“Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.” John Grogan
When my little brother Brad and I were kids we only ever all as a family went on one family vacation. Before that vacation my sisters used to go all the time, to Florida to see my grandparents, where they’d ride on their boat and go fishing, and all their other fun stuff.
But then Brad and I joined the family.
“Too many kids,” said my mom after we were born. Our family vacations were mostly over after that. My mom never wanted any of us, anyway, so she was pissed that we were there to begin with.
“I never wanted you kids. You are all your father’s idea.” She told us that my entire life.
“Why are you even here? You’ve ruined my life!”
We would walk into a room and she would get pissed that we were living and breathing.
Later on Patty was ostracized from the family and Betsy cut herself off. Betsy would lock herself into her room and never come out. Whenever Brad made my dad mad I would jump in and take his punishment. I couldn’t stand to see him get it.
But, we were always throwing each other under the bus, too. None of us wanted to get hit. The bad part is your sisters then grow up hating you. That’s how we have the mess between my sisters and me now.
I’m not saying there weren’t good times, but it was definitely tough.
The one family vacation we went on in my whole life was to Disneyland. My mom said it was like corralling pets. One morning I was with her. We were out searching for breakfast. No one knew where Patty was. She had just walked off. Betsy took Brad with her and my dad went to find tickets to see the Country Bears Jamboree.
That’s the only reason he went to Disneyland to begin with. He loved the Country Bears.
When my mom and I finally got trays of breakfast for everyone we couldn’t find anyone, so we sat down on a curb. A minute later, sitting on the curb, looking up, we saw Betsy and Brad go slowly by leaning back in a horse-drawn carriage.
My mom and I looked at each other. What? Really?
We all saw the Bear Jamboree later, and the next day I saw Donny Osmond riding the monorail with us out of our hotel. My sisters loved Donny Osmond when they were growing up, but they wouldn’t go up to him.
I was young and gun-shy, but my dad pushed me in Donny’s direction.
“Go get his autograph,” he said.
“No, no, no,” I said.
Dad pushed me forward, I got a running start, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of Donny Osmond. I was just flabbergasted! I had seen him on TV and now I was standing in front of him. I got his autograph, although I don’t know how. Maybe he felt bad because he thought I was special needs – I don’t even know.
“Poor little retard kid,” he probably thought and gave me his autograph.
I ran out of the monorail. “Why would you do that to me?” I asked my dad. “Why?”
I went to Bay Village Middle School and Bay Village High School, I was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool, and I was a Bay Rockette on the kick line for two years. I had a lot of friends growing up, but I didn’t have them over our house much. I usually went to their houses. I was always leery of having them over because I never knew if my dad would be mad or if my mom would start something.
If you liked something my mom was always going to find a way to not like it. After she moved away my sister Patty wanted a family heirloom mom had, a bench that was in my great grandparent’s house, but mom wouldn’t give it to her.
Mom and dad used to have the bench in our big family house in Bay Village at the end of their bed, but when dad passed and she immediately re-married, marrying her high school sweetheart from Jersey Shore, and moving to North Ridgeville, she put it away in her garage.
Patty really truly wanted the bench.
I told my mom over and over that Patty wanted it, but she was, no, she can’t have it.
“What are you doing with it?” I asked her.
“No, no, no,” she said. It’s because she knew Patty wanted it that she wouldn’t give it to her.
That’s the way she is. If someone loves something, then she hates it. She always finds a way. She’s always been like that.
My dad could be really cool sometimes. I knew, even though he beat the tar out of us, that he cared about us. But, my mom, not so much.
We had a Rockette party at our house once, at the tail end of August, all out of the blue. We were at practice and our coach said the first football game was coming up soon, in September such-and-such, and we didn’t have a place scheduled for our potluck, yet.
“We can have it at our house,” I said.
Just like that thirty high school girls were going to be coming over to our house. I called my dad at work.
“Hey, dad, I said. “I just invited all my friends over for a potluck.”
“Sweet,” he said.
He came home early from work, bought all the hot dogs and hamburgers, and thoroughly enjoyed having all my girlfriends in our backyard. He was all over the place with his camera and took a ton of pictures. It was a good time.
My mom stayed in the house and never came out into the yard. Dad loved it, but she was pissed that I had thirty girls over.
I loved being a Rockette. I was one in my sophomore and junior years at Bay High School until one night not long after the party when I tore my hamstring in three places. I had to give up being a Rockette because of my leg.
It was terrible, like I had lost something special.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.