Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.
~ Gail Devers
The big, bad dreaded middle school years were behind me. I believe middle school was just as awful then as it is now, although I feel during my time we were in a gentler, more tolerant era.
Middle school is horrible with hormonally charged and awkward adolescents.
Middle school is another circle of hell.
We know it, because we’ve all lived it.
Some kids seem small enough to still ride in a booster seat in the car. Others look like they need to shave.
The disparity in development seems inherently unfair in a land where cliques can be based on looks, maturity and 13-year-old swagger. I did not hang out with the best kids, or the cool kids. I was more of an up and coming flower child, a hippie and I was attracted to the dare devils, the risk taking kids.
At home I was mute and did not talk about school at all. I was secretive and did all I could to steer clear of Dotti’s drama. For two years I barely studied for tests, turned in minimal homework, and yet managed to pass every class with no less than a C grade.
Neither Al nor Dotti ever attended any back to school nights for me and only came to the school when the principle called and said he had concerns about finding marijuana in my locker. The principle was a kind man and knew life at home for me was challenging.
I never got detention and I was never suspended.
I am not sure who was more tense, me or Dotti, as I stole the marijuana from her and she also knew it was her’s. I wonder if the principle knew that too? The good news was that I seemed to have survived middle school relatively unscathed.
Now high school was on the horizon where grades would really matter.
George and I were back in Washington with Aunt Dorothy for the entire summer. We left four days after school was out this time. Why was my dad being so kind to let us spend the whole summer away from home? I found out years later about ‘the arrangement.’
We stayed at the house in Bellevue for about five days and then we all got into the car and headed for a cabin in Idaho to spend a few weeks at the lake.
A mixture of forested mountains, alpine peaks, wildflower meadows, deep river canyons, high plains deserts, and teenage boys, Idaho was a paradise.
There was an excellent restaurant and bar that the adults enjoyed with gorgeous views of a crystal clear lake.
The lodge had a small well-stocked store with boat rentals that we made use of on a daily basis as well as swimming, hiking, and horseback riding. We also went bear watching at night which was a local form of entertainment. About a week into the trip I got bronchitis.
Unfortunately this had become something I seemed to have gotten about twice a year since the death of my mother. Aunt Dorothy asked at the lodge office for a doctor and they recommended Dr. Dakota.
Dr. Dakota was a Native American Indian doctor who lived on the lake year round and was known by everyone.
He was an older man with brown skin, beautiful high cheekbones and long silky straight black hair.
He showed up barefoot to our cabin, which was not unusual for the kids. It was just that he was a doctor and Uncle Ramon actually asked him, “where are your shoes?”
Dr. Dakota just smiled and brushed off his feet as he came in to see me. He treated me with Skunk Cabbage to stimulate the removal of phlegm and Creosote Bush tea and he came several days in a row and would stay for several hours each visit. Each day he would smudge the cabin before he started any treatment.
The boys would laugh and say ‘stinky’ and then take off to go boating and swimming. On the last day I saw him we had a long conversation. Actually he did all the talking and I listened, intently.
Native American beliefs are deeply rooted in their culture. Dr. Dakota shared with me that he believed everything was sacred from the largest mountain to the smallest plant and animal.
He shared that lessons can be found in all things and experiences and everything has a purpose.
Honor, Love and Respect were words he spoke about a lot. Dr. Dakota also shared with me that getting bronchitis was about being repressed, being in misery, having troubles, sorrows, and fear of having no pleasure as well as lack of joy in life. Therefore, my lungs were being affected by my lack of love for the world around me. Bronchitis also indicates an acute conflict, anger, or family disorder.
‘How did he know?’ I thought to myself.
Dr. Dakota asked me if I would like to have some relief?
“Of course.” I said.
I am not sure what he made me that last day.
It was some kind of tea that contained Red Clover, and I don’t know what else. As we sat for several more hours, he had me drink this awful tasting tea, cup after cup after cup. He sat and brushed my hair in such a kind manner and rubbed lotion on my skin. It was important I felt nurtured he said. His touch was so kind and I felt safe in his care. He assured me I would now have years of relief from bronchitis. As I sat and drank the tea he spoke about how we all need to be in touch with ourselves and everything around us. We are a part of everything, and everything is a part of us.
We are all One.
When Uncle Ramon went to pay Dr. Dakota, he refused the money. He told him it was an honor to take care of an Empathic child.
I did not have bronchitis again until I was in my early 50’s and have had it only three times since.
Back in Bellevue, the summer continued with the boys playing in the creek and Jeannie and I going to movies and making use of the tennis courts. I also met another new friend that summer. Down the street and at the top of a hill was a red-headed girl named Bunny. Yes, that was her real name, Bunny.
Bunny and I met at the community pool and became fast friends. She and I would ride bikes together around the neighborhood and the amount of laughing I did was so freeing and refreshing. The days were hot and long and we could play well into the evening.
I had not felt this carefree in years. I never wanted to return home to California. Some nights Bunny would have a sleep over with us and other nights I would have a sleep over at Bunny’s. This was a first for me. We would always find ways to entertain ourselves. One day we got a little too adventurous. It was a Friday. Jeannie and I were up at Bunny’s at the top of the hill and had walked up so we did not have our bikes. We decided we could all get on one bike and make it down the hill. Bunny was on the seat grasping the handle bars, I sat on the handle bars and grasped her hands, and Jeannie sat behind Bunny and held on to her waist.
All three of us, well-balanced, knew we could glide down the hill in no time at all.
Suddenly, Bunny sprang forward, pushed us off and down the hill and Jeannie and I reacted just as suddenly by holding on tightly. All I remember next was a touch of wheels, swerving, and then closing my eyes in defeat the moment I knew I was about to hit asphalt at sprint speed.
I got the worst of it as I hit the pavement chin first.
Bunny flew off to the side and skinned her knees and Jeannie bounced onto the ground, rolled and barely got a scratch. Luckily the shock held off the pain from the numerous bruises and patches of fresh road rash along within a bleeding chin long enough for me to get home to Aunt Dorothy. I was completely rattled and was holding my chin together with my hand.
The crash had taken a toll on my body – I was to be sore for days – and had to get stitches. Back then there was no such thing as bicycle helmets, so we were all very lucky. It became evident when we looked at the twisted bike that things could have been a lot worse. Shock and adrenaline are powerful drugs.
The crash gave Bunny road rash all down her left leg and forearm. I had nasty bruises on my hip and right leg, and all three of us girls had numerous other little bumps and bruises.
Aunt Dorothy knew just what to do and Jeannie’s mother was a nurse so she stepped in to help us get cleaned up. These two kind women knew exactly what to do and there was no panic. Aunt Dorothy drove Bunny home and then off to the doctor office we went so I could get stitches. None of us girls were too keen about jumping back on bikes any time soon.
For the next week I ate ice cream almost every day and sat with a bandage across my chin. Aunt Dorothy took care of me, just like a mom would do. I missed that kindness of care so much.
The summer continued to be filled with sailing on Uncle Ramon’s boat in the lake, jumping off the side to swim. BBQ’s with neighbors and kids. Swimming at the community pool and playing water games. Shopping. Going to the movies. And lots of laughter and love. And then it was over and time to leave again. Settling back into the old routine with Dottie would not come easy after such a delightful summer.
George and I boarded our flight for San Francisco and took our seats.
There up and down every aisle were boys in uniforms. Boys that had just been drafted for the Vietnam war.
I am guessing their ages were 18 to 22. I remember having strong emotional feelings.
An uneasiness that almost brought me to tears.
More than 228,000 young men were drafted in 1967.
It was the first time I paid any attention to a man in uniform or the war. What I remember was how awkward everyone seemed to be on the plane. It was eerily quiet unlike the first flight. These young men were headed to the Oakland Army Base. I began having conversations with a few of them.
I felt some kind of connection and I was just a 14-year-old girl, however, they seemed to enjoy the conversation. About an hour away from San Francisco one of the young men asked if I would be kind enough to write him?
He said he had no real family and it would be nice to have someone to write to.
I was flattered. “Of course,” I said. And he wrote down all the information for me on a piece of paper and I gave him my address as well. The announcement came that we would be landing soon. As we were departing the plane, he looked at me and smiled, “Thank you for being so kind,” he said. “I don’t feel so alone now.”
“I’ll write. I promise,” I said. “I won’t feel so alone either.”
As soon as I got home I wrote him a letter. It was the start of an incredible experience.
No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. ~ Richard M. Nixon
What are you not doing because fear is holding you back?