The summer between my junior and senior year in high school wasn't particularly notable for anything or going anywhere special. We hung out on some weekends on some friends boats at a nearby marina or cruising on the Potomac River. My dad seemed to spend most of his time away from my brother and I while he was hanging out with his girlfriends. That, in itself, was a three-ring circus. But as long as my brother and I were acting “responsibly” as teenagers, we had a lot of unsupervised time.
By this time, my focus was turning to where I was going after graduation. I had already taken my SAT tests in March, but felt I could do better. I applied to take them again in July (on my birthday) in the hot, non-air conditioned cafeteria of my high school. In addition to the morning SAT, I took three achievement tests in English literature, chemistry and math (they don't let you do that any longer). By the end of the day, I was pretty much brain dead and went to a baseball game with my mom to celebrate my 17th birthday. When I got my SAT test scores back, I did show more improvement than normal by taking it the second time (but I hadn't taken the PSAT like many of my friends, so the first taking of the SAT was a lesson for me in what to expect). In addition, I had done well-enough to place out of some courses when I eventually was accepted at my preferred university. I would occasionally come across / see some of my friends/classmates during the summer but it wasn't like I was going to spend a day or an evening with any of them.
When my senior year began, there was Kady there in homeroom. We had both grown over the summer but I was still a skinny looking kid. She had filled out and lost some weight over the summer. She had allowed her hair to grow out longer. Her summer was filled with working at the nursing home full time before returning to a part-time schedule during the school year. We compared class schedules and found we were also in the same English/US Government class and had the same lunchtime period.
Sometime during our junior year I became more aware that Kady was thinking about something more than just friendship between the two of us. It was the way we talked with each other and it was what our mutual friends said to me about her. At the time, though, it just seemed more complicated than I was really willing to deal with. It wasn't that I couldn't see us as a couple; I could. It was that issues associated with our parents just seemed so complicating in addition to whatever baggage we both brought with us. Summer may have changed our physical appearances somewhat but it hadn't dealt with the other control issues that we both had to deal with. But our circle of friends expanded because most of our other closest friends were doing the senior high school dating thing. And more than one person suggested that she and I “get together." We didn't, though.
It was also in this time period, late in our junior year and into our senior year that I was getting a better picture of what her nursing experience was like. Over time, she revealed some of the things she dealt with. Most of them were good or at least she put a positive spin on them. There were clearly a number of old men who really liked her from what she described, like how when she and another nurse when clean up certain residents, they would get these erections, etc. I would often ask “well, how did things go last night?” after she had worked at the nursing home the previous night.
One day, in response to how things went, she brought up the subject of one of her favorite residents needing an enema and her giving him one. We were talking quietly in the homeroom classroom waiting for attendance or the bell, or something when she started talking about this particular resident and how much he liked her giving him an enema. I don't know if my face revealed anything, but I listened trying not to react one way or another. By this time, I knew what the word enema meant and I had been giving myself enemas on a nearly daily basis for about five years. Someone who knows this story asked if she was trying to see what kind of reaction she would get. Possibly, but I don't know. I mostly listened to her description without saying anything. After telling me the first time, I said something like “well, it all has to come out somehow.” It wasn't like her discussing giving enemas was an all-the-time thing, because it wasn't. Rather, I think it revealed a comfort level that I wasn't revulsed by the description or her discussing the things that her job had her do. And so our daily chats revolved around all sorts of things, not just her residents. She had a clear plan on where she was going to go to nursing school in the area and her next four years beyond high school were being laid out according to her plan.
My next four years, as it turned out, wouldn't be local. I could have gone to University of Maryland on a scholarship in chemical engineering (too close to home), the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (also too close to home). My guidance counselor also thought I had an aptitude for the law (good insight) and was interested in helping me get into Princeton. Ultimately, I chose NC State University (about 5 hours driving away from home). Many of my classmates were staying fairly local in their future schooling. Only three of my classmates, including my best friend, went to NC State and we were all going for the engineering school.
As I said, I was a violin player and had been in the school orchestra since I was in 8th grade. I had been in the first violin section in 9th grade, dropped into the second violin section for both 10th and 11th grade (section leader) in the high school orchestra. In the 10th and 11th grade, I was selected to be included in the Virginia State String Orchestra (VSSO), these were the best string players in the state that gathered for a Thursday night, Friday, Saturday rehearsal and then a Sunday concert. In my senior year, I not only moved into the first violin section, I auditioned for and was awarded the first chair, Concertmaster position in the orchestra. For those of you who know anything about orchestral structure, that's a really big deal. Once again, I was selected for VSSO and had to prepare by practicing the music for VSSO in addition to out normal orchestral preparations. And so our daily routine went on from early September until early November and then everything changed over the weekend when I went away for the VSSO event in southeast Virginia. It changed the pathways in my life in ways that I could hardly imagine until looking back at it years later.