Today is the third day of renewed effort on my autobiography. Since last winter, I lost my place. Searching for it led me down a different path, one of considering structure different from the chronological timeline I wrote last year. There are considerations.
The first part was written in chronological sequence, which is okay and will likely persist. I tell a story from history, memory, and a few artifacts from the first two decades of my life. This part of the writing was engaging. My parents and maternal grandparents did not tell a single narrative of how they came to be in the Quad Cities by 1950. My grandfather did not live there. I didn’t know my paternal grandparents who both died before I was born. Every tale about the past came in asynchronous short stories. The few times any longer narrative was woven, mostly in writing by Mother, it seemed imbued with interpretation rather than facts. If I pieced the stories together in a new narrative there would be significant gaps and flaws, both mine and theirs. Getting a chance to write my story may have biases, yet by making it mine, the narrative is more complete and satisfying.
As I begin the 2022-2023 winter writing project I need to finish the narrative I started, yet want to break it and present different threads going forward in time. There are natural breaks which I will call “pivot points.” A pivot point was a time when, in a specific place, I considered my options and made a decision about where I would take my life. Here is my current reckoning of these pivot points as I navigate through this winter’s writing.
Most young people make a decision in high school whether to graduate and what to do next. This was complicated for me by the death of Father during my junior year. There was never a question about finishing high school. It was going to university that hung in the balance after he died.
I had begun to look at options my junior year and had discussions about them with Mother and Father. I was on a trajectory to attend University, yet Father’s death brought a pause in moving forward.
I remember the conversation with Mother clearly. It took place during daylight in the living room where she sat on the couch and I sat on the chair next to where we kept the telephone. I explained I was willing to give up university in order to stay in Davenport and help her get through the loss of Father. In no uncertain terms she told me to leave and I did.
Living at Five Points
Before I left for military service I put my belongings into storage. Some were at Mother’s house, some in storage with a moving company before the advent of commercial storage units, and I took a small amount of belongings with me based on a conversation with my Army recruiter. When I returned from Germany I got an apartment near Five Points in Davenport to figure things out. I reunited most of my belongings, including a considerable number of new ones brought back from Germany.
I reconnected with friends who stayed in Davenport. We had one of the few parties of my life at Five Points. I cooked a lasagna dinner on Nov. 25, 1979 and we sampled wine mostly from the Rheingau region of Germany where I lived. I was a terrible cook yet dinner was eaten. At the end of the evening, I cut up my military ID card recognizing it was the official last day of my active service. We toasted the event with shots of Jägermeister.
At Five Points I felt like youthful times were ending and weighed what to do next. I decided life in Davenport was not for me and that was that. I was eligible for the G.I. Bill, applied and was accepted to graduate school, and in Summer 1980, moved to Iowa City and never looked back to my home town.
After finishing graduate school in May 1981 I went on a trip down south to visit friends from the military. I evaluated returning to military service and decided visiting those who stayed after their initial enlistment would give me an idea of what it was like. I drove my yellow Chevy pickup to Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Rucker, Alabama, and then to Houston where I stayed with a buddy who went to work for Exxon Oil Company. After the trip, I decided to stay in Iowa City and find a job.
At 30 years old, I recognized that I hadn’t found a mate, and would be unlikely to do so unless I worked at it more than I did. Iowa City offered the best opportunity in the state for people like me, so I got an apartment on Market Street and found a job. It was a complicated time, yet one of the main decisions was to settle in and see if marriage would be possible. We married on Dec. 18, 1982. I remember being at the church like it was yesterday.
When our child left home in 2007 for a year-long internship with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando it set things in motion to be who I am today. My interest in the paid work I had been doing since 1984 waned. I wanted more from life. With our child a two-day car trip from home, I began to look at options. On July 3, 2009 I left work for the transportation and logistics company that employed me for almost 25 years.
Transportation and logistics has been part of who I am from the time I got my first newspaper route in grade school until I left paid work at the home, farm and auto supply store permanently during the pandemic. The decision to end it as a career in 2009, while still young, was hard to make. I’m glad I did it. The company bought me one of those big sheet cakes and I brought cupcakes baked by a neighbor working from home the next day. I got a phone call from the owner, and looked around at what I helped build for the last time.
I remember sitting in the car in the parking lot after my shift. I sat for a while in that moment. I turned around and exited the parking lot the back way, an exit I had never before used. That pivot made the difference in who I am.
Hard to say if this is a final list of pivot points. As always, writing a post helps me formalize what had been vague notions floating through my consciousness for a while. Now I better figure out where I left off last winter.