I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 1980s

I realized, when I re-read the last post, that I erred in my recollection of when Chris came back to live with me. It had to have been earlier than when I began to work at NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research), because he was in the 10th grade in high school. Derald called and said that he and his wife could no longer deal with Chris, that he was a rebellious, incorrigible teenager, and they unceremoniously dumped him. I really have little to no idea about what happened to cause all this, because Derald would not tell me, and Chris was silent.

No matter. He was sixteen and had grown almost into an adult. I moved to a two-bedroom duplex and Chris was enrolled in Boulder High School. All seemed as it should be, and I left for work or a hike and Chris would show up whenever he felt like it. I asked him about school, but he wouldn't talk to me about it. Now as you can imagine, I felt a fair amount of guilt because he was damaged from all my earlier moves and lack of competent mothering. One day I got a call at work from the high school, saying that Chris was no longer coming to school and would not be allowed to return if he ever decided to. This was devastating to me, knowing that education is the only way to get ahead in this world. We had a talk, and I went to child services and was told that if I were to allow Chris to be classified as a "child in need of supervision" (CHINS), they could help him.

When I told Chris this, he said to me, in no uncertain terms, that if I did that, I would never see him again. He would be gone. So I didn't do it, and Chris got a job in a pizza parlor. He made friends and seemed to have the ability to work as an adult. Our life together had some really good times, although we had very little money. I remember one Christmas when we decorated a tree by making a green yarn outline of a tree on the wall and finding things to hang on it. He fell in love with a girl and for awhile I thought things would get better, and they did except for his being a high school dropout.

And then I went to work at NCAR, in 1979, working half time. I still spent plenty of my free time in the mountains or bicycling different places, and until I had that bike accident, I was living in the duplex. Donna had bought a rooming house and I moved into her basement apartment and ended up staying there for most of the 1980s. It only had one bedroom, but by this time Chris had moved in with his girl friend and came over several times a week. We had a good relationship by this time, because I had given up on having any influence on him other than by example.

My trip to Peru was wonderful, but my friends were appalled that I was going to travel there alone, so they talked me into traveling with a woman I didn't know, Marla, who spoke no Spanish and also wanted to go there. We left in October 1981 for a six-week trip, landing in Lima. We stayed at a hotel recommended to us by the taxi driver, Hotel Europa. It was filled with travelers from all over the world, and I soon made friends with a German woman, Helga, who was interested in going to Huaraz with us. We traveled there by bus, a jumping-off place for hikes in the mountains. Marla and I went on a five-day-long camping trek into the mountains to a place called Santa Cruz, which the guide books said we could use to replenish our supplies. It turned out that there were no supplies there, since everything is brought in by burros, but we were taken in by a woman who gave us a place to sleep, fed us, and gave us corn cakes for the remainder of our trip. We were sitting in her dark kitchen having dinner when her husband came into the kitchen from the fields accompanied by an ox! He took it down into the lower level but I remember the shock of seeing that large animal come right into the room with us.

By the end of my trip to Peru, I had gone on three different trips into the mountains, culminating with Macchu Picchu, starting at Kilometer 88 (you ride the train to that spot) and then hiking for four days along the Inca Trail, ending up in the incredible city of Macchu Picchu. It was memorable.

When I returned to NCAR, Boulder, and my work life, I was asked if I would be willing to work more hours, which I agreed to, a little at a time, until I was working 80% instead of 50% by the middle of the decade. I was beginning to feel that Boulder and NCAR were indeed my chosen home. I had never before lived in one place and kept one job for so long. I was finally becoming a stable person!

This picture was taken in the mid-1980s of the two of us. You can see we both look happy, and we were. Although I had started my job working as a secretary, I gradually became more involved in editing papers for the scientific staff, since I was good at it and knew how to keep errors out of published text. I assisted with copyediting and proofreading, and became good at gathering accurate references for publications. Gradually my life became less focused on the outdoors and more on my work.

I had two long-lasting relationships, both with men much younger than me (12 and 13 years, to be exact). They were both musicians, and I learned to appreciate music in a new way. Although I never married again, I still continued to have relationships that were much healthier than what I had experienced after my third divorce. I had a good job, a place where I belonged, and the decade ended with me well into my forties and finally beginning to feel like a grownup. Chris was part of my life, although I wasn't responsible for his everyday care any more, I had every hope that he would be successful. Life was good.

And then, at the age of 47, something happened that changed the trajectory of my life forever: I went on a tandem skydive with a friend, jumping out of an airplane while strapped to my instructor. Who could have guessed how much this would change everything in my life? Next time I'll tell you all about it.


CiCi said...

I know how the skydive event would have changed my life: I would no longer have a life due to the heart attack as soon as I jumped out of the plane, strapped to an instructor or not.

Stella Jones said...

I can see why you are happy to feed birds these days D-Jan. I sound flippant, but I can read the lines and between the lines and there is an awful lot of heartache in there as well as adventure and happiness. I admire you for writing all this down; it is cathartic to do that. I wish I was brave enough, but slightly afraid of who may read what I write. No doubt you've thought of that too. I am very much enjoying (if that is the word) your writings. Take your time with it and let it flow.
Blessings, Star

Norma Jean said...

Great picture...you look like brother and sister not mother and son. I was glad to hear about your trip to Peru. Although I thought that was before your accident. Now I am starting to know "what comes next" in your life.

You have indeed lived more lives that most people. Forget any of the bad things...they helped you become the wonderful person you are today.

Lucy said...

You summarize the years as if they held little content. (Although I think this is about your loves.... ) I'll bet there are a hundred and one stories in those years that we'd all like ot hear? Ah well! Maybe someday?

Leave a Legacy said...

I couldn't wait to read this next chapter. Ever since I read your new blog, it has brought up many old thoughts and hidden memories of my own life. I wouldn't dare write about it as I have too many people that would be hurt and shocked if they ever read it. I hope to someday write it all down as you are doing now. Looking forward to next Sunday!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

It does indeed seem that you have lived more lives than most people! I look forward to reading more.

The Retired One said...

Wonderful picture of the two of you looking so happy together. Waiting to hear more about the timeframe mentioned...this one did not have the true feelings discussed, so I know there is more there to tell..

Whitney Lee said...

That really is a great photo.
There is so much that you leave unsaid; I imagine it's worlds of sorrow between the lines.
There is happiness there too, though. That's what makes the journey worth it all, right?