One of my favorite songs of the moment has the lyric “kill the ghosts that hide in your soul”. I like that.
When I was six we lived in San Lorenzo, California. The elementary school I went to was about three blocks away, and I’d walk to and from school everyday by myself.
One day I was walking home from school later than usual. There was a fellow classmate walking along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road, and two sixth graders walking in the street. The sixth graders were up to no good, and talked that other boy into fighting me. I was terrified of fighting, and wanted nothing to do with it, but I was kind of stuck. The sixth graders wouldn’t let me run, and I had to defend myself…
As I recall they were betting who was going to win, so as we fought the older boys would coach us on how to hurt the other one. I think I was doing pretty good, holding my own, until one of the older boys coached my nemesis into getting me in a headlock. Then as I sat there being held, each of the older boys were yelling. One was yelling to give up, the other was yelling for me to hang in there and keep punching.
Then the coach of my nemesis got a brilliant idea. He coached the boy to put his head down next to my arm that was trapped, and bite it. The pain was more than I could handle, and the stress of the situation erupted from me in tears and pleading for the fight to be over. “Do you give up, do you give up?” the older boy yelled in my face, close enough I could smell his breath. “I do I do I do” I pleaded, and he coached the biter to stop. They congratulated the other boy, exchanged money, and all three walked away leaving me sitting on the sidewalk crying in the California sun.
I went home looking for support. I’m sure I got some from mom, but what I remember is my dad being furious. I then took an emotional beating as I was yelled at for what seemed like hours, being asked over and over how I could let him down by fighting like a common boy.
The next day Dad went to school with me and made me apologize to that other boy for fighting with him, my upper arm black and blue from the bite wound…
And with that apology, I locked the ghost of my father betraying me deep in my soul.
Lee refers to himself as a “trailer”. He was the youngest child in his family, and his next closest sibling was 8 years older than he was. From what I heard in my conversation with Lee, they weren’t exactly the best of friends as kids.
When Lee was around the age of eight, his brother “took to calling me Ruthie” in his words. He still has no idea where that name came from, but when his brother and his friends were around, his brother would use that name and they all would laugh at Lee, pointing and mocking a kid half their age.
One day Lee decided he’d had enough. His brother and his friends where in the house doing something, and Lee carefully crept around to all the doors from outside of the house, quietly turned each skeleton key, removing it, and moving on to the next. After three doors his brother and his friends were locked in, and Lee was sure they would learn their lesson.
He waited on the porch for them to discover what he had done. He laughed when he told me this story, now an 80 year old man, he looks back and wonders out loud what he possibly could have expected to happen. He thought they’d be mad, he’d demand an apology, they’d give it to him and he’d let them out and that would be that…
When the boys in the house discovered what had happened, they were pretty furious. So much so that Lee ran from the porch and started down the alley to escape. His brother soon found a window in the basement, opened it and crawled up through the window well and overtook Lee before he could get more than a block away.
Lee’s eyes get kind of distant at this point in the story. A bemused look on his face, but something else in his eyes. “He roughed me up pretty good” Lee says, “yep, roughed me up pretty good”.
Twenty-five years after I locked my ghost away and threw away the skeleton key it escaped. The ghost escaped unexpectedly as my wife and I were driving home from Logan, Utah.
My wife placed her warm soft hand on my forearm as the pain and stress and betrayal erupted again, letting me know she was there supporting me.
I killed that ghost there on the side of Highway 84. I forgave my dad and moved on.
I wonder how many more ghosts are left in there…