My accomplishments are only as grand as I think I can be. That is the principal that I have lived by and helped other strive for their goals. Even as a child I dreamed Big! Being a victim of a violent crime and acquiring a head injury, pushed me to work harder and to THINK BIGGER and better. I knew that one day I would write a book, even though it’s not published; I have written my first book. I thought I could be a Neurosurgeon, trust me none of us would want that. Yes I am laughing. The thing I never imagined myself doing was going to college. I’ll never forget the day in 9th grade where Mr. Basinski ( I hope I have his name spelled correctly) sat me down and said something like, you’re going to high school next year what do you and what do you want to take? I said something like, what do you mean. He went on to ask, “Do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
I was blown away, after that I needed to get high, it stressed me out terribly. And I actually may have done just that after I left his office. I said, “I don’t have any idea.” I still could not comprehend the magnitude of the “REST OF YOUR LIFE”, (I mean how many kids in 9th grade do know? He went on to say you can take classes that will put you on track for a vocation/ trade or college. I was in 9th grade and no one had ever spoken to me of college or work, or a career, and I wasn’t even sure I was going to live that long at the rate my life was going. I was just trying to get by every day, let alone thinking about the “REST OF MY LIFE”. I thought for a very short time and said I guess college. I left there still not knowing what classes I would be taking and thinking, “That was a lame answer; I’ll never go to college. We can’t afford that and my grades are mediocre”.
I get to 10th grade and I’m lost, I’m taking Geometry, French ( I was never great at languages), Drivers education where I was never going to get to drive so I sat in a class learning how to drive knowing or at least believing that I would never drive. I was flunking all my courses, oh except driver’s education. One day I just woke up and this is how I do things, I am decisive and I am quiet about my thoughts or plans, (less now than ever before) and I told Mom, “I’m quitting school. I’m not going back.” She was freaked, those where the days when, “You weren’t anything if you didn’t have a diploma.” or so everyone said. She begged me to go in just today, as if this day would change my mind and I finally relented and rode my bike to school, not promising her anything or that I would stay. The guidance counselor met me at the door. Mr. Moore tried to make me think about what I was doing and I didn’t see any point in school, I wanted to work. I left that day the very first day I ever skipped school was the day I quit.
I spoke to a friend, Richard Perez and he said, “That is the stupidest thing I ever heard.” He changed my mind that day; that phrase haunted me and I realized he was right. By January, I signed up to go to James H. Groves, adult night school. Mom drove Lyndon and me every Tuesday and Thursday. We both received our Diplomas and we were graduating five months later’ the class 1981. I graduated 2 years before I was scheduled to do so at Cape Henlopen High School. My dumb luck, I am so excited about graduating, I am actually wearing a dress and I had Farah Facet style Hair and as we walk down the aisle, I fall out having a massive seizure. I never was able to walk for that graduation, however I did have quiet the entrance and exit, I must say.
I found jobs and had my own business of mowing lawns in the summer for 4 years. I worked in restaurants, a gas station, a home health store as a secretary, Ellis’s marine doing inventory, with Dave Lemmon doing construction or actually demolition and clean up, and a printing company. I realized I was desperately searching for ME in Lewes and was failing horribly. I was drinking like a fish and I did not have a license so I felt trapped, in a town of tourists and waterman. No, I wasn’t old enough to drink that’s why every year for three I celebrated my 21st birthday at a different bar. I chuckle now because I survived all that without detox, rehab or death.
My last job in Lewes was at Atlantic Litho printers making $3.89 an hour in 1985 and living on my own since I was 17; another decision mom could not talk me out of; a woman in the graphics department was having a party and I was invited to Worcester County MD. Her husband was the Director of The Worcester County Developmental Center. He met me and after talking to me said, “You would be great working with people with Developmental Disabilities.” I didn’t even know what that meant or why he thought that about me. He didn’t even know me. Technically I actually fit the criteria for a developmentally disabled person, except low intelligence; (at the time anyway that was one of the most defining criteria). I was up for any adventure at this point and told him I would like to meet the clients so in the summer I went to a BBQ in Salisbury Park with all the clients. I really had a good time. I agreed then that I would work for him when a job became available.
In October of 1985 I was going to Snow Hill, MD to live, literally live with 6 adults whom I did not know and start a new job as a Residential Counselor. What a deal I thought, $11,000.00 a year and medical benefits, no rent, no bills, and my Mom was scared to death, mostly of the unknown. She didn’t go with me and I up and left on a new adventure never thinking anything of it. I loved Snow Hill, MD, but if I thought Lewes had nothing to offer, Snow Hill had less but I was working a lot and all of that responsibility for others changed me. It altered me in the best ways I can think of. I loved them like my family and we lived like family. We ate together, we went out to dinner together, we watched TV together and this was yet another turning point in my journey called Life.
The great thing was; I never believed that they could not excel and learn new things. I walked into a home where at any meal they would have starved if someone didn’t cook, serve and feed them and three years later they were doing laundry, learning to cook, setting the table, cleaning up after themselves and the list goes on. They taught me that I had a great deal of compassion, patience, and I wanted to understand them, the mind and disabilities better. They taught me how to stick to something that I loved and that I could manage a group home all by myself. They taught me what it meant to love unconditionally. They taught me a great many of things and I can never repay them.
One thing that my new family taught me was that I wanted to go to college. On a whim in July 1986, I applied and by September was standing at Salisbury State College, very lost and a bit overwhelmed picking my classes. I’ll never forget paying my own tuition. As I am writing the check for what now seems a very small amount of money, I broke into a sweat and looked at the check and thought, THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! The lady looked at me and I know I was pale with sweat rolling down my face, she asked if I was, OK? I said handing her the check, “I am NOW!”
Salisbury State College was 20 minutes away and I still did not drive, but come hell or high water, I made it to class every day and back. For two of those years somehow, I always met people going my way. It took me nine years to get my Psychology Degree with a minor in Philosophy and I got to walk at graduation and I will never forget how proud I was, but how I was actually having a Panic Attack thinking I could have a seizure in front of thousands of people at the Wicomico Civic Center. I was really freaking out, silently and to my friend next to me and she had no idea what was the matter with me. I hear my name, I walk briskly to the stage, after being at school for 9 years, struggling to pay for classes here and there; this night was supposed to be a relief. I walk up the stage and a man who knows me as everyone on campus did, shakes my hand firmly and says with a big smile, “You did it! It’s about time we were starting to worry about you.” Of course I smiled and was more comfortable and walked off with my Bachelor’s Degree. It was one of the very best days of my life and I recall every detail as if it happened yesterday.