I was a loner, probably from birth. It seems strange that I belonged to a family of seven, yet my feeling is that we each existed in our own little bubbles. We had fights and arguments and we occasionally did things together, but mostly we did things apart. I remember being together on major holidays and having dinner together at the table my mother created from a door (a nice design, by the way). It seems amazing that we ate together. I don't remember having a good time at dinner. In fact, our wonderful stepfather recorded our dinner conversation at least once so he could prove to us how horrible we were, how argumentative. He was such a sweetheart that he once drove us out into the country and pointed to a pig farm, saying to my sister Mary, "That's what you are, a pig."
I can't recall warm moments from childhood. The only times I felt that way were with a favorite teacher or coach. I visited my fourth-grade teacher, whom I just adored, at her home. Learned that not only did she actually have a life outside of school - a shock! - but that she was a twin. There were a few others who stood out for me because they recognized something in me and tried to bring it out. Not including the home ec teacher who tried to clean me up, or my fifth grade teacher, who constantly sent me to the bathroom to clean off my arms (I played jacks just before school).
Mike was something of an annoying force that showed up in my life from time to time. He must have been annoying enough, although I couldn't tell you any specific incidents - not one - because my sister mary and I, together with two "summer friends", created a club we called the "We Think Hugo is an Idiot" club. Where "Hugo" was our name for Mike. Not knowing the rules of acronyms, we thought you didn't have to put the letters in the order of the words, and thus the club was called the "WITH" club. Mike bugged us, I think for years, to find out what that name meant. I only recently discovered that he was hurt to learn the truth.
Mike was kicked out of school in high school. He didn't show up often enough. It was far from the policy of that school to kick anyone out, but Mike must have deserved it. A lot of the teachers seemed to like Mike at heart, could see his potential. He took off for California to live with his father and stepmother for a bit, then he joined the air force. All of this time, of course, I was busy growing up in my own little world. My world of piano sometimes, of the occasional poem, of jacks on the porch of my best friend, of visiting with another friend in her basement and seeing her little horse collection. I was probably about twelve when Mike left home. I was eighteen, I believe, when Mike came back, in uniform, confident and big-brotherly. He taught me to drive.
My mother wouldn't teach me. Our cars had manual shifts and the school's only had automatic. I was not like many other students in that I had never driven anything when I started driver ed, and I was terrible at it. I felt so uncomfortable behind the wheel that I just avoided driving. Mike took me out in our old Volkswagen beetle and I drove on back roads in Michigan. The back roads in Michigan really are. Hardly a soul on them, lots of room to make mistakes. By driving and driving, stopping and starting and turning and parking I learned how to drive with enough confidence to get my license.
After I started college I don't remember Mike being around. He was off heaven knows where, I think California. I moved to California myself at twenty but I don't recall seeing Mike then. Perhaps he was still in the air force. Oh yes, I recall he lived in Reno for a while, but I don't remember when exactly. It didn't occur to me to go visit him. We really didn't have anything in common.
I am hoping that by just dredging up what I remember that I will find more of a connection.