Our past plays a big part in how we view and react to things as an adult. As my wife said, she didn’t grow up with her dad. She didn’t know him until her early teen years and than only a couple of weeks a summer. Couple that with the other things she went through gave her a different lens then mine.
My parents were married in 1966 and last year we celebrated their 50th anniversary. I grew up with a two parent household and all my siblings. We had some lean times after the steel industry collapsed, but dad took whatever jobs he could find to support the family. This often had him away from home for a week at a time. He and mom made a lot of sacrifices during those years and regardless of how tight or un-ideal things were they stuck it out. One of my siblings had a lot of major health challenges as a child that took much of mom’s time. This often left me to my own devices.
Growing up in a small town everybody knew who you belonged to and it didn’t take long for news to beat you home. We could run around town from sunrise to sunset and no one batted an eye. There wasn’t much trouble to get into. Conversely, the city my wife grew up near was around 55,000 people. Although she lived in a little community on the outskirts it was still not the kind of place where you could run around all day unsupervised. When you were out you could go all day and not see anybody you knew or knew your family.
I grew up in a small town in North West Pennsylvania, she grew up in a rural area near a decent sized city in Eastern North Carolina. I had 300 some people in 7th – 12th grade, she graduated with over 400. I grew up predominately in a Pentecostal church, she grew up in a small Southern Baptist church. I grew up a Steeler’s fan, she a Cowboys fan. Our backgrounds were very different. The only thing we really had in common when we met was our lifestyle of rebellion against every thing we knew to be right.
I was stationed at Camp Lejeune NC and she lived in Greenville NC when we met. We met at a club called the Two Step. That was the basis of our relationship, I would leave base on a Friday and go to her apartment and we would go to the club. Saturday and Sunday we would work her horses and that night go to the club. There was not a real foundation that we could fall back on later.
When it came time to get married we used a pastor who was a distant relative through marriage who had been ministering for decades. His premarital counseling was nonexistent. On the first meeting we went over the dates and who was playing the organ. He asked if we were both “saved” and baptized. He asked about the kind of church of I grew up in and his displeasure was evident on his face. An old school Southern Baptist preacher marrying a Southern Baptist girl to a Northern Pentecostal boy didn’t sit well, but he never asked anything else. The second meeting we went over the location, vows and times again. That was it. We were not at all prepared for anything!
When we married the only thing I knew about marriage was you provide. Work hard, provide a roof and be loyal. I knew nothing of the finer and important things other than that and knowing no one in my family had divorced, I wasn’t going to be the first one. That would be tested in later years. She saw multiple divorces in her family and vowed to not be like them, but the example had been set. She thought that I would leave anyhow if things got hard, that’s what the men she knew did, so she expected that from me and she decide if she could push me away it would be her fault. This would come to a head a later.
We had no business getting married when we did. There were too many issues to work through. There were the daddy issues from her dad not being around. Everyone, deep down, craves & needs the masculine, stable, unpredictable hand of a father. Not having that drives one to seek out the approval. We didn’t understand this and the pastor who married us didn’t feel any counseling was important. My lack of understanding the husbands role beyond loyal provider left holes that over time grew bigger and bigger until the time came that she began to try to fill those missing pieces elsewhere. Even the small things like whose family will we see for what holiday had not been discussed. How to discipline kids or budget priorities were never broached.
These things laid the groundwork for much trouble in later years. Those are for the next blogs.