Wednesday, July 20, 2016

THE TIC

Okay, time to move on to listen to other voices. Here's a powerfully emotional memory, with permission, from Stuart Balcomb. It actually brings up a whole complex of emotions--the kind of complexity we experience in the real world. Enjoy...


THE TIC
by Stuart Balcomb

            When I was almost five, my sister Amy was born. I was very happy with my new baby sister, especially since when she came home from the hospital she "gave" me a new set of Lincoln Logs. Wow, was I impressed!
            But over time—it must have been about a year later—I gradually developed a tic, a slight nodding of the head accompanied by a silly grin. Up to Amy's arrival I had been the center of the family, the only child. Now, there was a "competitor" for my folks' attention, and naturally, she suddenly got the lion's share of it.
            By then I was in First Grade. I don't remember if I did "the tic" at school, but most likely not, or the kids would have said something.  I'm not quite sure I even knew that I was doing it. It was something that happened at home, in the family environment… where she was.
            One evening my mother took me to a PTA meeting at the school, while Dad stayed home with little Amy.  At school, the kids went to their respective classrooms, and the parents met with the teachers in the cafeteria.  At one point, I left the classroom, walked down the hallway, and peered into the crowded “big people’s” room. I spied my mother sitting at the far end of a table with other parents. She was talking to my teacher, motioning. Before my very eyes from way across the room, I saw my mother grinning and nodding her head. I realized she was mimicking the very tic that plagued me. I was crushed, horrified, betrayed. I ran back to the classroom and sat, red-faced and stone quiet, at my desk. And that's all I remember.
            I did not reveal to mom that I saw her that night. Like her, I was always one to internalize feelings of that sort, stuff them down. Many years later, when I was an adult, I finally did tell her. She was horrified that I had seen her copying my “tic” and it crushed her to think that she had humiliated me, which was clearly not her intent. My mother was always kind. I do know, as an adult, and maybe something in my pre-pubescent mind also knew, that she wasn't being cruel or making fun of me, but was simply informing my teacher of my problem so she could understand it.
            One day, without my really being aware of it, the problem suddenly went away. My parents later told me that they had consulted the family doctor, and he said, "Stuart's world has been intruded upon by your new baby. He isn't getting the attention he was used to, so I would advise being more physical with him. Hug him more. Let him know he is loved every bit as much as his new sister." And it worked. Who doesn’t need a few more hugs?
            What effect did this experience have on me? I've always been very sensitive to the feelings of others. I will go out of my way to not embarrass someone. I would never scold an employee in public—not even in private—but would deal with a problem in a constructive and, I hope, sensitive manner.
            I also think that because of that experience, I'm hesitant to rock the boat in relationships. In my first wife's family, if there was a problem, all hell would break loose, they'd fight like cats and dogs, settle the situation, then hug and make up. My parents? Our house was as silent as a tomb. No one talked about troublesome, emotional things.  An entire day might pass before I'd learn why my mother was scowling, and then I'd hear why I was in trouble. So, following what I knew, I kept silent about that night at the PTA meeting. I buried that one real deep. I've possibly buried many other “difficult emotional things" which may have fared better coming to the surface, brought into the light of day.
            It's never too late.  


Oh, and... here's Stuart's self-portrait!




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