, he would construct something to draw attention to himself. When we went to scatter the ashes of our father on a desert hillside, Mickey took a tumble and slid down the ravine. I said, "oh, for heaven's sake, get up." And he did.

In September 1985, four of the five siblings took a wonderful fishing trip with Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill (Mickey had reconciled with them). We went by sea plane to an island fishing resort off the coast of British Columbia, There were no other facilities on the little island. Late in the evening, brother Rick came to get me and brought me to the room he shared with Mickey. Mickey was sprawled across the bed, a bottle of pills appeared to have fallen out of his hand, some pills were scattered on the floor and he seemed to be unconscious. "What'll we do?" asked Rick.

Said I, within earshot of my prone brother, "It's just another stunt, leave him be. If he dies, blame me."

Mickey was on time for breakfast and the next day's fishing, Not a word was said about the night before.

On one occasion in 1984, he underwent a back surgery without advising the surgeon he was taking blood thinners. He very nearly bled to death and had to have many transfusions. This was in the days AIDS was rampant and the blood supply was tainted. And, although he was not promiscuous, he was sexually active in a series of gay relationships.

Shortly after that, he declared he had cancer and was seeking alternate therapies in Mexico. He moved to Puerto Vallarta at that time and established himself in the ex-pat community where he made many friends. He was charming and easily made new friends, although he wasn't very good at sustaining relationships.

He died in Puerto Vallarta, wasted down to a skeleton. The death certificate says cancer of the stomach. I think otherwise.

My mother always said, "A mother loves most the kid who most needs her." And boy, did she love Mickey.

1 comment:

  1. You are speaking of my Father, I have not read your blog untill now and I and so very upset how you speak about my Dad!!! You can say anything you wish but you can never take away my memories of my Dad. And my wish is that you never speak of him again!! What right do you have to desecrate his name after his death.. Keep your meandering to your part of the family. Lynnette Blair