I suppose I loved my father. I cried when he left. Once, after he had moved from our home, he promised to take me fishing and I waited on the curb for a long, long time. My mother finally came and got me and that was that. That was a long long time ago, but I know I cried then too.
My summers were spent with my father. Three times in NYC, twice in London and twice in Texas. He would go to work everyday and Dan and I would stay home with his new wife, Charlotte. She was very good to us, and for us. She was also a trooper. To marry my father and then absorb his two boys from another marriage, then 9 and 11 years old, into her life was actually amazing looking back on it. Later in life it occurred to me that my mother probably insisted that he take us so she could have some free time. The whole thing was crazy and I am sure my understanding of these matters developed way after those times had passed.
So I had a step father who seemed to genuinely love me and a step mother who stayed with me for the rest of my life (so far…we are both still alive and I see her often). My father and Charlotte made a good life for themselves and had three children.
My mother and Larry fought frequently and finally divorced four years later. I was walking home from school in the sixth grade and my mother drove up and told me to get in the car. Once we were moving she told me that we no longer lived at our new home with the pool anymore. By now I no longer cried. She took me to our new home. It was a two bedroom apartment in a low income portion of La Habra, California. Because of who my mother was and who her family was, we (Danny and I) never saw Mary Jane or Peggy again. When I say never I mean I am 67 years old I have never seen them since the last morning we all left for school together. Now, I had my mother and my brother, and for 10 weeks a year I had my father, Charlotte and the new children. The oldest child was 10 years younger than me so there wasn’t much comfort in those relationships back then.
As a sixth grader in La Habra my life began to change. I made friends with other kids who were a lot like me. ‘Like me’ means not a lot of supervision. I started smoking for real in the sixth grade. Alcohol and drugs were right around the corner although I was not aware that they were coming.
I wasn’t a bad kid. I had never been unruly of disrespectful. But I was needy. My gift of comfort in talking began to help me cope with my feelings of inferiority and insecurity. I saw me through others eyes. I never showed that side of me. I held myself up and I never cried. I suffered through the lonely timeswith help from Danny. He was always there too. Once in a while, we would get spooked at night when mom was out carousing. We would hear noises and then hunker down and wait to see if someone was going to break in. One night, Danny looked at me and winked and then asked me if I had the shotgun loaded. I played along and said yep. And he said (in a loud voice) good. I have my rifle loaded too. That night there was someone in the back patio but it turned out to be my drunk older cousin wanting to come in and crash.
We soon moved to another apartment in Anaheim. The smoking continued. I began hanging out with other kids like me again. Children of divorced single moms were everywhere. I began to get into mild trouble like being caught smoking at school. Stealing was becoming an interesting sideline. It started in La Habra when a friend of mine and I would go into the large supermarket on the corner and stuff all kinds of things in our pants and just wave to everyone as we walked out loaded with goodies. That summer there was a heat wave and we decided to have a squirt gun fight. So we went to the store and stole every single squirt gun they had.
Eventually we moved to another apartment in Newport Beach. The friends I made there were of a different caliber. They were kids of single moms but some had good homes and some did not. I suppose I had a good home based on the definition of apartment dwelling kids of single moms. Danny and I were not violent or out of control. We just had limited guidance and sort of made up things as we went. Danny was still dealing with bullies as he was a perfect subject for their prey. I was running with a higher caliber group of thieves and scallywags. I was in the eighth grade by now, and on Friday and Saturday nights I would be out until 10 or 11pm. We rode Stingray bikes everywhere. We hung out at a family billiards parlor, cheated our ways into theaters and begin stealing money from parked cars where purses were left visible. Things were getting complicated.
When I moved on to high school I had another shift in awareness. I found girls. I fell in love with a girl and
helped her campaign for and get elected as Freshman Princess. I became a wrestler and a good one too. She ditched me for an older guy and I got drunk before the dance and got into a fight with a kid from Costa Mesa High School after the football game while standing in line for the dance. As a wrestler I grabbed him and drove him down but hit my front teeth on his shoulder. I broke one of them, the teachers arrived, the fight ended and I ran for cover. After the loss of the love of my life, my tooth and my pride I sort of settled down. I had stopped stealing in the eighth grade. The last thievery I was involved in really upset me. I guess I had a moral compass. That night after I got home I had Danny drive me back to the dumpster where we got rid of the purse earlier in the evening. I put my share of the money back in the purse where we had left the credit cards and drivers license untouched. I then dropped in on the ground near the car and beat feet home.
I was hanging with a completely different set of kids as a high school wrestler. We were a family. We trained together. We sparred with each other. We (me anyway) loved our coach. We rocked it
that year. I lettered Varsity as a Freshman and won a bunch of matches. But I was still the son of a single mother and an absent father. No one helped me. No one came to the meets. No one sent me to the matches with snacks. And somehow I didn’t care because I had a family again. Pretty soon another guy’s father started bring me the tea and honey his kids drank and the snacks they ate. Once I lost a match at a tournament I should have won and my coach dragged me in a back room and pinned me high off the floor against the wall and yelled at me and spit in my face and then dropped me to the floor and told me to get back out there and win! I was not offended. I did not cry. I did not complain. I loved that man, so I responded and ran the table and took the bronze metal home after nearly defeating an older previous CIF winner.
Later that year, at the end of the season, during the award banquet, our coach announced that he had taken a new position an a new high school that was opening in the area. He would be their Athletic Director. This was a huge step up for him as he was currently only a wrestling coach and drivers ed teacher. I was shocked. Sort of like my Dad leaving all over, again. I walked outside by myself as I was alone anyway and I sat down on the steps and finally cried. And when I was done, I went home and never said anything and no one asked anything and I never wrestled another match, ever.
That summer and the following year, brought in a new awareness. Pot and LSD and psychedelic music took the west coast by storm. I had refused to report to the wrestling room and participate, so I was released from 6th period PE and dropped in with the losers in 4th period who didn’t care, didn’t try and didn’t compromise their stupidity. I was a perfect fit.
I turned 16 in January of 1967. My mom had a boyfriend who sold used cars and she bought me a Chevy Corvair. I wanted a VW like everyone else but I was the son of a single mom and the car fit. By March of that year I had started hanging around with older guys, smoking pot, taking LSD and going to nightclubs in LA. I didn’t need to be home before 2AM as no one else at our apartment was either. By June, the drug use had morphed into a much more aggressive style. Opioids and Barbiturates and Methadrine hit the scene hard and fast. And somehow I managed to be fully involved in that lifestyle while hanging onto enough common sense to pass the 10th grade.