My Realizations The Autobiography of Julian Lee  /  COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
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My Dad

My father was Lithuanian and had grown up on the south side of Chicago. He was very handsome, which came from a combination of being from stout and parents but having the refining influence of Libra Rising. So he was both manly and rugged, and handsome. Dad was tall and had full but supple hands that seemed able to do anything. He had a basic nobility of character despite his notable flaws, and I came to respect him most of my two parents. He loved beauty and family above all. He was also religious, which was his greatest quality, and his greatest gift to me.



My father Victor Casimir Mickunas in the United States Marine Corps. I was told that he joined at 17, lying about his age, right after the war broke out. This is photo is probably soon after joining at around age 18. That's a warrior! Dad was always proud of being a Marine -- once a Marine always a Marine. Based on Marine-era photos  -- in which he usually looks happy -- it appears that he thrived in the military and came into his manhood there. Having been raised "like" an only child he was likely more solitary in his youth. I believe it was the male friendships and associations in the Marines that made him look so happy there. In old age he remained a fighter, often being annoyingly outspoken about social issues as he saw the world around him becoming more bizarre.  There were two trends in Dad: He liked having a crew-cut; but he also liked wearing it long! Pushing the edge a bit.

It's my opinion that he was a Libra Rising and that this is why his looks were more refined than the looks of his parents and older brother.

Continued right...
He joined the Marines fearlessly, underage when World War II broke out. Victor was like an only child. He had one brother but much older, and a persecutor in his life. One of the things the brother did was got my dad into fights. I guess my dad had shown himself, at some point very young, as a canny fighter. His brother would float rumors to neighborhood bullies: "Vick said he could lick you." The insulted bully would then go hunting for my father, still a young boy of four or five. For pride my father would have to fight, or take the jeers of his brother and the rest. A showdown would be arranged. His brother would actually take bets on the fight. Dad was literally forced into fighting by his brother. In old age my dad related the full story of this and I recorded it. Later he joined the Marine Corps at 17, fudging on his age to get in, just after the U.S. declared war on Germany and Japan. He became his platoon's sergeant. Along the way to that he was chosen as the fighter for his platoon in boxing matches against the best men of other platoons. Once in the ring he delivered a roundhouse punch to the other guy that was too much. He said he heard and felt the fellow's jaw break and it made him feel terrible.

He decided: "I'm not doing this any more" and quit fighting in boxing matches from there. He was a good man and didn't ever want to be a fighter that way. Because he was good at it, and fast, he managed to retain a flawless, handsome face.  
This Libra-Rising made him a very tasteful dresser and he loved aesthetics and art, with his hero being Frank Lloyd Wright. This may have been one of the significant  connections between he and mother.Whether expressed in painting (and amazingly he was a better painter than even my mother who supported the family that way for years"), clothes, or architecture, he cared about beauty. This edgily longer crew cut was, no doubt, an expression of his sense of aesthetics. Yet having been a scrappy street-fighter since childhood, his manliness was so patent that the long hair cost him no respect among his Marine Corps peers and was itself, a macho statement: "I can get away with this." I'm amazed at how confident and at ease he looks in all of his Marine Corps photos.



 As a Marine Sergeant on the  Island of Saipan in WWII. I would have hated to have my dad for my Sergeant. But he had a heart for his men.
Father was an affectionate man to his children. He was a toucher. Dad would grab you if you came near him and give you a squeeze. He had big, beautiful and able hands. His hands looked like they could do anything. I wish I had inherited his big, beautiful hands but I partially got my mom's stubbier hands. They're O.K. I can play a fast guitar lick with them. But they are nothing like my dad's beautiful hands. I always notice the hands on a person, particularly on a woman. I feel I can sense a person's real character just by looking at hands. Full yet graceful hands on a woman somehow move me. It seems to represent virtue, good  karma and servicefulness.
I don't know who the men are in this photo (right) with my dad, which I regret. I don't know what his rank is, but he later became sergeant. The thing that strikes me about it is how much happier-than-usual he looks. Though he had solitary qualities he enjoyed fellowship with "his men" and was deeply loyal to them -- as often happens among military men.


Escaped from the South Side of Chicago dad now has an equality of fellowship plus many varied experiences, even turning into a golden California Boy from the San Diego sun. Interestingly, my oldest brother Mark began raising chickens in later life right in the heart of Des Moines, plus became a beekeeper. At one time my Dad also brought a collection of Chinchillas, and all necessary equipment, as a project for his sons to raise. So along with model airplane builder, machinist, oil painter, carpenter, insurance adjuster (and lecturer), Marine Corps Sergeant, fisherman, architect, and later a pilot -- he had animal husbandry instincts. You can see his fascination with the hen. The same firm gentleness he shows to the calm hen in his hands was what he by-and-large gave to his sons and daughters on a daily basis. He wanted his boys to have some of his mojo, and often cheerfully encouraged us, without pressure or guilt, to develop our bodies with push ups and the like, gayly egging us on if we ever gave it a try.
He once told me that he had the top outcome in a kind of election from among his troop, a kind of "best Marine" election by his men. This allowed him to choose a cushy job as a sea-going Marine for the rest of his service. When I asked him why he didn't take the position he said, "I couldn't bear to leave my men." Later he expressed a similar devotion to the well-being of other males for years as baseball coach for boys in the Little League.  He found this position very engaging and was devoted to both the boys and the game. PHOTO BELOW IN LARGER VIEW


 
Left: My dad Victor Mickunas in the Marine Corps during World War II. Location unknown but it might be San Diego during training. Click for larger version.

Below: Dad after the war having a meal with my grandfather and my mother's youngest sister, Helen.
 

 
We could never get dad to talk about details of his experience in battle or on the island of Saipan. Despite his flaws my dad has the central place in my heart because he really cared about his children, about "family" -- and had faith in God.

He had pet names for his kids. Mine was "McGurt." He never treated me as though he viewed me as "less" than Mark or Victor. They seemed to regard me as weaker and more vulnerable, which was probably true. I certainly was sickly compared to my brothers. Because my eyes were blue, and because Dad set a lot of store in little physical signs like that, it probably helped him to automatically sort me out as "different." It's likely they were hoping for a girl when I was born, and it seems both Dad and Mom were willing to let me be "the soft one" and made fewer demands on me. One of his habits was to grab you, press his face to yours and make a "plaaatttt" sound against your cheek. It tickled and was only slightly annoying. We could feel its purpose, which was to transmit fatherly affection. He seemed to do this especially much to me.

But he affectionately encouraged us all in our developing manhood and strength. When I was very young he'd come home from work on the bus. As mother was fixing dinner, to get us out of her hair, she would sometimes say, "Why don't you go down and greet your dad at the bus stop." The three of us -- Mark, Vick, and I -- would be delighted to oblige. Sometimes we would hide behind some bushes at the nearby apartments so as to ambush him. As he'd step out the bus we'd burst upon him. On seeing us he'd let out a delighted "Ho Hoh!!" and we'd be on him. I still remember him stepping out of the bus in his black suit, so strong and agile. The bus seemed an odd place for him to be. It seemed like a captive tiger in a constrained, small world.

The love of a son for his father is the most natural thing in the world. Seeing his pleasure at our ambush we'd dare our usual thing, which was to beset him. This involved all three  tackling him around the feet and actually trying to bring him down. We had learned we couldn't actually do that. He was too big and strong. So there was no harm in trying and it was great fun. It amounted to dad plodding home, in dark suit and briefcase, with three laughing boys fastened around his feet like weights, while he endeavored to break us free with tickling. It occurs to me now how the passengers of that bus must have several times witnessed this scene and smiled. He was always proud of his little sons. He never expressed irritation at our affectionate boyish attacks. After all, he was unconquerable. We felt we could throw all of our best shots at him, throw all of our boyish energies at him, yet he was unfazed. Wrestling and rough housing with my brothers was also a part of my boyhood, one that I still miss sometimes to this day.

Dad was a very careful man. But when there was danger, he was fearless. Once as a Boy Scout I got bored with a campout near home. I hoofed it home around 3 a.m. The doors were always open at our house. The nearby church doors, too. It was early spring, winter thawing. As I crept across the dark living room floor I saw a white shape coming at me fast. "Dad?" I queried. It was him in his T-Shirt. I heard him gasp as he barely stopped in time the blow he was about to deliver. Angry at the near miss on his own son, he said, "I was gonna deck you!" That's what a man is like when protecting his family. He hears the slightest sound downstairs and "Boom!" he's on him, ready to deal with whatever it is. Once later with my own family we lived in a haunted house. On the 1st or 2nd night  my wife woke me: "Honey, the lights are on downstairs and there is someone walking around."We had turned out the lights. Boom, I was there. A good fighter appreciates the element of surprise and knows sometimes it's the only chance. Plus, he wants to throw himself into it before giving himself the chance to think and possibly get fear. Nobody was there. A boy becomes, in many ways, like his dad. I myself never shrank from fights. And having a chip on my shoulder from the razzing I took from my brothers, I was quick to get into them.

One thing I noticed is that when you fight a fellow, you usually end up very good friends. Why? Because you saw the truth about that fellow while fighting him. You go right to the brink with him. You hit him and intimidate him, yet this one doesn't back down and comes right at you. He hurts and you hurt. But you see him come at you again, on principle. He's losing, yet he still comes at you and doesn't quit. They're laughing at him, yet he rises again. So you see his valor his courage. You see what he's really made of. You see he has real class. Now you don't want to fight any more. You see he's as great as you. Really, you see his nobility in a way that few ever will see. So you get a special respect. I was a fighter, and I understand fighters.

The guru I ended up choosing, Paramahansa Yogananda, was also a fighter, and he was fearless. Maybe that's part of the reason I was drawn to him. My guru was was the reincarnation of Arjuna, the ideal devotee and warrior, and also William the Conquerer. (Yogananda remembered his life as William the Conquerer.)

It must be an overwhelming feeling of brotherhood and respect that fighting men get for each other, when they fight together. I can also understand how soldiers from two opposing sides also get a respect for each other, one with a human validity that transcends the politics of the situation. I can understand U.S. soldiers from the war getting a profound respect for the German soldiers they were fighting, thinking, "These were really men and they were really fighters." The famous Christmas time peace, where British and German soldiers shared a smoke with each other briefly before resuming shooting at each other, is something I can easily understand. And I can understand how, after fighting with your buddies and seeing their valor and nobility, then seeing them killed and maimed before you, it must enrage your soul and give you a heavy load for the rest of your life. Such was the case, I believe, with my dad.

Dad fought in the brutal Pacific Theater and was on the island of Saipan and there were huge losses for the Marines on those islands. I have often thought that my past life probably involved WWII, in the European theater. This based on my early  interests, dreams, and chills I'd get hearing about certain places and aspects of the war. Also because of the father I chose. I assume I was in the European Theater, on either the British or German side, and airplanes were involved. Probably not by flying them, but me jumping out of them. I've never had the slightest interest in flying in airplanes. My father did, making sophisticated flyable motorized planes by hand as a boy, then getting a pilot's license in later life. But I loved the idea of jumping off high things when I was young. I had a strange faith in it, sometimes deliberately precipitating long falls from swingsets or trees with great delight. I'd hit, and it would hurt, but I'd do it again later. I seemed to always want to jump off of things, with some sense "I can surely fly!" I loved hanging off of high tree limbs. One rather high one broke, and I am lucky I was rightside up rather than hanging upside down at the time, or I might not be here to write this. I also loved clambering up and over high walls and fences. No neighbor's yard was ever safe from me.

I did love drawing  warplanes by age five or six, and I was very good at drawing. Hearing about wartime France and Germany I could feel what it was like there. From childhood I had a recurring dream where I'm in a shot-up city, a battleground town in Europe, and I am hiding in a the ruin of a building and out of bullets. I have an obsession  to find more ammo, or scrounge for another gun, even that of a dead man. The enemy, an ominous presence or thought, is always somewhere nearby, approaching, and I'm hiding, mostly separated from others. The gun and the thought of the gun was the one comfort. 'If I can just find more bullets, things will be fine.'

I never had such an event occur in my real life, or saw it in films. It was probably a scene from a past life, possibly the last scene.  But I get emotional hearing about the men of the R.A.F., or  the paratroopers who dropped into France and Germany. Once I met a man who was a real paratrooper into France in that war. I wanted him to tell me about it. But he wouldn't. I feel strangely comforted and charmed by the sound of women speaking in German.

Till about age 12 my favorite play with other boys was to "play war." Basically, if you could come up with some passable guns, it involved hiding out and stalking each other, and I guess who ever could make the most realistic machine gun sound with his mouth would think he'd got the other guy. We never really had any clear rules. But it was  delightful crouching in hiding, in the middle of a war, with your gun and no soul in the world knowing your mysterious location. So near to danger. So "on the edge" in life. Those moments deep in some neighbor's hedge, or in some shadowy overgrowth, keeping safe but ready to pounce from the silence, were some of the most exquisite of my life. Some years on we discovered that big dirt clods made realistic "grenades." You'd throw it and it would explode in bits that looked just like shrapnel. But some less gnarly boy chickened out and his parents declared it unsafe. The magic began to die. I think we were  influenced a little by marketing and the television shows like "Combat," obviously marketed to the huge veteran demographic. On the other hand, some boys didn't seem much interested in this kind of thing.

I don't know how bad the fighting that my Dad saw on Saipan. Those islands were places of great death and butchery for the Marines. I think the war certainly upset him, because he never wanted to talk about it. It seemed to exacerbate a beer drinking habit he'd gotten in the Lithuanian neighborhood of Chicago. After Saipan he was in occupied Japan after the Truman administration dropped the atomic bomb there. Life got more interesting and easy. I heard he had done a bit of work as a hack interpreter there. My impression was that he enjoyed Japan and gained a certain respect for the Japanese culture. He brought back tremendous souvenirs, including a kimono and two beautiful samurai swords that my brothers and I occasionally cut our fingers on checking if the blades were still sharp. Ouch.

Once my dad told me about how the American men in Japan found many Japanese women were easy pickings. (He spoke euphemistically as he set that scene, but that's what he was trying to tell me.) Many had lost their husbands, many were impoverished, and the Marines were a victorious army. He said that a little Japanese woman tried, in fact, to latch on to him. He said many men took advantage of the women. Then he let on to me -- and this was his purpose for the story -- that he did not succumb to that temptation. From such critical decisions throughout life character is built, and karma is piled up, whether good or bad. He told me several stories like this during his life, designed to convey the proper moral direction in life. Once he said that he remembered the precise circumstances of each of the conceptions of his six children. He said, "I remember them all because it was not some random, casual thing." He was conveying that he took sex seriously and did not abuse it. Then he said, "You were conceived when your mother and I were having a little campout, in a tent, in our back yard."

Dad had a big picture book we called "The war book." It was blue. There were many amazing photos of the war in the Pacific and I used to love looking at it. It shows a group of marines surveying the nuclear ruins of Nagasaki from the deck of a ship. You can pick out my dad in a crowd of men on deck just from the back of his head and upper body, easily identifiable by his son, especially since dad kept wearing the same crew cut after the war. He worried occasionally in later years about possible affects from the radiation. He had that Virgo trait of little worries over health. It was never an issue affecting anything. Just something I register about him now in retrospect. It was a sign of his attitude about the war that he never once showed us the book himself or spoke about it. It was something we just regularly pilfered from his library. He also never pointed out to us that he was in one of its pictures. We discovered it ourselves.

My father was voted by his men as 'best marine' of his platoon after the war. I don't know the designation or winning title was, but it relied on technical qualifications (such as marksmanship) plus other opinions of the men in the platoon. It gave him an option to become a kind of elite, do-nothing sea-going marine wearing a very handsome dark blue uniform and white gloves. But he turned it down, he said, because "I couldn't leave my buddies."I think he saw some of the gruesome scenes of war, and probably the killing of some buddies. So he never talked about the war itself. My older brothers had pulled something out of him before I came along. So sometimes I'd find myself in a chorus saying, "Tell us a war story." But he'd get a irritated and we stopped asking for this. But he could tell other stories, and sometimes did, around the fireplace. He was very good at this and could be sometimes pressed into it. He seemed happiest when a family time was unfolding with his boys.

Mind you, my mother seldom praised my father, and never spoke of any of these things. These are simply the observations of a son.

Around the house he always wore a white T-Shirt and shorts. He kept his hair in a crew cut. But  a rather long crew cut. Chestnut brown and thick, it could grow pretty full yet remain a crew cut, still standing up straight. I think it was the hipster in him, possibly, that enjoyed sporting that longer crew cut. He was particular about hair and never let it go. He expected us to be the same way. He taught us how to comb it, and to put a part in it. On the side, not the middle. The discipline of the hair is actually a profound symbol of the discipline and cultivation of the sexual energy, the animal energy. All clothes and ways of dress contain symbolism and transmit values. Cultures that lose moral restraints go for big hair and finally wild hair. Cultures that restrain and cultivate the creative energy restrain and cultivate the hair. When his sons started wanting to grow their hair long, influenced by the '60's media, it bothered my father greatly and there were great battles over it. I know now that he saw it has a collapse of culture and tradition, and a fall from basic discipline. He was actually right. But we had psychological reasons, in our context, for wanting our hair long.

While stationed in occupied Japan father painted tremendous paintings of local scenes, including an exquisitely done portrait of a red-headed woman in a patterned scarf. It had  Norman Rockwell quality. (A painter I admired.) I don't exaggerate. I was a pretty good artist myself and was more-or-less flabbergasted that my father, who did not grow up aspiring to art, could have painted those paintings, then never pursued art again or talked about it. But there was his signature, and there was no controversy about it. It seemed he could do anything except music. But he didn't think much of any of this. As a teen he had once worked in a machine shop, a tool-and-die factory. The best old machinist, on retiring, gave him his own box of tools because Dad was so gifted with machines. I saw the box one day and asked, "Where'd you get that." He didn't tell me the "I was so good with machines" part. I just figured it out. He was. A master craftsman only gives you his tools when he sees that in you.

Dad was Virgo-city. He loved figuring out how things worked, fixing them, and making them work better. One of his favorite lines -- and it's really a classic Virgo line -- was "We have things down to a system now." That's what Virgo always wants to do. Improve conditions by systematizing everything. It's from his instinct to better serve. In the Marines he was trained as an aerial mapmaker. Now that's Virgoville. You can't be making maps for military operations and make many mistakes. I think it's how he learned surveying, and learned to love flying. In peacetime with his family he had a surveying scope and would survey our land, and land he once considered buying.

His head was full of so many things I didn't understand. Once while working on improving an electric engine he said to me, "I wish I could take everything that's in here" (gesturing over his head) "and put it in there" (placing his hand over my head). That's how fathers feel. I learned later in life, through mystic knowledge, that this is exactly what fathers do, without fail, simply by thinking of their children.

He loved tools. He had a workshop full of them and hated it when we misplaced one or abused one, which four active boys were wont to do quite regularly. He made impressive architectural drawings in the course of planning his do-it-yourself remodels, and I think what he really wanted to be was an architect. He was a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was always reading something (one of the ways he neglected his kids, too).

Father was also a great dresser with a keen sense of style. This came from his Libra rising. My brothers and I might come up to him dressed in new suits for church, and he'd pull and pinch and move things around like a tailor getting us 'just so.' He would point out how a quality fabric had a nice "hang" to it while a cheaper fabric didn't. He had an amazing long, dark blue cashmere coat that I found in the attic years after the divorce. It was of such quality that it had to have cost a lot of money. I wore it on one of my runaway trips, which had evolved later into a saddhu-like quest for truth, when I left during one of Iowa's worst winters. It was good insulation. I'm sad to say I abandoned it, well-worn, deep in Texas. On another of my runaway trips, his standard issue wool Marine Corps blanket, which was too short to cover yourself without curling up, was all that kept me alive at night. I'm happy to say I gave that to a wandering fellow, near lake Flathead in Montana where I was sleeping in the woods with other cherry pickers. He had less that me for warmth.

Later in life dad became a Little League baseball coach. It seemed that those boys became like his missing "buddies" of the platoon. He was very devoted to teaching the boys how to grow in their game, play fairly, and try to win. I wish he had devoted even 5 percent of that attention on me. Once I was on one of his teams. But he seemed to make a particular effort to ignore me, probably to spare himself any accusations of favoring a son. He never threw ball with me or developed my athletic side. My little brother Joe got  that attention. Maybe he just sensed I was the philosopher type, or an arty type. But I was game for it, had he tried. Sons are nurtured just by having their fathers direct attention to them doing anything. But his coaching was clearly an altruistic work and he was a beloved coach by many of the families because he put the boys first, and played fair. He would get emotional about conflicts with other coaches he deemed less ethical. Once he quit an insurance position over an ethical matter, standing up for an associate he felt was being wronged. He had been offered, and refused, to go into the more lucrative side of insurance -- sales -- because he said, "I can't fluff things up and sell people  things that they might not really need."

Predictably, he wasn't the best moneymaker and he was a terrible cheapskate. He hated to buy anything new, and he'd build whole additions to houses from parts he'd scrounged and salvaged. He was always salvaging things, then creating beauty and order from them. Yet he would sometimes splurge bizarrely on himself on some elegant fancy, like the day he drove home in a long Cadillac car. Or a Pontiac convertible with leather. He had a lot of pride and liked status symbols. That was one thing that suited my mother well and dad gave her a lifelong addiction to big, quiet, air-conditioned, stereophonic Cadillac car interiors.

Our home was filled with portraits, mostly various ones my mother did. But the most impressive portrait in our home was one of my father. It was done while he was fighting in the Pacific Theater in WWII. Behind him was green tropical island foliage. His shirt was off . He had a beautiful, developed body and was bronzed in the sun, dog tags hanging. His crew cut, medium-long but standing up like a rooster's, shone in the sun with a touch of blond shine. His bearing in the portrait was a blend of  ramrod soldierly straightness and poised readiness, and his eyes were fierce. No messing with this guy! The whole feeling was of three things: Manliness, nobility, and warriorship. He was very respected as the platoon sergeant, and protective of his men, and chose to stay with them rather than abandon them for a cushy promotion.

My home was always loaded with portraits that mother had done. This one was actually by a better artist, with better technique. But it had no pride of place in our home. She never seemed to hang it or feature it anywhere. So dad stuck it into whatever corners she would allow, perhaps near his desk. It was finally lost through the complete breakup of our family, probably taken by a burglar, because it was a very fine work, and you couldn't help but be impressed by the man in the painting..

Mom used to say dad was "talented," and that he was "handsome," and a "a good man." But they were incompatible. There seemed to be things about him she disliked. I was never sure what. I actually never heard him criticize her and I never heard them fight. I do remember how they murmured to each other in the bed at night, talking about family things. She'd refer to him being "sarcastic." But sarcasm was actually her forte, not his. I can honestly say I never once even heard my father gossip about another, much less make fun of anybody. He hated what was on the T.V. He detested shows like "Laugh In" and would say, "What a bunch of fakes" etc. Seeing a long-haired rock group he'd say, "Look at those bums." He'd say that for his sons' hearing, to instruct them in values. But when it came to personal relations, and real people, he had high ethics. Those who were his enemies or antagonizers, he'd be silent about them. He and my mother were in various battles and tensions with the Jewish neighbors next door for years, yet I never heard a word about it. I also never heard the word "Jew," not even knowing myself that they were Jewish until I reached the age of fifty. Those of other races, he'd watch them from a distance. If engaging with them, he was friendly and respectful, but just cordial. He wasn't a glad hander like mom. Everything about him was honest. Possibly my father criticized my mother sometimes in private. Once I asked my dad near the end of his life, "Why did you and mother divorce?" and he said, "I don't know." Well, I know. They were incompatible. And the world was changing too fast. And he had a little drinking addiction that got bigger as the world spun out of control and their marriage started to become troubled. The sixties were a crazy time. Everything was changing radically and it bewildered my dad. And he had wanted an old world woman who valued hearth, home and family. She was not that. My mom was not that woman.

Later I became an astrologer and found out that my Father was Libra rising, Virgo sun, with Pluto in the First House. The later item gives one a strong quality of Scorpio, including intuition, fearlessness, and experience dealing with power and with war. My father was always observing and quietly taking things in. He would sit for long hours on his haunches outdoors, surveying some recent work he had done, making plans for the work. He was always building something or improving the house or property. He took on major undertakings. He would be out there as night fell, usually with a beer and a cigarette. You could see the light from his Winston from the distance. And if not on the outs with him, it was fun to sit and chat with him. He would be in a relaxed and pleasant mood at that time, and seemed to enjoy the companionship and conversation of his children.

I found that dad often knew many detailed things about people in the neighborhood. He would know the whole story of some legal matter concerning the land, or what was going on among several families. Later these things would pop out, years later, and I wondered how he knew these things because he didn't visit anybody and was not a gossip. His profession was insurance adjuster. He would go to the site of disasters and determine "what really happened." So he had this penetrating mind, related to the Pluto-is-First.

One strange thing he loved to do was to predict things regarding pregnancies, such as the birth dates or sexes of a child. I caught him doing this with family friends more than once. In most ways an utterly practical Virgo, yet he took an odd pride in some kind of power of cognition, and seemed to consider himself to have a high probability of accuracy, I don't know how. Much later I learned  he had dabbled briefly in astrology. But he was basically a very practical,  technically-minded Virgo. He always had a well appointed workshop down in the basement full of many tools and materials and I spent happy hours down there learning -- all by my self through sheer interest -- how to make things. I loved Dad's quiet workshop. The smell of sawdust from his latest project. The smell of oil, and all his beautiful tools lined up neatly in their places on a fiberboard wall with hooks. My brother Mark went through a phase of making his own cool belts and leather bracelets using leather working tools, down in dad's shop. Finding my older brother there, I followed him like a pest and soon was haunting the workshop also. One time he showed me a bit of how it was done, happy to have some company while he worked. And I took up the leather-making craft briefly. I made some cool belts.

When I was around four, back in our original bungalow house, I asked my dad. "Why did you give me this name?" I remember where I was, beside the refrigerator. He looked down with a quiet smile saying, "We looked up in a book of saints and there were no saints with that name yet."  I remember just being vaguely perplexed. I didn't know at all what he meant. For a moment, I flashed on: "Oh, he thinks all my brothers are to be great, but not me." Then I fled from that thought, and mused, "Well, that was I guess a neat way to pick a name for your kid. Why not?""Neat" was a lingo I picked up by that age. I was always picking up "lingo" from my brothers and school mates. I didn't ask Dad for further explanation of most things. I left it at that and forgot about it until old age.

Later on, my father figured strongly in some of my spiritual experiences, including a series of three "initiation" dreams I had when I discovered my guru in this life.

One last thing I noticed most about my dad: People, especially women, seemed to respect him. I remember being a bit amazed by an almost reverential tone in the way mothers would would talk to, and about, my dad. Just the way they'd even say "Vick." The truth is, he was handsome. But he never flirted with the women. More than that, he had an integrity. It was that tone used by others that first hinted to me that my father was a very good man.

My Mother and Father Compared;
My Chief Pain with my Mother

The importance of family was something my dad understood, and that knowledge later ripened in me, though I and my siblings were psychologically harmed my mom and dad's divorce. People want, and need, to be part of an intimate group first, then groups of decreasing intimacy with more abstract ties. (Town, nation.) The family is meant to naturally serve that purpose. Nobody loves you as much as your own family and is willing to sacrifice as much, and upon that fact rests the true well-being of children. And that's why all children need their own parents and people to get the best in life, and what life has destined for them naturally by karma. Those who want to attack the family and its natural legitimacy are power-trippers and meddlers who want to manage and control the world, weaken human beings, and make them needy and dependent on those who love them far less.

In my view, my mother scattered herself too much among too many people. She always had a smile, a good word, and a laugh for literally everybody and for this reason she was very popular with those outside her family. She seemed to be obsessed with "being elsewhere" or "being with so-and-so" or talking to so-and-so. I have many memories of waiting with my brothers in the station wagon while she visited some friend, inside of some house, for "just a minute." It seem it would always be an eternity before she came out. I do not know. Maybe it was just 20 minutes but felt like an hour. Those were hellish times. I am sure some of the waits were a half hour. She just couldn't talk-talk enough. Likewise, at home she was often on the phone. Here she might talk to someone for a good hour, the whole time me and other siblings hanging around her with one need or another, but unable to get her attention. Those were hellish times, too.

I realized this was partly a function of the bizarre ways that American towns and neighborhoods were set up, especially the suburban model, which basically isolates mothers at home, destroys the everyday social connections that obtained naturally before the unholy automobile proliferated to destroy the natural conditions of human towns and neighborhoods. So she was an absurdly isolated mother because of the unforeseen consequences always associated with western man's technological invention. From that point-of-view, I understand it.

But her mind was more on the world than on her kids. Later, she had the whole world coming through our house daily and my home became a public place as she started a business selling portraits in oil and pastel. All sorts of people would come into our house and sit for a portrait. I grew up like this and this is how she fed us when my father, depressed by the divorce and custody situation, and sinking into alcoholism, became a less fruitful check writer for her. In this house there was no place to hide from strangers. If a room started to become comfortable to me and my brothers, and we started to hang out there and get to know each other, she'd soon break it up by re-arranging the furniture for some other purpose. Rarely did a room remain the same for more than a few months. Never once did she create any sort of "family room" or place intended for the children to feel at home. Family patterns did not develop under her single-mother reign. It was dad who had the family vision. But she was given all the power in the divorce. We all kept to our rooms after dad was gone. She liked it that way I think.

At her funeral memorial, there was a huge houseful of people. They came all day. I didn't go. There was a great big box of letters written about her gushing with admiration. I didn't read them. I read one and the fatuous stupidity of her fans made me ill. All they knew is her outer persona. As a mother, she didn't have my heart because her mind was really not on her kids or her family. What she did have was a basic physical affection for her kids. This made her an emotional anchor in life-saver in my otherwise deprived childhood.

She was basically available, even as a single mother, because she found a way to work out of the home. If I came to her near the state of emotional collapse because of some upset, or because of being out on the deserted island of my family life for too long, she was always a listening ear. She would listen with empathy, would not criticize or judge, and would be strongly comforting. At that times I would always explode into a fount of tears and felt much better afterward. This is something mothers are supposed to, at least, be. And she was that.

She was also very lavish with praise. She would always focus on whatever positives she could think of about you, and was slow to criticize while my father was quick to criticize. She may not have known my mind that well, but what she did know, she praised it to the skies. If I ever asked for anything, really wanting it, she would always get it. Thus when I got interested in music and asked for a guitar, there it was. She would do anything to get me a thing that I really wanted. I did not ask for much, but when I did, it was there. Thus easily commenced a life of music for me.

My father was terribly stingy. But mother was permissive, generous, and lenient. Dad was a hard place in many ways. He had rules and expectations, and was often stern about them. But she was a soft place of safety if you could get her. Though she was on the edge financially all the time, she made our poverty obscure and far away. She put a big grand piano in our home and let me doodle on it for years until I became a pretty good pianist by ear. It was a strange light pastel green with some beautiful hairline cracks in the paint just a bit here and there. Now play me any pop song or carol and I can analyze its structure in seconds, and be playing it's correct bass parts and chords, including some of the right inversions and fingerings. Being a piano player is a great way to create fun at parties. That's because my mother never complained about my years of hammering on the family grand. My brothers put up with it, too.

One of the greatest things my mom did is to counsel me, starting young, to never smoke, never drink, and never do drugs. She emphasized all three to me. I held to that except for much later, in my late forties, I got the notion to smoke a pipe and occasionally do that. I think it was because the smell of the tobacco makes me feel more connected to my dad.

My greatest pain related to my father is that he was a terrible listener. He preferred to be the one doing all the talking, and because he listened so little to my states or my stories, I felt he barely knew me as the big inner and outer life changes unfolded. He was also a T.V. addict and became a serious beer drinker, which put him at odds with mother because of the negative state changes it would create, and was a key cause of their divorce, the family breakup, and the destruction of his own best dreams. In earlier life his T.V. habit destroyed the sense of family in the house. In later life he would stupidly and callously keep watching the tube, loud, even when I visited him after some long absence with important things to tell. How many potential father-son conversations were preempted by that hellish box. How much it must have affected our ultimate relationship! But then, even had he had the basic consideration to turn it off, he would have listened little to me. Once when I came back from Alaska after long years there and with much I hoped to tell, his opening words were: "So you've been in Alaska?  I had some dealings once with Alaska back with the insurance company..." And that was the end of my opportunity to speak to him. I had to listen then to a half-hour story about his obscure dealings with Alaska many years ago. Basically he was very self-centered as a listener.

What he ultimately gave me, by that trait, was a tremendous capacity to shut up, to listen, myself, to concentrate long, and to take in a great deal of speech. This later became important in my work and studies as an astrologer.

Why do I still respect and love him? Because I sensed his heart was really with his kids and with the family concept, and because he had inviolate principles for which he would sacrifice himself. Both my mother and father were highly creative people. As a father later in life I found that I was contented with my children and their doings as long as they were creatively engaged with something. Well guess what? I was naturally creatively engaged with something -- whether building a model, or learning to play the guitar, or organizing the basement -- pretty much most of the time. Thus much of the time when I thought they were neglecting or ignoring me, they were really just satisfied that I was creatively engaged, and trying to get done whatever they could under the burden of six children.

Media

Occasionally while paper-collecting with mother people would leave a special treasure: A stack of magazines! Usually my brothers commandeered the magazines and I saw them only briefly. Finally I caught on, and I remember secreting a little stack of Life and Look magazines into the car, away from the eyes of my brothers. I got them safely into a closet in the house. One of the most delicious moments of my life was setting down with a little light in that closet to look at Life and Look. I remember one cover had a beautiful artist's tableau of prehistoric life, which always especially fascinated me as a boy. Then I saw a handsome man and his wife, and learned that he was our president. I was very moved by him. The magazine made it seem that he was important and well-loved. I wanted to be like him. His name was John F. Kennedy. I felt a thrill when I saw him. I was proud that my country had this young and handsome president, with a wife so beautiful and gracious. What a world-revelation was those magazines! To finally view  the Big World out there, from my little perch in father's disciplined family, stimulated my mind greatly. Our family never had a T.V. until much later. When we got one and father started watching it (mother never did, unless she was on T.V.) , it profoundly altered the family atmosphere in a negative way.

Family life was sweet before the T.V. appeared, and the simple lack of that glo-box encouraged me to read young. So magazines were my first exposure to "the media." Later I was to see a profound change in "the media," especially in the magazines published out of the city of New York. Magazines became increasingly disturbing and vile. But in those early days, Life and Look magazine presented  a wonderful and fascinating world.

Though mother taught me not to smoke, one of my favorite memories is the smell of Saturday and Sunday mornings when I could come out and find my dad relaxing at the kitchen table. My mom would be in the kitchen fixing things. The smell was that of  bacon, eggs, sausages, and coffee mixed with the morning newspaper, and most pleasant of all, the first sweet puff from his Winston. My mother hated dad's smoking, I later realized, and considered it low class. But for me it was just part of the smell of my dad.

Then there was the music. It was always on during those mornings and nights. They both loved the radio on KRNT and KSO. And the music that flowed from that little radio from 1957 to 1962 was the greatest magic of my life.