What Were You Doing in 1961

Dave's picture

What happened to you in 1961?  Was it memorable? Good memories or not so good.  My 1961 was memorable but upon reflection, the memories are not pleasant.  In fact I tend to put 1961 on the back burner of life.  And then I read this book.

It’s a remarkable and thought provoking book written by William Kent Krueger entitled Ordinary Grace.  Krueger writes mysteries set in northern Minnesota.  This book is a departure from that theme.  This story is set in a small town in southern Minnesota in 1961.  The narrator is thirteen, the son of a Methodist minister.  The story centers on how he and his family deal with a number of unfortunate deaths during the summer of 1961.  That’s the plot synopsis.

What struck me about the book was how it hit home.  1961 was not a good year for me.  I had just come through my freshman year at college where I vastly overreached in my classes (which was reflected in my grades).  I deluded myself into thinking I could be an engineer rather than follow my passions – history and political science.  My erstwhile engineering journey included physics and math.  Big mistake.  It ended, for all intents and purposes, my college career.  In 1961 there was this thing called the “draft” which meant goodbye college, hello military service.  Then just before the end of the school year, we found out my mother had stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed in May and died in July 1961.  She was forty.  My sister was just fourteen; the age where she really needed her mom.  I think for any teenage son or daughter to travel the adolescent minefield without a parent places an unfair challenge on that son or daughter. She came through it OK, but I think the experience left her lacking in the self-confidence to really fulfill her potential.  My wife and friends tell me that one of the most important roles in a teenage girl’s life is to have a Mom to support her during these important teen years.

My life took a different turn, in October I joined the Navy.  The Navy provided structure in my life and a much needed release from the difficult events of the first nine months of the year.  My time in military service gave me time to adjust to the new ‘rules of the game’ in my life, and start a different path, while being in a structured setting that did not allow me to mess up too badly.

As you can tell 1961 pretty much sucked for me.  Because it sucked, I don’t get caught up in nostalgic fervor when thinking about it.  It’s pretty much a black hole emotionally.  However, Ordinary Grace dragged me back to that year and forced me to think again of those events.  And you know what?  It was bad at the time, but not as bad as I thought.  All of my little family (mom, dad, and sister) have passed on.  But their spirits are still with me, and they fill me with contentment.  I believe they are together waiting for me to join them when my time on earth is finished.

What was your 1961 all about?  I would love to read about your reflections of that year and I believe rChance readers would too.

Remember, it’s rChance to Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way. 

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