Monday, September 5, 2016

Jim and My Father

Jim's brother passed by Logos the other day.

At least I think it was Jim's brother.  I don't know him at all, but he has been in a wheelchair for as long as I've known "of" him and I see him wheeling himself all over town.  He must have the strongest upper body of anybody in town.

Jim and his brother were kids who lived on our block here in Davis.  Jim was the school bully and our kids had many unpleasant encounters with him.  We just knew to avoid him.

One night my parents were here for dinner.  It was a dark night and the doorbell rang.  Jim was at the door.

He was frantic, said his parents were fighting and asked us to please call the police.  "Tell them it's Jim.  They know me," he said.  To this day that is one of the saddest things I ever heard a kid say.

Here was this kid who wasn't a bully this time; he was a scared kid trying to save his mother from an abusive father.  

My father took him into his lap and I have never heard him so loving, so soothing--not before, not after.  It showed me a side that I had never heard before--and I was an adult with children of my own.

I think it made me realize how much he really wanted a son and how he didn't know how to act with daughters.

When I think back over his concern for Jim, it makes me wonder if he himself was a bullied child.  He wore big black-rimmed glasses as a kid...don't they often make fun of kids with glasses?  I don't remember his ever talking about friends in either grammar school or high school.  He often talked about how if he saw someone he knew walking down the street, he would cross the street so he didn't have to encounter them.

Heck, this was a kid who ate raw onions for lunch and was once kicked out of class for sneaking bites of his onion in class.

He was obsessed with body building and our basement was filled with exercise equipment and exercise magazines.

Despite his dedication to exercise and especially weight lifting he was never muscle bound...and I honestly don't ever remember seeing him working out.  It all happened down in the basement.  Would he have shared his love for body building with a son?  When Ned was interested in body building in grammar school, my father was ecstatic and gave him lots of magazines and I think even gave him some small weights to start with.

But I think of the things he loved ... like boxing.  The heavier weight combatants the better.  He watched every Gillette boxing match broadcast on TV, something my mother hated and Karen and I only saw in passing.  How happy he would have been to have had a son to share that with.  He loved it when someone got a direct hit and maybe even drew blood.

I remember he took me to one football game, when the San Francisco team was then the Seals.  I don't think he ever took me again.  Would he have been at the stadium every weekend with a son?  Did he assume that because I was a girl I wasn't interested?  I think of the wonderful photos of Tom and Brianna cheering the 49ers.

My father missed a lot by making unwarranted assumptions.  He enjoyed his grandchildren, but as they got into their teen years, he pulled back, telling me that he couldn't relate to them because they just liked rock and he hated rock music. He never asked them, of course. It was not until that magical Christmas the year before he died when he discovered that not only did the kids like jazz, but they could play it too. "Whoever thought I would be having a jam session with my grandchildren?" he said, his face glowing from the excitement of it all.

The police finally came in answer to our call regarding the violence at Jim's house and Jim went home again.  It was never mentioned afterwards. We never saw him at our house again.  But he also never bullied our kids again.

I felt much softer toward him, thinking of the hell that he must be enduring at home.

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