3. Dreams

Dreams

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Colossians 3:21

Dad’s eruption didn’t come out of nowhere. The pressure leading up to it accumulated over many years. Though he was never diagnosed, his parents suspected he had ADHD. He was the first of four children, his siblings Peggy, Steve and Jenny, all seemed to be more sensible.

His father Jack was a towering, tight-knit Englishman who stood nearly a foot above his petite, firecracker wife, Shirley. Jack was a man hardened by English boarding school and service in the British and American army who later became an LAPD police officer when dad was young. Shirley, a loving, fun yet feisty woman, though small, wouldn’t take a shit from anyone.1

Neither of them knew what to do with dad as they continually failed to get through to him. Dad almost always did the opposite of what should be done. He was repeatedly reprimanded for the same mistakes as a new morning deleted his memory for the day prior.

“You can’t go past the corner of the cul de sac Dave,” he was told. He always exceeded this boundary. Whenever he came home from school he would throw his coat on the floor. Shirley continually asked him to hang it on the rack. Once ordered he would obey, but forget the following day.

“Do I need to punish you to help you remember?” Shirley would interrogate, raising her voice out of frustration.

“But mom, all I did was…” and he’d fill in the blank with excuses.

Jack and Shirley took him to a psychiatrist when dad was 12. The IQ test revealed his was 148, higher than 99.93% of the population. Though he had the mind of a genius, his sequence of events logic was abysmal. A paragraph was broken into sentences, each sentence on a separate card. When asked to organize these descriptions in the correct order based on the simple phrases on each, he failed miserably.

“The clouds came. The sun was out. The rain fell. The ground dried out. The ground was wet. The sun came back.” Organizing an assortment of statements like these in sequence proved impossible for him.

The psychiatrist gave him an ambiguous diagnosis and prescribed him with phenobarbital, a seizure prevention medication and also a short-term sedative. When taking this prescription for a period of time, dad didn’t return home after school. He never was late. When he finally came home, Shirley heard dad sobbing and embraced him. “Dave, what happened?” She asked softly.

“I’m going crazy mom. I was trying to read and I saw my glasses walk across the page. I got scared and then couldn’t find my way back home.” They took him off the drug immediately.

Dad’s difficulty in life was exacerbated by his father’s alcoholism. Back in those days, drinking was a part of the job as an undercover cop. The frothy stein helped lighten his burdens gathered from his harsh childhood, time in the military and traumatic encounters on the force. Though he would hang up the uniform at home, his stress was never disrobed.

With alcohol as his coping mechanism he often exploded in drunken outbursts, many of which were directed at my father because he didn’t fit the mold. Shirley too understandably reached her wits end with dad. Many times she wondered what was wrong, often asking dad out of frustration,“Why can’t you just do as you’re told?” If she had a nickel for every time she said that, the de Coup-Cranks would live in a manor on the hills.

Dad wasn’t much like his father. He told me this was the reason for being singled out. Jack was a rough man, dad was sensitive. Jack wasn’t musically inclined, dad’s musical talent filled him with big dreams. Jack was a strict, duty bound Englishman, dad was a free range Californian who asked questions.

Though dad dimly reflected some of his father’s personality, he conformed to his image in one defining aspect. In an effort to tune out his constant disapproval, he followed in Jack’s footsteps and began drinking around the age of sixteen. He undoubtedly hid his budding addiction, being underage and having an often inebriated and verbally abusive policeman living under the same roof.

Years later, when dating my mom they went to England to visit her aunt. After they spent some time there and returned home, the aunt uncovered a pile of empty beer cans under some trash in her backyard. Dad wasn’t much older than twenty then. He mastered the craft of hiding it.

Jack and Shirley never caught hints of their son’s problem until further into his adulthood because they had their own issues to sort through. Shirley was getting tired of Jack’s drunken jackassery. One day her husband came home, once again staggering, cursing and slurring his words. This was the last straw.

“You are not sleeping in the bedroom, you must sleep in the back of the house,” she ordered with a stone cold glare. “I am leaving with the kids tomorrow,”

Fury overcame Jack, so he rounded up all the children into the living room.

“Your mother wants me to sleep in the back of the fucking house. I’m not moving a god damn inch. I want you to take all of mom’s shit out of my room. If she wants to sleep separately, she can have that entire half of the house. She just has to watch as I make you move every, single, piece of her god damn fucking shit!”

They transported everything. One by one all her belongings moved to the other side of the home.

The next day, when Jack sobered up, he saw her leaving to catch some air. “What’s going on?” he quietly asked.

“We’re done,” she said forcefully, a scowl that would cause any man to shudder on her face. “You live on your side of the house, I’ll live on my end. The kids can decide where they want to stay.”

Jack bowed his head into his right hand, fingers slowly massaging his forehead. He soaked there in silence. Shortly thereafter, Jack tilted his head up to his wife, grieved at the damage he’d caused.

“Will you go with me if I attend Alcoholics Anonymous?” he asked, a sense of conviction, defeat and sorrow in his tone.

“I will join you on one condition,” she retorted, not batting an eye. Her confident glare focused into his soul, finger aimed at his chest, “You must do this for you, not for me, not for the kids. You must do this because you want to.” The bottle never touched his lips again.

Though Jack’s life miraculously turned around, the damage done to dad still remained. Unlike his father, his addiction continued as he numbed his pain with the tingles of alcohol. The many stings of abuse continually weighed him down. He bottled up his hurts by unbottling his beers. Needing a release from the pressure, he sought to escape for a while to focus on his Christian faith.

Like any free spirited creative soul, he never cowered from seeking answers to tough questions. The Bible has many outlandish claims and stories that require detailed, articulate explanations to the intellectually honest seeker. Too often these sincere inquiries are either taken as harsh criticisms and dismissed, or given the hollow response, “Just have faith.”

My dad, never satisfied with the explanations of unprepared pastors, resolved to seek them from one of the most well-known Christian thinkers of his day, Francis Schaeffer. Francis, having studied under Cornelius Van Til, mastering both divinity and philosophy and receiving three honorary doctorates, one of which included law, was a most worthy apologist to learn from. Without internet, podcasts or Youtube and never having been able to tolerate sitting quietly in a library, my father sought the wisdom of the professor by venturing to Labri, Switzerland to learn from Dr. Schaeffer first hand.

Dad enjoyed a vitalizing experience there as he found a community of believers who sought reasons to undergird their faith. With his appetite for answers partially sated, Dave meandered Switzerland, played his guitar, mingled with the locals and met new friends. One person he happened to come across was a guy named Tim Shearin, a tall man with a deep voice and long, shaggy hair.

The two hippies bonded quickly as their mutual interests surfaced. They both had a similar adventurous spirit. Dave and Tim also shared a taste for spirits. Flights of ales and lagers were sampled as they frequented local pubs. They chatted gleefully with their fellow tourists, and drew small crowds with their songs. They enjoyed each other’s company so much that the two of them decided to split the cost of shelter for their remaining days in Labri. When they learned that their hometowns were not many miles apart, they became brothers.

Hitching a plane together, they returned to the Golden State. My dad, wanting to meet Tim’s family, accompanied him to his home. When he was welcomed in, he laid eyes on the woman of his dreams.

  1. For more on Jack and Shirley’s story, click here

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