Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nature Vs Nurture

My biological father was a cool guy. Like the Fonz, he rode a motorcycle and hung around the hells angels and plenty of other people which could easily be considered the wrong crowd.

When I was a kid my grandfather would take me to the visitors center to visit him. We would wait out on the yard and grandpa would always point out the window to his cell. "Look Joey, third window from the corner, count with me, one...two...three, see him!"

When I was younger I wanted to be just like him, cool. Being like him got me locked up too. One day I climbed up on my bunkies rack and looked out the window. I recognized the yard and the picnic table where my grand father and I sat when I was a child. Then counting the windows I realized I was sitting in my fathers cell.

That moment changed my live forever. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to be like my step dad. An amazing man who worked full time, went to night school, worked odd jobs on the weekends, kept up the maintenance on our place and still managed to throw a ball at me and take me fishing.

For the past three years I have served as a chaplain for a variety of offenders. Murders, rapists, drug addicts and now the state hospitals mentally ill and unstable. Patrick McCollum once said he knew he could send me into a super-max prison facility and I wouldn't be afraid, that I had what it takes. I always wondered why. I wondered which one of them contributed to that particular aspect of my character.

Serving such people has made me think a lot about the whole nurture vs nature thing. I have a lot of my father in me, perhaps too much sometimes. Often when visiting family I am reminded how much like him I am. I am told stories about him, and many of my mannerisms serve as constant reminders of him to my family. Many if not most of these mannerism, were natural, I never learned them from him.

I took this picture with my camera phone. I spent this last week on vacation with my family, my parents rented a cabin at Lake of the Woods, not far from Ashland Oregon (no wonder the grand arch druid lives there). We had a great time. Fishing all day, barbecue tri-tip dinners and evenings around the campfire with good wine and even better cigars. I realized how much of him I have in me too. I noticed how many of his mannerisms I have acquired, and saw him doing things the way I do them and saying things the way I would say them.

I look back on my life, who I have been, who I could have been and who I have become. As a father, step father and adoptive father, I'm raising four kids the way I was raised. My oldest girl has been accepted into the university preparatory academy for her next two years of high school. My younger girl ended her last year of elementary school, on the gate program for advanced students and on the presidents list for honor roll, complete with a letter from Obama. Although my step son is in special education, he is still the top of his class and received the silver presidents award and my youngest boy wants to be a police officer.

This fathers day the best gift I'm receiving is the fruit of a fathers labor, good children. Thanks to my father who taught me how not to be cool, and my dad who taught me what being a man was really all about. As it turns out I am the product of both.

Thank you Lord and Lady for blessing me with such contrast.

Happy Fathers Day & Blessed Be.


Norma said...

Thank you for sharing that. It's a great story.

Rufus Opus said...

Right on, man. Glad to see you reaching the place where you can begin to honor, or at least accept the gifts from both fathers.