One of my stepfathers (the only one my late mother “counted” for reasons that don’t concern us here–and I’m not sure how much I believe of those reasons for other reasons that don’t concern us here) was a ham radio operator. As such, particularly in that day and age, he built a lot of his own equipment, some from scratch, others from sources like Heathkit (who apparently still exist although a pale shadow of their former selves). And he would often cannibalize old equipment for parts for new stuff.

One day–I was about, mm, seven maybe–to “keep me busy” he brought me up to his “radio room” and gave me a chassis covered with stuff. He gave instructions on disassembly,c lipping soldered leads and so forth and including sorting the various components. This was supposed to keep me occupied all afternoon.

Apparently, according to my mother recounting the story years later, shortly thereafter he stuck his head out of the ceiling trapdoor (his radio room was in the attic) and said “He’s done. What do I do now?”

Now, this sounds like a cute little family story, and by itself I suppose it was. Unfortunately being reminded of the story based on another story on the Book of Faces (“Small Person” “helping” “Mom Person” with something of a technical nature) also brought with it other memories.

One of those memories, actually a whole sheaf of them, painted another picture.  The flip side given in those memories was that my stepfather was an abusive bastard who, in various ways, abused my mother, abused my sister, and abused me. Alcoholic who was a mean drunk. I can tell stories of lying awake at night hearing him come home and start screaming at my mother. I hear something shatter. When I get up in the morning I find a ceramic lamp broken with blood on it. Yep. He’d smashed it over my mother’s head.

It took a long time for my mother to finally get out of that relationship. There was at least one abortive departure where she left, went back home to Virginia with me and my sister, and we lived there for several month before she ended up going back to him. (Dammit). I think the current term. Unfortunately she had her own issues that led to “codependency” (I’m pretty sure that’s the term.)

He is large part of the reason that I have struggled with insecurity and other issues my entire life.  Oh, I would always have had problems–some things are just part of ones makeup–but had I had a good father figure, roll model, someone to explain things that were going on with me (like that I was just hitting physical development milestones a little bit later than my peers, and given time I would catch up) could have made a lot of difference in coping with the issues I had.

An online search tells me that he died in 2008 at the age of 68 (another obituary says 66, but the one claiming 68 also gives a birth date that matches). And, no, I feel no need to avoid “speaking ill of the dead.”

May his shade freeze in the coldest corners of nifelhel.

One thought on “Memories”

  1. So help me, for all that was screwier than screwy in my childhood (standard, it wasn’t) I from time to time muse I just might have enjoyed the last truly functional family in the country. I know that’s not really true… but at times it can feel like it.

    And I wonder… it’s gotten to the point that if I step outside, or come home, and see a police vehicle (or more likely THREE police vehicles!) I don’t worry about anything going on at MY residence. But it’s That Neighbor… AGAIN. Now ponder… I like my beer, my wine, my spirits, and my cocktails tend to lack mixers. The “drunken minotaur” is NOT a/the neighborhood problem the cops worry about. And the astonishing thing? It’s NOT That Neighbor that was in the paper as a possible meth-house (dealer, not lab… so far..) but the place next door. Fwiw, “the Labyrinth” is across the street and one over. This civilization thing? Needs civilizing, I fear.


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