Just How Far from the Apple Tree?: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father

Just How Far from the Apple Tree?: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father

by John S. Peale

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Overview

Just How Far from the Apple Tree?: A Son in Relation to His Famous Father by John S. Peale

For the only son of the famous preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale, life was not without its challenges. In this memoir, John S. Peale shares his story, one of love, tension, and resentment. Life in the shadow of a famous father became a long and heartfelt struggle to become his own man. Despite the difficulties he faced, he found a way to thrive and make his own way. After a long and distinguished career as a professor of philosophy, he became a scholar of religion in China. He was actively involved in church and community. His has been a successful road, but it wasn't always an easy one.

Tensions between the famous father and his son created darkness and despair. While the two loved each other, their relationship was strained at best. Due to John's strength of character and willful endurance, he was able to move beyond a sense of unworthiness to embrace that he is, indeed, a talented and giving man.

Now in his seventies, John, with his warm and positive smile, emulates Confucius: "At seventy, I could give my heart and mind free rein without overstepping the mark."

Although the story of a famous parent causing resentment and isolation from a son or daughter is not unfamiliar, John seeks to inspire others in similar situations to have hope and faith in their own abilities and identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475926224
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/24/2012
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

Just How Far from the Apple Tree?

A Son in Relation to His Famous Father
By John S. Peale

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 John S. Peale
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-2622-4


Chapter One

Becoming in Loving and Being Loved

In my life, I have enjoyed the good fortune of loving my dad and having been loved by him from boyhood days through to his death on December 24, 1993, at the age of ninety-five. I have loved both my parents similarly. This constant love has enabled me to have personal development in my life, an important mode of my becoming. My dad and mother loved me and my two sisters, Maggie and Eliz. Under the influence of such a loving beginning in life, we three children, now grandparents, have had the blessing of becoming so loving and so personally close all our lives.

Parental love, as I remember it, was more often shown rather than told. It was more clearly shown to me and my sisters when my parents weren't so busy, especially when they could take us on trips with them. They were busily occupied much of the time. During the late 1930s and 1940s, our dad was engaged in an extensive schedule of speaking engagements around the country, establishing a ministry to business and professional groups. Also, he started writing such books as The Art of Living and A Guide to Confident Living. He was making for himself a widening sphere of influence and a growing reputation. His reputation would soar even higher after the publication of The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952. We three kids were born during the 1930s and early 1940s—Maggie in 1933, me in 1936, and Eliz in 1942. His message to his speaking and reading audiences was resonating with increasing intensity, especially in and soon after World War II. During these years in our family, there was love and caring, but not so much attention from our extremely busy dad, who was becoming famous and in demand.

In the 1940s, there were two places our family traveled to in the summers when Dad was on his annual three-month vacation from the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. We went to the Mountain View House in Whitefield, New Hampshire, and the Mohonk Mountain House on a ridge above New Paltz, New York. We would do things as a family, and our parents were with us, having fun and loving times together. Mother and Dad would play games with us inside on the chess or checkers boards, or in the room with a pool table, or in the dining room while having dinners together. They often tolerated and even enjoyed the pranks we kids played on each other, like the time Maggie filled my glass with buttermilk, which I hated, and then challenged me to a milk-drinking contest. There was also the time when I, like a gentleman, pulled out the dining room chair for her to be seated. When she started to sit, I first drew the chair in and then pulled it out quickly so that she ended up on the floor!

I remember many fun and memorable summers and other vacation times at Quaker Hill, a community above Pawling, New York, where we had a second home. My parents bought the eighteen-acre property back in the winter of 1944. Dad named this place Sugar Tree Farm, after a location of a church in southern Ohio, near where his father served his first pastorate in a Methodist church a long time ago. At Quaker Hill, my two sisters and I had a happy life with Mother and Dad. We had lots of relaxed and downtime with our parents. I remember picking peaches from the orchard and making homemade ice cream, and picking fresh strawberries for breakfast from the garden.

It was at the Quaker Hill Country Club—the "Barn" as it was affectionately known—where we played golf and tennis, had square dances, put on funny skits, and had interesting programs. One memorable program, for example, was that given by Lowell Thomas of "so-long-until-tomorrow" fame. There he talked about his time with T. E. Lawrence or "Lawrence of Arabia," showing us artifacts he had brought back from the Middle East. Lawrence has been of interest to me ever since. Even recently, I have been doing extensive reading about his life and his work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

At home, we had memorable, active family dinners where we talked and kidded around. While there on one of Dad's birthdays, I gave him a card with a swashbuckling figure on the front. It read: "Here is a 24 cents birthday card." On the inside, it said: "I give no quarter on an occasion such as this." Dad loved it and laughed heartily. My sisters and I remember all of these kinds of times with fondness and pleasure. The happy and memorable experiences in my boyhood helped me develop into what I am today.

We had many trips with our family. One memorable trip was during a summer when we took an extended Pullman train trip around many of the splendid sites in the West, such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the Grand Tetons, and the large redwood trees in the Northwest. Especially fun was the nighttime activity in our Pullman drawing room, where we all slept, and where my sisters and I would swing like monkeys from berth to berth, especially on the upper levels. These were loving and happy times in the family.

There were good family times for all of us, including birthdays, graduations, and the like. And so it was with holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving—all happy times, as I remember. One Christmas, a sour note came to Elizabeth when she received the gift of a bottle of deodorant from our mother. She was perplexed by the mixed message. As the years passed, such occasions for our own children were special, and Mother and Dad entered in with enthusiasm, most of the time.

An example of Dad's love and acceptance of me was when he received a letter from a dean at Washington and Lee University, where I was a student. The dean wrote about my singing in a Christmas service in an Episcopal church on Washington Street in Lexington, Virginia. I was singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Dad read the letter at a family dinner, showing obvious love and respect on his face as he read the beautifully phrased description of my dulcet tones and my religious feeling expressed in the singing. As I look back now at this incident, I can see that his love was entwined with approval.

I was constantly seeking signs of his approval, and I always had the uncomfortable feeling of having to earn this approval to get his love. Earning that approval came to be more and more problematic as the years went by, and I even felt the love became more questionable. The realization that I had to earn his and mother's approval came slowly into my consciousness during high school and my college years. As will become very clear later on, the realization that I had not met their approval—most importantly, my dad's—came about the time that I decided to become a philosophy major at Washington and Lee University.

When I came to that point, I started to realize even more that I was experiencing a large part of the significant loss of personal contact with him that I suffered with for the rest of my life, until just recently. I do not believe that my sisters experienced their relations with our parents—especially our dad—in the same way. Emotionally, the growing realization of this loss of connection with my dad felt terrible, like a hole in my gut, an emptiness in my heart that hurt badly. As my life developed, anger came upon me, gnawing away at me and further distracting me from peace and a clear sense of purpose. Living with that emptiness was a factor that held me back in what became my life's pursuit.

In 1972, when I made a speech from the public pulpit on the occasion of his fortieth anniversary as Minister of Marble Collegiate Church, he came as close as he ever would in telling me that he loved me. On that occasion, I told him of my love and respect. As I look back on that occasion, I am reminded of how rare such outright expressions of his love and respect to me were. These mutual expressions occurred in a public and "special" occasion. It did not happen in the everyday setting, and it did not erase or heal the gnawing emptiness and frustration in my heart.

Chapter Two

Becoming in Excitement about Life

As I write this section, I am anticipating the performance of Rossini's The Barber of Seville by our local opera company in Charlottesville, Virginia, named Ash Lawn Opera. This reminds me of when I was young, swelling with excited appreciation of diverse and interesting cultural events so readily available in New York City. I recall the singing of the accomplished and powerful Jussi Bjorling in Carnegie Hall, as I did when I heard Aida at the Old Metropolitan Opera building on Broadway and Thirty-Ninth Street. I recall being so impressed with the singing and dancing of Ray Bolger on the Broadway stage, singing "Once in Love with Amy." I remember seeing the original Broadway productions of South Pacific with Ezio Pinza singing "Some Enchanted Evening" and The Sound of Music with Mary Martin singing "Climb Every Mountain." I was becoming a person who enjoyed these sorts of cultural excitements. My personal development has continued with this sort of enrichment to the present day.

All my life, I have read books, taught books, written books, remembering all the while how, as a school boy, I felt my first love of books and records. I remember being so absorbed and caught up in the Bounty Trilogy: Mutiny on the Bounty, Men against the Sea and Pitcairn's Island by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. I remember my first year at Deerfield Academy in a study hall, reading James Hilton's Lost Horizon and being chided by a study hall proctor, who had a glint in his eye as he suggested that I ought to be doing my homework instead. To him, I said, "Sir, I can't put this book down. I'll do my homework when I am finished." He walked away, having made his point but with a knowing, appreciative smile, recognizing the point that I had made.

In middle school, I remember coming home from the Friends Seminary School on Eighteenth Street, at Rutherford Place between Second and Third Avenues, while eating my jujubes and kidding around with my friend Peter. I would often stop and browse in the original Barnes & Noble bookstore on the way to our apartment at Forty-Fifth Avenue, only a few blocks away. I dreamed of having a big library of my own one day. Today I find it difficult to find specific books I want to consult in our library of over ten thousand books, many of which, in our retirement, are in a self-storage unit. When I was still a boy, my parents noticed that I was spending all my extra money on books and records while I had holes in my shoes. My mother bought shoes for me, but I guess she was wondering about my values. Regarding my personal spending, my heart was more in my mind than my feet. It still is.

I do not remember either of my parents having that kind of love of books and learning. Dad did have worn-out books of English poets, such as William Wordsworth. He quoted poetry quite often and other works of significant writers, such as Marcus Aurelius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William James. As I remember it, however, these references were not given as an expression of the love of literature or learning but as useful and important points in his sermons and his writing. Besides, Dad was always too busy with his work to be delayed long in reading and study. I always thought that Mother would exercise her wider interests in culture and learning, but that never seemed to happen. For Dad, reading was sometimes an escape from his work, as when he pored over stories of the Old West by Louis L'Amour.

Work for Dad was something he did constantly and thought about when he wasn't actually doing it. Work consisted of preaching, administering his church as the chairman of the governing board, writing speeches, writing books, and reading to get information and stories about the practical difficulties of people so that he could apply the principles of the Christian faith to form ideas that could be of help in solving these debilitating and frustrating personal problems. During his career, he wrote forty-six books and many pamphlets and booklets. He also composed and delivered a very large number of sermons from the 1920s to his retirement in 1984. His last public address was in the fall of 1992. He was a popular and much-beloved public figure.

I have emphasized cultural excitements that I have enjoyed all my life. Beneath these specific feelings lies a general personal attitude toward life, that of getting involved and personally excited and engaged in many things. When I was teaching, my college students used to talk of being bored, and I always wondered what that was like. From my dad and mother, we three kids certainly got a vital sense of the excitements and interests in life.

When on the trips I mentioned above—those to the New Hampshire Mountain View House or the Mohonk Mountain House or to the Western Rockies—our parents always showed us a love of nature and the great outdoors. We have a granddaughter named Rachel whom we kid when we are taken by a beautiful scene in nature, for she doesn't yet find this engaging. But Lydia and I do find such things important, and we have been fortunate to have traveled so widely and to have experienced interesting and beautiful places in the world. In our lives together, we find such a rich pattern of shared interests and commitments, and we have such a wide variety of pleasures in similar and interestingly different pursuits. Closeness as so described has come out clearly on our travels, concerning literature, history, and international relations related to specific places we have traveled, especially in China.

Such an attitude has carried Lydia and me forward through our marriage of fifty-one years in a zest for living. There are places that are so special to us both in our loving times together, such as the downtown mall in Charlottesville near where we live, or the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we have a home on the beach just north of the village of Duck. At the beach, it is such a good day, which can begin by seeing the "Big Show" of the sunrise over the Eastern horizon early in the morning. To the west, the day can end with visions of the setting sun over the sound in Currituck County. Walking along the Downtown Mall of our city of Charlottesville, Virginia, or getting going in the early morning at the beach can come alive with the Glory of God any time of day or night. Such are everyday kinds of special times in our long, happy marriage together.

On a typical good day at the beach on the Outer Banks, we will take walks, sensing the power and beauty of varying colors of the water, and notice shapes of things the sea has deposited on the beach. We notice the seagulls and the sandpipers and an occasional school of dolphins. We will take afternoon naps, opening the door so that we can hear the sound of the sea crashing on the beach. And we will go to our several fine restaurants, such as The Blue Point or Fin and Claw, enjoying fresh local seafood and the abundantly subtle tastes and textures of the food well prepared in these favorite eating establishments. We have come to know and share much of life with the chefs and waitstaff at these restaurants, several of whom have become good friends over the years.

Of course, either at our home in Charlottesville or at our beach home on North Carolina's Outer Banks, Lydia and I love to enjoy the company of our three children and five grandchildren. Most every summer, our entire family comes to be with us at the beach, and we revel in the good life of relaxation and fun together.

There are many other things that are of considerable interest to us, such as political rallies, debates, and elections. For years, we have been active in political affairs and have worked the polls or other activities at election times. Then there are the memorable times, such as when our son Clifford came into our bedroom at 1:39 in the morning of Election Day in 1976 to tell us that Jimmy Carter had taken California, that his election seemed imminent.

I am so interested in learning of my dad's lifelong interest in politics as I read biographies and critical studies of his life before I was born and before I knew so much about what he did. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, for in the first election in which I voted, my ballot was cast for Richard Nixon on the Republican ticket. I was under the sway of the thinking of my parents. That was the only time, however, that I voted Republican. I never realized the extent of Dad's involvement with politics in his early life, and his considerations as to whether that was or was not a good thing for him to do as a minister of the gospel.

After I voted for Richard Nixon in my first presidential election, I came to take the other side politically, and soon after, I switched my allegiance to the Democrats, for whom I have worked and campaigned ever since. When I read about his early political involvement, I came to understand even more strongly how much he was on the other side of the political spectrum from me, especially in sentiments in favor of prohibition and against communism and Cold War conservatism, such as one finds in the career of his friend J. Edgar Hoover. When I read about his and Dad's involvements in the forties and early fifties, I was not surprised.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Just How Far from the Apple Tree? by John S. Peale Copyright © 2012 by John S. Peale. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................ix
Acknowledgments....................xi
Introduction....................xiii
Author's Note....................xvii
Becoming....................1
Chapter 1. Becoming in Loving and Being Loved....................5
Chapter 2. Becoming in Excitement about Life....................9
Chapter 3. Becoming in Inspiration and Illumination in My Religious Faith....................15
Chapter 4. Becoming in Sentimentality....................19
Chapter 5. Becoming in My Enthusiasm for Sports....................23
Chapter 6. Becoming in Finding My Own Way....................31
Interlude 1: Two Efforts to Bridge the Gap between Me and My Dad....................39
Chapter 7. Becoming in High School, College, and Graduate Studies....................47
Chapter 8. Becoming at Union Theological Seminary; Trouble for Dad....................57
Chapter 9. Becoming in My Studies and My Life as a Professor....................63
Chapter 10. Becoming in My Teaching Career....................71
Chapter 11. Becoming in My Travels....................79
Chapter 12. Becoming in My Discovery of China....................85
Chapter 13. Becoming in the Continued Quest for Knowledge and Insight....................91
Interlude 2: What Is the Power of Positive Thinking?....................95
Chapter 14. Becoming in Marriage and Family....................105
Chapter 15. Becoming in My Church Life....................111
Chapter 16. Becoming in Living with Serious Health Problems....................115
Chapter 17. Becoming in My Descent into Darkness....................121
Interlude 3: Suffering at an Important Anniversary of My Dad....................131
Chapter 18. Becoming in Despair and Alcoholism....................133
Chapter 19. Becoming in Recovery and Counseling....................139
Chapter 20. Becoming in My Pride for My Accomplishments....................157
Chapter 21. Being Me....................163
Epilogue....................175
Index....................179

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