Why Carnies Scare Me



          This week’s topic is dealing with siblings. Paul will be spinning a cautionary tale of crazy people and carnival folk. Don’t read this alone.


          Paul says: I have an aunt, my mother’s sister. Apparently, her name is THE BITCH, said in such a way that the capital letters are understood. Both my mother and my uncle referred to their sibling this way. I knew that they didn’t like her even when I was young and didn’t understand the derogatory nature of calling a woman a female dog. As I got older, I asked my mother what her beef was with her sis.


          The story goes like this: At one time, my mother’s sister (THE BITCH) was married to my father’s brother, let’s call him The Peacock. So we had two sisters married to two brothers. The Broadway musical parallels end there because THE BITCH and the Peacock liked to drink and liked to fight… a lot.


          Before I continue with the story, I need to give you some time reference. This was the late sixties, before there were warnings on McDonald’s apple pies. This was a time when seatbelts were optional and women cut back on their drinking and smoking if they were pregnant. This was also a time when we had carnivals were you could win, as a prize for tossing a ping-pong ball into a floating cup, a very heavy and very thick ashtray. They were made of green glass and weighed in at a good five pounds. And, apparently, THE BITCH tried to brain the Peacock with one during a drunken rage.


          I always found it funny that that was not what got her the nickname. As a matter of fact, at that part in the story both my parents would shrug and say, ‘he probably did something stupid’.


          A day later, we went back to the carnival. Apparently my family really likes carnies. My uncle, the Peacock, probably half-intoxicated and fully concussed took me to the funhouse. They had one of those giant tubes that rotate while you try to walk through it. My uncle with me at age 4 goes through and he falls and smacks his head. Within the week, he is in the hospital. He had a clot in the brain that left him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak.


          My aunt immediately divorced him. This did not necessarily earn her her epithet. It might make her selfish but even through the dysfunction we all know that a marriage based on guilt is no marriage at all.


          My uncle sued the carnival company. The ashtray was very conveniently forgotten for a good long while. At the trial, my aunt testified…for the defense. Yes, THE BITCH got on the stand, quite voluntarily, and told the court about my uncle’s drinking, reckless lifestyle, and all kinds of other stuff that wasn’t even germane to the case. And that is how she earned the name THE BITCH.


          Or so I thought. If you speak to my mom or her brother for more than five minutes, you will realize that they did not like THE BITCH from childhood. She, as the oldest, got everything and shat upon it and screwed it up for the other two.


          Here is the psychological bottom line: Holding THE BITCH responsible for my grandparents’ poor child management skills is bad and should have been worked out with a really good therapist. Distancing themselves from THE BITCH as an adult who was probably a borderline personality and very unsafe was wise. When dealing with wounded, broken, or shattered relationships, we all need to feel safe. That is the number one rule. My lesson from my mom is that I cannot run away from my loved ones but I can keep myself safe while I work at becoming the healthiest me possible.

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