Love and TrustbySlirpuff©
Love and trust, two things I thought for the longest time I'd never achieve in my lifetime.
I was an innocent boy, untouched by the ugliness that life sometimes throws at you when the incident happened that set everything into play.
There is a line from a Charles Dickens classic that best describes my childhood, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..,' Forget my parents, if it weren't for my grandmother and my best friend in the world Jeremy, I never would have even made it out of grade school much less through college.
It took twenty years before I could finally look in the mirror every morning and not think about what it took to get me this far. The nightmares are all but gone. And the anger? Well, that too is under control. Regrettably, however, there was a price to pay.
We buried my grandmother just before my twenty-fourth birthday, a loss I still feel today. Jeremy and his wife, Cindy, continue to be there for me when I need a sounding board, which thankfully isn't often anymore. Regina, the love of my life, says she understands how I feel because she, like me, has seen adversity in her life but always had the backing of a loving and caring family, which I didn't have. So I smile, give her a kiss, and thank her for being in my life.
It was three days before my fifth birthday when my mom walked out on my dad and me. Looking back the first thing I remember about that day was it being loud—louder than it usually was around our house.
I couldn't hear what they were arguing about, and at five I probably wouldn't have understood it anyway. However, when I heard glass breaking along with screaming I walked from our living room, where I'd been trying to watch television, to the doorway leading into our kitchen.
My mother was pulling everything out of the cupboards and throwing it on the floor, all the while screaming at my dad, who was standing less than five feet away on the other side of the counter, screaming right back at her.
Frightened, is how I felt at that moment. All I could think was grown-ups don't act like that, or weren't supposed to, were they? I must have started crying because I heard my dad yell at Mom.
"Look at what the hell you're doing! You're scaring the shit out of your own son." I remember him coming over, picking me up, giving me a kiss and a hug while carrying me out of the kitchen. "You really are a piece of work, you know that?" he yelled over his shoulder at my mom.
She yelled something back that I would have had my mouth washed out with soap for saying, and continued throwing everything around the kitchen. He put me down telling me to go watch television, but I wasn't going anywhere. They went at it again.
Names were flung back and forth and when Mom stopped, I figured it was over—until the next time that is.
"I don't need this shit," she yelled, grabbing for her coat and car keys. "I'm out of here, and I'm not coming back!"
"Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, you tramp," was my dad's quick reply, but all I heard was what my mom said—she was leaving us. Crying hysterically, I ran after her, out the kitchen door, and into the garage.
"Mommy, Mommy," I yelled, following close behind her.
"Damn it, go back into the house," was all she said to me, but I wasn't going to let her leave. She was practically running to reach her car parked in the driveway.
When I caught up to her tears were running down my cheeks as I reached for her.
"I said go back into the house, you hear me?" I was reaching for her, grasping at anything I could get my hands on. Now with both my arms around her waist I figured I'd stopped her from leaving. She pried my small arms off her. "Stephen Joseph, I said go back into the house, now!" I was reaching for her one more time and that's when it happened. Whether she meant it or not, she still did it, and to this day it's burned into my brain.
I felt the sting and heat from the slap immediately, and for me, time stopped. My mother had never slapped me before. Hell, she had never even spanked me. I was in shock. I just stood there looking into her tear stained eyes. Something died inside of me that day. I was innocent, untouched before that moment, and now I would be marked for the rest of my life.
"You bitch! Get the fuck away from him," my dad screamed. He grabbed me and carried me back into the house. But even that move didn't stop my little brain from trying to process how my mother could have done this to me. I thought she loved me. I wasn't crying anymore. I was numb.
My dad sat me on the couch. He stared out the front window watching my mom drive off. Those neighbors who were home at the time got quite a show that afternoon, and to this day they still talk about that little display on our driveway.
The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours were a blur. My grandmother came over, and some type of plan was made about the who, what, where, when, and why of my meager existence. From that day forward my grandma was there every morning when I woke up and would stay with me until Dad got home from work. And my loving mother? Well, that became my problem after my dad and his family washed their hands of her.
It was almost a month before I saw my mother again. My grandma brought me over to her parents' house. I got to spend all of Saturday and most of Sunday with her. Loving and caring is what she was that weekend. Nothing was said about what she had done the day she left, and all I really cared about was that I was with her again.
"As soon as I get settled you'll come live with me," she kept promising over and over, and at five I had no reason not to believe her. But no matter how many times she said it, it never happened. Her weekly visits became bi-weekly, then once a month, and finally it seemed I only saw her on holidays and special occasions, especially as I grew older. I think things came to a head when I was dropped off at my grandparents one Friday after school and she never showed up to see me all weekend. Her parents, my grandparents, always made sure I was kept busy, but they weren't the one I had come to see. I wanted—no, I needed—my mother, but did she still want me?
"Honey, your mom had to work this weekend," they told me. "She has an important job and you should be proud of her." I didn't care about her important job. I just wanted her. Guess I just wasn't important enough.
After that weekend, if Mom wanted to see me, my dad made her pick me up at our house. She said she loved me, only when I saw her now she always had some man with her. I think I was thirteen when she came to pick me up one Friday night with another one of her boyfriends in tow. I took one look at her and shut the door. I never spent another weekend with her after that. She would call, e-mail, and text me, that was about it. As I said, in her eyes I wasn't important anymore. I'd been replaced by something or should I say someone else in her life. I finally came to this realization: I no longer wanted to be another obligation for her.
Kids can be mean, especially if you're not a member of their special group or clique. At first it was just questions about why I didn't have a mother. I would tell them I did have a mother, she just didn't live with us anymore. Later came the taunting, name-calling, and finally the pushing and shoving. I don't know how many times I came home from school in tears. My grandmother was always there for me with a kiss and a hug. As I grew older that did nothing for my cuts, bruises, and hurt feelings.
After a particularly bad day at school I came home with a black eye. A kid at school said that his father told him my mother was a tramp and my father had kicked her out because of it. We went round and round with 'is not, is so' probably a dozen or more times before I finally ended up pushing him. He and two of his buddies then proceeded to kick the shit out of me. If it hadn't been for Jeremy I don't know what would have happened.
He came up from behind them and dragged them off me. With two against three we put up a pretty good fight, still we got the worst of it. Hard not to since they were older and bigger than us. After that day Jeremy and I became inseparable.
When my dad saw me he was livid. He looked at my face and his turned red with rage. "Who did this to you?"
"A couple older boys," was my reply, looking down at the floor, embarrassed to look him in the eye.
"How many were there?" When I told him the full story, including what Jeremy had done, he sat me down on the ottoman in front of his chair. "Steve, life sucks most of the time. Unless you're willing to fight for what you want, someone is always going to be there to try to take it from you. You're never going to be a fighter—you're too small—but that doesn't mean you have to give in to them, it only means you have to be smarter and willing to do whatever it takes to win. You understand?" I didn't, but I was soon to get an education on what an equalizer is.
It was eight inches long and had a leather strap I could slip my hand into. It was made from what used to be the handle of my old wooden baseball bat. Now it was my equalizer.
"Don't look for fights, however if one comes up don't run away. If they see they can't bully you anymore they'll stop, and if they don't, make them pay until they do."
My grandmother wasn't happy and told my dad the Good Book said to turn the other cheek. "Ma, the only thing that does is to give them another place to hit. The sooner he realizes that nothing in this world is free, much less easy, the better off he'll be." Dad showed me how to use it, and for the first time in a long time, I wasn't afraid to walk to school.
Three days is all it took. Jeremy and I were walking home from school when the group that attacked us, plus one more, stopped us.
"Your mom's a slut and your dad's a pussy," the big kid in front said, with a stupid smirk on his face. I remembered what my dad said about trying to avoid a fight, so we tried to walk around them. "You hear what I said? You're dad is a pussy, so I guess that makes you one, too," he yelled. Laughing, he grabbed me from behind and pulled me to the ground. I was able to reach into my backpack, slipped my hand into the leather strap and waited.
I was just getting to my feet when he tried to kick me. With my equalizer in my right hand I swung it hard and caught him on his lower left leg. His screams were music to my ears. I swung it again and caught him on his upper left arm. He was the one now on the ground bawling like a little baby. With newly found courage, I turned around and faced the stunned group. I saw fear in their eyes. I watched as they all took a step back. I turned and faced my attacker.
"If I ever hear you say another word about my mother or father, or touch me again, I'll break one of your arms, do you understand?" I whacked him on the arm again when he didn't respond. That got his attention.
"Okay," was all he said, looking up at me.
Jeremy and I walked right through the group. Even though I was still scared shitless, I felt good just the same. My heart was beating a mile a minute, I was covered in my own sweat, but for the first time in my life I didn't feel like a victim.
When I told my grandma she read me the riot act. "Violence never solves anything. If you would have just walked away they would have left you alone." I loved my grandmother to death, but she was from a time when people were nicer. That just wasn't the case anymore. All my dad did was smile when I told him. He cautioned me about getting too cocky, saying maybe now they would leave me alone.
Even though the fight hadn't happened on school property, two days later my dad and I, plus all the other parents and kids, were called into the principal's office for a conference. My dad told me to say nothing as we listened to the parents of the kid I'd hit.
They went on an on about how much pain Timmy was in and that I could have broken his arm and ruined his chances for a potential baseball scholarship. The other parents also said their children were greatly traumatized by the violence they witnessed. It was not looking good for me. When my dad stood up and started walking out the principal asked where he was going.
"After listening to all this bullshit for the last twenty minutes I think I need some fresh air."
"Mr. Moore, you don't seem to be taking this matter very seriously," the principal said, standing up to confront my dad, a bad move.
"But I am or I never would have made that club for my son and shown him how to use it. Maybe the next time four bullies decide to pick on one smaller kid they'll think twice about what can happen." My dad turned to confront the parents of the boy who had initially attached me. "But to tell you the truth, I wish to hell he had broken your son's fucking arm. Then maybe he would understand what it feels like to get picked on day in and day out. And if you're interested, I also have a witness who will testify that the four of them started it. My son was only defending himself." It was now pretty quiet in that room.
"As I see it we have two options here. One, you can give each of these little creeps detention for being general pains in the ass, or I can contact the school board and inform them that the principal of our school is openly allowing the bullying of his students." My dad turned and faced the principal. "The choice is yours." With the principal now stuttering, my dad grabbed me by the arm and we started to walk out with our head held high. Just before we walked out the door he turned to the father of the kid I'd hit. "Oh, by the way. I knew your wife when she was in high school, and she was one of the biggest sluts around, I guess that makes you a pussy too." My dad smiled. He didn't wait for the reply he knew would ever come. Instead we just walked out. I loved my dad.
I'd like to say that growing up my dad was there for me all the time, but why lie. He gave me everything I physically needed, but didn't give me what the two women in my life had, love and warmth. To him it was important to be strong and hard, and to never show your vulnerability because it was a sign of weakness. Real men aren't weak was what he instilled in me.
It was my grandmother who became my surrogate mother and always went the extra mile for me. She made me feel loved, wanted, and did her best to instill in me how to treat others. And by others I mean the members of the opposite sex.
Though my dad dated on and off he made it a point never to flaunt the women in front of me. He always made sure I was in bed if he did bring someone home with him. Every once in a while I'd hear my dad and his date in his bedroom, but I never said a word about it.
With him, there was to be no birds and bees discussion. He simply assumed I knew, or would pick it up on the street like he probably had. However, when I did get old enough to date, he told me if I even thought about doing it with a girl without protection, he and I would have a heart to heart and I wouldn't like it very much. Three days later I found a box of condoms on my bed—guess he was taking no chances.
"Your dad is so cool," my best friend Jeremy said. "My dad would never have done that for me." I gave him half the box because at the time I wasn't even dating and he was.
Jeremy and I were best friends ever since he had helped me ward off those bullies that one day after school. We were in the same grade just not usually in the same class. We lived a couple of blocks from each other and after school we congregated at either my house or his. My grandmother called him her adopted son, and his parents liked me enough that there was always an open dinner invitation. They knew about my mom and dad, but never once brought it up.
When we hit high school Jeremy played football while I ran cross country and played soccer. We were still thick as thieves. Even when we started dating it seemed we continued to put each other first. Well, Jeremy did until his senior year when he met Cindy. He fell so hard and fast I told him he'd need a shovel to dig himself out, he was so deeply in love with her. She wasn't the most beautiful girl in class, but you'd never know it by the way he talked about her.
I wished I had someone like that. I had my share of dates. I just never found that special one like he had. Most of the girls I dated were scatterbrains and thought they were God's gift to men, or boys in my case. When a couple of them played games with me I called them out on it. If they didn't want to go out with me, all they had to do is say so instead of lying to me, because I always found out. Guys, unlike girls, weren't good at keeping dating secrets and were usually bragging about it the next day. I supposed I could have gone a little easier on them, but lying and trust were two huge issues with me.
In college I thought I was in love not once, but twice. Debby was great. We jelled in many ways, then I found out she wanted to travel the world, and kids? Well, she was going to be way too busy for that nonsense. Our relationship didn't last long.
After six months of dating, I introduced Rosemary to my family. Everyone thought we were made for one another, even me, until I caught her in a lie and not a small one at that.
We'd had a bit of a rocky start. She was going out with a guy named Kenny. The relationship had run its course and she was trying to break it off with him. We talked, went to a couple of movies, and I even sprung for dinner a few times trying to convince her to dump the jerk, her words not mine.
"Look, let me make myself perfectly clear," I told her at dinner one night. "I really like you, but I'm a one woman man. I don't share with anyone. If you want to go out with me, it'll have to be on an exclusive basis. I don't want to have to wonder what you're doing when we're not together." I thought I'd made it perfectly clear, but it seems I hadn't.
How many times she lied to me I'm still not sure. The issue was not the quantity—it's that she did it in the first place. That was the big issue with me. I don't even know if she slept with anyone else and looking back now, she probably didn't, but once I had it in my mind that she lied to me, she was history.
It was a Friday night. Rosemary said she was getting together with a few of her girl friends to hang out. No problem. It would give me a chance to hang out with a few of my friends I'd neglected lately.
On Friday nights there were normally a ton of parties on and off campus. Even if you weren't of legal drinking age there was alcohol to be had, and you didn't have to search too far, especially if you were a girl.
Frat Rats is what I called them. Guys in the fraternities whose main mission in life was to get girls drunk at their parties just to have sex with them. Everyone knew what happened at those parties, especially at two of the better-known frat houses that were always in trouble with the college and usually on probation. I never went to their parties, though a lot of my friends did.
As I said previously, it was guy talk. Guys have no loyalties, especially if they have the chance to get a little stray pussy. As it was told to me by one of my friends, Rosemary and three of her friends were at one of the frat parties Friday night. He said he wasn't sure if she was drunk, but she was definitely making out with one of the guys while on the makeshift dance floor.
"Steve, I don't know how far she went with him, but they were going at it pretty hot and heavy for at least a half dozen songs. I didn't want to have to be the one to tell you, but I thought you should know."
I was pissed. Even if she was fucking drunk she shouldn't have been making out with anyone but me. That weekend I waited for her to call me—I wasn't about to call her. Finally, Sunday morning she called.