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Homecoming

Chuck Gleason

Chuck Gleason

I chose LFC because it seemed it would be similar to where I lived on Long Island. Close to a big city, it was a suburban community where I thought I would be comfortable.  Freshman year was not a happy one as I remember it – although toward the end I made an attempt to overcome my innate shyness.  I think a few more years were necessary to overcome my immaturity but there was plenty of that around me.  I wasn’t the only one!  Riding a unicycle around campus was part of my program to become more outgoing.  Being part of the loyal benchwarmers of the soccer team was great.  I did a brief stint at WLFC and I worked at speaking up and joining in class discussions.  By sophomore year I began to enjoy LFC and by senior year I loved it.  The campus was small enough that you would see friends everywhere on campus and yet there were plenty more to get to know.  Leaving campus after graduation I was amused by the emotion and tears that I saw as close friends parted company for the “real world.”  I was in complete and utter denial!  After I got home I crashed big time.  I was hit with the realization that all the bright young people my age that I had enjoyed so much would never be around me in the same numbers as college. Ouch!  

 

I carefully avoided taking any job that might lead to a career.  I planned to save money and travel the world as so many of my peers did.  I knew I was supposed to be hitchhiking through Europe but that was a daunting idea.  A Community Action Council (part of LBJ’s Great Society Program) near me won a grant to provide transportation to underserved communities.  I had already been turned down for several other driving jobs for being “overqualified” but they took me.  I soon became a dispatcher and, because I related well to the students in the education programs run by the Council, I was hired as a drug funded counselor.  My co-worker, Tyrone, was hired shortly after me.  Tyrone’s education was a little different than mine. While I was in college he was serving a several year sentence for armed robbery and drug sales.  He taught me a lot about the criminal justice system and a whole world I knew little about.  We discovered that the problems many of our students had with drugs were overshadowed by what the criminal justice system did to them.  Grants from local churches gave us enough money to bail many young people out of jail and find them education, jobs, and treatment.  Judges were happy to release people to us and when our clients did well they usually did not get sentenced to jail time.

I enjoyed being a director of our criminal justice project but I worried about what I would do when we inevitably lost our funding.  I decided to get an MSW in case I needed to seek similar work elsewhere.  Meanwhile, we hired my replacement who immediately turned our little 80K project into a huge project in 3 counties and NYC.  Although I was promised my job back when I returned from graduate school I knew that was not a good idea.

 

I reluctantly interviewed for a couple of school social worker jobs.  In terms of status, being a “therapist” rated much higher in the world of social work than being part of a school.  I went through an interview where I was not afraid to ask pointed questions since I didn’t care if I got the job or not.  After the interview I started thinking about what the job entailed.  It meant being on the front lines of mental health since schools are where many of the referrals to therapists are made.  It also meant having the summers off, vacations every eight weeks, and hours that ended at 2:35 in the afternoon.  As I thought about it getting that job meant everything to me!  I expected the job to last a few years.  A few years became 34 years before I retired. Ironically, the job was partially supported by the same funding source that supported my criminal justice project.  Also, I rarely left before 5pm,  My greatest pleasure in the job came from directing a theater group that acted out typical teen problems.  We performed for many Long Island schools.  The most difficult part of the job was dealing with some of the horror stories I heard from the kids I worked with.  I got to see the dark side of adolescent life but I also got to know some truly impressive young people.

 

A reunion of people who worked at the community agency in Port Washington led to my reintroduction to a psychologist who had worked in the building.  I had rarely seen her at work but I was attracted to her warmth and brightness.  She had a very bright young 3 year old who seemed to have the vocabulary of an adult. The psychologist, Maryanne, and I sailed our small sailboat with the help of Bob Gross (LFC 1971) to Block Island, RI.  There, in 1980 with our respective families in attendance, we were married by the town warden on some bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Much later, in 2012, we sailed in and out of that same ocean to the Abacos and Exumas in the Bahamas from New York.  The 3 year old is now in her 40’s and mother of two delightful girls of her own.  She and her husband work in a lovely small boarding school in the beautiful red rock area of Sedona, AZ.  Maryanne and I also had son who has somehow grown up and instantly become a 36 year old with a family of his own. 

 

We can’t seem to get enough of our grandchildren.  Who ever plans to become 72 years old and to have grandchildren?  I know I never planned to be this old!  I’ve fought it hard.  I started fighting the aging process in my 40’s by doing triathlons.  My first triathlon was a rehab goal for me.  I had spent 6 months in a wheelchair after being hit head-on by a cell phone using driver while I was biking.  I’ve never done an Iron Man but I did do the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon three years ago.  I swam 1.9 mi from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, then biked 18 hilly miles and finished with an 8 mile run.  That accomplishment earned me a Facebook comment from an LFC alumna who said “Chuck, we always knew you would be escaping from a prison somewhere.”  She was probably remembering her visit to me when I was jailed in Highwood for “Disobeying a Stop Sign” – but that’s another story.  I’m sorry to that Escape from Alcatraz did nothing to help me defeat the aging process - but it was an incredible experience. 

 

I’m thinking that considering the alternative we are all doing very well to be at this reunion no matter what our level of fitness may be.  I’m looking forward to catching up with a lot of LFC alumni.