Thursday, July 22, 2010

My father

This is going to be relatively short.
My parents married young. My mother was 18, my father was, I think, 23. And despite the odds, the lasted 11 years. My father was a good father when they were married, despite the fact that, I found out later, he was a practicing alcoholic.
He coached baseball, he showed my brother and I around the workshop, he took an interest in our schooling.
Then the folks divorced. Not amicably.
My father, for a time, lived in an apartment in Maplewood. Then he moved to Arkansas. And that's when the disappearing act began. We'd see him infrequently. Hear from him infrequently.
Sometimes, he would drive up from Arkansas and see us, for a day. Sometimes, we would go down there and see him, usually at my grandparent's insistence.
This went on and off like that for years. Until around the time I was 18, I stopped hearing from him altogether. It hurt. But not as much as when I was younger and longed to see my father, to hear from him, and didn't or couldn't.
By the time I was 20 or so, I just kind of figured that was that. I remember, when I wast SEMO, I got a call from my brother saying our father had had a stroke. I didn't know what to say. I called him and basically said, "I heard you had a stroke. That sucks." That was about all I could say. We now had absolutely nothing to talk about.
For the next six odd years it continued like that. I didn't even invite him to my wedding.
Then, one day, I found out that my brother had been talking with my father. I asked him for the number. My brother was reluctant to give it, afraid, I think, that I was going to lay into my father and scare him away again. That was tempting, but I had to talk to him. I had to find out why we were so easy to put in the rear view mirror.
Well, of course he said we weren't. He thought about us everyday. OK, then why not try and get in contact. Why did Eric have to track you down again? Why not try and find us? He thought I had decided I was done with him. And at that point I had. But, I decided, against all logic, to give him one last shot. I told him, this is it. You disappear again, I am done. And the onus is on you to do the heavy lifting.
Over the last few years, or relationship has been repaired to a certain degree. I guess there will always be a sense of mistrust on my part. But, as long as he is doing his part, I am willing to give it a go.
I could've said more about this, I guess. But why? It is what it is. I am sure, my feeling towards my father in my early, and angry, 20s led to some of the anger control issues I had then. But, as I have said before, those anger control problems are behind me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Step-father fun times

I know I said I was going to talk about the old man this time around, buy I am changing the plan.
Today, I am gonna write about my mother's second husband. I will name him, as he is now dead. His name was Bill.
Bill came around, if I am remembering correctly, when I was in, maybe fourth or fifth grade.
He was a big guy, 6'5" or so, and probably 250lbs. Ostensibly, he was from Kirkwood. However, when my mom met and started dating him, he was residing in St. Clair, MO. Cracker central.
He drove a large, Ford F-150 that was his pride and joy. It also went to show that he knew his own product. See, Bill worked for Chrysler in Fenton, and refused to DRIVE a Chrysler product. Telling, eh?
He was a good ol' boy. Buy American. Vote republican. Listen to country music. Wear cowboy hats and boots. Wear trucker hats.
And he was a charmer. There is no doubt about that. I often wonder what he could've made of himself had he had some general idea of how to focus that charm and a fair amount of native wit and street smarts.
He won us over fairly well, though as kids, you always thing, "it's not the same as my real father." He made us laugh, he made us dinner, he made our mother happy.
They dated for quite a while, then got married. Small service at my grandparent's house.
He had a dark side. A very dark side. And despite the fact that he and I had a bit in common, we both loved the outdoors, sports, etc, he really started to not like me all that much. He showed that dislike with his hands.
He would choke me, hit me, twist my ear, he even kicked me once. All in good fun, or to teach the boy a lesson he might've said.
I remember one time, we were at his house in St. Clair. He had fallen asleep in his chair, as he always did. I grabbed a bat. I was determined to end his abuse. I stood behind him, while he slept on, trying to work up the nerve to do it. I couldn't. I slunk back into the bedroom and tried to sleep. Sleep didn't come.
Now, I have had people say to me, "Why didn't you tell someone?" I thought about it. There were a lot of people I could've told. But I talked myself out of it. If I had told my mother, she would've killed him. Flat out. No if, ands, or buts about it. My grandfather, I could've told him. He intimidates just about everyone he meets. To this day. But I also feared he wouldn't just tell Bill to get the fuck out, he would kill him. My own father. Now, there was something. But when you can't find a guy, you can't really tell him, now can you. Plus, there was also the old cliche hanging around. "If you tell anyone, I'll kill you." Good deterrent for a little kid.
It continued right on through seventh grade, when we lived for part of the year in Alabama. Decatur. Don't go.
Then, one day, it all became clear to my mother what was happening. I had done something wrong, or something Bill thought was wrong, and he was gonna take me to the tool shed. Literally. He was gonna wail on my ass, literally, with his bill ol' cowboy belt. I went out there, determined not to let him see me cry. Not anymore. And I waited, and waited, and waited. And finally mom called me back in. I came to find out years later that she told him that he couldn't. And if he tried, as I mentioned before, she said she would kill him. Her words: "You have to sleep sometime you son of a bitch."
We moved back to St. Louis to live at my grandparent's house. I never really opened up about what happened for years.
Finally I told mom and my brother about it. Their response was, of course, "You should've told us." Hindsight.
My mom had had a daughter with Bill, and while he wasn't the most...around...father, there would be spastic periods of him calling, or whatnot. Something happened in that time. I went from a kid of 5'3" to, within a few years, a kid that topped out at 6'1". I added muscle. I began to lose my fear of him. I felt that if he ever tried anything again, I would be physically able to kick his ass. I found out, long after, that he never threatened to kick my ass again. He threatened to kill me. He had guns. My mother took out a restraining order on my behalf.
He would call sometimes, and this was before we had caller ID. I would answer. He would try to be nice, but then resort to the old ways. "I'll kill you one of these days, boy." "Whatever," I would respond. "Leave your guns at home and come fight me. See what happens now."
As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to have a terrible temper. I would fly off the handle, and it would sometimes border on violent. I put my fist through the wall more than once. I believe, more so than anything else, it was resultant of Bill. His favorite place to grab me for a beat down, was the back of my neck. To this day, I can't handle anyone touching my neck.
I worked hard on my temper, as I said, I got it under control.
I finally got to the point where I could talk about it. Which was healthy, and still is. I don't talk about it daily. But I can if need be.
Bill died about five years ago, and I was actually able to muster some pity for him.
So that is the story of my ex-step father in short form.
Next, I will tackle my pops. I swear.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On being 24 and in love...continued and into 25 and beyond

As I said, I got the message that she was dropping. I bought a ring (expensive) and prepared to propose (elaborate). Long and short, she said yes.
So then began the arduous process of planning a classic weddding. Big, lots of people, lots of folks in the wedding party.
To be fair, it was a very nice wedding, quite fun. Good food, good people, good music (even had Flogging Molly played at my wedding. A coup akin, with my ex-wife, to having Slayer played).
We went totally classic. She wore a white gown (HA!) and I wore a tux I didn't even get to pick.
So Sadie and I were married. We went on a very nice honeymood to Jamaica. Beautiful place. If you have the means, I would suggest going.
When we got back, we stayed a few days at her folk's house until my grandparents, who had kindly consented to let us stay there while they summered in Wisconsin, got ready and left. It was a nice time. Uncomplicated for the most part. We went to work, we came home, we had dinner, we made love, we went to sleep. Did the whole thing all over again the next day.
We also started looking at houses. I was originally opposed to the idea. I thought an apartment would be fine to start. We were, after all, newlyweds, did we really want to make life more complicated with a house. She prevailed on me that we could be making payments on a house rather than an apartment which we will never own.
I tried to say that there was more to home ownership than mortgage payments and electric bills. Maintenance, carpentry, yard work, painting, etc. All of that would fall to us. Mostly me. I did a lot in that house, but that house has become, for me at least, embilmatic of the differences between us. For her, money was all consuming. Now, look, I get the importance of money, truly I do. I just understand that there are more important things. Between us, we were doing pretty well. We were comfortable. And, while I wasn't out to shoot away all our cash, thought we had enough to do things we wanted and/or needed to do. Let me give you an example.
I did all the cooking at our house. She was not a master chef by any stretch. To quote Adam Sandler from "I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry," "I was Wolfgang Puck to his Wolfgang Suck."
Our stove was a piece of crap. It was probably 20 years old, one of those electric bastards with the metal coils that cook uneven. I wanted a new stove. Not an extravagant one. Just a glass top. You could get glass tops for around $450 then. Nope, Sadie said there was no money for it.
One day, she came to me saying she wanted the garage drywalled. THE GARAGE!! I said no. I am not a fan of doing drywall. I can do it, and I can do it well, but I am not big on it. Besides, I didn't see a reason for it. It's a garage. It's where we kept our cars. We were the only ones who saw it, except for her father or brother who came by every now and again to borrow a tool (her father, in fact, still has my very nice ratchet set).
I had said no. Drywalling that garage would be a hassle, and it would cost much more than she thought. One day I come home, and there in the garage, is a stack of drywall. A large stack. Almost as tall as me. Not, however, nearly enough to do a two-car garage. But there it was. I was furious. Her father was there. He had a nice, new Silverado that was used to transport the materials. I went to her and said, "I told you, I didn't want to do this." Then her father said, "You told me he was fine with it." She said, "It will be fine. He'll do it." I said, "Look, dammit, when I said no, I meant it." Her father looked at me, and said, "Sorry Jason." I just shook my head and went inside. Later, I found that her father had called her and reamed her. Pretty cool.
But you see, there was money to do things like drywall a garage, because it was what SHE wanted, and not money for a new stove, which I felt was NEEDED.
At this time, I was working for an NPO that helped folks with disabilities. At first, I truly enjoyed myself and my work. But the organization I worked for was less than forthcoming about how things worked when I went through one of my 4 interviews with them. That's right. 4.
I was told I would be able to reject clients I felt were unplacable (lie), and that my caseload would never become unmanagable (lie). I also ended up working with a site director who had never done placement, but felt she was more than qualified to yell at myself and our other developer, when placements were down.
The job began to become a chore, and I began to dread it. It started making me physically ill. One day, I had enough. And I gave notice. Without another job in the works. Stupid. Very stupid. I know that now. But the stupident part is yet to come. I didn't come outright with it with Sadie. I scrambled to try and find something new. It didn't work. I had given 1 month's notice. The month was up, I still hadn't told Sadie. I lied to her. Told her they fired me. She found out. She left me.
Now, I am more than willing to accept my share of the blame on this one. More than willing. I, in crude parlance, fucked up royally. However, had she loved me, I feel certain that she would have stayed. She would have forgiven me, and we would've gone on, soldiered through, as it were.
I went into a talespin. I fell apart. I was devastated. But in all that misery, a kernel of hate was germinating. Within six months, that hatred had bloomed into a fullblown loathing. Everything she did or said, because we still had to have SOME contact, what with a divorce in the offing, and other things as well, sent me over the edge. When we talked, invariably, I would end up yelling. I think she was shocked at first. She had never really seen me that angry before. And for good reason. I have been told by people who should know that my temper is, when full blown, frightening. I worked very hard to get it under control. But now, it was out and released and unleashed. I began to look forward to calls she would make, about her lawyer sending papers, or something to do with the house. She had the nerve, more than once, to call and ask for help on things that went wrong with said domicile. I would look forward to it so I could blow a gasket.
And I held onto that hate, that anger, because it kept me from falling into a depression I feared I would never escape. It took willpower, and hate to keep me from going insane.
Well, time moves, as it will, and I began to let go of that hate. I backed away from the idea that Sadie was the only woman I would ever love, and began to think about dating again. Since then, I have dated, off and on. Some lasting longer than others. My search continues to this day. But I finally got to the point where I felt I could be the one to extend the olive branch. I sent her an email via, what else, facebook. In it I said I know we will never be the friends we once were. But odds are good that we will meet again, with mutual friends still in play. And if we do, I would like it if it could at least be pleasant. I never heard back. I didn't really expect to. But I felt it was important, an important move on my part, because I realized I could forgive her if I wanted to. And I did, because I didn't want to carry that hate.
So that is the short version of me and my ex-wife.
Next topic, my father. Holy crap, is this just a psychobabble rant? Meh, probably.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On being 24 and in love

It seems so long ago now, that I was truly, actually, full on in love. For the sake of anonymity, I will call her Sadie.
Sadie and I met at Meramec CC, working on the college paper together. Truth be told, I didn't particularly like her. She was, I thought, stuck up, bitchy, annoying. The fact that I doubt she cared very much for me didn't help matters. And I was fine going along that way. We did our work at the paper and went our separate ways that first year. Besides, I had a steady girlfriend then, and was perfectly happy.
Our second year at MCC rolled around and I realized we were going to have to spend more time together, as she was named editor in chief, I was named production manager. Moreso than any two positions on staff, those two have to be in concert. So we met, and discussed our views and goals for the paper and came to an easy truce and friendship. As the year progressed, we became good friends. And that was all well and good. But then something else started happening. My girlfriend at the time, who I am happy to report is still and very good friend of mine, and I started having issues, and before too long we were done. There was more I could have done then, and I will address that in a later blog. So, there I was, single, working with Sadie for 10, 12, sometimes 20 hours straight, getting out the paper. Sadie was smart, she was beautiful, she was funny. I remember when I realized I'd fallen for her. We had a couch in the office. She and I had been working much longer than anyone else. We were supposed to take turns sleeping on said couch. When it was my turn to sleep, I saw her there asleep, and decided to let her sleep on. Her happiness was more important to me than my own.
Now, at this time I was probably 21. This is back story. On to the crux.
We didn't get together until several years later when we were both at UM-St. Louis. This time, she made the first move. I remember, it was my birthday. We had remained friends, good ones, and I had no inclination that her thought process had changed, aside from the playful flirting we had always done. So on my birthday, or a little before, I can't remember exactly which, I had asked if she wanted to meet me at the Galleria. I wanted to get some new jeans. My favorites at the time were American Eagle. I found a pair I liked, but they were $60, and I only ever got jeans there if they were on sale. I said let's go somewhere else. She said, "No, I'll get them for your birthday." I was not keen on it, $60 for jeans from a friend for my birthday? No, that seemed excessive. She was adamant. No talk her out of it. It was then I got my first inkling that maybe she had started to like me as more than a friend. But I didn't want to be presumptuous. We went back to school. We both had class that day. She went straight to class, I had an hour wait. So, like all newspaper dorks, I went back to the office. I had become quite good friends with our editor in chief. We will call him Brad. I said to Brad, "Dude, she bought me $60 jeans. We all know what that means.... What does that mean?!?!?!?!" He had his suspicions, but he kept them to himself. So be it.
Things went along just dandy the next week or so, though her flirting increased a bit. Not enough for me to make a move. I had been burned in this regard, with her in particualr, before. I wasn't risking that action again.
Then one night, she called me. Not out of the ordinary. We talked fairly frequently on the phone. We were talking and she said, and I quote, "So. Umm. Something I want to tell you. I like you."
She had said it first. I was over the moon. "Do you like me too?" I said, "Sadie, I never STOPPED liking you. I think you know that."
So there it was. We knew each other well. There was none of that getting to know you crap. One day we weren't together. The next, she was my girlfriend. When I first saw her the next morning, I kissed her. We held hands on the way to class. We sealed the deal with lunch the next day. I bought lunch for us at Houlihan's in Brentwood. Not the most romantic place to go for lunch, but she wasn't a big fan of fancy restaurants.
We were together the whole year she was managing editor and I was news editor, save for a small break between November and Valentines day. It was a miserable time for me, and I came to find out she was just as miserable.
I was named editor in chief. I turned 24. I was in love. I told her I loved her. She said it back. In November of 2003, her best friend got engaged. We went over to celebrate. We went outside to have a smoke, and she started talking about how she never thought she wanted to get married until she was in her 30s. Now, she thought different. I got the hint....

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A long time away

OK, I am going to try this again, but at the influence of another blog, I am going to try and air out some demons. I am going to try and excise some tumors, as it were, starting tomorrow.
Tonight, I am battling a bad case of mono that will have me down for the next week or so. But tomorrow, let the airing out begin!