As per my weekly Boy At The Window blog, I often update all of you on some obscure anniversary from some point in my life’s timeline for the manuscript in which I seek publication. This weekend and week coming up is no different, except for the fact that most of the anniversary dates are more positive and their effects just as lasting as some of the more depressing ones.
But I should start with August 25 of ’85. It was a Sunday that year, the last one in August before the start of eleventh grade. My stepfather got into it again with me that afternoon, over the usual. He wanted me to “some him some respect” by calling him “Dad.” “You’re not my father, and you’re never gonna be my father!,” I yelled in response. He tried to wrap his fat left arm around my head in our narrow hallway while trying to punch me in the head at the same time. I was fifteen and realized that he was attempting to do too much at one time. I twisted out of his hold and inadvertently elbowed him in the side–where his blubber apparently was less thick–in the process. I ran as far as I could for the front door twenty-five feet away. When I turned to see where he was, I saw the big guy on the floor holding the side of his stomach. I left, beginning a twenty-one hour odyssey through the streets of Mount Vernon and in Mount Vernon High School.
I walked for almost two and a half hours, looking for my father Jimme–who was in the middle of one of his summertime drinking binges–and generally pissed off about our impoverished fate while looking at the homes that I knew some of my classmates lived in. The contrast was so striking that I couldn’t help but feel that though I saw myself as a child of God, that somehow God’s blessings had completely skipped us all. I ended up spending the night inside my high school, in the offices of the gifted track coordinator for our program. After spending more time walking around the school and looking at its Wall of Fame (including Dick Clark and other Mount Vernon natives), walking around Mount Vernon and spending three hours at a Catholic Church praying and listening to Latin liturgies, I went home and awaited my fate. Ironically, nothing happen. I went to sleep, dreaming again of the life I wanted to have, with my young siblings voices dancing in and out of my head.
Two years later, August 26 of ’87, twenty years ago on today’s date, I left Mount Vernon for Pittsburgh and my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s literally the dividing line between my childhood, my five years of familial and K-12 torture, and the beginning of living my life for me (as opposed to for my mother, my siblings, dreams of my first or second crush, etc.). The details of waking up at 4:30 am–I barely slept really–to take a 7:50 am Amtrak out of Penn Station in NYC to travel nine hours to Pittsburgh aren’t all that important. The reality was that in some sense, I’d won but didn’t realize that I had for another two years. I was leaving 616, my world of uncomfortable comfort-ness and no longer in Mount Vernon’s public schools, which had become a world of strife, confusion and loneliness by the time we threw our caps in the air two months before. My summer of obsession over my second crush was over, or at least, so I thought at the time. Regardless, I had much more to look forward to than what I was leaving behind. But at the moment I got into a Reliable Taxi to catch the 2 Subway at East 241 in The Bronx, I mostly felt sorry for my mother.
Other dates are almost as important. I started graduate school on August 28 of ’91, sixteen years ago this week. I moved into my first “by myself” apartment on Friday, August 31 of ’90, seventeen years ago. And my wife, my son and I are on the biggest roadtrip and vacation we’ve ever been on this week, having left suburban Maryland to visit my father in Florida–whose been a recovering alcoholic for nine years now. We stopped overnight along the way, with my wife meeting my first crush along the way. Now that we’re here, we’ll spend time at Sea World, find a bowling alley for my son to jump up and down about, and maybe even find a miniature golf course for my son to putt to his heart content while I’ll find a driving range and learn how to hit driver for the first time. But none of these dates wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t done what I did on August 26th, 1987.