SENDING A LETTER HOME – RICH PASCHALL

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward. I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here over a year ago following the inspiration given by that book.  I must confess that it was much harder to read now than it was to write it then.  Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it again.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

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36 YEARS AGO TODAY: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978

This is blizzard time in New England, when the biggest baddest storms hit.

Thirty-six years ago today, a storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. It was the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978. Thousands of people were let out of work early to get home before the storm.

Traffic was, as usual, heavy. Snow started falling at more than an inch per hour trapping more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks in rapidly building snowdrifts. Route 128 (aka Route 95) became a giant snowdrift where 14 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, huddled in their trapped cars.

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There are so many scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.

I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. As one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car,  I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, found signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots. Nothing was moving.

There was no traffic. No people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.

Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.

Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.

The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. It needs no hype or hysteria.

About Photographs of the Blizzard of ’78:

There aren’t many pictures of the blizzard available. You’ll see the same shots whenever the blizzard is remembered. In 1978, everyone didn’t have a digital camera and a cell phone. People didn’t have instant access to photographs the way we do now.

If you have pictures and can share them, I’d love to see different images. All of the photos I’ve included are archive news photos. I’m betting some of you out there have photographs and lots of us would find them very interesting! You would need to scan them, I guess. Hard to remember all the way back to pre-digital.

SHARING MY WORLD – WEEK 5

Share Your World – 2014 Week 5

1) If you had a choice to live anywhere would be your preference salt water beaches, forest, fresh water lakes, hot tub, ski resort or desert?

Well, I live in the middle of a watershed made up of rivers, tributaries, ponds, streams … so I’d have to go with fresh water lakes.

Just across the border in Rhode Island is a park with a boat slip, a beach ... a smooth lake perfect for swimmers and small boats. It's part of the Blackstone River watershed

Just across the border in Rhode Island is a park with a boat slip, a beach … a smooth lake perfect for swimmers and small boats. It’s part of the Blackstone River watershed

2) What was your favorite toy as a child . . . and now?

Dolls. I was and am quite passionately attached to dolls. I own all the dolls I had as a kid plus a couple of hundred more. We get older, but we are always children 🙂

Annabelle

Annabelle

3) Which do you prefer sweet,salty or both at the same time?

Both, really.

4) Would you prefer snowy winters, or not, and why?

NOT NOT NOT. Why should be obvious.

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