The Luck of the Draw

I see he journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

The other morning early 2:15 AM I was awakened by an alarm on my phone and then the storm/tornado warning sirens. I was in a panic. Living in Texas almost all my life I have grown accustomed to the storms that can be so menacing. I love them. I love violent thunderstorms. I am one of those crazy guys you see standing on their porch watching the skies toss and turn like a clothes dryer.  They do not really frighten me. You can’t tell me though that there is no climate change. The storms used to never be really bad at night and a couple of Decembers ago we had several tornados and hail so thick it looked like a sheet of ice sliding from the rooftops. I can’t really see the skies anymore. So I started to panic, putting on shoes, sticking my magnifying glass and my phone in my pocket and turning on the news to see where it was. I was lucky in that the storms were north and south of me but for a brief moment the winds were severe and then the rain came.

I graduated high school in May of 1981 and started classes at the University of Texas at Arlington that September.  It was huge, and there were so many people, so many cultures so many languages being spoken, It was perfect for me. I would never have done well at a small school. It was easier to fit in because you really could not fit in as there were just too many people. It was so easy to be invisible.  I walked into my American History class and it was a small auditorium. I could sit on the front row and not a single person ridiculed me because no one cared. I could ask questions, make comments and no one cared, no one called me names. It was my education.

Naturally my dad did not like my social work major and he spent a lot of time talking to me about doing something different with my life. I still wanted to work with the developmentally disabled. My dad was never going to understand that. He wanted me to make money, that is how one is measured in his estimation; how much money they make. If I could have been a social worker who made two hundred thousand a year he would have never said a thing to me. Being a social worker was going to disappoint him, was going to embarrass him with his friends. I tried to conform, to do what he wanted of me so that he would be proud of me. What he thought about me still mattered, what he said to me still could hurt although by then I was way past crying. I remember when I did graduate that I brought him my degree.  Yes I still remember I wanted him to hang it on the wall. I wanted him to tell his friends that I had graduated college. He told me he didn’t want it. His exact words in a laughing voice were “I don’t want that thing.”  My dad has this wonderful defense of the things he says, the mean things when you bring them up to him. He jut denies saying it and that’s that. Naturally he says he never said it.

I bounced around with a couple of more majors before turning back to social work. I almost dropped that major for good except for a strange fluke in my schedule. I started taking social work courses in the spring of my sophomore year which was actually my third year of school because of the major changes and taking classes I did not need. I took two social work classes, introduction to social work and the first direct practice class. In a fluke intro was the second class scheduled while direct practice was first. It was luck of the draw, The dean of the undergraduate program taught intro and never was there a more boring disinterested instructor. I hated that class. Direct practice though was everything. With every student there  is that search for what they want to do in life, or validation that what you have wanted is actually right. Direct practice turned a giant light bulb on that never went out. As part of the class we had to volunteer for two hundred hours at a social service agency. I chose Child Study Center in Fort Worth,  a wonderful place that serviced the developmentally disabled that I wanted to work with. As a volunteer I did nothing groundbreaking. I washed and sanitized toys, cleaned up after teachers and students alike and did it with a smile. I was there that semester in every spare second I could give and did way more than two hundred hours. The class and the volunteer work changed the course of my life. My dad was not going to be proud of me but there was a completely different motivation burning inside of me. I wanted to be a social worker.

Waiting For a Beginning

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

My left eye is the really bad eye. The vision is worse in the left eye. Sometimes after cataract surgery there is a build up sort of like driving with a foggy window. It is not a new cataract and the fix is really easy and not invasive. It is a YAG laser that punches a small  hole through it and it clears the lens up. I cannot have this procedure because of the silicon oil in my eye so right now at least I am stuck with this condition. It would be so much better if I could have this done. My left eye has been through a lot. The three or four doctors who have looked at it usually say something nice to me after they have seen the retina. It is surrounded by scar tissue all the way around. I have had so many surgeries that my eye really won’t open all the way. I did not have big eyes o begin with so now its worse, usually my doctor has to pry it open with a q-tip. It gives my face a lopsided look sort of like a Picasso painting misshapen and ugly without the strange beauty. I don’t take selfies and I hate looking at someone straight on. It does not take a genius to figure out that I will be alone forever. No one would want to look at this mess of a face.

When I started my senior year in high school I knew nothing about college. I did not know what the SAT’s were, or how to apply to college. I literally thought you showed up and they let you in. I had not had any sort of discussion about college with my mom. I just assumed it would all work out. I flirted with joining the army. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot. You only get to take that test once so the recruiter was hesitant  to let me. I had nearly scored a perfect score on the initial test so I persuaded him to let me take the flight test which I also nearly aced. I am good at taking tests. I have never had any test anxiety. Unfortunately I  disappointed him when he found out about my asthma.

I went and spoke to my counselor and she told me she was wondering when I was going to come and see her. She told me about the SAT and about applying for colleges. I had always wanted to be a special education teacher, since my earliest years in elementary school. I took the SAT in November. In the words of Arlo Guthrie I had gotten good and drunk the night before so I could look and feel my best. I scored high enough on the first attempt where I did not have to tae the test again. I qualified for any school I wanted to attend. I applied to Stephen F. Austin because my friend Guy asked me to. He and I arranged everything, dorm room and application. We were both accepted pretty early and I excitedly told my mom about it. It was the first time I had spoken to her about college. She said no because she could not afford to send me there. She said I could apply at any local school or ask my father for help. I knew he would not help me. I ended up applying at the University of Texas at Arlington which is an incredibly large university in the middle of Arlington. It is mostly a commuter school but it had enough student life to be appealing. They had no formal education program there so I chose social work not entirely sure if I would stay with that major or even the school. Getting accepted was the easy part. I had no doubts.

I could not wait for graduation. I wanted high school over and done with. I was tired of the cliques and the snobbish behavior of people who just looked down at me. I was tired of asshats shoving me in the hall saying hello to girls who just stared at me  like I was stupid or  some sort of disease. I guess I have always been misshapen and ugly. I wanted release from that hell even if it meant going to a new hell. On the night of graduation I had chipped in on a keg with a few friends and we drove around with this in he back of a pickup. There were a lot of parties that night ad at one of these I decided that I had had enough so I parted ways and walked home which happened to be nearby. My mom was surprised to see me but I told her that I was just done and ready for something new.  I think she understood. I was home by midnight and it was like the clock striking ending one part of my life and promising me something new on the other side. High school was over.

 

Lost and Found: The Front Row Club

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

My vision is 20/200. I am legally blind by any state definition or federal standard. It is possible to google this and there are a couple of videos that put it a bit in perspective but I don’t think they come close to what it is really like. On an eye chart which everyone is familiar with I can see the big E and nothing more. Now my retina specialist has many different charts to keep anyone from guessing. Some of them have numbers. It does not matter as I can’t get beyond the first row unless it is one letter on the second but usually I cannot see the second row. Night is better and worse. If I am home there is comfort with the darkness and if I am out then all the lights, street traffic and car all bleed together. If I am sitting still this can be really pretty but when I am moving then it can make me dizzy, disoriented or just give me a bad headache. I don’t get out much, no one wants to hang out and be responsible for a blind person.

High school scared the hell out of me, a bigger place for me not to belong. I had gained some really negative ways of dealing with friends. I stopped friendships before they discovered what a loser I was. I had very few friends throughout high school. Nothing seemed to go right my sophomore year. I had one friend and we went around being as obnoxious as possible. Football was a nightmare. I switched positions to wide receiver and cornerback and soon got lost in the crowd. There were over a hundred sophomores playing foortball. My dad was away a lot each week traveling to some small town to help the post offices mange their books. When he was home the tension was unbearable and eventually my parents split. My sister had graduated and was gone. I knew of no one I could talk to. To compound this my parents left it up to me to decide where to live. It should have been an easy decision to stay with my mom but when all you have wanted was to have your dad love you and want to be with you I made it harder. My dad showed up one day while I was replacing shingles hat had blown from the roof. He talked to me while I was sitting on the roof and he on the ladder. He of course wanted to avoid any child support so told me whatever I wanted to hear and we spent some time together over the next couple of weeks.

I broke my mother’s heart when I decided to live with my dad. I remember the day I left, and I wet to say goodbye she was laying on her bed facing away from me. I can see it today. Things with my dad were bad from almost the start. I was an anchor and he would leave on the weekends, throwing some money at me ad leaving on Fridays and returning on Sundays usually late. I had my permit to drive but he did not want to drive with me so he got me a car and then told me not to get caught. It was way too much freedom for a fifteen ear old. I was drinking on weekends and staying out sometimes all night. I was falling apart on the inside lost. Looking back I cannot imagine why I did not kill myself but the thought never crossed my mind.

Some time that year when it was still cold, probably early winter I went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the 7th Street theater in Fort Worth. We took rice, water pistols and newspapers and I experienced that movie for the firs time. It also might be the only time I watched that movie in its entirety. There was a group that gathered on th first two rows that called themselves the Front Row Club. You had to be invited to belong and sit down there.  Most of them dressed up and they called all the lines. They did not engage in the silly squirting of water pistols or throwing rice and none of them carried a newspaper. They were all friends, some obviously gay or lesbian but many were straight. It was their free spirited attitude towards everything that appealed to me. What they did was more performance art. I wanted to belong with the front row club. The only way was to see the movie a lot, dress up and be as crazy as they were. I saw the movie ten times or so before I came up with my costume and by that time I had met a friend who was in the front row club name Mike who was a senior at a high school in Fort Worth. We stated talking before and after the movie and he introduced me to many of the front row club including a transvestite named Jamie who knew more bawdy songs than anyone I have ever met. Many times Jamie would stand in line with us and cut up and then leave before the move started. I started wearing an old straw cowboy hat and dressing like a Transylvanian. Eventually I was invited to sit with the front row club.  Then one night I stripped to gold underwear on a dare and did Rocky with half the theater chasing me. Yea I belonged. .I was also surprised I was not arrested.

Being fifteen and hanging with the front row club I guess compelled people to question my sexuality which as messed up as I was never really came up as an issue to me. I was straight. Maybe it was the gold underwear. Jamie said I was the straightest person he had ever met. It was not the front row club it was people from school that came to see the movie, with water guns rice and newspaper. I started to get the question which I answered so it surely did not win me friends at school although it was surprising how many of these asshats would show up  and ask to sit with the front row club.

Things came to a head with my father after I was arrested for minor in possession in a Podunk yown nearby. I eventually met with the judge and he let me off. My father grounded me for a month and then proceeded to leave telling me I had to stay at home. Yeah, right, sure I could be trusted to do that. It just led to more trouble and eventually after a lot of name calling by him I left that miserable situation. I ran to the front row club, and for a week stayed at various homes and apartments including staying at Jamie’s for two nights. For all those afraid of people different than they are, Jamie never once hit on me or attempted to molest me. Instead he stayed up late talking to me about everything that I was feeling. Someone on the front row club took me to school and someone else would pick me up. My friend Mike did a lot of driving but I could not stay at his house. He might have been more messed up than I was. Sexuality was a big issue with him. He was gay and he knew it but his parents had such impossible expectations for him that he was in serious trouble. It was Jamie who convinced me to call my mom and she attempted to play tough parent on me but she wanted me and I moved in with her. It gave me such stability to be with her. I was very close to her and could talk to her about anything. I was always truthful with he.

I kept going to Rocky on weekends throughout high school although somewhere in my junior year I stopped dressing for the occasion. I did this with my mom’s permission. She met many of the front row club including Jamie who hugged her and made her laugh. We tried to formalize the front row club but as soon as we did it started to fall apart. Most of the group were young adults and finding purpose to their lives. The leader whose name I don’t recall despite sleeping on his couch one night was nearly thirty and owned a business. So the old timers drifted away and seventh street changed the rules on us and started to kick us out if we got too unruly. We used to crawl across the stage when they talked about insects at the end of the movie. It was hilariously fun. I started attending sporadically, stopped dressing up except for some rare occasion but every time I went back someone knew me and treated me like royalty. I even dropped in at another theater that did midnight showings and found they knew me there too, the transylvanian cowboy. Surprisingly the last time I went was in college and I was recognized there by a grrl that had been on the periphery of the front row during its heyday. I think altogether I saw the movie a little over 150 times..

I thought about the front row club for a long time. They rescued me when I was lost. I know that AIDS took its toll on some of them. I ran into Mike in college. His parents had sent him to therapy to cure him. He was a mess and I seriously doubt he is alive.  He did not want to hang out or talk but I never saw him again even on campus.

The front row club helped me see people for who they are without labels. To me they were just friends, some gay, some straight, some questioning some not. I was a lost soul and they treated me like I belonged, like I was a friend. We are all on a path, following it blindly sometimes, making decision and branching off. Occasionally our path converges with others. These meetings impact us and we either see people for who they are or label them. I find their are more kinds of blindness that just vision just letters on a chart. any choose to judge, quote biblical scripture to rationalize their own blindness, their own hatred. They create laws to restrict people out of fear and a desire to control. The world is more than just letters on an eye chart. The Front Row Club taught me much that I value today.

Just Hit Somebody

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I am afraid of places where there are lots of people. I love concerts but the crowds are intimidating so if I go it is to smaller venues. I was happy and even blessed to see Peter Hook and the Light. I am not a huge joy Division fan but I adore New Order. It wa at an old theater now a concert venue. They took all the seats out so they could pack people in and by the time he came on it was shoulder to shoulder. It was an amazing show. When it was over everyone headed to the exit. We were near the front so it was jut a swarm of people in front of us all trying to get out. I would have been happy to let the room clear but my friend was tired of standing and took off. Until we got outside I felt panicked and so afraid. I hate that feeling but such is the adjustment to blindness that people do not understand.

Late in my sixth grade year there was a group of teachers and coaches that came over from the junior high to more or less orient us in what to expect when we went there for our seventh grade year. Almost all of the boys gravitated towards the coaches who talked about football and if we wanted to play we needed to get our parents permission and a physical from our doctor. My father had taken me out of football after my fourth grade year because I was too small and he did not want me to get hurt. I had little chance of getting hurt since I played the bare minimum and after all it was pee wee. I knew that he was embarrassed of me and wasit  a waste of his time for him. It was one more thing that set me apart from others, one more reason for them to make fun of me. I wanted to play football. I wanted to belong. I attended the meeting and took the requisite forms. My dad said no, that I was joining the band and playing the Cornet. I pitched a fit, was smacked around and barely ate or spoke the next few days. I refused to play in the band. My sister came and talked to me, said if I played football I would get hurt. Getting hurt was not a big deal to me, not playing was a big deal. My mother against my father’s wishes intervened, signed the permission slip and took me to get a physical. Other kids in my class also told me that I was not good enough to play, was too small and un-athletic. Of that group of boys I would outlast them all. I was determined to play varsity football  in high school. That summer I wan almost two miles a day in the Texas heat to get ready.

There were a ton of kids playing and I was not quite sure where to play. I chose cornerback and wing back since we had to have an offensive and defensive position. There were four teams and I was on the D team (yep the last team). I played one game on fourth team and then in practice the next week got tired of being scared and started whopping people, hitting them as hard as my little body could. I was reckless and I did not care but my coach loved it and a day later I was moved to C team where I met Coach Tim Massey. Like everyone else on the team I soon hated him. He was mean and short with his players. He demanded a lot and it was his first year coaching so he had a lot to prove. For some reason he liked me instantly.

The next year with a lot fewer kids playing because of attrition the coaches in their infinite wisdom decided that my best positions were offensive guard and linebacker. I did like playing linebacker because we hit all the time. I thought I was escaping Coach Massey but he coached linebackers and the eighth grade B team. He was my coach again. During one game late in the season I was replaced because of two penalties and when I came off the field the kid replacing me called me a name and I hit him across the facemask. it happened quick and I was not sure if anyone had seen. It was the next day before Coach Massey said anything to me. He asked me what happened and I told him. I had a punishment but I forget now what it was but the worst consequence was seeing that Coach Massey was disappointed in me. For some reason this really mattered to me and I thought about it a lot. I wanted and needed his respect and approval. I had to face the fact that I respected and liked him.

The next year was freshman football but we were still at the Junior High. I bounced between A and B teams that year. It is my second favorite year of playing football. Some weeks I played both games. The B team won every game or nearly every game that year. One day during linebacker drills Coach Massey was in a particularly bad mood and we just did drills where one kid would run into a hole and the linebackers would pound you. It was nutcracker without the benefit of a blocker. Coach Massey sent the scrubs to push a sled after they lollygagged a few times into the hole. There was no way I would have done that because it would hurt too much so I ran as hard as I could trying to run over someone so the A team linebackers asked if I could be the runner all the time. Coach Massey agreed. So I ran into that hole as hard as I could for multiple reps. Coach Massey even played some games with the starters  pitching to me wide. H eventually gave me a rest but when practice was over he patted my back and told me what a good job I had done. I walked on air for weeks.

After the season Coach Massey asked me to be his aide but I had already committed to my favorite teacher. He still occasionally pulled me out of class to run errands for him. Having his respect meant a lot to me and it made a difference because I was increasingly lost, starting to drink on weekends and wanting to not be a part of the home life that was falling apart. Looking back Coach Massey would have been the perfect person to talk to but talking to people and telling them how I was feeling was a near impossibility for me. Looking back though I wish I had taken that risk.

I don’t know where Coach Massey is or even if he is alive and coaching or teaching and it does not really matter. It was his job to make a difference in our lives and I felt that, still feel it to this day.

 

Walls of Rock and the Dreaded SRA

I see the journey, the path that I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I had no idea of the things I would need to adjust to, having taken them for granted all of my life. For example, if you cannot see then putting toothpaste on a toothbrush or working a microwave become challenging. At least once a week I make a meal and fix a plate of food. I fix myself a drink of something and then I have to find my plate again. This is more challenging than you might think.

School brought many interesting things, good and bad. When I entered the first grade I did not know the alphabet, could barely count to ten. It was the school’s responsibility to teach me these things. Kindergarten was not required and I did not attend. I loved my elementary school. I might not have had many friends but I loved every one of my teachers. I was smart, really smart and I knew this right away. By the end of the second grade I had fallen so in love with reading that I had read not only all of the second grade books but the third grade as well. Reading was a joy.

By the middle of the third grade things were changing at home. My mom was working. I did not know just what a struggle money was until years later when my mom told me. We seemed okay though and then my parents announced that we were moving to a nearby community Hurst, Texas. It was a move of about five miles. We were moving to a neighborhood still under construction to a bigger nicer house. Naturally I had some concerns. Making friends was not easy for me and a new school meant new friends, another place I would not fit in or belong. Still there was also hope that everything could change for the better.

I was lucky in the sense that my parents let me finish third grade at my old elementary and that I met a friend in the neighborhood that had my back. Whether he was just kind, or that he realized my limitations I don’t know but I was thankful David was my friend. Hurst Hills Elementary was a different story. I had come from a traditional elementary where you went to a classroom and the teacher taught you everything. If you needed help with something you went to the teacher’s desk and got help. Hurst Hills was an open concept elementary. It was built like a giant stop sign and the external walls looked like someone had thrown a million rocks into wet cement. Inside there were few walls. There were three classes of fourth grade, three for fifth and three for sixth. There were no walls between any classes so you could see the sixth grade classes from the fourth grade side. It was competitive in everything and you moved from section to section depending on your level. The concept meant that if you were a fast reader you were not held up by slower readers. It was also the first time I had a physical education teacher and she too was competitive. She picked the best athletes and made them captains and they picked the rest of the kids. Gee guess where I was picked. It set me apart, made me someone who could be made fun of, someone to tease. There was also the new element that came to my attention. Boys were now aware of girls and vice versa. I could see that survival in this area was dependent on being a winner; being good at things and I was small, red headed with freckles pale skin and a terrible athlete. My life was hell.

It also became clear to me from day one that testing me to see what level I was supposed to be in was not in the cards. They just assumed I was stupid and I was placed in the lowest group in every subject. Complaining to my parents was not an option. It would have been seen as being a trouble maker. which brings me to the dreaded SRA. The SRA was the preferred reading task technique, skill whatever that the teachers used. There was not really a lot of teaching going on. They sat your ass in front of a machine that was set for your level and you read the words a they went across the screen, When the story was over you took a short test to show that you comprehended. If you struggled they just moved you to a lower level. I don’t know what level they started me on but it may have been one or maybe zero. The words literally crept across the page one three letter word at a time.. So I repeatedly asked the teacher to make it go faster but you had to complete the level and since I was maybe the dumbest human being on the planet I should go back and not create waves. I don’t know how long I endured this. Looking back it felt like weeks but it must have been maybe two weeks tops before I refused to participate any longer. I knew I was risking the wrath of my parents but I literally refused to move from my desk for reading.  Rather than talking to me they sent me to Mr. Thayer, the Vice Principal, a man who I revere to this day

Mr. Thayer was prepared to rip into me, give me licks even. Yes there was still corporal punishment. I was crying and terribly frustrated and he sensed there was a much greater issue than just a kid acting up. He consoled me. He was kind and he grasped my concern looked at my records which I assumed meant all my report cards from my old school and then escorted me back to class where he had a long discussion with the teacher. They put me in front of the SRA machine and increased the level, increased the story line from Tip stories to something a lot more interesting . It was pretty clear that it made me happy and that I was reading way beyond fourth grade. I don’t recall an apology from the teachers but I went from the lowest level in every subject to the highest and at last school was fun again.I  would learn later that the really smart people were also made fun of so while it helped me in elementary until I went to college I learned the fine art of not being too smart, not standing out so that I could disappear which is what I wanted more than anything. I wanted whatever would get me teased the least, disliked the least. It would be a long time before I felt a school administrator or teacher or counselor would really care about me.

Look Dad, Here They Come

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

Not too long ago I was out with a friend at a local sports bar, a hangout of sorts for a lot of people that I graduated high school with. On any given night there is no telling who you might run into. We had not been there long when a woman dropped by our table and began talking to my friend. It was a dark place like most sports bars and this woman kept glancing at me so I I felt that I probably knew her but did not have a clue who she was because I could not distinguish any features. She was a dark blurry figure to me. It was embarrassing. People don’t understand how little I see. I tell them I see big meaning that I can see big things but details are beyond me. I would rather have people just identify themselves to me instead of looking like I am being standoffish or just rude. I don’t have many friends so chasing people away is not what I am wanting.

When you are young you can’t wait to grow up to be old enough to do things that you have wanted to do for a long time. There are certain milestones unique to everyone like driving a car. One of the things I looked forward to was going bird hunting with my dad. Every year he went with friends leaving early in the morning and coming back late at night. There was a strange fellowship, a rite of passage to manhood about these experiences. They were comrades in arms, sharing big hunts. They were all so relaxed when they got home slightly intoxicated but they all had stories. One night they came back and they had come across a bunch of frogs so naturally they shot up the frogs so their wives could fry up some frog legs. I learned that I did not like frog legs and have not had them since. I remember though the frog that was still alive, with one eye shot out that was riding in the trunk.

Before I ever went I knew that my dad was an excellent shot. He did not waste a lot of shells and if he did not get his limit then it was because there just were not any birds. The firs times I was allowed to go it was without a gun. I was essentially a glorified retriever dog, running to retrieve any birds that my dad shot and putting them in his bag. I had to always be by his side and my dad would tell his buddies that I would see the birds first since you could shoot at first light and I had excellent eyesight. So I tried hard to see the birds first and let him know. Most of the time he saw them first. I didn’t care. Just being there was special to me. Being part of the group, all that manhood learning how to pee on the side of the road, learning about barking spiders and sipping beer from my dad’s open can when they took a break. They di not drink much during the hunt, maybe one when they broke for lunch or sitting in the shade when the birds stopped flying.  I loved every minute of it.

I was probably 11 or 12 the first time I carried a gun, a borrowed .410. I was taught gun safety from a very early age. That first year I remember so well, as we shot 110 birds. I say we because I was there. I shot 3 boxes of shells and never even bothered a bird. They stuck me out in the middle of a field and my job was to shoot and keep them flying. I was peppered constantly. It was a boy’s dream. Of course the best thing about the hunt was the cook out. My dad can really grill dove to the point they just melt in your mouth. I could eat way more than I shot which is not that big a deal since I rarely hit anything, but it was sure fun. Almost every great memory I have from childhood was centered around hunting with my dad. As I got bigger I could go quail hunting. We rarely had a dog, my Uncle Bobby always knew where they were. We would jump huge coveys and they would take off like a giant helicopter. It would make you jump.

It is hard to find places to hunt now. We used to just ask permission but now everything is leased. My own son is not so into it. He is a gentle soul I think. We did take him turkey hunting one year. He was maybe 6. He just wanted to wear a bunch of camouflage I think. My dad thought e was too small and young and would not sit still but he was great/ He was quiet and followed directions. We only carried one gun that year. My dad called and called and not a gobble did we hear. My dad was getting frustrated when we saw a hen in the distance possibly attracted by our calls and not long after we began hearing gobbles coming from a long way off. We were sitting in some plum thickets. I was worried they would come from behind us. We kept calling, they kept gobbling coming nearer. The hen was suddenly right in front of us, next to our decoy when my dad tapped me on the shoulder pointing to my left and putting up 1 finger for a turkey coming up the gulley towards us. Then he held 2 fingers up and then 3 and then I could see them coming. There were probably 12 to 15 birds coming. My dad said he had never called that many and we never called that many after. It was a once in a lifetime experience. They just kept coming and I leveled the gun waiting until they were close. Yet I missed. I was in shock. How the hell could I miss? My dad was now screaming hack another shell shoot shoot! I unloaded and managed to shoot one bird. My dad said he would never hunt with me again without hos own gun. My son said he wished we had brought a camera which we all agreed would have been very cool.  My son sad it was the coolest experience ever but wished we had not killed anything. I could understand that.

These things for many reasons but vision being at the top I will never be able to do again.

My best days hunting were always next to my dad, when I did see them coming first and I could say “Look Dad, here they come.”

 

The Magnifying Glass

I see the journey, the path that I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

My life is not particularly complicated now, mostly it is spent trying to see what I can. My vision is 20/200. With enough magnification I can see a little although that magnification gives me horrible headaches sometimes. Darkness is something I look forward to; however there are trappings of fear that lie there. Have you ever gotten up and gone to another room and then forgotten why you got up. You usually remember when you sit back down. The other night I went into the bedroom to get something and forgot what it was. I turned suddenly and ran into the doorjamb. I have ran into things in the night had both knees bloody because I could not see and was walking too fast. I ended up sitting in the floor and crying my dog whining next to me trying to understand.

At 1:29 in the morning on April 30, 1963 I committed a great sin, an unforgiveable act; one of those sins that you will never be forgiven. I was born. I know many people who feel the hand of God on their shoulder, directing them, loving them. I have felt nothing but God’s spite since my earliest years. There will be some who will say not their God, that I am wrong, that I don’t really believe that, don’t really feel that way. They will be wrong. God has his chosen people and I am not one of them and no doubt had I not been born it would have been a better world. There is a line from the movie Constantine that I never seem to get right so I will qualify by saying that I am paraphrasing. God is a spoiled child with an ant farm and a magnifying glass.  I feel that I am the favored ant, the one that gets the attention of the glass under the sun. My dad once told me that I should fall to my knees and pray to God. I did not tell him that I have done this throughout my life, praying for peace, praying for death but mostly praying for forgiveness, long sorrowful prayers of sadness and longing. It is a great source of amusement for God.

I do not know if I was planned or not by my parents. I was sickly and frail as a small child with asthma long before there were good medications to manage it. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother rocking me late into the night and my father’s voice from the hallway asking he to keep me quiet. More than once he told me that he thought I was faking. There is one great truth in my world, my mother loved me. But I was a boy and what most small boys want is to be something to their father. I was a disappointment from birth. I am nearly 54 years old and U have never done anything that my father was proud of. I have to think that is hard to do but I have made it look easy. My father is a wonder, I have always worshipped him, the guy everyone liked. I didn’t want to disappoint and I tried hard to make him proud but it was a losing battle. I remember every cruel and mean thing he ever said. I was afraid of him and fascinated at the same time. My father wanted me to play sports. He loved to play baseball and its Texas so football is king. He tried to teach me to play catch and when the ball hit me in the face he decided that I could not play and never tried again. Years later I have been asked a hundred times by every doctor I meet if I have ever suffered any head trauma. I say no but I think about every incident, the baseball, playing football. Its not the kind of trauma they are talking about. I wonder a lot though about what I have done to cause my vision problems. When I was six or seven I was signed up for football, geared up and excitedly was taken to practice by my dad. It was the only practice he attended, deciding right away that I was nothing. My mom picked me up after the second practice and I asked where dad was and was told he was helping out with the kid down the street’s team. Now forty eight years later I can still feel that pain, that sorrow and that feeling that I was nothing. God was laughing for sure as I rubbed the burn from the magnifying glass.

I attended an elementary school that was only a few blocks from my house. I walked to and from school. My sister was three grades ahead of me. In second grade a kid from the third or fourth grade took an interest in me. I was always small, stunted by the asthma tat afflicted me I believe. Anyway the interest this kid took in me was characteristic of the attention most kids gave me. He beat the hell out of me everyday for weeks. He was devoted to it. He was twice as big as me. That short walk home was one of terror for me. I dreaded school being let out. He would wait on me and pounce. Some days I would beat him to the spot and get home safely and other days I would see him waiting with that smirk on his face. So one day I came up with an ingenious plan to get home safely. I walked a mile out of my way. It was scary putting me for a short while on a much busier road. What should have taken me minutes took almost an hour to get home. My mother was a wreck with worry. She walked to the school looking for me. She was happy to see me and my father whipped me for worrying her and then asked me where i had been. It was hard to tell him because I knew he would be disappointed like he always was. It actually disgusted him. As a boy, as his boy it was my duty to stand up to this big kid and beat the hell out of him. I told him how big the kid was. I remember the words he said, in complete disgust that I was not his son. Needless to say the beatings continued until one day when the kid caught me at the store and I kicked him in the nuts. The next day determined to seriously harm he pinned me to the ground and pummeled me until another kid jumped on him and beat the hell out of him. I was so grateful. The day after that my savior from the day before decided that it would be fun to threaten me, and seeing that I was so scared began tormenting me in class. During a spelling test he told me that he was going to beat me to a pulp after school. I remember Mrs. Sellers asking me what was wrong and when I told her she advised me that the school patrol would stop fights and that fighting was not allowed. I wondered where the school patrol had been for the past several weeks. There were many days I started crying in class. I could hear God chuckling.

For much of my 20’s and to my mid 30’s I did not talk to my father, completely estranged. We are currently not speaking. He does not like my politics. I was supposed to go to Thanksgiving  there but I could not get a guarantee that I would not be ridiculed. All I asked for was respect because now I cant get up and drive myself home; He could not or would not guarantee me even a day of respect on a holiday so I stayed home, drawing the wrath of my sister. To her I will always be the bad child and she the good child. I have long since gotten used to this.  My dad did call me and left me a message that I should suck it up and be there, it was an angry message. My niece participated in the women’s march and posted some pictures. My father commented that he thought she was smarter than me. The implication was clear, I was stupid for believing what I believe, or my niece was stupid or we were both stupid. He is 79 and I am 54 and I a still a disappointment and it still matters to me, and his words like all the others are still etched in my mind. I should get over it, should be used to it but I can’t and he knows it which is why he says the mean and sometimes cruel things. I should let it roll off me like water off a duck’s back but instead I cry like I always have. Through the tears God is chuckling and the glass burns.