The following post is my most candid to date. I don’t apologize for my language, my anger or my lack of empathy. It is a story that in large part formed the person I am today but it might not be what you are used to seeing from me.
While writing about my cousin Mike yesterday, therapeutic as it was, I triggered myself AGAIN. It seems that whenever I write of family, another incident bubbles to the surface and I have to write about it.
Mike is very important to me, I hope I did him justice in yesterday’s post. He was a major part of my life for many years and I will always have a soft spot for him. He, 1 of my 6 cousins, is the only one I talk to.
Railroad Ave was the street in town that everyone spoke of but rarely walked down. It could have been taken directly out of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. A small dirt road, littered with giant potholes that resembled small ponds after a rainfall, occupied by the poorest residents of my hometown. The street consisted of some people with menial jobs, and some multiple generations of poverty dwellings. It was not uncommon to see barefoot, filthy children playing on the street with makeshift toys as adults who should be working looked on and drank beers from a dirty cooler parked next to a lawn chair. It wasn’t uncommon to see me there either, on that street was the same house my father grew up in. My aunt and cousins now lived there, 8 of them in a small house with dirt floors and plastic on the windows.
I didn’t care if it was poor, I didn’t even know. I was young and just happy to be with family. My father’s sister and her drunk-ass beater of a husband and my 6 cousins were family. I never thought to compare our houses, I was just a child. Mike was the youngest, he was my best friend. I learned how to play baseball, horseshoes, and basketball on that street. I first rode a bike with no trainers on that street, with Mike, wobbly and barely in control as I averted the massive water-filled potholes. It was a magical time for me until my drunk-ass uncle took it all away from me.
I was ten years old. Our family, per tradition, was spending the 4th of July on Railroad Ave. The cousins and I were doing our thing. Lighting off firecrackers, eating hot dogs, sneaking a peek at cousin John’s dirty books while playing Lynyrd Skynyrd records. Soon we heard yelling and we all ran to the picnic area. I was speechless, my uncle was shoving my father, yelling belligerently at him as my 100-pound mother and aunt tried to separate them. My uncle, spitting mad, screamed at my father to get the hell off of his property or he would get his shotgun. Nor knowing what had happened but not wanting to stick around for the shotgun, I ran to the car behind my mother and father. Of all the things I didn’t know at that moment, I definitely didn’t know what a formative moment that would be in my life.
I would find out that night that my Uncle had accused my father of stealing a rare gold coin from his house. This coin would end up being the focus of much speculation for many years because no one, including his wife, knew of it and it didn’t make sense because he was a nasty drunk who would have sold it for beer money. But all that mattered was that he believed it, and I refused to believe it. My father was an honest man, someone had to believe in him.
My family was reeling from this event. My father, ever the honest man was dumbfounded and, perhaps most importantly, he was hurt. My mother was deeply concerned for him and for me. We would soon find out that my uncle had issued a fatwa of sorts against my Dad. Apparently, his drunk friends swore to kick my father’s ass if they saw him. His family was forbidden to speak with mine and Mike was told specifically that if he and I were seen together he would get a beating. It was so bad at one point that my father had a restraining order against my uncle.
It was a horrible time for me. I lost my best friend, I felt terrible for my father and I worried for our family’s safety. The man was truly unstable. Dark days indeed.
to be continued…