I met that younger man that was fun and I jumped when he asked me to do anything. He was a relief for that hole within that began with Don’s death. He asked me to marry and I said “yes.” A Judge married us during a spontaneous weekend of travel. We returned to Portales the next day and decided it would be best to leave New Mexico since Don and I were well known there. Agreeing to start over somewhere else, we shared our thinking with Dawn and Johnny and asked them to go with us. Dawn said, “No, I want to spend my senior year here.” Johnny’s answer was “yes” even though he would be giving up being the next Drum Major of Portales’ band. His band director offered him a place to live so he could remain in Portales. He said no.
I resigned from the mental health center that I helped build for the past ten years. We had met every goal made ten years prior. I resigned from all positions held in New Mexico and my newly appointed position on the National Mental Health Legislative Council. Next-door neighbors purchased our big house. My Portales family had a party for our marriage. We moved to Abilene.
I did what I said I would never do. I left Dawn with relatives we loved in Portales for her senior year. Dawn made good grades, was a leader, and a cheerleader for several years. I missed significant events. Her problems began. She got into trouble for being late to cheerleading practice. The sponsor stripped her cheerleader position, and I was not there for her. I was also not there to help with other situations. Dawn was struggling with filling her void.
Johnny had problems that began with Don’s illness and his death. He would not communicate with us about feelings he was having as Don died and would hardly look at Don. After Don died, friends and their fathers asked him to do things with them. He refused. I should have seen how much he was struggling with loss. His school principal confirmed this, and I got him a counselor. That helped until I began dating and chose to marry.
This move brought more problems for Johnny. We enrolled him in a large high school. After six unhappy weeks, we moved him to a smaller private school where he did great. Johnny auditioned for and was chosen to be in Texas’ High School Choir. That success, too, was ruined. Six weeks later, a telephone call was received with an offer for work in Norman, OK. That offer, combined with an attack on us at a “7-11,” brought about a decision to move again. We enrolled Johnny in Norman High School, his third in one semester, just in time for him to take the SAT. The counselor telephoned me saying he thought with changes Reagan made, and with Johnny’s high SAT scores, we should try to get him into college. He explained college would be paid for if he began in the coming semester. However, he knew of no school that would take a 16-year-old. I had doubts but shared the counselor’s idea with Johnny, and he wanted to try. Southern Nazarene University, Bethany, Oklahoma, accepted him, and he began. He lived with us and drove back and forth to Oklahoma City.
We went to Portales, NM, to watch Dawn graduate. She then left Portales and moved to Norman to attend OU. Johnny wanted to go to the University of Oklahoma, so he would not have to drive to SNU in Bethany. OU allowed him to enroll with his B average from SNU. Both wanted to live in the dorm. While in OU, he began talking to recruiters and approached me about his lack of discipline due to no father and his desire to quit school. He wanted to go to the Navy. He finally convinced me. When 17, they picked him up, and he was off to Boot Camp. We attended his graduation from Boot Camp. It was impressive. He was the Drum Major heading up their band. I was so proud. After the Navy, he returned.
LESSON: Do not run. Slow down and think carefully about decisions following a major loss, even a year later. Nurture self.
LESSON: Oh yes, never say never. I said “I would never leave one of my children to have their senior year alone.” I also said, “I would never put a child into college at age 16 no matter how smart they appeared to be.”
GIFT: I kept faith through this! A major dream came and I will share it later.