Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, March 21, 2016

Into the Weeds

I came into the house at 417 Washington one afternoon. I wanted to speak to my mother about something (I don’t remember what), but the house seemed empty. I wandered to the kitchen and no sign of her...

Up to this point I may be coming across as a fairly decent child. I performed a bit of petty theft one day, but instantly regretted it and to a degree immediately repented. I actually was an honest young boy, perhaps to a fault, always paying and always pointing out if clerks gave me too much change. I wasn't a troublemaker in school, despite not particularly liking to be there and often skimping on my homework. Teachers liked me, too much for my own good. I wasn't a problem child at home either. I didn’t give a lot of backtalk and I generally did my chores without too much fuss. It appears I was having a good time with my few friends as I went through my grade school years.

It is true there were some shadows over those early years. I was a child
born at the beginning of a war and the tension, especially the blackout sirens, terrorized me. Also like most children of my generation, my father was away at that war for my formative years and my mother went out like Rosie the Riveter and worked at a factory. There was some feeling of desertion and abandonment resulting from this, but unlike some I had the advantage of fallback parents.  My grandparents slipped easily into that roll and presented me with valued adult examples. They basically substituted for my mother and father for much of my youth.
In my earliest years I was fairly well adjusted. I was happy and outgoing, or so was told, not particularly intimidated by the world around me (except for those blasted siren blasts).  I was given birthday parties and I had friends on the street where I lived. I went to a private kindergarten for two years and flourished there. 

But then in first grade things began to turn. I was suddenly taken out of
the school I started first grade in and moved from the town I had known since being six months old. The home to which I went was bleak and lonely, situated in the country alongside a swamp, surrounded by little in the way of companions, except occasional cows, birds and small water creatures such as snakes and frogs. I also saw the finality of death an unusual number of times as a young boy. Did this add to my future morbid bent?

My father returned from the war, but he took a job that kept him away from home five days a week. This didn't upset me because in truth I was resentful and fearful of my dad. On weekends, when he did come home, I was bundled off to my grandparents so mom and dad could have time alone. My dad might as well have sailed off into the South Pacific again for all the difference it made his coming home.
Sure, during the week I had my mother around. She was trapped with
me out in the marsh. She didn't know how to drive so she had to give up her job and stay home. We were forced close for those two years, but I was already becoming a more independent lad, going out to explore my environs or holing up in my playroom. I was growing to feel comfortable with loneliness. Mom and I ate simple suppers together, but these were very informal, if not totally haphazard. I developed a habit of reading while I ate my meals; obviously mom and I weren't having long dinner conversations. Any elaborate, family dinners were held at my grandparents over those weekends, usually on Sunday.
Moving back to town after two years introduced new obstacles, mainly teasing and social anxiety. I was thrust into a society that didn't want me. 
Even so, the grade school years had their moments and I cultivated a few friends, mostly outsiders, too. Still I made my peace with East Ward and Washington Avenue and grew satisfied with how my life was progressing, at least through fifth grade.

 I came into the house at 417 Washington one afternoon. I wanted to speak to my mother about something (I don’t remember what), but the house seemed empty. I wandered to the kitchen and no sign of her. I went upstairs to look. She had closed the bedroom door, unusual during the day. She only closed it at night when she went to bed. This was a weekday. I expected dad to be on the road, but mom wasn’t working at this particular time so she should be home…

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Having a real tiny bit of knowledge can be worse and having almost no knowledge of certain things can be real trouble. There were a number of things I had nearly no knowledge of because such things were not talked about openly in the 1950s, not to children anyway. Yet, this was knowledge I would have been better off knowing as I began my journey through sixth grade, junior high school and puberty.
If you read through the Bible there are two warnings about what can lead men astray and into sin.  One is the love of money. Avarice leads many people down a dark path to corruption, theft, deception and even murder.
The second is sexual immorality, which can lead down a very dark path indeed.
I was not greedy. Pursuit of gold was not my lure into the weeds.

I came into the house at 417 Washington one afternoon. I wanted to speak to my mother about something (I don’t remember what), but the house seemed empty. I wandered to the kitchen and no sign of her. I went upstairs to look. She had closed the bedroom door, unusual during the day. She only closed it at night when she went to bed. This was a weekday. I expected dad to be on the road, but mom wasn’t working at this particular time so she should be home.

I walked down the hall and opened the bedroom door. I stepped inside and saw my mother and dad on the bed. They appeared to be naked. Dad was on top of my mother and I didn’t know what he was doing. I thought he was trying to kill her. Should I do something?

But my mother screamed when she saw me and yelled over and over for me to get out of there. So did dad. I got out of there, closing the door behind me and running to my own room. I didn’t know what to make of that. I still thought my dad was hurting her. Maybe she told me to get out so he wouldn’t harm me too.

I sat in my room shaking, not knowing what I should do. After a while my mother came out of the bedroom and came down the hall to me.

This would have been a great opportunity for my mother to explained the other half of what she told me about the “Fat Lady” when she said babies were inside the mother. She could have calmly explained:
“Your father got home from the road early this week and we were putting a baby inside me.”
But she did not complete the story. She sternly told me to never enter their bedroom again without knocking first. I was left with no explanation of what had occurred behind that closed door or why everyone got so freaked out when I walked through that entry. It was still not clear to me whether dad was hurting my mother and I certainly had no idea what part the father played in how the baby ended up inside the mother. My ignorance of these facts of life continued for several more years during the silent ‘fifties. But I was nearing a time I needed to know things no one would tell me about. My little ink sketch illustration was not drawn in my teens.  “Completeness”, as I called it, wasn’t done until I was in my twenties and married.
My childhood world was about to become more difficult and confusing. Not only would there to be a change of school from a one class, one teacher framework to one of multi-classrooms and changing teachers, clanging bells and crowded hallways, but also I would be cast amidst a brand new crowd of classmates. I had been for several years surrounded by kids (friends or enemies) who didn’t change from semester to semester. Now there would be an ever shifting body of strangers and an uptick of the bullying and prejudice.  
On top of the upheaval of social environment about to hit me, my body was changing in ways I did not understand and was unprepared for. My emotions were growing chaotic as well. By the time I was into Junior High I was what might be called a “child at risk”, certainly at risk for a not so good life outcome.
Therefore, here is my disclaimer for what is coming.
When I began this autobiography or memoir or life rant, whatever you wish to call it, I promised to be honest. I was and am a long way from perfect, but I hope I have developed in the right direction when my life turned to its second half. I think everyone has a kind of split personality. We have our public and private personas. No one on earth truly knows any one else completely. Even husbands and wives live parts of their lives completely separate from each other’s knowledge. We all have little closets in our minds where we keep our darkest secrets. It is just unusual for anyone to open those attic chambers to the world. I am going to open mine. Frankly, I don’t think my secrets are near as bad as those many other people store. I think anyone who reads my life probably has shelves full of things as bad as I do and no one should be judging what I was by what I am today.
It does give me pause when I think of my readership, small as that may be, because it contains friends, people I went to a variety of schools with or worked beside at some company. It includes family. It includes people I go to church with each week. Obviously if one writes their life it includes others that you rubbed shoulders with and thus you are also in danger of exposing some of their secrets besides your own. I am being very careful not to do that. You will find I sometimes do not give the name or description of someone engaged with me. I don’t want anyone embarrassed except me.
I do hope anyone reading my rambling opus will do so with an adult  and open mind. I warn you that in some of the episodes ahead there will be frank discussions about life, sex and bodily function, some minor nudity in the illustrations and certain things “which some might find disturbing, so the reader should continue with discretion”.

What you will not find is profanity, blasphemy, pornography, explicit violence or offensive or denigrating remarks about others because of their looks, religion, ethnicity, lifestyle or personal beliefs. (This does not mean my opinions will never clash with your own, especially on faith or politics.) If along the way you find something offensive then the problem lies with your closed mind or too sensitive nature, not with my intensions or me. If you don't like what I tell, then for Pete's sake stop reading me!
Now probably nothing that will follow will come close to being as horrible as what the last two paragraphs have probably put into your imagination. In fact, it may prove a big let down. That said, shall we move further into the weeds and on with my life, such as it is.

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