Finding Father

One Man's Journey to Discover Paternal Significance

Month: July 2013

Strangers On A Bus

Mike SausedoMy father, Miguel Ramirez Sausedo, was born on May 8, 1928 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was one of seven children born to Francisco and Susanna Sausedo, who had moved from Mexico to the southeast corner of Wyoming around the turn of the 20th century. My father joined the Navy not long after his 18th birthday and spent all of his adult life in the armed services.

By the late 1940’s, my dad was in the Army and going by the name of Mike. He was on a bus headed for home when a young brunette girl from North Carolina caught his eye.   My mother, Janette Florine Spencer, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, and grew up in the Firestone Mill Village on the west side of town. She was an adventurous young woman who loved to travel and see the world. She and a friend were headed to Illinois to visit another mutual acquaintance, who had arranged a blind date for my mom. While on the bus Mike and Janette struck up a conversation, which led to their having lunch together that day and exchanging addresses. My mom got off the bus in Illinois, went on her blind date, but just couldn’t get Mike off of her mind. Obviously the feeling with him was mutual, because for the next five years, they managed to maintain a long distance, pen-pal relationship. Eventually my dad would be transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, which would allow them to see each other more often. The two fell in love and were married in 1954.

 mom and dad1

My father’s passing in 1965 would not be the first tragedy my mom would experience. While many who know our family are aware that she lost a husband, not many know that she also lost a child. In 1957 my oldest brother, Johnnie Lynn Sausedo, passed away during delivery. The resilience that my mom had in light of these losses has been incredible. While I am sure she was shaken by both of these events, her strength to endure has been her testimony. I will speak more about my mother in the next post.

Happiness would come their way with the birth of two sons. In 1959, my older brother, Michael, was born, and on July 15, 1961, I was born at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, NC.

As an interesting sidebar, my parents had obviously considered the names of their first two children – John was the name of my dad’s brother, and Michael, of course, carried my father’s namesake. When I asked my mom how they came up with my name, she told me that the nurse came in with a list of popular baby names and asked her what she wanted my name to be. Still groggy from the trauma of the delivery, she told the nurse just to give me the first name on the list. I count my blessings that there wasn’t an absolute hideous name occupying that top spot.

Most of what I know about those early years I have learned from pictures and from stories my mom has shared. The old cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” definitely applies in this case.

mom and dad2

There is no doubt in my mind that my dad loved my mom deeply, and that he loved his boys the same. From stories I have heard from relatives as I grew up, my dad was extremely proud of his family and was an excellent family man.

When my dad was assigned to a base in the United States, he made every effort to have us with him. Except for the few years my dad was stationed in Pennsylvania, we spent most of my early childhood in North Belmont, NC, mainly staying with my aunt and my grandfather in the mill house on Boundary Street. During the years that he was away from us, he was so faithful to write my mom and stay connected.

When my father died, my mom made the decision to have him buried in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming. This spoke volumes to me about her character and the expression of love his family in Wyoming had for him. My mom went to Cheyenne for the funeral by herself. A couple of years later, in the summer of 1967, all three of us would board a Greyhound bus and make a visit to see our Sausedo relatives in Wyoming. Thirty-four years would pass before we would visit my father’s hometown again.

My quest to know more about my dad really didn’t begin until I was well in my 30’s. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I really didn’t have any burning compulsion to seek any of those answers. As I grew older, the absence of a father in my life became more pronounced and had much more of an effect on me. When I married and had children of my own, the urge to know more about my father bloomed into fruition and became fully engaged.

While questions about my father’s demise didn’t occupy a great deal of my youth, his absence had a profound impact on me. Consequently, some of the posts that follow will highlight some of those childhood experiences, in hopes that they will offer a framework for understanding the factors that led me to my lifelong quest of “finding father.”

 

My Very First Memory of Life

Mike and Ken VIntageExperts in the field of psychology tell us that the very first conscious memory that we have of our lives has a great deal to say as to how the rest of our lives will flesh out. Some doctors utilize a technique whereby they may ask the patient to try and recall his/her first conscious recollection…a first memory.  Performing such an exercise is often very therapeutic for the patient, providing valuable insight for the therapists. Childhood memories can open a great window into a patient’s soul, revealing much about how and why one has come to form his thoughts, attitudes and actions as an adult.

My first conscious recollection of reality took place on a cold night in February of 1966.  I was a four year old boy growing up in the Stowe cotton mill village in North Belmont, North Carolina.  I lived with my brother, Mike, who was six at the time; my mom, Janette, and my aunt, Catherine.  My brother and I were in the den, which was situated in the middle of that two bedroom mill house.  My mom and my aunt were in the living room.

I remember the knock at the door.  I remember the officer who came into the living room.  It was Roy Costner, our local law enforcement officer.   I’m not quite sure just what type of police officer he was;  I just remember seeing him often in uniform around North Belmont.    North Belmont was a small town of several hundred residents; so Roy Costner knew everyone and was a stranger to no one.  But when he showed up at my house at nighttime, unannounced, we knew it probably wasn’t going to be good news.

I don’t recall the actual words that were said, but the visual scene spoke a thousand words.  My mom buried her face in her hands and began sobbing uncontrollably.  My aunt had a look of shock and grief on her face as she tried to console my mother.  I would soon learn that the word Roy brought to my mother that night was that my father had been found dead.

Several months earlier, December 17, 1965, to be exact, my father, Mike Sausedo, was in the United Army stationed in Dachau, Germany.  He had entered the armed services when he was eighteen, and at the time, had spent over twenty years – his entire adult life – serving our country.  My dad had been granted a furlough to travel back to the states so that he could spend Christmas with our family.  Three days before he was to fly out, he shipped two Christmas packages to his two sons.  The packages arrived, but he never did.

At bed check that evening, my dad was unaccounted for, so the next day he was listed as AWOL – absent without leave.  That wasn’t like my father; he had never done anything like that before in his career with the Army.  A search ensued that would take weeks, resulting in the news that Roy Costner brought to my mother on that cold February night – – my father had been found dead in a stream of water, just outside the confines of that Dachau Army base.

My first conscious memory of life was seeing the devastation on my mother’s face and the shocked look of my aunt in response to the news that the man who was my father would not be a part of our lives ever again.

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I don’t think all the psychology in the world could possibly have prepared me for all I would have to process because of that one single event in my life.  Maybe the experts had the data to predict the different issues I would have and the challenges I would face.  Little did I know, however, of the impact that fateful night would have on the rest of my life.  Many lives were changed that night… my mom, my brother, my mom’s family in North Carolina and as I would discover later in life, a host of extended family in southwest Wyoming.  Obviously, it still has an impact on me some forty-eight years later and the journey to find answers to the mystery has significantly altered my life.

Since then, I have found most of the answers I was looking for; however, there are some questions that will never be resolved.

The truths that I have found on this journey have been most profound and extremely life-changing.

As my search for my father became juxtaposed with my striving to be a father myself, my journey not only uncovered truths about my father, but revealed many truths about myself as well.

Tying the perfect knot was the divine providence of the Heavenly Father, imparting the highest significance, meaning and purpose to this entire fantastic episode of my life.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is our God in His holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5

 

If You Blog It, He Will Come

field-of-dreams

In the film, Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella is tending his garden when he hears an ominous voice say, “If you build it, he will come.”  What follows is a massive backyard makeover that is extremely impractical and borderline insane.  His quest, he thinks, is clear.  “It” is a baseball field that Ray meticulously creates out of his cornfield.  “He” is Shoeless Joe Jackson, the baseball great of the early 1900’s, who was defrocked for his role in the infamous 1919 “Black Sox” scandal.

As the story unfolds, many of baseball’s early icons return to this field to fulfill their dreams and play their beloved sport once again.  What Ray doesn’t count on is a reunion with his own father, a former baseball player, himself.  The film ends with quite a poignant scene, as father and son get to play that game of catch that eluded them for so many years, accompanied by the swelling orchestral theme by James Horner… leaving grown men everywhere weeping.

As you may have guessed, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies, and I glean something from it with each viewing.  I am naturally drawn to films that highlight the father/son relationship, especially with the texture and depth that this film has.   Near the end of the film, Ray comes to the realization that it was the voice of Shoeless Joe that he heard in the cornfield that day.  However, in one of those chill bump-laden “aha” moments, Shoeless Joe turns around and says, “No, it was you, Ray.”  It is then that we realize the voice that Ray heard was his own, one that had lived within him all along.  Deep within his soul there was a yearning for the father he never really knew, as well as a deep need for paternal affirmation.   Ray had an innate desire to be connected to this “he” who would come, which he came to learn was his father.  However, “he” turned out to be more than just Ray’s father.  “He” was the answer to all the questions Ray had about life; “he” was the redemption for all of the transgressions Ray had committed, and “he” was the affirmation of Ray’s purpose and significance in the universe.

Much like Ray, there has been a voice within my soul that has been resonating for years.  When my father died in 1965, my world instantly changed.  Even though, at age 4, I was not fully aware of all of the ramifications that his death would bring, I would certainly learn.  As the years have passed and my awareness has increased, so has the volume and intensity of the voice within me.

In the final scene of the movie, Ray asks his dad “Is there a heaven?”  “Oh yeah,” answers his dad.  “It’s the place where dreams come true.”  Then, looking homeward and seeing his wife and daughter sitting in the porch swing, Ray exclaims, “Then maybe this is heaven.”

mom14My quest to satisfy this voice within me and find all the answers pertaining to my father has been important, but it has not consumed  me.  Even though losing him created a void, my life has been blessed.  I have been married to the most beautiful person in the world for the last 31 years.  Jeannie is my sunshine and has been the ultimate example of unconditional love and grace that I have ever known.  My sons, Jonathan and Aaron, are absolute gifts from God, and my triumphs and failures as their father have only fulfilled me.  And then there is my mom, Janette, whose love and devotion to her two young sons packed the power of a mother and father combined.

At first, the thoughts of writing this blog seemed to be as crazy and senseless as Ray Kinsella was when he made a baseball diamond out of a cornfield.   But with each step of the process, and with every post I write, the landscape becomes clearer….so I plow on…

 

Here are those classic final scenes from “Field of Dreams:”

The Journey Begins…

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I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of my arrival on Planet Earth than to launch this new blog.  The truth is, I never intended to become a blogger.  As a matter of fact, I have always thought that writing a blog would be just another thing to do… that is, unless there was something important or productive that I had to say that might benefit those who would choose to read my musings.  Even so, I have never been much of a writer. I struggled terribly with writing in high school and college.   After fifty-two years of living, I have come to the place where this may be the only true forum whereby I may convey my thoughts and, in some small way, be a help to others.

Regardless of whether the blogs are read by anyone, I feel compelled to put my journey into words.  You see, of the fifty-two years I have lived here on Planet Earth, forty-eight of those have been spent without the presence of a physical father in my life.  My Dad passed away when I was only four years old, and to this day, his death has impacted my life in ways that I never would have dreamed. His story and my journey to discover it are quite complex and would take more than a couple of paragraphs to convey…which is why I have chosen this specific method of communication.

I have decided to call this blog “Finding Father – One Man’s Journey to Discover Paternal Significance.”  It will encompass two major areas of my existence.

One will be to convey the continuing life-long journey to uncover the facts surrounding the mysterious death of my father in 1965.  Within that context, I will revisit much of my childhood experiences and the challenges of growing up fatherless.  I will also tell of the blessings that have come in rediscovering my Sausedo family heritage.

The second major area will be that of my personal expressions of the trials and triumphs of my own experiences as a father to my two sons and as a husband to a most wonderful wife.  Growing up fatherless has had a tremendous impact on the way I have faced and handled both of these areas.  Now, after 52 years, it is with wonder and amazement that I look back and evaluate both of these areas of my journey, identifying incredible connections between the two.

I hope this blog accomplishes three things:

  • First, I hope people will read it.  I trust that it will be something that is worth your time and consideration.  
  • Secondly, I hope it will be meaningful to those of you who have lost your dads – maybe when you were a child just as I was, or perhaps you lost your dad later in life.   It is possible that you had a dad living with you, but your relationship with him just wasn’t what a father-child relationship could or should be.  Whatever your paternal situation, I trust that you will find lessons within my journey that will give you encouragement, inspiration and hope. 
  • Finally, it is my desire that these thoughts will not only apply to those of you who have lost fathers, but  to those of you who are fathers.  Fatherhood is one of the highest callings of a man, and the greatest example that we have of fatherhood is in the Heavenly Father, Himself. 

The connections among all of these areas have been most profound and life-changing for me, as I have tried to assemble all the pieces of my life together to create meaning and understanding.

Your feedback to these blog posts is very important to me and I would love for this to also be a forum for you to share your comments and personal stories as well.

I thank you in advance for your participation.

A New Blog Site is Under Construction!!!

In recent months, I have been working on converting the KS Ministries website to a personal blog.  The blog is currently under construction, and I am excited about this new avenue of creative expression and ministry.  Keep checking back for the inaugural post.

Ken Sausedo

 

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