The good Catholic boy turned 13 in Creston, British Columbia, Canada. Actually, he lived in a ‘suburb’ of Creston called Wyndel.
On a map, the town of Creston is roughly a six hour drive southwest of Calgary. Follow the highway south to Fort McLeod, and then west through the Crowsnest Pass, Fernie and Cranbrook. Creston sits just north of the American border across from Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, USA. It is in the centre of a part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains known as the Kootenay Mountains. There are about 15,000 in the Creston Valley with about 4,500 in the town. The town is so small that one goes uptown instead of downtown. The town was a retirement town where the average age was 65. It made it a good place for 13 year olds to get into trouble.
The good Catholic boy, however, was still too timid even with his budding confidence. He attended Prince Charles Secondary School, the same school his father had graduated from…sort of. The new school had only just opened for the fall of 1983 after a fire had taken down the old school a few years earlier.
After that thirteenth birthday party, the confidence hit the skids.
It started with a teacher. The man was a jock. He was arrogant. He once coached the good Catholic boy’s father in basketball. The man taught physical education and health for boys. Being the good Catholic boy was not the athlete his father once was, the jock teacher was extremely hard on him.
During one health class the jock asked on a test what was the best way to avoid pregnancy.. The good Catholic boy gave what he thought was the obvious answer, abstinence. It was marked wrong as the jock was looking for the word “condom”. When the boy pushed the teacher on the answer, the joke informed the boy that abstinence was not normal.
The jock was not suggesting that the boy was abnormal, just that the average teen was having sex by 15 at that time. Of course the good Catholic boy saw it as more of a personal insult. How could condoms be normal? The Pope would not allow Catholics to use condoms. That was a sin!
The jock teacher rode the good Catholic boy for both grade 8 and 9. Many times there was humiliation when the boy was unable to perform the athletic feats required such as gymnastics or sprinting or climbing.
The local church was Holy Cross. The local priest was a lifer and had been there for decades. His preaching and announcements would go on for hours during Sunday services. A short, bald stump of a man who had arrogance that rivaled the teacher joke. In discussions with the priest and talks the priest gave during evening catacism classes, the good Catholic boy decided that the priest thought he should be Pope.
During grade nine, the good Catholic boy appeared with a few high school peers in front of the stump priest for confirmation. Even at fourteen, the boy stood there wondering how he could possibly choose to believe without knowing his own future. The worst part was prior to the service the boy had dressed in his suit and gone to the hospital. His grandfather was there with a severe case of gout. It was the first time the boy would see his grandfather cry as he wanted to come to the church and see the boy become a man in the eyes of the church.
Why would God punish his grandfather that way? The man was a postman and part-time farmer.
That evening, the good Catholic boy celebrated with the family and his grandmother at the only pizzeria in town. He then went home with his grandmother to keep her company and spent the night.
This was the final sleep over the boy had with his grandmother.
As the summer went on, preparations were ongoing for a celebration of the grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful party with cousins, uncles and aunts. Three days after the party, the grandmother landed in the hospital.
Back in the early 1970s, the boy’s grandmother had breast cancer. After surgery and treatment, it had gone into remission for a few years. In 1981, however, it had returned. The treatments were harsh, but seemed to work. Three days after her 50th wedding anniversary, the good Catholic boy’s grandmother decided that she had lived through all she wanted to, and the cancer entered her brain.
The good Catholic boy and his younger brother entered their grandmother’s hospital room. She first asked who the boys were and promptly accused them of stealing her tissues. When she was told that the young boys were her grandsons, she dismissed it as a lie. “I only have two granddaughters!” she stated showing that her mind had gone back to the point where the two oldest grandchildren were born. She passed away late that night.
The good Catholic boy’s father knocked on his door early to tell him the news. The hug was identical to the one the good Catholic boy would give his own daughters twenty odd years later after the passing of his other grandmother.
As he sat on his bed, alone after his father had gone to tell his brother, he asked more questions in his head. Why would a loving God rip such a vibrant woman of her dignity before taking her? He corrected the question as he realized, his grandma would have no issue of dignity. Instead he then asked why a loving God would leave two young loving grandchildren with that as their final memory of their grandmother.
He masturbated for the first time that night. The good Catholic boy was numb and needed to feel something, so he sinned against church teachings.
The pleasure that flowed amazed him. After that he did it often, twice a day sometimes. He was always paranoid about his parents smelling the semen or finding a wet spot. He had never had a wet dream, and this made him feel guilty being this was deemed as not natural.
For grade 10 in the fall of 1985, the boy had a new physical education and health teacher. A man who, unlike the jock the previous two years, never asked why the boy could not do things like most of his classmates. Instead the man would give the boy a mantra that he would live by from then on: “You keep trying and we’ll get you there. How can I help?”
The good Catholic boy almost got into trouble, one might say. There was this girl. Well, there were many girls he liked during this time, but this one in particular liked him back. She was the daughter of friends of his parents. She was the same age as his younger brother and two grades behind.
Her, her brothers, the boy’s brother and he were all playing hide and seek. The boy and the girl hid together in a dark shed. At one point as they giggled and laughed she asked if she could kiss him. His usual shyness threw a wall up immediately and he never answered.
She was the first girl he ever held hands with. It was at a school dance. They first danced to REO Speedwagon’s “One Lonely Night” and, quite by accident, their hands brushed. She never let go for the rest of the evening.
The two spent another night cuddled on a couch at his place. Their brothers were there and they were watching videos such as Matthew Broderick in Ladyhawk. At one point, he and the girl went to his bed rooms to look at records and listen to Queen. He should have lost his virginity, but he did not. He should have had his first kiss, but he did not do that either.
Six months later, the boy’s parents closed the store in bankruptcy. The locals would not support “outsiders” in their little town and the business just could not make it. The family went first back to Calgary. The good Catholic boy was back in a Catholic school, this time at St. Mary’s.
The boy’s father was unable to find work and traveled away to search. A month into the school year he returned, collected the boy and his brother, leaving their mother who would follow in a few weeks, and they turned the car east. They left the mountains on September 28, 1986…