The Beginning


The history goes that I was born on August 1, 1944, sometime in the early morning, between 3 and 4 AM.

At ten days of age, my parents were told there was something wrong with my heart. The doctor said that I likely would not live beyond ten to twelve years—more on that in the Chapter on Health. What follows are some stories recalled about my young pre-school life.

The Great Dane Dog: When I was two, my mother told me we visited my grandparents (Robinson) in Boise, ID. They lived at 119 Eiden Drive in Boise, ID. Grandparents had a Great Dane dog. One time at lunch, I was given a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Reportedly, I went out of the house to eat my sandwich. Mother found the dog and me having lunch together. I was eating the dog’s food, and he was eating my sandwich—I learned to share at a very young age. Lesson: Sharing with a man’s best friend is a way of life.

Grandparent’s house was set back off the street about 50 feet, with a driveway extending out to the street. I was allowed to go out in the yard and play by myself. Every time I would head for the street, the dog would gently grab me by the collar of my shirt and haul me back to the house. That Great Dane was a great babysitter. Lesson: A dog is an excellent partner/babysitter. No cat would ever attempt to protect you.

Catching a fish: I have only caught one fish in my entire life, which is a vague memory. Mother said I was age four years old. I do not know where I was. My parents were on a romantic cruise on a river and took me along (save on babysitting). I was bored, of course. I wanted to go fishing. My parents got the staff to fix me up a fishing pole, a stick with a string on it, and some sort of hook, probably a safety pin. Likely, this “hook” did not go clear to the water, but then I would not know because I was too short to see over the boat railing. There I was “fishing.” After a while, I was distressed that I was not catching any fish. Again, parents talked with staff. While I was distracted, one of the staff hooked a fish on my line, which had been retrieved from the galley. I was ecstatic. The great fisherman had caught a fish. Mother said I prized that fish. I wanted to eat it, but it was likely not good. She told me we would keep it for a special occasion. I was satisfied. Into the freezer, the fish went. Soon, I had forgotten about it. Not long after that, it went into the trash. Lesson: Like all great fishermen, I tell you this story, but you have no idea if it is true.

Life in Hawai’i

The day I ran away from home: When I was about five, I got mad at my mother (I have no idea why). I decided I was going to run away from home. We were living in Hawaii at the time. My father was stationed at Hickam Air Base. It was around four in the afternoon. I told my mother I was running away. She gave me a lunch sack with some food and offered me a jacket so I would not get cold. Then she bid me farewell and told me to have a good trip. Resolutely and with some indignation, I was out the front door of the base housing where we lived. I got to the end of the sidewalk (which was all of fifteen feet) and looked up. The sky was dark and cloudy. I decided it might rain. I turned around and went back into the house. Mother said she was happy for me to return but never scolded me for leaving nor laughed at me for coming back. I ate the food in the lunch sack. Lesson: Do not get in the way of a resolute five-year-old. The child will soon figure it out.

My first (and only) cigarette: When I was six, still living on base housing in Hawaii from where I had run away the year before (right…15 feet out of the house before returning). It was a nice Saturday morning before breakfast. Some same-aged friends from the neighborhood came around and suggested we investigate the abandoned theater down the way. The five of us trotted off to the theater feeling like intrepid explorers. Finding a way in was a bit scary, all dark and rundown, but we thought we were class A adventurers.

While standing in a group inside the dark theater, one of the kids pulled out a pack of cigarettes he had spirited away from his father. He pulled out a stogie (the word we used in those days), intending to light up. He tried to be cool and knowledgeable, but his trouble getting the cigarette to light showed him to be a novice. Finally, around the circle of boys, the burning cigarette came; each boy took a puff and tried to look cool. I did not want to take a puff, but I had to be cool in front of my buddies. Finally, it was my turn. Because we were all novices, no one was flicking the ash off the cigarette’s tip. I took a little drag and began to pass to the next guy when the ash fell onto my t-shirt over the left pictorial muscle and burned a small hole. Oh, Man!!??!! Now what?

Soon, I heard my mother calling for breakfast. The theater was not far from my house. I left and went home. Seated at the breakfast table, my mother noticed the burn on my t-shirt and asked what happened. I probably had the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look on my face. Trying to act surprised, I denied any prior knowledge of the burn spot. Most six-year-olds are terrible liars. I am positive my mother knew what the burn was. I had to be smelling of cigarettes. But she said nothing. Lesson: If you are going to lie to your mother and hope she will believe you, get some pointers from a psychopath first.

The reason I am not a genius: Age six must have been a tough time for me. The family is at home in Hawaii. My father is tossing my younger brother, David, up into the air and catching him. Brother was giggling, laughing, and having a great time. I wanted to have the same great time. I begged Father to toss me up, but he declined to say I was too big and too heavy. What heavy? Every little kid believes their father to be as strong as an ox, and I was no different. I begged and begged. Finally, he relented and tossed me up. What great fun. Do it again, I begged. No! He said once was enough. I continued to beg, and my father finally again relented. On the third toss-up, as I came down, Father lost his grip. I spun over and landed on my head on a concrete floor, stars flashing through my head.

I am certain my skull was cracked, and some of my brains leaked out! 😊 That is the reason I am not a genius. 😊 Lesson: If you are going to beg, be not also stupid.

God takes a bath: I do not recall my age, maybe three or four years old. One day, when it was raining outside, I asked my mother if God was taking a shower. It made perfectly good sense to me. I thought that if cleanliness is next to Godliness, then surely God will take a shower.

Lesson: Preschoolers ask the most perceptive questions.

Kicked out of preschool: I must have been four or five years old. I was attending a preschool, or maybe it was daycare. I do not recall. I just know it was before I entered formal school. The deal at that place was that you had to nap after lunch. Everyone got out their blanket, put it on the floor, and took a nap. The problem was I was not the nap kind of kid. I did not want to take a nap. I kept bugging kids around me (who did not want to nap either, but neither did they want to get into trouble, so they were faking it). The teacher or leader (I do not know what they were) kept telling me to be quiet, take a nap, and behave myself. OK. OK. I stopped bugging people, but I refused to go to sleep. No way, Jose! And neither was I going to fake it. After several days of no-napping behavior, the leader told my mother I could not return. What! I was kicked out of preschool because I would not take a nap! What!? It was old school. What do you expect? Lesson: Learn to fake it, or you will be kicked out. (As an adult, this mentality reminds me of the current political attitude in the country.)

Saved by a girl: When I was about seven, I was walking down the sidewalk toward my house. It was afternoon. Perhaps I was walking home from school. The neighborhood bully showed up, called me some names (which I do not recall), pushed me to the ground, and sat on me as I lay on my back. He continually verbally abused me. A girl about our age (I did not know her) came out of her house onto her porch. She yelled at the bully to leave me alone. Whatever power the girl had, I do not know, but the bully took off. The girl went back into her house. How embarrassing thought! Saved by a girl! Even at age seven, I knew girls were not supposed to have to save boys. Lesson: Shades of things to come. We now have women admitted to the Navy Seals.