Despite everything that was going on in my life I was full of hope and faith. One day a boy from church asked me why I have to smile all the time. I thought it was an unusual question because everyone at church was aware of our situation and we were receiving so much support and comfort that I was extremely grateful and my true feelings were showing through my constant smile. Even though in reality my smile was deceiving because it was hiding and masking my inner pain and struggle. But I had true/genuine faith and hope. His question made me aware that people only see what they want to see or what we allow other people to see. Maybe he was jealous or maybe he didn’t think I was acting the way someone in my situation should be acting. But that was who I was at the time and the way I felt and I didn’t appreciate the tone of his question but it helped me to understand how other people were responding to and thinking about our situation. Deep down inside I knew that God had a plan and that no matter what the outcome might be my sister Becky was a very special person.
I never thought of myself as being perfect. I knew what my character flaws were. I was a white liar. I would tell tall tales and exaggerate things to impress people. I was obsessed with sex at an early age. I was very judgmental of anyone who did not believe in the the things I did or lead a life that I considered to be wrong and sinful. I was hypocritical and egotistical. I was human, naive and vulnerable. Because of my faith in my religion and my acknowledgment of my flaws and imperfections my prayers were deeply personal, unusually honest and intense. If I truly desired to live up to the goals and aspirations of my perceptions of what God wanted then I had to be honest with him and constantly ask for his guidance and forgiveness. As I got older and my life gradually became more and more difficult and out of control I knew that no matter what, God was my only hope and salvation.
I was thirteen and getting ready to start high school. The whole world was ahead of me but I had no one to confide in or talk to about my feelings and problems. I started writing song lyrics as often as I could. Even though I had taken violin, clarinet and piano lessons over the years I never had the ambition or motivation to pursue my musical abilities. It was my hope that someday I would be able to find a composer to put music to my lyrics. Most of my lyrics were about my family and school boy crushes I had. My lyrics were usually long and very wordy. As time went on and I became more experienced I was able to write from my heart and express myself with words in a more mature and poetic way. At the time though this was the only outlet I had to pour out my feelings.
I had turned our garage into my bedroom. I was getting older and wanted more privacy. Then one morning my mother came into my room and asked me if I wanted to move to Upland with her and Becky. They were going to live with my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom until she could find a job and a place to live on their own. I did not want to go. My parents had separated several times before and I felt that if I stayed with my dad in Huntington Beach that my mother and sister would come back sooner or later. My mother and sister lived on the back porch of my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom’s house in Upland. Becky was spending a lot more time in the hospital.
Becky soon went into remission, which means that the leukemia was taking a break. Once in awhile my brother Mike and myself would spend the weekend with my mom and we would visit Becky in the hospital. Shirley had to leave and first moved in with her friend, Piper Graff and then soon after that moved in with another Mormon family, Garth and Nadine Heiner. Shirley and Danita had started hanging out with a group of friends that experimented with sex, drugs and alcohol. I later found out that Becky was experimenting with marijuana. I was so naïve and protected in my perfect little Mormon make believe world that I was totally clueless about how seriously traumatic and tragic and real my life had become. I was positive that through prayer God would heal my sister and bring our family back together again.
My father, Mike and myself were living alone and struggling to get by day by day. We had our dogs, Smooch and Jenny. Soon my grandmother Morton moved in with us. This was a good thing because my dad, my brother and myself were the three laziest slobs that ever existed. It was a very pitiful time in all of our lives and no matter how much we hoped or prayed things were not looking good. Mike was 11 years old and kept to himself most of the time. I was living in denial. I was alone, confused and didn’t feel like I even existed anymore. There was no more laughter or good times. My father was becoming a very strange and sad man. Mr. Mormon on Sundays and a sad, broken man the rest of the week.
I really have no idea how all of this was affecting my brother, Mike. He didn’t have any friends and seemed to live in his own imaginary world. I don’t know if he was too young to fully understand everything that was happening or if he just kept to himself as an instinctual way of survival. I know that my pain, anger and confusion was unbearable. Mike must have been crushed. My family was broken apart and my sister was miles away slowly dying from Leukemia. I would not wish this kind of life on my worst enemy. Within such a short amount of time everything went from perfect to disastrous. I was aware of the looks and stares from family friends and fellow church members. The constant, “I’m so sorry’s” made me feel so helpless.
I blamed my mother for everything. I guess you can say I took on my father’s opinions and feelings. According to him my mother was a fallen woman because she smoke, drank and did God know what with other men. My mother had an affair with one of the doctors at the convalescent home where she was working and this was the final straw that led to the separation. Even though I have not had a lot of experience at life in the real world I can still see that no matter what my feelings and opinions are, my parents had legitimate reasons for making the decisions they did whether I understand or agree with it at the time.
I was becoming bitter and withdrawn. I started going to high school at Huntington Beach high school and going to seminary every morning before school at church. Seminary was a Mormon church class and I really enjoyed it. I had nothing in my life to enrich me and this brought me closer to my religious beliefs. I was fascinated with the Book of Mormon and my seminary class was an in depth class in studying the Book of Mormon in a way I had not yet experienced. I spent most of my free time praying and reading the Bible and Book of Mormon.
After a couple of weeks I sat next to a boy I had a crush on in my seminary class named, Randy. He had a book of plays and I started asking him about it. He said he was studying for a scene in his acting class. All of a sudden a light went off in my head. I wanted to be an actor so why wasn’t I taking an acting class? That day I dropped out of my art class and signed up for an acting class. My first acting scene was with Randy. It was a scene from a play called, “Luv” written by Murray Schisgal. I had seen the movie with my parents several years earlier and it was hysterically funny.
The more I rehearsed and performed in class the more I knew that I was born to be an actor. It felt natural and what I was meant to do. Ever since a car hit me on my way to an audition I had become sidetracked from pursuing my acting ambitions. The timing of me rediscovering acting at this time in my life was a godsend. It was just what the doctor ordered.
I had always had one best friend at a time. Curtis was my first best friend and after Curtis there was Bud. Bud and I were good friends but we only hung out together at school and spent time together at recess and lunch. I had never tried to make any sexual advances on my friends because I didn’t want anyone to know what my true feelings were. But now that I was in high school I started getting crushes on more and more guys. There was Randy and his older brother, Craig. Robert and Richard, Scott, etc, etc… Since I was in denial about what these crushes really meant I never tried to pursue them further than in my own imagination.
Becky came to visit for a few days and Corina; Becky and myself went to go see a movie called, “Phantom of the Paradise.” It was a rock musical directed by Brian DePalma. That weekend I also discovered my interest in Rock and Roll. I bought Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. I listened to that album over and over again, especially “Funeral for a friend.” The next several albums I bought were, Elton John’s “Madman across the water”, Bette Midlers’ “Divine Miss M”, and David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” and “Diamond Dogs.” I knew that there were rumors that Elton John and David Bowie were gay and it was no secret that Bette Midler had a large gay following so in a way this was my first step in coming out and also getting quality music along the way.
While I was slowly trying to find my identity and explore my passions and dreams, my mother and my sister were going through some very hard times. My mother had gotten a job and a boyfriend. Becky had gone out of remission and the leukemia had progressively worsened. Becky was in the hospital more than she was at home. Upland was about 50 miles away from Huntington Beach but at times it seemed like a million miles. I missed Becky and my mother and wished that we didn’t have to all be separated during this time. Looking back now though I can see that it was probably for the best. Becky had so little time left to enjoy her life and she never would have had the freedom to experience life and express herself living with my father.
Becky was spending a lot of her free time with my Aunt Helen, Uncle Tom and our cousins Marlene and Jack. The had a pug dog named Misty who had a litter of puppies. Becky wanted a dog so bad and one day my mother and Aunt Helen snuck one of the puppies into the hospital to surprise her. Becky named her new puppy, Pudgy. They became inseparable and extremely close. I did not understand how seriously ill Becky was at the time and did not realize that she was actually dying. My relatives were older and wiser and had more information than I had and knew that Becky had little time left to live. My mother, Aunt Helen and Aunt Marilyn asked Becky that if she had three wishes before she died what would they be. Becky’s three wishes were to go to Disneyland one last time and to meet Carol Burnett and Jerry Lewis.
My mother, Becky, Mike and myself went to Disneyland one last time and we pushed Becky around in a wheelchair. It was a very special experience for all of us. We had gone to Disneyland at least once a year as a family and it was always exciting but this time is was sentimental and special. My Aunt Marilyn tried to contact Jerry Lewis but he was unavailable. Then I received some exciting news. Becky was going to meet Carol Burnett. At first I was a little upset and jealous because Carol Burnett was my favorite celebrity. My Aunt Marilyn had called Carol Burnett’s secretary and told her about Becky’s situation and that Becky wanted to meet Carol before she died.
Becky was in the hospital when she received a phone call from Carol Burnett and she invited Becky to come to the studio where her television show has taped so they could meet. Becky, my mother, Aunt Helen and Aunt Marilyn all went to the studio. Becky had gone blind and was in a wheelchair but had a spectacular time. Besides meeting Vickie Lawrence and Harvey Korman she also met Carol’s guest that week, Jean Stapleton. They also met Buddy Ebsen coming out of an elevator and he did an impromptu tap dance for Becky.
Carol Burnett and Becky would chat on the phone from time to time and became very close in a very short period of time. It was unusual and ultimately amazing that Carol Burnett came out of nowhere and brought so much joy to Becky and my family. Becky was getting worse day by day. I did not see my sister during this time. I really didn’t like visiting my mother and sister in Upland because it was such a miserable situation and I felt distant and out of touch. My mother had a job working as a security guard for Lockheed but was poor and barely making ends meet. She was also living with her new boyfriend named, Don. Don was not the kind of person a good Mormon would associate with and this made it difficult for me to enjoy my visits to Upland as well as all the other reasons and excuses I had come up with.
Then one day while visiting Becky in the hospital I went to my dad’s car to get something and noticed a brochure for a mortuary on the dashboard. I had never thought about the reality of Becky dying until that moment. It took me by surprise. I had been living in an unrealistic fantasy world for so long and now reality was glaring at me and there was no way I could deny it any longer. Becky was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it. But even with such a heavy dose of reality I still thought there was a chance. A last minute cure or miracle. Something. Anything.
Carol Burnett and my mother and Becky continued to keep in touch. Carol sent Becky a clown made of candy and holding balloons. Carol also sent Becky a tape recorder with a tape of her and Vickie Lawrence singing nursery rhymes for that weeks show. Vickie Lawrence was pregnant at the time and for one of their musical numbers Carol and Vickie sand a medley of popular nursery rhymes. Carol dedicated that show to Becky by closing her show by saying “Goodnight Becky” and then pulling her ear which she did at the end of every show.
The next few days were dark and dreary. I knew the end was near but was doing my best to be a mature young man. I had not given up hope and then that Sunday at church one of my Sunday school teachers had a talk with me. He told me that there was such a thing called a father’s prayer. Instead of praying for a miracle a father’s prayer was used to ask God to let a severely terminal person die with dignity instead of lingering and suffering. I could not believe my ears. The more I thought about it the more I knew this was the best thing for my sister. This was a precious way for her to die and live in peace and eternity with God. This would end her pain and suffering. I did not want my sister to die but I did not want to see her suffer anymore.
I didn’t want to mention the father’s prayer to anyone in my family though. It may be perceived as being disgraceful and uncaring. I did not want to hurt anyone and let them know that I had given up hope of a cure or a miracle. After a lot of thought and prayer I waited till my father and I were alone in a hallway at the hospital and told him about the father’s prayer. He said that he was aware of the prayer and that later on in the day some men from church were coming to the hospital so they could bless my sister with a father’s prayer. I was just making a simple suggestion and I was devastated that my father took it seriously and was actually going to go through with it. I was very distraught and confused. My mind was going off in a million different directions and I was upset that I had no control over anything. I was young, angry, hurt, confused and desperately trying to make some kind of sense out of everything that was going on.
I hadn’t seen Becky in over a week because she was so sick. Then one day my family started to gather in Upland. We were all just sitting around crying our eyes out. Being a child you aren’t told much information but you can’t help but see the signs and pick up on emotions and body language. I knew that this was the day Becky was going to die but even at this stage I did not give up hope. My prayers had become so long and frequent that I was now in the middle of one continuos prayer. Most of my relatives began arriving at the hospital. Not much was said…there was a deafening silence. I wanted; I needed to see my sister. As I waited for what seemed forever my Aunt Marilyn told me that she had just called Carol Burnett and that she was on her way to visit Becky. Just then my mother and father escorted me to my sister’s hospital room.
I was numb. I felt like I was in a tomb. Then I entered her room and saw her. Her spirit immediately captured me. She was covered in sores, cuts and bruises and was completely unrecognizable but all I saw was her glowing spirit. Literally. There was a definite visual aura surrounding her. We spoke for a couple of minutes and I told her that Carol Burnett was on her way and would be here soon to visit her. She said she already knew and was excited about it. I didn’t want to leave. I have never been so overcome with such a feeling of love and hope before. My parents were divorced and my sister was dying right before my eyes. But my sisters’ spirit seemed to embrace me and wrap me in her arms and hold and comfort my spirit in a way that was not humanly possible. It was the spirit of God and he was here for my sister. Before I left I said goodbye and told Becky that I loved her. I don’t remember if I kissed her or not but remember that she looked like she was already dead but this spirit was keeping her alive.
I went back to a small private waiting room. My Uncle Tom told me that he was going to take me and my brother back to his mothers’ house that was nearby. I didn’t want to leave but something told me I needed to leave for awhile. My Uncle Tom drove me and my brother to his mothers’ house but I couldn’t get out of the car. I told my uncle that I wanted to go back now. He didn’t argue with me and we were off to the hospital. As we drove in the entrance of the hospital I saw a black limousine parked in front and knew that it belonged to Carol Burnett. My Uncle and I went back to the small private waiting room but it was empty. Everyone was gone. Then my Aunt Marilyn came in and told us that we just missed Carol Burnett. Then my Aunt Helen came in and we all just stood there in a very uncomfortable silence. I asked them where my mother was and they said she would be back in a few minutes. I was curious about what happened when Carol Burnett came and I started asking questions but they just ignored me and evaded answering any of my questions and would not talk to me.
Then my mother came in the room. As soon as she opened the door and looked at me I knew that Becky was dead. My mother embraced me and then both my Aunts burst into tears. They wanted to wait until my mother came in so she could break the news to me. God bless them.
Then my mother told me what happened after I left. Carol Burnett arrived and her and Becky talked for awhile. Then Carol noticed that the tape recorder she sent Becky with the tape of her and Vickie Lawrence singing nursery rhymes was sitting on the table next to Becky’s bed. Carol started to play the tape and then started to sing along with it. The medley of songs ended with a lullaby and with the last notes of the song Becky passed away. My sister died in Carol Burnett’s arms as she was signing a lullaby to her.
I hope that the way I am explaining and sharing my story comes across so that you can understand the full magnitude of these events and how I felt and how deeply these things moved and affected me. My sister was special. There was something about her that made her special that is hard to put into words but in order to tell my story I must. We were a very normal family with real problems, struggles and trials and tribulations to deal with. Over the past few years our happy little family slowly began to disintegrate but the way Carol Burnett came into our lives helped turn a horrible and miserable situation into something special and memorable. There was something very comforting about Carol Burnett’s involvement that was touching.
I was fourteen years old and my life was crumbling around me. I had no one to turn to and then out of nowhere this angel named Carol Burnett came into my families’ life and helped take a devastating experience and turned it into something special that had meaning and purpose. There were many things that happened the day my sister died that comforted my soul and made it so much easier to deal with, things that humbled me and gave me a purpose in life that I would gradually come to understand. Becky died on March 19. That was my grandfather Lance’s birthday. Becky and my grandfather had become very close especially after her and my mother moved to Upland.
The funeral was held a few days later. I had never been to a funeral before. My grandfather Morton died when I was about 3 years old and I don’t remember that experience. Becky’s funeral was a gruesome experience and almost even tasteless. Everyone was sad, crying and in a state of shock about Becky’s death. The lady that told my father she was cured from cancer by drinking carrot juice sang a few songs with her husband and children. This family was always singing at church and they were absolutely horrible. Becky would not have been happy about that at all. Carol Burnett sent a huge wreath of white roses that was very beautiful.
The next couple of weeks were long and empty. My father was still punishing himself and had become dark, cold and serious. My brother just kept to himself and never seemed to show much emotion. Mike was only 11 years old but I am sure he was going through a lot of pain and confusion even though he didn’t show it. My grandmother Morton was still living with my father, my brother and myself. A couple of weeks after Becky died the Carol Burnett show were Carol and Vickie Lawrence sang nursery rhymes was on. The show meant a lot to me and at the end of the show Carol Burnett said, “Goodnight Becky” before she pulled her ear. It was a unique, weird and special experience for me and very emotional.
I began writing song lyrics and poems more frequently almost on a daily basis. It was a way to express my feelings because I had no one to talk to or confide in. One of the poems I wrote was called, “White Dove.” It helped me realize how I really felt about Becky’s death and what my family had gone through. It wasn’t going to be easy but I knew I would survive.
I saw Shirley at school, church and seminary. I had lost my sister, my family was broken up and Shirley was someone who knew what I was going through because this had been just as rough on her. Unfortunately I had a conflicting relationship with Shirley now because of my holier than though attitude with her as well as my mother and my mother’s side of the family. I had followed my father’s example and thrown myself into church and it’s teachings. I felt like I should only associate with other good Mormon’s and anyone who did not believe in and live by the same standards were a bad influence and sinners. Shirley and my mother and her side of the family did not lead good Mormon type lives and I had a problem with that. I would come to realize that that was my fault not theirs.
As far as I was concerned I was special and a saint because of the greatness and depth of my faith and belief in God and the Mormon religion. I excelled at church and had a complete and loyal belief in God. This crisis or situation I was going through only made me stronger as I escaped into religion. I did not realize it at the time but I was very condescending and judgmental. Up until now I had lived my life without making waves but suddenly I was in the middle of a crisis that I could not comprehend and my only outlet was through prayer. I was so very confused and didn’t know what life would have in store for me. Early on in my life I had clues, feelings and experiences that gave me hints that my life and my family wasn’t as perfect as I had imagined but up until now I just ignored everything pretending everything was normal. Even now after everything that had happened, with all this evidence that I was living in a dream world I refused to accept it.
The more things changed and got worse in my life the more I pretended nothing was wrong and that there was still a chance that God would intervene and set things right. I was not living in the real world and didn’t even know how to survive in the real world. Prayer was my only hope. In the Mormon religion we are taught to prayer frequently and for multiple reasons. We had a prayer to start church, a prayer to close church meetings, a prayer before eating meals, a family prayer, a prayer before bed, a prayer to heal the sick, etc. etc. And when all was said and done I couldn’t help but feel that my secret sexuality was to blame for everything.
I had always been obnoxious and silly. I was always trying to entertain and make my family and friends laugh. I would keep my family and friends in stitches by walking and talking funny, by making funny noises, imitating and making fun of people or pretending to pass out in public. I was always on and on the go. I was always happy and rarely got made or was in a bad mood. Without my relationship with God through prayer I would have gone insane and exploded from all the pressure I was going through. I was weak and I knew it. I was going to need all the help I could get.
It took me a long time to realize how much of an ass I had become. I was being heavily influenced by my father and at the time I couldn’t see how unhealthy this influence was. The more my father escaped into religion the more I followed. The first year after my sister died was the most empty and unreal time I had ever lived through. I was way too innocent and naive to understand how to overcome my heartache and pain and go on with my life. I looked to my father for direction and love but he had fallen into such a dark place that we were both going down a sad and lonely road.
I would visit my mother and her side of the family periodically and as time went by I could see how much Becky had meant to everyone beside myself. I could see that they were affected as much if not more than me and slowly began to see that I was being too judgmental towards them. I began to see that my father was wrong. He would never talk about Becky or what went wrong with our family. My mother and her relatives were very open and honest about their feelings and their memories about my sister. I began to enjoy being around them and felt closer to them than I had allowed myself to be in the past. I discovered how much Becky had touched and influenced their lives before her death. It was nice and refreshing to talk openly and breathe freely for the first time in my life.
After several trips to visit my mother and her family members I began to think I would be better off to move in with her. She had gone on with her life and survived and I wanted to be apart of that. My only reservation was that she was not going to church anymore, was smoking and drinking and did not live like a good Mormon should.
I was a freshman in high school and finally looked forward to going to school for the first time in my life. I had friends that knew what I was going through and went out of their way to be kind to me. Except for some rare occasions I was no longer being teased on a daily basis. I had developed serious crushes on some of the boys I went to school with but kept that part of my life a secret and never ever talked to anyone about my feelings. Mormons didn’t talk about sex to begin with and I knew that my homosexual feelings were forbidden and something I needed to keep hidden.
My acting and singing classes were my favorite part of school. My acting teacher, Mr. Magdellena was very inspirational for me and helped me to grow as a person and train as an actor. I would audition for school plays but I never got cast. I was skinny and still had a high voice and looked much younger than my 14 years. I did work backstage on school productions and this was just as rewarding. I was working backstage on a school production of a musical called Applause. I had a crush on the star of the show; her name was Annette Riley. It was more than a crush; she was very talented and beautiful and had an energy that was attractive. One night I forgot to put a chair backstage so she could step up to the stage. All was forgiven when she had to crawl up on stage and it got a laugh.
About this same time my mother was talking to Carol Burnett on the phone and she invited my mother, myself and members of my family to come watch one of the rehearsals of her television show. This was very exciting since I knew I was going to be an actor and this would be something very meaningful for me. To be able to see behind the scenes how a television show was put together was a dream come true. The Carol Burnett show had one of the best casts in television history and this was a monumental event in my life. Her guest that week was Sammy Davis Jr. and we got to meet him and the cast. I also gave Carol a copy of my poem, White Dove. I referred to Carol in one of the lines from the poem…”you died in the arms of a woman so dear, from your father’s arms you have no more fear…it wasn’t just a coincidence you died this way; for we always knew you couldn’t stay.” I felt it was more than just a coincidence and special that my sister died on my grandfather’s birthday and also the day the swallows returned to San Juan Capistrano.
I don’t remember much about the rehearsal because I was so excited and in awe at being in a Hollywood television studio. I do remember that when Carol Burnett introduced me to Sammy Davis Jr. I thought I would be funny and told her there was no need for introductions because O.J. Simpson was one of my favorite celebrities. Sammy Davis Jr. just kind of looked at me like I was crazy until he realized I was just joking. On the ride home I remember hearing the song, Magic Man by the rock band Heart for the first time and thinking that music was an important part of my life. Music has always been the soundtrack to my life and sometimes the right song at the right time can hold a great deal of meaning and comfort.
My relationship with my father was beginning to become strained. I was in conflict with my life, my true feelings and my future. My father met a woman from church named, Karen and they began dating. She had been married and divorced twice before but gave off a goody two shoes/ holier than thou attitude that my father was drawn to. In Brian’s world though there was still a chance that my parents could still get back together but I was so out of touch with reality that I did not realize that that would never happen. Karen had three children and I would end up baby sitting when her and my father would go out on dates. I was being difficult and was not happy about this relationship but Karen had a good record collection and when I would baby sit it gave me a chance to listen to some great music.
My musical tastes were limited to top 40 radio from the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as oldie but goodies from the 1950’s that my parents listened to. Karen had a couple of Elton John albums and Abbey Road from the Beatles. When I would visit my mother in Upland I would spend time with my cousin Jack and I would listen to his albums which included Led Zeppelin, The Who and other classic rock bands from the 1970’s. My musical tastes were growing and maturing along with myself. I was especially fond of the Beatles but was only familiar with their top forty hits. Abbey Road was like a magical musical journey for me. There was a story I heard about concerning the Beatles and how Paul McCartney died but was secretly replaced with a look-a-like. I would later hear other rumors and stories about the Beatles and was intrigued because they were so bizarre and yet they created such excellent music and also had a mystical/spiritual aspect.
I didn’t like Karen and when my father told me that they were going to get married I knew I had to leave. My father had his own life to live and I did not feel comfortable being part of this new family. One Sunday at church someone gave a speech and said that there was a lot of music that did not live up to the Mormon ideas and was evil. The next thing I know Karen threw out her record collection. I snuck out to the trash and picked out a stack of albums that I liked and kept them for myself. My father and I had begun to grow apart and I no longer shared his strict beliefs and way of life. As much as I wanted to leave I really didn’t want to live with my mother. She was poor and didn’t go to church anymore. I really did feel superior to my mother and her side of the family. But at this point I really had no choice.
It is very difficult to say how and why I had such negative feelings about my mother and her relatives without sounding like a jerk. It was unfair of me but if I was going to move in with my mother I had to come to terms with my feelings and try and make things work. Upland was behind the times, hot, smoggy and was not as cool to live in as Huntington Beach. For the first time in my life I had made a good group of friends at school and leaving my friends and my school life was something that would be hard to do. I was hanging out with people from my music and acting classes and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged and I did not want to lose this. I had some tough choices to make and no matter what I chose it was not going to be easy.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I got the part of an apostle in the summer school production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I had been letting my hair grow long and along with the radical views expressed in this musical my father was not happy at all. Jesus Christ Superstar had many points of view that went against the beliefs of the Mormon Church and my father and I were at odds about me being in this play. We also had rehearsals on Sundays and that was a no no as far as my father was concerned. He wanted me to quit but despite his objections I didn’t. Despite all the conflict and negativity from my father it was a truly great experience for me. I needed this experience right now in my life. We performed in an outside amphitheater and this was one of the best experiences of my life. My mother and her best friend Kathy came to one of our performances and this gave me a chance to talk to her about moving in with her.
This made my mother very happy. She was alone, depressed and lonely since Becky died and wanted me to move in with her as well. I always seemed to get along better with my mother and I missed her a lot. Our relationship had been strained over the past year or so but that was mostly because I was so judgmental and just plain stupid. The older and wiser I got though I learned one important thing…no one is perfect including myself.
I made the announcement that I was moving in with my mother in front of hundreds of people at a testimony meeting at Brigham Young University in Utah. It was a week long youth seminar and my father and Karen came along as chaperones. At the end of the week there was a testimony meeting where you had the opportunity to stand up and bear our testimony about what you had learned and how this seminar affected you. I had taken a lot of time to think about my decision and instead of talk to my father privately I decided to showcase my announcement publicly. My father knew very well I had a history of taking advantage of testimony meetings and this was like the Superbowl of testimony meetings…of course I was going to take the stage. My father understood my decision but was disappointed in the way I presented it. I had made some great friends at church and at school and I was going to miss them very much. I knew my father had to do what he had to do in order to survive in this world…and I knew this was not the path for me.
I began my testimony by saying how much I had grown in my faith, character and spirit. I expressed how important is was for me to make so many good friends but that I was going to move to Upland when I returned to Huntington Beach. Both my friends and my father were in shock. After the testimony meeting my father didn’t have much to say because I was confident in my decision and there wasn’t much he could do to stop me. A few days earlier I had almost got kicked out of BYU. Some of my friends decided that we would sneak into one of the dormitory rooms and trash it by throwing clothes around, spraying shaving cream everywhere and just making a mess. We had a look out and he alerted us that someone was getting off the elevator. Everyone involved took off in different directions and I ran down the hall into my room and hid under some clothes in my closet. A couple of minutes later I heard my door open and a security guard opened the closet door and I was busted. Luckily we all just got a good talking to and didn’t get kicked out.
During this week at BYU I heard the Beatles song, Back in the USSR for the first time. For some reason I heard this song about ten times during the week. I didn’t even realize it was the Beatles at first but it elevated my interest in the band more than ever. I always liked even loved the Beatles but now I was hooked. A few months later The White Album was the first Beatles album I bought for myself. I used to love the Beatles cartoons and over the next few years I would have a complete collection of Beatles albums. My favorite bands when I was a kid were the Beatles and The Supremes.
My mother was like a kid at heart and most of the neighborhood kids would come over to our house to hang out with her. She could relate to them and would listen to their problems and give out helpful advice. She was the cool mom. We were always listening to the radio and music was an important part of all of our lives. We were always singing and dancing and carefree. Mom would let us turn up the radio in the car whenever one of our favorite songs came on and was easy to talk to and fun to be around. Growing up, my mother was almost more of a best friend than a mother and it was going to be nice to move in with her and see if we still could get along. There were many reasons why I didn’t move in with my mother a long time ago but the main reason for not moving in with her was because I kept hoping that my parents would eventually realize how wrong and unfair it was and just get back together… unfortunately that never happened.
My mother had been alone and depressed since Becky died and I felt that the time was right for me to move in with her and be a family again. She had been seeing a man named Don and she had nicknamed him “short shit.” Don had been living with my mother off and on since Before Becky died. He was a little rough around the collar and even though he was there for my mother when she needed someone, he was a very bad influence on her. I found out later on that Becky would steal marijuana from him and get high by herself and with Corina when they would visit. By the time I moved in with my mother she was no longer dating Don but they still saw each other occasionally. My mother was working as a security guard for Lockheed in Ontario, which is near Upland. By now she was in a love triangle with two men named, Tom and Jerry. Really…lol
My mother was having trouble making ends meet. We had always been borderline middleclass but my mother was now poor bordering on poverty. I had just turned 15 and even though I missed my mother I was miserable living with her. We were both walking wounded and we did not connect at all. I could see how hard she was struggling to make ends meet and now she was having to support me and it was really putting a burden on her. I only stayed with my mother for about a month when I called my father and asked him if I could move back in with him. I knew this was going to hurt my mother but I was overwhelmed with my new living arrangements and could not stay with her in Upland anymore. I was basically freaking out.
Life with my father was just as uncomfortable for me as well. He had married Karen and she had three children. My brother Mike and myself never really seemed to get close with Karen and her children and this caused more unneeded tension. Mike and I didn’t really have much in common without Becky to control of the situation. My life was a mess and my prayers were desperate but I never lost faith that God could hear my prayers and if he couldn’t maybe Becky could and do whatever it is she does to make things better. At this time Becky was in my thoughts constantly. As much as I judged people who smoked as being bad I had started smoking occasionally. I had to do everything I could to conceal this because my father was vehemently opposed to smoking. My cousin Charlie had lived with us for awhile when I was younger and my father caught him smoking and beat the shit out of him. When my mother started smoking my father once put liquid soap on her cigarettes as a way to persuade her to quit. That just pissed her off even more.
For more than a year now after Becky’s death I had been playing mind games with my parents, going back and forth in hopes of rekindling their relationship and now that my father had remarried all hope of reconciliation was gone. My grandmother Morton had moved to San Diego to live near my Aunt Lola and Uncle Bruce. I had grown very close with my grandmother Morton and things weren’t the same now that she was gone. Even though I enjoyed school and my music and acting classes and teachers my home life was miserable. I just couldn’t find it in me to connect, respect or tolerate Karen or her children. That is a very sad thing to admit but I think my story reinforces that this is where I was in my life and I was fucked up. My father had gone on with his life and it had nothing to do with me or our past. My past was all I had to cling on to and that left me grasping for straws.
One day I called my mother and poured my soul out to her. I was as honest as I could be in explaining my situation and my feelings for her and that it was hard for me to see how poor she was and the burden of raising me put on her. Living with her for that brief month was an eye opening experience and it caught me by surprise. If I was going to move back in with her I had to get over my issues with her lifestyle and I would need to get a job to help make ends meet. My mother and I started opening up to each other and we were developing a plan to make things work this time. I told her that I wasn’t ready to move back in with her quite yet and I was going to wait until the time was right to tell my father. Poverty was paradise compared to the life I was living in my fathers’ house.
I guess our talk on the phone motivated my mother to realize how much she missed and needed me in her life because that night she called my father and gave him a huge piece of her mind. The next thing I knew my father stormed into my bedroom and said that he was tired of me playing games with him and my mother and that in the morning he was going to drive me to my mom’s house to live. He wasn’t going to be taken for a fool again by me and my manipulating ways. I was planning on telling him in about two or three weeks but now that my mother had let the cat out of the bag the jig was up. This was so sudden for me and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I had to say my good-byes to my friends at church and school.
I talked my father into letting me go to seminary in the morning so I could say goodbye to my friends and also so I could say goodbye to Shirley. As soon as seminary was over my father would drive me to my mothers’ house. During my seminary class I snuck out and went to Shirley’s classroom to talk to her. We went into the hallway and we had a talk. I told her what was going on and that I was confused and didn’t know what to do. Shirley told me to go back to my class and just be cool. It was probably the best thing for me and I would be better off living with mom.
My father was waiting in the parking lot of the church and instead of going back to my seminary class I snuck out and made my way to school. Once I got to school I hid in the theater. I walked around the theater for a couple of hours until my acting teacher, Mr. Magdellena came in. I was hoping there was something he could do or say to help me out. He told me I should move in with my mother. Soon my father was able to track me down and he was furious. We barely said one word to each other during that long ride to my mother’s house.
There were no more games to be played. There was no more going back and forth. This was my life and I had to survive. There was nowhere else for me to go. Good or bad I had to make this work. My mother was going through a tough time and we had to make this work out this time. My mother had stopped seeing Don and was seeing Tom and Jerry now. Tom was black and Jerry was married with children. I continued to go to church and I was still smoking cigarettes occasionally. I had a few friends at church and school but for the most part I kept to myself. Most of my spare time was spent writing song lyrics. Actually I started cranking out lyrics. Every day I would write. Five or six lyrics a week was normal. I had a lot on my mind and a lot to say and writing lyrics was the perfect outlet for me.
I got a job working for a friend of my mother’s. His name was Jack Kelly and he was the father of the baby my mother put up for adoption as a teenager. He was a very handsome man and owned a machine/molding shop. I had to sweep and clean the machines. I worked for jack for about 6 months and after that I just went to school and hung out by myself writing song lyrics. I did not really enjoy my new school and the acting class I was in was not much fun. The acting teacher was into alternative forms of method acting where you would be a chair or a table as an acting exercise. I gradually lost interest in school and acting and concentrated on writing song lyrics.
I continued to have crushes on other guys at school but never did anything about it but wrote about my feelings in my lyrics. I began to spend a great deal of time in the public library. I would read plays and books about drugs and I started reading books about homosexuality. There were so many things in life I knew nothing about and I began to research and learn about these things by reading books by people who had lived and experienced things I never even dreamed about before. I began to be enlightened and educated myself. About this time something very strange started to happen to me.
I started getting déjà vu’s. This became a common occurrence and I would have déjà vu’s about events, smells, colors, people, memories, etc. I would have at least one déjà vu a day and it wasn’t uncommon for me to have ten or more a day sometimes. These déjà vu’s were a blessing. They gave me a feeling that I belonged and that I had been here before and experienced this or that before and it made me feel comfortable and unique. I continued to be obsessed with Becky’s death and the unusual events that occurred before and after she died. My father never talked about Becky and the precious memories we had of her. My mother and other relatives in Upland would talk about Becky all the time and it was so wonderful to hear about and share stories and memories about her.
I knew there was something special about Becky and a reason why things happened the way they did and why Carol Burnett came into our lives. I was also obsessed with the fact that Becky died on my grandfather Lance’s birthday. My brother Mike was born on my grandmother Morton’s birthday and now this birthday thing was even more meaningful to me. I felt it was some kind of sign that we should pay attention to. With all the déjà vu’s I was experiencing I felt there was a reason for it and I was sure it had something to do with Becky and perhaps a message she was trying to relay from beyond the grave so to speak. These déjà vu’s made me feel like I was in tune with the forces of the great unknown and made me think that there was something I needed to know or do. As if my mission in life was unfolding and I was slowly getting clues about what that mission was through these déjà vu’s and signs.
My mother and I had been living with my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom and my cousins, Marlene and Jack. Marlene was about four years older than me and Jack was one year older than me. They all made us feel so welcomed and loved that it nourished me and help restore my love for my family. They had all been through the same tragedy of Becky as I had plus they were there for the last year of her life and grew so close to my sister and that helped bond us. My mother and I soon moved into an apartment nearby on Diamond Court. We had begun developing a close relationship and we were getting along very well. Some friends of my mother named Bev and Duck were staying with us for awhile and they introduced me to marijuana for the first time. This was the first time I had ever smoked marijuana and it was a very liberating experience. I became silly and goofy and made everyone laugh with my comedic antics. I got the munchies and started acting like a monkey and had the time of my life. My mother was there and even though she didn’t smoke marijuana she was supportive and understood that this was something that was good and helpful for me. I know admitting that my mother allowed me to smoke marijuana in front of her for the first time might seem scandalous and reckless on her part but I did not feel that way. I was glad that she allowed me to experiment and that she was there to make sure I was okay. I had always had a funny and silly personality but ever since my sister’s death and my parent’s divorce I had become damaged and introverted and needed some help to come out of my shell and smoking marijuana was exactly what the doctor ordered. Smoking marijuana created a sense of euphoria within me that I hadn’t known since I was a child.
Smoking cigarettes and now marijuana helped me to regain my life from the doom, gloom and stress that had consumed me over the last few years. I began to open up and started to become my old crazy and zany old self. I didn’t start smoking cigarettes to fit in with any peer group. It was something I did one my own and privately as a way to help deal with the stress and disappointments in my life. I knew that smoking cigarettes and marijuana was not something a good Mormon would do and before long I stopped going to seminary and church all together. At the time I did not see what was wrong with smoking marijuana because it helped me regain that zest for life I lost. I found myself in a world and a life I was never prepared for and I had nowhere to turn to and no one to talk about my intense pain and confusion.
On my 16th birthday I was at my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom’s house when I received a phone call from my father. He called to wish me a happy birthday and we had a nice talk. A few minutes after our phone call my father called back. This time he gave me some sad news. He told me that Danita was killed in a motorcycle accident a few days before at the same intersection I was hit by a car on Beach Blvd in Huntington Beach. Suddenly it occurred to both my mother and myself that since Becky died we had not kept in touch with Corina or Danita. We were all so close and after the divorce and Becky’s death we had all gone our own ways and been distracted by the survival of life. We called Corina and soon Corina became a frequent guest of my mother and myself. Corina was crushed by Becky’s death and reconnecting with my mother and myself was meant to be.
This is the end of my own story. I wrote it when I was 16 years old and when I ran out of stories to tell I stopped writing and began to live the next phase of my life. Reading this now as a 48 year old man I can see that even though I was as open and honest in telling my story at the time I was not as open an honest as I am now. As you continue reading A Wing, A Prayer and A Promise you will get an idea of how my life progressed from this point. I make no apologies and have no regrets about my life and how I chose or was chosen to live it. I believe I did the best with the cards I was dealt. As time went by I learned to be less judgmental and open-minded in my life and I am thankful for everything that helped me to become the man I am today.