I grew up in North Western Ohio, back in time, when it was still safe to allow your child to play in the streets and for them to walk down to a friends house. A time when the street lights came on it was time to go home. In my family, if you were lucky enough to be able to go play, you best be home before dusk of your ass was grass and my father was the lawn mower. Life was difficult as a child growing up in our house, from the outside everything looked normal, but from the inside, it was a house of horrors. My father firmly believed that children were to be personal servants and there was no time for them to be, well, dare I say it, a child. Growing up, there was always work that needed to be done, no “needed” isn’t the right word how about “the fate of the free world depended on” those chores getting done. I would come home from school and have a chore list 6-10 items long every night My father worked a swing shift and on days he was not home in the afternoon there would be that damn chore list. I hated so much coming home and reading the damn chore list,, being afraid to see what was on the list today. On a typical day, I could expect to see things like the standard, dishes, take out the trash, clean my bedroom, laundry to fold, then the outside chores were always big things, like clean the gutters, stack firewood, clean the shed, paint the shed, mow the lawn and scrub the deck would all appear all on one day. He honestly expected us to get the work completed in one day. Now to elaborate on these chores, it did not just stack a few pieces of firewood. We used firewood as our main source of heat in the winter. We would have 6-8 cords of firewood split and stacked every year. We would have whole trees brought in and we would have to slip the cut wood, then we would have to stack it. My father would not be happy unless we had a large amount done every day. The shed, the house, the fence, something had to be painted or fixed. The house sat on a half-acre lot which needed to be mowed, trimmed, edged, bagged and the sidewalks swept once it was completed. Then the trash from all the wastebaskets in the entire house then the deck would have to be swept or scrubbed. This was all to be completed be we started our homework. I remember many nights, working on homework until 9:00-10:00 at night, which is late for a child still in elementary school.
As I got older, the chore list grew and so did the amount of time it took to get them accomplished. So needless to say, social life for a teenager in that house was just about zero. I recall several times planning on meeting some friends someplace or meeting a girl at the skating rink, only to have to be outside in the rain under a 1978 Dodge pick-up truck holding a light and fetching tools. For some reason, my father loved to work at night for some reason, always by flashlight, which of course I could never manage to hold in the correct spot. The light had to be on the exact right spot of you would get yelled at and called stupid or something like that. Then when you had to fetch a tool, you would pray that the tool was in the right spot, but 90% of the time the tool was not hanging up where it belonged and you had to search for it. After a few minutes, my father would storm in, calling you names and throwing things looking for the tool. Then you had to clean it all up when he was done. Of course, it was your fault that the tool was not in the right place. I never once thought about questioning my father about a tool. If you did not know what it was called you just grabbed tools that looked like they fit the description. If you got the right tool you were saved for a few minutes of being yelled at. That selfish, abusive bastard is long our of my life, having served most of my adult life in prison and passing a few years back, making this world a much better place.
I had friends growing up, but none of them ever saw the real horrors that went on inside that house. I had two really close friends that I’m still close with today. Mrs. J and Mrs. A stuck by me through thick and thin and today, they know the whole story and today they are two of my biggest supporters. Mrs. A actually has a catalog of neurological issues going on with her as well, which helps us both to talk about.
As an adult, I discovered just how lucky I was growing up in that house. Yes, my father was verbal, physically, mentally and sexually abusive, but we all survived. I was one of the lucky ones. But what does all this have to do with my story? It is what started to build my character, build me, start the process of molding me into a man, and I knew that I didn’t want to be like him. Just like Macklemore and Kesha sang in ‘Good Old Days’, “I’ve got some scars, I’ve been around; I’ve felt some pain, I’ve seen some things, but I’m here now”. I know that things were rough, but they could have ALWAYS been much worse. I was one of the lucky ones growing up in the ’80s.
A few weeks after my 19th birthday, I finally signed on the dotted line, joining the United States Marine Corps and shipped out to boot camp. I served for over ten years, getting out at 29 years old. Joining the Marine Corps was something I had always wanted to do. I don’t know why, it was just something I wanted in my life, ever since I saw Sgt. Taliano in the “We Don’t Promise You a Rose Garden” poster, I wanted to be a Marine. Without the Marine Corps, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today and I wouldn’t be where I am in my life.