There was a time in my life, long before I met Jack, that I knew love and the pain it can leave in your life when it departs. It can leave a hole in your life that you think nothing can fill. I determined that I would go it alone from then on. That was a lesson I did not feel needed repeating. I was only 19, what did I know of life? The first lesson was that you should not ever put all your eggs in one basket, just as my Grandmother had tried to tell me. But I did anyway because I thought there would never be another love like that in my life. I would have done anything for that person, but it was not to be. I decided I'd rather be alone and so for the next 10 years, I was that. Alone. I lived with my Mother and Father at that time, but that changed also. My Dad deserted us and I was left alone to care for the family since I was the oldest child and the only one with a job. I had a brother 3 years my junior, but he was on drugs and stored his dope in my Mom's freezer. I tried to tell her, she wouldn't listen. My sister was only 9, 10 years younger than I was and she could not understand what a responsibility my Father had heaped on my shoulders. I had always been Daddy's Girl, but the only trouble was, Daddy didn't know it, and didn't care. I was crazy about him, but soon found out that he cared for himself and no one else. He got his own place, bought everything he wanted, and sent my Mother nothing. He was in the Navy when he left, but he was rude to an officer, and his Navy days were over. He was put out on a slightly better footing than he deserved. But the Navy wasn't as heartless as he was.
I had an ailing Mother, or so it seemed. She was lost. Didn't know what to do about anything and that too was a weight around my neck. She would greet me in the drive way every night with another set of problems, and I learned that the only thing I could do for myself was to leave as soon as possible. I bought a car after Dad left because I was tired of getting up at four in the morning to go to work on the bus. I was left standing at the ferry landing by my brother one time too many and I decided the first step to independence was in having a means to leave! I moved in with a co-worker in Imperial Beach. She had no car and I had no where to go, so I moved in. We had a lot of fun together, but before long, she changed her mind about sharing her apartment and invited me to leave. With a car payment and my other bills, I had no place to go but back home. That was a big mistake. Things at work got tougher, and my home life, if you call it life, was difficult at best. I got so I couldn't think. I was a lost cause in many books. Especially at work. They belittled everything I tried to do, gave me more and more responsibility, and I got very sick. Between my home life and job life, there was little left to me. Or so I thought.
Then I met Jack Tyler. He came to work in our office in 1975. His Great Grandmother passed away shortly thereafter. He went to services, but then he came to work. I thought, how odd. I didn't know the strength that was behind such actions. I have recently discovered that that same strength is still there. Intact after so many years of hard times. Shortly after Jack came to work in my office, we began conversing. He saw the way I was treated, and he had something I needed. He began telling me about the Tao. His way of life. Tao literally means "The Way". He began telling me different things....different because I'd never heard of them before. I tried what he suggested, and it worked! I was able to stop justifying myself to my superiors, and the way was so simple I could not believe it! We started dating and hanging out together at work and after work. He had a little apartment above a garage in North Park. I had a place in Chula Vista, a nice apartment completely furnished. It was very nice, but once I met Jack, I spent more time at his place than my own, and eventually I moved in with him. We had so much fun together, just doing everyday things. He didn't have a lot of money. I made more than he did, but we put it all together and had plenty to live on and pay our bills. He had many books on the Tao, and I began reading them in the early mornings when he'd be asleep. I was fascinated. I read more. Learned more, grew and became a better person. I found I had many good qualities, I just needed to have my eyes opened. He did that for me. He was everything a woman could want in a man. He was strong, kind hearted, giving, sharing, providing for, and handling the difficult things that came along.
We eventually decided to get married and have a family. We found a little house out in front of the apartment, and decided to move in as we needed more room if we were going to have a family. We moved in and put our things away, and celebrated by having dinner on the floor in the living room. We didn't have living room furniture. We had little enough to start a life with, and the in-laws were not helpful, so we made it alone. There was no wedding shower, and when I became pregnant, no baby shower either. Everything we needed, we provided. I was learning all the time to be self-sufficient and to stand on our own, back to back against the world. It sent many trials our way. Our first pregnancy gave us twins! We weren't even ready for one baby, much less 2! But we made it work. Then when I got pregnant when the boys were only 7 months old, we thought we were done for. What if we had twins again? But we didn't. We had a beautiful baby girl and our family was complete. The Tao worked with us and for us and we found new strength every day in our love for one another. He was all the world to me. I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to have met a real man. Not a deserter when things got tough, not a doped up person who couldn't even function in life, and not a pervert! He was all man. The dreams I'd had in the past had long since faded away. I thought I'd be alone forever, but life had other plans.
We moved from our little house when one of the children came down with asthma. Every time he'd get a cold, it turned into pneumonia and we found a dryer, hotter climate out in Spring Valley, so we moved into a nice little apartment with the help of a friend from work that I knew. We had our little family and we found new strength in one another. The kids were happy, and so were we. But so odd, that'd I'd miss the little house we first had together. The boys were typical little boys, and they'd do things they knew they weren't supposed to do and wrote on the walls with chalk. The folks we rented from invited themselves in when we were at work, and they gave us a month to get out, the day before Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving arrived, so did the flu. We were all sick. I tried to fix a decent Thanksgiving meal, but we all were too sick to eat. We took what little money we had saved for Christmas, and had to find a new place to live. Again, a friend came to our rescue. We found a different apartment. We always made do. We never missed a meal, never went to bed hungry, never had to sleep under a bridge or anything like that. He took care of his family. Something I was not use to.
Eventually we moved to a house so the kids could play outside and get some growth going. They were all skinny and little and they were forbidden to play outside at the apartment. Again, Jack had me go to work, and he found us a place to live. We went by after work and I loved the place. We moved in and celebrated by taking the kids to Disneyland! There were times of sickness for me, as I had a disease that required medication and less stress. It was tough for the family, and tough for Jack, but he never left me. He took the weight of the world on his shoulders when I couldn't deal with life, and saw me through so many hard times. But that's what a real man does. He doesn't run from responsibility. Even today, he is at work, and he was so sick at the beginning of this year that he nearly died. He was off work for 4 months trying to get his strength back, and he still doesn't have it all back. But being who he is, he is at work, doing a job that no one else can do. The hard times made us stronger, and just today we were talking about what we'd do if someone gave us a couple of million for a movie deal about the book Jack wrote. We'd continue as we are. We'd pay of the house and buy a better car, but the rest would go in the bank and Jack could retire. We aren't greedy, and as the Tao says so plainly, "He who knows enough is enough, will always have enough." This is the essence of who he is. As I stated before, we have never been hungry, we've never gone naked, we've always had a place to sleep, and now we have our own house and 7 grandchildren that call it "home". They don't live with us, but they still feel the love we have for them. Our place is so peaceful. No fighting between Jack and I, and our wonderful daughter is with us, taking care of us as best she can in our older years. Our sons are on their own with their families. One is divorced, but provides for his children, and the other one is still happily married and living in Colorado. They learned a lot of hard lessons, but they changed their lives and took control of who they have become. Good people.
So, in spite of all the problems and diseases and heart attacks and asthma and all the rest, you might question "would you do it again?" The answer is a resounding YES! To be with the man that changed my life and my values, YES! The man who has been beside me through every crisis, and weathered every storm, deserves my undying love, and that he shall have through all eternity. I've never known a man like Jack. He's apparently made of steel! He says he was "forged" for me. And whatever powers there be, I am grateful and you certainly spent more time on this one! He is a prince among men. He always put's others first, and he always does his best in every situation. Every thing you do, he says, is a picture of the person who did it. I could not ask for anything more than to live out my days with him and then we shall meet again in another place, another time, and be together forever. Free in the expanse of space and time...for we are a part of all that is or shall ever be, and that force holds us in the palm of it's hand for the rest of time.
Bonnie and I have both described the joy we felt when we welcomed our children into the world, and some of the fun we had when they were happy little cherubs, and believed that we had hung the moon. But there comes a time in the life of every child when he or she outgrows that state, and adults, especially parents, become killjoys whose only motivation is to ruin said child's enjoyment of the big, wide, wonderful world he is trying to explore. Ours, alas, were no exception.
Let me take a moment and restate the parameters. Our first "child" was actually a set of twin boys, and 100% boys they were. Brian was born first, followed by Alexis ten minutes later. They had a tough birth experience, both of them being breech, that had to be as hard on them as it was on Mom. I read a dissertation years ago by one of those psychobabble gurus who voiced the opinion that we all go through life trying to "get even" for the birth trauma, and given the experience I had with the boys, maybe he wasn't so far off base at that. On top of that, Alexis hated his name, and may have been trying to get even with us for that. All reference material completely ignored, he swears it is a girls-only name, and to this day goes by Alex. Our third child, daughter Sidra, was born 16 months later, after which I had myself fixed; enough was enough!
The twins were always referred to by everyone by that unitary descriptor, "the twins." Despite the implications, they were very different. Alex was out there interacting with the neighborhood kids in typical little-rascals fashion. Brian was more likely to be quiet, introspective, a student of the world as it affected him. Sidra, well, our little girl was a little girl. She had a Cabbage Patch Kid, an early electronic talking doll that would occasionally get her into trouble after bedtime, and a collection of Nosy Bears that she still has; the granddaughters are fascinated with them.
As they grew, my relationship with my daughter remained pretty much unchanged as far as I can recall, but maybe that's because my sons gave me so much grief that she was always golden by comparison. She was her daddy's girl, still is, and loved to hang out and get involved with whatever I was doing. No surprise, then, that today this dynamic woman in her thirties does her own routine maintenance on her Mustang 5.0 without assistance, and likes nothing better than a long session of Left 4 Dead or Borderlands with her daddy. That's me.
Between the boys, Alex was the one that dug what I was doing, and hung out with me much more than Brian. Brian enjoyed things that his mom was into, which was just fine with her. He learned to cook and sew at an early age, and before you go there, he gave me four of my seven grandchildren, so just forget it. When the boys were 7, we were able to move out of the apartments and into a big house in the 'burbs. They started growing, finally, a fact that Bonnie attributes to the fresh air and outdoor exercise they were able to get, and as I have no evidence to refute it, we'll just go with that. A month after I turned 40, they became teenagers. That would be hard enough to deal with, but a far more insidious factor was added into the mix. Almost too gradually to notice, in those six years between 7 and 13, a street gang had moved into the neighborhood.
If you are a teenage boy, and you live where a street gang is active, you either get yourself on good terms with the gang, or you get beaten up every day, money and articles of clothing taken from you, and eventually maybe killed. I know this now; I didn't then, and spent many fruitless man-hours counseling, cajoling, and threatening my sons with all sorts of dire consequences if they didn't stay away from the gang. They didn't. They couldn't. It wasn't possible.
Let me take an aside here, and offer any people going through this now the benefit of my own experience: If you have a child who is influenced by a gang, do everything in your power to MOVE! As long as he is surrounded by these thugs, his very life is dependent upon his ability to remain on their good side, and there is nothing you can do about it, short of quitting your job and spending every minute of every day with him. If your neighborhood is killing your child, get out of it. Move heaven and earth, beg, borrow (I'll stop short of advocating theft), do whatever it takes, but leave.
To this day, Brian acts like there was no such thing as a gang. They were just misguided kids. I understand his reluctance to involve his parents in this unsavory past, especially since so much of it was my fault for not trying to get us out of there, but he needs to understand that I have another son who was much more ready to talk about it. When they got into their twenties and put all this behind them, Alex and I used to sit on the porch and swap war stories. I'd tell him about Viet Nam, and he'd tell me about Spring Valley; some of his stories were hairier than mine.
We spent some days in court. My boys were present at a murder. One of their little friends, a kid I knew well, who had been to my house many times, announced that he had been dissed by a rival, was going to call him out, and wanted a posse with him to make sure it stayed a fair fight. The twins went on that run, the boy did call his rival out, and when he came out, their friend pulled out a gun no one knew he had, and shot him. My boys escaped prison, because they had stayed up the block with the cars, and no one, including the victim's family, could put them at the scene. I don't know what guardian angel was watching out for them that night, but something told them to not be present for this particular bit of retribution.
On another occasion, a carload of "our" kids got into an altercation with the neighboring gang along a disputed border street. The police were called. Alex had a magazine (the kind that feeds bullets to a gun) in his pocket, and since another kid in the car had the gun it fit, they were all arrested for unlawful possession and transport of a firearm. Because Alex had the lesser component, he was sentenced to probation and community service, performed it, and had his record expunged; just one more useless experience. Yes, compared to these two, my daughter was incredibly boring. She took dance lessons, ballet, jazz, and tap, had drum lessons from a private studio, and played in band and orchestra at her school. Not once did I have to go sign her out of the Sheriff's Station over in Lemon Grove, and not once did I have the joy of watching her stand before a judge to receive her sentence. Sorry, Sid. Maybe I'll write about you next time.
To complete the story, Alex, who was always the natural fighter of the duo, went on to work in a pizza joint, and with that good recommendation in hand, got a job at Target. He soon transitioned from the sales floor to the security staff where he had the time of his life. His crew caught an FBI-ranked wanted criminal stealing cigarettes, and the story is that he met his future wife when he tackled a fleeing shoplifter, and they somersaulted over her jewelry counter. With his Target experience on his resume, he was hired by the Federal Police who provide security at the local navy bases, transitioned to the army when he moved to Colorado, and worked security there until he was injured in a training exercise. Now he's Mr. Mom, staying home with his delightful children while his wife works, and collecting his disability. He seems happy with that, and he knows only too well the value of having a parent at home at all times.
Brian, the brains of the operation, got his first job at a small factory that made wrist, knee, and back braces, that kind of orthopedic equipment. He went on to deliver parts for a local car dealership, and established a tree-trimming, pruning, and removal business. When the economy tanked, that went under; people aren't thinking about having their trees serviced when they're worried about putting food on the table. He then went to Target and took a temporary stock room job for the Christmas season. When that ended, he was one of the few that they kept on. He now manages several departments, and on some shifts, the entire store. He's doing fine.
Sidra went on to college, graduated with a 4.0 GPA, was on the President's List every semester, earned three degrees in two majors, and was the class valedictorian. She was set to be the best preschool-kindergarten teacher ever, but on her summer job with Hallmark, she injured her back lifting their 80 lb. shipping boxes, and was unable to go back to teaching because of some of the physical requirements. She was paid a small Workman's Comp settlement which lasted about a year. This happened just as the economy was going under, and no one would give her the time of day with a back injury on her resume, and she continues to live with us, paying her keep by doing the things the old folks find too taxing. Lest this be construed as a complaint, let me hasten to assure you that I don't know what we'd do without her. While we constantly pray that a break will come her way, she, Bonnie, and I are the real Three Musketeers, and I don't know what Bonnie (or I) would have done without her during my recent illness. She did research and challenged every procedure that sounded sketchy to her, and backed a doctor out of the room who suggested that I might not make it. She's the bomb, and I will freely state right here that no one ever had a more loving, caring daughter.
One last little footnote: We've all heard those stories about twins who do similar things without realizing it. I don't know about that, but here's one to consider. Both our sons married Mexican girls named Lorena and Loretta. Just one more in the long chain of coincidences that drive the myth, I suppose, but something to think about, nonetheless.
Now get out there and live life like you mean it!
In 1968 I began working for the Federal Government. I thought it was great to have my own desk and a brand new IBM Typewriter. I typed Naval Messages, both Classified and Unclassified and Speed Letters and all sorts of Naval Documents. They were then signed and taken to the teletype operator. I felt important, had a good boss, and plenty of work to keep me busy. The days literally flew by. After a year I put in for a different job, did that for a year and then was transferred to a typing pool where we prepared special items on special paper that were then scanned and input to the Data Processing computers. They did a major reorganization of things and we moved from my original building, to a warehouse down by the ships. Eventually they moved us yet again to a different warehouse, Building 661, and I was promoted to a GS-5 in charge of the other typists in the department. My days were very busy and I enjoyed my work, for a while at least. They kept giving me more and more to do, and one day I just couldn't think anymore. I asked to go home, and my boss said OK. I didn't go back for 3 days in a row and I didn't call in or anything. I told my Mom some fantastic tale, and she believed me. Finally, my boss called and told her they thought I needed to see a Doctor. He told her that the story I had told her wasn't true, and that I had been acting very weird at work. My brother and Mother coerced me into going for a ride and we went to see my Grandmother's Doctor, Doctor Cutcher, who had seen me before. After talking to me for a few minutes, he gave my Mother a name and phone number for a psychiatrist that had a wonderful reputation and the call was made, the appointment scheduled, and we went to see this doctor. Doctor Funk was his name and he appeared to be a friendly person. He put me on medication, and I was officially off work for the next six months. He helped me to see things in a different light and when I told him I had no insurance, he was amazed. I was only a GS-5 and didn't make enough to cover my medical needs on top of everything else I was paying. My journey at this time of my life, was very rough. I ended up being hospitalized for a time and without insurance I had no idea how I'd pay for my care. I was too out of it to be aware of things like that. Much to my astonishment, he paid for my care. He did it because he told my Mother that he could tell I wanted to get well. I was there for about 8 days, and as they had mistakenly l.et me sign myself in, I had the right to sign myself out as well and I did just that. I signed myself out and walked home. Mostly because I didn't want to be a charity case. I walked almost all the way home and then my brother came driving up. He had been to the hospital, and when they told him I had left, he freaked out. He took me home, and my journey of a lifetime began with myself in charge.
Life when I went back to work, was difficult at best. The bosses really didn't want me around it seemed, and they made life tough for me. No matter what I did, I couldn't keep up with the things they were giving me to do. Then a new guy came to the office. At first I thought he was from the Data Processing Department. But he was a new employee and would be working in our office. He was quite perceptive, and he noticed that the bosses were always on my case for one thing or another. Finally, one day he walked up to me and said a few words about not justifying myself to the bosses and he gave me a Taoist Parable to read and think about. He literally taught me how to stop justifying myself to my bosses, to stop one project and do another when they were giving me so much to do. They would get so frustrated because I'd do the latest one and let the first one go. They needed to make up their minds what they wanted when, and let me work like a normal person. But no. They heaped work up on me, knowing I had difficulties, and they frankly were trying to get me to leave. This young man and I became friends. We'd talk at break time, and have lunch together, and they hated that. Then he gave me his phone number and said to call if I wanted to talk. So one Friday after work, I went to my apartment as usual and had my dinner and watched a little TV. But then, I decided to call Jack and see if I could come over for a visit. He said yes and gave me his address, and I was on my way.
We sat and listened to his music collection and chatted a bit, and when I got ready to leave, he walked me to my car. Then he touched me on the shoulder and said, "sometimes all you need is a friend". I was touched. He seemed to have a way about him that made me want to know more. He was at work Monday and we talked some more. He asked me if I'd like to go out, and I said yes. Our first date, he picked me up in a pickup truck and took me on the Scenic Drive and showed me parts of San Diego I didn't know existed. He had me laughing the whole evening. We were out all night driving around and we ended the evening by going to Balboa Park and walking around looking at things. We went back to his apartment and he made us some Instant Breakfast because it was 6:00 in the morning and then he took me home. He had to move furniture the next day for his Mom and Grandmother and he asked me if I would like to go. It was Mother's Day, so I declined and told him I was going to see my Mom the next day. I regretted it however, as the day didn't pan out well. I wished I'd gone with him, but it was too late. I saw him the next day back at work. We began going out and spending a lot of time together. He had been raised by his Great Grandmother and his Grandmother because his Dad disappeared from the picture, and his Mother was too young to know how to raise a child. He had no idea what a normal family was, and my family was not quite normal either. My Dad had left us and left me with all the problems of having a family. They all fell to me as the oldest child and the only one working, and that in itself was a part of the reason I became ill. Stress on every side will do that to you. I had told Jack about my problems, but he didn't seem to be deterred.
We were at lunch one day and he began talking about getting together and having a family. He said we could get married, and I could have a baby! I was in shock! I considered myself engaged at that point and after lunch, I went to the ladies room and had a good cry and told my best friend that I was newly engaged! I was so happy! This person actually cared for me and wanted to spend his life with me! I was not only happy, I couldn't believe it! I had thought I'd never get married or have children and here was this handsome guy telling me we could have a family! The people at work, the bosses, had told him not to associate with me because I had a lot of problems and he shouldn't get serious over me. He listened, told them I had already told him, and we continued doing as we pleased! That was in March of 1975 that he came to work at my office. I moved into his place, and before we got married, we found a place right in front of our place, that was being vacated and ready to rent. We made arrangements, and moved in November to the bigger house. It had 2 bedrooms and an adjoining bathroom between them. We loved it. We celebrated our new house by getting dinner at Ceasers down in Mission Valley and we took it home and ate on the living room floor. We had very little furniture, but we didn't mind.
In December of 1975 we were married on the 24th, my birthday, at my Mom's house in Chula Vista. It was beautiful and solemn and I meant every word of my vows. So did he as I would find out as the years went by. He was amazing! He seemed to have magic when it came to handling problems, and we were so happy. We got to have 2 weeks off after the wedding, and we enjoyed every moment of it. He took me around and introduced me to his friends, and we visited some of the neighbors he had in Point Loma. We drove up the coast and had a bite to eat at Long Beach and just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. When we went back to work, my boss shook his hand and said congratulations, and gave me a pat on the shoulder. I guess they figured it was his problem now, because they left me alone after I was his wife. They still told us to go somewhere else to have our lunch, so people didn't have to watch us. I guess they thought we'd do it right there in the car, which we never did. We had more class than that! In March of the next year, I got pregnant and when I told them I'd need to schedule maternity leave, my boss said to me "Now Bonnie, do you know what you are talking about?" I told him I'd been a woman for 29 years and yes I knew what I was talking about! I don't think they believed me until I started showing!
Jack and I faced many difficult times together. But that was the key... "together". We always counted on one another and we were as close as 2 people could ever be. In November of 1976, on the 17th, our twin sons were born and we were so happy. Jack came to my mother's house after work, as we had decided with 2 babies I could use a little rest before I tackled 2 newborns on my own. We stayed a few days, but then we decided to go home where we could relax and enjoy our babies and each other. It was the best thing we could have done. Many times I've wished we had gone straight home and done the learning together. But we were home none-the-less and I was so happy. I had worked up to a week before they were born, not knowing there were 2 or that they would be born so quickly! So after they were born, I had the 3 months off to take care of them. It was heaven. I'd take care of the babies and the house, and in the evenings my sexy husband would come home and help me. I'd try to have dinner ready and the house tidied up, but with 2 babies it was really hard to get everything I wanted done. He didn't seem to mind. We'd have dinner, and play with the newborns and enjoy being together. Our families gave us grief more so than anyone else, but he handled things and I could always depend on him to back my play.
We've been together now for 38 years, and this coming December we will make it 39. Next year we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and I am so proud to be his wife. He is a writer now, has published a book, and has plans for maybe a novel. He recently was very ill and in the hospital for 35 days. But I knew he could make it because he is the strongest person I've ever known and with God's help and blessing, he is with us still and has gone back to work after being off for 4 months. He still doesn't have all his strength back, but he is the most determined person I know. He has picked up his life where he left off, and if you hadn't been there you'd never believe it! He has seen me through so many difficult times. He has been my rock and my shield, and I am blessed among women. I feel like I am the richest person on earth and I love him with all my soul. I would go into all the problems, but there is no reason. He and I have grown so close over the years, that we are like one person anymore. He has taught me much, been there when nobody else was, helped me raise our 3 children, and made me the happiest woman on earth. I love him more than he'll ever know and I am so proud of his success in life. He deserves every break that can be given.
Thank you for always being there honey. I can't believe you are real! You handle life like you invented it yourself, and you have brought me such peace and such joy. I have shared your life for almost 40 years now, and I am still just as happy and proud as I was the day we were married. Thank you for all the years, and all the babies, and for indulging me when it comes to Christmas! Ha Ha. You have been my rock for all these years and I have come such a long way because you were the reward at the end of my journey. My life with you has been the best thing that ever happened to me, and we could not be more perfect for one another. Thank you for a brand new life, a new beginning, and thank you for letting me share your life and have your babies. We are one, and I am most thankful for your presence in my life. You've shown me what it means to be strong, loyal, and loving every moment of my life. I didn't have to discard anything. Now that I am well, I can look back at all the things I've written, and my journey of a thousand miles, and I can see the truth in all it's splendor. You opened my eyes to a new way to live life and I will be thankful for all eternity. Love you Sugarbear. You've been the best mate anyone could ever dream of.
There's a line in a Roseanne episode in which Dan, her husband, asks, "When did we stop doing stuff, and start yelling at other people for doing stuff?" I know the exact date that that happened to me. Follow along for a while, and see if you can remember your own date.
In the spring of 1975, I accepted the job I spoke of in my last post at the Maintenance Support Package Branch at NAS North Island in the middle of San Diego Bay. I was assigned to the office, where there were three women. One was old and crazy, having driven herself insane through her insistence on eating no more than 100 calories a day. She was painfully thin but very spry, dressed in elegant office clothes that would have been suited to a woman half her age and twice her status, and constantly belittled everyone around her, especially the women, for eating real food and having real figures. The other two were about my own age, which was 26 on the day I walked in the door. One was married, and the other was Bonnie.
Bonnie was in the habit of buying her lunch from the mobile food wagon that came around each morning, more to bug the older lady than from any love of their greaseburgers, and one particular morning, it was raining cats and dogs. As Bonnie headed out the door, I tossed her my jacket, a sporty little number in gray water-repellant canvas that had my navy patches all over it. She wore it for the rest of the day and returned it with her thanks as we were leaving. I read something into this that maybe wasn't there, but here's a footnote: Two days ago, I saw that jacket. Threadbare and dryrotted, unfit to wear, it is folded up and stored on her closet shelf, so maybe there was something there after all.
Here's the thing about MSP: It was run by a couple of old retired chief petty officers who basically had nothing to offer, and tried to run the place like it was still the Industrial Revolution, and we were all indentured servants with no rights whatsoever. One day not long after the jacket incident, I encountered Bonnie in tears in the utility room. I arrived at the right time, as she had just thrown a full cup of coffee against the wall, and I had inadvertently avoided the line of fire. When I inquired into the reason for her obvious lack of well-being, she said the bosses had just shot down her leave (vacation) request. At that point I had been following the path of Taoism for about three years, and shared this verse with her:
"When the sage finds himself in the company of
loud and aggressive persons, he is like a lotus flower
growing in muddy water; touched, but not soiled."
I gave her my number and told her to call me if she wanted to talk, and that weekend she did just that. She invited herself over, and we spent Saturday together talking and listening to some albums from my hardrock collection. Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Deep Purple... She had never heard anything like it, at least that was the impression I got. As she was leaving, I told her, "Sometimes all you need is a friend," and we were inseparable from that point onward. We spent the weekends out playing, ate lunch together, went for walks around the warehouse on our 10-minute breaks, and never tired of each other's company; we haven't yet. The Neanderthals who ran the branch never tired of telling us we couldn't hang out together because "People would talk." Recognizing this as a clear violation of the rights of Free Speech and Peaceful Assembly that we were entitled to as Americans, our response was to listen politely, then go hang out together. It was also right around this time that I taught Bonnie to stop justifying herself to these people. It drove them crazy.
I was leaning hard on 27, and Bonnie would turn 29 a couple of months later, and it was "well-known" in that era that it was dangerous for a woman to have a child after she turned 30. Without any detailed discussions, we agreed that we would have a child together. Thinking back, I don't know how you make a decision like that without detailed discussions. I guess we were of one mind on the subject, and didn't see the need. In any case, we knew we wouldn't have him or her out of wedlock, and agreed that we would marry. Again, there was no formal proposal, we just knew; we still do.
We were wed on her birthday, Christmas Eve, 1975, in her mother's living room by a Methodist minister to the strains of Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was a small, simple ceremony. My sister was the maid of honor, and her brother was the best man. Her father made a rambling speech about roses having thorns, and how he'd give it a year. I guess he was right, we made it a year.
Our plan was to have one baby, an only child, to raise in the house full of love that neither of us had known. The following November, on the evening before she delivered, we learned that she was having twins. Brian and Alexis, two beautiful little boys, were born the next afternoon, and we considered ourselves done, however... God, fate, chance, whatever you believe runs things, decided we weren't done after all, and within days of the time we resumed our naughty activities, with full birth control in place, may I add, she conceived our daughter, Sidra, who was born the following March. As soon as that pregnancy was confirmed, I went and had myself snipped; there's a limit to how much a supply clerk can make, after all.
But returning to my original premise, the exact date I stopped doing stuff and started yelling at other people for doing stuff was November 17th, 1976. That was the day life stopped being about how much I get out of it, and became about how much I could give to the little family I had been blessed with. All the yelling was to keep them safe from other people, from stuff in their environment, and from themselves. It went on for a long time, and it took me a while to step back from it after they started families of their own, but I want them to know as they read this that I never had anything but their well-being in my heart and mind. The boys are parents now, and Sidra loves her nieces and nephews like they were her own, and I comfort myself with the thought that they understand now what I was trying to do.
Did I get it right, kids?
Now get out there and live life like you mean it!
Well, when I first saw the new residence I was elated! Plenty of room, open-beamed ceilings, clean carpet, newly painted, a yard for the kids and so on. Then the fun began. After we'd been there for about 3 months, we discovered that the plumbing was a mess. The toilet overflowed constantly, the new bathroom cabinet filled up with water and ruined both drawers, the flooring was uneven in several rooms, they literally dropped down about 3 inches by the windows. But that was just the beginning. As time went by, we noticed cockroaches in the kitchen. A few at first, then we found that the place was infested. We contacted the owners, they came down and sprayed, which we had been doing ourselves, to no avail. The problem continued off and on and was added to by the mice that came up through the stove and ran along the back of the counters finally sliding down the electric cord that ran from the refrigerator! But we were not convinced. We stuck it out and made things work for years. The owners came down off and on, and one fine day the lady that rented to us, asked us to their place for dinner. We accepted and drove up one Saturday afternoon. They had a brand new home, and were busy fixing it up to their liking. They had a family of ducks in the back yard and a small garden. But they were having difficulty adjusting to the new neighborhood. It was an exclusive neighborhood and they had an old van parked in their driveway which the neighbors found offensive and wasted no time in telling them so. They were unwelcome, because they lived as they had in Spring Valley, and this place was quite a cut above that.
She was busy with her kids, but began fixing the evening meal. When we all sat down to eat, she made the mistake of asking us if the roach problem had gone away or were we still having problems. Jack, being who he is, said politely, oh no! The rats eat them! She got to laughing so hard that she had to excuse herself from the table and make a bathroom call. We had dinner, and then she made cupcakes. I remember this all this time later, because she asked me how to make the icing thicker than she had. I asked if she had Cream of Tartar and she did, and that added in small amounts worked for her icing problem. They were just folks after all, even though both had college degrees. They had good jobs, but they weren't happy where they were. You can't fit a square peg into a round hole, and they just didn't fit in. She told me herself she wasn't happy there. They wanted to move in the worst way, but had nothing left to move with.
We thought the neighborhood we had moved into was a safe, homebody existence and we felt at ease for quite some time. Then the area started being infested with gangs and hoodlums of all sorts. Our kids were not the type to fit in there. We had protected our kids from such circumstances and Jack had talked to the boys about such things. But in that neighborhood, it was join in or get beat up. We ran into problems needlessly to say. Before things got better, they got worse. We put up a fence later on to keep the hoodlums out of our yard. We put a lock on the gate every night. We both had to work, and as the kids grew, the problems got worse. We had to deal with them, and we did. Jack began using "tough-love" to deal with things, and it was really difficult. The years rolled by quickly. I was working at Naval Air Station North Island and Jack did as well. He worked in a separate facility on the far side of the base. I had worked at the Internal Revenue Service in the Federal Building after our daughter was born, but after I saw that I would never get anywhere there, I left to return to the Navy. It was still Civil Service and I felt at home as I was hired back in the same area I had worked in when I met Jack. One thing I learned from it was that you never should go backwards. They were difficult to work for because of problems I had had before. They couldn't make the switch in their heads that I wasn't the same person they knew then, and I was miserable. So I started putting in for other jobs.
I finally found a job working with the aircraft carriers stationed at the Island. The work was an enormous responsibility and I was doing the work of 3 people. There were problems, as my sister had worked there before me, and the people that she thought were her friends talked about her to me. The officer in the group and my sister hadn't gotten along. He thought I'd be just like her and he had an attitude problem with me. No matter how hard I worked, he wasn't satisfied. The problems there and the problems at home, took their toll on me and I had a heart attack at 43. I was in the ICU for 12 days, and then moved to the Direct Observation Unit for 4 more days. They transported me to Scripps in La Jolla and did an angiogram. They found 7 blockages and decided that part of my heart was dead. I was released to go home with a new diet and medication to ease the angina pains. The family took care of me, and I think this was the beginning of the boys making a change in their lives and the problems starting to get smaller. I was off work for 30 days to recuperate and then I was released to go back to work. I had transferred to the Naval Station at 32nd street and the job was somewhat easier for me to do than the one at the Naval Air Station.
When we'd get home at night, Jack would be as tired as I was, but he'd stand in the kitchen making spaghetti sauce from scratch that I could have. We bought Healthy Choice Dinners for me and it brought my cholesterol down dramatically. I dropped some weight and got healthier. The doctor asked how I had reduced my cholesterol so quickly, and we told him about the healthy meals we had been buying and making. Things began to settle down at home, and I learned to tolerate the people at the job, so I began getting better in many ways.
One day, Jack called me at work, and said that his new job paid enough money for me to retire! I couldn't believe it! I was actually going to be free! I put in for an early out and submitted the paperwork. For taking an "early-out'", I received $25,000.00 and after Uncle Sam took his cut, we were left with about $17,000.00. We were able to pay off some big bills, and buy some much needed furniture for the house. Alex had found a job making pizza at a place called Pizza Junction. I would get up early and take him to work. Then I'd take our daughter Sidra to college, and Jack would go to work.. It was a busy schedule. But I was free and the first day of my freedom, after I'd signed the final paperwork, Jack took me up to Grossmont Center and bought me a comfortable pair of shoes. It was heaven to walk in something that didn't hurt my feet. It was a brand new beginning for me.
Brian met a girl after I'd retired, and things began taking on some normalcy. Alex was still working, and Sidra was still in college. The good job that Jack had enabled us to live normal lives and buy things we liked and had done without for a long time. Life was beginning to show us some mercy for the first time in a long time. Life was good.
Then, Brian and his girlfriend announced one day that she was pregnant. We let her move in with us and live in the extra room that the landlords had built themselves. It was large and carpeted and just right for them and a baby bed. The baby was born in October of 1998 and it was a beautiful baby boy. They named him Brian Jr., and we all fell in love with him. Her Mother was very possessive of the baby and we saw them at the end of the day after she spent the day with her parents. That became the norm. We were second best. We got pictures now and then and were invited to birthday parties, but were never quite good enough. At least that's how it felt. It wasn't long until she was pregnant again, and before they were through, there were four grandchildren to love.
One day the landlords dropped in, and the landlady saw the baby bed in the extra room. She decided to raise our rent because they were living with us, and we decided for the amount of money they wanted for a house in ill repair, we could afford our own home. I had looked in the papers for a place to move to, but the places were expensive and offered little in return. Then I found Manufactured Home adds and they offered a brand new home, with washer and dryer installed. The price was only a couple of hundred more than what we were already paying. Jack went with me to see one after I had made a trip to see one with my daughter and daughter in-law. He loved it. He said, "wouldn't it be nice to live in one of these?" There were no roaches, no bad plumbing, no rats, and it was brand new. We signed the paperwork, and after much hassling with the agency we were buying from, we finally got the keys from them, and did the walk-thru and looked at our new abode. We had signed a 10 year lease, and the old landlord gave us only 2 days to move 17 years worth of "things". We managed to do it, and when we offered to help with the clean up, they said "no-thanks" and shut the door in our faces so to speak.
Our son and his wife lived with us for a bit, but eventually she wanted to move back home with her parents, and our son of course went with her. We had planned to give them the house when Jack retired, but it wasn't good enough for our daughter-in-law. Her parents had plenty of money, and I suppose she wanted in on it. So we had an extra room. We had given them the master bedroom with attached bathroom, and that became mine and Jack's room. That left Sidra with 2 bedrooms, and our other son had the other room.
We had left the old days behind us and made a brand new start. It was super quiet where we were, and nobody bothered us. Jack had his good job, we paid our bills and lived comfortably. The days of gangs and problems were behind us. The things we had taught our kids had kicked in when they were needed, and both sons made a change in their lifestyle. Not long afterwards, our other son Alex met a girl, fell in love, and they got engaged. They were married soon after by the justice of the peace and found a place to live where they could have their own lives and begin their own family.
Sometimes things have a way of working out and it did for us. We were starting a brand new life, a brand new beginning, and for a time we were accepted.
This is for the grandkids, the family, close friends, and anyone else who can keep a civil tongue in their heads! It amounts to an interactive book of memoirs, but only if you interact... so get to it!
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California has been my home since 1965. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm home to stay!
What is there to say about a ten-year old turning 65, besides, what the hell happened?!??