Life Lesson #2: Be Careful What You Ask For, You May End Up Getting It!
Graduating from High School Offers New Challenges For A Teenager!
Excerpt from Life Lesson #1: …Staying out of high school for 3 weeks nearly cost me my chance to graduate. I had to take remedial classes and get tested in front of the principal before they would let me graduate. But, this was the least of my problems. I still had to find a way to go back home without being manhandled again.
I was sure my parents were worried sick about me because they had no clue where I was. I didn’t call until the end of the third week. I felt I had to negotiate my way back into the house. I wanted to go home, but I wasn’t going to take any more hits. I had taken my last share of abuse and now I needed assurance of safety and a more loving environment…”
Sometimes, as I grew up, it felt as if a black cloud followed me everywhere I went. That’s how it felt when I finally mustered enough courage to pick up the phone and call my house.
My hands were clammy, but they were calm. I wasn’t worried about the call I was making. I knew Dad was at work and he wouldn’t be the one answering the phone. So, I picked up the old rotary-dial phone receiver hanging on my friend’s kitchen wall, and I dialed my home number.
Mom answered on the second ring and said “Hello”?
“Hey Mom, it’s me,” I replied.
“Thank God”! “Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m nearby and I’m safe, but I’m not going to tell you where,” I said.
Who knew? I may not get an agreement that would allow me to come home and I wasn’t about to blow my chance to keep staying where I was.
“How is everyone?” I asked. “How’s Dad?”
“We’re all fine, Kenny. Your brother and the girls miss you, and your Dad and I are worried sick about you. School called and said you hadn’t been showing up for classes or your co-op job. When the guidance counselor called he told us he is afraid if you’re not back in class soon, you might be held back a year because you’re so far behind on your subjects.”
Then she asked: “When are you coming home?”
“Honestly, Mom, I’d like to come home today. But, I’m not going to take any more hits from you all. I don’t think I deserve them.”
“I agree, honey. Come on home and we can talk this out,” she replied.
“Is Dad okay with me coming home?” I asked. “I’m not going to let him hit me again,” I stated.
I already knew the answer…it was more of a rhetorical question rather than quizzical, something you have to ask to make sure of something, even though you already knew the answer. But, I threw it out there just to be sure.
“Yes, honey, he wants you home safe with us,” she said. She spoke the words of a mother worried about her son.
“Okay,” I said. “But if Dad doesn’t want to talk to me, I’m not staying. I don’t want to have to tip-toe around y’all and I don’t want y’all doing that around me,” I stated.
So there it was! I had faced my fears, and in return, I had been handed an olive branch. What a relief!
The ironic part of all this is Dad’s actions toward me. Growing up, none of us kids had to worry about either Mom or Dad abusing us, not at all. We didn’t get smacked or beaten or verbally abused.
I had always looked at Dad’s punishing me when I was a 10-year-old as just that: punishment. Mom had even tried to back up my conclusion back then by telling me: “Your Dad really lost control of his temper with you and he didn’t mean to whip you that much.”
She didn’t try to justify Dad’s treatment of me and had tried her best to soothe me after everyone’s emotions had cooled off.
It was the same this time, too. Mom was the intermediary, the cool head that needs to prevail in these altercations, like with me ponying around the table with Dad. Had she been there during that altercation, I guarantee it would not have escalated beyond control.
Looking back on all this and remembering all the details 50+ years later gives me a whole new perspective on those events.
The quirk of it all is this: As loving as I knew both my parents to be, it was totally out of character for Dad to act that way. He was a devoted husband and a loving father. He worked hard to provide for us and his usual demeanor was more of a comedian than a mean, hardened disciplinarian.
In visiting some of the stressors that have happened to me with my VA-appointed psychiatrist, she helped me dissect this event and classify it as a “one-off.”
In other words, in light of all the background into my “growing up” years I had provided her, she defined it as something that may only occur once, but never gets forgotten.
That was a brilliant way to describe it. It allowed me to forgive Dad and it also gave me peace.
By the way, I did get to graduate with my class. I had concentrated and worked hard to get caught up, even taking several classes on the weekends.
Where my classmates were able to have fun at the beginning of each school day with dancing at the “sock hop” in the gym, and on weekends going to parties and games, my nose was stuck in a classroom or at the kitchen table, dutifully completing my assignments.
What followed next would be one of the toughest challenges of my life…and it would happen less than 3 months after graduation, and less than a month after my 18th birthday.
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