As I look back on my life I have to lay most of my failures directly at my parent's feet. They were idealists with a skewed look on life and made sure that their views were instilled into me as my own. As Job, I look around me and see what he saw. The wicked prosper, while the just wither.
My mother was a devout Baptist who taught Sunday School for as long as she was able to to stand at a lectern. She was a woman of prayer, but little faith in it. I say that because she was a constant hand-wringer...a 'worry wart' if you will. Yet, she had callouses on her knees when she died.
My father was a working man who had little time to play catch with his sons. He was too busy putting a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food in our stomachs. I can count on both hands how many times he verbalized that he loved me and have several fingers left over to count something else with. However, I never doubted that he did.
My brother and I were not sent to church, we were taken to church. Every...blessed...Sunday. It was a rule. Part of life was going to church. Don't go, and it was a one way ticket to the fiery flames of an eternal, blistering, flesh-melting, bone charring and demon infested hell.
I never saw my parents fight. Not once can I recall them having an argument in front of me or my brother. I know they did have disagreements that resulted in a terse word or two at the dinner table, but nothing that would ever make me doubt we had a stable and happy home. We were never mistreated by either of them. Even though by today's standards my dad might have been arrested for abuse after taking the belt to us, but there was never any lasting harm done and the red marks were gone after about thirty minutes. Believe me, when he spoke, we listened.
My brother and I were raised to be respectful of others. We were told that color does not make the person. The Bible was our codebook of conduct. Dad was our example at working hard and doing a good job for a decent pay. He told us that if we worked hard and did our best, we would be rewarded. We were taught to play by the rules. Don't steal, don't lie, don't covet, etc etc. Share and share alike was their mantra.
Throughout my adult life I have tried to live the way I was brought up. And what has it gotten me? A wife who cheated on me in less than eight months of marriage. People who have mistreated me, lied to me, stabbed me in the back, thrown me out on the street, fired me, hired me and fired me again, betrayal by best friends, victories over me by worst enemies, a handicapped child, bankruptcy, foreclosure, open heart surgery, homelessness, lawsuits, a spouse's nervous breakdown and subsequent attempted suicide, two dead children and I could go on and on.
So, I look around and see people living their narcissistic, pandering, lying, thieving, self absorbed lives who don't care who they have to step on and brush aside as long as they get theirs and conclude that Mom and Dad did me no great service by raising me as they did. At least, not as the world sees it.
From the world's perspective I'm a chump, a loser, a crybaby and probably not too smart. I don't own a business and still work for the man. I am climbing out of a more than half million dollar hole, and have surrendered to the fact I won't ever be able to retire. There will be nothing to leave my remaining child but a place full of 34 years plus of accumulated stuff.
But, from my parent's perspective, I'm a survivor, a fighter with no quit, a dreamer, a helper, a good son, a good father, good husband and one who knows how to be a good friend. Some may chide me when I complain about my past or my present. When they do that, they have no more respect for Job than they do me. Who doesn't lament from time to time about their present condition? If you don't, then I envy you for being blissfully ignorant.
My parents raised me wrong if I were meant to be a worldly man seeking only worldly things. They raised me right if I were meant to be a man with character who would be able to stand on his own two feet in the midst of life's storms. They raised me right to know that even when the storms were too much for me, there was a strong tower that I could run into and be safe.
I am glad that I have had a fleeting moment in time to experience the world, travel to exotic places, meet different cultures, taste the finer things in this temporal life and be blessed with a little more money than most. But, life is summed up thusly. You are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or heading into a storm. I have been storm free for almost two years. The last storm was when my chest was cut open and my diseased heart was repaired. I am now headed into another storm. The winds are picking up and my sails are not as strong as they once were. This could be a fierce one, and I wonder if I have the strength for it. I grow tired, but I have not lost my sense of defiance. If this one should prove to be the greatest of storms I have yet to face, then let it come. As I weigh the world's view of wealth in one hand, and my self worth in the other, I have no doubt...no doubt...the world would agree my parent's raised me wrong. And while the wind and rain lash my face and tear the sails of my life's ship, blowing her to the deadly rocks that may split her hull...I laugh at what the world thinks. The hand that holds my sense of self worth far outweighs the wealth of the world. True value was instilled in me, and my parents....raised me right.