A Taste of Independence

I think the first time I felt independent was when I finally got my driver’s license. It took me a while to go to the DMV to actually get it because I was so afraid I would fail. When I finally did take my road test, the guy with the clipboard in the passenger seat did not help. He wanted me to pretend that I was parking going downward on a hill when we were actually heading up a hill. When I moved the wheels the wrong way, at least he didn’t mark it against me!

The first summer I had my driver’s license, my aunt let me borrow her silver Cadillac. My sister, cousin and I bounced into the car. We were going to the movies. As we drove, our arms loosely draped out of the open windows, we turned the radio up and sang along at the top of our voices.

Highway to the Danger Zone.

We were going to see the best summer movie EVER.

I feel the need…the need for speed!

That’s right. We were going to see Top Gun.

While the silver Cadillac didn’t accelerate using g-forces, that sense of freedom on a warm summer night was exhilarating. Sometimes being the oldest child in the family is awesome!

Sometimes, though, being the oldest child is also scary. I was the first to go away to college. I loved being away from home…and hated it. Those first few months were really hard. It was before cell phones and email, so I had to call my family collect. Will you accept the charges?

I don’t remember why, but I guess I thought I had to be independent and I held off calling my parents for 9 weeks. I was busy after all, hanging out with my new friends 24 hours a day, taking classes, doing homework, and going to the student union. We did send real letters to each other (you can read some of them here). When I finally heard my mom and dad’s voice on the phone, however, I remember feeling so happy and yet missed them so much that I burst into tears!

Independence; sometimes exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking.

When do you remember feeling independent?

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Growing Up Together {Spin Cycle}

I like to tell people that I grew up with my cousins, but that’s not necessarily true. The ministry had scattered the family on my dad’s side all over the country; from Alaska to Ohio. I never knew my dad’s parents, in person anyway. They died before I was born, but they live on in stories told frequently by my dad and his brothers and sisters. Despite death and distance, the sisters and brothers remained close. Our families met, when we could, twice a year, at Thanksgiving and at The Lake.

Our family took¬† a week-long vacation at a lake every the summer. The Lake changed from time to time; we started renting cottages at Lake Huron, then one summer rented at Duck Lake (yucky, only lasted one year), Lake Hemlock (a camp, which was cool because the cousins stayed in our own “chalets”), and now, a large house on Lake Michigan. I’m using the term “growing up together” loosely because we didn’t live around the block from each other, much less the same town. As cousins, we loosely grouped ourselves into age groups. We had an older group that all of us younger cousins loved hanging out with, but as you can imagine, the older cousins did their own things away from the younger cousins. Occasionally we would do things together, such as act out plays for our parents or walk to the gas station to buy candy. And cards. We loved to play cards. Our cousin Mark taught us the finer points of the game 500, such as going in the hole just to keep the other pair from getting the bid. (His brother plays the same way.) Mark drove us to the movies. (Spaceballs one summer.) He played the game of Risk with his brother and teased his little sister unmercifully.

Mark
Playing 500 (Mark is on the left.)

As we became adults, the age groups dissipated. Jobs and families scattered us apart, from California to the United Kingdom, but we still kept up with each other. Out of all the cousins, we probably prayed for Mark the most. He was a West Point graduate, and the Army sent him all over the world. We prayed for Mark to safely come back home, and he always did. But then Mark was attacked by an enemy that we didn’t expect. Cancer.¬† We all prayed even harder for Mark and his wife Kathy, and it looked like he was winning the war.

When the email came from my cousin that Mark had died, I didn’t quite believe it. I had to call my dad just to confirm the news. It was a quite a shock to us all.

The last time I saw Mark was at my mother’s funeral. He was in uniform; probably the only time I’d ever seen him in uniform. We usually saw Mark on vacation; out of uniform. My cousins and I were so lucky to grow up with Mark. He was well loved, and he will be missed. Especially when there’s a good card game going on.

Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)
Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)

 


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