Thursday, January 31, 2008


By James O. Born

I’ve talked about TV and books influencing me to make different choices in my life but in fact, if I had to really consider things, I’d admit that my father was far and away my biggest influence. A decent, reasonable man who was in the Pacific during World War II, was a champion swimmer and attended the University of Miami on a swimming scholarship, my dad valued simple things. He was raised at a time when service and duty were valued by society and I’ve found, despite my best efforts, that I hold these same things dear.

My father never saw combat, he drew bomb charts and suffered many of the same hardships that Marines and soldiers suffered in the pacific theater; illness, mal-nutrition and tropical ailments from rashes to massive insect bites. Not once during my childhood did I ever hear him complain about his service to his country. To this day I often form my assessment of people based on how they complain. Not about the shape of the world but about their lot in life. That sentiment can be traced back directly to my father’s calm, stoic manner.

Occasionally I’ll hear someone say to a cop, “Wouldn’t you rather make some money than go through this shit everyday?” The cop may agree or may not out loud, but the fact is that most decent cops that I know could be a success at any job they chose. Many of the jobs in finance or other private industry would be easy by comparison and offer much greater financial reward but most men and women who enter public safety do it for reasons other than money. Reasons that I think serve them better as they get older. Not only in decent retirement packages but in the knowledge that they did something that helped society.

My generation had no great threat that pushed them into the military, I never worried about the Vietnamese or Iraqis taking over Florida. I had to find my sense of service another way. I also recognize that everyone has their own way of contributing to the nation’s well-being, from feeding the homeless to nursing the sick.

Regardless of how we choose to give back, it is our early influences that guide us. It is a rare day I spend on duty when I don’t think about my dad, his easy-going personality and the things he held dear.

Who influenced you?


  1. My father was my greatest influence as well.

    He and Lenny Bruce.

    My father taught me to keep my word, to work hard, to honor my obligation to my country, to expect the best from people (I'm still working on that) and to try and if you fail, try again.

    Lenny Bruce taught me how to say motherfucker.

  2. My dad taught me how to tie shoelaces. He would sit in his overstuffed chair and patiently watch as I tied and untied the laces on his own shoes. He also taught me how to count my change. He'd put prices on things in our living room and then make me "buy" them with a dollar bill he gave me. Sometimes he'd give me the wrong change just to see if I was paying attention. He played catch with me in the front yard and taught me how to mow the lawn...not exactly altruistic but still a useful skill.

  3. Cool idea for a post - a great deal of my influences bizarrely comes from me swearing never to be like the people around me. When it comes to positive influence, I can't go past my wife Roanne. I was a totally self-centred, self-destructive train wreck before I met her, and didn't care. I guess she gave me something to care about.

    Now I'm the most awesome person on earth.

  4. In that respect, I'd say my parents and my brother, probably.

    My father (who also served in the Pacific during WWII, on the U.S.S. Shangri-Law) was a semi-pro photographer and if I get anything from him, it was you sit down and do the work.

    My mother was the book lover and we never saw her without a book in her hand or nearby.

    My brother is a musician and he's always seemed so confident in his art and just assured that if that's what you want to do, you'll find a way.

  5. I would have to say that both of my parents were the best influence in my life. My dad had a debilitating illness that slowly robbed him of his phsical abilties staring when I was in third grade. He died when I was a junior in college. He never gave up or complained.What I remember most is that he was grateful that he still maintained his mental abilites.I remember him saying that it could always be worse. He showed me that it is not weakness to accept help from others when needed. He never seemed to be embassassed or ashamed by how either I or my mom had to help him. Not many men would be able to handle having their teenage daughter lift them on and off the toilet.

    My mother's mental strength was amazing. She also was an inspiration. I credit her for my love of reading. She was going to college to become a teacher and was unhappy with my poor reading ability. I remember that she took me to the library daily one summer and checked out at least 10 easy books a day that I could read.I clearly remember how proud I was of myself. That was the summer that the library was having a contest to see who could read the most books. I remember the argument that my mother got into with the librarian when she didn't want to count the books that I had read because according to her I had read "baby books." My mother angry was a sight to behold!

    I miss both of them very much and appriciate the childhood that I was given.

  6. I knew others felt the same as me, although it bothers me a little that Terrinore says the same thing.

    Gayle, you have a great outlook.


  7. Jim, years ago when I was going through a box of stuff from my grandparents' house, I found a pair of bombing maps of the Pacific theater in WWII. I got them framed for my husband's office, as he was head of sales in Asia at that point.

    Wouldn't it be bizarre if your dad drew them? The map part is printed (like a blueprint), but the flight radii from different Asian cities is drawn by hand.

    I'll have to show them to you someday, though they're a bit big to drag to Bouchercon.

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  9. I never knew my great grandmother savethe stories my Dad told about her: On her dining room wall was a picture of the virgin mary, Frank Sinatra to the right, Jo Dimaggio to the left. She took care of my Dad while my grandparents worked; different times. I happily inherit her philosophy: Values come first, music--the muse sit at morality's right hand and pop-culture (baseball, the community) to the left. Thanks grandma Jenny.