My Upbringing (Not Short)

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by UserID, Aug 25, 2014.

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    1. UserID
      Lucky

      UserID Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Tampa, FL
      Tinnitus Since:
      05/01/1972
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Artillery
      When I was a young boy, my father hung in our home a black iron sign with white letters that read, “I used to cry when I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” Those words were meant to keep us thankful for less, and less was exactly what we had.

      For seven years, we lived in a windowless block basement. My father’s initial intent was to complete the top portion, but his lack of funds and motivation kept us dwelling in the cellar minus bathroom facilities, for seven years, from age five to thirteen. Daily, Dad carried a five gallon bucket to the back yard where he dumped it into a deep pit. A piece of plywood covered the opening. He was then in his twenties and strongly disliked the demands of lower middle class living. His attitude showed.

      Without knowledge of its importance to my mind, as I was only in grade school, the completion of our house was put on hold. And why would I care? It was all I knew. Among other things we lived without were walls to separate rooms. Years later, while reading books on the psychological impact of childhood settings, I realized those absent walls denied us the ability to understand and implement boundaries.

      Without boundaries, dysfunction sets in, for each person needs his/her own separate space and identity. Consequently, even in later years, no matter what was said or done by a family member, any action was open for analysis and condemnation by the others. It is a hard lesson to learn, to allow for individuality. We still wrestle with it, us surviving siblings.

      Despite our lack, we thought we lived much like the neighbors surrounding us in their fully built and furnished homes All of the fathers worked in one of a number of factories that coated the hills in that Pennsylvania county. They made pipes, glass, steel, and mixed chemicals for various sized companies. Their labors provided this nation’s building materials for a hundred years before such industrial tasks were sent overseas.

      Remember the beer garden in the movie “The Deer Hunter”? The entire county where we lived was much like Clairton, the location of that film. Dad was an ironworker/welder whose stop at the club after work to sign the book and drink a few beers was a daily habit.

      A large portion of the fathers in our neighborhood helped to beat the Germans and Japanese during the Second World War. In the days I write about, over a decade had passed since the end of US involvement in Korea. Determined to keep that tradition alive, this country was gearing up to enter another entirely new conflict, Vietnam. Eventually, the sense of forever remaining Number One and unbeatable became questionable.

      Still, these men knew they had once stood in harm’s way for their country and in honor of that they formed various fraternal organizations where they gathered daily to drink. At the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AmVets, Sons of Italy, Polish Falcon Club, Moose and Elks they talked about the news of the day and occasionally reminded one another of the battlefields left behind.

      Fathers earned good union generated wages, bought homes – one near town and another in the mountains -- and viewed life through a kind of sarcastic ethnicity. Slavs, Poles, Italians, Germans, Hungarians, English, Irish, and other European descendents combined to make ninety-five percent of the county. Less than one percent were black and towns were very segregated. Most of the blacks lived at the forward section of Freedom, where we passed through, always on alert and with suspicion.

      Conversations among white men were like attending an Archie Bunker convention turned up a few notches. For them, it was normal to not view all men alike, except for those occasional moments when war stories assured everyone that black men fought and bled the same as whites.

      Most of the men smoked, so bars in those days were often filled with the unmistakable smell of cigarettes. Wall colors turned a yellowish shade that no one seemed to notice. Still, all of us breathed it in, even young kids, whether at the club or at home.

      Dad smoked two packs of Pall Malls daily, while Mom, prior to her passing, smoked four packs of menthols every day. The cost wasn’t a deterrent, as the price of a pack of smokes was a mere thirty-five cents in the 60s. Emphysema took Dad’s life at 77. The same was true for many families. Oxygen tanks were a common sight for men in their later years. Men like my Dad went quickest because they welded for a living. Smoke and fumes were a way of life for them.

      The fathers were a tough bunch, which they meant to show. The ones I knew were not able to express affection in words. I suppose it was to be taken for granted by kids that their fathers loved them. One day in my thirties, I finally pleaded for a reason why I never heard the words “I love you”. I knew I wasn’t alone on that account, but that wasn’t excuse enough. A quiet father who will not permit himself to look deeply inside, to express what he feels, still puzzles me today. For such men, to withhold affection is a sign of strength. Now how backward is that?

      Dad’s reply was that he wanted me to grow up well able to hold my own against other men, to fight well and never lose. If my opponent was a bigger man than me, I was to take along a brick or a pipe. “Threaten their families if you have to,” he used to tell me. Keeping affection from me was his way of toughening me.

      I don’t blame him entirely, since he too was a product of his father’s rearing, which, as I understand it, was identical in method. A hard working, hard drinking railroad man who thought his work earned him the right to drink and fight on weekends, was my grandfather, Blackie. He walked off a boat from England as a young man, and brought with him quick fingers that equipped him to take what he refused to purchase. Into his truck he loaded building materials from nearby construction sites, late at night of course, and took them home. The noise of the trains took his hearing, so for him to listen to the TV set, a single earphone with a long cord led to his favorite chair.

      I admit, his was a nice place. In his yard, he grew grapes for wine making and made his own bricks from the same clay used in the brick furnaces near our home. My Dad’s father died of prostate cancer in his late sixties or early seventies. I recall his funeral, but not much more, since I was only five years old then and he too kept himself apart from kids.
      David
       
      • Hug Hug x 2
      • Winner Winner x 2
    2. ampumpkin
      Amused

      ampumpkin Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Montreal
      Tinnitus Since:
      Onset: 12/2007 Increase: 04/2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      2007: Meds(Antidepressant) 2014: Meds(Antibiotics)
      I'm lost for words. :(
       
    3. Dedas
      No Mood

      Dedas Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      07/2014
      You write very well and I thank you for sharing your story. I'm entirely convinced that we all need to communicate our feelings in a constructive way if we want to find peace within. Tinnitus, this subjective torment that we cannot share without words, makes this even more urgent, at least for me.
       
    4. Karen
      Talkative

      Karen Manager Staff Benefactor Hall of Fame Ambassador

      Location:
      U.S.
      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2010
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      First time: Noise 2nd Time: Ototoxic drug
      Another beautiful memoir, UserID!! It's a different world today -- today's men are encouraged to be pal-type dads. We have many stay-at-home fathers these days, paternity leave, etc. It really makes me wonder what your father and grandfather would make of all this. Does that make today's men "softies"? I don't think so, but that's just me! Thanks for the thought-provoking essay on manhood.
       
      • Like Like x 1
    5. Marlene
      English

      Marlene Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Poole Dorset England
      Tinnitus Since:
      July 1996
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Bacterial virus
      Sad but beautiful at the same time User,written so well.
      Memories I'm at an age like yourself,it's sometimes good for the soul to recall the good and the bad times,see how far you've come.thanks User
       
    6. UserID
      Lucky

      UserID Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Tampa, FL
      Tinnitus Since:
      05/01/1972
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Artillery
      Thanks for the kind words and references to points I made. I wrote that piece over the past two days. Most of it was already on my mind before I began.

      Yea, it was hard to live without affection from my father, but it was a common malady in the homes of my boyhood friends. My Dad preferred isolation, and once his kids were out of the house, he bought some land in the woods on which he set up a double wide, far from others. Truth is, he didn't much like involvement.

      In contrast, I can be very gregarious and like socializing. I just got home from my monthly book club meeting.
      David
       

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