The Reconnect

I have been visiting with My Former Life these last few days.  Going back through my stories of various people and places, wrapping them about myself like a warm blanket to keep me company.  It is comforting to me to reconnect with people who were so incredibly significant in my life at a certain moment in time.  In some cases, it is the only place possible to do so.

In other cases, this blog has motivated me to reconnect with people from my past.  I’ve done so most recently with one of my former high school teachers.  Mr. V.  He was probably my most significant influence during my senior year of high school.  A year so full of torment and drama that I actually attempted suicide a week before Christmas that year.

To be honest, if it weren’t for Mr. V, things could have gone very differently for me during my final year of high school.

His class was a favorite of pretty much every student in it.  To earn his praise was the highest form of compliment, and earned you respect from every student in it:  even those who didn’t care much about school cared what Mr. V thought.  He pushed us.  He was tough, had high standards.

But he also cared.  You knew he cared.  You knew he was paying attention.

He was one of the first adults in my life outside of my family to truly believe in me.  I take that back, there were probably a great many that did.  There was something about his method, his way of letting me know that:  through quiet comments in my papers or my journal, through conversations after school, through his lessons that not only taught us about prepositions and sentence structure but about life.  His affirmation, his respect, when everyone around us respected him so highly, was huge.  It made a difference.  It put me on a different path.  He helped me finally start sowing the seeds of my own self confidence and belief.

Someone had mentioned him in passing on my Facebook page and I thought about him again.  I did a quick internet search and it wasn’t long before I found his Facebook profile, full of the same passion and energy about world events and life that he gave to us in class.  I thought about it for about twelve hours and then in a fit of reckless abandon, I sent a Friend Request.

I immediately regretted it, but somehow couldn’t pull it back.  I didn’t see any mutual friends in his friends listing, so I worried.  He probably didn’t accept former students into his circle.  Was it weird to think that he would remember me?  That he wondered where my life had taken me?  What if he didn’t accept it?

Days passed by and my fears seemed to be coming to fruition.  Nothing.  No acceptance.  I resigned myself to understanding that I wasn’t that different from every other student.  He might have been a standout for me, but after thirty years of teaching it was foolish for me to think I’d been a standout to him, who had taught thousands of kids, all with struggles and challenges of their own.  I wasn’t that different.  I wasn’t special.

And then, four days later, the notice came.  He’d accepted my request.

Just like that, reconnected.  With someone who made such a difference in my life whom I have always wondered about in the twenty six years since.  Reconnected.  Knowing all of the unknowns.  Knowing that he did remember me, that I made a difference, somehow to him too, all those years ago.

I’ve been enjoying my walk backwards these last few days.  Back through time.  It’ll pass, as it always does, but for now?  Having that one more piece of my lost puzzle of my former life back in place?  It’s priceless.

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600 Posts

I started this blog nearly five years ago, in January 2010.  I was approaching my 40th birthday and I felt adrift.   How did I end up here, I often thought.  Who am I and how did I become this person?  I would find myself talking to myself in the mirror, having the conversations that I couldn’t have with another single soul on earth.

Then I started this blog.  This blog helped me.  Helped me figure out, if not the answers to those questions, at least find some peace in the journey I’ve been on.  When I look back on the way I felt then, the sadness that often permeated my days, the insecurity I felt, it is nearly embarrassing.  I’m not that person anymore.  I’m not the person who needs others for validation, for them to like her.  Who needs to always know everyone’s opinion of her and change it if it is negative.

Some of that is age, but some of that is the introspection this space has allowed me.

I journeyed through time here, taking the time to sort through the stories of my past.  For most of my life, I’ve felt like a victim of the tragedies that have befallen me, the rotten luck I’ve had or the lack of closure I’ve felt.  I don’t feel like a victim anymore.  I feel strong.  I feel like a fighter.  I feel like someone who has taken the blows and come back swinging.

I was able to meet again the characters that lived in my past, in my head, in the stories I told myself late at night.  And in some cases, upon reexamining those long ago events, I discovered that I wasn’t, in fact, blameless for the mishaps that befell me.  It wasn’t always my dumb luck or the world out to get me.  Sometimes it was me, and my own actions that brought about this thing or that.  Not an easy pill to swallow.

It’s been years since I finished writing my life story, one memory at a time.  I still keep this blog, to write in sometimes.  But mostly it is like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in when I need it.  If I want to go back in time, all I need to do is click a few times and suddenly there I am, in a room with my son’s father again.  I can give myself permission to love him again, to think about the funny way he used to smile or the way he would visit me at the drive through window when I worked at Burger King, his car spewing oil smoke so thick my coworkers would shoo him away.  It is 1988 again, and I haven’t made all the mistakes yet.  I’m in love, and I’m happy, and the world is my oyster.

Or it is 1992, and I’m in a hospital room with my mother.  I can allow myself to remember not only the beauty of caring for her while she was ill, but also the hard parts, the angry parts, the parts where we argued.  It’s OK for me to remember that it was a hard thing to do, to care for her alone in addition to my 2 year old son.  I’m there again, remembering the nights we cried together before she died.

Or it is 1999 all over again, and I’m standing backstage at a Rick Springfield concert.  He is telling me that he wants me to work for him.  I’m scared and excited and sweaty and not sure how I will be able to do this, and I’m also trying to quiet the thirteen year old girl screaming inside my head.  It hasn’t gone south yet.  It’s still fun.  It’s still amazing.  He still looks at me like I’m the best thing for his career that he is trying to reignite.

Or it is 2004 and my beautiful blond boy, my silent, stormy, sweet boy hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  There’s still hope, there is still the idea that maybe we are just like everyone else.  Even though I know we’re not.  Even though I am already hoping someone will tell me what to do with this child to fix him.  Because for every problem, I think, there is a solution.  There’s a problem, and you fix it.  That’s how life is.  Right?

Going back through my blog here allows me, even just for a moment, to imagine.  To dream.  To allow myself the fantasy of the paths that I didn’t end up traveling.  But it also gives me the thing that I wanted, always.  It gives me peace.  It lets me know that I made these choices.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was an active participant.  For each thing that happened to me, I reacted.  I chose.  I forged a path.  I decided what came next.

It hasn’t been an easy journey.  But it has been my journey.  And all in all, even with all of the pain and the heartache and anger and sadness, there has also been joy.  And truth.  And discovery.  I know who I am now.  I used to need someone else to tell me, to validate me, to let me know that I was good, smart, strong.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me those things now.

Because I know.  600 posts later, I know who I am.

Springfield Connection

“This is possibly the craziest thing we’ve ever done,” Dawn said from the passenger seat of my car as we sped down I 75 towards the Ohio border.

“Maybe, but I think it will be fun.  I mean, everyone seems very nice online.  I mean, how much trouble could a bunch of middle aged women get into?”

“Who are you calling middle aged?” Dawn laughed.

I’d taken to attending the monthly Rick Springfield chats online in the last few months.  It was amazing to find out that he was actually still working, currently on a TV show called High Tide.  The time slot was terrible; it had taken me weeks to find that it aired at 12:30am on Sunday evenings in my area.  I bought some empty VHS tapes and set my VCR so I could see what Rick looked like these days.

Through the chats I’d learned that Rick actually still had an active fan club.  The one I’d belonged to back in the 80s had folded long ago, but a woman in Missouri had started a new one in 1989.  Everyone who attended the chats was a member, and there newsletters, photographs, all the trappings.  I’d chuckled at the idea at first, but it wasn’t longer than the third time I entered the chat room that I joined the club myself.   It wasn’t the idea of being a SuperFan that made me do it; it was the idea that somehow, somewhere,there were people that would just get my decades long fascination with this man.

In the first newsletter I received, there was an advertisement for a “Springfield Connection”.  Once a year, the fan club would sponsor a gathering of fans somewhere in the US, usually in a town called Springfield.   There were photos of the one held last year, held in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Women older than me spent a weekend listening to Rick’s music, watching videotaped appearances, talking about their connection to him, their experiences at his shows or when they met him.  Everyone looked happy and friendly; a girls’ weekend with a theme.

This year’s Springfield Connection was being held in Springfield, Ohio.  When I opened my atlas, I discovered that Springfield was just a few hours away, it being a suburb of Dayton.  I could easy attend if R and my sister would split childcare duties.  When I told Dawn of the idea, she asked her estranged (although not nearly as estranged these days by as much as I found him at her apartment) to watch her children so she could join me.

There were supposed to be somewhere around fifteen of us coming together in a huge hotel suite for the occasion.   One was flying in from California, a few were driving in from Missouri (including the fan club president), one was coming from Massachusetts and a few from more local areas that could arrive easily in cars, like Dawn and I.  I was kind of amazed at the level of devotion that some of these women had to seeing each other; it wasn’t like Rick himself was going to be here, but still women were paying to fly across the country to see each other.  These were professional women, all of us adults, some of us with families of our own these days, coming together to have an extended pajama party.

Dawn and I parked my car in the hotel parking lot, grabbed our bags and found the entrance for the suite.  On the door was an 80s era poster of Rick Springfield.  Dawn looked at me and rolled her eyes.  “What have we gotten ourselves into?” she asked.

I laughed.  “Hey, if it isn’t fun, at least there will be booze.”  I held up the six pack of Zimas in my left hand.

The door swung open and shouts erupted from inside.  “They’re here!”  I could hear music playing in the background as I was greeted by at least a dozen friendly faces.

Dawn looked at me with obvious relief, smiled, and walked inside.

Catching Up

“No way.”  I blinked at the screen as I scrolled down the list of available chat rooms that evening in July.  R was at a concert tonight with some of his friends, so I had planned on a quiet evening at home.  I’d already watched a movie on cable with Z, read him a story and tucked him in bed.  It was still early, so I turned on my computer. On the screen, there it was, just begging me to click on it:

RICK SPRINGFIELD FANS

A chat room for fans of Rick Springfield, what a riot, I thought.  I hadn’t thought about him in ages; I wondered what he was up to now.  A quick check of mental math told me that he would be nearly 46 years old now.  I wondered if he was still married?  I’d heard he had two sons now, the second born around the same time as my Zach.  What a wonder to think that I now had something in common with Rick Springfield:  parenthood.  The last I’d heard of Rick, he’d released a horrible TV movie called “Nick Knight”.  I’d watched it while nursing Zachary when he was a baby.  It was about a vampire and I thought at the time that Rick was really needing to pay some bills if he had taken that role.

During my senior year of high school that Rick had to cancel his tour because of an ATV accident.  That was the last music related news I remembered from him.  I’d been looking forward to that tour, having really loved the release it was supposed to support: a record called “Rock of Life”. The whole record was penned in Rick’s rocky period after the birth of his first son and put into song his questioning of life and priorities and fears about parenthood.  These days, I still pulled it out and listened, it having a lot more meaning to me now that I was a working adult and parent.

I wondered if these fans had any information on what Rick Springfield was doing in these summer days of 1995.  I glanced at the room listing again; it looked active; there were fourteen people in it.  Who would I find in a Rick Springfield chat room, I wondered?  Probably a lot of women just like myself, people who had been fans ten years ago and were still interested in what he’d be up to now.

I clicked the “enter” button and scanned the names of those in the room at the right of the screen.  A few of them had obviously Rick Springfield related screen names:  a few with the initials “RLS” in them (Richard Lewis Springthorpe, his given name) and a few that looked like acronyms of his song titles, (LvngInOz, JsGrl).  This made me laugh; I thought it was actually kind of nuts to make your whole online persona based on your personal taste in music.

“Hi Newbie,” typed in one of the chatters within seconds of my entering the room.  This was good chat room etiquette.  I typed a response to the user and waited to see where the conversation led.

“What did everyone think of last week’s episode of High Tide?” was the next sentence that moved across the screen.

I quickly learned that Rick Springfield was indeed up to something these days; he was starring in a TV series I’d never heard of called “High Tide”, about a former cop turned private investigator with a penchant for surfing.  It sounded laughable to me, another role that Rick may have taken to pay some bills, but the prospect of seeing Rick on TV in something current intrigued me.  I asked the group if anyone was from Michigan and when it aired here.  Most of the responses told me that the show wasn’t doing well and that it was airing at odd times of the day and night; Sundays at 1pm, Mondays at 2am, things like that.

I asked if anyone in the group had actually met Rick Springfield, a dream that I couldn’t even imagine realizing.  It turned out that the majority in the room actually had; I couldn’t believe it.  It turned out that a few of them had met him in the 1980s, but more of them met him just a few short years ago, when apparently Rick had run a small tour of clubs and bars.  I flashed back to an invitation that my friend Michelle had issued to me the summer after my mother had passed away; she had been going to see him in Detroit.  I had passed; I just didn’t feel up to it.  Sitting in front of my computer, watching story after story of meeting him after one of those small shows, I could feel my regret bubbling up like water around ice.

It turned out this particular group of women met regularly online, a few times a month, to chat.  They traded information about Rick Springfield as well as sharing information about their families and jobs.  They seemed like friends, even though most of them had never met each other in person.  I marveled at the idea.   Could you have a friend “online”?  Apparently these people did, coming together over the common interest of Rick Springfield.

I knew I’d be back.

Wedding Day

My sister was finally getting married.

She and her fiance Chris had been engaged since my junior year, three years ago.  They’d settled on November, 1989 as the date for their dream wedding long before my pregnancy had come into play.  She admitted to me that her first thought when I’d announced it was that I wasn’t going to fit into the aqua bridesmaid dress I’d already chosen and ordered in a size 8.  I assured her that I planned on dropping my forty pound weight gain as quickly as possible so I didn’t mar her special day with a dress catastrophe.

Everyone in our whole family came into town for the event.  It was the first time, I think, all of them had been in the same place at the same time since my parents’ divorce twelve years prior.  My grandparents were gracious with my mother, my mother’s brother was kind to my dad’s sister, it was all just what my sister and I would talk about in our quiet moments together:  “normal”.  What typical families do.  She was over the moon.

My brother even came back from the Navy, having requested a leave from his job working on engines for submarines, or maybe it was aircraft carriers.  My mother couldn’t have been prouder of him walking her down the aisle in his dress blues.

I dressed two month old Zachary in a tiny baby tuxedo I’d found at the Children’s Place store I used to work at in the mall.  I had to take him into the bathroom at church to nurse him just before the ceremony, so that I could be sure I wouldn’t leak breastmilk onto my bridesmaid dress.  I had planned to have my friend B hold him during the service, but she had gone into labor the night before with her own baby, so instead my cousin held him as he slept.

The pinnacle of the event was my parents.  It was my sister’s wish that rather than just the traditional father of the bride walking her down the aisle, that both of my parents do the honors.  My sister wanted to symbolize all that my mother had given us and done for us; certainly more than our father had after the divorce.  Things were certainly better now, much better, but the fact was our mother did all of the day to day grunt work of parenting for us, and my sister wanted to acknowledge that in the ceremony.  For my father’s part, he didn’t bat an eye and was completely understanding and gracious about my sister’s wish.

Seeing my parents together as they walked my sister down the aisle, and later that evening as they danced the first dance together, was a healing moment for all of us.  My parents had come back together to give my sister what she wanted, what I needed, what my brother needed.   Their marriage might have not been meant to be, but my sister’s wedding showed that they were able to come together and be happy again.

It gave us all hope.

Return to Sender

“Not at this address; No forwarding address.”

I stared the envelope.  I’d written Joe a letter to tell him of Zachary’s birth.  Finally, I had put down on paper all of my words of regret and apology for my part in our breakup.  I wanted him to know that I would take whatever time and energy he was willing to give to the baby; if he had moved on, I wouldn’t stand in his way.  I wanted him to know that I realized I’d screwed up.  That I understood his fear and reticence and it was wrong of me to have pushed him into committing more than he knew he could give.  That I should have taken on faith his reassurances and given more weight to his thoughts and wishes.  I also told him of the sweetness of our child, of how much I wanted him to see the beauty and wonder I was seeing every day.  It was a hard letter to write, but also cathartic, and I hoped it would be the starting point to where we could talk and find a new path from here.

Except that he never received it.

I had assumed Joe had returned to our old dorm at Michigan State that fall.  In our conversations, when we were still having them, that had been the plan.  He would stay at MSU, I would go home and take the fall term off, and then I would start again at Wayne State, our local commuter college.  It had never occurred to me that he would deter from that path.  So when I penned my letter, I sent it to his old dorm room at MSU.

I called my friend Laura, still at MSU for her second year of school.  She confirmed that Joe wasn’t there; that he wasn’t enrolled in any of her music classes.  She went to his dorm and asked after him, and his old room mates said he’d never shown up that term. None of his friends, when they’d visited me and the baby at the hospital, had said anything about him not going back to school.

What was I going to do now, I wondered.

My New World

The little black and white TV was balanced on my dresser.  It used to sit in my dorm room, but I lived at home now, and it took up residence on my dresser, opposite my bed.  At two in the morning, “Love Boat” reruns were playing on the snowy screen.

I was marching back and forth with my three week old baby boy, soothing him.  I was nursing, which meant that my mother couldn’t help me out in the middle of the night when he was hungry.  Plus she worked and I wasn’t about to ask her to sacrifice sleep when she had to be up and out by seven in the morning anyway.  I felt guilty enough as it was; everything was upside down.

Taking care of my little boy was harder than I thought it would be.  I knew he’d be up a lot in the middle of the night, but the sweet images of my quietly nursing my child next to a tiny lamp with a teddy bear motif as he snuggled in for warmth and comfort seemed very far away.  He ate, all of the time.  And when he didn’t eat, he cried.  He hated to be laid down in the bassinet I’d borrowed from one of my mother’s friends.  He wanted to be held, all of the time.  My nightgown was soaked in dried breastmilk, my room smelled of the soiled diapers I’d changed overnight, and I hadn’t slept for more than half an hour so far this evening.

Finally, his crying ceased and he grew still and heavy in my arms.  I laid down in my twin bed with the baby, knowing that if I put him down in his bassinet now, he would wake up and cry and I’d be up marching across the room well into Fantasy Island, which came on at three am.

This had to get better.  Soon.

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