When I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, I clicked around the net and read some experiences of others. Although my experience may or may not be anything like theirs, it was helpful to learn that there were others dealing with the same cancer. I hope these updates of my adventures in surviving cancer might be found helpful.
I was born right here in Newberg, Oregon. In my family I have two sisters, and two half brothers from the same mom; three half brothers and a half-sister from the same dad, three step-sisters and a step brother; but we were never a family. I have 5 more step siblings I have never met. In those days before political correctness, I was from a “broken home.” Can you imagine saying something like that now? Maybe you’d say a, “stability challenged” home. Also, in those days, I was a pioneer kid, being the rare one to not be in his natural family. Kids at school would ask me, “What’s a step-dad?”
I went to six different schools in my twelve years of education. Arnada, Lake Shore, and Minnehaha, in Vancouver, Washington; Kenton Elementary and Jefferson High in Portland, and Newberg High school here in Oregon. I was seventeen when I graduated. By that time, I had lived in twenty-seven different houses including two foster homes and JDH (a Juvenile Detention Home). I realized one day that might explain my compulsion to bring home good boxes. When I see a solid cardboard box, especially one with a lid, I want to bring it home, you never know……
In about 8th grade, one of my teachers thought my attitude was bad enough that I needed professional counseling. I thought it was the teacher who had an attitude problem, but it was I who ended up in counseling every Friday. The counselor told my mother that I was a prime candidate for becoming a real “Juvenile Delinquent.” I had all the prerequisites, mom seemed proud.
I had no intention of becoming a Delinquent, even if I had the qualifications. Eventually I realized that I was born to drive. I got a job washing dishes, and before I turned 16, I had my third car, paid for and insured. It was a newer car than my folks had. They used to borrow mine. I got my driver’s license on the morning of my 16th birthday. I got my first ticket on the evening of my 16th birthday.
One day I came home from high school and the house was empty, I mean vacant; the furniture was gone, the cupboards were bare. My family had moved away. Now, I knew this was going to happen, but it was still a very strange feeling. I could have gone with them, but I didn’t want to be the new kid again, especially for my senior year in high school. That’s when I moved in with my great-aunt and uncle, Edith and Levi Dressel, one of the best things that ever happened to me, although I didn’t realize it then.
When I was 19, with lottery #4, I was drafted into the Army. It was a different lottery than the one we have now, and we didn’t have any choice about playing it. My stay in the Army was brief; I have an honorable discharge.
My wife and I met as sophomores in high school. We dated and then went steady, but it wasn’t until after some years, hundreds of miles, a couple other relationships, and many (hand written, hard copy) letters between us, that we were married.
Pastor Ed Sandvig married us, and we started attending Zion Lutheran Church. I soon started tagging along with the youth group. I’m not sure how I got my faith. As far back as I can remember, even as a small child, I knew that God existed, and I was aware of his presence. It made sense to me that human kind was designed and created, and was not the result of any kind of cosmic accident or random mutation.
I was not born into a Christian family. I was raised with very little Christian influence. I only occasionally went to church or Sunday school. If Bill Cosby hadn’t already used the joke, I would tell you that for a while as a kid, I thought my name was JE-SUS CHRIST (as in, What The Hell Are You Doing!”) Or, DAMMIT! (As in Dammit, Come Here!).
Some things in my life that may have influenced my faith one way or another are, Grandma Martin and her Lutheran Church; my favorite childhood uncle, Larry Martin, a Christian; a strict, fanatical religious cult that my real dad belonged to for many years, the Bible (I began reading at about age seven), and a year in a foster home run by the wicked witch of the west, who also happened to be a 7th day Adventist (did you know they called their Saturday school, “Sunday school?” And they didn’t have a very good sense of humor about that).
Soon after Diane and I were married, I ended up getting a job in my real dad’s cabinet shop. It was a strange working for my dad, when the others working there knew him better than I did. He and my mom divorced when I was three. We’d had only limited contact over the years. We could work together, but he could not visit me socially since I wasn’t in his cult. I tested that rule when I went to his house once. They let me in to visit. TV and radio topped the list of things not allowed in their home. My half siblings seemed to think I was a fascinating alien. I knew his wife was cooking dinner. I wondered if they might invite me to stay; it was that or another box of macaroni and cheese at my bachelor pad. Finally the question was asked, “Would you like to stay and eat?”
“Sure” I said. They immediately left the room with out a word. I was still wondering if I was supposed to follow them, when they returned with dishes of food for me, on TV trays. My dad explained, “Our faith doesn’t allow us to eat with anyone who is not of our faith, so you eat in here, and we’ll eat out there.”
After Diane and I had been married for three years, we started a small business, and ran it for 18 years. It was a direct answer to prayer and an exercise in stepping out on faith. I also had the opportunity to volunteer for about five years with our county’s Crime Victim’s Assistance program, working mostly with kids.
There really is much more to tell about, including love, marriage, children, and never being too old to have a happy childhood; but I’ll wrap things up with this: I’ve learned that being a Christian is not a warranty against bad things happening to you. To quote Forest Gump, “Stuff Happens.” That’s not exactly a direct quote. When good things happen, most people thank God. That’s easy. When bad things happen, people sometimes blame God, even some who say they don’t believe in him. I think the Devil really enjoys that, because I don’t think God wishes bad things to happen to anyone. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” I sure have. When something bad happens and someone can bring good out of it, I think God Is especially glorified.