Changed the course of my life

A friend posted the following on Facebook:

Tell me about something that completely changed the course of your life, for better or for worse.

Challenge accepted. This is the result.


My parents lived in Albany, NY, and I was attending Michigan State University. The summer after my second year, I got a junk job in Flint, where my then-girlfriend lived. After she dumped me, I stayed with some nomadic hippies in Flint for a while, then went to visit a school friend at his family’s summer cottage.

After a week or two, his mom figured out that I hadn’t told my parents where I was; meanwhile, my ‘rents were panicking because they couldn’t get hold of me at my now-former apartment in Flint (no cell phones in 1970). The two sets of parents talked, and I was sent home to face the music.

Mom and Dad made it crystal clear:

I would not be going back to Michigan.
I would be living with them.
I would be getting a job in Albany.
I would be going to school in Albany.

All of this, until I “learned some responsibility”.

After a week or two of the new regime, I had to make a quick trip back to Michigan State, to pick up the possessions I had left in dorm storage at the beginning of the summer, and bring them back home.

Returning to Michigan State and East Lansing felt like coming home. I stayed overnight with friends. After much talking late into the night, I did what I had to do. I went to a pay phone, called my parents, and told them I wasn’t coming back, that I was going to stay in Michigan, because I wanted to.

Dad hit the roof. Usually careful to keep control when he talked to us kids, this time he barked, “You get your ass back home right now!”

“No,” I said.

And just like that, I left home for good.

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A rant directed to Death

It’s taken a couple of weeks to put this into words, though it feels like we brushed past each other at D.’s bedside just a day or so ago.

I hate you. I hate that you took D. I really hate the way that you did it. The only satisfaction I have is that she gave you a hell of a fight. Three times you tried to get her with cancer, and three times she beat you. But then you unleashed the fourth one, that took away the use of her body. That was really dirty. D was nothing if not an embodied person. She loved her body, used it, expressed who she was with it, experienced the world with it. No wonder she went with you once you took that away. As usual, you won, but you can’t take any pride in that win. It was dirty.

It’s too many now. Just a short few years ago, I knew exactly how many people you’d taken out of my life — four grandparents, one father, one uncle, one father-in-law, one uncle-in-law, and three friends. But then, with S. and F., and now D., that’s six friends. You’re up to 14. (There were others, like my ex-sister-in-law, but they were no longer in my life when you came along to take them.)

Who’s next? My Mom’s 89, and my brother’s heart is weak. Am I going to have to deal with you taking them next? You better keep your hands off my kids. They’re too young and you know it.

Or maybe I’m next in the family, my wages of sin for a lifetime of smoking, or the past 15 years of gluttony and sloth. Oh, I hear you calling. Sometimes you think you can talk me into joining you voluntarily. But no. Absolutely not. Yes, I came close twice, and have the scars to prove it. But if there’s anything that proves I’m too much a survivor to fall for that trick, it’s the fact that I’m still here. You’ll never get me that way, if only because I’m too stubborn.

So I suppose you’ll be sneaky, like you are for so many people. A little piece of fat buildup in my artery, invisibly breaking off and traveling to my heart to jam a valve. Or some hidden organ in this incredibly complex body will fail — kidneys for me, I suppose — and you can watch me suffer til you finally take me. Or maybe you’ll sneak up on me on a dark street one night, in the guise of a tranny basher.

You and I both know that eventually you always win, with everyone. But I can guarantee you this — when you come for me, you’re in for a hell of a fight, whether it’s a physical fight with a street thug, or a spiritual fight with a disease.

You may be inevitable, you may be perfectly natural, but I still hate you. Because you attack the one thing in the world that makes my life — any life — bearable. You tear apart Love, the greatest force in the Universe. Oh, what, you think you’re the greatest force in the Universe? You’re wrong. You could not be more wrong. Because as much as you can hurt Love, as much as you can try to rip us away from Love, you can never take Love, the way you take each of us. No matter how many of us you take, the Love remains. You take millions in war, but when the war is over, there’s still Love. You take away friends and lovers and parents and children, but even then, Love remains.

You, Death, always take away. But Love always remains. And with that, you lose, and we win. Every. Single. Time.