AMBIENT THOUGHT – EPISODE One Hundred Eight: Unknown – What I Found Out From Reading My Birth Certificate For The First Time… At 45!

The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.

EPISODE ONE HUNDRED EIGHT:  Unknown – What I Found Out From Reading My Birth Certificate For The First Time… At 45!

mom dad hollar 2
Mom and Dad. Burks Hollow. The ‘Hollar, as the natives call it.

Before I go into this, let me ask you a question. I want you to think long and hard about this. You may not even need to think for a long time.
Here we go…

Were your parents perfect?

I would say that 99.9% of you will say no. But only if you’re being honest.
That .1% is delusional and just plain wrong.

As we all know, NOBODY is perfect. Even parents. As a parent myself, I speak from experience. I was and still not a perfect parent. We may love our children with all of our hearts and would lay down in traffic for them with a smile on our face if it meant the safety of our little ones. And that goes for when they aren’t so little anymore. We would become a speed bump.

That doesn’t mean that parents do not screw up from time to time. Again, I know from experience. I have made wrong choices, more than my share.

Let me use my parents as examples.

They were and are loving people. I have just about everything I needed and a lot of things that I wanted when I was a kid. They fed me, they housed me, they loved me. When VCR’s became big, they found a way to get me one for Christmas (or was that Santa?). I had a stereo to listen to, toys to play with, books to read, and a chance to be an imaginative kid. I wasn’t allowed to grow up too fast but was allowed to grow up in my time.
The few things I didn’t like as a kid, I can count on one hand. We never went anywhere. We went to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee once to see Rock City. We went to Opryland a few times. We went to Elkhart, Indiana to visit my mom’s sister once, and we went to Crossville, Tennessee a couple of times a year to see my dad’s parents…..and that was it. No Disney World, no trip to the beach or to the Smoky Mountains.

Listen, I know there were kids that never got to do anything or go anywhere…at all. I understand that. But I’m not sure if it was a lack of money or my dad was worn out by traveling in the military that he didn’t really want to go anywhere after I got old enough to want to see things. And to be honest, I’m mostly fine with it. (except Disney World. That one stings a bit.)

I dealt with it. I honestly didn’t think about it much until I got old enough to go do these things on my own. I would hear from friends on how they went to this place or that when they were younger and they would be a bit shocked that I never had. These things started to darken my thoughts.
Why didn’t we go when I was younger?

OK, I’m getting away from the main thing.

As of this writing, my mom had passed away eight years ago. I’m writing this one day after the anniversary of her death. There was something that happened a couple of weeks after she died that threw me. It still makes me wonder.
I found out something I never knew. My mom had been married before my dad.

mom puppy
My mom in the ‘Hollar. The picture was taken by UNKNOWN

I was speechless. This seems like something I should know, being her son. Of course, it’s not a big deal. I’m sure it was a big deal then. Divorce didn’t happen every day and in a lot of places, it was looked down on.
For me, I couldn’t have cared less. If she hadn’t have got a divorce from, whoever he was, she wouldn’t have married my dad and I would (probably) would not have existed.
But this is something I would like to have known. I would have liked her to have told me herself and not find out a couple of weeks after she died in a way that it was common knowledge to other family members. I’m not sure if they understood how I felt about the news. If they did, it didn’t register.

One more thing and I’ll stop picking on my mom.

My wife and I were trying to get everything together to get our passports to go on a cruise. Getting out and seeing the world is something that I want to do more of since that didn’t happen much as a kid.
I had to get a birth certificate. The ‘birth certificate’ that I have used all my life was really just a certificate from the hospital where I was born. I found this out when my wife and I stood in line for hours only to find out my wait was for nothing.
She got hers, I didn’t.

So, I got home and ordered one, post haste. A few weeks later, it came all the way from Texas. I was a military brat for the first few years of my life and that was where we were, even though I don’t remember any of it.
I have this birth certificate in my hand and notice something odd, another bolt of knowledge, another thing my mom never told me.

IMG_0230

In the box marked ‘How many children were born dead {fetal deaths after 20 weeks pregnency}?’, the number 2 sat. It sat there like a bad grade on a report card or the Low Fuel light in your car in the middle of nowhere.

I stared at that 2 for a long time, not believing. I re-read what it said, to make sure it said what I read.

2!!!!!!!!

I had heard the story that they didn’t think they could have kids of their own. They adopted my sister (a story I did find out when I was about 8) and then, BAM, the third child wasn’t born dead. Here I come into the world. The ‘Miracle Child‘.
(Maybe not but I like to think that.)

But that 2. I had not been told. I didn’t know until I was forty-five and needing a passport. What if I never needed it? Would I have ever had known?

If you believe in Heaven (which I do), I have two siblings up there waiting to meet me. Then I can ask my mom some questions.

 

Now, let me speak about my dad, my hero. And I don’t say that lightly. I mean it with all of my heart.
But a man that held his cards too close to the vest from time to time.

Let me give you an example.

When I was a kid, I loved to play War and not the card game, though that was fun, too. I would get dressed up in camo, wear my green army baseball cap, grab my plastic green machine gun (with actual machine gun sound), put on my web belt with a full plastic canteen of water and go find a place to hide and play War. If I was lucky, I’d have a few other people to play with. We would run around in their backyards or up the hill where there was a field and lots of trees.
You could hear, ‘I got you!!!’, only to hear, ‘No you didn’t!!!’.
I know playing War and playing with plastic guns are looked down on now but then it was a different time and it was just innocent fun. It was to me.

I also liked watching war movies. From the classic black and white, John Wayne World War Two films to the more updated films about Vietnam with lots of gore and violence.
Like I said, it was a different time.

Now, my dad would join me in these film viewings. His interest was more in the line of Westerns but he seemed to like a good war movie from time to time. He would sit in his black recliner in the den and I’d sit next to him on a bean bag or from inside a blanket fort I had erected for the occasion.

I knew he had been a Technical Sergeant in Vietnam (retired as a Master Sergeant) and I knew he had seen a few things but…he never liked to talk about it. I could ask him about basic training or being stationed in Alaska and he would tell me whatever I wanted to know. But to ask about the actual war, I couldn’t get much from him.

dad jeep
My dad stationed in Alaska. The picture was taken by UNKNOWN.

Looking back now, I totally understand why. I know he didn’t see as much as the guys out in the jungle but I’m sure he’s seen his share of things. He did show me some pictures he took while he was working in a warehouse on the base he was attached to of rockets going over, exploding just a few thousand yards away and the sound of artillery at night. That has been as much as I’ve been able to get out of him. He keeps the rest locked up and I’m sure he’ll take it with him.
And I’m OK with that.
Even though I wish he would tell me a few situations that happened.

I wonder now if my dad didn’t like me playing War. I wonder if it brought back things to him that he tried to forget. I wonder now if my dad only liked the World War Two movies because it wasn’t his war and hated the Vietnam movies because it reminded him of too much.
To be honest, I’m afraid to ask him now. I’m not sure what he remembers and what he doesn’t. And maybe he’ll still keep those things from me, even now.

 

I’m going to let him off the hook. And I’m going to let my mom off the hook.
We got through life getting ourselves in different situations, some good, some bad. Some of those things aren’t for other people. They are just for ourselves. Maybe out of shame or fear of being judged. Maybe we don’t want our kids to know that we made mistakes or saw things that gripped us in fear.
Or maybe, we don’t say certain things to our children because we don’t feel they’re important enough to talk about.

As a parent myself, I stand on that line of what to tell my daughter and what not to. I’m not as closed lipped as my parents were and are. Maybe it’s the different times that they grew up and when I grew up. I would place the blame partly on that.
The rest is on our own individual mindset. I want my daughter to know as much about me as possible. Sure, I’m not going to tell her everything. There are one or two or three things that are, honestly, none of her business. And maybe one or two things that I’m ashamed of and trying desperately to make up for.

Hum…

Maybe I have less to ask my mom about when the time comes. And a few things I never have to worry about asking my dad.

do promise that my daughter will have fewer things to wonder about me after I’m gone or it’s too hard for me to remember. I hope there will be fewer things that she will wonder about or be shocked about.

For Alison…

I promise to not be a mystery.

I promise to be less unknown…

And I ask that you are, too.

-Loyd Elmore
May 11th, 2018

 

I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.

 

 

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