Category Archives: Relationships

Bobby Dean

He’s been gone 28 years today. He died at 3:33 in the morning. I was awake at that time this morning and took my first drink of coffee as I watched the minute click over. Nothing noteworthy happened unless you factor in the gratitude that I felt for still being here.

He violently tried to mold me into the man he thought he was. In doing so, he achieved the opposite result. And I’m grateful. His legacy is one of addiction, fists, and one of the wildest senses of humor I’ve ever experienced. He was in prison in Pendleton, Indiana, when he was in his 20s, and accumulated countless DUIs, fights, arrests, and violent confrontations. He also found his humanity from time to time and helped other people. I remind myself of those times as often as I can because they were just as much a part of him as the times he lashed out.

I think back to his funeral, with Jimmy and Mike sitting near me. Both of them are gone now. Both of them, unfortunately, absorbed much of the Terry inclination for self-destruction. Though I couldn’t apply the realization properly, I recognized at a young age that I was susceptible to much of the same sort of demons that possessed so many of my family. I learned to dance around them.

I was Bobby Dean’s accidental namesake. Not too many years before he died, I killed off that part of me, both in name and spirit.

It probably saved my life. Walking around with the people close to me calling me X was a constant reminder that I could choose my own way. While I have stumbled with the best of them, I’ve managed to keep my sanity all these years.

But through the arc of time, I still feel stirrings of Bobby Dean inside of me. Some of that is hard steel. Some of it is limitless humor. He taught me to take hard, unexpected punches and to swallow the blood, even if I did so through tears. At 54, things look entirely different to me. I don’t judge him as harshly as I once did. Being human has taught me that although I will never eclipse the stupidity and violence of some of my dad’s actions, I have that part of Bobby Dean inside of me. It is strangely comforting, even as I strive to be his opposite.

Were he alive, I would love to sit and have a coffee with him while he smoked a camel. And to talk to him about the sister I didn’t know I had. As reprehensible as the behavior was that led to her creation, it’s hard to fault the universe for the result. She’s a kind human being and proof that Bobby Dean could contribute to the creation of a stellar human being. If we met again, I don’t know whether we would hug or trade punches. Or both. But I do know that I would be overwhelmed. I can now see him as a person apart from being my dad. There was so much I could have learned from him; he was a mechanic, electrician, tiler, carpenter, painter, welder, gunsmith, outdoorsman, and farmer. If only he had acquired the skills to be loving, his life would have been ideal.

He, of course, hasn’t changed. He made his choices and left his footprints. He had his chance and walked the Earth. My understanding of him has changed. He would laugh at me and tell me to put my boots on and go out and get the punch in the face. He would also call me his favorite curse word: _ _ _ _ s u c k e r. Then offer me one of those horrible peppermint Brach candies that he loved.

Out of all the lessons I learned from him, one he didn’t even know he was teaching, is that we all need people and love. To find a way to get past what we’ve done and who we think we are. If we’re alive, we can use the steel and even the heartache to turn away from the things that make us lesser.

To Bobby Dean. Dad. Troubled human being.

Love, X
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P.S. Below are more pictures, some of which I amateurishly colorized. All of the images used in this post were originally in black and white.

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Dad in 1963. He was about 19.

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Dad standing on a horse, of course.

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Dad with Goldie, somewhere around 1974-75. He was 31, which blows my mind to consider.

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My sister Marsha, brother Mike, me. Seeing it in color changes everything.

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Me as a toddler. The picture looks strikingly different in color!

I Asked

I moved my bedroom from the living room into a bedroom this morning. If that sounds byzantine, it was. I’ve lived in my living room for almost four months. I also exercised and then went running. Whether it was toward something or away, I’m not certain. But I ran. And it felt glorious. It was the fifth time this week and the first in a long time where I felt like I might become airborne as I did so. I bought a set of athletic pants that fit me properly. They are 28-30 small adult/child size. Someone nicknamed me “Babypants.” I don’t take offense. I earned the size. And if you see me running and think I’m doing it strangely, that’s more than okay, too. Doing the work and looking stupid is okay by me. I’m going to look (and sound) stupid quite often. I look forward to it. It puzzles me that people are afraid of looking stupid, saying the wrong thing, or believing that other people have the magic formula for style, method, or appearance. We owe it to ourselves to be as strange as we naturally are.

When I got back from running, the husband of a caretaker for one of the tenants here spent his time waiting by blowing the leaves off the walkway. He watched as I ran up and down the staircase a few dozen times. “Getting your cardio in again? I saw you run up from the road.” I laughed. “Well, I have 30 years worth to catch up on.”

Earlier this week, I did a reset and asked the universe for a couple of favors. Not because I’m deserving of them – but because I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve dared to do so in a long time. The biggest ask is that I avoid calamity or demise for at least another year. A year is long enough to transform anything.

In the same way, I’ve diligently said, “I don’t know” with much greater frequency this year, I’ve also started asking. It’s a tangent to my propensity to state my truth without trying to wrangle someone into a specific reaction. It’s been a wild ride! Those who respond with incredulity that I ask are forgetting the fundamental truth: it’s never wrong to ask; it’s only wrong to respond irrationally on either side of the asking. It’s the cousin to honesty, a thing everyone claims to desire yet few embrace without grimace or discontent.

As I write this, someone texted me in response to another ask. Life can be so precious and quixotic at times, can’t it?

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask

Love, X
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I Paid It Forward

Hey guys, I probably changed a couple of people’s lives tonight. Really.

Recently, someone surprised me with a kindness. It gave me a little breathing room. I can’t think about it without feeling like I owe the universe a big hug.

Because I had already worn myself out exercising, I left the apartment to visit my local inconvenience store. Today was a light day: I had 20,000 steps without taking a “walk.” I don’t get bored, but I do miss the interaction with people sometimes. This evening was one of those times. As I stood near the case of odd corndogs and snacks, a pretty young lady stood at the counter, vainly attempting to get her visa card to work. The clerk was showing her a video of his puppy. It was apparent that both of them were doing the dance of interest, even as the young lady became frustrated. “Try the card again,” the clerk told her. She tried twice more to prepay $10 in gas.

I interrupted them both and said, “Ma’am, I’ll pay for your $10 in gas. In fact, let’s make it $20 if your car holds it. We’ve all been there.” She looked at me in wide-eyed surprise. I pointed at the clerk, “He would want me to.” The clerk smiled a huge smile, realizing that I had shifted my surprise act of generosity to him.

The young lady almost started crying. “That is so nice of you!” I thought she was going to hug me. “Yes, my car will hold $20 of gas. It’s basically on empty.”

I thought of all the times I was poor or needed help. Her wide-eyed features and noticeable relief and gratitude rendered me a bit floorless.

“Then have a great night and pay it forward. It’s really okay.” I smiled at her. She smiled at me, then smiled at the clerk, who watched it unfold. It’s hard to describe how beautiful that smile was, as she reacted to a total stranger giving her such a gesture.

When she exited, the clerk shook my hand and introduced himself. “Ryan,” he said. “That was really cool of you.”

I introduced myself too and then showed him my ID. People often don’t believe my name is X. “Whoa, that’s cool!”

I told him, “You ought to ask her out. She already thinks I paid for her gas because you’re a nice guy. You’re halfway there.”

He smiled, “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to ask her out for quite a while.”

Y’all know me, so you know I couldn’t leave it there.

“Then ask her out,” I said. “It’s obvious she likes you. I’m 54. I’m telling you that you should take 100% of the shots you want when you’re young. The worst that could happen is she’ll say no. The best is that you will have a great story to tell about how you got the nerve to ask her out. Me.”

The clerk said, “That’s some wisdom right there. Thank you.”

We both laughed as I grabbed my bag of Cheetos Puffs and left.

As I started the car, I decided to forget the rules of life and social etiquette. I rolled down my window (yes, my car has actual rollers) and drove over near the white car at the gas pumps. The young lady looked over at me.

“I know this is awkward, but the clerk likes you and has wanted to ask you out for quite a while. He’s a great guy. Have a great night, young lady.”

She smiled so big that I thought her face might shatter. “Thanks! And thank you.”

I drove away, glad that I’d decided to leave the apartment for a dumb snack. And ignored the ridiculous social expectations of perhaps going too far. I can thank Lexapro for making me more “me.” Where life and love are concerned, there is no step too far.

I was glad I’d been able to help someone randomly.

I was glad that someone had helped me to be able to.

And that it was likely that the clerk and the young lady with the defunct visa card might be able to overcome the ridiculous shyness and distance that so often separates people who are interested in one another. There is no reason for such attraction not to find purchase in people’s lives.

Somehow, I think they will.

And I love that I might be at the nexus of their story, however it unfolds.

More than that, though, I would love for them both to take a risk and find out how their mutual interest might blossom.

What a life.

Thank you, universe, and thank you, kind souls who made it possible.

I’ll say a little prayer for love, for kindness, and for humanity.

And for Ryan and the nameless pretty young lady who needed a little bit of help tonight.

Love, X

Cat Mitten Life

I don’t want to live in a world where someone doesn’t invent cat mittens or broccoli-flavored chocolate. Enough with the conventional, as if we all enjoy the same level of normalcy. Without the zany, my life would be miserable. And stop arguing about the ‘best’ foods. There’s no such thing. We are all individuals and taste is wildly subjective, as is taste in hair, purses, clothing, cars, furniture, music, and lovers.

Can we instead talk about the things and people each of us loves, in our own way, and the people that light us up?

And while we’re at it, buy each other some cat mittens.

Living seriously is something that we can all agree is for the birds, the kind that swoops down and releases upon our heads.

Love, X
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