"I'm going through a phase". I've heard the phrase too often. Like many clichés, it has lost its meaning for me. I will concede, however, that my life has had periods (or phases) unlike those preceding or following them which have left defining marks on me.
My youth in Germany was idyllic in many respects. I was wealthy without realizing it. Life had strict rules, but they did not really apply to me. I rode horses in a beautiful setting every day. I lived in a beautiful setting. I was raised by my great-grand-uncle one of the last scions of the old Prussian aristocracy. Even when I went away to military school I was one of the privileged ones.
That changed abruptly. I became a bitter, evil person. I was part of a pack and all else were prey. I really thought in those terms. People were not even human to me for many years. I simply regarded them as necessary to supply my needs, whatever they were at the time. The sad thing is that I was right. If you live that way, it becomes true. There is a segment of society that does not function as human. Another segment that preys upon it. My awakening came when I realized that I was not part of the pack. They had never regarded me as such, either.
I spent a decade or more adapting to reality by ignoring it. This was the absolute height of my science fiction fandom. Eric Frank Russell, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, and Robert Heinlein were at their peak. I read in one of the years of the '60s (I think it was 65) all 800 books published that year in the science fiction genre. I never did such a thing afterward. In has been a long time since it has even been possible to read all the books published in the science fiction genre. Reading science fiction did much to acclimate me to the human world, but little to endear me to it. This was the late '50s and middle '60s and to talk about reading science fiction was literally to invite a beating. It was nearly as bad as being "queer" as far as public humiliation and mistreatment would be. I know people who were examined by psychiatrists because they read science fiction. Whose families thought they were "not quite right". I always thought it hysterically funny that "The Twilight Zone" which was science-fiction-y as all get out was OK but science fiction books and magazines were not.
In '62 or '63 I was sitting in a local park near some water. In response to his question I told a guy that what I was reading was "Science Fiction - Stranger in a Strange Land". He signalled to a rather bulky bat-bearing friend of his and the two of them proceeded to whale on me for "Readin' that queer shit about queers" that being the public assessment of "Stranger" when it was new. I always wondered where that came from. Heinlein was a Navy Admiral (ret), and had commanded an aircraft carrier, when he wrote "Stranger"; not an obviously "faggy" type. The story had a bad ending for me. Rather battered, I managed to get the bat away from meathead number two and drive the two of them off. The police then came and detained me. They seemed to regard my book as evidence of my culpability and the local cop (who's name was Leimkuhler) pitched the paperback into the pond and held me at the town lockup until after dark. I had to walk home (the park was locked at night) and both meatheads were waiting for me. I was no lightweight in those days and managed to run them off again while the cop watched. I turned and looked at him and he just said "go on home". I stopped reading in public after that but I don't think there was a day between 1955 and 1975 when I didn't have a paperback of some sort in my back pocket at all times.
I read "Lord of the Rings" in those days too. I didn't care all that much about other fantasy. I read a lot of Robert E. Howard: Conan the Barbarian; Kull; Solomon Kane; Bran Mak Morn; Turlogh O'Brien and skull-face. Even his westerns made my list. Of course, I read H.P. Lovecraft incessantly. It's interesting (to me) that my favorite "Lord of the Rings" edition (that I read cover to cover 17 times (literally) and partially at least six more times was not the 3 volume edition with which everyone is familiar. Until about 1960 (I think) it was still being printed in two volumes. It wasn't until the Hildebrandt covers and the famous Middle Earth poster that every head shop in the world carried that the book came out in three volumes. Now I wouldn't have it any other way.
I think seeing fantasy and science fiction as "unreal" let me see people as real again.
After I finally managed to get a handle on humanity I found myself distancing myself from it again. People became unhuman to me again but in a different way. My ego stepped in. It has a habit of standing between me and others, the big fat slob. I thought of others as "mundanes" or any of a number of various words that lessened their value and heightened my own in comparison. I sought out a lot of people and groups who would reinforce that. I joined Mensa in Miami or maybe Ft. Lauderdale. I honestly can't remember a single individual from that group but I do remember the group as the most reprehensible people with the most odious natures I have ever encountered including that "pack" I talked about earlier. I moved around a lot in those days. I lived in NYC for a very brief time, on Long Island for about a year. I was in San Diego (well, Riverside) for a while. I was in L.A. at the time of the Watts Riots. I think, I've lived about everywhere and done about everything at one time or another. At least it seems like it to me.
In the 70's and 80's thing got sane for me. I credit a crazy woman and Buckaroo Banzai. The Crazy Woman was Jeanneton Maria-Therese de Bourbon. Now, I know. That can't be her real name. It was. Yes, de Bourbon is a cadet house of the House of Bourbon that ruled France for a while. No her family was not in the line of succession. They were Québçcois, pardonnez-moi "expatriate French". That meant that as soon as the Monarchy was restored they were back to France like that!. Jeanneton's father was some sort of wheel with Shell of Canada in those days. She came with her own trust fund. Good thing. I was pretty broke.
We met in Paris. I was living in one of the innumerable hôtel de Paris than infest the city. She stayed there one night. We shared coffee in the afternoon and talked until around two the next morning. She slept about four hours and boarded a train for Nice. I slept rather longer. Woke at the crack of Noon and panicked. I spent rather a lot of money calling hotels in Nice until I found her (I spun some rather imaginative yarns to locate her, but such things were easier back then. People were less suspicious). I checked out, headed for the train station (Gare de Sud? Gare de Lyon? I don't remember) and followed her to Nice. Over her parents strident objections she became, three months later, Jeanneton Maria-Therese de Bourbon von Lauterbach und Halmisch. She was in line to become the next (8th) Vicomtesse de Bourbon, the 11th Baroness von Lauterbach and the 16th Grafin (Countess) Halmisch.
Wouldn't that be a mouthful of name. Sadly she was never to bear a title. She did bear a son, who we named Donald Erik. He was killed in a household accident at the age of three. Such things sometimes drive couples together. It drove us apart. Years and numerous partners later she and I got together in Miami and began adopting kids. It worked well for us.
I was just "Bob" by then.
I should explain about my name
Karl-Robert Russell Manfred Manfried Gottfried von Lauterbach und Halmisch entitled since my father passed to add Baron Lauterbach und Graf Halmisch after all that. I was named Karl because my father liked it. Robert was added because that was my father's name. Russell, was my grandfather's name. Manfred was my great grandfather's long-time and best-trusted friend (and great granddad was in on this horrible naming scheme) Manfred von Richtofen (yes the "Red Baron"), Manfried was my great grandfather's name, Gottfried was my great grand uncle's name (nobody is sure why he made the list but it worked out well in the end).
I tried for years to introduce myself as Karl-Robert (this was in Missouri) and just getting blank stares. It finally degenerated from Karl-Robert that's with a hyphen and Karl is spelled with a "K" to "Karlrobertwithahyphenandakay" mumbled rapidly and move on before it caused trouble. I got a lot of puzzled looks and "Pleased to meet you Mr. uh Andakay? Before I settled on being called Karl. Of course, there was that pesky "withakay" on the end of it all the time. *sigh*
After 20 years of wrestling with misspellings and assorted name variations I changed my name to "Bob Louderback" and at my father's insistence (because that was his name) "Bob Louderback II". He couldn't stand the thought of me being called "Junior" as would be inevitable in Missouri. It worked out. The world knew me as Bob and family called me Karl and all was OK
I was saying, I was just "Bob" by then. I had given up notions of being superior to the rest of humanity and was working for a living as a computer programmer. She had become one of those women who shop for a living. She had plenty of money to buy clothes every day and have lunch with friends who were really acquaintances. She liked her life though. I liked mine too. But something was missing.
Having another child was out. We both looked at one another and went "Nuh uh". Age and biology were against us. Neither of wanted to do the diaper thing. We went shopping. Jeanneton had a gift for shopping. She found Brandon. He was a good kid with horrible parents. They had drugged themselves out of his life at about age nine. At age 14 he was an absolute terror, having raised himself for the last five years or so. He moved in with us and hated every second of it for a full year then asked us to adopt him.
We didn't think that would happen. We were content, however for him to stay until he wanted to go. We thought of himself as our son and treated him so. I guess that is what won him over. Well, that and the fact that Jeanneton was charming enough manipulate anyone and beautiful enough to cause any teenage boy to have dreams he shouldn't have about his adopted mother. We adopted Brandon at 15. He moved out at 18, going to NYC to live with a girl friend we both "warned him about". It went badly and he is the only of our boys that I regard as a failure on our part. We didn't teach him to reach out for help. Brandon's girlfriend ran one of those loan agencies that were almost loan sharks. AVCO used to be one of that sort of thing, though I don't know what they are like now or even if they still exist. She ran a few of those. She set him up with managing one such agency. She paid all the bills, put everything in her name, basically kept him as a pet. One day he was locked out of work, locked out of the apartment, found all his clothing in the street, and couldn't get an explanation. He had been replaced. He lived in "his" car for a while but while he was in the bathroom it was repossessed with every thing he owned in it. She showed no mercy. He didn't come home or tell us what happened. We found out when the police called to tell us he was dead. The story was a horrible one. I could find nothing in me to cope with what happened. Jeanneton used a fair chunk of money to make the ex's life miserable in special ways, but I don't even know or want to know. If only he could have called us.
The "get back on the horse" theory kicked in when Miami's Social Services or Human Services or whatever it is called there phoned us. We met Don, aged 13. Another troubled kid. The chain began. Don had a best friend Jon. Jon knew Greg. Greg knew Bob. Max appeared from somewhere. Brian just sort of popped in. Joey was around, but wasn't ever exactly adopted, being entirely too old for that sort of thing. Brian's friend Joe on the other hand fit right in. Luis sort of filtered in from some mysterious netherworld and though he never got adopted (or even met Jeanneton) remains close to my heart to this day.
I think that's everyone, 10 of them altogether. Brandon; Don; Jon, Greg; Bob; Joey; Max; Brian; Luis; Joe; there's the list. More or less in order. Some got formally adopted, some just hung around the house growing up in my living room. I worked long hours and made a lot of money comparatively. Jeanneton came with her own trust fund, so money wasn't often an issue. Life was complicated. Life was pretty good though. Then of course things went to Hell. In the parking lot of a rather posh hotel in Miami, a yahoo in one of those big dual wheel pickup trucks (playing urban cowboy, the jerk) backed into her, pinned her against another vehicle and killed her. They managed to get her to the hospital and into surgery, but she could not be saved. Something in me died and some light went out in the boys.
But the boys saved my life. Knowing them, raising them, kept me sane. Well, kept me going. Sane is quite another issue.
We now approach the '90s when I moved to Tampa. Life in Tampa had good moments. I was teaching there rather than programming. Odd to have found my true vocation so late in life, but there it was. I am a teacher even though I usually self-describe as a programmer. That is what I did in Tampa. Brian went with me to Tampa. He moved out on his own fairly quickly. My youngest boy, Joe was my roommate in Tampa more than my Son, and that worked out well enough. There I met Mary Nickels, a nurse at a local hospital. She was good for me, but our relationship ended quite tragically. She got diagnosed with colon cancer. She had seen too many patients linger. Mary just made her arrangements, refused all treatment other than palliative and was gone within two months. I still miss her sometimes. A very pragmatic woman was Mary.
Not long after she passed I left Tampa for Seattle. That was in 1999, I thought I would start the new Millennium on the Left coast rather than the East Coast. It didn't work out at all well. Seattle is an interesting city to live in but its conscious self-importance and egotistical ecoist bigotries did not suit me. Its pace is also uncomfortable me, sort of an elephantine hurry like a fat man with long legs. Things are moving along slowly but eating up ground. I prefer the "get it over with" attitude of the East coast. My parents health deteriorated badly between September of '98 and December of '99 so I saw the Millennium in while in the town of Belle, MO. Belle=Hell. I went back to work for my old East Coast employer who had offices in the porta-potty of the nation, Jefferson City, MO. I call it that because Jefferson City is like a porta-potty in that you can get used to it but you're never going to like it.
In fairly short order, April of 2000, my sister and I bought a house in Jefferson City and moved my parents in. It placed them nearer the hospital (a 45 minute trip from Belle even if you can get a helicopter). Both Mom and Dad had had arterial bypass surgery within a year of one another. The hospital said they were the first husband and wife bypasses they had done. I found that novelty a bit disconcerting. Dad passed away in 2000 at the rather advanced age of 89. For a male of my blood line anything over 50 is pretty remarkable, Great Grand Uncle Gottried, Dad, and me are the only ones to exceed that number in 14 generations on the Lauterbach side. Women on my mother's side, on the other hand seem to be immortal. I have two aunts in their 90's and a couple of great aunts lurking about at least two of whom are over 100. My mother was the exception. She passed at 89 in 2002. Mom and Dad both, oddly enough, passed a fortnight before their birthdays.
Apart from losing family, the millennium has been hard on me. I have not heard from Joey since the late '90s. Nobody has. Max is lost again. I'm sure he'll pop up somewhere, but he vanishes for five or six years or so and resurfaces after studying Ninjutsu in a Tibetan monastery or some such. I am convinced he will eventually become Batman. He is an actual student of Ninjutsu by actual teachers of the art, not the back-of-the-phone-book learn-to-be-a-ninja-in-9-lessons types, but the real thing. That's slightly scary.
In 2001 in the course of five days I went blind. I went from being able to read to unable to drive to unable to walk without a cane in five days. I hate my doctor. He lowered my blood sugar from nearly 600 to under 50 with a single injection of quick-acting insulin. Over a period of days the lenses of my eyes which had inflated with fluid (your lenses do that when your sugars are high) deflated (as they should) but did so asymmetrically (as they should not). Now, there was no way to predict this and I don't hold my doctor responsible for my blindness on that score, but the son-of-a-bitch, when I explained what was happening to my vision wanted to schedule an appointment for 90 days hence and wouldn't budge. I called every one of those five days saying "I'm going blind" and he wouldn't see me. I even went to the office and waited for him on the last of the five days. The asshole went out the back to avoid seeing me.
I guess I lack the killer instinct. I should have sued.
Two months later while sitting at home trying to get used to the fact that it had been more convenient for my employer to pension me off than to accommodate me as an employee, 9/11 happened. It took almost a year of spiraling depression involving loss of family, national tragedy, personal financial problems (United Health Care is an instrument of the Devil), health problems, conflicts with government agencies intended to drive those applying for disability to suicide to save the government money to drive me to suicide.
I gave it my best shot. Really. None of this "cry for help" shit. I suppose I could have picked something with a more guaranteed lethality than a bottle of pills. There was a gun in the house. I know lots of high places I could jump off of. Hell, just driving a car would have been nice and fatal, but I really thought a bottle of hydrocodone - vicodin - (about 60) would do it. I blame my family. They noticed the bottle missing and found me sleeping quite peacefully a little too early in the day. The liquid charcoal they make you drink for days afterward (vicodin is basically tylenol and wrecks the liver) is penance in a bottle. I would rather drink my own vomit, for that matter your vomit than swallow another bottle of that stuff.
Some days in the psych ward, some work with a therapist, a lot of journaling and a good many chats at Walkers in Darkness, a depression support group, leaves me as reported yesterday in transition from true depression to some other state. I'm not there yet, but I'm somewhere.