As a teenager, I had no idea what direction my life would take. There appeared to be too many obstacles, a low road, a high road, and many others in between. Thanks to my parents who taught us a great work ethic that is still with me today and taught us to share and care for people as I would care for myself.
In those days, I thought of the abject poverty that surrounded my family and me as a curse with life being a constant and upward mobility a fictitious figment of some author's literary imagination. I always believe that I was destined for better things in life, I never gave up, but lived with the daily self-torments that made it difficult to accept my station in life as it was then.
I was an excellent students despite the fact that when I started classes in the fall of my 7th grade school year, puberty was setting in and my hormones redirected my priorities and my grades suffered but were in the average range for the most part. I found myself graduating a year and a half earlier than planned. I was in the first grade for a semester and was moved to the second grade for the second semester. My senior year in high school, I found that I had enough credits to graduate and I opted to leave high school and enrolled at the local community college.
There were some really tough times at home when my dad had a series of heart attacks that left him with an unplanned medical retirement. Times were very lean and sometimes my brother and I who was in high school with me would try to scrape three cents for a carton of milk. It doesn't sound like much, but this was 50+ years ago and the penny still had value and was monetarily a vital part of the currency system. I did manage to get a part-time job flipping hamburgers and that made me feel comfortable as I was able to buy my own clothes and had money for leisure activites.
As It were, I was always trying to make myself as independent as possible and was always trying to find a way to make that buck. The cotton fields did not escape me in the summer. In fact that was my salvation for buying school clothes when I was in elementary and part of my junior high school years. On weekends I would trudge off with my brothers to the country club to caddy That meant about a 5 mile walk one way and then 36 holes of carrying a golf bag on a good day and 5 miles back home again. No one complained because we were fortunate that we were able to make a few dollars and a decent tip on some days.
After my early graduation from high school, my whole world was turned upside down and this gave me an eye-opening perspective of what the world should be like for everyone. I joined the air force in the fall after my early high school graduation. It was impossible to be at home with a gravely ill father,my mother, and my siblings in a small home that offered no place study. My bed was the floor for the years that I was in high school. The air force gave me my own bed and for the first time I felt like I was in heaven.
It was the air force that gave me that the motivation, self discipline and self confidence that I lacked growing up hoping I would not wind up in jail or remain living in the same conditions that I had known all of my life.
I will continue next week to tell the rest of my story.
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