“August: Osage County” or “July: Macon County”?

Original Broadway windowcardAfter attending the movie “August: Osage County”, I knew in my heart of hearts that I must call my sister Abby and warn her. Although I enjoyed the fine acting done by the ensemble cast, it hit a little too close to home for my comfort. I found it heartbreaking and would not allow myself to slip into a puddle of pity, so I refrained from having a meltdown.

This movie is the same film that my dear sister Sissy wondered aloud on the phone with me whether she would be alive to see. Unfortunately, she was not, but I know she was with me in spirit as I sat in that movie theater doing my best to remain composed.

In the movie, Osage County was the setting. In our lives, Macon County was the setting for much of the melodrama and trauma we lived through.

Hindenburg burningSince we each lived some of the same dysfunction that was portrayed in the movie, I found myself remembering how it felt to be blamed for things that were totally out of my control. Or to be so frigging hot that you thought you would burst into flames. Our mother Mary hated air conditioning and rarely admitted to being hot, although “July: Macon County” was almost insufferable. If the heat didn’t put you in a mood, Mother’s antics certainly would. And she loved nothing more than waiting until dinner time to let blow with all the perceived ills that had been done to her, usually at the alleged hands of my sister and myself.

Rear viewThe heat was pervasive, the sweat flowing freely down your face and neck and just as you began to put your fork full of food up to your lips, Mother would begin her tirade. The tone was loud and obnoxious and because she was not dealing with reality, you never knew what she might say. If you ate too much, she questioned your weight. If you ate too little, she questioned your health. She often would bring up the past as though it were just yesterday, which meant a deadly evening for all gathered at the table.

I was quite thin at the time, thanks to Mother’s less than delicious meals and the indigestion that ensued after she began her nightly ritual. When I was able to escape from her grip after she headed out West, food became a comfort to me. In fact, all four of us, Abby, Sissy, Kevin and I would say that food is our drug of choice. I always say:

You won’t be arrested for driving down the street under the influence of a candy bar. (Or ten!)

Our stepmother Beatrice used her own form of punishment which meant she would have a meltdown after some trivial thing one of us had done, She would slam her bedroom door and wait for Dad to come home. The dinner table was not a place to share your joys and concerns but more a test of endurance. Who can make it through the meal without crying, leaving the table abruptly or being screamed at until you are reduced to nothing.

If the heat didn’t get you, then the vitriolic conversation would. It was a drama that no child should have to experience.

As excellent as the acting was in “August:  Osage County”, it hit too close to home for me. My heart was broken all over again for those sweet little girls who endured such behavior from a troubled and damaged mother. And for all four of us who are still picking up the pieces of our fractured lives.

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