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Phil's Abbreviated Autobiography

(Last updated 2/10/02)

Father was always fond of pointing out my humble origins, since I was born in a hospital built on a landfill island in Tampa Bay ("in the middle of a heap of garbage," as he loved to say), on 10/26/43.

My siblings and I had a very traditional upbringing in a middle-class family. I was the only child for almost eight years. Then Mom started using new medications that counteracted an Rh-negative blood antigens problem, and, in short order, she had my sister and my six brothers!

She would have had nine children, or even nineteen, except that a miscarriage of the ninth, in her sixth month of pregnancy, was both physically and mentally traumatic.

We moved, on average, once a year, till Dad retired when I was 16 (as my father was transferred to different military duty stations or moved us to a retirement location).

In some ways my life was all mapped out for me before I left my secondary schools. I could go on with a Protestant, Christian religion, conservative, Republican Party allegiances, pre-med plus medical and/or teaching career, marriage to my high school sweetheart, fathering two or three urchins, moving into a little box of a house, just like all the rest around, and living the good life, the American dream.

But instability interfered with this scenario, first from within and then from the counterculture influences in the 60s and 70s.

So, instead of going in a pre-set vector, I took over a generation to "find myself," meanwhile meandering about and dabbling in quite a number of philosophies, experiences, people, employments, and places, like the protagonist in Günter Grass' The Tin Drum delaying as long as possible finally growing up. I seem to be a little further along in that regard by now, but am still at times too easily frustrated, angry, or depressed. For a long while I at least had a keen and infectious sense of humor. It's gotten a little frayed around the edges in recent years.

Eventually I obtained a graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling and completed a six-month counselor internship at a mental health facility, then landed a job quite a distance from the graduate school, as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, which led, indirectly, to the disability examiner position I had for nearly the next twenty years, and to retirement a few weeks ago.

Fran and I met through an exchange of letters in answer to personals ads in the newspaper. She answered mine and I hers. We hit it off and realized, in about six months, we wanted to get married (I proposed and she accepted, bless her!), which we did after having known each other about nine months, an appropriate gestation period for our new life, together.

Fran is a performing musician and a private music teacher. She also loves art, gardening, nature, writing, and the computer (self-taught). I love investing. We both enjoy travel and doing outdoor things, though she more than I, especially after my skin cancer problems have gotten troublesome. I also love reading and movies, and still write, just as a hobby. I meditate, or attempt to do so. As Blaise Pascal wrote (except in French), "All men's miseries come from their inability to sit quietly and alone."

I was naive enough to think that, because I had been trained as a counselor, with active-listening and similar skills, I should not have much difficulty being a good husband and assuring a pleasant home life.

Our first few years together were rather turbulent. We had both been pretty independent before and found married life and its compromises sometimes difficult. But, besides that, there were some outside factors, a stressful family partnership for which I was in charge, my brother Ralph's cancer that eventually killed him, and so on.

We seem to have, at least for the time being, come to terms with Fran's and my disparate personalities fairly well, though, as indicated in some of the journal entries, not without some major challenges from time to time. I think we have a better match than many, just not one made in heaven.

I like (even if sometimes that liking is tinged with irony or chagrin, and wishing it were not so!) how humbling and down-to-earth anchoring the realities of daily existence can be on one's tendency to become nobly detached with spiritual, or at least mindfulness, exercises. Satori, enlightenment, or nirvana will have to wait till we can deal with our jobs, doctors, rotting houses, boorish politicians, dying relations, falling stock and currency markets, needful neighbors, memory losses, and "difficult," live-in partners, not to mention surprise, irritation, or entropy in general, without completely losing our cool!

(The foregoing bio. effort was inspired by Ana, a diarist, an e-mail friend.)

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