Wednesday, May 10, 2006

How did I get here? Part 3 (The Dark Years)

Have you ever realized how you don't know you are "in a momment" until after the moment is over and you look back? Or how you don't know what you have until it is gone?

Well, I think my 4th through 8th grade years were like that. There was definately some down times in there. But honestly, at the time, I didn't realize it.

I wouldn't say we were poor growing up. We lived in a big house. We had two cars. I definately never went hungry. And I had enough toys. But we weren't rich. And I wasn't spoiled. Not like my friend Scott who had every toy imaginable (man he had some great Star Wars stuff) and kitchen drawers stuffed with candy. We got a microwave when they first came out. And a sweet Atari 2600 when it was cutting edge. I was a machine when it came to Space Invaders. I could not be beat. Unfortunately neither could the computer as they kept coming, level after level.

But then things changed. I can't really remember when. I think it was 4th grade. (My sister has a better memory for things on a timeline.) Our parents sat us down and told us that they were getting a divorce. They explained it really well. And I really don't think I was affected too much by this. But looking back, it had to tear my parents up inside to have to sit down and explain that to us. I think dad even lived with us for awhile after the divorce. Like I said. I don't remember the details well. But eventually he moved out to an duplex in Roodhouse. We still got to see him plenty so really, as I had said, it didn't seem like that big of a deal.

But then within the course of a couple years my dad got cancer and lost his job. I don't think I really understood what was going on at the time. I just knew he had to go for treatments in the hospital. Never once did I think I could lose him. Or understand the pain and discomfort that he endured. Or the the psycological and emotional strain that an illness like that puts on a person. My parents probably shielded it from me. And if (or more like when) I would ever get cancer... I'd probably do the same for my kids. Years later my mom told me stories about them taking bone samples from him. I'm not sure I've ever experienced pain like that.

But God was gracious. And he recovered fully.

But during some of that time (my 5th grade year) my mom was without a job. So she was recieving Food Stamps and we got free lunches at school. (Thus Kelly nicknamed me "Food Stamp Boy" just to have some fun with me.) And back then they served breakfast at school. So that was good. Although I probably had to wake up earlier to get to school. And oh man was I not a morning person then. Or now. That was my first introduction to Ketchup on eggs. Yuck!! (Sorry KJ) Being a school teacher, it was difficult for my mom to find a job after the school year started. Obviously there is a small window for employement in that field.

Eventually my mom found a job about 90 minutes away in the towns of Beneld/Gillispie. We moved and my dad moved back into the house that they owned. I think this is where it got harder. As he wasn't as close as he was before. But he made every effort to see us as much as he could. And really, I need to throw in here... my parents had the best divorce ever. I never saw them yell at each other, they were very cordial and spoke easily together, my mom made sure that my dad got to see me as much as he wanted, my dad made sure to see us as much as he could, they never said bad things about each other or tried to use us in anyway, and they always made sure that they were in agreement over big decisions.

So we started a new life in this new place. My sister, Jeanne, probably had the worst time about it as she was older and more entrentched in freindships at school. I missed our sweet house. But I honestly didn't have any real close friends that I missed. By this time I had grown apart from my old trouble making friend. I was in "gifted" classes and he was probably just lucky to make it through the day without being suspended. My brother had just been starting school so it probably was nothing to him. All in all the move was good. And as it seemed... I became I little more "popular" and a little less outcast. I was also getting more involved with sports. I shared a love of Legos and video games with the neighbor boy. But he also loved basketball and was quiet athletic. So I spent a lot of time in his driveway shooting hoops. Also feeling more accepted in school, I played in more sports games and even went out for track my 7th grade year. I wasn't any good. But at least there was some effort there.

Everything seemed to be falling in place by 7th grade. I was the Math teacher's "pet". I had some good friends (although no real close ones). My brother seemed to be doing well in school. My mom was happy with her Art Teacher position. We had nice neighbors. My sister was really fitting in well. I think this was probably some of her best years. When she went off to highschool she was really in with the popular kids. And my sister was very smart and quiet attractive (I'll mention the Miss Illinois pagents sometime). She had an active social life and was very happy. Even my mom was doing well becoming very close to a really nice guy that we all liked.

Ahh... but this IS titled "The Dark Years"... and good things can't last. Due to budget cuts my mom lost her job. Always those art and music positions first to go. And about the same time my dad moved back to the Detroit area as there were few other chemical weapons facilities (or animal vaccinations, who really knows) to be found in rural South-Central Illinois for microbioligists.

So in the span of a few months we went back to our old house (that just wasn't selling) for the summer while mom looked for a job again. As luck would have it, it didn't take long and we moved to South-Eastern Illinois on the Indiana border. Man, if I had thought I had lived in small towns before in Roodhouse, White Hall, and Wilsonville... I think Allendale ended up being the smallest of them all. Little bitty town next to other little towns.

So now we transitioned again. This time my mom teaching 4th grade and art. At least teaching a grade gave her some more job security. I'm not sure how well my brother took to this last move. But he seemed to find some friends that he could play with. And now... now I was in a class of about 20 kids. And I was one of the smartest. And immediately fit in with the "popular" crowd. Although in a school that size, there really aren't any cliques. Also, in a school that size... they need every available body for sports. So of course I was on the basketball and baseball teams.

But my sister didn't transition as well into the new town. Got caught up with some of the more rowdy kids. And of course was at the age where she is suppose to be difficult and rebillious. So tensions started with her and the family. After only one year in Allendale she moved up to the Detroit area with my dad. I really didn't notice too much. As I didn't spend much time with her when she was around. Not to say she wasn't a good sister. Because she was. But things really didn't seem all that different without her. I was spending more and more time with friends and less at home. But moving up North was definately good for her. Gave her a new start. And I'd like to think that it gave my dad more of a chance to be a full-time dad as now he was around one of us all the time. And I'm grateful for that as he was always a great to have around when we were younger.

And I know during this time both of my parents really struggled financial to provide for us. Things really were tight. But I really never noticed. Oh I probably complained that I didn't have the right clothes or enough "stuff". But I had all I needed. And they both managed their money well, and due to great discipline on both their parts they ended up really well. I mean, when you're parents foot the bill for over half your college, you can't complain.

So pretty much the worst was over. Well, unless you count that time during my Freshman year that me and a couple other kids broke into a store at night and stole about $500 worth of candy and 15 dozen eggs (don't ask... you don't wanna know). Two misdemanors and a felony. But we wre on the upswing. But like I said. You really don't know you are "down" until you look back.

At this point everyone was doing well. My mom fit into the new school well. And made lots of friends with the other teachers. My sis did well up in her new school in the Detroit area. And my brother... he had his Nintendo and a Guinnea pig. So no complaints there.

So, okay. It really wasn't dark-dark. I don't doubt there are plenty of folks with rough childhoods out there. But they were my dark years. :)

Ok, whew. We got through that. I'll probably enjoy torturing you with stories from my past again. But I'm here to capture the now. And try my best to make sure that my wonderful daughters all have great childhood memories like I did.

Top 5 for the Day...

Old Navy long sleeve shirt – This is my comfy shirt. I could wear it anytime anywhere.
Old Navy pajama bottoms – Blue, white, and a hint of green plaid fleece with a draw string.
New Balance Tennis shoes – They aren’t my favorite pair ever. My Nike Air Max Triaxx were da bomb. Those are probably 8 years old and I still wear them for working in the garage. The New Balance are still nice and new. But I’ll be due for a new pair soon. Kelly hates shopping for shoes with me. I want to try on ten pair of shoes at 3 different stores. Shoes gotta be perfect.
Levi’s 550s – I’ve tried other blue jeans. Really I have. But I just can’t get away from Levi’s. I used to be a 501s kind of guy when they were the “hip” thing. But after a few experiments I like these the best.
Thick comfy ankle high white athletic socks – Man I love comfy socks. And new socks (as well as undies) just make you feel good. I remember in junior high I thought it was so gay for our basketball/baseball coach to wear these short little ankle socks. Dude, those looked like the socks the girls wore with the little pom-pon thing on the back. But oh… once I finally tried them. I couldn’t go back. Now I only wear those long dorky socks with work boots and such.

...Things I like about me
Patience - I really do have more patience than just about anyone I know. I think the girls have worn it down a bit. And just getting older probably doesn't help. But I don't get upset waiting on people. And I sure as heck don't want to open up Birthday/Christmas presents early.
I see the best in people - I almost always see the good qualities in people before I see the bad stuff. I really do believe that people are inherently good and are well meaning to others. I'm not the type of person to gossip and talk bad about others.
Optimistic - I actually think this can fall in the "Things I don't like about me" catagory too. I don't let bad situations or events get me down. Because I know they will pass. I don't make mountains out of mole hills. But there are times you can be overly optimistic. Pessmism isn't always a bad thing. Which is one of the great Yin-and-Yang qualities my wife and I have. :)
Enjoy the simple things - I really can enjoy the simple things in life. It doesn't take great experineces or expensive stuff to make me happy. Playing out in the rain. Swinging on a swing. Snuggling with the girls. Running my fingers through my wife's hair (on her head for any of you with your mind in the gutter). Looking at the stars on a peaceful clear night. It's things like that which can bring you a lot of happiness if you let it.
Honesty - I don't lie to my wife. If I don't like a scrapbooking layout. I tell her. Oh, she doesn't like me to. But hey, she's the one that keeps asking! :) I also like to be as honest with the kids as much as I can. Some parents will tell a good intentioned lie just to get the kid to do what needs to be done. But I'd rather tell the truth and take the time to explain everything. Of course Santa and the Tooth Fairy still come to the house. And I really am a bad liar. My wife can sniff a lie from me from a mile away.

Man, I have so ran over on the lunch hour. I've GOT to go!


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