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autologue: brief scottotian family history

Date: Thu, 08 Oct 1998 23:54:22 -0700
Subject: autologue: brief scottotian family history.

there are no normal families.



recently my Grandmother Goldie died of lung cancer. i flew to iowa to attend the funeral. it was a sad occasion all around, as you might expect.

months later, i flew to atlanta to hang out with my Uncle Craig, youngest son of Grandmother Goldie. i learned a few things about my family history that night.


my Grandmother, i learned, had been married once before meeting my Grandfather. she was married to a man whose name i never caught. there was one child from that union, Juanita. this man became extremely abusive, and my Grandmother was forced to divorce him. at that time, in iowa, divorce was very unusual, a significant stigma. Grandmother and Juanita left that man, moved to Waterloo, Iowa. eventually Grandmother met my Grandfather, and they had two other children, my mother Crystal, and my uncle Craig.

Grandmother's ex-husband never forgave her.

my grandfather's name was Clyde. he owned a very successful hotel in Waterloo, and that was how they supported themselves, Grandmother and Grandfather, running a hotel, they and Juanita and Crystal and Craig living together there.


eventually Grandmother's ex-husband came to Waterloo, looking for trouble.

he came to the hotel, knocked on the door, and when Grandfather Clyde answered, he pulled out a shotgun and shot my Grandfather point blank in the chest.


Clyde survived.

the ex-husband was never prosecuted.


later Clyde developed serious alcoholism. serious to the point where my Grandmother knew not what to do. eventually, she had him committed to a mental institution, in an attempt to wake his ass up. my Uncle Craig never forgave Grandmother for that; the stigma attached to that caused the hotel to collapse, and community respect to vanish. Clyde fell further and further into alcoholism, and eventually died of alcohol poisoning, well before i was born.


Juanita and her husband Jack live in Missouri.

in my Grandmother's last days, living in the convalescent home in Waterloo, my mother and my sister Stefani were with her round the clock. my Grandmother's greatest fear was dying alone. mother and Stefani both managed to hold down jobs somehow, mother's relationship to her husband Steve was sorely tested, and Uncle Craig also flew in regularly to help take care of Grandmother's affairs, while holding down a job and supporting his family in Atlanta.

they asked Juanita repeatedly to come up and help take care of Grandmother. Juanita repeatedly refused, though she and Jack are retired and have no pressing affairs in Missouri. it was left to Craig to decide how to manage Grandmother's will, which was wildly out of date. Craig decided that since Juanita was already well taken care of, and since Craig himself had plenty of money, that Grandmother's very modest estate should be left to my mother.


Juanita and Jack came for a weekend to say their goodbyes.

i came on a separate weekend to say my goodbye. hugging her that last time is the most painful thing i can remember in my recent history.


when it became apparent that the time was very very near, Grandmother placed one last call to Juanita, begging her to come up and be with her. Juanita refused, claiming that she needed to be in Missouri in order to tend her garden.


after the funeral, Juanita approached my mother and Craig with a barrage of questions. "why didn't anyone tell me mother was going to be cremated? why didn't anyone tell me Crystal was going to get all of the estate?" they replied, "we tried to tell you, to get you involved, but you wouldn't," but she did not particularly hear that part of the message. Juanita had been given ample opportunity to come up and take whatever she wanted, but she never availed herself of that opportunity.

much of Grandmother's old furniture still sits in my mother's home in Iowa. she is selling it piece by piece.


finally, a horrible phone call took place between my mother and Juanita. Juanita was full of accusations; mother defended herself as best she could. eventually words spilled out of Juanita that would burn the bridge, even as Jack could be heard in the background saying "no, Juanita, no."

Juanita said to my mother, "i wish my father had gone ahead and killed your father that day."

they have not spoken since, and will never speak again i am sure.



Sonny Douglas Moore is the man whose surname i carry with me to this day. he managed a local shipping dock for Consolidated Freightways, called my mother "Tiny," and was father to me, my younger brother Bradley, and my younger sister Stefani. he was also a terrible alcoholic, and a cheater. my mother eventually divorced him.

mother's second marriage was to a man named Paul. after a year of being with Paul, living under enormously restrictive and abusive circumstances, and discovering that he had gone so far as to tape record every one of her phone conversations, she divorced him as well.

mother's third marriage was to a man named Steve, my stepfather, an ex-marine. i never got along with him at all while i was young, but that is not particularly important, as my mother has finally found her partner.


for years i wondered why my father Sonny Douglas Moore had been so awful to us, leaving our family when i was 11 and choosing to avoid contact altogether, avoid paying child support, avoid staying in any kind of contact. my brother's heart was broken at an early age when he learned that Sonny had not fought for custody.


when i was 13, Sonny briefly reappeared and rekindled his relationship with my mother. it was a horrible ruse; he vanished again months later, and my mother was a shambles. seeing mother in tears was a sight i couldn't readily understand, all along, no matter how many times i saw it.


i was cast in Hamlet in college, and father issues became important to me as an actor. i told my mother i was considering looking him up and confronting him.

i did not have the guts.


Stefani, however, did have the guts to confront him. Stefani at one point accused my stepfather Steve of child abuse, ran away from home, was incarcerated in juvenile homes, developed drug and theft problems, and finally was sworn off by mother and Steve as a member of the family. Stefani needed somewhere to turn, and she called Sonny Douglas Moore and asked if she could visit.

Sonny said yes.

during that visit, Stefani learned some information that had been a family secret for years.


mother called and said she needed to come to Chicago to tell me some things.

she was frightened out of her mind that i was going to resent her, that this would produce a rift, and for the first time in my adult life, i saw her in tears again as she tried to explain what had happened.

she had been married once before Sonny Douglas Moore, to a man named Rich. i was the only son of that marriage.

at an early age, they divorced, due to immaturity on both parts. i was perhaps a year old when this happened. when mother met Sonny, she made the unilateral decision that Sonny would adopt me, raise me as his own, and Rich would have absolutely no contact with me from that point forward. those were different times, i guess. Rich chose to abide by that decision.


there was a strange sense of relief, knowing that i was not descended from the bastard Sonny Douglas Moore.

my mother and i have a strong relationship to this day. resentment is not particularly a part of my programming.


i have two half sisters from Rich's third marriage, one half brother from Rich's first marriage before mother. the half brother, older than i, attended the same high school as me. he knew who i was. he hated Rich for having abandoned his mother. he never approached me.

even my babysitters knew this family secret, but i of course did not. i am amazed the secret stayed secret as long as it did.

had i been born a girl, i would have been named Shonda. Shonda is now the name of Rich's first daughter from his current marriage.


i finally met Rich a few years ago. he is a self-made man, with a law degree and an undergraduate degree in the philosophy of religion. he owns businesses, has over the years owned restaurants, movie theaters, bars, and currently bowling alleys. he is extremely well off. in our first meeting, two days in a hotel bar, we learned as much as we could about each other. i told him of gravity, of drugs, of theatre, of whatever i could. he said he was stunned by how mature i was. i don't know what that means, of course.


there are no normal families.

someday i may have my own abnormal family, just you wait.

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