“Time don’t let it slip away Raise your drinkin’ glass Here’s to yesterday In time we’re all gonna trip away Don’t piss heaven off We got hell to pay Come full circle” Aerosmith, Full Circle, 1997
In one way or another, everyone has had trauma. Some, more than others. Some trauma is life-threatening; others are just bad memories. I’ve had the latter. It was only when I had children of my own, did I realize some of these bad memories actually had a negative impact on me. I’m 51 and I realize that until I decided to cast away some toxic people from my life around 15 years ago, I had no joy. It wasn’t for the lack of having joyful-worthy moments, it was having people in my life that wouldn’t allow me to have joy. They always felt the need to ruin my moment, probably because I wouldn’t ruin the moment myself, like a family member having a meltdown on their wedding day with self-doubt.
Some major moments that were supposed to be joyful were my graduations. I graduated high school, college, law school, and a tax LLM program. Every graduation was ruined for one reason or another. The most negative experience was my high school graduation. I didn’t try too hard at high school, I was immature to adjust to a public high school, and my teenage years were kind of awkward. Knowing I was going away for college and I lost 42 pounds my senior year, I was hopeful for the future and looking forward to the end of high school. After graduation, my mother pulled me aside and told me that my father left early in disgust, and he said that if I didn’t do well at Stony Brook, he’d make me drop out and become an electrician. Wow. This was my day and they had to ruin it. I later found out that my father had a temper tantrum because the girl in my grade that we used to carpool together in day school had an 85 average and I didn’t (82.5). That was 1990. No one cares that Mr. O’Neill gave me a 65 in Latin 3 and Stony Brook didn’t care either. However, my parents were insecure people, who thought their value in life was based on my Grade Point Average. I think I did OK with my life, despite my 82.5 GPA.
With my son, Jason, graduating high school, I started to get a little emotional about things. It probably started around Memorial Day when I met some buddies from high school in Northern Virginia, which was the topic of the previous article in this section. I realized from my friends that the negative feelings I had about high school and my desire for the next 20-plus years to distance myself from people, was an absolute mistake. My high school years were miserable because my parents made me miserable. With Jason’s graduation coming up, I felt the need to maximize the joy he could get from it. There are parents who punish their kids, simply because they had trauma when they were young. Perhaps, my parents fall into that boat, because they were children of Holocaust survivors. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t going to make Jason miserable because I was miserable. I wanted to break the cycle of trauma and for Jason to have joy in his achievements.
Jason was going to graduate on a Friday, go to the Prom on Monday, and attend a Mets game in the Hyundai Club suite on Tuesday. That took some major driving as Jason got a job at his sleepaway camp in Pennsylvania. I had to complete 3 roundtrips to Milford, Pennsylvania from Long Island. Each round trip was close to 5 hours.
I saw Jason beam at graduation, especially knowing he was going to receive a Regents diploma (which is necessary in New York). That was his moment, not mine, and I was happy for him. With the Prom and post-prom activities, I didn’t go fully to bed until 4:30 am. Jason enjoyed the prom and won some headphones in the raffle.
For the Mets game at Hyundai Club, it wasn’t enough for me, that Jason could see his favorite team play. I arranged for Jason to meet his idol, Mets broadcaster, Gary Cohen, and Mets legend Keith Hernandez in the broadcast booth. In addition, the Mets scoreboard congratulated Jason on his graduation. I didn’t get any of that when I graduated high school, I would have just sufficed that the moment, just not be ruined.
I can’t replace the memory of what my parents did. What I did was fill that hole in my soul. I got that quantum of solace by seeing the joy in Jason. The memory of my high school graduation is now linked with the joyful memories of Jason’s, they are forever linked because I broke the cycle, life has come full circle, and balance has returned to the Force. I righted a wrong that was done to me by paying it forward to Jason, who deserved the joy.
I’m 51 and playing on the back nine. I’ve had joy and will continue to enjoy the moment because there were times when I couldn’t.