Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who he and I are

who i amMy son Steve sent me Pete Townshend’s recently published autobiography for Christmas and I finished it last night.

Pete is a little less than two months older than I, both of us being born in 1945.

We have some parallel experiences – a failed longtime first marriage followed eventually by a deeply satisfying relationship with younger women who happen to be in the same business as us – Pete and Rachel in the music business, me and Maria in newspapers.

We’re both academic underachievers who were too impatient to get on with our lives to work through the tedium of college.

And we both went through an intensely spiritual period in our 20s and 30s – he with Meher Baba and me with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation program.

But we had vastly different childhoods. Pete came from a horribly dysfunctional family and was subjected to a batshit crazy grandmother who abused him horribly. He spent most of his adult life struggling with his demons, drugs and alcohol.

Townshend’s autobiography, along with what I know about the childhoods of many of my friends, makes me all the more appreciative of my parents.

Maria likes to characterize my childhood as something out of “Leave it to Beaver,” a sheltered, idyllic early life where I always felt secure and loved.

And it’s true. My parents loved and respected each other and kept their marriage vows until death parted them. Their only vice was smoking cigarettes, but that was something they both conquered in their 50s. They didn’t gamble and I never saw either one of them drunk.

Dad was an independent insurance agent and a respected businessman who was a founding member of the Delphi (Ind.) Chamber of Commerce and was president of the school board when the present Delphi High School was built in the early 1970s. Mom was a registered nurse who worked for decades in the office of the town’s most successful doctor.

We weren’t wealthy, but we were comfortable and secure and I grew up without the angst and rejection that plagued so many of my friends.

I suppose if Pete Townshend had had my childhood, he might never have become the towering musical giant he is today. So I guess I’m glad for what he became and for what my parents did for me.

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