I came of age in the turbulent decade of the sixties and attended college from 1969 through 1972. During that time, I was exposed to a variety of then innovative social ideas. One that had a significant impact on me was the idea suggested in the groundbreaking work, What You Are Is Where You Were When, by Dr. Morris Massey. He suggested that all of us are a product of where we were and when we were there.
From the age of eight to thirteen, the “Imprint Period” as Dr. Massey defined, mine was a turbulent world. America went from Camelot when I was ten to the Watts riots by the time I had outgrown that stage of my life. At the age of twelve, Vietnam took on the characteristics of a real war, even if, as a nation, we elected to treat it as something else. At the age of thirteen, like most of my fellow students in a small rural Tennessee community, I applauded when the school loudspeaker blared that Negros ( a term no longer in use - replaced by African-Americans) would soon attend the same school as white students. For many communities, however, that applause was short lived.
But throughout this confusion and instability, there was a constant. That constant was my father. Many different adages describe the impact of a parent on a child. For my father and me, the most appropriate adage is etched on a picture frame I gave to him many years ago. “Like father like son.” The frame holds a summertime picture that shows Dad and me, similarly dressed, assuming very nearly the same posture, looking very much alike.
While looks can be deceiving, the picture was a true reflection, the adage a true description of him and me. Much of who and what I am, especially my view of the world, was shaped by my father. Dad instilled in me the core beliefs and principals I now hold. He raised me, the youngest of three siblings, as a single parent after my parents divorced. As a young boy I did not understand that he was an anomaly but I have not met or even heard of anyone of my generation who, like my brother, sister and me, was raised by a divorced single father.
For his demographic profile he was uncharacteristically conservative, politically and economically, possessing neither a high school diploma nor occupying a high paying job. He was a man of faith with little formal religious interest. Despite being divorced, somewhat a rarity in 1955, he held strongly to core family values. We lived in Lawrenceburg, a small town in south central Tennessee, where Dad worked as a Master Journeyman tool and die maker at Murray Manufacturing.
Like my father, I also hold conservative economic and political views yet my social views place me well left of center.
I attended Tennessee Technological University and received a B.S. in 1972. Despite my early interest in politics, I enrolled in Electrical Engineering. I was advised by almost every adult interested in my future that “politics was too dirty.” Despite those early warnings, in my junior year I pursued my interest in politics and switched majors to Political Science. Upon graduation, I received a commission as an infantry second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
In 1981, on a matter of personal principal, I resigned my commission. I briefly toyed with the possibility of running for Congress and assembled a campaign advisory group. After several months, I elected to forego that option due to the redistricting plan developed for Tennessee. Now out of politics, I joined the business world.
I moved to Rochester NY in 1993, where I live with my wife, Lauren. Since that move, I have served as a financial controller for a small privately held company and have operated a private tax practice focused entirely on entrepreneurs and small businesses. I enjoy assisting these hard working, self-reliant individuals in whom I see the same work ethic, love of family and free spirit that I saw in Dad, traits that I also value.
When not frustrated by the inconsistencies and inequities of the Internal Revenue Code, I enjoy spending time with my wife in our garden, golfing with friends or playing duplicate bridge. My wife and I are blessed with six children from two marriages, and five (soon to be six) beautiful grandchildren.
I could not close this brief narrative without commenting on the one truly tragic event in my life. In June of 2000, Lauren and I lost our daughter, Melissa Sengbusch, to Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the young age of nineteen. In the ensuing years, we have met dozens of other parents who have also lost a child to this terrible disease called cancer. And there are hundreds of others in this unfortunate, select club.
In our first bereavement group meeting, another father said, “If you've been there, nothing need be said. If you haven’t nothing can be said.” Isn't that a truly profound statement about all extraordinary, powerful life changing events?