Sunday, September 28, 2014

I hate my home town.

We all grew up somewhere, whether it be in US, Canada, France or the Ukraine.  I picked the last two  because I'm hot there, blogger wise.  Bon jour and хороший деньок!

A couple of weeks from now I'll be giving a talk at our local shrine to author Herman Melville, when the Lansingburgh Historical Society is going to host a fete' to this book I am plowing through, or, I mean writing about Herman's time in my hometown about 175 years ago.  The house I grew up in remains on 1st Avenue.  The color has changed, the insides as well, but it is still home, the only true home I have had, except for all my time with my wife.  She is my home.

The stories remain, however, and the continuity of them is as varied as the autumn leaves on that huge maple tree in the back yard.  Those leaves took days to rake up, but I would make leaf roads and my dog would follow the road as I made moved my rake along.  And when we were done, the yard would already be filling up with the next batch.  I walked to school. No one bothered me. I had a sense of peace and happiness, just like I thought everyone had.

That's about the time I started hating Lansingburgh.

We moved from 1st Avenue (the house on First Avenue was too big).  My dog died.  I got bullied at the new school.  My father got sick and died.  My mother revealed her mental illness through her behavior, and her needs that I could not fill (because I was discovering my own bipolar disorder [this diagnosis not confirmed until 2005]) Family crisis after crisis. I could not find a job because I had absolutely no skills after years of taking care of a father who it turned out was going through what I am now doing.  So I got a government job (insert your own joke here).  My mother was very concerned about money, because she gambled it all away, and asked me for money or just took from my savings account, while promising to pay it back.  That never happened.  Then, my sister died.  My mother was devastated, and she turned toward her sons for support and we did what we could.  I'd visit once a week, as long as my tension filled stomach and brain could deal with it.  Even took a month off, which of course made things worse.

When my mother died, Lansingburgh became an anathema to me.  On the day of her funeral, I was driving to my brother's house, pointing out to my wife's family the places my family had lived.  And how rundown the whole town looked.  My stomach still in knots even at the thought of going there.  My brother still lived there, as did some of my sister's family.  My parents and sister are buried there.  All it was to me was misery.  I had enough problems.

Until I got more problems.  In my case medical, or, really neurological, and while I was working at a job that I liked, and with people I loved, it became obvious to me that I needed to change.  So then came Tai Chi, yoga, reiki, and time at a Buddhist monastery (and a few shrinks) and I began to learn forgiveness and relaxation.  My sister's daughter got married and Jackie and I attended the service in Troy.  Using a process I learned from those monks started me on a new road of freeing myself from the anger and sadness of the past.  It's not totally gone but I am a lot better.

So much so that when, once upon a Facebook, a high school friend contacted me and we began having lunch in Lansingburgh with other folks from the village.  From this came stories, and stories became a series of books. And then I walked into the Melville house in Lansingburgh for a book show and a walk about, ending up in the attic which had a unique resemblance to the attic I played in two blocks north.  I had never thought about Herman Melville, even though I had read the historical marker many times.  Just an "oh" , that's all.  Until about a year ago.  I was beginning to dive more into my genealogy  and found cousins and history I never knew.

More stories.  And on came the thought that maybe I could write a big story, talk about this village where amazing people lived and did great things.  And the research began in earnest.  The story is being put to paper.  And it is being welcomed.

So on October 16, I'll talk about these stories.  And yes, my stomach will be in knots, for those there and those that inspired me...Just people living their lives, and doing what he could.

Show up.  I have a story to tell....about my hometown.


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