Every man has been influenced by somebody or something at one time or another. Most everybody aspires to make something of themselves, whether they decide to act on it or not, and at some point along the way it takes a little nudge from inspiration to keep moving in the right direction. A man is only as good as his role models, the people he looks up to and respects; the people he learns from. This, in my personal opinion, is one of the main platforms of our personal psychologies.
And of course my statement is in some way supported by the fact that I acquired this belief from one of my own role models: my dad. You can already begin to see how the power of influence works and I haven’t even got into my story yet! But rather than stop here and spare you the trouble of reading a whole narrative filled with dry humor, I’m going to tell it anyways. Instead of telling you a boring story about myself, I’m going to tell you how a came to be myself; because without this story, there would be no stories about me (and because there is nothing exciting enough about my life to tell).Order now
One of the biggest reasons that I am who I am is my dad. And the reason he is who he is, and was able to influence me the way he has, is the circumstances he came up in and the people who were around to be there for him. And now that I am becoming a man myself, I’m beginning to understand how blessed I am for this. In a strange way, I’m lucky that my parents were not as fortunate as I have been in my youth.
Growing up in Johnson County, an area where fortune is fairly common, being raised by parents who have been thrown out into the big bad world and come out alive has given me somewhat of an advantage, not only in perspective, but also in understanding what it takes to be a man not to be cocky or anything. Now that I’ve lulled you to near sleep with my lecturing, I’m on to the story of my dad. James McLaughlin Jr. was the second child of Kathy and James Sr. , born in southern California. The first child, my Aunt Kelly, came when my grandma was only 17.
After just a few short years of my dad’s life, Jim Sr. walked out on my grandma, leaving her with two children and little else. I have only met him a couple times in my life and to be honest I don’t really care to get to know him. The only good part about knowing him is the occasional “sorry I walked out on your dad” gift of $100 that he sends on Christmas. But God bless my grandma Kathy, the toughest woman I know. My grandma worked as many jobs as she could, digging ditches just to bring home a sack of potatoes for dinner.
But Kathy was not going to live like this forever, she decided that she was going to do something about her situation; she was going to go to college and become a nurse. And so the next chapter of my dad’s life began, and he was off to the one horse town that is Lamoni, Iowa so that Kathy could study to be a nurse at Graceland University. Coincidentally, Lamoni is where my mom lived, but Jim and Brenda never met while he was there. However there are some other important characters to the story that come in here, Doc and Arla Nelson.
These are the people who made it possible for my grandma to claw her way out of a life where eating dinner every night wasn’t a guarantee. If it wasn’t for Doc and Arla, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now. While my grandma worked her butt off at becoming a nurse, the Nelson’s took care of my dad. Because of them, my family was given a chance. Till this day my dad has not forgotten what they did. After my grandma graduated nursing school and met my grandpa Ed, the gang was off to Saint Paul.
In Saint Paul, my dad moved in with four new step-siblings and his step-dad Ed. Just to tell you a little about Ed, he was born with a permanent limp and can’t use his right hand, but he still ended up playing baseball in college. My dad grew close to my grandpa Ed and he became a father figure to him growing up. Even though my genetic grandpa isn’t around, Ed has been there for me and my brother. He even moved down from Nebraska for a year to be around my family more.
But Saint Paul did a lot more for my dad than just introduce a father figure into his life. Saint Paul was the setting to most of my dad’s childhood. This is where I get my love for wrestling, hockey, and most importantly the Minnesota Vikings (who are suffering as of late). Although my dad refers to his old home as in the “hood”, it wasn’t necessarily the ghetto, but rather a blue-collar area in the inner city so it was pretty much borderline ghetto. It wasn’t exactly the greatest of circumstances, but it was a giant step up from the breadline.
A lot of good stories came out of it too; my dad and all of his friends would wait up for my grandma before going to school to hear the dirty joke of the day, which she heard working the midnight shift in the ER at an inner city hospital. It was in Saint Paul that my dad also discovered wrestling, which more than anything shaped him into the man his today. As a wrestler myself, I can tell you that I would not be the same person if I had not wrestled. The sport demands discipline and teaches many important qualities that it takes to become a successful man, and my dad did just that.
He went from standing in a breadline to being a Johnson County dad picking up Starbucks on his way to work. The circumstances that my dad lived as a child turned him into the man he is today. Because of everything he has been through, he has become a good role model to me as a father. The most important part of my dad’s story to me is that even though the world can be a mean place, there are good people out there. If it wasn’t for my grandma being tough as nails, or Doc and Arla being so welcoming to my family, or Ed being there when my dad didn’t have a father, I wouldn’t be here to tell this story.