WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM

When You No Longer Have a Home, Rich Paschall


Jimmy knew it was not going to be easy.  He had put it off for weeks, but after a while the delay was just as hard as what he perceived the actual event to be.  So the high school senior marched home, mustered up all his courage, and prepared for the inevitable battle.

Born of a rather dysfunctional family, Jimmy’s parents were divorced when he was just 4 years old.  His biological father remained marginally in his life.  His mother introduced a new “step-father” when Jimmy was 5.  He was raised by ultra conservative parents to have values of the ultra Christian right.  Unfortunately for the family structure, Jimmy did not adopt the “family values” of his rather right-wing parents.  Nonetheless, the 17-year-old boy was prepared to take a bold step forward and challenge the strict guidelines he had been given.

When he arrived home near dinner time on a cool fall evening, his parents were already watching television and absorbed in some crime drama.  At the first commercial break, Jimmy made enough noise to be noticed.

“Well, boy,” the step dad began, “you are a bit late, but you can still grab some dinner in the kitchen.” The mother just smiled and went back to watching the television.

The teenager had already called up all his courage and was not going to back down.  The moment had come, and even though he was shaking, he began a speech he prepared all day.  “I had something important to say,” Jimmy stated rather meekly.

“Well spit it out, boy, the commercials are almost over.”

Without launching into his well rehearsed speech about each man having to be his own and so forth, a nervous Jimmy did indeed just spit it out.  “I’m gay,’ he declared.

“What?” the middle-aged, balding, flannel-clad stereotypical alpha male shouted. At that the mother turned down the television volume.

“What did he say dear?  I don’t think I heard him correctly,” said the middle-aged, middle class, middle intelligence woman.

“I think he said he’s a damn faggot,” the man shouted in a loud and disgusted voice.

“No, sir,” the boy countered. “I said I am gay.”

“Same thing,” the fake dad declared.

“I am appalled.  No son of mine is going to be a sinner.”  The mother was as much angered by the “sinner” as having to miss her TV program.

The step dad marched right up to the boy and shouted in his face, “You will stop that right now or you will get out of this house, do you understand me?”

“I am sorry sir, I can not change,” the teenager said in a trembling voice.  At that the step dad pushed him as hard as he could and the boy went flying over a living room chair and crashed into the dining room.

The mother then began shouting at the boy, telling him he would go to hell, that God would never forgive him, that such behavior was forbidden in the Bible and that God hated him.  The boy rose to his feet and stood there staring at the shouting parents.

“If you are not going to take back that sinful statement, then you are not staying under my roof.  Get out sinner,” the pretend dad shouted.  With that he gave a menacing look as if he would hit the boy again.  Before long, he started after the boy and shoved him, knocking him to the floor.

“OK,” the terrified teen said.  “I’ll go, if that’s what you want.  I don’t want to be here either.  I will get my school books and leave.”

“I paid for those books,” the man shouted.

“Like you are going to read them,” the teen retorted.

At that the boy hurried to his room, he put his books, a few items off his dresser and whatever items of clothing he could stuff in his backpack and headed toward the front door.

“God hates faggots, son,” his mother said with great disdain.

“I don’t know that God hates anyone,” the boy countered, “but he does not hate love.”

At that the step dad picked up an ash tray to throw at the teen, but the boy was out the door too quickly.  The angry parents resumed watching television as the trembling senior high school student walked aimlessly down the street.  Tears filled the eyes of the handsome youth as realized he had no home, no parents, and nowhere to go.

Attribution: BookCrossingBefore at the English language Wikipedia

He struggled forward, step by step, as the night air began to chill his bones.  Was he shivering because of the night air, or because of the sad situation he found himself in?  When he arrived at a major intersection, Jimmy took a seat on a wooden bench by the bus stop.  He was not planning on taking the bus.  He had no plan at all.

After many moments filled with crying, Jimmy pulled out his cell phone and called the one person he thought could help him, his real dad.  He located the number, dialed, and got a quick answer.

“Hello dad, it’s Jimmy.  I have been thrown out of the house.  I have nowhere to go.  Can I come and stay with you a while?  I promise I will not be a bother.”  The teen was not ready for adulthood, and certainly not this.

“Why, what happened son?  What would cause them to do that?”

“I told them I am gay.  Can I come there?”

There was a long silence on the phone.  Neither one spoke for what seemed like minutes.  Jimmy finally spoke up again.

“Please.”

 

Note:  This is a work of fiction, but there are many true stories of teens tossed aside.  What do they do?  Read more tomorrow.

MY FATHER AND FREUD, THE TEACHER – ELLIN CURLEY

(All quotes are from my father’s book, “My Analysis With Freud, Reminiscences”, by A. Kardiner, M.D.)

My father’s first contact with Sigmund Freud was a letter he received in 1921 accepting him as a student of Freud’s in Vienna. My father had graduated from medical school in New York City and was having trouble finding a job in a specialty that interested him. He thought it would be a great opportunity to study with the founder of this new science of the mind. He also believed that this field was the wave of the future. There were only eight psychiatrists in New York City at the time and it appealed to my Dad o be a pioneer and make a major contribution in a whole new area of science.

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During my Dad’s 6 months as Freud’s student (that was the contracted period of apprenticeship) Freud had six students, each of whom he saw five hours a week. He charged $10 an hour and asked that he be paid in dollars, which were worth more than the Austrian crown. He also apologized that he could not give more than thirty hours a week to his students because his wife and daughter had forbidden it! They cherished their time with him and didn’t want him working longer hours.

Freud did not treat his students equally. My father’s distinction among his group of students in Vienna was that Freud talked to him in his therapy sessions. Freud was apparently silent with other students, particularly with the two English students who were there with my father. The Englishmen complained that Freud often fell asleep in their sessions and that he would only wake up if they stopped talking. One day the Englishmen asked my father to tea and confronted him with the rumor that Freud actually had conversations with him. When my father confirmed that Freud was quite garrulous with him, they wanted to know what my father did to get Freud talking. My father was a wonderful raconteur so his only explanation was that he kept Freud interested and engaged – and therefore awake.

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Ironically, despite this conversation with my dad, the English contingent must have left Vienna with the belief that Freud’s “silent” analysis was the method that he was imparting to his students. This evolved into what was known as the “English School” of psychoanalysis, in which the therapists said nothing to their patients except “hello” and “goodbye”, often for years!

I used to complain to my father that Freud had done a terrible job analyzing him because he was still riddled with anxiety and neuroses. My father agreed with me. He said that Freud’s training and analysis were both woefully inadequate by today’s standards. In the ‘20’s, the only training that existed to become an analyst was to be analyzed yourself, for a mere six months. We now know that six months is too short a time to accomplish much in psychoanalysis. We also know that you need a greater body of knowledge to be a good therapist than what can be gleaned from a personal analysis.

To advance their education, my father and his fellow students got together and organized lectures for themselves (with Freud’s approval, of course). They got some of the other great minds in the field who were also in Vienna, like Karl Abraham, Otto Rank and Helena Deutsch, to present courses to them. These turned out to be the first formal didactic courses ever given in psychiatry, anywhere.

In Freud’s day, analysis was not only the sole training tool, it was also very limited in its scope. Freud’s goal of treatment was to give key insights to the patient. The patient was then expected to go off on his own and apply these insights to his own life. It is understood now that insight is only the starting point of any therapy. The major goal of therapy today is to help the patient integrate these insights so that they can help change the patient’s perceptions, emotions and behavior. My father never got this part of the process so his analysis was incomplete. However, my father felt that Freud was brilliant at dream interpretation and was very intuitive in interpreting free associations. So my father’s analysis was not without its benefits.

Kardiner Passport edited w borders 1My favorite story about Freud shows that he was not only brilliant, but also prescient about the future of the profession he created. Freud attended a meeting in which the participants spend an hour and a half discussing what Freud said here and what Freud meant there. Freud was getting more and more impatient and he finally tapped on the table for order. He said something to the effect of, “Gentlemen…Why do you treat me as if I were already dead? Here you are, sitting among yourselves, discussing what I have said in this paper, what I have said in that paper … and I am sitting at the head of the table and nobody so much as asks me ‘What did you really mean?’ “ He continued to say that he took that as an insult and worried “…if this is what you do while I am still among you, I can well imagine what will happen when I am really dead!” Unfortunately the movement did splinter into warring factions after Freud died. And many of these factions were in fact based on differing interpretations of what Freud meant and how he intended his theories to be expanded upon.

When my father returned to America he helped found the first independent psychoanalytic training institute and the first university (Columbia) affiliated training program in America. Both were in New York City.

I hope this gives you some idea of what it was like to be a student of Freud’s in 1921. In my next blog, I will talk more about my father’s experiences with Freud as a man, as opposed to a public figure.

HELLO, WE’RE HERE!

Now What? by Rich Paschall

What do you do when friends come to visit?  Do you plan a nice dinner?  Do you stay in and cook or do you go out?  Do you plan some activities or do you go for spontaneity? Do you bring out old photo albums or run pictures on a computer or even on your television?  There are a lot of things you can do if it is just for a day.

What if friends and family are coming for more than a day?  A few days of guests may take a little more planning.  Maybe you want to both eat at home and go out.  Maybe you want to take your visitors around to meet other family and friends.  Maybe this is the opportunity for a lot of conversation that has been missing in your friendship in recent years.  But what if they come for a few weeks?  Yes, weeks!

When I was small, perhaps 6 years old, I recall visiting Tennessee with my grandparents or other family members.  My grandparents were from Tennessee but they spent the late 1940’s to mid 1960s in Chicago.  There were plenty of relatives in the small town and rural areas for us to visit, so we made the rounds whenever we arrived, staying here and there.  Since I was the little kid from the north, these friends and relatives of my grandparents enjoyed entertaining me when I first arrived.  That probably wore off quickly.

Down on the farm

Down on the farm

We stayed with people I do not recall and, since I was little, the details are a bit sketchy.  I had no idea that decades later I would be interested in these vague memories.  I do recall that sitting around the living room, or front porch if the weather was nice, and telling old stories was a popular pastime.

“Well, how ya’ll doin?  I guess it’s downright cold from where you come from.”

“No, it is hot there too.  It’s July!”

“I swear you are the spittin’ image of Robert Lee at that age.”

My father’s middle name was Lee.  I guess I heard plenty of stories of my father when he was my age, although “my age” seemed to take in his entire childhood.

Most of these visits included my grandfather or some other relative telling how my father got that scar on his chin.  It seems that he was not much more than a toddler when he ran into a barbed wire fence chasing after my grandfather.

“He was told to stay put there at the house but he wanted to help out in the field like everyone else.”  I could not see my father as a farmer, at any age.

Sitting around telling stories is a trait of a lot of families.  It is a happy thing to do when family and friends get together.  In a rural area, it might just pass as the most exciting thing you could do anyway.

I do recall that I must have been the entertainment sometimes as the southern folks took the city boy around the house or farm.  One time some adults had finally convinced me that I should walk across a field to pet a cow.  Never mind the fact that I was just a tot and the cow was, well…, a cow.

I headed out  across the field, a bit scared I am sure, but determined to pet the cow.  When I got near the cow, he took off in another direction.  I guess he was just as afraid of the little city boy as I was of him.  Anyway, he wanted nothing to do with me.  There are some more amusing farm animal stories but, fortunately, I can not think of anyone still alive to tell them.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

After my grandparents retired I was old enough to get put on the train in Chicago and collected from the train in Fulton, Kentucky.  It was the nearest stop to my grandparents in Tennessee.  Yes, we went around and visited relatives and friends.  I could now participate in some story telling.  I was still told I looked like Robert Lee, which I was always to take as a complement.  In my grandparents’ retirement years, there was now something more to do.

“You can walk right down there to the Dairy Queen and get yourself an ice cream cone.  If you go down there after dark, you can hear that bug zapper getting something every minute or two.”  Now that’s entertainment!

When my grandmother passed away at some point in her 90s, we returned to Tennessee for another round of family visits.  My father and I attended some family reunions in other years.  One time it was at a Baptist church, the next time it was at the John Deere dealer.  It seems the John Deere dealer had the largest room in the area, bigger than the church.  We didn’t need any farm equipment, but it was interesting to see.

Even decades later, our visiting routine was to travel around and see relatives, mostly without advance warning.  We were always welcome, however.  Once my father and his brother, my uncle, tried to remember how to get to someone’s house using landmarks from when they were kids.  The amazing thing is there was little movement of families and we always found our way around.

On one trip my father wondered if old Aunt Ella was still alive.  She would have to be in her 90s and we were not confident we would find the small town well off any highway, much less Aunt Ella.  When we spotted a mailbox with our last name, we went up to the house where an old woman sat on the porch.  My aging father had not seen her in decades.

“Well, I guess you don’t know who I am,” my father started out.

“Why, you’re Yancy’s boy, Robert Lee,” she declared without missing a beat. “And you must be Robert’s boy,” she said to me.  I must have been in my 40s by then.  We sat around and talked, as was the custom.

What do you do when relatives come calling?  Do you ever go to visit old family and friends?  Go to restaurants? Visit museums, famous landmarks, local hot spots?  Have actual conversations?

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Would You Change Your Name? by Rich Paschall

When I finally come around to writing a short story for SERENDIPITY, I usually get stalled at the beginning when I need to decide on character names. It seems to me that the name is important and certain names will convey certain feelings to the reader.  So, I try to choose carefully.

I liked Harold for an older character because I don’t know any younger people named Harold.  Although the most famous literary character of this century so far is named Harry, I never thought of Harry Potter as a “Harold.” But he probably is.

I inadvertently used Harold twice. I wrote a story titled Alone and actually filmed it a year later, calling the only character Harold.  This did not stop me from forgetting about it and naming another older character Harold in a series of stories that started with Soup and Sandwich. Some names just seem to lend themselves to young and old, rich or poor. A lot of that is surely based on personal experience and naming trends over the years. Names go in and out of favor for newborns.

The characters of the stories are newborns to me. Most of my characters arrive full-grown, I look for age appropriate names.  For example, Richie might be alright for a boy, but a grownup would probably prefer Rich or Richard. A few folks who know me from childhood still call me Richie. I get all three versions of my name these days. I can’t escape the variations.

what's in a name

If a story has a local flavor, I try to use names that could not be mistaken for anyone I know.  Trying to think of names that don’t belong to friends or relatives can be challenging … and leave me looking up names on the Internet.

If you named a child, did you use a book of baby names?  Did you look up names on the Internet? Did you make lists of names,  then negotiate the final choice with others? Fortunately, I only have to debate with myself about my characters’ names. Right or wrong, I’ve no one to blame or congratulate but myself.

Aside from Harold, I don’t think I’ve duplicated a name, but I’ve got so many stories out there, I’m can’t say for sure. I know I’ll always have favorites tucked in the back of my mind.


In my neighborhood, there’s a family in which the father is Edgar. His son is also Edgar. Another son is Eduardo.

In this household, no one is called Ed. The younger Edgar is Eddy. The others are called by their full names. Parents get to set rules on that — at least in the home — but there’s no telling how kids will change your name once you start school. You could get a nickname that sticks. That might be good. Or not.

If there are several kids named John in your class, classmates —  even a teacher — may decide you’re Jack, Johnnie, Jay … or something else. A room with multiple Johns, Michaels, or Susans will likely trigger a round of renaming.

Did you get stuck with a nickname? Do you like it? Hate it? Don’t much care either way?

I had a cousin named George whose father was also George, so they called him Ricky. For years, I thought that was his name. No idea how they chose this name, but it stuck with him his entire life. When relatives on that side of the family called me Ricky, it drove my mother crazy. She’d point out Ricky is not my name.

Aunt Mary is called Joan. It’s her middle name. Some said they did not want to call her by her mother’s name, but no one I know called my grandmother Mary.  Her sister called her Mae. There are Roberts who became Bob or Bobby, including my father.

I know a few people who hate their name.  Some are downright upset at their parents about it. If you were named Moon Unit or Dweezil, disliking your name might not seem unreasonable. Yet, Frank Zappa’s kids stuck with those names.

The Zappa family got away with giving their kids what could optimistically be considered “unique” names. Celebrities get a pass on lots of stuff. I doubt an ordinary kid would survive such names. Most parents want to make their children feel their names are special, but sensible parents don’t want their kid’s name to make them a target.

Destiny Hope Cyrus decided she liked Miley better. She changed her name — which was already her nickname.

As for my own, I’m neutral about it. I neither love nor hate my name. It’s okay. All of its variations are fine with me, including Rick or Ricky, despite my mother and I am also okay with RJ (Richard John).

But. I hated Dick. Few dare call me that, but one friend does. He’s the only one who gets away with it. I remember all too well the years of President “Tricky Dick” Nixon. I wanted no association with that name.

Do you like your name? Would you prefer a nickname?  Did you always like your name or did you accept it over time?

If you could change your name now, to what would you change it?  Feel free to share your new name in the comments?  I might choose Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe.  That had a certain ring to it when I was small, though it would be hard to fit on a business card.

SIBLING REVELRY – ELLIN CURLEY

I was an only child and I loved it! I felt bad for all those poor kids with siblings who had to share rooms, toys and above all else, parental attention. The world of my parents and grandparents revolved around me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. When I decided to have a second child, I was pretty much in the dark about what it meant to grow up with a sibling and how a parent was supposed to handle this, to me, alien situation.

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When I was pregnant with my second child I worried how I would handle sibling tensions. I wondered if I could avoid identifying with the older child who had been an only child for almost five years. I felt guilty about destroying his monopoly on adult love and attention and also about bringing a child into the world who would never experience being the sole center of the family’s universe.

In the early years, juggling the needs of the two children turned out to be easier than I had imagined because of the large age difference. For example, for several years I could give exclusive attention to my baby daughter when my son was at school. In fact, my kids got along amazingly well throughout their childhoods so I was spared a lot of the sibling rivalry and hostility I was so afraid I would mishandle.

Then they grew up and all Hell broke loose!

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They reversed the usual sibling process. Just when they should have stopped fighting and butting heads, they started doing it. I don’t know if it’s easier to be in the middle of this bickering and sniping with young adults than with young children. I know I obsessed about what I had done wrong that prevented the great sibling bond I had heard so much about from forming in my children.

It took years but the anger and tension seem to have ended. Lo and behold, my children have found that incredible adult sibling bond that surpasses parental approval and attention in importance. When one of them has a problem, the other is there in a flash with unquestioning loyalty.

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Sisters

They have very different interests and lives, but at 30 and 35, they have a connection I envy. For the first time I my life, I wish I had a sister or brother to share memories and family responsibilities.

I wish I had the special bond you can only get from growing up with someone, day in and day out, in the same house with the same family, sharing pets and friends, secrets and jokes. I don’t have that special person who shares my genes and childhood. The person who will always be there for me in a unique way no one else can.

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My long deceased parents and grandparents made me the center of their world, but now I have no one with whom to share those memories of my cherished only childhood.

THE MAGIC WORMHOLE OF MEMORY

What’s so great about me? Probably that I know how to laugh … and sometimes, I can make you laugh, too. Now, let us return to those moments in remembered time … back … back … back …

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To when we were young and stupid — as opposed to old and stupid. Through the magic wormhole of memory, to the back seat of the family sedan as we travel the roads together …


“Oh shut up. Can’t you kids ever stop squabbling back there? I’m going to put both of you on a time out, I swear I am.”

“But MOM, he TOUCHED ME!”

“Loretta, I am going to touch you and then you will have reason to cry. Joey, leave your sister alone.”

Voice of boy child with strong adenoidal whine: “But MOOOOOOM, she’s taking up the whole back seat and I can’t help touching her. And why can’t I touch her? She touches me all the time.”

“She does what??”

“I do not”

“Do too.”

“DO NOT!@!”

{Long pause.}

In a whisper: “Do too.”

“Do not.”

A booming baritone from the front seat, the Voice of Dad, speaks: “One more word out of either of you and I will stop this car and you will both be crying and you’ll have a damned good reason.”

{Whispers}

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

{Pause, pause, pause}

The sound of vomiting fills the car along with a sickening and pungent odor.

“Ew. Yuk. MOM he barfed all over me! Make him clean it up.”

Chorus:

“ARE WE THERE YET?”

(No, we are NOT there yet.)

GATHERING PEARLS – EPISODE 1

NO DRAWN BLANKS, NOT TODAY

I’ve been finding pearls of wisdom all over the place. A few from television and movies, others from fellow bloggers. Today’s gems (and I’m not kidding, I mean gems — no sarcasm) come from Cardinal Guzman.

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Let me start with the Cardinal. His “life game” guidelines resonated with me:

  • Take care of your loved one and loved ones.
  • Have fun, but don’t get addicted to it.
  • Their shit stinks too, so it doesn’t matter what they think.
  • Improvise.

Taking care. I take care of my loved ones — friends and family — to the extent that they allow me, and I am able. I no longer believe I can fix everyone’s problems — or mine. Within the limits of money, time, health, and distance, I do what I can. It’s pretty good. If I won the lottery … but that doesn’t look likely, especially considering I haven’t bought any tickets. (Maybe I should buy tickets.)

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Have fun. I do. It’s different fun than I had years ago, but it makes me smile and laugh. I get some good pictures too.

Their shit stinks too. Not only does other people shit stink, but some of those other people have bigger problems than me. None of us never knows how difficult someone else’s path is. If they are nice to me, the will have my support — even if I don’t have much beyond moral support to offer.

Improvise. He or she who cannot roll with the punches, change with the seasons of life, adapt to the stuff that is constantly assailing us from every direction, are doomed. If you don’t change, you ossify and die in place.

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Living means changing. Many people declare “they can’t change because they are what they are.” That’s never true. They are convinced not changing will save them from getting hurt or having to learn new and uncomfortable skills. Instead, ceasing to move in life becomes a recipe for death before burial. Only the dead are frozen in time.

Improvising also means reinventing oneself. Often. As we age, we don’t so much give up things, as we adapt to the limitations we encounter. If I can’t ride horses, I can take pictures of them. I can enjoy being around them.

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I can’t hike long distances, but I can walk shorter ones. I can take pictures, write, read, and talk. I can laugh. And I’d better do it now, because tomorrow has no guarantee. As far as I can know, this is tomorrow.

Grab a handful of life and get on with it.

I’d like to add that the entire experience of living would be greatly improved by people being kind to one another. By not walking around so fearful of getting hurt that they hurt everyone else. Self-protection is overrated.

Be nice, be kind. Help where you can. It’s free. It’s easy. It makes you a better person and the world a better place.