Bi-Polar Parenting

This was my father in boxing wear (circa 1942)


My dad is the big guy on the left. Not someone you wanted to piss off at a bar.


This was my mother as a young woman (circa early 1930’s)


Bright eyed, beautiful, elegant, and full of hope, she married a man who wasn’t.

???  Ever feel like you’re locked in a room with Dorothy singing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in one corner while Leo Geotz  (Lethal Weapon 2) is in the other corner repeatedly shouting out, “They F**k you at the drive through!!”  


Living with one parent who saw the rainbow of life and another who constantly complained about the cloud reflecting it could be more than a little confusing.

It was a 1, 2 punch I like to call bi-polar parenting.


  • My mother’s outlook on life? “Every dark cloud has a silver lining.”

  • My father’s outlook on life? “There’s rain and lightening in that damned cloud.”

  • My sister’s outlook on life: “It’s best to sleep in on a rainy day. Don’t do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

  • My outlook on life: “The mighty oak was once a little nut that held it’s ground…or is it that the mighty nut was once okay until it was ground? What cloud?”



The realities of life:

  • My father looked it dead in the eye, distilling it into one bluntly worded sentence, “The only hell is the one here on Earth.”

  • My mother replied, “You can’t say that word in front of the children.”

Yes, “hell” was considered a curse word in a risque vocabulary not used in polite company.  At home, my father often stumbled over hell, damn, and colorful sayings he’d use when playing cards in a bar.

Coping with not enough money for the month:

  • He walked into the most notorious bar in town armed with a sailors vocabulary, a formidable build, a background in boxing, and an ability to count cards. More than once, his winnings were the only thing that kept food on the table and a roof over our heads. I have no doubt he took every opportunity to get a decent meal while he was there.

  • I would describe my mother’s financial strategy as extreme budgeting. My father said, “She could squeeze the nickle until it sh…uh, screamed.” As an example, when they had to buy a new truck for his moving business, dinner was pork and beans over rice for months.

Child rearing:

  • He worked 2 jobs. On the rare occasions he was home when we were awake, he would say such gems as, “Life isn’t fair. People kick you when you’re down. Learn to live with it.”

  • She tried to teach her 2 daughters refinement, politeness, devotion to God, grace, moral rightness, and how to display quiet strength in our darkest hours.  Her motto was, “Life is what you make it, children. All things are possible, only believe.”

The result of their efforts?

  • An older child with a sailors vocabulary and the refinement of a truck.

  • a younger child who knows how to stumble through darkness armed with the uncanny ability to totally miss the painfully obvious.

Neither of us learned the fine art of how to suffer in silence. We learned the hard way that, given the opportunity, most people will screw you over to claw their way up a social or corporate ladder that ends exactly the same for all of us:  A one-way trip to the morgue.  My father’s viewpoint? “When you die, you die.” My mother would say, “You go to heaven.”

How did they die?

  • My father passed on peacefully in his sleep.

  • My mother died of sun stroke.

If you can’t see the irony in this, you’re more obtuse than I.

How do I cope with the 1, 2 punches inherent in living on a bi-polar planet?  By complaining about it to people in cyberspace I’ve never met. Suffering in silence isn’t nearly as satisfying as making everyone around you live out your misery. But there is a silver lining around this cloud: I have gastroparesis and as God is my witness I’ll never be forced to eat another bite of pork and beans again.