I entered my first day of High School ready for combat. This is not normal. I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal at the time, it was the only life I knew. As far as I was concerned, all teenage boys were ready for battle. I know today that some were, in fact, combat ready. Others were there to learn and meet friends. All I have is my experience. Im not a therapist or a mental health worker. Right now, today as I write this, I am an unemployed construction worker and volunteer girls softball coach.
I have had to sit with therapists, slowly picking apart my childhood searching for the answers. Searching for answers to why, I have learned, is only a small part of healing. As small as it may be, for me, it has been an essential part. I had to have something tangible, something I could actually grab onto, in order to begin to forgive. I had to find out what it was…
My father had no father. I don’t know what that is like from my own experience, because my father was around, I could see him, smell him and touch him. I know plenty of grown men who knew their fathers, but wished him to be not around. I saw physically abusive men, fathers of my friends, who damaged their sons physically. I know some men who were such good fathers that all others sort of pale in comparison. My personal experience with my father caused me to withdraw from him and start to form my own reality from based on my thinking. I didn’t realize any of this until I was 27 years old, sitting as a patient in Hines VA hospital suffering from what they told me was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was self medicating the pain with cocaine. I had become homeless and the VA hospital was my last hope. I had spent 5 months in combat while serving in the United States Army, however, I lived in a combative state of mind, every day of my life, until I decided I wanted to be a different kind of father to my child.
My dad worked as a payroll clerk for the Gas Company in Chicago for 39years. He was a bowler, golfer and Notre Dame football enthusiast. He married my mom, when she became pregnant with me, at the age of 31. From what I know now, he enjoyed his drink back in the day which continued on for the rest of his career including the day he retired. He hated the people he worked with. He never used the word hate, but the way he spoke of them day after day, there is no other words to describe his emotions. He worked long hours and came home most days irritable as hell. Fridays, he would come home with a few “manhattans” under his belt along with a few beers. We never really knew which dad would come home… angry belligerent dad… or extra attentive and loving dad. It was a roll of the dice.
He, by his own words, wasn’t much of a father figure to me. He had no patience for children. His maternal grandfather raised him, since his mother worked all the time. From what dad has told me, the man was a “malignant cunt”. He has referred to his grandfather with those words since I was a young child. He never was one to hide his feelings. His feelings always show on his face and we are reminded by his choice of vocabulary. My dad refused to coach me on an organized team, because, according to him, he had no patience for teaching. However, he was the one who taught me to play baseball in the back yard. He lost his patience with me a lot and had no filter when speaking to me from as far back as I can remember. He once told me, in reference to a missed tackle I had on the football field, that I played football like a cunt. He taught me how to fight. I heard him call my mother derogatory names throughout my youth. The worst was watching him deal with my little sister. To her, he was her Daddy. Daddy came home once, irritated from work, demanding she get off the couch and get ready for dinner. She thought he was kidding and began to giggle. This enraged him so he physically through her across the room onto the other couch. A few years later, at a family picnic at my aunt and uncles house, my moms brothers picked dad up, and through him in the pool. It was a fun setting and no violence intended. This too enraged him. In some distorted drunken thought process he blamed my mother for her brothers attacking him. He took my mothers purse, screaming vulgarities at her, and whipped it into the creek sending all its contents every where. My uncles had to physically stop me from attacking him. I was nine years old.
My father, with all his flaws, never laid a finger on me in an abusive way.
My moms father was an alcoholic. Three of my moms brothers, my uncles, are also alcoholic. My moms father, according to my mom, sometimes beat my grandmother. She, my mother, always tells this story and has to include how her mother would instigate his anger. Children of alcoholics don’t always see things clearly. They see things through emotions. My moms younger brother, the oldest boy, drank himself to death in his early 50’s.
In the small neighborhood of Calumet Park, Il., the community raised the kids. Every parent had a license to spank, yell at and discipline kids in the neighborhood. After disciplining children, the parent would walk the child home and inform the parents of the child as to what happened. Then, most times, there was a second disciplining. Porch parties, for adults, were normal. A drunk mom, on a Friday night, walking across the street to her house was nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone knew each other. So did the kids. We all played together and went home at the same times. When a new family moved in, they were welcomed to the neighborhood, and it was a good reason to have a porch party. One family moved in across the street from us and we had a porch party. It got late, the parents all moved into our basement, and my sister and I slept on the two couches in the living room upstairs. I watched the new neighbor mom enter our bathroom. A few minutes later, my father followed her. They were in there, together, for an awkwardly long time by my account. The next day I told my mother. She got upset and I was asked to leave the house for a while with my lil sister. When we got home.. I was treated as a liar. My father, in reference to me, would call me HER boy, “have you seen YOUR boys grades”… “YOUR boy came home late last night”.
Later, when I had become addicted to cocaine, he suspected me of stealing from him. I had been… but denied it. Mom stood fast in her support of me.. defending me. When the truth came out, my father sort of laid into her… he had been correct in his suspicions and she didn’t acknowledge it. He reminded her and still reminds her to this day. To my father, I believe, I had become the enemy. I have no explanation for this other than a theory based on my own experience. He had been my enemy for a long time too. My theory is that my fathers childhood was nothing short of hell.
In order for me to get right with God, as a grown man, I had to clean my side of the street with Dad. I did that work… with a therapist… in front of a group of veterans in the VA hospital in 1998. I will talk more specifically about that later.
My highschool years were about to begin…