Later Years
Brock in college, with his sweetheart, evidenced by her wearing an Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity pin to match the one on his lapel. We were, therefore, as they said in those days (1953), "pinned." I got rushed by all the fraternities on campus after I was elected president of the freshman class (and was later re-elected to preside over the sophomores). Mother and Mac, my stepfather, were adamant in their refusal to allow me to pedge myself to ATO. I had become too independent for them. Mother had lost all those years with me growing up. She still thought of me as her "little boy" and made the sad mistake of lumping me with my baby (half-) brothers, who were ten and eight years behind me and who had not been exposed to the world as I had. If I could go back, I would handle it differently today (who wouldn't?), but as relatively sophisticated as I was, I was unable to cope with her attitude. I realize now that she could not help herself. It is a mother's way, but in my case, it simply did not apply. I had been intensely abused for so many years by parental "authority." I felt deeply that I had left that behind when I escaped from my father. I had earned the right to my own life, I had paid my own way with jobs part-time and full-time, and I was attending college on a creative-writing scholarship, having won a national contest for high-school fiction. I packed my bags and left. Mac asked for my key when I walked out of the door to move into the fraternity house. I cut myself adrift from them and from all family for most of the next twenty years. Enough was enough. I have never regretted doing it. I had to have been a handful for those good people to handle and honestly feel that my welcome was worn thin. We have never talked about it, even though in later years we all became good friends. When Mac died at the age of 85, I felt his loss as if he were truly my father. My own father's passing twelve years before had made no ripple on my waves. All he left me was his Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity pin.


On the left, Gladys and Dad came up from Florida to see me off to Paris when I left The Christian Science Monitor in Bostoin in 1960. Our rare meetings were always strained. The fact that I loved my mother and did not love Gladys as a mother always stood between Dad and me. More pragmatic than he, she took whatever I felt for her for what it was worth - not a lot. Although I forgave them both long before this picture was taken, Dad never really forgave me for not adoring Gladys as he did. He was obsessed with her from the moment they met. That left little room for me. He was considered by most who knew him to be a kind, considerate, loving man. He was - with them and with Gladys, although she and he fought like cats and dogs in the earlier years. Privately, he was the type of man - a born abuser - who would kick you like a dog and then expect you to love him anyway, as would most dogs. I was not most dogs. In the years of my youth, children were less listened to in these matters. I sought help from our Presbyterian minister once, showing welts from a beating. He took me back home and believed my father's story that I had been in a fight with some boys and proceeded to upbraid me as a liar. After the minister left, Dad beat me again, and when I lifted a fist to him, he dragged me into his study and took out a pistol from the drawer and lifted me by the throat till my feet were off the floor and jammed the pistol in my ear and snarled, "I'll kill you if you ever do that again!" That would not be the last time he pulled his pistol on me. Still, in later years, I forgave him, but I never liked him, and I simply stayed away.
In the middle picture, taken a few months before Dad passed away, he looks like a nice guy. If you were to ask anybody who ever worked for him, they would probably agree. It was, I think, his unreasoning hatred of my mother that colored his feelings toward me. He tried so many times, in phone calls and with invitations to visit, to "patch it up" (his words). It was years before I understood why it always failed. I wore my mother's face. He wanted desperately to love and be loved by his only child, his only son, but my resemblance to her physically and in my disposition, even to the gestures with the hands and the expressions on the face, provided a constant reproach. Poor man! He suffered in youth from insane, outrageous jealousy - a legacy from his own mother, I have it on good authority - and then he suffered from love turned to hate. Both are almost incurable. In the middle picture, above, taken in anticipation of their 40th wedding anniversary, which Dad missed by seven weeks, they are both wearing his Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity pin. He was inordinately proud of his association with SAE and dragged me through their national headquarters when I was a kid, introducing me around as a "future SAE man." The photo to the right, here, shows him as an SAE pledge at Ohio State University. I was named for a fraternity brother of his, Eddie Brockman, whom I never met. I sigh when I recall Dad's efforts to cajole me away from my mother after I dumped him. One was a promise of "Princeton, where you can pledge SAE." He also told me then that Gladys had saved up my whole college tuition for Princeton over the years. When I told her that a few years after he was dead, she laughed, "Brock, the only way I survived the marriage to your father was to shut my ears to things like that, none of which were true." He was enraged when I pledged ATO in college, but I was beyond him then. I am convinced that the only reason he wanted me back in his life was for the continuance of his revenge against my mother. I had been a pawn in the divorce, and he never grew past that concept, or he would have dealt differently with me when I was united with her again.
Oddly, after Dad died at 77 in November of 1981, when she was 60, Gladys, who had let herself go frumpy, blossomed. In the picture on the right, above, she is shown as what she termed "the new me" and, later, even slimmed down and went blonde. I encouraged her to re-marry, but she laughed that off by saying, "Those years with your father taught me there are some people who should never marry, and I'm one of them." She had redeemed herself with me in many ways by the loving manner in which she had taken care of my father in his last, long illness. It could not have been easy. She looked marvelous, but her mind took an arcane turn into hallucinations of romance and pursuit by a handsome televangelist. As we were then in constant communication by phone, I checked with her doctor and asked him to change her medications. The change improved her mental condition for awhile, but then she began to disappear and turn up in other towns and new apartments. During one telephone call to thank me for sending her some beautiful bedding, she excused herself and came back to say that the televangelist had taken the vacant apartment next door, so she had to close the bedroom door as he was listening on the other side of the bedroom wall. After Gladys's "crimes" against me in childhood, if I were not my mother's son I might have been delighted to find Gladys in this condition, but, no, I pitied her, as did my mother when I informed her.



Bachrach portrait, New York City, 1956


San Francisco, age 35



Both of us at age 37,
Mother in 1951, me in 1971.



Radio/TV master of ceremonies, U. S. Army


"The Beautiful People," Malcolm Blair Duncan, Sr., and my mother, Mildred Frances Wilkins Creel Morris Duncan, at the respective ages of 80 and 73, lived to celebrate fifty years of true marital bliss, with two fine sons to their credit, my half-brothers, Malcolm Blair Duncan, Jr., now retired from working for the U. S. Air Force in Oklahoma City, and Father Dwight Douglass Duncan, an Episcopal minister in Dallas. In Mac, Mother finally found the man she deserved. He lived across the street from her family when she was still in diapers and used to roll her about in her pram on the streets of Alexandria when he was seven or eight, vowing even then "to marry her someday." Heartbroken when she married my father, although Mother knew nothing of his undying love for her, Mac told her mother that he would "wait until she comes home, whenever that may be." Seven years later, he was her mainstay in the courtroom when I, at the age of five, was put on the witness stand and crack attorneys tried to get me to tell tales to prove my mother was an adulteress. It didn't work, but without Mac's tender support, Mother might never have made it. They were married the day after her divorce from my father became final. I was not there. By that time, I had already disappeared...gone, gone, gone, they knew not where, for twelve long years. When Mac died at 85 in 1993, I wrote the following poem for Mother:

MAC AT THE GATE

When you were small,
I hoped the day would be
That you'd grow up
And choose to marry me,
But you went off
And left me to my fate.
You didn't know
I was waiting at the gate.

I found no one
To fill the gap for me,
But you married
And learned the misery
Of misspent years
That cursed your life with hate.
When you came home,
I was waiting at the gate.

I was the man
To rescue you from Hell,
Who loved you more
Than words could ever tell.
I took your hand
And asked to be your mate;
You answered, "Yes,"
And we entered through the gate.

Thank you, my dear;
You made life a Heaven.
My world was flat -
Mildred gave it leaven.
Don't worry if
Your train's a little late;
When your time comes,
I'll be waiting at the gate.



My all-time favorite snapshot of Mother - in her "Marlene Dietrich" mode, still a glamorous, natural - believe it or not - blonde at age 67 in 1981. Here, she shows off a champagne mink jacket I bought her to say thank you for being the most beautiful mom in the world.


She's a hard act to follow.



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2000 Brockman Morris