Once upon a time, the idea of two people getting divorced within the realm of America was considered wildly verboten. As we progressed down our timeline, our collective minds evolved and concluded that regardless of our religious stance, if it isn’t working between two people, they should be allowed to divide their assets and go their separate ways.
I am a child of the 1980’s. While I can’t speak to the cultural happenings of this time (because I wasn’t old enough to know the difference between my ass and a hole in the ground), I can unequivocally state that divorce became the in vogue experience that a large percentage of middle class families slogged through.
Even though I was the youngest of four children, My family was no exception to this event.
By the 1990’s I found my toes on the edge of being a teenager. It wasn’t pretty. I was lonely and horny all of the time and I didn’t know how to talk to anyone, let alone girls. I was angry all of the time because I was being shared between two people who didn’t get it right with my first 3 predecessors and now they were trying to get it right with me but they were doing it in two different ways.
Serendipitously speaking I was a lucky son of a bitch because I effectively came of age when the era of “Grunge” redefined a stale musical landscape. I was awash in music that defined how I felt. Anger, horniness, isolation and loneliness: it was all there and I could tap into it every time I turned the radio dial or punched in the channel numbers for MTV.
When I officially became a teenager, my sister, the oldest of us kids, and the one person of our family who guided me the most, proffered some sage-like wisdom to me:
“Find some surrogate parents. Ours are ok, but they’re never going to be able to be the parents that they ‘should be’ for you. They’re more concerned with ending their parenting stint on a high note at any cost”.
I’m paraphrasing of course but she was absolutely right. While my parents did have their hearts in the right place, they constantly butted heads on the wrong things, let things slide that shouldn’t have been slippery in the first place, and imbued me with a certain amount of schizophrenia due to the fact that their parenting styles were drastically different.
Shortly after my sister dropped that bomb on me, I took it upon myself to adopt the mother of my best friend at the time. I never told him this. Don’t know why, I can’t imagine that it would have mattered to him. But his mother always treated me like I was one of her kids.
It was nice and weird at the same time. I could make her laugh and she seemed genuinely interested in me and what was going on in my life. When I went back to my own home, or my father’s home, I didn’t get the same level of consideration for various reasons.
Finding a surrogate father proved a little more difficult as most of my friends were refugees from divorce as well. Their dads had their hands full as it was. They didn’t need someone else’s kid sniffing around their domicile.
Then, in 1994 the single ‘Liar’ by Rollins Band gained heavy air play.
This… This was the guy that I saw in the Mac ad in one of my sister’s Rolling Stone magazines a few years prior. This was the guy who went on to write for that same magazine for a short period of time. His level of anger seemingly matched my level of anger. That is to say, I felt that we were both of the same mind.
I adopted Henry Rollins as my surrogate father.
As I dived deep into the corner of time that this person claimed as his own, I was overjoyed to learn that there were books and spoken word albums as well.
Henry got me through a lot.
My teens gave way to my 20’s and like with all relationships, familial and otherwise, I grew up and moved on. It’s not that there was anything wrong with what Henry was talking about at the time. It just didn’t resonate with me as much.
Throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s, I was bludgeoned with life changes.
A certain series of events with multiple friendships had shown me that those friends, the relationships that I had had with them, had run their course. It was the first time in nearly a decade that I had been as lonely as I was in gradeschool.
I was the caregiver for my father for the last 3 years of his life.
I left a job I was at for over a decade in search of other, more suitable employment.
I rooted down and started a family of my own. I experienced job loss when I need it the most: shortly after my 3rd child was born. I felt the pain that comes with having to ask for help when I have never had to do that before.
Life was moving on even though I was hanging on by my fingertips.
Through the miracle of podcasts, I found my way back to Mr. Rollins within the past couple of years. It had been a while since I had listened to anything that he had to say, so I figured “Why the fuck not?”
Everything resonated with me the way that most of his early stuff resonated with me. It was dumbfounding. What I heard, and I deep-dived again, was the voice and thoughts of someone who was trying to clear a path in the world for the younger generation. A thing of which, I have been trying to do for my own children.
Of course, this re-ignited my fandom. On occasion, I’d fire up some of his spoken word stuff (the stuff from this century) and use it as background noise. One day, I caught something, an idea that he was trying to get across.
I was listening to him tell the story of when he got to play with the Ruts during their benefit show for their ailing guitar player. During the second half of the story, he was going on about all of the ‘surrogate fathers’ of the bands that he idolized when he was a kid who were also playing the same benefit.
What I thought was “Doesn’t he realize that he is in the same position of surrogacy?”
Maybe he has. Maybe someone else has all ready brought this to his attention. I can’t imagine that he’d bring it up himself.
Henry Rollins may not be a legitimate dad, but he’s been a father for a lot of us. I for one, am grateful for it.