I posted a couple of things over the last few days that I am sure that no one ever read. Keeping in that spirit, I want to relay to you today an anecdote of sorts. It is not a story, as it has no real beginning or ending but, it is a story of personal triumph(?) over adversity.
I will get right to it.
When I walked into my home tonight, I just marveled at it. I am not completely sure why; It is the same house that I slept in last night, and the same house that I left this morning when I went to work. Somehow, though, it hit me a whole lot different tonight. I have been kicking this around in my head for the last several hours and I have yet to figure out why it was just now, today, that I had this feeling.
Now we must go back in time.
The year was 1990. I was living with my Father in Oregon, while both of my siblings were living with Mom in Arizona. The reason that I was still living with Dad, while the siblings were both with Mom, came right down to opportunity. I was (not only by my own testimony, but also mentioned by many of my high school teachers) a pretty intelligent child. I had very high hopes for myself. It was my goal to graduate High School, then go on to college to get a degree. My Ultimate goal had always been to work in Micro-Technology. That was what I wanted for myself and for my parents, I wanted to make them proud.
When my Father died (on Christmas Eve in 1990), it threw my future into a downward spiral. Not that his death had anything to do with the events that transpired, more that I made a lot of irrational decisions in the wake of his death. I, and I alone, chose to continue living in Oregon. I know that my Mother was not happy with that decision, but, at the time I had been dating a girl steadily for several years. I didn’t want to throw that relationship away to go live in a shack with my Mom and brothers… I was in love… That type of love that never works out and always ends up on the evening news…
I also had a weird notion that Dad was going to come back (I was sixteen at the time, mind you, you have lots of weird notions at that age), so I figured that if I did things that I knew he didn’t approve of he would surely show up to scold me. This was not an idea without merit, mind you, I did this on a lot of occasions with great success(not after he was dead of course). There were several times when he wasn’t yet home from a night of drinking by the following morning. Being worried about his safety, and with no way to contact him, I would just take one of his cars out for a joy ride. Alomost invariably he would show up only minutes after I put the car away. That was sort of what I was hoping would happen after he died, even though I really knew that he really wasn’t ever coming back.
The first thing that began to suffer was my education; With a lack of discipline I was cutting a lot of classes. I also was working full time at my job to try to make ends meet while waiting for Social Security to start sending a check. In the 20/20 of hindsight, I know that I really could/should have been going to classes everyday, funny how a sixteen-year-old mind doesn’t look further into the future than the weekend.
The next thing that happened was that I started drinking, heavily. That is a malady that I am sorry to say I still have to this day. Today it is in some sort of control though, while back then it certainly wasn’t. I lost one job because of my drinking; Failing to show up because I was hung over actually. I think that the drinking probably also had a great deal to do with why my wife to be left me, at which point it only got worse.
By 1994, I had been drinking like you would never believe, lost my wife to be, lost my job, got a DWI, and just generally didn’t really give a fuck about life. I spent some time living out of a friend’s van, sleeping under freeway overpasses, basically just a vagrant. I did eventually get another job which afforded me the luxury of renting a friend’s garage, which was not insulated in any way and had a horribly leaky roof. At that time I was also having to attend some faux AA meetings, which I had to pay for, my driver’s license had been revoked, and I was horribly in debt from various legal problems, as well as a lot of bad checks (mostly written by my legal guardian, but with my name on the account). I was at the point where if I were to miss a payment I was going to jail, not just for a day but until the entire amount of the debt to the state had been repaid, being that you only get a couple of bucks a day for time served, I would have been there for a very long time.
When I lost that job my life changed forever. Not to say that I was some sort of cowardly pussy running away from my debts or anything like that, more like I was some cowardly pussy that was trying to buy myself a bit of time to figure out what to do about the debts; I skipped the state. This was no small undertaking, I didn’t even have enough money to buy a bus ticket. My mother sent me the money to buy a bus ticket, but since I had no I.D. (when I say they revoked my license, I mean the physically took it away from me), I had to cash the check at one of those “check cashing” places, where they took 10% of the check for themselves. That meant that I had to sell the one posession that I had that meant anything to me, my guitar, to make up the difference. I then traded what stereo equipment I had (a receiver, cassete player and cd player) for a folding garment luggage type thing (as I had no luggage).
The day that I stepped onto the bus I was carrying only that bag. Inside that bag I had exactly three shirts, two jeans, a pair of shorts, a couple of tanktops, and a couple dozen tapes. Nothing else, really, that was all I had when I stepped onto that bus. I did have a walkman, which I was wearing at the time, but that was it. My enitre life’s work, for the first twenty years could easily be fit into a single overnight bag.
Once I arrived in Arizona, I had a job within a week. I still have that job today. While it might not be the most glorious job, it is my job and I take it pretty seriously. I went from living with my mother to living on my own within six months or so. With the help of my boss, I was able to start putting money into a Mutual Fund account, while still trying to take care of the problems I was having in the state that I had deserted. Within a couple of years I was able to pay off the debts (well my half) from the bounced checks and the legal problems. Sure I was living in a little studio apartment, using only used soup cans for both bowls and glasses, but I was getting a better start, albeit a bit later than hoped. My personal investment really soared during the ‘tech-boom’ of the late ’90’s, and I ended up far better for the investment.
To fast forward several years…
I am now very happily married, my wife makes almost 50% more than I do, and we have been making payments on our own home for the last three years. We don’t have any children (mutual agreement), but we have two dogs and a very large yard. We are happy, the dogs are happy, hell even the fish and cockatiels (we have seven cockatiels, 3 of the boys are for sale if you are interested) seem happy. This is a situation that I would never have imagined I would ever be in, at least based on my status when I originally moved down here, but here I am.
So, getting back to the walking into the house and having an epiphone, I really am a very lucky man. The trail that led me here is exactly the same trail that leads a lot of men to suicide (something that I tried three times, but only once did I really hope it worked). I am living proof that you can overcome any sort of adversity and go on to be successful. Not that I really think that home ownership proves success, more that I think that happiness is a sign of success. My wife and I are happy with no children, two dogs, and a home that is ours (well it belongs to the mortgage company for the next 27 years, but as long as I don’t miss a payment..). We may never be really wealthy, likely we will never be really wealthy, but we do have this little spot on the earth that we call our own. We have the fishes, and the birds, and the dogs, and that is enough for us. Especially when I think about what I came from to end up at this level; Life is beautiful.
A friend (knowing that I could have prevented the death of my father) recently asked me, “If you could go back in time, would you have made that call?” This is a horrible question to ask, but one that I really had to think about… If my father was still alive, I would likely have gone on to my career in micro technology, I would probably have married the girl that I had been with before his death, and My Dad would still be alive! The other side of that question is that if my Dad had not died, I would not have been subjected to all of the things that I have been. I would never have left Oregon. I would never have met my wife. I would never have been in this place at this time. That is a question that I certainly can not answer, yet, I can say that my life now is far better than I had ever hoped. So, would I change the past to make my father still be alive? I would only do that if the circumstances that put me where I am now remained the same. Which means that I likely would do the same thing if I had it all to do again. I dunno. My father’s life (at the point of his death) was pretty miserable. To trade his miserable life for my happy life is not the question, the question is, “Would I throw away what I have now to see my Dad alive?” I really don’t think that I could.
Sorry, Dad, I am happy and wouldn’t change this life for all the world.