You may remember that the first episode of this journey ended with me graduating from High School. I was a decent student, but lazy, so I had never even applied for colleges. In New Jersey, the only acceptable colleges were in the northeast and I didn’t want to go there. Instead, I chose to live with my grandparents in Texarkana and attend a local Junior College. I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity because while I was there I met and fell in love with Big Al. He was stationed at a small Air Force installation near the airport. He had enlisted in the Air Force to “do something” after he flunked out of his sophomore year at college. He was taking courses at the junior college to bring his grade point average up so he could go back. He was determined to get a college degree as the first in his family to do so.
While we were dating, his enlistment was up, and he applied for admission to Stephen F. Austin State College in Nacogdoches, Texas. He talked me into applying there, too, and I did. We both moved to Nacogdoches and lived in the dorms. We went home for Christmas, and on the way back to school we were in an accident that totaled Al’s car, and put him in the hospital somewhere in Indiana. He survived. I returned to SFA alone and he came back to Nacogdoches once he had recovered. Luckily his professors were very understanding, and let him make up the work he had missed, so he and I both ended that school year as juniors.
We decided to get married that summer, so we found a furnished apartment that was the second floor of an old Victorian house a couple of blocks from campus. We had a good life, although it was difficult to pay for. Al took a job as an orderly at the local hospital that gave him enough of a paycheck for us to buy food during the summer. That fall he and I both worked as lab assistants in the new Geology department. With our two salaries we paid rent, bought groceries and paid the hospital and doctor for the birth of our first son.
Unfortunately, when the baby was two months old, I developed gall bladder problems, Al was in his final semester of college and couldn’t take off, so he put me and the baby on a plane and sent me home to Westfield. I’m so thankful that Mama and Papa welcomed us, and Papa even took three weeks of vacation to care for the baby while I was in the hospital having my gall bladder removed.
Al graduated that spring, and looked at his life, and his responsibilities, and applied for Officer’s Training School in the Air Force. They accepted him, happily, but there was no room in the classes until fall, so he and I, along with the baby, moved back to Westfield and lived with Mama and Papa (and all of my siblings). He was able to get a job that summer that gave us some spending money.
I’m not gong to count the times I returned to my grandparents’ house or my parents’ house to live as different houses, so that brings the total to 11 places I lived in 22 years (and I haven’t even gotten to our life in the Air Force, yet.)