Grandaddy was Republican National Committeeman, said my aunt Bev.
Also, of course, a bootlegger. Green Mountain Moonshine: Liquor without
He spent a lot of time in Washington, so our mother went to Catholic boarding
school, like your mother, and then she went to finishing school. They all
did that then.
At finishing school she met Olivia, who was her best friend for the rest
of her life.
Olivia and all the other hometown girls had pictures of Fad, who, of course,
they called Charles. He must have passed them around.
So Mother said, just to be silly, well, I’ll take one of them and sleep
with it under my pillow.
Fad was a handsome man.
So then, when she came to visit Olivia, it must have been spring vacation
or something, that’s how they met.
They had a good marriage until they got older. I’m sure it was quite
a love affair.
Fad was never in the service, he couldn’t have stood it, well, he just
knew he couldn’t, but at that point he had a job with a steel company,
so that was also a necessary thing for the war effort, too.
He was a sales manager or something or other, and we lived on the outskirts
It was just beginning to get developed, and of course, that was the end of
it, you know, during the war there was no more building, so there were fields
us and we had gypsies about maybe a quarter of a mile up the road.
You know, they’d just come camp out in the fields and we loved to see
all their pretty wagons and they used to come to the door, begging.
Mother said, if you see a gypsy, come right into the house, because the idea
was that they would kidnap children.
The gypsy fortune-teller told your mother she would marry the man of her
Look, Bev said, this is Grandmother Kirby as a bride, and that’s maybe
a rocking chair in the background, isn’t it?
And this is Grandmother’s sister, June, who was adorable. She also died
too young, Bev said.
Maybe in her fifties like your mother. I don’t know what she had. It
might have been a brain tumor, or perhaps it was a heart attack, I’m
Or, you know, it could have been her nerves.
Because Grandmother had periods where she wouldn’t talk to anybody.
There used to be a place in the country, on the lake, a little private place
where people had summer cottages, and then there was a common dining room.
I can remember going out there visiting as a child.
Grandmother used to sit out on the lawn and rock and rock, back and forth,
back and forth, all by herself while everybody else was eating dinner.
Very embarrassing for the family.
So I think she had whatever it is, that gene or nervous system.
I think that’s where our troubles started.
What I mean is, your mother had a kind of breakdown, too. We all, all the
women, anyway, seem to have that tension.
Including me, she whispered.
Your mother read an article describing neurosis. She wrote a local doctor
asking if she should seek help for her children, you and Midge.
The doctor said everybody has neurotic tendencies.
What a relief, she told me. And that was the end of that.
For instance, I thought:
What was she thinking all those hours in silence staring into the firelight.
What was she thinking all those mornings in the kitchen staring into the
Vincent and I were in Moscow being interviewed on CNN: How does it feel to
be in the Evil Empire?
I said evil’s in the eye of the beholder.
My sister saw it on TV. She said she was proud of me.
Even though she doesn’t agree with me. My sister loves me.
Meantime, she went sky diving.
She called me afterwards. She could have been dead.
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