by Steve McLean
When I suddenly became physically challenged Elvis and The Beatles helped me deal with it.
|Back in the beginning of 1963, I was riding high on the crest of a wave of young dreams for my future, looking forward to doing all the things young guys of 16 dream about and plan on beginning to do. I had just started going to high school in a new town: Shelby, Ohio. And I had met an attractive blonde student there named Nicole that I wanted to get to know better, to develop, perhaps, a life-long romantic relationship with that would include dating, becoming engaged, marrying, and raising a family of our own, just like my precious parents, grandparents, and other relatives had done. Like I had seen could be done and happily enjoyed by everyone all around me as I was growing up.
But ... along came a debilitating disease called "young people's arthritis" that attacked my body with relentless abandon a few months into 1963, and I became in too much arthritic pain to continue going to high school and pursuing my romantic dreams with that beautiful blonde named Nicole. I had to drop out of high school and finish the 9th and 10th grades with a tutor. I never went back to high school, after finishing those two grades, but in later years, as a physically-challenged adult, I studied for and earned a G.E.D. degree, and then enrolled in Ohio State University - Mansfield Branch, with the goal of obtaining a diploma in Communications. What happened while in college is another chapter in my life story that I'll share with you in a future biographical article.
After I became physically challenged, I was shut off for many years from experiencing "out in the world" contact and experiences with young people my age. In those days, the physically-challenged weren't integrated back into schools like they were in later years, so I ended up staying at home, relating to my family instead of other teens, and living a vicarious life of outside-of-the-family experiences in love and romance and drama and adventure through watching my favorite TV series and movies and listening to my favorite singers and groups. Among these were Elvis Presley, and beginning in1964, The Beatles and other favorite English groups like Gerry and The Pacemakers and Herman's Hermits. Each one of these cheered my heart and helped me to cope with my unexpected and heartbreaking new life-style. I hadn't developed a close group of young friends in school to "hang out" with because our family had needed to move around a lot from one house to another, each of which was located in the smaller towns that surrounded the city of Mansfield, so when I had to drop out of Shelby High School, that was that for contact with and developing any close relationships with school peers. This is why it became important and special to me to enjoy vicarious fictional relationships with the characters in favorite TV series and movies on TV or in the movie theaters whenever I was able to go and see a movie in a theater. Elvis and his musical romances filled the gap, romantically, for me throughout the 1960s, until I was finally able, in the late 1970s, to meet other young Christian adults at Grace Fellowship Church in Mansfield, move into my own first bachelor apartment in 1980, and start doing a whole lot of activities with other singles my age, even beginning to have dating experiences with some of those single Christian gal friends. What a blessing to my romantic heart that was!
As for The Beatles: I was feeling pretty low and depressed in 1964, partly because of losing a pretty young girl from Puerto Rico named Leyda that I had met and fallen in love with while we were both in The Cleveland Clinic for treatment of our individual problems. Leyda's problem was a hole in her heart that she was there to have a life-saving operation for, to try to close and fix it. At first it seemed that the operation worked, but a few months after she left the Cleveland Clinic and returned to Puerto Rico with her parents, her heart rejected what had been done to it in that operation, and Leyda went to be with the Lord. This was before her 16th birthday that September, which, ironically, was the same birthdate as mine: September 28. So ... I was already depressed about losing Leyda when, that November, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, devastating the hearts of most of the United States' young population (including me) who absolutely loved young President Kennedy! When The Beatles came along in 1964, they were exactly what every young person needed to get out of our "blue funk" and back into a happy, cheerful mood again, with their infectious, upbeat songs and personalities. They really helped me, along with Elvis and his musical romances, to get over losing Leyda, President Kennedy, and adjust to living my new life of being physically-challenged and having to live a part of my life vicariously.