Previous | Orphan Survival Stories Index | Next
THINGS AIN'T RIGHT IN RIVERCITY
I love to look at the pictures of my beautiful home, my beautiful lawn, my beautiful trees, my beautiful wife and my beautiful children. The only thing that did not photograph very beautifully was the orphan who helped create it all.
It was suggested by several of my friends that I was holding my family hostage from the rest of the world and that I should consider making some drastic changes. What they were saying was a bunch of bull-crap as far as I was concerned. My wife was free to do, go and say whatever she wanted at any time. My children were free to do whatever they wanted also. Well, within reason. I mean I am not going to allow them to stay out late, hang around the mall until midnight or run up and down the alleyways calling old people names, like some of the other kids in the neighborhood.
There is nothing wrong with those types of decisions. That is just being a good father and a good parent. Right? Remember, I was raised an orphan, so I have to guess about this father role.
However, what my friends were talking about and what it was that I could not understand was that I had placed chains around the minds of my wife and children. They were not speaking in the physical sense. It soon became clear to me that I had also done this to my friends. This is why the people that I befriended dropped out like flies after several months or a year. It appears that I had to control everyone and everything going on around me - that I had become a dictator, a ruler and the supreme being.
It never crossed my mind to question how anyone else felt about anything. Why would I question that? After all, as long as I was making the correct decisions and doing the right and honest thing, they shouldn't have any complaints. Right? I mean what more can a husband and father give to his family? We had a beautiful home, two new cars and a truck, a beautiful boat, a motor home, a travel trailer and all paid for. Jesus Christ, people, what the hell is wrong with you? Wake up and smell the goodies. I just could not understand what was wrong with these people. I had invested 20 years of my life in this family and everything was falling apart.
As time went on, things got worse and worse. I just could not figure out what the problem was. Because of pressure from my friends, I decided to back off my family and allow them to take part in the household responsibilities, help with the bills, get the mail, do yard work, make repairs, help with the job, the boat, the car, the truck, the garbage, the grocery shopping, the cooking, the fences and so on. If this did not teach them to keep their unappreciative mouths shut, then nothing would.
Well, they did a pretty darn good job of handling everything without me and when the smoke cleared, it became very evident to me that I was nothing but a useless husband and father, and had been for the last 20 years. I felt as though I was not really needed at all. Then my real problems began. Now I had to perform my (real) duties as a father and husband. I had to show everyone that I loved and cared for them. That was the problem. I did not know how to do that. The orphanage never taught me how to care for other people. All I knew how to do was to take care of myself and drag everyone else along for the ride.
I knew whatever it was that I was missing had something to do with this "feeling thing," Now I was really becoming afraid. Everything that I had ever worked for and everything that I owned was at stake. All the goodies were about to be lost. (OH MY GOD!).
I still could not understand or realize what was happening to me. I still could not understand what "having control" really meant. My next logical move was to loosen the chains just a bit, so everyone would think that I had changed and that I was really a nice guy. That would give me some time to figure out exactly what was wrong with this whole situation. Then my 14-year-old son came and asked me if he could go to the mall with his friends. Well, I did not like his friends, as they were troublemakers. So I told him he could not go. Why did I make this choice? Was it because I did not like his friends and thought he would get into trouble? Or was it because I (the ruler of all) just did not want him to go and I was the supreme ‘IT?’
Now things really started to puzzle me. I could not even think straight any longer and I really wanted to do the right thing. I tried and make a decision when something arose, but could not determine if it was the right thing to do or if it was just a decision I was making because that is the way ‘I’ wanted it to be. My mind just ran around in a big confused circle. Soon it became impossible for me to make even the simplest of decisions. I felt myself being push farther and farther into a depressed state. I knew I had to do something before my world came crashing down on me.
THINK, you son-of-a-bitch, THINK, THINK, THINK. I just could not figure it out.
This never happened to me in the orphanage. There was always someone to do the thinking for me. Now that things were tough, it was time for me to do exactly what I did in the orphanage. It was time for me to run away. Over the next few weeks I planned my escape. But what about my wonderful, beautiful son? Would I ever see him again? Could I live with never seeing him again for the rest of my life?
Well, I did not want to think about that. I wanted to think about all my goodies. The boat, the truck, the motor home, the travel trailer. I can't leave all that behind. I knew that I would have to find another way to pull this off. But I never found another way. There was no choice for me but to accept the fact that the problem was within myself. So I decided to seek help, with an attitude, of course.
I was packed and ready to go to the funny farm for a week. Well, not really the funny farm. It was a weeklong seminar for those who had emotional, psychological and eating disorders. We were to live, eat, sleep and learn 24 hours a day at this rented house on Saint Simons Island, Georgia for the next five to seven days. What a joy, as my life must now be complete.
I arrived at the ‘nut house’ at about 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday and surrendered my cars keys (a requirement). I already knew that I would be spending the next seven days with a bunch of wimps who could not pull their lives together. I already knew what my problem was and I just needed to gather a few facts to help me get my family back in line. Yet, no matter how many facts I gathered together, they would be of no value to me in the "feeling" department and I already knew that. I also knew that my brain would take all the facts and separate the black from the white, the good from the bad, and then I would adjust these facts to everyone's liking. Then I would once again be protected, in total control and everything would be fine. Nothing wrong with fine. Right?
Within an hour, I had met everyone attending the weeklong classes. There were six women and one other man who were going to attend the sessions. This was absolutely fine with me. I immediately felt less threatened and ran off to talk with the one other guy. Within an hour, I had him convinced that there was nothing wrong with me, whatsoever, that my family was to blame for everything and I was going to help him and protect him from the horrors that were going to shower down upon him by the dorks assigned to teach this group.
About five that evening, we all ate supper together and had a really nice two-hour discussion getting to know one another. Everyone appeared to enjoy the time and I must admit that I was impressed with how friendly everyone was, including the teachers and the doctors. No one appeared to have any problems at all. How could people this friendly have any problems? Who would guess what a bunch of nuts we had in this room, including myself. Then we all went to bed for a good nights sleep.
The next morning, we were awakened at 4 a.m. I was up and ready to go. Up early and ready to show these people the true meaning of life. The true meaning of how to grab one’s self up by the bootstraps and get on with the program of life. LETS DO IT PEOPLE.
Boy, was I in for the shock of a lifetime. I do not remember exactly what happened after that. I do remember there were these grueling hours upon hours of information drilled into our heads. These hours and hours of getting to know each and every person in that room. Hours and hours of getting to know whom we were inside of ourselves. Hours and hours that somehow turned everything that I had ever known into this wonderful feeling of love and respect for your fellowman.
It was absolutely amazing. Even now, I cannot think of any one thing that was said or done that changed anyone in that room. It was a combination of thousands upon thousands of little (positive) things that made it happen. What was even more amazing is that the learning and the change came from within the group itself and not from the counselors. Which was somewhat puzzling to me - after all how can the blind lead the blind?
At first, I was really amazed how several of these women could sit there and cry about how overweight (fat) they were, while at the same time stuffing chocolate cake down their throats, as we discussed the matter. There were chocolate cake crumbs and chocolate frosting falling everywhere. It's a wonder the seven of us did not drown in chocolate.
Then there was Sally Lindburg, who today is a wonderful friend of mine, as sweet a girl as you would ever want to meet. I think she was bitching because donuts had holes in them. Jesus Christ, lady! The answer to your problem is very simple. Eat and be fat, and if others do not like it, tough tootsie. The only other option is to have more self-control and make yourself thin. Make a choice. It is that simple, so I thought. I am now rather heavy (fat actually) and it is one tough battle. Now the holes in those damn donuts peeve me off also.
I recall this one ridiculous thing they made us do. I was relaxing in this recliner in the living room where the seminar was taking place. They asked each of us to visualize ourselves as a small child. Again, this was all so stupid to me. But what the hell, everyone else was doing it so how stupid could I look? I did the best I could do to visualize myself as a little child, but that was very hard for me to do because I can barely remember anything before the age of 6. They told me that was because of all the beatings I endured. So the only thing I could do was guess what that would be like.
After several minutes of relaxing and trying very hard to visualize some kind of child in my mind, this faint picture came into my mind of a little baby boy lying in a crib. They asked me what I saw and I told them that I could see a baby in a crib. I was instructed to walk over to the crib and pick the baby up and bring it close to my chest.
(What a bunch of dorks).
So I walked over and picked the baby up slowly, in my mind of course and brought it to my chest. As I picked the baby up, the damnedest thing happened. I could feel this little bitty heart beat against my chest. I just could not believe this was happening. It was absolutely amazing to me. Let me tell you, I cut that crap off real quick.
It was so real that it took everything I could not to laugh out loud. Not only was it funny, it scared the hell out of me. How could my mind do this? This is but one of the many unusual things that happened to me during my visit to ‘adventure land’ at the funny farm. Things, which I cannot explain in words.
There was another unusual thing that happened to me. At one point during the seminar, the entire group turned on me like a herd of lions after a fresh kill. I was told that I was disrupting the learning process and that I should keep my big mouth shut. I was quite mad about the entire incident and was ready to walk out. However, we had to surrender our car keys and I had no way of getting out without making some kind of scene. So I just decided to keep my "big mouth shut" and just sit there like an idiot. However, I made it through the day and the remainder of the class without incident. Shortly after the class was over, I was quite surprised that everyone acted like nothing had happened. Everyone was very friendly and very talkative toward me. They all seemed to have forgotten that they were mad at me.
This seemed so strange to me. Were these people so stupid that they could not remember how mad they were at me? Or was it that it really did not matter anymore? Maybe they just liked me for me. Maybe their being mad at me did not mean that they did not like me as a person. Maybe they just did not like my attitude or whatever it was that I was doing. That's what it always meant in the orphanage, because we knew they did not like us there. That's the way it had always been for us children at the Children's Home Society in Jacksonville, Florida.
I learned a very good lesson that day and I have never forgotten it. Everything was great. We all laughed, joked and had a very good lunch together. These were my friends. They liked me and I liked them. Life was getting rather wonderful that day, SO I THOUGHT.
When the class resumed, I was handed a blank piece of paper and several crayons. I was told not to open my big mouth, unless I had something constructive to say. I was also told that I was to write down whatever it was I wanted to say, hold it up and the class would decide if it was worthy of their permission.
("BUNCH OF RETARDS").
But this time, their reactions did not upset me, make me mad or hurt my feelings, as you can tell from the above quote. I did request an explanation as to why I could not speak. I was told that every word that came out of my mouth was a justification in one form or another. Or that it was some type of excuse why I had or had not done something correctly.
Within the hour, I learned another good lesson. That is what the crayons were all about. I began to realize that if I could not actually hear (verbally) the sound of my own justifications, my mind would force itself to replace that need (for excuses) with a feeling. This was really very strange to me. It is something I had never experienced before. By the end of the day, I could hardly wait to talk with each and everyone of the class members individually and on a personal level.
Now each member of the class had an individual face to their body. I was able to speak to the person inside of the body and not just to the body that I was looking at. What a rush that was for me and I will never forgot it. I also knew that if the group ever failed me or if any individual in the group ever failed me, that I would continue to have this wonderful feeling, because it now lived within me and not inside of them.
I remember waking up the next morning, not being in a very good mood and wondering why. I did not speak with anyone. I just walked past everyone and out the front door. I walked across the street and looked out over the ocean and across the marshlands. I thought to myself what it would be like to be free. I lit a cigarette and wondered what it would be like to be free enough to say whatever I wanted. What would it be like to be free enough to go wherever I wanted? I took in a deep breath of cool fresh, salty air and I closed my eyes. Then I felt a tear roll down my cheek and I was very surprised. It is something that I had not felt for many, many years. I started to cry and it felt really wonderful. I cried, because I already knew the answer to my question.
It was I and only I, who did not allow myself to say and to go and to do whatever it is that I wanted. For the first time in my life, as an adult, I felt what real freedom feels like, even if only for a moment. My tears were tears of joy. I still have to shed the tears of sorrow and that I really dread. But still it will be good to know that this orphan can feel something. That has to be better than never feeling ‘nothing’ at all.
When the class was finally over and the goodbyes were being said, there was a lot of sadness for me. But even though it was a sad time, I was sort of glad because it felt good to feel sad. Then we all hugged one another and we cried. For the first time in my life, I hugged another human being with a sense of feeling. I had never done that before. I was 42 years old and had been married five times. Hugs still make no sense to me. I guess it is just nature's way of making ‘goodbyes’ not hurt so badly. I heard that somewhere down some road I traveled.
I was not in any hurry to get home to my wife and children. I decided to take several of my friends to the airport. When we got there, it was fogged in so they decided to rent a car and drive to Atlanta, about 6 hours away. I still do not understand why I was in no hurry to get home. I only knew that I was where I was supposed to be at that moment.
As I drove home, I was not worried about what I would find. Whatever it was when I got there, that is the way it was supposed to be. That is always the way it is for the orphan. It is the way it is and that the way it is supposed to be. I learned that in the orphanage.
To make a long story longer. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT?
There is no more wife or kids or grandkids, or house or boat or cars or truck or motor home or travel trailer. It's all gone and not one of them has ever spoken to me in more than six years. But I do have the beautiful pictures.
I can tell you this. Once an orphan, always an orphan. I found that orphans can fool the world, but they cannot fool themselves and that is what hurts the most.