Friday, May 6, 2011


"He would have been 20 today!"
I looked around in surprise. I was driving home to Seward Junction from my summer job in Georgetown. 
I was alone in the car.
It was the day before my 19th birthday.
The voice was very clear, as if someone were in the passenger seat of my 1964 Malibu.
It freaked me out a bit, you may guess, and you'd be right. As soon as I could I pulled over and stopped.

I was headed back to my classes at Central Texas College in a few weeks. Back to my degree plan of an Associates in Drafting and Design. 
Just the previous semester I had been told that my previous degree plan in Electronics wouldn't work out. I had taken all the courses offered, several of the required courses didn't make. The counselors had given me alternate courses to replace those, but, in the end, those courses didn't actually substitute for the degree.
I was a bit pissed off about it at the time. 
I'd wasted a lot of class time taking courses that didn't ultimately matter.
I decided the counselors didn't know what the heck they were talking about.
Here was a smug counselor sitting there telling me that the courses he himself had offered me as substitutes now would not substitute! Grrr!

That was in 1969. Electronics was a booming field. A two year Associates degree wasn't worth a whole lot, but the mere "certificate" they wanted me to accept would have been worth diddly.
I refused. 
I switched my major to Drafting and Design. I'd taken a couple of drafting courses for my Electronics degree and I'd done well, I liked the teacher, so I switched. Resigned myself to another year and a half of school to finish.
I was working the summer at Compton Motors in Georgetown, the GM dealer for the area. 
I'd grown up helping Dad (my grandfather) in his garage. He was an all around old time mechanic, fixing everything that came in: farm tractors, cars, trucks, farm equipment, small engines, welding repairs, anything. 
I applied at Compton's. I didn't get my own service bay, since I didn't own my own tools. They put me in with another mechanic as his helper. I was in the body shop where all the experienced, well seasoned, but non "factory" mechanics were. 
I liked it. It wasn't that different from the home garage.
Later in the summer, when the mechanic I was helping went on vacation, I moved into the main service shop and used the bay of another mechanic who was also on vacation.
They offered to keep me on, give me my own bay, but I just had to return to school.
Even then, a mechanic with his own bay at the dealership made nearly three times as much money per hour as I EVER made as a draftsman!
Oh well. Maybe I screwed up there!

Anyway, that's the space I was in when I had my warning! I was feeling pretty good about myself, actually. I was about to turn nineteen, I had a girlfriend, the boss was saying good things about my work, and I was going back to school.
And, a female voice I didn't recognize was predicting my doom in my car.
I don't guess I have to tell you that nothing happened.
I was very, very cautious for a year.
I was downright paranoid the last few weeks before my 20th birthday the following year.
I was almost disappointed!
I certainly preferred surviving, if there was a crisis of some sort, but nothing.
I'd like to think my caution prevented something from happening. Perhaps that is what happened. Maybe I was eavesdropping on a distant conversation that didn't even concern me.
That happens sometimes too.
I do sometimes have moments when I drift away, not exactly daydreaming, but a feeling that I'm experiencing someone else's reality. 
I call it "having someone else's deja vu." Because in a way that's what it feels like.
I'm left usually not remembering any of it, except the feeling that I was elsewhere for a moment.
Kinda weird sometimes.
This voice, though, was really clear. And, I've never forgotten.

I made it way past 20. All my wonderful kids are past it too, except for one. He'll be there too this summer.
I don't know.

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