The Silent Thunder Story
An attempt at an autobiography
Having recently gotten engaged to the most wonderful woman in the world
I’ve been doing a lot of navel-gazing lately, trying to pick up the pieces of my life as I stand on the threshold of a new chapter. It is not easy
to make sense or coherence of any human life, still less one’s own. And yet it is something we all must do in various ways, each and every day.
With that in mind, I thought I’d throw together an autobiographical piece and see where it takes me. I’ve never tried this before, and if it seems
self-indulgent, well…it is. So read no further unless you wish to accompany me on a jaunt deep into my own egotistical ramblings. Ultimately I’m
doing this for myself and nobody else, but it helps me to write something important if I feel I’m writing for an audience of some sort, no matter
how big or how small. This board has become an important part of my life, so what better place to put it?
I’ll try to be as honest as possible, with the knowledge that all autobiographers have a tendency to downplay the weak points and play up the
strong. That’s just the nature of the beast. I’m going to keep some details deliberately vague, of course. A lot of this info has come out in one
way or another as I have posted here over the years, so I’m not really giving anything away that isn’t already out there in “the cloud” one
way or another. So be it.
I was born towards the end of that tumultuous decade, the 1960s, in a very rural part of the northern United States. Where and when, I choose not to
pinpoint. A place with lots of snow and pine, winter wheat and sharp blue skies streaked with feathery clouds. My father was what you might charitably
call a “dirt farmer.” He began his career as a country doctor, but heavy drinking eventually rendered that noble profession impossible for him,
and he struggled bitterly in his later years to keep our family farm above the poverty line – a struggle he ultimately failed at. His real vocation
in life was drinking heavily, gambling, and philandering. I have no memory of this gaunt, terrifying tyrant of my youth cracking a single smile, let
alone saying anything positive or encouraging to me. His face was as creased and worn as shoeleather, as was his soul.
My father was no longer a young man when he married my mother, a teacher in the local public school with dream-clouded eyes and a perpetual love of
literature. Looking at old photos, I can see how the years with my father must weighed on her, turning her from a laughing local beauty into something
infinitely quieter and more defeated. It was as if she was a vibrant color slowly diluted over the years by the paint-thinner of my father’s caustic
personality, until only a pale shadow of her original vitality remained.
And yet my mother was not without her own quiet strength. My father (an intensely jealous man who apparently saw no hypocrisy in carrying on a
plethora of affairs while keeping my mother on a psychic leash) eventually forbade her from teaching and, finally, from even leaving the farm alone.
Slowly my mother retreated into reading and religion, both of which she passed on to me. Besides life itself, these were her greatest gifts to me.
“No matter what happens, if you have a book with you, you’ll never be alone, or bored,” she taught me. “And if the real world disappoints,
you’ll always have the world of words.” It is a lesson I hold dear to this day, and wherever I am I make sure a book is not far from my reach.
As a child, both I and my younger sister were beaten mercilessly for the slightest infraction of my father’s long and draconian list of rules. Even
after his medical license had been revoked for grotesque incompetence, he had enough skill to treat the broken ribs, lacerated skin, and clothing-iron
burns that dot-and-dashed my path through childhood from the earliest days, so that nobody in the community had any idea the extent of my punishments.
Besides my beloved books, I had the comfort of friendship with Amanda, a local girl in my class at school. My happiest memories of childhood are
playing with Amanda in the fields, woods, and streams that were our universe. Amanda and I would tell stories to each other about an imaginary kingdom
we invented, the land of Windland. It was named after the endless wind that always blew fresh and strong in this empire of the childhood mind. It was
our private fantasy world to withdraw into, and we told tales of its battles and cities, drawing maps and flags, histories and geographies. We
imagined its wars and coups, its clothing and animals, and incidents bizarre and delightful as only two country children in a northern woodland could
come up with.
I was a strong young boy, and I earned the respect of my classmates by taking stupid risks – playing with fire, walking further out on the scary
cliff than others dared, and getting into fights. This was how I compensated for my bookishness, which would have probably have condemned me to the
role of childhood outcast if not balanced with swinging fists. I fought dirty and hard, and won my place in the childhood pecking order this way.
Unfortunately it did not endear me to my teachers and other authority figures, and I found myself getting into deeper and deeper trouble as the
shadows of my childhood lengthened into early adolescence. Despite excelling at schoolwork, I was marked as a “problem child.” I finally got into
real trouble in Junior High for two illicit activities: Stealing from the general store, and writing dirty screeds that I sold to my classmates for a
dime a page.
Eventually the predictable happened – Amanda and I became more than friends, something that both sets of our parents took a very dim view of.
Amanda, too, was from a violent and troubled home, and neither of us needed to encourage each other too much before running away together at age 16.
This lasted all of a week before we decided, as any two sane 16 years olds would, to come home. There was one hitch – my father wouldn’t let me
come back. I had committed a cardinal sin in his eyes by running away, and that was that as far as he was concerned. Neither Amanda nor I were too
worried about this. In our favorite sun-dappled woodland clearing, I knelt as Amanda, by the power invested in her as the Princess of Windland,
ordained me the High Priest of said kingdom. I stood, took her hand, and we gazed at our reflection in a clear pool of water as I used my priestly
powers to join us in holy matrimony. What marriage could be more legitimate? We were husband and wife, and on the run.
edit on 4/6/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)