October 23, 2013: Remembering My Former Invisibility

~by Louis Templeman

Jon Troneck was wild. Way too wild to be a Little League pitcher. However, his father, owner of Troneck’s Grocery, the only store at the time in Folly Beach, S. C., sponsored the team. Having uniforms was the payoff for allowing little Jon his time on the mound. Years later I had reason to recall his pitching style.

An Optometrist was examining my eyes. “I can see by your retina that you received a blow to the head, maybe years ago,” she said. Immediately, even though I had not thought of him in years, I blurted out, “Jon Troneck. Little League pitcher. Man, was he wild!” How wild?  I wasn’t even playing. I was a spectator. I was on the sidelines.

The blow to the head knocked me out. I woke up on a table with a bag of ice on the side of my face. When I arrived home my mother was greeted with a son whose face was bruised and swollen. She gave another ice treatment, some aspirins and put me to bed. The lack of alarm over my wellbeing seemed normal to me.

That was about fifty years ago. Old school parents were prone to do home treatments and stay away from the expense of a doctor. Nevertheless, I have often wondered what I would have done had the same happened when my children were teenagers. I am convinced I would have known a concussion needed medical attention. In that growing older gives us the gift of perspective enhanced by hindsight, I have come to regard my childhood as a time of my invisibility. It was probably more common in the 1950s and 1960s when children were to be “seen and not heard.” I know my brothers and some of our friends suffered from the same affliction.

My father had a conflict. Although he loved his sons and provided faithfully for his family, he was reluctant to grow up. He had a night life that kept him busy and a job that had him all over the southeastern United States. He was often absent. For that reason I was usually invisible to him. My mother, suffering from anger, betrayal and depression because of my father’s habits operated in a robotic mode where she mindlessly plodded from task to task from within her perpetual black gloom. Her sad predicament blinded her to much of life, making my brothers and me rather invisible.

As a result of this invisibility we basically kept whatever schedule we wanted. We left when we felt like it and returned home as we found it convenient. My older brother and I kept to predictable and acceptable limits. We rarely raised the eye brows of our neighbors and friends. My younger brother was, by comparison, completely unbridled.  He went to school when it suited him. When there, he was prone to display his considerable skill as class clown. He never finished the 8th grade. By sixteen he was on his own traveling the highways using his thumb and 18” hair as his passport. I was also a hippie and was with him on many of his adventures.

I have many regrets and very little nostalgia for those days. My lost-ness was rooted in my innate embrace of my invisibility. We could ruin our young lives because we were invisible. We didn’t really register on anyone’s radar screen, except as a colorful aside in the talk of folks who felt superior to us.

A few weeks before I graduated from high school, Shepherd, our neighbor from across the street was in our living room getting her graduation gown hemmed and fitted by my talented mother. My younger brother was near and reached over to feel Shepherd’s gown, commenting on how pretty it was. In distain over his gesture she snipped, “Get a good feel. It’s as close as you’ll ever get to a graduation gown.”

My mother, with pins held firm in her clenched lips, looked up at Shepherd in disbelief. She looked at her youngest son. She felt sorry for him and at the same time hoped he’d be motivated by a little negative gibe. He stepped back in an awkward embarrassment of silence. Shepherd kept her nose in the air while my mother returned to the favor she was doing for her neighbor, while ignoring her son’s hurt feelings.

This invisibility gave people permission to insult us in our own house, even in front of our parents. My older brother’s friends were free to bully me in my own room and on occasions even destroy my possessions in “fun”. Even with the perspective granted by fifty years of living I have trouble reconciling much of what happened. I am thankful we did not endure, as did many of my peers, psychological disorders, brutal physical or sexual abuse. My pain rates as small potatoes compared to what many endured. Nevertheless, we all still feel the long shadows of childhood and can only pray and process the memories. It is the good and the bad that makes us who we are.

Only Joseph and Mary, in my opinion, did everything right as parents. And, as they were a gift to Jesus even so my parents and my youth were a gift to me. It is not easy to juggle this idea of them being a “gift” with the painful memories. Yet, we are not juggling with only one ball. My grandparents  presented a similar paradox to my parents. Unfortunately, I must admit, I did the same to my children. We have to keep all these balls in the air as we reconstruct our memories and make sense of our lives.

My parents were God’s gift to me. I am God’s gift to my children, even though I do not feel that I was that great of a dad. It is my Catholic faith and trust in the providence of God that allows a healing balm to sooth my recollections.

Your way was through the sea,
Your path through the great waters;
Yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
By the hand . . . .     Psalms 77: 19f

Looking back at the “great waters” I traversed, I can now see I was not alone. I can see that God can and does draw straight with our crooked lives. I sometimes cringe when I wonder what memories or complaints my own children have against the home I provided. Allowing God to take us “by the hand” we find strength and comfort to forgive as well as to ask for forgiveness. Maybe I felt invisible. Maybe that was a problem. But, God is also usually “unseen”. He associates with the invisible. He is unseen but he is not blind. His love makes us beautiful to eternity and to the angels. Eventually, we will all enjoy what is called the beatific vision. No one will be invisible then and everyone we see we will love. This love will render us all visible and beautiful.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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