Milestones / Defining Moments

I don’t know how I got on the subject, but yesterday I started thinking about milestones and/or defining moments in my life. (Maybe the fact that the car crash that took Toni’s life happened two years ago yesterday had something to do with it.) Some were really easy to identify, but others? Not so much. I came up with this not-at-all-inclusive list and thought I’d share it with you.

1. Eighth grade. Not the whole year, but it was at some point during that year when I realized time was starting to speed up on me. Eighth grade was my first year of changing classrooms for each class, instead of staying in the same room with the same teacher all day long. All of a sudden, it seemed like the days were just *flying* by! A couple of (subjective) months later I was a high-school graduate; then a college graduate; then married; then a dad; then a *single* dad; then remarried; then a widower and retired. Time sure files when you’re not paying attention… On the other hand, it also took me five years to get through a three-year high school (when I entered as an eighth-grader, the school housed Grades 8 – 12, but by the time I graduated, it only housed Grades 10 – 12 – Grades 8 & 9 were next door in the Junior High).

2. High-school graduation. When I graduated from Huguenot High School in Richmond, Virginia, in 1969, a lot more happened than just my getting a diploma. My parents were gracious enough to give me what I asked for as my graduation present – a trip to Europe – and I spent two months there that summer. That was also the summer my parents tried to run away! (In actuality, Dad was transferred back to New York from Virginia that summer, so while I was abroad, they sold a house, bought a house, packed and moved.)

3. College graduation. I knew this would be a major change in my life, because I would no longer have a months-long vacation every year. (Poor me!) Armed with a newly-printed Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Penn State, I traveled around the US in my first Jeep that summer – from New Hampshire to Florida to California and back to New Hampshire. That fall (1973) I entered active duty in the Air Force, and spent the next four years stationed in Florida.

4. Wedding #1. While in Florida, I met and married a wonderful young lady. That marriage produced three awesome daughters, all of whom I am very proud of and love with all my heart. It was also the impetus for the move to Tucson – when it became apparent that my next USAF assignment would be a remote (unaccompanied) tour overseas for a year, I decided to leave active duty. We applied to 7 colleges and universities in the West (she for anthropology; I for computer science), and the University of Arizona was the best of the 7 that accepted both of us.

5. Divorce. While it was a necessary thing to do, I’m still sad that it happened. I happen to be a person that takes vows and promises very seriously – if I say I’m going to do something, then by golly I’m going to do it! – and our vows included the traditional “in sickness and in health” clause. For a long time afterward, even though I saw no other path to take, I felt as though I had failed her and the marriage. At times I still do.

6. Engagement #2. After 15 years as a single dad, I found my soulmate – or I should say, she found me. To make a long story short, she contacted me via a dating site the weekend before Thanksgiving, 2006; the following Saturday we met for coffee; and three weeks after that I proposed (and she accepted!). She was a big hit with my daughters and was the woman I expected to spend the rest of my life with.

7. Car crash. Six years (to the day) after I proposed to her, Toni was in a car crash and was gone instantly. Although her body was maintained for a couple of days (she was an organ donor), *she* died when her head hit a steel bar in the dune buggy she was riding in. The world I knew ended with her death.

8. Job loss / retirement. I changed jobs several times during my working life. Most of the changes were voluntary; two weren’t. But only the last one – in May, 2013 – counts as a milestone in my list, because it became not just a job loss/change, but also the end of my working life (at least for now).

I’m still finding my way in a world I didn’t choose. I hope lightning will strike me a third time and I’ll find someone to spend the rest of my life with (or at least a good portion of what I have left), but there’s no way to predict what’ll happen. As for gainful employment, well, a typical “job” is probably something I’ll never have again. I’m still looking for a cause / project / avocation / [something] to keep myself busy with, but I doubt that anything I choose will last forever. There are so many things I want to do, and if I *do* get lucky in love a third time, then everything is likely to change again anyway.

I’d love to read about some of your milestones or defining moments.

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