Did you ever wish to could go back in time and talk to your younger self? Tell them what to watch out for, who to befriend/avoid…make life easier than it was for you? I thought about this often while laying in bed, waiting to fall asleep.
I love my life. I love my wife, my family and friends. However, there is much that I could do winning millions of dollars. If I could, I’d give my future self the winning lottery numbers for a life-changing jackpot. As I drifted off to sleep…
It was 1967. I was in the yard, right by the house we lived in then; a ranch house built in the ‘50’s, outside a little town in the Midwest. We were almost to the Moon; Vietnam was a place we heard about from Walter Cronkite every night at dinner, and we would get the number of that day’s dead and wounded in that vicious hell-hole while we ate.
I was struck by the smell…it smelled like 1967. The student protests never happened in our town, nor the race riots; the kids in high School smoked cigarettes in the parking lot, smoked a little pot, and listened to rock music. Largely, the “Summer of Love” happened on the coasts. The town we lived just outside of was really like living in Mayberry, and living outside that town meant living in the middle of endless fields of corn and the sweet smell of newly mowed grass..
Looking at the glass sliders, I pulled up on the handle and quietly snuck in.
The T.V. was on, with just snow on the screen and that awful single-note signal that they play to force you to turn off your T.V.
In my time, my father has been dead for four years, but there he was: sitting on the floor wearing nothing but his boxer shorts and socks, snoring loud enough to hear throughout the house. Dad will sleep there for a while longer, then he will wake up, go take a piss, and then go into the bedroom he shares with Mom.
I wanted to wake him up, give him a hug, tell him how much I love him. The problem with that is: you have to be VERY careful how you wake up my father. Ever since Dad was discharged from the Marine Corps, he wakes up violently. Dad will wake up with a jolt; eyes wide open and scanning around for the first person he lays eyes on, and if you are within reach, he might reach out and grab a hold of you before he realizes that you aren’t “The Enemy”.
No. I have come here to talk to only one member of the family, and it wasn’t my father or mother. I did not come to talk to my brother, who was a major irritant to me during this period of our lives. Fortunately, my brother’s “sleep” is more like a “coma”.
I slip in to my old room, and went over to my bed.
I reached out and gently shook the shoulder of seven-year-old me and woke me up:
Little Me: (Scared…sliding my body across the bed closer to the wall) Wha…who…who are you?
Me: Keep it down!
Little Me: Who ARE you?
Me: SSHHHH! Keep it down! I’m you…from your future…
Little Me: You’re me…
Little Me: From the future…
Little Me: (Taking air into the lungs, ready to scream until I slap my hand over his mouth)
Me: Shut UP! Look at me! Look at my face!
Little Me looked and his eyes grew wide.
Little Me: H-h-how…
Me: Don’t ask. Just listen.
Little Me: (moving in to take a closer look at my face) What…HAPPENED to you?
Me. Life. It’ll leave a few scars.
Little Me: How old are you..am I?
Me: I’m 59 years old now. I wanted to give you something to hold onto to make my…our life, and the lives of our wife and child, a lot easier when you get to my age.
Little Me: Wait…we’re married?
Me: (sigh) Yes.
Little Me: To a GIRL?
Me: Of course! She’s pretty hot!
Little Me: YUK! That’s GROSS!
Me. SSSHHH! You are a lying sack of shit! I remember that a few days ago, you were in a group of kids climbing up the stairs at school and you looked and saw up Mindy Sherman’s dress. It’s all you have been thinking about since then. You like girls. That’s OK. You are going to have some of the best times and some of the most heartbreaking times of your life. But listen: everything is going to work out
Little Me: Yeah…sure.
I looked at me, the seven-year-old me; I peered into my own eyes.
Second Grade loomed before me. It was the beginning of a hellish yearly shit-show called a school year that lasted until the end of my Sophomore year… Things were going to get darkly bizarre; fights, attempts to humiliate me…Money wasn’t going to solve that. Money wouldn’t really help me at any point in my life; I always had enough to eat, I always had a place to sleep, and I always had clothes on my back. Everything I ever went through in my life brought me to where I am, and I like who I am.
I had the little piece of paper with the Lottery Numbers on it in my pocket. I don’t want to change MY life. This piece of paper would do nothing for him.
Little Me: What?
Me: I wanted to give you something that was going to help us…later in our life…but…
Little Me: What is it?
I let go of the piece of paper in my pocket and put my hand on his/ my arm.
Me: Look, just remember this: “Never Let The Weasels Gnaw On Your Skull”.
Little Me: What the hell does that mean?
Me: Watch your mouth. Stay away from Jeff Bennet and Randy Paden. They are idiots who are teaching you a bunch of crap. They aren’t your friends. You don’t have a lot of friends, and the friends you have aren’t really your friends. You are going to have a great time with people you will be with for a while, and afterwards you will never see them again. You’re an outsider. There is a great power in that. You can see people for who they are. You can look at a situation or a group of people with a different perspective that will help you make better decisions. It’s OK to be who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Don’t let them get to you. Fight them if they start shit, but otherwise, use the power of the outsider; see what they don’t see and hear what they don’t hear.
I heard some rustling coming from the living room; Dad was either getting up off the floor and getting on the couch, or he was going to take a piss and go to bed.
Little Me: What are you going to do now?
Me: Look: just remember: “Never Let The Weasels Gnaw On Your Skull”. Just remember that. It will get you through a lot of shit! Oh, and in a couple of years Dad is going to ask you why you aren’t getting the grades you should be. Whatever you do, DON’T answer: “I don’t know Dad. Maybe it’s because I’m just lazy…”
Little Me: Why? What’s going to happen?
I started moving towards the door. I could hear Dad snoring again.
Me: Just don’t do it! Remember the two things I said; never let the weasels gnaw on your skull, and don’t tell Dad that you’re lazy!
Me: Oh…One more thing…in the future, when you’re in high school, there will be a girl named Lisa who is going to ask you to go to her house after a football game.
Little Me: So?
Me: Say yes.
I slipped out of the room and out into the hall, and crept down through the kitchen and into the living room. Dad was stretched out on the couch. I looked at him for a minute, and I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but then I heard his voice in my mind: “Men don’t cry, son. Unless you are burying someone you love, and even then, you do it alone. Otherwise, men don’t cry.
I went to slip out the sliding glass door when Dad stirred. His eyes closed, half in and half out of consciousness, he must have sensed I was standing there.
“Hey!” mumbled my father.
“Hey,” I said.
“What are you doing up?”
“Can’t sleep,” I answered.
“You OK?” he asked, still half asleep. His eyes were still closed.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m fine.”
My father yawned, stretched, and adjusted his body on the couch.
“Well,” he mumbled, “Don’t let them see you sweat, son. Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything is…gonna, (yawn)…be alright…”
My father was snoring like a chainsaw. I went over to him, bent over, and kissed his head. He was a young man at this point in time, raising three young children with his high school sweetheart. He was working at a factory, going to night school studying business. He and my mother were paying their first mortgage. An entire flood of life, good times and bad times, was going to be flowing under the bridge between us between 1967 and my life 52 years later.
“Good Night, Dad”. I said.
I moved across the room to the sliding glass door when something caught my eye. I turned, and there was my mother.
We stood, looking at each other, and then she slowly walked across the room.
Time seemed to stand still as my mother reached up to touch my cheek. She looked at my face, and there were tears in her eyes. Mom hugged me. We stood in the middle of the room, saying nothing, hanging onto each other.
She looked up at me with a smile on her face. I marveled at how young she looked. Mom playfully pulled my long beard: “Lose the beard!” Then, Mom turned and walked out of the room, back to bed.
I took one last look at this part of my past and slipped out the sliding glass door.
I woke up in my big, overstuffed recliner and took stock of the situation: nothing much had changed yet somehow, I felt better. the colors are a little brighter, the sounds clearer, the smells sweeter.
Also, I have a vague memory of a dream I had, when I was very young, in which I talked to myself and, I have a wonderful memory of the time this girl asked me over to her house after a football game.