My preceding post, of July 19th, alluded to some of the darkest, most “negative” aspects of my sister Alice’s adult life—her cocaine addiction and periods of deep depression as described in Tornado a brief memoir by my niece Feagin Jones, Alice’s daughter, recently published in “Hippocampus” magazine—and focused on the possible origins of these aspects in the possibility that Alice had, like myself (as well as another blood relative), been sexually abused by our father.
The key point I wish to make in this post, of July 26th, is the balanced nature of Feagin’s memories of her mother offered in Tornado.
Passages from Tornado evoking Alice’s positive qualities include:
When my mother sang, she would rock me in the chair my grandmother had purchased at Ethan Allen. Now, when I listen to Perry Como sing ‘Sleep Kentucky Babe,’ the precise harmony doesn’t sound right to me. I have to close my eyes and remember her voice, off key. Then I can almost smell her, and I can feel her silk nightgown soft against my cheek.
Before, creative energy ran mad in her seeking mind, exploding in deep guffaws. The tales she spun took over the room—a charm in her voice would lure you in every time. When she banished me to my room at bed time, I would hear the laughter she sparked in her friends in the next room, and wish I could be in there to laugh along with them.
I would wholeheartedly agree with the notion that Alice’s positive, admirable qualities such those evidenced in these passages—qualities, among others, of kindness and sensitivity, a keen intelligence and a brilliantly ironic, incisive wit—managed to shine forth many times during her adult years, and even—though too often during however brief interludes between her periods of darkness—throughout her later years, to the end. (To cite but one example, I recall Alice’s highly entertaining commentaries on the reality TV shows which, in her later years, she would watch in such abundance.)
That Alice’s positive qualities could so shine forth represents, I believe, a triumph—however partial; however intermittent—of her unique, individual spirit over all the darkness and its origins. A triumph that, at the same time, only serves to make all the more tragic what the darkness took from her.