Hello again friends, and welcome to the back of the paper. Normally, our time here is spent complaining about how Birmingham constantly lets me down or how I just don’t understand women. We often talk about fringe popular culture or I share insane tales of desperate men in unimaginable situations. We have fun.
But this time I’d like to take a time-out to talk about a couple of people that are very special to me. I won’t take up a lot of your time, and I promise to get back to complaining about zombies real soon.
This might be the hardest thing I have ever written, because I’m not a poet and this is all about feelings and mushy stuff. So here it is, no frills.
Robin Davidson met Brenda Edwards in elementary school. By the time they began to date in high school, she was a popular honorroll student and he was a football star.
In 1974 they were married. In 1975 I was born.
In hindsight, I guess I had a pretty typical childhood. There was just the five of us—Ma, the Old Man, my brother and my sister, who came a little later. We shifted from poor to broke, and occasionally there were times when we had to live with family because we were without a home.
My folks always tried to make sure that we never had to do without—we couldn’t always have the top new toys, but we always had a good Christmas. We didn’t necessarily wear the latest styles, but we were always clean and healthy.
The thing I remember most is that my folks stayed together. We live in an age where any and every small bump on the road leads to instant divorce. Admittedly, there are some reasons that some couples shouldn’t be together, but I always had both of my folks through the good and bad times. They were in this thing for the long haul, and it was genuine love that cemented it. I didn’t grow up around many friends that had both parents, so I’d hear stories of dual Christmases and custody arguments, and I just couldn’t relate. I had them both in the same place rain or shine, for better or worse.
Naturally, my folks and I didn’t always see eye to eye when I was growing up. There was the occasional head-butting, especially during my teens. I started screwing up in school— mostly due to boredom—but they listened and tried to understand. They supported my art-school leanings though they would have preferred that I’d gone somewhere here in Alabama. Ultimately, they were right—but they wanted me to be happy, so they let me go.
All in all, we had a fairly typical family unit. 15 years ago, though, things started to get complicated. It started with my old man’s kidney failure. Luckily, he was given a transplant fairly soon after. As soon as he was squared away, my mother was stricken with a rare form of muscle disease. There was a period when the two of them were constantly trading the role of caretaker as my siblings and I did whatever we could to continue school, work and whatever small social engagements we had. Lots of time was spent in and around hospitals, and both my parents were forced to retire in their late 30s due to sickness.
Soon, ill health became the norm, but though my folks were sick, they were still happy. I mean really, what would being angry help? We were poor and sick but we were together.If you’ll notice, I’m not trying to dazzle or impress because there is nothing that impressive about my family. We’re just folk. Country but educated, drug free, God-fearing folk. A sitcom about the Davidson’s would be week after week of us grilling, watching TV and complaining about bills.
I just want to give you a window into my past and the people that raised me. My parents are good people that had some rough breaks. But they taught me to be a decent person. I have my mother’s empathy and my father’s stubbornness. My contrariness I developed all on my own. They raised me to care about people and I do. They raised me to be nice, and I am—within reason. I was raised in church, and even though I don’t attend regularly anymore, I never gave up those beliefs.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this—I know a lot of people that don’t like being around their parents. I LOVE being around my parents. I know a lot of people that see their folks as equals and friends. I don’t—they are my parents. They were my disciplinarians and they taught me. We didn’t pal around. I give them respect, not friendship. There is a difference.
I am, as one might say, good and grown at this point. Any mistakes I have made I own and whatever happens from here on out is all my doing, but as I flail around out here in the “real world,” my folks are the only solid and consistent thing in my life and I’m lucky to have them.
Everything that is good about me is because of my parents.
So, this is for you Robin and Brenda. Happy 36th anniversary! Here is to 36 more. I love you.
(Next week, robots probably...)
J’mel Davidson writes stuff for Birmingham Weekly almost every week. Send your comments to editor@bhamweekly or email J’mel directly at email@example.com.