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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Suburbiaterranean Life

“It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
That is a line in the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. 1964 was somehow that way. It was a year that nothing much happened, but much happened that setup the immediate future. We floated on the current of life’s stream, but there were undertows threatening to pull us down.
I had registered for another semester at Temple, again a heavy schedule. I took the maximum four courses, the second part of Modern World, Introduction to Psychology Part 1, Social Problems and Introduction to Archaeology. It was heavy enough that combined with my job made for a difficult schedule. I wouldn’t do as well this period as I had last, especially in Social Problems, which was part of my Major requirements. I’m not sure why, since I actually enjoyed the class. Perhaps it was because I was having social problems of my own.

I first became aware of my problem while talking in the hallway at work. It was nothing but a casual conversation with an acquaintance. I ran into the person while on break and we began speaking of nothing in particular, the weather, how it was going, that type of thing. After a while, my friend segued into something of a more serious nature. I don’t remember what anymore. Whatever, it was nothing extraordinary or unusual for two people to discuss.
As we talked I noticed an odd feeling. I was shaking or at least it felt that way. I detected a wavering in my voice when I spoke and after a bit I couldn’t bring myself to speak at all. I thought my words weren’t understandable with my quavering speech. I told my friend I had to get back to my job and hoped to catch up again soon, and I hurried away.
When I got back to my desk I sat and thought about what just happened. I realized this wasn’t the first time. I had felt this shakiness quite often lately, and it was getting worse. I knew I had a problem. How was I going to progress in my career and at school if I couldn’t talk to anyone on a serious subject? I had long been shy toward strangers, but in those instances I was simply close-mouthed until I knew them fairly well, then I opened up. But I had never had this feeling of my stomach turning to Jell-o and my words into a quavering mush.
I decided to do something about it.

There was a public clinic near work, on Pine Street I think. They were an agency with one of these pay according to ability plans. Naturally I made just enough not to get any discount. I had to pay their full rate. It has been this way my entire life. I was always a little too poor to afford services, but always a little too rich to get any kind of aid. I wanted to find out what was wrong with me, so I made the sacrifice and paid the fee.
This was not anything I ever told my parents. They would have been very upset if they knew I was getting psychiatric help. Such a thing was scandalous in those days. It meant you were a nut case and no one wanted a crazy man in the family. Personally, I just viewed it as getting help for something I didn’t understand that was hindering me socially.
The clinic assigned me a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. The methodology was basically the same. The difference is a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe drugs; a psychologist has a PhD in Psychology and can’t prescribe drugs. The psychologist has to work to cure you; the psychiatrist can give you a happy pill and call it even.
I went into an office. It was dark wood, like a man cave, lots of books on the shelves, however.  The Psychologist walked in and sat down. He immediately put his feet up on his desk. He looked like Elliott Gould in M*A*S*H, a lot of dark hair and thick mustaches  He was wearing a tan corduroy jacket with those leather patches on the elbows, a white shirt and tie, blue jeans and these shoes with wide gum soles. The next thing he did was light up a pipe.

They billed me for each hour, but our sessions lasted 50 minutes. The last ten minutes of the hour he sat at his desk after I left and transcribed his thoughts on what we discussed  He seldom shared his thoughts with me. I did most of the talking. He would ask me to tell him about something, my childhood for instance. I would chatter away. He'd make notes on a legal pad. Sometimes he would go, "uh huh". Occasionally he would interrupt and ask me to talk more about a particular incident. I might ask him a question about something, but he seldom gave a straight answer. Usually he asked me what I thought about it.
He was big on dreams. He often started a session asking what I had dreamt the night before. He wanted to know if I had any recurring dreams. I had three. Two were very similar. The only real difference between them was in the beast that threatened me. I had had these dreams for years.
I was always a boy of somewhat indeterminate age in the dreams, probably around 12. I would be playing in the backyard, which was always the one at 424 Washington Avenue. Suddenly I would hear a noise, a snort or a growl. I would turn around and either a bull or a gorilla would charge out of the field next door. I would run and the beast would run after. I would get into the house, but so would it. It would chase me through the house. I would run upstairs and so would it. The only difference was I might find a room where the bull couldn’t get through the door, but the gorilla always could. In either dream I finally came to a place where I could run no further, usually the attic,  and then I would wake up terrified.

The Psychologist told me these dreams showed that subconsciously I hated my father. The bull and gorilla represented my father to me. I was afraid of my father and trying to escape from his influence over me, but I couldn’t. There was certainly some truth to this. Heck, I could have told him that. In the end I began to feel the bull in these sessions wasn't just the one in my dreams. 
He never came up with an explanation of my third recurring dream. I dreamt it long before the ones about the bull or gorilla. I had been having it over and over as far back as I could remember. It was very simple and very strange and had a worse effect on me than any other dream I had. I would be a small child. I was in the back seat of a car driven by my grandfather. We would be driving up creek road alongside the Brandywine. We would go around a curve and there would be a little clearing in the woods. In the middle of the clearing stood a calf with only three legs. I would stare through the car window at this calf. The calf would look at me and I would wake up screaming. I would be shaking and sweating and have a very hard time getting back to sleep. It was the worst nightmare I ever had and I had it often for many years, probably until I was in my thirties.
He couldn’t come up with an answer to that one and neither have I.
I forget how many weeks our sessions went on. We never got around to really discussing my “shaky” problem. What we got around to discussing was Ronald Tipton. I explained Ronald and I were best friends since ten years olds. I told him about Ronald’s recent revelation and how it had led to several nasty letters between us ending our friendship. I mentioned I was reading several books on Homosexuality.
This caught his interest. He even took his feet off his desk for a moment. “Why was I reading these books?” he asked.
I told him I wanted to understand the subject, to know what was going on with my friend and I was very concerned about Ronald’s wellbeing.
At our next session he again brought up my reading these books. He said it was my concerns about my own homosexual tendencies.
Say what?
“Your dreams about the bull and gorilla show your fear and alienation from your father,” he said. “You told about your grandmother and mother’s constant concern you might be hurt and how protective they were of you as a child. Your own sexual feelings toward Ronald are behind your concern.”
I told my wife that night I was through with this guy. I never had any sexual feelings toward Ronald or any other guy. This Psychologist must have gone to the same school as Doctor Edmund Bergler and the other writers of those books I read. Since I had a strongly under protective father and an overprotective mother; therefore, I fit the theory and must have homosexual tendencies. Perhaps I had some unconventional sexual proclivities, but not toward men. I once had an obsessive compulsion to take off my clothes and run about naked in a woods. I once had a bondage fantasy involving wild pirate women, but I never had any attractions toward Ronald beyond friendship.
I decided if I was going to get over my problem I would have to do it myself through will power. Eventually I did after some worse traumas.

Despite my heavy school schedule and my little visits to the Psychologist, my job was going well. After a half year as the Group Leader I had increased the units efficiency from 55% to 139%, ended all overtime and decreased our staff by two. I had established a schedule for turning over work at a faster rate and tracking jobs better. I got a merit increase for my accomplishments.

Lois and I were out shopping one day. We were going though Woolworths and saw this cute little thing in the pet department. It was a tiny green lizard and it fit in the palm of my hand with a tale
running about the length of my middle finger. So we bought an iguana and named him Ian. He was a perfect pet. He used a litter box like a cat. It didn’t take much to feed him, a bit of lettuce or for a special treat, some celery leaves. Little did we know Ian would someday be bigger than my guitar.

We had originally settled on the house in Malvern because it was halfway between my parent’s and her family. We didn’t want to live too close to either. We didn’t want the regular “pop-ins”. It was easier to have some distance. It was approximately a half-hour drive to either, so we did make regular visits, boy did we ever. 
To go to my parents we went down Route 30 a mile and turned onto Rt. 401. If you looked on a map Route 401 would be the sloped side of a right angle triangle with Routes 30 and 100 forming the other sides. We came off Route 401 at Ludwig Corner about four miles south of my parent’s place on Pottstown Pike (Rt.100) if we survived the trip.

Route 401 is a two-lane macadam road, not very wide. In many places the shoulders are narrow or non-existent. On January 23, 1964, we were traveling to my parents on this route when a dump truck came barreling toward us in the other lane. The truck was going at a high rate of speed, certainly above the limit. Several yards ahead of us he hit a bump and this huge rock fell off out of the bed. It tumbled in the same direction as the truck, except it was in my lane.
I turned as far right as I could, off the edge of road surface. I obviously couldn’t turn left into the path of the truck. The truck roared by, but the rock still came. I couldn’t get over any further because of a line of mailboxes.bordering the right.  I had come to a stop, but the boulder didn’t. It slammed into the left front of my car.
I got out to examine the damage. The rock was wedged into the front bumper and fender. I walked back and opened my truck. I then picked up the rock and dropped it into my trunk. The force had bent the front fender against the tire. I reached down and pulled the fender forward enough it didn’t rub rubber and we drove on to my parents.
The adrenalin must have been pumping. When I got to my parents I tried to lift the rock from the trunk and couldn’t budge it. I had to get dad to help and the two of us struggled to remove the rock from the car and put it aside.
My insurance company denied my claim on the body repairs. They said it was my fault; that I didn’t have my car under control. This was ridiculous. I wasn’t driving the rock. I had completely stopped. The rock hit me. There was no way anyone could have avoided that boulder. I got myself a new insurer.

There were bigger boulders rolling our way, though.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Well, this is the first time I've heard this diagnosis of your shyness. My gaydar is excellent and I can confidentally tell you I never detected any gay vibes from you. Now, you and Stuart, I always wondered. 😳