Sixteen in ’69

Myrtle BeachSometimes I remember 1969. Sometimes I can’t. It seems like a lifetime ago. In many ways, it is. It’s a lifetime of years, marriages, jobs, stumbles, triumphs and education, good and bad, that took me from Myrtle Beach to right now.

I’m older in body, mind and spirit.

Everything up to the summer of ’69 was childhood. At 16, everything changed.

Let me make it clear that who I was and who I became is absolutely a progression of living and learning. I didn’t know it at the time but learning was my job – learn, learn, learn…

Oh, and I can tell you without any hesitation, I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

I would like to think I don’t have any regrets, but there are a few. I regret some decisions. I regret some actions that hurt other people. I regret some failures and a couple of successes. But even all those regrets are part of the journey that got me from back then to right this minute so in that sense, I don’t regret the regrets.

So what was it like in 1969?

Turn the clock back and remember. Richard Nixon moved into the White House in late January. His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, would leave the office five years later in disgrace, the only VP in history to resign in the wake of criminal charges. Vietnam was in full swing with dying American boys a constant barrage on the nighttime news. That July, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and in August, 400,000 young people gathered at the Woodstock festival in upstate, NY.

I stood at the intersection of intelligence and boredom, and rebellion blossomed like Mount St. Helens. The parental units were trying to apply 1950’s attitudes to a 1960s teen. You might as well try to fight fire with gasoline. It just made matters worse. I can see today with the eyes of an adult the whole situation unfolded exactly like it was supposed to.

I was just trying to fit in, something kids have been trying to do since Cain threw a rock at his brother. Frankly, I didn’t handle it much better than Cain did. I would act without considering outcome — never a good course of action.

Myrtle BeachThat Woodstock lifestyle appealed to me. I threw in with the hippies. The music was better than the jocks and the expectations certainly were much lower. I never made it to my Sophomore year in high school. I was too busy tuning in and turning on.

My parents didn’t know how to be parents and I didn’t know how to be a son. I didn’t know how to love or receive love. Maybe I thought the Woodstock Nation would be a good place to learn. Maybe I was wrong.

The fall of ’69 would be my last one in the same home with mom and dad for many years. I never considered the ramifications of that decision either.

Before I knew it 1970 was here and I was a victim of self-will run riot. But that’s another story.

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Cat Stevens elegantly and movingly explains the essential dynamic of every father/son relationship, in his song Father and Son:

Father: “Take your time. Think a lot. Why think of everything you’ve got, for you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.”

Son: “From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen, now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.”[/box]

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