The Incident

It was one of those spring days that stories are often written about. Bright, warm, and inviting, my friends and I were engaged in a game of wiffleball on the busy city street. It was the year of my third grade. We were all at ages where crossing the road wasn’t an option yet, so we chose to play our modified rules game right there on the sidewalk. Looking back on that day now, I don’t know how we even managed to play at all. The tightly boxed in vehicles didn’t give us much leeway as far as our swings, and I’m sure the neighbors were none too pleased about the possibility of that little, white plastic ball ricocheting off their shiny cars. But, we played on.

As anyone could have predicted, the ball soon rolled into the street. Now, when I say it was a busy city street, I’m not talking about a booming metropolis. My friends and I happened to live in a small city, if it could even be called that, and the street happened to be the main drag in town. It was even called ‘Main Street.’ Nevertheless, it was a fairly busy road. One needed to be careful. Volunteering to fetch the ball, I looked both ways, and not seeing any cars coming I darted out between two parked cars in search of the elusive wiffleball. I don’t remember the sound of tires screeching, but I’m sure it happened.

I was lying on the sidewalk, and I could hear my friend’s mother calling the police, and then I could hear my father being beckoned; I only lived about 6 houses down from where I was struck by the car. Time was fluid, because the next thing I know I’m being lifted into an ambulance on a stretcher. I politely asked the medic not to run over any railroad tracks, because I knew it would hurt. The man smiled at me and promised they would be extra careful. He kept his word.

At the hospital, my mother was by my side. My father must have called her (they were divorced, and their relationship was far from amicable) and I can only imagine the abuse he suffered from her acid tongue. She was talking to me sweetly, trying to divert my attention from what the doctors were doing to my right leg. When they were done, I was allowed to look over. There was what looked like a giant mechanical screw imbedded in my leg, surrounded by brownish residue, and my leg was suspended in what now I believe was traction. I was in awe. How did I not feel it? This was awesome! Of course, that euphoria would be short-lived as the shock wore off and pain moved in to take its place.

The end result was two broken legs, one worse than the other. My right leg wound up growing a bit shorter than the left, which gives me trouble to this day. The woman who hit me was found liable, but I really can’t hold any resentment towards her. I should have known better, and even though I remember looking both ways, I obviously did not. Memory is like Play-Doh; you can shape it any way you want to over time. One thing is clear, however: I will never forget that day.

I don’t even like turkey all that much

I will be alone for Thanksgiving this year. The wife and 13 are traveling to visit his godparents, and I will be staying home to watch Blu Rays and read depressing Joyce Carol Oates novels. This is by choice, mind you; I make a horrible passenger in a vehicle, and I also make a horrible companion when you are having Thanksgiving dinner with scores of people you’ve never met before. In reality, I regret not being able to go, but in my present state it just isn’t possible.

Let’s talk about Thanksgiving for a minute. It’s more about the smells, really. I have very fond memories of playing football outside with my friends, coming into the house all flushed, glasses fogging up immediately due to the warmth created by the turkey in the oven, and just being hit in the face with a wave of delicious and comforting aromas. Ironically, at the time I hated everything Thanksgiving was about. I disliked having the majority of my day taken up with eating food I didn’t really like, except of course, for the mashed potatoes and gravy; being forced to sit in the living room with everyone else watching the Lions lose yet again, and being ordered to talk when I really had nothing to say, then being reprimanded for my bad attitude, followed my grandparents chiding my mother for scolding me. The older I get, the more appreciation I have for my grandparents. I think they knew that there was something not quite right with me, emotionally. Problem was, there was also something not quite right with my mother, too, so any criticism about her methods always erupted into an argument about parenting.

So now it’s 2014. My mother has been dead 7 years now. My grandfathers are dead, my grandmothers are either dead, or suffering from dementia. My stepfather and I no longer speak, going so far as not even mentioning me in the obituary when my grammy died. My father and I talk, but we’re not close. He doesn’t even attend Thanksgiving at his brother’s house when invited, and my invitations stopped coming a long time ago, too; most of the blame for that falls with me isolating myself intentionally. This was not supposed to be a sad entry, but of course I never know where they are going until I am finished. Really, all I want is to walk into my house and smell that turkey one more time. Now that we’ve moved, along with most of the wife’s family, too, it could be a very long time until I feel that sensation again. I’ll be ready, and I won’t take it for granted.

If you have a child, or children, please pay attention to their behavior. Don’t just dismiss everything they do as “normal teenager stuff.” Because sometimes it isn’t, sometimes they are really hurting and would love for someone to talk to them like an equal, to take the time to find out what’s wrong, and maybe get them the help they need. Pay attention, and remember what it was like to be that age. Listen, and most importantly, don’t judge.

Dots and dashes with peppermint lashes

I was finally able to convince myself to leave the house today and actually go somewhere to be around people. I don’t normally do this due to my extreme fear of people in general. Of course, my travels took me to the local big box bookstore. After purchasing the requisite coffee, I wandered around the aisles for a good 30 minutes, looking at nothing in particular, before leaving empty-handed because I was unwilling to spend over $10 on books that are upwards of 75 years old. I went in feeling very well; after all, I got myself out of the house, which is a rarity. I left feeling somewhat downtrodden. Being so close to Thanksgiving, they were playing the obligatory Christmas music, and hearing it just sucked all the joy out of me, which I think is the opposite effect of what it is intended to do. It’s like this every year for me. Christmas time rolls around and I become even more of an insufferable oaf than I already am. Logically, I don’t feel I really have a good reason to hate the season; I have a wife who loves me very much, as well as a step-son who I care for very much. Yet, this time of year just leaves me feeling despondent, and very much alone. I will leave it for the psychiatrists out there to analyze.

13 is getting restless. He doesn’t want to date this girl anymore, but he also doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of breaking up with her, going so far as to use us as an excuse to get out of hanging out with her this weekend. Obviously, the end is nigh. He’s interested in at least two other girls, one being his girlfriend’s best friend. I told him if he wants to completely ruin his social life forever, by all means pursue this girl. This shows to his naivete towards dating, that he didn’t understand how doing that could virtually ruin his life for the foreseeable future. He is not quite there yet in terms of emotional maturity, and I am totally fine with that. I am hoping that if and when he (or she) breaks it off, he just goes back to being a kid for awhile. Dating is hard work.

I love the winter as long as I am inside. I can appreciate the cold air as an invigorating tonic, but only in doses of a few minutes. I really sympathize for those of you whom are out there working in this cold every day.

All losses are not equal

Being estranged from a side of your family means you sometimes don’t hear about events until after they’ve happened. For instance, I woke up Friday morning to read in the paper that my step-grandmother passed away. She was 96. The truth of the matter is that I grieved this loss years ago. When I cut my stepfather out of my life, I knew I was going to have to make some tough choices, and unfortunately I wound up cutting some people out of my life that I didn’t exactly want to be cut. Grammy was a casualty of that, sadly. She was without a doubt the nicest person on any side of my family. In better times, my step-side of the family was more welcoming than my blood-family. But in the end, it became obvious that I was an outsider, and always had been. Frankly, it’s not that shocking to me anymore that nobody approached me to hear me out, even after I did reach out to a family member about the circumstances. 7 years on and I still firmly believe I did the right thing, and so does my wife, who is very pragmatic when it comes to family issues. It’s interesting to me that it appears that nobody else thought so. I’ve never really been close to any family members except my mother, and ironically, my stepfather. Those days are gone and I accept that. I’m ready to move on. It’s hard not to when you’re even erased from the list of survivors.

My Grammy used to have this amazingly soft stuffed cat (not a real one.) Its body was really flat, and it was all white. I keep going back to that cat. It would sit on their bed (my Pappy was still alive at that time) amongst all the pillows. The bedroom was always immaculate, and I wasn’t allowed in it. They would leave the door open, so when we’d visit I would sometimes just stand in the doorway for a few seconds, staring at that cat. Sometimes she would bring it out and let me hold it, but never for very long. I wonder what happened to it.