There was a little town just a few miles above the border at Juarez. I remember this like a picture in my mind. I know I was there and yet, the memory is more like a story that I was told about a life that happened to someone else.
I had been in the car with my family for hours. This long drive began from my Mother’s hometown in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The drive was mainly through an open and empty highway with nothing else around us except for the desert.
I had never seen anything like this before. The desert itself was vast and vacant, barren and empty, and yet beautiful at the same time. The sands ran on for miles with a shade of perfect emptiness.
We began this trip in the early morning when the sun came up. I could only imagine what a drive like this would be like at nighttime when the sky is nothing else but a full moon and a sea of glistening stars.
We made this trip on a clear day. The air was dry as ever. The sky was without clouds. The sun was hot and high and beaming down on the dry land. I was young then. My Father drove with an intense look on his face. Maybe he was thinking about something important. Maybe he was thinking about nothing at all. Maybe he was thinking about the price of gas or the political state of our Country. Or maybe he was wondering what the hell we were doing. Why were we on this trip? Why was he making this drive? But either way, trades like this are the trades that come with life.
We do what we have to. On occasion, we do what we want to but most times, the contract of our relationships tend to dictate what we do and what we’ll do next. I suppose The Old Man knew all about this when he signed that contract to marry his wife, who then became my Mother.
The ongoing road we traveled seemed endless and straight. There was not much else to see besides the sands on either side of the road and the slotted white line down the center of the highway. There were a few sights, such as the occasional rock structures and sedimentary formations of stone, which I suppose had been part of this world more than a million years before the idea of mankind was conceived.
My Mother sat beside The Old Man in the passenger seat. My Brother sat behind my Father in the backseat and I sat next to him on the passenger side behind my Mother.
Perhaps there was something fitting about this too. Maybe there was something symbolic to the formation and the family dynamic. I was the youngest. My Brother was the oldest. He was a worker, the hunter gatherer, the athlete, the town hero; and me, I was the lost child and sometimes the mascot, sometimes the scapegoat and sometimes the chaos.
The Old Man was a man’s man. I tried to emulate him but in fact, in fairness, and in all honesty; I was the baby and slightly the momma’s boy. My Mother would protect me, which is not to say there was danger of physical abuse in our home. More accurately, since I was the youngest and the one with developmental issues in school; since I was a behavioral problem; I had learning problems, attention-seeking problems, insecurities, and since I was not the so-called troubled one; I was the problem child and the cause of concern, my Mother would try and hide details from my Father to keep me from the spankings and/or punishments.
It’s amazing when we break things down in the scheme of family relationships. It’s amazing when we see the dynamic of where we place ourselves at places like, say, at dinner tables or where we sit in a rental car on a long family drive from New Mexico into Texas.
The periodic conversation during the drive turned to silence. Eventually, there was no conversation at all. Everything was quiet. There were no other cars on the road. There was no other scenery. There was only the hot sun beaming down with blurred waves of heat, rising up from the pavement in water-like mirages on the long, endless highway.
My Mother, the protector, the caregiver, the typical woman from a stereotypical perspective. The housewife, the doer, the cleaner, the cook, the nurse and the order to our home.
My Father, the worker, the strong one, the typical man; the backbone, earner and owner of the big piece of chicken at the dinner table.
And there was my Brother, the sporty one, good looking, known, popular, good on a field or in a fight, wanted, expected, preferred and prioritized in different ways.
And of course, then there was me, the youngest, the babied, the one whose diagnosis had an effect on my ideas of my future, which I had no words for at the time
I believe the words I heard at the age of somewhere around 12 were “Emotionally Disturbed,” which to me meant nothing and yet, this meant everything as well. I had no idea why someone would tell me this or label me. I had no idea what any of this meant. I didn’t know what learning disabilities were. I hardly knew how to spell this. But I know now.
I was a dreamer. I was a thinker. I had ideas and yet, there was so much influence around me. There was nothing interesting to me. At least not about school. There was nothing interesting to me about politics. I had no idea what passion was or which way to direct my intentions.
I had misled leaders who only knew how to live the way they were taught. I suppose my Mother only knew how to be a Mom from her influences. She had to learn. Then again, I suppose she knew what she was getting into when she signed up and agreed to be a parent. And believe me, everything we do is a contract. Believe it or not or like it or not, we’re all a series of contracts. Some are voluntary. Some of the contracts are involuntary. Some of the contracts we sign are unfortunate, such as the deals we make in life about love, about life, about learning and about loss. We sign our name on the dotted line in more ways than we could possibly imagine. But remember something, word of mouth is legally binding. Whatever you say is a contractual agreement. So be mindful of this.
There I was in my stages of early cognition, head against the window of a rental car on a family trip through the desert, which took hours to achieve. And there we were, finally. We made it to El Paso. We were about to go to Mexico and cross a bridge that cost ten cents to go over and 15 to come home.
We were stuck though. We were waiting at a train crossing with a long and endless freight car that rolled as slowly as slowly could be. The freight train was nearly as endless as the drive we’d just achieve. The air was so dry. The city was not too far but for now, the area seemed empty and endless, dry and vacant.
The world was so different to me then. I had so many thoughts and so many ideas. I had so many hopes and dreams and yet, I had no voice to ask for my needs to be met.
Either way, I had what I had. I had my family dynamic. I had my brother. I had my Mother and Father. I had a mind filled with thoughts that swirled around in my head; only, I had yet to learn about the value of a paper and a pen.
I remember watching the freight cars move along on the train tracks. I wondered about the people. I thought about the hobos or the drunks and bums who hid somewhere in the cars, hiding from the rail workers and hitching a ride from wherever the freight train began to wherever the freight train was going. To be honest, there was something attractive about this to me.
I know that I was a deep thinker. I was an emotional thinker, an empath, anxious and afraid, yet, I had something in me to share. I just never knew how to unveil myself. I never knew how to allow me the freedom to be myself without the concern for others or the lack of applause. Fuck the applause. Fuck the crowd. Fuck them all if they oppress me.
I believe in the remedy of encouragement. I believe in the motivation of empowerment. I believe in the need to talk and to discuss the silliness and the seriousness of life. I believe in the voice of the child. I believe that if given a voice; if given an outlet; if given a goal and a direction and passion and purpose, the child will grow.
Now, keep in mind, I do not say that my parents or my family did not do a good job. I am only saying there were missed opportunities. There were misguided misunderstandings that left us misled in the family dynamic. I am not blaming my family. I am not blaming myself. I am not blaming anyone.
Instead, I am reaching back to my earlier stages and righting the wrongs of my earlier understanding. I am reaching back to me and reaching out to the child I was and recognizing some of the connections that altered me as an adult. I say to my old self, “It’s okay. You didn’t know any better.”
But I got you
I know now. I know what I was trying to do and what I was trying to say. I know about the contracts I signed and how unaware I was about the consequences I had to face. I didn’t mean what I did. I wasn’t bad. I was only reacting to an impulse I couldn’t discuss.
I used to look at my youth with contempt and resentment. But not anymore. Instead, I give my old self a voice. I let the kid in me run and play, no matter what the game is, no matter what fashion I choose or songs to sing; I give the kid what he wants or needs.
The reason I do this is to let the kid in me know that it’s okay now. It’s safe. There is no emotional disturbance. No doctors or shrinks with clipboards. There was just a boy that lacked the words to explain himself.
That boy is a man now. That boy is me. That boy who was diagnosed and limited is about to put out a fourth book. He’s about to receive a new credential from the State of New York. That boy who thought so deeply is writing now. And no one can laugh at me. No one can judge. But moreover, no one can ever stop me because I won’t let them.
So go. Be you kid.
Think what you want, dance, play, sing and scream. The world is yours now and with all my heart, I am going to see that you get your place.
We will have the farm, the animals, the friends, the scenes and all the scenarios, and all the glory we always hoped for. On my honor, I promise.
Just don’t give up on me because God help me, I will never give up on you.