The One About Why 1968 Sucked

1968

1968 Sucked for a Lot of People

My guess is that, for the average 10-year old, memories are highly selective. As an adult, what you remember about being 10 years old will rely upon the experiences of your immediate family, close friends and certain other inner-circle types like teachers and ministers. To a lesser extent, your memories may also be affected by how powerfully you react to news about people you have never met.

I turned 10 in the year 1968. Here are a few of my highlights:

My parents enrolled me in a YMCA summer gymnastics camp in the wooded hills above our quiet bedroom community. Since I was a roly-poly 10-year old, this was not a bad idea [1]. I spent the days outdoors exercising, attempting to acquire grace and balance skills, and practicing acrobatic leaps and bounds that I would never otherwise consider [2].One of those acrobatic stunts involved running at full speed towards an apparatus commonly referred to as a pommel horse and, using your arms and hands, vaulting over the horse. Well, on this particular morning, the grass was wet following a rainstorm the previous night. Running at full speed, I slipped on the slick grass and hit the horse with my right wrist, which proceed to fracture.

At first, I did not know that I had fractured my wrist, only that it hurt like hell. Since this was olden-days camp [3], I just had to suck it up and wait until the end of the day for my parents to take me to the doctor. At the end of the day, all of us campers returned by bus to the YMCA for the afternoon swim. My wrist hurt like hell, but I was no fool. Of course I went swimming.

After the swim, I returned home to my father, the doctor, and my mother, the nurse. Of course they did not take me to the hospital. No doctor or nurse in their right minds wants to be seen in an emergency room with their own kids. It is kind of embarrassing to them. Not on a personal level, but on a professional level. Like their being a doctor or nurse means that their kids will never get sick or hurt. I did mention to them that my wrist hurt like hell, but I am sure they felt like I was making a big deal out of nothing.

The weekend passed without incident, but on Monday morning I was still complaining that my wrist hurt like hell so my father, the doctor, swallowed his pride and took me to the emergency room for an x-ray, which confirmed the fracture. That’s pretty much the end of that story. Casted on the hand I used for everything for a couple of months, my grade in “Handwriting” suffered.

We also moved that year from a neighborhood filled with kids my age to a street where two other boys (or anyone) under the age of 21 lived: the college student across the street and the high-school student at the end of the block. Since I was an only child, they were my only alternatives for play. I played one-on-one soccer with the college kid in his front yard and one-on-one basketball with the high-school kid in my driveway. They beat the shit out of me. Nothing weird happened, no one got molested, but it was not the kind of “Stand by Me” adolescent experience America endows on its boys [4].

I also started playing organized sports, in this case basketball for my 4th grade school team [5].

Those are pretty much my personal memories from 1968.

A couple of other memories stuck with me.

In April, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis. Until his death, I had no idea that this man lived on the same planet as me [6]. However, upon his death, I heard a lot about him and the murder from my parents and their peers. My recollection is that the grownups in my world were generally relieved because they viewed Dr. King as a troublemaker [7]. Not having him around, I gathered at the time, would mean that things would settle down [8].

In early June, I remember waking up and hearing on the news that Robert F. Kennedy [9] had been shot and killed in Los Angeles.[10] Even though we lived hundreds of miles from Los Angeles, it was really just a different part of California than us, which, in my 10-year old mind meant it could have happened in the next town from ours. I retained vague memories of another Kennedy being shot a killed five years earlier, but Bobby Kennedy did not excite me nearly as much as Willie Mays [11]. I do not recall a reaction from my Slavic Catholic father. In retrospect, that does not surprise me. I recall a pall of grief enveloping my Irish Catholic mother. In retrospect, that does not surprise me [12].

Go to Wikipedia, search for “1968,” and you will find a list of events and people who achieved great things or were otherwise newsworthy. You will not find anything about my broken wrist, but you will learn that the movie “Planet of the Apes” and the play “Hair” debuted that year, Pope Paul VI condemned birth control, Richard Nixon was elected president, and France exploded its first hydrogen bomb.[13]

Go to Amazon.com, search for “1968,” and you will find a list of books including “1968: The Year That Rocked the World.” I am sure, in the author’s mind, 1968 was an exciting year.

Mostly I remember it because I broke my wrist, moved to a new neighborhood, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy died. Yeah, 1968 kind of sucked.


Footnotes

[1] Even today, Michelle Obama is trying to get children off their butts, away from computer games, to play outdoors. And eat healthy foods. And study hard like her own kids (who are probably pre-admitted to Harvard).

[2] Really, what 10-year old boy in his right mind goes around leaping like a gymnast? Normal 10-year old boys run, throw and make noises that gross out girls.

[3] Yep, no doctor or nurse. Just wrap it up and wait for the bus. In case of a compound fracture, you’d probably just bleed to death.

[4] Not coincidentally, I began talking to myself. Out loud. I kept this habit until the age of 14, when it dawned on me that talking out loud to yourself might be considered a symptom of some kind of mental illness. And that girls would probably find it unattractive.

[5] I was still a pudgy kid and so this athletic endeavor did not result in my kind of accolade. However, I learned what being a “gunner” meant and how schoolyard rivalries could play out on the field of competition. For example, when I was in 8th Grade, a kid who most definitely did not like me knocked my two front teeth out when we both leapt to grab a rebound. Naturally, we were teammates.

[6] I also had no idea that Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead or Hubert Humphrey existed, either.

[7] I do not recall a racial element to their comments. They just preferred that people go along to get along. The great football player, Jim Brown, was categorized as a “loudmouth” because he dared to air controversial opinions on subjects not related to sports.

[8] That did not happen.

[9] I did not really know that Bobby Kennedy existed, either. Except that if you were a young person at the time, you were supposed to be excited by Bobby Kennedy. Supposedly, he was in favor of things that young people liked and that old people hated. As a 10-year old, how could you not love the guy (even if you barely knew he existed)?

[10] Those were the days when a newsworthy event could take place at night and the country would learn about it on TV the next morning. As opposed to the Age of Twitter, when newsworthy events take place and are reported on seconds later.

[11] I really liked Willie Mays, but mostly I felt sorry for him. By the time I became a baseball fan, Mays’ skills had eroded. I sensed that he was great in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, but he was a shell of his former self. I rooted for him as an underdog.

[12] I saw a framed photograph of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in my father’s father’s kitchen. I believe my grandfather’s generation played up the Catholic angle, even if they hated the guy. They were the ones who suffered anti-Catholic (or in their days “Papist”) prejudice. My father’s generation had it relatively easy.

[13] Of course, leading to the disastrous casting of Matthew Broderick and horrible, horrible P Diddy rap in the big-screen movie “Godzilla.”

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About Stephen Dedalus, Jr.

I am trying to awaken from the history of my ancestor's nightmare to comment on my Holy Trinity of Interests: art, literature, and music. Oh, and thoughts on dysfunctional families, which is to say families.
This entry was posted in Culture, Navel Gazing, Yutes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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