Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Childhood Bully Is An Electrician

Recently, I was back home visiting Mom and Dad for the annual "Birthday/Father's Day visit". My parents' birthdays are one week apart with Father's Day always falling in-between. It's been very handy that this has been the pattern my entire life. It's like knocking out a few celebrations at once which has always been awesome for me when traveling back home.

These days, I like having projects to do when I go back to Frostburg. This fact is no doubt influenced by my life with Kevin. I've never been lazy or one to just sit around all day, but these days I really enjoy taking a project on or at least managing a project to completion. And if you follow Kevin and/or me on this blog or any other social media, you'll agree that there has been no shortage or projects in our lives for the past several years.

Before I arrived home, Mom joked that she had a list, which I loved hearing. But the only thing she really sought my help with was an electrical problem she was experiencing in the house, with ceiling lights dimming and blinking and appliances not seeming to work at full power. I told her to call an electrician to visit the house one day while I am home.

The electrician came on Tuesday of that week. When he arrived, Mom and I walked out to the driveway to meet him and I instantly recognized him as a kid I went to high school with named Mike. In short, Mike hated me, or at least chose to express his severe dislike for me in every form of discourse available to a kid at the age of 17. He was one of the reasons I wrote It Gets Better, one of the most transparent, naked blog posts I've every written. Seeing Mike instantly transported me back to those high school days. I was almost instantly consumed with a calm rage, expressed physically with folded arms and a wide stance. I found myself "puffing up", as Kevin calls it. I can be physically imposing when I want to be, and I caught myself doing it just for the sake of scaring/impressing/warning this man who I had always seen as a threat. And here he stood in my parents' house.

He chatted with us for a second and then went to investigate the house and problems. I leaned in to Mom and whispered to her "He HATED me in high school. He called me names, teased me, was just a horrible, rotten kid." And I wonder, now, what went through my Mom's head at that point. She knows full well what my adolescent life was like. And standing in her home was one of the causes of all my angst. She must have felt some kind of conflict.

After Mike looked things over, he starts chatting us up the way people in small towns do when they try to figure out who you and your kids are to make that personal connection. He recognized my brothers, Matt and Mike, from their names and then looks directly at me and asks, "Now which one are you?"

"I'm Darren."
He looked a little stunned, looked away, then back at me and a few seconds later said, "What year did you graduate?"

I looked him dead in the eye and said, "1984".

He said, laughing, "Well, hell we graduated together!"

"Yeah, I know. I was just telling her (Mom) that."

He looked away, searching through memories, and responded, "Yeah, I remember you."

And it took everything inside me not to come back with something like, "I bet you do, you little prick!"

There I was - face to face with someone who made me feel worthless, and I had the enviable opportunity to let him know how insignificant he made me feel all those years ago and how his actions and the actions of others caused me years of self-doubt and insecurity . . . and I couldn't say a thing to him because I needed him to perform this service for my Mom and to like her enough that he might cut her a break on the cost of the project.

I wonder, now, if he ended up really thinking about me after we met again. Did he have the same feelings and memories of me that I have of him? Do bullies carry those memories or was I so meaningless to him that he didn't remember how he treated me? He definitely remembered my name not surprised he didn't recognize me), so I would like to think he remembers what a horrible kid he was.

A long time ago, I put my faith in the universe that it would balance everything out in my life. When something went wrong, I always had faith that a retribution would occur. Maybe I wouldn't be there to witness it in person or even know about it, but I had belief that it would happen. So my consolation is in the recognition of how great my life turned out. I'm not going to compare my life to his, but I am so proud and happy with my life and the people I have chosen to be part of it, that now it all doesn't matter. My great revenge, if that's what it was, was living the life I did, having the fun I've had, and knowing and loving the people I have.

As for the electrical problem, Mike fixed it. And he charged half of what I expected it to be. Perhaps that's the result of small town pricing. But I decided that he factored a "bully discount" in the total. The universe pretty much demanded it.

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