Leaves on the Family Tree

The past is never completely in the past; nor is the present ever completely here and now.  Time dances before us in a strange waltz composed of memories and dreams.  The melody is a complicated rhythm that is at once lightly joyous yet shaded with notes of sadness and regret.  The leaves on the family tree sway to the lyrics of our family song.

I see an old picture of Morris Gore.  This is the grandfather I never knew.   He is a little boy of maybe 11 or 12.  In this photo, he is almost the same age  his son (my father) was when Morris deserted him.  He doesn’t look like he will grow up to desert his wife and children.  He looks harmless. He doesn’t look like a boy who will grow to be a sociopath.  I wonder what caused him to travel the road he chose? Does he know  his shame has haunted three generations?   What would he give as his defense if he were able to speak?

I have read The Sociopath Next Door and am well aware of how commonplace mental illness, narcissism, and selfishness are in our post modern society.  Yet, when the sociopath is not just next door, but is actually a leaf that,though long neglected, still dangles from your family tree, one wonders just how this legacy will affect future generations. Odd family behaviors that before seemed inexplicable, now appear as patterns as familiar as the leaves that encircled the family dinner dishes you washed night after night.

I have believed for at least thirty five years (if not more) that my grandfather was a musician who drank too much and deserted his family when my father was only 13.  The  five years prior to his death (he died when my father was 18) have always been clouded in mystery.  I was always told that he died in Harrisburg, Arkansas while in jail for being drunk and disorderly.  It was generally accepted that he had most likely died from pneumonia brought on by  exposure to the elements before he was arrested.  This story, while not exactly one to be proud of, was the story my father chose to share with others when pressed with questions about his past.

It has only been in the past year that this family story has been examined closely.  For better or for worse, we have discovered that the family drunk may also have been the family sociopath.  Somehow knowing that every family has at least one does not make this revelation any easier to accept.  Though it does explain a great deal about my family’s weird and crazy behavior.  We simply have crazy criminal genes.  Lucky us!

Morris, my grandfather, was a talented musician.  He drank too much. Okay, I can live with that.   He was  a criminal who was jailed for two years in Texas for forgery. WHAT?!?!?

I wonder how many other criminal leaves sway in the breeze on our old family tree?  I never knew Jailhouse Rock was the family song.  At least it has a good beat.


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