Sunday, May 17, 2009

CHAPTER 1 –ORIGINS-Being a twin and a nobody. (Birth to 10-ish)

At 9:43am on June 1st 1971 Rebecca Walker gave birth to Ricardo LeVon Walker: and then to Nicardo DeJone Walker at 9:44am. Her husband Albert, a Marine, was away at sea during the arduous birth which ended in a C-section. The boys were fraternal twins, non-identical brothers, born on the same day. Time would show that most of the similarities ended there.

Each boy weighed just a little over 3 pounds, having arrived almost 3 months prematurely. Rebecca wondered how she would explain to Albert that their family had just doubled in size!

She had not prepared names yet. So she let the God-mother, Peggy Frasier, name the boys: first names from Spain and middle names from France.

My brother, Nick, was attempting to be born first but, like Jacob with Esau, I somehow interfered, making necessary the C-section that reversed our birth order. He still jokes that I stole his birthright. I wonder to this day if "Nicardo" had been born first whether he would be “Ricardo” in name or identity and who I (the other twin) would be.

Their sister Angela was born 2 months before their 2nd birthday. Despite the age gap they always felt like triplets.

The boys grew up to be opposites, on the surface at least.

Nicardo, or Nick as he was always called, settled extremely well into the slow-paced life of Lancaster, SC, the small town where they were raised. He would take apart old appliances, play basketball, and hunt and fish with their dad.

After elementary school Nick didn't really love school so much until high school when he earned the nickname ‘Skywalker’ for his prowess on the basketball court.

After graduation Nick set to work immediately as an Electrician. Nick fell in love in 1997 and married a sweet shy girl named Jean.

Ricardo,’ Rick ’, on the other hand searched for his niche and never quite found it. He liked the outdoors but loved the indoors more. An afternoon could NOT be better spent than nose-deep in some book that took him far away- so far that he could forget being rather skinny and un-athletic.

In fact his cousins and siblings all nicknamed him ‘Professor’ because of his academic inclination and his insistence that they always do the right thing even if it meant a whooping. That’s a spanking for those who didn't grow up in the country in the South. Anybody could whoop you, and did, back then. And then afterwards your parents would whoop you again for good measure.

The nickname communicated an unspoken separation. No matter what they meant by it, he heard “YOU are not one of US.” You don’t belong here. He generally felt unloved and unwanted.

Now to be fair they often included him. They built forts together in the woods and the whole gang always played softball at their grandparents’ everyday in the summer. And his sister could make him laugh like no one else. But he and his brother had little in common and didn’t know how to talk to each other. So they didn’t.

I believe that in a healthy family the parents would normally help a child work through these feelings. I guess our family didn’t know how to express love. My mother had to return to work to help pay the bills. She started working 2nd shift sometime during elementary school. I remember coming home and falling across my bed overwhelmed with missing her and wishing she was there to comfort me.

Her absence meant that sometimes we had to stay with extended family. And often our dad would take us to visit his friends who had kids. Sometimes he would leave us there to play while he ran errands.

It's hard for me to talk about but a few times inappropriate things happened that scarred me inside. I wasn't molested, not exactly. Older relatives would make me 'wrestle" but only so they could hold me down and gyrate on top of me. One "exposed himself" to me and my siblings. Another distant cousin tried to pull my pants down in front of a crowd of us kids. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't know how to say what part of what they did was wrong. I was so young and afraid to tell. Afraid I wouldn't be believed or that the incidents would be dismissed as less than they were. Afraid these things were happening to me because I had done something terrible to deserve them. I thought God was using this pain to punish me for somehow not being good enough.

I remember that the incidents made me feel powerless and dirty. Just a few times was enough to push me further into myself.

Eventually I was strong enough to avoid the harmful situations and stand up for myself. I remember the day I pushed one away, bit the offender's hand, and ran away screaming at the top of my lungs "Nooooooo!"

They never touched me like that again. I never told my parents nor did I hold them responsible. But I wish I had known someone I could trust and tell at the time. It's one of the reasons that I am adamant about teaching our children how to stay safe now, how to say "no", and how to ALWAYS tell when something happens. Please, if you are reading this teach your kids or students that no matter what threat your abusers use...the worst consequences come from keeping their secrets. Tell, and KEEP TELLING until it STOPS!

My mom was a quiet woman, but could sometimes be critical. When I began writing sh actually pulled me aside one day to say that what i wrote about, nature and flowers, etc was not what "boys" write about. So I stopped writing for years until Creative Writing classes in High School restored the courage to write that her criticism had undermined. Her gentleness the rest of the time, despite her criticism, is what made me believe she “loved me.” She showed it but didn't say it.

She had genuine faith that she lived out in our community. But still I wondered if she “liked” me. No matter how successful I was I never received praise from either parent.

My father , at that time...TO ME was a monster. I have to stop here and say that later here I offer several explanations for why he parented the way he did. And I am trying to forgive him for the pain it caused me. I truly believe he did what he had been taught. But it was terrible.

I feared him without respect. He was mean and silent unless we stepped out of line or talked too loud or scraped our forks on the plate while eating. Then he became mean and loud. He never ‘abused’ us physically but the belt he wielded terrified us. He whipped me for years for wetting the bed. The fear caused me to stay awake hours at night or to wake up in the middle of the night to try and hide the evidence. I would beg my parents to let me see a doctor but they never did. More reason for shame and guilt. My siblings and cousisns added a new nickname to my repertoire "Pissy." I sometimes wondered how I had so offended God that made me deserve the burdens I had to bear. Finally I just stopped wetting the bed but I never slept all the way thru the night.

I never had a "conversation" with my Father as a child. He gave us orders and we followed. He stayed home on Sundays but insisted we go to church, sick and well, no matter what. He never once ‘talked’ to me. He never hugged us or smiled at me. But he took my brother fishing and hunting and smiled at him and praised him. The message was clear. “He measures up but you DO NOT.”

I never heard “I love you” from either parent that I can remember during those years. I envied my favorite literary characters, who enjoyed relationships where people shared their lives, hopes, joys, and fears. I was very adept at picking books where an adolescent or young at heart underdog fights loneliness and mediocrity to become or do something special, forging loyal friendships along the way.

I sometimes wished I would discover I had been adopted so I could escape. I didn’t let it show but I was generally unhappy. Maybe even depressed. And desperately lonely.

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