Allow me to borrow a line from “Arsenic and Old Lace” and say that, “Insanity doesn’t run in my family – it gallops.” Oh, I don’t mean the certifiable, straight jacket, drooling like Renfield eating flies kind of crazy, but crazy just the same.

Brooklyn Bridge         Let’s use Uncle Joey as an example with a little background information to help you get the picture. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and all the houses on my block were connected side by side. It was a two story house and I lived downstairs with my parents and sister. No further explanation of my immediate family should be necessary because back in those days a set of parents consisted of one man and one woman and my sister was born female. But I am not 100% sure if I am actually related to them, as they delighted in telling me that I had been found in a garbage can.

         My mother’s parents and her two brothers lived upstairs. My uncle Joey served on P3 boats during World War II and came home with a really cool tattoo on his arm. It was an anchor with “United States Navy” below it, and I always loved that tattoo.

         Joe was kind of “punchy” and one day he got into a fight with his older brother, Johnny. My father ran upstairs when he heard the commotion. As we ran through the door we saw Johnny getting off the floor with a bloody nose and Joey looked at us… tore his own shirt, and said, “Look what he did!” Just like a kid caught in the act. My father and I looked at each other and somehow we managed not to laugh. Yes, like I said, it gallops.

         Years later, after the neighborhood had gone down hill, Joey and Johnny moved to an apartment in Queens. Around the corner were two bars about 100 feet apart, The White Horse and McLaughlin’s. You guessed it; Johnny went to one bar and Joey to the other. As far as I know, they never ate together or would eat what the other had cooked. That little oddity may go back to something in their past that I am unaware of. I do know that in all the years we lived in the same house, I don’t ever remember any of the people from upstairs eating with the people downstairs or vice versa. Not even on holidays. I never knew why and I never asked.

         For an answer to why I never asked, we need to take a look at my parents. They were a perfect match. She was great at starting fights and he was even better at knocking people out. What more could you ask for in a marriage?
         My father almost never talked to me when I was little. I can remember him coming and going but never stopping to talk. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m not one to give up easy, and I kept after him. Unfortunately, he never really opened up to me. It used to bother me that it seemed he could talk to anyone else but me. When he got older and needed my help, he and my mother figured out ways to trick me into doing what they wanted. I never let on that I was able to see through their schemes.

         After I left the Navy I decided to follow up on the skills I had learned and began studying electronics at night. One day, my mother and father had a “conversation” in front of me and, to make a long story short, it came down to her asking him, “What do you need to make it (in his business as a contractor)?” He then pointed at me and said, “Him.” I agreed to help, started working with him the next day, and switched my major to Construction Technology. It was very obvious to me that this “conversation” had been rehearsed and I’m sure that they were very proud of their acting ability. My guess is they thought of themselves as John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

         Many years later, I told my sister about this and she asked me why I gave in to them if I knew it had been staged. I figured if they would go to such lengths then they probably really did need my help. I only wish they had realized that all they had to do was ask and I would have given. It gallops.

         I think that more than a few people in my family have had problems with depression and/or alcohol and I was not immune. A doctor once asked me if my mother had suffered with depression and I said, no, but she was a carrier.

         When I was little she used to beat me up. I can remember her calling me in to beat up on me! I don’t know why she was so angry but for awhile I was her punching bag. About five or six years before she died she asked me if I held it against her that she “roughed me up a little” when I was a kid, but I didn’t answer. If there had been any hint of an apology I would have gladly told her no. But she asked because she was getting older and worried that I might not be there for her. She should have known me better after all those years.

         I don’t think either of my parents ever told me “I love you,” or gave me a hug or a kiss. I do remember my mother telling me that I would never be the man my father was. Memories like that can burn in your soul and are difficult if not impossible to erase. For a good part of my life I wondered what it was that made me so unworthy. It surely gallops.

         Thank God I found Jesus. That’s kind of a strange statement – thank God I found God. When I asked Jesus into my heart and my life, I was able to stop blaming myself and others for the way things have gone. If he could forgive, then surely with his help I could too. This is a fallen world and we all suffer the effects of the curse. I now know that they could not give what they did not have.

         A few years ago I wrote a letter to the editor defending tattoos. Someone had written a letter criticizing tattoos and quoted from 1 Corinthians 6, “…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” I pointed out that in those passages the Apostle Paul was speaking specifically against sexual immorality and that perhaps the verse that followed would be more appropriate, “Therefore honor God with your body.”

         When I was overseas in the Navy, a good shipmate of mine suggested that we get tattoos and I agreed. He went on liberty one night when I couldn’t go and he came back with way too much alcohol in him and a tattoo on his arm. When I asked him what it was, he couldn’t remember! On his upper arm was a tattoo of a man leaning against a lamp post and beneath it was written, “Death before employment.” I still laugh when I think about that.

         That incident put a damper on my desire for a tattoo, at least until recently. I guess memories of Joey’s tattoo had been indelibly written on my brain and since I am not getting any younger I decided not to wait any longer. But something had changed. I had changed. I have been reborn and I no longer live to serve myself, but the Lord. So, did I give up on my anchor? No, not at all!

         Sometime ago I had the image of a cross with an anchor through it surrounded by the words, “Anchored in Christ.” I now have that tattoo on my forearm where all can see and perhaps inquire as to its significance. Hopefully, it will open a door for me to tell people about all that Jesus has done in my life and can do in yours.

         Some of you will wonder why I have revealed these things about my family. I can tell you truthfully that it is not to fulfill any need in me, and it is not to dishonor them in any way. They were good family and friends to many people including myself. If I had not loved them I wouldn’t have stayed with them and helped them for so many years. It is to make the point as vividly as I can that even the people we love the most can let us down, but there is one person who will never let you down, and that is Jesus Christ.

         As always we ask that if you have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life that you consider taking that leap of faith. And, what better time than Christmas? The rewards are great and eternal.

         “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3: 16

         Mike and Sheri helped with the letter again this year. You have probably noticed that this letter doesn’t have anything to do with Tortuga but… that title just sounded really good.   Aargh!



Bob Rani                                                 Mike & Sheri Rani


All scripture from the New International Version (NIV) 1984 edition.

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