I was raised in a family where the Lord, Jesus, God, Heavenly Father and all the rest of the deities were much praised; but where we children rarely received recognition. Enthusiastic Child Appreciation was not the fashion those days as it is now – perhaps that was due to British “reserve”; but likely not. Still, I do not recall pining for recognition as a child. I do remember the joy of minor triumphs stunted by “You should have done better”. Once, a decent school report was defaced by my father’s written recommendation: “This boy needs a good thrashing”. Although thrashings, negative Child Appreciations, were the fashion in those days, I was not caned often at school. That was just as well, since bruising punishments (to flog Satan from my soul) were rendered at home, ending only when I became angry enough in my early teens to fight back, and when my parents separated.
When I turned 18 in July 1966, I started work and my mother reasonably asked me to leave home to lighten her load. She died a few months later, leaving 5 children essentially orphaned. Three of my brothers and sister were fostered, and one was inducted into a boys correction center since he was too old to be fostered. I, the eldest gravitated toward the the parents of my friends and girlfriends. In exchange for Elder Praise from my surrogate parents, I washed dishes, cut hedges, helped with cleaning house, and stayed with them on occasional evenings when their kids went out and partied. I also worked hard for the Elder Praise of supervisors and their broad smiles and laughter when I showed off my cheeky wit.
Yes, I was needy. But not for long. In 1969, at age 20, I dreamed of leaving London for Canada. With little money and no real idea of how I was going to live my life there, I sought promised support from my father, only to be told that I would never amount to much and that I should stay in England and marry my girlfriend. His dismissal was an explosive jolt which added fuel to my restless drive to succeed at something, anything, anywhere; and in doing so win praise from Elders. So, off I went on the MS Lundefjell seeking I knew-not-what…
By the time I had earned my mid-life PhD, my professors- men who I admired – told me that they admired me for my full and adventurous life. My most lasting PhD graduation gift was realization that I was, if not Elderly, becoming older, and that I no longer needed Elder Praise. Instead, it was my grateful duty to praise, encourage and mentor younger people; and to honor, with my own Praise and Tributes, those Elders who have so greatly influenced my life.