Who Am I


Some will call me a liar; others will call me a fool, but the plain truth is this story happened. It is my story, from beginning to end. Well, not exactly the end. I am not dead yet, although time does seem to grow short. This is a story about one man’s journey through life.

Life: Life never gets over. It just moves on. When I asked how he was doing, a good friend once answered: “Just putting one foot in front of the other.” There it is, for you philosophy buffs. For all you psychology types who seek the solutions to all your behavioral ills, one simple line: “Just putting one foot in front of the other

Tell me. What more profound statement is there for how to get through life? The life that never ends but goes on, whether we are on the scene or not. Can you think of a day, even one day, when the sun never came up? Can you think of one day when night never fell? Can you imagine a year when summer never came, or winter forgot to show up? In other words, can you think of a time when the earth stopped rotating on its axis? Never! Time does not stop. This story is about a life that is still going, a world that continues.

For the quickly bored, do not fear. This story is not a chronology of belly button contemplation. Not that contemplating one’s belly button is a waste of time, mind you. I am rather fond of my belly button. Besides being Mother Nature’s lint trap, my belly button has taught me many great lessons. (When I think deeply about life’s vagaries, I always say I am contemplating my belly button.) But that is for another chapter.

Birth: Moving along, I was born in Idaho at Mountain Home Air Force Base. The USAF is still in business, but Mt. Home is not. I drew my first breath of life early on August 1, 1944. I had been letting someone else breathe for me before that date. My parents thought it was a special day, but it was ordinary. That is when all things happen, you know, on regular days. If you look at the calendar, no days are designated “special.” Yes, yes. We commemorate days and days that are designated holidays, but no “special” days (unless you work for the government or a bank). “Special” only gets tacked on afterward.

The Butterball: I was the typical kid for the first six weeks of my life. Affectionately called a “butterball.” I was born a fat little kid. You know how babies are. With no intent to offend all the world’s mothers, you must admit that newborns look alike. Red, even blotchy skin, a little ashtray on the top of the head, primarily asleep except when they want to urinate, defecate, eat, yell (not in that order), and act as the social center of attention for all passersby. I was a good kid. I performed all those functions admirably.

Medical Problem: Somewhere between the age of two to six weeks, life changed. I went from ordinary to not ordinary. The first of many significant obstacles opened to view. My parents were told I had a hole in my heart. Many kids are told they have “a hole in your head.” Mine was in my heart—a hole about the size of a silver dollar. Without boring you with the technical, medical stuff, it meant that a portion of the oxygen-depleted blood returning to the heart from my body would pass through the hole and return to the body without first going through the lungs to pick up oxygen. The express line may be good at the supermarket, but it is not good in the heart. The blood that hit the express line missed the lungs. Or I say it better: there is not enough new oxygen. It was a construction problem. It was not my mother’s fault; she was a great engineer. But whoever was the supervisor over the heart construction must have been asleep at the switch. (Many times, my father did later tell me about the hole in my head.)

I would die from an enlarged heart by the age of twelve, the doctors told my parents. I would suffocate slowly, but the heart would do its best not to let that happen. It is no accident that the heart is associated with love in folklore. No other organ in your body comes close to the commitment made by your heart to keep you happy, healthy, and moving, well, maybe the brain. But the other body parts and organs are all wimps by comparison. And think about how we treat our hearts, both physically and emotionally. Regardless of how we treat it, the heart keeps on beating. It reminds me of the old Timex Watch commercial: “It takes a beating and keeps on ticking.” (If you remember that commercial, it tells you how old I am.) I can only imagine how my parents felt. The “butterball” was now a “blue baby” destined to die before my parents, which, of course, would break a cardinal rule: Children are not supposed to die before their parents.

Medical Doctors and Surgeries: As a result of my heart situation, from early life on, I spent many hours with doctor’s appointments. At age eight, I had my first heart surgery at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. My fourth heart surgery occurred just before I was age sixteen at the Presbyterian Medical Center in San Francisco, CA. I was put on a machine that breathed for me and pumped my blood while the doctors cut my heart open and plugged the hole between the two ventral portions of my heart. The heart issue profoundly influenced my life, which I will talk about in another portion of this memoir.

Life Lessons: My heart taught me many lessons. The first was already apparent: Fasten your seatbelt. Life is going to test your survival skills, so you might as well get ready. I already mentioned my friend who gave the way to survive life: “Just putting one foot in front of the other.” And what about “special?” There are no special days, only ordinary ones we may label as special. How about holidays? We love holidays, but most people will tell you they need to go back to work to recuperate from the holiday. The truth about life lessons is that Life offers a new lesson almost every day. The question is whether we have the brains and attention to reap the learning.

Siblings: The next few years went along without incident, other than siblings. My predicted demise certainly did not curtail my parents’ reproductive process. Six more children came, three girls and three boys. They are all different, and each has a story, which I could tell you, but I still want Christmas presents from them, so I will refrain.

Education: At age five (or six), I was kicked out of preschool because I bugged other children around me (who did not want to take a nap either) rather than take a nap. Elementary school began in Glen Burnie, MD, and finished in Fair Oaks, CA. There is nothing special to report about elementary school except that heart issues prevented me from participating in athletics, which further compounded my difficulty with self-esteem. Graduated from eight grade at Fair Oaks Elementary in 1958. Then, it was off to high school in Atwater, CA. (You notice town changes. My father was in the US Air Force and sent to various duty locations.) High years were great fun. Experiences are told in various chapters. I graduated high school in 1962. Then, it was off to college: Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. I received a bachelor’s degree from BYU in 1969. I received a master’s degree from Fresno State College (now a university) in Fresno, CA, in 1971. I received a Ph.D. from BYU in 1975. Since then, I have been continuously involved in education and training opportunities, but that is for another time.