I did have parents – even if some people doubt this. And they were crazy – something most people can accept easily. And in the Sixties – they got even crazier – along with many other people.
I have thought often about this – craziness is an accurate diagnosis, no question about it – but can I be more explicit about what kind of craziness it was?
To do this, I will have to tell a story – about my dysfunctional family – that was completely normal, in that way. Ask anyone my age to tell you about their family – and you will get a similar story.
Where to start?
Perhaps when my father returned from his tour of duty in the Marine Corp, in 1934. He was stationed in Haiti – to protect American business interests there. Of which he knew nothing – he only knew about his girl friend, who adored him. She saw him as her way to leave Haiti – which was getting pretty bad, even then.
She didn’t realize she was black, and he was white. She wasn’t very black – she was mostly white, and could easily have passed – and she was educated, and could speak French. In fact, that is how my Dad met her – she was the daughter of his French teacher.
But that made no difference to his family back home in Iowa. Legally she was black, his family would not accept her, and he could not marry her.
He could have moved to Hawaii, and married her there. Which would have given me a much better start in life. But he didn’t – and I never forgave him for that.
Instead of marrying a woman who loved him – he married a woman who did not – and never would.
She became my mother.