I think my bartender is made of magic. That’s probably why his schedule is solid through into mid-fall.
We started the session on a high note. I talked a little about the small winter story in the previous Overherd entry. My bartender picked up on this as a positive memory, of a sort, during those times of tribulation. And we talked about a couple others—the how-I-got-into-computers story, and… I forget what else. I know there was a third one. Or maybe not; happy memories are slim pickings for me before the end of the Years of Zorn and Tharn.
Man, I try to forget how many decades of life got wasted before I got out of the neon haze. It’s too many to be happy with. And sometimes, like my birthday, it becomes unavoidable. There’s a reason I try to forget how old I am, although I actually wasn’t conscious of why until a few months ago. Maybe. I don’t remember because I try not to think about it.
As I told my bartender, it’s hard to get at the good memories with picking up the bad ones. The how-I-got-into-computers story is subtly, but intricately, tied up with why my parents—in particular, my father, but my mother also played a part—why they let me go to college in the first place. It’s not a direct connection, and until today I didn’t know, or didn’t think about, it existing.
I ended up talking about the events that led up to college. I talked about the high school English/Lit teachers who helped me get over a spurious test result. I talked about the English/Lit teacher who helped me the most…
It was not the 90s at that point in time. There wasn’t a mandatory reporting law, and people were more naive… or something… about child abuse. Like whether it existed or not. ((My high school counselor to whom I eventually told all this to believed claims of child abuse were attempts to shame innocent parents. So he told them. That night I came home was like walking into an ambush.)) Actually that still happens today….
Anyways. I associate this teacher with roast beef sandwiches. This is because she looked after me in ways my parents didn’t—the matter of school lunches, for instance. My parents always gave me a very meager lunch, not meager in terms of generous American-sized servings, but pretty thin on calories and nutritional value. Every ingredient was white, to start with, and occupied a small Ziploc bag. When dinner is boiled pork with salt, you’re lucky if lunch has fruit juice. Which mine didn’t.
My teacher was concerned… so she bought me roast beef sandwiches. And BLTs. And pulled pork sandwiches. And those various salad sandwiches.
I ate them after school. My father would never have allowed me to stay long after school if it wasn’t for this teacher who told him I showed promise, maturity, and was helping her grade papers.
In other words, she found his weakness: his pride in me. Or rather, his vicariously living through me and my good grades. ‘Cause if I got anything below an A in any class, I was beaten. This pattern started directly after kindergarten… I understood from a very young age that my life depended on continuing to get good grades. (And perhaps it made me the most justified overachiever in all the schools I’ve been in.)
So he trusted her a little, and I got to have extra hours away from him plus food. And grading exams and essays, which I considered a good trade.
If I’d realized before this session that my father’s vicarious living through me was his stickling point, maybe I’d have been less traumatized. Maybe I’d have known how to placate him that time he locked me in a closet as punishment.
It was a delicate balance… I had to do very well without showing him up, you see. That way he could brag at work and not feel like his daughter was better than him in any way. (He liked to tell me he always knew what I was thinking. This becomes creepy around age five, and scary once he’s strangled you at ten or so.)
So, for instance, it was OK when I went to college because I would prolong by several years his ability to boast about me. But when I started earning more money than him in my sophomore year, even though my parents never allowed me to intern, that was, in no uncertain terms, NOT OKAY.
When I promised that after getting my PhD I’d go home and get a nice minimum wage job and take care of them—and I truly believed at one point that was the way my life should go—that was OK. When I didn’t get his job title correct in a college application, he screamed at me and eventually locked me in a closet. And I thanked the gods he had done this instead of ramming my fingers even more in the desk drawer.
I’m not sure how much it helps to know that my father funded my first two years of college pretty much purely out of selfishness. Well, out of extra selfishness; after all, college was a gift that e expected me to pay in full for, with the rest of my life.
It’s kind of scary that I’m so closely related to someone who would do that to other people. No, belay that: it scares me so much to consider that for a while in my young life, I also treated relationships and money as equal commodities in all respects. I learned that from my father.
And this, primary amongst other, more pragmatic reasons, is why I donate; why all donations I make are anonymous ((Well… almost all. I made one exception.)); and why I never ask for anything in return.
… money can’t buy me love.
We unpacked more, but this is the main thing I remember.