It is apparent that I was cut out to be a mechanical engineer. Very early in life I found mechanical objects the most fascinating things in the world, and was adept at figuring them out. I looked at everything with an engineer's eye. When they told me, at age five or so, my paternal grandfather was chief engineer at MacNeil Memorial Hospital in Berwyn, IL, I thought he was a graduate of a college of engineering, or something like that. I was very impressed. Unfortunately, he was only the building superintendent. This misunderstanding may be the root of everything that went wrong in my life. They thought I wouldn't know the difference between an engineer and a super. They were wrong. They tried to pawn my grandfather off on me as an engineer. As time went on and I saw what he did for a living reflected in people's remarks, it was apparent he was only a super. But while this realistic impression was forming and I still thought he was an engineer, I apparently decided engineering was a worthy occupation and I devoted myself to learning about the world through that perspective. The family had no idea what was going on. They thought I was a budding scientist. They wouldn't have known the difference between a scientist's mind and an engineer's mind if you paid them to guess. It's obvious they were trying to cultivate my grandfather's social position. I really doubt that his formal title was chief engineer, though I don't know. If it was, then the hospital can be considered overly protective of its mechanical staff. An engineering society would probably look askance at formally calling a building superintendent an engineer. Engineers are schooled and get degrees in engineering--college degrees. Building superintendents work their way up through various trades learning about mechanical systems from an operational viewpoint. The two are very different and deserve different social statuses. My interest in engineering was the result of a fraud, one might say.
Considering how disastrous my life has turned out, and that over more than half of it, I would consider the fraud a greater call to attention than anything positive that I might have going presently.
The family's desire to build up its members in society's view was basically a fraud. All my young life, doing well in school, was highlighted by the family building it up into an unrealistic mark of distinction. There was no correspondence, point by point, between my achievements and family recognition. It was all smoke and mirrors, taking advantage of what good I did do to build up the family's notion of its own grandeur, without care or concern for the realities of the directions I was taking.