Saturday, November 26, 2011

No Failure to Launch

By Julie Rahm
My father graduated from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in physics. After joining the Navy, he was hired by the infamous Admiral Rickover to teach at the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in California. Admiral Rickover was the father of the Nuclear Navy and largely responsible for the nation’s nuclear power program. Admiral Rickover was hyperactive, political, blunt, confrontational, insulting and flamboyant. He was also a workaholic who, without regard for rank or position, was always demanding of himself and others. Moreover, Admiral Rickover had little tolerance for mediocrity, none for stupidity. “If a man is dumb," said a Chicago friend, "Rickover thinks he ought to be dead.”

My father confirms this assessment of Admiral Rickover. During my father’s employment interview at the Nuclear Power School, Admiral Rickover reviewed my father’s college transcripts and noticed my father had earned all “A”s and only one “B”. The one “B” caught the Admiral’s attention and he demanded to know if my father was lazy or stupid! Of course, neither is true. Admiral Rickover hired my father.

Later in life, my father was employed by NASA’s Space Program. He worked on the Space Shuttle main engines. People tease others about their intelligence naming them “rocket scientists”. However, my father truly is an actual rocket scientist. At my house, every Space Shuttle launch was a big deal. There was huge anticipation. It was imperative to launch the Space Shuttle on time. Any delay would be opportunity lost and millions of dollars wasted. My father understands the necessity of a timely launch. So, when I became of age to get “launched” I was well prepared. When I graduated from high school, I was getting launched out of the house, either to college or to my own self-supported life. No doubt about it. There was not going to be any parental welfare for me. I was not going to hang around the house while “I found myself”. And, once launched, I was not ever coming back. It was clear to me I had to choose my husband wisely. There would no returning home with my ex-husband’s children. I was raised to be a self-supporting independent woman.

My father’s tough love seems harsh both then and now. But, he understood what love is. Love is not dependency. Dependency in physically healthy adults is a manifestation of a mental illness or defect. Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. Dependency is not love. It is anti-love. Dependency has its genesis in a parental failure to love and it perpetuates failure. It nourishes infantilism rather than growth. Dependency works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. Ultimately, it destroys rather than builds relationships. And, it destroys rather than builds people. My thanks to Dr. M. Scott Peck whose book The Road Less Traveled enabled me to understand what my father knew all along. Visit my websites at and

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