It was the summer of 1976. August to be exact. A young woman goes into a Sarasota County Memorial Hospital to give birth to her second son. Unbeknownst to that woman, her entire life was going to be turned upside down, and would ultimately end in a sudden tragic death. A death that would shake the foundations of the people in her life. The young man that was born on that very hot August day was destined to live a life of confusion, heartache, and struggle.
That young man was me. Brian Taylor.
I certainly don’t remember very much about the first couple years of my life, and as I get older some of the early years are beginning to fade for me as well. I guess my first real memories start around age six or seven. Those are not pleasant memories. As a matter-of-fact, I can’t remember any good times from that period in my life. One of my first few memories is of living in a house in Eastlake, Alabama. I can’t remember why, but I do remember walking into the living room with my brother and having my mother come out completely naked and have us stand completely still for what seemed like an hour while she lectured us.
Another memory I have of that time is of me leaving my bicycle in the driveway and my father-in-law running over it with the car. The bicycle obviously did damage to the car and I was blamed for that damage. The logic behind a young boy not doing what he’s told, makes sense. The logic behind damaging both the bike and the car out of frustration is what doesn’t make sense.
This would be the norm for the next 10 years. Lots of things in my past don’t make a lot of sense. Some of it I can rationalize, and chalk up to anger and frustration. But a lot of it was gust some seriously confusing bullshit. My parents were not well off, and they had been raised by a lot of people that didn’t use logic and reasoning to solve problems. From the stories that I gathered from my mother before she passed away, her mother, was mean, and solve problems by shouting at them.
My stepfather, who became my guardian, and my brothers guardian at the ripe old age of 19, had a very similar background. His father would solve problems by shouting at them and hitting. When you take two people that have never been given problem-solving skills, at least not socially anyway, and put them in the same room together, there will only be one outcome.
That brings me to one of my other memories from early childhood and that is the memory of my mother and stepfather shouting at each other, cussing each other, hitting each other.
The words that were said, the blows that were thrown, and the things that were broken eluded my memory. The reason for the fighting really makes no difference at all. They tended to fight about the most trivial things. Things that I do remember about that first argument was the barrage of sound and the fear of that argument spilling over onto my brother and I. I can really only think of one thing in my entire life that is been scarier than watching those two cuss and hit each other.
That was when they would cuss and hit me.
The violence that my brother and I witnessed in our house was probably not the worst that anyone can experience, but it was far from the best.
On so many occasions, so many that I lost track, my brother and I were forced to hear lecture after lecture about how shitty of human being my biological father was. While I have no doubt that he was incredibly pitiful person, being reminded of it on a daily basis was a little overkill.
She would tell us over and over and over again about how horrible her life was, and how horrible we were making her life because she was stuck with us. That bastard screwed her over, stuck her with two kids, and just disappeared. While the disappearing part is true, I’ll discuss later in this narrative how I tend to question the motives and the reasons as I got older.
Don’t get me wrong my mother was not a bad person. She was just a shitty parent. While she was lecturing you, you were not allowed to move or fidget. You were only allowed to answer with the words that you were told to say. I specifically remember getting slapped pretty hard for blinking. That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. As if the verbal barrage couldn’t get any worse the entire time she was lecturing us she was berating us. She laid the blame for every problem she had on our shoulders.
The forever long lectures were certainly enough to break any kids spirit, but that just wasn’t enough. She needed to throw some violence in their as well. Often times, she would use the fact that you were stuck in place to her advantage.
My mother was the type of woman that would get up close to you, screaming your face, berate you, and work herself into a lather so much that she would grab you and slam you headfirst into a wall. Or she would use the opportunity to strike you. I don’t mean on the ass. face shots and stomach shots were her favorites. After all of this you would spend the rest of the day on high alert.
I’m not even sure if I knew the damage that was being caused to my body and my mind. I knew that getting hit hurt. I knew that getting slammed into a wall hurt, and I knew that her words cut deep in my soul. But as I grew older, I realized there was a lot more damage being done. The amount of cortisol that was floating through my body on a daily basis couldn’t have been that healthy. Being in an extreme state of fear on such a regular basis is a recipe for physical disaster. There are even studies that link chronic migraine sufferers to childhood abuse. I just so happen to have both of those.
The ramifications of that kind of abuse obviously showed themselves physically on the younger version of me. But the emotional effects that manifested themselves quietly, altered my personality. It is what is responsible for shaping my social experiences as a child with the rest of the world.
My stepfather was a completely different experience. Here was a young man that was thrust into a very unique situation and suddenly had the weight of the world on his shoulders. These two kids that were not even his blood, became his responsibility. He had no practice being a father, and only did what he understood how to do.
My mother being the crazy bitch that she was, took every opportunity to punish and penalize him the same way that she punished and penalized my brother and I. By screaming at him, shouting at him, and hitting. As traditional American southern male, he wasn’t about to stand for that. So just like any strongman would, he fought back. The two of them probably had the worst chemical mixture. Stubborn man, and a chemically unbalanced woman.
When the two were not fighting with each other, my stepfather would channel his anger towards us. When he wasn’t pissed off, he was actually a pretty cool guy. He knew a lot about mechanics and could fix or build just about anything. But it didn’t take much to spark his frustration as he wasn’t a very patient human being.
He was not the kind of guy that would hit you multiple times or sit you down for long lectures. He was very straight to the point. If he was going to berate you, or make you feel small, it only took a couple of words. If he was going to cause you harm it only took one or two shots. Some of my earliest memories of our interactions were of him lifting either me or my brother up the wall by our necks. It was common to get thrown around by him or kicked by steel toe boots.
Our location graphically speaking didn’t help our situation. We lived on the furthest out skirts of a very small town in rural Alabama. While I don’t directly relate the lack of intelligence in that part of the country to our upbringing, I do relate our lack of access to intelligent forms of thought to the type of life we grew up with.
There were a lot of other factors that contributed to the unpleasant life I grew up in. The vast majority of all this happened during the 80’s. Reaganomics, or should I say trickle-down economics, left a vast majority of people in that part of the country strapped for cash on a regular basis. My family was no different.
In the early years we were in various parts of Tarrant city and Eastlake before we moved to the rural outskirts of Pinson. While I have no doubt that things were rocky in those early years, the real waves began to hit once we got that damn trailer.
The trailer was double wide, and had been used when my parents bought it. Originally it was parked on a small lot of about 1 acre. I believe we were only there for about two or three years. If I had to attribute any amount of time in that trailer as “good “, it would’ve been those years. I believe that that was second through fourth grade.
It wasn’t until we moved to a large plot of land on the other side of Pinson, that things really got rocky. When my parents first bought the land it was difficult to walk in more than 15 feet from the side of the road without having to have a machete. It was very dense, heavily overgrown patch of woods. All in, they purchased 18 acres and for the next five years we cleared off nine of those acres, using nothing more than a machete, handsaw, a chainsaw, and a tractor.
I attribute my insatiable work ethic those years of clearing that land. We sculpted, trimmed, chopped, and hacked our way through some of the roughest times that any of us had ever seen.
We existed in a constant state of poor, which added to the overwhelming stress that my parents placed on each other, and ultimately on us. Every day was a powder keg, every action and word that came from myself, or my brother, was like a blowtorch. I pity any other soul that should have to endure that type of environment.