The 85 degree weather in Wheaton, Illinois was a welcomed break from the 105 degrees back in Texas last Saturday morning. My family and I stopped for lunch in a cafe right in downtown. The last time I had a meal in Wheaton was 25 years ago. Unplanned, but funny that it was almost 25 years to the day.
On August 15, 1985 my father's job moved us to Texas. As a 15 year old getting ready to start my sophomore year, I was as angry as a teenager gets. A couple of weeks before we moved my parents took us to Hawaii for 14 days. It was beautiful, but I was disconnected thinking about the way my life was about to drastically change.
I was a dweeby kid. Short, zits, braces, a Beatles haircut and no concept of 'what to wear'. But, somehow, I had a core group of friends at school and church that meant the world to me and accepted me as I was. At school my freshman year I could count on the Domark twins, Heather, and John and at church Tim T, and Tim S, and I was just beginning to run in social circles with Doug and Keith.
I knew who I could trust, and who was going to slam me into the lockers in the hallway. I also knew who was all talk, whose ass I could kick, and when my ass was going to get kicked. I at least knew the playing field. By the way, if you ever meet a guy named Matt Kibbles, he does not like to be called 'Kibbles and Bits'.
Wheaton is a great suburb. Picturesque and quiet a part from Roosevelt Road.
During the winter you played hockey, skied hills in Wisconsin, stayed indoors as much as possible, and went from building to building. In the summer, you were never indoors. Camp was always a great time. Sailing, hiking, girl crazy and late night adolescent philosophy.
From 9 years old, to the week we moved, I delivered the Chicago Tribune to 70 homes every morning. It was good money for a kid and maybe why I hate getting up early now.
At 13 I was getting keen to the spiritual aspects of life, and my friends were walking this path with me. Midwestern people are not very pretentious. Of all the people I've met over the world, I like the personality of Midwesterners more than any. Not judgmental, trustworthy, reliable...the kind of friends you want.
To be moved from this place and these people was the biggest hurdle of my young life, and dealing with the transition created a lot of insecurities for me, and it made me into a rotten person for a long time.
Looking back, I can clearly see the hand of God, but in the midst of the storm I thought my parents were the devil and must have hated me.
Once we moved I refused to integrate and, I started to hate my friends in Chicago as their lives together were moving on while I was stuck in God forsaken Texas.
My entire sophomore year I ate lunch alone. My parents schemed with other parents to get their kids to invite me to their tables for lunch. I tried this a couple of times, but I just didn't fit, or was unwilling.
I spent weekends working for a local home builder. This kept me busy and my mind occupied.
The youth group at church reached out to me and at moments brought me some comfort, but I was always quick to compare it against my friendships in Chicago. This was unfair to them as everyone treated me very kind.
My junior year brought a great deal of change in my life. I got contacts, no longer had braces, learned to comb my hair and take a shower everyday, went and bought in style clothes, and started to drive.
You'd think this would have made my life better, but what it really did, was make it easier and more comfortable to be alone. I had only a few people I would let close in my life and if I was going to do anything it was always with them and no one else. I had a few girlfriends my junior year, but none of these relationships were healthy and my parents disapproved of my choices. There was also easy access to alcohol and this was adding a whole new dynamic to things for me.
The summer before my senior year I had met a girl while out cruising with Adam Pacheco. Her name was Danae LeMond. We started dating. She stuck with me through my senior year and through college and was even willing to marry me. This is a long story in itself, but thank goodness, because I was still a hurting ass-whole until about our 4th year of marriage. God used her to change me. I would even say, fix me from the damage I had brought on myself from August 15, 1985.
What if we had never left Wheaton? I'll never know the answer to this, and I only allow my mind to stop on it for brief seconds, but I did stop on it last Saturday as I sat with my Texas wife and kids in a cafe in Wheaton, Illinois.
Life goes on for all us and there is nothing unique about me. I've learned a million lessons from what I went through. Whether it makes me a better guy or not you'll have to ask someone else.
I am much more a Texan now than a midwesterner, I just don't have the Texas accent. But I carry in me some of the graciousness and kindness shown to me from friends in Wheaton, Fort Worth, and beyond. The only negatives I've had to shake are the one's I created for myself.
I thought I'd never experience friendship in the same ways I did in Wheaton. 25 years later I can tell you I learned from those open relationships there and have been fortunate to have many more like them in my life here.
It was good to see the town. It was good to show it to my family. It was good to return home to Fort Worth.