As you might imagine, losing a parent at 15 has major ramifications, especially when it’s your mother. All the things a mother teaches during your teen years; manners, how to dress, how to deal with girls and all the other things all go out the window.
Add to that a father who is working during the day and mourning at night; with a 17-year-old, a 15-year-old, and two little ones ages 6 and 3; well you can probably see where I’m going with this.
I’ll be merciful here and not talk about my brothers, let them start their own blog. I will say that none of us would have won any awards for innocence. Jail time maybe, but not innocence.
Personally, I started drinking when I was 16; Colt 45 was my beverage of choice initially. Later I would try hard liquor, whiskey, vodka and gin, and of course all the so-called kiddie drinks like sloe gin, flavored vodka and the like. I was already smoking for a year before I started to drink, so you can see why I am tethered to oxygen tubes.
School to me was a social club. I went to see my friends and have fun and my grades reflected it. Virtually all of my teachers said that if I would apply my self, I could be at least a B average student. My problem was I just didn’t care.
I graduated in the bottom third of my class and was just glad to be done. I knew I wasn’t going to college, but I had an urge to be in theater. I had done four plays in high school and really enjoyed it. So I moved to Minneapolis with the idea of becoming an actor. That’s when reality set in.
First of all, you have to get a job to pay rent, buy food and the other necessities. When you are working you are not auditioning for parts; which ultimately means you aren’t acting. My job started at 5 am and went to 5 pm. I’d get home, get cleaned up and it was 7 pm. Too late to audition, too tired to care.
So, I moved back home and got a job for a few months. My dad, who was doing fine by this point, asked me what I was going to do with my life. I had no real plan and I told him so. He suggested I give it some thought. My problem was I goofed off in high school, so college was out; I had no skills to speak of, so nothing to offer an employer.
Then one day as I was walking home, I happened to pass the old Armory building. I noticed a sign for the Navy recruiters office, and as they say, “the rest is history.”
When I told my father I was shipping out for boot camp in three months, I think he was very proud of me, which is something I don’t think he had felt about me for some time.
Next time Turning 60 – The Navy Years