Dave Harper My Story: volume 2.

Volume 2:

Since I was in the choir, I learned that the school’s upcoming yearly play was “West Side Story”. I tried out, and what do you know, I made it. I played “Doc”, the malt shop owner. That was an amazing year.

About three weeks before summer break, I decided I had had enough abuse and ridicule from my step mother, and longed for the love and acceptance I had found with my mother and her side of the family. I decided to run away from home in K.C., and walked to my mother in Springfield, Missouri, a 400mile trip. I left after my dad went to work at 11:30 P.M. I walked and hitched rides, and walked through my mother’s door at about 7:30 P.M. Needless to say, my mother was a little shocked to see me. I will never forget when my mother brought me back to K.C.

We met my father at the I.H.O.P. in Overland Park, to “exchange me.” When my dad walked in, he sat down at the table, took a breath, looked at me, and said, “Well, it’s obvious, he wants to live with you.” The only snag was I had to stay in K.C. for three weeks to finish out the school year, but that was fine by me. I needed time to pack my life. Then, as if by magic, the day suddenly arrived.

The first day of summer. My dad woke me up that morning, which was very unusual, since they (dad and step mom) rarely ever woke me, as I was pretty much on my own, as far as waking up and getting myself ready for school. The other unusual thing that morning was his tone of his voice. It almost seemed remorseful, or sad. He drove me to the bus station, downtown, and we waited for the bus to arrive. The entire time, I could feel the tension, and sadness, emanating from my father, even at 14, I could identify his sadness. Only at that moment, could I feel my father’s love for me. That was one of only a couple times we touched, he hugged me, and told me he loved me, a phrase I have only heard him express three times in my life. He put me on the bus, and I was off to begin a new chapter in my life. All this sadness and remorseful emotion my dad was emitting was very strange to me, since, up until then, I had NEVER seen this side of him. Up until then, I thought emotions were only for T.V. and movies. I always thought there was something wrong with me, since I was a very emotional child.

This would be the first time I was faced with very real truth, that “wherever you go, there you are”. Meaning, no matter where you run, you always take you with you. Just because you change your location, doesn’t mean you move away from your own self-hatred. It took me until just recently to learn that you can change everything; Jobs, friends, locations, etc. but you can’t change how you feel about yourself.

I also learned something even more powerful, and that is, respect is earned from everyone, including yourself. You have to do things to make yourself like yourself; Finish the things you start, always do the very best you are able, in everything you attempt, treat, and speak to others the way you want to be treated, and when you work, always work to impress the boss, like he’s standing right behind you.

When I came to Springfield, I was so excited, new school, new people, new environment. I thought things would be different, I thought I was leaving all my problems, but, as I would soon learn, my problems moved with me. My isolation and depression came onto me like a raging bull. Strange, new school, strange, new kids. I was not prepared for such a culture change, it was a massive shock, and it never occurred to me to tell someone. I couldn’t find the crowd I fit with, and instinctively went back to what was familiar… Isolation. Despite my mother’s constant attempts to make me go, I just didn’t have the ability. My depression, and my growing fear of life, and success, caused me to give up school, and I isolated for several years.

When I turned 17, I tested for my GED, and enrolled, in Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Missouri, again with the hopes of change, of a “T.V.” life, where the “happily ever after,” filled my head. Only to find that I took me with me AGAIN. I constantly isolated, only going to my psych classes. By the end of the school year, the administration had expressed their disinterest in seeing me return for future semesters. This closed the chapter in my life of scholastic affairs.

I need to digress, When I was 13, I became a born again Christian. That, in and of itself, was significant enough, but in the hands of an extremist such as myself, I suddenly became a Bible carrying, sermon quoting, Jesus thumping maniac. No one was safe, I suddenly had the unstoppable urge to tell everyone about the, “Cleansing blood of Jesus.” Whether you wanted to hear it or not. The only problem with all that Bible thumping, was that it was just another attempt to run from my own self-hatred. I thought that, “accepting Jesus”, would make me feel like a good person, only to find that, not even Jesus could exempt me from me. While I was in my “Jesus” phase, I went to church like it was going out of style. Every time the doors were open, I was there.

One night, while sitting in the choir loft, I noticed this beautiful woman in the congregation. Long straight, black hair, slender, very outgoing, an angel, sent from heaven to deliver me from this “horrible” life I was living, (Or so I felt). I have to admit she taught me a huge amount in the years I spent with her, both good and bad. At 19, I left Bolivar, school, and Missouri, to try a life in the Rockies.

I moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, to help her and her husband start a church, only to find them in the midst of a failing marriage. I helped keep the house clean, and the kids tended to. I turned 21 in G.J. and dove head first into a full time drinking career. After growing tired of running from myself in Colorado, I ran back to Springfield, to add cocaine and meth to my accolades on my resume of substance abuse career.

It was about this point of my life that I met my future ex-wife, Heather. She and I had ten years together, off and on. We had two of the absolute coolest kids to ever walk the face of the earth. (By the way, if you have kids, and don’t feel like they are the absolute coolest kids to ever walk the face of the earth, then you brought the wrong kids home from the hospital). I have no idea why Heather stayed with me for so long, or why she didn’t beat me to death in my sleep. She stuck with me through a huge amount of verbal abuse, not to mention the drug, and alcohol abuse. Not to mention the total emotional instability, numerous evictions, and countless lost jobs. I really admire her for that. She and I had gone to the same high school together, even knew of each other, but never met. Not until I turned 19, and tried out for a community “Christian” play house, called, “Stained Glass Theater”. They were having auditions for their next play, “The Idle of Sacred Oaks”. I asked her for a date, and the rest is history.

We got married, shot out two kids, and after 10 years, got divorced. I was 30 years old, the worst year of my life. In one month, I got divorced, lost free visitation with my kids, (supervised visitation was probably the smartest idea for me at the time, as I was extremely unstable at the time), lost another job, and found my mother dead on the coach. All in the same month. I had to tell all my relatives that the cornerstone of our family had died.

With all that, I began to listen to the little voices in my head, I call my committee. They were telling me that I didn’t matter one iota to anyone, and that all I brought to people was heartache and misery. One night after a party that me and my roommate had thrown I was very depressed, and had developed a plan to end my life. After everyone had gone, and my room-mate fell asleep, I pulled his car into the garage, locked the front and back doors, left the car on, and waited to die.

What happened next is hazy at best, but the paramedics said that I was found upside down, dangling out the window, my foot having been caught in the seat belt. From what I can gather, I thought that this type of suicide wasn’t working, or it was taking too long, and I lost patience. Either way, I suppose. Instead of just opening the door, I tried to climb out the window. When my head got higher than the roof of the car, where the fumes were thicker, I passed out. I was found hanging upside down, next to the car door, and doctors said that since I was in that position, all the blood rushed to my head, keeping me alive.

According to the nurses, my doctor, and family, I was brain dead for five days. My ex-sister in law told me that the hospital staff had informed them that I was posturing, when your toes point inward. They said that this was a sign of brain damage. The doctor told my family that even if I regained consciousness, I would be in need of constant supervision and care. I would need to be bathed, dressed, fed, and possibly even changed. Despite the doctor’s insistence, my brother refused to allow them to turn off the respirator. For five days, I was kept alive by machines, and for five days, my brother was either working, in the hospital chapel praying, or at my side. I was told that he only went home to shower, and maybe sleep a little. On the fifth day, while my brother kneeled in the chapel, praying, a nurse was tending to me, and doing her morning rounds, while my ex sister-in law, and ex-wife were in the room helping out however they could and, as if I had been awake the whole time, I opened my eyes and sat straight up in bed. Naturally, all three girls were taken completely by surprise. I tried to speak, but since the tracheotomy tube was still in I couldn’t, so the nurse removed it, and tried to get me to speak, to see how extensive my brain damage actually was. I was told that, at first, I refused to speak, only when my brother came into the room did I actually speak. When he came into the room, the nurse asked me if I knew him, that’s when I smiled, and said, “That’s Betty!”. Despite the nurse and doctor’s confusion my family laughed a sigh of relief. That was an old nickname I use to call him several years before.

Stay tuned for part 3…

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