Call Me Underdog: A Stream of Thought
Posted on April 19, 2012
What follows this intro is the result of a couple crappy nights of sleep, some dodgy days with dad out in public, and an overall need to let some poison out of my system. I tried to go to sleep Sunday night and finally gave up after a few hours. It wasn’t happening and my brain needed a download. I switched on the laptop around 1 a.m. and decided to just let the chips fall where they may. Someone on a Facebook group had referred to me as an underdog, so I started with that thought and let it blow out of proportion from here. Keep in mind (if you do decide to read this) that I was being emotional and, at times, probably overly honest. It’s also barely edited. Barely.
Here we go…
Let me tell you a few things about this underdog. I was that kid who got picked on in school. I was bullied. My father was a police officer, I didn’t have brothers who toughened me up and I had no example to set for younger brothers. I was vulnerable. It was miserable and I survived. You want to know how? I went off to college.
There, I wasn’t bullied. Instead, I partook in the worst possible thing I could have, mainly the petty stupid jealousies, rivalries and other ridiculous bullshit. Who said what about who and why? I heard rumors. I spread them. Hell, I probably even made some up. Why in the hell do we do things like that and why do adults still do it? The only saving grace at this stage is that I survived. I graduated with two degrees I essentially could do little with (at the time).
My first job post-college was at a metal forging factory owned by MascoTech where I learned what blue collar is all about. The hours sucked, the conditions sucked and the lifestyle sucked. But let me tell you something, I have nothing but the highest respect for people who can do it and who’ve made a life out of doing it. It’s a soul sucking job and the only thing that keeps these people sane is their lives outside of work. And considering the hours they work, there isn’t always much of that either.
I had to accept another factory position after getting laid off from there, and as a contractor. The place was going through a union scare where the workers wanted to organize and, believe, there was a reason for it. Even though I was contract, I was directed by my boss to sit in at meetings and listen to management present a case for not wanting a union. Unfortunately, as careful as they were in their wording, they did not uphold their promise to be factual and not interject opinion. I pointed this out to them in one such meeting with two specific examples. I received a phone call half an hour after I returned home the next morning that my services were no longer required.
If you think I didn’t start to question companies and management after that, you’d be wrong.
The next job had me at GM Truck Product Central with a boss who was a classic bully and, dare I say, mentally abusive. You couldn’t surpass him, so you simply had to outlast him, which I did. The underdog didn’t win, but he persevered and had a MUCH better boss for several months until being laid off yet again.
Now, people tell me I’m a good son. I don’t feel like one. The entity that is my father really isn’t him anymore. That’s the not the man I grew up with. Getting it through my head that he is no more has been the hardest thing in the world to accept. People also tell me that my father is standing right in front of me. No, he’s not. That’s the shell. What’s inside that made him who he was is gone, locked up somewhere and is no longer reachable. We’re dealing with echoes and whispers of what once was.
What makes who we are? It’s the sum or our experiences that live in our memories. It’s what shapes us. Remove them and you’re going through the motions of life. Dad remembers my name, but he couldn’t tell you anything about me except that I’m a good driver. He can’t tell you anything about my mother except that she’s nice and is a good driver. Oh, and we both take him on excellent walks and drives. That’s it. That’s who he is. That’s what he remembers. And granted, they’re good memories, but they’re a couple of the few memories he has left.
I don’t hate him, but I hate the disease. It’s robbed me of my father and the man who helped shape who I am today. He helped me to be a survivor. He helped me to persevere. He lead by example and my only relationship now is that of caretaker and making sure he’s comfortable and doesn’t piss somebody off saying the wrong thing because he doesn’t know any better. It’s like a child, but at least with children, they grow up. He won’t. He’ll get worse and I hate that. The underdog can do nothing.
You know, I’m not perfect and I don’t pretend to be. Number one, anyone who knows me would laugh their extremities off if I ever claimed to be anything other than imperfect. I’ve ruined some very old friendships, some very good friendships and a couple of really bad friendships. I’ll own doing that. I’m trying to do better, but I’m not always succeeding. For the first time a few months back, I wrote letters to two friends to try and get some sense of closure or patch things up, they never replied back. I’ve never known failure as an option and here it is.
Let’s face it, I question things I shouldn’t, take at face value things I should question, and have a difficult time keeping my priorities straight. What are my priorities? My husband and my family. My writing. Work. Should work come before my writing? Many people put work before their family. They’ll lie about it and say they don’t, but they do. I put my family in front of work and not because I’m arrogant, but because it’s the way it should be. I also, at times, put my writing ahead of work. Why? Because my writing is what I see my future being.
Does my work suffer for it? I’m sure my boss would say it does. The thing is this…I keep going there not because of the job, but because of the people. They make the job worthwhile. Some more than others, but that’s not unusual. And I know I’ve hurt my job because of putting things in front of it, but I’ve never not cared. I do care and I want to do good, only I know that I can only put so much into it because I’ve got to save the rest for my family. I also question things at work. Why? Because sometimes some 25 year old who can’t speak a complete sentence without fucking up the English language is too inexperience to know any better.
And somewhere in this giant mess of things is where I’m supposed to find time for myself to keep me healthy. Well, mom doesn’t get that luxury, not really. Her time is whenever I have dad and she always wakes up with him and goes to bed with him. Removing him from that environment right now isn’t something she wants to do and I understand why.
Do you know what I do for fun and to get out of the flat? I go and do laundry on a Sunday night. That’s my interaction with people outside of work and home. I go to dinner once a month with three of my friends. That’s it. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie. I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere without a laptop to work on the book or without my phone just in case I was needed. My life consists of work, a few hours working on the next book and posting on social media. There’s no time to do anything else. And when my guy is home, we’re rushing around trying to get everything done he needs to do because it’s so seldom he’s actually home.
The funny thing about all of this is that I don’t feel sorry for myself. You’d think I would. Isn’t it a natural reaction? Isn’t that what people do when confronted with shit like this? I can’t get my head to stop spinning long enough to consider a bit of self-pity. Self-pity to me is kinda boring and it doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t heal friendships, it doesn’t write books and it doesn’t get my father back. It’s poison, but then so is so much of this.
So what good comes out of all this ranting? What keeps an underdog going? Seeing people overcome the crap and misery in their life, climbing out of that ditch and persevering. That’s what gets me off. That’s what makes me realize there is so much more to living this life than what corporations and politics demand of us.
And hot pretzel sticks with cheddar cheese don’t hurt either.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
16 Responses to “Call Me Underdog: A Stream of Thought”
April 19, 2012 at 7:23 am
Thanks for sharing, Kris. I think I understand about not feeling sorry for yourself.
It’s rather like asking someone what it’s like to be a twin…how would he know, if he’s never NOT been a twin. Or durning some of the more challenging phases of my life when people would say, “I don’t know how you do it.” You just do…that’s what normal looks like for you in that place and time. How (and why) we make comparisons is always a mystery.
That doesn’t mean life can’t get all bunched up in uncomfortable places…
April 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm
Thank you, Laura. You’re right. I don’t usually question things as they happen. I just go with the flow and figure it out later. Seems simpler that way. It amazes me how pliable we all are when we need to be.
Dorien Grey says:
April 19, 2012 at 8:00 am
Mr. Gair, your test results are in, and I fear I have some bad news. You are suffering from a terminal case of humanity, with complications of extreme caring and awareness. We will continue treatments of empathy and support however best we can. At the moment, I advise continuing frequent quality time with your partner and as much pleasure as you can derive from being with your father while at least the box he came in is still around to remind you of happier times.
Oh, yes…and take frequent ingestions of pretzel sticks with cheddar cheese.
April 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm
C. Zampa says:
April 19, 2012 at 8:11 am
So, in other words, Kris, you’re human. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, I can relate to them on so many levels.
April 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm
Not crazy about this human thing. My hubby’s father says again and again he (the hubby) isn’t human. I figure if I mate with him often enough, he’ll change me. lol
April 19, 2012 at 10:29 am
Thank you for sharing Kris. I’ve been too timid to do the same, though I understand much of what you have written. Hugs and happy thoughts to you and the only ‘Underdog’ I know is a cartoon character. You, my dear friend, are a Superman.
April 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm
I’ve always wanted to be able to fly. Not crazy about the Kryptonite, though. I wonder if there’s an AuthorMan. That might be fun… =)
April 19, 2012 at 11:45 am
Thank you very much for sharing that. I admire the fact that you have put your family in front of work. In these times, it is hard to not think of the next thing you want instead of building and maintaining the relationships that have helped make you. When we all stop chasing things we don’t need, and focusing on the connections around us, this world will get better.
As for your time with your father, my mother has been disabled for many years now with fibermialgia and various other illnesses that keeps her in constant pain. She gets at least one death scare a year with major hospitalization. Although I am fortunate that my mother still is with us mentally, I understand watching someone you admire turning into someone else, someone that needs to be taken care of.
I would suggest getting a home care aid. Even if they come in once a month, it can give you and your mother some time to relax.
I know it is difficult but you really must find some time for yourself, a few hours a month, to do something that will boost your spirits. For me, I go to the park and play on the swings. Yeah sometimes I feel like a creapy old man but somehow that clears the cobwebs. Let’s do lunch soon. Have your people contact my people. 🙂
April 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm
No sooner had I loaded the blog post last night when a friend I haven’t seen in many, many months called and suggested a movie Saturday night. I finally figured out today that the last film I went to see in a theater was Bridesmaids. Mom is talking about home care, but not for a long a while yet. She’s stubborn.
Will definitely get my people to talk to your people about lunch!
btw, playing on the swings isn’t creepy. You’re just in touch with your inner child. Nothing wrong with that.
Adriana D’Apolito says:
April 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Just wanted to say as someone who is going through something incredibly similar (have your dad take a seat next to my mom add in a dash of I find out today if I have Cancer) I totally agree with you. Even my husband can’t understand how I’m handling things this well but it’s like I always say “We may stumble a bit along the way, but we always land on our feet, if you let the negativity win it will consume you and that’s no way to live”.
Oh and soft pretzels with mustard help too *wink*
April 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm
Isn’t it amazing that we start off life thinking we’ll live forever, then we find out nobody else ever has, so why should we be any different. It’s rather annoying and I’ve looked into starting one of those class action lawsuits against nature, but I keep getting laughed off the phone. Am keeping my fingers crossed that your news was good today. Thank you for reading. =)
April 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm
Kris you are completely amazing. I have followed your posts, enjoyed your FB interactions for months and with everything you deal with on a daily basis you are still you. The man that loves his family with all his heart and will do anything for them. The man that dedicates time to work and writing but still finds the time to share with virtual strangers in cyberland. You are someone that myself and others only wish to be.
I have watched my family deal with the same disease your father is going thru and I know the ups and downs. Hold on to your memories with him, capture them all in some way so you have them in the future. Those little glimpses of the man he used to be are so valuable as I have realized with my own family.
You are not an underdog and anyone who thinks that is not worth your time and effort. You are a hero for your family, friends and many strangers.
As for the letters you sent to the 2 people from your past. You wrote them, sent them and that is cleansing. The ball is in their court and you shouldnt worry any further.
Sending positive thoughts and hugs your way….
Eat a coney for me and maybe some almond boneless chicken… i miss it so much. Pretzel sticks and cheddar cheese should come with a warning….
April 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm
Thank you, Nanette. I do the best I think I can and try to do a little bit more. I’m definitely in a better place than I was 6 months ago in that I actually feel healthier. So the stress hasn’t beaten me down to where it was before. I’m extremely thankful for that. And as much crap as I think I’m dealing with, I just keep remembering that my mother has it worlds worse than I do. This is her husband. Her mate. This is who she was supposed to grow old with and spend quality time with, not act like a second mother to him. I’ve already given the hubby permission to ship my rear end off if this ever happens to me. He promised he would without hesitation. He can be a bit of a git.
Sharita Lira says:
April 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm
hat a heartfelt post Kris. Thank you so much for sharing that!
April 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm
Thank you, Sharita. I seriously questioned if I should have, but in the end and if anything ever happens to me, it wouldn’t hurt for folks to know a little bit about me, even about the negative things.