I've written about my childhood numerous times. There were glorious wonders and terrors there, but there were also genuine horrors. I grew up in fear of my father, who was an abusive bully. I didn't realize it for a long time, but I am now convinced that instead of hiding from the fear, I embraced it. I made being afraid my strength and a lifelong pursuit.

When observing bad behavior I have often commented that the individuals must not have been raised well. But then I can't say I gained a lot of positive energy from my own household. I like to think I have good standards and that I have mostly behaved in honorable ways. That's because I was raised well. It just didn't happen to be by my own flesh and blood father.

Horror became my genre of choice, but in the beginning it was Science Fiction. My first favorite writer was Robert A. Heinlein. I read all of his books in a huge, breathless gulp when I was around twelve years old. I learned more from those books, and from Mr. Heinlein, than I ever learned from any other individual. Not only that, I had a lot of unbeatable entertainment in the bargain.

From Heinlein I learned that loving is the most noble endeavor. That loving someone is never wasted and how it always pays off. Even if the one I loved had no appreciation for it.

I learned about duty. How critical it is to always give my best. I knew from the start that my efforts would be largely unappreciated and unthanked. It hurts, but the point of it all is not to be rewarded but to give forth my best because that is what a decent person does.

I learned much the same about honor. I knew that I was likely to be surrounded by dishonorable people who have little concern for honesty or accountability. Again, it matters not. My own behavior is the only thing I have any control over.

I also knew of my own fallibility. I would make mistakes. Gross mistakes in some instances. I learned to accept it and to do my utmost to not repeat the mistakes, but also to make amends as best I can when it happens.

I learned about equality. In Heinlein's world women were the equal of men. Perhaps they were even superior. Women's roles in society were subservient when he wrote his best works. The women in his stories were usually shrewd enough to get what they wanted by allowing vacuous men believe that they had the upper hand.

I learned to pay my own way through life and not to expect any help. To distrust any notion of a handout. TANSTAFL--There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Heinlein's juvenile fiction made the biggest impression upon me. His stated intent was to help create military officers and engineers with the books. I may not have achieved those things, but I have held my own. I work for the Navy as a toolmaker and every day is a challenge. Challenges in the work itself, and challenges in dealing with my fellow human beings. I still keep the words of Robert A. Heinlein in my heart as a guide to help me.

Heinlein is long gone but I honor his memory. No one has given me more wisdom and practical advice than he did.

Written by Mark Sieber

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