Monday, May 1, 2017

Early Imprints

The person who doesn’t learn from their own sordid and painful history is doomed to repeat it, inflicting repeat performances on their loved ones until everyone is exhausted and at their wit’s end. The end of wit is the beginning of dystopia. The past is never past. In fact these days it’s right next to me, tapping me on the shoulder. Normally I would shrug it off and continue blithely on my way to wit’s end, but this time I’m going to strive be awake and live larger. Every moment is a teachable moment, but I’ve been playing hooky.

First I was whisked away from the woman who had just given birth to me. Hey! I was just getting to know her! Then I served six months in an orphanage run by Boston Children’s Services. Just before Christmas I was adopted by a couple with a farmstead in southeast Massachusetts. They decided to give up their riding horses and hunting dogs in exchange for a brood of rowdy kids – two boys and two girls. I was adopted first and was and still am the oldest. Never the boldest and more wizened than wise at this point in my life.

The leather razor strop.
Discipline was hardcore during my upbringing and – being the oldest – I received the brunt of the punishment. By the time my younger brother and sister started acting up my parents were too old and tired to swing the razor strop anymore. Besides, at some point I found the razor strop in its hiding place and I tossed it into the woods. Being leather, I’m sure it was broken down by the forces of nature and eaten by microbes. Who knows…maybe there was still some my ass DNA on it, composting along with the leather instrument of torture itself.

I was an obvious disappointment to my father for failing to be manlier. I gave hunting and fishing my best effort, but I only saw those activities as means towards survival and not as sport. Catch and release this motherfucker! His workshop remained untouched by me and the gardening was seen as a thankless chore, especially since I wasn’t fond of vegetables. Mom tended to boil the hell out vegetables until they were drooping off the fork and entirely unpalatable, to me anyway. Weeding the garden, mowing the lawn, feeding the animals were all just chores to me.

I was born a bastard and I’m still a bastard, in more ways than one. Mean old bastard is an appellation I’d like to try to avoid as an epitaph. I’m trying my damnedest to avoid repeating my father’s behavior, while at the same time creating my own version of the angry father, who is never happy. I’m still trying to right those wrongs. My heart still cries out in pain at the lack of love and understanding between my father and me. He is still alive – he turned 96 last January – but the distance in miles and years is verging on the infinite at this point.

Fathers and sons. Husbands and wives. Love and hate. It’s all a one big emotional cluster-fuck and finding clarity may be the most difficult task that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve been avoiding this dark wood for years now and now that I’m in the midst of it I have to be very mindful of the usual pitfalls, usually of my own creation. I’m a master at sabotaging my own well-being and those around me. Misery loves company unless Misery is killed by Kathy Bates. Then Misery becomes the bacon on the dish with the good eggs.

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