“Were it not for social networking, I may have gone to my grave believing that I was more loved than I was.” —Me
I have developed a keen interest in the past, especially family history. The funny part about it is that none of the stories that I was verbally told as a child seem to be true, as confirmation is elusive. But there are so many other stories they did not tell that are interesting.
One example is my Great Great Great Grandfather, Lafayette Fite. Sounds like a great band name, so I might use it. DIBS!
He was a blacksmith in Perkinsville, Indiana. By the looks of things, people had hard lives during those times.
I couldn’t find my GGG Grandmother’s name, so we’ll just call her “R. Lee Ermey.” That drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket is a time traveler in a dress!!!
But I digress.
As of now, I have over 250 years’ [a quarter millennium] worth of history, just on my mother’s side, all the way back to John Johannes Shaffer, who was born in 1755, after his father Jacob arrived here on the USS Patience. John fought alongside people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry.
This kind of past cannot be changed in a way that directly affects me. They did what they did, they were what they were, and there is nothing that can change my perspective of any of it.
In other words, if someone was a monster or a good person, then that’s what they were. After that acknowledgement, I go on with my life.
But there’s a different kind of past that is more recent, and it is currently at-risk of being destroyed by the present.
FACEBOOK: THE DESTROYER OF MEMORIES
This story goes all the way back to 1976, when I was in 6th grade. There was this kid in 7th grade named Brook. I really looked up to him. I could focus on many stories, but this one is a big deal to me.
At recess, while the other kids played in the snow, I would stand outside the window of the band room, watching Brook play his old wooden drum set on a riser. He’d crack the window and let me listen and watch. His feet were at eye level for me, so I could watch his bass drum and hi-hat technique as well as the rest of it.
When he got held back in 7th grade, I was secretly excited about it. We would be in the same classes!!!
I made it a point to try to hang out with him, even though I didn’t know how to make friends. He lived right across the street from the school. We got to a point where we would go to his house for lunch! He would put something in the fry machine and we’d play drums.
He had just gotten a blue Ludwig Vistalite drum set that was incredibly beautiful and sounded amazing. We’d play that for a while. Sometimes he would give me pointers or correct something that would end up being a bad habit.
After that, we’d listen to some records. He had lots of drum corps records. My favorites were The Phantom Regiment and Cavalier Cadets.
From 1977 to 1979, we became friends and drumming contemporaries.
I asked my mom if she could buy Brook’s old drum set for me for Christmas. We couldn’t afford much. She told me that she talked to him and they had already sold it.
This little fib was told in order to generate maximum excitement when I would receive this kit for Christmas. I would later also get Brook’s old bicycle when he went BMX. Brook came from a family with money, and I lived off his hand-me-downs.
But all good things come to an end. The hard truth was that Brook was a still year older than me. This meant that he got his drivers license a year earlier. He became more interested in cars and chasing girls. His philosophy differed from mine, which was that I have room in my life for all of it.
Brook quit the band, and I put more focus into the band, effectively driving us into completely different worlds. I don’t recall interacting with him once after he made that decision.
OLD MEMORIES AND A BAD DECISION
Although Brook and I went our separate ways in the early 80s, I never once forgot about him or how he contributed to the enrichment of my life. For over 40 years, I felt a great deal of gratitude toward Brook and his generosity.
My feelings were such that, had he called me and asked a favor, I’d do it if I could, without question.
Flash forward to 2019, when I returned to Facebook after staying off for five years. I did a search and found out that Brook was on Facebook. Finally! He was never online before, so maybe he found an interest in social networking, or was just getting caught up.
I friended him without going through his profile.
MY BIG MISTAKE
I was trying to find ways to be more interactive with people. The Autistic adult in me held the false belief that Facebook was all about re-connecting, catching up, and interacting with people from the past. Boy, was I wrong!
I had this idea, where I would choose a person, or a group of people, and post a photo and short story, with the main point being my expression of gratitude. Since many of the people on my now-deleted friends list were from high school, I wasn’t exactly talking out of line or anything. My friendship with Brook while he was in band was no big secret.
So I write something where I talk about how grateful I was that Brook encouraged and facilitated my early drumming with is friendship and efforts, which was a true gift to me.
He saw it and replied, “Yea, but you did it all by yourself.”
I told him the whole point was that I would not have been able to do it by myself, and that he helped me.
He was starting to get angry and aggressive, as if I were blaming him for something.
A PEEK BEHIND THE COVERS…
I had no idea what was going on. However, I was getting the sense that he was the kind of person who buys into the flawed and false concept of “rugged individualism.”
So I went to his Facebook page and read through his wall of posts.
It was packed full of hatred, anger, and fear. In other words, Trump.
To say that I felt destroyed was an understatement. The whole thing got me wondering if I was some kind of “tag-along” kid who he entertained out of boredom until he got his license.
Was I the yet-to-be-diagnosed Autistic kid who wasn’t catching on to certain social cues?
Then I start to wonder if he quit band to put some distance between us. We graduated in 1983 and spent less time not talking then we did being friends.
It gets me wondering if he was ever my friend in the first place.
A HARD DECISION
After reading Brook’s page, I noticed that he was getting progressively more aggressive in his remarks on my tribute to what a great friend he was. ^I mean, how DARE I call him a good friend who helped me!^
Side note: Carets [^] at both ends of a statement are called a “Sarcastrophe,” which denotes sarcasm. Now you know!
What he wrote must have triggered some kind of Autistic event in my head, causing me to do what I’d always do. I deleted what I posted, and then I blocked him.
I DID NOT LEARN MY LESSON
After that, I decided that maybe I should not be the one to instigate any nostalgia. But if someone else wants to do so, then I can play along. That was my new, faulty boundary.
In late 2019, I was contacted by a former girlfriend named Annie. She was big on the nostalgia hype train, and seemed to have some fond memories of me. She recalled our first date, when I was 17 and she was 16. I took her to the theater to see Poltergeist. Afterward, I took her to my house, where we sat on the edge of my bed and I played Stairway to Heaven for her.
We dated for a while, until her dad found out. He was a retired Marine Drill Sergeant. As it turned out, he did not like me dating his daughter, so he tried to kill me with a big crescent wrench. Good thing I could run fast.
Here we were, 37 years later, catching up. This catching up turned into talking about combining the future AND the past! We had dated, and we had never broken up, so maybe we could just pick up where we left off.
She came out under the false pretense of a short visit, and ended up staying. I should have known she was doing this when she said, “I THINK that I got a two-way ticket.” Another clue was the first thing she did when she got here, which was starting to unpack silverware in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, I was ignoring LOTS of red flags, because I came to the position where I really, truly wanted this to happen. Little things like giant red flags weren’t going to get in the way.
I won’t get into private details about Annie’s life or her past. I will say that, if what she told me was true, she had a very rough life full of abuse. I couldn’t figure out why she had this life. Long story short, every many in her life had abused her. Or so she claimed.
I would later figure out that a few horrible things were going on. One of the really bad things was the fact that she appeared to be “mirroring” me. She would hear about my music pursuits and declare herself a “songwriter,” as she jotted some disjointed poems on a page.
Upon learning about my time as a stand-up comedian and Pee-Wee Herman impersonator, she also declared herself to be a comedian.
In every instance, she would do this, and then declare, “See how much we have in common?”
A GREAT DARKNESS
Annie had been in five abusive marriages with four different men. They were all significantly older than her. One of them, who was the most brutal in his abuse, was actually given a second chance.
She constantly talked about her abusers, including her ex-husbands, her parents, and her siblings. Almost every person in her life had abused her, according to her.
She had put a copy of an article from 1969 on the refrigerator, about how she was run over by a car when she was 3 years old. She has some brain damage as a result. This article and story was the cornerstone of her perpetual victim narrative.
What had started out as a fun and seemingly loving reunion was quickly turning into a dark cavern of fear.
She would be cooking in the kitchen, and then would suddenly blurt out, “My dad raped me,” and then continue. It was driving me mad, to the point that I told her it was impossible to breathe or be alone with her, as the room was packed full with all of her abusers.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
I knew things were not going well when she accused me of “fucking with her meds.” She was taking at least 12 different medications at the time.
But what really drove it all home was the day she dialed 911 and hung up. The police arrived, and she was telling them stories of how I hit her.
The police told me that they’d normally arrest me in a situation like this. However, her stories were so erratic and disjointed that they were not going to do this.
After they left, I had a talk with Annie. I pleaded with her to understand. I’m a big guy with a shaved head, so I look scary. I’m also Autistic, so I tend to get riled up easily. This combination makes me a prime candidate for getting killed by the police. It’s just not a good idea for me to be interacting with them at all, ever.
It’s also not good for me to be with someone who believes that they’re being “poisoned” by “plastic being put on the silverware,” whatever that means.
Talking with Annie became no different from talking to my cats. You can do it, but they don’t understand and proceed with whatever they want to do.
She dialed 911 again.
She ended up going to a shelter, where they instructed her on how to clean out our joint checking account. As I was wondering what was happening to her, I saw my balance go to $0.00.
I went to the bank to see what happened, and I saw her on the sidewalk. I asked her what she was doing, and her reply was “NOOOOO!” Her voice sounded like a wounded animal defending itself. She darted into traffic to cross the five-lane road [counting the turn lane].
Police nearby stopped her. One officer asked me, “So, what exactly do you expect to gain by following her around?” The thing was that I wasn’t following her around, because I had no idea where she was. I was only going to the bank to find out why my account was wiped out.
This officer’s comment was a warning, and I missed it.
Another officer played nice and asked me if I could get her meds together for him. He also wanted me to go with her to her next therapy session. He claimed that my presence was requested and wanted.
Once I got to her therapy session, I learned that this was not true. My hope in attending was to advocate for her mental health, because I sincerely loved her and cared about her.
I got kicked out of her therapy session. I would later learn that the therapist didn’t really want me there and the officer was just fucking with me, for some reason I don’t understand.
They had also claimed that she was seen by “four doctors” who cleared her with regard to the state of her mental health.
THE GRAND FINALE
The officer brought her back and asked if she could stay. I said that she could not, as I didn’t feel safe with her there.
First he said he was going to take her to a shelter. Then he told me, “You know, she’s a prime candidate for getting raped and killed in the shelter. Someone was killed there three days ago.”
I was confused. Is it a shelter, or is it a one-stop rape-and-murder shop?
I thought about it and said that she could stay. This was when the officer got childish. “No! No! NOPE! You had your chance. She’s going to the shelter. Too late. You had a shot and blew it. Nope!”
They drove her about 12 miles away to a place that “might” have room for her. The officer supposedly said, “I can’t spend another 8 hours babysitting you,” as he abandoned her on the streets at night.
She called in a panic, and I made the mistake of being empathetic and picking her up. She spent the night here, and it was her last night.
She tried to be sexual with me, so I had to explain why I wasn’t feeling all that sexy or into it. I told her that I “needed some time.” She told her therapist that I was “withholding sex as a weapon.”
The next morning she and I had a talk for 35 minutes about how she needed to get help, what I needed, and how things needed to be. I was afraid for her life. I then had to leave for a doctor’s appointment, so I asked her to wait for me.
She left on foot and walked to a church to get to a shelter. She left her phone behind and everything. Meanwhile, she got a check in the mail for $60,000 from her divorce lawyer. This lead to a few visits from the police, warning me to “not try to cash her check.” I kept telling them that I was trying to get it to her, and they warned me about “going out to look for her.”
What they were doing was crazy and made no sense.
One time, they came to pick up her check, phone, license, and other documents. I gave them to the police. They came back 15 minutes later, handed it back, said, “Couldn’t find her,” and ran off. I can only guess they were running late for their second job as mall cops.
She ended up getting her check and documents. Still, she had a TON of things in the apartment, and I had to fight her to pick these things up. During this time, she made accusations, screamed at me, threatened me, and played mind games.
Overall, it would take me the better part of three months to get rid of her.
Today, she lives in her own little apartment, alone. She has no income, and cannot take care of herself effectively. I don’t know what will happen beyond that, and it’s none of my business. Plus, I no longer care.
IMPACT AND ANALYSIS
When Annie came out and decided to stay, it forced the break-up between me and my then girlfriend of 20 years, Catherine. She and I had been having some problems, but that’s another story.
Catherine was here when Annie got here, and ended up leaving in April for four months to try living in Rhode Island. After four months, she decided that she wanted to come back to Oregon. Catherine called and asked for permission. Annie gave that the green light, and then complained about it for the remainder of her stay.
Catherine is back here with me. However, we’re both going through individual therapy to see if we should even be together. Is it healthy? Am I even capable of a relationship? We will find out.
For now, we’re very supportive friends who care about each other. I have no capacity or desire for any romantic ventures at all. Both of us are being most cautious about it all, and for good reason.
Everyone feels burned by this. I personally blame myself, for allowing Annie to flirt with me online in the first place, allowing her to visit, and then allowing her to stay.
That’s the power of me really wanting something to happen. My approach with Catherine is to not want getting back with her, and also not wanting to be alone. I’m not expressing a desire to do either thing, until I reach the point of making a decision.
I wanted Annie to come out, so that lead to me ignoring red flags in order to make it happen. So I’m deciding to NOT want either outcome, so that I can do my best to be accepting of whatever happens.
This includes the possibility that I might want to try again with Catherine, while she may decide to move on. Whatever she decides, I must accept. I made this bed, so I must lie in it.
So if she wants to leave, then I must allow that to happen. Based on the decisions I made, I certainly cannot make anything in the way of demands in this situation.
And I do feel badly for Annie, even though she brought chaos, fear, and uncertainty into my home. This doesn’t mean that I have to rescue her. I have been staying away from her, per my therapist’s orders. Phone blocked!
But Annie’s words and behaviors brought ugly feelings into my heart, the likes of which I had not experienced since I left my ex-wife in 1998. My ex-wife also had a traumatic childhood. She survived incest, her father was an alcoholic, and she suffered Borderline Personality Disorder.
The darkest thing about my ex-wife is that through her life she experienced “love” via violence and abuse. Once she found my buttons, she would push and push and push and push. She also loved dialing 911 when I denied her request for “love.”
What I concluded is that my ex-wife wanted me to hit her so that she would feel loved. My REFUSAL to hit her was what caused our issues.
Assuming that Annie’s abuse stories are true, I can only conclude that she was trying to push me into hitting her for the same reason. Both my ex-wife and Annie are incapable of having healthy relationships, thanks to past abuse that has not been checked or dealt with via therapy.
So when Annie was making accusations about me to the police, I saw the parallels in it all, and it gave me the chills.
It’s shocking just how many adults find it acceptable to exploit others, especially Autistic adults.
IN THE END
For now, I am here with my dear friend Catherine, and we are helping each other with our individual mental health journeys. The way I see it, the worst case scenario is that she and I will remain friends. We are civil with one another, and looking forward to whatever the future may bring, even if it puts us on different paths.
As for Annie, I may very well never see her again. That’s fine.
Back to the significantly wider topic of the past, I think that it is best to preserve the past. At the same time, I must remember that attempts to bring the past back to life can be tempting, but it is highly dangerous.
My experience with Brook destroyed my memory of how much he influenced and enabled my future as a drummer and musician, and even the idea that he was once my friend.
My experience with Annie destroyed my most fond memory of my years dating as a teen. It may also have other consequences for the future, which will be seen as early as this year, as chances are good that Catherine and I will decide to part ways.
I’m back to not using social networking [since September 2020], and I don’t know if I will ever return. If I do, then it will be a situation where I make NEW online friends and avoid the past.
The past was what it was, and I need to protect it by not tampering with it or trying to go back to it. I would much rather have my old good memories with Annie, instead of what I have now. Those old memories are destroyed forever.
The future seems to be wide open.
But the big things I need to remember are simple: The past is far behind, the future doesn’t exist, and right now is all that I will ever have.
Remembering the past is fine. Anything beyond that is off limits.