A Momentary Matter


My sister was the dominate personality in my life. I did not talk to anyone else except for the minimum degree required when my sister was away at school. For a long time, my parents used to listen at our door in order to determine that I could indeed carry on a coherent dialog. This verbal reluctance and my frequent sleeping had promoted the fear that perhaps I as a bit slow.

The day my sister died - actually she was killed - was one of those dramas that happens in life without warning or reason. I completely repressed all but one brief memory of it for over a quarter of a century.
The day started with all of us preparing for a trip to some friend’s house - a late summer party. My sister and I were dressed first so we went out to play as the parents prepared. We were told, of course, to stay clean. Well, I found an entirely irresistible wet sand pile and started building what was sure to be the great mud edifice of the 20th century. My sister, frustrated with the cosmetic results to my sailor suit (which I hated by the way), finally smashed down my erection (sorry). This enraged me and I proceeded to knock her directly into the center of the mud puddle. I have never taken kindly to people messing up my architecture. Unfortunately, it was just at this moment that my (step) father showed up. He was furious, smacked me a good one and placed the (verbal) blame on my sister (employing, no doubt, mysterious adult-logic).
I ended up crying; my sister ended up crying; my parents ended up fighting; and we all ended up late to the party.
The party was wonderful!
I remembered this part. My sister and I picking strawberries and running naked through the sprinklers as we ate them. Also, I do remember wondering what the big thing was with the clothes. We had a fine time. Later, however, on the drive home things turned dark and my parents relived and expanded the argument. We, of course, thought that we had caused this painful circumstance.
You have to get to be an adult yourself before you realize it is possible to get into a rip-roaring fight over “nothing” at all.
The scene at home was bad - and when I did finally recall it - it replayed like some grainy black and white grade B moving shot by a camera two feet off the floor. It ended with my mother marching out the door suitcase in hand, my father retiring to his room with a bottle of scotch and the two of us sitting in a darkened room without diner under the injunction to be quite.
I started to fix a peanut butter samwich but it ended up on the floor - plate broken. This lead to my father - who was well on the way through the bottle by now - to ban us both from the kitchen. Naturally, I stared to cry and naturally I got leveled for the sound effects.
After some time had passed, my sister tried to sneak into the kitchen to get food. This is when the movie turned into a horror show. I saw my sister running back toward our room, the light from my father’s door, his movement, his yell and my sister falling as he kicked her in the stomach.
The story was that my sister hurt herself playing and fell over a box. She died of a ruptured spleen. She never returned from the hospital.
My mother returned and fell into a deep depression. I was sent to live with my grandmother. The continuity of my life returned when I woke up one day sitting in a red wagon being pulled by my grandmother. It was years later that I pieced together that that I had a nine month gap in my memory. It was many years later before I remembered what happened.
Yes, of course, for many years I though that I had killed my sister. She was getting the food for me.
Less you conclude that my stepfather was a monster let me point out that he came from a violent and broken home, had educated himself entirely on his own and become a pilot and Officer in the US Air Force - a remarkable achievement. He found himself, hardly yet a man, fighting a horrible war and trying to make a family and a life. In the end, alcohol and confusion ruined him. But that was years later and another part of the story.
This was a very damaged man. I did not know it. Nor did my mother. Nor the Air Force. He tried living by rules that killed him in a circumstance he was not prepared for. He lost it all in a moment - in a complexity of issues and feelings he did not possess the means to understand. In all the years I knew him, this was the only act of violence that I ever saw - (although not the only act of abuse). What memory did he carry? What did he think for all the days that followed? How did he resolve it?
It was only a momentary matter and it changed several lives in a flash. Life is like that. A momentary lapse and someone dies. Thousands of such lapses and a freedom is compromised. Millions, and a people are destroyed. Many millions and a planet starts to die.
The important thing is to understand how violence transfers from one generation to another and to break the (possitive feedback loop) cycle that traps so many. A little blond girl named Penny - who had sparkling blue eyes and a flashing smile - taught me this. A little girl that never grew up and enjoyed mature love nor experienced loss and doubt. A life snuffed out before it had begun. The only unforgivable act would be to forget.

Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
November 13, 2000


SolutionBox voice of this document:

click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted November 13, 2000
reformatted November 15, 2010

revised November 13, 2000
• 20001113.882092.mt •

(note: this document is about 75% finished)
























Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase
Sound-alike matching
From: ,
To: ,
Show:   results   summaries
Sort by: