Although I am positive, but I must have drank it earlier because my mother drank it and my grandpa and uncle Alfred drank it — every morning, slurp slurp, whereas, my first vivid memory of have a cup of coffee was on the morning of March 15, 1960. It was in the coffee shop of the Alachua General Hospital — the day my world changed, the day my father was killed in a tragic accident.

On that memorable morning I was walking across my front lawn from the house headed toward the school bus stop when my father yelled out the door asking me if I wanted a ride as it was a slight chilly morning and I think a little misty. Of course not. I’d walk on.***
After the 15-mile bus ride to school, I was still in my homeroom, B-4, when an announcement came over the intercom instructing me to go to the office. I don’t remember my first thought on hearing that announcement but the feeling I recall, naturally, was hmmm, wondering why. Well, I got to the office and our assistant principal, Mr. Joe Hudson told me that there had been an accident and he drove me to the hospital. I was greeted by someone who informed me that my father was DOA (dead on arrival). Can you imagine a grown adult informing a 15-year old boy that his father was DOA. And then that person left and I was just there.
After a while a young man, but older than me, the ambulance driver who had brought my father in from the accident site to the hospital, invited me down to the coffee shop and bought me a cup of coffee. What I’ll always remember is not the coffee so much, but the act of kindness by someone who took the time to minister to me in a time of need. Everyone else was all about the business of the day. I have an idea of who the guy was, not sure, but he had an instinct about grief at a time before the current understanding of the process.

From then on I was a coffee drinker. I don’t have clear memories of the rest of my school days as to coffee but I know I drank it often. Nevertheless my next vivid memory of enjoying a cup of coffee was the early morning, before sunrise, when I arrived in the mess hall at Lackland Air Force Base along with other Air Force enlistees beginning basic training. I remember well walking up to the large coffee urn and getting a large cup of coffee in that old ceramic somewhat rounded coffee cup. I was the shift coffee maker in my first overseas assignments and we always had coffee pots in all the areas I worked in all my units. On road trips I always stopped for coffee and drank my fill on aircraft flights.

After leaving the military and beginning college my first act after my first class was to head to the campus cafeteria for a cup of coffee which I’m sure I did at least once per day throughout my 8 years of college and graduate school. I drank a lot of coffee on those all-night cramming sessions studying for a mid-term or final exam.

I continued to drink coffee after I went into the Navy and served about one-half of the remainder of my career with the Marine Corps, enjoying a cup around a fire during a field exercise. There was always coffee somewhere except on one flight hop on my way to Operation Desert Storm when there was no coffee on board. That was my first experience of withdrawal symptoms, a terrible headache until we stopped for re-fueling in India and I hurried to the terminal for a couple of quick cups. Then my first days in the desert when I collected instant coffee packets from the MRE packages from those who didn’t drink coffee until my family sent me a stove top aluminum 4-cup coffee maker and pounds of Maxwell house coffee. The only other “real” cup of coffee was offered by a company gunnery sergeant who had a drip maker in his LAV and could make it by firing up the generator.

Somewhere along the line through my years of retirement I have broken the caffeine addiction, per se, so that now I drink one, two or sometimes three cups daily. Such a delight when coffee time comes around.

***What is striking about this brief few seconds in time is the adamant fact that one moment in you daily life, one small decision, whether with much thought or just a reaction of something, can have a dramatic affect on your entire life and personality and change you for the rest of your life in all aspects of your future direction, decision-making, etc. Just one second, and the every second of the rest of your life may have a totally different fate and outcome.

© 2020, Bob Haines