I remember thinking when my oldest son turned 10, in the same amount of time he will be a man. The decade between 10 and 20 holds so many changes, and I was no exception to the rule.
Not only was I dealing with the loss of my mother but by 12 my period started and my emotions were all over the board. I was either completely lost in thought or crying.
Puberty can be hell for so many of us and my personal experience was compounded by loss and sorrow. Worst of all, about the only thing I knew about having a period was I had to use those giant pads from the 1960’s my mom had used.
My saving grace was my wonderful 27-year-old sister, Linda. She took me under her wing and made sure I knew how to take care of myself in the modern world of 1971.
I left 6th grade a little girl and entered 7th grade a completely different person. All of a sudden I had breasts and I was tall and awkward and my brain hadn’t caught up with my body.
I loved school because it was an escape from that house. My father pretty much crumbled after Mom’s death and in 1971 had a near fatal condition that left him a shell of the man he used to be.
High school was the only place I could escape the pain and sorrow that filled our little farmhouse. I managed to graduate with good grades; but honestly, I don’t have a lot of memories from that time.
I see classmates on Facebook saying, “Remember when Mr. Fill-in-the-blank made us all do something-I-don’t-remember,” and I just wish I could recall those years better.
What I do recall is my Dad deciding to sell the home we grew up in, pack three of my brothers and me into a car and drive across the country to go live in Salem, Oregon.
It was 1974 and the big gas shortage was in full swing.
I remember being in long lines in the car, for hours sometimes, waiting for our turn to get gas. My father picked Oregon because that is where my older brother, Bill and his family lived.
Perhaps Dad needed to be around his adult children so he could be cared for instead of caring for those of us still at home.
I was in the ninth grade and everything felt wrong. I hated the school I was in, I was fighting with my father, and I had no friends except my brother Johnny and my brother, Bill’s daughters who were close to my age.
All I wanted was to go home to Michigan.
Part way through the school year I made it back to Michigan thanks again to my sister, Linda. I ended up leaving home when I was 15, getting married when I was 16 and getting a divorce and leaving Michigan for good when I was 18.
Ironically, I ended up going back to Oregon but not without going through some crazy, scary moments. By the time I arrived in Bend, I was just shy of 19, completely exhausted and wondering how in the world I was going to survive there on my own.
Somehow I found my way, and the next ten years would be filled with wonderment, love, devotion and yes, some hard times too.
What I learned: I am more than just a survivor.