The beginning of my ‘training’ as I’ll call it began with being raised by my father who served 22 years in the Air Force as a Tail Gunner, fought in two wars and returned home with severe PTSD while receiving little or no counseling. It wasn’t long before our family life totally disintegrated. Mom couldn’t take any more abuse which was physical and mental with the end result culminating in divorce. The stigma of divorce was very strong during those days and to say that our collective self esteem took a heavy hit would be a gross understatement. There were several breakups and reconciliations along the way before Mom opted out completely. It was during one of their separations which lasted for over a year that I experienced what it was like to live in poverty. I recall going to bed many nights hungry and sleeping on one bed with my 4 brothers and sisters. Although Mom escaped from her abusive situation with my father, it was her inability to care for us properly during this long separation that led to her losing custody of her five children. I didn’t know until I was placed in the custody of my father that I was at the center of his anger and rage towards my mother. Now that Mom was no longer around my father began to direct all of his unfiltered anger and rage towards me. I was completely unaware that my father had doubts about me being his child until he blurted it out one day while in the throes of one of his fits of anger. Time seemed to stand still and I felt like I had been kicked in the gut by a mule. I found it hard to breathe and the only thing I could do was to run to the bedroom and cry until my eyes were dry. The poverty that I experienced living with my mother would be a walk in the park compared to the physical, mental, and emotional abuse that lay ahead of me. The expressions “you will never amount to anything” and “if you had any sense at all, you’d kill yourself” were words that I would hear frequently. I never heard the words I love you from the mouth of my father, so I’d make up reasons that showed his love for me. I was really reaching and the fact was that the man had such disdain for me that he could care less if I lived or died.
School events – sent home due to poor hygiene and the need for a haircut
Clothing – little to none, forced to wear shoes without bottoms and the Mayday fiasco
Education – Pennsylvania Advancement School, after making it to the final selection for academic excellence and attending special classes designed to steer students to the field of engineering, I was denied the chance to continue after a summer trial. I wasn’t worth the extra expense for transportation and I resigned myself to be the best that I could be without Dad’s help.
As a child there is no way in the world you’d expect to see a silver lining is such a situation, however, I was being prepared for serious battles in life that lay ahead of me. Using hindsight, there is no doubt that grit and mettle that I acquired over the years were useful in overcoming life changing events that could have made suicide seem to be a viable option. Only heartfelt prayers and a strong belief in Almighty God could sustain a person in the situation that I found myself in and I communicated with God regularly!