I am going to write a lot about the relationship I had/have with my father. In the years following my ETS (end tour of service) I spent a lot of time on “the couch”.. aka seeing different therapists of one form or another. I have done a lot of work on myself at their direction. Its important for me to acknowledge that the information I have now as a 44 year old man is not the same information I had as a child, a teenager or as a newly discharged veteran of combat at the age of 23. I know today that I did the best I could with the information that I had at the time.
My father was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, IL. 79th street and Racine to be exact. He is of Irish Catholic descent.. which to the south side Irish.. is the only Irish there is.. Catholic. His father left when he was an infant. He remarried and moved to Indiana… somewhere. Ive never met the man. My father never mentioned him during my childhood. His mother worked at least two jobs, sometimes more, just to keep a roof over his head and food on the table. As a child and teenager we saw Grandma bird (she was the grandma with birds) on holidays. We would go to her apartment in Chicago and eat dinner.. exchange gifts.. hang out for a few hours… then go home. My dad would loose his patience with her a lot… and she seemed to always be walking around on eggshells in his presence. I didn’t question it… it was normal. I was baptized Protestant. The only church time I got was at funerals or weddings. God wasn’t talked about in the house. We didn’t pray. When we went to church for “services” we stood back as Dad entered first. He would do the sign of the cross, receive sacraments, and recite the prayers. He would approach the caskets, we would stand behind him as he got on his knees and made the sign of the cross. Then him and/or mom would speak to the adults who were grieving. The message I had from a young boy was that God didn’t apply to me. God was for the folks who knew what to do in church. It didn’t bother me much.. God seemed like a jagoff anyway. He didn’t want me.. I didn’t want Him. Fuck it.
I lived in a neighborhood on the border of the south side of Chicago. A town called Calumet Park. Everyone lived in the same type house. Everyone had a backyard.. the more wealthy families had a swing set. We played on the street until the streetlights came on. It was a ethnically diverse little neighborhood. A Mexican family lived across the street. Next to them was a polish family on one side and an Irish family on the other. We had a black family next door to us and some family on the other side of us who kept to themselves. Girls played double dutch jump rope all day and the boys played baseball in the summers football in the fall.. winter we stayed inside and watched hockey. In the winters, when it snowed, my dad would shovel the porch and sidewalk in his combat boots. I asked him about them once as a small child and what I remember is a wordy explanation of military service. There was no feeling behind it.. no pride or emberassment. There was no romance behind his words or passion. Just an explanation. So I moved on. They became just old black boots in the hallway closet.
Dad got a raise when I turned 11. Around the same time gangs started to infiltrate the schools. I remember being taught the hand signs for the street gang the Desciples from a new kid in my 5th grade class. Later the gang became known as the GD’s or Gangster Disciples. Around the same time kids were being robbed and jumped for their bikes. At the end of 6th grade… we moved. My dad, my mom, little sister and I headed to Oak Forest… about a half hour south of where we were. Oddly enough 30 minutes south was like moving to another country for me. The houses were huge.. some folks had swimming pools. A lot of families had two cars. Everyone wore expensive clothes that they got from a mall.. a fucking mall??? The mall in itself was impressive. I was intimidated to say the least. I met a brother and sister within the first few weeks of moving who lived behind me. They took me to the mall. They knew everyone.. but the girl was cute. I couldn’t help but notice. She smelled nice and always talked slowly and softly to me. The boy was possessive of me. It was kinda awkward.. but I had a sister too so I understood. At the mall one day, the girl took me in the arcade. An ARCADE???!!!??? My mama gave me $5 when I left to take to the mall. I spent it all in the arcade in 5 minutes… the arcade was definitely a place I would want to come back to… hopefully this girl would bring me. We could ditch her brother. As we left the mall that day I ran into some kid who didn’t like me with the girl. The brother was already mad at me for spending so much time with her… before I knew what happened this kid punched me four or five times in the face. The brother, sister and now this kid were all laughing at me as I stood there confused. I was a 12 year old pussy who just lost his girlfriend to some asshole at his new favorite place. I DEFINITELY did not like my new house, friends or the fucking mall…
So at 12 the things I knew to be true was God the jagoff was for church goers, kids in my new neighborhood stole my girlfriend and laughed at me, my father gave wordy long explanations about shit I had questions about.. and if I go to the mall some rich kid is gonna punch me in the face. I was pissed off.