Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always been an angry guy. Angry, morose, depressed, sad…I’ve just never been happy.
And for lack of a better way of putting it, I’m tired of it.
Of course, the question then becomes, “How do you fix it?” If anyone’s got an answer, I’m all ears. I’ve spent tons of money on doctors, medication and booze to attempt to figure out why I’m so broken, why I can never be happy with what I have, why does my brain work the way it does.
And so I’m doing something potentially very stupid. The readers of this blog tend to be my closest friends, so they’re the ones who have to deal with me when I’m being angry, morose, depressed, sad…generally just an all around shithead. So I’m going to tell them (and anyone else who reads this little experiment of mine) a few “incidents” that may have shaped me into the angry little fucker that I am.
I don’t think this is going to be a fun ride, so if you’re looking for the funny, you’re going to have to wait for another day.
My parents divorced when I was 3. What I didn’t realize until much much later was that they had somehow figured out the perfect weekend child transfer that’s so tense for divorced parents who don’t want to have to deal with each other. Simply put: they didn’t deal with each other. Friday morning our mom would drop my brother and I off at the babysitter’s house with our stuff for the weekend, and dad would pick us up Friday afternoon. He’d then drop us off at church on Sunday morning. My parents never had to see each other. It was that way until I was about 9.
Now, you must remember, back when I was growing up, kids didn’t necessarily go to day care centers. You had housewives who stayed at home and set up a playroom in the basement and their family took care of a certain number of kids at a time. We had a main babysitter, then we had backup babysitters in case something came up and you couldn’t go to the main babysitter.
It was in that setting that when I was 8 a Very Bad Thing happened to me. In all honesty, that Very Bad Thing is somewhat irrelevant, but for those of you who need a visual, just imagine that the babysitter’s 11-year-old son burned my face, and now all my attempts to grow a much-desired beard are met with a very pronounced bald spot.
Ok, now that you’ve got a visual…
It was the aftermath of the “burning” that shaped me. First, I told my mom. She told the babysitter. And the shit hit the fan.
First, the babysitter’s son said I could burn him back. I didn’t want to do that. It hurt, why would I want to do that? I guess that was his way of saying it wasn’t a bad thing. He was wrong. I knew it when I was 8, and I know it now.
Second, the babysitter’s 13-year-old daughter started treating me like shit. I remember a very generalized hostility, and specifically I remember playing hide and seek, and when I found the girl, who was somewhat in charge of watching us, she looked at me and called me a bitch.
Remember, I was 8.
Years later, we received an invitation to the girl’s high school graduation and my mom asked me if I wanted to go. I said no, that she kind of treated me like shit.
But that was nothing compared to what the babysitter herself did.
Not long after I was burned, and something had clearly been said to the son, and somehow it got to the daughter, the babysitter called me in to talk to her.
“I talked to my son.”
“Ok.” In fairness, I wasn’t going to have a real intelligent input into this conversation because, you know, I was 8.
“He said he didn’t burn you.”
“My son does not lie to me.”
I WAS FUCKING 8!!!
So basically, at the babysitter I had been with since birth I had been assaulted, been told the assault wasn’t that bad because I could do it back to him, I was ostracized from the other kids by the babysitter’s daughter, and the babysitter flat out told me I was making it up.
Not surprisingly, not long after that, we had a new babysitter. I don’t think I understood. All I knew was that I wasn’t burned again and I liked where I was going everyday (the bitchy daughter notwithstanding). All I was told by my mother was that there were insurance issues.
We didn’t completely disassociate with the family. I remember going over to their house for something like a wrapping paper sale, and like I said, we were invited to high school graduations. When this happened, I didn’t understand why we had to leave because it didn’t happen after I said something.
Looking back? I have no idea how many kids were burned either before me or after we left. I have no idea if it happened to my brother (although in a drunken moment I mentioned it to him and it doesn’t sound like it did). I don’t know if my dad knows. And I sure as shit don’t know why my mom didn’t take me out of that house the day it happened.
It’s not entirely fair to label this “abandonment”, but I don’t quite have another word for it, so I’m going with it.
After the “burning”, three things happened in a ridiculously short time span. My best friend moved away, my dad took a job in Illinois and my grandfather passed away. Luckily I had grown up since the other incident and was more equipped to handle it.
I was 9.
You can’t help your grandfather passing away. He was 71, he was sick, and it wasn’t totally unexpected.
And you can’t help your dad getting a better job opportunity in a bigger market (he worked for a PBS station), for what I’m sure was more money.
And you can’t help it when your best friend’s father – your church’s minister – starts banging his secretary on the sly and his wife demands that they move back to their old town or she’s going to tell the entire congregation about your wandering penis.
To be fair, I didn’t know about my minister’s infidelity until much later, because that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to a 9-year-old. At the same time, up until my mother told me this angle to the story, “Pastor Dave” was a bit of a father figure. I remember watching the famous 1-0 Tigers-Blue Jays finale in 1987 at their place, and him trying to get me to be an acolyte (perhaps the first sign of my fear of being in front of people).
But let’s be honest, someone’s best friend when he’s 9 isn’t likely to be his best friend when he’s 29. The timing really sucked though.
When my grampa died, my mom was in Florida dealing with the family and my dad was in Illinois interviewing for his new job, which meant my brother and I were staying with my stepmother. My mother endured the scorn of her crotchety uncle because she flew back to Michigan instead of staying with the family. My mother’s reasoning was pretty sound: she wasn’t going to let her kids be told that their grandfather had died by their stepmother.
Obviously it was my dad moving to Illinois that left the biggest scars. Instead of seeing him every weekend you’d see him at Christmas and Easter and Spring Break and Thanksgiving. And you’d leave your friends for the summer to go sit on the couch with only your brother and no friends in Illinois and you’d come back and one of your best friends had started dating your girlfriend. Was that my dad’s fault? Nah. But you can’t help but see situations where parents would turn down better jobs because they wanted to be near their kids and think, “Wait, what about my dad?”
Around this time we started spending a lot of time with a family we knew from church (anyone who knows me will find so much of my history being tied to church somewhat ironic). The oldest daughter – we’ll call her Becky – was a nighttime babysitter and something of a big sister. My brother and I would stay at their house for the day during the summer until we were old enough to stay at home alone. Becky came with us to the Indy 500, to Cedar Point…she was closer to me than my step-sisters were (which isn’t really fair to my step-sisters, but we were never close).
And I watched her parents beat the ever-loving shit out of her.
If I recall the situation correctly – I was in the area of 11 or 12 – one of Becky’s friends was around and Becky wasn’t. Somehow the friend revealed that Becky was seeing a new guy. A new guy the parents hadn’t met. This did not go over well. Becky’s mom asked me if I knew about the boyfriend. I told her I did. When Becky got home everyone scattered, except me, who was always more connected to the two older kids (including Becky), and Becky’s parents confronted her in the kitchen.
They smacked her. They kicked her. They whipped her with a towel. The mother and father took their turns on her – I specifically remember one of them saying, “I want my turn.” After that we ran some errands, and Becky was practicing driving in a snowstorm when her mother called her an idiot for not clearing off the windshield wipers.
These were supposedly solid church going folks, family friends, and I’d just witnessed them beating the shit out of their kid because she’d kept a boyfriend secret from them. Becky wasn’t perfect, but I never understood why someone would deserve that.
A few years later Becky ran into some issues and moved in with another boyfriend. I saw her at the mall, she complained about her mom, and then she was gone. She moved to Ohio and never looked back. I once asked one of her brothers if he’d heard from her and he said, “Nope, and I don’t want to.”
What Does It Mean
What does all this mean? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. I know I’ll find myself Googling these people late at night, hoping some of them are living miserable lives alone like I am. I have no idea why I do this…I’m never going to message them. People who walk out of your life 20 years ago probably aren’t yearning for you to look them up.
Maybe these things made me who I am. Maybe if I had a big sister influence I wouldn’t have so many problems talking to women. Maybe if I hadn’t had a babysitter call me a liar when I was 8 because of something her son did I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. Maybe if I didn’t go through a streak of abandonment when I was impressionable I wouldn’t be afraid my friends are going to leave me behind.
Or maybe it means nothing. My life is not that bad. I’ve got friends whose parents died too soon, whose siblings died too soon, who have had to bury other loved ones. And god knows it wasn’t me on the receiving end of a savage being. Maybe I just fall into that group of people who will struggle through life wondering why things are so tough and I’m looking for an explanation that isn’t there.
Whatever the answer, something needs to change. My friends don’t deserve what I put them through, and I don’t deserve to look at myself as an abject failure when I’m really not. Maybe this is the start of something new. Or maybe it’s not.
I guess we’ll see where things go.