To paraphrase MLK jr. “There is no shame in being a street sweeper, embrace who you are and be the best street sweeper in the world”. funny but thinking back, I remember hearing my Dad giving my sister similar advice but being my Dad, it was more like, I don’t care if you are a hooker, just be the best damn hooker out there. He loved to shock at times to make his points. We knew it was his way of showing he was loved us and supported whatever we chose to be, just work hard at it.
I used to accompany my Dad as a little guy into stores watching him pull cons on mostly clueless cashiers with a short change con. I’d watch him read people, he would size them up and sometimes call off whatever had thought about putting into play. He was a survivor. he had 3 young kids, a monkey on his back, a criminal record, this is how he survived. How WE survived. No doubt my dad had a sense of right and wrong as I got the belt when i got caught in 3rd grade stealing some candy and smoking. The message was clear, this was HIS life, he didnt want it to be mine.
Just before he passed away, it was strange but he was very attimant that I was to get baptized. in hind sight it was almost as if he had a checklist. He arranged for me to meet with the Catholic priest twice a week to study Catholic Doctrine. much of “the rules” didnt make sense to me but to please my Dad, I went through the motions.
After My dad’s funeral I returned home to Washington State, stumbling around as a 16 year old, in kind of a fog, not talking to anyone about my loss since I didnt know how to. Not surpisingly you see families with multiple generations of Cops, Lawyers, brick layers, etc…naturally young men are impressionable but also encouraged by your elders to due better than the previous generation. at this point in my life I found myself with the lofty goal of staying out of jail.
To quote, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, “Without Self-discipline, success is Impossible. Period!”
Always the pesky little brother, I followed my older brother to try out for the High School wrestling team. He was naturally strong and quick while I was a prepubecent skinny 4′ 11″ 84lbs small fry. Even at the 101lb weight class, i gave up almost 20 pounds. I loved being around Danny and wrestling gave us bro time together riding home after practice.
Our Coach was former LA Rams NFL lineman named Ross Boice. always light hearted and encouraging, Ross put us through our paces and though not winning allot of team matches, Ross was honest, personable and respected. After each match Ross would methodically go through each weight class and provide honest feedback on what was good and what needed work. Win or lose, I would come away with a sense of worth from this man I respected so much.
Ross had an old baby blue dodge pickup with “three on the tree” gear shift and spots of rust throughout. He would pick me up at 530am before school so I could run stairs or work out on the universal weight machine. at the time I had now idea this was former NFL player, and Washington State football hall of famer. We called him Ross.
I found Ross to be the polar opposite of my Stepdad(later TBKA my Dad). Tony was an intimidating man with dark curly hair over 6 ft and a big Serpico mustache. he wasn’t a man of many words and didnt say many things twice. at that age I couldv’e easliy descibed him as moody or always grumpy but of course this was coming from a self serving teenager who hadn’t taken the time to see a man who had taken in 3 kids that were not of his own, worked shift work and if he called in sick, it was because he physically could not get out of bed.
As kids we all experienced Tony’s criticism or quick to trigger temper. But I also saw a man who could fix things. I cant remember a time when anybody came to repair anything at our house, cars, appliances, carpentry, Tony was the TexMex McGivor.
Although Polar opposites, each of these men taught me discipline in their own way, perhaps in their own language. Ross with his gentle guidance and encouraging words, and Tony by the actions of his work ethnic infallible ability to learn by doing. At the time I spoke Ross’s language as was my nature at the time. Understanding Tony’s dialect would take a few more years. regardless, they had removed the chains of the limiting idea that sucess was simply to not go to jail….They gave me enough Self Confidence, the Self Discipline that I thought I could become a US Marine…
Next up..Boot camp