Bruised Elbows

August 18, 2009

I remember riding in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon on the way down to our trailer at the beach. It was always late Friday night after my dad got off work, and it was such an uncomfortable ride. I’d be squashed between my brothers, always stuck in the middle of the back seat. After an hour of fighting and nudging, bickering increased to yelling, my dad would finally pull over and shout:

“If you brats don’t sit still, I’m gonna beat your asses so bad you’ll have to stand!”

But in his mission to get to the beach at a reasonable hour, he would never let us get out to use the bathroom, so I’d drift off to sleep praying that I’d be able to hold it in until we made it to the trailer.

On these trips, my parents always listened to AM Oldies Radio. It was perfect for my dad, because they played every Phillies game, and somehow the broadcast lasted the whole way down to the beach. He didn’t miss a beat. He got home from work around seven or eight, packed up us and our things by nine, caught the game on the car radio, and he was back to a warm bed by twelve, already thinking about the big fish we’ll catch “this time.”

I always considered my family pretty prosperous; a little house in the suburbs and even a trailer at the beach! We were rich. Imagine my surprise when I made it to high school and only then found out we were only middle class. My father and mother always seemed pretty satisfied with what they had; my father had been offered advancement in position within his job, but he never took it because he preferred physical work, and he didn‘t want to lose the little time he had at home. When we learned that I was probably the worst batter in little league, my dad seemed more intent on teaching me how to hit rather than slaving for advancement in his career to provide the “best” equipment that some of the other kids used. When we all learned how to drive, some of the kids I used to play ball with pulled into school with some pretty decent cars. They had freedom, and I wanted it. So I went to my father, and he took me to a place where I had to flip millions of burgers and wash millions of dishes to get my freedom. Many of the kids I knew wrecked their cars within six months, but I respected mine. I swore with every burger I flipped and every dish I washed that nothing would take my car away from me. I learned many lessons from hard work. I learned responsibility; I learned to respect myself and others, but most importantly, I learned that the idea of the word freedom is a paradox in itself.

The fact is we are all slaves to a system, no matter what it might be, and I’d rather be controlled by my wife’s embrace and my child’s smile, than by the size of our house and what kind of cars we own. The problem is that people are so worried about making a career for themselves and getting nice things they forget about their souls. They become shallow and selfish, raising shallow and selfish kids. Working for a better life becomes relevant only by the stacks of unused material objects stuffed away in their two car garages and walk-in bedroom closets. Too exhausted from their jobs, parents lose connection with their children, and everyone goes straight to their own rooms to play with their own toys in their own lives.

The rides to the beach with my family are the strongest memories of my childhood, and they consisted of bruised elbows, cramps, and a bladder that was ready to burst, but I love Oldies Bee-Bop now, and one sure way to get me to sleep is to play the sweet sound of Harry Kalas broadcasting a Phillies game with the faint roar of the crowd in the background. These rides represent to me the times my family truly were together, sometimes in misery, but we were a unit no matter what. That’s how I wish my family to be. I want to take my kids everywhere and show them what beauty is left in the world I’m handing down to them. I want to take them on adventures and listen to their dreams. Making a career for yourself is great, that’s not what I’m knocking. I am always in support of people using their talents in a job that they enjoy; everyone needs to eat, and Junior is going to have to go to college if he is to meet today’s standards, right? I just want to make sure that I’ve got enough time at the end of the day to love Junior and the wife, because I don’t think I could stand the pain of sleeping alone when there is someone sleeping right next to me. Not every night.

I almost pissed my pants sometimes because my dad was so stubborn, but the next day we were out bright and early fishing together.

Peter L Richardson
3/24/92
(this is something I wrote when I was 18 years old. I think the main point is still relevant today, and in my mind it’s become a tribute to my dad; hence, the following poem…)

 

“Green Chevy”

Riding in the back of his dark green Chevy.
Cold vinyl beige pressed against my cheek,
The seatbelt pressed hard against my bladder.
My brothers’ both asleep,
          or at least pretending to be.
Passing headlights create shadow-worlds
          orbiting the ceiling.
Another long day;
Exhausted from play or pain,
          or both.
But no matter,
          childhood lasts forever…

Soft rock pumps through the air,
          stirs up a memory,
The Living Legacy:
          My dad and his Chevrolet.

Peter L Richardson
6/13/00

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3 Responses to “Bruised Elbows”

  1. QSB Says:

    I hope your gonna put together another book cause I want it.

  2. peterrock12 Says:

    Thanks! That’s my goal, but until then please keep checking out the blog!

  3. Paul Says:

    very well done pete


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