This, I think, is the last draught from chapter one of what I’m calling “The Path”. I feel I have a good enough grip on events around 71-72 to give a fairly full accounting. I am going through each chapter (30 so far) one at a time, researching some more, refining details and descriptors, editing in or out corrections, etc…
Let me know what you think, please.
Home and the Family
“I love you”.
I didn’t know what to do with that so I said nothing.
“Did you hear me?”, she persisted.
“Um, yeah”. Still tongue-tied I left it like that.
“I do; you know”.
I feel my face coloring even though we are talking on the phone, no one is here but the kids and they are watching toons.
“Suzanna I got to feed my niece and nephew okay?” I lied. They were munching on Pizza as we chatted. Simply put, I was stunned and in way over my head.
“Oh. Okay” she said and her tone told me how disappointed she was. Well what did she expect throwing something like that at me out of the blue. She recovered some and followed with “I am still picking you up tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah, I hope so. Otherwise I got a long hike home.”
“Of course I’ll come get you. We can talk about what I said on the ride to your house. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll call when we’re finished breakfast.”
“Ok, love you” More silence from me for a pregnant second then an awkward,
“Ugh! Oh, good night”.
“Good ni…” click, I was talking to dead air.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I knew I was an interim fill in for Suzanna’s boyfriend who was in Nam. Apparently he was a bad boy in the neighborhood whom the judge gave no choice about joining the Marines.
Regardless, he was away. Every swinging dick at the Insurance Company Headquarters where we worked in downtown Boston was sniffing at her day in and day out. I figured she picked me to hang with because I was such a doofus and couldn’t speak five coherent words to anyone of the female persuasion. In other words, I was harmless. I did loosen up with her eventually and we had a good time together. I also got quite defensive around the other guys when they would get out of hand with her. I surprised more than one behemoth with threats of bodily harm if they didn’t back of. She was my “girlfriend” so to speak and they should have known better. I got huffy and pushy more than once anyway. The surprise part for most of them was that I was 5’ 6’ and weighed in at a whopping buck and a half with heavy boots on. That never mattered to me. More than once I paid for that arrogance. More often than not the act worked in my favor though and these guys were all college goobers working the insurance biz. Regardless of size, they were lovers not fighters. I was from the mean streets of Boston with three older brothers and a boxing crazy drunk for a father. I could mix it up with the best of them and I did.
Maybe that’s why she fell for me if she really ever did. To this day I don’t know. It’s funny how it bothered me for so long afterwards. When for the longest time I didn’t allow myself to go gaga over her knowing I was way out of my league and only pinch-hitting for a while anyway, then falling so hard it hurt.
After a while though, she kept at it and kept at it and I bought into it eventually. I was head over heels done and gone…just like that. Before you know it I was planning our future. I was serious about work. I opened a damn saving s account and I only made $88 a week for Pete’s sake. Life was looking really good. That was a surprise to me really. It wasn’t too long before I’d met Suzanne that both the Navy and the Air Force rejected my applications for flight school after I graduated High School and made it to 18 without turning into a drunk like my dad or my two oldest brothers. My life long dreams were shattered and I wallowed around until my dad told me to get a job or get out. I happened to apply at the insurance company where Suzanne worked and was hired.
Well after her boyfriend came home and she actually rejected him for me, this interlude with Suzanne came to an abrupt halt. While basking in the light of her “love” I was inducted myself into the OD green world of the United States Army. It took this event for me to learn why Suzanne wasn’t still with her first “x” and why her “love” was a bit fleeting. Two weeks after I was inducted she sent me a Dear John letter. Two weeks? WTF, over?
This is how I got there:
I was born and baptized Catholic in a lower middle class white neighborhood, in Boston, to a hard-working blue-collar mom and dad. I have 3 brothers and a sister and by now too many extended-family members to count or name if I could remember them all. My family history is recent presumably starting in the late 1800s at various ports of entry to the USA. I’m not sure what family secret(s) there may have been to hide, but tracing our roots backwards, it stops at a port of entry or on a ship’s manifest that sailed from Europe.
A good portion of the history we’ve made for ourselves since our arrival in the Americas had to do with conflict. We fight. We fight for country, state, city, town, neighborhood, any home team or for family. We’ve also fought against any of the above. We fight because of our beliefs mostly, after talking and then shouting have failed. A lot of us drink and some of us drug, which conveniently provides for additional fighting. While I was growing up we felt that the biggest threat to mankind, ever, was the USSR and its entire sphere of influence around the world. Yep, you guessed it, the “Red Menace”. I was a teenager during most of the Vietnam War. You can go ahead and call it a “conflict”. I was there towards the end myself where the great gulf of incendiary insanity called Vietnam grew me into a man. As far as I’m concerned it was war.
But before all that there was a different me. I was part of a crazy Boston family, one generation away from immigrant status ourselves. We play Hockey, Football, Wrestling, Lacrosse and Boxing for fun. We play baseball to sharpen our hand-to-eye coordination and stay loose for winter. We are marksmen and sharpshooters who shoot for accuracy and fun. We have also shot to kill, righteously, in Wars far and near. We are artists and artisans. We love fiercely and hate ferociously. We work or we go hungry. We help. We don’t prop up. We grow in number, as we all seem to be fairly prolific, though most of our women would wish for more girl babies. We nurture our own like lions and lionesses. We’re made up of a half-dozen of the many nationalities that have ever made their lucky way to the USA (though no-one talks about that), so there’s absolutely no real reason for racism in my family. Yet, there were far more racists than not. That’s my one claim to fame. I didn’t start out hating anyone. It seemed that most of my immediate family and in fact most of the entire clan were racist and that apparently applied to anyone outside the clan…it didn’t always have to do with color, though that was one influence.
I detested that about my family as much as its propensity towards alcohol and for some of us, drugs. The ultimate oxymoron is a mutt hating someone for his or her race. I was determined to get away from it and the sooner the better.
A quick note about my mom & dad is relevant here. Aside from their bad habits and hateful biases, they were both very dedicated parents, in their own way. She was a seamstress who worked ridiculous hours doing piecework. She got paid a few cents per piece she sewed. She sewed until she couldn’t sew anymore, then she served meals at various restaurants until she couldn’t do that either. She still prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for however many of us were living in her home. She had 5 kids and miscarried 3 more and never took more than a couple of days off work for almost anything, including childbirth, until she had a double mastectomy for cancer. When she recovered, it was back to work again. She was the glue that held this extremely broken family together even though she was nearly as badly broken herself. She protected my sister and me from dad on his worst days. He drove for a living. He started driving a cab at 14 and never stopped driving. He was driving a big rig at 17. He was tougher than most and a local Golden Gloves welterweight champ 2 years in a row. When War II rolled around he was the first on the block to volunteer, but because his job was considered a vital cog in the war effort, they wouldn’t take him. Everyone he knew, brothers, cousins and friends went off to war but not him. He hated this and it helped to turn him into a bitter lonely drunk. He somehow managed to keep his commercial driver’s license if not a steady job all the time. We didn’t starve. He did get sober eventually when mom poisoned him with antabuse until he quit. He was in his 70s by then and he actually turned out to be a good friend to me and smarter than I would have ever given him credit for. He was still a racist…we didn’t go there together, ever.