Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I had a lot of people tell me Happy Father’s’ Day if you’re a dad.  I’m not and they’d say enjoy your day anyway.  I sometimes wish I could have done the “normal life” thing, getting married and having kids.  Being gay doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do that anymore, but I don’t think I could handle kids.  Having enough trouble handling myself.  The Bible says something to the effect that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  But then he made me responsible for myself.  A little joke I came up with.  Thought about using that for a t-shirt idea when I was starting my t-shirt web store.  (That’s done now. Another story.)

But enough about me.  I was looking for a card at, you guessed it, Family Dollar, and saw one that the front design really caught my eye.  As I read it, though, it didn’t fit.  It said thanks for all the advice and guidance you gave me.  My dad never did that.  I used to feel bitter about that when I was younger and looking for that annual card.  Also on his birthday.  I felt like he didn’t do anything to help me, and didn’t spend a lot of time with us (1 brother, 1 sister) doing the dad stuff like playing catch, or fishing, and the like.  I love board games and would try to get a family game going.  He usually abstained.

As I got older, particularly in my 20’s, I began to see my parents for the human beings they are.  We all have faults, and strengths and weaknesses.  I think around that age, you start to turn into your parents and gain understanding about them.  My dad just didn’t have it in him.  He lacked energy and vivacity for doing things, not just for us, but for himself.  He did play with us when we were real little, giving us “horsey” rides, despite his weak back.  Also, piggy back rides, or putting us on our shoulders when we were at a fair or fireworks or something.  I understand that lack of energy and enthusiasm for life.  It’s called depression.  I do have a great enthusiasm for life, but sometimes have no interest in anything.  I’m glad I have bipolar and not just plain depression.

As for the advice giving, well, he’s just not an insightful person.  He learns things the hard way himself, so it can’t really be expected that he would be proactive in imparting wisdom ahead of new experiences and challenges that I arrived upon.  He could have used some advice himself from others on things, but nobody wants to help the misfits.  They hold back their knowledge and experience, perhaps to feel better about themselves while they shake their heads at someone else.  It would have been nice to receive guidance throughout the growing up years, but it is what it is.  I love my dad.

I can’t leave this post without pointing out some good stuff about my dad.  He’s very generous and considerate.  He has no guile or hidden agendas in his dealings with others outside the family or within.  He likes to joke around and is very warm and loving.  I admit I felt emotionally neglected at times through the years, but I never had to doubt for one second that he loves me.  I’m thankful for a stable home with both parents there.  I can’t imagine having divorced parents living seperately.  My parents’ 47th anniversary is coming up in a couple weeks.  I hope to have my dad with us for their 50th.  He’s 82 now, and doing well.  But he had quadruple bypass about 10 years ago.  He married a younger woman (gotta give him credit on that one). My mom is 73.  An interesting side note: they met on a blind date, set up by friends.

Another manic night

So, Friday night, I did it again.  Stayed up all night. Only, this time there was alcohol consumed, too much, and I had to work at 9:30 the next morning.  I didn’t make it.  My manager was really cool about it.  I woke up not long before I was supposed to be there and started to text her to see if it would be alright if I came in an hour later and stayed an hour later.  Unfortunately, I fell alseep mid-text.  My boss called about 20 minutes in, to see where I was at.  I told her I overslept and she said just get there when I could.  So I dozed off again.  Long story short, I was 2 and a half hours late.  I must have looked as shit -faced as I felt when I walked in, because she knew what had happened without me saying anything.  She’s a mom, so she has that intuition that mothers have, even with people other than their kids.  She was razzing me rather loudly with a couple of customers waiting .  Embarrassing me was her way of reiterating the importance of  being on time.

I also fell asleep in the middle of writing this post last night.  I have sleep apnea and even though I have a BiPAP machine, I’ve still been having drowsiness.  Probably because of smoking.  That’s hard on the throat, you know.  Among other things.  Filthy, filthy habit.

It’s a struggle to maintain normalcy in a sleep schedule and frame of mind when you’re bipolar, especially when you work retail hours.  I get home at 10:30 on nights I close.

Bipolar Nights, Manic Moonlight

So, as the post heading might imply, I have bipolar disorder.  And, I’m proud of it.  It gives me creativity, imagination, thinking outside the box, heightened intuition, and an understanding and appreciation for all those who are different.

The reason for the title is that just last night, I stayed up all night in a somewhat manic state.  Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything rash.  I wasn’t drinking.  I didn’t order shit online that I can’t afford.  I didn’t go roaming the streets.  I actually put the manic energy and lack of sleepiness to good use.  I cleaned.  Both bathrooms, swept and mopped kitchen and downstairs bathroom, put away clean dishes and ran load of dishes in dishwasher, folded two loads of laundry, washed bathroom rugs, watered plants, put away clean clothes, cleaned up kitchen counter and tables, cleaned litter box and emptied litter tray, and smoked like a chimney.

I don’t tell you this to list my chore checklist, but to demonstrate the energy I had.  These were all things I didn’t have the energy to do all week, and I did them all in one night.  A long night.  I was up until 10 am and then slept for about two hours and went to work for 9 hours.  I was pretty tired, but managed to have a productive day at work.  Friday is truck day at Family Dollar, so it’s all about “pounding freight”, getting as much put away in as little time as possible.  It’s a weekly routine.  I think of it as a game.  Can I beat last week?  It makes it more bearable.  I’m not a creature of routine.  I hate routine.  I like variety, spontaneity, and little surprises.  I guess that’s why the people are the part I like most about the job, but you can read about that in my retail adventures category of this blog.

As I wound down from my natural high this morning before taking a too short nap, I felt a little guilty, unduly.  Maybe it was because it reminded me of all the nights I stayed up drinking half the night.  Actually, mania is a little like intoxication, especially when I’m horny.  But we’ll save that for another time.  I guess it’s my WASP background and strict upbringing.  It’s not practical or proper to stay up all night, especially when you have to work 9 hours the next day.  I feel like if I depart from my outward persona of mister reserved and mild-mannered, that I’ve done something wrong.  One must follow the norm and fit in.  What kind of lunatic is out on his deck smoking at 4 am?

I’ve read about micro cycles in bipolar disorder.  I think I have that.  There are times when I’m suddenly giddy for no reason.  I feel all warm and cozy or I just feel like laughing for no reason.  Five minutes later, the bottom drops out and I feel lower than a frog in the mud at the bottom of a pond covered with algae.

But that doesn’t last long either, fortunately.  And, God has blessed me with intelligence and creativity in writing, visual media and many other things.  It helps keep me going and helps to keep things in perspective.  Work is just work.  My life is my own and it is made up of my activities, my relationships with others, my creative outlets and improving the space around me (happy homeowner).

I go back and forth between discouragement and hope when I think of my future.  I’m a writer who doesn’t write.  That’s one of the reasons I started this blog.  I used to journal just for myself, but it inevitably broke down to a retelling of the mundane.  I figured if other people were reading it, it’d give me a different perspective.  Hopefully that is the case. If it gets mundane, someone please tell me!

Angela’s Ashes, a reaction

Here’s something I wrote several years ago after watching Angela’s Ashes, a film based on the autobiographical book by Frank McCourt.  It was before 2008, before the Great Recession.  I think it applies to many more people now.

First, the excerpt that inspired me, spoken by a school teacher who sees the inequality to which the boys in his class are subject.

“It’s a disgrace that boys like McCourt, Clark and Kennedy have to hew wood and draw water in this so-called free and independent Ireland that keeps a class system foisted on us by the English.  Well, it disgusts me.  We throw our talented children under the dung heap.  If this is the end of school for you, you must get out of this country, boys, and go to America.”


So, where do we go? Where is today’s “Land of Opportunity”?  Where is hope? Perhaps the persistence and propagation of social ills and lack of great men and women of leadership is due to the lost resources of the bright minds, ingenuities and energies of a new generation, squandered by forces that care only of economics and power, and overwhelmed by a rotting corpse we call “old money”, the establishment, the status quo.

Worse yet is the new “consumption” [old word for tuberculosis] , apathy, that erodes not physical health, but compassion, intellect, and any sense of unity as the collective consciousness of a nation lapses into a coma, leaving reality to blow at random like a cold foreboding wind that aches the bones and opens the eyes of those few it touches.

And as their raspy throats cough up their warning cries, their stories fade to silence as the cold wind snakes along the grayest lowlands, never felt by those with sunshades on and fences built around their hilltop estates.

The regulars, cont’d

Next there’s Joe and Helen.  I adopted a kitten from them last September.  He’s gray with white toes and white triangles on his nose and chest.  His name is Smokey and he has the softest fur I’ve ever felt on a cat.  Fortunately, he loves to be held because he’s irresistible.  Our ten year old cat, Wiley has taken him under his wing.  More on that later.

I like Joe and Helen.  They’re good people.  They have some strange family dynamics going on, though.  Joe sometimes comes in by himself to get cigarettes and always has alcohol on his breath.  In fact, he does when he’s with Helen too.  They have two kids, or that’s how many I’ve met.  Their daughter is 18.  I looked very closely at her license the first time she bought cigarettes.   Didn’t want to sell to a minor.  She once came in to buy a pregnancy test, then returned it because it didn’t give results early enough.  She said she’d kind of know by then anyway.   Of course it was only $4.00.  She said that was her bus money.  Did Joe and Helen know she was out?

I saw Helen at the 6 pack shop down the street one night after I closed up.  She was with a guy and seemed a little awkward.  She introduced him and told him I had adopted one of the kittens.  We talked very briefly and I continued on to find a microbrew I hadn’t tried.

They also have a son who looks to be about 11.  He’s independent as I guess he has to be, and talks with a slight speech impediment.  He seems the most well adjusted of them all.

The Joe and Helen family are moving this month.  When they told me a couple of months ago, I asked if they’d still be in the area.  Helen said no, and added almost wistfully, “somewhere far away…. hopefully.”  Perhaps they’re looking for a fresh start.  I wish them the very best.  I don’t judge people.  I just observe.  I had a stint of drinking heavily a couple of years ago myself, so I know it’s a difficult thing to deal with.

Life is Bipolar

Life tears you up

Then folds you back into a gentle caress

Before spinning you off its hand like a jazz dancer

Right into the waiting seat of a roller coaster.

And when it stops,

You’re ready to go again.

Each ride, you see something different,

Once you stop screaming and open your eyes.

You see the person screaming next to you,

And how that used to be you.

The couple behind you,

The family ahead.

The trees, as they change seasons faster and faster,

until you can’t tell if you’re moving or they are.

Then, you find peace when the syncronized motion

Becomes the same as the stillness inside you.

Balance and harmony abide in you.

You stagger off from the ride,

Not from unsteady feet,

But from the unquenchable soul that pulls you on

To the next adventure

In a dream state

That leads your body

Through surreal awareness to

Serene chaos.


Written by Mark Thomas Ritchey

May 31, 2014, unedited

The regulars

I’m changing names to protect people’s privacy.

I’ve already told you about Ken.  Here’s some others.

Emily is one of our regulars. She’s in everyday, sometimes twice a day.  She smokes Marlboro Menthol Light 100’s.  She doesn’t want the receipt, except when she uses her card or when she’s buying something for her wicked mother-in-law.  I think the title is unofficial as she refers to her man as boyfriend, not husband.  Emily had a miscarriage last year.  We (my manager and I) think her boyfriend did something to her to cause her to miscarriage.  My manager was in an abusive relationship years ago.  The man she married turned into someone completely different once they were a legal couple.  She left him after a time, once she got up the courage and realized she didn’t deserve it.

Then there’s Liz who’s kind of quiet.  She introduced herself one day.  She knew my name from my nametag and felt like we should both be on a first name basis. She said something to that effect.  Liz nearly always has her very well behaved kids along.  A boy and a girl, I’d say around 8 and 10.  She didn’t introduce them officially.  I commented recently that I haven’t seen her as much lately.  She said she’s been super busy with work and the kids’ activities.  One is in soccer and the other in band.  She never mentions a husband/dad.  If he’s there, he must work a lot.  Or, she could be a single mom working a lot of hours and still keeping up with the children’s activities.

There’s two women whose names I don’t know that come in a lot.  One of them has a walker, though she isn’t old.  She gets social security since she can’t work.  She and her sister are there at least every other day.  They like to grab a soda from the cooler and drink it while they shop.  You have to remind them at checkout that you need to scan it. Otherwise they’ll “forget” to pay for it.  It’s like a game, I guess.  They do spend a lot there, but you have to watch them.

There’s the dude who works at Joe’s Battery and Tire.  He’s a good guy.  Works hard and has at least one kid, a boy who is also very well behaved.  He comes in every Sunday morning not long after we open and buys cereal and milk.  I wonder if he skips breakfast the rest of the week.  He’s very easy going and has never complained about anything.

There’s Eddie who always gets Rip It energy drinks and sometimes gets Newport Red 100’s.  I wish I could only smoke a little, but I smoke ’em if I have ’em.  We always have to enter a birthdate when we sell tobacco products.  His is 10/23/1972.  The aforementioned Emily’s is 7/6/1981, exactly 10 years after mine.  Eddie is going to be joining the team soon as a part time cashier.  He needs a second job, as so many do these days.

There are many others which I’ll keep writing about.