We sat around the garage, my brothers and I, talking about old times. We talked about the normal things middle aged men talk about, at least in the fall: family and football. We had had our fill of failed marriages, of living paycheck to paycheck, of crappy jobs or no job at all, of death and loss. For the first time in a long time, we talked of none of these things. Instead, our conversation went from Garth’s new granddaughter, to Jerry’s new job, and to my celebration of 11 years of marriage to the lovely Tonya.
Sometimes, though, we do talk of darker things. We grew up in what you would call a dysfunctional family. We talk about those times, not to wallow in the misery of our crappy childhood, but to try to make sense of what happened to us. Danny, our step father throughout the 70’s, was an insecure and angry drunk with a propensity for violence and pedophilia.
We talk about the time mom came out of the bedroom with a cut on her head and a huge black eye, and how she told us she fell. But we heard it all through the thin walls, the harsh words and the screams, followed by the inevitable meaty smack of a bunched fist on yielding flesh. We talk about the time we came home from Christmas shopping with our friends to find SWAT guys hanging out of the trees in our yard because Danny was holed up in the house with a gun and our mom.
There are other, terrible things that forever blackened our spirits and tarnished our souls, things the memories of which to this day make us put our faces in our hands and cry like the small frightened children we used to be. We talk about those things, too, as dark as they are, because only by dragging them into the light can we diminish their power over us.
But then, inevitably, the conversation will turn back to our own children. They are all happy, healthy and reasonably well adjusted people, proof that fear and abuse was not their birthright, and that we, my brothers and sisters, have stopped that legacy of pain dead in its tracks. Once in awhile the shadows of old hurts will darken our paths, but like shadows, they carry no weight and easily fall behind us when we turn to face the light.
Life is good and getting better.