By Karen Brode
“That boy needs to go to the Army! It’s his only hope of being a man!” Daddy said as he sat at the kitchen table smoking one cigarette after another.
Mother was crying as she did the dishes. She often cried when Daddy went on a rampage against John.
“I’ll sign the damn papers for him to go right now! The sooner the better in my opinion. What is he ever going to do if he does’t go to the military?” He asked Mother emphatically. “They will make a man out of him! He won’t be here in our house with you giving him everything he wants! That boy is a Morrison through and through!”
I listened in the hallway outside the kitchen and knew that, according to my father, being a Morrison was not good. Mother was a Morrison and her family was looked down on very much by my dad. Even though he talked down about them behind their backs, he was respectful and nice to them whenever they were around.
Once at the supper table, I had not been able to eat anything. Daddy didn’t think I should be allowed to not eat. He told me to eat what was on my plate, and before it was over, I was crying. I didn’t feel as if I’d ever want to eat again. Mother held her arms out to me, and I sat in her lap snuffling.
“Now you’re acting like a Morrison!” Daddy yelled. “I thought surely you would not be like the Morrisons!”
Mother cried off and on all that week, but in the end John went to join the Army. Daddy gleefully signed the papers for him to go, and Mother cried again when she had to sign the papers. John packed his bags and waited out on the front porch for his ride. Mother stood at the front door watching him and then looked back at Daddy who was sitting in the living room chair reading. As John’s ride drove up, he turned to let Mother hug him.
“Karen, come and hug your brother goodbye,” she said and I did as I was told. She glared at Daddy and said, “John is leaving now.”
“Good!” he said from his chair in the corner of the living room.
John turned and walked down the steps, out to the waiting car. Mother ran to grab John when he was midway across the yard. She was crying hysterically by then, and he turned to her and said, “Momma, I’ve got to go. I can’t stay here with Daddy treating me like he is.”
Momma let go of him and went to sit on the front steps.
I sat by her and tried to put my arm around her, but it wouldn’t reach. I wanted to comfort her, make her feel better.
“It will be okay, Momma.” I said, and she pulled me onto her lap and hugged me.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.