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Monster

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 16, 2017

I watched a movie last night. It is titled: A Monster CallsA_Monster_Calls It is an adaptation of a children’s tale. It is also very intense and far too real to be just a tale. A boy’s mother is dying of cancer. He wants to believe she will recover, but knows she will not. The movie is pretty much about him, those expectations, and how he deals with them. The story has elements of fantasy, and some beautiful animation of the brilliant watercolor illustrations I expect are from the book. I enjoyed it, and, yes my eyes teared, my throat constricted and tears did indeed run down my cheek. Highly recommend, for all ages.

It got me thinking about many things, death among them, and the love I have for my stepdaughter Maya. Her struggle with cancer made me realize that I loved her, and that I didn’t want her to die. Is that selfish? I imagined it would be impossible to live without her. I imagined I would die if she died. Unlike the aforementioned movie, however, my hopes were realized and she did not die. It was the most wonderful thing I ever experienced. I felt real joy, for the first time ever. As time went on, I realized I loved her fiercely, more than anyone I’ve ever known. At first, I wondered if I felt that way chiefly because she almost died. But, I came to understand that it was the possibility that she might die that opened my eyes to my love for her. I believe I really love her, because I want the best for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to live a full life, for her, not for me. I want her to live many, many years after I’m gone. I think that is really what love is, when you care about someone you love, and wish for their happiness, regardless of your relationship, or if you live together, or even if you never see them again.

She was still quite young when I met her. I dated her mom Linda for four years, then married Linda and lived with her, and Maya, and her brother Noah. I was part of a family. It was the second time for me, and I wanted to make sure it worked out better than the first time I had tried that. I never became close with Noah, but I liked him a lot. Maya and I seemed to become friends. We only ever had one argument as I recall. It was my fault and mostly a misunderstanding, and we talked about it right away, and resolved it and I apologized for what she thought was anger on my part. When she started college, which was the same place I worked, we often met for lunch.

After both of Linda’s children, Maya and Noah, had moved out, Linda and I had the place to ourselves. She had big plans for the house, including an addition, a new roof, and many other things. I accomplished most of it before I had to leave. Fortunately, Maya and I remained on good terms after that divorce. We work together at times, bottling and labeling or selling wines. We’ve been to many wine festivals, and have helped keep a unique winery running. It is always a joy for me to see Maya, and work together, or go to dinner for holidays and birthdays. It makes me happy too, when she travels or has good times with her friends. I love her very much.

Maya’s death would have crushed me entirely. The interesting thing, to me, is that a lot of people died when I was young, and I felt no loss. There were some great-aunts that I didn’t know, so that was understandable. In second grade a classmate died, choked on a glass of water. I was shocked to hear of it, but I didn’t know him personally. A cousin died very young after that, and I felt sad for my aunt and uncle, but my cousin’s death did not touch me. One by one, my grandfathers died. I was an altar boy at both of their funerals. I never knew my paternal grandfather well. I believe I only ever had one conversation with him, one that I remember well, but I felt no grief. My mother’s father came to live with us for a short time before he died. I enjoyed having him there, but again, I don’t recall any grief when he died. I remember thinking how odd it was that he had spent so much time in a veterans’ hospital, which is often where my parents would go to visit him when I was very young. Then he seemed so healthy when he stayed with us that I was quite surprised when he died. I did not feel grief; was I a monster?

The one person I missed greatly, and had loved was my father. My parents had divorced while still raising the four youngest. As an adult, his death left me confused. I didn’t know what to feel when I got the phone call. We had not stayed in touch after I left home. Our relationship had gone downhill before I left. I had gone to see him before he’d died, but we did not speak of anything substantial, and that seemed bittersweet in retrospect, because there is much I’d have liked to talk with him about. I wasn’t going to attend his funeral, because I had just been to see him, and I felt that was better than seeing him dead. And, as well, I really couldn’t afford to fly that far again. However, when I sat down to write a letter to my brothers and sisters, explaining why I wasn’t coming, I broke into tears, and sobbed. I felt awful. I was overcome with grief, and decided to travel anyway, just to be with family. I missed the funeral itself, but arrived in time for the wake, and I felt much better among my relatives, even laughed with cousins I had not seen in decades.

Then my godfather Fred, a close cousin of my mother, died. The two of them had grown up together. Fred, aka Fritz, would visit us three nights a week after he left the bar he worked at. He usually brought us kids a treat, chocolate, or even packets of clay, leftovers from when he was a typesetter. Loved playing with the clay. Loved the chocolate. Fred helped my mother out, painting, lending her money for groceries, or especially putting up the Christmas garden, with the trains and houses, and the paper mountains tacked up on the wall around the raised wooden platform that held the little village. As a GI, he had fought in Germany against the Nazis, and brought back a toy-soldier marching band from the basement of a burned-out house in Germany.  It always marched across our village, despite the swastikas on the band’s uniforms and flag, and the little guy in front with the small mustache and raised arm salute. I remember thinking, despite Fred’s racial prejudices and those other eccentricities, that the world had lost a good man. I did not feel grief, but he had been and is still on my mind quite often.

Then again, I was reminded of my father’s death when the heart and soul of our winery, Jim Fish, died suddenly. I did feel that same grief again. He was like a father in some ways, and a mentor, and a friend. I learned a lot from him, and worked with him making wine for seven years. His death was a great painful loss to me. I loved him.

What has always kept me going is that I still have my three sisters and three brothers. We’re getting old, but still hanging in there. Even my mother, at 86, is still alive and kicking. I’ve always felt I loved my brothers and sisters more than anyone in the world, but I have to add Maya to that mix now. She is family, and more than that to me.

My love for her is unlike that I’ve felt for anyone ever in my life. To keep her alive I would gladly give my last ounce of blood. It’s seems strange sometimes, to realize that I care about someone so much. I thought I had loved others before, but never have I had this depth of feeling for someone. I admire her too. I admire her strength in coping with brain cancer. I admire her intelligence, and her continuing efforts to learn and advance herself in the world. I admire the way she cares about her friends. I admire the way she cuts off and donates her hair every year to Locks of Love. She wore a wig herself after losing her hair twice to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, so she continues to give back. I admire her for starting an organization to help people get back into school after having had to drop out due to cancer or other medical reasons. I admire her independence and fighting spirit. But mostly, I think, I just love her.

Sometimes, imperfect as I am, I think perhaps I’m not as bad a monster as I thought I was.

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Posted in family, Life, love, My Life, relationships | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Dreaming of Random Acts of Sex and Situations Intolerable

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 1, 2014

One Foot Over the Line 2 Woke up this morning early, dreaming. I had stayed up until 1:00 am, but I was wide awake at 5:30am. I ran a lot last evening, in the rain, with lightning just a few miles away. It was the first time I’d run in the rain. I liked it; I was able to keep my body temp down while running. Cool, in reality.

The doves are cooing and I have my coffee now. I decided to post because my dream fascinated me. In my dream, I had decided to live on the street. I know, I know, one does not just “decide” to do such a thing, but hey, it was a dream. I had some sort of small tent or structure over me, and I was under a large blanket, peering out at life on the street. Part of me wondered what I’d done with all my stuff. That part of my brain decided that I still had a car and had my stuff in that.

As I peered out, I saw a couple I knew. I knew the male better than his partner, but they came over and looked in at me. Suddenly the woman was getting into my tent, box or whatever it was I was in, and she was naked. So was I. She climbed under my blanket and lay on top of me. Her skin was warm and smooth. I was in heaven. Then, of course, this guy also came in. He seemed a bit hesitant at first, but he came in and lay down next to the woman. I had no idea what was going on.

In fact, I quickly realised that the two people didn’t know who I was, that I was out of context, and in the poor light available, they hadn’t recognised me, as I had thought. That raised interesting questions to me. Did they do this sort of thing all the time? Did they seek out homeless men to sleep with? Should I tell them I know them? As I pondered ways to shock them with my knowledge of their identity and introduce myself, I realized I’d forgotten their names, which killed my element of surprise, so I said nothing about myself.

Realizing that they were probably expecting sex, especially since the woman had her hand on my erection, but I wasn’t into either this ménage à trois stuff, or sex with men, I wasn’t sure what to say or do. The male asked me if it was alright. I said I wasn’t into men sexually. He asked me why. I told him that men just didn’t turn me on, and he, of course, wanted to know why I wasn’t curious. I told him, I had been curious, but I had gotten over that. I went into a reverie, and could no longer tell if I was just in my head or speaking out loud.

I remembered my roommate from when I’d first left home. He was into young boys, his words. I accepted that about him, but came to realize he was also intererested in me. In fact, he was four years older than me. I’d thought of him as a friend, but he had other ideas. Nothing ever came of that, not for lack of trying on his part, but I’d had to punch him a bit to finally dissuade him.

Shortly after that experience, my best friend had been a lesbian. That doesn’t mean that I learned anything from the experience, but years later, on a trip to Canada, where my old roommate had become an expatriate, I had needed his help getting across the border, after a run in with the border cops, and I was staying in his apartment. He made it clear I couldn’t stay long, as he couldn’t afford to feed me. It was clear that he wanted me to feel grateful for his help, and he told me to go ahead and make myself breakfast while he went off to work. I had very little money at that point, having lost $50, half of all the money I’d had a few days earlier, and I was feeling a bit desperate.

When he came home later, it seemed clear from a number of things he said, that, if I were to be open to sex, he could possibly put me up longer. That was consistant with his previous attempts, and I figured I should consider that. However, the sight of him naked didn’t excite me, in fact, I was totally flaccid, and couldn’t get it up anyway. That seemed to settle the issue for him. Somehow, people always seem to assume one can get into something they have no interest in, if only they try. It often doesn’t work for heterosexual relationships; so there wasn’t any reason to expect it would work for a homosexual relationship either, except that young men seem to always be ready for sex at any time.

I really do think that there has to be some physical attraction, and some hormonal signaling, for this whole sexual attraction thing to work. I don’t think one should ever have sex with someone one is not attracted to. Random sex with strangers is just not a good idea, in my opinion.

So, that is what I told the couple. The woman still wanted to have sex with me, and, as had happened before, the man said he would just watch. I had turned down that offer as a young man, but I was very much interested in this woman, so I was considering it when I woke up.

Ah well, it would have been a much more interesting dream, I think.

Once, while I was young, tanned and muscular, I met a couple who invited me to their home for a party, and since I didn’t have a car, they drove me there. However, there was no party, except for the three of us, and the man had made that offer: I could have sex with his wife, if he could watch. It was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. I considered it for a nanosecond, but at 25 years of age, I turned them down. I felt vulnerable, and a bit worried about what would happen. Rape came to mind. Being bound and tortured came to mind. But, most of all, I knew damn well I couldn’t have enjoyed myself with the woman with anyone else watching, much less her husband.

Once I told them I wasn’t interested, we had a few drinks, talked some, and slept, since it was very late at night. I slept on the couch and they didn’t bother me. In the morning they drove me back to where I lived. I never heard from them again, but it was fascinating to learn that there where people who did such things.

I don’t know why all this bubbled out of memory last night.

Perhaps I was curious about what my stepdaughter was up to. She had texted me to pick her up from work, but hadn’t said where she was going, Her evening class was over, and I thought she might want to have me take her food shopping, since she doesn’t drive. However, she had wanted me to take her to a certain bar, a favorite of hers, one not far from where I live. I was going to be running with my running group, and would have to turn around as soon as I dropped her off, and go right back to near where I’d picked her up. I remarked on that, since I thought it was kind of funny. She was apologetic, as she thought it would be easy for me, since I’d be so close to my home.

I asked her if she was meeeting someone, and she said, “Yes.” I asked her if she was having dinner or just drinks. She said, “Dinner.” And she said, “Bye, See you next time.” I was curious who she was meeting, but she didn’t seem to want to say, or give me any information; I was curious why.

I love that woman a lot. She inspired me to run. She runs a lot, always has, except during her cancer treatment. It took a lot of work on her part to get back into running, but she runs marathons these days. I ran a half-marathon last year for the first time ever, four months after my heart attack, and will run one this year. She will run a full marathon at the same time, probably in little more time as it takes me to do a half.

When I got back from my run last night, I thought about stopping into the bar where she was, but I know she likes her privacy. I remember thinking that I’d have joined her if she’d asked, but three can be a crowd, and anyway, we don’t hang out much anymore.

So, perhaps that is why that threesome idea permeated my dreams. It’s not that either of us would ever comtemplate such a thing as the stuff of my dreams, but I was lonely, and I’d have enjoyed some dinner company. Boy, do I have to be careful that she never knows I even connected her vaguely with the kind of things I dream about. She’d be horrified. I’d hate that. When I say I love this woman, I mean it. I love her with all my heart, and always want her to have a great life. I’d love her even if I never saw her again, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

Some day, she’ll be married, with a kid perhaps. Maybe we’ll drift further apart. I used to drive her to and from work, but she doesn’t need me for that anymore, just an occasional lift here and there. I’m divorced from her mother these last seven years, and her mother avoids me like I have bubonic plague. No communication or reapproachment with that one. She’d kill me if she believed I had any designs on her daughter. Hell, my stepdaughter would quickly terminate all ties with me too, if she thought I’d ever thought of such things, even in a vague association with a dream.

I don’t know why I even brought it up. It is nice to have someone to love like her, even in a non-sexual, platonic way. In fact, I’d find life a whole lot less tolerable without her. It’s bad enough my cat got eaten by coyotes. “Situations tolerable” the Traveling Wilburys sang, and really, my life could be worse, but it could be better.

Posted in 1960s, Dreams, Life, love, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, relationships, sex | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE JOY OF BRAIN TUMORS

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on March 14, 2011

I didn’t know I could find joy in
a brain tumor
I never really felt love before
the brain tumor
I never felt such fear
a brain tumor!?

We joke about it
It’s not like you have a brain tumor
We compare headaches to
brain tumors.

It’s my step-daughter that had
the brain tumor
I never knew such fear
– the all-day brain surgery
– the chemotherapy
– the radiation.

I never knew I felt such love
this young woman I’d known
thirteen years from girl to woman
I never knew such joy
– after the operation she survived
– still needed chemo she survived
– still needed radiation
gamma knife
– a high-tech magic bullet.

Damn brain tumor
fuckin’ damn brain tumor
dead brain tumor.

She survived
She’s alive
She’s healthy
She’s whole.

My chest loosened
I can breathe
My heart
is beating.

I never knew such joy before
the brain tumor.

Posted in family, health, Life, love, medical, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Picklement

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 16, 2010

The boy’s nickname was Terry. He didn’t particularly like his name, because a lot of girls had the same one, and it sounded like a child’s name anyway.  He’d started out with Terrance, but in 1st grade the other boys called him Clarence instead.  It always got a laugh, but not from Terry.  It sounded like the name of a clown, or some snooty rich kid in a story.
After grade school, he changed his name to Bob, although Bob didn’t have much of a ring to it.  Still, it seemed a nice unambiguously masculine name, and much more adult sounding than Terry, or Terrance.
Bob, as a name, worked fairly well for Terry.  People didn’t stumble all over it, like they did with Terry, confusing his name with Gerry,  Perry, Harry, but most often, oddly enough, with Larry.  He wondered if it had to do with Larry, Moe and Curly,  since the most common misunderstanding of his name was always Larry.  He tried emphasizing the T whenever he said Terry, but it didn’t help.  People just don’t get Terry usually until the third try.  It made introductions tedious, even though people always smiled, and often apologized.
Terry went by Bob all through high school.  He liked it.  People seemed to respond better.  He was older than he’d been of course, but high school boys are not generally known for their maturity, and Terry, or even Terrance could still have been disastrous.  If there was one thing Terry hated more than anything else, it was being teased.  Still, boys will use just about anything to tease another boy.  The school insisted that everyone wear ties.
Terry had a hard time waking up in the mornings, and taking the time to tie a perfect Windsor knot every day had gotten old fast.  Terry discovered the clip-on tie: perfect knot, perfect length, and impossible to discern.  Somehow, one day, a classmate noticed, and snatched it from him.   He chased after the perp, grabbing the tie and pushing the perp onto the ground.  Generally, Terry had always been very easy-going.  His father often said Terry would let someone take the shirt off his back, but that was what “turning the other cheek” meant in the real world.  In the religious world, “turning the other cheek” meant martyrdom, and martyrdom was preferred to violence.  However, just ignoring all the  jibes and taunts was not easy, and that one time, Terry ran his attacker down and won his self-respect. Or so he thought.
Instead of congratulating him on standing up for himself, his other classmates made light of it, pointing out that the other boy, although the same age, was shorter.  This made Terry into little more than a cowardly bully.  “But, what was I to do?” he asked, “let him take it?”  No one answered that.  Whining was not allowed.  However, this incident provided the catalyst for another far more embarrassing one, since the real bullies felt Terry was an easy mark, and could only defend himself against smaller adversaries.
Terry’s family didn’t have a lot of money, and clothes were patched, sewn and worn until they fell apart.  It so happened one day, as Terry bent over to pick up a fork he dropped in the school cafeteria, that his pants split.  He was mortified, but no one had seemed to notice.  The pants were brown corduroys, with lots of vertical lines, and baggy enough that Terry thought it would pass unnoticed if he walked slowly and kept his butt cheeks pinched together.  He sat down opposite his peers, and relaxed.  He made it through lunch without a single comment.  In fact, he relaxed too much, because as he stood, the gap widened enough for someone to see.  Ellis, agent provocateur, class clown, and always an outlaw, took it upon himself to take full advantage of the situation.  He grabbed a slice of pickle off his lunch tray  and ran up to Terry, dropping the pickle in the rip as Terry stood up.  The indignity of this was just too much.
That someone would see the tear no longer mattered.  Ellis was going down.  Terry lunged for him, and Ellis, cowardly as most bullies are, took off running.  Ellis laughed at Terry,  sidestepping and ducking through the cafeteria.  Terry chased him into the hallway.  Lunch break was not yet over, so there was no one in the hallway.  Terry chased him, gaining on him, running full tilt down the hallway.  Of course, yelling and running past the principal’s office, in a school  that prided itself on self-discipline, was not a particularly bright thing to do.  They were caught.
Now, Terry was in the equally uncomfortable position of trying to explain that someone had put a pickle in his pants.  Fortunately, it had been the principal who’d caught them.  The vice-principal was in charge of discipline, and he would have come down hard on them.  As it was, the principal referred Terry to Student Court, a disciplinary board wholly run by the students.
Terry explained the pickle incident, (picklement?) and the court, laughing behind their hands, let it go.  To add to Terry’s shame, all decisions by the Student Court were published in the school paper, although the rip in someone’s pants became a rip in someone’s shirt.  In 1965, no newspaper would dare even allude to something sexual , much less the innuendo of a pickle in someone’s pants.  It wasn’t journalistic integrity, but everyone knew the real story anyway.
Terry could see, by now, that the name didn’t make any difference.  He was kind of an oddball, it seemed, and names were nowhere near as important as he’d always believed.  After high school, he kept using Bob, although his employer and coworkers were not the types to care about a name one way or the other.   By now, however, Terry noticed that Bob was an extremely common name.  In every room, it seemed, there was a Bob. In a restaurant, in a garage, on the street, or at work, Bob was as ubiquitous as Tom, Dick and Harry.  Terry, realizing that, as an adult, he could have his name changed legally, thought about changing his name to Bilbo Baggins.  It was not a bad name, far out of the ordinary.  That would have been alright, but he knew his family wouldn’t like his dropping the surname. But, what would Bilbo be without a Baggins to go with it?  He thought about just using Frodo,  but few people had read the half a million word sequel to The Hobbit, so he would have had to spend a lot of time explaining the Lord of the Rings character to every person he met.
Of course, changing one’s name is a very superfluous thing to do anyway, as Terry had found out.  And now there were far more important things to worry about in the world, like sex and war, and getting to work on time.  He took night classes at the University where he worked, but he really wanted to go to school full time.  He applied for, and was accepted at another University a few years later, still calling himself Bob.  He kept his job on a part-time basis, as a sort of contract employee.  However, those aforementioned things, sex and war, took over most of his thoughts, as he sought one but wanted to avoid the other.  That took him to rallies and demonstrations, as well as into drug and sexual experimentation, and his studies suffered.  His thoughts were always elsewhere.  Dismissed from school on probation for a year, he decided to travel.
After a few years of odd jobs and traveling, he took a job one day in a small foundry in Arizona.  The foreman must also have thought Terry an oddball when he asked him his name, because  Terry paused.  It was a normal question, but suddenly, and without having given it any thought in years, he told the foreman his name: Terry.  It was, after all, how his family had known and still knew him.  No one he had ever met was as important as family, and he never changed his name again, even though he rarely got through another introduction without having to say his name at least three times.

Posted in 1960s, family, humor, Life, My Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MORE PANCAKES PLEASE

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 11, 2010

Some people eat beans every day
some people have bread every meal
some eat anything any old way
We had potatoes, hey, what’s the deal?

Ate a lot of them growing up
with potatoes in the garden
and meat vegetable potatoes
every night for dinner

Mashed potatoes Scalloped potatoes
Boiled potatoes Baked potatoes
Home-fried potatoes
French-fried potatoes

Potatoes au gratin
Potatoes and ham
Bacon potato salad
Sweet potato pie

Potatoes in the stews
potatoes in the soups
potatoes as main course
potatoes on the side

But, ah! potato pancakes
smothered in applesauce
Couldn’t get enough
More pancakes please.

Posted in family, My Life, poem, poetry, rambling, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Birthday Was Plural

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 18, 2010

Birthdays were never an egocentric event for me. My brother and I, although a year apart, shared the same birthday month, so my parents always combined the two into one party, one song. You know how people sing it, Happy Birthday to so-and-so? Ours were always together, Happy Birthday John and Terry. As a result, I think, I never thought of a birthday as a focus on me alone.  This is a little odd, since some psychologists believe children under the age of 7 reason egocentrically, believing that their view of the world is the same as anyone else’s view.  However, I at least saw that the world didn’t center around just me, but included my brother.
I remember much of my childhood, but not all.  However, I can interpolate some things.  I have no idea what my first birthday was like, although my mother was about to give birth to my brother, so I’m certain that weighed heavily on my parent’s minds.  Knowing them, I assume they used the occasion to have family over for cake.  What was my second birthday like? Well, I don’t know, but with John one year old, they might not have wanted people over so things stayed a little quieter.  At that age, I wouldn’t have cared.  I know we were a handful.  By my third birthday, I’m sure the tradition got started to have both our birthdays on the same day.  There were no other children as yet, and mom would have wanted to light candles and teach us to blow them out.  The difficulty would have been in trying to teach us our numbers, because John needed two, and I needed three.  She baked two cakes!  By the age of four, John and I knew the drill.  When October came around, and my mom started baking, we knew what to expect.  We knew there would be a cake with four candles for me, and a cake with three candles for him.  At the time, I remembered that previous birthday, my third, but that memory is long gone now.
You may well ask how I remember my fourth birthday at all, but I think it was the trauma of moving.  I can’t remember the place we moved from anymore, but it had a long stairway outside the building.  I remember being forced into a car, and driving a long way to the new place.  The car was green, the rear sloped in a continuous curve from roof to fender. The inside had a cloth-covered ceiling.  I remember that cloth, because in later years, it was loose, ripped, and always falling down.  At the time, I didn’t pay it much attention, because I was more excited about where we had arrived.  It was a small house, but it had a grass-covered front lawn.  We had not had one of those before.  My parents seemed happy about that, but, compared to the other lawns in the neighborhood, ours looked different.  It hadn’t been mowed in a long time. It was wild and tall.  I liked it, but, of course, no lawn is ever allowed to be like that for long.  I suspect that is when my dad bought his first lawn mower, because by the time I was ten, we had moved twice again, my bother and I had the job of mowing, and that thing seemed ancient.
Those old push mowers were something else.  I delighted in the spinning blades, each one of which curved in a broad sweep, much like present-day wind turbines.  To my ten-year-old brain, the blades should have been straight, but somewhere along the line, people had figured out how to cut grass more efficiently.  Often the blades would be near-dull, and pushing that thing through the grass was not my idea of fun.  It was however, not something I had to do, but something John and I had to do.
We were sidekicks.  From birthdays to work, we did everything together.  Hell, we even got punished together. My father, discovering something broken or missing, would confront us. If neither one of us owned up to it, he said we would both be punished.  Punishments ran a wide gamut then, from standing in a corner, to no dinner, to slaps on our butts, or the dreaded leather strap, which hurt like hell.  One time, John owned up to something neither of us had done, just to get the interrogation and slapping over, and so we wouldn’t both be punished.  Odd to think that our parents thought we’d ever do anything deliberately bad, knowing the consequences, but I guess they thought we wouldn’t ever do anything bad again if they punished us hard enough. Boy, were they wrong.
Running through the yard, we accidentally trampled mom’s azalea bush.  You’d have thought we went outside just to destroy that bush from the way my dad carried on.  We took our clothes off one time, and went out on the porch roof, climbing out the second story window.  A neighbor saw us, so that didn’t go over very well.   We also thought it was fun to throw small stones out that same window at passing cars, since the porch roof kept us from being seen from the street.  We thought we were pretty clever about it, trying to determine the exact time to throw a stone, so that it would hit a car while we ducked down.  We could hear the thunk on a car roof or door, and one time a car squealed to a sudden stop, and backed up to our house.  That we had to see.  Of course, that meant we were seen. Well, it was not fun anymore, as the driver got out and walked up to our house.
Then there was the time John and I built a small fire in an empty lot behind our house.  We tried to build it up with stones all around it, but we were too young then to know to clear the entire area of combustibles.  It spread, and we couldn’t put it out.  We got on our bicycles and rode for our lives, afraid we’d get caught, and we were. A neighbor had seen us, called the fire department, and called our mother.  She made us march out to the firemen and apologize.  They were incredibly nice to us.  They smiled at us.  I didn’t know what to make of that, because we had been scared to death to go out there and tell them it was our fault.  Our parents made sure we knew the danger of fire, and read us the riot act over that one.  I doubt we could sit down without wincing for days after that.
John and I were a class act though.  One time, investigating a construction site nearby, my brother and I and Eddie, a friend, were dropping rocks into a pool of muddy water in the incomplete basement of a new house.  There was a hole in the first floor where the stairs would eventually be. We didn’t question why the basement walls and the floor of the first floor were built, yet the concrete for the basement floor hadn’t been poured yet.  It was just fun to have a huge puddle far enough below us to makes big splashes.  Three boys, a hole, a long way to fall; what could go wrong?  I fell in, but Eddie went for his parents, and John found his way down to me.  I was laying face down, out cold, in the water.  He turned me over, saving my life.
Years later, we had ridden our bikes miles away from our house, and were investigating a sewer drain outlet.  All the storm water from the street above flowed out into a small creek, and beavers had built a dam on it.  It was just too damn fascinating to leave alone.  However, the concrete around the storm drain outlet was green and slimy.  John fell in.  The slime was everywhere.  He couldn’t grab hold of the edge to pull himself back up; he kept slipping back into the water.  It was deep there, over our heads.  We didn’t know how to swim yet, and the water was dark and filthy.  In retrospect, I think he was panicking, because he thrashed around like crazy.  I got on my stomach.  I reached out my hands and yelled at him to grab them.  He did. I was able to pull him far enough so he could climb out.  We rode over to a nearby house and knocked, explaining what had happened.  John was socking wet, and reeked.   My dad drove home from work and took us home.  He was, shall we say, upset, but also happy that we were OK.
So it continued over the years, through accident after accident.  We even shoplifted together; that was a mess of trouble.   Always we survived, and both of us have all our parts.  We even fought each other.  Sometimes only one of us got into trouble at a time.  We balanced everything out by being Altar boys and Boy Scouts. We served mass and camped together.  We were a team.
High school changed everything.  I went first, leaving John behind.  John developed new friends.  Rather than follow me to the same high school, he went to a religious school in another state for a year.  It was the sort of pre-seminary school you go to if you plan to be a priest, but before you go to an actual seminary.  It was strange not having him around.  Stranger still, he changed his mind and came back after that first year.  Instead of hanging out with me however, he had other friends.  He told me about discovering masturbation.  I had discovered that on my own.  He also knew girls. He did end up going to the same high school as me, but we never saw each other.   He was one of the popular kids.  He found a part-time job after school working on an assembly line for printed circuit boards.  I rarely saw him, and he never told me how to get a job like that or what he did.   He had money, bought himself a leather jacket, and combed his hair out and down and over his face, unlike my greasy pompadour.  He was as different as he could be.  I stayed after school myself, joining various clubs: Science, Computer, Drama.  When I was home, I had to study, usually two to three hours, just to keep up.
John and I didn’t have free time anymore; no time to waste riding our bicycles randomly, exploring, getting into trouble.  I stayed to myself. He thought I was weird.  I didn’t have friends, I didn’t date.  Well, I took my cousin out a couple times, but that didn’t go anywhere.   By the time I graduated high school, John and I were like strangers.  There were no more joint birthdays.  I got a job and left home.  He graduated the next year and got married.  I went to his wedding, dressed in a funky double-breasted suit I’d picked up for myself. It reminded me of my grandfather’s suit.  I looked and felt out-of-place around the family.  I tried to look and act mature. I had even bought a packet of Tiparillos, small plastic-tipped cigars.  I thought they’d make me look sophisticated, but when I tried inhaling one at the wedding reception, I thought I’d choke my lungs out. Clueless.
John invited me over one time after his daughter was born , a year later.  He’d always been the skinny one, but he’d put on a lot of weight. His wife cooked a lot.  They had certain meals on certain nights, same thing every week.  I asked him about sex, and he whispered to me, “Tonight’s the night.”  I thought, “What, once a week? Are you kidding?” Clueless.
I however, was very involved with anti-war activities.  I’d been arrested.  John thought it was a joke, that I’d gotten arrested for the hell of it.  Neither of us had been drafted, but I was caught up in a counter-culture, one that distrusted the family unit, authority, the draft, wars, and law itself.  I liked marijuana and tried LSD a few times.  Dropped out of school, lost my job.  I moved away.  I had many lovers.  Sex was my favorite drug.  I was a drifter and a carny.  I settled on the other side of the country, poured bronze, worked as a hod carrier, then found work in a cancer research laboratory at a University.  I took free classes there, got a degree.   I got married and divorced twice.  I retired.
I still miss my brother.  His 40th wedding anniversary is coming up soon.  I think I’ll go see him.   We’re so much alike.

Posted in family, Life, My Life, Writing | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

BREAKING POINTS

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on August 29, 2008

Things happen

violence flares

mom throws things

yells at Dad

Dad yells at Mom

throws things

Mom threw a glass at me

broken shard cut my leg.

Dad, angry knocked me

into walls or

my breath out

backhanded me

from across a table

spankings,

leather strap too

didn’t faze me

much

but

when he falsely accused

and slapped me

one way and back the other

and back again and

his hand swung

and I snapped

knocked him down

and raised my foot

to kick!

his head in

smash his brains

but

he caught my leg

in powerful arms

smiling

never hit me again.

35 years later

married

arguing

she accuses

falsely

she yells

calls me a liar

coffee cups in our hands

I empty mine at her

she throws hers in my face

and I snap

What is wrong with you?

escapes my lips

between clenched teeth

and I slap one way

and the other and swing

my open hand

to slap again

with fingers only

but she backs away

and I sit in my chair

and smash a remote

against a wall

I am my father.

she calls the police

domestic violence, she says

I’m in a domestic violence situation

she says

I listen from my chair

disbelief replaces anger.

the police come

while I clean up the coffee

she is not there

cops are suspicious

stained rag in my hand

no one else around

oh shit! I think

yes, of course, come in

search the house

she is not here

I don’t know where

crap!

I show them neighbors

where she might be

they find her

tell me I have to leave

counseling for me

anger management for me

Later on

She tells me to stay

unless it ever happens again

It never does, but

she keeps drinking

moody

angry happy sad up and down

never satisfied

impatient

demanding and hard

belittling and mean.

I left all that as a boy

but, now, in love

I can’t leave her

my heart beats

in a hollow

relationship

year after year after year.

Posted in family, Life, love, madness, marriage, My Life, poem, poetry, relationships | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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