I’ve quickly found myself becoming an angry old man. You know, the kid of one who shakes his fist at the clouds and yells at kids to get off his lawn. Considering I was an angry kid and an angry adult, this should come as no surprise to me or anyone who’s been lucky enough to know me for a while. Still, maybe for the first time in my life, I find myself attempting to relearn how to think and go about my life without judging others and perhaps be a tad less harder on myself.
Forgiveness and closure are powerful tools that have brought me more peace than I could have ever wished for. While I’m still learning and trying new ways to balance life. Having overall lower exceptions when it comes to myself and others has been a game changer. I still struggle to find that balance and overall acceptance that, no matter how much I wish it, we do not live in a perfect world.
As I recall. We were standing in the back yard of the home he and my Mother purchased when they were first married. At the time, my Dad had gone from having a steady city job driving a bus to a re-invented, self employed business man.
I recall being somewhat angry and showing some aggression towards my Father. Suddenly, perhaps understanding and wanting to quell my anger. My Father took my rather small hand in his, opened my clinched fist and placed a hollow point bullet (the same one you see pictured on the right.) without speaking a single word. While I didn’t quite understand its true meaning at the time and it’s come to mean a lot of things to me over the years. These days, I realize that he was trying to teach me that our anger, if not managed, can lead us down dark and dangerous paths.
While a short time in retrospect.,(maybe five or six years.) my Father may or may not have bent the rules of what some might consider legal. During that time, my experiences and the people I met along the way enabled me to see the world much differently from what I was being taught in Catholic school. It taught me that things are seldom black & white and that most situations contain a lot of grey areas. The things I experiences and exchanges I was given access to, taught me more than I would have ever expected. Til’ this day, more than thirty five years later, I still keep that hollow point on the end table by my side of the bed. It has never since see the chamber of a gun and surely never will. When I do pick it up and let it roll around in my palm, I often think of my Dad and that important part of our lives. The stories, the characters and the many things life taught me.
Whenever someone likes one of my posts, leaves a comment or decides to follow the blog, I receive an email notification from wordpress. Though this has become standard for some time. I admit enjoying the sense of anonymity that comes along with the comfort zone that accompanies the feeling that I can share a thought, opinion or experience with people I don’t really don’t know. So, imagine the surprise when I checked my email this morning only to find out that my Mother was following me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and feel so lucky to have her in my life. That said, she does not and never has respected my rite to privacy and personal space. I have to admit, I had a lot of feelings regarding her visits and initial decision to click the follow button, including putting an end to the blog and refraining from continuing to post my darker, personal biography. In the end though, I’ve decided to stay the course and write whatever the fuck I want.
As I was going through a couple of file boxes containing old tax returns and medical records. I came across a copy of the school newspaper that featured the article they asked me to write about my experiences and observations of my days, weeks and months as a terminal inpatient at an uptown Manhattan hospital.
Though I was unaware that the school even had a student based newspaper at the time. I agreed and proceeded to pour my heart out about the most trying and challenging experience I had been through in my somewhat short life. After penning and handing it off to visiting teacher. It was delivered to the forces that be and sent to the newspapers staff to be printed and distributed.
Imagine my shock when upon delivery when I realized that my words were not only edited, but rewritten to fit in with the dogma our schools faculty were forced to teach.
While I’m pretty sure my 7th grade English could benefit from a little grammarly love. But having what was being interpreted as my own words, twisted and fabricated to describe my recovery as a result of prayer, faith and God’s mercy. It would seem or be suggested that my becoming ill was part of God’s will to make me a stronger, better Christian. An act on their part was a fabrication and flat out lie. I had no idea the sisters, priests or clergy would go as far as committing libel to spread their message of fear, control and suppression of free speech or thought. While it wasn’t the first time the school or church committed one of the many sins they instructed us to abstain from and swiftly punished us for acting out. It found their avenue of doing so, rather tasteless.
Looking back, it’s hard to remember exactly why I didn’t take my case up with the schools principle, Sister Mary Patrick, or even threaten to take them to court. Maybe it had something to do with the fear of retribution on the schools part. Perhaps being just twelve years old trying to survive a terminal prognosis brought on by a non operable brain tumor. I don’t know why such a predictable action on the part of those put in charge of indoctrinating so many young minds to believe in half truths, fairy tales and flat out lies would warrant one’s anger, but it did.
After a week recovering from a food poisoning incident in Seaside Heights the weekend prior. We headed to Gravesend with a new found sense of balance and a hearty appetite. Throughout our train ride to Brooklyn I found myself growing more and more irritated due largely to some of the behavior of some of the riders seated around us. The family of five who seemed to be fine with their boys writhing around in his seat while smearing his cheetos all over the seats, windows and polls while using the available seating space as his personal germ spa. Or the completely lost couple unsuccessfully tried to find their destination via speaker phone. Each stop a confusedly loud exchange of “!!!%&^&*!!!”. Add to it the nose pickers, fast food consumers and steady flow of panhandlers and I was about to come undone. To top things off, the regular lecturing on tolerance and why I should neither speak up nor be even slightly effected by “Ignorant People.” I was quickly becoming my own worst enemy. Sitting there in my own boiling hot kettle of poisonous thoughts. Luckily, for everyone involved we finally reached our intended stop, With some much needed fresh air and our pizza related Nirvana in sight, My anger began to dissipate. After multiple slices at L&B Spumoni Gardens we headed back to Manhattan where we enjoyed the rest of the day in the West Village and Chelsea before eventually heading home. While my day was, by no means, perfect. I came away with some important lessons that I hope weren’t wasted on an old, sometimes unappreciative curmudgeon. One can only hope. Enjoy every slice. JD