Sunday, August 12, 2012
I saw him last night after many, many years.
I was catching up with Joel, an old friend from grade school, and, who walks in but Billy Baumbach. Picture Woody Harrelson only with a much tougher life. I couldn't believe it. I have been thinking of this guy for years, not in a bad way, but with the purpose of learning more about him. Why had he turned to drugs? Why had he not learned anything the first three times in jail? Why did he do what he did?
Billy was a great athlete, his best sport being baseball. He could pitch with the ferocity of an angry badger. He was feared among hitters because he had, at age 13, a curveball that you thought was going to kill or at least hurt real bad. He was an All-Star among All-Stars and had the attitude to match. Not arrogant, but downright mean and you KNEW he would enjoy seeing pain on your face, especially if HE caused it. I learned over the years to hate him.
My hate sprung not from any one incident, but from years of torture and attempted humiliation. I would be teased by him and others for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was my birthmark, my appearance, and body type. NOT a Greek god, more like the village idiot. I was very naïve about life in general and could not understand why people acted like they do.
You might think that was unfortunate, but I have to say, in retrospect, I was gifted the opportunity to grow from humble beginnings socially to where I am today – only mildly stunted! I know there were some kids that were scarred for life and never recovered, and that is a shame.
To start life down and grow up is far better than being a superstar very young and trying to maintain that level as you age. It is almost impossible to NOT be crippled in some form by too much success and easy competition. I think I got the better end of the stick.
Slowly but surely, I gained enough self-esteem to function as a human being in a cruel world. This not only made me tougher, but it gave me compassion for anyone that may view themselves as less than they are. It seems like good training for this adventure called life.
And life in school was sometimes very, very tough. I can remember times when the depression hit so hard that I could not imagine being happy ever again. I would stay in my room for weeks on end, losing myself in music and dreams. I hated I was ugly. I hated I wore coke-bottle glasses. I hated no one seemed to care about me. I was a mess. I'm sure there are medications to take these days, but I had to persevere using my own devices.
When I was really young, I would ride my bike for hours on end. I was the winner of every race. I would play football in the backyard by myself (how in the heck did I do that and NOT get committed???) I scored the winning touchdown every time. In my mind I was everything I was not. A jock, the big man on campus, anyone but me.
Joel knew Billy and they shook hands and exchanged how-you-beens. I was smiling when Joel asked Billy if he remembered me. All he seemed to recall was that I was a cop (Yea, THAT again!). I wasn't surprised. I finally got to admit to my nemesis, what I had thought about him for decades. I asked if he remembered any of the most significant events in my younger years – hitting a triple off him in Little League. Nope. Didn't remember. Getting pummeled (every day of practice) by the senior basketball team that he was on. Nope. Any of the torture I endured? Nothing.
I admitted that for many years, he was the only person on earth I truly hated and why. He laughed it off. I bought him a drink and realized that years ago, when I let go of this rotten emotion I had with this guy, I KNEW he placed no importance on any of the things that were brutal to me. That made it easier to accept for some reason. I'm sure there's a deep-rooted psychological manifestation involved. I just moved on.
I hope to see Billy again and listen to the stories, understand the decisions, and appreciate the role he had in making me, me.
I'm doing OK.