February 7, 2014
When I started in on this blog, it was my intention to review my life experiences and through them, point out how our futures are determined. Certainly that has been true in my life.
If you want the details - up through college, you can go back to the first of the week, but let me offer a quick peek. Born in Detroit, MI, at the offset of the (first) "great Depression", moved to Ohio where my sister was born and my Dad was in car accident that would end his ability to remember and eventually, cause his death. I moved to Yale, MI, where I lived with my grandparents and graduated from High School. Joined the USAF, was sent to Japan, served for fifty some months, discharged, graduated from college in Georgia.
So, there you are. My "problems" started with my feeling that I did not have a Dad like my class mates had, even though in reality, my Grandfather was one of the finest men I have ever known in all of my years, I seldom saw my Mother, but my Grandmother treated her first grandson as her own son. I was blessed by teachers, the one who guided me through the first eight grades and offered to me, personally, insight as to what was really happening in the world around us. WWII had begun and at first I was scared, but as I aged, I had an urge to join the military and help bring the war to an end. That was the first I can recall where fantasy began to be my constant companion. In high school, I discovered there were teachers who really care for their students. In my case it was our Latin teacher who saw in me an eagerness to excel and continued long after two of her classes. I was a lead in the Junior class play because of her encouragement. But these people began to fade into my background as I was faced with decisions and no one near to really encourage me.
The first real life personal experience concerned a delay in sending me on to Lackland AFB for basic training along with the others who came on the same day. I was there for a week before the proper connections were made. In the midst of all this, I was scared and somehow, I was prompted to go into the Base chapel and pray that I could escape the fear that beginning to build. To my amazement - which lasts to this very hour, I still believe I heard these words, aloud. I know, I turned around to see if there was another person in the room. "Do not fear, I will always be with you." I was even more scared realizing that I had been alone. I had no real experience in church in my youth even though it was a well established practice in my home. We went to church on every Sunday morning, in time to attend Sunday School and were back on Wednesday night for prayer services. The only really thing that I recall was my embarrassment when my Grandfather fell asleep and snored during the Pastor's sermon.
Basic training was a breeze, up until we learned that they had closed most of the Technical schools as they no longer needed the graduates. I had no reason to fear going to the Philippine Islands and looked forward to the journey. Actually, it was good for me as I got to know guys from all over the States, was taught to play card games I had never heard of before. And there was a most memorable experience that remains as real to me today as it was in the hours aboard ship. One night, I could not sleep, just imagine trying to sleep with a hundred guys in your bedroom, each one it seemed, having the same problem I had. Well, I got up, went up on deck and realizing I might be in trouble if anyone saw me, I climbed up as far as I could and sat down against a bulkhead where no one would know. As I looked up, the sky was brilliant with stars and I now realize, planets I did not know of, shining brightly, as far as you could see in every direction. In a word, it was awesome. I don't know how long I sat there observing everything I could take in, until I felt like I could fall asleep. I would have been in trouble if anyone saw me, so I carefully headed back to where I belonged. And that vision is with with me to this day.
I had no problems in the service; in fact, I had been commended several times for my performance. But when I came home, I began to realize the "gulf" that was obvious between me and others in my family. Oh, there were no problems in the day-to-day exchanges, but it was as if we were living in two different worlds. I would be going back to wherever I had came from and no one - even my Mother, seemed to care. Well, I had been apart from them for over seven years, so what difference did it make? Looking back, it made quite a difference in me. Now, I began to ask questions of the people I would meet, on base and off. "Tell me about your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters..." and some of them could go on for hours. Loneliness began to creep into my life. I began to make up stories about the family I thought had abandoned me and they grew and grew. Little did I realize how this pattern was taking over my life.
Living with my Mother after the service was difficult for me and it was probably was for her. She had never re-married, but had a long time boy friend, who was married with another "home" in another city. We could never talk about that, but my "Sunday School" training caused me to believe, my Mother was wrong. I stayed away as long as I could and then I met my first wife. She was really interested in getting married and it wasn't long before I began to think this was an answer to my problems with my Mother. I was about to get the shock of my life. I thought I loved my "intended" and so I was happy and thrilled by the prospect of telling my Mother. Her response, "Sherwood, there has never been a divorce in our family!" Whoa! I was not talking about a divorce, I had planned to get married. I could not share that response with my intended, but it was obvious, my Mother was not going to be pleased with her son's marriage. Sadly, it is a fact, we would grow further and further apart. When my marriage came to an end - five years later, any hopes of a relationship with my Mother, seemed to end.
Ironically, although it never really had anything to do with me, my Mother would be caught in what might be interpreted as a lie many years later. She had, as a matter of fact, been married much earlier and that marriage ended in an annulment - not a divorce, so she was partially correct in her statement to me. She would eventually marry her man friend when his wife died, and she would latter confess, "that was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life."
The facts are, I lost my Father and was never told about it. Some have told me I was too young to fully understand. Then, I lost my Mother because, somehow, I was never really very important to her, at least, in my mind and incident upon incident piled up to the point where there was no hope for our recovery. I say that sadly, because I really loved her. I was so very proud of her as a youngster for no better reason that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, in my mind.
Which brings me to the point of this blog. I have witnessed this scenario play out hundreds if not thousands of times in my life time. We have reached a point where I honestly believe, marriage as the loving relationship it has been known to be for centuries is becoming an anomaly, irrelevant as a way of life. And so what does that mean for people like me? That concerns me. I was very fortunate. I was raised in the midst of the most loving relationship I have ever known, personally. My grandparents were the epitome of everything the poets write about, an eternal relationship. They had very little in a material sense. When my grandfather passed away. they found several beautiful shirts, each still packed into their original wrapping. He didn't need them. He had other shirts, each one carefully, dutifully and lovingly washed and dried by his "Lilly" and wanted to let her know, by not caring for the others, how much he loved her. And there was never a day in the many years of their marriage that he ever had to wait on a meal. Her first order of the day was to care for her husband,
I am so grateful that I had that experience of living in their home. I was just a boy, I did not understand all that was happening around me, but I knew that at 4:30 every morning, there were cows to milk and that at the end of the work day, I could be assured that my grandfather would be sitting in his favorite chair trying to read the paper, but losing out to his body's need to sleep and the need to occasionally, snore. My grandmother, "Nan" to me, would smile and tell me that he's done reading his paper, it's time for bed.
My real problem in life could always be traced to the fact there was no one around to remind me of what a family is all about. I had seen it in the life of my grand parents, but I was more enamored by the fact, the other "family" members came and went, driving their newer cars, wearing their fancy clothes and patting me on the head as they left. All I ever knew for certain, the day would come when I would leave that home and I grew up, always wondering, where would I go?
I lived with that question for decades of my life. It never ceased until that fateful day when I was on a Greyhound bus, headed for Tulsa, OK. But then, that's another story for another day.