Theory of the Eldest – By John Providence

Fool's Costume 3DLast year I had the privilege to work on The Fool’s Costume: A Strange ConfessionFilled with both tragic and extraordinarily supernatural events, this true story reads more like a novel than a biography. This book clearly demonstrates the power of God to turn evils into good, and I was greatly impressed at the author’s ability to tell his story. John’s book is available on his website for free. Below are excerpts from chapter two.

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In one of my first memories, Davey and I were gleefully jumping on the bed in our room when we collided in midair and knocked heads. Davey wailed in agony. The instant the sound escaped his lips, Mother flew into the room in full-on crisis mode and threw herself down beside her youngest child, hysterically inquiring what happened. Davey, about two, mustered between sobs, “Johnny hit my head.” At that, Mother grabbed a fistful of my hair and slapped me across the face while throttling me about. When her furry subsided, I tried to tell her about the accident. “Don’t lie to me! You hurt Davey on purpose because you hate him!” And the fury commenced.

Mother stalked me. Often while playing alone with Davey, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Looking about, I would see some part of Mom’s body sticking out from her hiding place, notice the shadows cast by her feet under the door, or hear the floor creak as she crept closer. Her presence made me feel terribly awkward, and I did not know what to do. I knew why she was there—to catch me hurting Davey. But I did not want to hurt him like she believed. Then I got a grand idea. While Mother was spying, I would play extra nice with Davey to show her how much I really loved him!

“AH, HA!” Mother yelled as she leapt into the open. “You sneaky little cheat. You knew I was there the whole time and tried to put me on with your act. Well, you’ll have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on me, Buster!” The next time she snuck up on me I said hello to avoid looking the deceiver. “So you think you’re pretty clever now, don’t you? You better enjoy this victory while it lasts. You may’ve won this time, but I’m in it for the long haul. We’ll see who’ll have the last laugh!”

Why did Mother treat me so? “You are the eldest, the firstborn child, just like your Grandma Pearl and Uncle Teddy were. As the eldest, you were born with the same character flaws as them. You have the Type-A personality and choleric temperament that every firstborn automatically does. Only I know who you really are, and it is my God-given duty as your parent to correct the personality flaws that come along with being the firstborn.

“You act out on purpose to get my attention back, and I’ll make your life as difficult as possible until you get with the program and follow the simple rules I lay out for your own good! I’ll go to whatever extremes are necessary in order to save you from turning out like your pervert Uncle Teddy—a grown man living in his mother’s basement. It is called tough love. You may not like it now, but you will thank me for it someday. Look at me! Look into my eyes!”

Mom was a beautiful woman with stunning blue-green eyes that took on a sinister quality when honed on me. Then they lit up with an eerie light and bulged out of her face with the left eyebrow contorted into an inverted V. There was a fierceness about them that struck cold terror in my soul as they burned with righteous indignation at me. Mother went into a trance when “the look” came upon her face. She rarely blinked, and her voice changed into a melodic howl. She thrust out her finger and stabbed at the air in front of her as she lectured in a meter and tone akin to a song.

“If you’re not looking into my eyes, then you’re not listening. If you’re ever going to be saved from becoming Teddy, then you must pay the utmost attention to my teachings. You’re utterly rebellious and have been since birth. Only my parenting techniques and your cooperation can change that! We can do this the easy way or the hard way; it’s up to you. Look into my eyes!”

I do not know when my indoctrination into Mother’s system began, but this particular lecture session from my fourth year stands out. From that moment onward, I looked unceasingly into Mother’s maniacal eyes as she injected her venomous ideology–The Theory of the Eldest (TOE)–into my tender heart via detailed lectures of excruciating length throughout my childhood.

“Did you know that nearly every president was the eldest or firstborn male in their family?” Mother asked. “The same can be said of the majority of powerful politicians and CEOs. That’s becausethe eldest is the automatic favorite in every family. They get all the privileges. They get all the breaks. Their families invest all their resources in the precious firstborn while callously leaving the younger children to fend for themselves. But I’m going to make everything as fair and even as possible between the siblings in my house! Wipe that smirk off your face before I wipe it off for you!

“Along the way, the firstborn revels in the glory and showboats in front of the adoring eyes of their admiring dupes who are none the wiser to what kind of person the eldest really is. I bet you feel sorry for yourself because I don’t grovel at your feet and worship you. Come hell or high water, I will not allow the pattern of eldest favoritism to be repeated in my family!”

The lectures were harrowing. I was expected to sit or stand “as still as a statue” for hours on end as Mother expounded on her TOE day after day, focusing upon whatever character flaws my latest crimes revealed and how her parenting techniques were going to fix them. Inevitably, fatigue set in, body parts fell asleep, nature called, or my mouth and eyes dried out. Movement brought relief, but if I squirmed too much, Mother slapped me or pulled my hair for “fidgeting.” I was so terrified to stir that even my blinks were timed with hers in the hopes they would not be noticed.

Mother saw her TOE everywhere she looked and took advantage of every opportunity to point it out. For example, you have no doubt witnessed the struggle for survival that takes place in a bird’s nest on nature programs. The first chick to hatch, endowed by nature with a ruthless personality and the unfair advantages of size and strength, crowds the younger chicks out and takes all the food from parents who just hand it over to their favored chick. If the younger chicks do not succumb to starvation first, there is the heart-wrenching scene where the eldest chick pushes them out of the nest to their deaths! When such dramas played out on our TV Mother would look over at me with a wry smile, nodding knowingly at the screen with the I-told-you-so look on her face.

“Do you know who the first murderer in human history was?” asked Mother with the big family Bible open in her lap. “It was Cain, the very first eldest child! Cain killed his righteous younger brother because he was jealous of him just like you are of Davey!

And she went on to talk about Jacob and Esau; Reuben, Jacob’s eldest; Ishmael, Abraham’s eldest; Samuel’s favoritism toward Eliab over David, and more—all reinforcing her theory. “And most important of all, we can’t forget what Jesus Christ himself said, ‘The first will be last and the last will be first.’ There’s simply no arguing with that, Mister!”

If hundreds of hours were spent in lectures, then thousands more passed contemplating them in solitary confinement. Mother went over her Theory of the Eldest with such torturous repetition that I completed nearly every sentence in my head before she finished them as a game to stave off boredom. You will have to take my word that the full extent of her vast system cannot be reproduced in these pages, but in solitary it all played through my mind and gave me plenty to think about. Mommy thinks I’m Teddy, but I’m not! Nothing she said about me seemed to be true, like my being jealous of Norma and Davey for being born and stealing my attention. I felt nothing of the sort and could not remember a day in my life before them.

I was so desperate to find the reason for my suffering that all kinds of possibilities were explored, like a vivid recurring dream that began my fourth year. In that dream, I saw a spaceship hovering in the living room with Mother and Davey standing beneath in a trance. Then some evil looking aliens came out of the ship, opened a door on their backs, and programmed them to be mean to me. There was also an episode of The Twilight Zone that told the story of a man who woke up one day to find that no one knew who he was anymore. The scene where the man was trying to convince his mom that he really was her son riveted me. She would not believe him and the poor man was thrown in the loony bin. Was there an evil conspiracy against me? Was I living in The Twilight Zone?

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