My Mother’s Son

By the time I reached high school, it was determined that I was not going to college. Of course, I did go to college, but for music and art, which is like not going to college. But in high school, I ended up in a lot of interesting “we know you’ll do nothing good with your life”-type classes. Stuff like American Comic Genius (awesome!) where we watched old Charlie Chaplin and other B+W movies, Wood Shop where I often slept, and Basic Math.

One day in math class I finished my test first. Not because I was good at math, but because I hurried through the test with an attitude somewhere between Zen Buddhist and “I don’t give a fuck.” As I walked my test up to Mr. Lumbardo’s desk, Jeff H. (the first person I ever knew that injected drugs rather than smoking and snorting them like a normal person) reached out and punched me in the left kidney. My legs buckled and I held myself up by grabbing two desks as I said, “You motherfucker!” Mr. Lumbardo jumped up — I thought he was going to help me because I felt like throwing up and assumed I looked the same. But to my surprise, he said, “Overberger! What did you say?”

He sent us both to the principal’s office. The principal asked us what happened. Jeff said, “I punched Daniel.” He then asked why I was here and Jeff said, “He called me a motherfucker.” To my surprise, the principal said, “You are both suspended for two days.” I said, “This is shit,” and he said, “THREE days!”

They called my mother to come pick me up and take me home. It sucks because she worked for the Board of Education and was probably embarrassed to have to come and get me. They told her what had happened and that I was not to come to school for three days. On the ride home, my mother didn’t say much. I figured I was in trouble but I didn’t know how much. I had never been suspended before. My disturbing sense of justice had me thinking I might not get too much more “punishment” — maybe a week of being grounded at most. As a teenager, there was some necessary acceptance of the established rules, no matter how hard I fought it.

When we got home, my mother told me to go in the other room and wait. She called work and told them she would be on her way back soon and then went to our basement. It was a little while before she came back up. She eventually called me into the kitchen. I was ready to tell her how unfair this all was and then she said, “Look I don’t want you watching TV all day. I brought up my oil paints and a fresh canvas… paint something if you like. But don’t turn on the TV.”

When my parents got home, nothing was said of it and nothing ever was. In their silence, I felt their support. If someone punches you, calling them a motherfucker is OK. Mostly.

For a moment, I thought, “Gee my parents might be alright.” But, It would take me a long time to let them know.




  1. May 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Daniel, parents can show their love and support sometimes in the most “unconventional” ways. I’m grateful for the parents I have. I learned a lot about compassion from them.

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