Home > Uncategorized > The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter I: Origin Story

The Confessions of Mike Trapp. Chapter I: Origin Story

I don’t know where to start this story, but I thought it would be good to kind of start with my parents and their stories.



My mom had an interesting life. Her father was a hammer man and worked at a plant in Toledo, Ohio. He married a very religious woman. She was hit by a car. She lost a child to appendicitis. She eventually developed schizophrenia. This was in the 1930s before there were psychiatric medications or any realistic treatment besides state hospitalization. In my family, we take care of our own. Her doctor at the time thought that a pregnancy might snap her out of it. That’s how my mom came to be born. The doctor’s theory did not work.

Mike Trapp in the sun2


She had this disconnect with reality and lived in her own kind of delusional world. “I’m afraid of the devil” was one of her catch phrases. She had a lot of kind of religious delusions and a real disconnect. For instance, she never learned my mom’s name. And so my mom was really raised by her older sister, Eleanora, who was 14 years older, and her abusive, much older husband. I think Auntie was 14 when she got married to a 35 year old junk picker, that we called uncle. My mom’s dad died in a car accident when my mom was 10, so she was virtually an orphan and had a hard life.  Uncle was abusive. I knew him as a kid. He would punch me in the stomach and say “Suck it in” when I was a little chubby kid.

My mom lived with her sister, Eleanora and my uncle Lot, which was not a good situation. She moved out of the house at 16, with her own abusive man, a guy named Bob Kelly. They had a child together – my brother Bob – and then three years later they had a daughter, my sister Betty. By then my mom really had had enough. She never really talked about what went down, but did acknowledge that her first husband had been abusive. This was in the early 1960s when it was a hard time to be a single mom with a couple of kids. There was minimal welfare support. She worked as a waitress. Right after she left her husband, she found out she was pregnant. This was before Roe versus Wade.

With little to no access to abortion.  She tried to a technique of taking some the counter pills that were supposed to cause an abortion: That didn’t work. My sister Brenda was born. Then, she had three kids living on her own when she met my dad.

To talk about the kind of man my dad was we really have to talk about his parents. They lived on a farm. His father got his arm cut off when my dad was five. With the settlement money he got from his railroad employer, he bought another farm that they then operated. They called my dad ‘Paws’. He was a ‘little shit’, as my dad would have said.

As a young man my Dad did the fetch and carry and ran around and helped with all the things that it takes two arms to do. My dad was real close to his dad who was a big drinker. My grandma got religion in her thirties, which caused a lot of friction. She went to LaSalle Gospel Tabernacle Church. They were a strict fundamentalist sect. She was very devoted to that and her devotion kind of pushed everybody in the family away from religion. My dad was the sixth of six kids. He was full of religious himself having regularly attended church with my grandma. By about 18, he left the church because he wanted to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. And chase pretty girls.

He did that. He worked hard. He had been a farmer, but later – along with my aunt and uncle – operated a meat packing place where he became an animal slaughterer and then a meat-cutter. Mostly, however, he drank. He got a drunk driving ticket when he was 23 years old. He had had been in some other trouble and so had a choice between a long jail sentence or – the other offer – join the army. The police thought that might straighten him out. So he joined the US Army and had a brief military career. During his few years in the Army he found the regimentation not to his liking, but did develop a lifelong love affair with trucks. He was a diesel mechanic and really enjoyed working on and driving trucks.

When he got out of the Army, he bought a 1963 Ford Falcon convertible and a got his job back as a meat cutter. The union had come in and he wasn’t making that dollar an hour anymore. He was actually making good money. At this point he met my in a bar. She pursued him heavily. I think either through a pregnancy scare or through outright manipulation, he ended up marrying her suddenly. This went against his family’s wishes. His family thought my mom a whore. I think that was just kind of the early sixties and that’s how some folks viewed a single mom. They’d always called Bob Kelly her first husband, but I learned much later that they’d never actually been married.

And so, my Mom and Dad became an instant family. They lived in a clapboard shack. My dad was definitely into having more kids. He was the decision maker in those kinds of things. My brother John was born, really the only planned birth in the whole family. Three years later I was born.

I remember when I was a little kid asking my dad if I was a planned baby or if I was an accident. And he said I was a que sera sera baby. Two years after that they had my brother Dennis and so that was the six kids. We were a family even though three of my brothers and sisters were only my half brothers and sisters.

Being born into the family, I never really felt any different. My dad treated us the same and made it a point that we were one family regardless of who our dad was. (Bob Kelly was never big in the picture.) I only remember him seeing my brothers and sisters a couple of times and there was some awkwardness. He certainly never paid any child support. There was also some bitterness in regards to that whole situation.

My dad was a meat cutter and he had a good union job and made a good wage, but he was a heavy drinker and he was a gambler. Sometimes he would come home without his paycheck cause he had lost it in a pool game. Certainly, drinking was problematic. John and I and my brother shared a bed in the hallway at our little house. When I was little, we would all sleep with the parents. “All my three sons”, my dad would say to the three of us little ones that, that were his own.

We were kind of off by herself in the country there. We had a backyard with a swimming pool. When I was three and Dennis was 18 months old, someone noticed that Dennis wasn’t around. My sister Brenda found him in the swimming pool. My dad jumped over the side of the pool and pulled him out. They tried CPR. Dennis’ death became a real seminal event for me. I was too small to really know what was going on.  I don’t know even if I really remember him. I have memories of that pool.

After Dennis died, my older brothers and sisters went to my Grandma Trapp. They took us to the zoo. After they lost Dennis, my Dad realized that they had no picture of all of us together, so they lined us all up in front of the car. We’re all snot-faced and crying and in front of the new car. That picture is about the saddest thing that you’ll ever see.

So my dad didn’t react well, nor nor did my mom. It led to – for my Mom, a lifelong issue with depression. It kind of broke her spirit in a lot of ways. My dad went on a six-month drunk. He lost his job and couldn’t put it together. He didn’t want to be at home seeing as he had so much hurt, rage and no skills at all to be able to talk about stuff. That wasn’t how things were done in the 1960s.

We had to do something. And so Dad became a truck driver with Beacon Van Lines. He kind of used that as an opportunity to follow his dream. It was something that he had always been interested in doing. And he drove a straight truck out of Indianapolis, Indiana. When we would drive by Circle City (as he called it) he would point out the parking lot where he learned to drive a truck. He took one trip by himself and had this phenomenal kind of loneliness. He scooped me up in the truck and took me on the road. That was a huge deal for me, because he had unwittingly created this incredibly enriching environment for me. I was three years old and getting to spend 24/7 with my dad, just he and I.

He would drive a lot at night and then we would load furniture in the day. He worked hard and he played hard. A lot of times he would stay up all night driving and I would sit on what we call the ‘dog house’. Our truck was what’s called a cab-over, which means the engine kind of sat right in the cab of the truck. There was this kind of plastic engine cover that sat between the two seats. And I would sit Indian style, as we called it then. We would talk all night and I would ask him questions and he would explain to me how the world was. He listened to my stories and my thoughts. I remember going to New York City for the first time. He talked about skyscrapers. I could only imagine those window scrapers that scrape ice, so I thought they were like things that. When I got to see New York City it was different than I had imagined, but every bit as amazing.

So, I got to see the country and be around all kinds of different people. I had been to 45 States before kindergarten. We would come home for about four days every six weeks. Looking back on it, I know that must’ve been hard on my Mom, because she lost her baby and then her next baby was gone. Sometimes mom would come on trips with us and the other brothers and sisters would go stay with my Grandma who was really severe and religious. That led to some resentment. I was resentful when I had to start kindergarten because that kind of wrapped up my living the adventurous life of the road. As it turned out, I didn’t have a lot of social skills considering I had not been around a lot of other kids. It was an anxiety provoking and kind of terrifying experience going into school.

The thing that really hit me – and this was informed by losing Dennis at three years old – is learning that you’re going to die. That came way earlier in my development history than it had any right to. On our truck trips, my Dad and I talked about Dennis a lot. My dad would share his thoughts and feelings and I would listen. We had a lot of conversations. As long as I’ve remembered, I knew that I was going to die and I think that is one of the things that made me different. It made me interested in spiritual things very early. When I asked where Dennis was, they would say that Dennis was with Jesus or Dennis is in heaven now.

All this made me think about the afterlife. Where do we go? I came to believe that Dennis was always present in his absence. And it was something that we talked about a lot when we were on the road and it was just Dad and I. That knowledge made me sometimes want to be with Jesus. And what did that mean? Dennis became this kind of magical figure that I had shadow memories of at best. Dennis was someone who was kind of always present. He was beautiful. He was special enough to be with Jesus right now. That had a big impact on me.

Categories: Uncategorized
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  1. April 20, 2020 at 8:18 am

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