Adversity changes us all. Usually for the better. Adversity, especially in early life is the gift that will always be there when you need it. It has been my saving grace. I have laughed my way through ass whoopin’s, interrogations, bookings, lock downs, forced marches, expulsions, detox, divorce and incoming mortar rounds.
There ain’t nothin’ I can’t get a laugh out of these days. Humor in the face of adversity is a gift from my sainted mother, Nora.
I got a steady taste of my own blood at at an early age. I was closed-fisted into unconsciousness when I was no more than crotch level to my chastiser. I was beat and re-beat in the same session.
Today, that person would have gone to jail. Back then, it was de rigueur. In those days, if a nun beat you up, you got beat up for getting beat up. It hardens the jaw.
There were 12 of us in one apartment with one bathroom. At night, couches opened up and the top of a large desk could sleep two.
My parents were Irish-Catholics who thought the “Rhythm Method” was a song book. We never knew when my mother wasn’t pregnant.
We were poor, ostracized in the community, and on the lips of every police detective in the city. We were challenged every day. If you couldn’t fight, or talk your way out, you were fucked.
We owed everybody money. The variety stores in the area wouldn’t extend us credit. When we walked in, the proprietor would hustle out from behind the counter to yell about the money we owed.
When we walked down Paulina Street at night you would hear the neighbors hissing disapproval. It was like “High Noon.”
Then there was Catholic school, (vicious) reform school, numerous drunk arrests, buglaries, physical and sexual assaults, street fights and lots of drugs and alcohol.
Every day was a crap shoot. And crap was shot everywhere.
Still, we laughed our asses off at just about anything. Everything was fair game.
When the war took me, I brought my shameless sense of humor to the battle. Someone over there actually asked me once if I understood the severity of the war we were in.
I am running on empty these days but I want for nothing. I got wiped out making bad business and personal decisions. But I am as resourceful as ever because I had rugged basic training and provided with a quick wit compliments of those O’Hearns down on Paulina Street.
Adversity brings advantage. If you survive it.
And I am grateful. For all of it.