Childhood Abandonment, Drugs, Insane Asylum: It’s All Good.


Hey, I really want to thank those of you who so kindly commented on the last couple of posts I’ve done on my family. I have found your expressions of sympathy quite dramatically moving. Thank you, very much.

Some of you have been kind enough to ask how it all sort of ultimately went with my family. The very short version is that, unsurprisingly, it went awfully. As a teenager my sister moved to Hawaii (she now has four grown children I don’t know at all); I moved all over California; my biological mom remarried twice that I know of and moved I don’t know where; my dad and his wife (my stepmother) moved around the South for awhile, and ended up in North Carolina.

North Carolina, California, and Hawaii. Could we be any further apart and still live in America? It’s … so perfectly metaphorical.

I have lived the years since I left my home as a teenager without any family beyond my wife. I can’t say I missed having a family—a dad I could turn to, a sibling I could confide in, a mother who cared what happened to me–since no one can miss what they never had. It wasn’t really until I was in my late-thirties that I began to understand that people with families go through their lives with a surety of identity that is utterly foreign to me. People with families, I saw, operated upon a bedrock of solidity; their lives were infused with the knowledge that they were part of an ineradicable, supportive whole. Who they were had a tangible, dependable past that continued to inform their present, and that they knew would continue into the future.

All that sort of thing is totally beyond me. I have no idea what it’s like to live with that.

If I could rewrite my life, I don’t think I would. Life hurts, no matter who you are. Most people’s pain drags itself out over the course of their life; I know I’m already over the worst of mine. It’s pretty sweet, now. Because I had no family interfering with the process by which such things are supposed to happen to everyone, I had to create my own psychology—my own philosophy, value system, artistic aesthetic, way to love and be loved. I sure wasn’t good at all that stuff right off, or anything. I’ve wasted years of my life on drugs and alcohol; I’ve stolen; I’ve done my best to prove I’m unlovable. I’ve spent time in an insane asylum (strapped face down on a plastic-covered mattress, listening to the screams of patients who’ve been sold for the night to local deviant perverts). In a lot of key ways, my life’s been terrible.

And so has everyone else’s. What matters is where you end up; how you got there becomes, finally, irrelevant. For 30 years I’ve been married to a woman so fine she’s obliterated every wall I had. I’ve come into the writing voice I struggled all my life to find. I’ve got a theology (and, by extension, a cosmology) that I believe in and trust.

I know who I am.

So bingo. I win.

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  • Latoya

    WOW. Mi love dah one yah bad!!!!!

  • (Now, for those of you who don't speak Jamaican patois, what LaToya is saying is that she is considerably surprised to discover that she is presently experiencing romantic feelings for a miscreant yam.)

  • Latoya

    LOL!!!!!! Stop it please…I cant be laughing this much..I am still at work

  • Greta Sheppard

    Wow . . . what a great way to wrap up your family history!

    I would say that John Short has 'cut forward' through the jungle of other's mistakes and failures, and has found himself in the right place for him to be . . . at this stage of his life. The best is yet ahead.

    Wisdom is gained, not through knowledge, but through experience…. the latter is the best teacher.

    You have a viable following John….. carry on . . . part of following and getting to know Jesus is "being partakers of His sufferings." Rest assured He is smiling on you at this moment!

  • Richard Lubbers

    You win John, and you help us win. We're all connected and draw something of value from each person's story.

    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your life. Now if you could only stop running over small animals on mother's day!


  • You do win, not only because of your wonderful wife and how your life is now, but because of Christ in you.

    I do hope that your family someday will read these post, and come to realize the blessing they are missing out on of not spending time with you and sharing in your blessed life.

  • I would hesitate to categorize my history as “irrelevant”.

    I’m one of those blessed with a stable family history. My parents are both 1st generation Christians and became involved in homeschooling in it’s recent infancy.

    And, as you, I’ve had my pain. My struggles and issues and hangups and quirks and foibles.

    There are many ways to deal with our past, and I believe the best way is to accept it (we can’t really change it or erase it) and use it.

    In Christianity we are only to be controlled by God. Allowing our past to control is as wrong as allowing anything else to control us.

    But God gave us our history as much as He’s given us our present and future, and here on earth there are many other people who have been through, to a greater or lesser extent, the same or similar things as we have.

    We have our own stories as our testimony. And one that no one can gainsay. There is no way to argue with the redemption your life has taken you through. And someone else who may be stuck in the same ruts you traveled many years ago may benefit greatly through knowing there is a solution and a light at the end of their tunnel.

    This serves two purposes: it binds us in community. We each think we’re alone in our troubles, and someone coming along and putting their arm around us and letting us know we’re not alone, we’re not the first, and we’re not the last, can make the difference between a failed and a successful life.

    And it glorifies God. When we use our past to point others’ future towards God, we overcome spiritually as we have physically.

  • I'm on my way out just now (to go hear Diana Schurr sing), but I wanted to real quick thank you guys for these very kind words. They mean a lot to me.

  • MEL

    Outstanding post, John.

  • Liz

    You did win John! (Yap, a happy ending :)). Thanks for sharing your story. Am looking forward to that memoir, you are an exceptional writer.

  • Kim de Geus (Stephen

    I love Diana Schurr! Thanks for sharing these amazing and intimate memories with us, John. The fact that I knew you when you were a teenager (and no doubt going through everything you've said in your post) is intriguing, and also a little sad to me. I wish I had known so I could have been a better friend, understood you better, and perhaps more supportive in ways you may have needed. I'd like to be able to reach back in time to 1976 and give you a big hug! You've obviously been through a lot and I'm so glad you're happy. You've always had that amazing writing "voice" – and even though I'm not much of a believer in the Big Guy Upstairs, I'm glad you've found your Muse in God.

  • Hey John,

    Nice wrap up of your family history. I am no where near yours since I have a very loving and God fearing family. But I want to appreciate the fact that it is not where we come from that dictates the destiny we have.. it is where we are going and who we have believed in that takes us there. Your life history is an amazing testimony of what the Lord Jesus can do.

    I would love to know how you met the Lord.. but all in all…. barikiwa sana (Hope you still remember what the two words mean)

  • Prince: U da man! Thanks again for your generous and warm comments. My memoir will in significant part be about my conversion; I'll let you know when the memoir is ready, and maybe I'll share with you some of the manuscript that deals with that specifically. In the meantime, yes, I DO remember what barikiwa sana means; as I recall, it's a Kenyan expression that, translated, means, "Barracudas are insane." Touching words, my friend. Touching words.

  • Grass/Mike: I did graduate from my high school the year I was supposed to. LONG story–but, basically, I commuted to high school from where I began living. (The VERY short version of that long story is that when I was there my high school was ranked 7th in the nation in the National Forensics League–[being the speech and debate club]. For my high school I competed in the two NFL events, dramatic and humorous interpretation [which is acting, basically.] I won, a lot. The school valued that very much. So as long as I continued competing in the speech contests [which I loved doing, cuz they took place at colleges all over California, which meant me getting to stay in motel rooms all over the state for days at a time], I was allowed to … let's say, schedule my academic workload in a way that accommodated my unique circumstances. Also, while I began sort of shifting out of my house when I was 16, it wasn't really until I was I seventeen—in the summer between my junior and senior years—that I left my house and never returned. Before then, it was, I'd say, about 50-50 between being gone and being there. College-wise—oh, God, this is just two boring. I did four years of college.

  • Carrie Skillian

    Kim: Did you really know John in high school? What was he like? (John: don’t read if you don’t really want to know! We do!)

  • Grassland

    So John,

    You never mentioned how school panned out. Leaving home at 16 couldn’t have made it easy…or even possible…to finish school (at least initially). I trust that you didn’t consider your religious conversion to be and adequate replacement for an education.

  • Kim: Schurr was amazing. She was SICK, as a dog; it seemed she was going to cancel the show, two songs in. And then she just did this magical RALLYING thing, and ended up singing an incredible set. Really amazing. She had one or the two or three best stand-up bass players I’ve ever heard.

    And you were GREAT to me in high school. You always treated me very kindly. I was … well, who I was, but you were GREAT. But thanks for the very kind vibes here.

  • Temi

    Nice post John,really inspiring.

  • Christine

    If that’s not a story of redemption I don’t know what is

  • Just read all five (or six) parts at once. Wow!

    I think what you wrote fully captures the essence of the expression, "…at the end of the day…"

    Keep finishing well.

  • Paul: Thanks for reading all that, and for the kind words. Thanks!

  • I know who you are too. You are beautiful.