Todd Hawkins seemed to everyone to be a very calm, peaceful person who can see both sides of an argument and generally likes everyone. He is often seen as complacent, even lazy to some. Todd presents this image to the world, but just under the surface there's a constant, mild agitation. The majority of his care giving is left to his grandmother.
Todd’s Grandmother, Alice Bushyhead, was a Cherokee Indian. She was somewhat of an offbeat genius, having the potential for great thought. However, if any fact or piece of information is missing, she adds the missing information herself, through fantasy. She is very interactive with the environment, so is touchy-feely with others, interested in how things work and willing to take things apart to find out. Although she is involved in a very real way with the world, she is also not completely in touch with it - given to creating what appears to be wacky theories about how things work and is less likely to share these with other people. She has a lot of fear about the white man’s world, bordering on paranoia. She will often challenge accepted ways of doing things and would often take an aggressive stance against anything that interferes with her inner world.
Todd loves his grandmother and easily communicates with her despite the fact that she spoke broken English. She often mixes English with Cherokee when talking. However, Todd has absolutely no trouble understanding her. He can understand and speak both languages with ease.
“Wah-yaw,” Alice called using Todd’s Cherokee name for Wolf. When he didn’t answer she called again with more authority, “Wah-yaw, didn’t you hear me? What are you daydreaming about?”
“I’m sorry, Ah-lee-see,” he answered, using the Cherokee word for grandmother. “I was thinking about the story you told me of the Trail of Tears. It’s so sad that our people were forced to move from our homeland to Oklahoma. There was so much sadness and misery, and so many died.”
“What a wise and sensitive a-chu-ja (boy) he is,” Alice thought. “I hope he can cope with all that is before him.”
Todd contemplated if his mother would be working late. He then saw Karen pull into the driveway that lead to their house next to his grandparents. Karen is a registered nurse and often works different shifts and long hours. Todd really doesn’t mind since he has more time to spend with his grandmother.
As a child, Karen never really connected with her father and learned that by identifying with the care-giving mother figure was a way to earn her father's love. She never believed this worked, however, and she has been trying to establish that connection ever since. She was frustrated by this and wondered why she couldn’t make it work. She was 15 when she met Steve Hawkins in high school. His family had just moved back to Colcord, Oklahoma from California.
Trying to find the love in Steve that she felt missing from her Father; Karen gave her all to him. This giving included sex and she became pregnant when she was 17. Todd was born before she graduated from high school.
Karen feared being unloved and she saw being attractive and very giving as the best way to make herself lovable. She wanted to portray an image of being a wonderful, desirous person. She was people-oriented and, as such, needed a personal connection. Being a nurse satisfied this need quiet well. However, she didn’t have the appreciation for her Cherokee heritage that her mother had. It was easier for her to function in the Caucasian world than the Cherokee one. She was easily swayed by compliments, however insincere, which opened her to those people who used and discarded her. Self-esteem was a real issue for her. Karen was willing to compromise herself to get people to like her. However, a sense of entitlement caused her to become manipulative at times to get the sympathy she desired.
Although Todd loved his mother, he sensed a greater connection to his grandmother. She was a free spirit who often was more like Todd’s friend than his grandmother. Todd looked toward his home contemplating on going home to be with his mother or staying with his grandmother. The decision soon was no longer his. His grandmother came out of the house saying, “Wah-yaw, your Ay chee (mother) said for you to come home.”
“Go shower and get dressed,” Karen ordered as Todd entered the house. “We’re going to your grandmothers for dinner when you dad gets home.”
“Ah-lee-see didn’t say anything about it,” Todd said with puzzlement.
“No we’re going to your u-ne-ga ah-lee-see,” she explained. The quickly corrected herself to say in English, “We’re going to your white grandmother’s.” Although Karen was fluent in both English and Cherokee, she seldom spoke Cherokee. She was annoyed with her patents who spoke little or no English. She could easily communicate with them in Cherokee, but often said, “They need to learn English.”
“Shit!” Todd said upon learning of the imminent visit to his grandmothers.
“Watch your mouth Todd if you know what’s good for you,” Karen sternly said. “Wear the new shirt your grandma gave you for your birthday.”
“What’s good for me would be my not having to go to grandma’s house,” Todd thought. Margaret Hawkins was a very hypercritical woman who never seemed happy. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw her smile. He could never please her. If he left the door open he should have closed it and if he closed it he should have left it open. The closest thing to affection she had ever shown toward him was a pat on the head.
Todd put on the shirt as ordered despite the fact it was a size too large. That was just like her to buy a shirt too large so he could “grow into it.” He furthermore thought that shirt was the ugliest thing he’d ever seen.
Steve Hawkins arrived home from work and Todd wondered what mood his father was in today, and if he would notice that he had mowed. His answer came when he said “You cut the grass too short.” Not one word of praise or thanks.
Steve is a strong-willed, chip-on-the-shoulder, straight-talking type. He likes to throw power around, real or imagined. He will often exaggerate experiences just to creating attention. Others often see this power hunger as funny - it's anything but to him. Steve demonstrates a strong business sense and a lot of the attributes of a leader. Unfortunately, something this has gotten in the way. He has a strong ego, thinking he should be in control and that others should instinctively know this. Steve's basic fear is that he doesn't have enough power to do what he wants to do, so he throws around what power he has, even if it means simply creating an image of power. He becomes combative to get his way, creating adversarial relationships.
Steve’s ambition is to own a construction company. His strong-willed nature often causes him to throw money around to impress others. The more he failed to achieve his goal the more he drank. His frustrations lead to more and more verbal abuse to both Karen and Todd. He blamed Todd’s birth for the reason he couldn’t achieve his goals. After all, if he didn’t have an Indian wife and kid he could be accepted more by his peers.
Karen unrealistically believed that she could earn Steve’s love by making more money. This only made him think his control was slipping away. He became even more dominating and abusive to those at hand. He saw them as weak. In the process, he became more isolated which raised the anxiety level, creating reckless behavior and a lack of control. This becomes his Achilles heal. In a way, his fear of failure causes failure.
The dinner at his grandmother’s had been all Todd expected and then some. She criticized him for wearing a shirt that didn’t fit, apparently forgetting that it was a gift from her. He was too picky about his food; he should only cut one piece of meat as he ate, and on and on. To make matters worse his parents argued all the way home.
Once they arrived home Todd went straight to his room, stripped of the ugly shirt and there rest of his clothes and went to bed. Before he could fall asleep he could tell that the arguing between his parents hadn’t stopped. He was sure his father was hitting his mother, but felt helpless to do anything. “One day my father will push this too far,” he said out loud, knowing nobody could hear. Or did someone hear?