My father is clearly bi-polar. It’s easy to see if you spend an extended amount of time with him. It never was diagnosed, it’s just something you can see. One minute he’s happy, but happy like an adolescent bully who gets his laughs from laughing at who he deems to be less fortunate. The next, he’s hurling aggressive and hurtful things to those who interfere in his mania. It can be a positive or a negative interference. Hell, it could even be completely neutral, but you can expect something needlessly critical, or sometimes even hurtful to come your way at some point. Maybe not every time, but spend a day with him and I’m sure you’ll see it. And it won’t be fun.
I’m beginning to think that this disorder could be genetically passed on. Or at the very least, it can totally be imprinted onto a young mind. I don’t remember exactly when I started feeling adverse toward my father, and at this point it almost seems like my aversion was always there. Though, I absolutely know that that isn’t true. In fact, I remember a time in my life where he was my favorite person.
I was just a kid then. I had to be about 7 or 8 years old when my dad and I used to play catch in the backyard every day during my summer break from grade school. We would just toss the baseball back and forth to the waiting embrace of his old glove that he’d had since he was a teenager, and my newer, smaller, glove that was way to stiff for a kid of my age. But that summer, I broke it in.
I don’t remember much talking during these late afternoon, backyard outings. Mostly, the only things said were tips and advice to “keep your eye on the ball”. One’s peers may not have found absolute greatness in a fine ability to catch a baseball, but I became quite good at it. I felt proud of myself and I had my dad to thank.
When I got older I would have to endure taunts from some of the bullies at my school. And endure them I had, with ease. They didn’t bother me. I understood fully that what they used to bring down others was only a crutch for their falling self-esteem. I began to see those people as old, leaning fences with one sheer, feeble post holding them up. Whoever had been leaning on them had been doing so for a long time. So I never let them bother me. Never let them get to you.
That was the advice given to me by my dad.
However, as childhood often does, things started to get harder. And now my dad was starting to treat me and my older brother very similarly as my schoolyard bullies would. Taunting me for gaining weight. For crying when I got frustrated. And even some physical abuse, to my knowledge and experience, for being in the house too much.In one hostile day, his anger towards us being home too much had gotten everyone riled up. Or his yelling sparked my mother’s, and a fight ensued. At one point, he grasped onto my left leg with one huge paw of his, and my left arm with his other, and threw my entire 9 or 10 year old self into the wooden frame of our foldout futon couch. I don’t remember much else of that day except for running upstairs and consoling my older brother, who was also hurt by his hand that day, and then sneaking downstairs to the medicine cabinet and took a small handful of whatever pill a psychiatrist prescribed to me. I guess I thought it would calm me down. That’s what the doctors told me, anyway.
After my pills were swallowed, I quickly left through the back door and our backyard to the basketball courts behind our house. I found my brother there on a playground slide fixture, sobbing, and thinking about what to do.
I knew what I was gonna do. I was gonna run away. By which, I meant just wander around the development I lived in and try to avoid everyone. That proved hard to do with the gallons of tears that we’re streaming from my eyes the entire hour or so I’d taken on my journey.
My neighbors were sweeter than I knew at the time. I had many neighbors try to console me and beckon me to come talk it out with them. To all of them my answer was a tantrum of snot, tears, screams, and the word “no”. I wish I’d known back then that I could trust some people. But I did not trust many people.
That was a piece of advice my father gave me.
In the end, my mom found me wandering around crying, and loaded my small, chubby frame into the family Chevy Suburban with my older brother, now slightly calmed, and my year old baby brother. There were laundry baskets with clothes in them as well, and my mom told me we were going to Grandma’s house for a while.
I think I passed out from exhaustion, and I don’t remember even being at my grandma’s house, because the next thing I knew, we were back at home. And though the storm had subsided, the cold and warm fronts of my dad and mom created a cut-able tension in the house.
I think of my old schoolyard bullies now as that leaning fence with one sheer post as a support. I am not sure if I felt more like the fence or the post anymore.