How would you respond to your own complicity in a childhood indiscretion? What if the memory of that one singular event persisted throughout your life as vividly as the day it happened? What if it prompted a choice and a reason to fulfill your purpose? Ken is haunted incessantly by these questions. A single phone call, made when he was just nine years old, initiates a cascade of circumstances that eventually become the core of his reality. Every action has intent, every intent has motive, and every motive has necessity. Without announcing itself, love stirs necessity and grows quietly, waiting patiently for the moment when it is recognized.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
JMA Ziegler is a most unlikely author of women’s literature. Dr. Ziegler received a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer. He also trained in martial arts for many years, eventually obtaining a black belt in a genuine desire for self-actualization. He is currently the Director of Software Development for a small medical image analysis company in Houston, Texas. His openly stated goal has always been to improve the quality of life. He lives with his wife of more than twenty-five years with whom he has two kids and a problem dog.
Read an Excerpt
Anecdotes & Memories
Ken began speaking slowly and deliberately, as he usually did when he had something important to say.
"I feel compelled to tell you this. It's not an easy story to tell or to hear, but it's time that you know. I've carried it within myself in silence all these years. Now, I must pass it along to you. You may find it difficult to believe, but I can assure you, it's true — all of it. I will try to describe every action, circumstance, and emotion as sincerely as possible. Anything less would be disrespectful to those most affected by the events that took place."
"Please understand that this will not be complete. What I tell you may not even be enough. Some elements I simply do not know, and some are too depressing to relive. I have assumed the details of one or two circumstances, but I'm sure that if I had ever sought to truly understand them, the pain would have been far too much to endure. Perhaps, one day, you will discover them for yourself. If you do, I hope that you have the strength to accept them."
"Most of what I will tell you comes from my own personal experiences, but a few parts I only heard secondhand years after they occurred. Those were some of the most distressing accounts of loss and despair I have ever been told. I was devastated when I heard them, especially considering that I felt responsible to a large degree for the pain that was suffered. It seems that due to an avid curiosity, I allowed myself an indulgence that I should have known better to avoid. That one choice set off a cascade of events that has characterized my entire life. Not that all of it was bad, though." Ken closed his eyes and released a meek smile. "Some of those moments were filled with so great a joy that I still feel them as strongly now as I did then. So many times I have wished to return to them, but that is not an option. If only I could see the motive for all that happened, I might be free of the burdens that weigh on me every day."
"At one time, I had a purpose and a reason for being; but that was spent long ago, as you will soon see. Since then, I have struggled to find meaning. You know well that I don't believe in coincidence. Every action has intent, every intent has motive, and every motive has necessity, whether real or imagined. If I could just grasp the true necessity, I might have the answers I have sought since I was very young. Perhaps you are part of that necessity. I have accepted that as fact, despite having nothing tangible to support that conclusion."
Ken stopped to collect his thoughts, but was determined to continue regardless of what he expected was the inevitable outcome. Necessity demanded it. "If you were to ask me if I could do it over again, would I change anything? I would say emphatically, 'Yes.' I would hope that if I had truly understood the likely consequences, I would have avoided making those terrible mistakes. Happiness throughout these many years might have been the rule rather than the exception. Then again, maybe the pain was so overwhelming only because the joy was such an intense contrast."
"Some of this you may already know, so forgive me if parts seem like a replay of old stories. Be patient; you must hear everything in proper context if you are to understand the significance. Well, I guess it's best if I just start from the beginning." Ken paused to take a deep breath. A look of melancholy crossed his face as he prepared to relive those lost moments.
"My family moved into that sleepy little southern college town in 1961, when I was not yet two years old. My dad got a job as a professor at the university, but you know that already. For the first year, we stayed in a rent house not far from the neighborhood where we would eventually live."
"One of my earliest memories is of taking a trip to our house as it was being built. I was about two and a half years old at the time. We all piled into the station wagon and headed toward the new house. The framing was completed, along with the roof and a few walls on the lower floor. The stairs were in and led to an unfinished landing at the top. On the second floor, my sister had her own bedroom, but I had to share one large bedroom with my two brothers, and I can tell you, that was not easy. While we were there, the whole family climbed the stairs and stood on the landing outside the boys' bedroom. The landing was just the plywood underlayment and barely had enough space for all of us to stand. The bedroom itself had no floor yet, and our dad wanted to inspect the quality of the construction. He was good with his hands and knew just how it should be done. I remember seeing Dad step carefully on the joists and slowly make his way across the room, examining every joint and beam. I wanted to follow along and stepped toward the open floor, but Mom held me back. She said to me, 'It isn't right for little boys to do that.' Many years on, these same words would seem curiously prophetic."
Ken's expression darkened as a great wave of memories crashed upon him. He sat quietly and waited for his private anguish to fade. He knew it would return as he recounted later events; yet he had little choice but to continue.
"As you know, my dad was raised on a farm and enjoyed being outside, puttering in the yard, so he made it a point to plant trees and flowerbeds soon after moving in. Before the following summer, he had already placed trees throughout the yard, along with plants that grew well in that southern climate: all sorts of flowering groundcover along with peppers, chrysanthemums, pansies, and marigolds. Except in the depths of winter, our front yard was an array of colors, most of it hues of green, pink, bright orange, yellow, or red. The backyard had subdued colors on the fringes, but the center was left open, where my brothers and I could play with our friends."
"Over the years, if the house needed repairs, Dad would do most of the work himself. He called a professional only if he didn't have the time or tools, which wasn't very often. On the farm, his dad had taught him how to make repairs, and I wanted to learn that for myself. As I grew older, I would help him whenever I could and eventually became his preferred apprentice. My brothers didn't care much for that sort of thing and usually stayed well out of the way. As the years went on, I learned how to build shelves, hang a door, repair walls, and many other tasks a homeowner must do to maintain his property. It gave me a sense of purpose and a reason to be. There was a time when I dreamed of returning to that life, but I knew that dream could carry me only so far. Too much had happened for that life to ever be possible again."
"Our house was in a new subdivision. It was an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and nearly every house had a young family like ours. That made the summers an endless stream of children's activities with picnics, bicycle rides, sports, games, and all of it in a safe environment. The neighborhood had its own amenities and two schools. The public elementary school was only three blocks from our house, but as I've told you, we didn't go there. We all attended the school at our church, and we were very lucky to have that. I got a great education there." Ken looked down and muttered, "I suppose in some peculiar way, that had its own effect on all that occurred, but I can't say for certain why it had to have been so." Ken let out a sigh and pressed on.
"The neighborhood had its own pool. That was a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. One afternoon, when I was very young, my brothers and I decided to go swimming. In those days, the rules could be a bit lax. We had brought a child's plastic boat about half the size of a bathtub. It was too small for my brothers, but it was perfect for me. I sat in the boat while my brothers pushed me repeatedly across the pool. It was great fun until it attracted the attention of some other boys, who couldn't pass up the opportunity for some mischief. Most of them were about the same size as my brothers. One of them grabbed the edge of the boat and shook it aggressively, all the while telling us we couldn't have the boat in the pool. What did he know? He was just a kid like the rest of us, but he had decided to cause trouble."
"Before my brothers could do anything, the kid yelled, 'I'm a submarine' and dove under the water. The next thing I knew, the boat jolted up and landed with a thud. I was terrified, but his friends laughed with careless disregard at his antics. A second time, he shouted the same thing and dove under again. This time, he flipped it over and tossed me into the water. At that age, I could swim, but not very well, and that area of the pool was too deep for me to stand with my head above water. Needless to say, that and the thrashing limbs crashing around me caused a feeling of sheer terror. Within a few years, I became a much better swimmer, but that experience of utter helplessness and dread continued to haunt me. I can't say for certain that I ever really got over it." Ken closed his eyes, turned away and released one deep breath in a futile attempt to achieve some measure of calm. Per his usual state, every painful memory was accompanied by several more, many of which rarely strayed far from his thoughts.
Ken's mood lightened slightly as he recalled one of the true friendships of his early childhood. "My life really began to change when I was five years old. That's when I met Charlie. The neighborhood wasn't quite finished when we moved in, and that summer I was playing in a large pile of dirt in the empty lot next to our house. A young boy and girl approached and introduced themselves, 'Hi. I'm Charlie and this is my sister Diane. We just moved into the house right next door. Our mom said we should come over here and make friends. Do you live around here?' I said 'Yeah' and pointed to my house not fifty feet away. Diane just stood and watched as Charlie and I talked. That was fine with me, since I had no idea what to do with a girl anyway. At that age, girls were an enigma and one half of the population who seemed to have no discernible purpose. They played with the wrong toys, spoke in nearly unintelligible riddles, and wore non-functional clothing that was in constant need of meticulous cleaning. I was quite happy to stick with the boys."
"Charlie was four years older than I was, but we became friends quickly nonetheless. We had many common interests, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with him. As the years went on, I made many friends in the neighborhood, but through it all, I maintained a close friendship with Charlie and the other boys his age. Since I was mostly capable of keeping up, that older clique didn't seem to mind having a younger kid like me hanging around. It showed me a world more varied and engaging than anything my other friends could imagine. Unfortunately, it could also lead me down paths where I wasn't prepared to go. Those paths were treacherous for someone my age, but they weren't nearly as remarkable as the one I eventually chose."
Ken waited patiently again for the emotional distractions to slowly ebb. "It may surprise you, but I was often talkative with my closest friends. Still, I found it necessary to compliment that with time alone to resettle my thoughts. Even in the midst of activity, I frequently maintained a quiet distance and simply watched the commotion unfold around me. At those times, I usually felt drained and wished to escape to a place away from the noise. Activity obstinately pursued me, but solitude allowed me to remain within myself and become completely absorbed in a meaningful perception of the environment. I enjoyed those times immensely, but it wasn't enough for me to view it as something distinct from myself. I wanted to become an integral part of it so as to experience every subtle nuance and discover its true nature. Even at a young age, this had become my greatest joy but also a source of glaring aggravation. To me, the most infuriating people weren't the ones who didn't understand, but the ones unwilling or unable to accept that something could be understood. I was fine with people who never had the chance to understand yet were willing to learn. Those people had hope, but I had no patience for the hapless fools who willing embraced a callous ignorance."
"Charlie wasn't in this latter group, but even he couldn't understand my perspective. Many times, I would arrive at Charlie's house only to wait while he finished homework or some household chore. On one occasion, after I had been standing in the hallway for a good half-hour immersed in a contemplation of my experiences, Charlie walked up to me and asked, 'Have you been standing here this whole time? Why don't you do something instead of just standing around doing nothing? It's creepy. I'll be finished in a few minutes. Go do something or come back later. Geez, you're weird.' That comment came all too frequently from the other kids and always made me feel hopelessly self-conscious. What Charlie couldn't seem to get was that I had been doing something, a lot of something, but he and the other boys could never see it. It looked to me as if they never wanted to know the reason for anything. They were fine just having any answer regardless of whether it was right or not, but I knew there had to be more. I felt something beyond what I could see, but I didn't know how to find it, and no one else could help. They all thought I was nuts. At one point, I was afraid they might have been right ..." His voice trailed off as one of his most profound memories interrupted his train of thought and demanded immediate recognition.
A moment later, Ken continued with a determined tone. "What I am about to tell you, I have never told to anyone else, and I mean no one. You may see this as just a vivid childhood imagination that manipulated my perceptions too easily, but I know the reality of what happened, and when it was revealed to me." Ken knew the risk of divulging this secret but also knew the absolute necessity of it. He paused to take a deep breath and then recounted the event.
"One afternoon when I was seven years old, I lay on the couch contemplating the silence. It was a mystically serene and joyful experience. Mom was somewhere in the house, but made no noise; the rest of my family were elsewhere. As I lay surrounded by the stillness, a profound understanding was thrust into my mind. This wasn't the comprehension of some fact or detail. It was more akin to a vision of what was yet to be. I witnessed myself responding to a need, a responsibility for the welfare of someone, but I knew not who or where. All I saw was the fleeting vision of a place. As odd as it may seem, the only definitive element was when, between the ages of thirty-nine and forty-two. I was baffled by such certainty in the midst of an even greater uncertainty."
"I lay for a long while, desperately trying to understand the experience. What would happen? Who would be involved? Why those years? And most importantly, why had this understanding been forced upon me? I had no other experience in my life with which to compare it, nor did I know of anyone with whom I could share. I was already seen as odd by most of my friends, and divulging this would have sealed their perceptions of me. I was young and susceptible to peer pressure just like everyone else." Ken added quietly, "By now, you know what happened. You were there. You may not remember how it began, but you certainly know how it ended."
"Yes," she replied sympathetically. "I remember the end very clearly. That is not something I will ever forget, and I believe you. Over the years, I've learned to trust your perception of such things."
"Thank you. In any case, I lived with these questions until the time they were fulfilled. I knew I couldn't tell anyone, but this experience gave me a sense of purpose. At least until that moment in time, I had reason to be. Its fulfilment would often be a motivating factor in my decisions and the choices I made. Some of those choices were missteps due to immaturity, but the motivation toward fulfillment remained nonetheless. If only I had been given more insight into what was expected of me, I might have been better prepared."
She countered, "No amount of preparation would have changed the outcome. I remember what you did, and I know that no more could have been expected of you. It seems to me, the insight you received was exactly what you needed, and not just for the end, but throughout your life leading up to that point, and I might say, even beyond. The unknown element forced you to open yourself in a way you wouldn't have otherwise. This purpose as you saw it enabled the joys you experienced. I don't think this was intended so much as a means to prepare, but as a means to live."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Call Faithful Endeavors"
Copyright © 2018 JMA Ziegler.
Excerpted by permission of Mascot Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.