Like Father like Son

I know people that openly talk about how their childhood sucked. Did it, really? Maybe in hindsight, that’s possible for some but not for me. That wonderful era before I morphed into a sullen, zit-faced chronic masturbator was a wonderful time.
My mother loves to talk about what a happy, easy child I was. I love the whimsical look on her face when she does. I suppose I was.
Looking back, one thing I remember is that I was able to amuse myself, which of course made my mother’s life easier. Between what seemed like miles of Orange Hotwheels track set up in my room and the dirt track that I created under the big pine tree at the top of the yard I could occupy myself all day with my cars alone. It’s interesting, I know I had a lot of interests and favorite toys as a little guy, but the Matchbox cars really stand out. It was a manifestation of my overall love for cars in general. I shared that with my dad, it was our thing.

Some of the Matchbox cars in the late’60s and early ’70s were silly, with huge tires and engine blocks sticking through the hoods. They were likenesses of the Funny Car craze. I liked them enough but I had a real taste for the classics from an early age. I liked the ‘Vettes, the Mustangs, the El Camino’s. I recognized them from the road, where I sat in the backseat of the family Truckster and just looked at cars. By the time I was 8, I could identify most cars by brand and model simply in seconds, even at night by their headlights alone. But as a little guy, maybe 4, my understanding of the American Muscle car was nothing less than precocious.
Just as grown men put their ‘Vettes and Mustangs in their garages and wipe them down with a cloth diaper, I also put my nice ones away when playing outside. They were to be looked at and shown off to my friends. Most of my time was spent playing with trucks. Pickup trucks. Tow-trucks. Cement trucks. Car-haulers. These toys looked like the real ones, I always picked them that way. It wasn’t a lack of imagination, it was an homage to my favorite truck driver, my father.

Is it a surprise that I spent a large portion of my career in some form of the car business?

It’s not you

Three powerful words from my daughter.
“It’s not you.”
I added another creamer to my coffee, took a sip and let it sink in. She’s right, it’s not a good look for me. Cheater. Adulterer. No thanks. It was then that I made the decision to end it. My daughter always keeps me on the straight and narrow. I trust her for the truth. And there I had it.

She’s known about my relationship from the beginning and knows all of the details. She kept quiet at the beginning because she wanted me to be happy. But she had an opinion waiting for me. When I told her that I was feeling conflicted and was thinking about ending it she put it right in my lap by calling me out on my character. In a way only she could. Blunt and to the point. And also correct. That’s not who I am.

I ended it, whatever it was, yesterday. It was heart-breaking. We had spent some really special times together. We had real potential as a couple, if not for one minor detail.
Her husband.

I did it by text. Texting is all we have had lately. She works full time and isn’t around for me to see her on weekends. Those rendezvouses we had, fleeting and precious, were few and far between. While I didn’t use the words “break up” she knew where I was going with my words. As if she was expecting it. Just like that, it’s over. We wanted it to work, we really did. But there was just no way. At least not now.

I can’t believe what I just threw away in the name of “doing the right thing”.

A person who thinks and acts along Grey lines may have been able to pull this off. I tried to be that guy. The Grey lines guy. Who practices “relative morality”. It was a perfect situation for that. They were unhappily married. He was horrible and controlling in everything he did to her. Grey lines guy could rationalize all of it. I can’t.

I’m not black and white in everything that I think and do. But I have a firm grasp on right and wrong. I believe in codes. The Guy Code, for example, which clearly states that you do not fuck another man’s wife. I may not know him personally but I respect him enough to honor the code. It’s tragic that he is too ignorant to see what he has before him.

She’s amazing. If I actually thought I had a chance with her I’d fight with the strength of 20 men to get her. She always deflected but I think she’s beautiful. We were wildly attracted to each other, when allowed we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. We shared so many interests and activities. We liked the same music and movies. We waxed poetic about the things we wanted to do.
Be seen together in public. Go for walks. Socialize as a couple. Snuggle on the sofa. Watch silly movies. And of course see each other whenever we wanted to.

None of it could ever happen and I began to realize that unless I saw some serious signs that she was actually able (she was willing, we talked about it) to leave her husband then it was just unfair to all involved to continue. She needs her husband right now for what he can provide. Things that I can’t.

So it has to be this way. Love is just not enough…

within those 5 miles

Early on, my entire life occurred within the radius of 5 square miles. But within those 5 miles there were worlds of differences. Not one to dwell on the issue of class, but I think it’s the only way I can describe it.
First there was the lower-middle class life that played out in my house. I call it lower middle class because we lived in a section of town that we could barely afford but kept up with the proverbial Jones’s. My Dad worked all the time to afford it, to give us the better way of life that he never had. That life was still going on across town. The middle-lower part of town. “The Ave”.

“The Ave” consisted of 7 houses. All owned by some member of my family. A family so large that to this day I can’t remember who was related to who and how. 6 houses shared one thing in common, they were in very poor condition. The 7th was a overgrown lot that contained the collapsed remains of the house my father grew up in. His father had moved across town (within the same 5 miles) with his sister who he disliked. But I digress. The last house on the street was where his sister lived with her drunk wife-beating husband and my 6 cousins. The youngest was Mike. He was my age and my best friend. His house may have been absurdly overpopulated, with plastic on the windows and broken linoleum floors but I didn’t know better or didn’t care. I was there all the time. I can barely come up with an early memory that doesn’t contain adventures with Mike on “The Ave”.

3 miles away, in a different town lived my mother’s parents. It may have been a short journey but on it you can clearly notice that the houses looked better maintained, the yards bigger and lawns greener, the roads better paved as you drive. Just on the other side of the town line, on the left side were a row of houses that were dwarfed by the ones on the other. As if they didn’t belong. This town was big money. Pro athletes from all 4 major Boston Sports teams bought houses there. Along with bankers, doctors and lawyers. My grandparents owned one of those small houses. Like my parents they were barely clinging to their middle-middle class lifestyle.
But they belonged. My Grandfather was content, my Grandmother sometimes acted as if they were from that other side of the street, the one with the bigger houses. I would not go so far as to call her a snob, but she had her moments.

The parents

I was a happy kid. All kids are happy I suppose. Until the world sinks its teeth into our asses and fuck us all up. I was a product of the late 60’s and early 70’s when all of society was in turmoil. The highly unpopular Vietnam conflict raged both overseas and at home. The youth of America had stood up and defied convention, rejected the status quo and had asked hard and polarizing questions. We were divided as a nation and it wasn’t only on the Capitol Mall, it had metastasized into every community and neighborhood. Mine was no exception. We had neighborhood boys go off to fight, some at the urge of their fathers and some in defiance of. I watched the news, I didn’t get much of it but I saw more explosions and violence than in any of my Saturday morning cartoons. I can’t say that it affected me either way, but I knew it was there.

Vietnam was a formative event in my life and is essential to my story. In fact, my birth kept my father out of it. Don’t get me wrong, he had his shit packed and was ready to fight but my premature birth kept him home. As the story goes, my pregnant mom was living with her parents while Dad was stationed in Texas. My Grandmother was very careful about the evening news. The non-stop stream of violence was unsavory to her and she tried to protect my Mother from it. Despite my Grandmother’s effort to censure, my mother saw a newscast about our escalation in Vietnam and that our “Advisory” troops would soon double. It was said what bases would be sending troops. Fort Sam Houston was among them… Boom…Labor. I arrived.
My Dad never properly thanked me.
The cultural turmoil that occurred on the Living Room Idiot Box had permeated our lives also. Dad was a good “If you don’t like America then get the fuck out” American. Mom had peace signs on her Bell-Bottoms. Archie Bunker held tremendous sway with my Dad, Mom left the room when he was on, always muttering “idiot” under her breath. “Conversations” about the state of the country happened all around me. With them, when friends were over, even with family. I learned early on that people argue, shit can get loud, and how to block my ears.

When he wasn’t yelling, I worshipped my Dad. The dead mystique is a funny thing. Because he’s gone I tend to forget about the yelling. It wasn’t ok. I hated it. Mom hated it. But we forgave it because underneath it all he was a very good man. I was at his side like a loyal lapdog. He emitted strength and toughness. He was manly and I obviously had a penchant for that. I loved how hard he worked. Before I had ever heard the words “work ethic” I had dubbed him the king of it. It was so much more than how many hours he was out of the house; it was the times that he worked on our house, the times that he helped a neighbor or a friend with yard work or building something for someone. I learned at a young age that a man helps people, often as the right thing to do and not just for money.
Towards the end of his life my father, weakened and nearly destroyed by Parkinson’s, grasped my hand and asked me if it bothered me that he was out of the house so much. I told him the truth, I never had anything but respect for him for it. It saddens me that he had to ask me that. But I’m glad he did. It was just another moment that I found myself looking at him with unmitigated respect and admiration.

Especially when I learned about his childhood.

The good old days

It all starts with the childhood right? If my B.S. in Psychology taught me anything, it is that a Shrink would think that all Fucked Up Shitheads (from now on will be known as FUS) are the product of hating or wanting to fuck your mother. They would be wrong. I was the product of a loving home. I had honest and hard working parents. To my knowledge I never needed for anything.

My town was lower middle class at best. If I had to guess, we were on the lower-middle end of it. My parents bought our house when I was 3 and from that moment Dad spent every spare minute working on it. The man left the house at 5AM, got home at 6 or 7. Mom kept his dinner warm. I would sit and watch him eat, careful to point out that we had left the biggest piece of steak for him. Sometimes he was talkative, other times he was quiet as he ate. If he was in a bad mood he would still give me a wink to let me know it wasn’t me. When he was finished he put his plate in the sink and went to pound nails or cut some boards. God bless him, he was the hardest working man I have ever met. Ever.

Mom walked the tightrope between Gloria Steinem Feminism and the good housewife brilliantly. She wore her hair down to her waist (see Cher), opened her own doors and, once I was old enough, got her own job. But around Dad she was a traditional housewife. Don’t hate on that term, that’s what they called themselves back then. By traditional housewife I guess I mean that she cared for me, cared for the house and inexplicably took care of him as part of her marital duties. She did it because it had to be done and she wasn’t offended by traditional Gender roles. She had limits. If he got too “traditional” she would give it back. She was a very positive female influence.

We were a very social family. We were the house that all the ladies in the neighborhood would come to for coffee and conversation. They’d stop by with their kids in tow, looking for a cup of sugar and would stay for coffee and whatever baked goods Mom was able to whip up. It was great for me, my friends were hand delivered. I didn’t even have to leave the house. When there weren’t pop-in play dates, it was my Grandmother.

My mom and her mother had a great relationship. They were very close and spent a lot of time together. Because they were both married to workaholics, their time together meant more than I ever would have understood at the time. They were lonely together, if that makes sense? One thing that helped to pass the time was to dote over me. As it turns out, doting was my Grandmother’s specialty. She took me places and showed me off to her friends at the Senior Center. My memories of hanging with her go all the way back, and I attribute my love of Elderly people to her. We had nothing less than a wonderful and gratifying relationship. Unfortunately, my Grandmother’s doting was also the source of a huge rift in her relationship with my mother. A rift so large that it essentially molded my mother’s approach to me. To a degree, it would be a problem for me in my teen years.

They were good times.

Diary of a F.U.S.

In my last Blog I put it out there that I was going to work on recovering the raw and brutally honest nature of my earlier blogs. I used to be interesting, I think at least, to some people and it was often stated that candor, harsh truths and genuine storytelling was the draw. I told my story as a means of therapy. I mostly told of the events leading up to my utter collapse; the loss of my new Kidney, my Divorce, my job, my house and subsequent bankruptcy. I told a few stories about my past but not many. As it turns out, through my blog and some other life events I had reconciled a lot my anger, forgiven a lot of people (myself included) and I had worked myself into a better place. I almost liked myself. I was close to being OK in my own skin.
As far as my blog was concerned it felt like my story was almost told.

Sure, I kept blogging but it was hit or miss. I had run out of (or so I thought) the funny stories that made the best blogs. I was searching for a new format, even if it meant no format at all, to make me want to write. I was uninspired.
Then I met a girl.
She made me feel accepted and loved.
I loosened up a little (I’m generally wrapped tighter than a take-out burrito).
I told her that I can be myself around her.
She asked me what that even means.
I couldn’t answer her, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

I can only come up with one thing. It took me waaaaaaay too fucking long to get to that place where I can feel safe and “myself” with someone. My Personality Theory 101 class could tell me that I must have some heavy historical baggage. Maybe it’s because of that formative incident in 1982 when someone wrote on the Men’s room wall where I worked Bill Mac is a Fucked Up Shithead. My mind goes back to it all the time, after all these years, and always offers the additional, and totally unhelpful “you are, aren’t you”?

Am I? Am I a FUS? I look back on the Highlight Reel and I can certainly think of some things that I want a redo over. You know, the ones that play in your head at 3 AM? I suppose most people get over things, I was born sans that ability. I remember every regrettable thing that I’ve done and I don’t need anyone to beat me up over it, I was there first and it’s already done. Why do I continue to dwell on them and why have I not achieved some sort of closure? Why can’t I forgive myself?

We all have a story to tell. Our story explains everything about who we are and why we act or think the way we do. I think it’s time to go back to the beginning of my story. Look at those memories and look for some answers. The story of Bill, the Diary of a Fucked Up Shithead

One word or two?

Is Shithead one word or two? Asking for a friend. To be fair, I looked it up. It’s one. I just thought it was a novel way to start a post.
shithead[ˈSHitˌhed]NOUNvulgar slang a contemptible person.

I’ll never forget it as long as I live. 17 years old, working as a Grocery clerk. It was break time and I was relieving of myself of my morning coffee. As I began to take that blessed leak my eyes turned to the FB before technology, the men’s room wall. To my shock, there it was…Billy Mac is a fucked-up Shithead (not my real name but you get the idea) on the wall for all to see. I have never gotten over that moment. I was less angry than I was conflicted, I mean was I?

Why bring this up now? You know, despite it being one of the most formative moments of my life that is? The best I can figure, it stems from a conversation which I had with my lady a few weeks ago. I simply told her that I can be myself around her, it was a pleasant reckoning and it had pleased me in telling her. It was if I was admitting that I had not been “myself” with others before me, my ex wife included, but was liberating despite the additional questions it raised. It was received well but I think it meant more to me than to her. You see, it was unusual to her that I would say that, that I had not been comfortable in my own shoes in relationships before her. I suppose it may be weird to a lot of people if asked but the fact is that I am just recently, despite my advanced years, getting comfortable with who I am. And that is something that I have to reconcile. But it is a good feeling nonetheless, to open myself up to the possibilities and to the larger picture. In the longshot event that our relationship comes out of the shadows I know that I will be able to put my best foot forward when the time comes.
If it comes. There are more waves than smooth sailing ahead. She is still married, has made no mention of leaving him and I will not mention it because it is not my place. Only she can make the decision, it is totally inappropriate for me to influence her in any way. There are so many things that she would need to coordinate were she to leave him that simply don’t concern me. The timetable is hers and I have nothing to do at this point except to see what happens next. Hell, all I have is time. In the interim, I think I’ll tell my story unfettered and from the beginning. The ballad of a Fucked-up Shithead. It will be a smash.

the biggest don’t

Don’t share your blog with anyone. Just don’t. You lose your freedom.
I think…

It’s funny who I’ve let into my little sacred corner of the internet. All of my children have been allowed. I don’t write about them often but when I do it’s always positive.
Some of my friends read it. I have no problem at this point in my life if my friends read my most intimate thoughts. They know me for the most part but I’m sure they learn things about me that they didn’t know, maybe what they learn will be what they remember most about me.
My ex-wife will never see it as long as I have anything to say about it. When I began this thing it was essential, and perhaps partially unfair, that I vented my frustrations with my debacle of a marriage that consumed with the appetite of a freshly woken Bear in the Springtime. It helped, it served a purpose and is the bedrock of the relationship I have with her now. The anger that consumed me was vented, discussed and, amazingly enough washed away. She sees the finished product, no reason to show her how I got there.
My lady friend (remember her?) reads my blog. It suppose it is inevitable when you tell someone that you have a blog that they ask to read it. It’s a no-win that you enter into because if you say yes then you have offered the equivalent of dropping your pants on a cold day by saying yes and you invariably are trying to hide something if you don’t cough up the URL. She’s read a lot of it, going back surprisingly far. She’s read the good and bad and she’s read a couple about her. I have been candid, but how candid can I be about her without scaring her off?

I rarely will say anything about anyone that I wouldn’t say to their face in my blog or in my personal life. I do not fear anyone accusing me of saying anything behind their back. I hate gossip and I choose to say nothing if that is my only option. I am, however, a man of strong convictions and I need a space to vent like anyone else. Especially if it is a hot or controversial subject. But I really need a space to be myself. Raw, brutally honest, candid, fearless; all words used by my readers to describe my blog. As I’ve lost my anonymity I have lost almost all of those characteristics.

Here’s the thing. This one is special. She allows me to be myself. She is not judgmental, in fact she is accepting. She actually likes me for me, she appreciates who I am for all of my faults. This naturally relaxes me, a truly rare accomplishment, and in the process allows the prospect of a truly healthy relationship. I’m not sure I’ve ever been relaxed enough around anyone, ex-wife included, enough to say that.

Either way it has allowed me to take a hard look at myself and in my inventory came up with some things. I’m inspired to tell my story. All of it. From the beginning. Prepare yourself for Raw, brutally honest, candid, and fearless again.

As Chuck Norris once said, “I’m going to hit you with so many rights you’ll beg me for a left…”.

work work work

I know I’m jumping the gun here. I am possibly years away from a transplant. My possible donor is just that. Possible. As a person waiting for a benevolent soul to donate a vital organ, I am keenly aware that promises are just that and people don’t always deliver on what they say when they are trying to be nice. It’s not negative, it’s realistic. As much as I hate dialysis, if I look past it I will cause myself a whole lot of hurt. I need to focus on following the rules, I invariably feel better when I do.

According to my Social Worker at the clinic, in the event of a transplant I can remain on SSDI for a full year, at which time I am expected to return to work. I can live with that with just one concern, I am disgusted by the Insurance plans being offered by employers these days, high premiums and even higher deductibles make me wonder if I can get a job that offers anything close to what Medicare does for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not that guy, the one who looks for easy street via benefits. But out of pocket expenses and quality of care do matter and I don’t want to go backwards in that area. Of course, it really is too early to speculate on this, technically I am at retirement age and I may not be required to go back to work.

But still, I may be able to go back to work someday. The prospect of it excites me. If Uncle Sam kicks me off the federal tittie I will survive because if nothing else, my eclectic (a nice way of saying all over the damn place), work history will give me options. If I’m not a victim of ageism…

Before it’s too late

Often when I take a break from blogging it is because I can’t think of a topic. Sometimes it’s just laziness. Sometimes I just get busy, I’m pretty active for a guy with nothing to do. Then other times I just don’t know where to start.

Last week I suffered so many slaps upside the head that I just couldn’t sort my thoughts. It started with the death of a dear friend, then another old friend of the family passed, and then to top off the shit sandwich that was my weekend I found out that my best friend in the world and his young daughter had contracted the Covid-19 virus. I was floored both metaphorically and actually. I didn’t know where to begin.

The death of my friend, a elderly Freemason whose company I have enjoyed so often and so greatly was not a shock. He was elderly and in declining health. Quarantine issues made it difficult to visit him and he wintered in Florida but I had no excuse not to talk to him more frequently and I am feeling guilt even though I don’t feel that there was anything unsaid between us. It is the worst part of losing someone, wondering if you knew where you stood with them. It is THE reason that I endeavor to always leave someone as if I will never see them again, on the level (as we Masons say) and free of anger and resentment. He was my buddy, regardless of our age difference and I feel that I am a better person for having known him. I miss him terribly.

The family friend was less of a blow. He was 92 and passed peacefully. But he meant something to me as a memory of my childhood. My parents used to Square Dance (mock away I won’t resent you) and they met many solid friendships through it via conventions at Campgrounds every Summer and retreats in Winter. I can think of 5 or 6 families that I met on those occasions and the many lasting friendships with their children that I cherish now. Frank was one of the ones that stands out in my mind the most. A father of 5 awesome kids and a all-around wonderful family man, he represents an era gone by to me. I was so upset that I wasn’t able to go to his funeral. Not being able to attend funerals is one aspect of the Pandemic that is hard to reconcile.

The news that my best friend in the world contracted Covid absolutely floored me. The news may have numbed us with all of the constant talk and actual people can fade into just statistics but by now most of us know someone who has contracted it. Sadly, many of us have lost someone to it. We always hear about those people in the high-risk category. My friend is in it. He’s a big, strong man but he’s overweight. He has a heart condition. He is always tired and his immune system is vulnerable. When I heard the news, I won’t sugarcoat it, I had some very bad thoughts about worse case scenarios. And for his daughter, whom I love like my own daughter…her diagnosis scared the ever loving shit out of me. Fast-forward to today, everyone is on the mend. That is a huge relief. But I was scared.

If you are reading this, I want you to know that I care about you and I hope you never have to endure a weekend like I had last week. Tell those close to you how you feel. Make phone calls. Send emails. Don’t put yourself in a position where you know that you could have done more. We’re social creatures and we need each other more than ever.