In the fall of 1989, I began matriculating at Winona State. Not feeling that the past summer was enough of a reprieve from the grind, I opted to take two classes instead of the usual four. It was, I felt, a way to ease into college, to dip my foot in the water first, you could say.
Since I had no fookin idea what my major was going to be, I took two generals: Psychology and American History. I was nothing, if not prompt, for my Psych class. Set in a huge classroom (which seated at least 65 people), I was frequently the second one there and chose a seat that should be no surprise to those who are familiar with my personality: way in the back, in the corner, next to the door. If I got woozy, it would be no sweat to just get up and head to the head.
There was a lady who typically got there before me. A little better than average-looking, with dark hair, she reminded me of Michael J. Fox's love interest in "Teen Wolf".
Her seat of choice was right smack-dab in the middle of the classroom. We frequently talked for a number of minutes before other classmates arrived. In my eyes, she was just the kind of girl I'd like to marry one day. I was too shy, at that point, however, to make any moves. One of the terms I learned during the class and which has stuck with me to this day is homeostasis.
Getting to my other class, American History, was more of a challenge as Winona State was now offering some of its classes at the site of a college that had recently closed, Saint Theresa's. Located about a mile and a half from WSU, most students needed to take a bus to get to it. My teacher's last name was Harrison. He was a fifty-something whose laid-back demeanor I grew to enjoy.
I also sat near the door for this class, but since the door was located closest to the front, I actually sat in the first row. Not typical for me, but I guess that door represented freedom and I wanted to be as close to it as possible. There was a girl who sat near me and who I helped explain from time to time what she had missed; she, for some reason, couldn't make every class.
The first assignment Harrison gave us was to write a biography of our lives. Since we were dealing with history, he figured that we should get an idea of how our own lives represent history in the making. Here is what I wrote:
"Thomas D--- was born on November --, 197-. His father was in the Air Force at the time and was stationed on the island of Crete located on the Mediterranean. His mother also lived there on Crete with her husband. Because of certain regulations and preferences, Tom's father and mother were to have their child in Wiesbaden, Germany. And so, on the ---- day of the eleventh month of 197-, their first son was born.
One and a half years later, they would have a second child, a daughter, borne to them. She was also given Wiesbaden, Germany to be her birthplace.
After having served approximately four years in the Air Force, the family packed up and returned to America. The two children had never been to America. All their life had been spent on a small island in Europe. They took a plane and returned to Winona, Minnesota.
The group lived in several apartments in and around Winona. Around 1975, they moved into their first home and they had two more sons. Tom's father was now a seasoned accountant and the family was thriving.
In 1978, looking for a larger home, the family headed elsewhere to live. They moved to Rollingstone, population 528, located seven miles from Winona. There their fifth and final child, a son, would be born, the last three children being delivered at Winona's Community Memorial Hospital.
The years dragged on. The father worked hard. The mother cared for the children. The children loved their semi-country, semi-city environment. Tom's family was perfect. To try and better one's life then would have been impossible. They had great friends, hot summers, cool winters, and electrical nights.
And then, it collapsed. The change was as swift as throwing away the day's trash. It was over. And any shades of happiness were a brilliant memory still shining a million miles away. It was there that love died, never to return. It was the setting of the sun, the end of a millennium.
The next few years went by quietly, mercifully and the divorce became a reality and its purpose, life's purpose, faded like a shooting star swallowed by the night.
Today, the family still lives. Separate, yet still together somehow, as if the brilliance of those former years will never pass away from the hearts and minds of those who lived it so many years and years ago.
The family's first son, Tom, still lives, but he stands apart, haunted, perhaps, by knowledge few others can ever share. He is still not alone."