Tag Archives: Myrtle Beach

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]

Every Picture Tells a Story

Occasionally, I will pull out an old photo album, dig out a picture and tell you what it means to me. Maybe along the way you will learn something about the Prodigal Scribe that you didn’t know.

Like this one for example. This picture was taken in 1954, the year of my birth. I would spend a large part of my childhood in this house. To quote lyrics from one of my favorite songwriters, “Some of it’s magic and some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.” There are relatively few memories of those years spent living here.  I’m the youngest of five children born to Tom and Maxine Mills.

By the time they moved into this house, just two blocks off the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle beach, SC, they already experienced tragedy parents should never have to know. As they were bringing a new baby into the world – me – they were dealing with another young son fighting a losing battle with leukemia.  Years before, they lost another son in a tragic accident. I would not know or come to understand until many years later how those unconnected deaths would affect me.

I grew up an only child with a brother and sister.  By the time I started school, they were gone, one to the altar, the other to the army. I don’t want to toss around any blame for the things that went on in this house when I was growing up. I was a strong willed child and for various reasons my parents didn’t have a clue how to parent. I can look back today through the eyes of an adult and can see things I was not able to see then. I couldn’t see how damaged my mother was from the loss of two sons. I couldn’t see a father suffering the same loss and dealing with it the only way he knew how, by throwing himself into his work, his friends, and the jug. With clarity of sober eyes I can see the places I went wrong when I hit my early teens and rebellion dogged my every step. I’m not blaming them for the way things unfolded. I look at it today like everything happens for a reason, and in spite of  our mutual mistakes, I think I turned out okay.

By the time I hit my early teens, my parents felt that the influence of the beach was the root of my problem.  They sold this house and we moved to Alabama. I was not a happy camper and our relationship worsened – my fault, not theirs.  It was what it was. I didn’t stay in Alabama long, deciding that I was old enough to take care of myself. I was wrong.

This is that same house courtesy of Google Street View as it stands today. At times through my life I have thought how different things might have been if this had happened this way or that had happened that way. I don’t do that anymore. I believe one of the hardest things anyone does in life is to grow up. I was in my thirties before I started.

But that’s another story…

 



Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
~Robert Fulghum