Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Personal Question About Me Answered

For the past six or seven years, I have been steadily pursuing success in my photography and written work. Previous to seven years ago, I wasn’t doing so much of what I do now everyday. In fact, my life was down right empty. It isn’t all so very full now, but I am doing the best I can to remedy this.

My photos, stories, and written articles are gaining in popularity everyday. People all over the world are viewing my blogs, checkin’ out my photos, and reading my stories and articles. But, my social life ain’t worth a flyin’ flip right now. This will change. I figure the safest thing to do here today is to write a little about what my life has been like for many years and to answer a question that has been asked of me and will sure as hell be asked of me again in the future.

The question is, “How come such a good looking, talented, interesting, gregarious, so on and so forth man as you has never gotten married or had any children?” (OK, the question isn’t always thrown at me with such complimentary adjectives, but sometimes it does come with one or two.)

This question could receive a variety of answers from me, in a variety of social settings. The answer could come out of me nicely, or not nice at all. Depending on the setting, my mood, who asked the question and how, I could reply with room rattling humor, or get ticked off at the possible rude aspects of the question and that might not be so nice for anyone within earshot. In a case of me getting real, justifiably ticked off about it, I wouldn’t give a damn about who I told to more or less go shit in their hat. So I am going to answer the question here in a controlled, detailed manner. I also want to explain some mostly unknown and completely unknown facts about myself to my family, friends, and some very kind, generous individuals who are or may someday be aiding me in my efforts to grow more successful in my photography and writing endeavors.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never fathered any children. But, I may have had children I don’t know about. When I was in the Army and stationed on Okinawa, during 1970-71, prostitution was legal, so I went to brothels several times a month. Then later in life, I was a travelin’ man, and that leaves open a few possibilities of me now having children and also grandkids whom I don’t know about. For most of my life, I have believed that it was best for all concerned, both the living and the unborn, that I not father any offspring.

When I was a seven or eight-year-old child, one day my mother and my maternal grandmother were setting and conversing at grandmom’s dining room table. I was in there on the living room floor playing with a toy car, about a half a room from the dining room table. I could hear most of what they said, but of course was more interested what the tiny, imaginary driver of the toy car was going to do next. Part of their conversation centered on my Aunt Glenna, who had been born with an ear infection or something that had caused her severe brain damage, a condition which had pretty well paralyzed her body and mind in just about every way possible for her entire life. A year or two previous to that day, Glenna had died at the age of nineteen.

My grandparent’s home was only a ten-minute drive from the house where I grew up. I spent a good chunk of my youth visiting Grandmom and Granddad Clarke and, for the first six years of my life, visiting my Aunt Glenna too.

Aunt Glenna’s condition caused her to have devastating disabilities, which had a powerful emotional effect on me. Her body grew to a normal size, but neither her muscle strength nor her mind ever developed beyond the level of a toddler’s. The unfortunate young lady could not speak, walk, feed herself, or take care of herself in any way. She could sure enough communicate with a big smile, happily dancing eyes, and joyfully shaking arms and legs when my parents, two sisters, and I walked in the front door of Grandmom and Granddad Clarke’s house and Aunt Glenna was sitting there in the living room in the nice comfortable chair where she spent much of her time during the day.

I remember Glenna's skin as being nearly colorless, near translucent like. She had rarely ever felt the warmth of vitamin rich sunshine on her body; the sun never had a chance to infuse Glenna's skin with a healthy color and feel. Her skin felt very cold, too smooth to be healthy, and ghost-like to me. Glenna had to be spoon fed, and she often drooled uncontrollably. Her nearly mute, hobbled vocal chords could barely emit the strange, guttural sounds she uttered when she so desperately tried to talk with us. Her voice, facial expressions, and body language often betrayed to my perceptive little ears, eyes, and tender young soul how horribly confused, frustrated, and emotionally painful she felt as an innocent prisoner of fate being imprisoned, tortured, and tormented by her own, uncooperative, frail body and undeveloped mind. Aunt Glenna always appeared to want to jump up out of that chair and give us all big, strong, warm hugs when we walked in the front door.

On that day in my grandmother’s house a year or so after God had released Glenna from her personal prison in this world and allowed her to move on to the beautiful freedom we all hope to find in the next, my life was changed forever. My mother and grandmother’s dining room table conversation moved from talking about Glenna’s condition on towards some talk about Muscular Dystrophy, which is a hereditary disease, and something about how some diseases like that skip generations in a family. They spoke of how relieved they were that none of Glenna’s nieces or nephews had the same kind of thing, and that if something like it is in our family history it may affect my, my sisters’, or my cousins’ offspring or our offspring and so on. As they talked on about this natural fear for their family’s health, I was comfortably stretched out on the living room floor playing with the toy car, and they both glanced over and gazed down upon me for a brief, intense moment.

That was the first time I had ever heard the name Muscular Dystrophy, and it was a strange, unique sounding pair of words that have stuck in my head ever since. I didn’t clearly hear every word of the conversation, but somehow it seemed to me that they had said that my Aunt Glenna’s condition was hereditary. I thought that they had said that Glenna had Muscular Dystrophy, and that her condition was hereditary. I have believed this for my entire life, up until today, March 5, 2007, when I called my older sister on the phone to make certain that I keep the facts straight as I work on this story.

This news about Aunt Glenna never having an inherited disease is a great relief to me. I have been reading about Muscular Dystrophy on the Internet and was becoming very concerned about the hereditary nature of MD. I was going to try to convince all of my Clarke family relatives that our youngest generation has to be checked for the gene that carries MD. I have some very grateful thanks to add to my prayers tonight.

I was six years old when Aunt Glenna died, but the family decided that it would be best that I not attend her funeral; because, as my parents told me twenty-some years later, all of the adults in our family had felt that it was best to not take me to see Aunt Glenna be buried and that this decision was reached and finalized when my Aunt Martha had spoken these words, “But David is so emotional.”

On that day in my grandparent’s dining room, a year or two after innocent young Glenna Clarke’s funeral, when my mother and grandmother were discussing Aunt Glenna and the hereditary nature of Muscular Dystrophy and other such diseases, the two women had glanced down at me over there on the floor playing with my toy car, and as they did their faces held deeply concerned, loving looks within and on them; our eyes met and our familiar souls locked into a deep, fleeting embrace. The words just spoken, that I had heard but misunderstood, the looks on their faces, along with the intense concern of the deeply felt love shown towards me, instilled in me the fearful knowledge that the innocent lives of any children who I may father some day could be as unfairly limited by severe natural disabilities as Aunt Glenna had been.

As I lay there on the floor, with my toy car held stopped still in my hand for a moment, I continued to look up at my mother and grandmother for a few seconds. They resumed looking into each other’s faces while continuing on with their conversation. I have always been able recall a vague image of them sitting at the dining room table during that decisive conjuncture in my life. I clearly remember that as I looked at them I decided that I did not ever want any other children to suffer as my Aunt Glenna had and that it would be best if I never had offspring.

Well now, it may be considered that those were only the thoughts of a confused little child who was wondering what the future held.

Later on in my life came that post adolescent, raging-teenage-hormonal-hot-damn desire to date girls and try to make love with them. Although at some point in time during those maturing teen years I learned that having sex meant the possibilities of having children, I was still horney for humpin’ sweet honeys.

During my high school days, I came to believe in the ideal that having two or three kids with one lifelong, loving wife was the way to go.

In my senior year of high school, my English class was assigned to read the first book written about the only Atomic Bombs to ever be dropped on someone’s enemies. It is either titled Hiroshima or Nagasaki, I have to look it up, but those are the two cities in Japan where those two horrifying bomb blasts changed our world. We students took turns reading the book out loud in class, several paragraphs at a time, and discussing it while immersed in all the studious serious that any teacher could ever expect from their students.

During one of these classroom readings, it came my turn to read out loud just when the story devastatingly described the excruciating emotional experience of a horribly shocked young mother turning around to see what that terrifying sight and sound was which had black-magically appeared in the sky a few miles away, like a humongous, fiery, gas explosion from the bowels of Hell. The mother’s two young children were standing in their front yard there between the atomic mushroom cloud from Hell and their mother. The blast was not close enough to mercifully kill them all quick. As the mother stood there frozen in shock and fear, her children turned around to seek their mother’s protection. The little kids’ eyeballs had been melted by the unprecedented heat of the blast and were running down their beautiful little cheeks.

As I continued reading to my classmates, before I finished the next paragraph, I made the decision, right then and there, that I was never going to bring children into a world where I might someday have to watch their beautiful little eyes melt down over their faces.

A couple of years later, I fell in love with the right young woman and wanted to have those two or three kids and a long marriage with her, but I was the wrong man for that bright, beautiful, sensible woman.

Then in following years, there was a young Scottish Lass who wanted every bit of me for the rest of her life. I met the Scottish girl here in America, and then she went back home to Scotland. She sent me love letter after love letter.

One day, about an hour after reading a freshly delivered love letter from her, I was walking down the street with a cold quart of beer in my hand and a bag of weed in my pocket while heading to the local park where all the other Hippy types got stoned everyday. I was thinking about whether to answer the young Scottish woman’s love letter. My thoughts were: should I write her to say go ahead and buy that plane ticket back to me that she kept writing about, or not?

Fortunately for her, me, and our families, I suddenly became weirdly aware of the feel of the big bottle of beer in my hand, and realized the presence of the small bag of weed in my pocket, along with the stupefying weight of several years worth of seemingly endless, severe depression on my shoulders. A taught, stunned feeling hit me, causing my body to double up some like I’d been smacked in the ribs with a long wooden 2x4. I looked down at that damned bottle in a brown paper bag and realized that the depression and the excess drinkin’ and smokin’ I was doing, during failed attempts to obliterate that depression, were out of control. My face involuntarily scrunched up in self-disgust as the words, “Something is wrong with me,” slid through my head.

That was the moment when it became apparent to myself that there was no way I was going to have any girl whom I cared about being saddled down with my progressing problems. I had become painfully aware that I was not the right guy for any gal. I knew I’d ruin any woman who tried to make me the man in her life.

I have always known that it would have been easy enough for me to find a female fool whom I might be able to con into being my woman and sole support of my bad habits, along with being a victim of my screwed up depression too. Then any children of ours would have suffered miserably because of me. That simply has never been my way of doing things.

When I was a younger man, I was the subject of several serious attempts to be lovingly ‘roped and tied’ by attractive, marriage minded women—I most certainly would have married one of them if I’d have been good for them.

They were attracted to me because I did not stay drunk and weed whacked all the time, and my depression ebbed and eased off often enough for me to sporadically have some real good times in my life; fortunately, at times I was a fairly healthy, strong, and good lookin’ gregarious guy who could be lotsa’ fun to be around in any social setting and who loved and pleased women.

During my adult days, I have experienced mental images of my various prospective wives and children, and myself going to our family’s homes for holiday get togethers and having our relatives look at me with disgust as they wondered why she was still with my sorry ass. Images would come into my head of grossly disappointed children of mine who couldn’t figure out why it was that if I loved them so dearly that I was not the supportive father a child needed. This was the gut kicker that kept me from ever ruining any loving lady’s or children’s lives.

Another problem that I had with finding a good women to be with is that I adore normal, nice, stable, wholesome looking women who wear comfortable clothes and sensible shoes, but I hung out in places where the obvious majority of the women there were wild and crazy, good lookin’, hot mamas wearing revealing clothing and sexy shoes while suckin’ down booze and doin’ multiple drugs. It was a clear case of the women I’m attracted to the most being the opposite of the man I was—the wild and crazy, oft stoned on booze and bud, financially unstable guy who was plagued by up and down roller coaster rides on good times and depression.

I haven’t had any good times for years, and it feels as if depression is stuck onto my body like a suit of thick, heavy, rusted metal armor. Depression has been some kind of a heavy, downward, destructive force on me ever since 1970, when I was stationed with the
U.S. Army’s 30th Artillery Brigade on Okinawa. The unbearable weight of it seems to have crushed some of the best parts of me. After that screwed up military experience, no matter how good I felt, or how stoned I got, depression’s downward pressure on my human spirit never completely eased up.

Once that depression demon began to crush parts of me and to do its best to make me miserable, I never again regained my full self. I am not the complete version of my whole self, and that self is the only man who is right for any woman whom I could have allowed to marry me and/or be the mother of my children. I am not a lot of what I could have been, I am ashamed of parts of me and my life, but I am satisfied with the parts of me that have the God given strength to help me shoulder my own burdens without dragging any innocent women or children into my life and taking from them to give to my personal demons.

Everybody feels the blues now and then, I accept that as a part of life that we all go through at some time in some way, but I’m working and fighting hard here to win against any beatable varieties of the blues that I suffer from.

And I have some solid sobriety going for me now. It is good to be sober and not giving any more of my life to that personal demon.

My current income comes from a meager, monthly, non-service connected disability check that the Veterans Administration sends me. It is not enough for me to support myself in a good life. I still can’t take care of a family.

I have both depressive and physical disabilities. I have degenerative back disease; this is due to my lower back being injured in 1973, when some guy who was late for work one morning ran a red light and bounced me off my brand new Yamaha 650 motorcycle, and then my neck was injured seven months later when I was hit from behind while waiting at red light in my employer’s delivery vehicle. The VA recognizes these disabilities, but they refuse to acknowledge the service connection for the depression.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the treatable aspects of those disabilities are presently going untreated. The VA is responsible for providing me with that medical treatment.

Unfortunately, they neither have enough physical therapists nor the full desire to treat all of their patients’ physical ailments; and they refuse to treat the base cause of my depression, because they never believe a word I have said to them about my experiences in the 30th Artillery Brigade—words I’ve said over and over again to various VA and civilian mental health care workers whom I’ve talked to during the past thirty-some years.

In the Army, I was trained at the Ft. Monmouth US Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School as a photographer.

After I graduated from photography school, the Army awarded me the rank of Specialist Fourth Class. That was with only ten months of military time behind me. I did real well at most everything I had ever done up till that point in my life. Then the army assigned me to a unit not authorized to have a photographer, the 30th Artillery Brigade on Okinawa; they made me work for them as their “official” brigade photographer. The soldiers who ran the 30th Arty Bgde wanted to have free photos of themselves at work and play. They had a photo lab set up in a nuclear fallout emergency decontamination chamber. It was all done in blatant violation of Army Rules and Regulations.

The 30th Arty Bgde photo lab negated the use of a very important link in the vast chain of defense for the free world. The decontamination chamber that it was in was there for a very real, strategically important, military reason. It was there for the possibility that Okinawa could be attacked with nuclear bombs and certain pertinent personal had to be decontaminated of nuclear fallout so that they could do their jobs and help coordinate defense of further attacks that would have been on the way to the U.S.A.. That photo lab endangered the lives of millions of Americans. It drove me nuts to know this and that I was the only one who cared.

To top it all off, I had to pay for my own camera gear, sometimes film too, because I could not order any photo equipment or supplies through the supply clerk.

The situation with me paying for photo equipment and supplies progressed to the point where I was going to have to pay for most of it out of my pocket and that was too much for me to afford. I tried to transfer out of the 30th Arty Bgde but was told that I was “too valuable.” There was no way out but to go insane. Consequently, when I ran out of photo paper, but could not scrounge any up, nor could the Lieutenant or anyone else in direct charge of me, I could not do my job at all. My whole world fell apart.

Of course, the Army declared that I had outright refuse to continue doing my duty Their declaring that I had outright refused to continue doing my job covered up all that illegal and immoral military activity, which had nearly destroyed me. The Army gave me an early discharge, a General Discharge that has since been upgraded to full honorable. It was not upgraded because of my particular case, but due to a class action suit won by others back in the 1970s, which had something to do with the way that the Army treated too many soldiers. But the bullshit they made up about me has stayed in my personal army records and haunts me to this day.

When I was discharged from the Army, I came out feeling that I had lost my country. That loss was too heavy for me to bear.

I would be remiss in this narrative if I left out the facts of the negative effects of living with and working for my
Aunt Martha and Uncle Finley Clarke at their hunting lodge in Patten, Maine—Katahdin Lodge and Camps. When I moved to Katahdin Lodge the first time, I was just a kid fresh out of high school who had been born and raised in suburbia. At the Lodge, I became a bear hunting guide.

That work entailed: a lot of wild and crazy driving, both over the rollin’ and tumblin’ tar topped country roads and all through the rough and rocky, muck and muddy backwoods roads; it was my responsibility to show the Lodge’s paying guests a good time in Northern Maine and to coach the bear hunters on how to have an enjoyable, safe, successful time out in the vast woods up there; I did all kinds of inside and outside maintenance work for the Lodge; I tracked wounded bears, all by myself at times, usually after dark, and always unarmed.

I had great times at the Lodge. Many days were filled with a whole lotta’ interesting and funny conversations with the Lodge’s paying guests and the local Mainers who were frequent visitors there.

I fit right in with the local population of Mainers, those “finest kind” of woodsy folks who are infamous for being none too accepting of people “from the outside”. Man O’ Day! I, friggin’ aye right, had some fantastic times hanging out with the other teenagers who lived around there. Those country girls and I were made for each other. I sure as hell have wanted to marry one of them Maine women ever since.

While living in Maine, I loved ridin’ snowmobiles all over the place and also enjoyed taking walks on deep snow in the woods while wearing snowshoes. I took frequent walks in the woods all year long, sometimes with a 22 Cal. rifle or a shotgun to do some practice shooting with, but I usually went up into the woods unarmed just to go relax and be out there by myself. I developed a deep love for the woods that is still as intense today.

Aunt Marty and Uncle Fin had lived near me until I was fifteen years old. We had been together for every holiday at Grandmom and Granddad Clarke’s home, every family birthday party, and anytime at all when they and my parents wanted to visit at each other’s homes. Fin and Marty were a lot of fun. My Uncle Fin used to bring me all kinds of cool, army surplus stuff that he got as a lifetime member of the Army Reserve. I loved my Aunt Martha and Uncle Finley.

None of any of that meant squat to Aunt Martha and Uncle Finley.

When I moved to Katahdin Lodge, those two very close relatives of mine screwed me over and up real good and thoroughly. They cheated me and mistreated me. They repeatedly, verbally, emotionally abused me, and then told vicious lies about me to cover up what they had done; some of those lies amount to them refusing to acknowledge or be thankful for anything that I did for them, and them believing that it wasn’t worth me being paid the full salary that I had definitely earned.

I was most certainly, in some way, aware of and pleased with my well developed professional woodsman’s skills, but I never felt very pleased or proud for having those skills. Mostly because my aunt and uncle had continuously ignored those outstanding accomplishments, and their favorite bit of constant abuse was to tell the bear hunters, whom I was guiding, that I was a numbed brained incompetent, then send those hunters and I out in the woods where I was responsible for our safety, and their best chances at having a good day in the woods.

My relationship with Fin and Marty ended when I had had enough of the way they treated and cheated me. I had become a professional woodsman, but could never prove it to any prospective employer in that kind of a business. As far as my aunt and uncle were concerned, it was either I work for them for nearly no pay nor any respect at all, for my entire adult life after my military discharge, and maybe, just maybe, I would inherit Katahdin Lodge along with its lucrative business, or I could simply go to hell.

That humongous pile of bullshit heaped on me while at Katahdin Lodge fouled my life up to a considerable degree.

I had worked for my Aunt Martha and Uncle Finley in Maine during the year before I entered the Army. Those army along with those Fin and Marty experiences caused me to loose faith in life as I knew it. I came out of the army believing that I had lost my country and my family too. It was a one-two punch that knocked me out of sync with the rest of the world. I figured that if my family was going to cheat me and lie about me and then my US Government too, fuck it, there ain’t no hope no way so let’s get stoned and have a good time. That escaping from reality stuff never worked too well to relieve the dogged depression that has encased me. But even during numerous periods of complete sobriety, I still felt like homemade shit.

In the past seven or eight years, I have been recovering from those devastating emotional punches well enough to have written all about them and have published those stories and corresponding photos on the Internet. It isn’t doing me much good yet, but I’m pleased to be working hard at it.

Ever since I was discharged from the Army, I have not felt like my full self, because I didn’t have the active career of the woodsman, photographer, and writer who I am.

Parts of me are still a professional woodsman. Those well-developed skills have never left me. I have always felt strong desires to work in the outdoors recreation industry. Parts of me are a professional photographer. I have done all the photography I can, for now, and all I can to put that work out there on the Internet for all of the world to see, but my photography never receives much recognition or gains me any financial success at all. It took me three decades of wanting and waiting while planning to be the active, productive writer that I am today, but that work is not doing very much to benefit me at all. And 98% of my family refuses to read or in any way acknowledge my written work that is published in numerous places on the World Wide Web.

The sum total of all of what is now revealed to the rest of the world in this narrative makes it very difficult for me to be a good man for a good woman or any kind of a father to any kids. I have always, maybe mistakenly, felt that because I’m not living the life of the whole man I could be, then I am not the man for any woman or child to depend on for their naturally needed love and support.

Who in this world, or in the next world, knows whether I never had a wife or children because of the anxieties caused by the very real possibilities of hereditary diseases and nuclear holocaust, and/or the depression that’s been dragging me down ever since my time in the Army, and/or the fact that I wasn’t willing to make more people suffer than I already had amongst my family, girlfriends, friends, and others who were disappointed by the way that I was not being the whole, complete man whom both they and I knew I could be. I can say that although it has left me with unwanted portions of cold, dark, numb, empty space in my soul, it is the lesser of two tragedies.

But, if you take an in depth look at all that I have produced and published on the Internet (Google “ursusdave”), then you can see that I’m not a hopeless man and never was.

I am now blessed with two grandnephews and one itty-bitty grandniece. They are more like grandchildren to me. I may only be their granduncle, but they need me almost as much as I need them. I have been helping to raise my one grandnephew, little Dan’l Dan’l, and not only is he as fine a person as I have ever known, he is the best friend I have ever had.

All through the history of mankind, whenever a child needs someone to care for them, and their closest relative in line of natural succession doesn’t accept the responsibility, that irresponsible individual may very well have someone to answer to when their life is tallied up in the next world. They will definitely have missed out on the wonderful and fulfilling feeling of being an important part of the child’s life.

The bulk of my life has been blessed with many good, true friends who helped to make my life well worth living. All along the way, where ever I traveled and lived, there were fine folks there who I got to know and care about who were good to me and were pleased to be able share their time on this good earth with me. I am hopeful that some of those old friends of mine will see my stories and photographs that are published in numerous places on the Internet.

I don’t want to have any children at this late stage of life. I am also sadly aware that unless I get what I am working and fighting for, that is fully detailed in Internet publications, I couldn’t be a good enough father figure if I were to become a foster parent, an adoptive parent, or a stepfather, that’s certain.

I am Uncle David though, and I love it. That sure as hell ‘beats a blank’.

I don’t get to spend enough time with my family, and I have very few friends left—it is hard to be anyone’s close family member or a good friend when you are fairly well impoverished, depressed, and can’t get very far out of your house very often, as has been the case with me for the past several years. My life is presently far too excruciatingly empty for me to be satisfied with it.

The only solace I feel from these hard, cold facts of life is that no woman ever suffered the mistake of marrying me, and most importantly to the best of my knowledge I never made anyone’s life worse by fathering children.

But I’m sure as hell still alive and kickin’. So I press on with my writing and photography, and making Internet contact with people all over the world. I’m slowly, steadily, working and fighting my way outa’ this heavy-metal-armor-like-suit-of-rusted-on-depression, it’s time to do or die, and I intend to live and love.

I crave the company of a mighty fine female companion, and much more time with my family, along with a lot more time with good friends—both old and new. My writing and photography work is gaining positive attention everyday, and that is leading to where I want and need to go.

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