Alrighty then...Let's get to the part where I blame it on my parents. Yep, they're always to blame for something, aren't they? Not just your DNA either. It's that messed up word "nurture". Your parents can and will mess you up in one way or another. It's a vicious cycle, their parents mess them up, they mess you up and later, if you have children or are contemplating children, you WILL mess them up and you worry about it constantly.
And it's EVERYBODY'S parents. There is no perfection because parenthood is never perfect. Children are like giant computer programs from scratch. One tiny little command in the wrong place and "poof" you got a glitch. And it might not even be apparent right away. It might be one of those background programs that you hardly notice is running or don't use very often. Then, one day, you're running along fine until you notice that the program is dropping a "1" once in awhile. You go back and look at all the stuff you saved over the last 35 years and some of it comes up as gibberish. Crap. How did that happen?
In the case of humans, the programmers were already flawed. They can't help themselves because they were flawed, too. The funny part is watching somebody trying to fix themselves. OK, not funny sometimes. Sometimes it's a horrible mess and it seems like the best thing to do is throw the program out and try to start new. But, it's one of those pesky programs that is burned into the deep memory of the mother board. The most you can hope for is that a new program will mitigate the damage, maybe correct one or two flaws. The worst part is for somebody to contemplate throwing the motherboard out all together. That just sucks. Fortunately, I took a look at my motherboard and said, "Eh...I can live with it. I'll just load up on a bunch of new programs and maybe I won't notice."
Your parents made you. They imprinted themselves on your subconscious and you don't even notice it until one day, you're doing something or saying something and they come out. You become your parent(s). And it scares the crap out of you.
Several years ago, I was watching my nephews. They were behaving very badly. The oldest one was picking on the youngest one. After several attempts to get them to stop, I yelled at the oldest one, "Alexander Lee H....! Do you want a spanking?"
Uhh...what was that? Oh. My. God. Was that my mom that just came out of my mouth? Eeew...eeew...I was my MOM! The question that I had sworn my entire life to never use on any child, "Do you want a spanking?", had just come out of my mouth. Not because I believe corporal discipline is bad. I know I got my share as a child, but because I always laughed with my brothers afterwards about what a stupid question that was. What were they expecting? "Yes, please. May I have another?"
Now, as an adult, I know that my mom meant that as a rhetorical question. No answer required. Translate to mean, "One more time and I'm beating your ass."
Funny thing about that. Why is it that children are not programmed to understand rhetorical questions?
Anyway, after I got over that first shock of being my mom, I began to notice other things. I laugh like my mom when it's a small laugh. Starts out sounding like Betty Rubble. You know how she laughs with her mouth closed? When It's a big laugh, I sound like my dad. Big gaffawing laughs where I'm desperately trying to breath in between. When I think I'm being challenged, I do the "cop" stance. The stance I saw my dad take a million times. Feet planted slightly apart, shoulders straight and arms hanging loosely at the side, ready for anything. When I'm emotionally angry, I do the "mom", I cross my arms over my chest tightly, tighten everything up and my mouth becomes a straight line (I've seen it in the mirror). When I'm trying to figure out how to work out a problem, I'll stick my left hand in my pants pocket and jingle the change around. Just like my dad.
And, apparently, I also have "the look". The look my dad always gave us. No emotion on the face except the slight squinting of the eyes. "The look" that says, "do you feel lucky, punk?" Um..nope..not at all. No luck here. What is it you wanted us to do? Go clean the garage? Pick up the trash? Stop screwing around in the church pew? I'll get right on it.
How do I know I have "the look"? I actually discovered that a little while before the "Mom" episode, but refused to recognize it. One evening, I'm at a club with some friends and this guy, who is slightly inebriated, kept getting in my space. He was trying to come on to me, but I really didn't care for drunk guys hitting on me. At least, not when I was sober. I kept moving back and over trying to get a little space. One time he sticks his arm around me in that drunken guy way, up high around my shoulders and puts his face close to mine while he's squinting and slurring trying to tell me that he'd had his eye on me all night. Of course, I'm thinking, "you should have tried your luck while you could still stand straight", but I just put my hand up and gently, but firmly, push him away. Then I say, "Excuse me." And walk over to where some of my other friends were standing.
Well, the guy just didn't want to give up. Some might admire his persistence, but I was in no mood to be breathed on again by Jack Daniels/whisky sour/beer breath or be some drunk guys leaning post (at least, not one that I didn't know). So, as he started walking my way again, one of my friends touched my arm to indicate he was coming. I glance over. Sure enough. This guy will not give up. So I turn and do the "cop" stance and the "look" and the guy freezes, looks around confused for a moment and then stumbles off.
One of my friends said, "What was that all about?" I shrug my shoulders, "I don't know. He's drunk." She said, "No. I mean that look." Now I'm confused, "What look?" She said, "That look you gave him. I think you made him pee his pants." I just laughed, "Whatever."
I really had no idea that I had the power of "the look." I didn't know I was my parents yet. Then, I was just me. Trying to figure out who I was.
One thing, about "the look." It is a blessing and a curse. At work or dealing with my nephews and nieces, it's a blessing. One "look" and everyone has figured out that they are toeing my "pissing" line. In personal life, I've discovered that, even if a guy is not the recipient of "the look", if he sees me give it to somebody else, it's a curse. Nobody wants to contemplate being on the receiving end of that "look".
One day, we're at my cousin's. He's the police officer I might have mentioned before. He was having a barbecue and a bunch of his officer friends were over. One of them, Big John they call him, was talking to me. He was kind of sweet. By now, I wasn't quite as oblivious to the signs of male interest, so I'm talking to him and one of the other officers that was there, Bobby Q..., whom we had grown up with and was always a pain in the ass (and he never grew out of it either), yelled out something like, "Go Big John. Maybe she'll let you ride her bike tonight. Ride'm cowboy." Very insinuating. I think he'd had one too many beers.
I could see the red creeping up John's neck and into his face. He was really embarrassed. I was embarrassed, too. So, I turn and give him "the look". All the guys standing around who'd just been gaffawing about Bobby's less than subtle jibe, now started contemplating their beers and turning away, "Dude...ah...yeah...where's that beer keg at? Did you catch that game last night?" Bobby's all, "What? What'd I say?" then he walks over to my where my cousin is standing and my cousin says, "Hey, man. Don't come over by me. That's your own shit."
Then I turn back to John and he's all red in the face and contemplating his own beer. Before I could say anything like, "Ignore Bobby, he's an asshole", John kind of clears his throat, "Ahem..yeah, I think I need some more beer. You want a beer or something?" I'm standing there with a three quarters full wine cooler, "Uhh..no. I think I'm ok."
"Alrighty then. I'm just going to get a beer. I'll catch you later."
"The Look" strikes again.
Well, you get the drift. You may not recognize it, but your parents are written all over you. Your moods, your looks, how you contemplate things. Even the things that you do differently is because you saw or heard something from them that you decided to, and were able to, do differently.
There are other things that happen, that you don't realize until it's too late, that make you into you. Like divorce. Your parents get a divorce and whatever happens during that divorce, whether it's amicable or vicious, it implants itself on you. Like, if your parents got an amicable divorce, that may put a subtle program in your head that all of your breakups or ending relationships should be equally amicable. Friendly even. It can confuse the crap out of people when not all of their relationships end like that. Or, vis-a-versa, if your parents' divorce is nasty, you might get the impression that all of your ending relationships will be nasty so, you will either avoid them all together (relationships that is) or you think you should fight like hell over them and it is confusing as hell when the breakup is just, "Sorry. I'll always care about you. Do you mind if I take a few towels and wash clothes?"
You following along with me? My parents were divorced. Not just once either. Try "Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor" style.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my Mom about relationships and some how, the number of times that they were divorced came up. I said, "I can't believe you guys got divorced and remarried four times (not including my two "stepmothers")". My mom said, "We were only divorced three times."
Now, I know you guys want to laugh. Laugh dammit. It is funny to have somebody say "ONLY" three times. I mean, it's bad enough when they are marrying and divorcing other people, but from each other? Jeeeshush H. Criminy..."Mom. It was four times." My mom is looking all confused, "No, it wasn't. It was only three."
So, I start counting them off, not including the multiple separations, "The year I was six." That didn't last long. They were quickly remarried. I don't even remember it much.
"The year I was eight." The year John Savage broke my arm in a judo move.
My Dad met some nurse named Della when he was transporting a nutjob over to the Rainbow Center which is the local stopping point before state hospital. My parents were having a very rough time with money on a policeman's salary, I think, and they were ALWAYS fighting. He married Della two weeks after the divorce was final.
I hated her. Of course, I was eight and thought she was the evil stepmother. She wasn't my mom, dammit. Plus, she had a two year old daughter that she doted on. She was the widow of a police officer and that is how my Dad sort of knew her before and then he met her again at the looney tune hospital. My parents had vicious fights. There was definitely some slapping and counter slapping going on. We went to stay with my Aunt Cynthia and her husband Kyle (they were later divorced) and my cousin Chris, who is a year older than I, and her brother Mikey who was only about one, I think. They had a pool and lived around the corner from my Grandma and Grandpa. So, we stayed with them for awhile.
Then we lived with my Mom for about a year. My Dad got really angry because my Mom was hanging out with some people that he thought were "no good" so they had some more fights, went to court and we went to live with my dad and Della.
Now, I can't tell you if these people my mom was hanging out with were "no good". Honestly, I was eight and I couldn't tell about people yet. The guy from next door in our trailer park (yes..I lived in a trailer. Did I ever tell you that I hate when people say "trailer trash"? Like they know what it's like to live in a trailer or who lives there or why?) had a crush on my mom or was taking advantage of her despair, or something. Whatever. He was over quite a bit. That's all I remember.
Dad and Della were married all of one and a half years. By the end of their marriage, my dad started trying to see my mom again. I guess Della wasn't all she cracked up to be.
They got a divorce and my parents were remarried by the time I was ten.
We went to live with my grandparents on their farm. Those were the best years of my life I think. At least, those are the years that I remember the most. My dad quit his job as a police officer and went over the road, taking my mom with him, as a truck driver. So did my aunt and uncle. All eight of us grandkids lived with my grandparents on this hundred year old farm. My Aunt Cynthia was divorced by then and she lived with us, too. We took long walks in the field. Played softball behind the barn. Jumped out of the hayloft. Played hide and go seek in the barn. Threw rocks at the mud daubbers nests and ran like hell (if you got stung, you were the loser). Rode horses. This is also the place where I learned to hate chickens and discovered that cows were good for hamburger and steak.
It was the kind of time and place that people refer to as "halcyon days of summer". Even though it wasn't always summer. We had to ride the bus to school for an hour each way. We lived WAY out in the country. It was actually here that I first got the passion to read. Mrs. Winters, my fifth grade teacher, said I was behind and gave me books to get caught up and I would read them on the bus in the morning on the way to school. In the afternoon, I would do all my homework on the way home so I could always be ready to go out and play when we got there.
Our second cousins lived down the road from us and they would come over and play hide and go seek or play tag football in the front yard.
I loved it there.
But, it was the recession and eventually my parents stopped driving over the road. My grandparents sold the farm and we all lived like gypsies in campers for about a year. We went down and stayed on Padre Island, Corpus Cristi, Texas for about six months. Then we went to California for a couple of months. My mom is from there, my parents were married there and I was born there many moons ago. We only stayed for awhile. My dad and my mom's dad never did get along.
Then we came back to ....., Kansas and my dad went back to work at the Sheriff's Department. We moved into a nice trailer in a nice little trailer park. There were a lot of kids my age there. We lived there for about two years.
"The year I was fourteen." My mom perks up then, "We didn't get a divorce."
"Yes, you did."
"No, we didn't"
"Mom, I was fourteen. You think I wasn't old enough to know you got a divorce? Grandma and Grandpa had moved into the old brownstone down the road. When you guys sat us down and said you were going to "go your separate ways" and asked us who we wanted to live with, do you think I'd forget that?"
Ok, by then, my brothers and I were becoming old hats at this game. You see, in between these divorces there were at least one trial separation and they always started with, "You know your father and I (or mother and I, depending on who was speaking) love you all, we just can't live together anymore. You are old enough to decide who you want to live with. So.."
I will pause for a moment here and just say, in case you haven't figured it out yet, how emotionally f*'d up that is. It doesn't matter if people do it to there kids one time or twenty, it is the worse thing that can happen to a kid. Even if the parents are trying to re-assure them that they both love the kids, no matter what, they are making the children decide who they love more. Because, that is what it feels like. That you have to decide which one you love more and, when you are fourteen, you are old enough to understand that the person that you don't pick is going to be hurt, which makes it even harder.
However, in this case, I was already becoming very smart. At least, I thought I was. When they started in with the "You know your father and I both love you..." we knew what was coming. My brothers started crying. My youngest bro, loudly. My middle bro was trying to be manly. I was mad. Angry tears. I couldn't believe they were doing it AGAIN. What the f* was this about anyway?
So, I looked at my parents as defiant as I could (they were still my parents after all) and said, "I want to go live with Grandma and Grandpa!" Then I looked at my brothers and they both nodded their heads, stuck out their lips, crossed their arms like me and we all stared at our parents.
In other words, "Nyah, nyah, nyah...you don't love us, we don't love you. So, there!"
My parents were shocked to say the least. I don't think they realized that we were going to stage our own little rebellion right in the middle of theirs.
As an adult, I realize that my parents' divorces had very little to do with us kids. Ok...they had nothing to do with us kids. In away, that is one little bandaid on the wound. In another, it is disconcerting to realize that these people that you loved to distraction, didn't understand the family concept of how everything and everyone is intertwined. It was about them and it was always about them. I know now that they were always agonizing about what would happen to us. But, they really didn't understand how the constant back and forth was killing something.
By the time I was fourteen, I had begun to pray that, this time, would they just stay divorced, for the love of God. This crap was getting old. I didn't want to do this over and over again. I wanted it one way or the other. Get divorced and stay divorced. Or, get married and stay married. Pick one. Anyone. Just do it and stick with it for once. That's why I chose grandma and grandpa. I didn't want either of them.
Now, mom is sitting there thinking about it. "Well...you kids went to live with your grandparents for a month and your Dad never did move out."
"Yeah," I said, "but the divorce went through and just because you guys got remarried the very next day does not make it "not" a divorce." She was sitting at my table with her hand resting on her chin, thinking.
"Then there was the FINAL divorce when I was nineteen." And, oh, what a f*'d up mess that was.
For about four years, we lived the normal life of any family. My parents rented a house. They were both working. We had to struggle because a policeman's pay was still crappy and, even with my mom's pay, we were just scraping along. But, we didn't notice it much as kids. My parents took us on cheap vacations, but we always thought how great they were. Camping and fishing. Getting up in the morning and cooking breakfast on an open fire. Weekends when we went fishing with my dad, grandpa and uncle. I think that's when I learned to love fishing. I still hate to touch the fish, but I will bait my own hook. Weird, huh? Now when I go fishing, I always make my brother take the fish off for me. My one "girly-girl" thing.
The year I was eighteen, my dad was working two jobs, one as a sheriff's deputy, regular hours and one as a security guard. My mom was working at, places of all places, the juvenile detention center. So, when I was talking about my dad being top cop at Juvenile Court, we had the double whammy of my mom working at the detention center. We heard how screwed up it all was and it put the fear of God in us about not messing up. That and my dad had a belt and was not afraid of using it.
I think their divorce was about a number of things. My grandpa had died the year before. I think my dad was feeling lost and probably having a serious mid life crisis. He met Sharon on a call he took about a dead body in the apartment complex she managed.
I was still living at home, having graduated from highschool the year before. I didn't know what I wanted to do or be, so I got a job at Mrs. Winners chicken and took some classes down at the junior college while I tried to figure it out. Now, you may wonder how somebody who graduated in the top ten percent of her class was not running off to college. The long and short was that my parents and I did not understand the importance of scholarship applications, or college applications and, by the time we did, it was late in the year to be signing up. My parents, jointly, also made too much money to qualify me for a Pell Grant. On the other hand, their credit sucked so bad from the recent bankruptcy, signing up for loans was impossible. And, to top it off, I lived with them which meant that I was a dependent and the loans had to be in their name.
I had one partial scholarship offered to me from the University of Texas. President's scholarship. My parents were very wierded out by this. They didn't want me to go far away. My dad wanted me to go to KU or K-State. Some place local. Why don't I go to junior college and then see what comes up?
So, there I was, no scholarship, kicking around with Junior College so I could get through until I could get lined up with a scholarship or something.
It was three days after Christmas. My dad comes home in the middle of the day. I was off work and I was surprised to see him. He sits me down and tells me that he is leaving. I wasn't really surprised. They weren't together anymore. When they were, they were always fighting. Knock down, drag out fights. About money. About time. About the amount of sugar to put in Kool-aid. About everything.
He asked me to help him get his clothes and things together. He's not taking anything other than his personal stuff and his tools. He found a little trailer down the road to live in until he figured out something better. I didn't know at that point that "something better" was already in the wings.
I remember driving with him in his pick up truck with the back loaded. He wanted me to go with him so I would know where the place was. He says the thing that they always say, "You know I love all you kids. I just can't live with your mother anymore." I am quiet and just looking out the window at the crappy gray snow on the ground and the crappy gray sky. Trying not to cry and feeling like I was getting the divorce. Then he says, "I only stayed with your mom because of you kids."
What the F*? I was angry then because, all that time, I wanted them to do one thing or the other, but not do some prison time with each other for the sake of anything. I mean, I really wondered at that time if they understood how messed up that was. How messed up they made everything and the whole time he's telling himself it was for US! I still didn't say anything. We got out at the trailer and I helped him take the stuff out of the truck and he took me home.
Where I waited for mom to come home and the storm that was going to break loose.
And it did.
Let me sum it up here. It was a year and a half of hell. My mom's dad had died two years before. Her older brother was in Los Angeles. She didn't have anybody. She worked all the time and didn't have any friends. All she had was us kids. My middle bro was gone all the time and youngest bro was like fourteen. So, it was me she cried to. Constantly. I remember the first month after he left she would come into my room in the middle of the night, while I was trying to sleep (I was working you know), and sit down on the edge of my bed and cry and cry and cry. I was so damned angry then. Angry at her for not being stronger. Angry for her at being left again. Angry at my dad for leaving me in this mess. Just angry.
You know what other songs I really, really hate besides "Freebird"? They are some oldies but some goodies and my mom had them on 45's and she played them all the time on the big console TV/Record player that sat at the end of the room. You know this song by Dolly Parton, or was it Loretta Lynne? Whatever:
My D-I-V-O-R-C-E, becomes final today...
Me and little J-O-E, will be going away...
Blech. Just writing the words makes me want to throw up. Then there was another song that I used to love by Peggy March because it had some soaring orchestral movements:
I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow
I will follow him..
Follow him where ever he may go
'Cause near him I always must be
Nothing can keep him from me
He is my destiny
Yes. Some really tragic crap. Some folks think that the new grunge or metal or whatever kind of music is full of angst. They really don't have a clue about music. The 60's and 70's really had some angst ridden, tragic, sappy, horrible songs.
I hated to come home and hear the stereo playing. It almost ruined music for me.
In January of that year, my dad introduces me to a friend's wife and she gets me a job with a healthcare company. I didn't know it then, but it was my ticket to the future, a future in a far, far away place.
In February, my dad announces that he is getting married. Two weeks after the divorce was final. I wasn't really surprised. I think I knew it all along. However, I refused his invitation to the wedding. No way in hell was I giving him the blessing to get on with his life while mine was still stuck in hell.
Then, I'm nineteen and really trying to get my life together. Who was I? Where was I? What was I going to do?
The parents were still fighting, just not as constantly since they weren't living together. They fought about my youngest brother. They fought about money. They fought about fighting. I stayed gone as much as I could. I worked full time. Hung out with some friends. Cruised around in my new Pontiac Fiero.
Yeah, by then, the Firebird was starting to have problems. Major problems. And I had money from my new job. Even helping my mom with the bills, I had money. So I traded the Firebird in for a brand new, shiny red Fiero. The last year that they made them. I was now super cool with a little red sports car.
My middle bro had moved up to a slightly newer model Camaro. Blue with a T top. He was working and had graduated highschool. He went to live with my dad for awhile. I don't think that he could take my mom's constant angst ridden days.
Believe it or not, I was still trying to date. One here, one there. It was really hard because I hated for anyone to come over and pick me up from the house. I didn't know if they'd find my mom in one of her maudlin moods or one of her "all men suck" moods. Neither mood was conducive to convincing a date that you were a good bet.
I was just realizing that I was an adult. I had bills now. Responsibilities.
I had been out of school for about two years. My dad and his new wife went on vacation to visit her family. My middle bro decided to throw a party at their house while they were gone. He had invited all of his friends. Robbie, Eric, Jay and his brother Russ, some other guys and girls that I didn't know. He called me and told me to come over. It was a Saturday night. I was too young to go to clubs and getting too old to enjoy just cruising around. Everyone was starting to seem so young.
I went over. The party had been going on for awhile. When I got there, they had mixed up some "jungle juice". If you've never had it, it's 190 proof grain alcohol with some Kool-aid thrown in to give it color. It was in these two gallon tea containers with a spout. They were taking turns kneeling underneath the spout while somebody turned the spigot, guzzling it like it was water.
All I've got to say is...eeeeww. That stuff was rot gut. There were suspicious pink stains on the kitchen floor that looked like somebody had had a few too many turns at the spout and had left some of it on the floor. Beer cans everywhere.
As soon as I got there, Eric started following me around. I was walking through the house and basically thinking, "Holy shit! Dad' is going to kill Larry when he gets home." The place was a wreck and smelled like a bar. Just then, I noticed a guy and a girl coming down from upstairs. Where the bedrooms were. "Uh...Eric. Where's my bro at?" He just shrugged.
I'm looking at all the drunk people sitting around in the chairs and the floor and one of them is laying face down on the couch making suspicious groaning noises. All I kept thinking was he was going to puke on Dad's couch and then bro would be a dead man walking. "Dude! Dude!" I shook him a little and he just groaned louder. Well, shit! "Dude! Get up and get off the couch. Eric. Go find my bro and tell him to get down here." I knew already the randy little bastard was up stairs with one of the girls while the house was being torn apart.
By then, some of the less drunk people were starting to realize that the party was probably over. The mood killer was there. Older sister that was definitely NOT going to take the rap for younger dumbass brother's party. Had I not shown up at the party, I probably could have claimed ignorance. But my car was there. The neighbors knew a party had gone on and I was the oldest. I was always the oldest and that meant I was always responsible for what the younger, more stupid brothers would do.
Remind me one day to tell you about the time middle bro handcuffed my younger bro and we didn't have a key and I was supposed to be watching them. You know, as the oldest.
Anyway, bro comes down the stairs all rumpled looking being followed by some blonde haired girl I didn't recognize. "Dude. What the f* is wrong with you? Do you wanna get in a fight with dad? There are beer stains on the piano (dad's new wife's piano) and this guy over here is going to puke on the couch any minute!"
He blinks and looks around. I think the booze is wearing off and he finally sees what a shithole the house has become. Just then, the guy on the couch let's out a big moan. People are shuffling towards the door, "Dude. Good party." "See you later, Lar." "Yeah, dude. Great party." And they all scurry off like rats leaving a sinking ship. Except Eric who is still standing behind me all quiet. By now, I was kind of used to him being there. After several years. Like a shadow when I was around. What can I say? He was always just going to be one of my younger brother's hot rod friends.
The guy on the couch let's out another painful moan and Larry kind of stumbles down the stairs real quick. "Dude! Dude! Get the F* up off the couch if you're gonna puke. C'mon, dude. It's my dad's couch!" Fine time for him to start remembering.
Now I need to tell you that my brother is only 5'4" and about 120 at that time. Not that he gets much taller than 5'4", but he definitely has more muscle these days. At this time, he is grabbing the guys arm and trying to pull him up. "Dude. C'mon." Now he's panicking. The guy on the couch is going, "Oh, God. Oh, God." Oh, God, is right. Even the inexperienced me knew that was a prelude to something really horrible happening.
"Eric. Larry. Grab his arms. I'll grab his legs. Let's take him outside. He can puke in the yard." So they grab him and drag him off the couch, face down, while I try to pick up his legs. To this day, I have no idea who this guy was. They start carrying him outside and I've got his pant legs down by his sneakers trying to carry his legs as his knees are bouncing on the carpet and up the stairs and he is till moaning and saying, "Oh, God" over and over. We drag him outside and throw him face down on the yard hammock (you know the kind with a square frame) just in time for him to lean off the edge and retch his guts out. I mean, horrible retching followed by equally horrible dry heaves. Uuuuggh!
I turned and looked at my bro, "Dude. You are in so much shit if this house isn't cleaned up by time dad comes home tomorrow night."
He's still blinking and rubbing his hands on his face. He turns to Eric, "Dude. Can you help me? I gotta clean this up."
Eric, "Sure, man. I told you earlier I'd help you out."
Bro turns to look at me and I said, "Dude. Don't even."
Now he's looking panicky, "Dude. C'mon."
I can't tell you that I felt a little exasperation, but a whole lot of satisfaction right then. Mr. Cool was not so damn cool when it came to dad's size ten foot up his ass. Not to mention the one million other times when we were growing up and I, as the oldest and alleged responsible child, had to clean up after him and the other brother, saving our asses from enumerable ass kickings.
Robbie Schneider comes stumbling out of the house and my bro sees him, "Dude. Where're ya goin'? You said you'd help me clean up."
Robbie is sheepishly heading towards his car, "Dude. I gotta get home. My dad's gonna kill me."
"Shit!" and bro goes stomping off into the house. To get a trash bag I presume because the yard is full of crap, too. I walk over and sit on the hood of my car with my knee drawn up, resting my chin on it and contemplating how much work we were going to have to do. Because, yeah, the little shit was my brother and I couldn't just stand by and let him get in trouble, even if it was his own doing. But I wanted to make him sweat a minute, just to enjoy the feeling.
Eric walks over and leans a hip on the hood of the car, crossing his arms and looks at the yard, too. He doesn't say anything. Bro comes out and is frantically throwing stuff in the bag. I glance at Eric, "Dude. Where's your girlfriend?" I just realized that he was alone at the party.
"We broke up." He replied without looking at me.
"Oh. Sorry 'bout that." I shut up and continue watching bro jamming stuff in the bag.
Finally, bro looks up at Eric, "Dude. Are you gonna help or what?"
Eric and I looked at each other and then I scooted off the hood of the car and we started helping clean up the mess. I just want to say, it was one of the most disgusting things I've ever done. Right up there with walking into my first boyfriend's bathroom (he had three male roommates - need I say more?). We did as much as we could, then I went home and Eric stayed over at my dad's. He and Larry got up early and scrubbed the floors and tried to clean up the piano.
Monday night, my dad calls me and asks me if I wanted to come over for pizza. By then, they had been married for a year. I still wasn't all happy about it, but I was learning to live with it. I got over there and my bro is sitting at the table looking all miserable. Uh..what's up? I looked at him. He just shrank down further in his chair, looking more miserable. My dad walks in, "Were you at the party the other night?"
Uh..umm...party? I give my brother the evil eye. "Um..yeah, I came over later in the evening when it was winding down. Why?"
"Did you know there was alcohol here?" Shit! Now I'm really giving my brother the eye. How the f* would he know there was alcohol there? You have to keep in mind that we were 18 and 20 respectively. Not the legal limit for drinking and my dad was a cop. He did not dig under age drinking. One too many accidents he had to see. We had cleaned everything up I thought.
"Uh..well..when I got here there was a couple people with beers." I was not going to admit to the "jungle juice" or the quantity if I had to. Bro's life was on the line.
"Was anybody drunk and driving?"
"Not that I saw. There was only one guy that was really messed up and we made him sleep it off here." Ok..we didn't make that guy do anything. He just passed out after he threw up. I figured if we copped to one and then acted all responsible, dad would cool his jet. Honestly, I was too worried that night about the condition of the house and hadn't paid much attention to the yahoos that were leaving. As far as I knew, everyone had made it home ok. But, now I was wondering if that was how he found out there was a party there.
Nope. Not it. Seems as though some bonehead had decided to do his girlfriend in dad's bedroom and had thrown an empty can of beer in the trash can by the bed. I gave bro a dirty look because I couldn't believe, after all that cleaning and scrubbing, nobody bothered to look in that room for incriminating evidence. Crap. Then Sharon, dad's wife breaks in, "There was beer ALL OVER my piano."
Alright, it probably didn't take a crystal ball for anyone to figure out that I did not like dad's new wife. I don't think she liked me much either considering I had blown off their wedding and refused to come over to meet her for about six months. Today, is a different story. After fifteen years, all that is water under the bridge. Then, it was a test of wills.
"Sorry. Don't know where that came from. I just came over and helped clean up." The wonderful, responsible child that I was. So, there. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
Dad's got his "authoritative cop" stance going on. The one where he has his feet braced apart and his hands on his hips and his shoulders thrown back. "There will be no more parties at this house."
Nope. No more. You see, my brother went off and joined the Air Force. He was scheduled to leave in October for basic training.
My parents were starting round five of arguing over my younger brother who was starting to get in trouble at school. They were arguing bout child support since middle bro had graduated and left home. They were arguing about my mom's new boyfriend (friend of middle bro's dad).
I still didn't know what I was going to do. About three weeks before middle bro was scheduled to ship out, one of the branches for the company I worked for had an opening in New Jersey. I had become friends with one of the women in the office who said that I should apply.
Me? What the hell would I do in New Jersey? Where would I live? She knew somebody who lived in the apartment below her, a girl our age, who's roommate had skipped out on her and she would be willing to let me stay there for my share of the apartment. The branch manager flew down and interviewed me. A week later he calls and said that I have the job if I wanted it, but I needed to be up there in two weeks because they were getting desperate. They would pay $500 towards moving expenses.
I never even told my parents I was looking. It was scary and exhilarating all at once. I could leave here. I didn't have to stay. I had some place to go. Something to do.
I told him I needed a day or two to think it over. For three days I thought. I didn't say anything to my parents. Just tried to decide what was best for me. For me. I was going to do something for me for once. I hugged it to me. Finally, Wednesday of that week, I told him I would take the job and I would be there on Monday. I went home that night and told my parents. When was I leaving? Why did I want to go to New Jersey, of all places? My dad said it was an armpit. I didn't care. It was an armpit far, far away from there. Very far from them.
"I'm leaving on Saturday morning." What? Why so soon? I explained the situation and said I needed to sort through what I was going to take. I had a Fiero and there's not much room in there. For two days they tried to talk me into staying. Friday night, I packed the car. Clothes in the little bitty trunk along with some books. The passenger seat had my sketch book and pencils, an alarm clock and a little cooler with soda and peanut butter cups. In the floor board was my guitar. My friend. My partner when I was all torn up. I could write some sappy songs, too, you know, when the mood was upon me and it had been on me more than once in the last year and a half.
We all went to breakfast at Perkins early Saturday morning. Everybody. My dad and his wife. My step sister (did I forget to mention her? Don't worry, she shows up later on). My bros and my mom. I ate a huge breakfast of pancakes with strawberry syrup. I can't remember anything that tasted that good. It was like the first food you taste when you get out of prison.
Then we were standing out in the parking lot near my car. Did I have enough money? Was I sure I wanted to go? Call when I stopped. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Everybody gave me a hug, including my bro's who were all manly one arming it, trying not to hug to much. Yeah. Can't show emotion now. They were men. Ahem.
Finally, my dad says, "If you need money, if you need anything, just call. If you can't get home by yourself, I'll send you a bus ticket. You can come home when ever you want to."
Tears were coming down my face, but I was determined not to cry. I was going. One thing was for sure, I wasn't ever going to make that call. I was going to make it or die trying. I was going to show them that I was an adult now and not part of them anymore. I was me. Me, dammit.
I got in the car and with a final wave, drove off into the rising sun. I had the stereo blasting:
Na na nah nah...
Na na nah nah
I was the Phoenix.
The old me was burning away and the new me was rising out of the ashes.