June 11, 2012

A condensed history of Ed Thomas, class of 1961, after being a student at Division Avenue High School


Class of 1961

A friend once asked me to pick one word to describe myself. I thought for a few seconds, and said “Lucky”. Every time I have needed something to happen in my life, something good happened.

1961 - Went off to Dartmouth. Freshman year was a disaster. I was hurt (concussion and retina) and couldn’t play football anymore. Also found that I couldn’t do calculus so I wasn’t going to be an engineer. My chronic depression appeared at this time. I was the right age for it and displayed classic symptoms. I would not be diagnosed, sort of, for not quite 20 years.

1961-65 - Muddled my way through school until I was asked to “take some time off” in the middle of senior year.

1965 - Enlisted in the Army. Went to Vietnam May 1967 and returned home July 4, 1968. In retrospect, this was the best year of my life. My daughters have asked me to write about it because they’ve heard bits and pieces over the years.

September 1968 - Took my messed up head (I had nightmares until February or March of 1969) back to Dartmouth to finish up. Biggest surprise was making Dean’s List after my less than brilliant earlier performance. Thought about going to grad school for Urban Planning but opted to take a job as a programmer with the Bank of Boston in April 1969.

Drank a lot. Started sailing in 1970 – made possible by the development of sunscreen which allowed me to do things outside. I have always burned easily which you may or may not have been aware of.

Summer 1971 met Carol Frost. Engaged in May 1972 with the agreement that I would do the laundry and we would buy a boat before a house. (I just fold the laundry now and we still have a boat so we have a sort of win/win/win /win here.

Married in January 1973. Bought our first boat, a Pearson 26, named Chantecleer in Jan 1974 and sailed it to South Freeport, Maine where we based it for four seasons.

Working, both of us, at Bank of Boston, and living in small town, Norwell, south of Boston. Sold the boat in September 1977. First child, Kerri, born in January 1978.

1978-79 - I went to an office automation conference in Chicago, I think, and had a few beers with the guy who invented the mouse!

1979 - Depression finally diagnosed when I went to see a shrink because I was thinking about suicide. Diagnosis was “asymmetric bi-polar”. I didn’t get manic, just depressed. I thought it was depression, but what did I know? I was a geography major.

1980 - Changed jobs, went to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC).

1981 - A few weeks after hostages came home from Iran all the guilt and anger from Vietnam came out one afternoon on the way home from work. I was carpooling with two women from my group that day. I just started crying. They stayed with me for a couple hours until I was able to drive home. I got hooked up with a Vets counseling group that met at our DEC facility. It took about two years, but that group saved my life.

October 1983 - Daughter Lindsay born. Still in Norwell, in our second house.

1983-1988 - DEC and Norwell. Played bridge, badly, at Newcomers and taught Sunday school at the Unitarian Church in Norwell.

1987 - Bought our third house in Norwell, an antique farmhouse that appeared on a map of the town from the 1760s. We bought it from the folks who had done all the renovations/modernizations.

1988 - Left DEC to go back to school to get my Massachusetts Teaching Certificate in Elementary Education. Mr. Mom during the day. Went to school at night.

May 1989 - I’m a teacher, no job but got my certificate. October - Talking to local school district about a position as a permanent sub. October - Carol’s recruited by Nationwide Bank in San Francisco

1990 - We’re off to California. Lived in a village named Alamo which is near Walnut Creek which is just east of Oakland. I become a full-time Mr. Mom because California didn’t recognize my Massachusetts certificate. AAARRRGGGHHH. My PTA buds find out I’m a techy and recruit me to open the computer lab at Lindsay’s elementary school. Recruited to run lab at a bigger school two years later. I’m having a ball.

1992 - I have to change shrinks because mine’s leaving the area. I find this new guy in Berkeley. I’m telling him my history and he says, “Sounds to me like you have depression. How ‘bout I put you on an antidepressant”. Three weeks later Carol says to me “The new meds seem to be working. You actually seem happy.” Seratonin reuptake inhibitors do the trick for me.

1997 - Carol’s recruited by Citizen’s Bank in Rhode Island. We move to historic district in Wickford Village in town of North Kingstown. Buy and renovate a 1888 Victorian.

1999 - Buy a Cal 29 sailboat. We sail locally, Naragansett Bay and cruise to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Montauk and eastern Connecticut.

2005 - Sold the Cal and got a Hunter 36 which ain't as pretty as the Cal but is a whole lot roomier.

Present - We’re both retired. Carol’s started re-learning to play the piano. We’ll spend our time this summer at the lake in Denville, New Jersey (near Morristown) and on the boat in Maine.


Marilyn Monsrud Frese DAHS '63 said...

What a personal, sad/happy, inspiring story! Ed, your history of pain/happiness is amazing. I am so glad you beat back the demons and went on to find the way to a fulfilling life. I remember you as a smart, quiet and very likable guy. You were a senior when I was a freshman but I got to know you a bit as I hung out with the Russ Green/Neil Manley crowd. You always had a kind word and a smile. I hope you continue to live your life realizing all the blessings you have... especially Carol (she sounds like a terrific woman) and your two daughters. It sure sounds like you are enjoying your retirement and having fun! Enjoy life... and stay happy!

Howard Whidden said...

Bravery isn't just shown on the battlefield as your life proves. My youngest son is also bipolar, type II (no ups, just depression) and yes, the meds have helped greatly. From one Viet vet to another, Welcome home! BTW, we live in Vernon, up in the mountains one hour north of Denville.

Walt Linder said...

Ed--Many similarities in our stories.

I to made Deans List after not doing well the first time around.
Amazing how much I learned in the Navy

Anonymous said...

From Brian Fisher class of 61....My time flies I remember the football player Ed Thomas..he was a very good player back in the day, man time flies that's all i can say, & i am glad that he's doing well after his bout of the vietnam memory, I was lucky that i didn't serve in country but at that time i served all over the world in the Navy & those in country deserve my hand salute, I salute you Ed.