Mickey, you iz now Sixtity-Won. You iz lookin’ kinder old an tired. Mebbe you iz needin’ to take a nap!’
I am indeed 61 today. I was born in a blizzard in Mason City Iowa’s Mercy Hospital on a cold November night when Ike was the president. I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show on Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich’s black and white TV in the 1960’s. I also saw John Kennedy’s funeral procession in 1963 on the same TV. I saw the first man to step on the Moon in the Summer of 1969 on our old Motorola black and white TV at home in Rowan, Iowa even though we had to basically stay up all night to do it. Practically no one I knew got any sleep at all that night. I started seventh grade that fall. The first time I ever kissed a girl was behind the Rowan Grade School building. I won’t embarrass her by telling you her name. I think she avoided me for the rest of the time we were in school, and maybe even hated me. But I still remember her fondly even though that whole thing did not go as planned.
This isn’t her.
I played football for the Belmond Broncos in high school. I got my brains knocked out as a sophomore and quit football my junior year. I fell short of earning a letter jacket by one year’s worth of sports participation. I graduated in 1975. We had an outdoor ceremony planned for graduation. As I walking Julie F. out to the football stadium in our caps and gowns (paired by height… what can I say? I was short.) it started to rain. Not mere sprinkles, but a downpour, a run-for-your-life, drown-your-uncle-under-the-bleachers sort of downpour. We had to shift the ceremony to the auditorium. My grand parents had to watch on a video feed in the library with all the other soaked relatives. Our parents smelled like a herd of wet cats in the auditorium.
This isn’t her either.
I went to Iowa State University (Cow College, so named for the beauty of the women there) in the middle seventies. I got to draw seven different naked women there. (It was an anatomy drawing class and I also had to draw naked young men, though I think there were less of them, but I wasn’t keeping count). I voted for the first time, helping to elect Jimmy Carter as President in 1976. At the bicentennial parade in Rowan, the first girl I ever kissed was on the other side of the street, but somehow our eyes never met. In 1979 I graduated with honors and a degree in English. Rather than becoming an unemployable bum, I went to graduate school in Iowa City at the University of Iowa. I drew a couple more nude women there and got a remedial Master’s degree in English Education along with a teaching certificate.
My parents moved to Texas while I was in Iowa City. I found out where they moved to near Austin, and went to get a teaching job in Texas.
Ruben, Fabian, Javier, Emmit, Sonia, and Teresa, in case you were wondering.
I found a job teaching 8th graders in Cotulla, Texas. I had my life threatened once the first year and nearly quit. I decided I would not leave in defeat. So I stuck it out and taught there for 23 years. I was teaching the day we learned the Challenger blew up and NASA killed the first teacher in space. I was also teaching there the day we found out about the events of 9-11. But not everything about teaching was a disaster. I learned an awful lot. I fell in love with a lot of students (but only in the legal sense). I shared my love of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, and the writing process with them. At least one or two of them actually listened during 31 years of teaching.
I got married to another teacher in 1995. My oldest son was born later that year. All three of my kids were born while we were teaching in Cotulla.
We moved to the Dallas area in 2004. I lost my first city teaching job because the Wicked Witch of Creek Valley wanted to protect education from fools like me. (I was rated as a master teacher both before and after that year by many different principals. That year I got zeros on my evaluation from only one principal. I must have only been stupid and incompetent for one year.) I went on to teach Reading and then English to English Language Learners in high school in the Garland district until I retired in 2014.
Now I am a writer and an Uber driver, neither of which conditions has proven to be fatal so far. So, I guess, in 61 years of life I have managed to earn every gray hair on my head. I have lived a good life. Robin Williams only got 61 years of life. I can’t claim to deserve more than him. But if it all ends tomorrow, I have no regrets. Happy birthday to me.
“Nappy berfday! Old Mickey! You iz reelie, reelie old! And der storry of yer life iz reelie, reelie boooring!”
Sorry. I guess I’ll have to do better in the next life.