Little Jenny Gump
My daddy might have been Elvis. I was pretty sure of it, at least between August of 1975 and the weeks following The King’s untimely death a year later. He might have been Elvis just as soon as he might have been Forrest Gump. I was abducted from my grandma’s and daddy’s house, after which, where and who my daddy was wasn’t anyone’s damn business.
As far as my mother was concerned, it wasn’t any of my business either.
The problem for my mother was, I was four years old, I loved him—and she knew it. In my new home, more than 250 miles away, the spoken and unspoken rules related to my father must have been the inspiration for the writers of Fight Club.
1st RULE: You do not talk about your ‘real dad’.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about your ‘real dad’.
3rd RULE: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the fight is still on.
4th RULE: Only mother or step-father may throw blows in a fight.
5th RULE: Any number of fights may happen at a time.
6th RULE: No photos of your ‘real dad’ allowed and absolutely no crying out for him.
7th RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to.
8th RULE: If you won’t forget about your father, we WILL fight.
I don’t even know what story mother gave people about my ‘real dad’, or if anyone ever asked.
I did find, and lay eyes on my father again just less than a month before he unexpectedly, and suddenly died of a brain aneurism—he was 40 and I was 17. And of course, he wasn’t Forrest Gump any more than he had ever been Elvis—but he had been drafted and served in the Vietnam War, and he did have a serious Jailhouse Rock vibe going on. He also possessed a staggering brilliance for all things mechanical. He produced engineering marvels, unaware of any alleged barrier or enormity. He performed impassioned acts of loyalty to friends and strangers alike. And I have it first-hand that he did believe my mother was the Most Beautiful Girl In the World . . . and that he thought about me all the time. He was also a PTSD-ridden alcoholic complete with flash-backs and rages that ramped into domestic violence atrocities against my mother, though he never harmed a hair on my head. He was his momma’s favorite boy, in that Missus Gump kinda way even if she was a bawdy barfly—and he loved his momma, too. Like the Gumps, we share a sketchy pedigree of family members who once called Mobile, Alabama their sweet home and whose name, I have recently learned to carry without shame, but as a reminder.
So, you’d win big if you doubled-down on a bet that my childhood was psychologically and physically agonizing. The million dollar question is, would it have been less so with my father?
I really don’t know.
And those are big words.
But, here’s what I do know:
Tell your Truth at every crossroad you find yourself circling.
Every utterance of your Truth leads one degree closer to those cathartic, pressure-made gems produced by trauma, loss, and pain. Triumph, Peace, Freedom and Honor—those crown-worthy gems, that sometimes, I’ve got to dig for and chase deep into my veins to find—when so many times, I’d rather leave them behind in the dark where they are buried under rotting things, until I discovered that their ransom comes from the light of my utterance, in the presence of love, revealing themselves one precious word at a time.
Every gem is worth the dig.
Guess how I know.
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