Something about running into the teenage boy in my building, the one with the angry expression, and then seeing “Suicidal Tendencies” carved into the alley cement a few feet from his car catapulted me back in time.
Back to when my sons were that age, still living with me but wishing they weren’t. Listening to that post-punk/thrash band Suicidal Tendencies and others like Alien Sex Fiend, Bad Brains, Biting Tongues, Buzzcocks, Circle Jerks, The Clash, the Damned, Death Cult, Death by Stereo, The Stranglers, Violent Femmes.
I didn’t hate the music, coming myself from rock ‘n roll era, but it was sometimes hard to take after the mellow 70s. And louder than 80s alt-rock Duran Duran, U2, Nirvana, Talking Heads, Blondie. I guess it was the underlying hard-edge anger of punk that got to me, the desire to be destructive, and I sensed some of that punkish attitude in my sons and remembered it from my own late teen years. We weren’t really punks, but we were pricks/bitches for that particular hellish period.
It’s not an easy time. We want to be free and yet we aren’t quite ready. We need our parents, usually financially and emotionally, and we hate them for it. And we also know everything. Old people are so stupid.
Fortunately I remembered how I felt and so was able to navigate interactions. Not perfectly, but with a desire to understand and communicate. In all honesty, I was still learning to grow up myself. I give myself credit for trying with sincerity.
My older son went off to college 100 miles away. My younger son and I were lonely and missed him. Then our cat died and we both blasted the music and drank and smoked too much. Then there was the unfortunate incident with my car, which resulted in my son’s doing community service, picking up trash on the beach in the early morning hours in fluorescent jackets.
He got my old car running again (I got a new one) and painted it with psychedelic designs and colors. The times when he had to give me a ride to work, I hunched down so no one could see me. His best friend’s father, who happened to be the city’s mayor, made him park down the street from their house.
By this time I was somewhere between suicidal and homicidal. When I had the chance to move, I did! I fled the not-yet empty nest. Luckily my son found a new job and home working for a few months with friends at the Grand Canyon. There I think it didn’t matter how loud they blasted Butthole Surfers.
My older son called from college. He wanted to tell me something. “You know, I used to think growing up meant that everything was going well. Now I just realized that something weird is always happening and we NEVER figure everything out.”