It’s not the same thing

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

When someone doubts your story, especially one that is partially revealed to you years after it has occurred, you might be tempted to defend that it is true, that it is real. Know that their denial is about them not you. The truth is the truth and if it was not so, you would not grieve so badly when it comes forth. It would not have affected you so. You don’t continue to have flashbacks or grieve for years a nightmare from a bad night of sleep. At least in your right mind you don’t. (An exception might be the delusional thinking of mental illness. Most of us do not make crazy claims indiscriminately, however.) It’s not the same thing as a random even fearful thought verses the triggering a memory of an actual, horrific event that happened to a long time ago.

Then when your truth and the grieving that follows in dealing with it has found both the light of day and the Lord’s healing grace, the transformation of your character or mind or spirit should be enough to prove that what happened was real. You can’t fake a flashback. You can’t fake character flaws or insecurities that right themselves when you heal from the trauma. The truth revealed, processed, and lain before the throne of grace transforms us. It doesn’t matter that the story is too fantastic to believe. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is corroborating evidence (yet we can rejoice if there is proof or witnesses willing to back your story). It doesn’t matter how old you were at the time of the incident or if you told anyone then or now. Sometimes the mind has to push away the horror to survive aka repression. It’s a survival mechanism, a coping strategy of the mind. Then there are the body memories, stored in the tissues that come forth when you have an injury. Or a seizure. If your mind did not repress the trauma for you, the pain of the event often plunges a person into addictive behaviors (i.e. alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, sexual promiscuity, compulsive behavior, workaholism), suicide, homicide, or mental illness just to survive. I know. Everyone in my immediate family has battled one of these. Our life stories were just that bad.

I am the only one left in my immediate family. There is no one remaining to corroborate the facts of my story as extended family who might know something are not willing to talk to me about what they know. I have asked more than once. My brother Mike did help fill in some details for me but he is now deceased. He had his own horrors to endure. Extended family members have their own baggage that they have dealt with in various ways. Thankfully they just didn’t have it as bad as me and my two brothers did . . . no wonder we were largely outcast (or looked down upon) from them and neighbors too.

Funny thing about memory as it is not perfect nor is it like watching a movie where you know the plot and see the beginning and the end. When the Lord reveals bits and pieces over decades of time, it is up to you to reconcile the information. Therein lies a particular danger as the mind wants to fill in the blanks for the scenes to make sense but we must resist trying to do so. Similarly, when therapists ask probing questions we must guard against confabulation, false memory syndrome, and other pitfalls in trying to make sense of a seemingly too-hard-to-believe flash-backed piece of our story. Why did a particular image present itself in my “mind’s eye” with the sound of a helicopter flying overhead in bed one night? Why did I cry for so long thereafter? For the believer in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to know, hold you as you come to grips with what really happened, lead you to a place of acceptance and healing, and transform it all for His glory.

The flashbacks for me have always come forth with emotion so intense that I believed that I would die if I felt it fully let alone say it out loud. The fear on the front side of the wall of truth was stifling, immobilizing. I believe for me, this is why the pieces of my personal history have come forth in such small bits, spread out over THIRTY YEARS. It’s also why I don’t remember much of my childhood. The first memory of sexual abuse came back in my late twenties as I was preparing to get married. Sometimes a flashback was a moment of intense emotion that I would discover matched a specific location or incident; other times the emotion showed me the origin of a ritualistic behavior of mine, particularly with nighttime routines, that I would come to know as abnormal. The realization equipped me to let it go. It has taken decades of working with skilled Christian counselors, retreats, Bible study, prayer, research, journaling, processing memory triggers that happened spontaneously by the events of life, and more that the Lord has allowed me to remember more of my childhood. With the bad stuff also came memories of the good times that I had forgotten. So it’s not all bad. Reclaiming one’s past is good!

The worst incident has taken the longest to piece together. Here’s what I know.

My parents were divorced when I was twelve years old. Visitations to see my Dad involved him taking one of us three kids at a time as Mom said he could not handle more than one of us at a time. He often didn’t show up on one of these Saturdays to pick one of us up for the day; this happened more with my brother Mike than with me or Rob. So sad. The visitations were strange. I recall my Dad taking me on my day to a movie theater, buying me lots of popcorn and candy, then trying to sit me down by myself in the dark theater while he went off to sit with a woman in another row. Somehow I had the nerve to say “but I want to sit with you.” The next thing that I remember is the 3 of us sitting together and me feeling sick from eating all that crap . . . or maybe it was from the realization that he was there to see her and not me? I could tell a half-dozen stories like this one.

Rarely did we visit our Dad at his house in Roseville, Michigan. We lived in Warren and I figured it was too far away to visit very often. Years later, Mike told me that my Dad had a wall made out of wine bottles in his house; I don’t recall seeing it. I do recall seeing a German shepherd dog in his backyard one day when my Mom drove us over there, I think to get our car repaired. His home was on a corner lot with a chain-linked fence that came around the side of the house and side of the garage that faced the other street, perpendicular to the house. People entered the home from the side door. I was probably 12 years old so who knows what I would have focused on at that time. I just wanted to see my Dad! He had left town a couple of times (for California and to Florida) and now he was back. Too bad that his return had nothing to do with us kids though.

In my thirties, my Dad’s youngest brother and his wife gave me a photograph of my father as a boy. By this time I had learned of the horrific abuse that my Dad had endured as a child: my grandmother destroying his model airplanes, the daily verbal abuse, beatings, the physical torture of being locked in closets or having to sit up at the kitchen table ALL NIGHT LONG because he didn’t eat his dinner then suffering a head injury when he fell asleep and out of his chair. I was just starting to recover some of what had happened to me has a child from my mother’s father’s sexual abuse, a neighborhood boy’s sexual abuse, my mother’s physical and emotional abuse, and what I would come to understand as ritual abuse from my father. That photo was probably the best gift I could have ever received from my dysfunctional family! I was able to step outside of myself and grieve for my Dad. He was robbed of his own childhood, so badly that he would go on to develop a serious mental illness that would plague him his entire life. I believe that head injury contributed to him developing Parkinson’s disease later in life. I cried and cried for what my Dad had endured as a boy and how he surely must have struggled to try to function as an adult let alone as a husband and father. I started to understand why he ultimately had to separate from our family through divorce then finally disappear for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS! And why he sent my grandmother hate letters for about a decade. He was so very messed up. In due time I forgave him for everything I have written about here and elsewhere.

How amazing that the Lord will give me this insight before I would come to fully understand what happened to me that fateful day at my Dad’s house in Roseville. The memory fragments gathered over time still don’t fit together well. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with edges singed by fire, warped by water damage, and with dozens missing but then again you don’t know how many pieces there are in total. You can only hope to understand the little chunks that you can see when you do not have the picture on the cover of the puzzle box. The ones I see now are very, very clear.

My Dad told me not to go in the basement but somehow I wandered down there anyways. There was a dead German shepherd dog in a large tray on a table, dead. The basement was dingy and dark with electrical cords hanging from the ceiling. The table with the dog was over by a utility sink and washer and dryer; some kitcheny-type items were strewn about along with a lot of blood. The nipples (as in a pregnant dog) were cut off of the dog. The wounds were red with dried blood. I don’t remember anything else other than the sense that my Dad had scolded me for being down there. I know it took a long time for me to be able to get back up the stairs under my own power for lack of strength.

The next thing I remember is lying on a couch upholstered in some kind of plaid pattern. There were no pillows or cushions upon which to lie my head. I was sickly. I desperately needed to rest.

I discovered about that time that there were other people in the house, in a bedroom a the back of the house. It was a small ranch home so it couldn’t have been very far away but it seemed very far to me at the time. My next memory is inside that back bedroom. There were naked people writhing around on a double bed. In those days no one had a queen or king-sized bed as they were either too expensive or the bedrooms were just too small. Two women grabbed me, one on either side of me, to restrain me. Years of tiny memories of this scene, recalled with horror and emotion so raw that I thought I would not survive the telling or finally feeling them, knew that they violated me sexually. I physically remember the touch. My shoulders have funny pinch marks where the posterior deltoid muscles should be and I wonder if it was from their firm grip on me at a time when my body was growing from childhood into a teenager? Seems to me that someone on the bed took notice of what was going on. Seems to me that I may have recognized at least one of the people on the bed but I cannot be sure. That person denies any activities akin to an orgy but does admit that my Dad had seances with groups of people around his coffee table in the front room some nights at his house. (The coffee table in front of the couch where I was lying earlier.) Years later I and expert would hypothesize that my Dad was experimenting with the occult and psycho-cybernetics to try and control his mental illness. What a sick, twisted mess.

My Dad came into the room and ripped me from the grips of the two women. There was some kind of paraphernalia on the dresser that was strange to me that I would later hypothesize was for taking drugs. He broke the neck of the first woman he grabbed and put her out on the front porch, out the front door just beyond the couch. The house cleared out although I do not remember the people actually leaving. I was back on the couch as nightfall set in. I don’t remember falling asleep, eating anything, going to the bathroom, or my Dad talking to me. She was still out there on the porch. It’s all a horrifically terrifying blur . . .

It was daylight when my Dad put me in the backseat of my Mom’s car. The vehicle was an older tan sedan with red seats that used to belong to my grandfather; how fitting for it to have red seats! My Dad scolded me firmly to crouch down in the backseat and not come out. I remember the wide floor area and bench seat of the backseat. He must have plopped the woman’s body into the front passenger seat before we took off down the road as I knew that she was there with us. Somehow I gathered that we drove north since you have to drive north to quickly get from the crowded suburbs of Detroit to the country. But I didn’t drive at the time so I don’t really know which way we went. The towns of Flint and Pontiac stick in my mind and I’m not sure why.

He pulled over at one of those pull-off areas along the side of the highway. It wasn’t a freeway like I-94 or I-75 and there wasn’t much traffic driving by. When I heard the front passenger side door open and the sound of my Dad pulling her out of the car, I figured I could pop up and look out without being seen. I saw him struggle then drop her floppy body over the guard rail to what looked like a drop-off down below the level of the road. There aren’t any mountains per se in Michigan so I have no idea how this worked out or where it happened that there would be such a cliff. (About 20 years later I looked at maps of areas north of Detroit to see if I recognized any names of streets or topography that might help me identify the area. I even called the State police and talked to a sergeant who would have been working in the approximate area about 20 years prior to my call. When the internet became available, I searched the archives of several newspapers for stories of bodies recovered in that area and even the name of an Uncle’s old girlfriend who I thought might know something. Nothing panned out.)

My Dad was working on my Mom’s car that week or weekend which is why he was driving her car. The next thing I remember is being home with the car and my Mom asking me how my visit went. I wasn’t able to say anything. My Mom and I weren’t exactly on friendly terms in those years so she asked nothing further. The horror was locked up inside of me and remained there for many, many years.

Even with all of the holes in the recounting of these crimes, abuse, satanism, evil, wretchedness, there is more confirmation for me that it is all very real. My Dad did things to try to get me to forget what had happened. We still had a pool in our backyard for a couple of years after my parents divorced. One afternoon when no one else was around, he took me onto the pool deck to inspect the liner. I vividly recall the blue shade and pattern of the liner above the water line and below the metal cap (that we would jump off of into the water). The deck was cedar and stained a medium brown color. My Dad had built the largest deck around, complete with a flip-up staircase that we could lock in an upright position to keep kids out in between pool parties.

I recall my Dad pushing my head up and down into the water repeatedly, over the edge of the deck with my body splayed out, face-down on the surface of the deck, as if to try and drown me! I don’t know what he was saying or if he said anything at all. I feared for my life, gasped for air. It was way worse than my brother Mike trying to hold me underwater when we would play “hold your breath the longest” games in the pool. He was a mean kid back in those days. The truth of what my Dad did came out through the course of most of my adult life treating headaches and neck issues. I have a flattening in the curvature of my cervical spine. I often wonder if it was from the physical trauma committed that day? Anyways, seems to me that he was trying to cover one trauma with another. I believe that his action was a twisted interpretation of the psychological experimentation of the 60’s and 70’s. He tried another version of messaging with my brother Mike via brainwashing him with a recorded message he had him listen to before going to sleep. I still remember the “pillow speaker” and cord that went from the speaker to the tape recorder in the basement. The effect on Mike was opposite of what was intended, damaging his self esteem for much of his adult life.

The strongest evidence that supports my Dad’s effort to try to get me to forget something bad that had happened is reflected in the scars on the inner surface of both of my elbows. My Mom had taken me to the Doctor for something and through the course of the exam, the Doctor asked about the circle of blisters on each of my inner elbows. He asked if I had been shooting up drugs with a needle? Injecting myself with something? He asked over and over again. The blisters were fluid-filled bumps about 1/8-inch in diameter and tall. I remember touching them and the fluid moving beneath my fingers. I had no idea how they got there. At first they were on one arm then they were on both arms, same patterning but maybe it was the right arm had more bubbles than the left arm? I was tempted to burst them but something inside me decided that was not a good idea. Eventually the blisters deflated, the skin dried up, and the crusted tissue healed. The scar of pock-marks inside each forearm remained visible on my skin for decades.

In my late forties, I started working with a counselor who specialized in ritual abuse. When we talked through the story that I have recounted here and the blisters, he suggested that my Dad had injected me with a psychodelic drug in an effort to get me to forget the trauma that had happened. In my Dad’s sick thinking, if I forgot then I would not be affected by what happened (and perhaps no crime was committed). In an exceedingly deranged way, my Dad was trying to help but he did so by inflicting more abuse. This is a form of ritual abuse: using a ritualistic behavior for the purpose of controlling another person. There are other examples of rituals to which he exposed me and my brothers to through the course of his mental illness that I may discuss at another time. What is important here is that there remains to this day, although faded from the atrophy of my skin that normally occurs with aging, a physical reminder that something was done to me decades ago that should never have happened. About 2 weeks ago I felt the Lord lead me to apply a frequency-generating treatment device to my inner arms to see what would happen. Spontaneous tears followed that I could not stop if I tried. Holy cow. This is what they call tissue memory, body memory. And now at last, that tissue is free from whatever happened, the effects of shooting up some drug into each of my arms.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

It’s not the same thing to make up a story for personal gain versus sharing a part of your history for no personal gain. It’s not the same thing to try to piece together wacky thoughts in your head versus processing emotionally laden images that come to mind when you know they are parts of events that really happened and do not conflict with what you already know, history, physical evidence, and what people have been willing to share with you. It’s not the same thing to pray for a seizure to end versus the electrical/chemical rush associated with a seizure masking-and-triggering memory of an incident long buried in the tissues of your brain, ready to finally come out. It’s not the same thing for a (dangerous) counselor to use hypnosis to “recover lost memories” versus the The Holy Spirit strengthening the faith of the born-again believer to receive truth in more forms than you ever imagined at just the right time in your life, thus changing you for the good, forever. It’s not the same thing to tell a sad, scary story for pity versus championing the work of the Lord in the life of His daughter whose faith has helped her overcome evil in the hopes of shining a light on the mighty power of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Lord overcomes the worst, the darkest, the most sinister evil you could ever imagine or have ever endured. This is not only true for me, for my story. This is an important truth for such a time as this. Our sovereign Lord reigns now and will reign forevermore. He is here for me and for you, will sustain you no matter what may come or has gone before us. Believe it Gentle Reader! I do! JJ

What forgiveness looks like: the Lord restored “the years the locusts had eaten”
just before my father passed away in 2011.

A Call to Grace

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (Gal 1)

butterfly, Galations, serve, burdens, break free, servant, let go,Christian, heart, image

From the perspective of the supernatural power of grace bestowed by my Lord, Jesus Christ, I write to you this day.  For my flesh is more broken than before, hopes beaten up from the road, and spirit exasperated from the waiting.  Yet I am compelled to look beyond my angst to the call to grace . . .

If I have fallen short of praising my Lord then I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  The alms and adoration to my Savior is what shall draw me nearer to Him and lift my sorrows.

Should I have focused too much on my own needs and not those of others then my selfishness has thus blinded me.  The trials of life have more to do with our response to these trials (and more importantly to others) than to their resolution.  I cannot serve others when my mind is full of woe.  There is always room to love on others.

When I act to make my own plate o’ food and have not called upon God’s infinite power to feed my family then I have shorted all of us to the weakness of my own hands.  My Lord is sufficient for me, enables me to serve beyond my ability.

Where my face has turned to the shiny distractions of this life, pining after them (or worse coveting that which I have been blessed) then I have really made my world smaller.  Who knows the blessing that will come from sacrificial giving?  Gratitude?  And proper placement of my gaze to the Cross?

How much better it is to wait on my Heavenly Father than to cry out my need only to act thereafter in my own strength?  Oh Lord, help me to wait, to listen, to dwell and nothing more during these times.

That about sums it up right now.  Thank you to those who prayed for me last week and who remember me in your prayers.  Please let me know how I may serve you too, k?

JJ

The Gentle Giant

Standing over 6 feet tall, the man could have been mistaken for the childhood Green Giant hero of the Television Age.  He let his hair grow long, beard get kind of scruffy, and middle section pudge just enough to make his bear hug just right.  The children squealed when he growled and chased them back up the basement stairs when he had enough of their antics and needed to get back to work in that mysterious and yet wonderful business within those concrete walls.  More on that story another time.

The man was as conflicted as any could be in this life.  I’ll call him the Gentle Giant or GG for short.  My knowledge of him is pieced together from some vague memories, his hand-written journal, a few newspaper clippings, internet searches, and the stories from family members. Call it a great tragedy or perhaps work of satire as he never reached his full potential in this world.  Lord knows, he tried.

GG grew up in the blue collar suburbs of Detroit, Michigan as the son of an auto mechanic and never-quite-satisfied mother.  His dad let his mother rule the household including harsh discipline for the boys of the family.  Beatings, torture, destruction of their few prized possessions, restriction of food, verbal abuse, and lying about it all to suspicious outsiders comprised his private hell.  She destroyed his model airplanes, locked him in the closet, and made him sit at the meal table all day and all night as abusive punishment for just being alive.  The next generation (grandchildren) would be treated differently as would the girly middle child; the oldest brother would turn gay and befriend his mother and father in a strange twist of survival-perhaps-denial until he died of AIDS in his forties.   The baby of the family barely made it out alive when the older siblings were no longer around to protect him.  GG, the second oldest of the four children, had finally found his way to break free.

GG made a plan to marry the first woman who would accept his hand in marriage.  It took a few years after high school to find a suitable mate who was willing to marry him, perhaps in an attempt to escape her own abusive and alcoholic father.  They quickly had 3 children and a relationship burdened by his physical abuse of the mother.  The oldest took an overdose of her mother’s thyroid medication requiring having her stomach pumped at only 3 years old; the middle child developed a life-long inferiority complex from being told by his dad that he resembled his mother’s family more than his.  And this was only the beginning of things that went wrong in that household.  By the time the five of them had moved from the trailer park to their new home, GG was having periodic psychiatric breakdowns.  Experts have determined later that these were likely the psychotic breaks of paranoid schizophrenia.

GG struggled with the adult responsibilities of work, raising a family, relating to his wife, and managing the internal chaos of his mental illness.  He came into the realities of adulthood with too much brokenness to overcome; he was a brilliant inventor and draftsman yet could not control his own mind to ever find true happiness or success.  GG defied the counselling offered and declined the psychiatric medication newly developed that could help control his thought disorder.  He took an extended leave of absence from work and, instead of getting well, used the time to build a business in the unfinished basement of their home.  It became wildly successful in the hobby world of the 1960’s. How his employer never found out is another mystery.

Unfortunately the same ingenuity that brought him initial success 1) as a non-degreed draftsman for a major automaker and 2) in the home business, did not work when he applied it to his mental illness.  He experimented in psycho-cybernetics, hand writing analysis, the occult, various activities of the hippie crowd, drinking alcohol, and more.   Eventually he left town on his motorcycle with some blonde chick for California with all the profits from the business . . .  The children saw his father come and go in a myriad of painful and confusing scenes over the next few years until finally their parents divorced. Their dad lived in another suburb across town thereafter but the holiday visits and false hopes for things to be right never fully materialized.  Eventually GG left town for good and had no direct contact with his family for the next 27 years.

GG sent threatening letters to his mother for several decades, perhaps wrestling with her years of abusing him and what to do with it.  Sadly he hurt his own children as well in other ways. Over the years, the oldest daughter had witnessed satanic rituals, was abused by some women in the course of some psychedelic mayhem at his house across town during a visitation weekend, and was then tortured herself by GG in an attempt to help her “forget” what had happened to her.  The middle child witnessed his father’s domestic abuse of his mother and personal self-degradation as his father used mind control techniques on him in a misguided attempt to try and help his son.  The taped messages he recorded ended up having an opposite effect!  And the spirited youngest boy got as far as he could in life then, as a young adult, tried to find his dad who had left the family when he was barely past kindergarten. His dad’s letter of rejection was found by loved ones in his wallet after the young man died of alcoholism.  The surviving family grieved deeply.

GG’s experimentation with mind control techniques inadvertently opened himself up to the demonic realm.  The darkness in his eyes reflected this in particularly frightening scenes recounted by his children.  Knowing this, understanding his abusive upbringing and resulting mental illness then their own coming to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, has helped the two surviving siblings forgive their father.  They have found peace with their past and with their dad. The man was simply lost.  He had no idea the dark world he had incited nor the abuse he ended up carrying from one generation to the next.  It took the daughter in particular, many decades to understand this and break free from the trauma and demonic influences.  How that happened is yet another story.  The miracle of overcoming such hell gives testimony to the incredible power of the gospel through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thirty years after the oldest sibling last saw her father and two months before he died, she got to meet with him at his retirement/trailer park in Florida.  They had slowly developed a new relationship by phone before he eventually agreed to a visit in person. The Gentle Giant was frail yet charmingly engaging.  He told her tender stories of her days as a little girl and of how proud he was of her.  He told her that he loved her and by the time of their visit had shared how he had to leave their family to protect them from further harm.  More psychological breakdowns had occurred over the years.  His isolation from family and most of society became part of how he managed his illness in addition to long sabbaticals from work. He jointly held over 27 patents with a major manufacturer of automotive parts and would say that was why they “put up with him” and his leaves of absence.  The woman would see how creative her father was in crafting his life with the fragments he had been given . . . how incredibly her Heavenly Father would sustain her own life until those sweet moments of reconcilliation with her dad could bring closure, bring healing, bring some sweetness too.

Our earthly fathers have incredible importance in how we turn out in our lives.  They are the first authority figures in our lives who initially influence how we relate to our heavenly Father who is exceedingly greater and perfect;  ways that our earthly father can never be.  A loving relationship with both are critical for grounding us in this life on earth.  Even in the absence of a good dad the yearning of our hearts can lead us to the One Who will never leave us, never forsake us.  I do pray that in this story you will see how the “seeking” of one young girl as she became one older woman led her to overcome the failings of her father by filling those empty and hurting places with the unfailing love of Jesus Christ.  Graciously she did get to feel at last, the love of her real father before he died.  Not everyone will have this kind of opportunity; others will experience it their entire lives.  Regardless, we all can be whole no matter what darkness has fallen on our journey through this life.

I understand these experiences very well nurtured with truth from the Words of our Lord in His scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Further, the Gentle Giant in each of us can be transformed from sorrow to joy if we but believe in His holy name, Jesus Christ. Healing and fullness of life will follow us all of our days into eternity.  I love that.  Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for this story and for Your story of redemption too.  May you speak to the heart of the Gentle Reader who finds these words this day, filling him or her with your goodness. Bring them into the best of relationships found only with You.  Bring hope beyond what we all can see.  For your glory I pray in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.  JJ

 

The Genius Between Us

If you lived in the Midwest of the United States in the mid-1960’s chances are good that you knew about slot car racing.  It was the craze back then for hobbyists, car enthusiasts, boys, and the girls with brothers!

And if you were into performance slot car racing, then you would have selected either a Mura, Champion, or Dyna-Rewind motor to win.  Not familiar with it?  Check out these pictures:

 

Dad's Slot Car
Dad’s Slot Car

 

Dyna-Rewind Motor
Dyna-Rewind Motor

Typical Slot Car Race Track
Typical Slot Car Race Track

 

 

 

 

 

 

A slot car racing enthusiast in the mid to late 1960s would bring his best cars in a wooden gear box to a local track.  For about $.50 he (or she) could rent a lane and race whomever showed up that evening for 30 minutes.  Competition was always fierce with fans and racers taking turns spotting cars around the track that had spun out or flown off in the heat of the battle.  Each car had rubber tires, an electric motor, chassis, body, and plastic tongue-with-flat-metal-brushes on the bottom.  The cars ran on a track with a groove in the middle of the lane and tiny metal or wire filaments on either side of the groove (which conducted the electricity as it made contact with the metal brushes).  Each “driver” held a controller by which he (or she) could adjust the speed of the car by squeezing or releasing the lever on the handle.  If you went too fast your car would either spin out or fly off the track!  While the latter was quite spectacular it would often damage the car beyond repair — at least until the next Thursday night of racing!

Formal competitions and even professional drivers became legendary.  In 1966 one racer in particular began beating the pants off of everyone in the Detroit area and carrying off all the trophies with his car powered by a special motor.  Ted Lech had discovered how to make the motors faster by employing the adhesives, balancing principles, and rewinding concepts from his work at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.  Soon others were clamoring to purchase the motors.  Ted and his co-worker, “Bud” Stordahl created Dyna-Rewind and were quickly overwhelmed when orders came in from just about everywhere (including the UK and Japan) with each successive motor.  In an interview with Pete Hagenbuch in the Car Model magazine of July 1967, “Mr. Motor” as they called him reveals the genius behind Dyna-Rewind motors.  All was well and very exciting, however the slot car racing industry was beginning to diminish when toy manufacturers could not keep up with the performance output of the small-shop car guys.  But the small-shop car guys couldn’t support the overall industry either.  Then suddenly Ted Lech absconded with some of the business assets and vanished in 1969, never to be heard from again in the slot car racing world.  Bud Stordahl closed Dyna-Rewind.

What happened?  Well I guess you could say that not everyone handles success well.  Ted Lech was my father:  born March 30, 1937 in the Detroit, Michigan area.  He married my mother, RoseAnne, in 1959 and I was born 9 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days later.  We were living in a trailer park when I was born:  a red and white mobile home at the beginning of the block.  There was a sidewalk out front in which I rode my red and white tricycle with a bell and streamers on each of the handle bars.  I loved riding my bike.  Life was good for a 3 year old!

We moved into a house that my dad had selected in a new subdivision in Warren sometime in 1963.  Michael was 2, I was 3, and Robert was on his way into the world thus necessitating the move up to a 3 bedroom ranch.  We didn’t have much furniture so there was plenty of room in which we kids would play.  The best spot was the basement:  we could make all the noise we wanted to ’cause mom would just close the door at the top of the stairs into the kitchen!  We had the coolest toys with which to play down there too.  I remember a wooden train set on wheels that my dad had made where the cars hooked together and were big enough to hold each of us kids in our own train car.  When we were lucky dad would whoosh us around the basement, carefully navigating around the black metal poles supporting the house upstairs!  And if he would open the hamper shoot on us as we rolled under the hinged box he made in the ceiling, well that was really cool!  Splat!

My dad built Dyna-Rewind in the basement of that house.  I have come to understand that some of the operation was at the home of his business partner, Bud Stordahl, but I do not have any recollection of  him or seeing the part of the operation that was in his garage in Birmingham.  After all, I was a young kid back then.  What I remember is all of the wooden tables that my dad had built and the increasing amount of tools and machinery that filled the basement.  I remember playing with most of it, especially the rewinding machine, drill press, semi-circular magnets, black plastic display boxes with a clear lid, and even the motors.  On a good day my dad would take us with him to race at “The Groove Raceway” in Royal Oak or perhaps another local track.  In time he would take Mike and Rob more than me; perhaps I had developed other more girl-y interests too with my best friend who lived next door (Tammy Orlando).  My brothers had a blast during their time with my dad.  Mike became quite good at slot car racing and his ability to beat most anyone in games of all kinds continues to this day!

Flash forward to 2013.  Out of the blue, my brother Mike makes contact with a French gentleman, Philippe de Lespinay, who was writing a new book to expand on his first publication, Vintage Slot Cars.  Mike met with Mr. de Lespinaly, and shared the wooden gear box he had gotten from our dad containing a collection of Dyna-Rewind motors, slot cars, and my dad’s own hand-painted favorite too.  Within a year from now the LA Slot Car Racing Museum is scheduled to open in California.  I’m glad Mike didn’t sell out the family mementos, caving to Mr. de Lespinay’s repeated requests to both of us!  I have one motor with a wire still attached to it.  This was my memento actually from my brother Robert’s mobile home in Monument, Colorado when we were settling his affairs after he passed away in 2003.  I displayed that motor where I could see it each morning for a long time.  I already had several empty black plastic boxes like the one pictured above.  A couple of them still store my unused gum wrappers from my 300+ foot gum wrapper chain tossed out long ago.  Sure wish I had some of those magnets used inside the metal motor housing.  We used to see how high we could stack them up before tumbling over and . . .

My brother called me about the book after his interview with Mr. de Lespinay a couple of weeks ago.  So when Mike offered the opportunity for me to fill in my own details of this story I jumped in too.  Mr. Stordahl had misreported some facts and perhaps was still a little sore about the sudden closing of the business in 1971.  Evidently my father stole some of the business proceeds when he left with his technical genius as well.  I am sad about that.  The details of his leaving left scars with me too for a very long time.  He had gone to California with another woman and did not return for a few months.  The heartache for my mother and us three kids continued after his return to the Detroit area, through their divorce, and deepened when he left a second time:  for decades.  No one really knew where he was when he finally left Michigan.  When we did discover that he was in Florida (and I later learned that he had also lived in Texas for a time) there was really no need for me to contact him.  I had grown up, gone away to college, and moved to the Chicago suburbs to start my career in occupational therapy.  Life had moved on.  Sure I missed him.  But life had to move on you see.  My Heavenly Father filled in the gaps.

Flash forward about 30 years and our father has since reconciled with Mike and me.  In 2007 my mother passed away and would never have contact with him before she died.   She had moved on as well so I am not sure that it would have mattered to her anyways.  Thaddeus Lech Jr. died in his 30-foot travel trailer along the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2011.  He had become a renowned local fisherman; I can prove it with a few hundred photos I inherited of him holding up virtually every kind of fish that either spawned or was native to the Florida panhandle region of the Gulf of Mexico.  He was also renowned in the automotive industry:  inventor and co-inventor for Borg-Warner Automotive, holding over 20 patents for various types of clutch assembly and drive train components.  His genius had continued!  It makes sense that it would.  When I was a kid he’d crafted the most phenomenal gerbil cages you could ever imagine for our pets Agatha, Ralph, and Dee.  If I insert the word “sundeck” here you might be able to imagine the other rooms, elevated walkway, and security door too . . .

Everyone has a “past.”  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes there are reasons for those mistakes and sometimes it’s simply the manifestation of sin in our lives.  My childhood is filled with a few more sad stories than happy ones yet gratefully the sorrow has faded away.  There is much more to the story of my father that could be written here to fill in the details.  Others have attempted to share the sordid details perhaps to give the retelling of Mr. Motor’s story a little more spice.  I do not believe that is necessary at this time.  When my father contacted Mike then me before my father passed away, we were able to both get re-acquainted and speak words of regret, words of forgiveness.  I got to hear stories I never knew about myself as a girl and about this adventurous, brilliant, complicated man.  His smile and sense of humor warmed my heart in a place I did not know existed when I had moved on so many decades ago.  To hear the words, “I love you” was a salve I did not know I was craving for when they finally came at just the right time.  Even my husband, Steve, was touched by my dad’s gentleness, incredible way of handling the characters of the travel trailer park he had managed, and sense of humor.  They hit it off well:  car guys always do.

I hope the sequel to Vintage Slot Cars is a success.  I hope that racing fans from around the world visit the LA Slot Car Museum and talk about the amazingly fast Dyna-Rewind motors.  As for the genius between my brothers and me in the photographs below:  I will always love you dad.  Thank you for the memories.  With my orange motor labeled with the foil Dyna-Rewind sticker and stray wire hanging by a thread, I’m good.

Ted Lech for Slot Car Book