Five Pivotal Turning Points in My Life!

Five Pivotal Turning Points in My Life!

1) The death of my brother! He was 18 and I was 22. He had been shooting heroin for a couple of years & I tried telling our mother but she was so deep in denial, I could never make her believe me. I tried everything I could think of i.e. I beat him up, I hugged him & told him that I loved him, and I even called the cops on him. Nothing worked though. Near the end of his life, I avoided him because I couldn’t stand to watch him slowly destroy himself. In fact, a couple of days before he died, I got a message from a friend that my brother was trying to get a hold of me and I didn’t call him back because I figured he probably just wanted money or something.

I was sharing an apt. with a friend & hanging out by the pool one day when I went to get something inside the apt. and found a note from my aunt. It said to call my mom immediately, there was an emergency. I called from a phone booth because we didn’t have a phone. My grama answered & when she told me that my brother had died, I said no, you mean he’s hurt and he’s in the hospital. I went back to my apt. in a daze & when I got inside I started screaming why? why? why? I don’t know how long it took for my roommate to finally get it out of me that my brother had died but when he offered to give me a ride to my mom’s apt., I went with him. When I walked into her apt., a lot of relatives were already there. I didn’t know what to do or how to react so I immediately went into an unoccupied room. I felt trapped or something and only knew I had to get out of there so I walked out the front door & down the street to the first bar I came to. I just kept guzzling beer after beer down & crying uncontrollably. I am the eldest of all my first cousins and all my life, I had fought everyone’s battles and was the cousin everyone looked up to. I think I was too embarrassed or unable to break down in front of my relatives but I didn’t care what the strangers around me at this bar thought of me crying. The bartender never said a word & just kept the beers coming. I finally gave up because I don’t think the beers were having any effect on me.

My mother was a basket case because she had found my brother dead on her bed with the needle sticking out of his arm. I made all the funeral arrangements and I remember my mom saying to me, “this is only the second time in your life that I’ve seen you cry.” I wrestled with a lot of guilt for a long time and there’s probably still a little to this day? My brother Tim died over 31 years ago and I’m crying as I write this. I kept beating myself up and thinking that if only I had returned his phone call, maybe he wouldn’t have died? Or maybe I could’ve done more to stop him from using?

I think what was hardest was our not knowing if his death was suicide or an accident? I knew most of his fellow junkies and tried to get them to give me any information on where he got the heroin from but they wouldn’t tell me anything. I knew a guy who was rumored to be one of the largest heroin dealers in our town. I called a friend of mine’s older brother who was a cop and told him I wanted to get this guy busted but he said it wouldn’t work because I’d have to make a direct buy from him and all the junkies knew that I didn’t use. I had thoughts of killing this heroin dealer and some nights I’d wake up and feel that I had killed him but had covered up the crime so thoroughly and had repressed the memory so deeply that I couldn’t distinguish if it was a dream or reality?

All I knew was that my whole life had been turned upside down. Nothing mattered anymore i.e. college, work, friends. I’m not saying that my brother and I were best friends. We had some real knock-down, drag-out fights but no one bad-mouthed my brother to my face e.g. one night I challenged 3 friends of mine, who were talking bad about him in front of me, to step outside—this was before he died. And Tim was the same way about me with his friends or strangers. Anyway, I guess Tim’s death was the catalyst that really changed me? Before he died, I was pretty light-hearted and most of my friends enjoyed my company but after his death, I began to do a lot of soul searching and I did a lot more traveling i.e. quitting jobs a the drop of a hat & hitch-hiking back & forth to Oregon mostly. And the most significant change since my brother passed away has been the fact that I no longer keep my feelings bottled up inside & I cry very easily!

2) The next life experience that had a powerful impact in terms of who I am today was probably my first trip to Europe. Three years before my brother’s death, I had gotten out of the army with an Undesirable discharge. I was close to being sent to Vietnam and although I wasn’t politically aware at the time, my gut instinct told me to run. And I did. I saw a lot of what I’d been told about the army was a lie and that disillusionment along with my brother’s death, contributed to making me a rebel, nonconformist, or whatever you want to call it?

I had dreamed of Europe, and Switzerland in particular, since I was in the 2nd grade. I was working in a golf club factory 40 hours per week & riding my bicycle to the community college, 5 miles away, four nights a week. I was taking business courses not because I enjoyed them but because I thought that they may come in useful some day? I was renting a little one bedroom house for $100 per month & could stretch $25 worth of groceries to almost 2 weeks. I learned of a charter flight to Europe for only $400 & started saving & planning. I bought my ticket and got my passport but as the time drew closer, things started falling through and money that I had counted on from a couple different sources was gone. I only had $400 saved up—my hourly wage was $2.75 per hour I believe? But my taste buds for Europe were so stimulated that I reconciled myself to going for it anyway! My mom had heard of my dilemma and a few days before I was to leave, she came over and gave me a Eurail pass that was good for two of the three months I was to be in Europe.

It didn’t take me long to go through my $400 in Europe and it forced me to become very creative & resourceful i.e. I slept on some park benches and in some train stations & ferry boat stations; I went hungry for 3 days; I moved furniture in London; I looked up some friends of a friend & worked for room & board in their antique furniture restoring business, etc. etc. etc. And I think what was especially transforming were the many stimulating conversations I had with Europeans & fellow Americans I met along the way. One guy in particular, Ruedi Trefzer, from Switzerland, was two years younger than me & knew far more about American literature, history, politics, etc., than I did but he wasn’t arrogant. I began to pick his brain & asked him to recommend authors & books for me to check out. I spent a week with him & his cousin on the Costa Brava in a little community called Cadaguez, near the French border. Salvador Dali lived there and Ruedi & I had many great conversations. He was always polite, considerate, & encouraging and we maintained a correspondence for many years. I believe this first trip to Europe was the stimulus for my intellectual awakening & I don’t mean to brag but, I’ve been to Europe eight times so far & can’t wait until my next visit!

3) Meeting my wife. It was 1981, I was 28 years old & had been drifting from job to job—probably could’ve been in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of jobs I went through? I’d been to Europe three times, had hitch-hiked across the United States on $26, and I had started & dropped out of dozens of classes at several junior colleges, sometimes half or three-quarters of the way through a course. I took courses in business administration, oceanography, & general humanities but nothing grabbed me enough that I could see spending four years studying it full-time. I was sleeping on my grama’s couch, pumping gas, & riding a bicycle. One night a friend called & invited me out. I told him that I was broke & he said not to worry, that it’d be his treat. We went to a club with a disc jockey & I saw this woman across the room & liked the way she held herself as she walked across the room i.e. guess you could say it was her poise? I asked her to dance & as we were dancing, we started talking about traveling, education, etc. We hit it off instantly & when it came time for her to leave, I asked if I could see her the next day and she gave me her number. We spent every night together since that first date and I got a better job a few weeks after meeting her & got my own apt. After four months, she moved in with me because my apt. was bigger & there was no point in paying rent for two apts.

She was a teacher during the day & was working on her Master’s degree at night. At first I couldn’t believe or understand what she saw in me? But as time passed, her belief in me gave me more confidence in myself & it dawned on me that I was only hurting myself or wasting my time by dropping out of course after course. So, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t drop out of any more courses. I also began to realize that if she could be a teacher, I could do likewise. And I really started racking up credits & before I knew it, I began to realize that I was no intellectual slouch. And in 1988 when I first got into substitute teaching and slowly started learning the ropes, I began to have some successful experiences in some really tough assignments. I began to feel that perhaps I had finally found what I was cut out for?

4) The birth of my son. Jeri and I had lived together for 4 years before we decided to get married. We wanted to spend our honeymoon traveling & working in Europe for a year or so, hopefully. So, we told all our wedding guests to give us money instead of toasters, irons, & etc. We both got sick with strep-throat a week after landing in London. But we spent two months in Europe & even though we were sick, we got used to it. Our son, Ryan, was born about ten months after our return from Europe. I was in the delivery room & we’d gone through La Maz classes. It was a very difficult delivery & when he did finally come out, they rushed him over to a corner of the delivery room & got on the intercom & said ‘Stat!’ a few minutes later, a few other nurses or doctors came rushing in & went to work on Ryan. He wasn’t crying or breathing & I wanted to go over and see what was happening but was afraid that I’d get in the way, so I didn’t.

Ryan spent the first week or so in intensive care and I was a nervous wreck the whole time. I took CPR when he was a month or so old because I wanted to be prepared in case of emergency. I don’t think I slept through the night for the first year or so. I’d get up in the middle of the night & put my ear close to his mouth to make sure he was breathing. For the first year of Ryan’s life, he up-chucked every meal like clockwork. A few years later we discovered he had severe or acute asthma & we spent many a night in the hospital with him. And even though this may all sound rough or terrible, the good far outweighed the bad. He was a very happy baby, toddler, & young boy. To know that his life was entirely in our hands & to see his smiling face or have him waddle across the floor & ask for a hug was a joy that words can’t do justice to.
5) The death of my mom is the last profound experience that has shaped my life to this point. As I mentioned earlier, my mom raised us by herself & I think that because of this fact, we were forced to depend on each other even more so than most traditional two parent families. I never really minded not having a father growing up except once in awhile like when I was in the YMCA & we had our monthly, Indian Y Guides meetings where fathers came with their sons to the meetings. My mom died of lymph node cancer & I was very angry at my sisters because they were hooked on crack or crank & caused our mother a lot of extra stress & worry on top of all that she was going through with chemotherapy & etc. I was made co-executor with my aunt of my mom’s estate & it was a job that I’ll never do again. I couldn’t even grieve properly because I had to continually stay two steps ahead of my sisters. I had to fire the first lawyer & the second one wasn’t much better. There was an ex-boyfriend of my mom’s that we rented her house to at a real bargain rate but he wouldn’t show the house to perspective buyers & then wouldn’t move out.
I also had to deal with AT&T whom she worked for for 36 years & they denied she had a pension fund which a co-worker of hers told us about. It was just one nightmare after another for over two years and the thing that was toughest of all was the feeling of being alone & not having her there anymore to confide in or lean on in times of trouble. With never having had a father in the picture, it was like having both parents die when she passed away. Life is more precious to me now & I don’t take friendships or anything for granted anymore!

26 replies
    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi, and thanks for your kind words. Sorry but I’m technologically-challenged and I’m trying to find someone to help me set up an RSS feed feature and all the other bells and whistles to hopefully reach a wider audience. Positive feedback from people like you is what makes all my efforts worthwhile. Persevere!

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    • admin
      admin says:

      thanks, working on getting all the stuff like RSS feed feature. I’m technologically challenged and a great gal is helping me to set this up i.e. my blog. Please be patient.

      Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      hi and thanks again, I love the feedback because it lets me know that I’m not alone. I believe the RSS feed feature is now working?

      Reply
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