I guess I'll start very early...
My first memory is when I was still a toddler in diapers. My twin sister and I were crawling up the stairs in my Aunt Theresa's home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We went into the bathroom, and played with her cosmetics. So we were spanked. What I remember most clearly is the anticipation and excitement as we crawled up the stairs to explore her apartment, which was a new and strange environment. She operated a beauty parlor in front room, and the smell of the permanent solution is indelible on my memory. Her stairs had a plastic or rubber runner up the center. Why do I include this memory? Simple. It's "original sin". I knew that I was going where I should not go, and doing what I should not do. The spanking was merely the consequence of doing wrong. It wasn't a severe wrong, but it also wasn't a severe spanking. Security and love are not inconsistent with corporal discipline.
When I was almost toilet trained, I remember hiding dirty underwear in the neighbors' bushes to avoid detection and punishment. My plan didn't work well. Mothers can figure stuff out. She actually noticed that I was running around naked, and most unreasonably demanded to know where my pants were. I think I got spanked.
I remember, before I went to kindergarten, that I asked a little girl if she wanted to marry me. She didn't seem to understand the concept. The important point here is that I was lonely, somehow, from a very early age, and looking for somebody to fill that emptiness.
When I was in Kindergarten, I had to walk a few miles to school, and a few miles home. Most of the path I followed paralleled a creek where we often played. It cut through our yard, through a vacant lot with a cemetery at the hill above, followed the creek through a small cultivated field, and through the elementary school yard. From there I used sidewalks to walk about 5 more blocks to the Methodist church, where the lovely Miz Smith taught us. My twin sister went in the afternoon, and I went in the morning. Once I got to school late, and the class was gone. I remembered that they were playing at the elementary school, so I went to find them there, but they were already on the way back to our Kindergarten, and I met them midway, and came back to our classroom with them. It wasn't a religious school. For lack of space, our "public" kindergarten was conducted in the facilities of the Methodist church. During that winter, on the way home from kindergarten, I was playing on the ice on the creek that the path to school followed. The ice is sometimes as clear as glass, and sometimes crystallizes in an elegant lacework of crystals. As the level of the creek rises and falls, it may leave several layers of ice, each with its own characteristics. Where the water is slow, the ice is thick, and where it is fast, the ice is thin, or the water is exposed. Well, I enjoyed breaking the ice. However, I misjudged the thickness in one spot, and got pretty well soaked. It was very cold, so I headed straight home. Do you remember that mothers figure stuff out? Well, Mother could still do that. So she asked how I had gotten so wet. Knowing that I was not supposed to play in the creek on the way home from school, I told her that a puddle on the path had ice over it, and that I'd broken the ice and fallen into the puddle. Well, mothers figure out stuff even when you lie. So she asked me to take her to show her the puddle, since she didn't know about any thigh deep puddles on the path to school. Brilliantly elaborating my lie, I explained that the puddle had been "sinking away fast". Well, I got spanked again, but was not especially suprised, either.
We were Presbyterians. I remember singing "Jesus Loves Me", and finding comfort in the lyrics. The part about "Little ones to Him belong. They are weak and He is strong." was particularly comforting. I liked the idea of belonging to a strong, powerful Jesus. Another song I liked was "All creatures of our God and King". I remember a very real appreciation for God as creator of an often exquisitely beautiful world. It's hard to understand, looking back, that I was not really a Christian as a child. I certainly felt like one. I knew that God was real, that he demanded a standard of behavior from me, and that I wanted to please him. I thought, at the time, that I was pleasing to him.
When I went to college, what I wanted most was a girlfriend. First I tried to date one of the two girls in the freshman engineering class who had a hometown boyfiend, but she remained faithful to him. She was a friend to me, but was never interested in a deeper relationship with me. Finally I met Kathy. We dated for about 1/2 a year. She a took photography class, and I used to love helping her lug around her view camera, and learning to "see" as a photographer.
Kathy was the first girl who had ever loved me. I had crushes on other girls, but they were never reciprocated. I was heartbroken when she finally broke up with me. I got very depressed. My lonliness became a danger to me.
I spent another year or so trying to nurture a relationship with Patti, who also was loyal to an absentee boyfriend. Again, I was tolerated as a friend, but my desire for something more was seen as a flattering annoyance.
Eventually, I dropped out of school because it became clear that I was wasting my time and my Dad's money. I worked for a few months in a gas station. I hitchhiked to Philidelphia to see a girlfriend I had met at Syracuse University in a National Science Foundation Physics program when I between my junior and senior year in high school. She was doing well in her study of astronomy, and there was no realistic basis for a relationship between us. I went back home and enlisted in the Navy, for the Nuclear Power Program.
In boot camp, I eventually had another "tabernacle" experience. I had passed up on an opportunity to take Christmas leave, to go home to see my family, because I wanted, instead, to take leave after boot camp, when I could see Patti, too. Oddly, she wouldn't let me come visit her at her home, where her boyfriend was. So I stayed in a "holding company" which mostly consisted of people who were being punished by denying them their holiday leave. After Christmas, I was enjoying a rare moment of solitude. I was pulling cushy duty as a company clerk, while the other boots were scrubbing toilets, etc. I sat there alone in my office, and was reading the bible and praying, lamenting the futility of my love life. And God spoke to me. He said that he had somebody for me, and he promised that I would be make it until we were together.
A few months later, my twin sister Marjie got married. One of Marjie's girlfiends, named Vicki Folkoff, hit it off with me. She asked me my favorite song on the radio. As a sailor in the Navy in the early 70's, what could I say but "Brandy". Well, my future wife and I had an disagree for our first conversation. How prophetic! She thought the sailor was stupid to abandon true love with Brandy for a "relationship" with the sea. I felt that if he thought that his career honestly came first, in his heart, that it was kinder for him to put himself out of the picture, and to love her memory. Vicki thought it was selfish and stupid. So naturally, we hit it off. The first chance I got, I took leave and came to visit Marjie and her new husband at her college, but of course I spent almost all of my time with Vivien. Vivien wanted a husband, and I wanted a wife, and it was convenient for us to fall in love.
Vivien came to visit me in New London, for a week, when my ship returned from the Med. I took another week's leave, and went to visit her and my parents. That March 17th, we got married, having known each other less than a year, and having spent about 3 weeks together.
We had about 1 week for a honeymoon, which was a material disaster. I had arranged to stay at a cabin where my family had stayed some years before. The owner's wife told me that it was awefully run down, but I wouldn't listen. When we got into town, and called for directions, the owner said that there was no roof, and we really couldn't stay there. Plan B. We went back to Vivien's apartment instead, which was ok, since here roommate was gone for spring break.
After the honeymoon, I went back to the Navy, and Vicki went back to school. I was in electronics technician school at Great Lakes Naval Base, north of Chicago. When it was time for her to graduate, I found her a really great job, and a really nice place for us to live. Just south of the base was Lake Forest, where Mr. Myers lived, of Oscar Myer fame. His son, I think. Anyway, Vivien was to be cook, and mother's helper. The pay for the job was not money, but room and board for both of us. She was hired sight unseen, on the basis of an interview with me. I assured Mrs. Myer that since she had a degree in home economics, that Vicki would be able to perform all of her duties easily.
I was waiting for Vivien with great anticipation on the day of her arrival. When She pulled up in her green Rambler American, some of the paintings on her car top carrier were in tatters. My sister had given her some of her paintings as a housewarming present, or wedding present, and they had been broken by the force of the wind as she drove. Vivien had done her best to resecure the paintings, and was mortified at their damage. We began unpacking the car. I showed her how to operate the burglar alarm. I took her upstairs to show her the apartment. She held up a little oval box, and said "What's this?" and pressed the button. She immediately found out as a loud alarm began to ring, and Mr. Myers came trotting off of the golf course and into the house waving a golf club. We explained about the panic alarm, and things finally began to settle down.
Or do I mean fester? It was fairly quiet for the next few days, until I came home to find out that "we" had been fired. Vivien did not consider herself a servant, and therefore did not find it necessary to follow Mrs. Myer's instructions regarding the cooking. She was college educated, and would do things as she knew best. So, we had to find a cheap place to live, fast.
Well, south of the base was the really nice town, with mansions, and such. Zion. Zion is mostly famous as the place were a church teaches, and it's followers believe, that the earth is flat, not spherical. There was a three story wooden old folks home in Zion, and the elevators only went to the second story. There were 2 apartments on the third floor, which shared one bathroom. An alcoholic lived in the other apartment. We weren't very happy most of the time were lived in the old folks home. We saw a really scary movie in a drive in one night, called "The Other". Another time, we drove to the Lake Michigan beach at night, got our car stuck in the sand, hitchhiked back to zion, to take apart our cinder block bookshelves, and take the boards back to put under the wheels to get back to the road. Those were the best times we had there. Vivien got a job sewing hems in uniforms and such for the base. I managed to get out of the Navy early. Our marriage clearly wasn't going to last under these conditions, and I was disillusioned with the Navy as a career anyway.
So it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. We moved back to Columbus, Ohio, and stayed with Vicki's parents while Vivien and looked for jobs. I found that I didn't get along very well with Vivien's parents, especially her mother. They didn't understand how an intelligent human being would be unable to operate a light switch. I couldn't figure out why such an disability would be cause for such strife. I got a job, and we moved into a different pit. Here we had the upstairs of a house in Ohio with no furnace, only 3 unvented space heaters. Vivien got a job substitute teaching home ec. with Columbus public schools. It was a challenge that winter to keep the pipes from freezing. We moved out of there, and into a nice affordable townhouse appartment in Gahanna, close enough for me to commute to school.
We applied for, and got, a job as house parents for the Bryden Road group home, for the county child welfare department. This was a nearly total disaster. Probably the end came when the girl explained in court that she had gotten pregnant by one or more of the boys in our home, in their bedroom, while we were asleep upstairs. Personally, the biggest disappointment was Lee, who turned out not to be attending school at all, and was turning 18, and who now needed to fend for himself. I taught him photography as quickly as possible, and Lee was a quick study. I hope he made it. Vivien and I were terribly naive. We had no concept of how out of control things were. We were terribly mortified when we realized how bad things had been. And we were also quick to blame each other.
Vivien and I were not getting along well at all. I lost hope of having a good relationship with her, and we decided to get a divorce. I moved out of our apartment in Gahanna, and moved into a boarding house near campus. There was a Christian living in the house, a student in law school. He gave me a concordance and encouraged me to find all the scripture that pertained to marriage and divorce. He also gave me a copy "Mere Christianity", by C. S. Lewis. I stayed in the boarding house about a month. It quickly became evident that I was accountable to a higher standard of behavior in my marriage. Lewis's book was the pivotal point in my salvation. It overcame my primary objection to Christianity, which was basicly that I felt that it was arrogant for anybody to claim to be saved. How could a person know, if he were "good enough", on balance, until he has lived his whole life, and been judged by God? Lewis showed that if Jesus's were believable, then I had to believe that nothing I could do would possibly be good enough to satisfy God. That was consistant and believable based on my experience. My life was crippled, not going anywhere good. I recognized that I had all of the necessary elements of an abundant life, but that, of myself would never experience life the way my creator intended. I needed my creator to balance and tune my life, to fill in the intangible somethings that made life impossible. I was very lonely during this month, but the loneliness was sweet and peaceful. I saw that the problem with Vicki was caused by needing her to fill a void which she could not possibly fill, and because I had been trying to fill a voide that I could never fill. We were lonely and frustrated because we needed God. I asked God to give me abundant life, and asked God to save me. I didn't have in mind salvation from hell, because that was not my concern. I wanted to be saved into a functional life. An important side "plot" was that I began attending a bible study with my Christian friend. A bunch of college kids were crammed into a living room and dining room listening to a bible study on Phillipeans. They would cover just a few verses a night, and they were getting a lot of meaning out of it. They looked at the bible like I'd never seen before, believing that each word was meaningful, and that it would help them understand God, and live a better life in practical terms that would affect their relationship with God, and with the people in their lives. Some of the more musical of them wrote songs based on scripture, songs which moved me emotionally and seemed to make scripture more powerful, more alive. Sometimes they would pray, and their prayers were fervent and living. They would pray for their friends, they would worship without asking for anything, they would ask for personal needs. They were examples of devotion. When I walked into the room, God's presence palpable. By the end of the month, I knew that I had to leave all this, and go back home to Vivien. I went back home, and things did not go easily with Vicki. I said she had to let me come back. When she said why, I said that I had to, that if I divorced her, I'd be making her into an adulterer. She told me that was stupid. I told her it didn't matter what she thought, that I had to do what I thought God wanted me to do. She let me come back, and we've lived happliy ever after... Not. Vicki's best friend and her husband smoked pot, and after I came back, I asked him to get us some. He did, and I really enjoyed it. Way too much. It probably wasn't just pot, because it's effects were fairly severe and long lasting. For example, after smoking some the night before, I remember doing a physics lab at school, and trying to consciously regulate my breathing, my heartbeat. I told my Christian friend to call me when I had gotten home and make sure that I had flushed the pot down the toilet. I was apalled that as a heathen I had got through the 60's without doing any drugs, but as a new Christian I had immediately been sucked in. I was ashamed of this episode, and began to become ashamed of my addiction to tobacco. Vicki didn't want to come to my new church, so I asked where she would go. She said that she'd be willing to go to the Episcopal church that her family had joined when they went "religion shopping" when she was in their teens. I agreed to go there. They had a kind of in-church evangelism thing called "faith alive", and some of the members accused me of being a shill for the program. When we moved to an apartment that was closer to campus, I got Vicki to go to church at "my" church a few times, but she really hated it. There were things she didn't understand or believe that really bothered her, and she was offended by the gospel. I think it was a year or two after I was saved that Vicki was saved. ran out of energy here. To be continued, and cleaned up and clarified. This document, like my life, is an unfinished work.