My life was put on hold wanting to take care of them, to at least do what I could. My mother was a good mother; she truly did the best she could with what she knew and what she had. To describe more of her upbringing would be too difficult, for me to write and for you to read. She worked hard, often three jobs at once, and I played the role of housewife and peacekeeper. I knew our lives were tethered by chaos, but it was a tether I knew I couldn’t break. So, I did my best to adjust and have it affect Joey as little as possible.
I watched my mother, trying to judge what she would need and have it before she asked. I kept the house clean, and any bad things Joey or Jason did, I would try to keep from her. Clean up the mess before she saw it, anticipate the problem/accident/whatever and stop it or redirect it before it happened. I felt like she was the only thing holding our family together, so I worked to hold her together. I knew if things got too much for her, she would break down, whether it was being admitted to the psych ward of the hospital, as she was twice (suffering through more shock treatments than I would imagine anyone could survive), or simply packing just what she could carry, locking our apartment, and driving us to Orlando to spend two months with friends—this in the middle of the school year. Too many bills, too much this, too little that … fuck it, let’s leave. So, to keep the last thin strand that I felt was holding us together, to keep it from snapping, scattering us wherever it may, I did my best to keep things calm for my mother.
I quit school in the tenth grade; I simply walked away one morning and never returned. I worked jobs ranging from ditch digger to carpenter’s assistant—so many, I’ve honestly lost count. I did whatever I could or had to do to keep the family going. I gave my check to my mother, helping keep bills paid and all of us taken care of. I continued because I knew there had to be something better; there had to be hope. There had to be.
Hope and dreams are what kept me going. Not always for much, but often for simply something better. I got my GED when I was seventeen. I worked my way through college, going off and on for fifteen years, from 1982 to graduation in August of 1997. I rode a bicycle back and forth during a summer course, 20 miles one way, when our car broke down. There had to be more. I completed one year of my Master’s before joining the Peace Corps. I had dreamed of joining the Peace Corps since I was a kid. It was hard for me to accept I had made a dream come true. I fell into a deep depression, something I have a history of, while in the Peace Corps and left early.
I’ve worked many jobs since then. I was Assistant Librarian at Talladega College, Evening Coordinator of an Academic Center at Jacksonville State University, and even a couple of different construction jobs. I want to work as a writer. It’s what I do; it’s what I can’t stop doing. I want a job where I don’t feel I’m simply a blob, contributing nothing to society and definitely nothing to my soul. I do have ideals, a belief that things can be better. I have to. Without them, why hope, why live at all?
I don’t have a 401k; don’t even have a 401a, b, or c. I live my life by my soul, trying to stay true to what I feel. If it means I die alone, so be it. Not saying I want to, but I’ve accepted that I will never be a part of the main stream, and that I consider my values and my ideals more important than a dollar, or a million dollars. I am what I am, whatever that may be. At the moment, and for who knows how much longer, I live with my mother and her husband. My mother is being treated for cancer (just medication for now), and it helps them out for me to be there. It’s not that important to me where I live. I don’t really want to own much because I never know when I may be ready to leave again. I try to save money, but lately it’s been hard, keeping things paid around the house. My mother was in a car wreck a couple of weeks ago and broke her ankle. She should recover, but we’ll have to see how that affects the cancer treatment she’s on, as far as pain medication conflicting with her cancer meds. She was admitted to the hospital last week for a couple of days, chest pain and fear, though she won’t admit to the fear. She also had an allergic reaction to one of the meds, but we were able to get that straightened out. We all get along pretty well as a family.
I don’t do drugs, drink occasionally, don’t smoke, and only smoked pot once (another story). I have no big debts outside of student loans. I’m 6’3" and weigh 280 or so. I’m working on getting the weight down. Just because this isn’t the weight for me. I grew up playing football and working out, but in the last few years have fallen into a rut; I haven’t worked out much, and it’s caught me. My ideal weight is about 220. I know what I need to do to get down to it; simply a matter of doing it. I have no big medical problems. I do take Zoloft for depression. Not sure if it’s still working, but I know it did when I started almost six years ago. Not sure if it’s plateaued or what, but as long as I don’t think it’s doing harm, I’ll stay on it. I believe if I’d had it in the Peace Corps, I wouldn’t have left early. I would’ve been able to get through what hit me and drug me down to the point I didn’t feel I could function.
For now, I work a third shift job as desk clerk at a federal training facility. I’m hoping to save enough money and, if my mother continues to get better, move to Portland, OR in late spring, next year. I’ll continue to pursue writing, seeking, more than anything, to answer the whys and the why nots that always roam my mind.
(Part 1) | Part 2