Middle school sucked. I mean, really. My two friends from elementary abandoned me. One got into the “gotta be cool” stuff and the other went emo. Okay, there wasn’t the term “emo” back then, but that’s what it was in today’s context. I was picked on a lot because…well, I was a late bloomer. And to top it off, the story I’m about to tell you happened during those years. But there was one brilliant light in that time and I will never forget her. Mrs. Gail Baugher (rhymes with locker). She was my 6th grade English teacher and an angel sent by God for me. Besides teaching me my helping verbs (which I still remember her jingle today), she was there for me in personal struggles I faced. She let me start a club called “Kids for Saving the Earth”. We started a paper recycling program. I thought it would be fun to count the number of pages we got. I don’t know why, but we did! Anyway, Mrs. Baugher…well, I can’t say enough praise about her.
Middle school is where I started developing my science aptitude. And it wasn’t without notice…by the other kids I mean. AKA, I was a nerd. I remember running out of class one time crying because the other students were making fun of me for asking so many questions. I also had given up on choir and wanted to try band. But we made one of the last “interest” meetings so my top picks for instruments were already full. I ended up playing the clarinet. My 7th grade year, the band director asked if I wanted to be last chair symphonic or first chair concert band, so I chose concert. My 8th grade year I was in symphonic. But then “marching band” started to loom ahead and I didn’t want to do that, so that was my musical instrument stint. I really wish I had just stuck with choir. I weaseled my way out of taking PE–something that terrified me–by volunteering to fill the building’s coke machines as PE credit. My 8th grade year, they didn’t let me do it again, so I tried to be a team manager for athletics. That plan backfired, because even though I did equipment stuff, the coach still made me dress out. I was mortified the day I walked into the locker room during the “athletic” period. Yes, more making fun of me. 😦
Around about that time, my dad re-married. She has a daughter, Kimberly. It was his weekend for my visit and when I came over Kim told me they were married! They just went down to the JotP and did it, I guess. I liked his new wife well enough, I suppose, especially before they got married. But for some reason, after they got married, she got it in her mind that I was out to break them up and get my parents back together. (I wouldn’t know this for many, many years.) It was awkward and I started withdrawing when I stayed with my dad. And it got really bad. I would, in time, become completely silent the entire weekend, only talking to Kimberly. And soon enough, every visit led to them yelling and fighting the entire time I was there. So I became more distant and they fought more and on and on. And whereas my dad used to come into mom’s house when he came to pick me up, that degenerated into just standing at the door, then sending Kim to the door, then just honking. That is how paranoid this woman became.
Finally, the “S hit the F” one weekend and she told my dad that it was either me or her (also information I found out much later). My dad had time to grab his boots and me and get out of the house. He was going to take me to my grandma’s for the remainder of the weekend, but I wanted to be taken to my sister’s. And that was the last time I saw my dad on any “official” terms.
For the remainder of my time in Garland, my dad would ever-so-often call me from work (he worked on phone lines) or swing by after school if he was in the area on a job. I have regularly gotten a birthday card and Christmas card. He gave me some money regularly in college, too. All in secret. All those comments I made about “finding out much later?”…it wasn’t until a summer break in college that I learned the circumstance of that day and what led to it. He told me he didn’t want to grow old alone and that he knew one day I would grow up and be out of the house, so he had to make a choice. It would not be until my late 20’s when I finally, completely reconciled myself to what happened that day.
So as not to end on a low note, one positive did come out of that. My mom took me to the pound soon after that day and that is when I got Scamper! He has been my comfort and closest companion for 17 years. Some people just don’t get peoples’ attachment to pets, but I hope you may see a little insight into mine. He’s my most precious gift in this world!