Thomas La Grua's Journey to Awakening

November 14, 2010

Writing Myself to Freedom, Part 2

Filed under: Writing out the Mind: 2010-July 2, 2012 — Thomas La Grua @ 11:47 pm

It took me years to piece together what had happened, and sometimes through the years (even as recently as eight-10 years ago), memories have surfaced but I don’t think that any of these were of the ones that were deleted. I’m not exactly sure how it happened – whether I fell or my younger brother Paul hit me in the head with a rock. I think it was probably the latter. Anyway, he and I were playing on piles of stones behind the Black River Playhouse, one house up the road from my house. I was jumping around and throwing stones at him, and he at me. The throwing stones part didn’t even come back until 20-30 years after the incident, so, I’m not even one hundred percent that it happened, but the picture is with me. I think it happened, but I can’t be one 100% sure. The next thing I know is I’m lying on the bottom of our bunk bed – which was strange because I should have been on the top – this, I realized. As I sat up, Paul asked, “How’s your head”? “What are you talking, how’s my head”? I replied in a very aggravated fashion. “How are the stitches on your head”? I reached up and felt the top back part of my head and sure enough, there were stitches – I think about three or four. Later – probably about 10-20 years, I would remember my mom carrying me and putting me in the back seat of our station wagon to take me to the doctor’s office or hospital. Looking back now, I see that memory is a bit weird because the picture I have is of seeing her carrying me and placing me into the back seat, from the perspective of being slightly behind and above her. Not all memory was lost up to that moment. For example, I have memory moments of certain traumatic events. And, since I written this (I’m proof reading it now) I’ve been able to stuff that happened in kindergarten. In first or second grade, I remember my dad standing on the front porch with the door open and my mom on the inside. I was at the top of the stairs. Dad wanted to come back home, but Mom told him that he had to get a job first. I disagreed with this completely. I knew we needed Dad, and I told my mom to just-let him come back. Mom has always been very stubborn. She was the oldest in a very Catholic Irish family of 11 or 12 children. She attended an all-girl’s Catholic school, and she used to brag a lot about how she had been one of the first female pilots in her university. Her father was an inventor and Mom would often point out as we were driving in the car that he had invented that yellowish orange coloring that we always saw on the overhead street lamps, which I would become very accurate at hitting with rocks. I though Mom should have let Dad come back. Although, I realize now that that was just fantasy, and that the choice wasn’t even for my mom to make because, everything was/is preprogrammed, but I’m not so sure about my memory loss. So, I blamed my mom for a lot of our/my problems because I felt that if I had had a dad, I would have been more like the other kids. I would have had someone to protect me. I wouldn’t have been so embarrassed / ashamed of being poor and without a father. In art class – somewhere in grades 4-6 – we drew on peaces of round paper and had solid-plastic ornamental plates made out of our drawings. All the other kids’ drawings said, “To Mom and Dad”, so I wrote the same thing because I was too embarrassed to let anyone know that I didn’t have a dad. Years later, I would still feel embarrassed every time I saw that my plate was different from those done by my brothers and sisters who has all written “Dear Mom and Dad,” instead of just Dear. Looking back at my perspective then, I really felt that I was pretty fucked. My brothers and I and some times my younger sister used to have bloody fights on a regular basis where we would chase and run around the tables, throw chairs at each other, smash and destroy things with blatant disregard for anything. I don’t know why we were such angry kids.

The summer before I entered 3rd grade our Dad had come home for a day or two, and then kidnapped all of us except my oldest sister. I remember sitting at the dinning room table – I guess my mom was sleeping upstairs – and Dad asking if we wanted to go to Michigan with him. I’m sure I wanted to go. The night that we arrived in Michigan, I remember that someone gave me phone, and then I herd my mother crying. That made me feel a-little sad and a little angry with her. I didn’t understand why she was sad, and didn’t like it when she showed emotions – it felt bad to me, and for that, I would be angry with her. Speaking of emotions, I rarely had them, and when I did, I rarely showed them. I recognized that I was different from others in this regard. Anger was the exception to that rule, however. Anger was prevalent when I was young, and although I didn’t always show it, I did act it out on a regular basis. I and the other bad apples (as the neighbors would call us) were very mischievous. We used to gather rotten apples in buckets, climb a tall pine tree in front of my house, and drop the apples down on passing cars. The drivers would skid to a stop, get out of their cars, and yell at us from the bottom of the tree. But they probably couldn’t see us because the street light was always out, and we were way up there. We would go to ShopRite, get the thrown-away eggs, and throw them at cars too. Cop cars were the most excitement because we would run and run and always escape. When I was older, I remember we would use gunpowder from my friends’ shotgun shells, or get it from the gunsmith’s shed. Then we would make pipe bombs and blow them up. That was sometimes a bit scary. We were in the back yard, and a cop and some neighbors were there. I snapped at one, “Why did you call the cops on us.” She yelled back, “Because, it was my turn.” Luckily, I did one day develop respect for anything for everything that explodes. I had found an old lawnmower in someone’s garbage. I took it home and tried to fix it, but was unsuccessful – as with most things that I was curious about, took apart, and tried to fix or even just put back together. Since I couldn’t fix it, I decided to blow it up – big mistake. There was just a little bit of gas left in the tank. I kept lighting matches and throwing them in there, but it just wouldn’t blow up, which many years later, I reasoned was probably the problem in the first place – water in the tank. So, with just one match left, I decided to change tactics. I opened the oil cap where one adds oil, and I got very close and… Boom! That was when I was in 4th or 5th grade. The pain was not immediate. So before I walked into the house, I took off my shirt to cover my face, and walked to the upstairs bathroom. Years later, my older sister, in relating her perspective of the incident, said that when I walked into the house, she was terrified because all she could smell was burnt flesh. The pain came and with it my screams. In the ambulance, I laid there naked. So, in addition to extreme pain, I was also very embarrassed. However, I was also thankful that my mom only took about ten minutes to arrive so she was able to ride with me to the hospital. At least, my mom had been there. But I was still very embarrassed to be lying there naked.

The five of us (without my oldest sister) stayed in Michigan for the entire summer. Although, I only have fragments of memories, I know that summer was one of the best I ever had. It seemed that my dad would take us to the lake for a picnic every day and we would go swimming and catch crayfish. We used to play behind the house in a storage shack that was filled with a lot of junk. I remember that there were kittens that lived there, and we used to try to catch them. I didn’t want to hurt them. I just wanted to be friends with them, but they still scratched the hell out of me every time I tried to grab one of them. These long trains filled with coal, ran behind the house, and we’d put coins on the tracks. One time, I was walking on this old bathtub on the side of the shack and I slipped and fell (again, I’ve pieced these memories together through the years) on an old cheap portable barbecue grill. It was painful, and I remember sitting on the grass breathing heavily as I pulled my left black pant leg up to just below the knee and saw a two inch gash going to the white of the bone. I screamed bloody murder and ran somewhere. I remember my dad carrying me in the hospital as I was crying. He was rubbing his cheek on mine and I could feel the bristles of his whiskers – in terms of feeling and touch, that’s what I remember most about my dad – his bristly whiskers. I remember sitting on the stainless steal table with a white covering on it as the doctor injected Novocain, and began stitching me up – much of which, I watched. Looking back and coming forward to the present, I’ve never allowed myself not to watch while I was being stitched up, patched, wrapped, etc. I limped around and couldn’t go swimming in the lake for a week or two after that.

Dad had a girlfriend named Sue, who had very serious speech impairment but she was very nice all the same. At some point or another, we all came understand her perfectly. I’m not sure if I/we began to speak like her on not. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. To this day, it only takes me an hour or so of being around someone, and I will simply switch to his or her way of speaking. I’ve always found it relatively easy to pick up languages, except Chinese, which has taken me quite some time. Sometime during the summer, we moved to a big white house. Apparently, dad had not yet bought it, but he had put a new heater in it. Years later, I learned that the owner had raised the price on the house, and Dad had lost some money. Apparently, he wasn’t a very good businessperson. In truth, he didn’t really need to be. My grandfather who had been a Vice president for Federal Paper and Glass and put himself through Yale Law School by tutoring rich kids and doing their homework had left plenty of money in the form of a trust for my Dad, which I guess, was paid out monthly. Mom wouldn’t let Dad come home because he didn’t have a job or didn’t want to work. She suffered tremendously raising us so that we could go to college. I don’t think Mom ever doubted herself or cared too much about the suffering. She had a cause, and for her, it was all about the cause and the glory of the battle. I didn’t see it that way, and I still don’t. Years later, my older sister would say that best thing that Dad ever did for us was to leave us. He had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. I guess he was just incapable of doing certain things. He was also extremely intelligent and people who knew him said that he was very kind. My mom said that he believed that there were bases on the Moon and that beings had lived or were living in underground cities within the Earth. I have also spoken about such things with people and my family, and I’ve always been amazed that so few seem able to consider that which is not tough in school. Summer ended and the five of us began school. I started the third grade. I remember walking to school, picking some plumbs as I walked with my oldest brother leading and my youngest sister, Maureen – she must have only been about three – somewhere in the middle. When we got to school, the Principal scolded us for being late and said that he wouldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior. I remember sitting at my wooden desk, and like so much of my childhood experience, nothing was familiar and nothing was understood. There was no feeling of how it should or shouldn’t be. There were no feelings of happiness or sadness – just being there clueless as though I were sitting in this alien body. I had no reference point with which to make an assessment, I was just there. Three days after school had begun, my mom suddenly showed with her father, piled us into a car, got us on an airplane, and that was it. I saw my dad, maybe, once or twice after that, and never again.



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