I am getting it from a few angles here. MoJoey is saying I need to show a little proverbial skin and open up a little. At the same time, Adrian and Dave are blogging their testimonies. Also, I feel I have articulated my positions on mission and monastic pretty clearly and would like to move to something different. Therefore, I have decided to blog my testimony over the next few posts.
My father was born in 1923 in Eric, Oklahoma. In the deepest years of the depression, during the Oklahoma dust bowl, his parents and his brothers and sisters migrated to Northern California. His testimony is that the migrant worker life picking strawberries in Northern California was the “exact opposite” of the Grapes of Wrath. Though I don’t know the details, I do know my father became an orphaned ranch hand by the age of 13. As I learn the details of the life of my grandparents, whom I never knew, it actually sounds a lot like the Grapes of Wrath. But, my father was from the greatest generation, and the processing throug the trauma of the great depression and the other pains of life is not something my father and his peers are so good at.
During his early teen years, my father, who was quite the athlete, learned to box. He made good money to help support his brothers and sisters. Boxing would become something I have great memories of. My father and I, when I was a boy, would attend the closed circuit boxing events for all the great fights of the ‘70s. This extreme, and in many ways existential, quest for athletic excellence that is so distilled in the drama of boxing is indelibly stamped on the dreams and activities of my adolescence and early adult years.
In 1940, the war broke out, and, at the age of 17, my father dropped out of high school, fibbed a bit about his age, and joined the Navy. My father was stationed in the Pacific and never saw much action. After the war, my father, along with the victorious men of his generation, began to build his life and pursue the American dream so many of his generation had died for.
My father is quite a talker. He is, at least today, a picture of self-confidence. My father, as I picture him as a young man, was a self-confident, good looking, freewheeling entrepreneur with, like all of us, a bit of baggage. He is a salesman and a very successful one. After the war, he went into the automobile business and having built a healthy business, at the age of 27, he met and married my mother.
My mother in many ways is the female counterpart of my father. She too went through the difficulties of the depression. Her father was a very intelligent man with all the brokenness that was taboo to speak of in those days. My mother like my father is wise and entrepreneurial. My mother kind of reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore in the old sit com. She is highly functional and, in my youth, was a matriarchal stabilizing influence. She is a very safe person. She is not needy and, like my father, is the archetype of the greatest generation. My parents were hard working business people and, by the time I was born, had become upper middle class.
Heavy Like Heaven
I was born in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I came out of the womb sensitive and serious. I was the youngest of four children with the next youngest, my brother, being 3 ½ years older than me.
We were a proud family. We appeared, to my childhood mind, to be the perfect family. It was always nice to go to my father’s work when I was a pre-schooler and know that my father was the owner and the boss. I felt like a prince. I would learn later that my father was clinically depressed and a workaholic. All I knew then was that we were Hightower’s and that held great honor in my heart.
One of the earliest memories of my childhood was of my mother’s record collection. My mother, praise the Lord, was a fan of folk music. We had Kingston Trio records and Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens and the whole gang (minus Dylan). I spent a great deal of time listening to those records. I remember as a 4 or 5 year old listening to "Bookends" by Simon and Garfunkel over and over again until I had taught myself how to read. My mother even bought two sets of headphones so we could sit together and sing along to the melancholy songs of Paul Simon. Even as a very young boy, I remember crying listening to "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens and "America" by Paul Simon:
"Cathy I'm lost", I said, though I knew she was sleeping.
Sensitive and serious from birth, that is the story of my life.