Almost

My parents were both 17 when they married. They were not high school sweethearts and met randomly. By coincidence, they both had dropped out of school in the 9th grade, and were alike in many more ways. How long their marriage lasted is a point of some confusion for me, but it was no more than 6 years, and could well have been less. I have but 2 fleeting memories from that time and both are unpleasant. After they divorced my older brother and I continued to live with our mother and we moved frequently. Not many memories there either, but I do recall her ironing a sports patch on our shirts and asking me which team I favored. Living in New York in the early 50’s I could have been a Dodger, Giant, or a Yankee fan, and I chose a Yankee patch. I suppose my love of baseball started at that moment. I do know we continued to move frequently, and I also remember going to Yankee stadium a few times and it was overwhelming and joyous.

My mother became involved with a man named Al when I was in the second grade and we were living on Avenue C, close to Coney Island Ave in Brooklyn. He was a handsome man and soon enough they were married and I now had a step father who liked to drink. He wasn’t a mean drunk, more the disappearing kind.

Continuing a series of moves with my mother and now her alcoholic husband, we spent the next year living in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. This was the absolute bowels of New York in 1957, and as an eight year old I spent the year fighting for my life, stealing from broken parking meters, and learning all about the mean streets. Finally, although I do not remember the announcement, we were going to be moving to Long Island, as Al was sober enough to have landed a good job with an airline.

We moved into a nice home in Levittown, got a dog, and my love of baseball now included an opportunity to play on a real team. To prepare for this I would go play some ball with a friend named Skully who lived behind us and we would have full blown practice games where we would throw grounders, line drives, and pop ups in his yard. We also would announce each play and keep score. It was about as much fun as a 10 year old could have and I was developing skills that surprised and delighted me. We would also go to the neighborhood park and play pick up games where a bunch of kids would just spontaneously show up and play. There I discovered that I could hit even better than I could field, and soon I was going to have my first organized game on a little league team.

Life with mom included an unhealthy dose of low self esteem. I was overweight, a poor student, very shy, and had bad teeth and bad habits. But I was about to play ball and I remember so vividly the pride I felt when I first put on that little league uniform. It was a full uniform, much like professional athletes still wear today, and walking down the street in that jazzy looking outfit was one of the proudest days of my life. I walked with attitude, where none existed previously.  I couldn’t wait for the season to start.

Soon enough we were playing ball and my male coach actually was named Linda, which is as weird now as it was then. Whenever someone got a timely hit or made a good play they got a drink of some sort of homemade lime concoction. Not only was the drink fabulous, it was ice cold. Even though I was chubby and out of shape, I could hit a ball a country mile, and would do so frequently. I remember hitting one ball so far over everyone’s head that a normal kid could have run the bases twice, but I chugged hard and was somehow thrown out at the plate. I think it took me five minutes to round those bases before I was thrown out. Couch Linda was thrilled as there were guys on base who scored several minutes ahead of me and I was fed extra ice cold lime concoction. Oh man was that drink delicious. What a joy it was for my tender soul to discover something I was good at, and all I could think about was playing ball.

After a little more than a year in that nice house it all came crashing down. Al had lost his good job and we were going to be moving. Imagine that. I can’t tell you what my emotions were, because I do not remember them. I think that by that time I was so completely resigned to things ending, changing, and beginning again that I just sucked it up, crying only when nobody was looking.

We moved briefly to another house in Levittown but there was no money coming in and we ate a lot of rice mixed with hamburger and ketchup. There was a sad pall in that house. Nobody was happy and things felt tense and foreboding. I started the 6th grade in yet another school and by now was very withdrawn. I remember being in that class and never feeling comfortable, especially around girls. At a time when kids were just starting to connect with the opposite sex, all I wanted to do was hide. Right about the time I felt like I was going to completely disappear, we had some sort of family meeting and the bombshell was dropped…….my brother and I would soon be going to live with my father and his wife in their home, also on Long Island. Not only would this involve changing schools in mid year, but my whole life was about to change. You see, at just 11 years old, I loved my mother deeply, and had no concept of how deficient and toxic she was. The idea of going to live with my father and his mystery wife did not appeal to me, although he had stayed a steady part of our lives, picking us up on weekends and taking us to ball games and movies. I was not afraid of him; I was just completely overwhelmed by uncertainty and loss. It was a very deep loss, the kind that wrapped itself around every part of me and I could feel it from my head to my stomach but mostly in my heart, whatever was left of it. I was shattered and numb when I arrived at my father’s lovely home in a very nice neighborhood. He was a successful car salesman with the ability to be charming and conniving. He was also just 33 years old and had no parenting skills and a wife who did not want us in her home.

Initially Marcia made an effort to be kind, but the fact that I was overweight and really didn’t even know how to properly use a knife and fork soon became a bone of contention. In fact, everything was a bone of contention. I was punished for not cleaning my room correctly, I was punished for something I said, or didn’t say. I was always punished, and the next one was always in line. Usually these punishments were waiting for me after school and I began to have a very deep sense of dread that extended past my head and became physical. I would be walking home every day feeling genuine panic and nausea about what was waiting for me. My father just kind of went along with whatever Marcia said and I had nowhere to turn. Moreover, I was put on a very strict diet and while that might have been a good thing if administered with affection, in this case it was punitive and drastic. Essentially I was always hungry, anxious, and afraid.  One day when no one was home I went through Marcia’s dresser and found a box of chocolates. I almost ate the entire box and I caught bloody hell for that. While I was actually making some friends and liked the school I was in, I was not really allowed to play much, as I was always being grounded for this or that.

As the spring approached I found out that my 6th grade class had a baseball team and there would be tryouts. Now this of course was the most exciting news I could have heard, and by that time the forced diet had yielded some good results and I was quicker and taller and stronger than I was the last time I got to play ball. I still had my skill set and it is fair to say that the coach liked my game quite a bit and I was chosen to be the starting first baseman. Oh how I loved to play ball and now, at last, I was going to have another opportunity to be good at something. On the school team!

I was so happy that day after our last practice and our first game was going to be played in just a few days. All I could think about on the way home was how excited I was and that the coach was going to start me at first base. Life was not so bad after all. Then I opened the door and Marcia flew into a rage about me having practiced in my school pants, and how it was a terrible thing to do and she was going to take it up with my father. Later that evening I was informed of my punishment and was told that I could not play on that team. No recourse, no discussion, no chance of playing, ever. I had to quit and that would show me who the boss was and teach me a valuable lesson. I must have cried. There is no way I could not have pleaded forgiveness. But I don’t know that for a fact. I do not remember. I suppose I might have just looked at them both, tears running down my face, and said nothing.

Several days later I could see the team getting ready for their first game as I made my way to a home that didn’t feel anything like home. My mother and Al would come pick us up on weekends, just like my father used to. She would ask me if I had any money, and I would give her my allowance.

By the grace of the universe Marcia threw us all out two years later. She actually changed the locks on us, and my father found us an apartment in the same community so we could stay in the same school. He wasn’t around much and it was very lonely, but it was also without fear and was really the best deal I could have had at the time.

I played a lot of pick up baseball games throughout my teen years and I was an exceptional ball player, with an incredible stick. But I lacked the confidence to try out for my high school team and figured there was really no point. I was given no encouragement, and no parent would have been there to watch me play. Even though I continued to struggle emotionally, I loved those years in a beautiful community and always had lots of friends and became very good with girls. That community did become home. Still, the terror I felt walking to Marcia’s house every day is something I remember clearly, and that kind of emotional abuse may well be the worst thing you can do to a child. As part of that abuse, having to quit that team and feeling that loss so profoundly has remained with me all these years, and is palpable in the same way a broken heart might be.

© 2012 Michael Fiveson

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167 thoughts on “Almost

  1. This is a very moving story Mike. When I started teaching it was a shock to me that some kids just didn’t want to go home at the end of the day. It should never be like that for any child. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Difficult to read, Mike, and no doubt somewhat difficult on your end to have shared. It saddens me when children aren’t allowed to be children and are instead thrust prematurely into harsh and painful circumstances. Being the child of an abusive alcoholic, I know all too well that dread of walking home from school each day. I’m sorry you had to experience that too.

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    • I was lucky enough to have loving grandparents and while they are not mentioned in this story, they loom large for me.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

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  3. An incredible story Mike. You went through hell for so many years, something no child should have to suffer. You show your resilience and that you’ve made it through. I love that photo!

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  4. Ya, as your son that story was hard for me to read the first time you sent it to me. Despite everything you went through you and mom were (are) fantastic parents, which is certainly no guarantee coming from a jacked up childhood.

    Also, you look like a young, pre-coked out Charlie Sheen in that photo. 🙂

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    • Thanks. My life is wonderful, although I continue to have issues with ‘authority.’ Imagine that. And thank you so much for taking the time to read that story.

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  5. Not easy to read, not easy to write, but important to be said and important to be read. Now it’s out there and because of that it might lose some of its power, which would be a good thing.

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  6. Mike, I usually shy away from some of the longer posts on WP, but I had to read this. I can relate and appreciate your sharing. I guess the not remembering is normal. I have a lot of that. I thought it was just my bad memory but obviously we select the memories we keep in the open and hide the ones that aren’t so great. Big picture remains and details disappear.
    Thanks again,
    Frank

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  7. As others have said, this sort of thing should never happen to any child, but the person who’s written it strikes me as a very balanced and well-adjusted adult. I don’t know how you grew into that person from the cards you were dealt, but I think it says a lot about your character. I would like to give you a big hug, and thank you for reminding me just how lucky I am. Your son’s comment reinforces what I already think about you, that you’re a loving and caring person who has decided to be the best he can be, despite all the disadvantages of his past.

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    • Well, this is a comment that chokes me up some. Yes, my son’s comment. What most people don’t know about me is that part of my professional life involved working with protective services and investigating abuse and neglect. In that capacity I was able to advocate and be tender to children who needed it.
      Thank you Lorna.

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      • I can imagine that being able to empathise and understand those children helped them enormously, and perhaps also helped you to deal with the demons of your past. Being able to share an experience with someone else who understands it first hand can be a very comforting thing. I’m so glad you were there for those children, although it must have been a very tough job.

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  8. Those eyes look far older than 12 years. You are a testament to the survival of the human spirit, Mike. I just wanted to take that sweet little boy home with me, and let him play all the baseball he ever wanted to play. What a delightful child. Thanks for sharing this part of you.

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    • Thanks George. I hope it read ok. I know you have a background where you would see that writing in ways others might not.
      Yeah, those eyes. I am always struck by the sadness and knowing in them.

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      • It read dispassionately, but with heart. No sentimentality. You are able to write this because you lived it and are on the other side of it. Most people never get there. There is a balance in your telling of it that works. Kudos, Mike. Write more. You write well.

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  9. I read every word. Your writing touched me. I’m especially touched that you didn’t pass on your hard upbringing to your children. Thanks for sharing, and for the tears I shed in reading your story. They make me feel alive and grateful.

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    • Thanks Pat. I made a promise to myself when I was 7 years old that I would be a different kind of parent, and I pulled it off. Yes, our tears DO make us feel more alive. I think when we feel sadness it elevates our ability to be human and to feel more joy. That you took the time to read and feel this says more about you than me, and I so appreciate it.

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  10. Mike,
    This was hard to read. I’m sure that it was hard to write. Thank you for sharing your life and reminding me to be grateful for what I had. I’m so sad that you were not allowed to be children… Thank you again,
    Steff

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    • The good news is I still have that child in me and I nurture him and allow him to play while the adult me protects him. That may sound a little psychotic, but it is quite healthy. Thank you VERY much.

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  11. Growing up is hard, but your childhood was tough and rough. Be proud of who you are now and the exceptional human being you have become despite all the mishaps. Not everyone knows how to overcome life’s vicissitudes Mike. Great post, thank you for pouring your heart out to us, your fans.

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  12. That was hard to read! My heart goes out to that little boy! Amazing that you turned out OK despite those scars! Glad you could articulate your pain Mike! Take care.

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  13. Wow Mike, such a dysfunctional family, not unlike my own. It sucks to not have an adult there for you. They don’t realize their selfish behavior does damage that lasts a lifetime. Such a sad story.;-(

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  14. OH..as I read this; I could not believe the parallel’s our lives held; though your’s seems from this story any way a bit less violent. I attended 17 school just until High School . I was an emotional mess by then. Gosh knows how many husband’s and boyfriends my siblings and I endured. It is amazing to me even now…children’s resilience. Thank you for sharing your story with us (or a bit anyway)
    Jess

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    • The longer I live the more I understand how many families were, are, dysfunctional. The challenge for us as children is to come out whole. Some of us do so in a relative way while others become killers and bank robbers and women beaters. I salute your survival, and I admire your courage. Thank you for this comment, my sweet sister.

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  15. My Dad was born and raised in Coney Island…my Mom moved around a lot. They both dropped out of H.S. by the 10th grade. I grew up in Marlboro Projects not too far away from Coney with my younger brother. Just funny coincidences.

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    • That would make you and I relatives, of a sort. I am fine with that. I loved coney Island. Many memories there, riding carousel horses and trying to grab the gold ring for a free ride. Nathan’s hot dogs. My grandparents would take us there.
      Thank you!

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  16. Your post had me mesmerised but I had to pause in reading to wipe the tears away, and the pause gave me the opportunity to be happy that you are now to be able to tell it with the same depth, care & insight as you photograph your subjects. I was glad to read your comments “still have that child in me and I nurture him and allow him to play while the adult me protects him” and “I am proud of the grown up me”. You’ve done well for both of you, and your own family. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Magnificent comment. I guess it is good that I could write in such a way as to impact you but I am sorry for the tears, yes. I am thrilled that you took the time to read those comments and that you understand what I was saying. THANK YOU.

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  17. This was really good reading Mike. It takes great courage to write these personal and traumatic events for others to read. We are all the product of our life’s experiences, the road you have traveled has made you strong.

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  18. I rarely see the transparency that you’ve shown through your post. It’s a quality that allows others to learn from. Abuse so often comes in packages disguised in “correction.”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that wrong actions should not be corrected, I’m just saying that correction handled in anger is unwise and damaging. Your post serves as a warning for those to think before they reacte, so not to damage their love ones. Thanks for being vulnerable with your readers

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    • How did I not reply sooner? This one got past me.
      Part of my transparency comes from the fact that I am ok enough to not care TOO much if someone takes issue with what I write. Clearly I offered no offense, and my only desire was to write honestly and openly. I have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and I respect the blogging community enough to just cough it up. Thanks Donna and I really appreciate the comment.

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  19. This is an incredible and extremely emotionally exposed story that has really touched me. It took courage to write this, and I hope in some small way that it was a little therapeutic for you. I did not experience this in my own childhood ~ quiet the opposite ~ and to hear this breaks my heart. At some point as adults, we all have to take responsibility for our lives and move on from frayed pasts in order to live a fulfilled life which seems is what you have done ~ so kudos to you for that. I hope you continue to find the joy and blessings in your life to help fill the void from the past. *Hugs to you*

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    • Thanks, and I accept hugs. You may also send cash (just kidding)
      Therapeutic….don’t know. Don’t think that is what I was looking for…..maybe just needed to say it all in an exposed way as a way of celebrating whatever it is I have become. In that sense I guess it can be described as therapeutic.

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      • Yes, I think you actually caught the gist of what I meant. I have this theory that by releasing your thoughts “out into the universe” (and blogging is a great way to do this 🙂 ) it somehow unloads a part it from you. Obviously, the act of just writing this post is not going to cure the misgivings of your childhood but the fact that you can write a story like this does show that you have moved forward enough to celebrate who you are today, as well you should! Not everyone does this.

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      • Well I am very comfortable with this. Who new? Well,you did apparently. All very interesting stuff. Thanks for this.

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  20. Mike, this is powerful writing. Your voice is so pure and honest that you captured my attention from the first line, and that is saying something. Your story is achingly sad, but many people have difficult pasts. What makes your story different is in the way you tell it. While the pain is obvious, there is a thread of hope just visible under the surface.

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts and I find your photography captivating. Now I know why. Your sense of humor, the depth of your love for your family, your photographic eye, and your powerful way with words all grew out of the soil of your painful youth. While far too many hurt children continue to hurt themselves and others, there was (is) a spirit in you that blossomed into the strong, loving, and creative man that you are.

    Thank you for having the courage to post this. I hope that you do more with it. I see a story developing and I’d love to see this turn into a young adult novel. There are far too few books that young boys can relate to, and I know that your story can inspire them to hang onto hope.

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    • The quality of the comments I have received is nothing short of breathtaking. I will be re-reading them for some time so that I might take each gem bestowed upon me. I am humbled by what people are saying to me and it is validating beyond anything I might have anticipated. Fact is, this whole blogging experience has been like eating pure honey, laughing hard and well, and kissing at 15. Thank you for this Mona.

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  21. I truly felt your pain Mike. There are no words of comfort to offer. I still get angry as hell sometimes thinking about the abuse and pain of the past. Yet we know, we would never have achieved deep compassion and love as we have, had we not experienced those times of hurt and longing. I hope you will continue to write more about your life and feelings. I believe it can help others just knowing there are compassionate people out there who understand because they’ve lived it.

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  22. Great story Mike. It reminds me of the close embrace my grandfather, who recently passed, had with baseball. It was the one glimmer of hope in his life and he was lucky enough to be able to play it professionally for some time. Even in his 80s there was nothing like being able to sit in a lawn chair next to him while watching a game. I’ve never seen a man so attached to a game, it was far from a physical thing for him. Baseball was his life, and stories such as yours, as his, is what makes baseball “America’s past time” because it was so overwhelmingly a part of so many people’s lives. Thank you for your story, and it seems to have a happy ending seeing where you are today. Have a great weekend.

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    • Hey man, your grandfather must have been a gem. Who did he root for? Yeah, my story ends well, and is still being written. Really good of you to take the time to comment. Thanks for the read.

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      • He really was. He played AAA baseball in texas for a number of years, although he actually never got called to the big leagues. He was diagnosed with Polio just as he found out his sixth child was on the way, so he decided to put up the jersey. He was born in Michigan, but having started and raised a family in Texas, he was an avid Rangers fan. Although they have been terrible for the last number of years, he was blessed to be able to see them go to the world series the last two years of his life. Too bad they didn’t win 😦

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  23. Thanks for sharing Mike – wow, what a journey. I find it particularly hurtful that there are some who don’t treat children with the love they deserve. It is good to see they were not able to break that amazing spirit in you though 🙂

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    • Lori…..my life has not been interesting enough to write a book about. I can make it work for 3 pages. But the generosity of your comment is not lost on me and for you I have a cyber hug and a cinnamon roll this morning. Thank You!

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  24. Although I grew up in a rural, one blinking light, S.C. town, your story brought back memories: making up baseball games with my brother using our baseball cards (learned to switch hit doing this); earning money to by my first baseman’s mit; the joy of playing little league and the feel of bat on ball and a solid line drive;the confidence I felt on the diamond; the fear of being yelled at when my mom got home from her work because she was tired. Thank you for your openness and honesty…in the telling of your story and in your resiliency, you help others look at their own story. Thanks.

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    • I’m very appreciative for the time you took to read and comment. You add to the soft blogging voice that has stepped up and been so good to me. Thanks so much.

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  25. I believe that all energy is present and not restricted to time. I believe that the love you are giving your childhood self is protecting that child and giving him the resilience to be who you are today. Not sure if that makes sense or not. There is more that I would say about how difficult this was for me to read, but I can’t. I keep deleting. It hurts. But knowing the end (who you are today) makes the hurt bearable.

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    • What a lovely comment Dezra, and I completely understand what you are saying as it is my take as well. That kid, unfinished, is alive and well today. I’m just so appreciative that you took the time to read and comment. Thank you.

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    • All true but I only recently got to a place where I could share it, and with an audience which is largely anonymous. There is a level of protection and respect there. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  26. Wow man, what a touching heartfelt story. I don’t really know if I can add anything to what’s already been said, but I’m glad you persevered. It probably made you a better man for it even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. God works in mysterious ways though. It takes a lot of courage to write something like this and maybe it helped you to feel better about it. I thank you for sharing your story.

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    • Thanks for the read and the comment. Most people won’t read 3 pages. Its all good. I’m good, all is well. Just a story I wanted to put out there. I’m not equipped to talk about how God works. Thanks for the comment my talented friend.

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  27. Mike, thank you for this post. That didn’t seem like an easy ‘write’ but I appreciate you putting all of this out there. I just happened to post about my mother… and how my life was basically more than anyone could ask… wow. Perspective is huge… may I never take for granted… and may you have resilience that you never fully need again~

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    • Thanks Deb. It was good of you to read this and comment. I have practiced my survival skills for a life time. I make a very bad victim these days, and life is good. You have what you should have had, a loving warm home. All children deserve that. What I didn’t get, my son got. Its all good. Thank you again.

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  28. wow, mike, so many caring comments!
    beautiful and clean writing – just the right amount of neutral “colors” for a memoir. somewhere you wrote that your life story isn’t big enough to fill a book. i disagree. you have plenty of “material” to work with should you so desire. but perhaps blogging about it is enough.
    it’s terrible to endure suffering, but it helps the world to tell about it. and it helps ourselves. i’m all about compassion and self-compassion.
    i look forward to a time when you are ready to write more about your childhood. until then, i’m enjoying all of your work.

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    • There are a few other stories on my blog that you might find interesting. I just don’t think I am interesting enough to weave a book together. I can do a chapter here or there but a book about ME would have a very limited audience.
      Your comment and sentiment are both appreciated big time!

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      • ahh, i see. i haven’t read everything on your blog yet.
        i disagree once again about the limited audience thing. right now i’m reading mary karr’s Lit – about her abused childhood, and various crazinesses. it is somehow uplifting to read about misery, why is that?
        i had a very “problematic” and long marriage that i just won’t write about publicly. sometimes i wish i could, but lately i’m becoming more and more content to just let it go. goodnight!

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  29. Who’d a thunk you went through all that?

    Very sad and moving life-story, Mike…it’s amazing you turned out to be what you are today…happy, humorous, and a fine photographer!

    Loved the previous post, BTW…reminded me of Baked Alaska!

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  30. I feel incredibly sheltered after reading this. And thankful. And sad… Sad that anyone had to live those moments. Sad that childhoods like yours are a reality. Thankful that mine wasn’t like that. Thankful you’ve pushed though to the other side and broken the chain of neglect.

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  31. Hi MIke, I waited until this evening to read your story because I wanted to make sure I’d have the time to absorb it and not rush through. I read it with my stomach in a knot and a heavy heart hearing that your childhood was so painful. I ache for that young boy. After reading the great comment from your son, its apparent that you’ve provided redemption for your parents by becoming the parent they should have been. You are a good soul.

    E.

    p.s. I am gratified that you were able to channel your baseball talents to the tennis court!

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    • I am lucky enough that my son is my best friend. He is our only child and was pretty much maintenance free. No real teenage angst from him, and now he is a fine man. Maybe he was my life’s work.
      I am glad you took the time to read that and especially glad that you chose to comment.
      As much as I loved playing ball, and I played until I was 45, tennis did become my passion. Something about the competitive and creative nature of the game that lit me up. Slice a forehand, angle breeds angle, cross court winners and all that.
      So very nice to hear from you e. Thank you.

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      • I’ve told people that raising our two children is what I do for a living. Like your son, that they’ve become fine young people and happy, is more than I could have wished for. I liked the way you said it, that your son is your life’s work. To me that is the sign of true success. We did good!

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      • And not that it is real important, but that was supposed to read slice a backhand. My forehand is very flat, maybe a little topspin.

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  32. Mike, I can see the pain in that boy’s eyes in your picture. What a sad, sad, story, and how resilient you have been. Your son is lucky that you are such a dedicated father, but it is so hard that you had to learn the values of a good homelife by living under that kind of fear and abuse. Thank you for sharing this story, which must have been difficult to put out there!

    p.s. that day after Noah asked to come visit you, he got in the car and said, “I love Mike. He has a good beard, and I like how he wears different colors of shirts.” 🙂

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    • Noah is a very beautiful boy and I would like for you both to visit. A good beard!
      It was harder to write that story than to put it out there. I wanted to convey the pain of not being able to play on that team, and had to lay some ground work to pull it off. I am glad I wrote it and thrilled that you read it. I have no shame or embarrassment associated with it. If you look close you will see that boy hiding behind the years.

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  33. This is such a beautiful, horrific, heart-wrenching story. I felt every moment of it. I wanted to hug that sweet little boy & tell him how special & gifted he is…I wanted to kidnap him into a home where selfish adults don’t crap all over his developing psyche….

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life, Mike. And just fyi, judging from that photo, you were a little hottie! 🙂

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    • LOL, now I’m an old hottie. Girls did like me back then 🙂 Thanks for reading that and for caring enough to comment in that way. All I could do was give my own son the gift of self confidence, and love him deeply. That I managed and still do.

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  34. So that lost, little boy inside of me cried many times while reading about his lost brother Mike…whose tender heart wasn’t loved as it should have been…and my own father-heart was sad and touched and felt the many stings of regret at having not done the right things with my own sons…and the pain and lessons live deep…and I feel your heartbeat, dear Mike. Thank you…for your words…and for the beautiful picture of you and your so-sad eyes…my brother.

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    • I would be your brother in a heartbeat Scott. Thanks for taking the time to absorb this story and see the boy, still very much alive today. I always find meaning and comfort in your words and am so glad we are friends.

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      • I am honored that you feel that way, Mike…we’re already kindred spirits, it seems…and I would be your brother as quickly. And I know that little boy is still there, too…he informs your life deeply, gives you a gentleness uncommon, I think, in men your age. I’m proud to be your friend, too…so glad to be in your company…thank you.

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      • You ever get out this way you will me know right? We will prick our fingers and become blood brothers, and then drink some beer? (don’t know if you drink….I’ve become a lightweight)
        Have a good night and tomorrow Scott. Thanks.

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      • Yes, I will let you know, Mike…and we’ll become blood brothers and drink a bit of beer…just a little bit. 🙂

        You have a good night and tomorrow, too, my friend…and you’re most welcome.

        Like

  35. A poignant story, Mike, and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it with us. I’m haunted by your photo, a 12 year old face with much, much older eyes. (Love your son’s comment, BTW!)

    RPRT Photo

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    • Thank you for that. I too find that photo a bit haunting, but the boy did well, in a relative sense. It was great of you to take the time to read and comment and I appreciate it very much.

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  36. Very well written Mike. Thank you for sharing your life and insights. Isn’t it something how we all have our own struggles and abuses, yet we find a way to overcome them. Taking an honest look at our lives takes a lot of courage. It seems like you’ve done a fine job coming to terms with your stumbling blocks and have found that you can stand tall and proud today. High 5’s my brother!

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    • Thanks Wayne. Many of us do overcome and go onto lives that are productive and kind, if not wildly successful financially. Others become part of the criminal justice system. Glad I avoided that but I did have supervisors who did not like me. It is part of being human to adapt and survive. Thanks for the nice comment my friend. high fives.

      Like

  37. yes it is a part of being human to adapt and survive, and be a good person just the same after the fact. i also had a toxic mother and step father, and with her it was till her last breath, so i fully understand. thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, its important to let it out, and let it go, your story has touched my heart.. ❤

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  38. Hey Mike – thanks for writing that story and for giving me further a deeper look into your soul and the experiences that you had as a kid. We grow up with stuff that makes us, molds us and shapes us into who we are. You are, in my opinion, a man of integrity, living a well considered life that has weathered the tests of time and uncertainty. I am so proud of you demonstrating that the game does not count as much as the player. You’ve hit lot’s of home runs on the field and off. Congratulations!

    With love,
    Keith (K5) – your brother from another mother (quite literally).

    Like

  39. I can’t justify clicking the “like” button, because that feels like saying “pain? abuse? crummy childhood? awesome!”

    Thank you for having the courage to tell something so moving and deeply personal. I know these experiences can never really go away, but I’m glad you feel in charge of your own life now, and distanced enough from that chapter in your life to share it with the rest of us.

    Like

  40. I don’t know what to say Mike,this was a heart wrenching tale of a young boy who just never saw love and motivation in the time when he need it the most
    no nothing I or anyone says will ever be able to heal it..but i hope sharing this has lifted some weight off your shoulder
    one thing that kept glowing through out was the brave spirit of the young boy who just didnt give up,cried,sulked but kept the hope spring alive with his inner strength..you dont know how many people you inspired with this story
    Big Hugs 🙂
    wish you a lovely weekend 🙂

    Like

    • Lovely comment Soma. Yes, I endured and managed to weave together a nice life and a long term marriage. That story did not make mention of the significant amount of love received from paternal grandparents who were significant players for me.
      Big hugs right back to you my beautiful friend.

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  41. WOW….when you were trying to give me a glimpse of your childhood, I had no idea it was that bad – and that’s not even a good word for it. I understand how hard it must have been to write, yet necessary to get it off your chest. Now I understand you asking Austin about baseball. I’m glad I stumbled upon this particular post.

    Like

    • Actually this story has been trying to get out of me for sometime, so in that sense it was easy to write. By reading it and commenting, you gift me in a very real way. Thank you for that Carol.

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  42. Your story has quite a few similarities to my dearly departed’s childhood… I think what’s so remarkable are the choices that were made to become a decent human being despite the obstacles. My husband had several brothers who made very different choices to follow in the same path as the abuser. Not a pretty story at all. My admiration goes to the ones who managed to rise above the circumstances like you did.

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  43. This story really touched me. I am happy for you that not only did you get through all of that, and make a good family of your own, and raise a fine son… but are able to tell the story. I still can’t speak about my childhood. And I’m older than you. I know how hard it is.

    Like

      • Thank you. As I said, I’m glad I came across your blog. It’s been a good day today. I’ve spent the evening reading your writing, and it’s given me joy.

        Like

      • That makes me really happy, Shimon. I would give you all the joy in the world, if I could. You too have touched me and I’ll be spending more time with your blog. Thank you.

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  44. Another few minutes of familiarity. Oh man, just what some kids have to go through. I find it very interesting how clearly you remember the chocolates, but not much else at that time. Definitely a result of those kinds of painful experiences. Geez, Mike. I will keep sifting here, I feel like I’m meant to see another thing or two specifically now. Thank all things angelic, that you wrote this stuff down!

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    • That particular story was churning in my heart and head for some time and was a bit of a challenge to write. Nothing makes me happier than a comment on something I have written as the photo stuff is easy by comparison.Thanks, my sweet sister.

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  45. Hi Mike. Ive really been enjoying looking over your photos and stories, and very much appreciate the talent you are sharing. I relate to your stories in part because I grew up in NYC’s Greenwich Village in the early 60s. At one point, my mother remarried and we moved to Brooklyn, which was traumatic, to say the least, partly because I was one of the only white kids in Rothchild Junior High, and the girls from Bed-Stuy (supposedly the toughest neighborhood in Brooklyn at the time) didn’t appreciate my Twiggy look at all. Luckily, I had a wonderful and loving family. I don’t understand what it is that makes it possible for some to overcome — why some can rise above but others spiral downward. As X#2 used to say, people only know what they know. Btw, you were a cutie. If I had known you in that picture, I would have definitely flirted with you.

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    • And I would have flirted right back. I was just that way. Did you read my Jesus and the $20 Bill? It got freshly pressed which was a great treat for me. You will see my own experience with being the only white kid.
      Why do some overcome…..having one loving presence in your life is very helpful. That would have been my grandparents who were angels. Sometimes luck plays into that ability to transcend. As to why some are lucky and others not…..someone once told me that chance favors the prepared mind, and I’ve always subscribed to that notion.
      Thanks for your time and comment. I used to love going into “the village.”

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  46. I loved this one too. While I did not grow up in New York, we did move quite a bit, and when I was 13, was sent to live with my dad (mom and new step-dad wanted privacy) so I feel some of your pain. There are parallels to our lives – just different places, different times. So glad you too rose above and persevered 🙂

    Like

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