|Back in our day . . .||
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!
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?!??