Monroe Murphy Bird was born in “aught six” among the rugged mountains on the border between Oklahoma and Arkansas. At the age of three, he witnessed the death of his father, who was clearing land when a burning limb fell on him. My grandfather was then finished off by a long wagon ride and a drunk town doctor.
Dad’s wild mother went on to have 13 more husbands. My smart father quit school after the third grade and took up the role of breadwinner for the chaotic family. At age 12, he moved fifty miles away to the big city of Fort Smith to be a soda-jerk by day and a peanut vendor on the railroad by night.
His early experiences shaped him into a hard worker who kept to himself except for his sweetheart and emotional dependent, my mother. I grew up listening to my father telling stories with one message: that he was the only decent man alive. I assumed that I fell into the worthless category. Craving my father’s attention, but seldom getting it , I remained self-loathing until my late 30’s.
A dramatic shift occurred when I was in my early 40’s and my father was approaching his death at 84. My mother, my father’s only friend, became brain-dead due to a fall. I saw an opportunity to get emotionally close to my father. He gave me a huge gift by telling me about a lifetime of low self-esteem and fear of other men. BINGO, my life began a steady climb out of misery, given the attention from my father and the insight regarding the origin of my own self-loathing. (It wasn’t innate inferiority!) My father gave me two more gifts, among many. He told me how much he valued his sexuality, giving my own manhood more legitimacy. Also, he stayed emotionally open to me up to his last breath, letting me help him die.
Dad, I love you. I dedicate my dancing to you, knowing how much you would have enjoyed dancing if you could have felt freer in your manhood.