Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sharing Paul's Story

Once in awhile I get a message from a reader that actually takes my breath away. When that message is accompanied by a request to share the story on this blog on occasion I pause, reluctant to share something so deeply personal with a wider audience. I find myself asking them, and myself, if they are sure they want to share their story – and in this case my correspondent was insistent. He asked if perhaps I could “write it better” as he did not finish high school (for reasons you will learn) and while I think his writing needed no editing I agreed to his request. Please note I did not edit out the profanity, so be advised there is some colourful language.

He also asked I keep his identity private, and I will most certainly do so, as what he has shared took courage and I am so grateful he chose to share it with me, and you. This is his story – let’s call him Paul.
McMurray Musings

Paul’s Story
I read the story you wrote about that little girl who killed herself because she was bullied and I cried. I’m a big guy, not much for showing my feelings, but when I read that I cried a lot because it took me back a long time ago to my own experience with bullying. It was a terrible time in my life, but it was a different for me – because I wasn’t the bullied. I was the bully.

My old man used to hit me a lot. In fact he hit all of us, my brothers and I, pretty much every day. I just thought that’s the way it was – his whole family was like that, my uncles hit their kids too. He used to tell stories about how his dad used to beat him and how he let us get off easy, although it sure didn’t feel easy at the time. He hit my mom, too, but that’s how you kept women in line, he said. And as my brothers and I got older he would encourage us to hit each other, especially me and my little brother who was a year younger than me but bigger than me, too. He would tell me to punch “that little bastard” to show him who was in charge. We never got in trouble for using our fists on each other. That was just how life in our house was.
The neighbours called the cops once because of all “the noise”. When the cop came my dad told him that a house full of boys was bound to be noisy, and the cop said he had his own boys and understood. After the cop left my dad went to the neighbour’s house – I don’t know what happened, but they never called the cops again and they avoided our family until they moved.

When my brothers and I went to school there wasn’t much talk about bullies, at least not in any real way. Even if there was I wouldn’t have gotten it, because I wasn’t a bully. I was just the kid who grew up punching and kept punching right through school. Oh, there was a couple of kids I “picked on” because they rubbed me the wrong way. I would take their stuff, I would knock them down and I pretty much made their lives hell because it was easy to do. Those kids were too scared to tell anyone, too, because I was a big kid and well, my brothers and I might fight each other but we stuck together, too.
Everybody pretty much turned a blind eye to what was going on in those days. Nobody noticed that my brothers and I were always covered in bruises and nobody stopped me from picking on those kids. It wasn’t until high school when I got suspended because I hit a teacher.

I figured that asshole deserved it. I don’t remember what he said but it made me mad and I popped him one. I got suspended for that and I just never went back. And then, a couple of years later, I met the wife.
By then I had pretty much cut ties with the old man – as he got older he just got meaner. I had moved out, was working as a mechanic and I couldn’t handle his moods anymore. My brothers had all left too, scattering all over the place, including one who ended up in jail for beating up a bouncer at a bar.

The wife and I got married pretty soon after we met. She met a couple of my brothers and she called them rough, but then again she thought I was pretty rough, too. But I was pretty gentle with her, although when I got angry I could use a lot of mean words. I never hit her like my dad hit my mom, because I always figured hitting women was something weak men did. Real men beat up other men, not women. That was until she was pregnant with our first kid, and I came home drunk one night after spending the evening with the boys at the bar. She was angry, we fought and I almost hit her.
The next day I woke up hungover and found my bags packed and on the front step. She sat at the kitchen table and told me I had two choices: get help or get gone. And she called me a bully.

A bully? What the hell was that? I was just a strong man who grew up fighting. I wasn’t a bully. But I wanted to hang onto the wife and my kid so I chose the one option that I hated but made the most sense.
I got help.

I have now been seeing a therapist for more years than I want to tell you. At first it was often, now I go every couple of months because the wife and I have a deal – if I ever stop going regularly I have to get gone. I don’t think with my fists anymore but it’s still there, that first reaction to hit someone when shit doesn’t go my way. But I haven’t hit anyone since she gave me that choice, and I have never hit her or my kids.
I don’t let my kids hit each other, either. My kids aren’t growing up like I did, because I don’t want my kids to be bullies, like I was. Because now I know I was a bully, too, all my life.

So I cried when I read about that little girl, because what if I did that? What if one of those kids I “picked on” – meaning bullied the hell out of – killed themselves because of me? What if I was the reason someone took their own life? I won’t defend what I did to those kids because it was dead wrong – but it took me years with a counselor to understand that, and to understand what my dad did to me and my brothers and my mom.
My mom is dead, and I haven’t seen my dad in years. One of my brothers is dead, too, and I only keep in touch with my younger brother now because he got help a few years ago too. The other ones, I don’t even know where they are now.

I don’t know why I am telling you this. Only the wife knows this stuff, and knows that I was a bully – and like a drunk I guess I will always be one, just a recovering bully instead of a practicing one. I just had to tell you because maybe you can share it with the people who read your blog and see inside the mind of at least one bully. Just don’t use my name, because I don’t want my kids to know their dad was a mean bastard for most of his life. But I know I was. I will always know that and I will take it to the grave with me, because nothing I do will ever change that.
I’m so sorry about that little girl. I’m sorry to the kids I hurt, too. Nothing I do will ever make it better, either. That part is what bugs me the most, because I can never undo the things I did. I hate the old man for what he did to me and my brothers but I try not to blame him too much because he just lived what he had learned. But like my therapist says you need to break the cycle, and I hope I am doing that with my kids. I hope they are never bullies like their old man. I hope they never hate me, either.

Thanks for writing about bullying. Thanks for listening to me. I don’t know if it will help you or anyone else, but it feels good as hell to finally tell someone this story. I know when I go see my counselor I will be talking about that little girl, because I need to work through my feelings on that. But at least now I know how to do that, because I learned to actually feel instead of coming out swinging. So thank you – and bless you, because a few years ago I found God again. He helped me to understand that even mean sons of bitches can change and deserve love. Between the wife, the therapist, the kids and God I think I finally believe that, too. Keep writing about bullying – but don’t forget about the bullies. Some of them, maybe not all, but some of them, are probably a lot like me. I pray for that little girl and her family – and I pray for the bullies, too, because once a long time ago I was one, and Lord knows I hope someone was praying for me.
God bless you,


1 comment:

  1. This was a brave story to tell.
    I had a student who told me he couldn't help but hit and bully his peers, because his father sexually abused him. I told him it was time to grow up and step up. Paul has.