Stories From A Teen Runaway
I WAS A RUNAWAY
I was a runaway teen back in the late 1960’s. But my circumstances were slightly different than most typical runaways. I was a military dependent in Germany when I left home at 16 years old.
Needless to say, my childhood hadn’t been the happiest one. My stepfather was a career military man having served in the Army during the Korean War and the Air Force where he served in Viet Nam. His father had been a strict disciplinarian and had passed those traits on to his son.
So, my siblings and I were raised in a militaristic and rigidly structured environment. That’s the only method he knew. Although we weren’t little angels as far as children go, we weren’t demon possessed prodigies either. I would say we were typical American kids for the most part.
Dad didn’t spare the rod on us. If we messed up, we could expect swift and prompt punishment. Some of which were exceedingly more harsh than the infraction warranted. In today’s politically correct and liberal world our dad may have had to serve jail time, or the authorities may have removed us from his care.
I don’t remember many things we did to deserve some punishments, but our age at the time didn’t merit the harsh reprimands we received. Being pulled by the hair and robust strapping’s some of which left welts and bruises were not uncommon. At the age of 5 my younger brother used to run off around our neighborhood. Dads’ solution was to put him in a duffle bag and hang him up in a closet. I clearly remember also him being held under a very hot shower. Another time he and I were handcuffed to a radiator for several hours. Dad told us he had lost the key and we both needed to urgently go to the rest room.
My early teen years hold memories of constant arguing. It seemed everyday dad would come home and begin yelling at us for some real or imagined wrongdoing. We obeyed him out of fear more than respect. I don’t believe he meant to physically harm us. He just didn’t have parenting skills.
However, our parents did love us and dad was a good provider. We never wanted for the basics of living. So, we were more fortunate than many children in the world. But there are more important things in life than material possessions. There are mental scars my brothers and I still carry to this day. Fortunately, in later years he and my mother began working with sexually abused children. He learned the error of his ways and also became a devout Christian. We have all forgiven him. Our dad recently passed away.
LEFT WITH PASSPORT
But at the age of 16, I finally decided I couldn’t take my home situation anymore and left with my passport and visa during the middle of the night. There weren’t many places a runaway minor could go in Germany, so I went “underground” and moved into a friends’ basement temporarily. I continued to go to school and took a job at the base cafeteria to support myself. Eventually, I was able to get a small room. This arrangement continued for the next 2 years until my 18th birthday.
In all actuality, dad could have found me very easily if he had wanted to. I was still in school and working on base. I suppose he thought as long as I was staying out of trouble it was alright. And I’d come home when ready.
I wanted to go back to the states, but was afraid to confront my dad. So, on my birthday I enlisted in the Army. It was 1970 and the Viet Nam War was still raging, a frightening prospect for me at the time. The day before my flight back to the states I went to say goodbye to my family. Dad was outside washing his car as I approached. When he spotted me he immediately ordered me to my room and said he’d deal with me shortly.
However, to his dismay I refused. Then I handed him my orders to report to Fort Dix, NJ for Army recruit training. His jaw hit the ground and his whole demeanor changed. Could that have been respect in his eyes?
I stayed for supper and left the following day with moms’ tears still wet on my shirt collar.