Monday, April 5, 2010

CHOICES: OVERCOMING LIFE'S SHORTCOMINGS





One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it's expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt


My stepdad's mom died when he was a baby and his father literally farmed him out to people to help with the farm chores. Formal education was considered too time
consuming after third grade, therefore my step father was made to work full time. Can you imagine a nine year old made to work rather than go to school? He was provided the barest of necessities in the way of food and clothing. Boots or shoes were too expensive and weren't provided for this motherless waif.

He slept in the barn with the animals and in order to keep his feet from freezing, he would walk behind the cows in the pastures and warm his feet in warm puddles of cow urine. Ohio had bitterly cold winters and not having proper outdoor clothing was just the life given to my stepdad. Never enough to eat, lack of warm clothes and most importantly no one to comfort him shaped his view of the world.

When he was of age, my stepdad joined the Army and was quickly trained to operate a flamethrower. His job was to approach the caves where enemy soldiers had hidden and ignite the flames of death. His memories of the smell of scorched flesh never lessened or did the underlying soldier's guilt for carrying out orders that caused the horrible end to his sworn enemies.

Because the back part of a troop's landing boat (I don't know the formal word for this boat) didn't release, he had to crawl over the top. Perched on the top of the landing platform getting ready to jump to the beach, an enemy sniper shot him in the knee. Blowing out his knee brought him stateside and doctors removed his knee which put his leg in a permanent full extension. He was a young man, who had little formal education and now he would be physically disabled.

Some people would take this disability and give up, but not him. After further corrective surgery, he married my mom, started up an air conditioning business, moved us clear across the country for warmer weather and worked in many physically demanding careers throughout his life. He was a welder who helped build many steel structures in our town; the most complicated blue prints were easily read by him; he could repair what no one else could; he could make his grandchildren laugh; he valued education and made sure that his granddaughter completed her daily assignments before the television was watched. Hard work was valued by him and he helped our family when my husband couldn't find employment. My husband was grateful to have work and he earned every dollar working with my stepdad. My stepdad didn't suffer fools and he was a hard task master, but knowing his history how could he be any other way?

Work and you can survive.

Comfort? Don't expect any and appreciate what you find, where ever you find it.

I will say that it wasn't easy growing up in a household run by my stepdad. He didn't talk about his past and I don't really know if it would have made a difference to a young girl. He numbed his horrific memories with alcohol and that made life uncertain for me.

As a parent, I do understand what was done to him was horrible and the only thing that matters now is that he was a fantastic Papa to my daughter. When he felt safe that I would love him back, without judgement, he began to express his affection. I think that he was afraid he was unlovable and when he began to feel uncomplicated love then he began to respond in kind.

I am so glad that he was in my life for so long. He is missed and appreciated every day by my family.

Rest well and know that you were loved by us.

2 comments:

  1. I know your stepdad is smiling down on you right now, and your little ones and your little ones' little ones, knowing that his time on Earth was well lived in spite of the hardships.

    He must be proud of you. Of that, I am certain.

    ReplyDelete