The Formative Years

 A young boy who yearns to belong. he doesn’t fit in anywhere.  In school, he jokes to gain attention. The class clown. No one really cares who he is. He’s just a distraction for the other kids. Serving a dual purpose. he makes the class go by quicker and he draws the attention away from them.  He’s very smart. he’s told this early on. Somewhere during the fourth grade things changed. he became disruptive. By fifth grade he is out of hand. Visiting the principal was a common occurrence, and  his teachers were beginning to find him intolerable. He had one alliance, Andy. this kid seem to be in the same boat. Always mouthing off to teachers, with  one difference. The boy wasn’t openly disliked the way Andy was. The boy just didn’t seem to matter. He began to miss assignments. Not even a, “dog ate my homework”, he just stopped.

   When at home he read his comics. He played games with the other boys in the neighborhood. He was always pretty good, never bad at anything. But as always, didn’t stand out.  He had 2 friends in the neighborhood. One was a very quite, tall, skinny kid who seemed to be an out cast in his own right he came from a pretty big family and had one younger brother that we tormented constantly. I recall one day when we were harassing the younger brother, we drove him to the point of holding a knife to his chest. begging to be left alone. i didn’t stop. My friend did, and demanded that I leave him alone.  I think our relationship ended that day.

   The other friend and I had comics and science fiction in common. We were passionate about both. It seemed we were into pop culture more than most at that time. We just drifted apart. I couldn’t really say why.That friend enter the priesthood fairly late in life.

   The only identity that gave me any notoriety was that of a bully. Not sure when it started but by sixth grade I was a terror. Sounds silly but “King of the hill” was my favorite game. Rushing across the snowbanks able to take on the biggest and toughest from the grades ahead of me made me feel like I somehow mattered. At least people knew who I was. I often noticed others got tired of the game but I never did. What a surprise. Something that was building my ego, something that appeared to be pretty important in separating myself from others wasn’t, as important to most. They had their own ways of fitting in.

   I didn’t ask a single girl out all through school. I was so terrified of looking bad that I never dared. back in fifth grade there was a girl that I liked.  Everyday at lunchtime I would take her to the bowling alley or McDonald’s. Paying with money I had stolen from my fathers wallet.  I know I never told her I liked her. i suspect she and everyone else knew, and probably made fun of me behind my back.  At some point my father came to my class, pulled me out and confronted me. I don’t recall the conversation. but knowing me I denied it. Even after that day I continued to take money from his wallet. I know I got  caught. Don’t know how that scenario played out. Now that I think about it. It may have ended with my father on his knees in front of me crying. begging me to stop and asking how he could help .  Poor dad, no one could help me.

   Seventh grade began my back and forth life. My father spent a lot of time on the road at meetings in other states or in the southern Maine. Somehow, it was decided that my mother and I would move to Lisbon Falls. My parents called it a “commuter marriage” My father kept an apartment in Caribou and was with us as often as he could be. Lisbon Falls was chosen because of another couple that ran the Credit Union in town. they were good friends of my parents. Dot and Russ Livernois, Great people.  Because of them my mother converted to The Catholic religion and I got stuck going along for the ride. I made my first communion and was confirmed at a quaint little Slovak church here in Lisbon. I suppose from the outside we look like a fairly normal family.

    At first, Lisbon seemed like a good idea. My father still laments my mother wanting to move to Portland. He thinks I would have been fine if we had stayed there. It’s not true. I continued with my awkward ways around girls. I was not doing well in school and I was still the class clown, but I had taken it up a few notches. I spent many days in detention and was suspended a few as well. I did have one thing going, i was excelling in sports and that alone was gaining me some attention. I wanted so badly to play football, (There is no football in Caribou) after a couple of practices I quit. To this day I beat myself up for it.  that road not traveled could have changed my life. I can’t say I wouldn’t be where i am today but things would have been A LOT different. I don’t really remember but I think I took a big hit in the respect department from classmates, even though I was one of the best basketball players. Football is first and foremost in most communities. I pussied out, that was big.

   While in Lisbon I experiemced my first drunk.  My parents had gone away and I had 2 friends over. We got plastered on minibarbottles and whatever else we could find in my parent’s bar. Unfortunately, My Uncle gary showed up. My parents had asked him to check on me.  I remember one of my friends became sober in a hurry. We found out that he had pretended to drink, but hadn’t drank at all. JERK. My uncle told me I could tell my parents or he could. I think I told them the next day, don’t really recall.

   I also had one of the most impactful experiences of my life. Not for the better either. I got high for the first time. One of the town punks lived a half mile down the road. No idea how but I started hanging out with him. that’s when I started getting high. I believe the first time was in his basement. I also remember he and I hanging out with two sisters one night. In hindsight, she gave me an open invitation and being that I had NO EXPERIENCE even kissing a girl at that point, I froze. I must have looked pretty stupid. One of many times some thought I was gay.

   I can’t say how getting high changed me at first. My recollection is very hazy. I must have held it together for awhile.  Although I had resumed  my old ways in H.S. Suspensions, detentions, I was a star on the basketball team. When it was decided we were moving to Portland  I was pretty upset. We were in the middle of the season and I didn’t want to leave. The parents of another player on the team stepped up and offered me a place to stay until the season ended. I had a good time with them, it was maybe a month or two. I don’t think I ever got in touch with them again.


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