In a New York Minute

A Bolt of Lightning in a NeighborhoodOkay, my teenaged son and I shared the same adolescent helter-skelter. Yet understanding of what he was going though didn’t help much. As a father, I wasn’t sure what to do. After all, I only had eleven years to fall back on.

Life was surreal for a kid living in the early seventies. If seeing photos of napalmed Vietnamese kids or hearing about murdered Olympic athletes didn’t scare a pre-teen shitless, then seeing Linda Blair’s head rotate around certainly would. In spite of all the weird stuff society was throwing at me, nothing was as surreal as watching my Dad drive away the day he moved out.

Even though he lived only blocks away, it seemed like miles. He visited often, but it wasn’t the same. The house had become a different place. The tension from their fighting was gone, but an eerie, ghost-town feel took over.  I felt it strongest at night before going to bed when I’d walk around the house locking the doors.

One morning we awoke to a cold house. Checking the heating oil level was something Dad always did. I realized I’d have to assume his duties. While other seventh graders enjoyed a carefree lifestyle, I fixed clogged drains and set rat traps. I dreaded hearing Mom call my name. I found sanctity in my downstairs bedroom – listening to my headphones. My counselors were John Lennon and Pete Townshend.

Mom started dating and Ted led the parade of “post-Dad” boyfriend. As I prepared to meet him, I expected somebody that looked like Joe Namath. Instead, Mom’s hand rested on the arm of a short, bearded man who wore tweed jackets and acted in community theatre. At night he and Mom would sit by our fireplace and talk about past-life regression.  “Ted wants to hypnotize me.” Mom said one morning as she handed me my sack lunch. The thought of this bugged me all day at school. That night I was awakened by his loud voice in our living room. “Back Beverly!” he chanted.  “Go back to the root of all this!” This was the weirdest thing I’d ever heard. That night I made a vow that someday my own kids would never go through this.

The conductor’s voice broke my thoughts. His voice had a distinct German accent. “Passport!”

NEXT: Homeward Bound – Sort Of

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