1. What prompted you to write this gripping memoir?
At the age of twenty-seven, shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, my son Gregory gave up his career as a Chemist to join the U.S. Army. He completed basic training and Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Benning, Georgia. As a then 2nd Lieutenant, he was assigned to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for field artillery training and then to Ft. Casey along the DMZ in South Korea. I expected, and he confirmed, that he may be sent to Iraq. It was at that moment that I began to realize, at some point, I may lose him and decided to write him a letter detailing my life and those who influenced me, long before he was born.
2. Growing up as you did in the 50’s and 60’s, do you feel your family was typical? Did you feel outside the norm at the time?
There were times when I didn’t notice or fully realize my childhood years were much different than others; it was when I began school and developed friends that I felt a disconnect with my peers. My parents divorced when I was three. That was the beginning and end of a real family for me. None of my friends’ parents had divorced or had different last names than their parents. Nor, did it seem, that their home life was as disruptive as was the case in my house. My brother was always suffering from the effects of hemophilia, and because my mother and stepfather worked, I was responsible for him much of the time. My stepfather, who I believed hated me or at the very least hated himself. He was jealous of my relationship with my mother, restricted my life and my free time to the point where my friends were afraid of him and wouldn’t come knocking at my door.
3. What prompted you to work your way out of the endless rut your family had fallen into?
We had moved so many times during my formative years that it was impossible for me to establish roots or lasting childhood relationships. I was always the “new kid.” After three different high schools in three years, I had had enough and began planning my escape. I had seen and experienced enough of the drinking, hatefulness, deprivation, foul language, cracks in the head, and going nowhere people around me; I never wanted to be like them or waste the one life I was given.
4. In 1965, you suffered a horrendous accident. How do you think this shaped your future?
It took me years to put that behind me. After my relationship with Janice (not her real name) fell apart, I figured I’d never find a wife or have a family. I came to realize that my insecurities were more my responsibility than anyone around me. My perception of how others perceived me had taken control of my psyche. I concluded that, after many years, those thoughts were standing in my way, so I developed a personal philosophy that if others turned away from me, it was their issue and not mine. I learned to do everything I had done before. Every word of this manuscript was typed by me…no electronic voice system, a keyboard and a computer was all I needed. I routinely shook hands with bankers and business people with a smile and without hesitation, and when I entered public life, I never let it get in my way.
5. The 1960’s were tumultuous times, but also politically exciting. Is that where you first became interested in politics? Or was it something later on?
I don’t know where that comes from. My mother was quite openly patriotic and maybe I inherited that from her or through my earlier ancestry. I stood at attention when we recited the pledge of allegiance each morning in school, studied American history on my own and was always moved on Memorial Day and later on Veteran’s Day. I’m convinced, and I have no research to bear this out, that much of who we are as individuals has been passed along to us through the our own ancestral DNA—interests, talents, attitudes, ambition, patriotism, etc. I attempted to trace my heritage and became convinced that because we came from, on my father’s side, Berwick, Maine in the 1700’s, that at some point we descended from Berwick, Scotland. During the Norman invasion of 1066, they massacred everyone. Only a small number escaped. My great-grandfather, on the mother’s side, emigrated from Scotland to Ireland and then to America in the early 1870’s. He was seventeen when he landed in Boston.
I’ve been to Philadelphia, Ft. Sumter, Williamsburg, and the Memorial in Pearl Harbor. I’ve walked the sands of Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, and visited Pointe-du-Hoc, where, on D-day, 225 U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100 foot cliffs from the sea to silence the German guns. I visited the American cemetery in Normandy where I came upon the first white cross in the fourth row from the right. It was that of a young PFC from Leominster, Massachusetts. 6 June 1944.
I was driven into public life in 1989 mainly because of my business experiences. In the late 1980’s, the then Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proposed legislation to tax every Massachusetts business owner $1,700.00 per employee, per year, to fund his Universal Health Care Plan. That became a defining moment. It was another blow to my business. Meeting payroll every week, along with the constant government interference, was becoming a nightmare. I sold my business and convinced myself I could change the world, or at least I could make changes through elective office here in Massachusetts.
6. The memoir ends when you are still quite a young man. What will the next installment cover?
I think I’ve brought the reader along to the present through the epilogue. I do however intend to write two additional books which I’ve already begun. I was a classroom teacher for many years in Norwell, Massachusetts, and later resigned my tenured position to go into business. My construction experiences renovating buildings in and around Boston, and working the East Boston ship repair business, was a challenging and raucous thirteen years. How I survived I’ll never really know.
7. Final Comments
Some have said, “Why did you tell so much about your personal life?” I explain that I believe, in some sense, it may serve the greater good. If I can reach out personally and through my experiences, to the many young people faced with an uphill battle to succeed, they may find their lives have much greater meaning then they realize. The growing epidemic of high school and college dropouts across America is simply staggering—the emerging, “enemy from within,” which, if left unchecked, will continue to fuel the gathering storm of social unrest, threatening the very stability of our country. You only have one life. Make it count!