To My Aunt Karen

Once upon a time when I was five or so, I ran away. My father said to me that if I didn’t like the way things were going on in our house – that if I wanted to make my own rules, that I could walk out the door but that I shouldn’t expect that I could come back. Without going into too much detail, but to describe to you a measure of the insanity that was going on in my house, I at 5 years old felt that I should take my chance by walking out the door – which is exactly what I did. I left. I remember being completely content with the decision. I was very upset with the soul crushing and heart dampening anger of my mostly all the time drunk father, and my nervous breakdown mother.

At 5 years old I was prepared to live my life without them. I started down the street and soon I found myself walking along a stretch of road that ran behind our house. I was perhaps a half a mile away from home when my Aunt Karen pulled up alongside me, and offered a ride.

This happened a long time ago, so all of the details are a bit fuzzy. My Aunt was young. She was 14 years younger than my Mom. Which would’ve put her age at around 17 or 18 years old. After I got in her car, my Aunt started to talk to me. She used an analogy about lead to describe me. I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about, and still don’t really, mostly because as I have said, it was a long time ago, and time has erased many of the details of what it was that she said.

But what was conveyed by her to me then, time has not erased though, and that was that someone loved me, that they cared, that they didn’t seem to judge me , and that someone was my Aunt, she cared about me. Me?

A visit from my Aunt Karen to my families Norwalk Ca. home was like a breath of fresh air. When she came, our house felt lighter, and I felt that more in my life was possible. I needed her – that voice singing and playing guitar, her deep some times intense eyes, her guiding hand. Many was the time during my childhood, that it was her who stood between me and despair.

It was her belief in me that likely saved my life. I may not be a poet or much of anything else today if she had not come and shared with me all that she did. Not a lot of kids make it out of the hell hole that was my childhood, unless they are fortunate enough to have had someone who believes in them, and my Aunt Karen did – she believed in me, and she put her belief into action.

I ran away many times after that first time, and more than a few of those times it was my Aunt Karen who came to get me, and finally she brought me into her home to live with her. She took me out of the crazy house of my now divorced mother, bought me fancy clothes, and put me into a different school. I was about 12 or so, and I wish that I could report that everything after this worked out well, but it didn’t. I was plagued by own demons and crippling identity doubts, and I continued to act out. So much so that I ended up in a boys home by the time I turned 13.

But Karen never stopped loving me. She visited me, and even brought me back into her home for occasional weekend furloughs.

I am not really writing this as a way for any of the readers of this blog to get to know me better. I am writing this for Aunt Karen, because she needs to know that I remember her, and I thank her for her many kindnesses to me.

You see about 6 months ago my Aunt called me very excited about a business project that she had just started, and she wanted my help. It seemed to me that she wanted my help very badly, like she was depending on me. I said to her that it was something that I did not want to get involved with, that I was already over committed, that I couldn’t help her.

She pressed, and I became that little boy again wanting to run, and that’s what I did – I ran.

By that I mean I stopped returning her phone calls, even when on my birthday she called and sang Happy Birthday into my voice mail. I have searched into this reaction of mine for the last six months and have come up with a blank about my motivation for ignoring her calls, and of course the more the time has passed the harder it has become to call her.

It has come to me now, only after I have written this far into this post that I suddenly realize what’s behind my silence, and my running.

I don’t want to be a disappointment to my Aunt – in fact I am terrified of being a disappointment to anyone. Oh, fuck, That’s it.

I was never really clear with my “No,” preferring vague or imprecise language instead, hoping that she might just drop it. But she did not drop it, and this only put me into a quandary…which has grown and grown the longer I put off calling this good woman who I love so much, and just telling her I can’t do this business thing with you – but I’ll love and cherish all that you have done for me for ever and ever.

Thank You Aunt Karen, and please forgive me…maybe I am like lead after all…


10 responses to “To My Aunt Karen

  1. I hope she reads…..

  2. Jo – She does…

  3. You write that you’re not writing this for us to get to know you better, yet you have done, and I, for one, am glad.
    You remind me, a bit, of an essay I wrote about Aunt Maggie. [wipes away tear]
    It’s good to read she reads. Aunt Karen, whatever your motive were, I will thank you for helping to give us our dear poetman.

  4. It’s a pleasure to have met you here. I tip my hat to any person who can go public with genuine regret. Cheers.

  5. Muse – Thanks, your sentiment is precious…

    Brad – Welcome, and thank you…

  6. Good luck with this…it is weeks later and I wonder what you have done with this realization, this understanding of yourself. Have you found your voice, the voice that’s buried in your fear of her rejection?

  7. btw, I grew up running away and being dragged to estate sales…I first left home when I had just turned 4, walked out into a muddy snowy field, lost my shoes in the mud, and chose not to return without them because the beating would be worse than not finding my shoes.

    My senior year I left again. The local newspapers were full of stories of my successes in high school. My parents tracked me down and begged me to return. They rarely showed up when I re’d any of my awards yet were always there for my brother and my nephews’ sports events.

    Call her. I never had an Aunt or anyone else who was there for me when I was growing up. Call her. You don’t have to do this thing for her if you can’t. But you do need to tell her. You can be there for her in other ways. Call her. She saved you. Call her.

  8. I of course sent her a link to this very public apology and then I called her, but alas and alack – it was too little and too late, and she wrote to say goodbye…I guess as far as she is concerned the matter is closed…and I, I am reforming my approach and will try again in the near future.



  9. sad. but human.

  10. Yes, we are that aren’t we…

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