Learning from history?


January 8, 1984


History repeats itself, proving just how unprepared I am to deal with it.

And the continued unrelenting lesson I face when it comes to romance, and my propensity to self destruct.

The players sometimes change, but not the game.

Two years ago, the same conditions prevailed – my uncle Ritchie reemerging in my life carrying on his back a bundle of madness, mad then, and perhaps always mad, but only most recently noticeable.

I had just broken up with my college girlfriend, and was once more trapped in my blue collar life, not as a truck driver as I was for the most part of the 1970s, but as a baker, but with the same, nasty corporate bosses – in this case, a new owner of the shop named Phil.

Ritchie had just wandered away his brother’s house in Toms River. I had forced him to come south with me because I didn’t trust leaving him alone, and tried to keep him in one of the basement rooms while I celebrated Christmas with my mother.

I hated the idea of caging him, as if a dangerous animal, but the only danger he posed to anyone was to himself.

He was sad and broken, sick of life.

At the same time, I started that year with Phil as my boss, a gung ho capitalist who had taken over the business using questionable financing (he had scammed his own boss in a soda distribution company, underbidding the man he represented to make a small fortune, and now saw his future in acquiring Dunkin Donut franchises – with me as his main baker, upon whom he hoped to build in his new empire.

All I wanted was to write, and at the time, recover from my failed romance with my college sweetheart, and perhaps, reenter college to pick up where I had left off with the breakup.

But I was disillusioned and following some path I wasn’t certain would lead me anywhere I wanted to go.

At the same time, I was too scared to take a chance on living a life based solely on writing.

Although Ritchie’s disability check helped pay for some of the shared expenses such as food, most of this went towards paying the rent on the apartment next door – even when he didn’t occupy it.

I felt guilty about not being able to take proper care of him, especially when I went to visit him at Graystone and saw him locked up in the same way my mother had been locked up.

Two years ago, this time I had reconnected by letter and phone call to my ex-wife and daughter, and eventually paid them a visit.

They come and go in my life like ghosts. They were here last August, and with Ritchie safely tucked away in the hospital, I was able to see them over Christmas out where they live.

Money trickles in, coming just in the nick of time to keep me from expiring, and yet, always casting a long shadow of anticipated doom.

Ritchie figures prominently in each potential romantic failing, a ghost of a different sort, who is not here when I become engaged, and then shows up in the midst of it again as the hospital releases him as safe only to put additional burden on whatever relationship I happened to be involved in at the time.

I should abandon him to the great mental prison in Morris Plains. But that guilt is beyond me to live with if I do.

And so I repeat history, because I do not know how to learn from it, if it is possible to learn at all.





1984 menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan