In The Beginning April 23, 2008Posted by nukemhill in Family.
Ronald Howard Hill was born on July 29, 1929, in Gary, Indiana. Starting his itinerant life early, he dragged his family with him West when he was only 6 months old.
I’m going to pause here and say that there are many blank spots in my father’s life. Though he spoke of his history with me somewhat, and with my sister more extensively, there are many things that we simply don’t know about. And when picking the brains of other relations, we get … sketchy answers back. So, what I am going to relate here will be full of holes. I’m hoping that my sister can address some of the gaps, but I make no promises.
Put simply–Dad had a rough life. He had by no interpretation whatsoever a normal childhood. By all accounts, he and his siblings (older brothers Dean and Everett; younger sister Janet) were taken from their parents at a very early age. Grandpa Everett probably couldn’t even be considered a real father to the children. He was an alcoholic, and abandoned the family early on. Grandma Gwen, though she tried, couldn’t be much of a mother. She was committed to a TB ward when dad was 3, and lost custody of all of the kids. They were broken up, with Dad and Jan shipped off to a boarding school for many years. This was in what today would be known as Silicon Valley, in Central California. Back then, it was nothing but groves of fruit trees (oranges, I believe). If I’m not mistaken, it was in Cupertino, very close to where Apple’s corporate headquarters are.
The proprietors of the boarding school were apparently quite keen on making sure that Dad and Jan knew that they were there only by the good graces of the State of California. Nothing like showing a little love to the kids, eh? I have a hard time, personally, not getting furiously mad at the abstract “Them” who treated my father so shabbily. Worthless, pointless waste of energy, I know. But I’ve always been incredibly protective of Dad. Even when we were at our worst with each other. I’ve wished many a time that I could have taken the pain of his life away from him, if only to provide some solace for him. I know that he did an incredible amount of work on himself over the years–through therapy, self-help seminars, meditation, etc.–in an effort to purge his demons. In the end, I don’t know how successful he was. But we certainly had more peace between us. That counts for something.
Tangents. I’m off on tangents.
There’s some debate about this next part of his life, but according to him, when he was 12 or 13, he was “apprenticing” to a Japanese woman in California. This supposedly meant that he was being cared for by her, and living with her. If you do the math, you’ll see that this corresponds with the beginning of WWII. And the internment camps for the Japanese-Americans. If we have the story straight, she was able to leave the camp during the day to work, but she had to go back at night. And he lived with her….
I’m horrified just writing about it. The camps have always been problematic to me. The added personal dimension makes it infinitely worse. I can’t even get my head around it, really.
At some point after this, the family got back together. It’s a little sketchy, as I’ve mentioned, but the kids were able to go back to Grandma Gwen. However, at some point after this, Everett ran away. He was apparently heavily into drugs and alcohol (sometimes the fruit really doesn’t fall far from the tree), and simply couldn’t deal with life. Dad said at one point that he thought he saw Everett walking the streets of San Francisco many years later. He was literally a tramp living on the streets, completely strung out. I know Dad really loved Everett, as little time as they got to be with each other as kids. Dad would talk about how free a spirit Everett was. He sounded like a remarkable man. I’m sorry I never had a chance to meet or know him.
Another tragedy with which Dad could not find reconciliation.
A few years later, Dad went off to college. He attended Gonzaga University, in Spokane, WA. At that time, he started living with his father, in an ill-fated attempt at rapprochement. During his Junior year, they had a tremendous falling out, and Dad left, devastated with the bitterness between them. He went to speak with a Catholic priest, and found God in the Church. Shortly after that, he entered Mount Angel Abby as a Friar. He began his studies to become a Monk in 1950, when he was 21 years old. He was there for seven years.
To be continued….