the son of a thief

This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence, the second the 4th of July, the third is called The sewing machine and the curio cabinet.

A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.

now that you’re caught up, here we go…

It was difficult for me to reconcile my feelings when my uncle died. I hate to say it, but yea…elated covers it. I was a mixed-up 13 year old kid and I lacked maturity. I was relieved that a man that I hated out of personal experience and a steadfast devotion to my father (and the truth) was gone. I was happy at the prospect of being able to see my cousin and hang out on Railroad Avenue again. Unfortunately, I had only considered my angle. My selfishness had clouded my judgment. I hadn’t considered how my cousin felt about it.

All of my cousins were devastated. To this day I struggle with reconciling how powerful the paternal bond is and how they could love a man like my Uncle. The comparison’s are easy, I just had to compare him to my own father. My Uncle was mean, violent, closed off and capable of some pretty white-trash shit; my father, who was not much better off financially, was kind, pleasant and a very decent man. That aside, my cousins were grieving. Little did I know that part of their grief would be to “dig in” on the lie. I would soon find out that I still wasn’t welcome on Railroad Ave.

I was the unwelcome son of a thief.

My mother had a theory, which she shared with me during a moment of despondence. Jealousy. My father, and this is not an opinion, was the only success story in the family. Margie married a poor man with little earning potential and remained in the poor home with uneven floors and plastic on the windows that she, Ellie and Dad grew up in. Ellie was destined to live with her parents forever. Dad, on the other hand joined the military, got a good job when he got out, married his high school sweetheart and bought a house. In support of her theory, she told me that we were regarded as “lucky”, and “the rich ones”. I found this amusing, we were stable and I never wanted for anything, but we were lower middle class at best.

I saw Mike at school. He took the loss of his father really hard and I left him to it. I don’t think he fully understood my contempt for his father and when he talked of him it was all I could do to put on a fake and sympathetic face. It was a tough time for me as well. I thought that once the Wicked Dick of the West was gone, everything would be great. That was not to be the case. Even if Mike welcomed my family on Railroad Ave, the rest of the family did not.

The sewing machine and the curio cabinet


This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence and the second the 4th of July.

Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.

Now that you’re caught up, here we go.

The Sewing machine

Have you ever seen a TV show in which the scene is a car pulling away and all you see is a child in the rear view looking out the rear window in disbelief, exaggerated by hands in the window?
Well, that was me.
I had just been ripped out of one of my favorite places after watching my father get into a shouting match and endure an expletive-laden verbal onslaught over something that he was as confused about as I. Of course, he at least knew what the accusation was. I myself did not. Until mom sat me down.

My drunk uncle had accused my father of stealing a rare gold coin.

The whole thing was incomprehensible to me. There were two glaring improbabilities of this situation. First of all, my father was not a thief. Nobody would ever believe that. Additionally, I don’t believe that he ever had it. If he did, he would of drank or gambled it away. Yet, he pursued his campaign against my family with fury, vitriol and astounding longevity. It would be years of threats against us and his family should they betray him and have contact with us.

I felt awful for my father and I was angry on behalf of him. He was deeply hurt and it was hard for me to watch as he processed it. I was also sad that I had lost my childhood hangout and most important, I had lost access to my cousin Mike. It felt as if I had lost my best friend. To make it worse, I had no idea at that time how long it would go on or how bad it would get. What I did know was that my Uncle wasn’t letting it go. His anger and resentment would begin with forbidding his wife and kids from speaking to any of us, the punishment was explicitly clear. He would beat them. He threatened to kill my father. Months would turn into years and his anger never subsided. It would result in my father eventually filing a restraining order against my uncle.

A little about Uncle John. I have tried up to this point to write this as if my cousins were reading it. I want above all to be fair. In that vein, perhaps it is a little unfair to call him my “drunk uncle.” It would be more fair and accurate to call him “that drunk, wife-beating, child-abusing rapist piece of shit Uncle.”

A father of six, Johnny (John Jr), Debbie, Cindy, Greg, Laurie, and Mike, he was a controlling “I’m home, my dinner had better be on the table or there will be hell to pay” alpha asshole. The first anecdote to illustrate this that comes to mind is a story my mother once told me.

My mother is a gifted seamstress. Margie, after years of watching my mother make her own clothes finally asked her to teach her how to sew. My mother loaned her one of her many sewing machines to use. One fall afternoon, as they were at the table sewing, my uncle came home from work. After he stopped at the local watering hole first, of course. He had a pretty good glow on. He entered the kitchen, ignored my mother as he always did, and demanded to know where his dinner was. Margie politely and cautiously told him that she lost track of time and that she would get it in a minute. My uncle picked up the sewing machine in front of her and threw it across the room, shattering a curio cabinet and many of the curios within. Margie stood in horrified disbelief, my mother fled the house and quickly drove home.
It was no accident that the POS picked the curio cabinet as a target. It was a hand me down to Margie and it was dear to her. They were very poor, there weren’t a lot of nice things in the house. He meant to hurt her.
He succeeded.

This pales in comparison to the many beatings he gave her. It was also no surprise to find out later that he sexually abused at least two of his daughters on multiple occasions. I certainly remember the beating he gave Mike when he found out that he and I had secretly gotten together for a game of basketball. Mike shrugged it off. I was horrified.

It was the last time we got together until Middle school. My Uncle couldn’t do anything about that.

A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain.

I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.