Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I am raised in a family of achievers.

Before the age of five and entering kindergarten, I knew well it was my German ancestor, a century earlier, who had “invented” the concept that children, like flowers, should be raised in a garden of opportunities to discover, whose hand carved pony in our living room I could rock so fast. Long before a picture surfaced on the internet as proof, I believed without wonder that my grandfather had worked with Einstein, Roosevelt and others, an industrialist “responsible” for sending tanks to England and rebuilding Austria after the War.

My mother constantly identified all the incredible accomplishments of my father, tales remarkable enough embellished with such awe I was impressed and proud on the surface but hopelessly intimidated deeply underneath. Not only could he master any task he tried, I was constantly told by relatives and teachers that I too had the gifts that would create success for myself wherever I might choose to wander.

My two older sisters were such organizers and so popular, when my name was recognized entering high school, the expectations were made clear that I should make important contributions in and out of the classrooms. It seemed easy to become officer of so many clubs, the class and student council. It was no surprise to win the scholarship to be a foreign exchange student and the day I wanted the individual soccer trophy, I simply played my best and took it home.

My mother’s love and faith in me was rarely tested and never faltered. Even at twenty-three when I married a recently widowed, now pregnant, older woman with two other children, my mother took them in and made them her own. She read every story I wrote and listened to every song, convinced far more than I that I had things important to say and my passion to create was the purpose of my life.

As I narrowed my choices and construction was more and more required to pay my bills, she rarely showed disappointment, but reminded me that even without an architect's license I was still designing homes for families. As my business was in trouble, she contributed money and after declaring bankruptcy, she offered no judgment, but total support to pick up the pieces and keep on working. The strife in my marriage growing ever more apparent (still, I hid the worst from her), she never suggested I end it, but advised always to keep my children in mind to do the best for them.

All of my life, I believed anything was possible. Hard work, open heart and determination could overcome any obstacle. If what I wanted was not working out, I just had to want it a little more, work a little harder. There was nothing I could not do.

Yet, today I lie on my couch with a limited view of trees, sky and a neon carwash out my window, in the basement apartment of the crumbling home on the “wrong” side of town, smelling the sewer treatment plant next door. My body is broken. My second marriage is well-ended in failure, my business in ruins. A daughter will not acknowledge my existence in her life. I rely on my father for money and have no idea what my work might be a month from now whether my body has healed or not.

It is my upbringing to remember I have other children who love me, call me regularly and stop by everyday to play Parcheesi. I have renovated my apartment into a comfortable space with beautiful hardwood floors and I have the skills to build new cabinets in the kitchen when I am better. My father, though from a very different generation, still has faith I will find my way whatever I do. My mother, though uncomprehending, still tears up with distant memory when I play her a song. I have more friends than ever who invite me to share my life no matter how humble.

The challenge for me today is to remain on my couch for now and do nothing. Between each sentence written on this yellow pad, minutes float by as I stare out the window, search for meaning, understanding and awareness, and pray for reassurances from deep within. After 55 years of pushing forward with unabashed determination to conquer the shrill voice of unworthiness that has plagued my every effort, this accident has forced me to finally surrender. It has facilitated a complete giving over to God and the universe, a submission to faith which I have never been able to accomplish on my own.

For this I am grateful.

Please share with your friends


Anonymous said...

Kip forget about your family's ideas of success for you. You are successful. You are skilled - carpenter, musician, father, and writer. Would that all of us were so successful.

Enjoy the children, keep on playing and writing. My thoughts are with you Kip.


Laurie said...

WOW! I am speachless Kip. God Bless.