The autobiography and memoir of Charles F. Oliver
have often said that the first few years of my life were spent, not so much in a geographical location, as in a time warp. Researchers say we have no cognitive memory before the age of three. Considering that, I will assume that these memories start sometime around 1960. 1960, in America; post-war America, the land of plenty, with a thriving economy, at a time when the entire country was in path for a head-on collision with a tidal wave of unrest and great technological advances. We were moving headlong to civil rights movements, assassinations, the psychedelic era, color TV, hippies, yippies, and yuppies, the Beatles and Vietnam. If nothing else, Detroit, RCA and Mr. Eisenhower’s interstate highway system would insure we would get to places where we could witness this whirlwind of earth-changing events - quicker, louder and more vividly. I am remembering the day the world walked into our living room. I remember neighbors calling on the “party line”, asking to come over and watch the news on our television, (one of the few in the neighborhood) and we all watched together as a presidential motorcade sped to a Dallas hospital, and the world was forever changed; thrust into a new era that we were not prepared to experience.
As for me, my earliest real memory had taken place just a couple of years before that. I remember the time, the weather, the season (but not the date) and even the exact geographical spot I was standing when I had my “Pediapiphany”. Pediapiphany? Well that is my own word; I invented by combining the words “pediatric” and “epiphany”; to describe what happened to me, on a clear, warm, spring day in 1960, as I played by the corner of our three-room house; outside the kitchen window, where my momma could see. At that time, in that place, in that instant, I had an experience I have pondered infinite times in the 48 years since. It was there, stopping under the kitchen window to consider my next swashbuckling imaginary adventure, that I became “self aware”; or at least “self aware” as I perceive it. For some reason, in that time and place, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I, Charles Oliver, was a living, breathing person; I could feel my lungs taking in the sweet spring air to nourish the blood my heart was pumping with life giving oxygen.
Although I had no idea what was happening, or why I had suddenly been struck with this realization, the mental movie of that moment in time has played in the theatre of my conscious thought ten thousand times since. Without knowing, at that time and place, a four-year old boy took the first step in his journey of a thousand miles, the same journey of discovery we all take; forever putting one foot in front of the other as we search for the purpose of our incarnation into the material world as we seek out the knowledge we came to discover. At every major event in my life, I have reflected, or at least thought about my Pediapiphany, as if it held the key to unlock the mysterious of my universe and answer the one deep burning question that we are all yearning to have answered: “why?”
I thought about my Pediapiphany when I started school. I thought about it again every time I brought home an “A” or an “F’, or even a new book to read and study. It launched me on a series of adventures that have lasted nearly five decades since; filling me with a hunger for knowledge and a sending me on a quest to experience all I could; forever on a crusade for the answer to that one-word question. Of course my crusade was interrupted from time to time with milestone events in my life; graduating high school, a marriage that gifted me with two beautiful daughters and ended in divorce, which I hastily followed with five years of packing in all the earthly pleasures I felt I had missed in the twenty-three years I had been a “family man”.
The crusade for my personal “Holy Grail” drove me on “adventures of the flesh”, the memories of which I will always treasure. The crusades led me through three years of “Golden Gloves” and four years of the debating team, the forensic team and the drama club, the highlights of my high school years. When the responsibilities of life and family would allow I snuck in time for other, mini-crusades; I learned fencing, and ballroom dancing, I became an accomplished horseman, and even enjoyed the medieval sport of “tilting”. As I pondered my pediapiphany I rode bulls and broncos and motorcycles and drove racecars and racing boats. I went to sea and fished the continental shelf for lobster, scallop and shark, and even obtained a “Master of Vessels” certificate; making me an honest to God, official “Captain”.
I also allowed my pediapiphany to influence the ways I worked to provide, at first for the “wants” of a kid and a young man, and then for the needs of a daddy and a family. I pondered that moment, under momma’s kitchen window, as I shined shoes for rich men’s quarters, delivered newspapers, changed tires and pumped gas, welded, laid brick and learned carpentry and all the arts of home building and furniture and cabinet making.
A few years after my divorce, came time to pause and really, deeply ponder my mission on earth as I remarried and beheld yet another miracle, and truly precious gift: I became a father again at age forty-seven! Somehow I knew when this little, beautiful “surprise” arrived on the scene that at least part of the crusade of my pediapiphany had been fulfilled. Now that child, that precious little girl, is four years old, and I wonder if she has had her pediapiphany, or if she were sent here to help me answer that one burning question that has haunted me since I was her age.
Once prosperous and healthy, more than two years of fighting diseases and conditions have left me in a severely depleted state of finances, health and emotions. At this writing I stare into the face of the last great adventure. My doctor tells me that the operation I must have to prolong my crusades may well be the end of my earthly existence. They tell me also that if the “procedure” doesn’t kill me the disease may well still. What they doctor doesn’t know is that I have a secret weapon.
This latest adventure has answered another part of the riddle of my being. I know that everyone constantly seeks for the same answer and that that answer is different for everyone. I am no longer the product of my parent’s genes, but the product of my knowledge and experiences. Growing up “without” in our little “time warp” along the banks of the York River, taught me the principles of practical living. My childhood, which many would describe as “deprived”, brought me riches that gold can never purchase. I have learned that the only wealth worth attaining is the wealth of knowledge and experience and, at least for me; all otherworldly endeavors are fruitless. When the astral cord is parted, and I head for a higher plane of existence, I will carry my wealth with me; when many others must leave theirs behind.
With this realization, another part of the riddle is answered, as I feel the only work that, for me, which will lead to true wealth, is the work of humanity. At this crucial point in my life I know that the sum of all my knowledge and experience, and the reason for my crusades of pediapiphany, is to prepare me for the purpose of this work. No doctor, you are wrong, it is not yet time for me to leave, because my work is not finished: I have only completed school, and now my true work must begin.
The final chapters of this “autobiography” will, by necessity, have to be a “biography”; as I will be too busy in my endeavors to make the lives of those less fortunate better, to waste precious, finite time writing about myself. When this infirmity of the flesh has been removed from my body, I will set about this work and I will gather even more true wealth; wealth, which I can carry with me wherever and whenever, my soul goes. I will have riches beyond earthly comprehension; all because a four-year-old boy became self-aware and simply wondered “why”.