TP was born in Sioux City, IA and he had 3 sisters. His father was from Greece and his mother was from Norway. They met in a pool hall and were married and started a family in Sioux City, IA. TP grew up in times of the depression. His father ran a Hot Dog Shop and was actually one of the more successful businesses in the area at the time. TP states, “You could get a hotdog, a piece of pie, and a cup of coffee for 15 cents. You couldn’t get a deal like that anywhere else in town. So while other places were struggling and going under, My Dad’s shop was doing well.” TP described his father as a “workaholic” but said no matter how hard he worked or how rough it was at those times, his father “always had a smile for everybody.” His father would bring home cases of hotdogs on the weekend and the whole family would divide them up in little baggies and then TP and his sisters would distribute them to the neighborhood. TP stated that he was amazed back then how “people with nothing could give to others with nothing”.
TP described his mother in similar fashion. He said she could be “as strict as satan”, but that she too always had a smile on her face. He described his mother as being quite hardworking as well. He said that she use to get up and go help his dad get the shop opened and then come back home and get the kids off and do all the cooking around the house. His mother would run the house he said, as his father spent a lot of time over at the shop to support the family. His mother would assign him and his sister’s all chores, in which he stated he would always try and talk his sisters in to doing for him. TP described himself as being very protective over his sister’s. He said that whenever they would have any type of suitor, he would ask them their intentions and if they said homework, they, “better doggone be working on homework!” He described his childhood years with his sisters as very happy.
As far as school was concerned, TP remembers not being very impressed by it. He says that when he was 17, his gang of himself and 10 others marched in to the principal’s office and said that they were leaving school and joining the military. The principal said they couldn’t do that without their parents written consent. This did not stop them, and a few days later they were all in the army. TP served during WWII as a platoon sergeant and was wounded in France. He left the Army and came back to the states in 1945.
Little did he know, his sister was saving her “best gal” for him back in Sioux City. He came home after his service to help with the family Hot Dog Shop, and was soon married with his sister’s best gal, and she remains TP’s best gal today! The Hot Dog shop was not doing so well, so he closed shop and ventured off to a new career. After finding out he was not a salesman through trying to sell doors, TP went to work at a hospital kitchen. He enjoyed it and soon moved his family to Albuquerque, NM and resumed working in a hospital kitchen there as well. TP was great in the kitchen and was soon offered jobs with more responsibility and of course higher pay. He oversaw snack bars in school cafeterias and turned the company in to and actual profit, which only saw the company being sold for his efforts. He then landed a job running the cafeteria at The Journal in Albuquerque where he worked alongside one of his son’s until he retired.
TP has 8 children (6 boys and 2 girls) and “countless” grandchildren and great grandchildren. His wife worked for Sandia Labs in Albuquerque. He describes his children as all being VERY hardworking as well as being great in the kitchen! He attributes this to the chores they always had and doing a lot of cooking and baking with his children. TP still lives in Albuquerque, NM today with his best gal.
Diana Baumrind (1973) offered the most influential typology distinguishing between three types of parental child-rearing processes: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. She found that authoritative parenting (strict, but very supportive) leads to positive emotional, social, and cognitive development in children. Authoritarian parenting (cold and controlling) can lead to incompetence and low self-esteem, and permissive (warm yet passive) leads to irresponsible behavior and immaturity.
John Bowlby (1958) proposed Attachment Theory, saying that infants were born preadapted to interact and be responsive to a caregiver. Mary Ainsworth developed methods to observe and code Attachment theory and came out with 4 classifications: secure, insecure-avoidant (avoid caregiver), insecure-anxious/ambivalent (want caregiver but suffer separation anxiety), and disorganized (strange behavior, may take on caregiver over parent). Based upon the type of attachment established, some and many of the relationships one has in their life will be affected.
TP described his parents as “always having a smile for you”. He also said that his mother could be as “strict as satan”. This strongly suggests that the type of parenting style that his parents practiced was authoritative. TP definitely had the warm, loving, friendly environment, but at the same time, had definite clear, strict boundaries that he was made to follow. This parenting style seemed to be passed on when it came to the rearing of his own children. He talks of having the great times fishing and baking with his children, as well as the rules and the discipline that his children were made to maintain. This strongly suggests that him and his “best gal” also used the authoritative style.
Being the product of loving, caring parents, with the mother as caregiver for TP, he seemed to be very securely attached. Just listening to him talk about his “best gal”, it shows they have a wonderful relationship. He says she is his best friend. Securely attached individuals will have great meaningful, intimate relationships. He has been married to his best friend for over 60 years, I think that says it all itself. They also have eight children; there was definitely not a lack of intimacy! Securely attached individuals have great peer relations, are persistent and hardworking, and show great independence. Man, joining the Army and fighting for your country at age 17, escalating to the top of any profession he encountered, and the many wonderful people he surrounded himself with speaks volumes, all the while raising 8 children. He described his children as all being hardworking and independent. Definitely, something modeled to them by their father.
As I was listening to TP tell his story, several things seemed to stand out as turning points as he developed his own self-concept. I listened to him speak of his parents, and the same word was used repeatedly, hardworking. It was obvious this was a quality he truly admired and valued and stuck in his toolbox early on in life. He then seemed to experience what James Marcia (1991) termed “identity moratorium” when quitting school and joining the army. Identity moratorium is characterized as being seen when one is actively exploring themselves and their options in life. They want to experience as much as they can before they start making the major decisions in their lives. He truly gained perspective in his military experience.
TP was a platoon sergeant during WWII. He talked of the hard and very sad times he had during the war. He spoke of late nights up alone writing the mother’s of men from his platoon that had died during battle as being the hardest things he ever had to do. He said he never wanted to have any of his men or anyone else see him cry as he did this. Then one time his general noticed him crying and told him that he too cried and it was all right; he said that “Real men cry.” This experience seemed to change TP, maybe to open his eyes to what he saw as being truly important in his life. At this time he appeared to achieve what Marcia called “Identity Achievement”. He knew he wanted to be a around his family and be the hardworking family man that he loved and admired as a child. After his service was complete, he quickly came back to Sioux City and began his life the way he wanted to live it.
Peer Relations and Friendships
TP was affected by his peer relationships and surroundings throughout many stages of his life, most significantly, “his gang” (the group of 10 friends and himself that all quit school and joined the Army together). But looking back even further, the pattern seemed to emerge earlier on in life.
He was a child during the depression. Everybody was helping everybody get by, a real communal environment. Him and his sisters would march out every weekend and give hotdogs to the neighborhood, “we took care and were there for each other,” he said. He learned the value of good trusting relationships with others very early. TP carried this with him oversees to the war and back with him when he began his employment career. These relationships are what lead to him gaining most of the opportunities within his career. At every turn a friend or acquaintance through work, would recognize his hardworking ethic and dedication and would offer him opportunities elsewhere. His exact words were, “Help others and you will be surrounded by those willing to help you.” He must have helped a ton of people in his life, because he spoke of his friendships as being a treasure of his life that he truly valued.
Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion
Any problems that TP might have had with self-esteem early on in life, were quickly vanquished when he entered the Army. He seemed very outspoken and sure of himself, and led his life as such. He did speak of a time where he did feel unsure of himself, which was when he gave up the Hot Dog shop and was unsure of his ability to take care and provide for his family without a job. He says this was a very “scary” time he remembers. This seems to show that he values himself based upon his ability to provide and take care of himself and his family.
When asked about this topic, he spoke of this “scary” time, but quickly followed with the fact that it was an isolated incident. He said he always had opportunities around him due to his hard work, which positively impacted his self-concept and global self- esteem (own perception of self-worth). He also spoke of knowing things would always be ok, probably another attitude pulled from perseverance during the depression and war, and this attitude invoked the confidence for him to create his own opportunities.
As far as self-compassion, TP danced around the topic, but exhibited the qualities of one who is self-compassionate while going through some of the elements in many stages during his life. He definitely was open to what Kristin Neff speaks of as “common humanity”, which is the realization that we are all interconnected and one seeing their own experience as being a part of a larger human experience, subject to flaws. He was part of two of the hardest if not hardest times in recent human memory, and saw that the only way through was together and helping each other. TP is open and allows himself to experience his emotions after knowing, “Real men cry”. This fits right in with what Neff describes as “mindfulness”, which is being aware of the present moment experience, allowing yourself to experience it, and not running away with or from painful feelings.
Self-Actualization and Wisdom
Looking as what Maslow (1954) theorized as “self-actualization”, I drew many comparisons. TP has reached his potential in every area of his life, as a father, husband, caregiver, provider, son and brother. To hear him talk about the experiences in his life, acceptance of who he is and what he’s done rang loudly. He was very adventurous and experienced this physical world from many perspectives, each time taking away valuable lessons and wisdom. He said, “You will learn everyday if you keep your ears open and listen to others talk.” It goes way further then contentment, but a feeling of taking ownership over one’s life. TP has taken full ownership of his life and experience shows and is just as self-actualized as they come.
Wisdom was pouring out of TP with each part of his story, most of the time without his knowledge of doing so. I specifically asked him what wisdom he wanted to pass on. His answer was very simple, “Work hard and pass on what you learn”. Listening to him talk, he showed a healthy balance of knowledge that Ardelt (2000) labeled intellectual knowledge (scientific approach to life) and reflective wisdom (spiritual approach to life). He definitely exhibited great knowledge in his career domain, rising to the top of any job he was given, and reflective wisdom through all the amazing experiences he experienced throughout his lifetime.
Current Life Stage
I asked TP how he felt about retirement. He had a message for all those who say they can’t wait they retire, “Just wait.” He says that aging is “terrible”. He stated the physical ailments and the decline of the mind and memory are just a few of the pitfalls. Watching and hearing that all the friends, family, and people that you have grown up and old with die is the hardest thing. He said that it seems like he’s always hearing news of someone that he knows is dying. Even so, he says this life has been nothing but good to him. He says he has gained great memories throughout his life, and aging and retirement have given him a chance to sit and reflect and actually appreciate the great life that was given to him.
When asked about the best thing about life nowadays, a smile again appeared across the face of TP. He says the greatest thing is that he has his wife and best friend with him at all times and can share every moment with her. He is happy that he has financial security that allows them to do pretty much whatever they desire. He says despite the physical ailments, he has good health and great supporting children that he gets to talk and visit with on a pretty regular basis.
TP was asked one final question from me, someone who has known him for over 30 years now. I asked him how he always manages to have a smile for us. Looking back over the interview, I could have answered it myself, but he just laughed and joked and replied, “I have to so I can try and make her happy”, and while saying pointed to the other room where his “best gal” was at. The last thing TP said was very simple but some of the best things are, “Just need to be good to each other.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Ardelt, M. (2000). Intellectual versus wisdom-related knowledge: The case for a different kind of learning in the later years of life. Educational Gerontology, 26, 771-789.
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Marcia, James. Identity and Self-Development. In Richard Lerner, Anne Peterson, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn eds., Encyclopedia of Adolescence (Vol. 1). New York: Garland, 199.
Maslow, A.H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper. Ch 12 (pp. 199-234).
Neff, K. D. (2009). Self-Compassion. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of
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