I remember. I was two years old and it was like I had awoken
from sleep. All of the sudden I was here and I was alive.
“Here you are, this is your first memory.”
I was standing in waist deep water in our above
ground back yard swimming pool in the Sunshine of midday. I had the
vocabulary to understand because I did understand. The lights came on. I was
self aware. I could see. I could hear. I could move. I was somewhere.
I don’t remember everything that has happened to me in my life, but I
remember a lot. My older brother used to beat me silly until I cried. The first
time I discovered some people are black was while riding on the city bus to go
down town. The only seat for me was next to a senior citizen lady who was
African American and I was afraid. My Mom took my sister and I to a movie.
The opening scenes scared me to death. My Dad got me swinging at a park so
high one day I was afraid I would fall.
As a young boy I took swimming lessons. I opened my eyes under water; I did
something I was afraid of doing and it was like the lights came on, again.
I loved grade school. I loved learning. I loved lunch time and the way the
cafeteria smelled. I loved recess. I had friends. I had girlfriends, too. My
teacher in first grade drew balls and boxes on the chalk board and asked us to add
them together. The class learned to write by drawing the upper and lower case
letters on paper which had pre-ruled lines. I learned to read and soon our teacher
was giving spelling tests with simple words like “me”, “I” and “go”. We had art
and music classes. We played games. In the second grade I learned about
the Vietnam War. Two of my classmates who were twins told us about their
Dad who was a soldier. In third grade we made mail boxes. We
could write a letter to any of our class mates and it was put in their box. Every
Friday in third grade was Good Friday according to our teacher.
We moved to Carbondale, Illinois from Nashville, Tennessee. Mom and Dad
had divorced. We were poor. Mom wasn’t home after we got out of school for
the day. She worked at the Carbondale City Hall. We kids were on our own until
Mom got off of work and we did what we wanted, mostly watching TV and
arguing until our neighbor who lived above our little two bedroom apartment
complained about the noise saying his wife is sick. She was always sick.
I started fourth grade in Carbondale. I was afraid of everything about it.
The building was old and the playground was gravel. I didn’t know anyone
except my sister and we were separated from the start as the teachers divided us
into grades. But soon I was at the top of my class. My art teacher liked my work
and I was best in art class as well. My Mom gave me a paper box
filled with art pencils. I didn’t know what to do with them but I was determined to
learn how to use them.
When I was ten years old I experienced my first schizophrenic episode; very
young to have symptoms. I was sitting in our living room. Space started
moving. The walls moved in and out and back toward me and again and again.
What I was seeing was in motion. I heard a woman’s voice sighing. I believed I
was dying. I was afraid. I picked up our pet cat. I said goodbye, crying. I never
said anything about the experience to anyone and soon it was put away in my
mind and forgotten about.
During the Summer before my sixth grade year we moved into a three
bedroom house in an upscale neighborhood. My Grand Father bought the house
for us. I think I was the most excited about moving. My very best friend would
live three houses down the street. That Summer I met the other
neighborhood kids. Some of the older girls and a few of us guys got together to
play kissing games and learn how to slow dance. It was a wonderful time. I
started smoking cigarettes.
In seventh and eighth grade I was placed in advanced math classes. I think my
sixth grade teacher recommended me because he felt sorry for me. I think he
believed it would be good for me to hang around with the smart kids. In Jr. High I
I was President of the Art Club / best in art class. I was in the Boy’s Honor Society.
And I played Little League Tackle Football. I absolutely loved football. I learned
about Joe Namath and the New York Jets. I read Bart Star’s Book. He was the
Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Those two guys were the best.
I had a paper route. I mowed lawns. I bought old bicycles, fixed them up and
sold them. I made enough money to buy an old, used drum kit. I was a natural
with drums. One of my friends at church was a little older and played guitar.
We got together and learned to play about ten songs all the way through. We
played for small audiences. He had friends in High School who played. They
wanted my friend to form a band with them but they didn’t have a
drummer. He mentioned me. They were a little skeptical about me as I was
several years younger, but agreed to let me audition. I passed the band audition
with flying colors and so the four of us began quite a journey for the next several
years as a rock band. We played for pay for rather large crowds, including the Jr.
High School’s Eighth Grade Graduation Dance. Playing with “Cold Storage” was
serious and fun. Soon we bought better instruments and amplifiers. I was
introduced to music I didn’t know was out there - “acoustic” music,
and hard rock.
In the eighth grade we got to choose what classes we would have as electives
as High School Freshman. One of the classes I chose was drum / percussion
lessons. I went to the High School campus for a meet and greet of the band
teacher the Summer before I started and the band teacher told me
he was placing me directly in the Marching Band. I would play the three Timp-
Toms. I learned quickly how to play the marching cadences. It was a wonderful
two years with the High School marching / concert band. I still love music.
I began having serious emotional problems as a Freshman. I had my first
serious boyfriend / girlfriend relationship. It tore my feelings apart as I went from
envy and jealously to anger and tears to love and over again. Sometimes I didn’t
recognize myself in the mirror. In English class I wasn’t doing well. I didn’t read
the books I was supposed to. I didn’t know what my teachers were trying to
teach. My Freshman football team playing time was 0 games. I was on the
Wrestling Team and I really hated it but I didn’t want to just quit. I won every one
of my team mate’s challenges. Although I was strong, having lifted weights for
several years, my Freshman year wrestling record was won 3, lost 9.
Sophomore year in the High School Concert Band was great. I was placed in
a drum quartet. The four of us competed at the state competition and we got a
“First”. I played bass drum as the youngest of us four. Learning the music
was hard but I did it. Later on we played our composition during a Concert Band
concert, just the four of us.
I met Suzy during a High School football game. After the half time Marching
Band show I changed out of my uniform and sat with her high up in the bleachers
for the second half of the game. We kissed. After word we went to Village Inn
Pizza Parlor with friends. The experts don’t know what causes schizophrenia.