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On this page you’ll find an autobiography. You’ll find I write about my early years in great detail. I don’t do this because I’m “full of myself”, although I may unintentionally be.

If you continue to read this page, and dog bless you if you do, you’ll find that this page doesn’t merely cover my “early years” in detail anymore. I’ve begun to cover my entire life in much more detail. I’m now sixty-five years old and the things that were said and done to me both when I was a kid and well after that – until I was fifty years old, to be exact – didn’t only inform how I behaved and lived my life when I was younger. I’m haunted by some of those things, mostly things that were said to me about me, even to this day. When I make a mistake playing a song, for example, I can tend to begin to rant about how useless and stupid I am. “You asshole! You’ve been playing that song for thirty years and you still forget the words? Don’t you have a brain in your fucking head?”

I take solace in the fact that, when I get over my rant I realize that I’m not the one who’s saying that to me, the old man is the one who is saying it. I’m just verbalizing what I imagine I would hear if he was present when I made the mistake. Of course, as you’ll see, he wouldn’t have much cared if I made a mistake while playing music. More on that to come.

My intention in being so detailed in the beginning is twofold.

First, I know that when I’m interested in an author, writer, composer or whatever, I want to find out what makes her or him the way he or she is. The early years of my life shaped and, very much, conditioned me. I hope it gives you a good insight into why I write what I write how I write it.

Secondly, I wrote a series of essays about my conditioning and how I've reacted to that conditioning. I call this my “Father’s Gift” series. I really hope that reading the detailed account of the early years gives you a more intimate knowledge of those very personal and intimate essays.

One reason that I’ve laid my personal life out here in front of the whole world is because, if there are parents who believe that they are doing “the best they can do with what they know”, I hope that they will be inspired, by reading about my experiences and especially by reading the “Father’s Gift” series, to step back and ask themselves if they are really doing the “best” that they can do with what they know. I've come to discover we don’t realize how much we know until we utilize some of our time to take a personal inventory of how we feel about almost anything. Once we take that “inventory” and realize where the feelings are in our bodies and why they’re there, we may be able to see ourselves from a whole new perspective.

I hope that I can provide somewhat of a point of reference so that other relationships between parents and their kids can be salvaged.

I realize that the detail contained in this autobiography is more detail than some of you wish to read.

Please don’t let this page discourage you from looking at the rest of the site. You may enjoy some of the writing and/or music even if you don’t read the “About Michael Page”.

The Earliest of Years

I was in the delivery room during the births of all three of my daughters. I always thought that it was an old wives tale that the doctor and/or nurse smacked the baby on the bottom to make sure that it was breathing.

However, during those deliveries, I saw that it was, indeed, not an old wives tale. The nurse and/or doctor, it was a nurse one or two times and a doctor one or two times, I forget which exactly, did slap my daughters on the bottom. And, amazingly, they gasped and started to breathe.

Looking back on the relationship that I shared with my father, I can’t help believing that, had he been in the delivery room when I was born, he would have gladly volunteered for baby slapping duty. Alas, on April 6, 1950, it was unusual for fathers to be in attendance during a child’s birth and I know my father would never have volunteered to be there. Had he been there, he could have started hating me a few hours earlier.

Granted, I was there at my birth, but I remember none of it. From what I hear, the doctor did slap me on the bottom, but I had a difficult time breathing. They placed me in an incubator and my parents called in a priest to administer the Catholic sacrament of Extreme Unction, otherwise known as Last Rites.

After The Earliest of Years but Before Adulthood

So, let’s see. I’m 9 years old and I want to join the Little League. It’s a baseball league for kids from the ages of 9 through 12 years old.

Dad’s working in the yard and I ask him, “Dad, can I try out for the Little League?”

This is not a paraphrase. “You ain’t playin’ in no Little League!”

I asked, “Why not?”

I learned then that asking my father to explain any of his opinions was physically harmful. I didn’t ask about the Little League for another 2 years.

I went to mass and Sunday school every Sunday. I learned that the Catholic god is the one true god and that anyone who knows about the Catholic god but doesn’t convert would go to hell. I felt very fortunate that my parents knew about the Catholic god and sent me to Catholic services.

As I got older, what the Catholic god expected of a person if that person wanted to go to heaven became more and more difficult for me to embrace. When I veered from any Catholic law or dogma, I felt just horrible. I spent lots of time in the confessional, telling people that I didn’t know and who I’d only seen from a distance the most intimate parts of my private life. These were situations about which, if I hadn’t told the faceless priest on many Saturdays, no one would ever have known. But, I was lucky enough to be Catholic and at least had some chance of going to heaven.

At that point in my life, my parents never went to church. They began going to church about 10 or 15 years later and became what are called Eucharistic Ministers. That meant that they could hand out plastic wafers which were, not were supposed to be, but actually were the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Aside from the cannibalism that the Catholic’s belief in transubstantiation implies, it is absurd that any all-powerful being would turn itself into a bite sized wafer of plastic. I don’t think my parents were aware of transubstantiation when they handed out the wafers. I’m quite sure that my parents never read the bible, neither the Old nor the New Testament, and I’m quite certain that they didn’t know what they were doing or why they were doing it when they went to mass, but it did make for a lovely show. I add this little aside so that it doesn’t come across as if my parents never went to church. Oh, they did and, once they started, they became as bad as an ex-smoker telling a smoker how bad smoking is. I think I needed to digress here to make that clear.

One Sunday after Sunday school, I don’t know the exact year, I told my parents that the priest saw me in church and, after mass, pulled me aside and asked me why he never saw my parents with me.

Well, my parents didn’t buy it and, of course, it never happened. I learned something then, however. I learned that lying to my father about priests looking for him and my mother in church was physically harmful. I never asked them why they didn’t go to church again.

I was a top notch student during my elementary school days. I was extremely interested in the lives of the presidents of the US. At one point, I could name each and every one of them in chronological order, from Washington to Eisenhower. In fact, when I was in fifth grade, my teacher had me stand up in front of the entire student body and do just that.

When I was 11, I tried out for the Little League. My father was one of New London, Connecticut’s finest and he worked double shifts almost all the time. I tell people today that we considered the day on which my father only worked 8 hours his “day off.”

I think I asked my mother about the Little League and I don’t think my father knew anything about it until it was too late. I guess he let it go.

I wasn’t quite good enough for a Little League team to pick me up, so I had to settle for the Minor Leagues.

Most Minor League kids were only 8 years old as the Minor League was where kids played before they joined the Little League. Consequently, I was pretty tall, 5'4" tall to be exact. Little did I know that I would remain 5'4" tall for the rest of my life. (Addendum: During one of the yearly physicals I had after I turned 60, I learned that I had shrunk one inch. So, today I’m only 5'3" tall. I heard that happens and now I know it).

When I was 12, I tried out for the Little League again and I made it this time. I was a star. I hit lots of home runs, but I struck out a lot as well. I did think, however, that, since I was so “powerful” and still relatively bigger than most 12 year olds, I would be a large, powerful man who would play in the real Major Leagues.

When I was 13 years old, I began to look at girls in a way differently than the way I looked at them up until that time. I got weird “feelings” when I looked at them. In fact, not knowing what caused these “feelings”, I told my mother about them. I told her that they were very powerful and really bothersome. She took me to see a doctor. I forget what the doctor told me, if anything, but I bet I know what he told my mother. After all, she was probably old enough to know.

My next door neighbor was a cute little girl named Karen. We “fell in love”. Well I fell in lust and I don’t know where she fell. Karen and I fooled around, literally. I mean there was a lot of touching and so forth, but neither of us knew what to do besides touch.

One of my Little League team mates, Fred, finally talked to me about the birds and the bees. He explained things to me and showed me how to satisfy my “feelings”.

After that, I began to ask Karen if we could get “real close” every time we fooled around. She never did let me get “real close”. That relationship ended.

I was also of age to try out for the Babe Ruth League, a baseball league for boys from 13 to 15 years of age.

I was chosen by one of the teams and played left field. I was awful.

I was still 5'4" tall and I still thought that I was a big, strong guy. It’s strange that I didn’t see other kids getting taller than I was.

My baseball career ended in the Babe Ruth League. It didn’t go out quietly, though.

I played in two games. I struck out every single time I got up to bat in the first game.

In the second game, I got a single, a base hit. I was really proud of that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it all the way through that second game. Besides the fact that I got hurt, I found out what my father was made of on that day, as you can read in my essay, “A Father’s Gift”.

What about Music and Poetry? Starts, Stops and Discouragement

I began listening to 78 RPM records when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I would listen and sing along, trying as hard as I could to sound like the artists. I remember Julius LaRosa as one of the artists whose records I had.

When I was 8 years old, my parents saw that I took an interest in music and made me take accordion lessons. I didn’t practice as much as I should have, even though my parents threatened me. Ultimately, they decided not to waste money on lessons.

When I was 10 years old, I began to pay more attention to music and, like most people back then, really got off on listening to Elvis Presley. This time, I went to my parents and asked them if I could take guitar lessons. After I assured them that I would practice for at least a half hour each day, they agreed to let me take guitar lessons.

All went well for a while. I didn’t know a thing about playing the guitar when I started taking lessons, so I had no choice other than to play what was written in the Mel Bay series guitar lesson books.

However, I got to a point where I could use the knowledge I was gaining through my lessons and expand on it. I began to play chords and figured out, by ear, the chords to many of the songs that were on the radio. I also discovered that I could memorize the words and sing along with the chords I was playing.

The time I spent playing my guitar and singing increased dramatically and my parents, who had to force me to practice for a half hour each day at one point were now telling me I was spending too much time playing the guitar.

I wrote some little ditties about girls I knew and fantasized about in elementary school and junior high school. Some of the songs were “Karen Forever” (remember my neighbor?), “What If Ruthie Saw Me Now” and, a little later, after I got into high school, “Roseanne”. To say that they were “rough” would be an understatement.

Of course, as time went on and I realized I was never going to be that giant of an athlete, I got more and more interested in music and began to write songs inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and others whose careers were just taking off.

My years in junior high school, which encompassed seventh and eighth grades, were transitional years. In junior high school, I morphed from outstanding student to an extremely underachieving high school student.

I attended a Catholic high school, much to my dismay at the time. I did well enough in all of my courses to earn promotions each year, but I truly sucked in the fields of science and math. They bored me to death.

English courses, on the other hand, interested me. The creativity of classical poets like Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and, of course, Shakespeare, inspired me.

I became extremely interested in the tools of writing but never memorized any of the classical poetry. I loved metaphor, personification and, my favorite, alliteration.

I began to write my own poetry. Just as with the guitar, I learned enough to use the tools and lost interest in reading the works of those who first used those tools.

The Vietnam War began to capture the back pages of the newspapers in 1963. I understood perfectly well that we had to stop the commies over there before they invaded us and forced us to stop them over here. I was a domino theory enthusiast for about a year.

Then came the Gulf Of Tonkin incident and I really got pissed at the Vietnamese. How could they do this with no provocation?

I was only 14 at the time and didn’t know about the protecting the South Vietnamese government part of it.

Luckily, a teaching sect called The Christian Brothers made up a good deal of the teaching staff at St. Bernard High School. I really think that, judging from their outlook on society, The Christian Brothers had no right to call themselves Catholic. This statement has been misinterpreted by some. When I write they had no right to call themselves Catholic, I mean that as a compliment.

It was under the honest tutelage of The Christian Brothers that I learned about racism, the lie that was the Gulf Of Tonkin incident and began to question, at their exhortation, the Catholic religion. They outright encouraged it.

I wrote my first poem in 1964 and it was inspired by the nascent backlash to the war in Vietnam. It was called “And Now She Knows”. I showed that and some of the other poems that I wrote to my mother. My songs also began to take on a social theme and I played my first few compositions for my mother. She was impressed and told me that I “should do something” with my art.

Not surprisingly, when I tried to show my work to my “patriotic” father, he became outraged. How could I write such things about my country? I didn’t know what I was talking about.

My father was in the army from 1946 to 1948. He got out just before the Korean Conflict got into full throttle. I wish now that I had thought of asking him why, if he was so patriotic, he didn’t volunteer to “re-up” so that he could exhibit his patriotism in Korea. I guess it’s much easier to be patriotic when someone else is fighting the war. Come to think about it, it was probably healthier for me not to bring that up back then. It does, however, give me pause now and again.

Of course, the decline in my scholastic progress made it very easy for him to tell me to stop my foolishness, writing poetry and songs, and prepare for a life as a teacher.

Oh, yes, Dad was convinced I was going to be a teacher. Teachers only work nine months out of the year and they make “good money”. Teaching was a clean job. I wouldn’t have to “dig ditches”. I firmly believed that my father made up my mind for me to be a teacher long before I was born. I needed to stop the foolish music and poetry and study hard and get good “marks” so I could be a teacher.

My mother changed her mind about my “doing something” with my art and began to refer to it as “foolishness” as well. I don’t believe my mother changed her mind at all. I know exactly what happened as my father did everything he could to command worship from my mother and from me as well. It worked with Mom, but not with me.

My high school years were hell. I played in several rock bands throughout high school and continued to write poetry. I even wrote a couple of short stories, one of which earned me an “A+” in my senior year English class.

I had to try to hide my involvement with rock bands from my parents during my high school years. Not only were my grades such that they thought that I shouldn’t waste my time playing music, but the lyrical content of the music I played did not set well with Dad.

In addition to the music, I was always “in love” with some girl or another and was sure that each one of them was the one that I was going to marry. Of course, there was no good reason for any of them to stick around and wait with me as I had picked up my father’s propensity for maniacally losing the temper.

I went to school and learned about social injustice and the insanity of the war from The Christian Brothers and came home and foolishly used the knowledge I’d gained in school to debate the legitimacy of the war with my father. My father was, by far, the better “debater”. He had a lot more “debating tools” than I had. As I mentioned, I remained 5'4" tall for the remainder of my life and, consequently, never rose to his 5'11" stature. That was probably his “best debating tool”.

As I look at the above paragraph, I now realize that I seem to be suggesting that kids who get to be bigger and stronger than an abusive parent should physically go toe to toe with that parent. This isn’t the message. It would be sad if that’s the only way one could “win” an argument with one’s parent. Violence is not the answer. However, if I was bigger and stronger at the time, violence might have come in handy in my search for effective self-defense. The relationship between my father and me was, if nothing else, sad.

He took my disagreeing with him very personally. I thought the war was wrong and he thought that meant I hated him.

I thought Dr. Martin Luther King merely wanted total equality for African Americans and Dad thought that meant I hated him.

His retaliation against the perceived “hate” was potent. He definitely made good use of his “debating tools”.

College? – You Gotta Be Kiddin’!

As I said, my grades were barely passing while I was in high school, but I was going to go to college come hell or high water. I couldn’t go out and get a job. I wasn’t allowed to leave my home, my parents’ home, unless it was for the purpose of getting married. This was true even after I was finished with school. Unbelievable! I guess I would still be living with them at the age of 65 if I hadn’t gotten married.

So, I applied to the four state colleges, Eastern Connecticut State College, Southern Connecticut State College, Central Connecticut State College and Western Connecticut State College. I even applied to The University of Connecticut.

Each rejection was accompanied by a diatribe and revisiting the reasons why I was “no good”.

Amazingly enough, I was ultimately accepted by Western Connecticut State College.

I ended my freshman year at Wesconn with a 2.3 grade point average. Considering how many classes I drank or drugged my way out of, it was no small accomplishment.

When I was away at school, I could actually carry on a civilized phone conversation with Dad. However, it didn’t take long after I arrived home for a week-end or a school break for us to resume the position.

In my final year of high school, Christian Brothers from The College of Santa Fe visited St. Bernard’s and talked about their college. At the time, I knew that I’d be lucky to be accepted by any school, so I didn’t pay them much mind.

However, as the summer break wore on the “fighting” (that inaccurately implies a reciprocal situation) just got worse. I remembered The College of Santa Fe promotion. I could be a couple of thousand miles away from these people if I could somehow talk them into letting me go to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I don’t know how it happened. I must have dished out enough bullshit to convince them to let me go. This move was extremely incongruent with anything else I’d wanted to do previously. But mine was not to understand why they let me go. Mine was to go and I went.

I studied in New Mexico less than I studied at Western Connecticut. I “experimented” with mind altering stuff while I was there as well.

My roommate was Chris McCarty and he was a “free soul”, so to speak. He was very “street wise”. I learned a lot from Chris.

I remember Chris asking me, after he’d heard me play guitar, if I wanted to go to Colorado or Arizona, I forget which, to meet and jam with his cousin. I told him that, if I did that, my father would kill me.

Chris said, “OK, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing of him someday. His name is Steve Miller.”

My foot hasn’t stopped kicking me to this day.

At Thanksgiving time, for some unexplainable reason, I began to miss Connecticut and my family. Very strange, indeed. One of the other guys in school who lived in Pennsylvania started to feel the same way about his home and family. So the two of us began to hitch hike east with the hope of surprising our families for the holiday. We actually caught rides with pilots of small aircraft. We never did make it back east. In fact, we realized that we’d never make it home in time and turned around to hitch hike back to school. We never made it back there either. “A Father’s Gift – Part 2” explains what happened.

Another “Gift”

Although I didn’t actually flunk out of college, it was obvious at the time that, if I continued to attend, I may have. My heart just wasn’t in it.

I quit school and got a job at a local hospital as a supply clerk. I actually wheeled supplies around from floor to floor delivering them to the appropriate departments. It didn’t pay well and I had my application in elsewhere.

I got a job with a Fortune 500 multinational corporation in December of 1972. I was employed with that organization for 25 years (you’ll find out my feelings about that organization later in some of my poetry as well as in some of my music).

I met my first wife during this time.

I went to the local Holiday Inn lounge with a friend one evening in August of 1972 and I spotted her across the room. She was as cute as a button, or so it seemed to me then. It has to be remembered that during “then” I was always under the influence of whatever influence I could get my hands on.

To be fair, though, Molly was, and still is, attractive.

There was a band playing and I asked her to dance. We did stuff like that in those days.

We fell in love, or so I thought.

Molly went off to college in September of 1972. I missed her terribly and used some pretty underhanded tactics to facilitate her quitting school, coming back to Connecticut and, ultimately, marrying me. We were married on January 20, 1973.

The marriage was a lot less exciting than the courtship. I merely thought that this is what happens to marriages eventually. We spoke to one another only when necessary and, well, our relationship was distant at best.

We did manage to conceive two of my three daughters, Jessica and Jackie, during the six years that we were married. I loved my daughters, and still do, but, as I mentioned above, the explosive temper that was part of my father’s character was part of mine as well.

I don’t blame Molly for ultimately leaving me. I do, however, to this day, resent the way it happened. There was never any marriage counseling of any sort. As I said, I just thought that was how things were and Molly was miserable.

The third essay in “The Father’s Gift” series, “A Father's Gift - Part 3”, explains how I was abandoned.

Marriage, Divorce and the War Against Honesty

This previously was the last section of the About Michael page. I entitled it From Then until Now (And The Final “Gift”), A Brief Overview

At the time that I wrote that, the “now” in the phrase “until now” was 2011, I believe. Not only has a lot happened between 2011 and now, but a lot actually happened between 2000 and now. I was very hesitant to write about those things until now.

Above, I described how my first wife, Molly, and I met; that we had two girls and that she eventually left me. I don’t mind mentioning Molly by name because she was basically a kind person. She may have been caring in her own way, but she never seemed as if she cared much for me. Did she care about me in the beginning of our relationship, only to have that feeling dashed by my temper and impatience? According to Molly, she didn’t like me from the day she set eyes on me. She said that, when I asked her for her phone number on the night on which we met, she would have given me a fake number had her mother not been looking at what she was writing.

I don’t believe that Molly disliked me from the first time she laid eyes on me. She’s much too kind to give birth to two children knowing that she hates the father and has hated him from the first time she saw him. She must have had some hope or belief that our marriage could and would be successful. I don’t know if counseling would have helped the marriage, but it probably wouldn’t have hurt it.

Nevertheless, she more than likely grew tired of being the object of my rants and she left me. We kept our relationship civil for the sake of our girls and, for that, I thank Molly. She also didn’t “take me to the cleaners” as the saying goes. There was no alimony involved and, again, I thank her for being empathic to that degree.

The Serpent’s Sister
There’s an adage which suggests that, if one doesn’t have something good to say about another individual, one should say nothing about that individual. I won’t exactly follow that saying. I don’t have much good to say about my second wife, but I will say what needs to be said. I will not mention her by name, however.

I was remarried one month after the divorce between Molly and me was finalized. As fast as that was, I told my parents that I was extremely despondent because Molly moved my two girls from Connecticut to Virginia and I never wanted to go through that again. I told them that I was going to get a vasectomy. They suggested that I speak with our primary care physician before going to a urologist. I made an appointment with our primary care physician, then referred to as the family doctor.

I did not realize at the time that my folks had called the good doctor, asking him to talk me out of getting clipped. So, at the age of 29, I sat in front of our family doctor and explained that I never wanted to have any more kids. He reminded me of how young I was and that, if I ever changed my mind, I’d be screwed (no pun intended). He convinced me to hold off on getting the vasectomy and I did.

Looking back, I now know that I would have been within my rights to question the ethics not only of the doctor, but of my parents. Of course, looking back once more, I could have spent a life time questioning my parents’ ethics.

Before my divorce from Molly was finalized, I met my second wife at a night club. Yes, there was a band. Yes, I asked her to dance. I was rather proud of myself because this woman looked like a “grown up”. Let me explain.

I already mentioned that Molly was cute, although, at that time she hated being called cute. I thought that she was cute and very attractive. Much of the time, Molly wore what were referred to as “granny dresses” (Google it). She wore very little if any makeup. She never wore jewelry either. She had the wedding band and another ring that her aunt or grandmother had given to her. She was a bit naïve. I don’t believe that there was a cynical bone in her body. I must say, however, that my behavior probably planted seeds that grew some of those bones. She was a grown up “little girl”.

On one fateful night, I went to a night club and, as I was sitting, sipping my beer, I saw an attractive “woman” sitting across the room. I put the word “woman” in quotes because, well, she looked like a woman, not a cute little girl. I thought that she was attractive, but I always thought of myself as not yet having grown up. I was spoken to by my folks as if I was still somewhere between 10 and 15, so how I felt was to be expected, in my opinion. I never really hit on a female who looked like a woman. She wore makeup, wore a blouse and a skirt and wore some jewelry. As I felt like a kid and she looked like a “grown up” woman, I didn’t feel that I was in her league. But the beers served to help me overcome that feeling momentarily and I went to her table and asked her to dance. We danced.

She wasn’t real shy, either. We danced a slow dance and she “held” me in a very provocative manner. I reciprocated. We didn’t leave with each other, but I left with her phone number and she left with mine.

As with Molly, as well as a couple of girls with whom I had relationships before I married Molly, I phoned her early the next day. I learned that she was divorced and had two boys, one of them named Michael. She invited me to dinner that night and I accepted.

Her home was very clean and orderly. I forget what she served, but she served it as a “grown up” woman would serve it, whatever the hell that means. I was so proud of myself for nabbing a real “grown up” adult woman.

We saw each other every day during the few weeks that followed.

I was searching for tenderness, as Billy Joel once sang in one of his songs. I never got it from my nuclear family and I didn’t get it from Molly, either. I needed someone to be a whole person. I think being told that I was not allowed to leave my parents’ home unless it was for the purpose of getting married helped to reinforce that need. I now see the message as, “You’ll always need a baby sitter, even if we don’t know who that baby sitter might be.” Doesn’t that sound like the message? I was so incompetent that, no matter who I married, I would need her. I could have married a serial killer or the president of The Prostitutes Union of the United States. I would have been better off with them than I would have been living alone. My father always said that I never thought before I opened my mouth. I guess he would know how that was. As long as it was mean and insulting, I deserved it for some reason. Sounds like the message to me.

During those couple of weeks, my second wife and I talked about our previous marriages. She told me that her ex-husband was so uninteresting, or something like that, that she had to take solace in having an affair with a man who worked at the local bakery. That could have, and should have been a red flag. However, I “needed” her so much that I bought into the excuse she gave me for cheating on her ex.

So, during that period of time, we pretty much agreed that we were “an item”. We threw the word “love” around and the phrase “I love you” as well.

Before we were married, I was able to leave work early one evening and I thought that I might surprise her by showing up at her house. She did not ride a motorcycle. I mention this because, when I arrived at her house, there was a motorcycle parked in her driveway. I, naturally, was livid. I got out of my car, but thought better of confronting her and her “guest”. She must have heard me slam my car door and peel out. In my rear view and side view mirrors, I saw her running out of the house, screaming for me to come back. She screamed, “I’m sorry. Please come back.” I did not.

There was no such thing as caller ID at that time. So when the phone rang, I didn’t know who was calling me. It may have been work. Who knew? So I answered the phone. She was on the line crying, saying, “Please don’t hang up. Please listen to me.” I hung up the phone.

This happened several times throughout the evening until her weeping got to me and I listened to her. She told me that the guy as an “old friend” and that he was just visiting. I didn’t believe her. After all, why would she yell, “I’m sorry” as I drove away.

Nonetheless, I got into my car and drove back to her house. She didn’t smoke. When we went into the bedroom, there was an ash tray on the night stand near the bed. I became angry again.

“OK, OK,” she said. “He did come over just to visit, but things got carried away. I’m so, so sorry” and she began weeping almost uncontrollably.

I began to leave again, but she threw herself at me and begged my forgiveness.

I knew that I couldn’t live alone. I was convinced that I wasn’t capable of living alone. I needed someone and, if she didn’t love me, why would she be so upset about her indiscretion? I really “needed” her and she seemed very sorry.

In January of 1980, we were married. In July of that year, she became pregnant and, in March of the following year, my third daughter was born.

Before my daughter was born, my wife whined that she spent all day with her two boys and lacked adult company. So, once a week or so, she went out with “the girls”. I’d never met any of these girls, but, on occasion, I stopped at a local watering hole with guys from work that she’d never met. She made a good case.

In August of that year, when she returned home from a night out with girls, a handkerchief fell out of her purse. I’d never known her to carry a handkerchief, especially one that looked as if it belonged to a man. The stain would have made Bill Clinton proud.

So, let’s review. She is pregnant with our (my) child and she decides to cheat on me. Oh, yeah, she did finally admit that, while I sat home babysitting their two boys, she was out cheating on me with her ex.

“I suppose you want me to get an abortion now,” she said with a very vindictive tone. “Well, I won’t and I’ll tell your child that you didn’t want it when it gets older.”

True colors started flying all over the place. I needed this? She was a bitch and an unfaithful one at that.

In the spirit of one good turn deserves another, I sought the company of other women. The difference was that the women with whom I spent time didn’t have much to say. They did give me a quote before we began our interactions. I’m not proud of this fact, but I couldn’t stand the double standard that my wife expected out of the relationship.

Finally, in 1983, I filed for divorce. The straw that broke the camel’s back, a back that should have been fractured much earlier in the relationship, was my catching her talking on the phone to one of her boyfriends.

I love my daughter, Leyna. She’s helped me with album art on a couple of my releases. She and her wife, Amber, are raising my beautiful granddaughter, Adelyn. The song “Adelyn”, which is on my album 10, is dedicated to my granddaughter. My marriage to her mother failed, but I love Leyna and her family with my whole heart and being. She’s done well in life and I’m extremely proud of her.

My second wife and I had many other problems, believe it or not. Many revolved around “my kid, your kid” arguments. All of this tension and infidelity finally broke up a marriage that should never have happened in the first place.

The Third Hurt
Judging by what I’d written previously, one would walk away with the idea that I didn’t have a good relationship with anyone in my nuclear family and, in truth, I didn’t. I had some good friends, but guys don’t like to talk about their personal problems with other guys. Every time I brought up anything that was going on between my wife and me, my “friends” would either make it humorous or just say, “I think I have a meeting. Talk to ya later.”

What follows convinces me even more that my father turned my mother away from me. My mother worked in the Medical Records department at the local hospital. She went into work very early and, as soon as I thought that I could phone her, I did. I told her everything that my wife was doing. Of course, I withheld that which I was doing in retaliation. I told her that she was interfering with the visitation I wished to have with Jessica and Jackie. I told her about the infidelity. I whined and whined and whined, but I never liked her responses. She didn’t make a very good sounding board.

She said, “If I was you, I would divorce her and live alone, even if it meant living in an apartment with black walls and no windows. Anything’s got to be better than living with that bitch. And I’d stay away from any women for a long, long time.” She offered me lots of dark and almost scary scenarios.

I said, “Unfortunately, Mom, I still want to see Leyna.”

She responded with the upbeat, “You don’t even know if that’s your kid.”

That thought, that possibility, devastated me. I suppose, with all of the fooling around that my wife did, it was possible that Leyna wasn’t really my daughter. However, there were signs that were genetically in place to refute that possibility. For example, my maternal grandmother’s fingers, especially her pinkies, were sort of crooked. My mother’s were the same and Jessica’s were also that way. This is not to mention that, to a lesser degree, mine were sort of slightly bent as well. Leyna’s pinkies looked just like the rest of ours. There were other physical attributes that pointed to Leyna being my daughter and I’ve never thought otherwise. Nonetheless, my mother pretty much tried to make a case for forgetting about Leyna. I never have and never will.

In fact, at one point after we were divorced, my ex proposed that I let her new husband adopt Leyna. I’m ashamed to say that, given the financial burden as well as the travelling involved just to spend a few hours with her, I actually entertained the idea. Ultimately, though, I concluded that Leyna was, indeed, my daughter and I would never relinquish my fatherhood. I can never understand how a father or mother would just hand over his or her kids to someone else as if the child was some kind of property to be bought and sold. I knew I loved my daughter and I was not going to give her to another man who would become her “Daddy”.

About two weeks after I moved into my apartment, the phone rang.

”Hello?” It was my mother.

“Aunt Mary works with a lovely young lady. She has kids, just as you do, and she’s a homebody, just as you are.”

My mother didn’t understand that, first of all, even if she had kids and I had kids, she didn’t have kids, “just as I did”. She was the custodial parent. Secondly, I liked going out and watching bands and drinking. I really, really liked drinking. I wasn’t, nor did I want to be a “homebody”. My parents, if you hadn’t guessed by now, loved to engage in the practice of trying to make me someone I wasn’t. To them, one was either a “homebody” or was a bad person. They lacked the ability to recognize shades of gray.

Hard as this is to believe, she talked and talked until the “I really need someone to be a whole person” narrative exploded in my brain.

Now, I know some of you hard asses are saying, “This guy should have been thinking for himself by now.” I congratulate you for being raised by people, parents or otherwise, who, at least to some degree, allowed you to think for yourself, at least eventually. To you who also don’t recognize shades of gray, I say look up the word “empathy”. If you don’t understand how something can be psychologically branded on to and into someone’s brain then you are part of the problem. “Shit, you were old enough to make your own decisions by this time.” I hope that someday you acquire a brain.

In fact, I argued with my mother, telling her I’d had enough marriage. She told me that, just because a couple of marriages didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that you can never marry someone with whom you’ll spend the rest of your life. She ended up being right, but wife number three was not to be that person. Don’t forget, this is the very same person who, two weeks earlier, had said, “If I was you, I would divorce her and live alone, even if it meant living in an apartment with black walls and no windows……I’d stay away from any women for a long, long time.”

I was thirty-five at the time and she would say, “Do you want to be fifty years old and be all alone?” It sounded scary, although, as I think about it, many people, both men and women, do just fine at the age of fifty without a spouse. I can only attribute her scare tactics to what both of my parents thought of me – or of themselves.

I ultimately gave in and phoned this “homebody”. We met at a restaurant. She was not beautiful and she was not repulsively ugly. I looked at her and thought, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”

After dinner, I walked her back to her car. We were talking, so I got in on the passenger’s side. During one pause in the conversation, we kissed. The talking stopped for a very long time. We made out hot and heavy in her car. I had a vasectomy by this time, but we never went that far. I wanted to take her back to my place or go to her place and finish this thing off. Alas, she had two kids who were home waiting for her. Her daughter was old enough to be babysitting her son, so that didn’t happen. As mentioned, she wasn’t exceptionally attractive, so I wasn’t heartbroken. However, having gone possibly longer than I’d gone without it since before my marriage to my second wife, I was horny as hell. She would definitely do, but it didn’t happen.

I can’t live alone. Jesus Christ, if I live alone, all I’d have would be me. I need someone (not thinking a “babysitter” at the time”). You see, there’s this hole in my person and it can only be filled with another person – or so I was convinced.

Were there red flags before I married wife number three? One would have thought that I couldn’t see or recognize the color “red”.

I was trying to be healthy during this period of time. I ran a couple of miles a day. Wife number three would stop at my apartment on her way to work each week day morning and we’d get that out of the way.

One morning, when she stopped at my apartment, I had Leyna with me. I asked her if she’d watch my kid while I took my run. My apartment was small and we couldn’t do much else.

She said, “Of course I will.” So I handed Leyna over to her and went for my run. Things seemed fine when I left, but when I returned, Leyna was crying. She’d never been with this woman and she missed her Dad. There was no sign that the woman did anything to Leyna, but the woman was livid. Leyna was four at the time.

Future wife was livid. There was no sign that she did anything to make my daughter cry, but the signs that she did nothing to comfort my daughter were just as blatant.

I saw future wife at her place after she got off of work later than afternoon. She was all pouty and shit. I asked her what was wrong.

She said, “You know, peoples’ personalities are solidified when they’re about three or four. Your daughter will never change.”

She was in the medical field as some sort of technician, but I forget what kind of technician. To call her a medical professional would have been inaccurate.

I looked at her in disbelief. I asked, “Does this have anything to do with what happened this morning? She’d never stayed with you before and, besides, she’s a crier.” Then I made the mistake of saying, “One person came between my kids and me and nobody, but nobody will ever do that again.”

It appeared as though that was an unacceptable position for me to take. She pouted like a three year old and walked away from me.

I, in turn, walked away from her and toward my car. Suddenly she started yelling, “Michael, please don’t go.” I went. This was over. I wasn’t going to go through this shit again.

At about nine that evening a car pulled into the apartment complex parking lot. I could not only hear when cars pulled into the parking lot, I could see the headlights as they shone through my living room window. Most of the time, I’d hear the car pull in, see the headlights and then the headlights would be turned off. This time, the engine kept running and the headlights never went dark. I finally got up out of my chair and looked out the window. It was number three. She not only had her engine running and her lights on, but there was smoke billowing all around her.

I said, “Jesus Christ” to myself and then went downstairs to where she was. Three did not smoke anything. But, that night, she was chain smoking cigarettes. It was weird.

“Why the hell are you here and why are you smoking?” I asked.

“I always do this when I’m in a state of shock”, she said. Then she started weeping almost uncontrollably. “I’m sorry,” she said and grabbed me.

I didn’t physically “accept” the hug and said, “Listen, part of the reason I’ve been divorced twice is because wife number two (I did say the name) would always think of reasons to thwart visitation between Jessica, Jackie and me. I never want to have to choose between my wife and my children again. It’s apparent that you don’t care much for Leyna. To say that she’ll never change when she’s only four years old is absurd.”

She was weeping. “I’m sorry. Please don’t leave me.” During this or any other conversation we ever had, she never said that she was sorry for what she had said about Leyna and, of course, I never pressured her to admit it.

Tears always seem to affect my ability to think straight. I’d say it’s because I never really want to hurt people. However, I did hurt people because I had such a volatile temper and awful words would emit from my mouth, words that were unnecessary and were, many times, not relevant to the “conversation” that was underway. They were attacking, personal and, obviously, meant to hurt someone. I always heard my father when I ranted and yelled, but, in some way, I thought that it was a good thing. After all, he was omniscient and always got his way. I never, ever beat a woman - never. I pushed wife number two once and I actually regret it to this day. But I know that, innately, I hate hurting people. Something my old man would tell me regularly was that part of my problem was that I didn’t have the “killer instinct”. But I guess I’m digressing somewhat.

Next thing I knew, it was September of 1985 and we were in my car driving to my parents’ house. Waiting there were my parents, my sister and a guy I worked with who also was a justice of the peace. More amazingly, we actually argued on the way to our own marriage. But we swore to be with each other till death do us part.

Wife three’s son was seven years old when we met, but behaved as if he was three. When my parents would come to visit us, which wasn’t very often, or when we had friends over, he’d hide behind a chair. He wouldn’t leave the room because he was embarrassed or anything like that. He’d hide, much like a three or four year old would hide.

He was always in trouble in school. Of course, wife number three blamed the teachers (yes teachers – this happened during all of the six years that we were married). He was eventually diagnosed with something called Attention Deficit Disorder. I’d never heard of it and thought it was a “condition” created to explain away inappropriate behavior in children. I thought it was an excuse.

We would fight over this kid and his behavior. However, when I was allowed to have my kids, three of them now, for visitation, instead of welcoming them into our home, number three would note each and every behavioral abnormality and, many times, I took my kids back to their mothers early just so we didn’t fight over them.

“What about your son?” I would ask. “He’s seven (eight, nine, ten – it happened for the whole time I was with her) and he behaves like a three year old.”

The bottom line was that my wife would constantly remind me that her son had ADD (they didn’t change it to ADHD until a little bit later) and he needed medication, whereas my kids were medically just fine, they were just bad.

By the way, justice hasn’t been swift, but within the past ten years, I’ve been diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. Maybe it’s just an excuse for my temper? Nah. I was wrong about number three’s son and I admit it.

Did I ever have fun with any of the three women to whom I had been married by this time? Well, I don’t think I had a lot of fun with Molly because, well, she just didn’t like me.

Wife number two and I had some fun times together and wife number three and I had fun at times as well. With wife number two, I wasn’t the only man with whom she had fun during our marriage. With both two and three, the chaotic madness far outweighed any good times we may have had. Since my divorce from wife number three, I’ve begun to refer to my first three wives as my “practice wives”. Most people find that humorous. It’s meant to be that way.

Saved the Hard Way – Tina
It was 1990 and I was an Operations Supervisor for the global, Fortune 500 chemical manufacturing company with whom I was employed. I’m now willing to expose this company as The Dow Chemical Company. I thought that, if I exposed the name, they would come after me and sue me, getting absolutely nothing. I dare ‘em, to do that almost twenty years after they threw me away as if I was an old, torn up rag.

Although it was the lowest rung on the management ladder, Operations Supervisor was a pretty good accomplishment for someone who knew nothing about things mechanical and was almost fired for incompetence and poor attendance two or three times in the beginning of his career. I was promoted to that position in 1988 and, when it happened, wife number three held a surprise celebration party for me. That was nice. That was thoughtful. Of course, when the party was over and a new day dawned, we reassumed the position – hate, anger, “my kid, your kid” craziness.

There were three manufacturing plants and a maintenance department on the site at which I worked. When the company did any hiring of non-degreed personnel, the Operations Supervisors of the three manufacturing plants as well as the Supervisor of non-degreed personnel in the maintenance department worked with the Human Services department to review the applications, interview the candidates and, ultimately, agree on which candidates were going to be hired.

This is an aside, but it has to be told. Well, it may be a bit of an aside, but it sets up something that happens a little later on very well. The very first time I was involved in this hiring process was during my first year as an Operations Supervisor. The three other supervisors and I sat in the main conference room on site and waited for the HR rep to arrive.

When he arrived, he looked as though he’d just had a serious argument with someone. His face wore a very angry expression.

“The plant manager was told that we have to hire niggers, spics and split-tails,” he growled.

The other three supervisors as well as the HR rep looked like first graders who couldn’t go outside for recess because it was raining.

I imagine most reading this know what the words “nigger” and “spic” mean, but you may not have heard the word “split-tail” before. I hadn’t heard it before that day. It simply refers to women.

I was floored. I didn’t know that such blatant prejudiced was expressed or pejoratives used when a company as large as The Dow Chemical Company hired people. Was there a culture of racism and misogyny throughout The Dow Chemical Company? Between 1972, the year I was hired, and 1988, the Allyn’s Point Site in Gales Ferry, Connecticut, the site at which I worked, had hired several Black men as technicians. They also had reluctantly hired at least two women, even though the work was “physically taxing”. I guess I was naïve. I never knew that, in 1988, this kind of talk would go on in the conference room of a company as large as Dow.

After sixteen years with Dow, much of the early years struggling just to remain an employee of the company, I’d finally become knowledgeable and proved that I had leadership skills. I was newly promoted to the position of Operations Supervisor and I wasn’t about to fuck that up. So, I said nothing. Was I right to protect my own skin or should I have gone to someone who was higher up in the company? I didn’t know how high up this mentality went? I certainly wasn’t going to turn my back on the money that accompanied the promotion. Besides, being promoted to a management position for such a large company flew in the face of what my old man had been telling me about myself since I was at least ten. I wasn’t going to screw that up. This didn’t lessen the shock I felt and I hoped that I kept it hidden.

I bring this incident up for two reasons.

First, these people who were so distressed because they “had to hire” minorities were the same people who said that Blacks should get off their asses and get jobs. Get jobs? If the people hiring for good jobs embraced this reluctance to hire Black people, Latinos or women and, if possible, got away with not hiring them, then those who they called lazy didn’t have much of a chance, did they? Looking back, it seems to me that they wanted it both ways. They wanted to avoid hiring “those people” at all costs, but it must have felt good and self-aggrandizing to name call and say that they were lazy and lacked the initiative to look for work. They did look for work, only “work” didn’t want them. It seems absolutely crazy to me. These people could hold two conflicting views at the same time in what passed as brains. Like the old man, they really didn’t think before they spoke or they just didn’t see that what they were doing was tantamount to rooting for both teams to win an athletic event. Since racism and prejudiced happens in the brain, I’m convinced that it’s a mental illness.

Secondly, Dow began the hiring process again in 1990. I could not be part of the hiring team because I had a vacation planned for that period of time. So I sent one of my reports to fill in for me.

There was still the hesitancy to hire anyone who was not a Caucasian male and there were people who were not Caucasian males applying for the openings. Yes, boys and girls, there was a time when American based corporations hired Americans to work for them and paid them a living wage. That’s sort of ancient history now, though, isn’t it? However, apparently, many of these American based corporations still tried to steer clear of hiring non Caucasians, Latinos and women.

One of the applicants who applied in 1990 was a young lady named Christine Rodgers. She told me some time after she was hired that, during the interview, one of the supervisors asked her questions like:

“What makes you think you can handle this kind of work?”

“What will your husband think of you spending the entire night with a group of men?” (She was engaged to be married and the jobs for which this group of candidates were applying would ultimate have them working rotating shifts).

“How can I be sure that you won’t get pregnant soon and force us to go through this whole hiring process again?”

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, asking a woman, asking anyone, the types of questions that were asked of Ms. Rodgers was illegal, let alone sexist and inappropriate. Not only could the supervisor asking them lose his job, but the company could have been fined. Ultimately, Ms. Rodgers could have filed suit against both the supervisor and the company and may have ended up not even having to work for the rest of her life.

Although some of her family members as well as her fiancé wanted her to legally challenge the inappropriate behavior of the interviewing supervisor, Ms. Rodgers decided not to do so. She answered the questions honestly, adding some small commentary to those answers.

In mild defense of the interviewing supervisor, “What makes you think you can handle this kind of work?” was not a particularly unusual question to ask any applicant, whatever that applicant’s gender, race or ethnicity happened to be. As mentioned earlier, much of the work that Ms. Rodgers was going to be expected to do was, indeed, physically taxing. Nonetheless, in light of the other two questions, Ms. Rodgers heard the question with the ears of a female applying for a job that had been traditionally done by males and thought that it was being asked of her because she was not a male.

“Have you ever crawled through the attic or crawl space of a home during the summer?” she asked the interviewer. Before he could reply, she continued, “I’ve spent the past five years installing ductwork for air conditioning units in these crawl spaces. Not only is there very little space for you and the ductwork, but it can get well over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) up there. That sheet metal can start to get heavy after you’ve carried enough of it up to the attic and I challenge anyone who works here to spend that much time doing that kind of work in that kind of temperature.”

“What will your husband think of you spending the entire night with a group of men?”

“First of all, I’m not yet married. I don’t have a husband. But I have spoken to my fiancé about the job and, as he works at a restaurant surrounded by women waitresses, he feels that he’s not in a position to worry about that. He trusts me and I trust him and I need a job, we need for me to make as much money as we can and that’s what we care about. He’s fine with it.

“By the way, if I’m hired, will you be asking all of the men that I’ll be working with how their wives will feel working all night with a woman?”

The interviewer just gave her a disgusted look and continued on with the final inappropriate question.

“How can I be sure that you won’t get pregnant soon and force us to go through this whole hiring process again?”

“I know that I don’t have to tell you this, but I will. I had one son and I don’t want any more kids.”

“You say that now,” responded the interviewer, “but you’re getting married. You and your husband might want more kids.”

“I can’t have any more kids!” she answered in about as angry a voice as she used during the interview.

“Well, that’s none of my business,” said the interviewer, obviously not real comfortable with talking about the anatomy of women.

Thus ended the interview.

Six weeks later, Ms. Rodgers was hired as an operating technician for The Dow Chemical Company. After she was hired, she made it clear that she didn’t want to be called Ms. Rodgers, Christine, Chris, Chrissy or any variation thereof. Her preferred nickname was, and still is, Tina. That’s how she will be referred to from here on in.

At that point, new hires were placed into a new employee pool and trained. They were readied for a permanent on shift position when it opened up. They could have been placed in the latex department, the department for which I was the Operations Supervisor and in which I’d worked since February of 1973, the Styron/Magnum department, which produced plastic that is used for anything from automobile dash boards to medical devices or the Styrofoam department. Tina was assigned to the latex department, making me her immediate supervisor. The way it worked, however, was, even though she’d be training in latex, when it was her turn to go on shift and an on shift position opened, she would be assigned to fill that opening, no matter which production plant had the opening. When I returned from my vacation, I was told that we’d hired some people and one was a woman. As I’d worked with a woman on shift before this, this didn’t move me one way or another. I hadn’t met or even seen Tina yet. She stood in the main administration building on site, waiting for someone from latex to drive her to the plant.

She arrived at the latex plant, opened the door to the corridor off of which were the offices, including mine, and began walking towards my office. I was standing outside my office when she came through the door. She was a tall woman and she carried herself in a masculine way. As she walked toward my office for our introductory sit down, I whispered to the Training Coordinator, who was standing next to me, “What a guy!” We both laughed. Of course, I had no idea that she was engaged to be married – to a guy – and I didn’t see her face very well until she got to my office. I truly thought that she was gay, which would have been all right with me, despite the derogatory “joke” I made. I must admit that, if she was a he and he was a Gay man, I would have had trouble with it. Why? Because I was a homophobe at the time and I didn’t know it. But, again, I digress.

When she arrived at where we were standing, right outside my office, we shook hands. She didn’t have an exceptionally strong hand shake but I still felt as if I was shaking hands with a man. Kenny, the Training Coordinator, who had interviewed her in my stead, introduced us.

“Tina,” he said, “this is Mike Bonanno, your boss as long as you work in latex. Mike, this is Tina Rodgers.”

“What’s up?” she said.

“What’s up” wasn’t then nor is now an unusual greeting. It was, in my opinion at the time, an unusual way for a woman to greet a man. And, even though her voice wasn’t a voice that could be easily mistaken for that of a man, I’d only experienced the manner in which she asked “What’s up?” when it was asked of me by a man.

I said, “What’s up is our little one on one welcome to latex talk.” It’s a process I had for all new employees for whom I was the immediate supervisor.

Kenny grinned, looked at Tina and said, “Oh, shit, you’re in trouble now” and went back to his office.

We went into my office. I sat behind the desk and she in front of it. I noticed two things right off the bat.

First, she didn’t seem nervous or intimidated in the least. Not that she should have felt that way. My approach was to make technicians feel as if they chose the right company for which to work. I also tried to be as encouraging as possible. So the fact that she didn’t seem intimidated wasn’t surprising, although many new employees seemed intimidated by this initial talk. If they didn’t seem intimidated, they seemed overzealous, too quick to say too many things to try to promise that they would be top performers. Tina did none of this.

The second thing I noticed was that she had one of the prettiest faces I’d ever seen. She was wearing the gray uniform provided by latex and no one could tell much about a person’s body while that person was wearing that uniform. She didn’t seem to be overweight but she was far from looking emaciated.

I couldn’t get over how pretty she was for a woman who could easily be mistaken for a very “butch” type lesbian. She was a tomboy, that’s all; just a tomboy. In fact, when I asked her to tell me a little something about herself, she said that her father had always asked her to help him when he was working on the car or reroofing the house or doing just about any home or car improvement project. Truth is, it became obvious very quickly she was much more mechanically knowledgeable than I.

I tried not to stare at her face and found myself staring at her shirt. I didn’t want to look away. I always looked new employees in the eye, but they had mostly been men. If anyone was uncomfortable, it was me. I didn’t know where to look so that it didn’t appear that I was staring at her in any provocative manner. This wasn’t easy.

During our talk, she said, “I know that this is going to sound bad, but I’m engaged to be married. I may ask for time off very soon to do that. I did tell everyone who interviewed me and they all said it was OK.”

I had a running joke for any guy who said he was going to get married and it originated from the “good fortune” I’d experienced with marriage. I would jokingly ask, “Is there anything I can do to talk you out of it?” I used it on her.

She looked puzzled. “Huh?”

“Oh, it’s just a joke. Unless you plan on having the wedding here at Dow, and I’d highly recommend against that, then I guess it would be fine to take time off to get married. If you don’t mind my asking, do you have a long honeymoon planned?”

“We don’t have any honeymoon planned. We didn’t even know if I could get the time off I needed to get married.”

“I like a person who puts Dow before a honeymoon. That’s what I call commitment.” She actually chuckled at that one.

After I’d gone through some of the general rules and guidelines, as well as a general review of some of the nasty chemicals we used to produce latex, I said, “That’s it, I guess. Kenny will start your training here in latex plus you’ll have to go to site wide training for a while.”

We both stood up at the same time and we shook hands again. I said, “Welcome aboard.”

She replied, “Thanks man.”

”Thanks, man?” That just sounded so weird coming from a woman’s mouth. However, during the chat, she never tried to hide who or what she was. She was a tomboy with an obvious feminine side that turned me on almost immediately. But, alas, she was going to get married and I was already very unhappily married.

It was August of 1990 and time to plan the annual latex department picnic. Tradition had placed the responsibility for planning the picnic in the hands of the Operations Supervisor.

One reason I was promoted from crew leader to Operations Supervisor was that I excelled at utilizing the human resources I had at hand. I had learned quite a bit since working for Dow, yet I knew that, of the three other people on my shift, at least one was better at carrying out repairs of a mechanical nature than I was. I was made crew leader in 1978 and I was never without a mechanic wannabe on my shift. I don’t mean that in a derisive way. There was always at least one person who actually liked swapping out pumps or fixing leaky valves. When it became necessary to fix or replace a pump in order to keep production on schedule, I would turn to that person. The person already had a responsibility, however. He or she was the truck loader, finishing technician or possibly the “front end” technician for the night. His or her job still had to be done, even though there was a pump or some other mechanical device that needed to be fixed/changed out. So I would do that person’s job while he or she did the maintenance repair. This won me huge kudos from my supervisors in two ways.

First and most importantly, we very seldom called a maintenance technician in on the off hours to do maintenance repairs. This saved the company a lot of money and allowed any maintenance technician who might have been called in to be available and rested in the morning.

Secondly, at that particular point in time, Dow wanted every technician to know as much as possible. My having the operating techs on my shift do the maintenance helped to promote that goal. Oh, things have changed at Dow since then.

So it was with being in charge of the annual picnic. My job was to ensure that things were done to allow for a fun picnic. I didn’t necessarily do everything myself.

It was the day before the picnic and I was home trying to stay out of eye site and ear shot of number three. We just couldn’t speak to one another without an argument ensuing. The phone rang and I answered it.


“Hi, Mike. This is Tina. I’m calling to see if you need any last minute help with the picnic.”

That was a first. No operating tech ever called me up and asked if I needed help with the picnic. At that point everything was on schedule. I actually wished I could have said that I needed some help, but I really didn’t.

“Gee, Tina, this is nice of you. Everything’s pretty much been taken care of so all you have to do is show up. Thanks anyway.”

After Tina and I finished our brief telephone conversation, I actually sought out number three and told her about Tina’s offer.

“That was big of her. She seems like a nice person.”

Emotionally and psychologically, that phone call meant more to me the words I’ve written portray.

While Tina was in training, her normal work hours were Monday through Friday, from seven-thirty AM to four PM. She certainly proved to be worth the investment that Dow made. Up until the EEOC started regulating companies and forcing them to at least interview women for the job, Chemical plant operating technicians were almost all men. I rest the case I make that governmental regulations are necessary because, without them, “the market” will not insure that companies will follow fair hiring practices. We would have missed out on hiring Tina had the EEOC not been created.

At four, she would walk to her pickup truck. Yep, a pickup truck. In order to get to her vehicle, she had to walk past my office and I made sure that I was in my office at four. I watched her as she drove away.

One day after work when she walked past my office, I stopped her and invited her in. She sat down and then I sat down.

“Has anybody ever told you that you’re an outstanding worker? Latex is lucky to have you. You put most of the guys here to shame.

“But what really amazes me is that you look so comfortable and self-assured doing this man’s job. However, as you sit in front of me, I can see that you haven’t sacrificed much, if any of your femininity. Your fiancé is a lucky guy.”

She said, “Thanks.”

We began talking about work, but, after a while, turned to more personal stuff. She said that she had a teenage boy named Mike. She complained a little about him – nothing serious, just stuff that teenagers do without thinking.

The next day on her way out, she peeked into my office and asked, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I said, “Sure, come on in.”

She asked me a question concerning the job. I don’t remember what it was and it’s pretty irrelevant all these 25 years later.

She then became a bit more personal. “I must have sounded like a terrible mother – the way I bitched about Michael, yesterday.”

I told her that I understand that parents have to do what parents have to do and that she didn’t sound like a bad mother at all.

She continued on with more of her personal history. She told me that she ran away from home when she was 18 years old. She left with a man who was married and had two kids. He wasn’t divorced or even separated. She said that it was a stupid thing to do but she wanted to get away from her parents.

Who was I to judge what actions are stupid and what actions are OK? “Do you think that what you did was more stupid than getting married three times to women who either didn’t like you or expressed opinions that I should have known would ultimately doom the marriage? ‘Cause that’s what I did. Everyone does stupid things in their lives, right?”

She wasn’t shy. “It seems you would have learned after the first failed marriage.”

“One would think,” I replied.

She continued on with her story, which surprised me. She said that the man with whom she ran off ultimately talked her into having a kid, something she had already promised herself she would never do. She said that, after about a year or so on the road with the guy, he began to lose interest in her.

“Ah. He finally started to feel guilty about what he did to his wife and kids.”

“Fuck, no. He met some bimbo while he was playing tennis. I worked at a Bonanza restaurant while I was pregnant and he was out fucking some other woman.”

I was sort of at a loss for words. Why would a girl run off with a guy who’s married, has two kids and has no plans to divorce his wife? But I said, “Well, you’ve met a good man now and you’ll be married soon and you’ll settle down. It takes some of us a long time to figure out what this life is all about.”

There were two reasons why my statement was hypocritical.

First, the fact that I was still married to number three was pretty good evidence that I hadn’t figured out what this life was all about.

Secondly, assuring her that all will be OK now that she found herself a “good man” was not easy for me to say. Pangs of jealousy taunted me.

Why was I jealous? Here’s a woman who was 5'9" tall, a full 5" taller than I was, and was about to be married, which she said was going to be the smartest thing she’d ever done in her life. There was no reason for me to look at our relationship as more than professional. I was her supervisor and she was my report. The feeling of jealousy was ridiculous at best. Or maybe I was jealous that she was getting married and was happy about it. Who knows?

But wait, there’s more about the relationship between Tina and me and how The Dow Chemical Company affected that relationship.

There are those of you who will think that I'm merely whining and I always had it within myself to overcome the words that were burned into my brain and the actions which backed up those words. If that’s what you think, I submit to you that you’re able to think in that way because you didn’t face the constant bombardment of insults and maniacal attacks that I faced. Just think for a moment about how you feel towards what I’ve exposed about myself and my life. Have you done that? Now think of the way your primary care taker(s) would feel about what I’ve written. It’s pretty much the same, isn’t it? I wonder where you got that outlook. No, actually I don’t wonder at all. If you think you’ve always been your own person and were not influenced, for better or for worse, by those who had the most effect on your upbringing, you’re delusional.

Just to reiterate: I’m doing this to demonstrate that, if a parent tramples upon a kid’s self-respect and self-confidence for a long enough time, starting at a very young age, it’s really hell for that kid, later that man or woman, to feel either of those qualities.

There are a couple of people, maybe a few people, who may read this and feel deep seeded hatred towards me for exposing all of this. To them I say that I know you better than you know yourselves. Lying to one’s self is a hard habit to break.

To friendship,

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