Well let’s see! In my last blog, I mentioned having just recently found my estranged half-brothers through Facebook on the internet. Assuming that you bother to keep reading this, a little more background might help you to understand it all a little bit better. It’s not a real heart warming story, so if you’re inclined to serious depression, now would be a good time to hit the “back” button on your browser.
(Note – Huddle is my mothers maiden name - it is NOT my fathers last name. I use it here as a convenient way of protecting my families privacy and I apologize to the Huddle name for attributing such behavior to it)
My half brothers and I had the same alcoholic and abusive father but we had different mothers, and so with the exception of a year or two here and there, we did not grow up in the same home. When my mother and father separated, I was lucky enough to go live with my mother, and they were left behind with a man who beat every wife he ever had, and abused and neglected his children.
Not surprisingly, the cycle of abuse continued with my brothers as they grew into men. The oldest half brother David turned to alcohol but I have no idea if he was ever abusive. My brother Mark, who as a teenager had more or less raised his younger brother and sister while our father drank himself to death, also turned to alcohol, got married to a wonderful German woman and had three daughters. The bad news is that he also turned to alcohol and according to his wife and daughters, took after my father in some ways when it came to abusing them too.
Right around 1993, back when I was still active duty Army, I took my wife and son to California to visit with my mother and family. Apparently my father caught wind that I was there and called my mothers home to speak to me. It seems that my father’s life of alcohol abuse had finally caught up to him and his liver had quite working. He was going to be dead in three to six months and he begged me to bring my son by so that he could meet him before he died. I considered this for a few hours, and seriously considered calling him back to tell him no, but in the end I decided to go ahead and take my son to meet him. When this was all done and over with, I didn’t want to be carrying any more guilt and emotional baggage around with me than I already had. My wife refused to go with me, and I can’t blame her, so my five year old son and I went to meet the boogieman together. When we got there, we found that he was living in a tiny little travel trailer – the type that many campers or hunters might take on a weekend trip to the woods. As we stepped up and into the humble little trailer, my father offered me a beer and I just looked at him in shock. Here he was, dying from alcohol abuse, and still he is working his way through a case of Coors.
“Well, it’s a little late to worry about it, isn’t it?” he told me after seeing the look of shock on my face.
The trailer he was living in belonged to a friend of his, and it was virtually empty. I suppose you could say that he was reaping the rewards of a lifetime of misery and abuse that he had metered out to others. He was dying in a tiny trailer, with nothing to his name, and no one who cared a great deal that he would soon be gone. We spoke about a whole lot of nothing for an hour or so, and then my son and I took our leave of him. The last I saw of him was in my rear view mirror with tears streaming down his face. With a tear or two in my own eyes, I took my sons hand and I told him that I loved him more than anything in the world.
The next time I heard from anyone bearing my own last name, it was Christmas morning, and my half brothers David and Mark called our home at about nine in the morning. My delight and surprise at hearing from them on Christmas morning soon turned to confusion and anger though, as I realized that they were both drunk and angry, and they were both taking turns yelling at me.
“We know you visited Dad right before he died, and you took EVERYTHING! All of the pictures, all of the guitars, everything!” they were yelling at me.
“Yeah I was there, but I got nothing from him. Guys, you weren’t there, you didn’t see it. He HAD nothing. There was nothing for him to give and there was nothing for me to take. I have nothing of his and I don’t WANT anything of his!” I told them. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was breaking one of the common sense rules for dealing with alcoholics – never try to reason with a drunk.
“Well you and all of the other kids that came after us are nothing but a bunch of God Damned mutts! Mark and I are the only real Huddles!” I was told by a slurred and drunken voice on the other end of the phone.
How very odd! All of my life I have been nothing short of ashamed of my last name. The only things associated with my last name were abuse, neglect, alcoholism, dirt, and filth. Despite all of that, this statement ‘you are nothing but a mutt, WE are the only REAL Huddles’ made me insanely angry. To this day, I don’t know why it made me THAT angry, but there you have it.
“Let me make this very clear. Do not EVER call me again. Not ever, and not for any reason!” I quietly said into the phone, and then promptly hung it up and sat there shaking in anger.
As you might imagine, after a decade or so I cooled off a little bit. It occurred to me that I had had my own bouts with alcohol abuse and yet I had managed to pull my head out of my backside, and it was just possible that over the years they had too. Even now, I thought, they may be reasonable men, with loving families, and regretting the bridges that they had burned and the ties that they had broken. With this fantasy, wish, or dream in mind, I started hunting for them, and a little over a month ago I found the Marks daughter on facebook. Of course I wasn’t sure it was his daughter, so I sent a relatively brief email and waited for a few days with my heart in my throat for a reply. When I got her reply after about a week, I almost cried from all of the pent up emotions. It seems that she had never heard of an Uncle Matt, and so had had to speak to her mother first to be sure I was who and what I said I was. I had to laugh when she described the way her mother had assured her that she remembered meeting me when I was very young, and that the people she had met in my mothers home were the only “sane” people she had met in their entire journey. I really have to wonder about the other people she must have met if she considered us the sane ones!
I spent a month or so chatting with my Half brothers ex-wife and three beautiful daughters, maybe getting to know them at least a little bit. His ex-wife called me and we spent an hour laughing and crying over the phone. She was so very happy to see that I was happily married, and that I had three children that were clearly loved and adored. She said it was so strange to see the facebook page of someone with my last name that showed a happy family. With great hesitation, she very subtly tried to warn me that I was probably going to be disappointed when I did reconnect with my half brothers. She assured me that my half brother David was a very mean alcoholic, and then warned me to be careful with her ex-husband Mark. Their marriage had not ended well, and only one of his daughters would speak to him on a regular basis. It became clear that the dream of my brothers having become good men, with happy families, was nothing more than a fantasy. Still, I was now in touch with three young ladies who were my nieces, now grown women, only one of whom I had met and even knew existed until now. No matter what happened with my brother, I would have the chance to get to know his daughters.
I’ve been fairly sick for the last month or so. Not ‘on deaths doorstep’ sick, don’t get me wrong, but sick enough that I had spent the better part of a week laying in bed shivering, followed by three or four weeks with a heavy cough. Let’s just say that I have not been anywhere near well enough to travel “pretty” and so I was a lot less than thrilled to hear that I had to be in Birmingham Alabama with only two days advanced notice. When I looked into flights, I found that the cheapest flights that I could get on such short notice were going to cost over $1,200 and required me to be on airplanes and in airports from 630AM until 1030PM! Horrified at the cost, and the many hours it was gonna take, I took a look and discovered that I could just rent a car and drive, and save my company over a thousand dollars AND get there earlier! It has been a while since I’ve made a road trip, and it sounded a little like fun, so that’s exactly what I planned to do. Imagine my surprise when my half brother Marks ex-wire tells me on facebook that she (and Mark) only live three hours or so away from Birmingham in Georgia. I was already going to be driving a hell of a long way, and so an additional four to six hours of driving to have the chance to see her, her daughters, and my brother Mark again, seemed like a no brainer. I set up a hotel in Birmingham for the first night and one in the area of Columbus Georgia for the second night, figuring that after I was done with my customer, I could head out to meet with them.
I had been driving almost 17 hours when it occurred to me that I must have done something wrong when setting up my route, and so I pulled over and started checking the addresses and the GPS, and sure enough, I had screwed up. I had not realized that my hotel for the second night was actually in Alabama, right on the border of Alabama and Georgia, and so I had plugged the wrong hotel address into my GPS! I had just driven two hours past my hotel. Not much to be done about it though, so I put the right address into the GPS, and turned around. After starting my trip at 6AM, I pulled into the hotel just a little before 2AM and then collapsed into bed until 630AM when I had to get up and go to work. That afternoon when I finished with my repair, I headed out for Columbus Georgia – again . . .
Despite our exceedingly candid and emotional phone calls and emails, my brothers ex-wife chose to meet me in a public place rather than at her home or my hotel. I took no offense though, because I thought it was fairly intelligent and prudent of her given what she knew about men in my family. So, we sat in the shade and on the steps of the local high school and chatted for well over an hour. She told me all about her daughters, and how she had managed to get them through college on her own. Unfortunately two of her daughters don’t actually live in Columbus anymore, and the third had to work, and so I did not get to meet any of them. In no time at all, and hour and a half had gone by and my brother Mark called to see if I was ready for dinner. She and I shared a hug and off I went to see my half brother for the first time in better than 30 years.
When I got to his apartment, he met me out at the street and gave me the distinct impression that he didn’t want to invite me in. That was no problem though as it was around 730PM and I was starving, so we hugged for a moment, got into the car, and then headed off looking for someplace to eat dinner. As we were driving, he made apologies for our other brother David, telling me that he had extended my dinner invitation but was told that he had prior plans with his girlfriend. I couldn’t help but shake my head, thinking that I had driven across at least half of the United States, and he couldn’t be bothered to drive around the block to see me. I guess that sort of tells me everything I need to know about the guy.
The dinner with my brother wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, nor was it exactly comfortable. It was more or less two complete strangers sitting across from each other. Nothing much was said about our last conversation so many Christmases ago, in fact I’m not entirely sure that he recalls it at all. Much like the conversation with his wife, we traded stories about our children, and things we had done in the last few decades. One story he did share with me regarded our little sister Tracy. Remember I wrote about finding her on the Internet a few months ago? In one of the few unselfish things I’d ever known my father to do, he adopted Tracy out to a couple when she was around five. Mark told me of the day that he was visiting my father when he was on leave from the Army. He was home with Tracy while my father was at work, and someone knocked on the door. When Mark answered the door, he was met by a couple who told him that they were there to pick up Tracy. He had no idea what they were talking about, and so he called our father. Our father told him that the couple was indeed there to adopt her and take her home with them, and he was told to help them get her stuff together. Mark at first refused, telling our father that he needed to come home and take care of this. Soon he graduated to pleading with our father, but he refused to come home, and begged Mark to do it because he couldn’t handle it himself. Sitting across the table from me, with tears streaming down his cheeks, my 50 year old brother described how he had to go into her bedroom and find her favorite blanket and favorite stuffed toy, and put his little sister into some strangers car to be driven away forever.
And people wonder why we all turned out so screwed up. . .
I had driven around 19 hours the night before, got only four hours of sleep, and had to turn around and do it all over again the next morning, so somewhere around 11PM we called it a night. It sure was a long drive back home the next day. . .
Just this last week I was finally starting to feel well enough to travel “pretty” again, and so I was actually kind of relieved when I heard that I had a service call for Peoria IL. I have got to be honest – it has gotten to the point where it’s just not that much fun to travel pretty anymore. Not that this was my motive for doing it, don’t get me wrong, but these days no one is surprised and I just don’t seem to have as much in the way of fun experiences with people as I used to. Of course some of that is probably me as I doubt that I’m a hell of a lot of fun to be around when I’m not feeling well.
As usual, Mona, my favorite customer service rep at the Delta Airline counter waved me forward to her position.
“Hello Matthew, how are you this morning?” she asked me with a smile.
“Well, since I had to be up a 230AM to make this flight, it’s entirely too early to know! How about you?”
“Oh, I’m OK, but I’ve got to tell you, I think I need a vacation.” She replied
“No kidding! What’s a vacation?!” I asked her with a grin and we both laughed. “Yeah, my last vacation was spent driving a mini van from here to Chicago and back to see my son graduate from Basic Training. We had two toddlers, my seven year old daughter, and my wife and daughter-in-law cooped up in the thing for the better part of a week!”
“So you needed a vacation from your vacation?!” She asked with a laugh.
“You got it!” I answered as I took the tickets she was handing out to me.
“Well, you have a great flight!” she told me and then moved on to the next customer.
When I arrived in Peoria, I first went to the rental car counter to get my car while I waited for the bags to hit the belt. The young lady behind the counter hesitated for just an instant as she looked at my drivers license, but she carried on without missing a beat! Contract and keys in hand, I returned to the baggage belt just in time to see my huge tool/parts box coming around. I grabbed it and was just setting it on the ground and pulling out the handle when a muscular and bald young man walked up to me. I’d have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I saw him walking in my direction, but there was no need for that.
“That is one hell of a box!” he said with huge smile.
“It sure is, but it’s how I make my living.”
“Is it a Pelican case?”
“It’s a lot like one, but no. I honestly don’t recall the name of the manufacturer.”
I was going to offer to find out for him, but he was already moving toward the parking lot with his bags in tow.
The following day, after I was done with work, I met Phyliss Brown for dinner! Phyliss and I go back a few years via the internet. Via the internet, we have chatted off and on for years, and she has hooked me up with TG’s all over the country, to include some that have turned out to be very good friends of mine. To finally have the chance to meet her was awesome! On the way through the hotel lobby to meet her, I had to stop at the front desk to let them know that my company had shipped me a package that should arrive first thing in the morning.
“How are you dear? I hope your enjoying your stay?” The customer service rep asks me as I approached the desk. As the one woman is speaking to me, another pretty young lady standing behind her is staring at me with a huge grin on her face. Noting the deeply amused look on the other ladies face, I decided to be funny.
“Well, no one has come to knock down my door and lynch the cross dresser, so we’re off to a great start!” I quipped. Both of them burst out with the best gut laugh I’ve gotten from anyone in a long time.
I made my way out into the hotels entry area where I found a car matching the description that Phyliss had given me and I reached for the passenger door before it struck me that it might not be a bad idea to at least take a look at the driver and be sure it was Phyliss before I got into the car. I bent down and took a peek in, and found Phyliss grinning back at me, almost as if she knew what I’d just been thinking.
Soon Phyliss and I were on the move, chatting and trying to figure out how to use her built in GPS to find the restaurant that I vaguely recalled having visited in the past. I’ve gotta tell ya’, for two reasonably smart people, we sure did have a hard time trying to figure out how to use her GPS, but we did eventually “git ‘er done”, and spent the rest of the evening sitting at a fairly nice restaurant called “Jonah’s” and swapping stories. As we were speaking, I can see three people sitting at a table off to the side of us, and they are quite blatantly staring at us, whispering back and forth, and grinning like idiots. I tried to grin back at one of the women we our eyes met, but I’d have to admit that my heart just wasn’t in it, so Phyliss and I just kind of smiled at them and went on about our dinner and talk.
After dinner, we went to the “Elbo Room” – the karaoke bar that I used to go to every time I came to Peoria, but we found the place absolutely dead. The only people there beside us were the bartender and his buddy. Quite a let down since the place used to always be packed AND it used to have a really cute female bartender.
The worlds going to hell in a hand basket I tell ya’ . . .