I met a ghost a few days ago, touched hands and minds with one of the most influential men in my life. He’s been dead for twelve years.
I grew up with a father who distrusted anything that smacked of education and intelligence. He grew up in a poor family in the rural South with eleven siblings. As his father would beat him, my father would constantly be told how stupid he was. My father dropped out of elementary school during the Great Depression when his father was killed in an auto accident and all the children had to suddenly support the family.
My father was cursed with two very intelligent sons. When I brought home my report card with its straight A’s, he would tell me that I had no common sense and how he had seen all the college educated kids die first during World War II. It is one thing to fail in life with bad performance or lack of effort. It is quite another to fail with efforts that few people can match. I ended up graduating from high school as one of the top two math and science scholars in my county. My father only slipped further from me into his drinking and depression. He died when I was 22.
I feel like I lived my life in a haze for a long time, not from drugs or drinking, but from the experience repeated over and over endlessly, the experience that nothing I could do would ever be good enough, not even near perfection. My own depression sprang from this. Why try when the best of efforts was insufficient?
It’s difficult to have a deep relationship with a woman in this state of mind. When I was 42 and returned to my 25th high school reunion I met a woman whom I hadn’t seen since my high-achieving days of high school. It was a synchronistic event that deserves an entire story of its own. I knew without a doubt that I would spend the rest of my life with her after we first said hello and then passed on by. We didn’t fall in love as much as choose to become friends who would help each other down the road.
After I had moved to live with her and her five-year old daughter, my past began to rise up to meet me again. A friend of hers gave her the name of an old man, Robert Blakemore, who was supposed to be a good counselor. When I went to see him my life changed forever. The magic was that he saw nothing wrong with me, nothing to fix. He enjoyed every aspect of my particular genius and beamed with a paternal pride as I undertook being a father myself. His depth and wisdom penetrated me as he encouraged me to take on those same aspects for myself. His very being encouraged forward.