Friday, October 19, 2012

MY LIFE AT NINETEEN


Today's 19 post for the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge is written by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
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Was your life at nineteen anything like mine? Were you young and foolish and thought you were grown up enough to make adult decisions?

When I was nineteen, boys my age were drafted into the army. They swore an oath to be willing to give their lives for their country.

We were all adults, right?

Two days after my nineteenth birthday, my boyfriend gave me an engagement ring. My parents were flabbergasted. They begged and pleaded with me to rethink this decision. What about your education? What about a career? (Career? I had a job, and that would get me through until I made it as a writer.) What if, gasp! you get pregnant?

I assured them I would not get pregnant. After all, the experts said diabetics had difficulty getting pregnant. Those experts also said diabetes would shorten my life. I wanted to marry Jim, and if I wasn’t going to have a long life, I was in a hurry to begin my life with him.

Jim and I had known each other since I was 13. We’d been good friends for years before we started dating. I had graduated high school at 17. I was smart. I knew what I wanted.

Two months after he gave me that ring, I became Jim’s wife. He was in the US Navy at the time, so he went back to base a week after our short honeymoon. My life hadn’t changed all that much, except I lived in a cute, little apartment instead of sharing a room with my sister in my parents’ home. I went to work during the day, and school in the evening.
Kathy Cannon becomes a Wiechman

Three weeks later, I flew to Great lakes, IL, for Jim’s graduation from boot camp. We were together the whole weekend, and I missed him terribly when I had to go home.

Unknowingly, I took a little extra something back home with me. I was pregnant. That’s right. Those experts who said it would be difficult weren’t so smart after all. Or was I the one who wasn’t so smart?

Jim and I decided I should quit my job after the semester and move to the Boston area where he was stationed. We lived in government housing, a small apartment where hot running water was fickle. My pre-natal appointments were at Chelsea Naval Hospital, and I was warned that a diabetic pregnancy would not be easy.

They were right. It was tough, but we got through it, and three weeks before my twentieth birthday, I gave birth to our premature first daughter. Today, Kelly is a wife and mother herself, and no, she didn’t get married at 19.
Kathy and Jim's first-born, Kelly.

Looking back at our wedding picture, I realize how very young we were (and Jim looks even younger in the picture than he really was. I swear I didn’t marry a 12-year-old.)

We were in no way ready for marriage and family. But we were both stubborn—and committed. We struggled through some rough times, but we’ve had wonderfully happy times, too. Yes, we’re still together, still friends, and our marriage is stronger than ever. Forgive me if this sounds sappy, but I love him more every day.

I still haven’t “made it” as a writer. Luckily I didn’t have to depend on it for a living. I worked at numerous jobs off and on while our family grew (including teaching, which made my mother happy), and Jim has been a good provider. We both grew up in frugal families, and that lifestyle worked for us, too.

The year I was nineteen was the ultimate life-changer, but I have never regretted being young and foolish.



19 comments:

  1. Wow, sounds like 19 was a great year for you. For me 19 was just another typical year of college. Good luck with the writing.

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    1. Thanks, Jessica. I wish good luck to you, too.

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  2. Lovely, Kathy. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. And thanks, Robin, for stopping by to read it.

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  3. I love the wedding pic! And I have to say that life comes whether you are ready or not. You and Jim are a testament to love and commitment.

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    1. Thanks, Gina. You & I both know well that Life doesn't go according to plan. And happiness can be found in the smallest of accomplishments. It's not about what happens, but how we deal with what happens. Hugs!

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  4. Wow, 19 is so young! Still, it's a lovely story. Congratulations on sticking together and making it work despite being so young. What a beautiful accomplishment!

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    1. Thank you! At the time, we didn't realize how very young we were. I would never recommend marriage at 19, but we made it work mainly because we BOTH wanted it to.

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  5. I love this story!! You have a strength that is so inspiring!! You and Jim are amazing people and I am blessed to call you Mom and Dad or Wiech....lol

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    1. How special it is to get a comment from my beautiful daughter-in-law! And we feel blessed that Toby brought you into our lives. The love story continues.

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  6. What a great story, that's a fantastic photo of you guys. You are most certainly right about Jim, he's a good guy and I can't wait till you guys get here so we celebrate his 29th birthday!

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    1. Thanks, Jon. We're looking forward to seeing you & Patty, & Jim'll be tickled to be 29 again!

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  7. You are both so young and beautiful (still.)

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    1. Thanks, Juliet, that's sweet. I love your facebook quote about ships & harbors. And I hope you & I will see each other again before too long.

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  8. Beautiful story! I think we need stories like this to counter all our negative assumptions. Sometimes people make it all work and if we concentrated more on that, maybe more of us would find that path.

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    1. Thanks, Joy. I guess it takes 2 people who both want to make it work. Sometimes people put more effort into splitting up than they do trying to stay together. But I can only speak for myself, & I'm grateful Jim's a keeper.

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  9. A lovely story about lovely people.

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    1. Thanks, Ann. I love it that you stay in touch. Hope we get together again one of these days.

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