A woman tells her grand-daughter about the 60's

I'll Never Forget

"Tell us about when you were younger, Gramma. Please?" The voice of my eight year old grand-daughter said. "You never tell us any really good stories."

I looked at my daughter for help. She just smiled and nodded, she knew all about when I was younger. Having a "Hippy" for a mom was one thing that she never really minded. Her friends all thought it was great. They would listen endlessly as I recounted story after story of how things were back then.
There was one story I hadn't told her, in fact I hadn't told many people after it happened. Perhaps today was just as good as any to tell it.

"Alright, alright. Since you're so darn cute, I'll tell you a story." I looked again to my daughter. "Might as well pull up a chair dear, this is one you've not heard."

When she sat down I started my trip down memory lane...

"Have you ever had someone you barely know, mean more to you than anything you could ever imagine in your lifetime? Someone that you would, if given any normal circumstance, probably not even think twice about talking to in the first place." I said looking at the two of them, not expecting an answer.
They knew when I got into telling a story that it was better to just sit and listen until I was done. Sometimes, I get a little confused when I am interrupted so they would wait until the end of the story to ask anything.

"They say, in your life time, you will meet an average of over 10,000 people. Did you know that?" I paused for a moment looking at my granddaughter, she sat there wide eyed but said nothing. "There are those that you meet and in only a moment they will turn your lives upside down and inside out and you wish you could forget. Then there are those select few people who, no matter what happens to you, there is no way that you would ever forget them. No matter how long you've known them." I continued.

"I want to tell you about probably the most important person I ever knew in my life. He deserves to be known and remembered, not only by me but by everyone. I just wish that you would have had the chance to meet him when I did, this will not entirely do him justice but I'm willing to try." I started to get lost in the memory as it took over, I let it. It seemed as if I was actually heading back there.

"Let's go back a bit shall we? Here it is the 21st century. The time of the wars overseas, the horrible terrorist attacks. A time when everyone is wanting peace yet no one is willing, it seems, to stand up and make their feelings known. Instead they will listen to their rap music and whine about the injustice of it all.

Through the 90's, we had more fighting overseas. Does it ever really end? Still people did not stand up and voice their opinions. If they did no one really made themselves heard or no one was listening. We continue going back through the 80's. Look at the history, even more fighting. Come to think of it I don't recall a decade where there wasn't a civil war or some other fighting going on.

Then continuing back even farther to the 70's. The war in Vietnam, which is what the people of my generation started fighting against in the 60's but didn't finish until the 70's. Then we get to the 60's, those wonderful 60's where love was free, drugs were flowing freer, and people fought for what they believed in. I suppose to a point we still do but not to the extent we did back then wouldn't you agree?

The year I want to take you back to is 1968; the year before Woodstock and the infamous concert. They one have since tried to duplicate and failed miserably. Although to ask those who went the second time around, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't enjoy themselves. I didn't go to it. I went to the one that mattered. The one that for all the rest of my life all music would forever be compared to. It just wasn't the same; things were never the same if they were duplicated. I'm getting off the point though." I paused to take a drink then continued.

"The year is 1968, I am here at the state university. Trying to decide whether there is really a point to me being here or if I'm wasting my time. I couldn't seem to focus on the school work that was assigned half the time. Everyone was focusing more on the war and many of my friends, myself included, did not believe that we had a right to be over there.

Neither I nor any of my friends seemed to understand what the need was to send over our friends, our brothers, our boyfriends; in some cases. The government wasn't giving any answers when they were asked. Not that it was any real surprise there. We just saw the people we care about being shipped off and being either hurt or killed. None of us liked it one bit.

When I first got to university, I spent my days going to class and in all honesty getting high. What a waste that was in hindsight I suppose but it was the 60's no one cared. I never did any of the hard core drugs some of my friends did. Pot or Mary Jane as my friends called it, was my drug of choice. Half the time when I went to class I was high."

I broke off and told my granddaughter that even though drugs were bad, back then that things were different. People had less to worry about, certain drugs were not as dangerous then as they were now.

"I didn't have to worry about going over there. I was a girl and they didn't send us over there to Vietnam. However I could do what I could to try and get our boys back home. My best friends fiance was over there and she wanted him home in one piece more than anything. I can't tell you how many nights we sat up talking and her crying over if or when he would come home.

A few months before Christmas was when I really started being involved in the protest movement. It got to the point where it would take over every part of my life, for a while at least. I was skipping classes going to rallies. If I wasn't attending a rally I was planning one with my friends. Finally it was just easier to drop out of school. If things calmed down or got better I could always return. At least that's what I told myself then.

After I was done with school, my best friend and I really got involved in protesting. The main reason for her was because she wanted the one person she loved more than anyone back home. I supported that for her. For me it was that, even though I knew her future husband Jim, I didn't want anyone over there.

So it was flower power all the way for us, we were going to stop this war most definitely. The first time I was arrested was the worst for me. It scared me pretty bad but it didn't break my resolve. If anything, I think it strengthened it.

I think over the next few months I was arrested probably close to a dozen times, I never got a conviction though. Most of what we did was considered to be disturbing the peace so they would let us off with a warning after holding us overnight unless we had someone to bail us out. I think they were just trying to scare us more than anything else.

My parents bailed me out every time. They didn't agree with what we were doing but they supported my choice so for that I suppose I should have been grateful. At the time it was just inconvenient being arrested.

I moved back home after I was done with school, my parents didn't fight with me over it. Which really surprised me, considering they were the ones who paid for me to go in the first place. When I told them that I wasn't completely giving up on school, just putting it on hold for a while, they supported my decision. I was thankful for that.

Moving back home was alright at first, I had to live by their rules which made it awkward when it came time for me to go to rallies. I couldn't come and go as easily as I could when I was staying at the dorm at school so it wasn't long before I made the decision to move back out. Nothing against my parents, but I needed my freedom.

A couple friends and I, rented a house that was close to the university campus. I think part of it was because a few still were going to school. Although, I think the main reason was because at night, after most of the classes were over we would go to the field and have discussions about where our next protest would be.

No one would bother us in the evenings, if we were sitting on the campus field most of the teachers figured we were just taking a study break. The cops figured we went to the university, little did they know the truth.
That night, we expected to be going to the field. I couldn't, I had to work. We still had the rent to pay, so some of us had jobs to cover that. My friend Mary was going to fill me in on things later. That night, was the night, I met the man who changed my life.

I headed off to work while they all headed off to the field. I worked at a local book store, it wasn't much but the pay was pretty good, for the time. When I went in I found it was pretty quiet, which was surprising for a Thursday. That was usually our busiest night.

An hour into my shift I heard a fight starting out front so I went to the window to see what was going on. There was a guy wearing a military uniform out front and he was being shoved by a couple of guys. Now normally I would stay out of it but they were not very friendly guys. I had seen them around and they tended to try to cause a fight without any reason. It didn't matter who you were. If they didn't like the looks of you, man watch your back.

I stepped outside the shop and took hold of the military guys arm, I smiled as sweetly as I could at the other two guys, I thanked them for stopping him. "He tends to walk past the store all the time off in his own little world." I said. Then I led him inside. I knew they wouldn't follow us inside they had no reason to come in a book store. There wasn't anything that they knew of that could be used for a weapon.

Pretty soon they left probably to bother someone else but that wasn't my concern. For some reason this guy was. I suppose it was because he reminded me of my brother who was a couple years older than I. He was going to fight over seas but wound up breaking his leg in basic training a couple months back so he couldn't go. He was upset about it and I didn't understand that.

We started talking to each other. He looked kind of spaced out, at first I thought maybe he was high. Then we were talking and he told me that he had signed up for duty. Voluntarily, could you believe that? I was shocked I asked him why, of all things he could have done why would he do that. He didn't answer he just kept talking. The thing that shocked him into this state was when he went home and told his parents what he had done, his dad threw him out. Said he had no son and wanted nothing to do with him.
I couldn't believe it. I mean with everything I had done my parents never once closed their doors to me. Why would his? It just blew my mind away.

Luckily the rest of the night was pretty quiet so we wound up talking for a bit. He told me that the reason he joined was so that he could go try to make a difference and try to help people feel the freedom that he felt here at home. I don't think I ever looked at it like that before. I knew the war was dangerous. Many guys were going overseas and it seemed that the longer they were there, the less they realized the reason why. Why were they there? Because a President said so? How fair is that?

Here was a guy just barely in his 20's wanting to go. We talked about things I told him how I felt about the war and about our soldiers being over there. He didn't get angry or offended. He actually thanked me for caring.

He showed me the other side of things. I still felt very strongly about the war coming to an end but I think I got a better understanding about where he came from and what he believed in. It was a relaxing, comfortable conversation. When it was time for me to leave he offered to walk me home. I accepted. When he walked me to the door I wrote down my address and told him if he ever wanted to that he could write. He smiled, kissed my cheek and walked away.

For months after that we wrote back and forth I still participated in my protests and he was overseas fighting and upholding his beliefs. Then one day the letters stopped. A week passed and nothing. Then it was two weeks. The third week was when I heard. He was gone. He had been killed over there. I was devastated. He was as close to me as my brother was and he was gone.

When he was shipped back home they had a military procession for him through town. It was truly beautiful. Across town there was a protest going on and all my roommates were there. I told them I couldn't make it I explained to them that I had a funeral to go to. That's where I went.

While I was at the funeral, the building that my friends were protesting at caught fire and burned to the ground. To this day I don't know all the details or why. All I do know is that because I was at the funeral my life was spared.
He saved my life, even in death he was watching out for others. That's the way I looked at it. I spent the rest of the 60's protesting but my heart just wasn't in it anymore. I lost so many people that winter in 1968. I was forever changed just by a chance meeting. Who knows, maybe someday your life will be changed by a chance meeting. You never know."

When I finished my story, my daughter said nothing, instead she got up, tears in her eyes, walked over and hugged me tight. There was nothing that either of them could say, not really. I could see the emotion in my daughter's face and the understanding in my granddaughter's face.

I wasn't entirely sure if it was a story that was meant for my granddaughter to hear but I think it was one she should know. Not so much that I could have lost my own life but that in life there is always suffering. In the end though, I think it always works out.

If it hadn't I wouldn't be here.

Short story by christina
Read 701 times
Written on 2007-02-28 at 12:59

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