Dick's Blog

“Time Equals Zero”, Chapter 15 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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QUIET CONTEMPLATION, PONDEROSA STATE PARK, PAYETTE LAKE, McCALL, IDAHO

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, Chapter 15, “Time Equals Zero” (To Dad, with love, you really were an inspiration)

Next Week, Chapter 16, “Contact Sports” (it was like dodging bullets)

Update:

This story speaks for itself. It’s not a science story. It’s about insight and forgiveness. It’s about the injustice and pain created by homophobia. A lot of our learning comes “after the fact”, the ability to forgive arriving long after we had the opportunity to forgive. Childhood impressions and false prejudices are hard to shake. We must continually learn to grow. It’s never too late to try. My tribute, “Steady the Course”, to my mother is in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”. She died at age 72 from lung cancer created by an adult lifetime of smoking, back when people thought it was cool thing, and even convinced others like my mother, to do so. Fortunately, I made my peace with her before her death. This is my belated tribute to my father, a really amazing, sometimes unappreciated, character. I wish I had all this insight when he was alive. I would have understood the scars he carried throughout his life, having been victimized by a sexual predator as a teenager. I wrote this story about 10 years ago, about 16 years after his death.

Time Equals Zero

I feel a little uneasy. In order to advertise my first book, I found myself in the position of having to promote myself. That brings back both sad, and humorous, memories. My father’s self-promotion was a way of life. In retrospect, his dream to be acknowledged and become famous was driven by the humiliation, guilt and shame he suffered as a teenager. Near the end, when his creative talents failed him, he came up with the profound statement: “Time equals zero.” A foolish old man’s ramblings? I think not. Had he hoped that he had invented a basic truth that would change the world? Would he be recognized as an Einstein? When pressed to explain what he meant, he was overwhelmed by emotion trying to explain it. My own interpretation is, which I think was his, when you die you fly, like in a time machine, to the end of this Universe in an instant, in zero time. In the scheme of things, the universe is only here for the blink of God’s eye. Our universe and mankind’s history, with which we are so impressed, is only a minute fraction of God’s plan. In the end, my father had put it all into perspective. He had come to grips with what had tormented him all his life. He had finally achieved a level of humility that escapes many of us.

We, in the family, had become almost immune and deaf to my father’s ways and carrying on. At the time, it was hard to feel sympathy or empathy when we were in the same house hearing the same recording day after day. After many years, it’s all starting to make sense. Only now can I chronicle his tale and put it into perspective. In the understanding, comes the appreciation for the man, his strength, his perseverance, his kindness, even the latent humility hidden behind his words, and what he tried to overcome. I did write my first book and let a lot hang out. In my act of self-promotion, maybe I can help him fulfill the dreams that he richly deserved.

In my first book, I recalled my father’s troubled life. The climactic and defining time in his boyhood occurred as a teenager when he was stricken with a ruptured appendix. The story of his recovery is the recurring story and torment of his life. Unable to care for him, his dispirited and beleaguered family, who were already dealing with another crisis, placed him in the home and hands of a retired physician. His benefactor both saved and cursed him. I think my father grew up believing that all homosexuals were predators. He had become homophobic, fearful of all homosexuals. Unfortunately, it affected his relationship with people he had to work with. There lies the tragedy in this story. Predators come in all sizes and ages, male and female, all sexual orientations. They represent a small percentage of the population, but they cause an inordinate amount of grief. Unlike love, the gift that keeps on giving, sexual abuse is the curse that keeps on taking. Homophobia in society is also a curse that denies all people the dignity and equal rights they deserve.

My mother called me just before dinnertime. She had just returned from work. When I got there, the ambulance had taken him away. As I entered the hallway, my legs went out from under me. I sat there, hyperventilating and feeling a growing numbness around my mouth and face. In front of me, a pool of coagulating blood glistened in the hall light. He had lain there all day in the fetal position, the blood from his wrists ebbing his consciousness and life away. The only way for him to kill his pain was to inflict more, and then give into the blessed sleep.

He survived his suicide attempt. And with it came more help. He had been receiving medical treatment all along, including antidepressant medication, also several admissions to psychiatric clinics and hospitals, including rounds of electroshock therapy. That had only touched the surface, mostly treating the outward behavior, not the infection that was roiling inside. The bacterial infection of his youth had been replaced with something that could not be treated with any known medication. What was required was a purgative, so radical and violent that it almost took his life.

What could have driven him to this ultimate act? A name, a doctor’s name out of the past, started itching and scratching in the back of my mind. Long forgotten innocuous statements made by my father popped up and suddenly took on new meaning. Could it be? A meeting with his psychiatrist before we visited him in his hospital room confirmed the worse. My father had hidden a terrible secret his entire adult life. He was the victim of prolonged sexual abuse. Although sixteen at the time, emotionally he was still a child. The abuse by the doctor went on for years, until he was at last able to break away, and finally ended by the doctor’s death.

Following his appendectomy he was deathly ill with peritonitis, which, before the age of antibiotics, was usually lethal. The hospital had done everything they could do. He was hooked up with a drain to remove the products of the infection and sent home to die. My father said he had lost so much weight that his mother could “pick me up like a baby.” Unable to deal with this new crisis, the family placed him in the care of a retired doctor. How this man had gained the trust of the family is unknown. Didn’t anyone suspect? It was also an age when pedophilia was easy to hide, especially among the powerful or the connected. Who would dare accuse the doctor or priest? Shame won out! Bury the guilt! Maybe, under the circumstances, they had no other choice. My father paid a high price for admission.

Up until his ruptured appendix, my father was constantly on the go. Home was not a happy place. His boyhood friends and adventures, often risk-taking, were his constant companions. His intellect was often called upon to save the day. As a child, he described to me two situations where he had saved another boy’s life. Once, at an old rock quarry, he and his friends had climbed out on the sheet metal roof of a building about 60 feet above the ground. One of the boys slipped and began sliding down a steeply angled portion of the roof. With another person holding my father’s feet, they formed a human chain to catch the boy before he slipped over the edge to his death on the rocks below. In another story, he waded in and saved a boy who was being sucked into the entrance of a long narrow pipe discharging sea water from a tidal basin back into the ocean. My father invented a diving helmet with air supplied by a hose and hand operated compressor. With heavy weights tied to his body he explored the depths of a nearby pond, blood suckers and all. My father came home to eat and sleep, then off he went again.

He also used his wits to protect his siblings. In one incident, a younger sibling had accidentally dropped the carburetor for the inboard engine on my grandfather’s boat, which was in winter storage. The device appeared shattered beyond repair. When spring came, the carburetor would be re-installed on the engine. If it was discovered broken, there would be hell to pay. My father worked at least a hundred hours secretly reconstructing the unit. When he completed the task it looked as good as new. My father often delighted, in later years, that his father never ever found out that he had been tricked by his ingenious son.

Then came the terrible stomach ache. Maybe, my father was too busy to give in to the pain. Probably, nobody knew what to do. The diagnosis came too late; the appendix had ruptured. Following surgery, the infection spread beyond the hospital’s ability to fight its course. I don’t know how long the onset and the aftermath went on, but the whole train of events must have gone on long enough for my father’s weight to drop almost in half. He was a wreck, physically and emotionally, by the time he came under the doctor’s care.

The doctor was a miracle worker. If he hadn’t succeeded, I wouldn’t be here to tell this story. He put Humpty Dumpty back together again. He resurrected him, fed him like a baby, both his body and mind. He praised his beautiful physique and intellect. He created his own Frankenstein, an Adonis, a prince charming, all for himself. All the while, he violated him and stole his spirit. My father would never forget the praise. He adopted it. It became a lifelong self-adulation, his lifeboat, the salve for his hidden sins. He used it to raise himself up, to keep from falling into a great abyss. He thought his words of accomplishment and success would encourage me to do better, never to be exposed to the black side of life. Unwittingly, by boasting constantly, he was killing my confidence and self esteem. I could never measure up to so great a man, so great a body, so many achievements. Of course, I understand it all now, and that is part of my forgiveness.

The doctor encouraged my father to continue his education and build his body. Having been forced to drop out of high school, he enrolled in an apprentice course for pattern making. Patterns are used to create metal castings, which are subsequently machined into finished parts. My father became a master wood working artisan. He completed his high school equivalency. His instructor in the pattern-making course encouraged my father to begin a two-year engineering associate course at a local university. My father became a design draftsman. He created many original concepts and amazing devices, which became U. S. patents. He never forgot the kindness of his instructor and mentor. He praised him constantly and grieved at his death, the only man, up until that time, who gave him the attention and respect he deserved. My father worked out at the YMCA, becoming a first-rate gymnast. There he met his life long friend. Together they toured the local vaudeville circuit doing their tumbling act. My father was the “bottom man,” basically the guy who lifted and threw the lighter man around. Unfortunately, like many male skaters, this led to future lower back and disc problems, which would contribute to his ultimate undoing. Still very strong as an older man, he could do a one arm, one fingered pull up and tear three telephone books in half at the same time. (People learned to hide their telephone books when he was around.)

All the while, he could not escape his creator, In a telling remark made in my youth, which made no sense at the time, my father talked about the doctor who used to invite him and his friends “over for drinks” at his house. The doctor’s taste for young boys and men was insatiable. He was trying to use my father as his pimp to gather other young candidates into his lair. At some point, my father made the break. He went to live on the new farm of his past next-door neighbors. He fell in love with his childhood sweetheart. He severed his relationship with the doctor.
Before ending that relationship, my father, using his woodworking skills, had created a gift for the doctor. It was an elaborate teak and mahogany cigarette box. Strangely, as my mother pointed out after my father’s attempted suicide, it looked like a miniature coffin. Unconsciously, my father had buried his soul in that little box. After the doctor’s death, my father reclaimed the cigarette box, a keepsake, or a reminder of his terrible guilt? Possibly he didn’t dare leave the box in an- other’s hands for fear that someone would open it and reveal his secret. After his attempt on his life, my father and mother, in a small ceremony, burned the box in the fireplace.

That was not the only keepsake and memory of a scarred relationship to be destroyed. Just before my mother’s death to lung cancer, my father tried to flush down the toilet a roll of movie film of my mother, shot by my Grandfather, a self-proclaimed great artist. He had manipulated my father into persuading my mother to pose for this “artistic” film after they were first married. The plumber had quite a chore extricating a thousand feet of celluloid out of the drain. My father was not thinking too clearly at that time.

There are two particular things my father talked about, that if I were a psychiatrist or psychologist, would have given me earlier clues about the man. Once, after a family car trip to Erie, Pennsylvania, my father commented several times that “People live everywhere!” At the time, it meant no more than the statement of an obvious fact. As I thought about it in later life, I saw the true meaning. People lived everywhere, without a clue that my father existed. His life and his importance meant nothing to people with their own lives to live. The world was perfectly self-sufficient without him. I think after that trip he felt devastated, and very alone. His self-promotion was falling on deaf ears. That probably increased the frequency and intensity of his bragging.

Near the end of his working career, he would come home quite often, complaining about “Twinkle Toes,” a fellow supervisor who was effeminate but well liked and respected in the office. Each day there would be a different story about Twinkle Toes. My father hired a temporary contract worker he had known in his previous job. The hire, I discovered, was a bigot and highly critical of everything and everyone. He had nothing but unkind words about Twinkle Toes. He was poisoning my father with more stories every day. My father, from the carnage of his teenage years, was easily poisoned. Homosexuality was a deviant and threatening behavior to him. I suspect there were words between my father and Twinkle Toes. My father may have said something he couldn’t take back. At the same time, my father’s bad back was acting up, creating excruciating pain. Then one day my father came home from work. He had quit, given up a potential pension if he had stayed a year longer. His termination was shrouded in mystery. He wouldn’t talk about it. All he would say is that he was finally free, free of work but not the worm that was eating away at his mind.

A lot more happened, some of it sad, some humorous. He had back surgery followed by prostate surgery, which left him incontinent. He invented a male catheter and reservoir bag to control the annoying leakage. He tried unsuccessfully to patent it. He invented a gun barrel and bullet that did not require expensive machining and rifling of the barrel. For a pacifist, this was an unusual undertaking. Now, we had high-powered rifles and a firing range in his house. That was quickly ended by yours truly. He even successfully petitioned the President of the United States to write a proclamation citing his wonderful lifetime achievements. The proclamation hung on his wall. The list is endless. Unfortunately, he was his own publicist, and the family had to endure his accolades

After that terrible night, he changed a little, became more subdued and accepting, but still impulsive and eccentric. After my mother’s death, he repainted his car in the colors of the Swedish flag, blue and gold, both outside and inside, including the seat covers. At least he didn’t paint the windows. On the front bumper, he displayed a vanity plate saying “VIKING.” Do you laugh or cry? At least, it was a lot better than before. He had reached the stage where we could at least humor him.

Near the end of his life, he had pretty much run out of things that would surprise us. He had remarried, a lady who ran a tight ship and pretty much kept his life in order. The rest of the family was very appreciative. He mellowed and became reflective. I think he had put things behind him. He seemed very much at peace with himself. He was, in his day, quite a thinker and contributor to his profession. I look at the some of the stuff he came up with, and it still amazes me how he could figure it out. He was ahead of his time. He was also a very kind and good man. As they say, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. How he could live with his pain so long is also amazing. In the end, he had come to grips with his relationship with his father and the doctor who saved his life. As they say, some things happen beyond your control, and you have to move on. Some people have faults, some bigger than others. They never intended it to be that way. It just happened. Most important, the thing that happened to him as a teenager was his own personal burden. It never affected his loving behavior towards his wife and children. He placed women and children on a pedestal, the same love, reverence and protectiveness that he felt towards his mother and siblings.

He would sit there quietly, not much to say, small talk, nothing about himself. Then he would say, almost reverently, looking inside me, “Time equals zero.”

“What do you mean, Dad?” I would ask.

He would gesture with his arms, trying to form his words. “You know,” he said. “You know what I mean.” Yes, I knew what he meant. I also knew that all the wonder and excitement he instilled in me as a child did inspire me. I wouldn’t be me, with the thirst for understanding life and the universe that I write about today. The words, “like father like son,” are almost chilling. He was a good guy. That’s what I try to be.

Next Week, Chapter 16, “Contact Sports” (it was like dodging bullets)

 

“A Story in There”, Chapter 14 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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IF YOU HAVE NEGOTIATED THE RIVER OF LIFE WITH FAITH, YOU SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID AT THE END OF YOUR JOURNEY. (KAYAKERS ON THE PAYETTE RIVER, IDAHO)

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, Chapter 14, “A Story in There” (I had been holding his hand a lot recently)

Next Week, Chapter 15, “Time Equals Zero” (To Dad, with love, you really were an inspiration)

Update:

I’ve stated before in my BLOGS that, “Faith is hope with conviction” and “Faith is hope on steroids.” In the end, I hope my faith is as strong as that of my two friends in my story. Their faith and courage came from the way they lived life. Although they have been gone for many years, their memory and presence lives on in me, in others, in our children. It’s one of the many forms of heaven we believe in. I wrote this true story about 15 years ago and saved it for my second memoir. Have you thought about recording your own thoughts about your life and experiences? You can give it to your children to pass on to their children. I would appreciate any comments you have on this story or any of the free chapters from my memoirs published over the last year.

A Story in There

My subconscious has been working overtime, working on a story about death, dying and loss. In church yesterday morning it stopped me cold, choking me up in the middle of one of the hymns. Art’s name came up at a dinner party Saturday night. Our guests were talking about the book and play, Tuesdays with Morrie, about a former student who takes the time to catch up and share in his ailing mentor’s last months of life. With me, it was Wednesdays with Art. He and his office mate died within six months of each other, both struck down with cancer in their seventies. My wife, before she became a stay-at-home mom, had been a medical secretary to both of them. We had all been fast friends ever since.

Art, being a doctor, knew the symptoms and prognosis long before the cat scans and diagnoses were complete. He had an inoperable brain tumor. He faced his future with enormous courage, never stopped smiling, maybe making an occasional grimace just to let you know he wasn’t having fun. Before he became unable to talk, he would ask me why I persisted in visiting him. I told him, I came to give him a hard time and have him cheer me up. He would laugh and ask me again. He couldn’t get enough of joking around.

In the beginning, he had some of his radiation therapy and check ups on Wednesday. I was recently retired and glad to help out by taking him into the hospital for his appointments. That kind of stuck as my day to see him. On days that he had no appointment, we just talked, or I read to him. I started reading him the novella, The Body, by Stephen King, later made into a movie by Rob Reiner, Stand By Me. King does a fantastic job of describing kids and their relationships. It’s a little irreverent, but I figured, Art being a devout Catholic, he needed a little spice in his life. I never finished it.

The tumor was shrunk by radiation, but quickly grew back, this time with a vengeance. Art went from home to a convalescent facility. He loved to hear me tell about my consulting adventures. I’d give him a new installment on each visit. He’d smile and glow like a kid being read to, and ask for more. Just listening to my voice I could tell that he was mesmerized. As the disease progressed, his speech became more halting until it was finally reduced to two words: “shit!” and “Jesus!” The expletive came out when he was struggling to communicate a thought. He understood what you said, but, like total dyslexia, couldn’t put his thoughts into words, either spoken or written. Even a keyboard was no help. The name came out like a prayer: please help me, Lord!

Art went home to die. The family preferred no visitors. My Wednesdays came to an end. I felt a terrible loss. I had been holding his hand a lot recently, joking with him that I had no romantic intentions. He squeezed my hand back. We didn’t need words. Over the years, I’ve visited a number of people who were severely ill or injured. I’m not afraid to talk about bad times or death. I’m not afraid to let my feeling show. When my kids were young, our next-door neighbors were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. He, who had become almost a father and mentor to me, was killed instantly. She was broken in every part of her body, but her spirit remained intact. (When it comes to faith, I have to hand it to some Catholics.) My wife and I and our two children visited her faithfully over many Sundays at the hospital and then at the long-term rehabilitation clinic. She struggled back, got upright, and walked back into her house next door.

My son, then a little boy, became a special fixture in her life. While she was convalescing, he cut her lawn. When she came home, he helped her with little chores around the house. She paid him, for all those months away, in cash, small bills, more dollars than he had ever seen in his life. She repaid him in another kind of currency that had even more value. She was a cook from the old school, and could she cook! As long as she lived next door, until the time we moved a few years ago, and my son had married and started a family, she would cook something up for him. Her cabbage and beans, hot enough to cause heartburn, was his favorite.

Shortly after we moved, she moved into assisted living. I must admit we saw her less, in part to her credit. She had become totally independent, gallivanting around with her friends up until she fell at home. Recently, she had a severe stroke. This time, she could only eat one of my wife’s Christmas cookies that she made for her each holiday season. Normally, the whole batch would be gone in a few days. On one of our last visits, she said she had a wonderful man waiting for her. I left the convalescent home in tears. She passed away not long after.

Another of life’s good friends has departed. Whatever your concept of heaven, they will either live on in your memory or be waiting for you. This story on the loss of a loved one has finally hatched. It’s been incubating in there, kept warm by the love we felt for each other and the courage taught by your presence.

Next Week, Chapter 15, “Time Equals Zero” (To Dad, with love, you really were an inspiration)

“Molting”, Chapter 13 of “Inside and Outside: Messages of Hope from a Lifelong Hiker and Depression Survivor”

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MOUNTAIN MEADOW, SAWTOOTH NATIONAL FOREST, IDAHO, HEADWATERS OF THE SALMON RIVER, CALLED “THE RIVER OF NO RETURN”

Welcome back to my free memoirs. You can access all the chapters in my first memoir, “Hiking Out”, and all chapters posted to date of my second memoir, “Inside and Outside”, by going to my BLOG and clicking on the appropriate book title at dicksederquist.com  

This Week, Chapter 13, “Molting” (I like reinventing myself)

Next Week, Chapter 14, “A Story in There” (I had been holding his hand a lot recently)

Update:

I’m back after a month off. My wife and I just spent three weeks vacationing in Idaho. We had visited all the states around it, but never stepped foot there. We put 2700 miles on our now very dusty and dirty rental car. We traveled a lot of gravel and dirt back roads, many adrenaline filled, with no guardrails, hundreds of foot drop-offs, certainly not on my “Triple A” map. At the end of some of those roads were some great day hikes. Although not the main emphasis of our trip, we did hike about 42 miles over a period of 21 days.

People asked us before we left, “So what’s so special about Idaho?” Well for one thing, God must live there. It’s beautiful, definitely a place for renewal and recharging your physical and spiritual batteries. Idaho received a record snowfall this year. All the raging rivers are over their banks due to the snowmelt this spring. We heard of 30-foot standing waves on the Salmon River before it joins the Snake, then the Clearwater, on its meandering way to the Columbia and on to the Pacific Ocean. Several times, we crossed the path of Lewis and Clark on their long ago incredible journey of discovery (with much trepidation) through Idaho. It’s much easier in a rental car than wading up to your waist in snow, cold, wet, hypothermic, hungry and desperate in the mountains crossing the Continental Divide.

It’s 6 years since I wrote this piece, over 200 years since the Native Americans, who helped Lewis and Clark, and subsequently gave up their lands to the pressures of westward migration. Our three-week journey came across many historic markers documenting their plight. My personal journey is a lot less significant, maybe unimportant. It’s about my fear, trepidation, failure, hope, and returning from a place, which seemed to me like a place of no return. Think about the words to the song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, it’s about renewal, molting and creating a new skin, what Mother Nature does naturally when one grows out of the old one.

Molting

Molting, it may sound revolting, but it means to me reinventing myself. Lobsters, praying mantises and reptiles periodically slough off their old skins in order to grow. Other than dandruff, people don’t leave their epidermises lying around, but they do absorb, regenerate and take on a new exterior, a new persona, when required. It may not be physically immediately apparent, but humans often perform a kind of molting, a reinvention process of both their outward demeanor and mental selves when conditions, events, opportunities, and adversities are presented.

This is not about extreme make-overs or transformations by choice, or by coercion, like religious conversions, being born again, changes in political party affiliation, or joining a revolution. This is not about profound enlightenment, revelations and rapture of the spirit. This is about adapting to new realities, like finding out you’ve been depressed all your life, or that you have cancer, or being told that you are about to be a parent. These are the things you constantly do throughout your life in response to change. It’s how you grow up, a process that never ends until your last breath.

I like reinventing myself. Best of all, it’s an opportunity to start a new slate, forgive myself for the stupid transgressions or things I’ve done or said, or rid myself of fears and obsessions that have controlled me. Some of my reinventions are so small that I’ve forgotten them. Some form the cornerstones of my existence.

The first days of public school, from the first grade on, I faced with dread, fearing the unknown. Midway through the year I was flying high, forgetting my earlier trepidation. As the year ended, doubt would set in again, wondering if something I hadn’t done right would keep me from passing, in spite of my good grades throughout the year. I did every homework assignment, fearing that one slip up would cook my goose. It was a twelve-year up and down, almost manic-depressive cycle of foreboding and exuberance.

Then came college. I was highly motivated and flying high. In the beginning of my second year, I came down with the flu, and worse, something I didn’t understand, a grinding depression. I couldn’t face going to class, awake all night and sleeping the day through. I felt incredibly alone. My grade point average dropped in half, my dreams of success shattered. Finally, with my tail literally between my legs, I went to the Dean of Engineering, dropped out of the chemistry classes that were mystifying and killing me, and changed my major from Chemical to Mechanical Engineering. Given the second chance, I was able to pull myself together and redefine myself, finding challenge, meaning and joy in my new curricula.

I joined a fraternity and moved out of the dorm, discovering new friendships and camaraderie, and lots of beer. My study habits changed. I finally learned that if I kept up with the course work and really paid attention in class, never getting behind in the theory, I could get away with an hour of two of homework at night, leaving time for more camaraderie. Studying for exams became a snap. All I needed was a light review, without feeling I had learn the whole course the night before the exam. I pulled up my grades, climbing back to my freshman average. For the first time in my life, I felt confident, comfortable and relaxed, a new man. There was even time for intramural sports and nontechnical reading. Without the pressure, things came easy. I understood time management.

I reinvented myself again and again, starting an engineering career, marrying, gaining a Masters Degree, becoming a daddy to a girl and a boy, and running Jaycee community projects. We became a hiking family, seeking new adventures and vistas at every opportunity. We involved our children in our activities and supported theirs. We shared life’s most precious commodity with our children, time, something my busy father found too precious to waste. This has paid great dividends. We are both parents and great friends with our children, spending much of our time with them and their families.

Thirty-five years ago, when I suffered my deepest depression, I became my own activist, proactive on my own behalf. Determined to understand my condition, in addition to medical help, I became my own psychoanalyst, ferreting out the root causes of my troubles with the same determination as a major engineering project. This was my version of the Boston Big Dig. I also came out of the closet, so to speak, and let my condition and need for help be known to my contemporaries. As a forgotten comedian once said, “I earned this emotional breakdown.” I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity and let it pass without finding out what caused it and getting the support I needed. To sustain me through these times, I increased my hiking and “peak bagging” activities, setting my goals on climbing the highest peaks in the northeast, a goal I’m still pursuing in spite of my aging knees.

Fourteen years ago, I retired and became a consultant, my second career. Nine years ago, after being cured of prostate cancer, I became a writer, career number three. It’s probably getting that time to reinvent my self again. I’m sure my wife would agree that I still have a few more bugs to work out. Looking into my crystal ball, I see my reflection grinning back at me, thinking about one of my final molts in life, when I begin sleeping with a great grandmother.

Next Week, Chapter 14, “A Story in There” (I had been holding his hand a lot recently)