He eventually had the need to be more than average.
To begin with, Ken knew, long ago, that he would have to work at becoming merely average. That’s how it appeared to him, anyway, as the timid child afraid of shadows, a child frail due to a cavalcade of illnesses before the age of ten. And so the struggle began, this long trek up a mountain path beset with rattlers and loose rock and ledges ready to give way underfoot an emaciated stick of a boy. Average to Ken would have been a star burst aside a full moon, an imposing black stallion, a 57 Chevy with slicks and metallic paint and fuzzy dice.
He survived, somehow, the rigors of childhood to enter adolescence naive, to be sure, but with hope and love of life, despite an ongoing abusive home environment. This thread of mental abuse went back generations in that Ken’s father was manic-depressive, as was the grandfather, and so on. It is true that Ken’s dad did not physically abuse Ken, or Ken’s mom or brother, but there is, of course, abuse in other ways--and as such, the scars were set for later on in life from the fear and the insecurity. It was not uncommon for Ken to cower in his room shivering, afraid that the family was going to break up as he heard the uproar of parents in battle as well as the crashing of glass due to his dad’s uncontrolled fits. Vases full of flowers, for example, flung in the front yard, and glasses of milk swiped with the back of a hand to shatter against cupboards. Such was the home, such was the squared circle in which parents went toe-to-toe, such was the mad house in which Ken grew up.
Ken longed for average like a dying flower longs for water. A drink, please, some liquid to sate the thirst for mere normal, to wet the parch of abnormal felt in every bone, sinew and cell. Little did Ken realize how the seeds of obsessive compulsive disorder were being sown, little did he realize how the undermining of socialization was being set like footprints in concrete, little did he understand the wounds that were being made which would follow him throughout his life. All he knew, back then, was that the fear was real, and that his tears were real. He would see how mom would have to put dad in the shower to “snap him out” of his spells. Ken did not know why this had to be done; he did know, however, that it scared him. I guess you could also say it scarred him.
And so high school came and went with above average grades and a guidance counselor telling him, “Average you’re not!” This was endearing to Ken to be sure, yet he still was backward when it came to other things, particularly socialization and particularly to girls. There were none, no, no dates, no high school prom, no flirting or even looking back in study hall. He never really understood why, he just knew that he was inhibited, for whatever reason.
Back in those days, the government had the, “lotto,” and that was to determine who would have to go into the military. Turns out, Ken’s lotto number was 17; he was a goner. Knowing this, he figured he might as well join the Air Force (because his brother had joined) rather than wait and get drafted by the Army. Plus, this would lessen the chances of having to go to Vietnam, where many young men were dying.
So off to the Air Force he went and things started to turn around, and the below average young man grew and got stronger and discovered women. Things were looking up. But then, injury--severe injury, to the spine, a crushing injury almost to death. A long hospital stay, a long period of convalescence and therapy. It was almost as if Vietnam came to the States.
Ken was lucky to survive, he was lucky to remain ambulatory, but the residuals of the injury followed him and follows him to this day. After he got out of the service, he went to college and secured two degrees (engineering and mathematics), but, due to his chronic disability, he was unable to work and had to go on VA disability. Meanwhile, the VA fought him on this and if fact, it took Ken over 20 years to ascertain justice.
To this end, Ken experienced probably the worst abuse imaginable. Because, for a time, the VA would examine him every two years (as was their right) as a matter of procedure. But then, at one exam, the doctor (a civilian, by the way) physically abused Ken, (and this was witnessed by Ken’s dad), by hitting and slapping him, and by yanking up his bad leg and then asking, “Does that hurt?”
Subsequent to this, Ken complained to both the Senate and the Congress and then, five months later, the VA threatened to remove all Ken’s benefits--they blamed Ken for being, “uncooperative.”
Ken was nearly crushed again, this time psychologically, emotionally. But he persevered, he steadied himself and he stood up to them because he knew he was right. He had the truth on his side, plus he had his private physician’s statements. And although it took about three months, the VA relented, reversed their threat and their negative decision, and even admitted, in writing that they subjected Ken to a harmful environment.
Ken went on to care-give for his surrogate father, helped his real father up until his passing, and then took care of his mother for seven years, 24-7, until her death. All this built character, and was a valuable learning experience. In addition, Ken developed his writing skills, and has enjoyed much success. Ken continues to deal with severe family dysfunction, yet he will pat himself on the back, now and then, while maintaining humility, at not only attaining average, but exceeding it. He knew he had to.