Siblings who are offspring of Mary Ellen Fulk

"Of 8 siblings, only 3 finished high school and 1 finished college."

One might take the above conclusion as a denigration of my siblings (a term most of them hate, preferring brothers and sisters, but I am sometimes parsimonious ... sometimes).

  1. The statement is not a reflection of my relative standing--though by all accounts I have been luckier than my siblings.

  2. The statement is about how bad conditions hold down good people. Consistently, like me, my siblings when given conditions to do better did do better. My belief in and hope for humanity is predicated on the real life record of my siblings of whom I am both extremely proud but sadly estranged.

  3. The statement is not about my being more intelligent than my siblings, for we are all genetic offsprings of a rare, genetic genius who is the most dysfunctional person I ever met, my mother. Unfortunately, some of the dysfuntionality is inherited, hopefully shaped into eccentricities. Fortunately, I did not murder her after she almost beat me to death for objecting to her stealing my piggy bank to buy some fastfood for herself when the house had no food.

My siblings:

  1. Old Bro: My oldest brother was the dumbest person I ever met until I heard what he had achieved in the US Marine Corps from him and others. Dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, he lied to get into the Marine Corps. In his first enlistment, he spent 360 days in the brig. Facing a dishonorable discharge, a colonel told him that his life was over as a person who was a high school drop-out with a dishonorable discharge. The same colonel said that he understood why a bright, motivated person could make bad choices given my brother's upbringing. A choice, the colonel said, "I'll get them to give you one more chance to avoid the life that lies before you as a dishonorable discharged drop-out. I think you can be a good marine. We need good marines." Slam bam, thank you mam. My brother shaped up into one of the finest marines ever, earning early promotions including E-9 at 17 years. Ask any marine if this is an achievement. Ask them if it is an achievement for a person who had spent a year in brig. My dumb older brother reminds me of what Mark Twain said of his father, "When I was 14 my father was the dumbest person I had ever met. Five years later, he was the smartest person I ever met and he had not changed a bit."  
  2. Brains and Braun: One brother I have always considered gifted with more raw intelligence than me but he did not have the luck. He has had to struggle without the mentors which God has gifted me.
  3. Leonardo: God, I miss the Good Guy.
  4. The Sister: No sibling had it harder the single girl in the family. For a Fortune 500 company, she worked her way up above any level achieved by any earlier family member. Admirably, she was the first one to retire from private employment which prompted more than one version of, "Hey, Bob, if you are so smart why did she retire before you." My response was that as a rule I could not retire because I consistently liked what I did which meant I didn't work and couldn't retire.
  5. John Galt: In the book Atlas Shrugged, an engineer is portrayed who can integrate many facets because of a 3-D mind with a photographic memory. The most amazing thing about our family John Galt is not that this tenth grade dropout has final say on new installations of transportation, utilities and processes at the largest grain public grain processor in the world (ADM's Decatur plant). The amazing thing is how it could have been his many years before. While his children went to school, he would quit his job as a plumber or pipefitter every month of May offering to return to work after school started in the fall. Despite threats of non-reemployment, he put his kids first until the youngest said at age 16, "Daddy, I love you, but I want to spend the summer with my friends." No problem. When he told his boss of no more summers with his kids, the boss said, "We have this special job in mind for you. Had it for several years but could not offered it because of your family focus." Wish he was not a top level computer game player--a reflection of his 3-D mind and photographic memory--for the world could use more community leaders of his potential.
  6. Happy Go Lucky: Had too many wrecks and demons to remain happy and lucky.
  7. Termite: Being the baby of the family always carries its special challenges, one of which is "no one will tell me what to do." His legendary suffering no fools is more than telling a few subordinates to get their tools and leave a job for doing a poor job. One account has him telling his boss, "Look, you've never had to re-do a single one of my jobs. If you don't like the way I am doing it, here's the tools. You do it. Call me when you want me to work for you and not under you." The family John Galt repeatedly said he would like to hire Termite as a supervisor but his diplomatic skills are good for only a foreman.

While my achievements have rested on greater luck than many, my respect for my siblings innate intelligence is shaped by similiarities in metabolism. All have been insomiacs, or, as one sister-in-law put it, "Those Brown-Barnetts can't sleep like the rest of us." Peaks of mental achievements rest on the rhythm of the bowels of which insomnia and necrolepsy are signs of wide-swinging bipolar minds. If one takes advantage of the highly functional highs and minimizes the swings of potentially dysfunctional lows, one can achieve great things. Opters for the monopolar state of paxil-prosac peace or zoloft zombies never know the happiness of being one of the best.

As the Roman Imperator was reminded of vissitudes of fate by a slave whispering, "Fortune and fame are fleeting," so do I know an activity which indicates that Timism rest more on luck than mental greatness among my siblings: Three siblings can not only beat me at billiards, but they beat me badly. One time, I stayed on a pool table for almost 30 hours. Three times I have sunk a ball on an adjacent table. Pool is a game of finesse, intelligence and planning. Consistently winning is the sign of a great mind, not a hard-working over-achiever.

While we share similar levels of integration, our divergent paths preclude the shared information for storied intimacy of close, non-dysfunctional families--see Mums . In an intellectual pursuit in which this thinker may be operating beyond his means, the serenity of isolation precludes on-going, working relations common to many. I'm surprised that I still have a wife. Consider how in 12-months of 2006-2007 I took three 30-day Amtrak Rail passes. The isolation of the train coupled with the brief passing friendships is very enjoyable. The estrangement from my worthwhile siblings is a dysfunction for which I can claim majority blame. If anyone did anything wrong it was me. Sadly, as the Beatles said, "Once there was a way to get back home."

Consistently since undergraduate schools I have sought to find a way to share timism, e.g., the paint pump venture. As I have said to my wife, "If you need me, I will be there. If you ask me to quit timism then it is time for a divorce."

My belief in democracy and meritocracy has been shaped by my personal and familiar experience wherein bad conditions kept good conditions down. When I look at the products of broken homes and neighborhoods, I see the stunted plants in the garden of life that did not get the sunlight let alone some fertilizer to bloom as bright human beings.

Robert S. Brown-Barnett

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