Friday, October 15, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 7: The Seasons of Love and Learning

“Who is that mysterious beauty with the enigmatic smile and the classic features?”

“That’s Sue Wilson! She’s been away at a fancy college in Illinois.”

She showed up at the Teens & Twenties college age singles group. I was finishing my sophomore year at the U. of Minnesota. She was a year ahead of me, also enrolled at the University. I don’t remember when we started dating or how I got the courage to ask her out. I think it was an ice-skating date. She went to Colorado each summer to work at a guest ranch. Later I found out that she had this fellow staffer summer romance for a couple of summers. He phoned me and my daughter a couple of years after Sue died, wanting me to know how “close they had been.” He was Jewish. He wanted to marry her. She was Christian and couldn’t quite make the leap. So she got me. But not without a struggle. I had the whole school year to impress her. He only had a couple of months in the summer. By the end of my junior year and as Sue was graduating with a degree in early childhood education, we were going steady.

Milan & Sue58 Then the summer came and I was assigned to North Commons Park (from my old neighborhood) with Shirley Larson, a striking blond who was rebounding from a relationship. By the end of the summer I had broken it off with Sue and was spending all of my spare time with Shirley.

Park BD Shirley Larson Of course, a month or two after the summer Shirley went back to her former boyfriend. It took some convincing and crawling, but Sue did take me back and by Christmas we were engaged. Then over the course of the next year-and-a-half she broke up with me twice and relented twice. I said: “Not without a struggle.”

My senior year was made more challenging because my dad was drinking again, then got a job in Ogden, Utah, leaving my mother to sell our house, help me find a room, and join him in Ogden. It was winter. I couldn’t afford to keep my car going so I put it up on blocks at my Aunt Thelma’s place and got a used bicycle to ride to classes and work at the park. Occasionally, when I ran out of money and was hungry enough, I would make the ride to my Aunt Thelma’s in Parker’s Lake, a 15 mile ride one way. And if you think riding a bike for transportation is tough, try it in a Minnesota winter. There were days when I had to take the streetcars. Fortunately it still only cost a dime to ride.

Somehow I got through the school year, to find that my grade point average was not quite high enough to graduate with my class. So on to summer school in hopes of getting the degree by August, in time to enroll in seminary in the fall semester. My two summer classes were almost ended. I was getting a “C” in one and hovering between a “C” and a “B” in the other. Fortunately, that class was Dr. Holmer’s on Kierkegaard. I begged him: “What can I do to get a “B”? He let me write an extra paper and I was able to graduate by the proverbial skin of my teeth. Actually, it was partly Dr. Holmer’s fault. As my major advisor, he advised me to take an “inter-departmental” major, which meant every class I had taken would be included in my GPA. If I had majored in, say, Philosophy, those “D”s from my sophomore year would not have been included.

I really learned a lot at the U. of Minnesota. I just can’t remember exactly what.

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