Oh how long ago it seems that it was the summer of 1973! It was the year I graduated from high school and I felt so grown-up and yet so afraid of the future. I had to be an adult now and it felt so strange! To help me prepare for this post I am listening to my old 45 rpm records. My, did I ever really listen to that music? I mean it is so old that even the oldies stations don’t play it anymore! Tom Jones is crooning “She’s a Lady” and I told my twelve-year-old son he had to listen to it because it was one of my all-time favorites! He is not impressed. Or what about the flip-side of “Delta Dawn” which is “I Wish That We Could Still Be Friends!” I don’t even remember it! Oh what memories are flooding back to me from the summer of 73.
I was working as a nurses-aide in our local nursing home after graduating from high school. I had a car that I bought from my brother for fifty dollars and I was getting my first apartment! Oh boy! I was on my way only I had no idea where I was going. Know that feeling? Yeah, well that was a fun and exciting time but it was also the beginning of my education! You know that education that only life can give you!
My brother was still living at home, and he was into stock car racing so we spent a lot of time at the race track. We would drive to neighboring towns to the races and he would sometimes help drivers fix their cars while racing. It was loud. It was dusty. It was hot. But it was fun! I learned a lot by watching how those guys could drive so fast around the track. I would also race my brother on the highway and it was all good until I actually beat him and he put a stop to my racing aspirations. Did I fail to mention that I was driving his car when I beat him? He couldn’t get it to go as fast as I could! Little did I know that this was great training for driving years later in Germany on the autobahn!
My brother also had a Kawasaki motorcycle that we had much fun with. His dream was to have a Harley Davidson but he never got one, they were way too expensive. We would go for miles, just the two of us, and I felt free as a bird flying in the wind on the back of my brother’s bike. I was forbidden by him to drive it but it was my dream to learn to ride a motorcycle so one evening while he was at work and my parents were gone his best friend came over and he showed me how to start the bike and I took it for a spin. Unfortunately I didn’t get very far as I got stuck in a sandy road. My brother’s best friend came and found me and rescued me and got the bike unstuck. I drove his pick-up home and he drove the bike home. We never told my brother or else I wouldn’t be here telling this story. (Thanks Ken for saving my life that day and for not having to help my brother hide the body!)
I also spent some time at our local lake. It was really handy since my parents lived right next to it and I could walk there anytime I wanted. Sometimes a friend would come over and we would go swimming and sun-bathe on the beach and talk about our futures. Other times I went alone to the lake. I would spend time watching the sun go down and dreaming about my future. (I sure never dreamed I would be here typing this blog post!) I was never one to date much but I did want to get married. I didn’t know who or where or how or anything but I sure hoped that prince charming would come take me away on his white stallion! Maybe I should have dreamed I would be a career woman instead! Oh well, life lessons I suppose!
It wasn’t long and I switched jobs and worked at the local sugar factory where the farmers took their sugar beets to be converted into granulated sugar. It was hard work and it was shift work too but I needed more money because I was finding out that having your own apartment is expensive! I had a telephone to pay for and lights and gas for my car and car insurance and groceries to buy and clothes and shoes for work. I would come home so tired sometimes that I would simply flop on the couch and sleep to get enough energy to go and take a bath before going to bed. I can remember several times that I actually fell asleep in the bathtub! I’m surprised I didn’t drown!
The cost of being on my own was more than I had ever anticipated. How fast I ran out of food and how expensive it was to replenish my stock. I can remember a time when there was three days before payday and I had only herbal tea and free tomatoes my Grandma had sent home with me from her garden. I ate one tomato per meal and drank a ton of herbal tea but I lived to tell you about it! Oh how my education was beginning!
I remember the blind date that my work partner talked me into going on with her brother. Oh boy! I was never one to go to bars but she and her husband were and so they came and picked me up at nine pm and we went to the local bar that had dancing. I remember being so embarrassed when I ran into someone from high school and they were as surprised to see me there as I was to see them there! Awkward moment for sure. I was too young to drink alcohol so every time my friends ordered drinks they sent me to the ladies room to powder my nose. I got my first taste of liquor on that date and boy was that not fun at about five in the morning. I was still suffering the effects when I went to work the next evening and my boss took one look at me and told me to go lie down in the ladies break room. I must have looked pretty bad. I know I felt bad but the guilt that was eating me inside was far worse than the headache and dizziness. I never went bar hopping again. That was also the last blind date I ever went on too.
I decided that it was time for me to get back to church and back on track with my life. But before I made a complete confession of things I just had to go out one more time with an old high school buddy and since we were both too young to purchase beer she knew a guy who knew a guy…well you know how that works. So soon there were two guys I never had seen before in my car with my friend and me and off we went to an empty farm-house to drink. It rained while we were partying and when I started driving back to town I ended up in a ditch full of water. I dared not call my Dad or my brother if I wanted to live to see daylight so one of the guys got his Dad’s tractor and pulled me out. My friend drove us to the apartment. That was the last of my wild living! I decided to stop doing such stupid things and I got myself back into church, back into reading the Bible, and back to God. And then a few weeks later I started attending a local Bible College.
I can see how God protected me during my stupid escapades. I can see how patient and merciful God was to me. I am so thankful for such love, mercy, and grace extended to me when I became a Christian at eight years old. I made mistakes in the summer of 73 but God was gracious and I lived through them and learned from them. We all have moments in our lives that we learned some harsh realities about how this old world operates. I am so thankful that I grew up during a safer time than youth of today have to face. I know that the world was not perfect back then but somehow it seemed like it was. Maybe that is the bright and energetic light of youth. God promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6) and I am thankful that He kept His promise to me back in the summer of 73.