Last week I received a phone call that everyone eventually receives. It is not a phone call we want but it is a phone call we have to take. I shall not go into the details of the conversation or who was on the other end of my wireless device informing me of the bad news, nor will I say what the bad news was/is. I will say that the phone call was familial in nature and it got me thinking about my family. Now, I think about my family a lot. But most of the time it is in the “oh, I wonder what so-and-so is doing?” or “ya know, I remember when…” But not this time.
Nope, not this time at all.
You see dear reader, I, like most genetic offspring of the late nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies am the product of a broke home. And if you are from a broken home then you will understand what I am about to talk about, if you are not, then you will hopefully have a little more knowledge on how peoples actions seem to have not just ripple effects on the lives of others but tsunamis of emotional trauma into the lives they were once responsible for.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, right… my family.
When my folks got divorced I was in the third grade and my mother was the parent who got custody of me and my three sisters. This had to have been tough for her and I can’t imagine the sleepless nights she had while trying to figure out how she was going to take care of four kids, work full time at a business she didn’t know too much about and manage to have time for herself, her friends or even have a date or two with a guy who might be interested in a woman with four insane kids. As for my father, well, he went on to make his own way in the only way he knew how and my sisters and I saw very little of him.
I’ve heard stories from my father and others about some of the visitations we had with him during the mid-nineteen-seventies but I remember very little of those brief weekends spent in rural Wisconsin. And to be honest, I really don’t recall seeing much of my mother during those years either.
What I do recall is a steady stream of babysitters, doctor visits, fights, bad musical taste by my sisters (Sorry ladies but Donnie and Marie is really not good musical taste, neither is ABBA for that matter. But, this is just my opinion.) I remember lonely days and nights trying to fit in with kids who had either already went through the same shit I was going through or who did not understand what I was going through because their parents were still together. In love, fighting the good fight, and trying to make a solid nuclear family in a post nuclear world.
Summers were mostly spent with my pals, we’d party, get into trouble and try to avoid our siblings. During the school year we tried all sorts of sports only to discover we preferred to make fun of most of the athletes and their hypocritical nature of being good in school and terrible in the world.
By the time I became a teenager the bright eyed innocent child I was had become a tarnished, acne faced teen who knew where he came from and was attempting to cope with the fact that his role models were as flawed if not more flawed then he was. It was tough. Back then people said I was experiencing “Growing Pains.” I say I was becoming a realist with each passing day. I never thought I knew everything, but I sure carried myself as if I did.
I saw flaws everywhere, in my sisters, my parents, my teachers, my friends and myself. So I rebelled. What would you have done?
As the years passed and High School days turned into Fugue filled nights I found myself back in touch with my father. We both tried to rebuild the relationship we had when I believed him to be the greatest person in the world. It didn’t work. We fought. A lot. Cops were called; chairs were thrown into the soft parts of the flesh as easily as words were spoken in anger. We were both broken individuals with broken lives.
At the same time, I had become even more estranged from my mother and her new life. She was in the process of resetting her life. New husband, new house, new career, same kids except one, that would be me. She was doing everything in her power to dust off her past and make a bright shiny future in the Promised Land known as the nineteen-eighties. She was broken and trying to live her life with open wounds covered with masking tape and tissue paper.
All three of us seemed to be comfortable without each other in our lives.
It was not until the nineteen-nineties that I made a decision to do everything I could do to make sure both my parents would always be in my life in a manner I was comfortable with. It was not easy. Now, I know my folks should never be together in the same room let alone the same state, that would be like taking a jar of liquid Trinitrotoluene aka TNT standing in the epicenter of an earthquake. Nothing good can come of it.
But, through a lot of patience and talking, I managed to build bridges of communication to the givers of my life. My mother and I seemed to have built a sturdy, comfortable overpass of respect, love and care for each other.
My fathers and my relationship… Well, I guess it can simply be called a relationship of truce. I love him but I don’t always agree with him. I want him as much a part of my life as I can but I don’t want to sacrifice the person I have become or the life I have made just to make him happy. After all, I am not here to make him happy. I am here to make sure my wife and daughter are happy and taken care of.
So where does that leave us? Oh, yes, the phone call, well, the sun seems to be setting on someone with whom I’ve had a lifelong stormy relationship with and it is bugging me. I try to never have regrets in my life and for the most part I don’t. I have attempted to live by the words of Rory Cochrane “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” And this seems to be the case. I seem to be thinking of all the things I did not get the opportunity to share with this person. Of all the times both of us had other things to do or our egos would not allow us to understand what the other was trying to do or say. Yup, we seemed to have goofed this one up.
So, with all this said, I shall wrap this up with a tear in my eye and the lyrics to a Harry Chapin song in my mind.
I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then
Have a good week everyone. And call you parents, wherever they are.