The Black Parade

Discussion in 'General Discussion Forum' started by AureliusofPhoenix, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    Hey all! I was originally gonna call this Aurelius' Slave Emporium but I figured that naming it after a MCR song would cause less people to be upset or some such shit. As for what it even is: I've come to the realization that I make a lot of status updates. Like, too many. Sometimes I double post and it's bad. So, this is my solution. I'm going to use this thread to discuss anything with everyone, be it game/movie recommendations, life advice, or whatever; and I'll continue to do so until I die or get vatted. Today I'm gonna touch upon the second topic (life advice not how to get vatted).

    Let's start off strong, with:

    What to do if You're Accused of a Crime

    I already gave Ayelander the abridged version of this but I figured that in the hopes of someone else learning from my bad example I'd give everyone the painstaking details. This is gonna be less advice and more an obnoxiously long personal anecdote that I hope you can all take some lessons from; it's gonna touch upon my suicidal thoughts, mental health issues, drug use and that kinda shit so if you're sensitive to that I'd cash out now. Note that all names have been shortened or changed entirely; no last names are gonna be used. This isn't about flaming the people who made me miserable. It's about sharing the lowest points of my life and the mistakes I made in the hopes that someone else won't make them too. And if I can help even one person in that way, figure I've done some good.

    So, let me set the scene for you. My first year of college, I was gonna kill myself. I lived on the sixth floor, the "party floor". We called it that because we were loud around the clock, and did some crazy shit (sometimes literally; a chick once shat in one've the girls' bathroom showers and mashed it down the drain). It was heaven. But, all the same, I wanted to die. I was fairly popular, had a best friend named Sarah, and got decent grades. Yet I wanted it all to end. And to understand why, we have to go back to my Freshman year of high school.

    I remember the summer of 2013 vividly. I'd just started high school end of August, and the stress had really started getting to me. I was in a new place, with new people, and was honestly frightened by the prospect of making friends. Start of Freshman year, I was 5'7" 165 pounds. End of Senior year I was 5'10" 350 pounds. But we'll get to that. The point I'm trying to make is that I was a small kid. And the idea of this new placed filled with new people was, frankly, scary. I was punchy, and played football; despite being a munchkin, I was a mighty munchkin. But my parents told me that the fighting shit I pulled in middle school wouldn't cut it anymore without the cops getting involved, and I took that to heart. It was just another stressor in a year full of them. But anyways, August 28th, 2013 we'd just moved to CT. Stranger in a strange land. I'd left all my friends in Boston to go to middle-of-nowhere Tolland County with my parents, and it was bad. For everyone. They dragged me literally kicking and screaming into that moving truck. I remember not being able to sleep at first because it was too quiet. Boy, was that about to change.

    August 29th, I was lying in bed when I started to hear voices. They were faint at first, but they eventually got louder and louder before turning into a wailing cacophony of sound, shouting my name, telling me to kill myself, telling me to kill other people. They'd persist at that volume for the next 5 years of my life. I didn't tell anyone about them, partially because whenever the thought crossed my mind they'd threaten to make me kill them, and partially because my parents weren't the type to believe it. But eventually, believe it or not, I adapted to them. I started seeing the voices not as a detriment, but as my friends. My abusive, psychotic friends that wanted me to grill and eat my cat because they didn't think he loved me. Anyways, I began to see their helpful side. I didn't need to dogear books, for example, because I'd pick the book up and one voice in that crowded lecture hall would say something like "page 162, fuckstick." I got used to them being there, and looking at my grades throughout high school you can see how they went up. As did my weight.

    Everything hit the fan in more ways than one senior year. I played football to keep active, but as I started to cope with the voices by eating football did nothing for my shape. I went from a skeleton to a pear over the course of 4 years and literally doubled my weight. Things got worse when Olivia entered my life. Olivia was a gorgeous blonde with aspirations to join the Air Force. We became friends. By that I mean I developed a major crush on her. Wow.jpeg. Obviously, me being a morbidly obese, unattractive Italian man she didn't reciprocate. That was fine; we had a talk then started talking amicably, and became actual friends pretty quickly. That changed with the entrance of Pat. Pat played football with me and had been my backup center since Freshman year; I was fat, but lifted weights. Senior year I could bench press my body weight (350). Pat, on the other hand, was just pure doughboy. Was a nice enough guy, but a little too pompous for a fat ginger to be, you catch my drift. Anyways, he started talking to Olivia, and the voices went wild. To this day I regret letting them control me. Basically, I went wild with them. I followed one've his friends to the bathroom during lunch, and interrogated him there. I won't go into what I did. I washed my hands and went to find Pat, who I'd been told was leaving this period. The lobby and the cafeteria were adjacent so I didn't have to go too far to find him. Luck was on my side; though, I wouldn't call anything that happened afterwards lucky for anyone. I pinned him to a wall and, to my credit, fought the urge to bash his face in but started rambling about how he'd betrayed me and I wanted him dead and blah blah blah psychopath shit blah. I then left as quickly as I'd come.

    Next day, turned out he told Olivia. So she confronted me, and our friendship was well and thoroughly fucked. Was my own fault. Got worse. My weight had been an issue for me since I'd started gaining it; I even joked about it when I did standup comedy for the Amnesty International coffee houses at my school. It just so happened that I had to do just that that night. So after getting off the bus, I did what anyone with a time limit at home would do; I experimented with pseudoephedrine. Pseudo would become my favorite amphetamine in the years to come. Anyways, I had a good time, nailed my standup set. But the next morning I woke up with a massive, oozing bloody gash on my cheek (it's since turned into a scar, and I still don't know where it came from).

    So from the end of my Senior year of high school to my second year of college, I used amphetamines. Adderall, pseudo; didn't matter, so long as I could feel that rush that gave me an escape from the pain in my own mind, if only briefly. The weight couldn't leave me fast enough; I lost 120 pounds my first year of college alone. It upped my confidence again (as did the drugs), and gave me the courage to talk to a cute redhead first day of school. Her name was Sarah, and we became best friends. And about a month into school, I wrote her a suicide letter. Which brings us to the plan. I was gonna jump out the 6th story window after swallowing a bottle of asprin to rupture my insides (a friend had killed himself that way during high school). Way I saw it, if the fall killed me, great. If it didn't, asprin. I'd die anyways. As for the reason? Despite my newfound confidence, there was something missing. It's hard to explain unless you've experienced it, but when you have voices telling you day in day out that you should die, you feel like you should die. In addition, I'd felt a certain feeling of emptiness since as long as I can remember, and that didn't help things. My roommate walked in as I was gonna do it. And I decided not to. I decided to live like a dead man walking, with nothing to lose. And for a while, it was great.

    Then Sarah announced that she was dropping out. It hit me hard. When she finally did leave, the voices told me that it was my fault. I didn't have the strength to argue. Then, another woman appeared to pull me out've the darkness. Two, in fact. Hailey, and Caroline. They were a lesbian couple who thought I was funny, and they seemed to like me. We started spending time together, then every day together, then I started sleeping over in their dorm room and basically lived with them. It was amazing; for the first time in my life, I felt wanted. Like I belonged. And I wanted to spend the rest of my life with these women. When I confided in them about my drug abuse, they tried to help me quit. Life couldn't get any better. Until I fell in love with Hailey.

    Hailey and Caroline weren't strictly lesbians. They were technically bi; though Hailey had never fallen in love with a man. So when I fell for her, she obviously didn't reciprocate. But we did become best friends. We liked the same shit, watched the same movies, had the same sense of humor. so we just... clicked. In a way that no-one has ever clicked with me before or since. We started flirting, eventually. Caroline obviously didn't like this; it put a strain on their relationship and eventually, like everything else I touch, this dream situation collapsed and crumbled faster than Alexander's empire after he died. So all of a sudden our three became a two. Me and Hailey, spending time together, but always aware that I had ruined the prior situation. She suggested we move into an apartment together.

    You can't see it, but I'm crying as I'm writing this. As I remember the good times we had and how it broke down. But, as per usual, we'll get to that. Hailey and I got an apartment with three other mutual friends, and for a while I began to hope that that paradise situation I'd had before could happen again. But it wasn't meant to be. I'd never stopped using, despite trying to quit, and it stressed things between Hailey and I. I also became a scapegoat for everything that went wrong in the apartment, and eventually I found a proxy to buy me beer and wine and descended into alcoholism. Stopped going to class, stopped leaving my room, just generally stopped... living. Dead man walking once again, but in all the wrong ways. It reached a zenith in October 2017.

    I went home for a weekend to wash my clothes en masse without using the campus washing machines, and found that I couldn't go back on campus. I'd been interim suspended for violating the school's code of conduct. Turns out, I'd been accused of rape. By Hailey. I don't know what went wrong. Maybe it was the amphetamine abuse that drove her over the edge. Maybe it was me ruining her relationship. I don't know. And I never will. But the next day I was served with a restraining order which stated I was "6 feet tall, 350 pounds, black hair and blue eyes". I was, and still am, 5'10", 200 pounds, with green eyes and brown hair. I don't know why she described me how she did. But anyways, I got the affidavit and Hailey had told the police about the voices. I'd confided in her, and she used it as "evidence". I showed it to my parents, and we agreed the best step to take was to send me to the hospital.

    The hospital wasn't all bad. Aside from really wanting a cigarette the whole time, it was mostly dull. Family visited and brought me books, and while there I made use of their rehab services, which help me finally quit amphetamines and drinking. While there I was misdiagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and put on meds for that. Eventually the voices got quieter, and went away entirely. As soon as I left though, it was time to get to work.

    New (mis)diagnosis in hand, I found a lawyer, and began compiling evidence. I got 80 pages of text messages and observations about Hailey. When we went to court for the restraining order, it was thrown out. For the criminal charges, a veritable landslide. Thanks to acting quickly, I'd been able to make myself look good in front of the judge and court; and it won me the day(s). After that, I went to outpatient, where I took a psych eval and was correctly diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and an "unknown psychotic disorder". I started new meds, and shit has been... well, better. I'll be a year sober come October 14, and the meds are good at both keeping the voices quiet and distracting me from the emptiness inside.

    The morals of the story are varied, but here's a checklist:
    1) Don't be afraid or ashamed to get help. Sometimes it's necessary, and by doing so you can finally take steps towards being the person you want to be.
    2) If anyone judges you for getting help, it's them that's the problem, not you.
    3) When accused of criminal charges, get on that shit, especially if you know they're false. Discuss a counter argument with your attorney immediately and don't settle if you know you're innocent.
    4) Finally, don't ever lose hope, no matter how hard it may be. Life is strange, and complicated. Friends come and go; and with my BPD I have a hard time accepting that. But it's something I have to accept. We all have to accept it. But never give up. On quitting drugs, on getting help, on going to court to fight for your freedom; don't let the world stop you from making a brighter future for yourself.

    And that's all, folks. I've had to omit some stuff for length, but I've said everything I care to. And no matter what, don't forget what I said. These are lessons I've had to learn the hard way; I put this out there so you don't. But most of all, thank you for taking the time to read this. And thank you for being there, NMA. I love you all, even though we may be continents apart. Here's to more discussions in the future, and hopefully we can continue this thread! <3
     
  2. MutantScalper

    MutantScalper Dark side in da houssah

    Nov 22, 2009
    350 lbs / 158 kg is a pretty good bench max.
     
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  3. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    So I have to get to class, but before I do so I figured I'd post a quick installment of The Black Parade. Today's episode is about:

    Forgiveness

    So, once again, this is gonna be something anecdotal with a moral message. So yeah.
    If you read this thread's first post, then you know about Hailey, and what she did to me. But one've the things I decided to omit for length was the process of coming to terms with what she did and, eventually, forgiving her. You see, Hailey had been through some shit. She'd had a rough go of it, and there are secrets of hers I'll still take to the grave. I'm not saying that those secrets excuse what she did; by all accounts it was extremely fucked up and I should hate her for that. But I don't. And the reasons for me not hating her are a combination of sympathizing with her, pitying her, and things they taught me in rehab.

    So. Sympathy for the Devil. My sympathizing with her in no way means that I condone what she did; it simply means that I understand perhaps why she did it, and as a result I can see her side of things. It means I can put myself in her shoes, and not demonize and dehumanize her. As for why I sympathize, well, I had to realize the hard way that retribution all the time isn't a policy that helps anyone involved. Indeed, sometimes clemency is needed. Beyond that, it felt right. I can't really explain any better than that I cared about her once, and I respect our history; in doing so, I can see her as human. And then begin to forgive her.

    Pity. She herself once said that pity is worse than hate, and maybe it is. But whatever the logistics of "bad feelings", I pity Hailey. I don't see her as less than me, or as a leper, but more as someone who's very... broken. She once asked me that if we couldn't fix ourselves, if therapy couldn't help her and I couldn't quit using, if we could just be broken together. I have never loved anyone as much before or since that moment, when I threw my arms around her. Looking back, I can pity us both. Her and myself. We both deserved it, at that point in time.

    And finally, the things I learned in rehab. Rehab at the hospital taught me, more than anything else, how to accept the things I can't control, and change the things I can. I can't change what Hailey did. What I can do is change myself, and how I react to what she did. I can make myself a better man and in doing so, get better revenge than I ever would through just being angry and bitter. What I learned in the hospital is that you have to take the bad with the good, but don't ever forget that the good is there; don't ever forget that, in the end, all life boils down to the experiences we have, and how we choose to react to them, thus setting in motion more experiences, rinse and repeat. I have to make the conscious decision to forgive her, but in doing so I find myself happier and less miserable, and set myself on the path to a brighter future. Rinse and repeat.

    So that's all I can write in this short time span I have, but I hope that what I wrote here helps you guys through whatever you're going through, and maybe helps you look at the world in a different way; possible introspection and all that. This is Aurelius signing off for now.
     
  4. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    Until my Freshman year of college I thought it was a myth (emo, I know); and I'm still not entirely sure I believe in it. Today we're discussing
    Love
    I'm gonna start off with a disclaimer. If you're a hopeless romantic or a hopeless cynic, I don't care. I'm simply giving my opinion on this chemical reaction that serves as the inspiration for the vast majority of songs (most genres).

    So; what is love (baby don't hurt me)? It's a question that's beyond my capacity to answer; though I will say that the closest thing I've come to truly loving is drugs (and maybe my friend Charleigh). The point I'm making is that I'm not at all qualified to analyze this shit, though, that being said, I'm not qualified to do much but society still gives me responsibility so I suppose it doesn't matter (I'm joking, btw; comments like that that I make are generally sarcasm). Honestly, what comes to mind first when I think of love is the song Almost by Bowling For Soup. And maybe that says a lot about love as a concept. Maybe it's something we only truly appreciate when it's gone, and when we have it we piss it away because we're sure it'll last forever. That being said, we do have the Frank Sinatra school of thought, in which love seems amazing in the moment and makes life astronomically better; I've only ever experienced that type of love twice and in both situations it wasn't reciprocated so fuck love.

    If I had to choose one've the two schools of thought, I'd definitely say I belong to the Almost one. I've always hated love as a concept, mostly because I've never felt it in its purest form that everybody and their drunk uncle sings about. And because of that it made me bitter for the longest time; it made me feel as though I needed a relationship, because maybe it'd fill the emptiness inside. Of course, now I realize that due to my BPD that emptiness will never be filled but I was young and naïve once. On a happier note though, I've also realized that I don't need people to reciprocate that love that I feel; maybe spending time with people you care about and writing posts online about it that no one gives a solitary fuck about are the whole point. Humans are social animals, but maybe we don't need to be together to be happy. Perhaps we need to cherish our solitude as much as our togetherness. Or perhaps we should all say "fuck it" and just go with the flow, taking what comes and living our lives in the moment.

    One've the cool things about the world is that there's no "right" way to live, or love. Life is a process of trial and error as we figure out what best fits our personal tastes and morals. And some choose to love, and some choose to hate; and perhaps without hate we'd never know how great love is. But that's just my two cents. I know nobody reads these, but it's a good way to vent and pretend someone listens to me so I think I'm gonna keep posting in this thread. Anyways, that's about all I have to say. Thanks for reading <3
     
  5. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    Sometimes Goodbye Is a Second Chance (yes this is a Shinedown reference)
    Like most people, I've been around death my whole life. My grandfather dying of cancer, my friends committing suicide and dying in motorcycle accidents; I've experienced the loss that partly defines the human experience enough to know I hate it. But I also recognize it as necessary.

    What I mean is that without loss, we couldn't learn, or grow; at least not in the same way. Whether we believe in an afterlife or not, oftentimes we strive to honor the memory of the people who've passed. And when you're someone like me who's experienced a lot of death, you carry around a lot of shame; a lot of what-ifs. But something I learned in rehab (and that'll be the next topic, spoiler alert) is that carrying around burdens that help no-one, living or dead, isn't worth it. To be cliché, the dead wouldn't want that.

    But beyond that, death is also a chance to be better. To accept that your loved one is finally, whether through an afterlife or oblivion, at peace. No one can hurt them. And no one can tarnish their memory, because so long as you carry the memory of what they were truly like with you, nobody can take that away (except for Alzheimer's). What I'm saying is that, like the song says, maybe death (and by extension, any kind of goodbye) is a chance to begin again, Sierra Madre style. Forget the idea that the dead wouldn't want you miserable; from a practical standpoint, their death is the offloading of burdens. Because finally, at long last, they don't have to suffer anymore. And no matter how many complications their death causes, nothing can change that.
     
  6. mobucks

    mobucks moobs Orderite

    May 22, 2010
    Holding onto the past is like trying to swim in deep water while holding onto a heavy rock. You will sink and drown. I read something like that somewhere.
     
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  7. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    It's a good analogy. I put all this out there in the hopes that it not only provides closure for me, but maybe helps someone else who feels down on their luck. I'm trying to live more positively, and I'm cutting toxic people out've my life. The only regret I have is that my reputation is permanently soiled by those false allegations; but even that needs to be moved on from. It's... hard. But to anyone reading, know that you're not alone in feeling alone, or even being alone; you'll always have me.

    But anyways, I see the wisdom in those words. It's why I strive to cut those memories out like the cancer they are, one at a time.
     
  8. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    I'm back, after 8 days, and as promised I'm sharing:

    My Experiences in Rehab/the Hospital

    So, I've already set the scene for you, and explained everything that happened with my mental illness, etc. Well, now I'm going into more detail about the hospital and the lessons I learned there. When I first got there, I was given the misdiagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and a red "threat level" on my door, indicating a history of violence against myself and others. Anyways, my first roommate was a cop, let's call him Bill, who really did his best to make me feel welcome. Honestly, I think it's due to Bill that I was able to open up and be honest for the first time in a long time and actually make use of the hospital's rehab services.

    Bill was a real nice guy. He and I played Yahtzee just about every night (cause there wasn't much else to do there except read; I had books brought to me by friends and family and that also made my stay a lot easier), and talked about life in general, jobs, experiences, etc. while doing so. One night, we were doing our usual shooting dice routine when I told Bill about my issues with pills and alcohol (gotten through proxies, as I was underage, as I said above). He mentioned that the hospital had a detox program for me to make use of for those specific problems.

    So the next morning, I went to the nurses' station to talk about getting help from the rehab side of things. We played 20 questions, in which I revealed that I was a smoker and told them what my specific issues were, and they set aside nicotine gum for me when they got their next shipment; they then took me into a room and strip searched me to make sure I didn't have any pills hidden on my person, and when satisfied that I wasn't suitcasing anything within the confines of my asshole they started the detox; which basically was a nice way of saying "weaning me off my vices"; they had IV drips and meds that they used to help out, as well as a couple days of cold turkey in which I didn't even have access to my aforementioned nicotine gum. I found that out when one day I walked over to the nurses' station from my room, and asked a lady who looked about 60 if I could have any patches or gum set aside for me; she saw the red threat level and I shit you not dropped her paperwork and said "W-we don't have anything for you...". So I, being the sadistic fuck I was, went "ok", then slapped the nurses' station desk (watching all 6 of them on shift for the wing, male and female, jump in surprise), turned and went back to my room.

    Aside from just detox, there was also therapy. It was in therapy that I gained the most use out've rehab. Rehab therapy and my mental disorder therapy were two different things, but both helped in their way (the schizo therapy less so, though the DBT skills I learned did help, especially after I was correctly diagnosed with Borderline). Rehab therapy specifically focused on acceptance of what we can't change, and that's what I wanna use the rest of this post to talk about.

    To preface this, there are a lot of things I hate about myself. Not all of them are things I can change; but though it's been a slow process, I've learned how to change what I can and have the courage to accept what I can't. In rehab, they called it "willful behavior", and it basically meant that I have to have the strength to make changes and the sense to know when I can't change something. A lot of things in my life I've changed. And a lot of things, loath as I am to admit it, I can't change. But the point I'm trying to make is that we all have insecurities, addictions, toxic relationships that we either need to accept or take in our hands and make them better. Sometimes the issues aren't clear cut; sometimes it's a grey area. It's never easy; there's always turmoil, and a degree of accepting that you have a problem in certain situations. But more than anything, change has to come from within. You have to want change, more than anything else. In rehab they used the analogy of running; there comes a point where you hit a "wall"; and at that point it's your choice whether you decide to keep going. Generally we give up. But even if we don't, we won't last much longer still if we don't put out heart into it. It's the same thing with drugs, or cutting off a toxic relationship, or whatever; you have to want to change, and push through the "wall". And, to use an extremely tired but very true cliché, the first step is admitting you have a problem. After that, no one can help you unless you help yourself.
     
  9. Paladin Hank

    Paladin Hank First time out of the vault

    May 6, 2018
    Sounds like you had a pretty tough life bra. You're only 20 and it feels like you've went through all the shit life can throw at you in an entire existence. I'm 17 and lucky to be leading a pretty normal life (for now) and trying to spend every second of my free time doing what I love: Playing rpgs and writing them. Anyways thanks for rambling on it really changed my perspective on life and what people have to go through sometimes. But I'm just curious how does Fallout and rpgs come into all of this? And did it help you cope with your depression in any way?
     
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  10. AureliusofPhoenix

    AureliusofPhoenix Centurion

    Jun 25, 2018
    Thanks. I'm just happy to know someone is listening and learning from my bad example. As for having a normal life, don't feel bad about that; it just means you're on the right track man. If you don't listen to anything else I say, just listen to me when I tell you: love the people you care about like there's no tomorrow, because they might not be there then. Which is actually my next topic, but I'll address your question first.

    Fallout has played a pretty big role in my life since my freshman year of high school, when I first played 3; I loved it tbh. A year later I played NV, and it became (and still is) my favorite game of all time. In fact, it's not an exaggeration to say that New Vegas was my only real friend in high school; everyone else I pushed away with my temper due to starting to experiment with amphetamines and through Borderline self-destructive/attention-seeking behaviors, so NV pretty much gave my life what was close to a semblance of meaning. Then I played Fallout 2, it blew my balls off, and I gradually began to prefer classic Fallout. NV is still my favorite game, but the original Fallout is my favorite Fallout technically, and it's probably the one I come back to the most. Then, in college, the person who accused me of rape and attempted murder was someone I originally met through the fandom, and she and I used to do Fallout-fan things like hating on Bethesda and Johnny Guitar and forming prayer circles to ask the Dark Lord to give Obsidian and Avellone another chance at making a Fallout game (that's not a joke; we actually did that once, and I "sacrificed" an entire pack of Winston Golds in tribute). But, to conclude, Fallout in short has honestly been a major part of my life for 6 years now, and it's one've the main reasons I haven't offed myself like I so often want to.

    And with that, it's time for my next topic;
    The Things My Grandfather Said
    Oliver Sylvestre I was born in Rome, Italy in 1935. Growing up under the regime of Mussolini, he always took pride in his Roman heritage; in his family were Praetors and Centurions, the classic warrior-politicians that more than anything else sum up Italian ideals and strength. In June 1950, 15 year old Oliver and his parents left the old country in search of a new beginning, having saved up money for just that throughout and in the years following WW2. Years later, he'd tell me that stepping off that boat was a mixed feeling; on one hand, his sense of adventure and opportunity flared as soon as he saw Lady Liberty lighting the way for the newcomers to her shores. On the other, he felt a sort of sorrow at leaving his ancestral homeland, and the countryside where centuries earlier his direct ancestors had spilled blood (both their own and Carthaginian) in an attempt to prevent Hannibal's advance into Mother Rome. Right from the start, things weren't easy. Settling in Central Falls Rhode Island, the Sylvestre family was discriminated against right off the bat for their olive-skin and dark hair; young Oliver, with his blue eyes, fair skin and matinee-idol looks, found it easier to get around his newfound home but it was by no means a picnic. Regardless, he dropped out of school at 16 in order to work in a sweatshop to provide for his struggling immigrant family. He was a swift learner, and unlike his parents would later learn to speak English almost without an accent. Then, in 1952, when the Korean War was in full swing, Oliver left the sweatshop and his family to fight for a country that despised him. He was cleared for service and deployed overseas in the battles of Porkchop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge, where he earned a Medal of Valor and a Purple Heart for getting shot while dragging a comrade to safety. He kept these medals in a pinewood box he had made himself (Oliver was quite the handyman) and lined with velvet; years later he'd show them to his wide-eyed grandson and regale him with tales of the horrors he had witnessed overseas, and his disenfranchisement with the US military.

    Nevertheless, when the Korean War ended in 1953 Oliver was sent back home, where his father had died of a heart attack in his absence. Though grief-stricken, Oliver went back to the sweatshop where he was, at last, treated with respect by his coworkers for his heroism overseas. As time went on, Oliver finally had the money between the sweatshop, random odd-jobs, and his military service money to buy an apartment for him and his mother; eventually he bought out the entire building, where much of my family reside today, with my grandmother as landlord. He met his wife Josephine in high school originally; according to her, he had been a "strapping young man of 5'7", with beautiful blue eyes and a permanent smirk on his face, like he had an inside joke known only to him". She also described him as believing himself to be "God's gift to women"; in fact, he had initially been drawn to my grandmother because she had been the only girl he had been unable to seduce with his aforementioned movie-star looks. Years later, he was working as a clerk at a corner store when Josephine and he reconnected, and eventually they fell in love. My grandmother was a broad woman, but by no means unattractive; in her prime she had an hourglass figure and long, wavy blonde hair. She had actually been taller than my grandfather at 5'8", but if that bothered either of them they never mentioned so. Josephine came from French-Polish stock, with a heritage tracing back to the Polish duke Miesziko and a number of French knights. Eventually, Oliver's mother Paulina passed away and it was just he and Josephine in the empty apartment complex. They were married a year after his mother's death.

    Oliver and Josephine had 7 children, John, Scott, Richard, Susan, Allen, Oliver II, and Linda. John and Oliver II became mechanics, Scott a middleweight boxer-turned-prison guard, Richard joined a religious cult, Susan a nurse practitioner, Allen a karate instructor, and Linda a compulsive gambler. I was born to Scott, an only child. Oliver I never really had a religion, but Josephine was Catholic and raised her kids that way. As a result, my father was a Catholic; he married my mother, who was a vehement Catholic. They raised me Catholic by extension, but it didn't take. Digressions aside, after I was born I became Oliver's favorite grandson. To this day I don't know why. He never told me; but he spoiled me, buying me comic books and telling me war stories and watching spaghetti westerns and horror movies with me. He also gave me advice, which I'll get to. Anyways, I didn't have much time with him. In 2008, in the same experience that would destroy my Catholic faith, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and war hero Oliver Sylvestre I would die in his bed of cancer at 73 years of age. I was 10 years old. I still remember the funeral in damning clarity, the white walls of the funeral parlor and the pink flowers arranged near his casket; my father shedding a single tear, the only one I've ever seen him shed, as he wrapped his calloused boxer hand around my shoulder and told me that I had to be strong. Even with the drug use, court appearances, and back-stabbing friendships I was destined for, I can say without a doubt that the death of my grandfather was the single most traumatic experience of my life.

    The reason I typed all this backstory out is to give you an idea of the kind of man that my grandfather was; the kind of advice he'd be imparting. First and foremost; he taught me that death is inevitable, through both his war stories and his untimely demise. But he also taught me the value of friends, of family, of persistence and bravery. Many of his lessons, gleaned by reading his mud and blood-caked letters home from the front lines, shaped the man I'd become and the man I am today. He taught me to fight for what I believe in, even when a situation is hopeless; but through his disenfranchisement with war also showed me that sometimes what I'm fighting for isn't always going to give me the result that I want, or indeed a result that I'm remotely pleased with. Through his merciless courting of my grandmother he taught me that neither height (lol) nor initial impressions have to define a relationship; things can change, and if you're destined for a happy marriage with someone, then eventually they'll see it. If they don't, it wasn't meant to be. But you shouldn't be remorseful of the time it took to court someone. Or to use a turn of phrase he told me himself, "time spent in love is never time wasted". He taught me about living in the moment, about looking to the sky when bullets are flying all around and realizing that history, your history, has brought you to this moment, this point in time in which the world is right way round and you can find your purpose. He taught me the importance of doing what feels right; even treated poorly for being an immigrant, he literally risked his life to save a comrade. A comrade who thought nothing of him prior. There are a wealth of lessons in my grandfather's life and teachings, for those willing to look. Perhaps reading through this you'll find some of your own.