This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Dave’s story: We lived on a farm outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. We raised pigs and chickens and the feed came in large white cloth bags with strawberries, flowers, and green stems printed on them. My mother saved those bags and, when she got the time, she cut and sewed shirts from them for my brother and I. They didn’t look manly to us and although it took lot of work to make them–we never appreciated them. I scoffed at them and called them pig-feed shirts. She used a lot of starch when she hand-washed and after they dried; they were as stiff as cardboard. Mom must have liked big collars because the ones on those shirts rivaled the flying nun’s winged-hat.

When they got wet they drooped and when it was raining and I ran to catch the school bus in the morning, I’d have my book bag and lunch in one hand and I’d be holding down those huge flapping collars with the other.

My mother was a good Christian woman, but when she lost her temper it was hell to pay. One time, on a hot August day, we picked butter beans and while she was on the porch shelling them, she sent me to the hen house to fetch the eggs. We had 13 hens and every day there were 13 eggs that I collected in a big tin can. I decided to ride my bicycle to the hen house, but my mother yelled, “Don’t take that bike or you’ll break the eggs.” I acted like I didn’t hear her and rode off on my bicycle to the hen house. After I collected the eggs, I rode back to the porch. I had one hand on the handlebars and the other was holding the egg can, but near the porch, I hit a patch of mud and crashed. I was covered with mud and every last egg broke-they broke on me, the bike and all over my pig-feed shirt. My mother went berserk and when I tried to get up, she kicked me back down and after doing that several times she broke a broom over my back. My aunt said, “Lisa, stop, or you’re going to kill that boy.”

In this day, Child Protective Services would’ve charged her with child abuse, but out on the farm, Child Protective Services wasn’t around and we did what Mom said or, suffered her wrath. Even though I probably had that beating coming, I was nevertheless filled with a hundred forms of fear. My childhood vision of God waned. He wasn’t going to save me from a bad beating or anything else and if I were ever going to escape that farm, I would have to do it on my own. I didn’t know how, I didn’t have a plan so, I made up a new one each day.

Prior to the egg incident, I’d be flying my kite while my mind formed faces in the clouds and back then, I believed God was going to some day poke His human face through the clouds and say, “Hello, Dave. How are you doing?” I’d answer, “Hello God, I’m fine. How are you?” but my childhood notions about God were totally wrong.

When I entered treatment my counselor asked why I was so angry? I shouted, “I’m not angry!” She said, “You’re lying to me and you’re lying to yourself, who are you angry at?” I said, “My mother.” And, I told her the whole sordid tale about what happened when I was 13 or 14 years old with the bicycle and the broken eggs.

My counselor then started asking really dumb questions. She asked, “Where is your mother right now?” “She’s home on the farm,” I replied.

She asked me, “What did your mother have for dinner last night?” “I have no idea,” I said. “I’m here in a detoxification unit.”

She asked, “If you were at home last night what would’ve you liked to have had for supper?”

“Oh, fresh fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, iced tea, and lemon meringue pie.”

Then she asked me, “What did you eat here in the cafeteria last night for supper?”

“Well,” I said, “My stomach was upset so, I had a roll and black coffee.”

She asked, “How much sleep did your mother get last night?”

“She sleeps 7 hours,” I said. “Then she gets up, washes her hands and face in the washbasin and goes to work in her kitchen.”

“How much sleep did you get last night?” she asked.

“My mind was restless so, I sat in the lounge most of the night and smoked cigarettes-I slept about an hour and a half.”

She asked, “What did your mother have for breakfast this morning?”

I answered, “She probably had eggs, sausage, grits, toast, strawberry jam and juice.”

She asked, “David what did you have for breakfast this morning?”

“My stomach was still upset so, I only had a piece of dry toast and black coffee.”

She asked, “What is your mother doing right now?”

“She’s probably talking to her friends about her drunken son and telling them what a shiftless skunk, I turned out to be,” I imagine.

Before she asked me what I was doing right now, I stopped and thought, I’m sitting here in a detoxification unit after trying to kill myself and she’s as happy as a clam at high-tide, her life is great and mine really sucks… To be continued.

John Barleycorn

The phantom writer of the column "Here's to Your Health". This writer is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and therefore must maintain anonymity. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer