The Place by Jerry McGowan - HTML preview

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Chapter Two: Being Different

It’s not the destination, but the journey!

September, 1963

One rarely forgets experiences like the one I had with Bob, especially since it had such an impact on my life. I thought about it quite a bit as I grew older and found myself comparing it to other times and other experiences, but none ever came close to what happened that day on the lake. It wouldn’t be long before my childhood would be replaced with the onset of adolescence, but I knew I would never be able to let go of the voice. I was vigilant about keeping my mind open to the possibilities of hearing it again, but as time passed, I became caught up in the fantasies of a young boy once again.

Life was perfect for two small boys growing up in a little town outside of Boston. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood, where all the experiences one could ever want lay at our doorsteps. There were so many things to do, and I remember each and every one of them as if it was yesterday.

Summers provided us with ideas and experiences that would last a lifetime, but Bob and I always looked forward to having winter fun together. Sledding down the hill across the street from home was something that never grew old. It was even more exciting when we walked the mile and a half to a nearby golf course and made runs down hills we still talk about today.

There was one day in particular that keeps coming to mind. We were with our friends from the neighborhood. Instead of using sleds, we chose to ride as a group on Bob’s new toboggan, a gift from Santa that Christmas. We lugged it up from the cellar, and everyone stood around and stared at the masterpiece in wood and vinyl—each with our own vision of the excitement that awaited us all. It was as sleek a toboggan as we had ever seen. The wooden slats were covered with a blue vinyl cushion, and the curve in the front looked just like the one on the front of Santa’s sleigh, only smaller. It had just enough room for five: Bob and me, Charlie and Tommy, and Randy (my best friend who lived next door).

We were all very excited. It had rained the night before, so everything was frozen. Try as we did, we couldn’t imagine the speeds we would reach going down the big hill in the middle of a course. After trudging along the snowy sidewalk for what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at the end of our quest. There wasn’t another person there. We had the whole hill to ourselves! We raced to the steepest run, where everyone took part in lining up the toboggan just right, ensuring the fastest ride. We were strategically positioned on the left side of the hill. There were three trees that separated one hill from another near the bottom, and I quickly took note to stay away from them.

We jumped on the toboggan and strategically positioned ourselves to get the most out of the experience. Being the tallest, I had the rear seat. I pushed the vehicle to get it moving and then jumped on board with the rest of the gang. Our eyes quickly filled with tears as our speed grew faster and faster. We held on to one another like there was no tomorrow! I put my feet out in an effort to help steer and quickly realized we had no control on the ice. We were drifting toward the right side of the hill, directly in line with the trees at the bottom. Yet we were laughing and shouting so hard that nothing else seemed to matter.

We had reached lightning speed and continued the ride for what seemed like hours, but in reality it took no more than a few minutes. As we neared the bottom, it became painfully clear that we were going to hit smack-dab in the middle of the first tree. I began dragging my hands and placed my feet on the ice in an attempt to slow us down, but it was no use. We hit the tree right in the middle of its trunk.

Bob was in the front, and he flew like a bird over the front of the toboggan, landing on the ground past the tree. He was fortunate to have missed it completely. Tommy and Charlie were next, and they followed very close to Bob’s flight plan. Randy simply slid to the front of the toboggan and raised his feet in front of him. They came to rest perfectly on the trunk of the tree.

As soon as I saw we were going to hit, I bailed out of the rear of the toboggan and slid on my back across the ice for twenty feet, ending up next to Randy. As we all rose from our various positions, Bob was the first to remark, “That was great! Let’s do it again!”

Everyone was laughing at what we felt was a one-in-a-million chance of hitting the tree. We were certain it could never happen again in a million years. We jumped up off the ice and slipped and slid all the way to the top of the hill.

“Let’s line it up more to the left so we don’t hit the tree again!” I said to the others. Everyone agreed it was a sound idea. We became like miniature architects, figuring out the best place to begin the run in order to avoid the same outcome.

“This looks great!” said Bob, anxious to get the next trip started. He jumped into the front seat, and everyone took up their positions behind him.

We were ready once again, more intent than ever to go faster than the last run. A new land speed record hung in the balance. I gave the group a push, and off we went. The thrill was more exciting than the first run because it appeared we were going even faster than I anticipated. I could hardly see as the wind made my eyes water. I couldn’t see anything, so I rubbed my face on the back of Randy’s coat. It didn’t do much good, but I was able to see that we were sliding toward the right side of the hill, in a direct line with the very same tree we hit on the previous run.

We were traveling so fast that no one dared to consider trying to stop the toboggan, out of fear of breaking a limb. I knew if we hit the tree it was not going to be fun. Fifty yards . . . forty yards . . . twenty yards. I knew what was going to happen. I tried to get free by sliding off the back of the sled, but this time we had the bright idea of holding on to one another’s legs to streamline the vehicle. Randy had my upper thigh and Charlie had my boots. I was trapped!

We hit that tree going so fast, the toboggan flew up in the air from the back. I was launched, along with Randy and Charlie, past the right side of the tree. We landed hard on top of one another, and I never thought we would live through the crash. Bob averted the tree once again and sailed clear past Charlie, Randy, and me. Tommy wasn’t so lucky. He was thrown clear over Bob’s head and landed face first into the tree.

We lay there for some time trying to figure out what happened, none of us believing we could hit the same tree twice in as many runs down the hill. As we began to move, I saw that Bob was okay, but he did seem a bit groggy. Poor Tommy got the worst of it. He was crying from the bruises on his face and the bloody nose he was sporting. The rest of us survived to tell the tale. We did our best to stop Tommy’s bloody nose by taking a wad of snow and placing it over his nose, but all it seemed to do was turn the snow red.

We decided enough was enough and began the long, cold walk home with our toboggan in tow. We must have been a sight to all the cars that drove past as we made our way down the sidewalk: a rag-tag group of five-, six-, and seven-year-olds whose courage had waned, admitting for the moment that the course had won the day.

There were so many other wonderful memories and just too many to count, as each day brought forth a flurry of ideas that would supply us for a lifetime. We built tree houses and swam in the mud flats. We fished in ponds and played all sorts of sports together. Each and every one of those experiences travel with me to this day. It was a wonderful childhood. I will always be grateful for the gift of my brother, Bob, for without him my life would not have been the same!

Time went by quickly, and before long I found myself in the seventh grade at a parochial school not far from home, two years from entering high school. During this time other new friends began inviting me to their houses to hang out. It was on one such day I decided to bring Bob along with me. We were growing apart, doing different things with different friends and engaged in activities that no longer brought us together as frequently as when we were children. Yet whenever the opportunity presented itself, we took advantage of it.

On that day I was invited to spend time with Jim. He was in my grade at school. After speaking with him on several occasions, he invited me to his house to meet some of his friends. (He lived near the center of town, about two miles from where we lived.) Bob was home from school, so I asked him if he wanted to join me. He jumped at the opportunity, so we hitched a ride and met Jim and his friends in his back yard, where they were playing hockey on the concrete.

Jim came over to us and slapped me on the back like we were old friends, telling me he was glad I came. He turned to Bob and asked, “Who’s this, your little brother?”

I said, “Yes, this is my brother, Bob!”

Before Bob had a chance to introduce himself to him, Jim turned to me and said, “Why did you bring him along?”

“I like to hang out with my brother,” I replied. “He’s my best friend!”

“Well, we don’t want him hanging out with us, so tell him to go home.”

Bob was a few years younger than the others in the group, but that had never made any difference to me. I turned to Bob and asked if he wanted to stay, and he said yes.

“He wants to hang out with us. What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“You mean he won’t go home?” asked Jim. “Then maybe you should punch him and make him go home.”

I was torn for a moment because I wanted to stay with my new friend, but not at the expense of my love for Bob. I turned to Jim and said, “I’ve known my brother my whole life, and as I told you before, he’s my best friend. I hardly know you, and I’ve never met your friends. Why would I want to ask him to leave when I’ve known him longer than all of you, and I love him as my brother?”

“Oh, so you don’t want to hang out with us—is that it?” he replied.

I looked into Bob’s eyes, then turned to Jim and said, “No, I guess I don’t. C’mon Bob, time to go!”

I placed my arm over Bob’s shoulder, and we walked the two miles back home. At that moment we were closer than we had been since the incident at the lake as kids.

“Bob,” I said, “I love you more than any friend, no matter who they are, and I’d rather hang out with you than anyone else in the world.”

Bob looked at me, clearly saddened by the event he had just been put through. With tears in his eyes, he said, “I love you too, Jer.” As we continued the walk home, I pulled him closer with each new step we took, realizing once again that I would never have a better friend in the whole world than Bob.

To this day neither one of us ever forgot that incident. It came up several times as we moved through life together, cementing a love between two brothers that would only grow stronger with time.

Not too long after that incident, I developed relationships with a whole new group of friends, and one was with a boy named Tom. He lived a couple of streets over from where I grew up, and I soon learned he played the drums. I’d been playing guitar for a few years, and although I wasn’t great, I could play along with most songs.

One day Tom and I got to talking and decided to form a band. At the time The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were all the rage, along with many other groups that marked the advent of the British Invasion. With all the new rock ‘n roll music emerging on the radio, it was easy for a couple of boys to have aspirations of their own.

We realized there were very few bands with just a guitar and drums, so we began to seek out other kids who played instruments and might like to join our group. The first we met was a boy named Chuck. He played lead guitar and was pretty good. The other was a boy named Joe, and he played the organ. We came together at Chuck’s house for the first time and started rehearsing in his basement.

In the beginning our music was somewhat difficult on the ears because timing and learning to follow one another was new to us all. Yet after a time we began to develop a sound of our own. We weren’t writing any music, but we became pretty competent at playing songs from the top twenty hits on the charts. After many months of practice, we grew excited about the prospects of playing gigs and making some money. We soon learned that was easier said than done. While we sought out opportunities to play, we continued to rehearse several times a week.

During that time we all joined a group called the Columbian Squires, an organization for young men that was an offshoot of the Knights of Columbus. It gave us a place to hang out after school and meet others our own age. This organization offered our first opportunity to get the band a gig. The Squires had dances every other Friday night and were always looking for bands. The group got together and asked them if we could play at one of these dances. They said yes, and we set the date for two weeks later. I’ll never forget that first time playing for money. The Squires paid two hundred and fifty dollars for a band to play at their dances, and we couldn’t believe there was that much money involved.

Chuck’s father helped us load our equipment into his work van and get set up for the gig. It started at eight o’clock, and we began to play as soon as the hall was filled. We opened the set with a Beach Boys hit and then went through song after song until it was time for our first break. As we made our way toward an outside balcony, kids were coming up to us to let us know how great we sounded. None of us knew how to react because we were so used to our own music that we simply took it for granted. We never expected any kind of response. (We quickly learned that being in a band had its perks, and girls were part of the benefits.)

That night was a great success, and we booked dances for the Squires throughout the year. There were a few bands they booked as well, but we had become their main band. We no longer had to work odd jobs to have pocket change.

We began to receive some mention in the local paper. As our name got around, we were invited to play at other dances. We became very busy, and since we were going to different schools, it was a challenge to set a time to rehearse that worked for everyone’s schedule. It required a renewed commitment to the group, which everyone was more than willing to make.

One of our best jobs came a year later, at the end of our eighth-grade year. It was the summer before we entered high school. Dances had become a great revenue source for the high schools, as well as a great place for everyone to see one another during the summer. We had been contacted by a large Catholic high school several towns away that had a reputation for the biggest dances in the area. Kids came from miles away to go to this particular dance, and the bands were often the best in the state. It wasn’t unusual for them to get more than fifteen hundred kids at their dances, and that meant a lot of money for the school—not to mention how excited we were by the prospect of playing before such a large audience. Up until that time, our largest audiences were about two hundred and fifty, so for us, this was the big time!

We were playing back-up band for a group called The Argonauts, a well-known band who had been around for a while. All of them in that band were great musicians. They played back-up band for such notable groups as The Animals, which had made the big time a year earlier with such hits as “The House of the Rising Sun,” among others. We were truly honored.

The night of the dance had arrived. When it came time for us to play, we started with a Beatles tune and went through a number of great songs, finishing up at the end of an hour. It was a very successful night for us, and we were so grateful about being accepted by so many people who had never heard us play before. It turned out to be the best time we ever had playing as a group together, and it was something we would never forget. We played almost every weekend that summer, and it was something we looked forward to. It never got old, and the music had become the glue that held our friendship together.

That fall I was off to a brand-new high school. It was an all-boy Catholic high school in the town next to mine, and we were the first class ever to attend. As freshmen, we would become the first sophomore class, until we became the first senior class. I was excited to discover what high school had to offer. As I did so, my childhood slowly faded into the background of my life. The experience at the lake had been replaced with all the distractions that come with being in high school for the first time. I would never forget the experience with Bob, but it was no longer prominent in my mind. Occasionally, I would find myself wanting to know more about the truth of what happened that day, but sadly, that would have to wait.

I would eventually learn that life wouldn’t happen according to my agenda because there were bigger things at work that I had no control over. Although deep down I still yearned to hear the voice once again, I had to learn to be patient, and high school was just the distraction I needed to make that happen.

Going to high school at an all-boy Catholic institution was nothing like I anticipated it would be. Gone were the simple days of childhood when you were able to do whatever you wanted, as long as you cleaned your room, ate your meals, and went to bed when you were told. Childhood, I came to realize, is the best part of being human—free and untainted.

I began to see high school as a time for nothing else but to have fun and experience life. The band was still going strong even though I was once again at a different school than the other band members attended. The only interruption to this utopian existence was my studies, or lack of them. Although there were now conditions to my life that went beyond my parents’ control, I made a commitment to myself early on that high school was a time to consciously spread my wings and fly.

My poor mother realized early on that high school would be no different for me than how school had always been. On several occasions I could hear her praying for my teachers because she knew there wasn’t a person on the planet with enough patience to get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. This was especially true as it pertained to my studies.

I was not a difficult child, but I had my own ideas about how life should be lived, and there was no dissuading me from that truth. I realized from a very early age that the easiest way for me to learn anything was to teach myself. I had been told about autodidactic learning by someone who mentioned they were home schooled, and it made a whole lot of sense to me. I enjoyed the whole process of self-discovery but loathed having to sit at a desk and be lectured to about all the things that didn’t interest me.

My teachers had a job to do, and I understood that. But more often than not, I found myself thinking about those things I would have preferred doing. I elected to approach my education with a minimalist attitude in the classroom: I did enough to get average grades and be promoted each year, but not a whole lot more than that. It seemed almost foolhardy to me—all those students who spent their time studying, leaving what little time that was left to do what they actually wanted to do. My way afforded me so much more time to do those things I was passionate about, while learning about life on my terms. This mindset was great for me, but it was not the kind of thing my parents or teachers thought was a good idea.

I remember one morning in geography class when a teacher asked me a question I knew nothing about. He quickly referred to me as a “dumb ass”! Didn’t he understand? It was geography class. Geography was one of those subjects I had no interest in learning about because it simply wasn’t applicable in my life. If I needed to learn about a place I was going to visit, then I’d learn about it. If I wasn’t going to visit a certain place, then I saw no reason to learn about it! My rationale was simple: there were so many places I knew I was going to visit that I knew nothing about!

Most of my friends were different—their interests, their perspectives, most everything about them. I was not as popular as some students, but my size, involvement in sports, and ability to sing and dance afforded me entrance into many circles I would not have been invited to join otherwise. As I continued to learn more about myself, I also learned that cliques and circles were not for me. They always focused on qualifications and status, and those ideas were foreign to me. I saw everyone and everything as equal, and I still do! Why would anyone think they’re better than anyone else? It’s probably because most of those who feel that way were taught they were different, for all the wrong reasons.

This concept never settled well with me, and I thank my parents for that! I certainly understood we are all different, but to isolate ourselves from one another made no sense. I learned that by coming together, we have the opportunity to learn from one another. Why would anyone want to limit their evolution by isolating themselves into separate groups? I could never figure that out. I never limited my learning by becoming part of something that limited my experiences. I liked all people and was always willing to befriend anyone interested in befriending me.

I remember one incident when the school decided to put on a folk festival. Any student who wanted to participate could perform. It was a time when Bob Dylan was becoming popular and the folk group, Peter, Paul, and Mary, was still making hits. I had asked to play two songs, and I was excited to do so. I wrote a song about John Kennedy Jr. and what it must have been like for him after the death of his father. The other was a Peter, Paul, and Mary song I had sung when I was younger.

A few days before the show, I was approached by one of my teachers, a brother I had come to like very much. He asked me if I would do him a favor. One of the underclassmen wanted to sing, and he wasn’t very good. This brother wanted to know if I would back him up on guitar. He was very shy, but my teacher felt that since I was a popular student, he wouldn’t feel quite as intimidated if I performed with him. I felt honored, not only to be asked, but to have a chance to meet someone new and support him in his desire to sing. I met him the next day, and we rehearsed over the next two weeks.

The night of the show, he finished his performance to thunderous applause. Backstage he came running over to me, his face beaming with joy, and he gave me a hug. It was one of the most endearing moments in my high school experience. I will never forget the gift we can be to others if we are just willing to reach out and make ourselves available.

I felt good about my perspective on life while in high school. As I look back, I made a lot of friends that are still special to me, even though I have not seen nor heard from most of them since I left school many years ago.

That was the case with my best friend, Steve. He played bass guitar for several bands, and he was as good as any I had ever heard, including the professional players. Our band never had a bass player, so Steve agreed to play with us whenever he was free. He completed the sound we needed. Everyone had more fun than any of us could have ever imagined. We didn’t see much of one another after high school because I went to college and he pursued a career in music. His group signed with the same label as The Rolling Stones, and he did very well for a time. Steve eventually decided to fly planes and became a senior pilot for Continental Airlines, where he works to this day. We found our way back together and are good friends once again.

High school was one of those times you never really forget. I remember the first girl I ever fell in love with in high school. As I look back on it now, I think I believed I was in love, but my knowledge of what love was may have lacked a realistic understanding that could support it.

Love is a funny thing when you’re in high school. You think you know what it is, but you really haven’t got a clue. You learn very quickly that what you’re experiencing is an emotional roller coaster you can never really understand, but you have to call it something and love seems as good as anything else. Nothing I ever experienced in my life affected me more than love at that age. It was confusing at best and more of a distraction than I needed at the time. With love came expenses. I had a job in the high school cafeteria and worked odd jobs on weekends.

I was still earning money playing in the band, which helped a lot. My parents couldn’t afford much in the way of an allowance, and I didn’t want to put too much pressure on them since there were five other siblings beside myself with their own needs. Continuing to play in the band also afforded me an opportunity to bring girlfriends to our rehearsals. The other band members began to bring their friends as well. I would bring my girlfriend to all our rehearsals, and it became a fun thing to do that didn’t cost anything. Before we knew it, band rehearsal became a gathering place for all sorts of people to come and hear music while exchanging ideas and good conversation.

The band was doing well for a bunch of kids in their first year of high school. Each of us had a passion for music, and as the sounds on the radio changed, so did our ability to improve our repertoire. Chuck was still playing lead guitar, and his father continued to provide us with transportation to our gigs. He was a delivery person for Peggy Lawton Baked Goods, but on weekends, he was our roadie. When we had a job, we would pile all our gear into the Peggy Lawton Van and make our way to wherever work called us. We were all very close, and Chuck’s dad was our biggest supporter. He was a wonderful man, and I remember him fondly to this day.

The band meant everything to us. Even though we would stop playing music together professionally long before we finished high school, it was an experience we would never forget. While the band was going strong, we continued to practice at Chuck’s house several afternoons a week as well as on weekends, and our friends would make the rehearsals a staple of their weekly schedule.

One truly great thing that came out of that band was our visit to the Fernald School in Waltham. Chuck had a little sister who had been enrolled there some years earlier. It was more like a hospital than a school. Enrollees were severely challenged, and they ranged in age from children to older adults. For some, it was a difficult place to visit. It was very depressing, and the physical conditions of some of the patients there were hard to adjust to. When asked if the band might consider going there for our Sunday afternoon practice, we all jumped at the opportunity. We knew it meant a lot to Chuck and his family, so we booked a date for the following Sunday. When we arrived, I was impressed with the size of the compound. It stretched over a hundred acres. Red-brick buildings were everywhere you looked, but it appeared the whole place was in lockdown. There was no one outside, anywhere!

Shortly after we arrived, we were greeted by the person in charge. We were escorted to the main hall, where all their gatherings were held. We began to meet people of all ages and with every hardship you could imagine. It saddened me to see what some people had to live with on a daily basis. I immediately realized how fortunate I was to be a healthy person without the challenges these individuals with beautiful spirits had to endure. I had spent time with severely challenged people earlier in my life. My mother spent her whole life teaching them in the Boston school system. On more than one occasion, I was invited to class with her and loved every moment of the experience.

“Everyone is equally precious,” my mother would often tell me, and I knew she believed it with all her heart. It was one of the most precious gifts she would ever pass on to me, and it served me well—both here and in the world beyond.

After being led down a series of halls and passageways, we finally emerged into a very large auditorium. Hundreds of people were there waiting for us. We felt like celebrities on a concert tour, much less a high school rock group at practice.

We set up the equipment and began the session. As soon as the music began, patients came from every corner of the room and rushed toward the stage to watch. There must have been five hundred people in the hall. They clapped and danced and moved every which way. Many were humming melodies and tunes that were different from the music we were playing, but that didn’t matter.

It was without a doubt the most gratifying time I ever spent with the band—that is, until the next weekend, and the weekend after that, and all the others that followed. I grew to love those people, some with deformed body parts and others who had no idea who we were or what was actually going on. I learned from them the gift I was to them and how fortunate I was to be there. We returned many times over the next year, and everyone eventually knew us by name. They would yell our names as they guided us down hallways to the auditorium, and the whole experience would begin anew.

I learned some time later that my godfather, Uncle George, had a daughter in the very same school. Even though I didn’t learn of this until long after the band dissolved, it was nice to think we brought some happiness into her life as well. (There is a reason for everything that happens, and although we may not know the reason when something occurs, what is important is that we know there is a reason!) Realizing how many severely challenged people in just that one school prompted me to wonder if our band was their only means of entertainment. It saddened me to think so. Little did I know the voice I heard at the lake some years earlier would speak to me again some twenty-five years later when I would return to play for these children of God once again.

My love of performing led me to consider entertainment as the path I would travel in search of a career. I performed all through high school and into my college years, as well as several years after leaving school. But life doesn’t always turn out the way we think it should, no matter how hard we try to make it work. I always found myself coming back to where I was, and it had very little to do with performing.

As I look back at my high school years, I realize how wonderfully liberating they were for me. That period prepared me for my college experience and made me realize that my whole life up to that point had been nothing more than preparation for the next stage of my life. I was anxious to learn what lie ahead and how things would turn out with the kind of freedom college life offered.

High school was going by so quickly that it seemed more like a blur than an experience. From my junior year on, all the talk around campus was about college. I still had two years of high school left, and I just didn’t understand when things were so good, why anyone would want to rush to give it all up. I learned later how some people rush from one thing to another looking for something they’ll never find, until they learn to live in the moment. I was adamant about enjoying what was left of high school, and I lived each day like it was my last.

I guess it was inevitable that I would find myself sitting at graduation with all my classmates, certain we’d be spending our summers together and nothing would ever change. Boy, was I mistaken. After graduation, I don’t think I saw the majority of my classmates ever again. I had either been blindsided and never saw it coming, or I was so unrealistic about it I was in denial. Losing all the friends I had seen every day for four years just didn’t seem fair. Life is sad that way. We make friends and lose them, but life moves on, stopping for no one. As for me, things turned out better than I expected.

I was on my way to Wake Forest University on a football scholarship, and although I would miss my old friends, new ones were waiting to be discovered. I had not returned to North Carolina since being recruited the early part of my senior year, and I was looking forward to going back.

It was about two weeks before I was leaving for college. I was both excited and apprehensive about what the future held for me.

I never found it difficult meeting new people; in fact, I actually enjoyed it. However, I did realize from an early age that when it came to meeting people, it was different for me than most. My initial experience when meeting someone for the first time revealed something most others could not see. I would see the truth of who they were almost immediately. I always felt this was a by-product of my experience with the voice on the lake. Even though I didn’t know that for sure, it was something I had come to rely on.

It was interesting to watch people present themselves in a certain way and know if they were being honest with me or not. I understood why people would sometimes stretch the truth to impress someone or perhaps embellish a story, but it still struck me as strange. It seemed like real life just wasn’t fulfilling enough for them. It had to be bigger and better than the real thing. I came to realize that behavior would serve to define them, and it was disappointing to me that people felt the need to pretend to be something they were not. I wondered if the environment they had grown up in had beaten them down into thinking they were less than they could be.

I understood when I was very young how special every being is, even more so after my experience with Bob. I guess that whole incident made me see things as precious. Nothing should be overlooked or downplayed. Everything was a treasure, one of a kind, and no one should ever feel less than that. I think Bob had more to do with my ability to see clearly than any other person OR experience in my life.

I know many people who have the ability to see the truth of what is. I have come to understand that this ability emanates from within, where the truth of one’s spirit resides. As these thoughts came rushing into my head, I realized I had nothing to worry about because I would always be the happy spirit I had come to know. The key for me was the same as it was for everyone: Just be honest with yourself. That in turn would ensure honesty with others.

Relationships in high school can sometimes be pretty earth shattering, especially if those involved were experiencing them for the first time. Growing up was interesting enough, and it didn’t require any additional pressure to make it so! I learned a lot during my high school years, but there was still so much more to learn about life.

The time had come to move on—to say good-bye to those high school memories and make room for new ones. I was heading off to college and live out my dream of playing football. I had worked very hard the summer after graduation to get into the best shape of my life. I knew there would be many talented athletes in my freshman class, and every one of them had the same dream of starting for the varsity team. I would have to give it my all if I expected to hold my own over the next four years. I was confident, but not overly so. I had learned that one who is confident and knowledgeable needs little else to succeed!

The drive down to North Carolina from Boston that August was a long one, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was accompanied by my mother and father, who had never been to North Carolina before. The trip took three days to complete, and the journey afforded me some downtime with my folks. I would miss them very much, and I knew they would miss me!

Shortly after we arrived on campus, I got settled in my new surroundings and then joined them for dinner. It would be some time before I would see them again, so it was their last chance to tell me all the things they wanted me to remember. It was their way of letting me know how much they would miss me and how much they loved me. After dinner we returned to the campus, where I said my good-byes.

I was sad to see them leave. I felt like it was a turning point in my life we all experience only once. As I watched their car disappear on the horizon, I returned to my room, where I would begin another chapter in my life. What a chapter it would be!

 

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