Years ago, a parent came up to my wife in church, laughing; my wife Carole was going to be leading a summer camp for kids and one of the kids came home and said, “Mommy, Carole said we’re going to stay up way too late and eat bad stuff and she’s going to tell us about when she was a bad little girl!”
She didn’t have a lot on me, however.
I’ve shared some of the circumstances that led up to my conversion to Christianity earlier, but it puts my later experiences in perspective when you see what led up to them – when I was a BAD little boy. I thought it might be good to share some of my history with my children and grandchildren, also…
I was actually adopted at birth; what I thought for a long time was my uncle (J.D.) on my mom’s side had been visiting his son at his ex-wife’s home and apparently they were still on more than speaking terms, because I was conceived. They spoke with my to-be-adoptive mom (J.D.’s sister) and dad, and my biological mom moved temporarily from California to Spokane to complete her pregnancy. My adoptive parents had one son, who was in his late teenage years, and my biological parents’ son was in second grade (he came to stay with my to-be-adoptive parents that summer I was born).
When I was old enough later, my parents told me I was adopted, but I didn’t figure out the complicated relationships until well into adulthood. My cousin was actually my brother, my brother was actually my cousin, my uncle was my dad and my aunt, my mother (and vice-versa).
My biological father was a decorated and highly ranked Air Force officer, but I was told he was a bit of a hell raiser in his youth. I was a “challenging” youngster as well.
I don’t remember all the incidents, but my mother related some stories of me as a toddler. She was having some women friends over, so I took the opportunity to strip naked and play in the muddy creek outside our house. Another time I took my toy grader and dug up all her recently planted flowers. On a trip to town I got a hold of the cash register at our favorite grocery store and messed it up so bad they had to call a technician to fix it. My mother had to put a harness on me because I would bolt across the street. Now this was all before I have any memories of this (except the muddy creek), so I’ll call this mostly hearsay.
I was old enough to remember a couple years later, when I was a typical 4-year-old, impatient to go to my grandparents house (30 miles away–we lived way out in the country) and decided to hop on my tricycle and start out on my own. When my parents went to get in the car and realized I was missing they panicked, since we had swampy bogs in which a small child could drown (more on the bog later).
I must have been determined to make the whole trip, because when I heard a car coming I would throw my tricycle into the weeds/ditch along side the road. I’d made it over 5 miles on my way, and there was a section of road that I couldn’t hide along and so one of the neighbors picked me up and took me home. Below is a map of how far I made it:
I was raised as an only child since my only brother was nearly an adult when I was born, but his children – my nephews and nieces – were not much younger than me, but young enough that I could influence them into getting into a bunch of trouble. We were visiting them one time where they lived in Cutbank and we walked down to the river. Instead of walking back up the safe way I convinced them to climb up the steep clay bank (which dropped into the river down below). By God’s grace none of the three of us slipped; we would have fallen dozens of feet into the river.
And the bogs my parents were worried about?
A few years after the story earlier, I led my oldest nephew and niece into that above-mentioned bog, attempting a “shortcut” across it to the other side. All the water was knee deep, but we were trying to avoid the deeper holes when he sunk in up to his neck. Fortunately his sister and I were able to fish him out and we made our way – carefully – back to solid ground. Yet another time I got them in “deep” trouble…
Then there was the time I tried burning down the old shed up the hill…
My mother said she tried spanking me but it didn’t do any good, so I’m not sure what kind of discipline my parents decided upon. To adopt a child later in life, and a family member to boot, must have been a stressful decision. I know my parents had wanted more than one child — my mother had a couple of miscarriages — but I’m not sure what dynamics having adopted an ex-in law’s child entailed.
I’ve been sitting on this blog post for years, so I’m going to post what I have so far; I’ll try to get around to later years soon (including the infamous “Smokey the Bear Badge” incident…