Wednesday, 11 January 2012

About Me, Part 13: Head Over Heels

1985 was a long, long summer. Missing the friends I had managed to make in Ontario and having outgrown my old friends from my hometown, I was very bored and restless. At home, much was typical parents versus teenager tension. I remember feeling quite impatient and angry that summer, wanting something different in life. I found life at home claustrophobic, a lot of over-protection from both parents, whose getting back together was starting to show cracks already. My family had plenty of surrogate parents on top of that, so there was plenty of time to be sheltered. It felt like I was being forced back into a pre-teen prison; growing seemed to my folks to mean taking on extra responsibilities, but not finding things out for oneself. It assumed at the time, and was often told in various ways, that I felt frustrated because "I was young"; but, I always knew there was something else, something deeper than that making me unhappy.

Musically, my tastes were in transition in mid-1985. I still listened to the mainstream styles I had been; rap, which was still underground for the most part, started to fall by the wayside. I became interested in a variety of rock styles, namely punk, and other styles later called alt rock. That summer, someone told me about an alternative music program on our local CHUM FM affiliate, CHOM. It ran for two hours on Sunday nights. Even more exciting was another program that ran on an AM station at the right side of the dial called CFMB 1410. The "Alternative Program" ran from Midnight to 4:00 pm from Sunday to Thursday every week. It's sounds were eerie, yet invigorating. I listened to it throughout the rest of 1985 and well into 1986. By that spring, I had created a punk identity: a hair cut that was tall on top and shaved on the back and sides, a Dead Kennedys T-shirt, and a hardware store chain as a belt. The only punk of African descent in my high school. And come Halloween, I didn't shy away from make-up either, much to the chagrin of my folks.

I also met a whole new bunch of friends that year, most of whom were in grade ten alongside me. One is still an awesome friend to this day. But, my troubled years were far from over. I still got very depressed. Suicidal thoughts were still plaguing me. I saw a school counsellor; once again my parents found out, only this time the decision to tell them was placed in my hands. My parents had split again, I stayed with my father while my mother was now living in a sublet apartment alone about ten minutes away. Her health was still a bit fragile. One day, after seeing a movie downtown, my mother passed out on the way back home on the Metro. For the first time, I worried, truly worried, about her health. The ambulance arrived took her blood pressure and determined that it was very high. I'll never forget the sight of her lying on the subway steps, almost completely still and how it broke my heart. She did not want my grandparents to know what had happened so I called my father to come to get us. It was a very awkward call to make. It was clear that he was aggravated, but that he knew that we had no other way of getting home and so came to pick us up. A few days later, my mother's high blood pressure was confirmed.

At the end of June 1986, she moved back to Ontario alone, moving in with her best friend in the Mississauga subdivision of Erin Mills. For a brief time, one of my father's sisters moved not that far away from her, then moved back to Montreal a couple of years later. My family's relationships became more strained from here on in; rifts between my parents, between my mother and her parents, between me and all of them grew. My parents were very bitter during those years and I no less. Between my father and myself, direct communication almost ceased entirely. He began to snipe at me at various times, he seemed embarrassed about me or to resent me for some reason. These tensions would characterize things in our family for years afterwards.

To be continued ...

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