Tag Archive: PTSD

Stranger In A Strange Land

Stranger In A Strange Land
(with apologies to Robert Heinlein)

Imagine going to sleep one night and waking the next day to find yourself in a place where you cannot understand what the people are saying. None of the signs make sense – even the street signs are totally different. Houses are different. Cars are different – strangely small, oddly built. The landscape is different. Even the air has a different feel, a different taste to it.

You cannot call home. There is no internet. Mail takes six weeks to cross the ocean, then six more weeks to get a reply – if you get a reply at all. You go into a restaurant but since you cannot read the menu, you do not know what to order. You know the water isn’t fit to drink. Going into a grocery store, you find yourself looking at the pictures on the labels, not the words on the can. There is only one TV station, but you cannot understand a word they are saying. The only radio station you can understand is run by a huge military propaganda organization, but since you cannot understand anything on the other ones, it’s the one you listen to. They play old radio plays from back before TV was born. The National anthem comes on daily – twice, three times a day, if not more.

The cities and towns are kept clean – neat as a pin. The buildings are mostly old, masonry and massive timbers. Most of the roads in the towns aren’t paved – they’re cobblestoned and narrow. You get scolded in a foreign language if you try to cross in the middle. People you meet might greet you in the passing, but all they say is gibberish to you. You try to reply, your tongue stuttering – but what’s the use? They probably won’t understand you any better than you understand them, so you simply nod your head numbly, and continue walking by.

You have no car, no method of transportation besides your own two feet. There are buses, but you can’t read their destinations. You don’t want to get lost in this land. You may never find your way back. A taxi is safest, but you can’t tell the driver where you want to go – and you can’t understand the value of their money – if you have any money at all.

Watching the TV you see pictures from your home land. All you see are riots and angry crowds. You hear words – the “F” words, the “S” words – ones that they would bleep out if you were home. You wondering what is happening, but you can never know. All they show you are the bad pictures, the nasty things while a voice calmly comments in a foreign language. You haven’t a clue. Is this home?, you wonder, touching the smooth glass of the TV set. Is this what’s happening there? There are no commercials – those all come at the end, smoothly packed into a lump. Your memories seem no more real than the ghostly images you see flickering there.

There is a newspaper you can buy. It’s called the “Stars and Stripes”. It’s a military publication. They don’t mention the troubles at home, the ones you saw on TV. The radio station? “Armed Forces Radio”. A biased opinion if I ever heard one. But it’s the only opinion you’re allowed. Followed by those endless almost black and white radio plays from times gone past. Music is censored as heavily as the hand which censors the news. What is really going on back home? Is it as bad as you see on TV? Is that the home you came from? In time you start to wonder, and wonder what is real.

I woke, tired and groggy. Jet lag had encompassed my eleven year old mind, and the top bunk of the military supplied “hostess house” was crammed with crumpled blankets.

“Get up, Mike,” my father said, rousting me with a jabbing hand. “You’re never going to get over your jet lag if you keep on sleeping. Now get UP.” The last words were said more forcefully as he roughly shoved me and grabbed my leg, dragging me from the bed. I almost fell to the floor, and painfully caught myself, still groggy with sleep and fatigue.

“Stay up.” His command was firm and direct. “You can’t sleep through the next four years.”

Four years. The thought went through my head. Four years of THIS. I felt miserable. We had hustled and bustled through airports, buses, and cabs to come to this place – and seeing my small suitcase sitting on the floor, I knew we weren’t done. My head hurt.

Welcome to Germany.

I had been born here – so my parents told me, and I had a German birth certificate to prove it, courtesy of a birth gone awry – the wrong time and place. Had I been born in an American hospital, I would have been able to go on to be President or some other sort of nonsense – but as my first grade teacher had been fond of pointing out: “Anyone can be president – except YOU, you little Nazi.” And she would point directly at me.

My first language had been German – that’s something else my parents told me. Raised by a German nanny for the first year of my life, my first word had been “Nine!” (No.) I guess that was sort of a protest against the life I had been shoved into. No, I don’t want that; no I will not do this; no, give me no part of it. But in the end I had no choice. Children rarely do.

We’d left Germany that first time when I was one, so I don’t even remember it. And here I had returned at the age of eleven. Yanked from my childhood home with barely a month’s notice; leaving a devastated ‘hood behind. My thoughts often went to my best friend, his family set adrift in a world with no father, no way of producing an income. What would happen to them? There was no way of knowing; no way to call and find out. Telephone calls were forbidden, and mail took an eternity to get there. All my friends – my life as I had known it – was suddenly lost to me. And there was no going back. Not for a long, long time.

Telephone. They had one line (it seemed) for all the military to use to call back home. “Stateside” they called it. And the line, appropriately enough, was called “MARS”. It was appropriate because it seemed that making a call on it took about as much effort as it would to call the planet Mars on a phone line. First you had to make an appointment. Then you had to wait – weeks sometimes. Then – if the military wasn’t using the line – you could make your phone call. But only for a few moments; a minute or two – for there was always someone else standing in line, anxious to make their call. Thus you didn’t call home. Not unless you really needed to. And by then it was usually too late. Needless to say I don’t remember us making a call for the first two years or so.

Cut off. That’s a good way of putting it. Cut off from everything you ever knew, and thrust into an entirely different situation. Not so different you cannot survive – but different enough to remind you: this is not home. Not by a long shot.

Anyone who has traveled overseas, in a country where they cannot speak the language will find much of this familiar. Not so much today: internet and phone communication is so much better. But prior to the mid-eighties or so – or in this case, 1970 – it was a different world. And for a dirt poor Southern boy, age eleven, who had been raised mostly in an equally dirt poor, rural neighborhood – it was a massive transition.

I was too overwhelmed at first to think much about the ‘hood I’d left behind. That would come later. At first we were moved around – a LOT. Due to the nature of my Army dad’s specialty, we were bounced from base to base. Sometimes we would stay just a month or two – sometimes a bit longer. I remember we moved about five times that first year. Trying to keep up in school was a lost cause: they were either way ahead of me, or way behind. My grades suffered, but my parents were to busy with the sudden transitions to care – or if they cared, to help me. There were times I would get a homework assignment in one school – and find myself completing it in the next. A flash of towns and cities and scenes races through my mind; those first few years were so confusing. It’s hard to make sense of it all. To this day I cannot put it all together in a logical order; talking to my mom, I find she cannot, either. We were bounced from towns ranging in names such as Crailsheim, Baden-Baden, Dinkelsbühl, Garmisch, and Wiesbaden. Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt. The towns were old and beautiful, even if the places we sometimes lived were not. Gone was the sweltering heat and humidity I had grown up with, the rolling green hills studded with pine. Instead there were the Alps, mountains, and endless small towns nestled in their valleys. Gone was the warm weather to be replaced by snow – snow so deep it came up to my neck sometimes; sometimes even deeper. I luxuriated in some of the changes: snow was one of them. The food, I found, was wonderful – as long as you ordered the right thing. Sometimes in my ignorance, I did not.

One of the first words I ever learned was “Entschuldigen Sie” (ent-SHOOL-de-gen zee). It means, quite simply “excuse me”. It seemed I was always having to excuse myself – for not knowing German ways, the German language, my own way around. For help figuring out a menu, a sign, where I was, and where I was going. “Entshooldegenzee, bitte”, I would plead (excuse me, please). Excuse me for being here, in your country. Excuse me for needing help. Excuse me for simply being, taking a part of your time.

The Germans are a very particular people; that is, they are very particular about how things should be done. There is a right way (their way) – and every other way is the wrong way. They keep things extremely clean and organized. They often view Americans as you would a slightly crazy, disorganized and immature child. They can’t believe they lost “the war” to us. How could they possibly lose a war to such poorly organized, immature, illogical, crazy people? But they did, and sometimes I think they were ashamed of it. We would watch them coming out of their houses like clockwork on Saturday and Sunday mornings – each wife with a broom in hand, sweeping her particular section of sidewalk, tidying her particular section of street. No one told them to do that: they just did it as a matter of course. It was as if some invisible clock dictated their lives, and it was unmovable, unchangeable. The rules say “do this” – so you do this. The rules say “do that” – so you do that. Perhaps that was part of their downfall. Even their children are born into this clockwork: they play in an orderly fashion, each one taking his turn. There is no pushing and shoving, no giggling and turning around in line.

It was a confusing place to me.

This is just to give you a hint of what I found myself dropped into, pulled from those sandy hills in Georgia into . . . this world. Away from all my friends and all I’d known . . . into this. Was it wonderful? Yes. But . . . I cannot put it into words, not as an eleven year old, nor as the adult I am today. The sensation of wonder and confusion; of isolation and confusion; of change . . . and more change.

It was both a terrible and a strange time, full of wonders and curiosities.

I was truly a stranger in a strange land, and beginning to enter that strange part of childhood, when one is no longer quite a child – but not a teenager, too. An influential time; a time of change, both inside and out.

I had become not only a stranger in a strange land, but a stranger unto myself.

Grade School Memories

(from our Tokoni Post, 6/1/2009)

Grade School Memories


First grade was a mixed bag of tricks, just as this story is a mixed bag of memories. I wasn’t the brightest student, but I wasn’t dumb, either. I was just your average – and talkative – first grader. And talking – boy! – that got me into endless trouble.


The year was 1965, the school freshly minted; the playground a copper colored field of red clay without a single swing or see-saw. It was just a barren dusty field, muddy when it rained, which dropped off abruptly into a wide ravine where they’d pushed the hill over to flatten it to make room for the building. The school itself – nice enough, I reckon, was about three miles from our house. It seemed much further, for the school bus which met us at the top of the hill had to travel what seemed endless miles of unpaved road to pick up us country bumpkins, transporting our squealing mess to the low rambling building. (Funny thing: Looking at the school on Google Earth, I see that playground hasn’t changed a whole lot! – and neither has the school. Nice to see that parking oval where me and my friend would run ’round and ’round.)


I have a lot of memories of that school. The blind girl who sat in our class – stark white hair which matched her blank white eyes, and her skin so pale as she sat before the bulking black hulk of her braille typewriter. She was endlessly fascinating to us, and we all treated her kindly. She sticks out in my mind so well that I can feel her name right there, on the tip of my brain – but alas, it’s gone, forgotten, lost to the winds of time.


I had a teacher who hated me; that much I know from my mom. This teacher, discovering I had a German birth certificate, would refer to me as ‘the little Nazi’. Of course I didn’t have a clue what that meant, except, as the teacher would often point out, “Any of you can become president – except YOU, you little Nazi!” I didn’t mind, and when my mom found out I guess that practice ended. I do know it took me forever to earn my ‘silver star’ for learning the alphabet, and I always had to sit towards the back of class. But that was a good thing, because I was a talker.


She tried to get me to stop talking – smacking my hands with a ruler, and setting me in the corner. But it didn’t work. I would just talk to myself instead. She put me in the hallway – fine. I talked to anyone who would walk by, and if no one was there, I’d talk to the cinderblock walls – myself again. I didn’t mind.


I remember us playing ‘instruments’ – the recorders and little tin cymbals; the game of ‘pass the phrase’ where one would start with a phrase and we’d pass it down the line and see what the end person ended with. It never was the same. I do recall struggling very hard to recite the phrase handed me perfectly – but somehow by the time it reached the end, it had changed. I never understood that; how people can take something and change it and change it and change it again until what came out didn’t resemble what was said at all. I still have trouble understanding why or how people can do that.


I recall the library – we were forbidden from the library that first year, since we didn’t know how to read – watching the other students roaming around in there selecting books, maybe sitting down to read them. Boy, how I wanted to go in there! Later I would discover the true wonders of the library, going on to read literally thousands of books over my lifetime. (And yeah – thousands. But that’s for another story.) And I remembered us watching it snow as we marched past the windows — a miracle for us little kids, raised here in Georgia.


Once – perhaps in second or third grade, they assembled us to watch a film in the auditorium. There were about a half dozen police officers there, and they showed us this really gory black and white film about the dangers of hitchhiking. I suppose parents today would have been in an uproar – this film showed dismembered bodies – and an image that still sticks with me today – a jar full of eyeballs. “This,” one of the officers solemnly intoned, “Is why you should NEVER hitchhike! There are a lot of (sick?) people out there . . .” We were all suitably impressed and traumatized. I know the fear of hitchhiking has always stuck with me since.


Unlike today, a lot of inoculations were done at the school, along with the TB tests. You don’t see too many people today with that quarter sized scar on their upper arm from the booster shots – the older folks know what I’m talking about – when they’d march you past the guy with the ‘black gun’ who’d press it against your arm and deliver a painful sting. I also learned to hate the taste of raspberries. One day we were gathered together and all us kids had to brush our teeth with this raspberry flavored toothpaste – a fluoride treatment, I learned later. They warned us not to swallow – but a lot of us little kids did anyway because after brushing you had to wait in line to spit it out – so some was bound to trickle down our throats – and many of us got sick. To this day that raspberry taste makes me feel queasy.


Corporal punishment was allowed; I remember one little girl getting her butt tanned with one of those ball-and-string paddles by a teacher until the paddle broke. The girl then pee’d down her legs. Us kids snickered and laughed – but not too loudly. I can still see the teacher’s angry gaze looking at us, warning us to “shut UP!”. But such paddlings were rare. Most of us kids were well behaved, knowing that whatever we got at school we would get double at home.


It’s odd, how things stick out in my mind. My last year there – fifth grade – I got my first “F” in math. The time the school bus, dodging a weaving driver on a rain slicked mud road, slipped sideways into the ditch, throwing all us boys onto the “girl’s side” – and they had to evacuate us out the emergency door – how we all waited breathlessly for the ‘fat girl’ to get out – it took three guys to handle her. The boy, Mark, with the squinting green eyes that I fell in love with on the bus – but he lived so far away, and me, being a boy, didn’t dare say anything to him. (I can still see his face, though, smiling, his eyes creasing in the corners.) I can remember the ache in my heart, wanting to ‘love’ him the way I’d learned love should be shown (as wrong as that knowledge and desire may be in an eight year old boy, I still feel that ache.) The girls playing jump rope on the dusty clay, us boys running in endless circles (we had an ongoing debate: did the breeze from running cool you off more than running make you hotter?) It was another time, another place, and I sitting here I ask myself once again: if I knew then what I know now, would I want to go back and relive that time?


I don’t know. And that’s the sad part about it. But I do know this much: I’d treasure some of the moments a lot more than I did then.


Such is the folly of youth, just as regret is the folly of age. Which I why, though difficult sometimes, I work on accepting what happened, what didn’t — and on putting the ‘Ifs’ and ‘could haves’ on a back shelf in my mind to gather dust, where they belong.


(This is from our Tokoni Posting, 7/31/2009 . . .)

Buried In The Hood

There was an incident in the ‘hood – I don’t remember exactly when, though I could easily point out its physical location. I think it was in the fall. It was months after I’d attempted to pay the teenager back for what he’d done to me; embarrassing and using me in that way, months after we’d returned from North Carolina.

It started simply enough – as a game, a dangerous activity. Across the road in the neighbor’s backyard the teenager had dug a small trench. I have dim memories of the friends he had hanging around. It seems to me they were the ‘older kids’, the teenagers he was hanging around.

He had dug a hole about five feet deep, maybe a little more. Six feet long or so, it was just wide enough for us little kids to slip in. Encouraging three or four of them to get into it, he began filling it up with the loose dirt.

When the dirt had risen up to their chins, he gave each one a short piece of garden hose. “Here,” he’d say. “Put this end in your mouth. Breath through it while I finish burying you.”

And so the kids did – the picture is in my mind – while dirt showered little heads. All in a row, green lengths of garden hose protruding from there mouths. Lips clenched tight around the rubber to keep the dirt from getting in. And then he continued burying them, showering the dirt over their heads until only their head stuck above the dirt, like a row of tow headed cabbages in a garden Occasionally he would stop to adjust a hose, making sure it stayed above ground level. Eventually all of the kids were buried; there was nothing to see except this row of short hoses, sticking up out of the rumpled ground.

“I could kill them, you know,” he casually commented, walking around his creation. It looked to me like some sort of bizarre flower garden, those hoses sticking up out of the sand. “All I have to do is put my thumb over the hose – and they’re dead.” He grabbed one of the hoses with his hand, illustrating how easy this would be, his thumb hovering over the end. I remember walking as he stood to the side, observing his bizarre creation. You could hear the air whistling out of the hoses; putting my palm near one I could feel warm moisture being exhaled out. It seemed strange and odd and wonderful to me, knowing that just below my feet were these little kids, standing as if at attention, in the coarse darkness of the sand, the coolness of the earth.

After about five or ten minutes he got his shovel and began digging them back up. It was a slow process – it probably took a half hour, maybe even more. They climbed out, some staggering. They act pleased, but in some of their faces is a look of terror. Then he motions to me, my best friend, and another kid. All of us have ‘been’ with him; we have all been ‘victims’ of his sexual appetite at one time or another – or in some cases, many times.

“Get in,” he says. I look at the trench with doubt. The walls are dark and crumbly, the bottom nearly black. “Go ahead. You chicken?”

My best friend (his little brother) nudges my elbow. “Come on!” he says, climbing in and standing in the trench. The slit in the earth is so narrow it almost embraces his front and back. “I dare ya!”

Well, I pondered. If my best friend will get in – be there right beside me – and after all, the teenager hadn’t hurt the first group of kids – how neat it would be to be buried there, how cool to breath through a hose. Enticed by the idea of a new adventure, I eased myself down into the hole.

It was tight. The scent of fresh earth filling my nose. The crumbling wall – right there, before my very eyes. The cool uneven bottom, pressing against the pads of my bare feet. I could feel my heart racing. This was a new thing, a new experience. The sense of danger – that was part of the draw. But at the same time I had a child’s undefined sense of worry, knowing I would be subject to the whims of the teenager; seeing that thumb in my mind, poised over the end of the hose, I felt a sense of apprehension.

But it was too late – the teenager was already shoveling dirt in. Before I knew it I was up to my knees; up to my chest. The dirt pressed in, immobilizing me in its soft, yet firm grip. Showers of dirt rained over us, tossing my head and blinking the crumbs away, I remember looking up at the narrow ribbon of sky beyond the towering pines. It was a bright blue sky; paler than the ocean, but not much different. White clouds hung there, suspended, until finally I had to close my eyes. The dirt was getting too deep.

“Here, take this.” The hard end of a hose butted against my lips. Opening my mouth and taking it in; clenching my lips firmly sealed around it. It was wet from the previous kid, and had a foul, plastic-rubber taste. And drawing air through that tube was harder than I thought. You really had to suck hard, pushing against the dirt pressing against your chest, pulling the air in through that narrow constriction. I began wondering if I had made a mistake.

Finally. The dirt is over my head, bowing my head under its weight. I am desperate about the hose; afraid to lose it, knowing that if I do, I shall die. I can’t feel my friend next to me; all I can feel is the weight of the dirt closing in. And it is silent – the quietest quiet I’ve ever known. I can’t open my eyes – don’t dare to, for they will get full of sand – and dark. Even beyond my eyelids I know it’s dark – a strange darkness, because even if I did open my eyes, there would be no light – no chance of light, finding its way under the dirt. And it feels very alone, separated – from the my friends, from the sky, from the world.  In some ways it is a good feeling; a feeling of total isolation from the world. The dirt is soft – but firm. It is cool, much cooler than “up there”. The air, foul tasting , draws through the hose reluctantly, as though it resists traveling beneath the earth.

I don’t know what happened, there beneath the ground, nor do I know what happened above. I “went away” after awhile, for lack of better words. There is a black spot in my memory there, as dark as the hole I was buried in. It “feels” like a hole in my memory. But around the hole there are impressions; ghostly sensations, like the marks left by a shovel.

I seem – and I’m not sure – to remember . . . what? I struggle here, searching my mind, attempting to penetrate that darkness. All I can see (feel?) is a growing sensation of struggling to breath. The teenager’s thumb?  The dirt compressing my lungs?  Who knows? Deep in my mind is the sensation that my chest hurt badly, struggling to pull air in past a plug that would not give; able to blow air out, but take none in.  You know the feeling.  Just duct tape your nose and mouth shut while holding a half breath of air – desperately (burningly!) trying to draw in another lungful of moist precious air – belly buckling; diaphragm hurting – and you can’t.

I don’t know what happened. All I can sense is a time of terror; of hard excruciating pain – then blackness. What does that mean?

The next thing I remember is the dirt is down to my chest; the hose has been take away. There is a weakness, a sense of confusion – then being were hauled from the dirt by my hands like a bag full of clay and set to the side of the hole. Standing up, I stumbled around; clearing the dirt from my eyes, I begin to go around the house, confused I begin heading home. I can hear the teenager laughing; his friends are snickering – my best friend, too, is confused, but I think he is confused at my confusion or perhaps … I don’t know.  He joins me was we head for my yard; the back yard, a place of safety. The sky is still blue, as blue as can be, and the white clouds are in motion again.

And the air – the fresh and open air! – tastes so much better than before, sweeter than it has ever been.

That much I remember.

Looking back upon that day – for it started out fun and ended in confusion – it’s hard to know what exactly what happened. That “part”, that “child” – keeps the worst of “his” memories from me. The shrinks say it was – or is – a form of self-protection – protecting me from knowing what happened. (I smile softly and laugh: imagine – a child protecting me, a “grown man”. Though I know that >I< am only a part of me. There is no “whole”. There is just a collage of me; a blending of others, their thought, opinions, and memories to lead me on. But even still I – and some of “them” – wonder what happened that day.

Did the teenager, pissed off at my petty revenge, decide to put his thumb over the hose? Was I “knocked out” – or did I just retreat in my mind? Why no memory of him starting to dig me out? Why the confusion, the weakness upon being lifted from the hole?

These are things I know I can never know, or perhaps might, but the one who knows isn’t talking and won’t show me all the ‘pictures’ of what happened. I mentally embrace him; and yet he turns away, just as a sad and shame filled child might do within your arms. You monominds – do you have to put up with this? This ‘sensation’ of having another, one you can mentally embrace? A part of you that is separate – but resides within you? A small child, usually sad, sometimes ashamed, but in some ways wondrous and brave?

I don’t know. As I grow older, and deal more with my ‘condition’, the more I learn – and the more I realize I don’t know about some of these “parts” of me, these things that the shrinks call “alters”. It’s a strange world that I live in – both inside and out, filled with glimmers of the past; brandings, open eyed wonders, and mysteries to me.

It’s hard to describe the roundhouse effects of Child Rejected One, Child Rejected Two, and Child Betrayed.  A ‘one-two-three’ punch to the child he’d loved and the child who had loved him (meaning our pedophile friend and our little one, Mikie).

Some of it I suppose was due to age.  Little Mikie had taken on some years; quite in the same way a hungry person will put on weight.  Not physically: Mikie was a trim and fit kid; able to run fast, play hard, tanned and muscular beneath a Southern humid sun.  But he’d already changed . . . big for his age; his shoulders broadened; by the time he was ten or so the other kids wouldn’t take him on – even the teenagers pretty much left him alone.

But in that ‘getting bigger’ perhaps was another clue: he’d ‘outgrown’ that teenager friend of his – or perhaps the teenager had outgrown him.  Who knows?  We haven’t got a clue.

But on the other hand . . . the teenager was covertly scheming to have us coerce and coax that little kid over … the one from another next door.  That sand blond kid; thin and with freckles – a giggly tough but kind hearted kind of kid – was only five years old.  About the same age I was when the teenager started doing me.  (Only I was about a little bit older; maybe six or seven years old.  But so innocent in all so many other ways … but not unfamiliar with terror and pain.)

So maybe it was the innocence that ‘caught him’.

All I know is what he did to me.

That first betrayal: that shoving aside … all had taken place (I think) in the period of about one year (amazing, come to think of it now: how those three events can stand out so strongly like that; they were affecting me and mine so much both then as well as now).

But examining it from the child’s side:

Mikie’s father was gone.  The closest thing he had to a father . . . who knows?  There were several men: the one next door (a massive man, good humored besides) and his side-kick (a gruff old man chewing a cigar and reclining on his sofa out in the heat of the yard).  The one across the street?  (His wife was a ‘momma’ of sorts to all of us) . . .

It takes a village to raise a kid, and we certainly did: that neighborhood was like a village all unto itself – safe from the law and violence (for the most part; what happened in stayed in; what happened out – stayed out, but came in sometimes nevertheless…)  Everyone’s ‘momma’ was the momma (with the notable exception of a few) – and everyone’s daddy to be obeyed (even the drunk ones; or the ones that made no sense).

It was the rule of the law; the lay of the land . . .

and the teenager was included within.

Only he was some kind of ‘demi-god’ – middle management, if you prefer.  Falling under control of the grownups; only slightly less in the eyes of some kids – he was the ‘demi-god’ – one of several, to be sure – but he was MY demi-god and I loved him – strong and clear and clear.

And then he threw me away; threw me aside; favoring someone ‘better’ – or at least unknown – younger looking; younger acting – more naive in his innocence; more round eyed; doe eyed . . . than me.  Perhaps that was it.  I don’t know.  All I know is he rejected me … then abused me some more.  (The twisting emotion; a sickening pain .. the one of some love betrayed.  Bitterness; anger in this thing; the betraying of emotions.)

And then love died (I’m thinking to myself; wondering what all had gone on).

We can feel that in ourselves; that love softly dying…

only it wasn’t softly at all; it was off of that first moment; when the teenager betrayed him; announcing to the crowd:

“Mikie really loves sucking some dick.”  and then the neighbors laughed.

Cruelly, mockingly; just as the teenager did that night in the tent (and some … I don’t know what, but we wanted to say “some more”.  Perhaps he mocked us again later on; I don’t know – but I feel a real deep hurt; a screaming that it did and I see my friend and he – Mikie my own kid….I think we both got insulted some of the time which is why we were so tightly bound together – B., my best friend back then.  With the handsome eyes (wide spread); curling sand brown locks on his head … he was a cute kid looking back in time; here and he and I.)

(sighing again … this pain is so hard; Mikie loved B., the teenager’s younger brother – Mikie’s own age – as such a friend…)

Both of there at the beginning; but not so much the teenager at the end.

This is going to be a long post I see.  We’re already over 800 words (the ‘proper amount’ for a ‘commercial blog’ – but this is not some commercial we’re producing.  It is I and my friends … and there’s a lot going on … a lifetime we’re trying to recover…so be patient with me dear Reader and friend … while we ramble on.)

A hatred of love … I think that’s where it began.  The seed was planted in little Mikie’s heart.  It would take more, of course – uprooted, rejected again.  Losses overseas.  But eventually it became such a thing – a source of all his pain.  Love, then lost; love and lost again.  Giving it another try – and violently yanked from its source.  Again and again this sort of thing happened – loving and losing again.

By the time we were 13, I (Matthew) was done with it.  And so (I reckon) was Mikie.   Or at least he ‘retreated’ – went inside – leaving me alone to run the farm.  Hoeing those long rows of pain; trying to undo what had been done (that’s M3 talking right there) – but for ME??  Matthew??

I couldn’t do it again.  Not for him; and not for Mikie.

Not even for myself.

And that’s when the wall began.  The inner ‘walls’ sealing ‘him’ (Mikie) inside – the ‘outer walls’ against the world.

We had been betrayed by love – for we HAD loved; DID love – and got a kick in the face (a dick in the face); and something rammed up our ass.  It resembled a bootprint for sure – but it hurt much more; going deep within . . .

just like that teenager friend.

I wish I could go ‘aaaarrrrgggghhh!!!!’ with a cry of anguish; but I can’t; I hold it in.  It wouldn’t do no good.  I know; we’ve tried it before..

When the pain gets so bad the cutting begins … we’re drinkin’ a beer, numbing my friend; and my being Mikie (so we can’t hear his whimpering … tho’ in my mind I AM trying to hold him close … but it’s like hugging a cactus; each spike brings us pain – those spikes of loves lost, betrayed – over and over again.

I wish I could get over this thing (we wish we all could heal.)  On this one thing if no other . . .
one day maybe we will….


We cannot even begin to scrape the surface of the damage that he’s had; Mikie and our friend (Matthew is in mind).

Those two; most precious to our hearts.
perhaps that’s where the pain began…
deep in our hearts with parents who … while taking care of us … beat us and hurt us all.

Screwing us up forever in relationships ….
driving us to these things
looking for love in the wrong places
darkening our angel’s wings…


(Tokoni 05/28/2009)

It’s funny sometimes how a single word or phrase can conjure up an image from the past. Sometimes, of course, it can be a smell or something you see. But with some things – well some things are strange, just like memories. And talking with my brother about our shared past is one of them.

My brother was talking one day – we were just talking in general about the old man’s behaviors when we were kids – comparing notes, I guess – and he really hates the old man a lot more than I do. Being as he was the older brother (still is by my count), he should remember more of what went on than I do – but (amazingly to me!) – he doesn’t. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember some, and he often remembers things I have forgotten (or just didn’t want to remember.) The mind is funny that way – it likes to play the old “cup and ball” game with memories sometimes – quick! What cup is THAT memory under? And sometimes you never know. Then along comes brother, taps a cup with his finger – and wallah! There it is!

My brother did this, oh, about a year ago. It’s not the first time he’s done it. (It’s like a magic trick to me, it really is! Poor, strange, mucked up magician.) He tossed out a cup just a couple weeks ago – and wallah! There it is: the old man holding me up by one ankle and whaling the bejeezus-come-and-save me coin. Another tap and – yes! There it is: you were RIGHT big brother, he DID take me into my room by myself and whip me until you heard me scream, scream, scream. Gee, whut fun this game is. (NOT!) But it’s good to know – and I’ve finally figured out why:

It explains why I don’t love the old fart. Why I secretly detest him. Why he sets me on edge. Why . . . I guess why I hate him in so many ways, and at least part of the reason I don’t trust him with kids. Because I know: he’s a secret ‘closet sadist’. And not just with animals, but with kids. Funny thing is: he’s such a wimp with pain. You’d think with him being so sensitive to any poke or prod, he’d of had more compassion for his kids. But . . . he don’t. Or doesn’t. Or didn’t. I don’t know: you pick the word.

But getting back to the word: Boots. My brother and I are talking about some of the stuff that went on – I’m trying to edge him towards what went on ‘over there’ – meaning between the teenager and us – but being careful. I mean – it’s easy talking about the physical and mental abuse, but the ‘other’ stuff – well, that’s a whole different ballgame. And with my brother you have to be careful. He hasn’t ‘healed’ I guess as much as I, or if so, he’s healed mad.

My brother won’t admit – or hasn’t admitted – what went on with the kid next door, the teenager. And I – well, I just don’t have the guts to directly approach him about it. Oh, I’ve beaten around the bush a bit, but I’m pretty careful about that sort of thing – if you beat around the bush too much, you’ve defined what’s hiding in it. And my brother is a staunch homo-hater. Not a homophobe, because homophobia means a ‘fear of homosexuals”. He just hates ’em. Violently so. And . . . well, I suspect he would go off in a violent rage if I said “hey, Bro, don’t you remember THIS and THIS and THIS?” Either that, or he would deny it. Or he’s thoroughly blocked it. I don’t know.

Odd that we can discuss the physical abuse so much easier. Why is that? Personally I think it’s because of society’s views towards sexuality as a whole: the Americans are such prudes! Which may be part of the reason we have so much of it on TV; why they snicker at nude art, and why we are so continuously fascinated with it. It is the ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome, I reckon. We really like sex – everyone I know does – but we hate to admit it. Blame it on our Puritan ancestors, I guess. At any rate, I think its messed up the way we tend to hide it – and then put it in plain site; gossip about OTHER’s sexual activities – but refuse to divulge our own in shame and embarrassment. I guess that’s part of being human – being weird. (Of course I have to bear in the back of my mind I wasn’t ‘raised right’ anyway. That might have something to do with it. But what IS right? – aside from what society and your own heart (influenced by society) says it is?)

But anyway – focusing back on the title of this story – to help focus my mind, I guess, because I tend to wander (shy?) away from some memories. We are talking and Bro says:

“I hated the way he would come home and start kicking us with his boots.”

Bingo. Cup is lifted. There it is: the memory coming home to roost. An image flies through my mind: us two little kids, cowering underneath the dining room table – and these big ol’ combat boots lashing out at our faces, arms, hands – anything they could connect with. Chairs scuffling away from the table, removing our last bit of protection. The old man circling around, trying to get in another kick. Bammo whammo – secrets untold, revealed with one word.


A word that brings back some memories (like magic!, a part of my mind says, using one of those TV announcer’s voices).


And ow. They hurt.

(And remembering still – here on May 27, 2011 . . . this shit went on until we were in our middle teens – cowering under the dining room table while he kicked and thrashed at us – circling the table like a vulture – just big enough that you could hide on one side while he kicked on the other – but woo unto the child who was too slow moving under those table legs and the chairs!  Ow, they hurt almost as bad as those boots sure did.  Getting knocks on the head from bumping the table . . . and then HIM calming down and going away somewhere – usually to his bedroom to take them boots off (his uniform, too).  Laying down on the bed for a mid-afternoon nap – probably dreaming he was in ‘Nam.  Us straightening out things around the table so mom wouldn’t get mad when she got home (she was as bad as he was in her own way – and we’d have to clean THAT mess on up, too, don’t cha’ know!)

anyhoo . . . made things sort of fun and interesting, in a dry detached sort of way.  As long as you don’t look at it too closely  . . . and see those two 8 year olds and 9 year olds (and probably even younger; we don’t remember it ALL – but brother has slowly (albeit unknowingly and oft-times accidentally) filling us in.)

Until later.

Your friend and yours.
Cruzzer & Co (meaning Elvis and Friends, LOL’ing, meaning …

see ya!

Tales Momma Tells
(Toknoni 05/16/2009)

While my mother and I have a troublesome past (mild understatement), I like hearing her stories of her past. These are stories that are fading with the older generation, and not often written down. In time they will be lost forever. Often they reveal things about my mother’s upbringing which gives me some insight into her and my own upbringing, since one affects the other. (see “The Tools They Were Given”).

Yesterday my mother and I went to a museum, not something we do often. The museum visit – forgettable. The ride there and back – not so much. Especially after my mother revealed an incident involving me and some Vietnamese officers that I am still trying to “get over” or digest. Last night was hard, and I . . . “switched” in my wife’s arms, something I have not done for years, and let her hold that child-thing within me. (Yeah, it was that bad, and I have gone to her several times today, just to be in her arms – though she does not know what I’ve been told, only that it ‘did something’ to me.) But in that thing my mother told me, she revealed either her love for me – just her outrage at those men (because she truly does hate men at heart). More on that later, perhaps today. We’ll see.

In her tales to me, she revealed that she was ordered to take care of her siblings – just babies – at the age of seven – or else! Her new step-father was a PTSD WWII alcoholic vet (a very violent man). I have just begun to realize how very poor they were.

She told about how they would save tinfoil for the war drive – not the tinfoil that you cook with, but even the foil off of cigarette wrappers, gum wrappers (when, she said, they were lucky enough to have gun) – every little scrap. She told how she, when she got older, would babysit for money – but had to turn every cent over to her stepfather, who would contact her employers to make sure he got every penny – and would beat her severely if she held back a single dime.

She talked about how they lived for a while on a tenement farm

She talked about how she never knew how she knew to take care of and handle the old kerosene lamps – the cleaning, trimming of wicks, etc., until HER mother said:

“Don’t you remember, dear? How you would have to carry the lamp upstairs to go to your bedroom? In that old dry house? And I was always afraid you’d fall or drop it – but your (step) father wouldn’t let me do it. But you always made it!”

She talked about how her and her mother, along with the kids, would be dropped off at the “garden” to work all day in the hot sun – her no doubt having to alternate between taking care of the kids and weed and hoe – while her stepfather went to town to start his daily drunk. I know those ‘gardens’ – they weren’t ‘gardens’. They were (and are here in the South) long endless furrows with dust and weeds, not a drop of shade to be found. It’s hot, dry, dusty work that leaves your tongue swollen with thirst, your skin caked with sweat coated mud, and your fingers and back sore from bending. About how, at the end of the day they would sit on a dusty bank waiting for him to come pick them up. And how in the end it all proved an exercise in futility, for their father made them move before the garden ‘came in’ for harvesting. I could hear the tone of finality, the sense of regret and loss in her at that. She has always loved gardening.

She talked about how they grew up poor, so poor that in all their years their greatest treat was the few (I take it two or three) times that her and her brother would be given a Hersey bar to split; how their mother would split the bar, and then they (my mom and her brother) would separate the little squares, dropping them into two separate teacups and sitting on the couch all day, suck on the chocolate squares, making them last as long as possible. “It’s not like the children of today,” she said, indicating with her tone how spoiled they are. “We didn’t gobble them up. We’d let each piece slowly melt in our mouths, savoring the flavor for as long as possible.” The wrappers, of course, went to the foil drive.

She grew up in places where the things we as modern individuals take for granted were just a dream. No electricity, no running water, not even a toilet in the house. They used an outhouse instead – and this was in the early fifties. They would have to heat water on the stove to do dishes – and her a young girl of maybe ten? I can imagine my mom struggling with a big pot of boiling water, making her way ever so carefully from the stove to the sink. What a hard life it must have been (and yet I have lived like that a time or two myself, which is why I have no fear of extreme poverty.)

She also talked about how the kitchen had to be spotlessly clean before everyone went to bed – another one of her chores – and if anything was forgotten, her stepfather would beat her unforgivably. (Having met that cruel man, I can easily believe this – very easily.) This is a habit she carries to this day: everything must be put up and tidy; the cabinets all wiped down, before she retires in the evening – no matter how tired or sore she is from her old age. Me? Not so much. I will leave dishes in the sink until morning, though I am a compulsive countertop wiper.

What reoccurs in all her stories of the past is her abusive – and I take it horribly abusive – stepfather, his rages and tempers, and hard quickness of hand. I imagine that because he was so abusive, she doesn’t see what she did to us kids as abusive, not so much – though I think in her heart of hearts, she knows, and knows very well what she did to us was just as horribly wrong in its own way. The fact that she didn’t abuse us quite as bad as she was abused tells me something about her – but I don’t know what, yet. It’s still something I’m trying to figure out. (See “The Drum Beats Slowly”.)

That’s something that I learned when I inadvertently became an abuse counselor online (while seeking help for me) – it’s not the stories that matter; it’s their effect on a person. It’s not the depth of abuse so much as how the person decides to handle it, change their own behavior, reject their ‘training’, and become a better person not only despite it, but because of it and their recognition of what it did to their lives. It’s one of the reasons I think us survivors are strong, and why we can be more tender and compassionate than those who have never had this sort of thing go on in their life. But only when we heal, or as we heal — for the scars last forever. They really do. And looking at our own scars is what gives us the strength to bear another’s; memories of our own pain is what gives us the empathy to understand the pain of another.

It’s a sad thing to realize you’ve been abused; but I feel it’s up to you (me) to change it, if you’ve discovered in your own self those abusive behaviors – the tendencies to strike out at others (unreasonably sometimes), to push away, sabotage your accomplishments, and engage in self-destruction. Lord knows, I’ve done everyone of those things in the past, and face the temptations to do those types of things on a daily basis. Not a day goes past that I or some part of me doesn’t have the temptation to put my .357 to my temple and pull the trigger**. Sometimes (like last night, after my mom revealed to me something forgotten), the urge to cut and hurt myself strikes. I sometimes find myself looking at the male-seeks-male ads, wanting to satisfy that long denied side of my bisexual nature. But I never answer; never (thus far) give into those impulses, knowing they are not only self-destructive, but would terribly hurt the ones I love so dearly. The ones who can not understand, and my wife who can never trust (she, too has some issues from her past.) But I know she trusts my love, and knowing how untrustworthy I can be, I try my best to be my best for her.

I won’t say I’m perfect. I’m so far from perfect that I can’t stand myself sometimes (hence the behavior patterns of times gone past, and the temptations I face now, and will face in the future.) Despite my name – “Michael” – I know I’m not angel, though he is my guardian at times, and I will fight alongside him should that judgment day come to pass. After all, it’s what I am, and what I’ve become, and what I always hope to be.

More human all the time.

 ** Note this was written in 2009.  Since April 1st of this year (2011) things have gotten MUCH better as we’ve cut through this BS and learned not only to accept ourselves, but BE ourselves – a multiple being living in a single unit, embracing each other and all – inside and out – with love. 

Things are much better now (we are hoping!) – and will continue to be so, though we also know: there’s a long tough row to hoe ahead in our lives – but we will go on living!  (singing our SONG of LIFE inside – forever and always THERE!  (big smiles big big smiles . . . if you only knew …. the beauty that we see.)

The Tools They Were Given
(Tokoni 05/13/2009)

“They had to work with the tools they were given,” the shrinks said, but they never really explained it to me. I wonder if they really understood it themselves. It was a phrase handed out in college, like their diplomas – something to hang on the wall for us to see. A handy cliché, something to say when they couldn’t think of anything else. They have a lot of those phrases, dispensing them like candy pills – and in many cases, just as effective – which means it sounds sweet, but doesn’t do any good. It still doesn’t cure the sickness in your heart and in your soul. It isn’t the superglue that makes the mind whole. Trust me – I know.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking here lately. Part of that goes back to the story I wrote, “The Drum Beats Slowly”. The drum is thrumming, the mind is rolling, peeling back away the years – looking for experiences and motives, times and conditions. Onion peel – hell yes. I’m peeling back those layers, one by one. I wonder if onions cry when they are being peeled? I know it must hurt them; it hurts me. Just look how hard it is to peel an onion as you dig deeper through the layers. They don’t “peel”, you have to tear the skin off, ripping it with your fingernails and fighting your own tears are you dig deeper towards the core. And I – for now – am that core. And yes, as an onion, I can tell you: it hurts sometimes. Hurts really bad.

But I’m not going to go there right now – my skin is still fresh and bruised. Instead, I’m going to consider something else.

The tools they were given.

What do I know about my parents? What do I know about their family skills?

I’ll take the easy one first.

My dad. His mother was killed when he was young by a drunken driver. That drunken driver was his father, piloting the vehicle they were in. I didn’t discover this story until I was in my early forties – dad won’t talk about it, won’t mention it, and gets madder than hell if we do and simply storms off to go sulk in his room. What I do know about it I’ve gleaned from my mom, who had long been into genealogical research. She has talked to members of his own family, discovered the ‘family secret’ that he kept hidden so well – so well in part because he changed his name as soon as he was able. That’s how much he hated his drunken dad for taking his mother from him. (soft smile. Nothing stays hidden from mom, not for very long – nothing except my own secrets, and the secrets of my own madness – though she has long suspected something is ‘wrong’ with me. But then again, she has often said I am crazy – just like her, only in a similar, if somewhat different way. At least I sought help for my own particular type of insanity – after experiencing her’s for so long.)

I’m not certain, but I think my dad was in the car when his momma died. Again, not sure, but family rumor has it that his dad pulled out into an intersection against the light, getting rammed in the process. Of course into the passenger side, where his own bride sat. My dad was eight years old.

I know this (and because I’m from a military family, over a thousand miles from my extended family – always have been – information is sketchy at best). His aunt(s?) and uncle on his mother’s side took in all the children. I didn’t really realize he had two sisters until my forties, again. I thought they just lived with someone else; were a different set of children. I never knew they belonged with him.

His mother – or shall I say aunt? – was a doting old bitch. I know this from having met her several times. She even insisted my mother press and iron his underwear when my mother married him. (It was a frowned upon marriage by his extended family.) I don’t know where he got his mean streak from – he’s quite a sadist at times, has always been that way. I know the man who raised him – a great hunter with a natural eye for shooting – was gruff, but friendly to me and my brother. Me and my daughter have inherited that eye – we seem to be able to pick up a rifle or a shotgun and always put that round just where we want it. Amazing thing to me, to see my five year old daughter shooting my .357 with an unflinching eye, putting those rounds right where she wanted. Same with the .22. Dead shot every time. I guess it’s something we inherited. (some stories in that, needless to say!)

He grew up out west, in Wyoming, the lonely state. His ‘father’ (or uncle, if you’d rather), was a business owner and a businessman, who, I gather, also had a few Mafia connections. He owned a bottling plant – I won’t say which one (trademark issues), but my father worked for him for some time before joining the Army. It wasn’t long after that that he first met my mother.

I also know that my father changed his name as soon as he was legally able. That much he has managed to admit. He wouldn’t tell us what his ‘real’ last name was – that was something for my mother to find out. I rather wish he hadn’t changed it. I like his former last name much better; my daughter, too. His ‘new’ last name is just too hard to pronounce, and even then, he didn’t get it quite right. He changed it from his uncle’s last name to one of his own making – shortening it somewhat, and throwing off the “ie”. As a result I’ve always had to give my last name by spelling it. And of course, it’s often mispronounced. I feel like I have two last names – three, now, if you include the one my dad gave up when he was eighteen – because when asked, I say my last, then spell it right after. I’ve learned most folks won’t get it right the first time around. But I’m okay with that. I just wish my wife would let me use the name “Smith” or “Johnson” or “Jackass” (my favorite) when we go to a restaurant and have to leave our name to stand in line to wait. It would make life so much easier – for both the poor restaurant girls and me.

I also know that my dad suffered PTSD from his experiences in Korea – ones that left him so violent and enraged the Army (and this is the Army, mind you!) – determined that the best thing to do was put him in a hospital for a year – and then isolated him (along with others of his kind) on a small military outpost on a smaller Japanese island for another year – leaving them without treatment (the Army itself didn’t understand PTSD) to ‘heal’ on their own. It didn’t work.

My mother’s life I know much better. She was a lonely girl, despite being born into a large family. And they had it hard (unlike my dad, whose family had a bit of money – the bottling plant and Mafia thing, you know.) Her first mom and dad split up when she was young – but not so young that she couldn’t take care of the kids – her siblings. And when her mother married the second man – things went south. Quite literally.

They moved away from her family home in Iowa, where she had all her relatives and friends. Her new dad was a WWII vet, given to bouts of alcoholism and extreme violence. He had PTSD in every way imaginable. Apparently he was a front line infantryman during the Great War – or the second of the Great Wars – and saw a lot of truly, seriously bad s**t. We’re talking the ‘guy next to you head blown off’ face gone limbs mangled blown up bits of body type of stuff. The really bad stuff that if you think of being there, sends shudders down your soul. And I guess it kinda broke him – and not in a gentle way. From what I remember of him, he was a violent man with a bad temper, though he always treated us grandchildren okay. Not so much his own wife and kids. Apparently there were beatings and starvings. Things we’d call torture today. And they were poor poor. Hard core poverty. And my poor mom – she had to raise the children, though she was a child herself. Her mother was too involved in trying to keep her marriage together (which sounds familiar, given my mom and her marriage to my dad! ← new realization!). Her sister still leans on her like my mother is her mom – which is what my mom had to be to her then. I remember my grandmother on that side. She was . . . weak. Beautiful and frail. An artist and a writer (which is perhaps where I got those skills, eh?) Her letters to us always contained the most beautiful pictures and drawings in the margins and envelopes. But she was weak. Too weak to leave him, despite what he was doing to their family.

Screwed up relationships. That is what my mother and father were given. Those were the tools they had to use. For my mother: a hatred of a violent, PTSD, half-drunken father who couldn’t give a good G-D about their feelings or needs. One who, apparently, never told them that he loved them – because he couldn’t. He was a hard man. I know. I met him.

I was walking in the woods with my mom a few weeks ago. She has always bitterly complained how much she hates her (now dead) stepdad; how badly he would beat her, how she was put in charge of everything regarding her siblings, ‘the kids’. “The only thing he didn’t do was sexually molest me,” she said, her voice so bitter that I could almost hear the leaves dropping. “That came . . .” and she trailed off. I didn’t press the issue – god knows! – I know how hard it is to address that sort of stuff within one’s own self, much less admit it to someone else – much less admit it to her own (now adult) son.

But it left me wondering, and with little doubt.

It must of happened to her, too.

I’ll add this, before I close on this one.

My mom was desperate to escape from her ‘family’, if you want to call it that. Horribly, desperately wanting to escape an emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive stepdad, and the mother who was too weak to either control him, or leave him, and the children who depended upon her for their care. And she met my father at a USO dance one night. A few days later he proposed to her. Sher refused. He asked again. Again she said no. The third time was the charm. A week or two they were married. Within a year, my brother was born; a year and a half later, overseas, I was too.

She was trapped.

Just like her mother was.

So . . . these were the tools they were given. And now, in retrospect, I’ve discovered the secret of the phrase that the shrinks were given – and they gave to me. Even if they didn’t explain it at the time.

My parents couldn’t do any better because, I guess, they didn’t know any better. Or did they?

I found out. Why couldn’t they? Or perhaps – they viewed the treatment they gave me and my brother as so much ‘better’ than that they were given . . . that they thought what they gave us was good. What a normal family should be.

I’m going to have to do some more thinking about this one. It’s got me sorta confused – but I can see a point. A dim point of light there, at the long end of a tunnel. They were treated bad; I was treated better? Is that it? Even if better was “bad”? Does that excuse what they did? I don’t know.

And yeah – feel free to enlighten me on this one. Like I said: it’s sorta confusing. Kinda like my life sometimes.

I gotta quit for awhile. This onion is feeling . . . bruised and tender skinned. Let me dry awhile. Let that shell harden a bit Then we’ll dig deeper again.

(Note: Now it is 2011 – and I do feel much better!  Specifically, I started “feeling much better” on April Fool’s day for one of two reasons; then two of two reasons (one leading me – and us – to another, better reason) – and now many more (including love, Faith, and Forgiveness (some)).  You’d better read the rest of my blog (especially around that period) to even get a clue.  Until then – have faith, have hope, and carry on as best YOU can …. with the Tools YOU’VE been given.  Good luck, good faith, and have a lotta hope . . . and may the Peace of Love fill your Souls as well.

Jeff and Friends
May 2011

Flying Saucers
(Tokoni, 04/28/2011)

When I was a kid, my mom would get really mad at us sometimes. I don’t know why, but it seemed that it would often happen in the kitchen. Or maybe it was just a coincidence – maybe I just remember the things that went on in the kitchen better. Or . . . well, I can sit here guessing all day. All I know is that it was, in a way, good training at “duck and dodge” for us kids – and perhaps a way for my mom to justify getting new dishware. After all, a woman gets tired of washing the same old dishes day in, day out after a time.

But these things would always start out the same – my brother and I on one side of the table, my mom in the kitchen area (we never really lived in a place with a formal dining room, so this makes sense.) Mom would be yelling about something we’d done or left undone – working herself into a feverish rage, screaming and shouting and calling us the names she so often used – one of her most popular was “you damn brats”. That one was so popular with me that a friend left from childhood (the only friend I know – and not a best friend anymore, but rather more of an acquaintance) – recalls her introducing me to anyone and everyone as “Here’s my son. Damn brat.” Oh well, I knew by the age of ten I was ‘bad’ and given to making many mistakes. I still struggle with that sometimes.

Anyway, after working herself into a frenzy, it would happen – and we always knew when it was going to happen, because the first thing she would do would be to yank open one of the kitchen cabinets. Then the rain would begin – a ceramic rain or dishes and saucers; glasses and cups – all headed across the table our way. And my brother and I, instead of running (I don’t know WHY we never just got the heck outta there!) – would dance and dodge, ducking and rising like so many shooting gallery ducks – listening to the dishes crash and tinkle against the wall behind us, getting showered in shards of glass and brittle pieces. You didn’t watch to see where the dish or saucer – or whatever – would hit after it passed by your shoulder – because you were too busy focusing on the next one, which would be flying through the air. Duck and dodge, duck and dodge – dancing all the way. I don’t know how it looked from her end of things – but for us it was sometimes more of a game than the punishment it was supposed to be, because we got really good at that. Ducking and dodging that is. (A skill that would come in useful a lot of times in other situations – but not here at home.)

I don’t recall ever being hit by one (but I’m sure we must of – how else would we of learned to dodge so well?) but I do recall what would happen after her rage subsided – or the dishes were all gone (I don’t know which). She’d storm around the table, look at the mess she had made, and then with a firm command, tell us to get busy cleaning ‘our mess’ up. And all those broken plates and things – I remember how there would be sprays of shards as the ceramic shattered on the wall, dancing quite carefully to keep your feet from getting cut – and then her handing us the broom and the dustpan, scolding us and warning us to get up every last bit. Because you didn’t want to leave a bit of it behind – nothing to remind her of her temper, or how she’d lost control.

And then, a few days later, a new set of dishes would appear. I don’t know what she told our dad; I somehow doubt she told him the truth – but my brother and I would glance at each other over our new plates and wonder: just how long will these new ones last?

Flying cups and saucers. No wonder my childhood was such fun!

(Now here’s the thing; come 5/3/2011: Yeah, and we are still finding it grimly humorous, a sense of darkening humor; one that almost (but not quite) … embroils a part of us in rage.  Who? …. the child feels not fear; but an angry frustrated and scared rage at his mother figure just then; that and a great sense of ‘unfairness!!’ screaming and crying in his mind (all of our own minds; he shares his thoughts; what a blessing – for he knows in the end he’s gonna have to clean this up; this crap has got to come to an end … a bitterly wishing child, sometimes wishing his life would end; age 8 then 10 then 12.)

And (we don’t trust this; we have issues with something called ‘recovered memories’ – because of something we’ll mention in our next post on this blog of our (feeling very sickened … very sickened; yes, nausea instead; both in mind and soul and body – just at the thought of the thing)… but there are dim flickers of being hit; and sometimes grazed in the head . . . or it might just be my imagination.  I’m thinking: we’ll never know; and while he’s not all right with that, we are: we are filled with compassion and love for this child of ours; this lovely child we keep on a sheltered beach, in this wonderful world of ours … )

Sighing.  Yes, being DID can be sometimes wonderful.  But sometimes it can be a problem; not that ‘we’re’ the problem; none of us are.

In some ways we are like a giant and loving family; crammed way inside – and one of our own has been hurt – and we must help ‘move him on his journey to healing’.  Even if it’s by doing this thing.

The telling of our next tale in this series*; this Little Shop of Mine.

*LO soft L’ing: I, M3, and some others – all of us in the string of controllers in mine; my own family and ‘mine’have been ‘dodging the issue’ ever since ‘the others’ have ordered us to “Begin Processing”, as the system puts it (a hard firm pushing order behind them words).  So we ‘Tweet’ and we “chirp” on other people’s blogs; showing our face on Facebook; other kinds of things – all in the interest of preserving the system stability – while the ‘drive’ of the system is pushing us “TO HEAL!” – and a dangerous kinda balance in between.  So we’re gonna continue to blog on my other blog (you know the one; the Jeffery’s Song one) – and perhaps maybe mess around, while we give that little boy in us time to recuperate some – while awaiting the next ‘battle’ – our own kinda battle … the one deep down inside.)

Two Brothers
(Tokoni 05/21/2009)

My brother and I are as different as a black-eyed pea and a green pea – both come from pods, but they’re not the same. I used to be fat; he used to be thin. Now the shoe’s on the other foot – he’s turned his six-pack into a keg, while I whittled my keg down to a . . . well, not a six-pack, but my stomach doesn’t arrive before my chest does. He’s dark haired; I’m more of a sandy blond. He’s clean shaven; I’ve got a mustache and sideburns. He’s thin boned; I got thick ones. His eyes are dark, mine blue-green. Not the same at all. We didn’t fight like cats and dogs; that would have been too civilized. No, we fought like . . . vicious human beings, which goes far beyond any animal conflicts I’ve ever seen. And yes – there were times we quite literally tried to kill one another.

My mom says he takes after her side of the family. As for me? I’m the spittin’ image of my dad, only uglier. And, like my mom, my brother’s a bit on the paranoid side whereas I’m a devil-may-care go-get ’em kind of guy who laughs readily in the face of disaster. He believes in trying to control his fate with a constant sense of desperation where I just kinda wait to see what fate throws in my lap, and deal with it then.

It’s always been like that, these striking contrasts between my brother and I. Even going back to when we were little kids – I was the ‘dare-devil’, engaging in stupid stunts, while he tended to lean more towards the conservative side – the ‘safe’ side. Not that he hasn’t had his share of adventures – we both have – but I love to seek them out whereas he would just wait (and worry) over the inevitable, trying to postpone it as long as possible, living the ‘safe’ life of endless work and money-grubbing.

One thing we have in common is that we both joined the Marine Corps when we were eighteen; but where I served a very successful term, he bailed out early, going “UA” (or AWOL for you other military fans) – until they threw him out on his ear. Not that I didn’t give the Marine Corps a hard time – one of my drill instructors said I was the most ‘hard-core’ (meaning ‘bucking the system’) recruit he’d ever met. And while my brother came out of boot camp a “gung-ho” down to the core Marine – me? Not so much. I was a ‘soldier’ before I ever got there. As a lifelong friend who has always known me said: “You are the only person I know who came out of boot camp the same as he went in.” I supposed that says something about my hard-headedness at times. It also says a LOT about how tough I was before I joined; I just came out a bit tougher. That’s the “soldier” part in me, which existed long before I’d ever given any thought to joining that particular organization. I already knew more about making war and surviving; shooting guns and dodging bullets, fighting with knives or barehanded – than the Marine Corps could ever teach me. And that, my friends, tells you something about my past.

When I look at him and I look at me, I can’t help but wonder: Where DID he come from? And I’m know he’s often wondered the same thing about me. (I remember him telling me when we were kids that I was ‘adopted’.) And this goes back to when we were little kids, I’m sure – because I remember wondering just what in the heck HIS problem was – when we were about to get beaten.

It’s become apparent to me this past week after discussing this with my brother that I ‘blocked out’ most of my memories of the ‘individual’ beatings – the ones where my dad would haul one or the other of us into a room and beat the snot out of us. I’ve known since I was little my dad has a cruel and sadistic streak – almost a perversion — though now he keeps it well hidden under that ‘caring Christian’ exterior he’s built up – trying to present one face to the public while . . . well, lets just say I think a weird, sick, and perhaps perverted heart lays beneath (see “Dark Suspicions” for more on that.) With just a few words my brother conjured up a vision I had forgotten – of my dad hauling us up by one ankle, dangling in the air, and then flailing away at us by the belt – over and over again. Far past the point of any ‘pain’ or discipline. I had “forgotten” that, or perhaps just chose not to see it. What I remember are the times we were beaten together, both in the same room. And that illustrates another major difference between my brother and I.

I remember so clearly how those ‘spankings’ would begin. First, the words: “Go to your room.” Second: The wait. Dad would always keep us waiting for a half-hour or so before showing up at the door. (A form of mental torture.) Why did we always close the door immediately after entering the room? I don’t know: perhaps as a form of futile self-protection, since we were not allowed to lock it?

And the difference in how my brother and I would ‘wait’. He would immediately start crying and wailing, as soon as ‘those words’ were spoken. I, on the other hand, was much more stoic. I would just sit there on the bed, waiting, while my brother ran around the room screaming and crying. Tears before the pain? No, that was not for me. I don’t know why. I guess – and looking back, I see that perhaps it is true: I was already “zoning out”, preparing myself for the pain that lay ahead. And there was that other factor: I wasn’t going to give my father the satisfaction of seeing me cry until the pain got so bad I had no choice. And apparently cry I did, for my brother reminded me of how “I could hear you screaming and screaming and screaming in the other room” when I was beaten by myself (something I don’t have anything but the fuzziest memories of.) And it took a lot to make me cry; I was stubbornly resistant to tears; still am, and haven’t cried since I was thirteen – thirty-six years ago. Tears, to me, represented a weakness; they still do, I guess. I know I stubbornly refuse to cry even now, even when, say, writing “Cat Scratch Fever” – which is the closest I’ve been to tears in over a decade. I guess it’s not the ‘soldierly’ thing to do. Not the ‘manly’ thing. I don’t know; the shrinks said it was a bad problem, that I need / needed to learn to cry for myself. But self-pity wasn’t allowed in our family, not at all. It was a punishable offense. I still can not allow pity for myself; nor can I tolerate other’s pitying me. It just drives me crazy (or crazier) and can lead to self-injury. Punishment for the pain, or the pity for the child that once was (and still is.)

But how I remember those ‘dual’ beatings, when my dad would come in, leather belt in hand. Slapping it against his palm. Looking at us – and it gives me shivers, because NOW I can see in his face some perverse pleasure – something my brother (again) reminded me of. “He got off on it,” my brother said last week. “He loved it. I don’t know what made him stop.”

And my brother – how frantic he would become! Have you ever seen a terrified cat locked in a room with a threat right there? How it races around, blindly attempts to climb the walls, dodges in corners and holes – anything to escape the punishment it thinks is coming? That was my brother. And it drove me CRAZY, I swear! I remember begging him before my dad would come in to STOP crying STOP wailing, SHUT up and sit there quiet with me on the bed and WAIT until you are hurt until you begin crying. His crying hurt me emotionally. But he never would. I recall one time my brother diving beneath the bed – then my dad, reaching under – and yes, dragging him out by one foot, holding him in the air, and whaling away at him – with me sitting there, knowing I was going to be next. Looking back now – it reminds me of those shows where there are the prisoners of war sitting in their cells listening to the cries of their comrades being tortured – and knowing they are going to be next. I had at least ten years of this type of behavior; of being in ‘that cell’, listening — no, WATCHING — my ‘comrade’ – my brother – getting tortured while I awaited my turn. It’s no wonder I cracked and went crazy, huh? PTSD – yeah, I reckon that’ll give ya some.

I am sure my stoic attitude was a problem for my dad. It probably meant he had to beat me more and harder to get me to respond – to give him his ‘thrills’ – because I would hold in my tears and screams as long as humanly possible – or at least as long as a child can. My brother, on the other hand, was an easy target – just say the words to him: “Go to your room” and he’d start the friggin’ show. I don’t know which gave my dad the most pleasure.

And the beatings: always the same. “Strip. Drop your drawers.” And you would step out of your pants or shorts because you didn’t want them tripping you up, sending you crashing to the floor. Falling to the floor wouldn’t stop a beating; it only made it worse. I don’t know that we wore shirts – we rarely wore shirts back then, clothes were too precious of a thing for everyday wear. But I do know we’d keep on our underwear most of the time – unless we lost them somewhere during the spanking and beating. And I know I learned early on: face the bed because that first lick WOULD send you flying – and it’s better to hit the bed head first than the wall. Every time.

Yeah, he and I are different – very different. I don’t fear poverty; he does. I don’t fear extreme danger (though I’ve learned to be wary – pain is pain, after all, and without medical insurance, I can’t afford to be hurt.) I can still bear a lot more physical pain than he can. (According to my wife and docs, more than most folks can.) I have literally had chunks of flesh gouged out of me (just like with a spoon) – and I looked down and laughed – and calmly went on working (my wife was like ‘whut the hell?!! Doesn’t that HURT?” But – it merely stung.) Not that I don’t feel pain. I just ignore it better.

My mom likes to tell the tale of how when I was a little child the nerves in my hands hadn’t grown properly, and sometimes she would smell something burning. Going into the kitchen she would find me, my hands on the red-hot burners – just to see what was going on, I reckon. I don’t remember those times. But I’m thinking – perhaps – there were times when I wished that numbness would extend all over my body – sinking inside, perhaps, and taking over my soul.

Becoming completely numb. That’s what it was about sometimes.

And I guess that’s why I became and did and behaved and went crazy, the way I am today. Ever since I was twenty-one, and “The Machine” part of me broke down – I’ve been working on escaping that numbness of mind, soul, spirit and emotion. And, I guess, I’m still working on it now.

Only this time I think maybe I’m trying to breath some life back into that child; that teenager – to feel their pain – the pain they’ve hidden from me – for so very, very long. In order to ‘heal’. After all, as another abuse survivor once told me: “to feel is to heal, and I want you to heal yourself so that you can feel — all the wonderful things that are you.” And, I reckon, she was right on target with that, for I wrote it down, and treasured her very much for all she did for me.

In case you are reading, “Bean” — somewhere out there — this is just to let you know: I’m still working on it, and miss you sometimes. Thanks for all you did.

(Tokoni 05/21/2009)

Little Girl Lost
(Tokoni 05/17/2009)

It was the worst thing that can happen to a military family. No – not mine. But the lightening struck terrifyingly close, opening all of us kid’s eyes to the harsh, cruel, heartless nature of where our fathers were – and what could happen to us.

This was in the late sixties, and all us kids were in one of those ‘temporary’ classrooms that always seem to become temporarily permanent – you know, those quonset huts or trailer like structures that the Army always used to expand their ‘storage’ when storage – or classrooms (same thing as storage to the Army) – are becoming overly packed and crowded. It sat back off a metal awning covering a sidewalk, raised up above ground level, with a plank ‘sidewalk’ extending from the real thing to the metal room’s entrance. I remember the inside of the quonset hut – walls squared off and cluttered with bulletin boards, kid’s art, cutouts and gaudy posters; the desks those simple metal and wood affairs that we adults can never squeeze in (but which are always there for us during those “teacher-parent” conferences or open houses that the schools have). This was a military school for dependents, not that it was that much different than the civilian school I’d been attending, and I must have been in fifth grade, for that was when we first moved there.

I was ‘sweet’ on the girl sitting next to me; she, as I recall, always wore a short cotton dress that dropped not much further than her knees, and I think she was sweet on me as well, for she’d often cut glances my way when we’d be doing our school work – and I know I spent a lot of time sorta gazing dreamily at her. But I was too chicken to let my fondness to be known; when recess time would roll around I would go out to the hill with the other boys to ride my sleigh down the long snowy slope while she – well, I guess she did what all the other girls did: skip rope, play house, or sit around and giggle all the time. Not the sports of boys, and definitely not a rough and tumble kid like me, who was foolish enough to do anything that appealed to my daring nature. Just like any other boy, I reckon. I would soon change, but not so much from this. That comes later, in another story.

We were sitting there one morning – I know it was morning, I remember the day so well, like it was yesterday, or the week before. The German sky was overcast, gray with clouds; snow had fallen, promising some slippery rides on the slope beyond the expansive (and amazingly empty) playground outside. We had no swings or slides; just an open field to play in, with that great white slope behind. We are sitting there working on our schoolwork; I can almost see the papers on my desk, fanned with curling edges, the thick pencil between nubby fingers, casting sidelong glances at my female partner. The classroom is quiet, but not too quiet – I can almost hear the teacher’s voice droning in my mind. I don’t know what we were doing, or what we were supposed to do, when suddenly there is a knock on the door; a firm “rap-rap-rapping”. Someone wants to come in.

Us kids do what us kids always did; we pause in our work to look up while the teacher, encouraging us to get back to work, goes to the door.

Three Army officers walk in – or at least I suppose they were officers. They were in their dress greens – sharp looking uniforms with emblems and epithets, little badges across their chests (I was to learn later there are campaign ribbons.) They talk to the teacher for a moment; she points in my direction, and then leads them down MY aisle; she passes my desk a little ways, perhaps a few feet, and the Army officers stand beside me – just a child’s arm’s breadth away. They are looking at the little girl. Their eyes are . . . hard? Firm? Understanding? I don’t know, but there was a strange locked expression in their faces – as though they didn’t want to do what they were going to do, but were going to do it anyway. I was froze (remembering here, now, being frozen in my seat, staring at them, pencil clutched painfully between my fingers and papers beneath the heel of my hand.)

“Come with us,” one of them says, holding his hand out to the little girl who is eyeing them in bewilderment. “Your father has been killed. In Vietnam.”

“He was shot in the head. On a riverboat, headed back up the Mekong.” (A river.) “While on the way home.”

Now I don’t remember where this came from – I’d hate to think they were this cruel – but perhaps in their own way, they were simply explaining. Or maybe we heard it soon after. I really don’t know. I was in SHOCK – as all of us kids were. The officer takes my (why do I think “my”?) little girl’s hand – the girl I’ve been falling in love with – and she rises – also in wide eyed shock – and they lead her away, on out the classroom – and we never see her again. NEVER.

I don’t know if that bit about her father getting shot in the head while on the way home was said right then, right there in the classroom, but I swear I heard them say it. Apparently he was on a boat on the river, heading towards home – his time was up “in-country” – and I guess in other ways as well. Forever. But the story went around the school like wildfire, and by noon we were all in fear and shock. All of us kids. Every last one.

Because we realized it could happen to our dads.

For the first time, the truth really hit home. That little girl could be us. At any time, any place – we could get the news – and we knew how it would come. In the form of three Army officers, come to take you away – and then . . . you would be gone forever.

Nowadays they have counseling for those kids, and the kids in the classrooms around them. They have therapy sessions and talks; gatherings and reassurances. The dependents are taken care of, very well. But back then? There was no such thing. We were on our own to deal with it as best we could – every kid unto himself, by him (or her) self. No such help from the counselors – there were none – nothing.

Even the teacher was in shock. I remember that muted silence that went on and on and on in that classroom. And it never seemed to end – not ever, not until we moved away from there.

And I had lost my best little friend, the one I had never known.

I just wish now I knew what her name was, how she fared, and what they did to her. Because we never did find out. All I know is she disappeared – never to be seen again.