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Cliff McKenzie, Editor

GROUND ZERO PLUS 1378 DAY--New York, NY, Sunday, June 20, 2005--I grew up with no father.

Then I got a step father.

He wasn't my father.

My father never existed in real form. I heard about him. I saw his pictures. I watched him drive by me piloting a Greyhound Bus along the Columbia Gorge. His route was from Portland, Oregon to the Dalles.

But he never acknowledged my existence even though he passed by where I lived with my mother and grandmother frequently. I stood by the side of the road numerous times and watched his giant silver bus churn its way out of the Cascade Locks stop, where my grandparents' home was, and felt an emptiness akin to that of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys Clan.

I felt like one of the Lost Boys

When I was five, my mother remarried - to a man I didn't like. I met him on my fifth birthday and he gave me a softball. Then he started to play catch with me. He threw the ball so hard it smashed into my stomach and sent me crying into my grandparents' house to tell my mother he had done it on purpose, which to this day I'm sure he did. She denied he would do such a thing, promptly told me "he" was my "father," and that my job was to "mind him."

We never were father and son. He was big and mean looking. He drank a lot, as did my mother, and the two fought. He hit my mother often and I found myself fighting him, throwing myself between my mother and step father and suffering the consequences.

When I searched for a wife, I wanted someone who help me be the best possible father I could be by being the best possible mother to our children. I found her. She was my angel, the beautiful sum of a woman who would in tandem, repair the tear in my soul--that rip in my childhood where I had no relationship between my mother and father or my mother and step father.

I begrudged my mother for staying with my step father and consuming the abuse he issued. He drove my sister from our home when I was fifteen by making what was considered a pass at her in one of his drunken moments. She became a persona non grata in our household, and I went to live with my grandparents with her. She never returned home as a child, only as a bitter woman excommunicated by a family living in denial about its ruptured nature.

If a man or woman is charged with some mission in life as a result of circumstances and events, then mine was to be the father I never had. My wife was not close to her father, and we commonly agreed that we would make the "family" the first and foremost priority of our lives. She hails from East Helena, Montana. We both grew up in a world where "children are seen not heard," and the thrust today for "interpersonal relationships" with children on adult levels was creaking its evolutionary way into society.

Kids like myself who hungered from rich relationships on parity with my parents where we were "friends" and "buddies" and "pals" was in its gestation stages. James Dean was leading the revolution with his famous movie: "Rebel Without A Cause," a precursor of the pent-up anger in teenagers who sought independence from the draconian attitude that "children should be seen, not heard." Dean's character who violated that rule sent lightening bolts through a whole generation to "change the future."

Not all revolutions are violent.

Some are very subtle.

I chose the subtle revolution.

My wife and I were going to love our children as children but also as friends, buddies, pals.

We were going to create deep bonds of friendship, loyalty and respect that we did not have in our lives.

We were going to create deep bonds of friendship, loyalty and respect

This isn't anything new in the maturation of human behavior. If the goal of all creatures is to leave the world a little better than it was before you came, then insuring your children are more mature and emotionally balanced than you are, is a worthy target.

Nature automatically achieves this among her children. She allows all living things the ability to reinforce their genetic shields to withstand and adjust to the shifts and changes of the world. Even the deadly germs and viruses adapt, modify and evolve to survive. As more and more antibiotics are crated, the "bugs" change and alter themselves to become immune to the medications so that they might live a more "happy, joyous and free" life and procreate in spite of attacks upon them.

From a family point of view, that's what my wife and I sought.

We were going to create the "perfect" family in the sense it would be "more perfect" than the ones we had come from.

The universe blessed us with two beautiful daughters.

We kept our vows. Each of us, in our own ways, and collectively, as mother and father, set about a course in which the ultimate value of our lives would be expressed in the maturity and healthiness of our children's attitude and outlooks on life.

The trick was, of course, not to impose our own belief systems on them, but rather to inculcate that they not only had the right but the duty to create their own belief systems, and to march to their own drummers even if the beat of those drums flew in the face of what might commonly be called "accepted."

That happened. One of our daughters became a social justice advocate, working with the homeless and disenfranchised, living and breathing and working toward a better world for those who might be trodden by the world's rush to achieve over the bodies of those who got in the way.

Our other daughter became a federal special agent, packing two 9mm's and arresting the "bad guys" who threaten society with crime and human pestilence. We ended up with one daughter on the Left and one on the Right, but, in truth, they existed on an equal plane--both fighting for justice--one with guns and the other with a cross.

So on Father's Day this past Sunday, I sat in a swath of joy.

This Father's Day I sat in a swath of joy

Sometimes I get all concerned about "my life's value" and "where I am" and "where I'm going" and "what's in life for me," and all the other singular selfish concerns that are common when one looks in the mirror at his or her reflections and wonders whether life is being good or bad, or whether its worth pursuing with the passion that once gripped me as a younger man.

Then an event such as Father's Day comes to bring a truth that is so easily overlooked I almost forgot its true treasure.

That is the truth of parenting.

Of all the achievements human beings can tout, there is none more important or worthy than that of being a good, hard-working parent who teaches a child how to love life by loving that child's uniqueness, loving that child's humanness, loving that child's beauty as a being and his or her potential to become anything he or she truly wants to be--not what you might wish or want him or her to be.

At Tompkins Park in the East Village, our family gathered this past Sunday for a joint Father's Day and birthday celebration for our youngest grandson, Brendan. He was celebrating his third year of life. Brendan is extra special because he was conceived on the Terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

I've always considered him to be an example of nature's thirst to evolve beyond the worst of events. He carries in his small, loving body, the hope of further evolution. We enjoy two other grandchildren, Adam and Sophia, soon to be nine and seven respectively. They all belong to our social justice daughter and her husband's household, but they are truly "community kids," who were born into a much vaster world of Family Vigilance. The love expressed to them by both their mother and father is a tribute to that which my wife and I gave them, added to and plussed by their parents own natural desire to give their children the best from within--from their hearts and souls.

Our gun-toting daughter is also pregnant. She is due to have her first child in just a few weeks. I watched her rubbing her swollen, ripe tummy and cradling it as she stood, cupping her hands under her womb-wrapped baby with an affection that made my heart sing.

Her husband, who is the father of a beautiful young girl starting into her teens, is a man who loves children. I sat back and watched both my sons-in-laws interacting with the children at the party. They are both great fathers whose first priority is their family and their children.

My daughters picked the right men.

In a sense, it is easy for me to scold my two "fathers" and lambaste them for not being "fathers" to me. In reality, neither of them were. But in another sense, I have always wondered whether I would have been the kind of father I've been with my daughters were it not for the Beast of Family Terror that drove me to battle that Beast with Family Vigilance.

Life is about learning and applying knowledge.

My Beast Of Family Terror evolved into my ........

Countless children grow up to be kind, loving parents despite the lives they might have led as children in abusive, complacent families where selfish desires by parents exclude the child's emotional maturity.

In my case, I grew up with a special purpose to not be like my fathers when it came to parenting. I wanted to spread a table of love and respect for my children that I never feasted from. My wife joined me at the hip on that mission. We are still joined in that mission, for we now have grandchildren to be grandparents to, and to offer our experience and wisdom to them as parents as we did to them as children.

So, on Father's Day, I looked back at my fathers and felt nothing. That bothered me. When one has indifference toward a parent, it's not good. I'm sure there's something of value my fathers did for, to and of me that I am blind to see.

My biological father gave me life. For that I am grateful. My step father gave me gifts I have yet to recognize and appreciate, but I'm sure they exist. I heard an expression once about parents that sums up excuses for their lack of parenting: "Did you ever think your parents did the best they could with the tools they had, but they didn't have very many because they weren't parented well?"

I've rejected that idea most of my life because if that were true, then I would have followed their parenting paths, for they gave me few, if any parenting tools that I recognize. My parenting tools were reactionary--to not be like them."

That, in a way, is positive. It means that I might not have tried to be a good parent as hard as I did were it not for them, and for that, my father and step father deserve some credit, however unintended that credit might be.

I also know I'm certainly not a "perfect parent."

........Sentinel of Family Vigilance

Nothing is "perfect" in that sense. Hopefully, our children will want to improve upon our parenting, and do things differently and better--as they do do now.

My Beast of Family Terror evolved into my Sentinel of Family Vigilance.

It can for any child who wants to make life better for his or her children than what the child feels he or she didn't get.

Terrorism is only a starting point. It is the force sometimes that drives us to Vigilance.

This Sunday I looked at the results of Vigilance over Terrorism.

I sat back and inhaled the joy of my children and wife and sons-in-laws all unified in the joy of being parents.

There was nothing but happiness yesterday flowing between all present.

That was my great present. I was proud to be a Father of Vigilance. I was proud I had Children of Vigilance.


Go To June 11 Story: "You Know A Man Not By His Deeds But By His Ultimate Sacrifice....."




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