Always, the phone call from the hospital. Telling Gator’s mom that his dad had been taken to the big hospital downtown. Again. The downside to bravery at the Fire Department. Running into yet another fire, burning building to rescue someone. Now and then a fellow fireman overcome while manning the nozzle. Dad always said that the warehouse fires with cardboard were the worst. The flames roaring up all the small channels in the boxes creating an incredible firestorm.
It was from Dad Gator that Jack learned the way of life to conquer fear. To run towards it with determination and the shield of honor. Jack’s Grandpa was a retired fire chief and it had taken a toll on him. Reticent and very somber and unapproachable, Grandpa Gator was the walking wounded. Too many men lost. Too many people caught up in tragedy that could not be rescued in time.
The old manhood of Firemen and Policemen. Serving the city by putting their lives on the line. There was, of course, rivalry and pretty good natured for the most part. Name calling in humor: ‘Hose stretcher!’ ‘Meter maid!’ Things that men do to create a bond with one another in dangerous jobs.
So Gator learned early what facing fear looked like. His dad was wounded too with all the adrenaline rushes at two am as he geared up and hopped into the back wheel of the big ladder truck. Out of the fire barn and the siren wailed down the empty streets of the big city. It popped out at home at times and the big city guys used alcohol to calm down. Gator’s dad was unavailable emotionally for most of Jack’s life. A fireman that was burned out.
Much later, Jack found the lessons from his Dad valuable. Run towards fear, give no quarter to danger of any sort. Be bold and put it all on the line. Calmly telling that big thief in Oakland that fighting to the death was the only way Jack would allow the theft. Replying to the big prison guard that ‘dancing in the isolation cell might be fun’. The time the small town toughs came after midnight and Jack walked side by side with his best friend towards them with their tent poles disguised as shotguns.
Stay calm and mean it. Jack had a dream of walking by a town that had a big gateway over the road going down to it. He could hear screams and awful danger coming from below in the town. The urge to run was strong. Jack turned around and ran down the road to the town. It was just a dream but it felt like a test he was going through.
Later in life, Jack had to face his own fears that were now, just reactions with no basis in reality. Now he would run away from conflict thinking he would be killed by a runaway railroad car (another true life situation) or worse. Complete and utterly false perceptions of his family and friends that was very confusing to everyone, including Gator. “Too much Trauma in your life” the therapist said. He taught Jack how to discern reality. Six tenths of a second reaction time to decide what is almost always false. Shut down the escape. Move forward. Jack was in a battle with himself and he had to run towards the battle within. Not easy, necessary.
Now, Jack lives within his destiny. Always looking towards the one thing that gives him strength to be the Gator he was meant to be. The living God that invites Jack into the secret place, the garden of love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator