Living in Society Social Commentary

Seven Influences


We are blinded and forever changed by our experiences if we are lucky.

Insights and epiphanies are few in life’s span. They can shape who we are and the choices we make in profound ways.

Some become passions and border on enthusiasm. Enthusiasm as in close to spiritual ecstasy, or possession by a god or the devil.

It began when I was three years old.

In the basement of our home at 919 Madison Street in Davenport, I was playing on a swing set my parents set up. It collapsed and the next thing I knew I was laying in a pool of my own blood. Mother rushed me to Mercy Hospital where the physician made me breathe ether poured in a funnel before stitching me some 50 times to close the wound on my forehead. I stayed in the hospital for what seemed like a long time. My parents visited every day at least once.

It never occurred to me that hospitals existed, or that so many people outside our home were employed with systems that nurtured the sick and injured. It gave me comfort and curiosity, then, and now.

I began Kindergarten while we lived on Madison Street. Mother had me walking about three quarters of a mile to school for the half-day sessions.

One day I got lost.

The way was to walk North on Madison and then East on 10th Street until I reached the stairs on the steep hill that was Riverview Terrace Park. From there I not sure, but believe I walked North on Washington Street to Twelfth Street, then over to Marquette where I turned South until Jefferson Elementary School was on my left. It was a long trip for a Kindergartner.

One day I took a shortcut on the way home and got lost. My homecoming was delayed much so my mother came out to look for me. She set out on foot and eventually found me on the steps of the park. It was a scary thing for a young person. It taught me to persist in the face of the unknown.

When I entered the seventh grade, we occupied a new school the parish built a block from our home. It was a terrible separating from my childhood friends as I was selected to join other seventh and eighth graders in an advanced class. The nun told us we were college bound and needed to begin preparing. I didn’t like the separation from my neighborhood pals, and occasionally I would hang with them at the Cue and Cushion, a local pool hall. That wasn’t meant to last. It was a blessing and a curse that we were separated. Less fun, more studies and some isolation from the roots I had formed with neighborhood kids as a grader.

My father’s death in 1969 was sudden and jolting. I had begun to consider college, and during a conversation with Mother after Dad’s death offered to give up those plans to help her adjust. She encouraged me to go to college and that forever broke me from the home where I’d lived in childhood. Once I left home, I would never really return.

My college years, military service and graduate school were a long transition from homelife in Davenport to living in the broader world. I experienced the world’s diversity during those 11 years and became a global citizen. In the end, I decided to stay in Iowa where Jacque and I met while working for the University of Iowa. We married in 1982 and to say it was a life-changer is an understatement. I hope we will remain married until death do us part.

The arrival of our daughter in 1985 was another formative experience, one that changed everything in a positive way. Having been lucky enough to be a parent, I discovered the tremendous opportunities and challenges of providing a home life so they could become a responsible citizen. It gives me a great deal of pride to see how she has grown and changed over the years since she entered the world. If all the world’s a stage, her entrance was notable and her performance enduring.

The decision to leave the transportation business after more than 25 years shaped how my life has played out. With that decision came a new world of engagement in society. For the first time, I’ve been able to concentrate on living how I want, writing, distracted only by the existential demands of society. I don’t know what enduring writing will be produced, but without the commitment that began July 3, 2009, nothing of my current life would be possible.

In reasonably good health, in a safe environment, much is possible. Where shall I go? I hope to be on the road to some usefulness in society.