In writing these posts, I have stirred up a swarm of old forgotten emotions and memories. It is rather incredible what the human mind can store, and what it takes to trigger it.
There was, of course, a lot more going on in my life than school. Ju-Jitsu, Boy Scouts, Piano lessons, and a little bit of athletics somewhere in there. Oh, and computers. I was there for the first PCs made for mass consumption. The Commodore Vic20. You could load programs by plugging a cartridge into the back. I remember spending hours playing Omega Race, Space Invaders, the original DOOM!, and so many more. Then they brought out a tape deck so that you could load audio files. With the help of my father, we built our own audio adaptor that made it possible for us to use any tape deck. When I loaded games from cassette, I got to hear all the strange computing noises that are now associated with computers, and I wanted to post a sample, but couldn’t find one that suited. Maybe later.
Frightened Little Boy
I had become fearful of my father, more so than ever. He was a driven man. Stubborn, in pain, frustrated, and no doubt a little afraid himself. He was not in good health, and he could no longer work as he once did, yet he took pride in being the one that paid the bills, and kept us fed. Even though he was often angry, there were moments that I could see the struggle that he lived with, and his stern attempts to not let anyone see, end even though I did see, and did have a glimmer of understanding, I found him unpredictable, and scary.
One telling moment was after another heated telling off for something, which I can’t even remember now. It’s a bit like that. You can remember being told off, but the reason for why has been smothered by the emotional energy of the event. He came into my room, to apologise as it turned out, but to my eyes, he was coming in for round two. I retreated. I had no-where to go, so just curled up in the corner, on my bed, trying to keep as much distance as I could. I can still remember his face. He was disturbed, and shocked. He later confessed that it was this moment that made him rethink a few things, and he tried. I know he did. He is a stubborn, and occasionally opinionated man, but I truly believe that he tried.
To me, he was the perfect role model for going too far. Even though he had serious back issues, he started up a business installing alarms for private and corporate properties. He put his body through some extreme stress, and pushed himself to, and beyond, his limits. He has suffered more injuries than I care to count, and all because he wouldn’t, he couldn’t give in. That attitude often blinded him I believe, to his limits. He just could not accept failure or weakness, and especially in himself.
While I had respect for his persistence, I felt I could never be good enough for him. He was quickly and easily frustrated. I was often “Bloody useless” and he could do the job quicker himself, and he was right of course. He could do the job quicker. I just didn’t have an interest in the same things as he did, and found it very difficult to simulate enthusiasm for him.
Show me Something Jeff
Still, he had his moments. He used to test me and my Ju-Jitsu. For many years, on the odd day here and there, he would give me his best kick, which was really no higher than my waist, and for a long while, I was too frightened to do anything about. One day, I didn’t think. I reacted. I slid sideways, blocked and scooped up his leg, and grabbed his shirt-front. He could have gone flying if I had let myself carry through, but I managed to stop short. He had been completely take off-guard. He said “I don’t think I’ll do that again.” and he didn’t. Amazing what confidence that simple little thing did for me.
I didn’t like getting into fights at the best of times, and I had been dragged into a few, unwillingly. Being able to tackle my father, the man scarier then all the bullies I had ever met, and effectively stop a fight without fighting was quite powerful. When the kids at school found out the I was learning a Martial Art, they all wanted me to “bust a move.”
“Show me something Jeff.” If I had a dollar for each time. I rarely did. Once or twice, I may have twisted the wrists of a couple that got a little to pushy. I think the best demonstration I ever gave was when a group of boys descended on me as I sat watching a sporting session. Because of my hay-fever, I was rarely including in scheduled sports events. I sat at the shed and watched, blowing my nose quietly to myself.
But back to these boys. One in particular sat down next to me, on the other side of a pole that I had been leaning against.
“I hear you do Karate.”
I looked at him. “Nope.”
“Yeah you do. You’re doing that Kung fu shit.”
I just looked at him. The grin on his face told me everything I needed to know. He was picking for a fight, and wanted an easy one. So he picked the quiet, shy, embarrassed, runny nosed nerd for an easy win. Except I wasn’t going to fight him. I just looked at him.
He reached for the skin just above my left hip, grabbed a handful, and began twisting. I just watched his face. I had a little bit of flab back then. Not a lot, but enough for him to get almost three full twists out of me, and I just watched him. Pain control as something that I had learnt from my training.
When he realised that I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of a reaction, his face fell. He looked a little shocked, which he tried quickly to cover up. He muttered some pathetic statement about me not being worth it, and walked off. His cronies walked off disappointed. I watched them leave without saying a word.
The bruising that appeared the next day was intense, but no-one ever asked me about it afterwards. I think this was the day I learnt how to deal with Trolls; don’t give them anything they could feed off. Give them crumbs and they will hang around like seagulls. Give them nothing, and they will soon wander off seeking another source of sustenance.
Fighting is not the only option. Often the most effective battle to win, is the one with you own self-control.
Pearls of Wisdom
Back to my father for a moment, for all his stubbornness, and strong opinions, he occasionally had something useful to say. In my latter years of high school, I was out the front of the house helping my father with the gardening, when one of my many antagonists walked by the house. You see we lived opposite a small pathway that led to a main road, and a local shopping centre. People often passed by.
My father, much to my embarrassment, said hello to afore said bully, who made an uncertain, hesitant reply. In a rare moment of tact, my father waited until he was gone before asking me why I didn’t say hello to him.
Erm, dad. We don’t like each other. He and his mates are some of the kids that pick on me.
“Still, it’s just a word. Wouldn’t hurt to say it one in a while.”
I thought to myself that he didn’t know what he was saying. I mean please, what would that do? Seriously! He clearly had lost touch.
But the comment stayed with me. What would happen? I realised that I didn’t have a clue. It would certainly be unexpected. It would probably confuse people. I marinated on the idea for a few weeks, then one day, walking along a crowded path between classes, I saw one, and I said “Hello Bill!”**
The reaction was absolutely thrilling. They turned to say Hello back without thinking, then saw who it was, and it was like their brain froze. Their face screwed up in confusion, and I felt brilliant. I had learnt a very important lesson, and thing started to change.
** The name has been changed to protect the guilty!! 😉