I grew up in a white trash trailer park in southern Ohio north of Cincinnati. My parents were divorced. My brother, sister and I chose to live with my Dad. That decision was based on fear. Nothing was outwardly said but we knew that going with our dad was what we were to do.
When my brother turned 16, he immediately left to go live with our mother. Later, my sister went off to college. That left me there, in a home with my dad and his new wife and her son. It was very uncomfortable. When I was 17, I mustered up the courage to go live with my mother and step dad Dave in West Virginia. My brother had recently left to become a U.S. Marine. I would just be filling that void.
We lived in a two bedroom mobile home. It was an adjustment. Dave’s job involved a lot of traveling and they only rented places to live. Dave was a great guy. He was an alcoholic, but as kind and understanding men go, he was tops. My mother was an alcoholic too. Their alcoholism was just a product of the times. Dave made good money as a supervisor for Air Products. My mother was a waitress. Dave treated me like his son. I was my mother’s youngest. She doled over me all the time. Being 17, I just tolerated it.
I would be going to Magnolia High School, home of the Blue Eagles. My first introduction was arriving to summer football practice 2 weeks late. The coach told me to give him 4 laps before I even told him my name. He then directed me to the locker room to suit up. He was a great coach. I had started varsity at my last 2 schools. Being the new kid, especially as a senior, this sport would be my motivator and outlet. Again, I would start varsity. Fitting in was easy after that. Guys bond in sports. I was able to make good friends quickly.
Dave and my mother would go to every football game. Being introduced on the 50 yard line at Homecoming was a proud moment for her. Just before our last game my mother passed away unexpectedly. It was quite a shock. Dave was to leave soon for a job in SC. There were still 3 months of school left. My good friend Bill and his sister Sharon convinced their parents to take me in so I could graduate there. Their mother was a teacher and the dad was a veterinarian. They made me feel right at home.
I wrestled for the first time that year. I took home the school’s highest award in wrestling to date. I took Fourth place in the Ohio Valley Conference. Not much, but worth a picture in the school’s yearbook.
I didn’t dance but my mother had encouraged me to go to school dances. I wasn’t popular, but I fit in with the jock and cheerleader crowd. At a Sadie Hawkins dance I went with the first girl that asked me. Little did I know 4 other girls would also ask me (Girls deal with this all the time?). Prom was hilarious! We stayed out all night partying. We could get alcohol if we were 18 back then. It was crazy. Someone flicked a cigarette into my inherited 72 Nova and it caught on fire. We put it out with cheap wine.
One night a gang of us guys got the bright idea to go skinny dipping in the town swimming pool. A splash of a time until the cops saw us. Nothing but a bunch of streakers running in all different directions after that. No one got caught. The cops were happy to have us out of the pool.
Sneaking into the drive-in theater was our ideal of a hot Friday or Saturday night. Hiding in a car trunk, or slinking through the exit gate. We would also drive back and forth from the drive-in to a fast food burger joint. One night while drinking, we pulled over waiting on some friends. As we were laughing and yelling a cop car pulled up next to us. He knew we were drinking. He just told us to go home. Boy, have times changed.
Aside from losing my mother, I have so many great times in such a short period of time. I have few regrets. My lasting impression is that yes it was Almost Heaven!