Mea Culpa, I Have Sinned - Part 1 Shadowlands
Ray Levasseur (c) 1984, 1994, 1997, All rights reserved
Sit down, make yourself comfortable. This is a long
and difficult story to tell.
Where do I start? It's been a long, strange journey, but finally I believe I'm on the right road. Earlier versions of this journal were posted in a Christian usenet news group (1983-1984) and on a number of private computer bulletin boards (1994). The majority of feedback was positive; from both Christians and non alike. There were a few new age and pagan scoffers, but overall people wanted to see more of what this scribe had put to disk. You, dear reader must remember that these journals are a reflection of my own personal experiences, "your mileage may vary", so do not get upset if along the way something you read in this series makes you uncomfortable. The purpose of writing this material is, "hopefully", someone out there might be led to God, or at least learn something.
This is the story of one man's walk. My hike through the spiritual forest took many side paths along the way, and during this time I got lost quite often. I feel "personally" that I am back on the right path again, and maybe there "is" light at the end of the tunnel of trees and vegetation after all. Come along if you wish, we'll take my jeep as the roads are not paved and there are lots of twisty deep rutted roads filled with rocks and lots of steep hills. Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a long, bumpy ride
In the beginning
I was born in 1947, the same year as the transistor, for what that's worth; in a Massachusetts mill town. It was a cultural melting pot of a city, split into cultural neighborhoods; French Canadian, Greek/Italian, German, Black, Hispanic, Eastern European, Arabic, Jewish and a high-brow White Protestant suburb. There were some minor inter-neighborhood scuffles, but nothing comparing to the outright hatred that exists today between splintered factions. The Catholics were convinced that all Jews and Protestants were going to Hell, the Protestants were convinced that Catholics and Jews were destined for Hell, the Jews just thought the Catholics and Protestants were quite insane, but there were very few agnostics or atheists in my town. No matter which school you attended, the Lord's Prayer was recited along with the Pledge of Allegiance, we were after all, "One nation under God". The Ten Commandments were displayed above the teachers' desks. Most all Chinese, Japanese and Koreans who immigrated into our town settled into Catholic or Protestant congregations. Madeline Murray O'Hare had not yet blasted prayer out of schools. Again, we all pretty much got along.
My own church was a very poor and conservative Catholic parish, where Latin was spoken (pre Vatican II days). From preparation for First Communion we quickly learned that just the sight of us made God very ill; filthy with sin and depravity. God was ever vigilant to catch children in occasions of sin. My understanding was that Jesus was God's whipping boy and tattle-tale. Sin, and Jesus told the Father, who doled out punishment generously, turning the sinner over to Satan for final punishment and "eternal" damnation. From age 3 I learned that Jesus was in regular contact with Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Aggravate one and all the others would act in concert against the sinner.
The punishments I got from my patents were supplemented with threats that "God will now take over and finish the job of punishment. If I fell down from the kitchen step stool while attempting to purloin an unauthorized "cookie" from the cookie jar, mom and dad were very quick to assure me, "Ah-hah! God punished you. Serves you right!!!" This did help cultivate an overly active conscience; God is watching, no matter what you do, you WILL get caught!....so be good for goodness sake.
Miraculous medals, scapulars and statues had an almost magical power. "Yes, Jesus could see me from behind the Crucifix." As I got older and my sins became more sophisticated, I learned to hide all icons under my bed and remove all Holy medals before engaging in "sin." Even before reaching puberty, I was becoming VERY neurotic about those parts of the body that grownups only whispered about; they were dirty!
Even as a child, I was a Catechism flunky. Many times the nuns would quiz us on the Catechism. The prize for correct answers was a holy card or a glow in the dark plastic icon. I never came close to even being a runner up in these quizzes. Or a shadow would play against the wall behind the nun's desk. She would ask, "children, who can see the Immaculate heart of Mary in the shadow?" This was a sign that some lucky child was special to our Lord. Hands would frantically wave around, "Ohhh I see it sister, I see it, I do!" The winners would run up to sister's desk to claim their prize; a vigil light, a holy card, a statue........but I always left school empty handed.
During preparation for First Communion, the nuns drilled home the fact that we all harbored sins that caused our Savior to shed bitter tears; even at 5-6 sin lurked everywhere, embedded in our very DNA. Every sin must be flushed out and confessed to the priest before we could approach the communion rail. The nuns shared the story about a boy, right here in town from another parish. It seems he went to confession and did not confess some sin, or he was absolved and then sinned before going to mass and receiving communion. When the Eucharist touched his tongue, "HE WAS STRUCK DEAD! THIS REALLY HAPPENED!" So Sister begged us to pray, pray, PRAY, to search our immortal souls for any blemish. This was far worse than any IRS tax audit. Tax evasion could get you fined or imprisoned. After your sentence was up, you were free again. If you were Catholic and cheated on your taxes, you were also susceptible to fines and/or prison...but there was more! If this sin was not confessed and fully repented of, you could face "millennia" added to your post-life sentence in Purgatory, a double whammy!
The Protestants believed that sin was sin was sin; plain and simple. We Catholics had an entire heirachy of sin. Cheating on taxes might not be too bad since the government was swimming in money and themselves a den of thieves, so you might get off with a few thousand years in Purgatory. Stealing from a poor box was another matter, which could get you thrown into eternal "Hell". You could at least get sprung from Purgatory after your time was up and all the bread crumb sins had been burned away, but there was no "get out of Hell free" card in this game.
After much rehearsing in Catechism classes; learning all the rote memorized prayers; Our Father, Hail Mary, Act of Contrition, Apostles Creed, etc. and a number of dress rehearsal confessions and communions, we were ready for the real thing. The Saturday of my first "Confession" I almost died from fright. The only sin I could think of was peeing behind the "bathtub Madonna" that was the centerpiece of my parents" garden. The priest assured me (through stifled laughter) that this was a sin, but not beyond the forgiveness of God. In the future, I was to run to the nearest bathroom to tinkle (why else would God have created bathrooms?) "now say 3 Hail Mary's and make an Act of Contrition." As time passed my sins would become more sophisticated and require the recital of entire Rosaries to purge.
Missing Mass on Sunday was a sure fire guarantee of Hell, as was missing Mass on a holy day of obligation, eating meat on Friday, lieing to the priest in confession, eating before receiving Communion (Jesus might slip and fall or get his feet dirty....and he was PERFECT). The nuns instilled in us all sorts of dogma. You could not dump worn out Holy Water down the toilet; God would be quite irate, but you could water the garden with it. Palms from last year's Palm Sunday could not be tossed in the trash, but could be burned in a respectable way.
You right wing fundamentalists might find yourself laughing self-righteously over these Catholic beliefs. Wait until later! I have a lot I want to say about my experiences with you folks! When I was small, men had to remove their hats when entering church and women had better have theirs covered. I think this was left over from some old Biblical dogma about women being second rate people. If a woman's head cover fell off, God would surely strike her dead on the spot as a lesson to all other women in the parish. A few times Pop whacked the fedora right off my head, when I forgot to remove it, "don't you know this is God's house? Show some RESPECT!"
As if I didn't feel miserable enough about myself, when puberty reared it's lovely head, I felt even more self loathing. I blossomed early to the embarrassment of my parents. I was supposed to show shame over my body, which was busting out all over; like I had control over how full bodied I would become. Maybe it was the Italian/ French Canadian genes, maybe it was Satan himself that was making me bloom early. At 11 years old I was growing a beard and growing pubic hair like weeds. My genitals were rather overly developed for my age. My mother often told me this was something I should be ashamed of, adding to an already overloaded landfill of toxic shame. At the beach relatives whispered to my parents about how I was awfully BIG down there, but despite the whispers, I heard every word. During the 50's, it was "cool" for boys to wear "pegged" jeans. My parents "forbid" me to leave the house dressed like "that." If I was hit by a car and killed, God would surely send me to Hell, dressed like some trollop.
Puberty was about the same time the brothers took the boys aside in private. The nuns took the girls somewhere else. We were lectured about these new feelings we "might" be experiencing (I already had been for a couple of years). This was normal for married people, but we had to pray hard for help in keeping the urges suppressed until marriage. Some of the boys didn't have a clue to what the brothers were saying, looking puzzled when they got to the sordid parts (impure thoughts, actions and their eternal consequences).
I will always remember the "true" story the brother told the class, which happened right in "this" parish. I just know somehow this story was going to apply directly to "ME." The brother proceeded, "There was this boy named John. He was just about your age and was noticing some confusing, uncomfortable and frightening new feelings. He also noticed that certain parts of his body were growing and sprouting hair. One night he was awoken by a strange and exciting feeling in this area (pointing below his own belt. He had learned in catechism that he MUST pray fervently to our Lord, Holy Mother and the patron saints to make this temptation go away. Satan is always on the prowl, searching out young souls for damnation and tonight tortured John relentlessly with temptation. John prayed and prayed, but Satan whispered that it was OK to give in. And do you know what John did?" The boys shook their heads, no please tell us. I knew exactly what brother was about to say. "In one weak moment of temptation, John touched himself in an IMPURE manner and spilled his precious seed of life just as Onan had." His voice was getting louder, almost barking at us, "and do you know what HAPPENED?" Most of the boys shook their heads, but I knew exactly what he'd say next. "GOD....... in justifiable anger STRUCK HIM DEAD WHERE HE LAY!" The entire class jumped in their seats, "and today, for that one fleeting moment of pleasure, he is now burning in eternal torment of HELL. If he had not given in and confessed this temptation, receiving absolution, he would be with us today. But he will remain in HELL for ALL ETERNITY!" I was giving in to these same impure thoughts almost on a daily basis; how many levels can Hell contain for a sinner such as I?
We also learned that these WICKED sins of the flesh were right up there with murder and mayhem, an express bus ticket to Hell. And as much as I prayed for our Lord to take this "thorn of the flesh" away, it only got stronger and stronger. These sins of impurity had to be confessed as soon as they occurred. I would have needed a 24 hour a day confessional hotline to keep me in God's good graces. I still prayed and prayed, but the call of this "lustful" nature just would not take a rest. We heard that one 16 year old boy in some other parish had cut his genitals off and was rushed to an emergency room, where he almost died. The brother confirmed this and told us about the glories that awaited him in Heaven for such a brave and obedient deed, "if your eye leads you to sin, then pluck it out.
In Boy Scouts and among the boys I grew up with, fooling around with other boys (show me yours and I'll show you mine) was considered just another rite of passage. At least among the Jewish and liberal Protestants in my gang it was no big deal. one of my best friends was a Jewish kid, who was the first to lead me down the road of carnal knowledge and assured me that this was normal, and by age 16 (when we became men?) this would all turn into lust for girls. What a relief, I still had a few years to explore, but every time I attended Catechism (now Christian Doctrine class) I heard the opposite, so I stopped attending CCD classes (unknown to Mom and Dad)hanging out with my non Catholic friends down by the railroad tracks, when I was supposed to be in Christian doctrine. Of course the nuns and brothers called my parents, "WHERE IS YOUNG RAYMOND?" and I was grounded until I repented and returned to the flock. I sat in the back of the class and re-routed every word of lectures to the null device (in one ear, out the other).
I began committing another mortal sin, by lying to my confessor. When we got to the really juicy stuff regarding impure thoughts and actions, I either told Father that I didn't have any or that I never gave in to the thoughts (big lie). Of course I would skip out on communion, since to receive the body of Christ with mortal sin on your soul would surely get me a coronary and one way ticket to Hell. I still prayed fervently, begging Jesus to take this blotch away (why me God?) No dice on his part, but I did sub-consciously learn to dissociate the act of self abuse (whilst paging through copies of Playboy) from my waking mind (very dangerous practice). I could give into these urges, but it was not me doing the act.
Of course these volcanic energies worked their way out in dreams, actually "creature triple feature" nightmares where I was gang raped by hordes of demons in Hell, or vampire lesbians from Sodom.... and enjoying the show....for a while anyway. In other dreams ugly space aliens would kidnap me and perform all sorts of sexual abuse aboard their flying saucers.
Theodora's First Law Of Psychodynamics states, "neurotic energy can neither be created not destroyed, but changed in form or repressed, in which case it will change in form."
After heated battles with my father, mom took my side and felt attending a "public" high school was OK for me. Dad and his family all went to Catholic schools.
I knew of a couple of kids who didn't survive Catholic school. One was committed to a "rest home", or so that's what we were told. "They were tired" and needed rest", when later I learned they spent time in psyche wards. One was picked up by the police while running buck naked down the street, erect unmentionable appendage in hand, yelling out obscenities. Another was "caught" abusing himself while frantically thumbing a muscle magazine, plus a Playboy (it's two, two, TWO sins in one) admitted for perversion. I should count some of my blessings, being spared these small indecencies.
Years later when I related some of these stories to "fundamentalist born-agains" all they could say was, "OH my. The power of sin over man, if only they accepted Jesus as savior." These folks seemed every bit as dissociated as I was, "get your heads out of your own bums and spend some time out here in the real world, for Petey sakes!" But I will get to these people and their impact...later.
My public high school activities and friends kept me too busy for angst over sin, and I was spending less time on sex and more with the band (I Played guitar in a rock and roll band, doubling as roadie and disk jockey) Music and it's reproduction became my biggest passion. Ham radio took up any remaining time. I was approaching 16 and still showed no interest in girls. My parents, rather than being embarrassed by this, told the relatives, "at least he's doing something constructive and staying out of trouble. And we did make money playing at dances, so the folks stopped my allowances when I started making my own money. I was also fixing Hi-Fi's and TV sets, which kept me in ready cash. Geeks and dweebs have very little time for "girls", scrounging an old broken TV or radio from a neighbor's trash was better than sex.
Both of my grandmothers assumed my lack of interest in girls was a calling from God to become a priest (during the 40-early 60's this made sense to some Catholic parents). My grandparents and parents started shoveling money into a trust fund for my tuition. I had little say in the matter of which order I would enter.
If I was going to me a man of the cloth I wanted to be one of those outlaw, renegade, "street priests" that were now just getting exposure in the news. Many were now protesting an escalating conflict in Viet Nam or involved in Civil Rights rallies. It was decided I would be a Maryknoll missionary. My grandmother told me of how many treasures I would amass in Heaven for bringing little Black babies in Africa to Jesus. All I could see was myself schlogging through some mosquito infested swamp, running from snakes and ultimately succumbing to malaria (a future saint for sure). All they wanted to see was their son the "missionary priest."
Whenever I spoke out against my destined career path, "but Ma, I really want to be an electrical engineer or work in broadcast engineering", it was met with, "after all we've done for you, and think about Nana. All that money she's putting aside for your ordination. Selfishness is a SIN!" But everything was a sin, so why should this be any worse.
My hormones were resuming their activity about now and all I was thinking about was SEX. The other guys in the band were always getting dates, copping a feel here and there......some even claiming to "go all the way" with a chick....but me? At 15-16 I began to work out with weights, becoming quite muscular for my age. We'd cruise the strip at Hampton Beach in the lead guitarist's "souped up" Pontiac, pulling the typical sophomoric crap, "hey baby, hubba hubba!" So ok, it was around 1963-4, before the term "sexist" became a household word. All I ever got to do was drive the car while the others made out.....but when I got back home, there was onanism as my sole physical outlet.
My buddies were quasi-rebels as well as nerds. The guys in the band were beginning to wear Beatle haircuts. Dad's word was law, "no son'o mine is going to shame me by looking like a girl, I'll call you Louise." Dad dictated with an iron fist, appropriate hair style (crewcut or Marine DI buzzed) and wardrobe. While the other guys wore skin tight blue jeans and leather jackets, I was only allowed to wear tasteful chinos (and baggy to boot). While they got to wear tight Speedos, or "ball-huggers" as some guys called them, to the beach, my swimsuits resembled bloomers. Perhaps you're familiar with the designer label Dad let me wear, "Abdul The Tent Maker." So maybe this was why the girls looked at me sometimes exclaiming, "gosh, lookit the geek! hee hee hee!"
My parents met with a parish priest to discuss my entering the seminary. The next step would be to ask permission from my confessor (did I measure up!)
The following Saturday, Mom, Dad, Sis, Me, both pairs of grandparents, plus a few aunts, uncles and cousins met at our parish. This would be a major family event. Our parish church was a very old gothic stone building. No matter how sunny it was outside, inside the chapel it was always dark and musty, smelling of the last mass's incense. There were lines at all four confessionals (damn!) and as I began to take a seat closest to the booth at the rear of the church, Dad nudged me forward, "no! have Father Beauchesne hear your confession, he's the rector (top dog in this here parish)." Oh great Father Beauchesne, for a saying a couple of "God dammits" and a "Jesus Christ", he always handed out at least an entire Rosary. I got stuck in his booth once, and "impure thoughts" nearly brought the house down. I was hoping to duck into Father Jarreau's booth, a young wiry priest who wore a crewcut. You could confess innumerable impure thoughts, followed by impure actions with every Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, throw in the Dallas Cowboys themselves, plus a few sheep and you'd get away with a couple of decades of the Rosary tops....and no lecture.
The clan filled 3 rows of pews, then we all knelt to pray. Too soon for my liking, there was a vacancy, dad nudging and pointing, "OK son, you can go in now." I felt like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, as he approached the "great and powerful" Oz.
I closed the curtain and knelt. I HAD to be totally honest with this confession, this I knew. The little screened window slid open (may I take your order please). I could see the dimly lit profile of Father Beauchesne on the other side, "yes proceed," he whispered. I began, "Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been 3 months since my last confession," he interrupted, "three months! that is a long time. Proceed."
I was beginning to sweat like a pig, "it has been three months since my last confession, here are my sins." I felt like fainting...."uhhh I lied, uhhhmmm I swore, but only a couple of times, hmmm I did not obey my parents, but only a couple of times, I cheated on a test, but got caught (already did penance for that one)....and now....no envelope please!
After a pause, he leaned toward the small screen which separated us, "do you have any other sins to confess?" Well here goes, bombs awayyyy, "uhh yes Father, I had impure thoughts." Whew! no response, then he whispered, "I see, this is NOT good.....how many times did you have these impure thoughts?" To be quite honest I replied, "many times Father, I didn't want to (sure ya didn't) and I am truly sorry." Another long pause from across the gulf, then he sighed, "did these impure thoughts lead to into the occasion of impure actions?"
Now let's show our studio audience what this young man has won so far, "well for his sins so far, confessee number one has earned 50 decades of the Rosary, making 5 entire stations of the Cross, refraining from these sins in the future, plus....a generous donation for the poor box." Now let's get back the show. Contestant #1 has one final round to go on "You Bet Your Eternal Life."
The envelope please, "yes father, they did lead to impure actions....uhhh almost every time, but I'm sorry and repent." (can I go home now?)
Father Beauchesne's voice took on a much sterner tone, "I see, was this alone or was it with a girl, and how many times?"
"Uhhh yes father with a girl, but mostly in fantasy, and uhhhh, a long time ago a few times with guys (the ole circle jerk around the campfire)
There was a longer pause, then his voice took on a definite angry tone, "you abused yourself HOW many times? You committed Onanism that our Lord struck Onan dead for? And you committed the unspeakable abomination of Sodom and laid with men as with a woman...IS THIS WHAT YOU ARE CONFESSING NOW!"
The whole world must know by now, Father Beauchesne really lost it and I could here his voice echoing in the church. "Not totally Father, the times with boys were not like that, it was sorta just playing around....back in the Boy Scouts, around the camp fire...you know...show me your's and I'll show you mine." I was searching for more to say, when he blurted, "SILENCE! You have committed the most hideous and abominable sins that make the Lord want to vomit. Your soul right now is perilously at the brink of eternal damnation. If you were to die right now, you would be facing and eternity in Hell (your honor, I approach the bench and suggest the defendant receive the death penalty) is THIS what you want!"
My reply was sheepish at best, and barely belated out, "no Father." His voice returned more to normal, "you must turn away from these abominations, beg forgiveness, pray to Our Lady and Our Lord to deliver you from the hold Satan has on your soul. For your penance you will"....I interrupted, "Father there is a question I must ask you now. My family wants me to become a priest and I need your blessing.
As if I had not already brought his blood pressure to dangerous new heights, this last question pushed him over the edge. The priest had totally lost his cool now, the darkened church ringing with his rantings, echoing all over. And I knew that somewhere among the pews, my soon to be "not so proud" parents could hear every word.
I had the big brass ones to ask, "does this mean that I cannot become a priest? It would disappoint my parents so much." This last statement really lit his fuse, "YOU A PRIEST? WHY YOUR LUCKY IF GOD SPARES YOU FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION IN HELL. HOW DARE YOU ASK SUCH A QUESTION! COME BACK WHEN YOU HAVE FULLY REPENTED OF THESE SINS THAT CAUSE OUR LORD TO VOMIT! For your penance, say 3 ENTIRE rosaries, make the stations of the cross and renounce all future indulgences in these unspeakable acts. Now, say a GOOD act of contrition."
I mumbled off the act of contrition, the whole time thinking to myself, this was the BIGGEST penance I had ever been given in my life. And how was I going to face the family once I returned to my pew. I exited the confessional booth, returning to the front row pew where Mom and Dad were sitting. Mom was crying, and Dad acted like he hadn't heard a word, "well son, what did Father Beauchesne have to say about you entering the seminary?" I told Dad that the priest said I should think seriously about my decision, then come back for counseling. Dad sighed, "Nana will be very disappointed. You can tell her yourself, and say you will try again. You'll make it into the seminary."
My mother blurted out, "OH maybe he doesn't want to be a priest anyway. Let him do whatever he wants. He can go to hell for all I care." Shooting me a dagger glare Mom said, "You shame us so much. When are you going to grow up? Only little boys play around with other boys or with themselves. Why can't you be more like your cousin David?" Not another word was said, as we drove home in silence. I felt about 1 inch tall; actually suicide was looking awfully attractive. Since I was less than worthless, why would it matter if I off'd myself? I called up Rick, one of the guys in the band, telling him about my ordeal, "WOW! I sure am glad my parents are not practicing Catholics. They don't even go to church. Don't worry about hell, there ain't no such thing. It was all made up by a bunch of stuffy, frustrated old men. That's what my Mom and Dad told me."
Let's talk about my cousin David for a bit, shall we? He was the PERFECT son; clean cut, polite beyond all belief, had been an alter boy, was a member of the CYO......an all around good Catholic role model. David was always thrown in my face, whenever I fell short of PERFECT obedience and self control. A few times I responded, "well if David is so perfect, then throw me out and adopt him!" This got me a whack across the face on a number of occasions. David was always so preachy and churchly to me; a real pompous geek! Dave was going steady with the same girl he had been childhood sweethearts with. It was a pure and chaste courtship, dripping of wholesomeness. His girlfriend was equally squeaky clean. David managed to escape the draft, because he was involved in some civilian "Peace Corps" sort of service. If I had done something like that, my parents would have labeled me as some sort of Commie, lilly livered coward. But, Dave was a saint in all the relatives' eyes; let him become a priest then.
David had also warned me about the EVILS of Rock-n-Roll. I was doing the Devil's work playing rock music. After all, it was vile disgusting stuff, bump and grind, guitars slung down around the groin, skin tight torn blue jeans, all the stuff that Dante's visions are made of.
The cousin I most wanted to emulate was one of the black sheep of the clan. Cousin Carmine, known as "Butch" to everyone was a rocker and Top 40 AM disk jockey. Butch was 21 years old and drove a 1957 Corvette, plus a big Harley motorcycle. Butch still lived at home with my aunt and uncle, who lived a few doors down from us. Dad often complained about that punk Butchie raising a racket with that bike and the glass packs on his Vette. He never left the street without leaving at least 100 feet of burnt rubber (way cool!) Butch always wore black leather jackets, motorcycle boots, skin tight jeans and tee shirt. Of course his pack of "Luckies" were always rolled up in the sleeve.
The folks did not like me following him around like a puppy, every so often copping a ride on his Harley. He played drums and piano and I loved hearing him belt out "boogie-woogie" music on aunt Rose's piano. Nana always referred to it as "the Devil's music, straight from Hell".
The whole family was convinced that Butchie would amount to nothing more than some bum in a back alley. Future history would bear witness to Butch becoming one of the most "upright", conservative Christians as he grew older; siring 7 children and a backbone of the church. Years later....well...we all got to see cousin Dave drink and drug himself nearly to death, abuse his family, eventually just vanishing from town as well as family conversations. If he was so perfect and sinless and HE could fall from grace.....perhaps there was still hope for me yet to fall into grace.
If I was such an embarrassment, why did I maintain a rock solid "A" average all through high school? Other kids were starting to get in trouble for drinking (but not to the extent they do today), the subject of pot smoking was beginning to pop up in news reports, but I never showed any interest in drugs. I never ran afoul of the law, even for speeding (Dad would have killed me for speeding in his beloved Buick). So why was I such an embarrassment? More than likely because I did not meet every "to the letter" expectation my parents had. Toward the end of my Senior year, Dad suggested I join the Navy. All my senior male relatives had been, or were Marines and Navy men. Butch had a heart murmur, so was exempt, which didn't make his ex Marine DI father too happy.
I was to be a Sailor, as my father was in WWII. I attended an 18 month school in Broadcasting and Communications, the same one cousin Butch attended. This was prior to joining the Navy. This did not please my parents, but I was paying my own tuition, and after all, I would be serving God and country after school.
As LBJ escalated the police action in Viet Nam, more and more sermons from the pulpit supported our efforts to rid the world of these "Godless" Commies, once and for all; at any cost! Nana claimed, straight from the Bible, that the Yellow race would overrun the world and plunge us into Armageddon. The term "Gook" became an approved and wholesome reference to these savage heathens, Buddhists! most of them. All of my elders "almost" convinced me that I was part of a mission from God (not the Pentagon?), a Holy war (weren't all wars, Holy wars?)
During broadcast school I developed a taste for the new "underground" music genre; soon evolving into psychedelic music. This worried my parents a lot, a musical style that made "Louie Louie" seem like Gospel music. Now they were asking why I didn't play that good wholesome rock and roll any more; this stuff was noise, and the words were so.....so political, subversive and Un-American. I successfully passed my "First Class Radio-telephone" license exam on the first try before graduation. Following graduation, a few Boston radio stations made tempting job offers. I tried discussing my decision to maybe skip out on Uncle Sam and make big bucks in broadcasting with Mom and Dad. This was met with Dad lunging at me over the dinner table. "Have you TOTALLY lost your MIND? These Commies are POISONING our youth from the inside! If you dodge the draft, then move out now, because you will no longer be our son." (maybe I'll flunk the physical like Butch, ha ha!) As fate would have it, I was a perfect physical specimen. The military doc stamped me USDA Choice GI material. The military would be the first major turning point in my Spiritual/Religious life. Actually it would became the great, silent spiritual void in my relationship to God.
I've blurred through my childhood, but will refer back to it now and then in later installments. In part 2 I bid farewell to the innocence of childhood, and now... it's anchors aweigh......
This ends Part 1 of: Mea Culpa, I Have Sinned.