This is adapted from something I wrote a couple of years ago when asked the question, "What the hell is wrong with you?" Since then I've moved from Portland back to Southern California to help my mom deal with her cancer diagnosis.
It's also too long for one post, so I'll split it into two.
I had a conversation with my mom a few days ago in which she apologized for my youth. The funny thing is, of all the things wrong with me, and have gone wrong in my life, she is the least culpable for any of it. Like I told her, she has nothing to be sorry for, and if she did I've forgiven her long ago. My odds were never good for surviving in this world, and considering my circumstances, I've managed to enjoy myself in this life quite a bit. More than I expected, to be sure.
So I'm a bastard. I've never known my dad. I didn't even know his name until about 10 years ago (I'm 39 now). My mom was never talked about why she wanted to raise me on her own, only that she did. I don't know if anything ugly happened, but I do know that he knew I existed. My mom got a letter shortly after my birth from my dad and his new girlfriend offering congratulations. I didn't know that until 10 years ago either. Turns out he married that girl, and they had a son. I've never met any of them. After I found all of this out I spent a couple of days deciding what to do with the information, and decided it wasn't worth looking them up. I'm pretty much a disappointment in almost every way, and I didn't expect to be alive that much longer. Seems like a stupid thing to inflict on people who never wanted to know me anyway.
So mom, single with just a little college education and not much work experience, decided to raise me alone. She went to tech school to learn to be a technical writer, but she couldn't manage raising me and going to school. Instead I lived with a babysitter 6 days a week, and spent one with my mom. Tuesdays were days she would take me to Disneyland, or the zoo, or we'd just drive around together. Now I love long drives at night to nowhere. They soothe me in a way that's hard to explain. I also seem to have some kind of attachment disorder. I have an expectation of loss, and I expect people to drift in and out of my life. Obviously, they do just that. It makes me sad, but I'm no good at holding on to people or things.
Eventually, around age 5, my mom got a steady boyfriend (a guy I walked up to and started to at Disneyland), and we all moved in to an apartment together. Not that things got that much more stable, but at least my mom always had my back. We moved a lot. She wasn't good at holding jobs, or being responsible. What I didn't understand at the time was she was battling her own depression.
Her family was decently well off, and my grandmother helped us out a lot so I never starved. I lived in nice areas. I went to decent schools. Well... I was enrolled in decent schools. I skipped a grade early because I could read and do basic math younger than they expected. Unfortunately by the time I reached grade 4, though, I felt overwhelmed and confused by everything. We'd moved a couple of times, and I was surrounded by people I didn't know in a place I didn't like being forced to do things I didn't understand. Mom was still trying to work full time, and there was very little structure or supervision in my life. I made some friends in my neighborhood, but they went to another school. I asked to be transferred to their school, but for some reason that would only be allowed if a) I took an intelligence test, and b) I dropped a grade (no matter what the test said). Apparently I scored really high on the test, but they still dropped me a grade and never let me into the special smart kid classes (and I asked about them every year).
I continued being bored and weird throughout grade school. I was the weird kid. The strange one no one really wanted to be around. I played Dungeons and Dragons. I talked to myself. I knew what a computer was, and why they were awesome (this was the early 80's). I read weird books, made up (and sung) weird songs, and at the end of the day I walked home alone to an empty house. I ended up ditching school a lot more once I hit puberty, and by the time I got to high school the only way my mom could keep me even pretending to get an education was to do home study. I did that for 2 years before I said fuck it, got my GED and got out of school.
That actually worked out ok for me at the time. I had been using computers since I was around 6. That boyfriend of my mom's knew a lot of engineers, and when I was dragged to their houses I was sat in front of their Apple II's and left to play video games. and learn some basic commands. Some summers got spent in computer camps, and after my mom learned to build her own computers, we always had one around. In the early 90's even a basic level of computer competence meant you had marketable skills, so even after ejecting from the public school system with just a GED I managed to get a job with a small tech start-up. On the weekends I worked in a comic book store. Life was good.
Then it all went to shit, as all things must I guess. I got fired from the tech company (turns out they needed someone more qualified), after I'd quit my job at the comic book store to try and devote more of myself to the better paying gig. I was out on my own, but my mom was very supportive. She knew a friend with a room to rent in another city, and she agreed to pay my rent while I tried to build a new life somewhere else. Shortly after moving out, though, I started having weird pains in my joints and muscles. It started getting so bad I couldn't walk some days. Joints would suddenly swell and ache for a day, then fade, then a different one would do the same. I didn't have any money, no insurance, and no idea what to do. I did my best to live with it for as long as I could. By the time my mom finally dragged me to an emergency room I was taking 3 vicodin and a handfull of Advil just to get out of bed in the morning. The pain was constant.
Well apparently I almost died. That's what the doctors told my mom, and congratulated her for bringing me in when she did. I spent a month in the hospital while they tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Eventually they settled on a form of vasculitous called churgg-strauss syndrome. Over time that diagnosis has been amended to Wegener's granulomatosis. I was released from the hospital on my 19th birthday.
Turns out I have one of the worst cases of Wegener's ever. It's a rare disease, but even the doctors I've seen who have seen it before have never seen it like this. It destroyed my kidneys before my 22nd birthday. I discovered that after I had a series of small strokes. I've been on dialysis ever since. It has occasionally been quite for a few years, then comes back to fuck up my body in some major ways.
I haven't had a job since I was 21. After moving to New Orleans (because fuck it, why not?) I briefly worked as a dishwasher, and as a cameraman/co-host on my girlfriends public access television music video show. It was great, but that was right before the strokes. After that I moved back home to California, where I stayed for about 10 years learning to live with my new disabilities, and adjusting to life on dialysis.
During that time I occasionally worked (for no money) as an Industrial music dj at clubs for my friends. The highlight of my career was dj'ing a couple of years at the Defcon hacker convention in Las Vegas. I also did some blogging and practiced my writing. Although I was more successful as a dj, I always enjoyed the writing more. Neither became a career.
After a particularly dramatic and spectacular relationship fail, an opportunity appeared to move with a friend to Portland, Oregon. I took it, because this place is awesome and I'd never been anywhere as beautiful, or felt so at home anywhere. A couple of people I would call friends had already moved up here, so I wouldn't be entirely on my own. Within a year of my moving here several of them left, but I loved it here too much to go back.
Within 2 years of being here I was in a car accident I don't remember. I was driving home from dialysis, exiting the freeway, and the next thing I remember is flashes of horror. Slumped over the steering wheel, the door being pried open by firemen, being wheeled into hospital, muttering the only phone number I could remember (my friend who I moved up there with, who had moved back to California). As accidents go, it could have been a lot worse. My right leg broke about half an inch below the hip joint. It had to be held together with a steel rod and screws. Staples in my skull and stitches in my tongue, but, after a month of physical therapy and a few months with a walker, then a cane, I walked away from it all. I no longer had a car, though, and relied on a wonderful service Oregon provides, medical transportation, to get me to and from dialysis.