A father’s tale

In the late 1980s. The character on the right could be anybody.

My father was a very talented but self-centered man. The only other person who interested him as much as himself was his wife, my mother.

Born north of Atlanta in 1915, he roamed the woods of nearby Kennesaw Mountain, scene of a brutal Civil War battle, where he would find rotted military gear.

Rebel vets were still alive when he was born, and he never liked Yankees.

Perhaps this inspired his interest in history. He wanted to be an archaeologist, but the Great Depression prevented that because there were no archaeology departments closer than New Mexico, and who had the cash to go that far?

So he went to the University of Georgia in Athens and studied journalism, which is history in the making. He met my mother there, and they eloped one day on a lunch break from his newspaper job in Atlanta.

He roamed the woods behind my maternal grandparents’ home where he would find Indian arrowheads and spearheads too. And years later we had a burlap bag of stone Indian gear. Cherokees lived on the banks of the cypress pond long ago.

Watching strike-breaking goons in the 1930s was a big part, one supposes, of what made him a socialist, a political stance he never abandoned. He was a fan of Eugene Debs and Michael Harrington. His son, of course, leans in the other direction. Times change.

The old boy was a boozer. I don’t know at what age he started, but he stopped in his early 50s, and spent the following 20-plus years stone sober. He was never a mean or violent drunk, which was good. Instead, he was mellow and sad.

He went to Korea on a troopship during the Second World War. Yes, Korea during the Second World War, not the Korean War. He had a safe desk job, and never took a shot at anybody, which was also good because I doubt he would have done it.

On returning from Korea, he spent the rest of the 1940s on his in-laws’ farm in Southwest Georgia. He raised chickens and wrote short stories, selling both. Eggs too.

But the combination of short stories, poultry and eggs didn’t put sufficient food on the table for a family of four, so he had to return to newspapering, which he did in Jacksonville, Florida, for just over a decade.

Then his mother-in-law died, leaving my parents with a farm, and off they went.

He quit drinking shortly after and wrote poetry — both traditional and haiku — for the rest of his life. He won many prizes and awards for both in the United States and Japan, and he appeared in a number of poetry anthologies.

He became a very big deal in the small world of American haiku.

Two of his books are available on Amazon. One is a “collectible” because it is signed. It can be yours for $20 plus shipping, it says.

I would have preferred Ozzie Nelson.

On a beach in Florida, 1960.

25 thoughts on “A father’s tale”

  1. We always seem to want what the other had. Just what type of person would you have become in an Ozzie and Harriet household? You most likely wouldn’t be who, what, and where you are today!


    1. Debi: It is part of therapeutic gospel that our childhoods play a large role in what we become. I think it plays an even larger role than even most shrinks believe. I believe the effect is enormous.

      No, had Ozzie been my father, I would still be selling insurance in Omaha.


      1. No, had Ozzie been my father, I would still be selling insurance in Omaha.

        Not being of either the Calvinist or B.F. Skinner faith, I do not place much stock in predestination. There is no doubt that what we experience, and the limitations of life itself, do have some effect on our choices. But we ultimately make our own choices. And I suspect you would be right where you are had your dad been Ozzie — either Nelson or Osbourne.

        My dad was not Ozzie Nelson. But he came very close to being Ward Cleaver. And here I am in Mexico living a similar life. What strikes me as odd is that I am neither Wally or the Beaver. I suspect I am far closer to the insincere obsequiousness of Eddie Haskell. And what do I do with that?


        1. Steve: I think that first we are formed by our experiences and environment, and the decisions we make later all come from that formation.

          I would likely be in Omaha.

          I don’t see predestination in this at all.


        2. But on second thought, I do lean heavily toward reincarnation, which is a predestination of sorts. But it applies, as I see it, only in returning you to some specific family or environment. What comes later is not ordained. After birth, free will comes into play.

          All of which is to say: Who knows?


    1. Ms de Bois: We all have hard and soft sides, and they come out sometimes now, sometimes then. In some people, one side comes out more often than the other or, in rare cases, only one side shows its face. These people are either on Death Row, or they are doormats.

      Yes, I resemble the old buzzard to an incredible degree (we were indistinguishable on the telephone), and not just physically.

      There were two big differences, however. He had absolutely no sense of adventure whatsoever, and he loathed travel. He maintained, for instance, that all cities are alike, so why bother?

      When he absolutely had to travel somewhere, which was rare, he kept his watch on Georgia time so he’d know what time it really was.

      On one of my parents’ very rare visits to New Orleans when I lived there (she had to drag him), I took her for a spin on my motorcycle. He wouldn’t get on it. Not long after getting my private pilot’s license, I flew a small plane to an airport near the Georgia farm where they lived at the time. My mother would have gone up for a spin in that too, but he almost had a heart attack at the very thought of it, so she stayed on the ground.


      1. Ohhh – yes I read it wrong …

        So given your comments “It is part of therapeutic gospel that our childhoods play a large role in what we become” — shall we hear about your sister in a future post? Assuming your theory holds for her as well.


        1. Ms. Mommy: I have no doubt that my theory holds true for everyone. Most are just not aware of it.

          There will be no post about my sister. She makes me look like a picture of normality. She is 71, was married once briefly in her 20s, then divorced the guy (nice guy too), has a couple of degrees, works as a therapist (an occupation filled with strange people), declared she was gay in her 40s (I say declared because I’m not completely convinced), has had a “partner” for about 25 years, also a divorcee (three or four kids), is a hard-to-pigeonhole political fanatic, was once one of Louis Farrakhan’s rare white admirers, belongs to a murky organization called Social Therapy, based in New York, which many, including me, label a cult (Google Social Therapy), and now lives and works in Atlanta, wondering how to unload the two pieces of real estate our mother left her in 2009, while her “partner” has been in a small town in Northern California for 8-10 years so she can be near her grandkids who clearly rate higher than my sister. My sister’s goal is to unload the real estate and move (return, actually) to America’s hotbed of radicalism, Oakland, California. She fits right in there. I am not making any of this up.

          So there’s the post about my sister. She has an explosive personality to boot. Best avoided.


  2. Oh my god. I have two sisters who have been in therapy for countless numbers of years. Now I know why. I have long thought that the therapists were more screwed up than their patients, but you just confirmed that for me.

    Sisters – I’m with you, let’s not go there.


    1. Connie: In defense of therapists, oddball as many are, few would be in the same league as my sister who likely occupies her own separate category. Let us not paint too broad a brush.

      But I’m not a fan of therapy. I don’t believe talk therapy is useful over the long haul. It can solve some short-term difficulties, I believe.

      Severe problems are buried so deeply within us that only nuclear-like blasts can bring them to light. Mind-altering drugs can work well for some people. Did for me. I recommend it in a controlled environment.


  3. No Ozzie and Harriet childhood here, that’s for sure. You are right about not putting all therapists in the same league. I have just seen for myself all of the years of therapy that my two sisters have endured and they are no closer to being “cured, healed, better off or anything else. When does it end? Sorry, I am off topic.


    1. Connie: You did not wander off topic. Any talk or my father, or anyone in my family, including me, means that therapy or psychiatric assistance of any sort is appropriate.


    1. Connie: By controlled environment, I mean with someone experienced in those matters. I used a psychologist.

      Two good books:

      Through the Gateway of the Heart, compiled by Sophia Adamson.

      The Secret Chief by Myron J. Stolaroff.

      The latter is published by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.


      Had my father known of such things, perhaps he would not have died sad, which he did.


  4. Thank you. I will order this book. I remember you writing about your experience. I believe you said you smoked or did whatever you do with mushrooms. Would LSD be in this category? Is LSD the same as acid? I do not really know much about these drugs or how they affect the brain. Maybe I should go back and try to find your post about this because I really am curious about the benefits. My sisters have documented mental illness and I wonder if a therapy like this would help them.


    1. Connie: With a wonderful psychologist’s help in 1997, I downed psilocybin (mushrooms) twice and LSD once. Absolutely changed my entire life 1,000 percent. I had never done any of that type of thing back in the 1960s when it was so popular. I was busy with other endeavors.

      Yes, acid is just a nickname for LSD.

      The post I wrote on that is offline now. You won’t find it. Wouldn’t really mean anything if you did.

      These materials have improved mental illness for some. But you have to be very, very careful with it, which is why I say a controlled environment is best. Most people use those materials as recreation. I doubt they get much useful out of it over the long haul. Maybe some do.

      I am a true believer from personal experience.


  5. If you do not mind sharing, what exactly did it do for you? What did it change about you or your life that made it so beneficial for you?

    I never have used any of those drugs either. However, my older son did share with me that he did use acid once and it was a very positive experience for him. I do not recall exactly what he said, but it seems he said that it gave him A LOT of clarity. (I seem to use that word A LOT).


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