(Based on a true story.)
Many years ago, there were two Army soldiers stationed in Germany, shortly after the Vietnam War. They had both fought in Vietnam, Korea, and took a
duty station in Germany afterwards, and they were the best of friends. They started dating two sisters, German citizens, and after a total of nine
years of active duty, they married the two sisters, moved them back to the good ol' USA, and after receiving honorable discharges, they started
raising families, one in Virginia, one in Ohio. One of them was my father.
My mother and father conceived 3 children together of which I am the youngest, but I don't remember what she looked like, because she gave us up for
adoption when I was three years old.
I'm told I spent the first three years of my life in a play pen, dining on my own feces and an occasional slice of baloney that my mother would throw
to me, and that she had an affinity for Vodka and pills while my father was gone during the day with the job he took working on the railroad. I'm
told I didn't learn to talk until I was five, and that my older brother and sister would translate what I wanted when I would point and grunt. I
don't remember any of that. I don't remember my father and mother fighting constantly, and I don't remember the divorce, or her going out to bars and
sleeping around on my father, leaving us kids alone at home, and I don't remember her ever being passed out on the couch. There's probably a lot I
really wouldn't want to remember, or maybe they're just repressed memories.
My earliest memories go back to the introduction of my step-mother. She refused to let my brother or sister translate for me anymore. I went
without, my brother sneaking me food, until I did learn to talk. When I would wet myself, she would put my wet underwear over my head, and make me
wear them like that, scolding me for not using the potty. I'm told soon afterwards I became potty trained.
My step-mother was a very religious person, and still is, and back then we were carted to church twice on Sunday and once in the evening on Wednesday.
We were not allowed to watch TV, as it was evil, and no radio either, as it would pollute our minds. Just books, mostly the bible, and I became an
avid reader at an early age. I do remember building a transistor AM radio from parts I'd scavenged, having read how to build it from books I got from
the library, and I'd listen to it at night under my covers with the speaker close to my ear, tuning the dial, and listening to what people really
talked about in the outside world. It didn't seem evil to me at all. What seemed evil to me was how my step-mother found it one day, placed it on
the counter at home, and we had to wait until our father got home from work to receive our punishment. Yes, my step-mother never spanked us, she left
that to my father, and we feared his two inch wide leather belt, because any misbehavior was promptly reported when he walked through the door, and we
got beat until we cried. The very first radio I ever made, carefully built using my dad's old soldering iron, went into the trash, and I got my
beating afterwards. I cried more for that stupid radio that I would miss than from the pain inflicted by having my butt blistered for making it.
The years pushed onwards. There was an oil embargo going on with another country (70's), and we were poor, my dad getting laid-off for stretches, but
since my grandfather had 28 acres, we would grow gardens for food, and cut firewood for heat. They tore out the oil burning furnaces, and converted
to wood heat, and my brother and I became the ones to load the wood on the trailer to haul it out of the woods, toss it into the basement, and stack
it. We did this for two houses, my grandfather's and my dad's. Getting wood to dad's would require also loading it into his old C-150 pickup,
driving across town, and tossing it into a basement window to be stacked inside. During the summer months, when we were off school, all our time was
spent in the woods, and we'd stack about 5 cords of wood in the back of each house for the winter. If the winter was harsh, and we ran low, we'd be
out in the snow cutting more wood, and I can remember many times being near frostbit, fingers and toes numb, still working, like an automaton.
The work was not without it's rewards. My grandfather taught us boys all about the woods, what trees where which, how to sow seeds, plant, harvest,
and grandmother taught us how to can and cook food, intentionally, by just telling us what she was doing. I look back now at all the knowledge he
imparted before God rested his soul in '81, and I am thankful for it. I can fall a tree in any direction I want (I was asked last year to cut down a
walnut tree on somebody's yard in the middle of the city, a thirty foot tall tree, on a postage stamp lot surrounded by neighbors. They had already
contacted several tree cutting companies, and they refused to touch it. I told them I'd do it for my pick of the wood, as I also turn wooden bowls,
and had a spot 40 feet by 15 feet in which to drop it, behind their garage. Any wrong move, and it'd land on a neighbors roof, over the road blocking
traffic, crushing a fence, or on top their own house. With some careful calculations my grandfather had taught me, and a dual notch cut, the tree
went exactly where I wanted. I explained what I was doing, and why, and they were fascinated that I knew that stuff. They were simply amazed when it
actually landed in the spot I said it would), I can grow my own food, and I know how to preserve it. I know how to skin any animal, pluck a chicken,
and prepare them for storage. He also taught me how to hunt, (I would go out into the woods with a .22 caliber rifle, with a scope I sighted in
myself for 50 yards, and bring home 5 squirrels which I would skin, and grandmother would bake them in her special BBQ sauce for dinner), to run a
table saw and do woodworking, as well as how to drive a tractor and plow a field.
The years pushed onward. After 13 years on the railroad, my father developed Multiple Sclerosis. He was one of the first Vietnam Veterans to get a
full service-connected disability, after a few years of our family being really poor, because of the Agent Orange they sprayed as a defoliant of the
jungles in Vietnam. He's helped several other Vietnam Vets he served with to prove their case as well since then, and now most of them are in their
mid-seventies. I was sixteen when he got his first bona-fide disability check, and he hobbled to the car, while my step-mom drove us, and I rode in
the back seat, but we went to the store and he bought me my very first computer, a Commodore 64, and it cost him $995.00 out of his disability check,
but he did it anyway. I learned that machine inside and out, and even though it was pre-internet days, I was able to logon to Bulletin Board Systems,
at 300 baud, and I taught myself how to program. I have had a computer ever since.
The simple fact of buying me my first computer made me forget all the suffering I'd been through. I had something that was my own. My buddies in
high school and I, (one had a TRS-80, one had an Apple II) shared the programs we'd write in BASIC. My first paying job, at the age of sixteen, was
teaching a "computer orientation" class at the local library, part time.
edit on 11/14/11 by Druid42 because: removed excess in the title.
edit on 11/14/11 by Druid42 because: baked should be