The Power of Not Knowing
Edwin T. Scott Jr.
My father passed away the morning of October 2nd, 1999. He battled a drug addiction for more than two years, ending his existence in a nursing home with his organs shutting down one by one. He became embroiled in the addiction during my mothers’ fruitless battle with cancer. Naively, I believed that he experienced a mental collapse following my mother’s death. I hated him for not telling me or asking me for help. My family had many secrets. I hated my family’s secrets.
A few days later, after the funeral my brother and I went through my father’s possessions and divided them according to his wishes. In so doing, I came across a tiny envelope next to my baby pictures and birth certificate. The envelope had my mother’s name written on it and my name under it. It contained a card with a picture of a baby in his basinet with a tiny baby sized ring of 10 kt. gold above him and a small plastic screen protecting a green four-leafed clover inside a picture of a book atop pink roses.
The inscriptions on the card read “Good Luck for Baby” above the basinet and “A Lucky Four Leaf Clover” on the open page of the little book. Inside the card the inscriptions read “A lucky four leaf clover for baby’s book” (sic) on the little book and on the opposite page-“A little four leaf clove and a little ring of gold to wish a little someone all the Luck that life can hold! (sic).
I took the card to my aunt Bonnie and asked her about it. She held the card in her hand, tears forming in her eyes as she began to tell me of a secret my mother and father withheld from me. “You know Eddie, your mom turned 16 the day before she had you. There is a lot that you never knew about your birth.” She said. She then told of how my mother became pregnant at age 15, a fact that not well received by my grandfather. My mother hid the pregnancy as long as possible, not eating more than normal, nor seeking prenatal care that is available to young mothers. For my grandfather, an old country Dutchman, his daughter’s unplanned pregnancy seemed a tremendous embarrassment.
About 5 months into the pregnancy, my grandfather found out and he went ballistic. “Clyde (my grandfather) tied your mother up in his shop and beat her with a razor strap for her indiscretions, it was a wonder she did not loose you.” Bonnie told me. The beatings continued throughout the pregnancy until my father married my mother and removed her from that environment. Despite the harsh treatment and a complete lack of medical care, my mother carried me to full term.
I came into the world on January 31st, 1971 and I weighed 3lbs 9 oz. The doctor delivering me told my parents that I probably would not make it. In those days medical technology for such low birth weight babies was not advanced as it is now. They placed me into an incubator almost immediately; with little chance of survival. “That’s when the nurses gave your mother this card. It was to bring you luck so that you might survive even though the odds were against you.” Bonnie recalled.
I knew that as a child I had some developmental problems, but I never really knew the whole story behind them. I wore braces on my feet because of a birth defect that caused them to twist sideways. The braces did not help and to this day I still have marks on my heels caused by the braces. I never stood flat-footed or even balanced myself on my feet. I also developed seriously degenerating eyesight, which nearly blinded me by age 30.
Mentally, a child prodigy I showed signs of very high intellect. I learned and adapted quickly to mentally challenging stimuli. As I aged this mental sharpness peaked in my adolescence but rapidly began to fade as I progressed into adult maturity. Today I continue to work hard, study, and expand my knowledge base, but I find it more difficult to grasp even elementary principles than when I was younger.
As I began to integrate with other children I started showing signs of some social disability. I was unable to relate to other children. I had a pension for leading instead of
following, a coping skill I developed to avoid interaction with others. I never developed social skills that others do. As I reached maturity the lack of these skills caused me immeasurable pain and set me back in personal relationships. I never understood what members of the opposite sex meant with simple looks and playful flirting. Adolescent dating rituals were a disaster for me. Today there are areas of psychology that deal with these patterns of social disability and have termed them non-verbal learning disabilities.
Despite all these physical and mental difficulties I have worked to better myself and to not allow them to govern my life. I have found unique coping strategies and achieved many things that would have not been thought possible that the day my mother gave birth to me. I have been a leader and teacher of others in the business world, a police officer, and even a chief of police, and a leader of troops in the military. I recently undertook my most challenging achievement thus far-returning to college at age 34, earning an Associate’s Degree by age 36 and a Bachelor’s Degree by age 38.
Looking back, I believe that my parents withheld some of the details of my early struggles in life so that I would not feel limited by my physical and mental disabilities. I struggled and learned to cope with many of them. I achieved much more than nature dictated that I should. I never knew limitations, only challenges. Someone once said that “What we don’t know won’t hurt us” but I think that “what we do not know” may actually empower us. I know that in my life, it did.