Written by Donovan L. Green
7/10/2018 8:23 PM
Chunks of shrapnel lay buried beneath his skin in several places. He’d been shot at many times and hit once. With the bayonet on the end of his rifle he killed the enemy that had attacked and stabbed him with a knife. Not sure when one caused the deeper scar. He had been a brick layer’s helper for a few months after graduating high school before he donated the rest of his life to the Marine Corp to go fight in Vietnam. He completed his first four years of service as a drill Sargent before meeting and marrying my mom and becoming my step dad.
We never did get along very well. I was born to defy authority and he was born to enforce authority. I was about 13 the first time I firmly stood my ground. He had the 100-yard stare mastered. The look was probably what his enemy saw just before grasping his life ending wound. I saw the look many times before leaving home the day after my eighteenth birthday. I never stood my ground against him after that time.
He was the toughest old bird I ever saw. He was born in rural southern Colorado and raised in the rural bad-lands of Oklahoma, one of the places I was raised. He had a history of health problems, many stemming back to his tours in Vietnam. He didn’t sleep well, had nightmares, and awoke frequently during the night. Mentally he seemed stable but was stubborn. I can sum him up with one word, unreasonable. For instance, I wasn’t allowed ever to give my side of the story. Whatever anyone ever said against me, every accusation was the truth against me. I would only receive more lashes with the belt if I wanted to say anything in my defense. For me to speak to him was “back-talk” punishable with the belt and the rest of the day in my room.
One Saturday morning when I was about eight years old we went to a place where a building had been demolished. We picked clusters of bricks clumped together with mortar and loaded them in the back of old pickup truck. They were heavy and had sharp edges. My hands were torn up by the time we had the truck loaded as I did not have gloves. I knew the misery with the bricks was only just beginning. I would have to spend my Saturdays meticulously chiseling off the mortar trying not to brake any whole bricks. I was so relieved when I finally completed my task and had them nicely stacked in a cube shape. Then, he said to move them around to the other end of the garage. Moving the pile of bricks to various places around the yard became the go-to chore when I finished all my other chores and I asked to go play with my friend. What a bastard. I went through similar training with telephone poles, rocks, firewood, and various other heavy burdens.
We moved around a lot while I was growing up. we moved across town and across states to ne states. I was the moving crew at the other end of a lot of heavy furniture including some useless piece of garbage wood burning cook stove which weighed a ton. Somehow being yelled at made me strong enough to move my end of it. moving all the junk that should have been left behind was only part of the torment. Leaving my friends behind each year made making friends more and more difficult as it seemed like a bad idea. I went to six different elementary schools, nine schools in total by the time I barely squeaked my way through senior year of high school.
I’m pretty sure my stepdad viewed me as nothing more than a financial burden and the only way to ease the problem was for him to get his monies worth of work out of me.
I don’t really know where I was going with this, just an unpleasant reminiscent about life growing up. this is undoubtedly spurred on by my little brother’s emails, which he includes me on, about his up coming trip to Colorado to scatter his dad’s ashes according to his wishes. My little brother (half brother if you will) doesn’t know any better. He is considerably younger than me and he had a very different life growing up. He had a dad that treated him a lot different than the way I was treated. He also had a mom, my mom abandoned me when I was ten years old, my first little brother was born. I was the son of a bad experience for her.
Why do so many children have parents that suck? Why do so many shitty people ever have kids anyway? As bad as I had it growing up, I know there are a lot of kids out there in far worse situations than I ever imagined. I was worked like a horse but otherwise abandoned. I was malnourished, had rags for clothes, and played with rocks and sticks which could be cars and buildings in my imagination. So many kids have it so bad. I wish there was a way to help every single one of them. I would send all of the bad parents, including mine, to Antarctica and give every kid good parents. Wouldn’t that be nice.
I do not do anything my parents did. My stepdad ruled by fear. I strive to be the most patient and understanding dad. I offer my kids to rely on me as much as they need and I offer them as much autonomy that they are comfortable with. I want to brake the chain of bad parenting. My goal is to give my kids the ideal dad I wish I had had when I was growing up and even now. I have two handsome intelligent sons that are doing a good job in life. I’m not the dad I wish I had never known, I don’t parent the way I was taught. I think through about how to raise responsible adults in a manner in which they are and will continue to be successful in their lives and love and respect me all the way on their journeys. My stepdad was never proud of me, but I am proud of my two sons.
I want to be the hero for my sons. I want them to think of me when they need help, have questions, and talk to me about their ideas. I want them to trust in me and feel safe and comfortable. I want to teach them to ask the right questions and to think about things, especially consequences of actions. I want them to have good manners and be polite, and thoughtful, but not out of fear, but from their hearts. Me stepdad wanted to teach me to work hard, I want to teach my sons to be diligent and smart. My sons say things that make me feel great and proud. Out of nowhere I get a compliment that makes my day. I don’t always feel like a great dad. I wish I could do some things different. I was young and dumb when they were born and I was impatient and not very understanding. Fortunately I was able to recognize that I was on the path of my stepdad early on and was able to change who i was and focus on being that dad I wish I had had.