Friday, April 6, 2012

No. 790 – Helpless Dancer

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Quadrophenia
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

Not all memories are good, and this is one of those. On my Mom’s side of the family, there’s a curse handed down from generation to generation amongst the females. At some point in exasperation, the mother will yell at the daughter, “I hope you have a daughter just like you.”

I kid Jin about this all the time whenever she shakes her head in wonderment over something that her daughter does. Bridget is great—full of energy but sometimes a bit too much so, even at 5. Maybe someday years from now Jin will utter the infamous words, who knows? But I know my Mom uttered them to Jin—among other words.

To say my Mom and sister didn’t get along would be like pointing out that the sky is blue. It wasn’t always bad, but when my sister entered puberty, it got worse and more constant.

Finally, in the winter of 1981—I seem to recall February 1981—the final straw had been reached and after threatening for months to make Jin go live with Dad, which she didn’t want to do, Mom essentially threw Jin out of the house. Jin didn’t have much choice. At this point, ANYTHING was better than the endless battle that living with Mom had become for her.

Jin just stuffed everything she had into huge green garbage bags and then put them on the landing of the staircase for Dad to take out to his car. And when Dad and Jin left, there was this overwhelming quiet. But the thing I’ll never forget about that day was what he said to me just before they left: He looked me in the eye and told me I was worthless.

As you can imagine, that’s the kind of thing that sticks with a person, but with the perspective of 31 years and put into proper context, I suppose I can’t say he was entirely wrong.

The reality was I WAS pretty worthless as a brother to Jin when we were growing up. I didn’t include her in as many things as I did Scott, and I certainly didn’t protect her as well as I should have. She was suffering from parental neglect and needed an ally, and I was unavailable. In fact, by the time that Jin went to live with Dad, I didn’t care if she stayed or went. All I wanted was a little peace and quiet. I don’t deny it: Basically, I was a horsebleep brother to Jin.

As an explanation—certainly not a defense—I would say that I was too wrapped up in my own trip. I was coming up on 17 and had no idea what I was going to do with myself but the obvious realization that I needed to figure that out soon. I felt isolated, with only a close, small circle of friends around me and certainly no girlfriend, which I desperately wanted. I was (no kidding) alienated from my Dad, and I, too, was suffering from parental neglect for reasons that are obvious in retrospect but still a few years away from being clearly defined.

Like most people, I have regrets, but none moreso than my lack of appreciation for the situation that Jin was in during the months leading up to the final freak with Mom. If I could do anything over again, it would be to be a better brother to Jin when she needed it. Hindsight, of course, is perfect, right?

The good news is we’re cool now, of course. Although Jin never blamed me for anything that happened, a year after she moved out, I took Jin out to dinner—just the two of us—and I basically apologized for always having been a worthless brother and promising that I would be there more for her in the future. To her unending credit, Jin accepted, and things between us were better from then on.

Shortly before all this hit the proverbial fan, Jin and I discovered Quadrophenia—the movie as well as the music—through the miracle of cable TV. Talk about good timing. Jin had pledged undying allegiance to Roger Daltrey, and this song, of course, was Roger’s theme within the Quadrophenia suite, so it almost goes without saying that it’s Jin’s theme as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment