When he was a bit younger than I am now, my father decided to write his autobiography. He had recently watched Alex Haley's Television program ROOTS, and had a desire to explore his own roots--and the consequences they led to. At first, we thought the title he gave his book--a play on the title of a popular radio and television program of the mid-twentieth century, TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES--was a bit much. But now it seems just right somehow.
And now you can see it on the cover of Charles Henry Walker's newly published autobiography, ROOTS AND CONSEQUENCES. When Donald Trump was so shockingly "elected" last November, I made a commitment to my own protest project. I would devote the next months to transcribing and preparing for publication my Dad's book--so that a good, honorable and brave man's life might be honored, even as a dishonorable, cowardly and cruel man assumed the presidency. When I began, I had no idea how healing it would be for me, to retype every word of my Dad's book, to enter deeply into dialogue with him and live his life story from his point of view, rather than my own, which had usually been that of the rebellious, and often unappreciative daughter. Here was the story of his painful childhood, of his enduring bravely a harsh and exploitative stepfather, of his growing up in poverty in North Carolina, and yet doing well in school, becoming an Eagle Scout, finding work to help support his mother. And what a voyage it was to accompany him on his accidental career in the Navy--enlisting only because his mother wanted him to look out for his younger brother who was keen on enlisting--and then discovering a stable, meaningful, appreciative institution where he had every opportunity to grow, to become educated, to enjoy taking on new responsibilities, to advance in rank. I was always proud of his being in the Navy, and never lost a feeling of romance about ships and the sea. I lways treasured the stories he used to tell me about his enjoyment of being on duty for the midnight watch, of watching dolphins and flying fish as his ship made its way through the Pacific. But now I could experience them anew, as if from his own eyes, and could take real delight in what the Navy meant to him--and also what his family meant to him.
So my small gesture of protest became, for me, also one of healing. In all those months of transcribing and preparing his book, I had little time for any new writing of my own. But this project, which I soon shared with my beloved brother Stan, was a joy to us both-and I'm so proud and happy that now the book is available to Charles Walker's great-grandchildren and as many distant cousins or aficionados of Navy history as might want to look at it. I think it's a beautiful book too, with that happy, handsome young sailor on the cover, and a multitude of photos within--thanks to the formatting expertise of Christine McNaull, whose work I recommend heartily.
Dad dedicated his book, "for my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, a small contribution to your family history, with no apologies, and to my wife Helen Corinne Reynolds Walker for encouraging me to write this book and for making constructive suggestions." The wry "with no apologies" made me smile--and also helped me to know to do no editing. His book was what it was, with no apologies! And the dedication to my mom made me smile too--for it is so reserved and unromantic, and yet inside the book he tells in most romantic terms how much he adored her. What didn't make it into the book is how much he loved to sing "Some Enchanted Evening," in honor of how they met at a dance, years before that song was written.