I had to emotionally at least, grow up very early because of almost dying for several years with childhood "Blunt trauma epilepsy". The blunt trauma part I didn't know about until last year my son, who becomes a BS RN (nurse) in December said, "Dad. The only epilepsy children grow out of is 'blunt trauma epilepsy'. I said, "What does that mean?" He said, "It means you had to have had a concussive blow to the head some time in your early childhood which dented your skull and caused you to have continuing seizures. But as you grew up your skull increased in size so the pressure was released off your brain." I said, "Okay."
So anyway, after coming out of a very hell kind of experience at age 15 after having seizures about once every 6 months or so at night I was much more emotionally disciplined and mature than almost anyone my age just having survived this. Then at age 16 I got my driver's license the day I turned 16. I got a 100 on the written test and did well on the driving test in Glendale, California at that time where I took my driving test. The next month I asked a 21 year old single girl (who was incredibly beautiful and sang like an opera singer in the church choir with me) to a political rally. We decided to go to a scary movie at a drive in theater instead. So she was very surprised (she said) to fall in love with a boy 16(or so she said). So, I suppose this made me much more grown up than most boys my age too. Also, I worked summers as an electrician's helper and in my junior year in High School I worked 4 hours a day as an Electrician's helper on what was then called the 4-4 plan where you go to school 4 hours a day with 4 subjects and then learn a trade 4 hours a day. So, in my junior year of high school I was alwasy flush with money, had a car and a girlfriend, and so about half of my time I functioned completely as an adult even in high school. So when I started my senior year in high school I thought High School at this point was ridiculous. I was mostly studying stuff for the third or fourth time that I started to study in grade school only just in more detail. I told my parents I wanted to drop out of high school because I could work full time in my Dad's business and I had just had it with the basic stupidity of public school in high school.
My parents were horrified partly because neither of them had been to college even though my Dad had wanted to but wasn't allowed to go during the Great Depression. So, they decided to trick me into going to college rather than dropping out of school and becoming a full time electrician in my Dad's business.
They said, "Why don't you go to the church's "I am" School in Santa Fe, New Mexico? Didn't your friend, Victor, at the last church conclave try to get you to go there and hang out with him?" I thought about this because this would mean I could escape my parents watching every move I made and I could "for the first time" live in a snowy climate where I could ski and hike to my hearts content, and I wouldn't have to work at a job at all that year. Sounded too good to be true. However, then I found out they didn't allow kids in the school to have cars. This almost broke the deal for me to be separated from my surf wagon, a 1956 Ford Stationwagon that I put my longboards 10 feet 2 to 4 inches in to surf in Malibu and Huntington Beach in. But finally my parents convinced me to go to Santa Fe, New Mexico at above 7000 feet in altitude to live in the residence across from the "I Am" School there.
So, my girlfriend that I had just started going with that summer was going to L.A. State College (it wasn't called L.A. State University yet) there in Los Angeles. She cried a lot but also understood because she had just graduated from the "I AM" School in Santa Fe the previous May of 1965. So, in October, instead of dropping out of Glendale High School for good, instead I just transferred to the church school in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
So, I got on the El Capitan Train there in (Glendale? Pasadena?) one of those stations and it took I think about 17 or 18 hours traveling time (or more) to get to Santa Fe (or near to there) where the lady who ran the residence for junior high or high school student attended far from home lived.
Since I was from Los Angeles, it is important to remember then as now people from other parts of the country thought people from California and especially from anywhere near Hollywood (Glendale is right next to Hollywood) as kind of different in the way the live their lives compared to the rest of the country.
Also, the lady who picked me up at the train station had been in a Concentration Camp during World War II and had almost died there along with her husband. So this lady was no lightweight. She was originally from Belgium along with her husband who was now a doctor. So, when she met me at the train station she said, "You are a very spoiled boy from Los Angeles and all the things you got away with there you won't here." I wasn't used to being spoken to in this way and though I wanted to give her an earful of my thoughts about getting off a train after 18 or more hours and being treated this way I realized this might be her way of eliminating idiots from the residence of the "I AM" School so I kept my thoughts and emotions to myself. It turns out I was right. She was the Sargent and if you didn't listen to what she said all the time you were going home immediately. Once I got to know here I liked her a lot. But there always was this Concentration Camp edge from seeing so many people die horribly about her. However, despite this I always loved and respected her once I got to know her.
I was put in a bedroom that adjoined her son's room and a workroom and the garage across from the "I AM" School. Often her son (then 12) liked to build oscilliscopes and radios and TVs and things like that with his Dad who worked on the cutting edge of science as a Doctor in regard to Prosthetics and artificial arms, hands and legs at that time for the Veterans Adminstration. I guess he like his wife had seen a lot in that concentration camp and his life work was related to his experience during World War II. Since he was a doctor he once said to me, "I have forgotten more than you now know." I always thought that was a very interesting way to put it to a 17 year old.
Within a week or so I woke up and it was chilly so I turned on my electric heater in my bedroom next to my desk and looked out my window and almost 3 feet of snow had fallen overnight. So it went from clear ground to 3 feet of snow just like that. Being from the Los Angeles area I had never experienced this kind of thing before. The School along with all schools in the greater Santa Fe Area had been closed because all roads would be closed for a few days until snowplows could plow hundreds of roads so buses could move children to schools once again. So, my friend Victor who lived with his brother and parents nearby and all the girls and boys in the residence had an incredible snowball fight that day and built fortresses of snow and slid down hills. This wasn't something I had ever done where I had ever lived so it began a whole new tradition in my life of being in the snow and living in the snow. I never have liked cold much but I love being in the snow and playing in it and skiing and sledding and snowshoeing long distances and then later cross country skiing and still later downhill skiing, snowmobiling, camping in it etc. etc. etc. So this began a whole new tradition about being in snow country somewhere in the mountains with the crisp clear air and feeling God in the mountains and clear air and snow and trees.
Though this year in some ways was like living in a fantasy where there were no fist fights, no knife fights, no gang rumbles, no blood outside of taking one of the girls to the hospital because she had an ulcer after she went into convulsions. This was an interesting story too. Because I was at least 6 foot 3 inches tall and always very strong from being an electrician's helper since age 12 summers and all I was the only one strong enough to lift this 16 year old girl from the residence up off the sofa after she passed out and to carry her to the car so the lady who ran the residence could drive her to the hospital. This later resulted in the girl with the ulcer and I becoming very close because she live in the greater Los Angeles area too. So even though we couldn't demonstrate too much affection at the church school we made out all the way on the train back to Los Angeles so I could "protect" her from bad people on the train riding that far. The real problem with this was that my steady girlfriend that had just graduated from the "I AM" School was waiting for me in Los Angeles. This complicated things a lot for me and greatly confused me. The girl at the "I am" School was only 16 and my steady girlfriend was 19 and already a grown woman. And I was caught between all these feelings of knowing that the 19 year old was the one I should marry but still wanting to be young and immature because being fully grown up was just kind of scary. I often wonder if I should have stayed in Los Angeles, dropped out of school or gone to college instead and just married my steady girlfriend. But that was not to be. She married a mutual friend of ours when she was 22 and I 21. So life goes on with us or without us. What can I say. She was emotionally 4 years ahead of me because girls usually are 3 years ahead of boys in emotional maturity. Life goes on with us or without us.
My friend Victor had a black VW, which I always thought was kind of funny because the "I AM" religion doesn't allow us to wear red or black. So, the silly kinds trouble we got into was Victor and his girlfriend from the "I AM" School and Me and the 16 year old girl would double date in his old oval window bug and then called on the carpet because we hadn't invited another female senior along. It wasn't that we were trying to exclude anyone really. So very odd things happened that I wouldn't at the time have thought were mistakes. Generally, as you can see everything went relatively smoothly at this school because Victor and I sort of ran everything as far as the students went because we were the biggest, the strongest, the oldest, but we were also gentlemen. Victor died in a Kayaking accident in the early 1980s. He was a pharmacist with a wife and kids at the time. He went to the University of Colorado in Boulder.
So, as you can see I have many really wonderful memories from this year. I look back on it as a kind of fluke. This fluke sort of prevented me from doing something different like trying to join the Army or something and instead I never had to go to the Viet Nam War and had a completely different life instead. Since everyone I know that went to war never was the same again I'm grateful to have missed that experience and to have had a very different one instead. I'm also very sorry to have lost a good friend like Victor. He was a real friend. The kind that can last a lifetime. We both shared a deep love of nature and even though I think it is awful for his family I know he died doing what he loved: experiencing nature in it's fullness. Rest in Peace, Victor.