Mom, Dad & Elementary My Dear Tommy (Chapter 1 of Autobiography) r.d.

For Introduction/PrefacešŸ‘ˆ go here (

1 word keeps coming to mind as I attempt to write my autobiography. That word is vulnerability.

With that in mind, here we go.


(r.d., unedited)

Although this is an autobiography it’s not just about me. It’s really an overall story with deeper meanings much bigger than me.

Let this early footage roll (video of my dad trying to play 8mm home movies from when they first married on up until I turned 8):

Photographic Evidence, sounds like a good band name or at least a working title for something. Perhaps we’ll revisit these videos later, if we can get the “danthin” to work.

MOM, DAD & my Elementary age

Photo of mom & dad 2019

I could, and probably will, write a whole book on just my parents. For this chapter I’m going to try to keep it autobiographical, giving my perspective and their role in my life.

I’m also amazed when I think back to the role I played in their lives. Oh how they loved, cared for, and point blank tolerated me (AND THEY STILL DO)!!!

It’s not easy to sit & write an entire autobiography, but I think it can be very helpful in discovering who we are, why we are the way we are, & how we relate to others.

Sometimes we become who we are because of our parents. Other times people develop into who they are and what they do in spite of how they were raised & the poor example that their parents displayed. In certain cases when a parent is successful in life their children become successful in life. When a parent is abusive many people feel that their offspring will follow suit; however, the child that is neglected or abused could later grow up and mature into a very loving, caring parent that shows healthy physical discipline but without any abusive behavior because they want to be a better parent than what they witnessed first hand as a child. I personally know people who have overcome the odds. Their childhood memories are dark but their future & the future of their children is bright.

Parents set examples for us without even trying. As humans we usually mimic what we see. So, many times our characteristics are inherited, not something we purposefully achieved. Our mannerisms seem to just come naturally. Others will even comment how much we remind them of our mother or father, not just in looks but in our actions or decision making.

For me, both of my patents were great role models & consciously worked on their own lifestyles just as a sculptor works on chiseling something out of a rock. They purposefully took part in building a solid foundation for themselves & didn’t allow negative influences to dictate what they would & wouldn’t partake of. They were also proactive in the lives of their children, purposefully nurturing our nature; Come to think about it, they were extremely positively, active role models in every neighborhood & community in which they were involved.

In the 70’s my mom, like many mothers from that decade, stayed home & took care of the house & household. That is more than a full time job in and of itself. Although she cleaned house, did laundry, made sure we got to school and such, my dad also washed dishes, vacuumed, helped with the laundry and was very active with household chores; as well as working outside in our yard. Each of us kids were responsible for certain tasks too. My sisters would debate the fact that all I did was collect the garbage or clean the base boards while they were assigned many more chores than I. Being the youngest I think many times less responsibility is expected and given because you are “the baby”. Now that I am older & have had 5 children of my own I see that that is often the case. Often children grow faster than our minds allow them too. We find ourselves wanting them to always be our sweet li’l innocent baby and yet, sometimes, we want them to grow up faster.

Photograph of Dad teaching me to march.

My dad, oh what I can say about my dad! One thing for sure is that he did not sit still very often. Even in his 80’s now (2019 as I write this) he finds it hard to be still, and if he does he falls asleep. He has always gone to extremes and he still does. Growing up I don’t remember seeing him just sit. He was always on the go. We had a hammock in the back yard that rotted from lack of use but it was always there for the rare rest he might have taken. In my early childhood it was also rare for him to be away from the house on long extended work trips. Somehow he always put in 100% of himself at his job and 100% of himself at home. He started the 1st U.S.O. in St. Augustine, FL (just south of Jacksonville where I live now). As a family we’d get tours of military ships, participate in parades and saw great performers, all part of the U.S.O. work.

Often I’d end up on parade floats dressed as a sailor.

I especially enjoyed the carnival rides brought in for the U.S.O. “pal days” to raise money & awareness for U.S.O. (The United Service Organization) for active military men and their families.

Me & Jimmy Morrow (the son of my dad’s co-work Danny Morrow)

I’m packed in there with Jimmy & Ruthy Morrow (Danny’s son & daughter)

This was the only real link between The Salvation Army and The U.S. Army. My dad, formerly a S.A. (Salvation Army) officer, later an A.P. Sergeant (Air Police for The Air Force) returned to working for The S.A. uniquely as a liaison between the two different structured corporations.

I can still picture seeing my dad’s shiny shoes & long legs move at the speed of light. I never reached the heights of my dad’s physical physique. He is 6 foot tall and at my tallest I am only 5′ 7″. As a child, 2 to 3 feet tall, when I couldn’t move fast enough to keep up he’d always carry me. I remember being carried often so he could get to all the people he wanted to touch base with, places he needed to be & things he desired to accomplish in his own speedy, almost always rushed, time frame of his life. He was very driven & drove us with that same intensity. I even have a vivid recollection of being carried as he walked the Jacksonville Beach in leisure. I can still taste the saltwater on his shoulder as he cradled me or gently draped me over his shoulder like a beach towel.

When not trying to follow my dad I’d be at the feet of my mom. To this day she still remarks how a simple chore like ironing brings her satisfaction. She basked in the sense of accomplishing tasks & the priceless reward of a hard days work at home with & for our family.

There is something to be said about accomplishing thing for the well being of your family.

Both of my parents excelled in that.

In my life the work I enjoyed the most was when I was actually doing something that was directly related to the care of others, especially my own family, my amazing children Kyri, Alexx, Olivia, Madi & Abbey. At certain times of my life I was a stay at home dad. My full time job was not just a job to make money but sweeping the floors at home, changing diapers, getting the laundry & dishes clean, taking my kids to playgrounds or playing with them on the floor, to this day I still treasure that as the best job I ever had.

My parents found satisfaction in living life and they showed it. They knew the importance of a family as a unit.

Although they were in the prime age of their lives in the 60’s they never went to drugs or alcohol for an escape or for pleasure. They took in the simple things and found joy in family. They looked to God as a foundation and built upwards from there.

I just had a flash back to my dad in a hammock in that big back yard in Jacksonville Florida. He did take time to relax & recreate. We had a very big backyard that backed on the Big Pottsburg Creek, which flowed into the St. John’s river in Jacksonville Florida. We even had an area for our own chicken coop. Here is a picture from 1971. I’m with my grandparents on my dad’s side and…a drum.

Our yard spread a pretty far distance from the house, about 2 acres. I was encouraged to get out of the house & venture some distance,

I think my constant banging on anything that resembled a drum had a lot to do with that parental prompting to get out of the house.

We did have to keep an eye out for occasional gators that would find their way out of the creek & onto our land. My dad & I would go on b.b. gun shooting safaris in that backyard. He’d place a milk carton in a tree and a can on the ground some place, challenging me to shoot them on sight as if we were hunting for big game.

Some how he got roofing companies to come and dump their wasted shingles & debris so that the land wouldn’t be all swampy. He had the foresight to fill the land so that we’d have a better foundation that allowed us to walk all the way back to where the water meets the land, also so that the water wouldn’t keep claiming more & more land. He knew if he worked hard enough to keep the creek from eroding the land the value of the property would go up. Until it was filled, solid ground, my dad fashioned bridges over the marshy sections with old doors, an old washing machine & a few odds and ends large parts from various appliances so that I really felt like I was deep in the Florida everglades, all without ever leaving our backyard. There were dangers, but nothing too extreme. This was in the 70’s, long before we fully understood environmental precautions or any real level of security in protective gear. Many times I’d be barefoot & climb through huge tractor tires that were half buried. We didn’t wear goggles when shooting the b.b. gun, a helmet when riding our bikes, let alone shin, wrist or elbow guards while skate boarding. We weren’t breaking any rules, it was just part of life. We paid no mind to those type of things. I’m not sure why, it’s not that we were primitive, there was just a general low level of awareness in health & ecology. This was a decade when many cars didn’t even come with seat belts (funny story about that coming up).

We were sheltered in many ways & watched over probably more than any parent is even able to do in this day and age, after all we are now in the 21st centry, not just a few years later but living in an entirely different centry! In some ways there was little awareness to health issues. Doctors were actually saying smoking was good for you. There were t.v. adds stating what brand of cigarettes Doctors preferred. Smoking on air planes, let alone restaurants was totally permitted. I also remember Dune buggy races on the beaches. The average everyday family was even permitted to drive all up and down Jacksonville beach, on the sand! Many would park their oil dripping cars & large diesel trucks on the quick absorbing sand. As kids we’d use the street lights coming on as a signal to come on inside. Meeting strangers, and going in and out of neighbor’s homes, was always welcomed. My cousin Robert, who is close to my age, was reminiscent about an older single man down the street from him in Pennsylvania that he and his 4 siblings would visit regular. They were welcome in his house and they’d hang out. He was a man friend, with no shady or perverted agenda. We knew nothing of molesters or children being kidnapped. It happened but it was rare or just not heard of. Adults would hand out candy, even when it wasn’t Halloween, just to be nice, not to trap kids like in the fictional story of Hansel & Gretel. There were huge organization such as, “The Boy & Girl Scouts of America”, “Boy and Girl’s Clubs”The Y.M.C.A.” and “Y.W.C.A.” (young men’s/women’s Christian Association) whose structure have drastically changed over the past 50 years. There is nothing wrong with change, but in the case of some organizations perversion not only entered their structure it was tolerated and in some circumstances conducted by various leaders in certain sects of their corporation. To avoid over priced hotels or pitching a tent when in need of shelter people didn’t go to organizations to just flop, use drugs and be promiscuous. They went in need to avoid being homeless. Not even the Church was exempt from the wild fire of human perversions and ungodly passions. I recall The Catholic Church faced accusations of molestation by some of their priest and abuse by some of the nuns. Cults existed, no doubt, but not to the extent of today. Now, I think now more than ever, too many of the righteous have become so self righteous & lost without admitting it, and I feel like there are many more wolves in sheep’s clothing. What use to be a sanctuary has become Satan’s playground & no longer a safe place for refuge & divine comfort and guidance. I guess the hypocrisy from Jesus’s day has just matured into a more sophisticated monster that looks appealing on the outside with it’s glitz & glamour, but inside is full of the same prideful rotten muck waiting to suck people in, chew them up, and spit them back out. Rather than blatantly proclaiming to be a cult some well intended agencies have been corrupted from within its own ranks & structure.

I think too many people prey on others rather than pray for them.

Perhaps is is inevitable that some leaders end up give in to their personal desires rather than abiding to the original desires and mission of the once fully trustworthy groups, let alone a benevolent loving God who desires to watch over and protect mankind. Just a few bad apples end up ruining the once pure motives of trustworthy communities. Rather than being godly & Christ-like some think they are God and decide to play God, placing a bad taste in the mouths of people seeking to belong to a wholesome group.

When I was growing up people were victims of a variety of crimes; however, we rarely locked our doors and couldn’t fathom a police officer, teacher, minister or neighbor being unjust in any way, form, or fashion. Grant it, I grew up in Florida, before moving just outside of the more metropolitan city of Cleveland Ohio. The area of Jacksonville,where we lived, was far from any metropolitan city or urban community. It wasn’t completely rural, out in the woods or boonies, nor was it a subdivision as we saw in the ’80’s, but there is no question: it is common knowledge and statistics will show that Florida in general makes the headlines with the craziest stories. Now we are faced with headlined such as, “Florida Man…” followed by unimaginable feats that are stranger than fiction. When you do a search it states, “Here is the latest.”, because of the regularity of foolish incomprehensible behaviors. It’s my understanding that, within these past few years, Jacksonville was labeled as having the highest murder rate. It’s no laughing matter, but I heard a comedian hit the nail on the head when he sarcastically said, “Florida should change their state motto to…

“FLORIDA, where the elderly take salt baths and young people smoke bath salts.”

Again, in general terms, I think those who have lived the past 20 years or more can say that they have seen drastic changes in society in good ways & bad ways regarding crime, safety precautions, and health awareness. Maybe it’s because we continue to make such great leaps in news media availability. People are more aware, but also more afraid of fraudulent lawsuits or being accused of treating anyone unfair. Either way, sometimes I feel like our awareness has risen to the point of judging almost everyone and everything, having to question all offers and taking every extra precautions possible. We find it strange & unusual when someone is simply nice to the point of us having to questioning what their hidden agenda is. Part of us have a hidden fear that those people must be nuts or just strange when they are trying to simply show genuine sincerity. What once were common acts of kindness are now seen as weird and the act of some perverted individual attempting to taking advantage of our innocence. There is even an official term now describing this, “Catfishing” – as in,

“She/he was being catfished by a cruel prankster”
The definition is to specifically & deliberately lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
We also now seem to find it necessary to give extra thought of how we word things, most live with an extra amount of concern of being politically correct to the point of expressing an extreme amount of censorship rather than a healthy balance of respectfulness when using our freedom of speech.

There is a line from a song called “Like it, Love it, Need it” that I think gives a good description of the decades we are living in. That line is,

“We’re anti everybody. Call it paranoia. (It goes on to say) I ain’t no judge or jury but I’m prayin’ for ya.” -DcTalk

As I grow older, and some how more wise & mature, I have to say that times were not necessarily better when I was growing up, just different. Too often older people disrespect the youth of today simply out of misunderstanding and perhaps because they feel disrespected. Isn’t that what causes turmoil in families, a generation against generations?

Maybe we can uphold things we treasure from our past without insisting & fighting the natural change & on going evolution of mankind. I’d like not to argue over the standard term of evolution (man evolving from an monkey) but recognizing progress & progression, accepting that things change, without compromising our own values and standards. As I raise children of my own I pray to The One and only God, with a capital “G”. The One whom I strive to have a personal relationship with. I daily trust that His will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. The world in general may not give Him credit, but I do & not only because that’s the way I was raised.

Something needs to be said here about what I see and experience while visiting my parents now in the year 2019. In certain ways it is like jumping back in time, back when there seemed to be more family values and some how value found in family. I notice bookshelves filled with books, not a tablet or iPod filled with e-books, On top and within the bookshelves are figurines of past Salvation Army leaders sitting next to Santa Clause (St. Nicholas) kneeling at the feeding troath the baby Jesus was placed in. The makeshift cradle is empty, just as empty as the cross. My folks share the same beliefs as I: Jesus grew up, no longer in the cradle. Jesus died on the cross but HE is not still there. We take joy in our faith that He rose and that He’s coming again. Mom was raised Catholic but as the dogmatic lines between Catholicism & Protestants blur and blend so also religion takes a back seat; but in my families case, only to develop a relationship with & through Jesus, The Christ. It’s His standards we try to live by, regardless of what’s going on in this world around us. My life is one that went from just a ritualistic religious attendance of church to getting personal with God one on one. The platform & foundations set for me by my parents has definitely helped.

Now, for the funny story about cars with no seat belts. When I was 2 or 3 I use to stand on the seat right next to my dad as he drove. He’d put his arm around me for security and we’d even pass back and forth a glass bottle of Coke-a-Cola from time to time (share a Coke & a smile). On one such night a police officer who had been following us for a while pulled my dad over & approached the car, shining his bright flash light inside the car window. My dad slowly rolled down the window (by hand). My dad recalls seeing my big brown eyes being the size of saucers and the white light made my blonde hair shimmer. The police officer broke into boisterous out loud laughter. He explained to my dad that it appeared to him from behind that the adult driver and his date were sharing a bottle of beer. He really thought I was a full grown female. I can imagine his surprise when he saw it was just a father and son sharing a coke.

While in Jacksonville, Fl, just starting school, my dad and I joined “The Indian Guides“. In 2015 apparently they had to change the theme of the group or be dropped from support by the YMCA. All I know is of my first hand experience back in the 1970’s. We learned about real Native American Tribes, some of which no longer exist, and it was a great way to get fathers and their children to bond with each other and others. We went to a camp out overnight and met regularly to play games and learn a few life skills. I think I gained more social skills through the program than anything else.

As was the tradition for everyone in the ‘tribe’ my dad and I had to come up with good Indian nicknames for us personally. After much thought we came up with our own descriptive Indian names. Are you ready for this?

My dad was Big Frog and I was Little Tadpole.

It fit us perfect. We were like two peas in a pod. Our Halloween costumes were often times something we both wore as a matching theme. I don’t mean that we just looked alike, dressing the same in matching outfits, what I mean is one time he was the Jolly Green Giant and I was the little guy called Sprout. These were very popular in the commercials advertising canned and frozen vegetables back in those days. Another time I got on his shoulders and wore a big long shirt so that it appeared like we were one giant person. I really liked that one because I got to smoke a fake cigar and wear a Derby hat.

Although I was very young I recall our days as a family unit living in Jacksonville, Florida. While on the subject of the costume parties, my sister Pauline dressed as an upside down clown. The problem was she had to walk around with shoes on her hands & stretch her arms up in the air above her head for it to work right.

Because my dad ran the USO clubs in Jax & St. Augustine we got to go to dances & all kinds of parties, see live bands, and experience all kinds of performers. I recall clearly parades we not only watched, but in which we were participants. Like I said earlier, my mom worked at home mostly. That in & of itself was a full time job with me not old enough to be in school yet. As I look back I’ve learned that from my family,

“As important as a career & being successful at a job is it was social clubs & church activities that helped us make sure we had time to bond with each other and others.”

Social clubs still exists in this day and age, but with the internet I think they are more virtual than reality; however, people are still drawn to have some type of community, gatherings, meet-ups and fellowship in real life with others with whom they have things in common.

As a family we always had a very tight relationship, but we didn’t keep to ourselves. My dad, being very outspoken and an extrovert made friends with everyone who crossed his path. To this day he still keeps in touch with people he met long before I was even born. I am a lot like him. I spent a lot of time with him. I was close to my mother as well and I spend a lot of time with her during the day, but as I said before, during those days and time boys who had fathers in the household spent more time with their father and girls spent time with the mother. Divorce was very rare and mixed families, or whatever the politically correct term would be for families that didn’t fall under the ‘traditional structure’ (mom, dad & 3.5 children), were just something that we would see on TV modeled by “The Brady Bunch”.

As the 70s ended we started to see more acceptance toward families that were mixed in some way or another. The popular TV sitcom “Different Strokes” was about a single white man who adopted two African American boys. It’s very strange to me now to think how unusual it was back then to see an African-American dating a Caucasian, let alone families with different ethnic backgrounds. Although I didn’t personally see racial issues, in some cases people were very discriminatory in those years. There were riots & even a few businesses in certain U.S. cities that were discriminate toward individuals’ race. I didn’t understand why and I still can’t comprehend any human being regardless of their race, religious beliefs, gender or otherwise, being treated unfairly, shunned or even physically beaten. I never understood why anybody would be considered a minority. It’s ironic to me to this day how the definition of the word ‘minority’ has changed. It used to just mean that there ‘are not as many’ and that they’re not part of the majority, however, nowadays I think the definition or connotation to being a minority means that you’re treated unfair, regardless of the census count of how many members of any particular race there is.

Living in Florida, where I did seem to come in contact with more white people than anyone one else from another race, my oldest sister’s high school was just starting to integrate by busing other ethnic cultures into the school so all races would be able to intermingle. We were out of the 60’s now and it was time no longer to have things labeled “whites only” and take down the signs claiming “no coloreds allowed”. Being born in 1968 I would never see that ridiculous & moronic behavior in humanity.

As a family soon we would be moving to Cleveland Ohio and my dad’s main work would be in a downtown area called “Hough” that less than a decade before our arrival had serious race riots take place. Billy Graham went through the neighborhood and The Salvation Army built an amazing Community Center (more on that in the next chapter).

Many books, journals, & documentation have already been written about the historical down falls, both the de-evolution & improvement of mankind. For me, here & now, I want to remain on the specific subject of my parents, the examples they set, as well as my engagement with them and their discipline in my life.

My parents sheltered me from many things, but they sheltered themselves also. Perhaps much can be said about some dangers of being sheltered, but I know now that there are great advantages to building a hedge of protection around one’s self & around your family.

Not that we should block out the needs of others & the world around us, but that we can benefit from being on guard, setting up privacy fences, firewalls, & focusing on a healthy environment while minding our own business.

If we all would focus on living better, rather than pointing out how others are living I think there would be a little more peace in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and even in the world.

We can remove things that are toxic to us & toxic to our families’ well being so that our survival rate has a better chance. Although we may not agree with how others live, I think it is more important for us to focus on how we live, trust God to make things right, & accept the fact that every family is going to be as different as each person in those families. Each person has to choose how they will live their lives. Because we are all different that means there will be sibling rivalry & discord but what I saw growing up was a mom & dad who gave, contributed, to each other, focused on themselves while still caring for us, each other, and showing care to those outside our family unit, too. They loved themselves enough to recognize that we are all connected, & if you care for those around you then your life is better too. They expressed unconditional love to everyone, without adopting the swinger’s lifestyle or the experimental drug faze that was huge in the 60’s & 70’s. I don’t recall my mom or dad bashing other’s lifestyles & habits while at the same time making a conscious decision to live how they wanted to, drug free, alcohol free and monogamous. The TV Sitcom, “All In The Family”, displayed a character named Archey Bunker who was the perfect example of a Bigot. My father would, from time to time, express his intolerance for certain lifestyle choices but when interacting with the community he was always very kind. It was as if at home he felt safe to carry on (rant & rave) about things & certain people that bothered him, rubbed him the wrong way. He just didn’t understand. I think misunderstanding or perhaps not understanding at all those who are different is where the real problem with acceptance starts.

“Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand” -Neil Peart

With this in mind, outside the four walls of our home, when engaging with people displaying or participating in lifestyles or behavior he decided were unacceptable, he accepted them. He hated lying, but he didn’t hate the liar. It wasn’t really a matter of, as some say, “Hate the sin love the sinner.” It was more along the lines of people are people, we are all participants in things that are perhaps not healthy for us or society, let alone that fit into a relationship with a Holy God, but Christ Himself showed acceptance to all. We read documentation (the Bible) of Jesus, The Christ, not going around singling out every day people’s sin, rather, he is seen often condemning the misconduct of religious leaders who condemned others yet were sinful in other ways. Christ knew they should know better and one sin is not worse than another. It was just as wrong to hate & not accept people in love as it was to blatantly go against any one of The 10 commandments. Even on the cross, dying, Jesus asked The Heavenly Father to forgive those doing this because they didn’t know what they were doing. Without getting too far off the subject I must say that I witnessed my mom & dad following the example Christ set as much as humanly possible, regardless of society & the religious communities stance on what is considered righteous or unrighteous.

As a personal note, in my family, in our household, it was obvious that my dad, in-particularly, couldn’t comprehend how people would commit to same sex relationships, but he was able to over look his personal convictions enough to let people be who they chose to be. As I grew up I witnessed people who were very close to us who lived lives as far away as possible from the example that Christ set. For my mom & my dad, although they witnessed people using drugs, even an employee or two who participated in those activities, they did not dismiss, reject, show their disapproval, or even fire, them if they were still able to do their job well. He see people as people, more than the color of their skin, their lifestyles, their gender or sexual choices. Working for The Salvation Army & attending the Bible based Christian services they offer only enhanced & encouraged this kind of unconditional love. My parents had not only seen people improve their relationship with God & experience God’s grace, love, & mercy 1st hand, they were an instrumental part in it. I do know that my dad, more than my mom, struggles with cultural differences and certain issues that come to the forefront of society but he alway did his best not to get hung up on those debates, knowing that he knew how he needed to live and that God was more than big enough to take on whatever struggles this world and mankind had to offer. Perhaps my mom struggled with issues a bit, too, but she was no where as near to expressing it as was my dad. It was only within the past few years that my mom has shared with me how different her childhood in Alabama was in contrast with her opinions & faith today. God used my mother many times to calm my dad down when some social issue on morality would raise its ugly head. She took God’s word to heart and would lovingly help my dad remember what Jesus said & did. She still holds true to the teaching of Christ, that we have a plank in our own eye while pointing out a splinter in someone else’s eye. None of us are worthy & without sin enough to throw the first stone at anyone else. Because of their example I came to an understanding 1st hand that selfishness didn’t benefit anyone else & in turn led to self-destruction.

In our family we discovered a good, trustworthy moral compass in God’s Word & the teaching of the God man Jesus Christ. My patents both took on the responsibility to show us that compass, not just in word but in their deeds, in action, living it out, with no shame, no compromise, no reservations.

I still apply the “golden rule”, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ I also raise my children with that mentality rather than encourage revenge.

My father, being a military man & loving that lifestyle & discipline, had a hard time accepting when things were not a certain way, but my mom would balance that out and graciously comfort & persuade my dad, if nothing else, to at least “agree to disagree” with us. That gave our family the peace needed to be a functional a family. Dysfunctional Families are common because of the many personalities & lifestyle choices. Blending them is difficult.

Rather than calling our family, or even the U.S.A., a melting pot, a tossed salad is a better analogy because with a melting pot all ingredients become one but with a salad each ingredients stands on its own while still being part of the salad.

It is “together but separate,” a real oxymoron of sorts. Each item in a salad is still that item while at the same time still part of the salad as a whole. The carrot is still a carrot. The cucumber is still a cucumber. Each part is still unique and yet part of the whole salad.

We learned to live together, settle arguments, give and take, but stay tied by our family binds. As a result we are now an unbreakable bond.

When I look back at my Mom from the stand point of when I was learning to literally walk, I mostly recall being on the floor around her feet playing with my hot wheels and plastic, green army men. Being a stay-at-home mom she was always there. That was very common in the 70’s, along with attending church regularly. We didn’t run around too much, just an occasional trip to the mall but everything revolved around the home and church.

I found out later in life that in the late 70’s my parents had arguments (strong heated discussions) about my mom getting a job outside the home. Most families in the 1970’s were not divorced or separated. It wasn’t unusual to live on a single income provided by the dad’s job and the mom staying home as an actual job of taking care of all the work on the ‘home-front.’ Unlike growing up in the 1920’s (when it finally became legal for women to vote) things didn’t seem unfair from my stand point, it just made sense for one parent to work outside the home & the other to work inside the home, a balance of chores, tasks and responsibilities.

Also later on in life, when I had my own children, I realized the cost to pay for child care was pretty much what I got paid, if not a big chunk of it, so I stayed at home to care for my children & the house. That was the best job I ever had. All of my children had me taking care of them full time before they started school. Although I’m divorced now I was a stay at home dad while each child was at that preschool age right up until my youngest (Abigail). Unfortunately I was going through a divorce when she (‘Abbey’) was just 2 or 3 but I was there right up until then. My other 4 children had me in the house & taking them to preschool then to elementary school.

The only thing that became an issue for me because my mom was at home all the time was that, when I did have to step outside for school, church or summer camp I was scared to death & overcome with anxiety. I was obviously oblivious to any tension or financial strain in our household income & the paying of bills, but recognized a serious disorder in my mind when forced to step out of the comfort of our home. It was only then that I was really away from the big strong arms of my dad & the tight hugs of my mom. As I write this the reality of that hedge freaks me out. I truly was a home boy, a mama’s boy, and always had my hand held. I guess that is because I am the youngest.

I’ll talk about my sisters in the next chapter but I do feel the need to just mention here how often my mom was the referee between us siblings. Pauline was in the age bracket of 8-13 or 14 (elementary & middle school, soon going to start high school) and Collene was 13-18 or 19 (high school & graduation) I was only at the age of 2 years old to about 7 or 8 while we lived in Jacksonville Florida. Pauline & I shared a room but fought like cats & dogs, & I’d run to Collene for protection. I was so mean & mischievous at times & because I was the youngest I think my mom would chalk that up as, “He is still learning & he is just the baby of the family.” To this day I’m sure that makes my sisters gag.

Personal note to my sister:

Pauline & Collene, if you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve heard me admit to all this before & you’ve heard my apology, but I’m also sure it still makes you gag when you think about how differently we were all treated. I hope that gag can turn into a giggle as we look back at our conduct and misconduct as children.

Not only was I the baby but I was babied a lot too. I do recall getting spanked by my mom but worse than that was the phrase,

“Wait ’til your father gets home!!!”

That has been the long lasting material for comedians through the ages because we could identify with it.

Although not abusive, his spanking my bottom was a lot harder. Honestly for me, what was worse than the physical spanking was the anticipation that led up to it, and ultimately the reality that I had disappointed my parents.

I think sometimes our mother didn’t tell our dad many things in order to keep the peace.


she was the glue & nails that held our family together peacefully while my dad was more like the walls & floor around us that could only stay intact because of that glue & those nails.

Oh, those nails! My mom had a special technique to her disciplining me while in public. If I acted up she’d casually hold my forearm calmly and unknown to anyone else slowly dig her fingernails into me. The worse I was the deeper they went. It worked. I use to joke about how my mom would spank me at home with what ever object was at hand, her slipper, a wooden spoon, the vacuum!

As I write about my life & family I recognize that what fashioned us together as a home was the combination of the two, not just a mom & a dad but this mom & this dad. In my dad’s 1970’s frame of mind things would only work if he worked a job outside the household & my mom worked inside the home.

It was in 1975 (mid. 1970’s) when my dad got a better job offer, & we were planning to move to Ohio (a li’l town called Strongsville). It was there some real mile stones were made. My oldest sister Collene graduated H.S. in Jacksonville, got married, and moved out. My sister Pauline was in middle school, about to start high school (grades 9-11) and I was promised a new dog & drum lessons after we moved.

As I mentioned above, being so young I wasn’t fully aware of all the progressions toward adulthood & the responsibility my family members shouldered. My mom’s desire to work a job outside the house was increasing as we (her children) were all attending school and not at home all day. My Grandma (we called, “Gram”) still lived in Philadelphia, then with one of her sisters (Eve) & her nephew (Bill) since her husband (Pop Pop) died. Her adjustments to being a new widow weighed on my dad, & it was decided that my mom could go to work and “gram” could live in our home & take care of things there.

So, we left Jacksonville, Florida, with it’s nice weather, the big backyard, great fishing, our own chickens & USO involvement, & we settled into the extreme cold winter conditions of Ohio. It was a new everything for everybody, dad running a huge community center in Cleveland, mom getting a job as a secretary with The Salvation Army divisional head quarters in North East Ohio, a job she was well equipped for having been trained at a tech school. It was a time of new schools for Pauline & me, and new to living without our oldest sister Collene in our house for the first time.

Over all when I look back at my parents I see the man my father stood for and the woman behind the man. They supported each other and their children. Life was always more than just a job outside the home. During these years of my infancy & elementary development my Dad was working on getting his Masters Degree in Sociology. I had no idea then of the amount of work that it took, how many bills had to be met but I know now they did it: together. They have always had a strong focus on themselves but saw the family unit as part of who they were. If they had not worked as one, although two very different people, I am sure that our family and I personally would have turned out a lot different.

I love the quote,

” Behind every good man is a good woman”

the reality is

“Behind every good man is a woman rolling her eyes.”

Mom made dad & dad made mom & my parents made us, their children. Not just physically giving birth to us but developmentally giving us the tools & a very solid foundation on which to build and stand. Not just literally metaphysically, but metaphorically too. My sisters agree that our parent’s determination, dedication & patience made us who we are to this day. We were given that good moral compass, & although the world around us fought for which way was up, the real magnetic north would always eventually point the right way. Their faith in us, each other, & God almighty was the real key to success, not a better job, being at home, participating in extra activities outside the home, attending church rigorously & religiously. That was all part of life, but following Christ, The God-Man, was the foundation & keys to living we each came to know personally.

Over all when I look back I recall fun, good times, with minor shouts of anger followed by joy, because we worked it all out.

From gags to giggles, what a family.

In our house & lives things were always loud and those responses showed we were alive. Much like unpleasant feed back from a P.A. audio system from time to time, it was proof that this thing is on and working. Fights showed we had spirit, vigor, pep & life. Although I was the youngest and completely oblivious to grown up obstacles, I know now it was because of those oppositions new opportunities were provided, and life took certain turns in its direction accordingly but one thing, one element, one constant that held consistently, remaining firm without fail, was the foundation that was under our family as a whole.

Life isn’t just about the good weather. There is rain & storms and snow. Mother nature follows the guide of the Father of all creation in order to produce a harvest.

The inclement weather is just as important as the bright sun shiney days. Storms don’t last forever and may cause what we refer to as a disaster, but what God provides is part of a much larger plan. Nature is all about balance. The rain & hurricane wash away debris so things can rebuild. Fires we see as destructive provide the earth with much needed carbon to grow new plants & trees. When autumn comes, followed by winter we see things around us die, only to come back to life in the spring and live all summer long once again.

For everything there is a season. Turn, turn turn (Eccl. 3). Turn the page. The story goes on.

Life goes on we just have to breathe it in among any pollution that may fill the air, & ultimately try to have a home that keeps toxic fumes out.

While in this chapter on my parents I’ve reminisced about the first home we lived in when I was first starting my journey in life. I was born in Philadelphia but we moved to Jacksonville Florida about 2 years after my birth. Although I wasn’t exposed to many hard knocks in life I did see a few examples of some people who struggled and were very dysfunctional. Simple things like neighbors or people we’d come in contact with through our service in church (part of The Salvation Army).

Li’l things in life were turned into powerful messages, & simple things were a grand part in developing me into who I am today. Perhaps I will be getting away from the main subject matter of this chapter (MOM & DAD) but they were my world and an intricate part of everything around me.

I remember going to work with my dad at The U.S.O. and playing with billard balls under the tables & chairs. I was too little to reach the billiard table.

Maybe not everything in our life, all the small little experiences, have amazingly huge impact on us, but I do think that even the small things matter. The little encounters & events can make a big difference.

Perhaps we remember the catastrophic changes, but all the little small things that I can recall are now forming a much larger picture for me and prove to be long lasting impressions that keep my moral compass not only pointing North but grateful for it.

As I move forward I’m like a guy in a rowboat facing backwards. I look back at parts of my life when I was finally old enough to start school. My first two years of school (kindergarten & 1st grade) were there in Jacksonville, Fl.

This past Christmas of 2018 an 8mm projector was pulled out to play home movies that remarkably endured well over 50 years. Here is what we were able to look back on:

1971 Family Christmas:

1971 (me at age 3) summer vacation:

Jacksonville was a great time for me & my family. It was the last location where we were all in the same house hold, before Collene grew up & out on her own, before Pauline started high school, before my mom worked outside our home, before dad started another career. In the next chapter I’ll talk about my sisters, but for now I wanted to stay fixed on our parents and my early elementary years.

Halloween 1971:

My dad’s involvement with the USO took us from Jacksonville, FL to visits to St. Augustine (where I live now) as he was part of the very first USO in that area.
I don’t personally know a life that was formed by harsh, poor living conditions, poverty or abusive family members. Born in 1968, although there was still conflict over seas in Vietnam & people in other countries were in such pain, I knew nothing of that. Unlike my parents who were born and being raised during World War II (1939-1945), The Korean War (1950-1953) & were in their prime during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). I am vastly removed from the time period of my parent’s parents, who survived The Great Depression (1929). It us hard to believe but my grandparents were born & being raised and served their country during W.W. I (1914-1918). Sometimes we have to stop our personal pity parties and consider our surroundings, take history into account, and truly thank God for what we have & for what we don’t have. If it weren’t for times of war, poverty & unrest we may very well take times of peace, provision and prosperity for granted.

Writing this auto biography has been a real eye opener and I’m humbled. As strange as it may sound I almost feel ashamed by the fortune I’ve been given. It truly puts things into perspective. Our wars, battles & struggles in this day & age are not external conflicts and militant strongholds. No, we are met face to face with internal civil and social warfare daily. In America, too often we can be heard say, “I’m starving!”, just 3 hours after we have had a meal. We are often able to donate money to save animals while children around the world (including the U.S.A.) are literally starving. When I take a honest look at my surroundings growing up, and even to this day I see bickering over a parking space and money being shot into outer space while suicide & petty arguments affect the human race. We seem to be pledging allegiance to the almighty dollar rather than being able to stand in unity as a country, trust the government and even acknowledge God as our creator. Prosperity is a wonderful thing but it also breeds contentment to the point of responding with contempt. I ask myself if we’ve become so content & comfortable that we find it easy to simply complain about any and every little thing, nit picking our way through life rather than being able to be truly satisfied & fulfilled? Is empathy & sympathy a stranger to us because we have all we need & almost everything & anything we want? I see the average American as weary and paranoid, not sure who we can trust, and questioning our own talents, skills and abilities all the while feeling proud and boasting of our accomplishments. Long gone are the days of all for one & one for all. I feel like no other time in history has there been such prosperity to the point where even lower class society has more than our history’s middle class ever had. Don’t misunderstand, I am not a political person, nor am I one to complain about the state the United States is in. For me the real challenge is not to take anything for granted and to live, love, and ultimately acknowledge God for who He is, all He has done, doing & gonna do. When I am faced with hardship, ironically, it causes me to search for treasures beyond my financial, physical, mental, and emotional means. We’ve never lived in a century with more ways or means of capable communication (t.v., the world wide web, cell phones) and yet our families, government, and communities are crumbling for lack of communication. I’m not hoping for persecution and destitution, but I do feel the need for a genuine wake-up call. I see a need for a revival, a renewal in our lives that we apply daily not just on special occasions. Shouldn’t the “Christmas spirit” that some act on be an attitude carried out throughout the whole year? When we see simple & random acts of kindness we marvel at the rarity of it. Holding the door, offering your seat, walking someone home or across a street, this type of behavior is not only unusual it is even met with opposition and fear that the persons doing such things have an ulterior motive, or that they are acting as if others are not their equal. For many of us I’m not sure we know & fully appreciate what we have until we no longer have it. Losing our electricity during a storm is the perfect example of this. I heard a comedian talking about how, when they lost their electric he went to put soup in the microwave, watch t.v. fumble around the house occasionally flipping the switches just assuming the electricity would be there. He said humorously, “I was not only grateful to have the electricity when it came back on, but my soup was done too.”

Having a first hand witness to 3rd world countries on a few mission trips I’ve been on, I’ve seen how people in extreme poverty live. What amazes me the most is their sincerity & joy for life itself, not caught up in the philosophy that, “he with the most toys wins”.

Writing this allows me to examine my own life. I’m so thankful really to comprehend & embrace the understanding of how God ultimately provides for all and sometimes He desires to use those who have the means to share with those who have not. Yes, that is my personal belief (God as the almighty ONE) and I’m concerned for generations following me (my own children Abigail, Madilyn, Olivia, Kyri) whose biography can’t help but show how prosperity has brought with it glorification of everything but God & a few agencies pleading with the general public to help fight hunger. This generation may know more about how to use modern devices than how to simply pray, rely on God, & share what they have. All we own ends up owning us and our financial debit dictates what we are able to afford, do and not do. We are given the opportunity to just, “Charge it!” and we are led further into debit as a nation, let alone individually.

Who would have ever imagined that prosperity could lead us into poverty.

Many of us are living our adult lives spending money that we don’t even have because it’s been given to us with huge interest rates tacked on to the pay back, which seems endless. Student debits are a perfect example of that. When I was a child my parents would tell me, “No, we can’t do this or that or go here or there because we don’t have the money and others are even more poor than we are.” There is no doubt that I need to go back to only spending money I actually have rather than buy into the offers for another credit card that will allow me to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of things, stuff I don’t even need, then slam me down with a shoulder full of debit. The use of a “debit” card takes money that is actually in my bank account while the use of a “credit” card means I have a debit to pay. My, how things have been turned upside down. Perhaps we don’t realize it until it happens & somehow we believe the lies or are persuaded into this lifestyle. Maybe with age comes wisdom but along with the changes of the years comes confusion, not to mention the increase in technical differences.

As I look back at my childhood I find myself longing for simpler times. I’ve heard it said, “why don’t we realize that our golden years are worth more than gold while we are in them?” I think I do. I fully realize we are truly blessed to be alive and God is to be thanked, not only for what He gives but even when He takes things away. Life, for me is bigger than where I’ve been and where I am. The fact is that this life is temporal. Regardless of one’s belief, the faith of an afterlife or not, our physical lives & all we are comes to an end. We are mortal. I cherish it while I’m here but I know, by faith, the best is yet to come.

That song really typified the generation my oldest children grew up in. My generation was steeped in different values.

There was a time when Police, Pastors, Priests, Presidents were all trusted and could be taken at their word.

Their actions usually matched their words and true intentions; however in my generation’s time there has been a great exposure to hidden deeds of the hypocrite. Our wealth and value should be measured by our values & true character rather than our material possessions.

Another thing I gain in writing this, it gives me time to reflect on the times I grew up in, but also take a realistic look at the times I am currently living in. Those on welfare, many times, have more than some who are still working far into the years of when they planned on being retired. The way we have been raised greatly effects the way we decide to live out our adult lives. As I said at the beginning, sometimes we live the opposite way we lived growing up. I hear people saying they want to give their children what they never had, & some buying things they always desired when they were a child. I’m not sure that is the best way to live life. I think being rich and successful can better be measured by a person’s core fibers, how rich they are in character & Spiritual faith. True treasure, that no one can take away, can be stripped down to where a person’s heart is. I believe that God, in the flesh of the man Jesus Christ, tells us to seek 1st the kingdom of God and all these things, our needs, & more will be given to us. (MATT 6:33)

Not that I grew up as financially rich as some of my friends; but our needs were always met, we had even more than our needs and most importantly I was told & shown the worth that comes in the form of a relationship with God.

We were considered a typical middle class family. We were not rich by any means but we were not poor either. In comparison with what my grandparents went through we were wealthy, but in my opinion

what made us truly rich was the treasures found in the love we had for each other.

It was that love & family ties that truly supported us and allowed us to carry on. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I now realize my hard lessons or hard knocks come from within. My own mental health issues would be the civil wars and times of great depression I’d have to fight and learn some of the harsh facts of life from. Each and every person alive has their own story, and if we open up and take the time I believe we can not only learn from our own life lessons, but can teach others lessons on how to live.

I remember having extreme anxiety in just attending public school. I was small for my age and that made me an easy target. Being the youngest I had 2 older sisters that showed me that it was goin’ to be okay and that I would grow up too. Until then, unknown to me and others, I had a learning disability & mental health issues that would be revealed to me & others later.

Before I write more specifically about me today & my children I want to spend a little more time on these early days when I was just a child & my parents & sisters were a family unit living under the same roof.


Kindergarten (Jacksonville)

It is embarrassing now to admit, but just attending school & simple tasks like buying my lunch in the public school system was a challenge for me, not because I didn’t have the money but because I had not obtained the independent characteristics or confidence to do so. I was filled with fear of the unknown. I never had to do things like that on my own.

Home schooling was not often heard of. When I started Elementary School it was the source of great anxiety for me, I know now it was because my mom was always home & I knew nothing else but her provisions. Although we were involved in group interactions with church gatherings and, as mentioned above, USO dances & bands I was just the little boy who’s parents & older sisters were always by his side. Occasionally at church I’d be separated from family members to attend short Sunday School classes or at the USO Club left alone to sit next to the drum riser, fascinated by the drummer. Even then my sisters or parents were always close by. Perhaps this is common when we are children, not to do things that took us away from our family. All I know is I had extreme separation anxiety long before we knew there was a name for it.

Not far from Jacksonville The Salvation Army has a summer camp, Camp Keystone. During our time in Jax. I was too young to attend it. Even if I had been old enough I don’t think I would have had the ability to fight the home sickness. Later in life when my family moved back to Florida in 1980 it would be the source of great development for me.

There was another summer Camp in Ohio & I attempted to attend it. As we moved to Ohio so also I’ll be moving on now to the next chapter where I’ll share my experiences as Collene moved out and Gram moved in.

Chapter 2 in in the writing process.

One thought on “Mom, Dad & Elementary My Dear Tommy (Chapter 1 of Autobiography) r.d.

  1. Pingback: “50 years in the making”Ā Intro. To Autobiography (r.d.) – tombeetlebailey

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