A few years ago, I was writing an obituary for a friend’s father who had passed away suddenly. As many of you may have noticed, I do alright with the writing part of things most of the time, but I’m not quite so skilled as an editor*. So, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the fact that I accidentally put the word “believed” where “beloved” was supposed to go. So the first line read: “Mr. Bob Kennedy, believed father of Teddy and Linda Kennedy. . .” Suddenly it seemed like not such a bad thing that Mr. Kennedy’s ex-wife hadn’t shown up to help her children handle the arrangements.
(I spent the weekend with Mr. Kennedy a couple of years earlier when his son Teddy got married. We were both just-outside-the-inner-circle participants in the wedding. My ex was the best man and Mr. Kennedy was the now sober and present father. I am quite certain that Mr. Kennedy absolutely laughed his ass off over the whole thing. I mean, he valued his children more than men who never went without them sometimes do. But the whole thing was pretty rich. He would have seen the humor.)
One of the worst things I ever did in my life was pull my sister Shannon’s hair. Well, it wasn’t just the hair pulling; hitting her repeatedly just before pulling her hair was pretty bad too. I was in my early teens and had been left to babysit my younger siblings, including Shannon who is 8 years younger than me. I have no idea what started it exactly, but I do remember that she was refusing to do something or another that I had told her to do. So, I hit her. And she laughed. Which enraged me. So I hit my very slight little sister again harder. And she laughed harder. Completely besides myself with frustration and anger, I hit her again and again and she laughed at me again and again. Finally, I yanked hard on her hair and she suddenly started sobbing. Which shot right through my anger to the part of me that can’t help but feel empathy towards someone in pain.
Saying that it was one of the worst things I ever did is a bit of hyperbole. More accurate would be to say that out of all the things I have ever done, this was one that I felt worst about. I had lashed out at someone smaller and weaker than myself in anger. I love her and had been entrusted with her care, but because I had not been able to control myself, she had wound up being hurt – emotionally if nothing else. As an adult, I went and apologized to her for this incident and learned (not too surprisingly) that she has no memory of it. Honestly, I’m quite certain it wasn’t the first time I had hit one of my siblings in an attempt to get them to do what I wanted or needed them to do. But her hurt this time was so raw it made a huge impression on me. I was married before I ever let myself get that angry again. Continue reading “Drinking Anger’s Poison”