Acid Heroes

May 8, 2016



My mother was raised in a little town in the mountains of New Hampshire.  Her mother was Irish and English.  Her father was a Native American Indian.  Her mother (my grandmother who we always referred to as “Nanny”) managed a bunch of little cabins on their property that her father had built with his own hands and they rented them out to the tourists and the people passing through overnight. She had a younger sister who lived in the same town of New Hampshire for her entire life.  And an older brother who was mentally retarded and died young.

Her mother, Nanny, was a mean old coot.  You could easily picture Nanny sitting there on her front porch, smoking a corncob pipe, with a shotgun on her lap and a scowl on her face.  But she was tough, too.  You had to be tough to survive those long New Hampshire winters in the mountains.  There’d often be a couple feet of snow on the ground that could last for several months at a stretch.  The one thing I remember about Nanny.  On the few times that we visited her,  she would invariably shout at you as you entered her house:  “HAVE A FRUIT!!  HAVE A FRUIT!!”  And she’d thrust a banana from the fruit bowl at you.  It was her way of trying (and failing) to be friendly and generous.  Aside from that, I don’t remember Nanny ever showing the slightest interest in her grandchildren.  Or interest in anything for that matter, aside from managing her cottages.  As far as I know, she had no friends or interests.  The other odd thing about Nanny; she seemed to grow shorter and shorter over the years with her head sinking down into her chest.  And it was easy to keep track of her age because she was born in the year 1900.  Lived into her 90s.

My mother’s father, like many Indians, would go crazy when he got drunk on whiskey.  “He used to storm around the house in a rage, waving his shotgun in the air,” my mother often told me.  “He’d threaten to kill my mother and the whole family when he was on a drunken rampage.  My mother would lock us all inside one of the bedrooms and we’d all be hiding in there, cowering under the bed while we listened to him screaming and smashing things up.  It was terrifying.  When I was 8 he went up into the mountains with his shotgun and blew his brains out.  Committed suicide.”

Years later, when I was trying to figure out the dynamics between me and my mother — for my mother would constantly psychologically castrate me while I was growing up —  it occurred to me that the two main male influences on my mother while she was growing up were her brother and her father.  A retard and a lunatic.  And I think that informed her impression of men, and instilled a life-long fear of men in my mother.  She considered men to be feeble-minded, unstable and — most of all — dangerous.   How this played out in her relationship to me was:   As I started to grow into a man and become bigger and stronger, this inspired a corresponding fear in my mother.  The stronger I got, the more of a potential threat to her I became.  Hence the psychological castrating routine.  (I never felt the need to go to a psychiatrist —  I already thought about stuff too much as it is)

I hated my mother for years and years.  I blamed her for all my problems.  And I had many of those.  I’m talking frothing, searing RAGE!! I was so mad I once went 20 years without having any contact with my family.Eventually, I concluded that my life was my own karma.  And it didn’t have anything to do with my mother.  Or my father, for that matter.  So that realization took the edge off my anger.

I never really was able to muster much affection for my mother. But in her later years I carved out sort of a neutral relationship where we would occassionally go out for coffee or lunch together and make bland small talk together.  Which was somewhat of an achievement for both of us, considering how poisonous our relationship had been for so many years.

Recently I asked her about her father and his suicide.  She said:  “Suicide?  My father never committed suicide.  He was murdered.  He got shot in the back  outside a bar over some kind of drunken barroom dispute.”

“But you always told me that he committed suicide,” I said.

“I never said that,” said my mother.

That was another odd thing about the Backwords family dynamics.  Things were never as they seemed on the surface.  And the accepted family storylines often turned out to be completely different than the reality.  Whatever the reality actually was.





  1. “Eventually, I concluded that my life was my own karma.” This is the same conclusion I came to about my own depressing destiny. I no longer blame my family; however I puzzle over what terrible, forgotten sins I must have committed in a past life to deserve my current destiny. And I wonder if I have to share future lives with, let’s say my father, who I would rather forgive & forget & never cross paths again. When it comes down to it, Samsara really sucks!!!

    Comment by Jon — May 10, 2016 @ 1:20 am | Reply

    • This friend of mine — the cartoonist Dennis Worden — totally disavows the concept of karma. He feels its a total mind fuck. Where we blame ourselves for our failings instead of blaming all the assholes that fucked us up. And I can see his point in a way. I just feel better taking responsibility for my life. But I could be wrong.

      Comment by Ace Backwords — May 11, 2016 @ 7:14 am | Reply

    • Yes, you could be wrong, the doctrine of karma says that if you “blame all the assholes that fucked us up,” & act on that in any way whatsoever, then it only adds fuel to the fire & sets off another karmic shit storm. Again, Samsara REALLY SUCKS!

      Comment by Jon — May 11, 2016 @ 11:51 am | Reply

  2. My mother was dealing with some incredibly heavy karma. She finally couldn’t deal with it anymore and disappeared into the New Hampshire woods and was never seen again. Her physical health was fine; her torment was all mental.

    Comment by Deborah K Jamil — May 12, 2016 @ 5:08 am | Reply

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