It’s All About Me!

How does one describe the devastation of the loss of their dad, their idol, their world? Words can’t really seem to begin to capture the experience, the feeling, the pain. I sat there on the davenport, to the left of my sobbing and incoherent mother. I didn’t know this person. She didn’t seem at all like the woman who had raised and loved me. She was literally “beside herself”, or at least that is what I thought that the phrase always meant. The three of us, my sister, mom and I, sat and sobbed on that couch for what seemed a week or more, time was lost for me after the shock of my dads sudden death. I don’t really remember getting up or even eating during our stay on there. People came and went, bringing food, cards and giving their respect and their sympathy.   

I do remember scolding my 5 year old brother when he came down the stairs the following morning, with a baseball glove and going outside to play. How could he be thinking of playing at a time like this? Then there was a nice lady, from the church, who gave us a beautiful white ornate bible with a special wooden box container, that I thought was kinda neat

I mostly remember all the people. Most didn’t know what to say or how to say what they didn’t know what to say. There was just a seemingly endless stream of people coming in and out of our house. Eventually, I guess we must have gotten off the couch because I do recall my aunt wanting to speak with me. I had known my aunt Lavon as a very sweet and kind woman. She had us over for Thanksgiving every year and always seemed to be in the kitchen cooking and asking people if they wanted more to eat or if they had had desert. On this occasion she seemed very different. “Tony! you have to get going! You can’t cry for the rest of your life. Now get up and get dressed and help your mother.”  

For a boy who had just turned 10, these words seemed very harsh to me, anyway I remember strongly disliking her from that point on. How could she be so mean? Everybody else had been so kind and understanding. Why was she being to stern with me? After this experience I re-entered my stupor and don’t remember anything until my mom spoke with me a little later. In a weak sobbing voice she uttered, “You’re going to have to grow up fast now”. What did that mean? How do I grow up fast? I was soon to learn what those words meant.

My world had changed in an instant and I didn’t even know it yet. Before January 25th, 1977, I had had what I thought was a pretty normal life. Idyllic really. My dad worked and my mom stayed home to raise 5 kids. We ate dinner at the dinner table, my mom said things like, “Wait until your dad gets home”’ you know, normal. Being the second oldest, and the oldest boy, I guess I was supposed to be the man of the house now. Whatever that meant.  

After awhile things returned to “normal”, or what was to become the new normal. My mom, who had once been the Classroom mom at school, the Cub Scout and Brownie leader and the one who baked brownies and cookies, had vanished. In her place was a fun party mom. I was to become her confidant, her rock, the one she could depend on. The problem was I was only a 10 year old kid.

Is the greatest need of the human soul to be understood? Or is that just a precursor to the underlying need to be loved. Maybe they’re inextricably linked. All I know is that we all yearn for a deep connection, we all just tend to develop different strategies for attaining it. As children it seems to come naturally without effort or the need of any conscious longing.  

From my earliest memories, when it came to connecting with and interacting with others, I always felt like I was from another planet. I remember, many instances, where I experienced episodes of extreme intensity or rushing and uncontrollable mind-surges. I could be talking to someone and even carry on a conversation all while having this “Mind Explosion”. It wasn’t like crazy rushing thoughts, but more like an onslaught of energy wanting to express as my brain felt super charged. It was as if my mind was taking off but I could not keep up. I couldn’t form a real thought during these times, I just tried to hold on until the feeling passed, usually in about 5 minutes or so. I never told anyone as I intuitively knew they wouldn’t understand nor could I explain it to them. This was to be a regular theme throughout my life.

By the time I entered grade school, I remember being called weird or a weirdo on a daily basis. I wasn’t an outcast but I always felt like I was. Every teacher would give my mother glowing reports of my progress but then express their concern that I never asked them any questions. They were always baffled and often ended up throwing me the following year’s text book, sending me to the library or another room to learn it myself, which I always preferred.

When I was about 5 my mother had arranged for me take an intelligence test at the preschool she had specifically paid for me to attend, about a half hours drive from my house and in another town. When I got home, from taking the test, I handed my mom a 3X5 card with gray and red marks all over it. In a rather frantic and upset voice she asked me what all the red marks meant. This was the first time in my life, though certainly not the last, that I felt I needed to help my mother with her emotions. What could I say to help her through her upset? 

In a fit she quickly called the psychologist who had administered the test. She started the call very flustered but seemed to transform into the glowing happy mom I knew sometimes as the conversation went on. When she was through she seemed quite content and even giddy. She told me I was special. I had a special brain and that I was not like anyone else we knew. I suddenly felt the weight of the world firmly set on my shoulders. From this point on things would be different, very different!

School work was easy for me and because of my genetics I was considered good looking and a good athlete. This made my school easy as far what was expected of me, and I gave off the appearance of fitting in well. As time went on I developed strategies for fitting in and even being popular. I became a master at pleasing people and always had the thought in my mind, how can I make this person happy or what do they need to make them like me. I desperately wanted to fit in, I just didn’t realize that I was sacrificing myself for the sake of acceptance and to make other people feel comfortable with me. If one was to look at my resume, they’d think I had the perfect life, I was living a dream, that is exactly right I was dreaming.

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