Friday, February 26, 2010

It was the summer I turned 18 and other random ramblings...

While talking with friends the other day, the question arose, "If you could time travel would you go back to high school?"

I thought for a moment on how to delicately answer the question without offending anyone.

Hmmm....How. To. Answer. The. Question.....Hmmm....Fuck no! Not for a second. Are you bat shit crazy? I would rather give up my cozy, attached, two car garage on the coldest of winter days than have to go back to my high school days. (Maybe I should check with Dunnski before I offer up our garage...*snicker*)

It wasn't that I was tortured by anyone or anything. My teen years were just an odd time of feeling like I didn't fit in. Being the oldest of three children, I always looked and acted older than I was. I always felt like I wasn't taken seriously by those older than me, only because I was younger. Not because I was irresponsible, I didn't smoke, drink, do drugs, steal. It always frustrated me that I could be so responsible and still be treated like someone who was 'just another flakey teenager' when I felt like I had so much more to offer. I can still remember thinking on so many occasions that I could not wait until I was older and would be taken seriously.

Oh well, I digress. Just wanted to give you a little hint as to why I would never want to go back to those days, and tell you about the summer I turned 18.

To give you a little background, my Dad worked for International Harvester from the time after he was discharged from the Marines after the Vietnam War until 1981. It was then my dad was told if he wanted to keep his job at IH, we would have to move to Springfield OH, his job, along with countless others, were being transferred. The prior year, the UAW had just ended a 172 day strike against IH which left the company financially unstable. The future did not look good. There was no guarantee if we did move to OH that the same thing wouldn't happen again to the Springfield plant. Even though my dad knew moving would be a very big risk for a company already in financial trouble, we took a weekend trip to Springfield OH the fall of 1981, just to see if we would like the area. Needless to say, since I am still in the Louisville area today, I guess you know the rest of the story.

IH paid very well for the 1970's. So, my mother could stay home with me and my brothers. After IH closed in Louisville, my Dad started working with a fire restoration business a friend of his owned. They would go in to peoples homes or a business after a fire or flood and clean carpets, walls, ducts, ceilings, etc. My dad can still clean stains like nobody's business! He learned some pretty neat tricks of the trade at that job. My mom was lucky enough to get a job in the school system so she could still be home with us during non-school hours. During this time, I could tell (or I thought I could tell) my parents were not making as much money together as my dad was making at IH. My parents are awesome and they never talked to us about money. They never made us feel like we didn't have money. We always had clothes to wear and the cabinets and the refrigerator were always full of food. We would go grocery shopping every week and when we come home mom would line up the big tall brown paper grocery bags up and down the kitchen floor to unload them. This gave me comfort. If we had food in the house, everything would be OK. I have carried this feeling with me until today. Lots of food in our house = comfort to me. If I can show my children they have plenty of food and can eat anytime they are hungry....everything will be OK.

It was in 1988, the year I turned 18, when Dad got the news that he had been hired by Toyota. This was wonderful news...except he was hired as a Team Leader and he would have to travel to Japan for one month to train. The month he was to be in Japan was May of 1988...the month I would turn 18 and graduate from high school. This was really hard for me, we have a small family and we always did things together. I knew he had to go and it was really hard for him to leave, but this was an awesome opportunity for our family. I still remember the Saturday morning we all piled into the car to drive him to the new Georgetown plant to get on a bus to the airport. It was the saddest goodbye I have ever endured. I had never been away from my dad, especially knowing he would miss my birthday and graduation.

When Dad returned from Japan, plans were made for us to take a family trip to Disney. A sort of last family trip since we were all getting older. We left for Orlando on a Saturday morning and not long after we passed the FL state line my dad saw a billboard advertising 'free Disney tickets' from one of those resort places that give away free tickets if you listen to their two hour talk about timeshares. So....we stopped. My brothers and I sat in the back of this convention room at a hotel in these chairs that were lined up against a wall while the 'talk' went on. I remember afterward each family was taken to a separate table and the haggling began. This guy kept trying to get my dad to understand how wonderful it would be to have a place to take his family to each year. My dad just kept trying to get this dude to understand he only stopped for the free tickets and he WAS NOT buying anything. This went back and forth for what seemed like hours. I don't remember anything else, other than we got the tickets and got the heck out of that miserable place and my dad promised us he would never make us endure that kind of hell again.

On our first day at Disney all I can remember is it was hot, hot and hot. Oh, and it was crowded. But, when you visit the happiest place on earth in the middle of July what do you expect? My brothers were the only ones who really liked riding the big rides, so there was a lot of standing in lines for very little joy. On our second day, we visited The Epcot Center. The only memory I have of this day is the ride we took in the big Epcot Ball. I remember before the ride started we were told NOT TO STAND UP and as soon as the ride started this lady stood up and screamed "GET ME OFF OF THIS THING IT'S DARK IN THERE!" The ride halted to a stop and the crazy lady had to be removed from the ride before it even got started. The only other thing I remember is Walter Conkrite narrated the ride. Other than that....the whole day is blur. Oh, and my mom likes to remind me that I said to her while I was having a heat stroke, "If this is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, why is no one smiling?"

The next day we traveled to Cocoa Beach to visit the Kennedy Space Center and to relax a little at a beach. The beach was covered with nasty sea weed and the water cold, but the KSC was totally awesome. Later that day my dad fell ill with a stomach virus. He stayed in the room and did what you do when you have a stomach virus while the rest of us went out for dinner. The next day, my dad was feeling better so we decided to head home. On the LONG drive home my brother, who was 14 at the time, also gets a stomach virus. All the way home, in the back of a Ford Taurus, my poor brother is laying across my 10 year old brother and my laps throwing up in garbage bags. To this day, I still can't get in the back seat of a Ford Taurus. When we pulled into our driveway, I fell out of the car into our yard and kissed our grass...I had never been so glad to be home. I'm pretty sure my sick brother felt the same way too.

A couple of weeks after we returned from our Disney trip, my mother had not been able to get a hold of her mother, my mam-maw, by telephone. So, we got in the car and drove the 5 minute drive to her house after dinner that night. When we arrived, both of the screen doors were locked and her car was in the driveway. We started to panic. I am thinking maybe she fell down the basement stairs and broke her hip and she just can't get to the phone. As we are banging on the door and windows, her little dog runs to the window and moved the curtains. When she did this, I could see my Mam-ma laying on her living room couch. She looked like she was asleep, but I knew she couldn't just be asleep after all the noise we had been making. My mom broke out a window, told me stay on the porch and went in the house. A horrific scene ensued. A daughter finding her mother dead. The authorities came and it was later determined she had passed sometime in the early morning hours the day before of natural causes.

So, you now know part of the reason I am the way I am....and this was only ONE summer of my youth. Well....sorta.


Louise said...

That's a pretty tough time you went through, especially when you were feeling so vulnerable in yourself. I can see how you would never want to go back. The High School Years aren't all they're cracked up to be! Middle Age is way more fun!

hummer said...

High School in my estimation is way over rated. My daughter and I were having this discussion just a week ago. She said no way she would go back to hell. As you can tell we have a measure of empathy with you. I have a feeling I can somewhat empathize with you about your mother too. I was sixteen when my grandmother died and they opened the casket at the grave site. They had to pry my mother out of the casket. I have never like funerals since. So glad life goes on and it is what we make of it.
Thanks for sharing, sorry so much happened to you in such a short time. Hard to adjust that way.