The main road of the quiet country town veered through wooded acres of land leading its travelers further and further from what most would consider modern convenience. Passersby drove the numerous hills leading them into what was known as the “Hilltowns”, and located about half way up the second to last hill, twas a long worn out driveway that was hovered over by large pine trees. The driveway was like a secret entrance to those who weren’t aware of its existence, unable to be seen until you were driving up it, it was as if you were entering a new world full of green trees and dirt. At the end, or beginning (depending on if you are a glass half full type of person) there stood a house. It was a modest cape that housed a family of five. Father often off at work and if he wasn’t he was off working, mother in the kitchen or watching some old movie that tugged at her adoration of anything other than the current life she found herself a part of. The two sisters, one the oldest and one the youngest would be dancing in their rooms or listening to the newest R&B album on their walkmans. In the back yard the middle child and only son would be making an attempt to entertain himself.
There was no grass in the back yard; it mostly consisted of sand with a covering of moss. The moss was soft though so the need for shoes was not always necessary. When the middle child played the sports he loved so much shoes were always worn. They were never good shoes, rarely would they fit correctly, on occasion they were hand me downs from his older sister. He did the best he could with what he has. The old worn out baseball glove that he used to play catch with fit him perfectly. It was perfectly broken in and felt so easy to squeeze together as the ball landed with a slap into the netting. He would pull the ball out of his glove and in one motion throw it back upon the roof, the steeply angled roof would then send the baseball flying back down at him to catch before he started the entire process all over again.
“Stop throwing the baseball onto the roof!!! It is so loud in here,” she would yell after opening the kitchen windows to make sure she was heard.
He understood that it was loud but he had no one to play catch with, no one to teach him the simple things like how to pitch, or the best way to stand when batting. He wanted so badly to learn the game of baseball but the solo mission was never one that would win this battle. He diverted the throws from the roof to as high up in the air as he possibly could throw. Leaning back at the hip he would use all of his strength to fire the baseball up to the clouds, while hoping not to get it caught up in one of the many pines that littered his back yard. He would then run to the other side of the yard, approximately 60 feet, and stand there waiting for the ball to fall into his glove allowing him to celebrate making the final catch of the world series winning the game for his team. When he didn’t feel up for playing baseball he would mimic the same actions with a football. Pretending to hike the ball to himself, dropping back right foot, then left foot crossing over propelling him further back, to then fire a high floating lob down the middle of the field. Immediately after the throw the young boy would race to the other side of the field, arms stretched out to catch the game-winning touchdown pass. He knew, even at an early age, how sad this was. How he wished he had someone to throw the ball with, to build a tree fort with, and as he grew older, someone that would teach him how to shave (someone other than his art school roommate that is). He begged each year for a brother, not fully understanding what a “tubal ligation” was at his young age, even including it on his Christmas list for several years. It was this loneliness that led him to basketball, a game that he could play by himself and become good at it. He would end up playing for 5 to 6 hours per day during the summers and as much as possible after school during the school year. It became his obsession, that is until his body (more specifically his knees), wouldn’t allow him his outlet anymore. It was at that time that drinking, smoking cigarettes and pot became his new outlet, as these were also things that he could become good at all on his own.
It is this childhood that I think of, or thought a lot about as I made my move away from my boys this past weekend. I had three weeks of preparing, planning, scheduling, and traveling to find a place to live and pack up the home that I had known for the past three years. I was leaving my boys, worrying me that this was making me the father that I had grown up without? Was this going to make them think of me differently than they had, or at least up until a year and a half ago? My two boys have been through a lot over the past eighteen months, they have seen their mother make a decision that ended a family, they have seen their father searching for, well anything that he could find, a life, joy, happiness, a rope that he could use to shimmy his way out of the depressive state he found himself in far to often. The unfamiliarity of their lives and what they knew of it I assume scared them as much as it did myself if not more. I was the backbone of the family and now I was without strength. The father they knew passed away on December 5th, 2015 and now they had to get to know their new father as if I was some foster parent they were to eventually grow on. This though, the leaving, the packing up our house, our “man-cave”, and moving 4 hours east of them only to see them every other weekend, during long breaks from school, and the entirety of the summers, was this making me the exact thing that I never wanted to be? Many men have said this prior to me so I do not pretend to be the first, but was this going to make me my father?
437! That is the number of jobs I applied for over the past eight months of unemployment. Four Hundred and thirty seven jobs, out of that I received 12 interviews, five of which were for one company before they passed. When Portland Maine started calling, and I mean calling multiple companies and multiple offers, I had no choice to leave the state I had once felt more comfort in than anywhere else in my life, and move. It wasn’t out of want or desire, not saying that I hadn’t dreamt of a new start after the past 18 months but my boys are here, I would choose them over anything. Money though, it runs out, no matter how frugally you live your life, no matter that you were able to stretch 2 months of severance into 4 ½ months of living, it still runs out. I had no choice, but why do I feel horribly guilty, why do I feel that I am no better than the father that couldn’t find 30 minutes in his life to play catch in the yard, or help build a tree house? Is it that my life is forcing me to be selfish after my wife left? Is it that my life wants me to know me and know how to be happy so that I can show my boys that even after experiencing some of my worst fears (losing her, losing them, losing, losing, losing), that I can not only make it but also become stronger than I ever was prior? Is it that I need to show them that you are the only one that will dictate how your life will go and sometimes that means facing your fears head on and fighting or at the least pushing forward no matter how much you just want to fall a sleep and not wake up? This life, for some reason, just keeps going. I wake up every morning, whether I want to or not, my eyes have opened, my feet have touched the cold floor, and I have moved and kept moving through all of the shit that has been placed upon my shoulders and the memories that play over and over each night as I lay desperately trying to sleep. So what do I do? I keep going; I create routine so things seem normal even though I hate routines. I create safe areas like blogs and notebooks filled with writing that transcribes the pain that I have become all too comfortable living with. I look at my boys and I thank them for being around me when it was hard to be so, for talking to me about videogames, sports, music, and guitars because it is what we share.
I will sing on my way into work tomorrow, not because I am happy, nor because I am sad. I will sing because when I get into my car and I put on my music whether it be Ray Lamontagne, Tedeschi Trucks, Nathaniel Ratliff, or Alice in Chains (the list could go on and on but for the sake of brevity) it is a routine now. I sing, in my car at the top of my lungs. I do this alone, when my boys are with me, or when others are because if I don’t I will want the hand that used to hold my hand as I drove, I will want the glance that won’t ever be returned. Tomorrow I will do it to honor my boys, to let them know that no matter what hits me I will still be singing, I will still be with them, and I will still be thinking of them as always. I do not know what tomorrow or the next day or the next will bring, and that is fine with me, but what I do know is that in two weeks I will be with them again and that pushes me to be the best I can be until that weekend comes because no place to me will ever feel like home without my boys. It is this feeling that my home is with my boys and not a structure that I pay on for the next 76 years, that provides me the hope that I am not my father, that I won’t be him. That if my sons called tomorrow and I was four hours away I would be there in three without hesitation. Even if it is just to prevent them from having to throw a baseball as high up in the air as they can to then run across the field to catch it. I hope that my boys always understand that where ever they are I will always be there for a catch, a chat, or just to sit there and be company because to me THAT is being a father. Goodnight boys, I love you, and I will see you in the morning.