Early in his first company's history Rugged hired a young man who climbed our corporate ladder rapidly. After several years of dedicated effort he was promoted to President. This young man has a wonderful family that has grown with his career: a beautiful wife, two boys, and two girls.
One summer, our young President wanted to take his wife on a long vacation without their children. Rugged offered to take their two girls for a multi-week fun time away from mom and dad.
Our vacation break posted many adventures: movies, amusements, swinging on Tarzan ropes, going to theme parks, and cookouts which became lively soirées. We all had fun.
The girls usually behaved. On one occasion, Sinthrice got bored riding in our car. Boredom turned to bouncing up and down and pounding on the back of the front seats. All of this chaos highlighted her raucous laughter and verbiage. Rugged took this for a long time. We had a delightful time on roller-coasters and rides all day. He didn't want to spoil a fine day. How could Sinthrice have so much energy after eight hours of nonstop action?
Finally, Rugged exploded.
"Sinthrice, you are a spoiled, naughty child! Stop acting like a spoiled imp and settle down."
Sinthrice, shocked and with fear in her eyes posed the "What did I do?" form, with head tucked, lips puckered down, and arms and hands crossed palms out between her legs. Her older sister wilted into embarrassment. You could see her knowing look. She wondered how Sinthrice could get away with her antics so long.
Rugged couldn't show it, but his own behavior horrified him. How could he be so mean to a child of eight years? He carried a common guilt of not knowing if he acted correctly.
When Rugged next saw Sinthrice a few weeks later she surprised him. She came up and put her arms around him. She held him close to her and hugged him tightly and let him hug her for a long time. This felt so good to Rugged. His emptiness abated as her warmth filled his void. Finally, she released her hold and grasped his right hand in her left. She would not allow Rugged to move from her side that afternoon.
As Rugged discovered, Sinthrice is exceptionally imaginative. She dwells in her right brain more than most, and has extraordinary right brain intelligence. She is continually making art for Rugged and surprising him with her gifts of love. Rugged cherishes her art, but more he cherishes her acts of love. Sinthrice fills a vacuum in Rugged his need for unselfish love.
Now Sinthrice is 12. Her birthday is March 4. Ruggeds is in March too. They share piscine traits.
Sinthrice had a crush on Rugged for a while. She made engagement rings of grass and dandelion stems and made Rugged wear one like hers. The rings had to be on their left hands the finger next to the little finger. She would take his left hand and put it on the table with hers on top so both rings were side-by-side. This ceremony was her gesture that they belonged to each other. Then she took the rings off and ushered Rugged to the sink. She held his hands under the water and washed his and her hands together grace. Each time Sinthrice did this, she enthralled Rugged.
Now, Sinthrice is beginning womanhood. The ring ceremonies and the hand-washing rituals are over. Rugged dreads the loss of her special affection. He knows that she must venture into the realm of young love. She must practice and learn the art of female attraction on her male peers.
Last year, Rugged sent Sinthrice a letter in response to her birthday love note to him. At that time, Sinthrice was having a bad time in school. She felt daydreaming was more important than schoolwork. She temporarily lost interest in good grades. Rugged's letter to her was his way to help her. It said:
Thanks for your love note! I love you too!
Your rhino drawing is great. Its detail is awesome. I will save it in my rhino file. I will look at it when I think about you.
We had a good time at dinner the other evening, didn't we? You are an excellent conversationalist. You also are a lady. You know how to behave in a nice restaurant.
Do you remember what I said about us getting together in 10 years? That idea really intrigues me. Have you tried to imagine what you will be like in 10 years? How tall will you be? What kind of job will you have? What color will your hair be? Will you wear glasses or contacts? Will you still be living at home? Will your dad still work for me? Will you be in college?
Sinthrice, do you realize that if you think hard about those questions now, you will actually be mentally preparing yourself to be what you think about? It is true, you can become what you want by thinking about what you want. You can become what you think about yourself in your future. So start now, and think good things about yourself in your future.
On 4MAR2001 you and I will have dinner at Ft. Wayne's finest restaurant. We will talk about your success in becoming what you thought you wanted.
See you soon.
Rugged needs Sinthrice, but she is a child. He needs her unreserved love, and worse, he fears any loss of that love. How can a middle-aged adult male fear loss of an adolescent female's love? It's as though he were her father, and he knew she would transfer her love to a young, virile, potent, handsome young man. But Rugged's not her father! He is jealous of a certainty that she will find that young man. How can he stand it? When will she find him? Rugged's love for Sinthrice has turned unhealthy. He kens he must terminate this relationship absolutely, for Sinthrice's good.
Sinthrice and Rugged start a friendship with a boy named Otherchirps. Otherchirps is fatherless, and is Sinthrice's age. Like her, he wants and needs love, especially from a father. Rugged might be Otherchirps' needed surrogate.
Rugged can relate to Otherchirps' fatherless condition. Rugged's father left when he was two. Otherchirps' father left him when he was pre-adolescent, and as a result he needs a male role model desperately.
Otherchirps has an extreme stuttering problem, which his classmates call his chirps. Otherchirps needs a peer to be his friend and love him in spite of his speech defect.
Rugged took Otherchirps to dinner. That evening, Rugged discovered that Otherchirps' birthday is March 5. As Otherchirps stuttered his way through his meal, Rugged also became painfully aware of Otherchirps' need for a male image. Rugged decided to get with Otherchirps at least once per month on Saturday mornings. Otherchirps loves that idea. Otherchirps wants to do it more often.
Months later, Rugged and Otherchirps have spent several Saturdays doing various man-type activities. They start by having breakfast at a good restaurant. Sometimes they go to Rugged's company to work with the PC and MAC computers. One Saturday, they went to a friend's house, who is a skilled woodworker. He showed Otherchirps and Rugged how to do some fun projects with wood on his Shopsmith.
Rugged and Otherchirps are comfortable with one another. Rugged lends him video tapes from his library. The first time Otherchirps saw Rugged's video library, he went wild. He started pulling all of the tapes he wanted to see. Rugged said, "Whoa, what you doing pal? You can't watch all of those at one time. Take five or six now, and refill later."
Sinthrice, and Otherchirps are appealing, vigorous adolescents. Like most children, they view others through a veil of innocence. They accept you for what you are, and innately return love without reservation. Rugged came to know them, gradually, over a period of years.
Rugged uniquely relates to Sinthrice's and Otherchirps' needs because he cared for himself from age five on. He got up early using an alarm clock, clothed himself, prepared his own breakfast, and walked one or two miles to school. He grew up fast, but in some ways he never grew up.
During adolescence, Rugged mowed lawns and carried newspapers. He delivered morning and evening routes and the big Sunday editions to most of downtown. With his earnings, he saved and bought a racing bike. Each time he rode his bike he imagined his wheels when he grew up. He would have a really fast machine, an M5 Bimmer, a Porsche, or 'Vette.
Forced to survive, with no father and a mother who worked all the time to support them, he matured quickly and developed high expectations for people. A friend wanted a bike just like Rugged's, so he convinced his father to buy one for him. After three years of careless treatment, the friend's bike looked neglected. Rugged's bike sparkled like new. He could see that getting something for nothing gave the unearned item much less value. He could see that some other people didn't share his high expectations.
From childhood bias and his adult experience as a successful entrepreneur, Rugged became even more jaded by people. Rugged became antipathetic toward many people in our society. Adults that he dealt with were like the boy whose father bought him a bike: most wanted something for nothing.
Rugged often feels great pain in personal relationships, and wants to learn to be a better friend. For Rugged it is difficult to forgive, but easy to give. He plans to give more of himself and his time to selected individuals. Rugged senses that unselfish love may be an antidote for his usual antipathetic feelings. He needs to give quality love and receive it.
With children, Rugged can love without any added complexity of adult concerns in a relationship. Actualizing love with children is much less risky and allows Rugged to express his child-like essences safely. Childless, Rugged sought an opportunity to develop healthy love relationships with a few children.
Rugged's needs neared fulfillment as he, Sinthrice, and Otherchirps gradually became friends through fateful sequences of events. Sinthrice and Otherchirps became two of the special ones with whom he wanted to share his love.
Rugged's 50th birthday, March 6, 1992, rolls around on schedule. He has several loved ones whose birthdays are in the first and second week of March, and he wants to share birthday cheer with all of them. Tonight he takes them to dinner to celebrate as a group.
Just like tonight, each year Rugged takes Sinthrice out for dinner on her birthday. They have splendid conversations. They appear to share a mind-link unique to them.
Otherchirps' is piscine too. His birthday status automatically placed him on the elite list for tonight's birthday party. Rugged invited him to join in the fun at our birthday celebration. Including Sinthrice, Otherchirps, and others, we went to a good restaurant, and had a delightful evening.
Sitting side-by-side, Otherchirps tried to talk with Sinthrice, but his stuttering and the loud din made talk difficult. His face flushed a feel of red at his self-perceived verbal ineptness. In spite of his embarrassment, he and Sinthrice got along very well, and Sinthrice's patience with Otherchirps impressed Rugged. He could also see that Otherchirps wanted to know Sinthrice better. It was obvious Otherchirps wanted an opportunity to let her see his intelligent, good side.
After the party, Rugged asked Otherchirps what he thought. Otherchirps could only talk about one subject Sinthrice. Since then he asks about her and tells Rugged that he thinks he sees her on another school bus on his way to school.
Rugged talked with Sinthrice about Otherchirps. He asked her what she thinks of him. Sinthrice likes Otherchirps. Rugged asked if Otherchirps' stuttering bothers her. She said it didn't. Rugged explained how Otherchirps' classmates treat him badly. Sinthrice thinks that is horrible, but she thinks his name is so adorable. She wants to know if Rugged thinks her new friend would mind if she called him 'Tweeter' affectionately.
Rugged arranged for Sinthrice and Tweeter to meet with him and spend a Saturday morning together.
Before the meeting, Rugged imagined the event. Would they get along OK? Would Tweeter's stuttering impede his potential relationship with Sinthrice? Would Sinthrice's patience survive his impairment? A few sentences at a dinner party are relatively easy. Three hours of dyadic conversation might be harder. Could they handle it?
Rugged picked both of them up early that Saturday morning, and they went to Bob Evans for breakfast. The conversation was a little slow at first, but Tweeter tried to overcome the initial discomfort by being more aggressive. He showed Sinthrice his baseball cards.
Rugged wanted them to do all the talking so he could watch. Breakfast went well. For Rugged, this first adventure of the Pisces Three (March 4, 5, and 6) was more of a human assay than anything else. His high hopes preferred an idyllic result. After breakfast, he wanted to keep the conversation going. To keep physical activity at a high level, Rugged took them to his favorite walking place.
Sinthrice and Tweeter talked as our Pisces Three wended toward Leo's Hursh Road bridge. Tweeter was telling Sinthrice how he saw her riding a bus to school. Sinthrice was saying she thought she saw him a time or two, too.
Rugged's favorite, aged Hursh Road bridge has been out of order for several years. Its foundations have crumbled. Only pedestrian traffic can get through its barriers. With Hursh Road bridge closed, surrounding plant life encroaches Hursh Road bridge's span and approaches on both sides for at least half a mile. Surrounded by lush greenery, one can walk the road, but feel immersed in a local, traffic-free wilderness.
Rugged walked this favorite path so often he knew most of its trees, flowers, shrubs and vines along the way. He ate mulberries and raspberries, fresh, in early summer. He devoured bitter-sweet wild grapes in late summer. He savored the sweet goodness of weathered rose hips, full of their natural vitamin C, in fall and winter.
When their conversation slowed, lucky timing placed us near one of Rugged's favorite plants: a Sassafras tree. Rugged pointed out several uniquenesses of a Sassafras tree's leaves. He showed Tweeter and Sinthrice how a Sassafras tree grows three different shapes of leaf on the same tree. One shape looks like a regular leaf. The second shape looks like a mitten, with a thumb to one (either) side of the main mitt. The third shape has two thumbs, one on each side of the main mitt. Awed, they wanted to know how three different shapes of leaves could grow on one tree.
The most interesting attribute of a Sassafras tree Rugged saved for last. He told them how the roots of the young Sassafras make the most wonderful tea in the whole world. Rugged considers Sassafras tea nectar of gods.
Rugged chose a small sapling and used his hunting knife to loosen soil at its base. He pulled and jiggled the tree to expose most of its roots. He repeated the process until he could cut the tree and its root system free from the soil. Then he slivered a small piece of root for each of them and had them smell the wood. Both Sinthrice and Tweeter squealed in delight and discovery at such a wonderful tree growing beside Hursh Road.
Rugged told them that most discoveries in life are like the Sassafras tree: wondrous to fathom but only if one seeks to find them.
Rugged cut the plant's root system into small pieces and stored them in a leather pouch which was tied to his waist rope. Finally, all of the roots were cut and stored away. The Pisces Three headed back home.
At home, Rugged started a big pan of water heating on the kitchen stove. When the water boiled, he showed his companions about how many root pieces to put in the water. They watched intently as Rugged dropped about twenty small pieces of root in a gallon of boiling water. Each piece seemed to singe on touching the water. The pieces bled a mercurochrome tinge into the hot water. The cerise wafts spread rapidly in the chaotic turmoil of the boiling liquid. The Pisces Three tranced at the red patterns spreading mysteriously into the hot depths.
After twenty anxious minutes, Rugged added a half cup of honey and emitted the awaited signal, "The nectar of gods is ready."
He used a Pyrex cup to dip a share of the incomparable liquid into each of their cups. Tweeter and Sinthrice glowed in anticipation. They smelled the vapors of this unrivaled potion. Nothing they knew before this even came close.
Then they tasted the brew. "Wow, Rugged you are right, this is wonderful. I have never tasted anything like this before," Sinthrice said.
Tweeter agreed. These three free spirits enjoyed nature's finest concoction and returned for seconds. Rugged glowed in his deepest pleasure.
For the next several months our threesome experienced many happy Saturday mornings together. Rugged's vision of Tweeter and Sinthrice gaining affection for one another bore fruit. Each eagerly awaited their next monthly excursion into a Piscean unknown.
With adults, and sometimes alone, Rugged likes to party hearty. Usually, he has two Dewar's-ice before dinner each evening. Rarely, he binges. His binges only come when he feels worst about himself and people around him. Rugged just doesn't feel harmonious with his peers. Few of his friends enjoy discussing subject matter that most interests him. Worse, his strong personality turns most uninitiated off. Rugged makes enemies easier than friends.
Then, concomitant that self-measuring denigration, ultimate downer...
Sinthrice made her announcement: she told Rugged she had found her new love. He is captain of the football team at school. She told Rugged that she had performed their ritual with him and washed his hands! The knife tore at Rugged's chest. He felt the anguish. His face contorted in psychopathic anger. He felt the pain and hell of searing, tearing steel against his heart. He felt the gush as his love spilled on the ground, lost forever. He had to get far away from Sinthrice, his lost love.
Time has arrived for absolute termination.
Since before he got his racing bike he always wanted a Porsche. Earlier, that morning, he got a loaner from the local dealer. He planned to decide the next day if he wanted it or not. This Porsche is the hottest model available. With a twin turbo it will blow anything except an Indy car off the road.
Rugged decided to see what 200+ mph would be like on Interstate-69. He went out and started the car. He screamed the machine out of the driveway and made the Interstate-69 entrance ramp in record time. It was 02:00 a.m.
The car went through its gears smoothly. That early in the morning, the superhighway was empty, except semi trucks. Rugged watched the speedometer: 80, 90, ---, 140. At 140 the used-to-be little ripples in the road became like a washboard. The curves were too tight and barely maneuverable. Under Rugged's hell-bent mandate the car accelerated: 160, 180, ---, 200.
At 75 the curve would have been no problem. At 200+, with Dewars daring, and the dip at the beginning of the curve, it was a recipe for disaster. The car, moving so fast that it could take flight, hit the dip, and transcended gravity.
The curve was under an overpass. The airborne vehicle rocketed into the main bridge support. It exploded with such force that the car disintegrated and the bridge support failed bringing the overpass down on top of the pulverized, flaming car.
Rugged died in microseconds. The explosion buried his shredded body under the collapsed overpass.
The flames lasted briefly, extinguished by the falling overpass and the attendant powder and debris.
All traffic in the north and south lanes of Interstate-69 stopped. No traffic could pass for the next two weeks while road crews removed the rubble. That night became known as the Interstate-69 nightmare.
Relatives and attendants delayed Rugged's funeral until they recovered some of his body to place in the casket. They found only small pieces among the debris. Finally, they held funeral services.
The incident surprised few when news got around. Friends knew Rugged was wild. He was wild in spirit and ideas. They knew he could commit an act like this. They just never really believed he would. He was too intelligent to do it. In spite of his difficulties with nominal humanity, he loved life and his adventures navigating its pitfalls.
Sinthrice knew about Rugged's demise before most did. Her father called Rugged's friends to tell them what happened.
His death shocked Sinthrice. She was in disbelief. She thought Rugged and she were forever. Death's ace stroke took her beloved Rugged. She cried and cried and cried. Rugged would not be there for her 21st birthday dinner. Rugged wouldn't be able to see how she listened to his words and believed what he told her: that she could become what she wanted.
Tweeter found out from Sinthrice. After she regained some composure, Sinthrice called Tweeter to tell him her very bad news. Tweeter knew something was dreadfully wrong. He had never heard Sinthrice like this before.
When he placed the phone back in its cradle, he realized his legs were shaking. He had to sit. Suddenly the tears welled. He knew what he had lost. Rugged was his friend and benefactor. Rugged had loved him when others couldn't and wouldn't. Rugged had told him how stuttering didn't matter. Rugged told him how your character inside counted the most, and how Tweeter could be anything he wanted if he made up his mind.
Now that Tweeter's stuttering is getting better and he and Sinthrice are close friends, he can't share that with Rugged.
At the grave site Sinthrice and Tweeter read their eulogies for those gathered:
"Rugged loved us so much. He cared for us. I know because he disciplined me when I was bad. He didn't want to hurt me, but more he didn't want me to hurt myself or others. He wanted me to live my life a good and better way. He wanted me to learn how to behave admirably and adapt to local conditions.
"I did. I feel good now.
"Rugged's concern for me made me want to be good for him. I wanted to prove to him that he should love me. We became very good friends.
"I know that he loves me. Rugged, I still love you.
"Rugged was my friend. He cared for me when others didn't. He helped me when others wouldn't. I miss Rugged.
"I will remember Rugged for the many times he helped me to learn new concepts and explore ideas. I will remember making Sassafras tea for the first time. It is the nectar of gods.
"Every time I look for a Sassafras tree along the road or in the woods I will think of Rugged. When I dig the roots I will remember how mystified I was when I saw him do it our first time.
"Rugged, I will toast your spirit whenever I drink Sassafras tea. I will celebrate your birthday with Sinthrice and our birthday friends each year.
Sinthrice and Tweeter told the gathered that they felt the need to perform Rugged's Sassafras ritual to smooth his journey into Nature's great immanence.
Tweeter lit the butane burner on the camp stove. He placed a large urn of water on the stove.
The gathered conversed while the water heated to near boiling. All discussed the strangeness of this adventure called life. The most observant and reflective concluded that "Life is..."
Soon the water was bubbling, almost with a new life of its own. It was time for the uninitiated to experience Rugged's "nectar of gods."
Sinthrice opened a leather pouch. She spilled its contents on a cloth she had spread upon the ground. Pieces of wood? Just pieces of wood? It looked like chopped roots! Sinthrice said, "Yes these are pieces of the root of a Sassafras tree. They come from a family of trees that Rugged showed Tweeter and me last year. These roots are Ruggeds essence of the 'nectar of gods.'" She placed several pieces of root in the boiling water and added a cup of tupelo honey. An ethereal scent wafted shared air. A clean, free scent. A scent of deliverance and divine acceptance.
Soon the hot tea was ready. All pressed near the source of the splendid smell, eager to partake of the nectar. Sinthrice and Tweeter ladled the brew, cup-by-cup to the gathered. Finally all had been served and Sinthrice and Tweeter raised their cups in tribute and reverence to Rugged. All followed and raised their cups in unison.
Sinthrice said, "Rugged, Sassafras is grand. Thank you for teaching us the blessing of the ritual of Sassafras. Thank you for drinking this nectar with us. Thank you for sharing your life and soul among us. We all love you, Rugged." And the gathered drank deeply of Rugged's "nectar of gods."