that time when I was 12 and forced to deal with abortion
My parents sent me to Catholic grade school, catechism and the whole nine yards. My mother was Catholic but she was also a Democrat, pro women’s rights. She dragged us to church but she was not on board with a lot of the Church’s ways. My dad was Presbyterian and never went to church. He didn’t buy into much of the rah rah business. But, Catholic school was where we went.
By the time I was 10, it felt like I had every sacrament except marriage & last rites. I had one clip-on necktie and a drawer full of white shirts & black pants. My instructors were nuns or priests. I still have scars on my knuckles from steel tip rulers being applied in response to some hijinx or another.
Until about the age of 10 or 11, us kids were kind of like a room full of puppies. Adults, nuns and priests mostly talked at us making announcements, scolding and instructions of some sort. Nobody asked us what we thought. We talked to each other in the schoolyard or on the weekend as we ran around on our own. We never asked the nuns or priests that much either. Nobody wanted to get pulled into some lecture about Jesus or some obscure holiday / saint / rite that we would then be responsible for remembering later.
That all changed around the time I was 12 or 13. Maybe it was because we were going to be leaving for high school in a couple of years, or perhaps it was the times we lived in. Probably, it was because we were or I was now becoming aware of the world around us. Our little brains were looking around the world and forming opinions and making choices. That shit right there is like kryptonite in the Catholic Church, let me tell ya.
So, one day our nun du jour addresses the classrom. We are to write a letter to some politician running for something or in charge of something. Leanna Brown was her name and the school wanted us all to write a letter opposing abortion. Problem was that I was pro-choice - and still am. So, I go home to write my letter.
Until this point, I had never really disagreed with the nuns or priests because I didn’t care to get beaten again. The Church was just some shit I had to do. During mass, my brother and I would play around in the basement or something. None of that anti-woman bullshit made any sense to me and I paid them less and less attention as time went on. But now, I’m suddenly aware that I disagree with the Church. So, I craft a letter stating:
Dear Leanna Brown,
I am a 12 year old boy. I have never had an abortion nor do I expect to ever have one. My teachers told me to write you a letter opposing abortion. I do not think they completely know what they are talking about.
The next day, I turned in my letter and went about my usual business proud of myself for speaking my mind and wondering what Leanna Brown would think of my penmanship. While I was clever enough to form and share my first ‘big world’ opinion, I did not consider that the nuns would be reading my letter. By the end of the day I was informed that my parents were called in to discuss this letter. So much for staying out of trouble.
I got home expecting my dad to pull out the shoe horn I gave him for Christmas last year to beat my ass (note to future generations: DO NOT give your parents a gift they can use to administer spankings).
The folks didn’t say much just that we would talk when we went home. They just had a neighbor watch us while they trekked over to the school. When they get home they’re laughing and yucking it up. My mom has her side-eye going but my grouchy old man sits me down at the table, placing my letter on the table. I ask what happened and he tells me with a chuckle that they won’t be sending my letter.
He then proceeds to tell me about the meeting but what I remember most is that the school told him:
” We don’t think he is happy here.”
But then my dad comes through huge and tells them:
“It is none of your concern whether he is happy here or not. Your job is to educate him. Let me worry about whether or not he is happy.”
At that point, I suddenly saw my dad as something other than this caricature figure of grumpiness and back breaking yard work on weekends. He was also nothing like the GOP crab-ass he pretended to be. The guy was fucking awesome!
As I took my first step to thinking for myself and venturing forward into the world of individuality, I saw my parents there waiting to welcome me into the fold.
I like to tell people that I am a gratefully recovering Catholic.
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