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My father's family lived in New Jersey when my dad and his three brothers were just blooming adolescents. Their parents were the product of the cocktail generation, and the Irish tendency towards alcoholism was augmented by that social niche. Despite the arguments and drinking, Mary and Jack wanted to make sure their children got the best possible education. The boys were sent to Catholic schools, and once they graduated were forcefully directed down a collegiate path. The brothers gave each other support throughout the years, but what they did with that support behind them was up to each individual. All four of the brothers went on to higher education, but their choices there and the lives they'd lead thereafter were all rather different.
The doctors in the Pact, a book about close friends using a promise to unite the and motivate eachother to succeed, grew up where my father and his brothers did, but in a very different time. Much like my father's family, they were to face their own individual obstacles and make their way to higher education and their lives beyond. Both had parents with little money and received the best education that could be provided, and both would face elements in their lives that could change it. Before further comparison the lives of Tom, Bill, Pat, and Tim should be discussed.
My father, Tom, was the eldest brother and was the first to attend college. He had been an alter boy in high school and a football player. When it came time for him to attend college he chose Millersville University . There he played football and was well known as a student who knew how to throw a party. Two years into his college career he decided to go into the navy. After serving his time there he went back to Millersville only to drop out near the beginning of his senior year because he found college to be “boring”. To my father there is nothing worse than being bored. His biggest accomplishment in college, as far as he saw it, was when trying to write an original poem in a certain style on one of his English finals, he wrote a limerick instead which went as follows:
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There once was a man from Tahiti
Who's thing was bathroom graffiti.
But when he went to scrawl he found no clean wall
So he wrote on the attendants left teaty .
That professor failed his exam, but when talking to my father later he found out the limerick was original he felt compelled to raise my father's grade to a passing C. I think that is the perfect example regarding the kind of student my father was. My father has held many jobs in his lifetime. He's been a bartender, horse trainer, realtor, alcoholic , tournament manager at several golf courses, building inspector, and a father of two lovely daughters. He's been married twice, has no job security or retirement funds, doesn't stay at one job for more than a few years, and he can't clean up after himself. He isn't what I'd call a success, but he's my father and I love him.
My uncle Bill followed my father rather closely in age, in athletics, and in his choice of colleges. Bill was an alter boy and football player in high school, and also went on to be a football player and student at Millersville University , just like my father had. They, however, chose very different paths from there. My uncle made it through college very successfully and got his degree in Secondary Education in the field of Science. He fell in love with his wife in college and is still married to her. They lived as teachers out in Oregon until she became pregnant, and they moved back to Pennsylvania to be near her family. They've had two children who went on to lead successful lives. Currently, they run an interior decorating business together and have three grandchildren. My uncle Bill is one of the nicest men I know, and a devout Christian.
My uncle Pat chose a much more individually satisfying route towards higher education. After prep school he lived his life free from his family and found his way to a technical school to pursue the art of photography. He graduated and found a job at the Los Angeles Times. The job enabled him to travel and to lead a life that kept him constantly exposed to the glamour and celebrity of LA. He married a woman later in his career as a photojournalist, at the time when he was the paper's Photography Editor, and moved to Montana with her. Though no longer married, Pat has a lovely daughter and is taking on jobs as he pleases from his rustic Montana home.
My uncle Tim was the youngest of the four and had had a childhood full of fraternal torment and poor health. He went through the torments of Catholic school, and when that was behind him he went to college at the University of California , specifically the Santa Barbara campus. There he received a degree in Communications, went on to get his masters in Virginia while working as a professor's assistant, and later, at another University, was given his doctorate. He returned to California with his PhD and worked as a professor at the college he had received his degree from. From there he married, and became a dean in his early forties at Emporia State University . Tim is currently living in Erie, Pennsylvania with his wife and two dogs while being a dean at Gannon University .
My father became a very different man than his brothers did, and I attribute this to one main reason. My father, unlike any of his brothers, is an alcoholic. There were many pressures on my father, from his parents to his classmates. For whatever reason my dad was compelled to be a drinker, and a very sociable one at that. Much of his heavy drinking is spent in bars where he's among his buddies. Pressure, from specifically peers, is addressed in The Pact. "We know firsthand that the wrong friends can lead you to trouble. But even more, they can tear down hopes, dreams, and possibilities. We know, too, that the right friends inspire you, pull you through, rise with you" (page 3). That is one of the main messages the doctors felt it was important to convey. I believe that they are right, but such influences can be of a much broader variety. My father had his parents influencing his decisions regarding drinking. He chose to do as they did. He was lead by example to follow something that would diminish his success and slowly eat away at his life while comfortably imbedding itself in him. His brothers chose differently. They saw their parents in horribly drunken states and watched them struggle to support the family. My uncles Pat and Tim drink very responsibly when they choose to, and my uncle Bill has barely drank at all.
The book has a quote regarding what kept them driving toward success; "The pact filled us with motivation and purpose, giving us a reason to keep pushing when it would have been easier just to give up. It provided us with a firm base of support, and it strengthened us to face the challenges that came our way" (page 235). Where they may have had each other and a spoken pact, my uncles seemed to have a will to make a better life for themselves than they had seen their parents do. Between them they gave support and Tim, Pat, and Bill became successful. Without such a drive and the reinforcements that come with it, it becomes easy to falter and give into pressure. That can be seen as what holds back my father. Though he has support, he's never been driven to do more than he is expected to as an alcoholic, or as anything else he has been in his life. Your life is determined by your choices, and it is the hope of stories of success which may steer you closer to a better life.
Frazier, Lisa. The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream . New York: Riverhead Books. 2003.