So I had stopped going to Sunday School, and then to church, and refused to go near a bible. I had one in my nightstand, but I never read it anymore. The world was painful to me pretty regularly, and I tried to track my doings, and couldn't find a formula of crime and punishment from above. It seemed pretty disproportionate and unfair.
Which is of course not to say that going without necessarily made my life all cream and sugar. It certainly didn't. Good... bad... needle stops on indifferent. Wasn't hurting, wasn't helping. If you want to be transcendental you can say what doesn't help you hurts you by wasting time when you need helping but no need to nitpick.
As the years ticked on my family fell apart. A new marriage for my mother went no better than the last but not for the same reasons unless you want to go to root causes in which case they were the same reasons: total self-absorption causing an inability to compromise, to see the other side, to see their own flaws, to admit those flaws to themselves and each other, inflexibility, unstoppable force meets immovable object. I went from two sets of grandparents to three and back to two. How do you give a kid your family and get everyone opening their hearts to each other and exchanging Christmas gifts and cards and kisses and hugs... and then take that away? I never got to see my step-father's parents again before they died. I wondered if they missed me the way I missed them.
My sister became an adolescent and as sisters often do, decided I was no longer her big brother. I was now Public Enemy Number One. If there was a crime in the world, of any kind, men were responsible, starting we me. For my part, it was like getting demoted by an employer you thought liked you, and a kick in the crotch for good measure. Being her big brother was one of my few secret joys. For a few hours a week total, I was someone important to someone, even if it wasn't any of my now three semi-parents. Now I was persona non grata.
You ever see that MASH episode where Houlihan cries to her nurses about how much it hurts to walk past their tent and hear them laughing and know she wasn't welcome? I was sooo there. Got the t-shirt and tote bag. Many times. Like whenever the same kids I played with would no longer play with me if my sister was playing with them first.
Somewhere around her middle high school years she left altogether taking up with some guy who sees in her I know not what. She's like a cat in a permanent state of wet fur, really. At least to me. I never did one thing to her. Not merely nothing to deserve this treatment, but nothing at all. It's strange how people sometimes can just arbitrarily choose to make enemies with people who want so badly to be their friend. You know, she was gone from my life for years before she was gone from the house. Just this sort of blonde blank spot that made me always afraid...
So she's off with him to this day, or back with him. That's another story altogether and later.
Time continued ticking by and with me much more alone than ever I imagined I could be. I used to think the way I could be at a total loss of anyone in the old neighborhood to play with some days was bad. Now living on the other side of town, just me and my mother and her parents was something totally other.
My road was looking pretty shabby. Muddy, potholed, and not going anywhere different or better than I'd been before in any real way. Even with my mother trying out Evangelical/Born Again Christianity.
For those of you born and raised Jews who know nothing about what is going on there other than the mass media, they have less to do with Jesus of Nazareth than the Catholic Church does. It's one part "the Catholics got it wrong", one part "don't worry be happy", one part "fire and brimstone" and one part "Who's this G-d person? The name is J-E-S-U-S!" and none of it tastes real good. Not to me, never did.
I remember how tired and sleepy I was going to a Grace and Vessels meeting. Grace DiBiccari would come out in her dress that was somewhere between a baby's baptismal font dress and a Dolly Parton Grand Ole Opry gown, all white, and with her big poofy black hair and the band would play and she'd sing and she'd preach and I wasn't following any of it.
Maybe I would have followed more if I'd not been subject to the Catholic Guilt Factory first, but then again, maybe not. Protestantism had its own Guilt Trips travel service no matter which denomination and from within, there's not a lot of what you see on the news about ordaining homosexuals or women, or talking about financial flow, there's lots of Jesus whatever. If you think that out of all the would-be messiahs that Jesus at least seemed to have a really good intent and start but Pauline Catholicism opened the flood gates of bastardization, then you'd have to think the Evangelicals were setting out to erase any message he had in a big flouncy fluffy content free pumping the sky atmosphere.
Really. As in Jesus (enter your preposition here). Like... Jesus saves.... and takes half damage. That's a Dungeons and Dragons joke by the way. You could also say Jesus saves... AND SCORES! That's the hockey joke. Not Jesus wanted to drag people back to focus on G-d, not that Jesus wanted to remind us of our creator... Not that Jesus stood for step back and a breath in a world that was on edge looking to blame anyone who got in the way...
No, Jesus has no message with these people. You're saved! From what? Well, the devil. Who is evidently the spitting image of the late Anton LaVey, but with hair.
That was about it. Accept Jesus as your personal saviour now, operators are standing by. Order your personal saviour now, get one more half-off. Also, this nifty travel size bible...
No, be good, honor your parents and you parents don't be cynically taking advantage of it. No lead by example be good and upright...
I slept at these things more than anything else, and through them later on television. Even Gene Scott made me switch the channel faster than the eye could follow.
Nevertheless I wanted to believe that G-d was there. He just didn't seem to like me. I was hurting so bad and everywhere I turned for solace more or less told me all my problems were my own and my fault. Sure, I'm Satan incarnate. That's why you lied to me about being sick that weekend you were supposed to visit me dad... Not that you were playing hooky and taking my step-brothers to the aquarium which I'd have given my left arm to go to see with you all... I was just not worthy, that's it...
I kept an old tin coffee can in my bedroom and in it the cloth-backed picture of Mary which hung round my neck at the time of confirmation, a real wood bead rosary, and a wooden cross that my mom gave me when I was all of six or seven. I'd look at them sometimes, and usually at night when I was all alone and tired after work, and sometimes, I'd cry. I'd feel like I was looking into some place I wasn't welcome, whose owner didn't want me. How could He possibly? Two parental break-ups, changing extended family line-ups, terrible school life, dead-end young adult-hood, sister hating me, grandparents counting down to death, no money, nothing under the Christmas tree, lots of hypocrisy and blame coming from the messengers of G-d, news constantly bad, and lest I forget, no friends living in the ass end of the town nowhere near any socializing opportunity.
My mom had her crocheting and the bible. My sister had her mysterious boyfriend. My father had my step-brothers and half-sister. I had...
Through a series of bad choices, dead-end jobs, and futureless drudgery I continued on growing ever more angry and sad. If I screamed with anger, tears would be on my face at the same time. I didn't know if I wanted to kill someone else or myself more, and was growing fearful of the race to the finish to see which it would be.
The one thing I thought I knew was, "well, even G-d doesn't want me. I am screwed."
I remember that I'd cry a lot. I wasn't looking for sympathy or pity and aren't now. Just so you know.
I'd cry to G-d, begging Him to let me come home. Home was where the heart was, my heart wasn't in any of this, and short of it having nowhere to be, then there must be somewhere I belonged.
He wouldn't say anything. Or maybe I couldn't hear over the crying inside. When would my dad tell me he was proud of me? When would my step-dad tell me I was good enough to be his son? When would my mother understand I was more than the boy she didn't want? Was someone ever going to like me? How nice did I have to be to get someone to not hate me? When would the phone ring and someone be on the other end for me? Even after my sister had left, calls came for her. None for me. Not even my dad, just to shoot the breeze.
Years passed, every one not bringing anything new. My dad played golf and tried to teach both of my step-brothers and my sister's boyfriend even... but never once did he ask me. He talked with me about how great the graphite clubs were. I think the last time he actually did something where he taught me something must have been just before the divorce... I must have really done something horrible to make him leave. He seemed to stop sharing with me then. All those years of waiting to become a legal adult, a man, and nope... nothing more did he teach me father to son. Not even his beloved game of golf. Maybe he thought I was too... not sporty enough. My brother was handsome, fast, strong, got girls, and played little league. So did I and I was on the team that won the town championships.
Like that mattered to anyone or was remembered by anyone. My dad wasn't there for that either. Other guys had their dad show... not me, I had my mother bring me.
Are you there G-d? Hellloooooo?
Not a response. Either He wasn't talking or I couldn't hear him. Six of one, half dozen of another.
My mother became I thought my best friend, but in her own way withdrew from me too. She'd change the subject whenever I tried to strike up any meaningful conversation. Remind me of having cable television. Or that I had books to read. Yeah thanks mom. I come talk to you and you'd rather I go play outside. I guess there might be a squirrel to tell my suicide note to.
I wrote that damn letter in my head over and over. I was going to make everyone sorry or at least escape the horror that no one would be sorry. If no one cared at finding me hanging there, then at least I'd be too dead to notice.
My grandfather spent time with me, but it was like I was Gilligan to the Skipper most days. If not being yelled at then certainly still underfoot and just someone to tell anecdotes to. About WWII no less. Death camps, tanks running over casualties with guts splattering everywhere, Nazi dive bombers, French countryside running red with blood... Great stuff for a kid.
Yeah, I'm bouncing around here as the memories bounce around. Parallel overlapping stripes of themes one on top of another. I was good enough to... ehh... but not whatever enough to spend time with talking about anything that meant anything to me. Why did dad go? Why didn't he visit me regularly as if visitation meant anything? Now that I was older why did dad still not pal around with me and choose my step-brothers instead? Why didn't my mother talk with me? About anything? Why did my grandmother not talk to me? Why did my grandfather talk at me and not to me?
"So if I must be lonely, I think I'd rather be alone..."
There's something to that line from Stabbing Westward's Save Yourself. Better to have never known anyone or any love or happiness than to lose it.
I kept writing that note over and over in my head and finally stopped, figuring I'd just wander off and simply not come back. They'd not notice. It would cause no one any pain.
However, before I could, someone who didn't heretofore talk to me did.
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