My dad's name was Louis Wilbur Johnson. He was Alsea and Klickitat from his mother, Violet Johnson (Smith) and Lower Umpqua from his father, Louis Johnson. My mothers name is Joan (pro. "Jo Ann") Bonnie Brooks. They did not have the sweetest of marriages.
When I was 12 until my dads death 5 years later, I was the last of four siblings left in the house. During that 5 years, my mother and father pretty much every time they were together would get into screaming arguments. During some of these arguments, my mother would occasionally grab a butcher knife and threaten to stab my dad with it. I felt rather helpless. Dad, was an alcoholic.
The last three years of my dads life, he slept on the couch. One day, I must have been 14 or 15, as I watched TV and dad slept, he suddenly sat up and puked up more blood than I have ever seen anyone ever bleed. He ran to the bathroom where his puking continued. I managed to get to my feet and just stood a few feet from the chair where I had been sitting, before me, a large spray of blood and blood clots all over the carpet. After my dad was done puking, he went and laid down on the bed for the first time in years, and the last time in the years to come. He was waiting to die. I stood there during the whole time my mother came upon the scene (I don't remember from where). I stood there the whole time after my mother called my sisters who came upon the scene as I stood there in the same place. I stood there as my oldest sister screamed and beat my dad until he finally agreed to go to the hospital where we were later told by his doctor that he would not tell him to stop drinking because he was just another alcoholic Indian (thus starting my lifelong hatred of medical doctors). As they were leaving, I told my mother I would stay behind and clean the mess. Some of the clots were as big as large bouncy balls. It took me four hours to clean it up.
But my father was a good man, too. He Loved his kids so much. He would constantly do things for us. The last years of his life I would come home from school to watch "Perry Mason" with him. We would cheer him on like it was a football game, even though we had seen every episode numerous times. He would take the family kids and other kids to horse shows. Sometimes he would go to the beach by himself and whale watch during his last several years of sobriety. I often wonder what he thought as he sat at the edge of the ocean watching the whales go by.
My father only hit my mother once. I must have been 4. They were in a big argument and my dad pulled back to hit mom but held his arm back. "GO AHEAD! HIT ME! I DARE YOU! HIT ME! HIT ME! HIT ME!" my mother screamed at him, sticking her face out to give him a good target. I don't recall where my dad hit my mom. I do recall, however, the look of absolute shock as my mother laid across the arms of the chair he knocked her into. I do recall the look on my fathers face and the feeling in the air. It was as if a piece of my fathers soul had been torn away, burned to ash, and the dust blown out the door of the house and into nothingness. It was a look of having become something he had never wanted to be, something that went against his ideals. I will never forget that. As I grew older, I learned why he looked and felt that way. He never hit my mother again.
I Loved my grandpa, Louis Johnson. He passed away when I was 5. He was fun to play with. I was amazed at how he could fall asleep on a kitchen chair and not fall off. I was amazed that I could never wrap my arms around him, his belly was so big. He always wore a gray sweatshirt and often smelled of something like stale grease. His coffee cup was so big as I was so small. Everything about him amazed me. I learned later in life he was very generous and a good hunter. He was also a moonshiner at one time and barely escaped capture once. He was also an abusive asshole as I found out later in life he used to beat grandma rather frequently back in the day.
After my dad got out of the army, musta been mid to late '50's, he told my grandfather that he was never going to beat grandma ever again. "Do you think you're man enough to stop me," was my grandfather's reply. They broke into fisticuffs and my grandfather knocked my dad out. Dad got back up again and the fight continued and again, grandpa knocked my dad out. My dad got up a third time and again, grandpa knocked my dad out. My dad got up a fourth time at which point my grandfather told him that he would never beat grandma ever again. And he never did, but I was witness to one of their arguments once. Wo! Grandpa, it seemed, knew that he would wind up killing my dad before he would stop coming at him. He didn't want to kill his son, so he chose not to beat grandma anymore. My dad was a warrior.
During this whole discussion of Bernard/Robert, it has brought up those memories. I know why my father looked so much more hurt than he made my mother feel when he hit her. My dad was a warrior and stopped my grandfather from beating grandma anymore. He was, that one time, what he hated most in his own father.
What are we going to do about abuse in Indian Country? It happens all over, but I sure would like to see Indians stand up as an example. As times get harder, abuse increases. What are we going to do about it?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Posted by Eugene at 10:28 AM