Chapter Three

My Teenage Years and early Twenties

I felt like an adult for the first time when

I felt like an adult for the first time when I got to drive the truck, when I was confirmed in church, and when I got my first kiss from a boy that I really, really had a crush on. I never really felt all grown up, though, until years later and even after I was of voting age. I think since I had been raised to be subservient—in a Christian church where you had to respect others and especially your elders, I never felt I was an elder until my children were grown and had children of their own.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, cause most of my friends (and I) were only interested in boys and babies. I guess I wanted to just get married and play house, grown up style. But, as I progressed through high school, I did enjoy classes and was pretty good in debate, math, and English and even participated in school academic contests. And, I was chosen as a cheerleader in 7thgrade, and as a freshman, sophomore, and junior.

Friendships

My closest friends in high school were Kathy Karr, and Shirley Anstaett, both cheerleaders. My freshman year I dated a boy named John. Then the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I started dating Richard (Dick) Wells from Overbrook. And, he became my closest friend, and boyfriend. We double dated with Shirley and many others. I became close friends, too, with Marcia and Leonard, from Overbrook, who have remained lifelong friends.

Activities

In addition to being a cheerleader, I played girls softball—second base, third base, and sometimes outfield. I also belonged to a girls club called Kayettes. I also played clarinet in the band, and was second chair. I hated all those hours of practicing at home starting in 6thgrade, but it was all worth it, when I got into high school. I was one of those band players at the football games that marched in my cheerleading outfit. And, I loved Band Day in Emporia at the Kansas State Teacher’s College, now ESU, where we played during half time with a dozen other schools.

Rite of Passage

My “rite of passage” into adulthood was confirmation where Pastor Leiben asked my class (there were 6-7 of us) questions about the bible and the Lutheran “laws”, in the front of the church. After that there was a church dinner. Those were wonderful as the 100 or so families of the church all brought food.
Spirituality became important to me, later, because after confirmation my mother died the next January and I felt there was no God if cruel things like that happened. So it wasn’t until I was 22 that it became significant. I had several women friends who were active in their churches, and I started to question life and the wonderful world we lived in. I think I decided there was a God, too, because it felt good to pray and turn to someone for help when I was down about something. My faith became more and more important to me over the years. And, I still believe that everything happens for a reason, and there is a wonderful God who created this world and watches over us. Course, he has help from angels like my mom and all my loved ones who have died.

First Job

Before I got married, my first job “for pay” was as a “car hop” at the Lyndon Giant drive-in and restaurant when I was 14 years old. I made 50 cents an hour and little more in tips. I worked during the summer before my freshman year and then in the evenings during the school year. I was a waitress and waited on tables and the cars (during the summer months). The next summer a job came open at the nursing home for a nurse’s aide. I applied and went to work on the day shift. It was before they required schooling to be an aide so I had to give hands on direct care, and one of the first things I had to do was to clean a resident that had died. It was that day that I decided I could do anything I needed to because somebody had to do it.

First Place

When I was 16 and a junior in high school in Lyndon, I married Dick Wells (he was 19), and, we moved to Emporia where I finished high school and graduated in the top 10% of the class. I didn’t attend graduation because I was living at my dad’s house. My husband had joined the Navy (in order to avoid the Viet Nam army draft) and was in San Diego at boot camp. He would come home in June to take me and our little son, Dane, back with him.

Early Relationships

We had dated for a year and a half before we were married. (We had met at a dance in Melvern.) My father had remarried within a year after my mother died and I did not like the new arrangements with my stepmother and her five children. I remember hearing her tell them that they could have candy bars she had hidden from us (my bedroom was directly above the kitchen where they were talking and I listened through the register in the floor that let the heat through to the second floor). I remember wanting to just get married and leaving, but I knew I would miss my two younger sisters.

Years After High School

Of course, I didn’t go to college because I got married and had a baby. Dick went to college at Kansas State Teacher’s College in Emporia and our first home was on Exchange Street across from the college in a basement apartment. We then bought a trailer and first lived out in the country and then moved it into town in a trailer court on Lakeview Street. Marcia and Leonard were there in college also, and we spent lots of time together playing cards and having fun. Dick went to work at a gas station, and it became hard for him to work and go to school, so he dropped out of school and joined the Navy.

So I thought that getting married was the most wonderful thing that happened to me. And, it was at that time. We were married on September 24, 1967 in the church I grew up in.

Then my baby was born, on May 10, 1968, and I loved my new son, Dane Eric, (named with our initials). After Dick’s boot camp, he came back and got us and we moved to Vallejo, California, where he was stationed. We lived in a little house and made friends with other Navy couples. I especially remember Chuck and Debbie, who were from Simien Valley in California. Dick was going to gunman school and he got orders to report to San Diego at Point Loma Naval Station, so we moved first to an apartment near the sports stadium and then to a town house at 3903 Bob Street in Point Loma.

I fell in love with California…it was during the hippie movement and I felt I was so lucky to be there, to be on the beach, to be “hip”. I became pregnant again and had another baby boy, Daric Ean (again named with our initials) in 1971.
Dick and I joined the Overbrook Jaycees and Jaynes and we had lots of friends our ages. I started taking the boys to church, (Dick wouldn’t go) and I began to feel I had overcome my troubling teenage years with getting married so young. We got through a lot of rough times, and I often wonder if our problems started when I no longer needed him to be a father figure, but a true equal partner. He began to become obsessed with certain things, too, such as always working outside on his tractor, or drinking with his buddies at the taverns. We slowly began to drift apart. I even went through spells where I was worried for my safety, though he never really hurt me. I think we stayed together mostly for the kids, but also because we both didn’t know how to live without each other, as we were so young when we married.

It’s hard to write about someone that was a daily part of your life for over 30 years and then becomes a stranger in the next phase. We were married for almost 20 when things started to get really bad. He was always depressed and negative. We both took on big changes in our careers in 1986 and the boys were nearing the end of their high school years. It was as if another chapter of our lives was about to be written.

Going back a little, the births of my children, and raising them, holds so many wonderful memories. I couldn’t have done it without my sisters. Since I had no mother to look to, my older sister Janet was always there for me. She was my maid of honor at the wedding, and I shared everything with her. And, when my second baby was born in California, my two younger sisters, Deedy and Nancy, came to help me. Over the years we grew very close.

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