When I was 18 years old I enlisted in the US Army. Shortly after arriving at Basic Training I witnessed a taste of the real world. While waiting in a long chow line one evening I saw a guy walk all the way to the front of the line. This isn’t typically something you see a trainee do in boot camp but this guy happened to be built like a monster; he looked like a shorter version of the ex-boxer Mike Tyson…he was a bull! Anyway, I guess he thought, who’s gonna stop me. A few seconds later this scrawny little guy walked up to him and politely challenged his arrogant behavior. This bull of guy just glared at him, didn’t say a word and retreated to the end of the line. Nothing more was said about it. Later that evening after I finished my shower, I was walking back to my room and spotted that huge guy in the hallway, almost hiding as he stood near an open doorway just staring into space. Seconds later a heard a short yelp, then nothing. He was waiting for the guy who approached him in line and in a split second he snatched that little guy and slammed him to the floor, slid him up against the wall, forcing his head into the corner between the floor and wall and then proceeded to pound his head as if he was chopping a log with an ax. Huge, heavy blows to the scull, over and over again as he held his head in the corner. I quickly grabbed him with both of my arms wrapped around his chest but he tossed me aside like I wasn’t even there. Several of us desperately tried to come to the aid of that kid but the anger and adrenalin that was erupting from that guy was no match for anyone at that moment. Finally, a few of us did manage to pull him off but the damage was done. The young recruit appeared to be alive, fairly still and bleeding like crazy. A drill sergeant ran over and cleared the hallway as he tended to this young man.
I never heard if the victim recovered or even lived. The psycho that punished him retreated to his bunk until the military police arrived and then they took him away. He never returned to the barracks. There was never any open discussion about what happened…that was it. I tried to find out if any of the other trainees knew who that kid was or how I might be a able to reach him but nobody could help me. To this day I still wish that I could have done more to help that young kid.
Three weeks past the due date, the doctors decide we have waited long enough. The day is finally here; labor is induced at about 7 am and active labor takes hold very quickly. She struggles for hours but never dilated more than 2 cm. Hours go bye and she’s getting pretty worn out. Nearly 12 hours later, a C section is our only chance. The doctors take the baby, my son is born. All I wanted was to be a father and to have a son. One of the most amazing days of my entire life…I was overwhelmed. He was an amazing little boy every single day!
5 years later our marriage had come unraveled and we became separated and later divorced. The day I left for the last time, my son grabbed me and asked if I was coming back. I looked down at him and said “sure I will buddy”. I hugged him so hard and when he noticed that I was crying, he began to cry as well. He tugged at my arm and asked me not to go. I never again felt agony like that and I can’t imagine the pain he was feeling. It was without question the worst day of my life. After I pulled myself together in the car I left our home, my wife and that amazing 5 year old boy, my son.
Honestly, I’ve never been the same person since. So many years have passed and to this day I still struggle with, not the pain that I felt and still feel, but the pain that I caused. It’s never going to go away and it shouldn’t.
Did you ever see or hear something that immediately took you back in time? I spotted this today when I was getting ready to go out…I thought, could I ever make her that happy again?
Several years ago on a Saturday afternoon I finished up at work and like every other day I jumped in the car to enjoy what was left of my weekend with my family. After nearly 15 minutes of driving, I realized that I was going in the complete opposite direction of my home, and before I knew it I was just a few blocks away from my grandparents home…right away I was a bit puzzled. As an adult, I rarely had the opportunity to visit with them anymore and when I did, I did so with my ex-wife and the baby. In case you didn’t know it, as soon as you have children your grandparents only want to see the children and not you…only kidding, but you know what I mean. Well the thing that made this visit even more strange was that we were just there to visit them recently. Well, as I rolled around the bend and into the driveway, I thought, wow, this is really weird, I didn’t even consider coming over here after work, as matter of fact, I never did that before and all of a sudden here I am. I knocked on the door, my grandmother answered and immediately looked concerned as she asked, Pauly, what’s the matter? Nothing, everything is fine I responded and she let me inside. I kind of expected my grandfather to be at the bowling alleys, he was a big bowler…still bowled three nights a week on a couple of teams. Right away, she made 4 or 5 attempts to feed me but I wasn’t really in the mood…where’s grandpa, I asked, inside she replied. There he was reclined all the way back in his chair with two games (a small t.v. set up on top of the console) on at the same time and the radio playing very faintly on the floor beside him with a third game on as well. Hi grandpa I said. Pauly, he said, what’s wrong, is everything ok?. Sure I said, how are you. Fine, he replied. Sit down and watch the game he said, so I did. We sat together with the curtains drawn, in the dark, he in is chair, me, lying on the couch next to him. It was peaceful, just very peaceful. To this day I don’t really remember actually watching the game at all, we both just rested. My grandmother stopped in two more times to try to feed me but I just wasn’t hungry. On her last attempt, she just smiled at me and again turned out the light as she left the room. After about 30 or 40 mins, I decided it was time to get going. I had a family waiting so I got up to leave. Instead of just patting him on the shoulder as I walked past his chair like I always did he got up and walked me to the door. As we said goodbye, he hugged me and shook my hand…not a typical goodbye for us but very nice I thought and I went home.
Less than two days later he passed away.
In the few days that I’ve been at this I’ve already covered much of the textbook stuff. You know, I want to do this, I wish I did that…likes and dislikes. Some of that is productive and some is fun but certainly not life changing by any means. We can revisit some of that stuff along the way but only in small doses.
Before we get too far into this process I think it might be good idea to chart the course just a little bit. Now, I’m not saying just point the ship at the horizon and sail in a straight line forever…not much sense in that at all. At the same time, hop-skipping all over the place isn’t a great way to go either so I would like to offer a little navigation here. Granted, I do have a fair amount of ground to cover but I want things to flow a little bit at least.
As you might have gleaned from the name of this blog, there could be three distinct areas of focus and you would be correct. The “then” portion is obviously the past. There are a few stories that I’d like to share from the past, some fun, some not so fun. We all have a past and as much as we all might think that ours is the most interesting of all, it’s not. One fact still remains though, sometimes reflecting on the past may then allow you to better focus on the here and now more effectively. In my case, it might be worth a shot so we’re gonna complain a little, joke a little, then close the book on it. The “now” part is just as obvious and that may include any number of ideas and stories of the present. A little tip here, at present I am kinda of at a crossroads but we’ll get into that soon enough. Lastly, the “tomorrow” part. Ah yes, the future, the journey I’ve hinted about. Well, that’s coming…
So, yeah, I’m going to jump around a bit but this is the general direction of things. Enough of that, let’s get to it.
The years after dad left were a bit of a rough ride. We were young and some of those months between say age 8 and 10 are a little fuzzy for me. Partly because I was pretty young and partly because you tend to block out times that suck.
Dad left with our only car. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so there was no income. So how did we survive in a simple but nice 3 bedroom house in a nice little neighborhood for the better part of 10 years? Well, let me just say that there were some days where we did get some “normal” mixed in, mostly when my grandparents came to rescue the 3 of us kids for the weekend but the rest of the time it was like a cross between a Kathy Bates flik and the Shining. You see, what we soon discovered after dad bolted was that mom was more of a nut case than we originally thought. I’ll be talking more about that later but my point here is, even though dad took off and left us with pretty much nothing, I still to this day can’t really blame him. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my days over the years where I would think, what a complete jerk, but you know when we saw first hand what he was up against dealing with my mother, you really can’t blame him too much…she turned out to be an violent and unpredictable whacko.
To this day my sister and I still joke about how dad was lucky to get out when he did and how if we could have left her behind we would’ve done the same thing.
Anyway, the 10 years that followed (age 8 to 18) were a combination of many things; anxiety, turmoil, fear, poverty, fun, emotion, sadness, learning, regret and even some thankfulness. All families experience much of these characteristics so we weren’t so special by any means, we just happened to do it with a person who was evil. We’ll save some of those stories for the days ahead.
Oh, one more thing…God bless our grandparents for helping us over the years. There is no way we would have survived without their love and devotion to us. She put them through hell on many occasion and they just kept coming back to help us in spite of mom’s abusive behavior toward them. I miss you both very much!
Tell her she was right.
You almost had me in checkmate.
It was the best day I ever had.
I fell asleep while driving.
I didn’t treat you with the respect you deserved.
Trade the car in before it crapped out.
You saved me from failing again.
I missed you even though you were wrong.
I really didn’t want peppers on my pizza.
I still have the trophy you left behind.
I always admired your skills.
I’m thankful for you having me over for dinner.
I really wanted you to hire me.
You taught me a lot about life and I didn’t thank you when we were watching the game.
I only kissed you because you cried.
Thank you for taking care of him, you are a saint.
You were a coward but I won’t tell anyone that you are.
I moved away because crazy neighbors worry me.
I knew that you were sick but never asked how you were.
This process continues so please bare with me.
More of these to follow as well.
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