I remember watching the protest in Tiananmen Square from a motel room in Tahoe. I was there in Nevada to get married to my second wife. She’s the one I affectionately refer to as “The Dragon Lady.” She didn’t really breathe fire when she was angry, it just felt like it. The year was 1989.
The guy in the picture who is playing chicken with the tank has never been positively identified. That’s because the Chinese government ended the protests the old fashioned way – with brute force. Some say the man was brave. I say foolhardy. The tank could easily have crushed him by accident. Either way, he’s dead, Jim.
My marriage to the Dragon Lady lasted a little over a year. Our court file lists the date of separation as August 1990, but like many bad marriages, the pain and bloodletting continued on and off for a while afterward. It finally ended when she moved to Monterey.
Been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town
Been a whole lot happier without her face around
Nobody upstairs gonna stomp and shout
Nobody at the back door gonna throw my laundry out
The Dragon Lady was Caitlin’s mother. Caitlin was born on June 27, 1990, and died four days later Her death was the cherry on top of a failed relationship sundae. She died almost exactly halfway thru the worst year of my life.
I don’t talk about that period much because I have spent the past thirty years trying to forget about it. But two recent events have stirred up a few bad memories.
Last week, My Old Friend showed up. Thirty years ago he was my best friend and drinking buddy and he was a major part of my life. This past week we spent some time reminiscing about those days.
Then last night Mom decided to poke a scar and she triggered some memories so bad I had repressed them and my reaction surprised both of us. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it involves both Mom and the Dragon Lady.
The Chinese ideograph for “trouble” is two women under one roof. When Caitlin died we were temporarily living with my Mom. They hated each other, and I was stuck in the middle between them.
Last night Mom began talking about my Grandma. 1990 was also the year my grandma lost her mind. Alzheimer’s struck hard and fast, and she went from living independently in January to living in a care home by December. My Grandma was gone but her body remained.
One minute Mom was talking about Grandma and then she shifted to talking about the Dragon Lady. Suddenly, bad memories began to bubble up in my head like bloated corpses rising to the surface of a swamp, bringing with them some unresolved issues. I tried repeatedly to get Mom to talk about something else but she just kept going until I snapped and yelled: “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
That got her attention and surprised both of us.
They say that alcohol won’t solve your problems but if you drink enough of it you can drown your sorrows for a while. I drowned a lot of sorrows in 1990. I already had a drinking problem going in but after Caitlin died I was drinking myself unconscious every night. I kept drinking like that until I got arrested for DUI in March 1991. That’s when I quit drinking for 8 years.
Apparently, all that drinking had allowed me to bury a few bad memories. Last night, Mom dug them up. We often joke about snowflakes being “triggered” but last night I got to experience a genuine triggering. It wasn’t pleasant. It was kinda like lancing a boil in my brain and releasing a bunch of mental pus.
I hope this all makes sense to you because I gotta go explain it all to Mom. By the time I had calmed down last night she had gone to bed.