Sunday, February 22, 2009

Keeping to the Theme Set By Tonight's Academy Awards

It has been said that a smell or a song can instantly cause you to recall a certain point in time. I contend that movies can do the same thing. There are a lot of movies that bring back memories for me. It doesn't matter whether the movie was good or not. There just needs to be some event or point in time that I associate with that particular movie. When I watch or hear about that movie, I'm always reminded of the past.

Jerry Maguire is one of those movies. I don't particular like the movie. It was OK. Nothing to write home about in my opinion. However, the situation surrounding my first viewing of the movie forever changed my life.

I was just starting my freshman year in high school. Up until that time, I had always believed my family was perfectly happy. My parents treated me incredibly well. We went on family vacations every summer. My grandparents and aunt and uncle were constantly in my life. We'd have big family get-togethers around holidays and special occasions. Life was pretty good... I thought.

In the past, my parents had their fair share of arguments, but I wouldn't say they were any more frequent than for any other married couple. However, that fall they started to argue more often and more explosively. Several times I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of them screaming at each other. I used to walk to and from school, and it seemed like every day I walked through the door, they were fighting. I knew something wasn't quite right, but I was so young and sheltered that I just couldn't conceive what it could possibly be.

After their shouting matches, I'd go with my dad to a nearby gym to play basketball. I loved playing at that gym. I wasn't even 15 years old yet, but I was playing with (and beating) guys in their late 20's and early 30's. Everyone at the gym was so impressed with my ability. It was such a great confidence booster, and I always felt really good after playing.

Over the next few months, their arguments continued to get worse and worse. Finally, one day my dad came to me and said that if my mom doesn't start treating him better, he was going to move out. I thought he was crazy. My mom did everything for the family. How could she treat us any better? Once again, I was too young to understand what all this meant, so I brushed my dad's threat aside thinking he just had a bad day.

It all reached a peak one night during a particular loud argument. My mom called the police on my dad. Five minutes later an officer was at the door trying to settle the domestic dispute. I sat at the top of the steps as I listened to my mom tell the officer that my dad threatened to hit her, and she said he had in the past (note that I had never ever seen my dad raise a finger towards her, and to this day, I highly doubt he ever would). It was then that my dad exclaimed to the officer the line that forever changed my life.

"My wife is cheating on me."

The line hit me like a ton of bricks. At first, I thought he was crazy. There was no way my mom was cheating. Why would she do that? She's a good person. Good people don't cheat.

In the coming weeks, the hard truth was revealed to me. Apparently, she had been seeing some guy she met online for a couple months. I'm not exactly sure how my dad got proof of it. However, she certainly did give him a lot of reasons to be suspicious. She started "staying at work a little later than usual." Several nights per week, she claimed she was going out to dinner with her coworkers. My mother never did those things in the past. During those months, it became a frequent occurrence.

If I thought the situation was bad before, it only got worse. She decided she wanted to divorce my dad, and she kicked him out of the house. I remember the night before he moved out, he got my brother and I together and asked us if we'd move out with him. I was just a dumb kid. I didn't know what was right or wrong in this situation. All I knew was that I didn't want to move out of the house where I lived my entire life, so I told him it would probably be better for us to just stay. The look on his face and the words that followed haunt me to this day.

"OK... I don't know why, but you guys love your mother more than me." Then he turned and left the room.

In a matter of months, my entire life had been turned upside down. I had a hard time focusing on anything. My grades started to suffer... just a little bit. Straight A's turned into A's and B's. I was playing for the school basketball team, but I couldn't concentrate in practice, and my play in games (I was only on the freshman team at the time) was lackluster. My dad would still take me to the gym after school, but even he could tell my heart just wasn't into it anymore.

You're probably wondering how Jerry Maguire fits into all of this... Well, I went to see that movie with him during the time he moved out. He just wanted to do something with me and didn't really know what, so we went to see Jerry Maguire. It was kind of a sports movie. Of course, it probably wasn't the most appropriate movie for a 14 year old, but we saw it anyway. To this day, just the thought of that movie puts me right back in that theater with him. At the time, it was the absolute most miserable time of my life.

The dispute between my parents served to divide the rest of the family. Just about the entire family took my father's side. Even my mother's father sided with my dad. My mom, being an incredibly willful woman, basically disowned her entire family (my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) because of it.

Miraculously (at least it seemed like a miracle to me although my parents probably don't think of it as such), the guy my mom was seeing turned out to be a raving lunatic or was just a touch on the psychotic side. He started stalking her, so she quickly acted to get rid of him. She told me dad she made a huge mistake, and she wanted him to come back. My dad did... although I think it was more for our sake than for my mother. By the middle of the basketball season, my parents were back living together relatively peacefully.

It set my mind at ease, and my grades went back to normal. I also started playing basketball well again. It's actually kind of funny because I can pinpoint the time when things started to return to relative normalcy by my scoring during those freshman games. I started the season with a couple 15 point games,and then when my dad moved out, my scoring dropped into single digits (one time I didn't even score) for a 5 game stretch. Once he moved back in, in my next few games I scored 18,19,18,16,25,20... I remember my totals to this day because of all that was going on at the time.

Despite my parents making relative peace, our relationship with the rest of the family had effectively come to an end. My mother wanted nothing to do with my grandparents, aunt, and uncle. I went from seeing them on a regular basis to seeing them twice in a 5 year stretch. A part of my family was forever lost because of the whole incident. I don't think I ever really got over that.

All this stuff happened in a relatively short span of time, but it has scarred me for the rest of my life. It left me a colder person than before. I don't have that unnerving belief in family that many others do. I learned that I have to depend on myself because there's no guarantee that the people you love and depend on today will be there fore you tomorrow. This was further cemented into me when my ex-girlfriend left me for good. I had let down my defenses one time to allow her in, and I ended up being burned in the end.

There's that saying that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. BULLSHIT! I'm not stronger from this stuff. I'm colder. I'm harder. I'm less caring. I'm more cautious. I can still be successful. I may still be able to get married and have my own family some day. These scars will only allow me to give so much though.

Anyway... I'm sorry to write such a depressing entry. I'm actually feeling quite well. Freaking Cuba Gooding caused me to get all introspective.


Anonymous said...

what a great post. i'd actually say you not having a solid belief in family is not unusual at all. at least in america, most people dont seem to believe that family is a solid foundation because, quite frankly, for many people it is not. but im sure when you have your own family the situation might change a little. never say never. but at least you had the fortune of having a good family life at least one time in your life. some never had any good times with family.

new marvel said...

It's been said that you don't grow up until you realize that your parents aren't perfect.

The realization came to me in a similar way, but I was 19. Very different circumstances, but the yelling and fighting is always bad, regardless of the particular situation.


Spankie said...

truth.. awesome post.
when i counsel couples i always ask them, "do you have any friggin idea how your selfishness is affecting your children?"

Thanks for sharing this

Brother Frankie

Anonymous said...

There's a reason it is said 'friends are the family you choose for yourself'.

pharmacy chick said...

you suffered a death of sorts, the death of the life you knew, loved and felt comfortable with. Even tho it was partially restored, it was never the same, and therefore you are never the same. When my mother got cancer, i flatly denied she would die. I believed if I prayed hard enough she would live. After all I needed her and she was my best friend. She was only 54 for Gods sake! My father and I, well, we had/have a tenuous relationship. No go. She died, and nothing has been the same. Great post.

pharmacykid said...

I applaud you for being able to reveal such a private detail of your life. Starting to see more where you're coming from.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate input! Don't believe that 'coldness' has been the true effect--maybe a 'numbness'? As maturity develops (time passes and one ages), it might be called a 'sense of objectivity and healthy detachment' as realization of how concern for others becomes more discernible.

It's true about the movies though bringing back de jevu (the experience all over again). Guess it's the enormity of the bigscreen and booming audio, plus the fact that for a person that doesn't go to the movietheater very often, it's all part of a singularly significant experience.