My own emotions cause me great distress, simply because I'm a man and society tells me to "suck it up." This is a story of my struggle and how I must find a way to tell society to go to hell.
My name is Tim and I grew up in Oklahoma for most of my life. The picture above is me when I was about 4 or 5 years old, so I'm told.
My childhood - and even a lot of my adulthood - was full of pain, physical abuse, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings of worthlessness. Maybe the worst part is feeling more saddened by the fact that I'm bothered by those feelings from my childhood, as an adult.
I mean, c'mon. . . I'm a man! I can't be like that, right? I've gotta' puff out the ol' chest, waddle around and do man-stuff. I mean, look at me now:
What a manly-looking man, right?
Well, I can tell you right now that I'm not. I hurt and I hurt often. When things from my childhood come back, an overwhelming sense of pain washes over me. My head heats up, my eyes begin to water, and sometimes I will just cry. I do my best to shove it all down into my man-parts, but - I'm human.
Why should I even have to do this? I've been with the same woman for 18 years, have two beautiful children, am self-employed, and have made a good life for myself. We don't want for anything, so why do I struggle with being a "man"?
Because I feel bad for feeling, that's why. Maybe I should back up a ways, so please follow me on a painful journey through my life and maybe you'll understand what I'm getting at.
My mother was married to my biological father for 10 years when they had me and I'm the youngest of 3 boys. After the 2nd child, John (my real dad) started drinking. Heavily. My mom always said she'd never live with a drunk, and apparently, he'd get so drunk he'd pass out in the litter box and piss himself. He did it so often that I think she put the litter box where he'd always pass out...
So, she moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma, taking us with her.
Then she married James and our real trouble began. At our age, James was a giant who stood 6'4, weighing 200 lbs and was solid muscle. He was a massive guy who had served in the military, had been trained in martial arts by his father - who ran a Judo school in Iowa - and he was mean.
When we'd do anything wrong, he would grab us by the temples and squeeze really hard. It made our heads feel like they would pop open. It was excruciatingly painful. James called it "the claw." We would cower before this man when he'd raise his hand up like he was going to give us "the claw." He would even do it just to laugh at how we'd back away and beg him not to.
It wasn't just "the claw" that made him mean. He had no issue punching, kicking, choking, or throwing us. One memory that sticks out the most is when my brother accidentally knocked down a 'blanket-partition' that was put up in order to prevent the air conditioning from cooling off our bedroom during the day.
My brother was upset about something that happened in school - and he was 14 at the time. James was going to show him, though, and leapt from the couch, punching my brother in the face, picking him up from the floor using "the claw," then thew him into the other room by his head.
I remember my other brother hadn't reacted fast enough to James one day and was dragged by his hair across the carpeted floor, melting the skin from his knee. Rug-burn, as we called it. His knees took weeks to heal and he had scabs all down his shin from the injury.
One time, I was caught smoking outside. I've never felt as much fear in my life as I felt the moment I saw this giant, hulking, mass of muscle peer around the corner to find me smoking. All I remember is seeing his ham-fist aimed at my head, and I was out.
He kept threatening me to not tell my Mom what he had done. I think it freaked him out that he knocked me out. I was only 13 at the time. I still smoke to this day, by the way. A lot of good that did me, right? Boy, taught me a lesson. . .
(yes, that's me in the pic)
Bruised, battered and beaten, we endured every day of his relentless temper and physical and mental abuse. We survived this man. We feared for our lives nearly every day of our childhood. We hated when he was home because we had to walk on eggshells constantly. Every day of our life was a potential black-eye or a potential opportunity for this man to rage against us, taking his anger and frustration out on us. We really thought he would kill us some day.
Through all of the abuse, however, he never hit my mother on purpose, although he did accidentally break her thumb when he threw a bottle of Seagram's Seven across the room. Most of the things he did to us, he wouldn't do in front of her, but she knew about it because we told her. She defended us a lot, but still she stayed.
James was a very hard worker, and besides his sexual prowess, had a great work ethic. I can't remember a job where he didn't become the manager within a months. People who didn't "know" him, always liked him. He was sociable, very "manly," and hid the evil that resided within him well. He was very good at hiding himself.
He couldn't keep it in his pants, though, and would find himself cheating on my mother with one of his employees, then would find himself without a job. The last time this happened, he worked as a manager for a grocery store and his unemployment hurt us.
My mom stayed with him and wanted to teach him a lesson, so we were forced to move out of our home and onto the Illinois River, where we would live for the next 8 months.
We had a pup-tent that my 2 brothers and I slept in every night. We still went to school and at first had to walk over a mile to go to this podunk convenience store that is not pictured above, but would be across that field shown in the pic, to the east of our "house."
Our first week on that river was horrible. There was a terrible snowstorm that swelled the riverbank, eventually swallowing our campsite entirely, forcing us to seek shelter in a car that couldn't handle the terrain, snow and ice.
I remember being so scared that night in the car that I was shivering uncontrollably, but not from the cold - just sheer terror. I was forced into the back-seat of that Buick, squished in between my 2 older brothers while we tried to sleep any way we could. Had it not been for 5 people being inside that tin-can, we probably would might have frozen to death. We couldn't run the car for long because we didn't have money for gas and if we had run out of gas, we really would've been screwed.
The storm finally passed, however, and the rest of our life on the river was quite interesting, and at some points, it was fun. I remember helping my mom create a travois by taking 2 large branches and a wool U-Haul blanket and sowing them together. We then had a strap we'd put around our stomach to pull this sled full of firewood.
We took baths using a wash cloth from a pot of river water that was heated over the campfire. It was our life and we did what we had to, I guess.
The Summer was the fun part. We got to swim nearly every day, we bathed in the river, we utilized the river for food, water, and used it to to cool us down.
Then there was "the stove."
My brother and I still joke about "the stove." We found this old stove out in the woods - just some random stove that had likely been washed down the river during a flood - we used it as our outhouse. The top grills were missing the burner and hotplate underneath, so the holes on top opened up directly into the 'oven'. We still laugh about this stove.
We even had a reputation down on the river. We were called "The River People" by those who frequented that swimming area, which was about 100 ft to the south of our campsite. People knew we lived there and no one bothered us. We were still fed and clothed - we just didn't have a house, heating, or air conditioning.
James eventually left my mom for another, younger woman. After he left, he wanted me to go visit, and when he introduced me to this woman, I was appalled at what came from his mouth: "So, Timbo...what do you think of my new woman?"
I didn't respond to that question. I was, quite literally, speechless. I was so mad at him at that moment. I was so saddened by the audacity of this punk. I never went back to see him after that.
My mother and James were together for about 13 years, I think. He left when I was 14, almost 15 and it was a bitter-sweet moment for me, because, even through all the beatings and fear, he was the only dad I knew, yet I knew the abuse was over.
In fact, it wasn't until after he left that I learned he wasn't my real dad. I thought my brothers were my step-brothers and I'm still bothered by how I discovered this little 'fact'.
A Turning Point
The school I went to had issues with me signing James's last name on my school work. I had just always used his last name 'cause, as far as I knew, he was my dad. Hell, I was 1 or 2 when he and my mom got together so he was the only man I ever looked to as a father-figure. But, from a legal standpoint, the school didn't understand why I didn't use the same last name as my "step-brothers."
In an effort to explain why they should allow me to sign my name one way and not the other, my Mom sent me to school with a note that I was to give to the Principal.
I hopped on the school bus that morning and read that note. It ripped my world apart. Why would she lie to me? Why would he lie to me? Why did I go through life thinking that my brothers were step-brothers when they were my real, full, blood brothers?
That still bothers me to this day and I harbor a lot of ill-will towards my mother for how she handled that situation and how my entire life up that point was based on a lie - or at least that's how it felt at the time. It was a turning point in my life, so to speak. I was no longer Timbo. My identity had been stripped from me and I had to learn to be this other kid with this other name and this other dad I didn't know.
Fast-forward to me graduating and the man that my mother tried to get child support from "all those years," was found. And wouldn't ya' know, he still lived in New Mexico, in the same city, working the same job, living on the same land.
As it turned out, he cleaned his act up soon after we left for Oklahoma.
He stopped drinking, finished college, and worked in the oil field as a geologist for all those years. He made great money and had everything, yet never sent anything to us. The only contact I remember was a phone call initiated by my oldest brother to him, only to hear my brother tell our dad he never wanted to speak to him again. I still to this day do not know what was said during that phone call, but my oldest brother hasn't spoken to him since.
It really bothers me that we were the poorest kids in school while our dad was wealthier than most of the kids' parents in school. And there I was, 18 years old, trying to process this information. I also had to process the notion that my mother would receive back-child support because we turned 18, which meant she would receive it, not us. I felt betrayed by her. I felt like she ignored pursuing support while we lived in squalor.
The Strange Father
I met my real dad - John - for the first time when I was 19 years old. He had driven to Oklahoma and my youngest older brother and I met him. It was awkward, to say the least. . .
Who the hell was this guy, I thought. I understand that he's the person I share genetic material with, but he was a complete stranger. My own father is, was, and may always be, a complete stranger.
But I was a man at that time, so how was I supposed to get to know a man that never wanted us, never cared about us, left us in a situation like that, and never bothered to help? There's no book that could tell me how to deal with that. This troubled youth was forced to deal with this in the way a man does - shove it into his man-parts.
But honestly, I still don't know how to deal with it. Over the years, he and I have talked about a lot of things, specifically James and how bad our lives were and he talked about how my mom was this horrible person. He shows no remorse or guilt over what happened. But at the same time, he's still a stranger to me.
Then I find out that soon after we moved, he started dating this woman who had a daughter. He dated her for about 6 months, but still had a thing for her for a while after that. She didn't want to have anything to do with him, but used him for his money, so he showered her and her daughter with the money he should've used to get us out of our situation.
That girl got everything she ever wanted or needed from my dad, even though she was of no relation to him at all. My dad dated her mom for less than a year. That was literally the extent of it.
While we went hungry, she was being taken out to eat. While we were made fun of for having holey clothes and shoes that would have massive holes in them, and the object of much high school scrutiny, she had name-brand clothing all year-round.
While we had to go to school events with no money in our pocket, forced to watch other kids buy multiple things from stores while on a trip, she never went without.
Still to this day, he lives in New Mexico and I live in Oklahoma. He calls that other girl his "daughter," even to my face. Strangely enough, she lives in Oklahoma too and has for years.
He visits once a year or so, but never to come see me or my children. He goes to his "daughter's" place to celebrate her kids' birthday. He'll spend a few days with her, then drive to my house and stay for an hour or two and go back to New Mexico.
Same thing this year, only now his daughter lives close to me. She lives 20 miles from me. She was getting married this last Saturday, so he drove up to her place a week ago and stayed there until yesterday. He did call to see if I wanted to go up there and hang out with all of them - including his fake daughter and his other fake grandchildren... Yeah, I don't think so.
He then came to my house and visited me and my children for 1.5 hours, then headed back to New Mexico.
Men are Humans Too
This bothers me. It bothers me in a really big way. It makes me feel quite worthless and unwanted, but damn...I'm a 35 year-old man and I shouldn't feel this way, right? I shouldn't be a crybaby about this situation, should I? Being jealous of some girl because she stole my dad from me as a child and continues to do so throughout my adult life.
I feel more ashamed of myself for feeling sad about this than I feel sad about this. I recently asked a forum for legal advice in the event he wills her his entire estate and leaves us nothing -- if there was something I could do about it.
The responses made me feel even worse. Grown women calling me a crybaby, saying that I'm 30+ years old and should get over it. It's his stuff and he can give it to whomever he wants to and I should just stop being jealous and petty. Apparently, I should also fire my therapist because they aren't helping. I don't have a therapist, by the way. I'm a man. . . . don't need one, right?
(that is me in a play in college)
The problem? I can't. I have feelings and memories and "what-ifs" that race through my mind when my dad calls or when the subject comes up. When I think about my life and what it should have been, I feel like I got shafted because we weren't worth a damn. Just a bunch of little native babies that his family didn't approve of anyway (his family never liked my mom because of her dark skin and weren't afraid to say it to her face).
So I feel like I have a couple of choices here: stop speaking to my dad because when I do, I get upset and all my childhood memories come back, which makes me feel worse for being this age and being bothered by it ... or I can tell society to go 'Eff' itself.
Maybe I'll just do both. But everyone needs to know that just because I'm a grown man with a life and family of my own doesn't mean that I cannot feel. This is probably true for most men.
You should never dismiss a man's pain - or anyone's pain for that matter - because he should "man-up" or "get over it." I can't help the way I feel and it's hard to push the memories of my childhood away because of how traumatic life was for my brothers and I.
It's bad enough that I had to deal with what I had to deal with, but to either have to bottle up my feelings in order to not be shamed or to be shamed by the public for being a 35 year old man with emotions, feelings, and childhood baggage is no way to treat anyone.
We try our best to maintain our manliness, but we do have feelings and instead of shaming us for having those feelings, maybe you should just say something nice. Since that probably won't happen, I guess the only thing left that I have to say is:
Society: Go 'Eff' yourself.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm out....