Without Self-discipline, Success is Impossible. Period!

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

Go Boy, Breaking Chains

We all have a sad story  but I believe we also have  a story of hope if we can recognize the chains that bind us making us prisoners of our past, “sins”of our fathers, (sins in the sense that what we have learned from our parental figures(blood or not) that keep us from experiencing the grace of God(feeling Loved/Worthy).

Prisoners, Cons, Convicts, Felons, Delinquents…hard to read or say these words without a negative feeling of wanting to get away , ignore or hope that some authority figure somewhere will deal with “THEM” societys undesirables. In this blog(my first) I hope to share life experiences which may help others cope with similar experiences as well as learn from others.

I first heard the term “Go Boy” during the summer of my 16th year.It was the title of a book by Roger Caron. I was visiting my dad for two weeks during the summer of 1979 in Edmonton, Alberta. I didn’t realize at the time this book held many secrets to understanding who my father was.. “Go-Boy is a prison yell used when an inmate (or inmates) break from a work detail or crew in an attempt to escape”……..Like Roger Caron my father spent many years behind bars or in institutes……

August 1979- My father looked tired, but he was “clean”. He hadn’t used drugs or alcohol in over two years and was proud of it. I hadn’t see him in two years and before that, I cant remember.  My Dad had always been my hero. Simply put, he taught me what feeling loved unconditionally felt like.

My first memory as a child was sittting at the kitchen table watching my Dad “mixing up the medicine” He was a Heroin addict. I was facinated to see the bulging veins, the needle, spoon, lighter and the change in my Dads personality.  I was maybe 4 or 5.

My Dad was born in Northern Ontario, in the early forties. His Dad away working, wasn’t around much. I heard he was good in school and a talented baseball player.

When my dad  was 15 my Grandfather was working in the mines of BC(British Columbia). As I understand it, my Dad and the mine owners kid.  took a jeep without asking, for a joyride. It was reported. The mine owners kid walked away but my father wasn’t so lucky. He was left in the prison with the general popul;ation of grown men for well over a year. I can only imagine what they did to him.

As noted in the book “Go Boy” prison abuse in Canada was extreme and tolerated. My dad told me of abuses such as dragging him up the stairs by his hair, making him clean out the gallows among other things. Guards telling him, “ya see that boy, thats where you’ll be one day”. As I understand this is where my Dad found his escape from reality, Heroin.

As I came to understand it, my parents had split when I was 3 or so. I lived with my 2 older siblings and my Dad until I was 9.  We traveled back and forth across Canada moving frequently. My Dad kept us away from my Mum. for what ever reason, only seeing her once when I was six. We stayed on the move, attending 7 different schools by the time I was in 4th grade. At times we slept in the car, snuck back into “our house” which rent hadn’t been paid, just to sleep there at night and scoot out at dawn. Through all this, I knew he loved me.

I was happy as long as we were with Dad. When we weren’t with him (when he was in “the joint” , rehap or a hospital). we became wards of the province. Then we were either in foster care(thats another story), with my Grandma(God Bless her) or my Dad’s friend.

Over time my Dad developed drug related Paranoid Schizophrenia. one incident,  he gathered all of us up as we ran down the street, knocking on a strangers doors so he could call the police as someone was after us.  As the police arrived, it was then the police who were now after us. I was in the back seat of the police car with my sister, and dad as he yelled at my brother in the front seat to  be ready to jump out. Chaos. But through all this, I knew he loved me.

How did I know he loved me? The way he held my hand. He danced with us, He laughed with us. One time I told him I had to go to a Bday party. I wrapped up one of my toy guns as a present and brought it to school. He showed up at my class with a new gift. Most importantly, wherever we were staying, he always came back for us.  Ultimatley and I didn’t realize until later, he brought us back to our Mum.

Through all the turmoil, fogginess of substance abuse, he saw that what his kids needed was stability. It wasn’t easy adjusting to life in the U.S. New school was the norm but the structure, bedtimes, homework, and wondering…when was Dad coming to get us?

Needless to say, we never did go back to live with him. He was again in and out of jail and institutions which at times were close enough by that we could visit. It was heart wrenching leaving the jails when we would visit knowing he would have to stay there.

Although “clean” for the last two years of his life, my Dad took it to the extreme when he stopped taking his prescribed meds and two weeks after my visit in 1979, he took his own life.

During a time that people didn’t talk about their feelings and you just sucked it up, I had no idea what I carried inside had to be dealt with.

To be continued…….