American Gothic


MY SISTER RECENTLY  mailed some photos to my daughter, and my daughter sent this copy to me. The original was in color, but I made it black and white because it’s more in line with reality. It would have been taken around 1987.

You might notice that nobody is smiling. We were not smiley people. I still am not.* Oh, but my sister is smiling, you say. Not really. That’s her Cheshire Cat expression. She was probably planning an assassination of someone on Fox News.

We were not a happy family. Strangely, I would not have said that had you asked on the day of this photo. I would have shrugged. My father was a boozer, and so was I. He had stopped when this shot was taken, but I had not.  We both stopped voluntarily in our early 50s.

For the same reason, I imagine. It got too painful.

We drank in the same fashion. We were not violent or abusive. We were quiet and out of touch, the sort of drinking that can do about as much damage to relationships as someone who throws chairs through windows and screams. We did none of that sort of thing.

My sister was no stranger to the sauce either. I don’t know to what extent she overdid it because I rarely saw her. She graduated from high school and left home when I was 14. That was about the end of a sister in my life. She went on to stumble around, primarily in university settings. She took up with hippies. She taught English a while. She got graduate degrees in stuff like counseling.

In her 40s, she hooked up with a New York City gang called Social Therapy, which had connections with the New Alliance Party and a shadowy, charismatic figure named Fred Newman. Many call it an anti-semitic cult. I am one of those who call it that.

She is 73 now, lives alone in Atlanta, and has a private counseling practice. She is a left-wing fringe, lesbian, feminist fanatic, and I quit communicating with her about two years ago. I would have cut ties far earlier had my mother died sooner. My mother long embraced a family fantasy. As it was, I communicated only rarely with my sister via snail mail and then email. I have not seen her in person in about 12 years.

My father died about four years after this photo. Downed by a heart attack at 75. Like me, he had been a newspaper editor. He retired early, age 49, and became renowned in American haiku poetry circles. He still has two books of poetry available on Amazon.

My mother, in spite of appearing in this photo as if she could be the wife of Josef Mengele, was the nicest of the lot by far. In contrast to the other three, she drank not a drop. She was an elementary and junior high schoolteacher before becoming a school librarian in middle age.

She died in 2009 at the age of 90.

Some people sweep their dark family secrets under a rug. I take that rug off the floor, hang it on a clothesline, invite the neighbors, and beat the bejesus out of it with a big broom. And I feel better for it. Photos bring memories, no?

Thanks for listening.

* * *  *

* In spite of that, my child bride says I have a fantastic sense of humor, and I do. Go figger.

(Note: Unrelated to today’s topic, let it be known that there is now a Moon Google+ page.)

15 thoughts on “American Gothic

  1. It looks like your mother’s stare, a librarian natural, could set fire to loose paper. A look like that should quiet any room immediately.


  2. I suspect your therapy on these pages is far more effective than the stuff your sister practices. That may be unfair. I do not know her. But I do know the track record for therapy. And I am not a fan. Other than the type that leads to wandering through your memory trunk with you.

    I have a pile of photographs I have been meaning to share. But my family was truly a sit-com family. The good type. Like The Dick Van Dyke Show. You have given me some ideas. But all of that will wait until I get back to Melaque.


    1. Steve: I have been therapized briefly in the past, primarily at the insistence of ex-wife No. 2. Did squat apart from emptying my wallet. I too am not a fan of therapy. For deep-seated problems, I think simply speaking out loud, no matter how long you do it, accomplishes pretty much nothing.

      I am, as I’ve mentioned on occasion, a fan of drugs which, if done right, can be startlingly effective in rearranging and healing your inner world and demons. Some drugs, not all. Too often they are used as amusement. Then it is meaningless.

      Regarding my sister’s “social therapy,” for years whenever someone tells me they are in the therapy field, I always ask if they’ve heard of social therapy. No one ever has. It is a cult, not therapy.

      As for my family, nobody ever mistook us for the Dick Van Dyke Show.


  3. Thanks for shaking out the rug for all readers to see. It helps me to see my family and myself as not unique when it comes to “issues.”


    1. Enrique: I like shaking the rug. Most people do not. It makes them squirm. If my rug-shaking today did you a little good, I am glad. Thanks for the feedback.


  4. At least you are in company. It is said that a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives.


  5. I suppose I am not a rug shaker. I prefer to leave it all swept neatly under the rug and just move forward. By the way, you look just like your dad.


    1. Connie: Most people are not rug shakers, so you are in the majority.

      As for looking like my father, it is disturbingly true. Not only that, we were like clones. The only major difference, and it was very big, is that I have a sense of adventure. He had none whatsoever.


    2. And his nose was bigger than mine, and my teeth are straighter. Actually, I got the best of both my parents, appearance-wise, and not their defects. The Goddess was good to me, and I had nothing to do with it.


  6. I like this post a lot.
    Most families are dysfunctional to some extent. You have the courage to tell the tale. Others do not or will not.
    I think I would have liked your mom and pop. Doubt that I could have any sort of conversation with your sister.


    1. Ray: Yes, you would have gotten on well with my father. He was a son of the Old South, like you, in a good way. He wanted to name me after Nathan Bedford Forrest, but my mother nixed that notion. Both my parents cast very beady eyes on Yankees all their lives. Gen. Sherman’s march through Georgia happened only about 50 years before my father was born, and the memories of it were still very much alive in our state. My mother talked like Scarlett O’Hara.

      However, growing up without the booze element would have been far better.

      My sister intensely disliked my father. He almost totally ignored both of us. He was not parental material, to put it mildly. And yes, you and my sister would not get along. She is beyond the pale.


  7. I tried to open your Google+ page. It opens briefly, but then goes blank. I have a couple of Google+ pages and they open fine. Sure would like to see your new site. Wonder what the problem is. I really enjoyed this post. My family was pretty plain vanilla except for me, the jazz musician. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a practising socialist during the early 1900’s and even spent some time in jail for involvement in “The Green Corn Rebellion”.(


    1. Paul: I was playing around and making some changes to my overall Google account this afternoon, so maybe that caused the problems for you. Try this:

      If that doesn’t get you there, I am clueless.

      I had never heard of the Green Corn Rebellion. Interesting.


Comments are closed.