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My Book Starts With How President Nixon Ended His White House Years On This Date In 1974

August 9, 2017

On this date, August 9, 1974, I was on the red davenport in our living room watching the news coverage of President Nixon leaving the White House as his resignation took effect.  He addressed his White House team in a most emotional way.  It was without doubt thy most honest communication he ever made to the nation.  With months of stress, little sleep the night before, and a staggering lead sentence for his biography Nixon was bidding the nation good bye.

The words I heard as a 12-year-old that morning struck me.  In fact, I never forgot the following line.

“Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother — my mother was a saint.”

That is how Nixon spoke of his mother.  When I turned fifty and started to write my book, Walking Up The Ramp, that in part was homage to my parents, I knew what was need at the beginning.

So I used Nixon’s quote from that day in 1974. Nixon could have said the same about my Dad.

I constructed a moving and sentimental journey in book form not meant to provide a detailed genealogical history but instead the story of their lives. I show how Royce and Geneva Humphrey provided a solid foundation on how to live life, and instilled bedrock values aimed to last a lifetime.

When I was a kid Dad would drive me every Friday night to the local library, where I found so much comfort in the books.  Books were a real refuge for me. After I left home Mom said given what I enjoyed so much perhaps I should write a book someday.

And so I did with respect but candor as I take readers not only inside the Humphrey family home, but also through the contours of my life.

I write what a cup of coffee really represented in Geneva’s kitchen, while Royce demonstrates what ‘paying it forward’ means when helping motorists with a flat tire but refusing payment for his efforts.   Readers step back to a time when Mom showed the virtues of a rainy day while Dad explains why a perfectly shaped Christmas tree is not the best one to select. The pace of life slows down in the Hancock of my youth.  Readers will revisit the barber’s chair, and the lady who staffed the local library housed in a small white building on Main Street.  Memories of road construction in front of the family home, the sounds of water sizzling on Grandma’s cast-iron stove, the sight of Grandpa’s hay-baling operation—all are events recalled with joy.

A newspaper arrives every day in the mailbox, the phone is a party line, and news of President Truman’s death is heard over the radio. There was no television at home.

I weave the tale of life as a lanky kid who loved to read books, was not sports-oriented, and was continually bullied in high school. Stripped of my self-confidence i entered the darkest time of my life. My best friend commits suicide. I write of my feelings of utter despair as a teenager who felt isolated in a small town and without the resources to heal.  But I also write about the strength of the human spirit, and how hope appears in the most unexpected ways. This part of the story is meant to lift the sails of anyone who has struggled to overcome burdens in life. With broadcasting school came the opening to life in which I so long had hoped to participate. From working at WDOR to employment at the Wisconsin State Capitol, a continuing series of stories and reflections makes for a what I know is a compelling read.

Here is what I learned and of which I write.  Put life into perspective. Prioritize what is important. Live authentically. These things take time and came from the most painful and unsettling chapters of my life.

Writing a book like this often felt like leaving my raw emotions on the keyboard.  But there was no way to start my story and not add the parts that made me sad or contemplative.  At the end of the book the message is clear.  No one needs to cast off the better parts of the past just to move beyond the rough times.

But over and over through the book I come back to those those early years and warm memories of childhood where a loving foundation was created by two parents who helped raise a boy into a determined man.

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