I’ve been pondering telling this story for a long time. It is a story from my younger life, that I think, was one of the best times in my youth.
When times get tough, and you need a place to go to get away, this could not have come at a better time in my life.
The last incarnation of home came in my sixth grade year, about at the halfway mark, we moved to the last place we would all call home. My father’s upwardly mobile life was still on its way up.
I have said, in the past, that when my father was good, he was Very Good.
My father worked very hard at being good. And he made his mark in the area of goodness, whenever he put himself forwards. And I have to commend him when I speak about his goodness, because it seemed that he could not have done worse, if he tried.
My brother and myself were actively involved in-house hunting. We looked at several really nice houses, in areas close to where we ended up. When it came down to choice, the Power’s House sealed the deal. It was in the right neighborhood, with great schools, close to shops, stores and restaurants, and access to highways was a block away.
The house had three bedrooms, 2 car garage, an acre of land, and most importantly, it had a screened in pool. We had hit the big time for sure. My father had earned his keep, and produced the best home he could afford. Along with my mother’s salary included.
I attended the last half sixth grade here.
The Big Change would come when I completed sixth grade and graduated to Junior High School. From the sixth grade, we were all taken on several field trips to the new school, to learn the lay of the land, and to make the transition as smooth as possible. It would be a whole new world.
Six classes a Day – Gym – Locker Rooms – Lockers – BOYS !!!!
Southwood Junior High, now Southwood School for the Performing Arts, was a bike ride from home. You could do the ride in about half an hour. That worked. The school was only a year old when I began seventh grade.
I did not know that there was anything wrong with me, until the first day of school, when it came to gym. The girls had their locker room on one side of the school, the boys on the other. We had seen it, before. But until I was a student here, that was a different story.
The first day I had to change my clothes in the company of other boys, I knew, for SURE that there was something wrong with me. I had crossed that invisible line into gay, that very day. I certainly was different. I knew it. I just did not tell anyone else about it.
I knew, that GAY would never fly at home, so for the next six years, I played the straight game, to the best of my ability because there was no other option.
By this stage of the game, and time, our family became one of four families, who hobnobbed with my step mom and step dad. It was there, that we were introduced to living Homosexuality, in real-time. My father was no fan of The Gays. Which is where all of his most savage abuse was born.
I said above, that when my father was good, he was Very Good. And what he gave with one hand, he took with the other. He had a dedicated room in the house where he dispensed his abuse.
It got so bad, at one point, that I could not find any place to hide at home. I bought a dead bolt and put it on my bedroom door. That pissed my father off, so much so, that he took the entire door off its hinges. I could not run, I could not hide.
If I did not physically leave the house, I was fair game.
For the next six years, I spent countless hours, days and weeks, sleeping at friends houses. Their parents kind of knew, that I was in serious trouble. That worked in my favor, even when, in high school, my best friend and his brothers, were going to a private Catholic Boys school, far away from where we lived. I would sleep away, and commute to school and back there at the end of the day. I did not go home for weeks.
When Junior High began, the teachers and staff, figured out that I was particular. I had certain needs that NEEDED to be met. And over time, those very teachers, stepped up and did for me, what I could not do for myself.
Having KEYS, is a theme in my life. Keys, play a distinct role in my life. To this day, I am the keeper of certain keys, to certain church basements, here in Montreal.
Back then, in junior high, I was given certain keys. I was a kid, with keys.
If I was home, I would get up before dawn, and take care of what needed to be done at home, I would then, get on my bike, and ride over to the school. As usual, there was a teacher on door duty, early. I think, they knew I needed help. So there was someone there to receive me whenever I arrived.
I was a junior high geek, you could say. I inserted myself into school life early on. Seventh grade was all about figuring it out. What I was going to do, and how I was going to do it. I always had to have a plan. I knew all the ins and outs by the time I hit eighth grade.
Science was my department. I became a teachers assistant, as soon as I was able. It was actually a class. You had one period during your day where you could sit along side a teacher, and be a (Teachers Assistant).
By that time, the science department was my home away from home. I had the key to the Science Department Teachers lounge. Each department faculty had a dedicated teachers lounge (upstairs) on the floor.
Being a teacher’s AIDE came in very handy. Because once you had attained that position, you could, use that position to get out of ANY class you needed to. Gym, was the bane of my existence. I went to gym, when it served me. I played Soccer, baseball, football on occasion. And I wrestled for a while. I participated when it was necessary. I had gym either first thing in the morning, or last period of the day. If I had to shower, it was dicey. I had abject fear of showering in front of other boys. At the same time, I was fascinated with boys too.
I had certain alliances with certain friends, who played certain roles in my life.
Anytime it rained outside, I had an out. Anytime I wanted to skip gym, I had a way out. All I needed was to present my teacher’s aide card to a teacher, and say those magic words: “I need to grade papers …”
Worked like a charm every time.
By the end of ninth grade, I had skipped gym all together. They gave me a C in gym that final year, because by then, I was never in class any more.
Nobody knew, I was gay. At least that I knew of. I never asked any one. And nobody ever said a word to me personally. And I am confident, not one teacher asked my parents about it either. Because my father would have flipped his lid, and then I am sure I would have heard about it.
So every morning, I was riding to school, one to two hours earlier than when the typical school day began. I had keys to the department. And I was racking up brownie points all over the school. I worked like a mad man. I was a good student. I did better in Junior High than I did in High School. most definitely because Alcohol had not yet been introduced as a pain-killer. I did not start drinking regularly until High School.
I loved Junior High School. I loved the teachers, I had good friends. And also, I was safe. nobody could touch me at school. I think teachers have an innate sense that particular students have needs. They must have known, when I started showing up before hours, that something was up at home. Not that I remember ever stating that for sure to them.
I think they knew better. (All this in retrospect)
I was a musical student. I played piano. I had music courses. I performed every year in the Superintendents Musical Honors Festival. My father went so far, to gain my good graces, was to buy me an organ, that over six years, was graduated to the next Bigger organ, because I also had private lessons. As long as I played “The Entertainer” on that organ at home, my father would leave me alone.
I was a really good organist. On the outside I was performing in yearly concerts that were put on by the musical school I was taking lessons at. As I rose through the ranks of organs and pianos, the Brass Ring was always there.
The ultimate goal, was to reach the ranks of professional student and play the REALLY BIG ORGAN, that was always reserved for the best kid on the block, who would bring down the house at every concert.
I never got there.
The night my drunk sodden father picked up the leather padded seat and threw it at my mother, in a drunken rage, was the last day I ever touched that organ.
I took one look at him that night and said: “You crossed a line. I will never play that organ again. Send it back where it came from.”
My father never forgave me. And I never played another note, for the rest of my life.
Probably one of my greatest regrets. Music could have gotten me somewhere, if i had the forethought to had thought about it then, but didn’t. I was just a kid. I did not have sight for the future yet. I still lived at home for God’s sake.
By the time I graduated from Junior High School, I along with a friend of mine were nominated for a service award. This would be the first graduating class of the school, and the first nominations for both a girl and a boy, in the same award year.
Michelle and myself were awarded the American Legion Award for Exemplary Service to the School Community.
All those brownie points I accrued over the years were paid off in spades.
For what it’s worth, for all the bad that went on at home, in exchange for all the good we were given, School was a very safe place for me to be and I prospered there in every way possible.
High School was not that good at all. I did not have the opportunities that I had the three years before. And Alcohol had become an issue.
I just barely graduated High School in the end, all because I told the truth, about a cheating scandal that rocked one of my teachers in 12th grade.
I had drunk my way through High School, along with a stint in Youth Group. Where the school played a role in keeping me safe years earlier, the church had stepped up to do the same, which is why, after graduation, I ended up in Seminary.
God, it seemed, had a job for me. One I was ready and willing to do.
While in seminary, I witnessed abuses by church members. I knew the secret, and was warned about sharing them with anyone. At the end of that year, I was dismissed.
Very Angry at God, I got very drunk, for a very long time.
But the next chapter of this story has yet to be written down here.