Ever since I was a boy, I have always cared about people. I have always cared for and about animals as well. Always. I have always wanted to help. I never even understood that one could be asked to help. I just volunteered. I just did it. I still do, somewhat, but people now days refuse any help for most issues and for many reasons. I’m not sure exactly why, I am not a psychoanalyst, so I just have to guess. Adversely, people don’t help others as much as they used to either. Maybe because of the former that I just mentioned. I’m not sure if there is a connection or if they are exclusive to each other. I’m going to talk about just that here and it’s mechanism within the family I was raised in.
As a boy, and still, I was always inquisitive. I always wanted to know more. Oddly, I didn’t do great in school. I was always told, “You don’t apply yourself.” At the time I didn’t get that. Today, it’s obvious. I’m not sure if it was a mental thing, laziness or just indifference to school and teachers. I know today that I am dyslexic. I always have problems with numbers. I became very aware of it about 14 years ago.
Here’s how I became aware of my issue.
I was working for a furniture company in Everett, WA. Furniture is stored in warehouses by their model number, which includes parts of the number referring to many things. The model, the fabric, recliner, non-recliner, etc. My job included fetching various pieces of furniture like sitting, tables, cabinets, from the warehouse. In order to collect the right piece, you write a number down on a piece of paper, or grab a customer order, head to the warehouse and grab the piece after locating it with the wrapper showing the number you are looking for on the item. Take it back to the store, unwrap it, vacuum it, check for any anomalies and you’re good. Many times I would come back to the store, the sofa loaded in the furniture truck, go through the procedure only to find that I had the wrong piece. I had looked at the number and, not aware of my issue, saw a different number on the wrapper, but it looked right to me. I had switched two or more numbers and wound up with the wrong piece. Somewhat embarrassing, but I finally got a handle on it when I discovered, understood and accepted what was going on. I didn’t feel less of a man or anything, I actually felt a bit more confident because I had overcome something that I had found out I was a victim of and took steps to adapt to.
Anyway, I didn’t know about this as a kid, but it was a part of me that would never go away. A learning disability. I am aware of it and spot it when I see it, so I am careful when I deal with numbers.
I don’t know if this was a part of me not doing well in school, but it’s there. I suspect that it certainly was.
As I said, I have always wanted to help. I still do. My one man home based business of restoring photos and transferring old VHS tapes to digital format started because of that want and need to help.
I am finding, as I said, that people don’t want help and don’t want TO help. Here is a reason I feel this way.
I bought my first computer in 2001. My first step. I started looking for people. Got to know Google right away. I looked for people I knew whom I had grown up with, people I worked for, people who lived just up the street. I looked for everyone. I looked for my father. I didn’t find him. He wasn’t online yet. He was soon to be, though. He had no web presence at that time.
Let me take you back to a bit of history before I go any further.
When I was a kid in the summer between my sophomore and senior year of high school, I was living in Aberdeen, WA. with my mother. She had divorced from my father nine years earlier when I was eight years old. I have two younger brothers. We all four lived alone from 1962 till my mother remarried in 1967 (I think.) I don’t remember the exact year she remarried. She has been gone for 14 years now. May she Rest In Peace.
During that summer, she sent me to my father’s house in Seattle, 117 miles from home, to attend my senior year of high school. I think there were various reasons for this move. First, I figure my mother wanted to get out from under the cost of my last year of school. She was paying for three of us to go through school. She wasn’t a skilled woman. She waited tables and tended bar for most of her life. She was also a seamstress. She worked for a company in California for a while, but came back to Aberdeen and took us kids back into her life. We were a family once again. During her absence, I stayed with my grandmother, Kevin was with a family in Central Park, WA. and I don’t remember where Kary was. Kary is the youngest of us three boys. No sisters, kind of. More on that in a minute.
Before I was sent to my father’s house, my younger brother lived with him. I don’t know what kind of relationship they had, whether it was an amicable or acrimonious relationship, but Kevin took advantage of it one day. Whatever trust there was, he destroyed it for himself, and for me in the future. Unfortunately, it has lasted since then toward me from my father. However, I have always known that I wasn’t what he wanted when I was born. I am the first, but I really believe I was unplanned and threw a serious cramp into his routine at the time, and that he didn’t want to be tied down to a 15 year old girl who was pregnant. Condoms have been around since the age of the Egyptians. I’m sure they were cheap when my father could have used one.
One day, Kevin skipped school, played hooky, grabbed some of his buddies, and while my father was at work in his own shop, they ransacked the house. Guns and rare coins. I don’t know if anything else was targeted, but I know those things were. I don’t know what Kevin and his school buddies did with them, but Kevin held the door for them. I know this because my father told me about it way back then. At least he told his version. Everything is HIS version. Always.
Well, Kevin and his buddies were hauled in. I don’t know what the disposition was, but I know he didn’t walk.
Now, all three of us brothers are just three years apart, so I was at the house in Seattle just a year later in my senior year. I figure Kevin was in middle school when he burglarized the house. He would finish school three years after I did.
Well then, going in, the cards were stacked against me. Kevin had set the table for me and I was about to sit down and get reamed. My father holds grudges, at least on me he does and against my mother as well. Ever since the divorce, he has referred to her as the “c-word” when he talked about her to me or my brothers. Since my youngest brother, Kary, was born, he has sworn that Kary isn’t his son. He has also denied for 50 years that my half-sister isn’t his. That was proven to be false through a DNA test recently. He has three sons and a daughter. He has never apologized.
During my senior year, it was all uphill. Every step. He hated my friends, clothes, haircut, everything about me. There was nothing I could do that would please him. Back then, living in Seattle was a dream come true. Concerts, big city, lots of friends. I was no longer a target for being bullied as I had been back in Aberdeen. I loved it. But there was a catch. “Thanks Kevin,” well actually, “Thanks dad.”
Whenever I wanted to go to a concert, I had to work for the whole $3, $4, $5, $6 for the ticket. This was 1971-1972. I saw Grand Funk Railroad for $6. Because of his dislike (Hate, maybe?) for me, he paid no attention to anything I was even remotely interested in, so he never came to me with concert tickets, or anything, in his hand as a gift. Nothing for the older son. I had to mow the lawn for the tickets, etc. The funny thing is that I had to mow the lawn all the time anyway, but if there was something I wanted, I had the option of getting paid for the chore. Yeah, really.
No photographs of our family were ever recorded, no 8 mm movies, etc. Nothing. Ever. I have wondered over the years, was he trying to prove something by marrying and having children? He has told me that my mother’s parents would rather that they not wed. I think differently of that these days. He told me that mother was 15 years of age when they met. That would make him 18 then. Hmm….. A well placed condom ad would have done well then. He has told me that because mother’s side of the family didn’t like him, they made sure my mother got pregnant so they would be forced to marry. I know, different family values then, but, oddly, teen pregnancies were a lot fewer then. However, I just don’t completely buy that offer.
He was 21 when I was born. He will be 80 this December, I will be 60 in January. The math is there. (He passed on in January, 2015.)
Let’s join “Now” now in progress.
So, I bought my first computer in 2001, I searched for my dad, but didn’t find him. I had been in touch with him, (on my effort, not his,) on and off for the entire, then 30 years, after I was shipped back down to Aberdeen to my mother’s custody, but never met with enthusiasm at those times of contact. At one point, after moving to Seattle in 1981, I approached him to hug him and was pushed away. I invited him to my apartment once. “Fat chance that will happen.” I’ve asked him about these times and was told “How do you expect me to remember that?”
This tells me two things.
1. He never cared enough to actually understand what he really said to me by doing and saying such things, that I was never important enough to him to be taken seriously, or…..
2. He remembers but doesn’t want to admit what he felt, or didn’t feel, when I approached and asked. Maybe he felt guilt, but didn’t want to tarnish his image by admitting and apologizing.
(1. He forgot. 2. He doesn’t want to accept the guilt for what happened.)
Oddly, Kevin, the brother who burglarized him is the preferred son. Yes. He and dad get along famously. Go figure.
So, here’s the point of the title, “I don’t care, but I want to. I really do.”
Over these years, EVERYONE has known that he is Cindy’s (my half sister, a wonderful woman,) father. The family, his friends, mother’s friends, the town of Aberdeen. Everyone, although no one ever mentioned it. I have always told him that Cindy is his daughter, he has always denied it. She talked him into taking a DNA test a year ago to determine whether he is or isn’t her father. Surprise! 99.99% positive. Yeah, big revelation there. At least Cindy knows now. Fortunately she was never close to him. He treats her like a new discovery now. Good for her. I really am happy for her. I stuck up for her very vocally for many years as did Kevin. I don’t know if I helped, but I like to think I helped. The fact is that until you are turned away, you don’t know what it’s like to be without something you cherish. I think my biggest short coming was always wanting to be important to him, but not realizing that I never would be important to him. Looking back over the years, I have never done anything to him that was harmful or damaging. I have never burglarized his house, I did accidentally back his car into a garage door 30 years ago, but it certainly was not intentional. I’ve heard about it ever since then. “Remember that time you…..” Never heard about the burglary more than once.
Well, after he finally got a computer, we connected on the web. He was in heaven. He could e-mail me and never have to actually see me. How nice for him. I considered that there may be hope and a silver lining. He immediately started to send nude pictures of women, .gifs of jiggling breasts, racist jokes, anything distasteful. It was like dealing with a 14-year-old younger brother. I tolerated it for a long time, but I was embarrassed for him, as well as being overwhelmed. Apparently he thought I would approve. Then he discovered Facebook. He learned to chat, with my help. He got that squared away, then told me “The more I talk with you here, the more I learn about you.” Really? What were you doing between 1972 and 2011? I cut him a ton of slack. I even produced photo slide shows on DVD and sent them to him unannounced as gifts through ‘snail mail.’ I do it professionally in my own business. He told me at one point that his DVD player had quit working. He is a television and home electronics repair technician. (?) I sent him a DVD player I no longer used. Never got a thank you from him. My future does not sit on the ‘Thank you,’ although it is a common courtesy to thank people for things they offer to give you when they actually follow-up by giving that thing to you. I had told him I would send it. We were moving to High Definition media in the house, and BluRay players were next on the list.
After he learned to chat through Facebook Messenger, I figured I had one last chance to ask some questions about his absence for the last 40 years. So I gave it an honest try. Fail. He went ‘I don’t remember’ on me and threw me under the bus. Wouldn’t tell me anything, however, he did argue with me for well onto an hour. I should add here that he has only called me on a phone one time in all of eternity. Of course, I still wanted answers.
“Was Kevin’s burglary the reason you figured I would do the same, the reason you were so nasty and demeaning to me, the reason you berated me in front of your friends?” I didn’t get to ask those. However, the hate for me started long before I had even realized it was there.
Well, since that time I thought I would reach out to two family members for a bit of help. They get on well with my father, so why not ask them to explain that I just want some answers. Sounds easy enough, ‘a good family sticks together’ type of favor, or, more like a duty, but I may be being a little too needy with ‘duty.’
I asked Cindy if she could tell my father that I just wanted to talk, find a few answers and get past it. “No” was the answer.
I asked Kevin if he could tell my father that I just wanted to talk, find a few answers and get past it. “No” was the answer. Those relationships changed.
I live in Georgia, THEY ALL live in Washington State. Yeah, go figure. The deal is this, after the divorce, I was eight, Kevin was five and Kary was two. I was forced to become dad. My mother would NOT pay anyone to watch over us because we were poor. Only one of my family members stepped in to help, and that was my father’s mother. Yeah, I know. Ellen, who I called Gammy. I couldn’t say Grandma when I was just a small boy, so Gammy became the sun, the moon, the wind and the rain in my world when I was a kid. She passed in 1967. I was 13 years old. Life got tough from then on. As a matter of fact, at the funeral, I saw my father but he never saw me, or if he did, and he absolutely knew kids were there, he didn’t let me know he saw me. He drove 117 miles from Seattle, said his piece, jumped in his Lincoln and was gone. No hand shakes, no hugs, no smiles.
Anyway, for the next six years, I gave up being a kid to stay in the house and take care of my brothers while my mother worked. It was tough. We got through it, but it was tough. One time when I was much older, before mother passed away, she sat me down and told me how essential I had been to keeping things on track when the divorce settled. I really didn’t have a choice back then, as a boy, but I didn’t bring that up to her. I listened, I watched her cry. I was thankful, I was moved, I was sympathetic and happy for her. We had removed the vacuum between us. My father has never attempted such a thing, neither have my two other brothers. As a matter of fact, I joked with my wife on Facebook with a cute grammar e-card from the ‘Someecards’ site about using “you’re” correctly, which she loved. “You had me at the correct use of “you’re.”” Kary, my youngest brother, took that opportunity to tell me I was an ass for doing such a thing and dropped me from his friend/contact/family list. I wish I’d backed out of changing his diapers and feeding him, tending to his stuck in bed illnesses, made sure he got fed on time, put to bed on time, etc., when he was a kid. Just kidding, but when do people think about where they have come from and shake a hand, smile and say “Thank you for your help” once in a while?
Well, I love my family, but I guess I can see where the loyalty is placed.
This is the end. Time to cut my losses, disassociate myself from those who do not appreciate what I have done and get out of Dodge. If, and when, you give, never ever expect anything to come back to you. You will end up keeping notes and trying to make sure those notes are redeemed. It isn’t worth it and is a futile experiment in self-importance.
If you ever become a dad, or are now, love your children, ask them questions, give them answers, make them smile whether you feel happy or not. Above all know that if you ever made a mistake when you were a kid, you ARE going to see them make that same mistake. Do you ever feel embarrassed about things you did when you were a kid? They are going to do those same things. If they don’t, believe that you and them are fortunate in that they didn’t walk the same steps others followed into harms way. They will be around long after you are gone and you want them to think fondly of you when you have gone. I’m 61 years old now, have never had children, but in my photo restoration business, I get to somewhat live a better life by viewing all the photos of happy, cohesive families in the photos and video that I get to work on and produce for people with smiles that they hope they get to show me. I love it, but I always finish with a pile of photos I have taken of my friends, places I’ve been and things I have done in my life. None of which were taken by my father or mother, other than a handful of ten or so shots that were taken when I was younger than five years old. I have taken, and own(ed), thousands of photos over the years. I would love to share them with my family, and most of all, my father. None are of my family. They just never came together to give love, only to take.
Life is short. Give, don’t take.
Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,