From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chapter 1, The First Half, I Have Set My Face Like a Flint

Chapter 1

"There are some among us who live in rooms of experience we can never enter”  John Steinbeck

He stood in the middle of the street, completely immobile, unable for some time to move.  There he struggled to suppress the words from his consciousness that he had just heard from his mother’s mouth.  Whatever small trespass he had committed was a lost thought.   Her words were so cruel, that for the rest of his life he would never recall what he had done that day, or any detail concerning the incident, only her words.   Those words she had shouted would sometimes threaten at the edges of his mind at the most unexpected times, usually when he was relaxing, and especially when he observed young families of soldiers.  He had been innocently playing some childhood game, being the child he was, and so seldom allowed to be.  She had come running from the house in a rage over something he had done or not done, and at the end of her chastisement, she wounded his child’s heart with a wound that would never quite heal.

The weapon with which he combated such assaults of childhood, and still in adulthood utilized whenever threatened, was work.  Always when he worked hard at anything, the demons of his childhood, and more importantly in adulthood, all negative life experiences, were held at bay.  Work had always done that for him; been a rock and a high place of safety from the disregard of his feelings and needs by his warring parents.   He was only five years old when he stood in the street paralyzed that day, but those words would never leave him, and the purity of his child’s heart accepted, somewhere in his subconscious, the words as legitimate.   Years later he would have accepted the raging accusations of  the general as an accurate assessment as well, except that this woman who he had only recently pledged himself to in marriage, sat beside him and said, “wait, that isn’t the way it is.”  Never had he been so grateful for words, and as she talked with him, his mathematician’s mind, and bent toward the scientific method of thought and reasoning, along with his own personal honesty, realized her assessment was true.  

His earliest memories consisted of episodes of violence from his father toward his mother, which were so severe in nature, that eventually his father broke her leg during a fit of alcohol driven rage.   Troubled by nightmares, the colonel often awoke in childhood in the dark in stark terror, without the memory of what the content of his dreams had been.  By sheer self discipline, he was eventually able to shut down the memory of the visions of violence and pain, thus locking them away in a compartment of his mind where ready access was difficult.  Years later as he commanded Soldiers during war, the understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not difficult for him, even though he never found himself in an actual combat scenario, never had to kill another man, nor watch another he served with be wounded or killed.

No act of neglect or abuse by either of his parents ever turned his love toward them sour.  He would always try to behave, in every act of childhood, in such a way as to provoke neither of his parents to anger.  This strategy would sometimes work, and sometimes not.  He applied himself to every task that was assigned him by either of them, to the very best of his ability.  He and his step-sister, Kathy, would creep carefully and silently about the house, fearful of causing the explosion of either of their parents.  He later went to war as a man completely aware from these experiences of the vigilance required to avoid the deadly IED’s.  

His step-sister seemed in particular to grate at his father’s nerves, and he would often curse at her, and call her a “bitch.”  At first in his efforts to please them both, and avoid negative consequences, he struggled with trying to achieve perfection in every task assigned.  His mother had realized this in him, and dutifully worked to instill the notion that perfection, if sacrificed for productivity, amounted to failure.  Her probable motivation was not one of maternal nurturing, but more that of an employer who was extracting better performance from an employee.  The colonel had many responsibilities in childhood, and was required to serve constantly at the beckoning of both his parents.  Always he would dwell on whatever positive skills and wisdom his mother had imparted to him, making this in his mind the basis of her character, rather than her acts of immorality and the neglectful abuse he experienced from her hand.  This was not always a cognizant thought process, but rather the self-preservation tactic of a highly intelligent mind, and a gentle nature.  This lesson also was the foundational thought process that would result in a phenomenal ability to execute all his plans and goals, whether personal, or those of any employer.

He always adored his mother, and despite all her negative behavior, and the cruelty which she continued to deal to him even in adulthood, he would do so until the day she died.  The same was true of his father.  Anything of positive value concerning his parent’s behavior toward him, remained the only thoughts he actively rehearsed concerning both of them.  The bitter resentment and disdain one would expect from a man who had been raised as he had, were never allowed to take root in his mind in the first place, and therefore he never experienced their torment.  His childhood experiences were not excess baggage, or anything that held him back from accomplishment and a positive outlook on life, and in those moments during and right after his encounter with the general, they would in fact empower him.