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Blue collar tale (part two)

Discussion in 'Testimonial Forum' started by Hope in God, Jun 23, 2019.

  1. Hope in God

    Hope in God Well-Known Member

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    United States
    I don’t blame him entirely, since he too was a product of his father’s rearing, which, as I understand it, was identical in method. A hard working, hard drinking railroad man who thought his work earned him the right to drink and fight on weekends, was my grandfather, Blackie. He walked off a boat from England as a young man, and brought with him quick fingers that equipped him to take what he knew he didn’t have to purchase. Into his truck he loaded any building materials from nearby construction sites. The noise of the trains took his hearing, so for him to listen to the TV set, a single earphone with a long cord led to his favorite chair.

    I admit, his was a nice place. In his yard, he grew grapes for wine making and made his own bricks from the same clay used in the brick furnaces near our home. My Dad’s father died of prostate cancer in his late sixties or early seventies. I recall his funeral, but not much more, since I was only five years old then and he too kept himself apart from kids.

    My favorite years, within the past six decades, ran from age six to eleven. Back then, baseball was my dream. Playing the field, pitching, batting, chasing taped up baseballs in the half cut woods – everything about the sport – we loved. Most of the kids in the neighborhood joined in, so it wasn’t difficult to set up a game. In whatever weather, hot or cold, rain or shine, wet or dry, we met at one of a few pieces of cleared or half-cleared property we turned to fields.

    Word spread quickly, from one house to the other, when a game was called. Teams were picked the old way, by tossing a baseball bat to a team member. Where caught, another boy would place his hand around the bat above the other’s hand, then the other kid’s hand went on top of his, and if one of them was lucky enough to be able to “cap it” by setting his palm on the round bottom and reach his fingers down to touch the other’s hand, he won the first pick for his team.

    I still recall the names of the players from our favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, Harvey Haddox, Rocky Nelson, Smokey Burgess, Bob Skinner, Dick Stewart, Dean Baker, and others. They were our life, our passion, and a big part of our radio and TV listening.. Owning a ball, glove and a bat was all a kid needed to stay out of the house and away from trouble.

    It’s for sure we didn’t have much in our pockets, but we did have fun climbing the steep shale covered hills near the railroad tracks along the Ohio River, pushing our bicycles up the high winding roads a half mile in length in order to fly down them faster than a locomotive, and throwing crab apples at one another off the tips of branches we sharpened. A cement tower with a flat top about forty feet high we’d climb, then leap off the top, grab onto a tall branchless tree trunk five feet from it, slide down, and do it all over again.. Even as early as seven years of age, we’d hitchhike into Monaca to swim at the public pool. One boy would stand on the shoulder with his thumb out while three of his buddies hid in the brushes behind him. When a car stopped, we’d rush to grab a seat.

    I knew it wasn’t right, but when I needed shoes, a friend taught me to enter a store with dirt on mine, and in a place where I was out of sight, to rub the dirt into a new pair, hide my old ones, put the new ones on, then calmly walk out. For school supplies, I learned to carry one of the store’s empty bags indoors, walk to the section that shelved what I needed, fill the bag with whatever my hands grabbed in seconds, and walk out as though nothing was wrong. Clothes were just as easy once I knew to wear clothes at least a size too large into the store.

    In those days, video surveillance was unthinkable. We knew it was wrong to do what we were doing, but when you’re without, you do the best you can. That’s how we learned to get by. At twelve, I had yet to meet a man who had no feet, but I did know loads of kids who had little or nothing, and we got by the best way we knew how.

    Then suddenly, at age thirteen, the emotional state of my family changed dramatically. The details I’ll leave out since they’re not easy to write. Nothing violently illegal happened. An event occurred. I’ve written about it before, with some regret, so I’ll avoid the details. It was horrifying. After the incident, not a single adult recommended professional therapy for anyone of us children. Keep in mind, fifty years ago, mental health was something best kept out of a conversation, and if considered, not spoken to anyone. And besides, children are resilient, right? Don’t believe it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Today the condition we developed is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but in the early sixties there was no name for it. Neither was it recognized. And so, children were left alone with their thoughts and feelings, left to struggle through the inner turmoil without a guide or hope. We invariably heard the same thoughts in our heads, repeated over and over, year after year, while trying to make sense of that senseless event which clung to us during the proceeding phases of their lives -- other schools, military duty, and relationships.

    I thought becoming a Christian was a panacea, a cure-all, and at first it seemed so, but, to my regret, I lost sight of my relationship with God. Things became less spiritually intimate and in its place I saw only the flaws of a failing belief system of repetitive methodologies, doctrinal extremism, debates, sheep stealing, kingdom building, and more. It all grew negative. But, I continued to search, and through a young woman who I began to date, I discovered John Bradshaw and a psychological approach to healing called inner child work. Adopting it, I made a few advances. I learned to talk to that little fellow inside me, to tell him everything is okay, and that life is worth experiencing.

    Today, I’m 67 and retired after 30 years of work in the same place. I suppose that is proof of some success. I don’t have a family of my own. If my shoes keep walking back to anything, it’s the creative side of my nature. I like to read, write, play a bass and sing in a band, and I enjoy a trip or cruise once in a while. Maybe soon I’ll get away again, this time on a longer trip.
    shnarkle, amadeus and Helen like this.