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I ran. I ran and ran and ran and ran and I didn’t realize when I could stop.

I destroyed our family. It was my fault or at least I definitely could have prevented ANY of this from happening. That was the hard truth I faced as I left my therapy session yesterday afternoon.

It’s been Hell for you Alexis. I see this now. You’re an amazing mother and strong woman. I can see that now. You were a good wife. I can see that now too. I couldn’t see this before because of the demon that attacked and possessed me when I was a toddler. From that day forward, my vision was warped and I could not see Love. I could not see the love of my parents, I was blind to the love of my wife and I was careless and cocky with the love of my children. You must have seen the train coming off the rails…you must have felt so trapped. I’m sorry I did all of it. I’m sorry I allowed another woman to come in between me and my family. I’m sorry I allowed myself to be preyed upon like that. I was blind to what I had at home. A supportive wife, a kick ass mother for my kids, and a happy stable family environment. I was self destructive, blind, arrogant, and weak. It is unforgivable for a man to so callously allow his family to become collateral damage. Yes, we became different people and yes, we ended up polar opposite on many things, but with the ever-frustrating benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that this should have lead to an interesting and dynamic environment for us to raise our children. I see that you were doing the best to manage the life that we created.

Torey Lynn…you are right to hate me. The truth is that I was too afraid to make the internal changes, within myself and my family, to fix the problems that we were having. I left your mother to handle all of the schooling for you kids when clearly that was too big of a job for one adult to handle. You and your sister picked up the slack and I know that was a part of what was affecting your grades. The day that this all went down should have been my wake up call to fix OUR FAMILY. Instead I tried to take you and run away from it. I tried to turn you against your own mother and tried to force you to send her away with the police. That was a horrific act for a father. Here you were, already scared, already traumatized, and I wanted you to stand there in front of your own mother and siblings and force you to send her away. I don’t blame you ONE BIT for what happened next. That was MY OWN FAULT and you have EVERY SINGLE RIGHT to feel everything you feel towards me. That said though Victoria…I love you with the same fierceness that I felt the day you were born. The pain and anguish that I feel every second of every day serves me as a reminder that I lost the greatest gift God ever bestowed on me. You. I will spend my life loving you and being close by. My door is always open for you and I always crave your forgiveness and your love. That won’t change Torey. If I never see you again until I die I want you to know that you will be the last thought that goes through my head before I meet my creator. But even with God’s forgiveness, I will die an empty man. I love you honey. Please forgive me one day.

Nikoletta I should not have forced you to come to the rental house that day. I should not have left you alone here to watch your siblings. That was a cowardly act. I was not strong enough to face what I had done to you. The pain in your eyes was killing me and so I left you alone with it. When I came back, I laid in YOUR lap and let YOU comfort ME. I am ashamed. I am sorry. I’m proud of you for standing by your mom and sister. So proud. You once told me that you didn’t think you were strong, but you were so wrong. You’re a smart, strong young lady with an uncompromising moral compass and a beautiful heart. I miss your heart the most. Every single day I love you Letta. Every single day I look at your picture and my eyes well up with tears, other days I weep loudly. It used to be because I missed you so bad and because it was so unjust for me to lose my daughters. But now it’s because I know EXACTLY how I’ve hurt you and I have to face the fact that I DID that shit and I cannot go back in time to undo it. The rest of my life is yours though. My doors are ALWAYS open and no matter where you go, I’ll uproot and follow. I pray to God that He will bring us back together one day and that I can be the dad that you need and deserve. You’ve gotten ripped off so far.

Okay so I have gone back and forth as to whether or not to include this because I don’t want to sound like I’m defending my actions or making excuses for the devastation and destruction that I’ve caused. I’ve decided to tell you all this though, because it’s who I’ve been this whole time, and because I hope it will explain the direction I’m taking professionally. When I was about Gabe’s age, I was sexually assaulted and molested by my uncle on my biological father’s side. This is something that I’ve been unable to face or deal with my entire life, but it resulted in a completely warped view of the world, of reality, and of love. Looking back now, so many things make sense from the drug addiction to the rejection of God Himself. So while I’m following my family, wherever they may go, I’m going to be in school becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. I may have fractured my family and lost my daughters forever, but I’m still alive and I can help other broken people not make the mistakes I’ve made.

Alexis, I want to be your friend and father to your children. I want to support you through school and make things as easy as possible on all of us as we rise from the ashes of the inferno that was our marriage. I want to stand side by side with you and make sure our kids grow into adults that don’t end up causing, or receiving the pain and hurt that WE have.

Girls, I want to be ANYTHING that you want or need me to be. I’m here for you, even if that means you need to not be around me right now. I promise you I’ll never abandon you. I love you both so much.

-Dad

Replacing Slides – Broken Travelers

I had an interaction today with another Broken Traveler that made me realize how lucky I was to be in this position in life. I’ve faced what broke me, freed myself from many of the self destructive traps I’d set for myself, and began the process of trying to help heal those who managed to find themselves swept up in the hurricane of destruction that’s been tearing through the planet from the day I started making decisions on my own.

With another roll of the dice, I easily could have been the man asking me for a dollar as I left the gas station this afternoon. He was broken, clearly, talking out loud to God when nobody else would talk to him. He was asking for salvation and for help. He was lost, walking the Earth with the weight of his trauma overwhelming him and blinding him.

I gave him what I had and told him that I hoped things got better. “They will…” he assured himself as our eyes met. He lingered, drinking deeply, the first human connection that he’s had to have felt in some time.

I hope this was the breath of air that this man needed to know that the world will accept Broken Travelers and that nothing external is stopping him from remembering who he is, and who he was meant to be.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a Broken Traveler as well. And like me, you’re lucky. You’re lucky because you’re in a position in life to be on the Internet searching for answers. Do you think that the next time you see one of us who was not so lucky, you may not want to turn away? Maybe the reason that you’re uncomfortable is because we, The Broken, always recognize our own and we don’t want to face the fact that we see our face inside theirs.

To heal yourself, you must heal others. To help yourself, you must help others. And to love yourself, you must love others.

I need your Grace to find my own. And so do you.

Replacing Slides – An Open Letter To My Former Jailer

To my former jailer,

You stole my grace that day. You made me think that God didn’t want me so I rejected Him.

You forced a baby to know death. I awoke into confusion, pain, and suffering and saw the window to salvation was iced over.

You made me into who I was…and I forgive you because of who I am. I forgive you because I now know how to live the rest of my life in a way that justifies our suffering and I will walk, sure-footed, and atone for the sins of our fathers.

We were both born into pain, anguish, and terror but you let it make you a monster. That’s how I know it wasn’t personal. And that’s how I forgave you.

I pray you live the rest of your life finding your Truth and that you Rest In Peace.

Replacing Slides Part 1 – Monsters

I felt dazed, like I just came out of a 4 hour movie I didn’t understand. — Jim Carrol

On April 5th, 1994 an amazing father heard the news of Kurt Cobain’s apparent suicide on the radio. He couldn’t place it, but for some reason he had the immediate instinct to speak with his son, who was attending Junior High at the moment. After what I imagine to be a dramatic and sudden illegal u-turn (just like in the movies), he arrived at the school and called his son out of class. In he came, emblazoned in the most authentic looking flannel shirt and Nirvana tee and a sardonic smile on his face.

“He must not know”, thought Amazing Dad.

“Kurt Cobain just shot himself.”, he said, fully expecting tears and wails. His son still smiled. “Yeah, I know” said his son with a shrug. “No more Nirvana CDs I guess”.

I knew my dad was confused by my response. I did it on purpose. I didn’t want him to see my confusion and my pain. To me, this was the second father I’d lost. The one standing in front of me never registered as a source of love, trust or comfort. It was his fault, after all. He was an asshole. He was always jealous of my relationship with Kurt. Kurt understood me. Kurt listened to me. I listened to Kurt. I loved him. My fantasies of Kurt and the boys kicking down the wall of my math class and taking me away from all of these fucking bullies and judgmental posers, and taking me away from my emotionally unavailable mother and this STEP DAD that she imposed on me when she took me away from my REAL dad was over. The fuck was I gonna do now?

Later that night, alone in my room I put on R.E.M.’s “Automatic For The People” and started writing the angriest suicide note you’ve ever seen. I was going to FINALLY be heard. I was going to FINALLY be understood and my parents would finally see what they’ve created. The second track started, “Try Not To Breathe” and when the bridge hit and Michael Stipe insisted, “I want you to remember”, I stopped writing. What the hell was it?? It was like a word that I’ve used my entire life, a common word, like “guitar”, was stuck on the tip of my tongue. I couldn’t reach it!! ARGH!!! It was SO FRUSTRATING! What WAS it??? I was crying heavily by the time I started the track again. I was GONNA get this.

It never came to me. I threw the note in the dumpster and got in the shower

/SHIFT/

I was laying in bed with my eyes purposely wide open. From the age of 4 until probably 10, I would fall asleep every single night laying on my back, wrapped in my blanket to include my head and neck. Only my eyes and mouth were exposed to the dangers that lurked in my room, and that was ONLY because I had to breathe and see. The hall light was on and my door was open. You could literally READ in that room, it was so bright, and I was terrified. And HOT! Arizona summers are NO JOKE! Yet there was NO WAY I was going to be brave enough to lay there alone without the armor that my comforter provided me. I stare at the corner of my room, looking up at the ceiling. That’s when the circus started. Literally, I lay there and watched a circus rolling into town, complete with big trucks towing the Ferris wheel, circus tent, and all the animals. It was cool! Not sure what exactly this IS, but it’s not scary. I must have fallen asleep at some point, per usual.

/SHIFT/

The little boy walked into his mothers room to wake her up. He wanted some fruity pebbles and to watch Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on TV. He woke her up and she sat in her bed, looking at him, confused. “Who are you little boy?” She asked.

“HAHA!! It’s me mom, Ricky!” He gleefully shouted. Mom was silly she was always messin’ around.

“Who ARE you??!” She demanded

Confused, and slightly nervous, he repeated himself.

“Get out of my house little boy!” Shouted Mother.

He cried. Helpless and broken and lost. His mother finally came too and remembered who he was. Embracing him and apologizing profusely, she made him his cereal.

/SHIFT/

I loved my waterbed! It was comfy, yes. But that’s not why I loved it. Like I said before, summers in Arizona were brutal and I needed to be wrapped up like a mummy if I were going to be brave enough to lay in that bed alone with all the dangers that lurk in the dark. And it was DARK now. Amazing Dad was sick of tip toeing around the house waiting for that little shit to fall asleep, plus his son was ten years old! This was way too old to be afraid of the dark still. Through persistence and insistence, he managed to get that bedroom door shut when his son went to bed. I hated that, but at least I wasn’t hot! I was laying directly on the waterbed mattress and the cold water was cooling my back and legs while the front of my body broiled in my cocoon. I heard my mom outside my door and I wanted to tell her hello. I hadn’t seen her that day and she was just getting home from work. I stood up and started running towards the light switch, stepping as high as possible to keep the Boogyman from grabbing my ankle. This time though, I collapsed onto the floor. Gravity had increased a thousand fold and I was stuck on the ground, in the dark, without my blanket. I managed to look back at my bed in order to see how far I’m going to have to try and crawl when I saw myself. Still wrapped in my death blanket and sleeping with my eyes wide open.

The night before my first day of junior high, I was laying in my bed, on top of my water mattress with my butt cold as ice and my chest covered in sweat. Earlier that night I’d tried wrapping myself in a sheet, instead of my blanket. No dice. There was no protection at all and anybody could get right through it. So back to the comforter it was. My wicker toy box started to open. I couldn’t see it, but the squeaky grind of the repurposed wicker footlocker was unmistakable. I lay there frozen. It opened some more. Shit! This one was REAL. I stood up and BOLTED to my light switch. The warm, familiar light immediately covered my room and I looked over at my toy box. It was shut. I lay back down and immediately it started opening again.

SQUEAAAAAK?

Back to the light switch and the toy box was once again closed. I repeated this crazy dance at least two more times when I finally decided that I should stack some stuff on top of the box. The ghost, I figured, must not be THAT strong since it’s having such a hard time opening this weak ass little box. I was right. The ghost could not make my toy box squeak and I fell asleep.

My parents didn’t understand why I was so terrified at night. They tried their hardest to reassure me though and would tell me that there were no monsters. The only thing is that I knew they were wrong. I knew monsters were real and I knew they attacked me in my sleep. When I would remember the attack, my mind would hallucinate rather than allow my fragile consciousness to constantly relive the extreme violence. When reassurance didn’t work, Amazing Dad decided it was time to simply toughen me up. It worked. Eventually I stopped being so afraid of the dark.

/SHIFT/

In the days and months following the death of my Rockstar Father, I began to play a little game with myself in between classes. I’d walk the halls pretending I had a rifle and I’d pick out the kids who I’d shoot. It was fun! Just a little dumb game to pass the time. I wasn’t gonna REALLY shoot anybody. I mean I didn’t have a gun. Well, my dad had one. It was in his underwear drawer and it was always loaded. I’d played with it quite a bit. My favorite game was putting the gun to my temple and not touching the trigger. I knew for a FACT that I wasn’t gonna die and I wanted to see what that would look like in the mirror while I made terrible faces at myself. But I mean, I’m definitely not going to put in in the small pocket of my backpack one morning, ride my bike to school (stopping at Water n’ Ice to get a blue slushy and a pocket full of Crybaby’s), arrive at school and shoot all the kids that were standing outside the locked doorways of Hendrix Junior High school, pinning them between myself and my gun and the impenetrable brick walls and steel doorways of my school. Nope. I was definitely not gonna do that.

(To be continued)