If you ever looked back at your life, you would notice that you could have done many things that could have been better. It is like we are at a crossroads and we have to decide which path we take. Sometimes we take the right one and sometimes we take the wrong one. Life is like in a room with several doors. Behind some doors, you will enter a dark room that is stormy. Another door could be one with a lion that is waiting for you. The final door could be a paradise. Some people always pick the right door.
I am in no midlife crises, but this is about the doors that I picked.
The best place to start is by telling about my parents. My Dad grew up in a rural part of Ireland. His father had an accident, so he had a bad back. His mother was a hard-working mother that was quiet and was happy taking care of the family. My dad grew up with 8 brothers and sisters, all lively and all had their own personalities. They were a hard-working family, and worked from a very young age at farms and wherever they could get a few pennies. This background has followed my dad throughout his life. He has always been a hard worker, and someone people can trust in as well as dedicated. Even today, as an 80 retired man, he goes to work some days!
My mother lived in a town. She had two sisters and two brothers. One of her brothers died when he was young. Her mother worked in a convent cleaning for nuns, something that was not such an honour as it sounds. Her father worked on farms. Like my father’s family, my mother’s was a close family. I remember my grandmother the best. She was a lively woman that spoiled us. When I was older, I was allowed to sleep at her house, something my brothers were not allowed to do because they stole money.
Anyhow, back to my parents. My mum and dad met at a barn dance. My father is 6 years older than my mother and she was only 16 when they met, however, she told my dad that she was older. I don’t know if he believed her or not, but I would imagine they had a great party. The problem was that my dad went to the USA. This was common in Ireland in the 60s, even though the country was having economic growth. My dad emigrated there and worked for construction. My Mum and Dad wrote letters back and forth to each other. When I was a teenager I read these letters. They must have been the greatest love letters ever written. You could see that the relationship grew to more than love. They were soul mates.
My parents got married in Ireland in 1966 and moved back to the USA
Years later, they had my brother. He and I never had a good relationship. He was a bully and tended to use his fists before he thought. He was also impatient. He wanted to have a car and a wife as soon as he left school. I haven’t spoken to him in about 20 years. I have tried saying hello to him on Facebook, but he never answered. He did get married to an older woman that couldn’t have children. They live in a flat above her parents. I always tend to sigh when I hear his name. However, it seems that despite he has health problems, he is the happiest of us all.
A few years later I was born in 1969. More about me later…..
I must have been good for my parents, as very soon after I was born, I got a little brother. He was my dad’s favourite and the attention seeker of the family. He was also outgoing and people liked his humour. We were close until he got married. He is like my dad that is a dedicated worker. However is very materialistic and spends money quicker than he gets it. He is also very dominating and thinks that his way is the only way. Once, I visited a house that he just fixed up. It was a nice cosy house; however, he painted the sitting room green. A very dark green. He asked me what I thought about the house. I said it was great and would look better when the sitting room was painted. However, he already painted it and he was so upset, that he has not spoken to me for years.
A few years later, my little brother was born. I have a suspicion that he was what people call a mistake. However, it’s good that he came. I had very little time for him as a child, because all he was interested in was sports. He got married as well, although he is most likely going to get divorced now. He is the only brother that keeps in contact with me. He writes to me when I write to him.
I was in the middle. Mum has often told me that I was an easy baby. I slept and ate. I saw a picture of me when I was a baby, and I looked like Winston Churchill. I was a chubby baby. However within a year, I lost all this, and when people see pictures of me, I was a cute boy. There was nothing special about me. I couldn’t be a model or anything. But I was not ugly.
It’s amazing what we remember as a child. Many memories disappear or get distorted. I think the first 10 years of my childhood were happy. They might not have been as good as others, but they were mine, and I didn’t know the difference.
The first clear memory I have was when I was about 4. I remember that my parents were drunk. They were having a bad fight and I remember that my father knocked my mother to the ground. He was on top of her and it looked like he was going to kill her. I remember that I just stood there with tears coming down my face. I wanted them to stop. At some stage, my mother managed to get up and she put me and my brothers in the car. We were going to leave my dad. I don’t think I was very aware of what was happening, I just sat in the back of the car and screamed when my mother drove through the garage door. They didn’t leave each other and while this could have been a bad memory, it is not a bad memory for me. My parents used this experience and changed their life. They have not drunk any alcohol since. My parents are like that, they learn and change their bad ways. Years later, when my dad found out we smoked, he stopped smoking from one day to another day, just to show us by example. That must have been hard, as he smoked 50 a day!
Shortly after the drunk episode, I remember that we playing in the garage. My dad kept his construction things there. As we played, the scaffold metal things he had against the wall fell over me. I remember how much it hurt. It fell and hit my head. I still have a bump there today! Lucky I did not get much damage. This is a good memory because I remember I sat in my mother’s arms. She cried and was rocking me back and forth, telling me how much she loved me. My parents were not the best at showing their love for us through hugs, so this must have been a weird yet good experience. Plus the fact that I had 3 brothers meant that I had my mother for myself. She was most likely making sure I didn’t get a concussion. I didn’t care. I was being rocked by my mother.
I grew and grew. People said I was cute, but everyone thought that some other brother was just cute. I didn’t care as being cute was something that girls were told. When I was old enough, I would go out and play with the other boys. However, my dad thought that I had to learn how to ride a bike, especially when he just bought me my first bike. I was afraid of the bike and under no circumstances could I balance on it. We lived at a housing estate at the bottom of a hill. So my Dad simply took me to the top of the hill and let me cycle down the hill. I was delighted that I could balance myself down the hill. However, I could not brake and stop and I ended up falling on the grass. This did not please my dad. So I had to go to the top of the hill and ride down again. It must have taken me hours to learn how to stop on a bike, as I remember spending that day falling on the grass. When I taught my children how to ride a bike, I used a more humane method, a brush on the back of the bike.
I loved the bike. One day, I was at the top of the hill. We wanted to ride fast, so we put soap on the wheels of the bike, thinking it will help the bike go faster. We also believed it worked. When we were at the bottom of the hill, we went to small woods and there was a small stream there. My friend wanted to build a bridge across the stream. There were only small pieces of wood around that someone dumped there. So we started to collect as much wood as we could. Luck was not on our side, as my friend took some wood that was close to a beehive. The bees were mad, so within no time, there seemed like a thousand bees that would attack us. I said the first thing that came to my mind... Run. I ran as fast as my two legs could take me. I survived with no stings.
When I got home later, my mother was waiting for me. She just spoke with my friend’s mother and he got stung. My parents were traditionalists where it came to raising children. In some ways they expected us to always behave and be seen and not heard; we were spanked quite a lot. My mother got her wooden spoon and I was soon over her lap getting spanked. It didn’t stop here; I was spanked when my dad got home. I was bitter because what did they expect me to do? Get stung with him?
He was not allowed to play with me anymore. It really didn’t matter, as we were moving.
The new house was an old two-story house. It was like a mansion. I went to a private Catholic school there. I remember I was afraid of school and afraid of what people called homework. I started in kindergarten. The first day did not go so well. I was so nervous, that when I closed the car door, I closed it on my thumb. It hurt like hell. I must have either been a shock or stupid as I just stood there screaming. Mum got mad and opened the door. It looked like the top of my thumb was falling off, but that must just be a false memory as I was not taken to the hospital. The memory I have from this is mum was ashamed and mad.
I was bad at Kindergarten. I was a brat! I never listened to teachers and I liked making a lot of noise. I think the worse thing I did was let the water run and over flood a sink when we had a lunch break, so when we came in, it looked like Noah’s flood. Looking back, I don’t know why I was such a brat. I think it was because my parents were so strict. It must have been a reaction, or me trying to breathe, at any case, I was an angel at home and at school, I was a brat
Our neighbour had two daughters. The older one was my age and she was ugly and obese. The problem was that she fancied me. I never thought of girls that way, so I just ignored her. I was only 8 when I first realised that she had some feelings for me. It must have been hard for her being rejected especially as I became very fond of her little sister. We quickly became friends as we could speak to each other and we had fun together. I found out that she fancied me and I thought she was so pretty and fun, that I decided that I fancied her. So we decided one day to get married. Looking back, I can smile that I was engaged when I was 8. Being engaged was fun. We would sneak out while our mothers would drink coffee and sit in the back of the car and kiss. She was 6, and yet she taught me what a French kiss was. Needless to say, we were caught one day, and that ended our engagement. I was more concerned about being caught and at the same time wondered why it was wrong to kiss my future wife. When I got home, I had to read 100 pages of Huckleberry Finn, and this was torture. I read it in the backyard, and I hated the backyard as there were snakes there. They were only garden snakes and would never hurt me, but I was afraid all the same.
I was surprised that mum didn’t take the wooden spoon. I was spanked a lot as a child and as I said, my parents were very strict. I think the worst I experienced was that one day when I did something bad, my mother dragged me into the bathroom. She took my hand and held it under hot water. I screamed and screamed. The pain was the worse that I ever experienced in my life. I nearly fainted. I could see blisters that looked like mountains were on my left-hand. This worried Mom as she took me to the hospital. I remember I was allowed to sit in the front seat. I was in pain so I counted the telephone poles as we drove to the hospital. There was a reason why I was in the front seat. Mom wanted to tell me not to say when the doctor asked. I was to make up some stupid excuse. I remember in the hospital the doctor told me that it would not hurt. It hurt when he treated my hand. I still have the scars today and when I confronted my mum about it decades later, she said it never happened.
I never did speak with the 6-year-old again. But that did not matter, as I met a new girl my age a few weeks after. Her name was Sandra.
You may ask where my dad was in all of this. He was most likely working. I was my mother’s favourite as I looked like her. My younger brother was my dad’s favourite. Dad and I never spoke a lot. He did try once. One of his hobbies was to go to auctions and buy old things and fix them up and sell them again. These auctions were far away and went on all night. I loved going to these auctions. I loved all the old things. I was also good at guessing prices after a bit. I loved sitting next to him and discussing things. I would end up asleep beside him but I was happy. I always wanted him to buy me a little thing. But he never did.
We went to church every Sunday. We had our fast seat in the Church. I sat next to my Dad. I loved singing and I loved Church. I remember once that my dad and I sung very high in the Church. It most has sounded like a rock concert. For me, it was not causing trouble. We were just singing loud. I was happy as Dad sang high as well, and God must have heard us. Dad must have got embarrassed, as he got very mad at me at one stage, and told me to be quiet. I looked up at him with a disappointed face and tears. Since then, I hardly ever sang in Church and I sat beside my mother at Church.
Mum didn’t always help my esteem. Once when we took school pictures, I came back and proudly showed it to my mother. She got very mad when she saw the picture and asked why I could not smile properly. I said that I tried. Then she said I had a bad smile. Years later when my mother in law was visiting Ireland, she noticed that in my early pictures, I smiled but suddenly I didn’t smile in pictures.
I went to a private Catholic School. I liked my teacher there a lot but I don’t think she liked me. I had great respect for her. She most likely heard that I was a brat in kindergarten and for that reason, I was not one of her pets. I had friends though and was popular. I remember we had a club during Lunch break. It was called the Thunderbirds. We didn’t do much. They stood against a wall and we did gymnastics. However, it was fun. We were in a group and we felt like we were invincible. I was the leader. More and more boys joined it every day. Girls were not allowed. One day I was sick and that meant I had to stay home. The next day when I came, someone stole my position as the leader. I was of course mad. Where was the loyalty? I swore and told them what I thought. The teacher heard me say the F-word, and then I was told to stay indoors for a week. By the time I was allowed out again, the Thunderbirds were history.
When I was 8, I had this very strange dream. It was about the most beautiful girl my age that wore diapers. When I woke up, I remembered every detail of the dream. I thought it was weird that a girl that age would wear diapers. However, I wanted to be her. I wanted to be a girl. I dreamt about her every night and sometimes still do. When I played games, I was always a superhero, but always the female one. When we played house at school or dress up game, I would be the little sister, even wear a diaper made from a towel or a real one! The teacher didn’t say anything about it, and I never told anyone I was trying to be the girl in my dreams.
I had a very good friend at this stage. His name was Ed. He was from Mexico. This meant that he was a bit dark-skinned. When we first met, he called me princess, which I should have been mad at. However, I just laughed because he probably saw something in me that others did not. We became best friends and did everything together. It was nice that I had a good friend. This did not last long. One day we were playing at my house. It was getting boring so we walked around to see what the others were doing. My older brother was mowing the lawn and he looked funny as he tried pushing the mower. He was bending trying his hardest to push the thing. His bum was pointing out, so Ed and I couldn’t stop laughing. We walked behind my brother imitating him and laughing as we did this. My dad, who was not often home happened to be there. He came out and took me by one hand and spanked me hard while I was hanging in the air. I cried and screamed as when dad spanked. He didn’t need a belt or spoon. I was mad with him after this, and never quite forgave him. Not because of the spanking but Ed was so scared, that he was not allowed to see me again.
It didn’t matter, as we were told that we would be moving to Ireland. We were asked in a fun way if we wanted to. Of course, we agreed. I forget now if I really wanted to, as I thought Ireland was a third world country, where people lived in thatched cottages and there were no cars, as people used horses.
Even though we were asked, it seems like it was decided as we soon moved out of the huge house we lived in a small apartment in some poor part of the town. It was cramped but we survived.
I had my first experience with the police when I was 9. My mother asked me to clean the car. This was a boring job. So I started to clean the car and quickly got bored. There was a half cigarette in the car, and I decided to try and smoke it. I found a box of matches and lit the cigarette, and as you can guess, I started choking with the smoke. The match fell on some papers that I collected and I could see it made a burnt spot on one of the papers. Then I took another match and decided to burn a corner of one paper. When I was doing this, this older boy cycled by in the car and called me a sissy. I hated him. I looked like a boy and thought why did everyone call me a sissy? I thought I was cool by playing with matches. As he cycled off I lit another one. However, the pile of papers I had gathered was now like a small campfire. I tried to put it out but could not. I ran into the house and out of breath said to my mother that I needed a glass of water. She asked why and I said there was a little fire in the car. My mother looked out the window and said “do you want to put a fire out with a glass of water” I looked out the window while my mother was calling me stupid. The whole car was on fire!
The police came and asked me what happened. My heart was beating fast and I just said that the boy I hated came by and threw a match in the car and it landed on some papers and that was that. They must have been rolling their eyes, but I thought they believed me. I really said prayers the next few weeks so God could forgive me for lying.
In June 1980 we took the long flight to Ireland where I found out they had normal houses and cars. This would be the next stage of my life, which would stain me forever.