1984 – Probably 15-20% of the reason why I became a Therapist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA With Halloween coming up I felt it was time to engage in some disturbing good ol’ self disclosure. The running joke about therapists is that we get into this thing to fix ourselves and in my case this is at least 15% true.

Lets travel back to 1984.  I’m about 10 years old and you’re joining me and my family on a leisurely drive through a small farm village in Portugal.  I’m wearing my USA satin Olympic sweat suit in the summer because I was awesome…..sweating like all hell but awesome. My family and I are about three weeks into this visit and for about two of those weeks we’ve had to listen to this song at least twice a day.

Why?  Because my mom’s tape got stuck in the cassette player.

It wasn’t the only song on the tape, it was a mix of this type of gibberish – one of those Time-Life compilations.  I knew every lyric to every horrible love song ever created in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

This wasn’t the only thing that defined that visit (unless you want to call following my father to every bank in Portugal for half the day trying to perfectly time exchange rates a “vacation”), there were other special moments like,

(1) My Uncle (in his mid-60’s at the time) taking off on his motorcycle just as my Aunt was about to get on it. He did not realize she wasn’t on the motorcycle until he reached our house…..30 minutes later.  We weren’t sure at the time whether she ever got on or fell off.  Being that phones in Portugal, at the time, were still sort of a luxury we all had to drive back keeping our eyes open for an older Portuguese woman abandoned somewhere on a highway. I’m sure we were listening to Air Supply during our rescue mission. When we got there hours later (remember we had to drive slow) she was sitting on the curb in front of her house. She did not have keys to the house and none of the neighbors were home.

(2) Getting kicked into my grandparents outhouse by their cow, Estrela. I could hear my grandmother’s voice as I’m writing this – “She’s getting mad John….you should stop petting her”.  I was (again) wearing my official US Olympic satin sweat suit at the time and it was the last time I was ever allowed to wear it.  Being that it was covered in cow (and possibly human) manure my mother counted it as a total loss.

(3) Remember the uncle that almost killed my aunt?  Yes, well they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, I have nothing against those folks but at that time in my life I was an annoying little jerk.  We would have dinner with them almost every night during our visit and almost every night I would beg my mother to make us blood rice (a common dish in my family).   I hated blood rice, it tasted gross and the whole idea of it made me sick…but I knew bringing it up would trigger a huge, yet comical argument between my family and my aunt and uncle.  They would yell about how we weren’t following God’s word and we would call them weird.  Good times.

(4) There’s this town in Portugal that is famous for its roasted pigs (Mealhada) and my mom had to get there at least once every time we went over.  This town is serious about pigs.  How serious?

 Sérgio Horta-Credit

That serious.

We knew we were in for a miserable experience on Leitao day because my father would always get lost.  It literally took us hours to get there and back and the more we drove the more my father would openly ruminate about gas prices in Europe.  Eventually, as a means of distracting himself (I think), he would begin do a review of things that we did over the course of the vacation that bothered him. His voice gently dancing above the music playing out of our car’s tape player is probably one of my fondest memories.

(5) Then there’s my all time favorite – my Dad and the village veterinarian/doctor/dentist/mechanic/spiritual advisor neutering my grandparents pig.  I’m really not going to get into any detail here. I will say that I was actually looking forward to getting back into the car and turning up that horrific music as loud as possible as we sped back home.

I guess when you saw “1984” you were thinking of Orwell.

Sorry about that.

I can assure you the experiences were equally disturbing.

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