Growing Up

At 12, I still believed in Santa Claus.  I can remember to this day the tears I shed when my father told me to grow up and be a man.  "There is no Santa Claus!" still burns in my head as my first memory that my dad could tell lies.  What else had he lied to me about?

I was a wimp, the kind of kid that just begs to have his books knocked on the ground, or his lunch money stolen.  I remember a boy named Nicky that lived down the street.  He was my bully.  Many times I ran home after an episode with him, crying to my mother about how I had been treated, and how I would not survive the next day at school if I went back.  Of course my mother complained to his parents, whose response was always "kids will be kids, but we will have a talk with him."  As you can imagine, that talk between Nicky and his parents just meant twice as much trouble for me the next day.  One fateful day I ran to my front door as Nicky chased me, taunting me to fight him.  The door was locked!  That door was never locked!  I pounded on the door screaming for someone to let me in.  Thank God it was my dad.  "Dad!"  I cried, "He's going to kill me!"  I will never forget his reply, "You're a man now, and I'm not letting you back in this door until one of you is bleeding!  Us a brick, rock stick, whatever it takes to win!"  I went back into the street shaking and crying.  Nicky pushed me to the ground.  I stood up, closed my eyes, and swung wildly.  Nicky wiped his lip, saw blood, and ran home.  I had won!  Or had I?  Nicky and I became friends after that, but things between my dad and I were never the same again.

At 15 I fell in love.  A beautiful girl that worked in the coffee shop where played hooky from school at.  Although my first sexual experience had been a year earlier with an 18 year old oriental girl, in the woods, on a picnic bench that I had never seen before, or since.  Nancy was my first experience at love.  Naive as I was, I came home one day telling my father how much in love I was, and how I was going to marry her.  He simply laughed and told me "You don't marry your first piece of ass."  I told him how it was different, and I really loved this girl.  His reply was, "Your not marrying that slut!"  I was shocked and angry.  I told him he couldn't stop me, and that was when he gave me my first black eye.  I left home, and never went back.

I lived in my car for almost a year.  It was an old beat up 65 Chevy.  I used the school to shower, and change, as I made my plans with Nancy to move in together.  When the transmission went out in my car, I drove it backwards to school.  At graduation I received a blank certificate.  My parents had refused to pay the tuition, and I was told that I could retrieve the real diploma when the tuition was paid.

I was lost.  I knew I had no future.  I joined the Air Force in 1974, fully expecting to be sent to Vietnam.  Nancy understood, but we lost contact after that.  My dad finally contacted me, when he heard from some of my friends that I was leaving for the military.  He met me in a bar, and had one last drink with me "Man to Man".  That was the last time I ever saw him before he died, with the exception of my mothers funeral.

To this day, I look back on my life, and although I should probably feel sadness, I instead see God's hand of protection throughout my life.  I never went to Vietnam.  I learned a trade that helped me to survive.  I found out that I am not a man, nor do I ever want to be one.  My life has given me the strength to be true to myself, and I no longer fear being the person God created.