Being 17

24 Jul

My granddaughter has moved into a house with her boyfriend. She just turned 17 and he is 19.  I know this gives her a sense of security that she has not often had in her young life. I worry about her because I am forced to remember twenty years ago when her father was 17 and when I was that age as well.

At 17 and a high school senior I feel in love with an older man. He was 23 and about to muster out of the army from the base in Illinois. His plan was to return to his home town in Ohio. I begged him to take me with him. He didn’t and I thought I would die from the pain of a broken heart. I didn’t. Later I heard he had died as a drunk driver. At least he didn’t kill anyone else.

I accepted the marriage proposal from the boy who took me to the senior prom. Bad decision but breaking up with him a few months later was a better one. Decades later my mother said he asked about me. She said she gave as little information as possible. He was ending his 7th marriage.

The summer after graduation, I dated a much older man who asked me to marry him on about our 10th date. He was 33 and wanted to try for custody of his daughters. They were 6 and 12. I said no and headed off to college. It gave me the space from my mother I so desperately wanted as well as a chance to meet new people. In those first months I dated a fraternity boy who couldn’t decide if he wanted to date me or become a priest. A friend of my older brother announced that he intended to marry me when I grew up. He later died from AIDS. I had classes with the man who was to become my 1st husband. We married before my senior year in college. I was still afraid of being a single woman on my own. I had so much to learn.

In my 40’s I had friends who talked about being able to turn back the clock to their senior year knowing what they know now. I always declined. I couldn’t imagine doing it again because those experiences gave me what little wisdom I had gained but I didn’t want to live them twice! My experiences did not keep my son from making bad decisions of his own. My experiences will not keep his daughter free from heartache. At 17 life is just opening its doors. The adventure ahead will be a learning experience for her but once was enough for me.

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