Thursday, June 29, 2006

Little Sympathy Here

TO: American society's commonly accepted categories of the victimized: Women...Blacks...Browns...Gays...Single parents...Undocumented aliens, anyone who claims be victmiized and want special treatment: you get no knee-jerk sympathy here. As the Soprano's say: "Fagedda bout it!"

My personal history:

I was born in a charity ward of an inner city hospital. My mother had already signed the release to chop me up and pull me out piece by encephalitic head, five days labor and a narrow birth canal had eroded any love she might have had for me previously. Thanks to a fortuitous visit by a supervising doctor, hey got me out instead at the last minute with forceps. I spend the first three months of life tied up vertically in a bed to help the water disappear.

My father was an immigrant; a Muslim. He spoke with an accent to his dying day. He also drank and gambled. He never got past the 4th grade in his native Turkey. My mother ran away from reform school at fifteen in Minnesota, never graduated high school.

As a child, (one of) my brother's and my household duties was emptying the mouse- and rat-traps every morning before going to school. We would wrap the little overnight-caught dead rodents in yesterday's newspapers and deposit them in the backyard garbage can, set the traps again and head off to school. After school, before going to bed, if and when it rained, we had to set out dozens of pots and pans in every room to catch the water that flowed all night through the cracks in the roof.

My father and mother split up when I was twelve. My mother immediately went to work in a sweat-shop factory working for minimum wage. That was her daytime job. At night, after coming home to make us dinner; then she went and worked from seven to ten PM in a local Bar and Grill...making sandwiches, soup, snacks, etc. for tips.

She also made money every week by running our home as a rooming house; 6 roomers in the upstairs of the house, besides my mother, brother, sister and me; that made ten of us to share one bathroom.

My job twice a week was to clean all the the rooms in the house and 'make the beds' (change the sheets and pillow cases). Also, we had a 'bookie'--Charlie 'Shots'--working out of our our kitchen. He and I shared the kitchen when I came home from school for lunch. I ate a baloney sandwich and a bowl of Campbell's soup, he was on the phone writing on small slips of paper, notating 'who-wanted-to-bet-how-much-on-what-horse-in-what- race-at-what-racetrack'.

At fifteen during a visit to my father he got angry at me and told me my brother was my half-brother. I hadn't known it before. I hadn't even known my father had been married before. (To read what my mother said about when I came home crying after discovering my true relationship with my brother from my angry father, SEE BELOW).

I had no best friend as a kid.
I didn't have a date until I was eighteen. I didn't get laid until I was twenty.
I have had purple-welt acne on my face all through my teenager years--no money for a teen-age dermatologist; so I had acne scars all my adult life. I also had no funds for a dentist--either in my teens and twenties (during which time I was financially on my own); hence, when the pain got too bad I plugged up the holes in my teeth cavities with aspirin before going to sleep--and, by the way, the holes in my shoes with cardboard).

I found out I had leukemia when I was forty. I also discovered a clotting condition that led me to experience a pulmonary embolism, and infarcted bowel (I almost died from that--I was three days in a coma, eleven days in intensive care).

Later I had quintuple heart by-pass, and surgery for cataract and glaucoma because I threw a blood clot to the main vein in my right eye.

That is my 'tale of woe'. However, because of and maybe in spite of all that, and while I may have some vague theoretical sympathy for 'woe-is-me' women, blacks, brown, etc., I have no time or energy to weep for them: I am too busy 'dealing' with the day to day visisitudes of my own life, and being happy, being grateful for all the wonderful things (many, many, many, many) that au contraire have happened in my life (which I won't list because people generally don't want to read about happy things).

AN ADDED THOUGHT: Among all 'victimized' groups in America, Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants don't complain much; yet they seem to be doing socio-economically and educationally better than all other "victimizing" (and for that matter, 'victimizer') groups. Think there is any correlation there?

NOTE: When I came home from visiting my father, blubbering from the revelation about my half-brother, my mother asked me what happened, I told her, she said: "Sit down." I did. "Have you always loved him?" I nodded. "Has he always loved you?" I nodded. "Has he always been kind, loving and generous with you?" I nodded. "Then stop crying. He's your brother. Shut up and go out to play." And he has remained my unqualified brother since that day and every day of my life. False tears of shattered love had been banished forever.

Which reminds me what my father said to me one time when I told him that all my problems in life were because of him. I blamed him for all my life's difficulties: "Because of what you did to me," were my exact words. "Oh?" he said. "Yes," I stated emphatically. He nodded, said "You want to know what my father did to me? And what his father did to him? And his father did to him. Even better, you want to know what you'll probably do to your son? Get a job," he said. "That'll cure all your problems. And walked away.

Sympathy is earned by elegance, and willful perserveance in the face of life's viscissitudes and random fortune; sympathy can never be demanded. So anyone looking for sympathy from me, don't bitch to me; bitch somewhere else; bitch to your own personal 'choir', people who think and complain about everything like you; they're probably the only one's listening to you anyway.


Blogger bob ballotta said...

I really enjoy your comments on life. Times were indeed tough growing up on 6th street, especially for you. I remember Sam, Kurt and your wonderful Mom. In spite of all the hardships you endured, you flurished and turned all of that early pain into a talent that has the ability to touch people's lives...few can do that. And, fewer made it out of 6th street to the heights that you reached.
My Mother always said that you would make it big...she was so right!
Keep writing...I'll keep reading.
From one 6th streeter to another...well done.
Warm regards to you & yours.
Bob Ballotta
Cape Cod, MA
An early happy birthday...many, many more!

6:30 AM  

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