Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Summer of '86

A few weeks ago, Brandy over at (you should check her out, she is a riot, and and great Mom with a similar story) invited me to do a guest post on her blog. Of course I was honored to do so, and shared a little event that happened in my not-so-recent past, so I'm sharing that story here as well. Thank you again, Brandy!
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Sometimes there are events that happen in our lives that remain forever etched in our minds. We can conjure up those memories so easily – the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions – as if they were a movie that can be rewound and played back again and again to our heart’s content. Occasionally these memories are ones we wished we could forget, but cannot. Others we recall with much fondness, gratitude, and joy. All help define who were are and how we respond to similar events that arise in our future. Such was the case for me 26 years ago.
It was the summer of 1986. I was a junior in high school heading into my senior year. Much promise and eager anticipation of my future hung in the balance. I had just hung up the phone with my girlfriend moments before my parents returned home from the store. My eyes immediately began to swell with tears upon seeing their faces.

“Glynis is pregnant,” I blurted out.
My mother instantly embraced me, as I began to cry.
My father put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “Are you sure it’s yours, son?”
The truth is – I wasn’t sure. There were circumstances that had taken place (a story for another time) that would leave any person with reasonable doubt, certainly in a court of law. But all that mattered at that moment was that my heart wanted to believe the baby was mine, and no manner of reasoning would have likely changed that. I was 16 years old and I was about to become a Daddy.
“Yes, Dad. It’s mine,” I said matter-of-factly. After all, my girlfriend and I had been in serious relationship for over a year, at least as serious as one can get for teenagers in high school. I remember even being a little hurt that he had asked such a question, particularly at that moment, but as the kids these days say – my father had a way of keeping it real.
My father accepted my answer and embraced me too. Whether he was convinced or not is an entirely different question, but my response was enough for him to know I had considered it. Regardless of the timing, the question needed to be asked.
I wept some more.
My tears were not born out of regret or remorse. They were not tears of sadness or self-pity.
Five minutes prior, my girlfriend was urging me, as she had done many weeks before, to tell my parents she was pregnant. She was right. I knew in my heart she was right, and deep down I had wanted to tell them – I had planned on telling them. Up until that point I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t bear to see the look of disappointment in their eyes. I didn’t know if I was prepared to shoulder the burden of letting them down.
You see, I was the youngest of 7 children. Some of my brothers and sisters were successful in their own right – one of my brothers owned his own mechanic shop, and one of my sisters was an executive assistant to a lawyer from a prominent financial consultant firm – but none of them had a college degree. I was the family’s last hope. Of course, it was never presented to me that way, but I always felt it. Ultimately, it was I who had placed that tremendous load upon myself.
We were poor, poorer than most. At one time or another we had lived in the following accommodations:  an old school bus in the dead of winter that lacked heat, hot water, or a bed to speak of; a car – also during the dead of winter; a parking garage during the hot Vegas summer heat; an abandoned gas station that reeked of mildew and mold; and a different decrepit gas station that doubled as a chicken coop – the front half of the building was covered floor to ceiling in layers of chicken excrement, the back half we called home. In the summer of ’86 I was sharing a one-bedroom apartment with my parents. We were living high then. We never really had much, but we had love in abundance, and we had each other.
From 6th grade until I graduated high school, my parents scraped together every last penny they had to send me to a private school. It was a constant struggle. In that tiny little apartment they gave me the only room to sleep in and call my own, while they took the couch so their teenage son could have some semblance of privacy and individuality during a time in his life when those things were most important to a maturing young man. They sacrificed, like many other parents have done for their children, so that I could have a better quality of life than they did. And in return for their kindness, their self-sacrifice, their endearing love and support – in a brief moment of indulgence and moral weakness – I had failed them. I had gotten my high school girlfriend pregnant and shattered all of their hopes and dreams.
I hadn’t of course, but that was my rationale at the time.
“It’s okay, son. Everything will be alright.” Hearing those words that night lifted a formidable burden off of my shoulders – and my heart. I cried like I hadn’t in a long time, and they eagerly absorbed it all. Just like good parents should, they lifted me up, brushed off my knees, and sent me back into the world. As I blazed my own trail though life, they were never more than a few steps behind in case I stumbled again (which of course I did).
I went on to graduate from high school, studied electrical engineering, and then obtained a degree in graphic design. I hadn’t failed them after all.
And what of that little bundle that was conceived in the summer of ’86? My loving daughter, Amanda Rochelle – she has grown up to be an amazing young woman whom I am immensely proud of, and I can’t imagine my life without her.

Me and Amanda '12

Her last Christmas with Grandma Walker '88

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

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Adam Lloyd said...

Touching story. Just shows that a child is and should be a new beginning rather than an end. Sounds like your parents are the best.

Unknown said...

There are no mistakes, only unexpected wonders.

I have no idea if that's a quote from someone famous or if I just pulled it out of my ass. Either way, it seemed fitting.

stephen Hayes said...

Wonderful piece of your personal history. Touching and well-written. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful piece of writing Michael...a touching account's funny how, what can seem life ending at the time, turns out to be just the beginning of something amazing...

WilyGuy said...

I am stunned. It almost read as unbelievable as fiction, but it obviously wasn't. From great adversity is born great beauty.

We all define that differently and you've captured 2 meanings here.

Great post!

Unknown said...

Thanks guys, I really appreciate all the kind words and your encouragement.

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