Conversations with my fathers
Original Material Copyright © 2015 by Dell Sweet
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Special permission is granted to copy and use this text in any word amount, or in its entirety, for study, or a study aid in any state, county or privately run facility: Including state prisons, county jails, mental institutions, drug programs, sex offender programs, AA, NA, or any program where the aim is to share experience to promote healthy change and progress in men and women.
This is not a work of fiction. Names have been withheld and changed to keep the focus on the Addiction and the Addict, not the person or persons. The story is true.
Accidentally Meeting God
It was June, maybe it was even July. I truthfully couldn’t tell you, any more than I could tell you what happened the rest of that year. It’s a blank in my mind. June or July is only a point of light in my mind because I heard about it, not because I lived it, but because I was told about it. That is, all but the one part of it. The absolute memory that I’m sure of from that day. But the details… The rest of the year… I have no clue.
It was June or July. My brother was supposed to go to the fair with his friend Star, but he had instead taken off with my sister. I never knew why, and I’ve never been curious enough to find out either.
It was June or July. I was in the front yard lining up some Matchbox cars, running them around the base of one of the huge Elm trees that grew in our front yard. The sidewalk ran right between them to the front steps. The trees took up what yard there was. I have been back to that house later in life. The trees are gone. Cut down because of Dutch Elm disease. And the yard seems to be huge. It seems to go on forever, but back then the Elms owned that yard on either side of the sidewalk and my brother and I had a perfect place to make roads and run our matchbox cars around.
I have no idea why I was there that day. Where my friend Dick was, why I wasn’t high, drinking or both. There isn’t enough of the memory to tell me, but there I was running my little cars around when I spotted Star from far off. I thought maybe he would pass by. After all he was my brother’s friend more than mine, but he stopped.
“Hey,” Star said.
“Hey,” I allowed. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look up from the cars, at least not at first.
“Where’s Dave,” he asked?
“Fair,” I answered.
“He told me he’d go with me,” Star said.
“Huh,” I answered. “Maybe he forgot because he left with my sister… A while ago… Like” I tried to think of how long ago it had been, but I was unable to come up with it. “Like… I don’t know. A while I guess.”
I hadn’t gone because I didn’t like the Fair. The year before I had gone, ridden the roundup, and puked as soon as I got off it. I had been sick all night too. I hated being sick, specifically being sick enough to puke, more than anything in the world. No way did I want to go through that again.
“You gonna go,” Star asked?
“Uh,uh,” I answered. I pushed the Bat mobile back in line next to a green metallic tow truck.
“I got two bucks,” Star said.
I looked up, “Well, I got only fifty cents,” I answered. That was the other reason I hadn’t gone. The Bat mobile had called to me from the toy car rack at Woolworth’s… Bat mobile? Fair? Bat mobile? Fair…
“That will get you a couple of rides,” Star broke in. “I’ll buy you a Coke.”
I looked at him. “Okay,” I agreed instantly. My rock solid reasons I had against going had flown out the window at the promise of a Coke. “But first I gotta take care of my cars.”
I have no idea what happened to that shiny black Bat mobile with the amazing bubbled windshield. I never saw it again.
The County Fair grounds were on the other side off the city. A long walk.
The tracks, our name for any of the many sets of railroad tracks that bisected the city of Watertown, would take us most of the way there. We walked them balancing on the rails as we went. When we came to the Coffeen Street crossing we left the tracks and walked the side of the street to the outskirts of the city and the Fair grounds. I was thinking Double Ferris Wheel. No puking, just sightseeing. You could see almost all of Watertown from the top. And if you were actually lucky enough to get stopped at the top for a few moments, and I had been, you could actually pick out landmarks. I recalled that from the year before. Before the Roundup and the puking. And after that I would get the Coke Star had promised. Then I could stop at Majors Market on the way back and buy a second Coke with my other quarter. I had the whole afternoon mapped out and it seemed like a good plan to me.
The fair grounds were crowded. I saw my sister once, but she seemed to be avoiding me so I didn’t press it. We were less than a year apart and it was never really clear to me whether we hated each other or liked each other on any particular day. I saw a girl from school, Debbie something. One of my friends had referred to her as a Carpenters delight… A flat Board that had never been nailed. I didn’t really get the joke, I was always a little slow back then, but I did think she was cute. She smiled at me and I smiled back thinking I had no chance at all, wondered briefly about the board and nail remark, and then turned my attention back to the Fair Grounds.
I went with Star to the ticket booth, paid my quarter, and we headed to the midway.
“I gotta try the Double Ferris Wheel,” I said.
“I was thinking about The Roundup,” Star said.
“No way,” I disagreed. “Puked last year.” I was only too glad to tell him the story. He ended up agreeing with me on the Double Ferris Wheel ride.
I guess I do remember some of that day. Sitting here writing it all out brings a lot of it back. Maybe it was after that day that I have trouble with, even as I write this my next clear memory is about a year later. I know I do remember all the next immediate events, but I mean, the feel of that day. I remember the feel of that day too. The smells of Cotton Candy… Buttered Popcorn… Cooking Sausage and Hot dogs… The crowds and the noise… Not long ago I smelled Popcorn and it took me right back to that day. All the way back. For a split second I was standing on that Midway once again… The crowd was moving around me. I was Happy… It was high summer. Watertown was a beautiful place to live.
That is why I think my memories are real, not just things suggested by people who were there. And, of course, afterwards, I remember all of that clearly. There was no one else there but me to see it, feel it, and hear it. And all these years later it is just as real as it was then…
The Double Ferris Wheel was really the coolest ride I had ever seen. I was in front of Star as we wound our way through the line. I could see the guy running the ride. One of those typical Carney guys. I had cousins who were Carney’s. I knew the look. And this guy was old school Carney. Dark, greasy hair. Cigarette plastered in one side of his mouth. Arms bulging. Crude tattoos covered his exposed chest and arms. Dark, almost inky, Gypsy eyes. He held the long steel handle that controlled the ride in one hand. The cigarette was unfiltered; Camel or Pall Mall, pumping up and down as his lips moved. His smile was cocky. His eyes bloodshot. He was none too steady on his feet. Bumping the handle occasionally. Rocking the steel cages that held the seat buckets as he bought them around for loading and unloading. Letting kids on and off.
The long line wound it’s way down. I gave up my ticket and stepped forward and that was the end of my summer. It ended up being the last carefree childhood thing I ever did. It’s more than forty five years later now and I can say that as a fact. The rest of the real world part of that day came from Star’s testimony at the trial years later when the ride operator was sued.
The guy took my ticket. I stepped forward to get in. The cigarette jumped as he took a deep pull, jiggled the handle, lined up the wheel, and my leg swung into the open seat bucket. That was when it all went wrong. He did one of those unsteady joggles on his feet, bumped into the lever with one thigh, and kicked the ride into full operation.
For some reason, I couldn’t tell you why, I hung on instead of letting go when the bucket lurched forward and rapidly climbed up into the sky. Maybe it was simple instinct, fear. Whatever it was it probably seemed to me to be the smart thing to do until I hit one of the struts about thirty feet up and got knocked off the bucket and down to the ground. I ended up under the buckets which kept coming around and hitting me because the ride operator was too drunk to turn the ride off. Too drunk. Forgot, Froze. Whatever it was I was stuck until another Carney ran over and shut down the ride.
Nobody knows what was up with him. At the trial he claimed that I had run through the line and jumped at the ride like some crazy kid. It wasn’t a good story. The jury didn’t buy it. And it didn’t explain why he was drunk or why he didn’t shut the ride down. The jury came back with a ten thousand dollar judgment. A great deal of money for back then, but that is secondary to this story and didn’t happen for a few years. What this story is about is what the next few weeks were like for me.
I put my feet into the seat bucket and the whole wheel seemed to lurch. The next clear memory was absolute darkness and God speaking to me. Comforting me. Not hurried. Not sounding Godlike, just sounding like an ordinary, reasonable man who for some reason had nothing better to do than talk to me. A little kid.
God was behind me. I never saw him, yet I still knew it was him.
When my sight came back to me I was far above the Fair Grounds watching the ambulance weave its way through the crowds as it made its way to me. The next thing I knew I was inside… The siren warbling, and I was on my way to the hospital. God continued to talk to me and comfort me as I looked down at my broken body
I don’t know what they knew then, but I had a laundry list of injuries. Broken neck, broken vertebrae in my thoracic spine. Broken vertebrae in my lumbar spine. Broken left scapula and joint damage to the shoulder. My upper back had been hit so hard that the muscles that attached from my shoulder blades to my spine had been torn free. I don’t know if I was still breathing or not. I stopped at some point in there, but it really didn’t concern me.
I watched as I was unloaded and rolled down the hallway of the emergency room. My mother ran beside the gurney, crying. The nurses cut the clothes from my body as they ran. I was filthy. Either the filth or the nudity embarrassed my mother, but the nurses did their work as they rushed my body along that hallway. And although I could feel their thoughts, hear their words, it did not affect me.
The next few weeks went by fast. God never once left me. Talking to me. Answering my endless questions. And I did have endless questions, but he had endless answers. Everything… All the knowledge of the entire world… Universe… Universes, was mine.
She tricked me this way: The nurse was young. Pretty. Even to me, a kid. She took my hand and began to talk to me. She had no idea I was busy talking to God, so I forgave her, at first anyhow.
But then she began to call my name. Call me Honey. Tell me to wake up, and it began to bother me. I couldn’t concentrate on God if she didn’t leave me alone. I wanted to tell her to shut up! Stop! And so I imagined my mouth opening to say the words and that was it. I was back in my body. Stuck in my body. God was gone. The pain was everywhere. Huge. Unyielding. I was stuck. And worse, everything God had told me was gone. It was like it was some sort of top secret knowledge. Top secret God knowledge that could not exist outside of death. You could know all of it if you intended to be dead, but none of it if you intended to live.
I hadn’t intended to live, I remember thinking that. Who in their right mind would leave the company of God to come back to this world? Not me, but she had tricked me. Tricked me, and I had fallen for it.
The story of my addiction is here:
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