Hmmm, we’re not sure what’s wrong with you, Bob
I will be 70 in two years. If it works out that way. I’m not going to say “if I’m lucky” cause I don’t think like that. There’s too much crazy shit going on in the world to think that something catastrophic or terminal isn’t going to whack me in the ass, so I will be content with the now. The present. Besides, I am very interested in finding out what this was all about. You have your ideas and I have mine. I have been extremely reflective of late so who knows, I could be closer than I think.
I just came in from two hours of vigorous snow shoveling and I loved every second of it. I’m even saving huge piles of snow and ice that aren’t really blocking anything for tomorrow. Can’t wait. Man, do I feel alive. I feel like I’m in the best condition of my life. No aches, no pains. There’s not a teenager on the planet who can feel better than me when my feet hit the floor. I can’t imagine a more robust existence. The added bonus, I’m not afraid of anything. Well, anymore.
But it wasn’t always so. I have dealt with so many chronic, imaginary illnesses, physical limitations and defects I couldn’t catalogue them here. Every relationship I’ve ever had up until now has been plagued with one chronic illness after the other. Real or imagined. Some complained bitterly that I was too much work. “There’s always something wrong with you.”
And there was.
When I was a kid I wet the bed. I didn’t just wet the bed like some kids. I wet the bed with such ferocity the people downstairs complained of water damage. I wet the bed until it rotted and there were just springs left. The kids at the school yard used to call me “pee pee in the cellar” from the smell that I was obviously not aware of. It was the one thing that no one in my family was to bring up outside. Ever. I could verbally abuse you to such an extent in return, that it would be suicide to cross that threshold. One of the gifts I got from dear old Dad.
And my father blamed me. The level of disgust he had for me cannot be measured. He tormented me about it and told me I was just afraid to get up at night. How could I be afraid? Was he joking? There were 12 people in a small apartment in Somerville. There were bodies everywhere.
At night the couches had to be opened up, people slept on a big desk in the living room, on floors and in closets. The only place that was off limits was the kitchen table. So it certainly wasn’t fear of the dark. Besides, waking up on a cold winter morning soaking wet wasn’t exactly my idea of heaven.
My father showered at work. Everyone took bird baths because the tub was full of dirty, crusted clothes all the time. I started showering when I got put away by the state at 16 and thought I was in Aruba when I went to Vietnam. They had MPs overwhelm me to send me home.
But, that’s another story.
I have often written about what a vicious bastard my father could be and my bewilderment at how you can “closed fist” a kid who doesn’t even come up to your testicles. Someday I’ll find out. I’ve moved on (I think) and I hope he has too. Wherever he is.
When I started to drink, my bed wetting went to a whole new level. Think fire hose. I remember the brisk autumn night I lifted that brown glass half pint of Seagram 7 to my lips for the first time down at the railroad tracks. First the bitterness, the hit to the senses, then the warmth in the belly and the self consciousness falling away. Release. I remember it like it was yesterday. This is it! The cure for everything. This would be my life come hell or high water, forever. I was fearless now, me and my bottle of balls. I was about 13.
Not long after my introduction to alcohol, Marion Martin decided to throw a party at her house on Willow Ave. in Somerville, while her parents were out. Which I remember none of. I think I came as close to alcohol poisoning and dying as physically possible. From what I was told, the cops raided the house and everyone started to scatter.
There was only one problem. Me. I was unconscious and no one could revive me. So the Fitzgerald brothers dragged me down the back stairs, zipped up my jacket, hoisted me up and hung me on a fence, where an amused pair of cops found me and brought me to the station. I remember coming to a few times, yelling, screaming, crying, a severe beating and then, nothing.
They called my mother at about 11:00 pm. Seeing I was a juvenile, I could be released in her custody. My father was asleep and she wasn’t about to wake him. It was Friday night and he had probably had a few himself. That would be World War III. So my poor mother and one of my sisters had to catch the last bus to the police station in Union Square to retrieve me.
10 kids. She loved us unconditionally.
My mother said she was at the sergeant’s desk signing my release when they carried me out. She was horrified. I was still out cold and couldn’t stand on my own. And I was drenched. From the waist down it looked like they pulled me out of a pond. ( I am sobbing now from the thoughts of all I put her through)
They didn’t know what to do with me so they planted me on the corner of his desk while he finished up my release. Then, my mother sees it. No one else does, yet. The big yellow puddle that starts to spread and inch its way toward the sergeant’s right hand. The horror was more than my mother could possibly bear. (I’m sobbing again, sorry) She let out a frantic warning scream and ran down the front stairs, caught a cab and went home.
I woke up the next day, Saturday, in a holding cell, just in time for juvenile court. The cops wanted the name of the guy who bought me the booze. Unfortunately for me, the only name I could give them was “Harry Dinkles.” Harry was a really weird guy who used to make pizza in Davis Square, where we all hung out. The cops thought I was pulling their crank so they batted me around a bit. One cop punched me so hard I thought I was home already being “chastised,” by my father.
Harry’s last name was Ward but the older guys affixed him with “Dinkles” because of his weirdness. I got labelled a “fink” for a few weeks until Harry got put away for something else.
I continued to drench myself in alcohol for the next twenty years but judgement day was coming. May 20, 1979, a gray, ominous Sunday morning in a crappy motel on Route 1 in Saugus. The girl I was with happened to mention that my skin color looked a little “blue.” Still don’t know who that was.
But, that’s another story.
I never drank again but strange things started to occur. After years of stunting my emotional growth and never having to go to bed sober, I started to become symptomatic. It was like coming out of the womb at thirty-two. I was an emotional and spiritual wreck and stayed that way for years. I anticipated liver, kidney and heart failure. (I also loved speed and coke.)
I had a level of remorse that was utterly unbearable and I had to deal with it… sober.
Strangely, in all the years I drank and did drugs, I never got into a car accident, injured anyone or got pulled over for any infractions of the law. I was really very good at it. But once I got sober, I got cocky. I had two car accidents the first year, fell down a flight of stairs and almost burned my kitchen down on numerous occasions.
I once put cod liver oil in a frying pan instead of olive oil and forgot about it. The stink would make me gag for weeks. It permeated the walls, my clothes, the curtains and killed all my plants. There were sea gulls flying around my house for six months.
The addictive attitude stayed with me though. I went to a few AA meetings and learned about compulsion. I learned I can addict myself to anything. So I did. I lost 50 lbs, quit smoking, became a track star, started body building, learned to meditate, fasted, took vitamins, ate organic food, went back to church and took yogurt enemas.
But, that’s another story.
The one thing I was not compelled to do was to continue going to AA meetings. “I get it already. I’m not gonna sit here with you guys every night and talk about this shit over and over.” What a fucking morbid existence, I’m thinking. I’ve got stuff to do, like world domination. Screwing everything with a pulse. If I have to be sober, the universe has to pay. Big time.
The change in me was radical. I quit the band, shaved my beard, started bathing regularly, had my apartment fumigated and got a job. This, incredibly, was more than my family could take. They pulled a mini-intervention on me. They all told me they loved me but were very worried about me. I was scaring them. Can you imagine?
When Susan moved in with me in 1999 while living in Arizona, I completely fell apart. Everything that could go wrong physically and mentally came on with a vengeance. Apparently, having real, true love, come into my life, was too overwhelming. My back, my neck, my feet, I had tinnitus, my prostate, I had AIDS, Desert Fever and a different form of cancer every other day. I’ve been to more emergency rooms than most healthcare workers.
I was a real pro in a crowded ER. I could hold my chest and rattle off cardiac symptoms just to get to the head of the line. Then it would always be me, in a wheel chair, crashing through those swinging doors, ahead of everybody.
I would faint, have panic attacks, break out in rashes, allergies and not sleep for days worrying. About what? Anything. Just before Susan arrived I was making out my will. My friends who were PA’s and medical professionals who knew my past were always telling Susan I needed to be on medication.
Everyone around me thought I was just a funny guy who didn’t give a shit about anything. I wish. I once went three full days without sleep because I was worried about a Miraluma meeting in Salt Lake City. The ER at the Church of Latter Day saints rounded out my resume of midnight visits.
That was the way it was, always. I lived alone and had no one to slap me and tell me to “snap out of it!” Fear and insecurity festered and grew, unabated.
As chance would have it, I happened to pick up a book about back pain by a Dr. Robert Sarno. He theorized that most pain in the body is some type of deferred rage that the mind creates to distract us from all the hurt and pain we have accumulated in our lives.
Every slight, kick, slap, criticism, rejection and loss is always bubbling just below our consciousness he believes. It creates a distraction to keep us from picking away at the scabs of our existence. It started to make some sort of sense to me.
That’s when the haze started to clear.
But, that’s another story.