Awhile back I purchased a book entitled Jefferson & Hamilton The Rivalry That Forged A Nation. I found it interesting not so much because of the views held by these two men in regards to government, but in how their lives forged the views held by both. You see each of us grows up and the things we experience shape the person we are to become later in life.
So while you may know me now and see how I speak and act you have no idea of who I really am and what life events shaped me into the person I am now. This will be the first time I have written anything of an autobiographical nature. I won’t go into my entire life, just the events that I feel influenced me the most and made me who I am now.
So if you have ever been interested in finding out what makes Neal Ross tick, here’s your chance to finally get some answers. But before I begin I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not blame any of the characters in this little drama that I call my life. Each of these people had their own life experiences which shaped them into who they are. I am only trying to show how they influenced me.
If you grew up in the period of America’s history that I did most of you came from families where the father worked and the mother stayed home to raise the kids. That has changed now with most families having both parents working, or some with a single parent raising the child. But when I was growing up my father worked and my mom stayed home and took care of the house and the kids.
It is therefore reasonable to assume that one, or both parents would have a big influence on how a child grows up…that is if they have any desire to get involved in the upbringing of their children. For me, although it was my mother whom I talked to more often than not, it was my father who played a larger role in shaping me into who I am today.
My dad was a World War II/Korean war Navy vet. He had two ships torpedoed out from under him by the Japanese during WWII and sometimes told stories about things that happened during his time in the Navy. Like most combat vets he saw things no man should be forced to see. He came back from his time in the wars as damaged goods. They didn’t have a name for it back then, but today he would have been classified as having PTSD. I didn’t understand this as a kid, so many of the things I did caused him to suffer more. For instance loud rock n roll would remind him of battles he had been in.
My father was raised in an era that would seem totally foreign to most kids today. The values that he held, and tried to instill into me are things that nobody under 30 today seem to know anything about. Things like honor, truthfulness, hard work, and patriotism were pounded into my head through little sayings he would repeat over and over again. I used to get sick of hearing them, but now years later if I could I would thank him for planting those seeds of integrity into my mind.
The life I grew up in was not one of poverty, but it was not one of abundance either. I suppose you could call it middle class. There were times of hardship when my dad lost his job and things got tight…so those lessons of frugality have left a lasting impression on me as well.
But not everything was hunky dory. My dad had his own way of doing things, and he and I butted heads…A LOT! But overall he was a good father and raised me to be honorable. Plus he taught me from an early age proper firearms safety and how to shoot.
Getting to the events that shaped me, the first came when I was in the fifth grade. One evening my brother and I were in our front yard playing. My brother is two years younger than I so he would have been in the 3rd grade. A couple of the younger neighbor kids were also playing and my brother was laying on his back and the kids would sit on his upturned feet and my brother would ‘launch’ them by pushing his legs out quickly. One kid did a belly flop onto the grass and began crying. A girl from my class lived directly across the street from us and came over and began chewing my brother out. I said shut up Linda, it was an accident. She swung around and punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. It caught me totally off guard and as I stood there gasping for breath my brother ran into the house and told my dad that Neal was getting beat up by a girl in the yard. My dad came running out…WITH A GUN…and yelled, “Bitch, get off our property before I call the police.”
Being that I was in the 5th grade, and knowing how kids are, you can imagine what happened when I went to school the next day. I was taunted mercilessly about needing my dad to protect me from a girl. That reputation as a ‘pussy’ stuck with me even during high school. Guys would pick fights with me just to ‘kick the pussies ass.’ And you can imagine how difficult it was for me to find a girl who would like me when back then all they wanted were guys who had money to buy them things, or was a star athlete. I was just the wimpy pussy who came from a lower class family. So I learned how to live a life without many friends. It also caused me to distrust people from the get go because I grew up being picked on and it took a long time for me to accept that not everyone is going to start off by making fun of me for one reason or another.
The next event came when I started attending high school. Certain things from my parents past came to the surface and they experienced a rough patch in their marriage. It is of little importance to this narrative to say what those things from their past were, suffice it to say that they almost led to my parents getting divorced.
During this time frame they both drank…heavily. Add to that my mom was popping valiums and you had for some explosive arguments between them. Often they’d both have loaded guns which they would point at each other threatening to kill each other. I would often go to bed and be awakened by screaming, crying, or gunshots. One time I came home and every cop car in town was in front of our house. My father had been arrested for chasing my mom down the street with a gun.
At this point in my life things pretty much sucked for me. I was a loner with few friends, and my home life was hell. So was it any wonder I got in to drugs? I took everything I could as long as it did not involve a needle to introduce it into my body. The further it took me from reality the better. When I later enlisted in the military they gave me a form to fill out. It listed all the drugs kids take and I was supposed to put check marks next to the ones I had taken. In a moment of honesty I called the recruiter over and said, “You know, there would be fewer checkmarks if I put them next to the ones I have NOT taken.”
Drugs at least gave me the opportunity to fit in, something I so desperately wanted at that time. I may never have been fully accepted into any of the cliques at high school; I wasn’t a jock and I wasn’t a burnout, but I knew and could hang out with both groups. I always seemed to be able to get any drugs I wanted, so people from both groups came to me when they wanted them. Plus I looked so young and innocent back then that none of the faculty even suspected me of being wasted 99.9% of the time.
Drugs may have gained me some measure of popularity, but they had a definite adverse affect on my education. I went from being a pretty good student in elementary and junior high to a kid barely getting by with a C average. I just didn’t care about education, all I wanted to do was get stoned. Of all the courses I was required to take, history and civics were among those that I felt were utterly useless.
So maybe that is why I harp so much on it now, because I realize how important it is to be knowledgeable about those subjects and I am making up for my own inadequacies.
The next event to play a major role in my life was when I enlisted in the military. I did so not out of patriotism or the desire to go off and fight in a war. My reason was simple, I was out of work and the military paid and would provide steady income.
The military instilled a bit of discipline into me, but after I finished all my initial training I reverted back to my old ways of partying…HARD. When I was stationed in Spain I worked 3 days on and 3 days off. During my 3 days off I was drunk all the time and running brothels and hitting the night spots. I wrecked a car and almost died having a broken shoulder and 67 stitches in my head. My commander demanded that I attend alcohol rehab classes. I breezed through them, fooling them all, and after completing them went right back to drinking. That would be the first of 3 times I attended the Air Forces alcohol rehab classes at the behest of commanders. Each time I would know what to say and how to act to make them believe I was reformed. In all truthfulness I was an out of control alcoholic with nothing to hold me back from my eventual self destruction.
Now comes the final thing that changed/affected my life…my wife. I was stationed in Korea and went on a TDY, (temporary duty) to the Philippines. A group of us went over there for Combat Communications Combat Survival School. We would attend class during the day and hit the bars at night. Every night me and a few buddies would hit this restaurant before going out. The first night there I saw this girl, a waitress, and I felt this irresistible attraction to her. In fact I told my friend I was going to marry her. He told me I was crazy. Well I didn’t have the guts to talk to her so we’d go hit the bars and I’d get drunk. One night I came back to see her after I’d been drinking and whoring. I asked her if she wanted to marry me. She told me the same thing my friend did, that I was crazy. But we exchanged addresses nonetheless and when I got back to Korea began writing her…daily.
Two years later I was re-assigned to the Philippines, after having put in for what they call an indefinite extension. An indefinite extension is an extension of your tour of duty in one location until an opening pops up for you in a specific location you wish to go to. I had put in for an indefinite extension immediately upon getting back to Korea…listing the Philippines as where I wanted to be stationed next.
Well two years, almost to the day, after arriving in Korea I was on a plane for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Six months after that I was married to Heidi. I have not regretted one day of our marriage. She gave me my life back. Before getting married I had no reason to live and had I not married her I would probably have drank myself to death. That is the truth. She means the world to me and I would do anything to protect her. Sure I get tired of her nagging sometimes, but nothing can diminish the love I feel for her.
Those are four of the major events that shaped me into who I am. My dad taught me ethics and values and at the same time, by his actions, forced me into becoming a loner who does not need the friendship of others to get by in life. I can associate with others, but I do not NEED to be around friends, or be in constant contact with them to survive. My dad taught me the value of hard work and honesty in my dealings with others. He also left tiny seeds of the political commentator that I have become.
People tend to judge others too quickly without first learning about the person they are judging. I try not to, but even I am guilty of that. Yet I try to judge a person based upon their character, not how they act. If they are honest, hard working, and willing to listen to differing opinions without getting all emotional I will accept them as friends…at least as someone I am willing to associate with.
On the other hand, if you are lazy, dishonest, and have a closed mind, I want nothing to do with you. I don’t need people like that in my life, they are a waste of oxygen if you ask me.
Just as I am guilty of judging others from time to time people judge me by what they see and hear. They think I am oh so smart. I’m not. I probably write at a 7th grade level and all the knowledge I have is due to my constant focus on the subject that interests me most. It is nothing but the result of hard work and study. It is not intelligence.
Also, people see me at work and think that I am trying to prove something, to make myself look good. No, my father taught me that if you are going to do a job, do it to the best of your ability. I don’t work hard to make anyone look bad…they do that well enough without my help. I work hard because I was raised that way. Little do people know the constant pain I am in. I have two broken bones in my right foot that will never heal and are now developing into arthritis. I have a ruptured epididymis in my right testicle which sometimes causes me to feel like I have been kicked in the nuts. I have a detached right bicep muscle and a torn rotator cuff. But I don’t let these things affect my job performance. I have a family to support and as long as I can work I intend to do the best that I can do.
You might think you know be because of what you see me do and the things I speak and write about. Truthfully you know nothing at all about me. There is more to me than the practical joker and the serious writer that you see every day. Hopefully this has provided you with a bit of insight into who I am and why I am the way that I am.