Thursday, March 6, 2014

Changing gears on the highways of life

March 7, 2014

Ever watch Dr. Phil?  There was a time when I thought he was an offspring of the proverbial "snake oil" salesmen we used to see at the travelling carnivals visiting the farm lands in Eastern Michigan.

But yesterday, I needed a rest and discovered he was on TV with an intriguing segment involving a couple with a young son and when she had an "affair" with another man, her husband divorced her and married another woman, who became the boy's step Mother. I was about to learn that the Dad married a personification of the "wicked witch of the West'.

As it turned out, she not only abused the boy, somehow she convinced him that if he murdered his father, their lives would be better.  The sad fact is, the boy now realizes he is a murderer.   Fortunately for him, the step Mother went to prison.

On Dr. Phil's program, he was now face to face with his birth Mother who wanted to establish a new relationship with her son and he was adamant that because of her past failures and the fact he no longer had a father, there was no way he was going to reconcile.

So, Dr. Phil addressed the boy' reality and the fact that bad things happen to good people, suggesting that there comes a time in all of our lives when we much face up to that fact. - if we are want to live as we were meant to live.

I turned the TV off to read the evening news paper, but the facts of that situation started working on me.

I have never murdered any one, but the fact is, there have been times when I have thought it might be a solution to the way I was feeling at the moment.

It all started when they used to tell me that my Father was more interested in having a daughter than the son I turned out to be.  He had been married previously and already had two sons.  I don't know how much I thought about that at the time, but it was at the beginning of the truly Great Depression (in the early 30's) and to make it easier on the family finances, I was sent to live with my grand parents on the farm.  As a result, I would never get to know my Father as he had an car accident that would eventually take his life.  I was not at his funeral, nor did I know anything about his burial place.  And the only time I really got to see my Mother was when one of her new boy friends would drive her up to the farm, as always, dressed to enhance her natural beauty while the guys were trying to make friends with me.

I learned to hate that and that attitude began to control my life until I realized, at age 17, I could join the Army Air Corps and earn a college education, something that was out of the question otherwise.

Seven years later, I left the service to enter college and because my Mother was instrumental in getting me enrolled at Georgia Tech where she was living at the time, we tried living together in her one bed room apartment.  After awhile, I had better ideas,  I found a girl to marry and when I announced it to her and her long time man friend, her response was, "Sherwood, there has never been a divorce in our family."

As my wife-to-be and I were at the County Clerk's office to get the marriage materials, I would learn that she was ten years older that I was, not five years as I had been told.  I almost called it off, but had to thunk of returning to live with my Mother and decided it might work.

It did not.  After five years in which I graduated from college, there was no real love in our marriage and I decided to leave the State.  If she wanted a divorce, she could arrange it, but I was more intent on getting established and a new life underway.  What I did not realize at the time, I was wrestling with demons that wanted me to believe I was no longer a success, but a failure.  I started drinking in earnest to escape such thoughts that were now driving me further and further away from the "home" I thought I should have enjoyed in those early years.

It would take a decade for me to understand, it was not my Father's death, nor my Mother's struggles in just surviving the Depression years, nor my first wife's failing to understand that I was not the nice guy she thought she had married, it was me.  It was my failure to accept the fact, you are not what you think you are, but who you actually are.

It's fine to recognize this, it's more difficult to live up to your recognition.  I married again to a gal who wanted children and we were off to a good start.  A month before our wedding day, she was pregnant.

Our first child was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, weighing in at 10 lbs. and 8 ounces.  And followed by another daughter, sixteen months later, two months premature.  I thought I was being chastised for not being all I should have been and the pain of the  thought that we almost lost her was almost more than I could stand.  I traded jobs from one that offered opportunity for one that offered the same paycheck every week.  And apparently, because we were not making enough, my wife was caught stealing money from our neighbors' mailboxes.  My life was spiraling downward faster than I could recognize, in spite of the fact that our marriage had now produced two handsomea  young boys.  There was another incident involving missing money and all I did was move on, desperately searching for an answer to my failures as a husband, father and a productive citizen.

When it was over, I was on a bus headed for Tulsa, OK, to find answers.  I found them before I was even halfway to my destination.   I offered and prayer and for the first time in my life, I had an answer.

Repent!  What?  Repent!  But this time I knew the reasons for my need to repent and it was something I should have seen - had I only looked for answers, almost forty-five years ago.

I didn't understand my Mother's ways, then; I still didn't understand them now.  Why didn't I have a Dad like the other guys, but I had two, my grandfather and his son.  They were there, but I was too consumed with my fears to recognize my provisions.   And so it had continued, year after year, decade after yet another decade.  Repent!  I had been wrong and all I ever had to do was recognize the truth that if your house is not built on solid ground, it will fall - again and again, whenever the storms of life attack.

Watching Dr. Phil, I wanted to step through that TV screen and embrace that young man and plead with him, if necessary, to look squarely at the future ahead and forget the problems of the past,  It took me decades to recognize that answer, but having embraced it and am now having lived for still more decades, my life has become an exciting experience.  I wake up every morning looking for the joys that will come my way on each new day and I have yet to have it fail to come into being.

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