Friday, September 10, 2010

No Beaver Here!

I left some really juicy stuff out of this ones so let's all work together on getting me that book deal so you can read it, lol :-)

All things considered life with divorced parents, a father I saw only on Sundays and a mother new to the work force made for a relatively easy transition for me. My dad was lost. I know that now. It took him a while to get himself back on his feet. Someone in that kind of despair can do little to support four children and an ex-wife. As usual I was kept in the dark about most things, seeing as I was seven that was probably wise. However, there a couple of things that I remember that clearly indicate that things were getting serious, if not dire. For example I remember finding out that my mom hocked her wedding silver to keep me and my sisters in parochial school. And I recall it being touch and go for a while as to whether or not we would be able to stay in our house. In fact at one point it got as far as there being a For Sale Sign in the yard very briefly, which Renee, who has never liked change all that much, would promptly remove and hide somewhere. However, life had to go on and my mother was new to the work force and for women who got married at nineteen and had no college education I’m sure the options were limited. Still, she managed to get work. An old friend who was the station manager of a radio station, no doubt charmed by her personality as well as her plight gave her a job at the radio station, which I thought was very cool because she got free trade at lot of restaurants. Fancy ones even, where I could get a Shirley Temple.

My mother started to blossom in this period, I do know that men came into the picture right away. I learned young that my mother was beguiling to men. One of the first ones I remember meeting was a man who was a theatre professor and had a young son, a toddler. I’m not sure why that didn’t work out but I do remember he was very nice. I also remember that he took us to a Juice Newton concert, which just goes to show you, everyone comes into your life for a reason. Meeting these men never felt awkward or threatening and they always treated us to fun things, however, it’s like they weren’t real to me. Better yet, it’s like they weren’t important. I was not looking for a new dad; in fact I can’t even recall missing my old one. I am sure if I’d been older it would have been an entirely different ballgame, but I was so young I was able to detach. Trust me, I made up for it in my twenties when daddy issues hit me like a ton of bricks, but at the time I just went with the program. I never considered these guys as anything other than nice men who liked my mother and took us to movies. The only time I got annoyed was when my mother insisted theses guys try and spend one on one time with me, fearing that with my father so emotionally unavailable I was going to suffer from lack of a male role model. I dreaded this. First of all I was a very shy kid, uncomfortable around people I didn’t know very well. I was a regular mama’s boy, always clinging to her leg. Secondly, these attempts at male bonding always proved to be the most boring events for me. I did not care about getting to know these guys, I was seven for Christ’s sake, and inevitably they would start talking to me about sports or fishing or building some sort of nonsense and immediately my mind would drift away. Didn’t these people know I had coloring to attend to? I mean who was going to color in just the hair and clothes of the characters in my coloring books if I wasn’t there to do it? Then came Jim!
Life at home was becoming chaotic, four kids is hard enough, when one of them is Alli that chaos is doubled. The older two girls we’re left in charge of Alli and me quite often and needless to say things didn’t always go smoothly. Big Al was going through puberty and becoming more and more difficult by the day. She and Pam made a particularly combustible combo. I spent a lot of time in la la land to avoid getting caught up in the crossfire. My mother was under the impression that Pam was the most solid and least affected by the sudden change in our family unit therefore put too much on her shoulders, especially since the reality was the exact opposite and she was spiraling out of control when no one was looking.

Renee did not respond well to the idea of our mother dating Jim. It took some time before she ever fully accepted the situation. I was eight years old and all that was perceivable to me was that this really nice man named had fallen in love with my mother and wanted to marry her. I really liked him; I thought he was a lot of fun. Every Friday night he would take my mom Alli, and I to some place fancy, like Pizza Hut. You remember Pizza Hut in the early 80’s? It was all dark and velvety, and you could play the juke box and Ms. Pac-Man and walk out with leftovers and a Flintstones glass. After dinner we’d go to a movie or to the mall. These Friday night events became quite a weekly tradition, and because them, and Jim’s ever growing presence I started to feel a stability that I was too young too realize was lacking. Still my mother was resistant to his frequent proposals. In fact, there was period when she broke it off entirely. This was the point when the course of our family’s entire future would be set. My mother enjoyed dating and enjoyed the attention of men and was free to pursue that and see where it would lead. However, there were a few discerning factors. The financial burden of raising four kids, a young boy in desperate need of a father figure, and a ticking time bomb named Alli who was just about ready to blow. What Jim did, and as an adult I see the manipulation in this, was simple, he helped. He provided my mother constant, often suffocating assistance at a time when it was most crucial. Therefore she relented, and allowed for herself and the rest of us to be rescued.

Mom and Jim were married in September of 1985, Alli, after spending some time in a hospital and a failed attempt a boarding school was back at home, and thanks to the right balance of many pharmaceuticals was doing rather well. Finally a school, right in our own backyard was a fit for her. Pammy had just started college and Renee was happily in her second year. The stage was set for the beginning of a lovely stable new life for us. The wedding of mom and Jim was beautiful, I was ten years old when they were married and since that time Jim has assumed most of thr roles of a father. He supported us well. We always had great vacations, and Christmases, and birthdays. He has shared twenty-five years worth of ups and downs with this family. He is the person I call when I have a question about income taxes or when I need to know what a carburetor is. Jim became a part of this family without questioning anything. He has helped my mother with Alli during all of the roughest times. He has accepted me and who I am without flinching. Jim filled my need for a father in many ways. Not all, but many.

My dad fell off a cliff. No, I’m not being symbolic; he really did fall off a cliff. As family legend goes my dad was staying with some friends at a cabin at a lake not to far out of town. The cabin being rather primitive had no plumbing, so in the black of night, after having one too many, while searching for the outhouse my father took a swan dive off a cliff. I do not mean to make light of this, he could have died. In fact his back was broken in the fall. My aunt and uncle had a cabin on that same lake and dad would take us there a couple of weekends each summer to spend time with the cousins. Every time we’d go out on the lake in a boat we’d get to the spot where he fell a sort of silence fell over my cousins and I, we would just stare at the cliff in awe. It was almost a moment of reverence. Well, as reverent as one can get on a pontoon. The only reason I bring this up, is I remember being taken to the hospital to see him. I’m not sure if my parents were divorced yet or just separated, but he definitely was no longer living at home. There was a woman there, all I remember about her is that, she was introduced as my dad’s “friend” and that Alli promptly interviewed her on her tape-recorder.

My point is neither of my parents stayed single for long. The year I was in the fifth grade was a big one. Both of my parents got re-married. My father married a woman named Shari, who ironically enough bore more than a passing physical resemblance to Lady Tremain from Disney’s version of Cinderella. Before Shari my dad was a pretty sad case, I realized that even in my youth. He lived in a bare, dingy little house and floated from job to job after he was forced to sell his bar. I was sad about that because to me the bar, which I only ever entered when it was closed on Sundays, meant I could eat beer nuts and Heath bars and play Centipede while my dad did work. Aside from the occasional trip to the lake most of the time my dad and I spent together involved picking me up on Sundays and taking me to a movie. He met Shari when I was eight or nine years old. She seemed to be the catalyst for him getting his act somewhat back together. He went back to school and became a nurse, that is pretty admirable. Basically she told him what to do and he did it. He needed someone to make his decisions for him. The drawback to that is that these decisions rarely took his children into consideration. I liked Shari, but I was somewhat leery. Still that year stability not only re-entered my life, but both of my parents as well. Dad and Shari bought a house with a pool, and being ten years old this bought my dad quite a few extra points with me. I was seeing him somewhat frequently. We would swim, and play games, and watch movies. R rated movies, which was my mother was unyieldingly strict about. This was the most consistent time between my father and me. Still we never really connected. He did not know how to talk to me and I was a little bit afraid of him. The way you’re afraid of any big, mysterious creature you’re not fully comfortable being around. Plus he never took an interest like a father should. Other than our visits every few weeks, he took no active participation in our lives.

As I mentioned before, after some time spent in “the nut house” as we eloquently refer to it in our family Alli was home and doing well thanks to a tremendous amount of medication. We do love us a good mood stabilizer in my family. After years of trying, and fighting, and starting over she felt she had found a school where she truly belonged, a school for the developmentally handicapped. Alli was fifteen at this point and you could go to this school until you were twenty-one. Renee was in college, and after one semester Pam decided to postpone college and travel the country singing with a band. With the girls gone it was just Mom, Jim, Alli, and I in the house most of the time. These were to be the most stable and seemingly normal years my family was ever to achieve. The four of us were almost the Cleavers. At least what the Cleavers would have been like if Beaver had worn pajama bottoms on his head and pranced through the yard singing show tunes, or if Wally had been a hypersensitive teen-aged girl doped up on Lithium. And if June said fuck a lot. When my mother hit mid-life she developed an affinity for foul language. By the time I hit my teens my newly designed family was intact and relatively stable! However, I still had school to contend with.

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