Gimmie a beat
Sometimes it’s the little things that sneak up on me. Those little things that seem insignificant at the time, but have a much larger and lasting impact on my mind and soul. Sounds deep right? Well, it is and it isn’t… I will try to explain:
When I was thirteen years old I already had a job as a paperboy, video game arcade clerk, and I was a work-hand at a livestock auction every weekend. I was quite the industrious thirteen year old and I was a very hard worker most of the time. Looking back at my schedule, it was easy to see that school was not my priority. I got up at 5 AM most days and finished my paper route by the time school had started. I usually fell asleep during my first few classes and started work at the arcade immediately after school. I was off work by closing time and home to start it all over again the next day. It seemed very normal to me at age thirteen to have this schedule and I had no idea that other kids didn’t do the same types of things until I was a little older.
I made good money for a kid. The money I made was spent on all the things I wanted and none of the things I needed. Mostly, the money was spent on meth, that was the drug habit I had started the previous year. Meth helped me to maintain my work schedule and as far as I was concerned at the time, it helped with everything! I had started dealing meth where and when I could, but mostly I used meth where and when I could.
At some point, I found myself without cash and without a stash and my natural compulsion to acquire more meth was engaged. Now, I wasn’t the hardened criminal you would expect that I should be considering my behavior, but I certainly knew how to steal a few bucks from those around me when I needed it. Down the street from my parents lived Art Curtain (See: To my fathers) and he had just purchased a boombox radio. You see, Art didn’t have a lot. Most of what Art brought into his home was coffee, dog food, and the bare necessities. An older man (Senior citizen) on a fixed income, he wasn’t the high-value target one would hope for while acquiring drug money. I knew him to be a kind, caring, and considerate man. A trusting man and an easy target. The radio he recently purchased was something of an extravagance for him and it was something he wanted (we had talked about it), he loved music and missed it in his home and didn’t have a way to play it. It played those “modern cassettes” that were all the rage! So, yeah… I did the “little” thing and I stole the radio and traded it for a quarter gram of meth.
Sing like a bird
I was questioned immediately if I had taken the radio, but I denied it of course. I wasn’t about to admit to anyone that I had stolen it. It was pretty obvious that I had stolen it and I am sure Art knew that I had taken it too. I immediately felt ashamed and distanced myself from Art. There is something about the thief and the lies they tell, they never seem to be able to face the consequences of their actions and turning away from those they hurt is the only way to live with themselves. And that’s what I did and I felt terrible. I could see that I had betrayed Art’s trust. Years went by and I had moved away, but nearing my 18th birthday I was visiting the old neighborhood and I saw Art leaving a convenience store and when he walked out that door I wanted to hug that man so badly, confess about stealing the radio, pay him back, and ask for forgiveness, but I just couldn’t. I was still so full of shame and remorse. Unable to imagine those words coming from my mouth. In my mind, I was already running away from him after my initial elation of seeing him again faded. So, I left him in that parking lot after a few “how-ya-been’s” and “good-to-see-ya’s” and of course, the empty promise to “stop by sometime” etc. I left him there and I never told him how heavy my heart was for that shameful act of stealing his radio.
Sing it loud
I had no idea that my conscience was so powerful. Though it was always there to some extent, that inner voice grew stronger over the years and it simply could never live with that action. Why? Because that man loved me. He loved everyone. A realist with a big heart and I took advantage of his kindness. And I loved him too, but in my younger years, I did not have the ability to reconcile or encourage that feeling. He was what we would call today “In the program” and because of that, he spent decades sober in recovery and remained in service to everyone he knew. I didn’t see it until later, but he didn’t have a lot of valuables in his home (or the spare bedroom) because it was usually reserved for sobering up drunks and addicts who would probably end up stealing those things (like his radio) anyway. And wouldn’t you know it? I was one of those addicts who did just that!
Sing it proud
Sharing this story is not easy for me. Sure, I have done worse crimes! A lot worse. I would be happy to tell those stories of stealing cars and jumping a dead moose in Montana! Not a problem! Good stories too! But! This one? This shame? This remorse? This regret. Man! Chokes my sensitive little soul every time. For a long time I was not able to tell this story, but today my conscience operates on a different level and almost commands that it be told. It comes from the heart much quicker than it used to and I hope it comes from the same spot with the same kindness, caring, love, and consideration as one of the men who helped put it there. And today, as I continue my own adventure “In the program” I can only hope that I can carry “The message”, but also carry a little of Art’s “music” too as I go — Without his radio of course.