Tag Archives: relationships

God Bless the Military Wife

10 May

I grew up as a navy brat, so for me, moving every couple of years was normal. You were expected to go to a new school, make new friends, I never really considered how that was for my mom.

For my dad, who was in the Navy, this was normal. He wasn’t a navy brat like me, but his father (who was a Navy vet) worked in the construction industry. Grandpa built nursing homes across the Midwest, which meant that every 6 months to a year, he had to move to where the work was. But my mom lived in two houses up to that point; one on a farm, then other in town, and all within the same 30 mile radius.

For the next ten years of their marriage, they moved five times. I came along at year two, which always amplifies things, but she seemed rather contented from all the notes and letters that I inherited. My dad volunteered to avoid the draft (strange, but true) during the Vietnam War, so when the war was over, everyone was getting out. The personnel guys offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse… a massive jump in pay grade if he signed up for another tour. Not having anything to go back to, he agreed.

Unfortunately, not many sailors took the same choice, so the Navy was woefully undermanned in the late 70’s. That meant when my dad was put on a fleet tender, instead of the normal six month rotation, he was on it for almost two years. He hates that ship to this day. Me and my mom moved back to her hometown and lived there, because there was no point waiting in Charleston when he rarely got off the boat.

So much like myself, my mom had to make new friends, and sometimes get new jobs (although I think they made do on his income most times). Then deployments… where he’d be gone for God knows when. Again, I was pretty young for most of this, so having my Dad gone for most of the time was… my version of normal. Communication was done through letters and cards and few and far between. Thankfully, like the ex-pat community, there is a whole community of Navy wives out there to connect to, regardless of where you’re stationed.

What broke their marriage was not her being upset at the situation, it was his infidelity. Despite the fact that she moved everywhere with him, vets will tell you that they can’t relate to the civilian world. The demands of the service require a lot of you–it’s a zero-excuse environment, because doing your duty could mean the difference between life and death. After the places you’ve travelled and the things you’ve seen, how do you go back to your wife and pretend to be the average 8-to-5 working man? So when they divorced, he got married to a Navy officer, and they’ve been together ever since.

It’s a terrible arrangement, but to do it for so long is nothing short of a miracle. It’s not uncommon–honestly, the divorce rate among military couples is only slightly higher than the national average–so I’m amazed when they stay together. Then again, I’m amazed when anyone stays together, but I could be exaggerating. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then if like how I tell a story here, check out one of my books. However, if you don’t like paying for my stories, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Who Will Show Up?

13 Apr

I heard a story on the news that a man had died ten years ago, and due to automatic payments, was only now discovered when the money ran out. I went online and couldn’t find the story. The reason is because this story is NOT that uncommon.

Take this story from 2014 – in Pontiac, Michigan, one day in 2007, a 49-year-old woman named Pia Farrenkopf just disappeared. This was not uncommon for her–she was known to travel a lot. Her bank was set up to autopay her bills. No one thought anything of it. After they realized no one was mowing her grass, someone called the cops. They knocked at the door, police didn’t see anything amiss, so they went away. The grass continued to grow–neighbors took it upon themselves to mow the lawn for her.

In a way, that’s kind of heartening. Eventually, the money ran out in her bank account, and the bank foreclosed on the property. Even then, apparently, no one bothered to clean out the house; but then again, houses were being foreclosed all the time, so maybe there was a delay. Then on inspection, a hole in the roof was noticed, and only then did someone look into the garage. The body of Pia was discovered in the back seat, the keys in the ignition.

Pia kept to herself, she disappeared for weeks at a time (presumably to go back to Germany), and the only family she had (her sister), Pia was estranged from. Meanwhle, her mummified body was sitting in the back of her car in the garage.

Or take this story from 2019–a elderly man was discovered dead in an apartment after 11 years. Again, the rent for this Nantes, France flat was being paid automatically. But because no one bothered to check, they had to figure out when he died because of the expired food marks in the fridge.

And that’s all this news story has on it–they have to fill the rest of the story about an elderly woman in Spain who had been dead for four years before someone noticed. The clue… her laundry that was hung out to dry hadn’t changed. Now since we don’t have a lot of detail here, I’m going to assume that the laundry was sitting on a rack inside the house. But how sad would it be if it was outside the house… people tend to have the same clothes, so would it be that unusual? It was only when neighbors noticed the same clothes after four years that they decided to look inside the window and see the legs sticking out from behind some furniture on the ground.

It’s easy to say, “Well, this is elderly people, and since they don’t get out as often as they should, so it’s easy to miss them.” But this can happen to anyone–the difference seems to be “how long can you stopping pay your bills before someone notices?” When you isolate yourself from everyone, no one’s going to notice if you’re not there… and that’s incredibly sad.

So what I am trying to say? Leave your house every so often. Get out. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t talk to. There’s lot of opportunities for this–attend religious services, workout, go to the bar, join a club… whatever! The pandemic is ending–you’re out of excuses. It’s so easy to be isolated in the modern era; don’t be that way. Maybe go read one of my my books in the park? However, if money is tight, and a $1.99 is too much go ahead and download one of my stories for free. But get out of the house–I mean it.

Scads of Fun

5 Mar

When my great-grandmother Emily died, we had to clear out her house. They lived on a farm near Garden Plain, Illinois–15 minutes drive from where I grew up. But this exercise gave us a glimpse into her life, a world that disappeared a hundred years ago.

My grandma Emily was the youngest daughter of Harvey, the owner of the bank in Albany, Illinois (the bank only recently merged with another). Her mother died in childbirth (1899), which meant that her older sister, Olive, ended up raising her. Not the greatest start, but they were the upper class of their small town, so she didn’t want for anything. However, she grew up, went to the local high school (a bit unusual for 1912), and performed very well. Emily and her girlfriend saw a list of all the boys in the high school and decided to work their way through the (short) list, dating all of them. Emily took the end and her girlfriend the beginning… but apparently decided to stop when she met Lee.

They were a pretty steady couple, but her father didn’t like the idea of his daughter marrying a farmer, so he sent her off to college. She visited Blackburn College, which by modern standards is a six-hour drive, but in 1916, that would have been closer to 12. Emily sent a postcard to Lee saying that “the kids here live in Pullman cars and have scads of fun!” In retrospect, she was taunting her beau. She ended up going to Campbell College, a women’s college in Mount Carroll, Illinois (much closer to Albany), and stayed their a year until she got married a year later in 1917.

Now us grandkids were always confused why Harold eventually let her daughter marry someone so below her social standing, until Emily’s funeral. That’s when my cousin Tim made the connection–when he looked at the program which mentioned the birthdates of all of her kids. Great Aunt Josephine was born six months after the stated date of their wedding. Whoops. So apparently, Lee and Emily had a shotgun wedding, which finally removed all opposition to Lee marrying her baby girl, and knowing how smart Emily was… she may have planned it that way.

Lee missed the WWI draft by being married and having a kid, putting him up in a higher tier. They rented a farm for a while until they could get enough money to buy their own. (Which is still in the family, owned by my uncle and aunt.) They ended up having four kids, including my grandfather, John Wesley. (Lee’s father was Wesley.) They all grew up on that farm, and their kids got married, making sure to visit their parents with their kids twice a week (the other weekend was for the spouse’s parents).

Lee lived until he was 91, Emily 97; she died ten years to the day that her husband died. I didn’t know my great-grandma that well while she was alive, but going through her things, allowed me to see the world that she lived in… and that brought me closer to her. Have you ever had this experience? Have you been able to connect with a dead relative through some letter or picture you found? Let me know about it in the comments below!

What is Legitimacy?

12 Dec

Bastards, Blood relations, Half-Brothers, Step-brothers, In-Laws. We have lots of terms in the English language for various levels of legitimate relations with people. Yet I wonder how many of those terms are really useful anymore?

I’m working with a professor talking about divorce law, which as you can imagine, goes into great detail on such issues. However, my initial thought was… I get this from a legal perspective, but how much does such relations actually impact our lives?

I guess it depends how close you are to the people in question. I used to joke that I started off as an only child and ended up the middle of ten. How does that work? My parents only had me, then divorced. Then my mom remarried and I gained three stepbrothers and a stepsister. My dad remarried and had a half-brother and a half-sister. Then my mom died, my stepdad remarried, and I gained three half-stepbrothers.

Stop me if you’re getting confused–I sure was! Then my stepsister married my half-stepbrother, which sounds icky, except there’s no blood relation and their parents only married after they were 20. But that pales in comparison to the fact that my aunt is also my second cousin (my parents met at their wedding). 🙂

To add to confusion, there is also relations of mine who are not married to their partner, so they’re my… what? Not-stepbrother-in-law?! Rebecca’s boyfriend? I guess if I know them well, I just call him Steve, but the further away I am from that person, the more I have to define them in these obsolete terms.

The real point of “legitimate, step, in-law, whatever” is a legal definition. How close is the person to inheriting the wealth of another person? Back in medieval times, you might get Don John the Bastard, but as much as that term has a negative context, by calling them a bastard actually meant you legitimized them. This is my son! They get a portion of my wealth! However, that took something away from the regular kids, so they’ve always been demonized… unless they weren’t.

Take the Tudors–they were descended from the bastard child of the wife of Henry V. No one claimed they weren’t really royalty… well, maybe during Henry VII’s reign, but that’s why it was important for him to marry one of the more direct bloodlines so that his kids were legitimate… and why Henry VIII was so crazy about marrying all those women, because memories of the War of the Roses was VERY clear in the survivors, and he wanted to avoid wars of succession. It didn’t… quite work, but he did prevent more than just a couple coups… oh, and the Spanish Armada. 🙂

But before I go down that road, what do you think? Is legitimacy useful outside the legal world? Do you consider someone a “brother from another mother?” Let me know in the comments below!

Bad Husband, Good Father?

12 Oct

I seem to live my life in commercials (compared to my son who lives life in musical numbers), because I keep picking up nuggets of confusion and blogging about them. So in today’s online therapy, here’s the fun phrase I overheard: “Bad husband, good father.” Really?

At first blush, this is perfectly understandable. As the son of divorced parents, there is a huge difference between a father who’s there for you versus a father who’s not. To quote another commercial, “Your kids don’t need the perfect parent, they need you.” Simply being there makes a HUGE difference. My dad was in the Navy, so he physically couldn’t be there, but he tried as best as he could through letters, but there was a big difference. So I have a lot of appreciation to those divorced dads who stay in the same area, make sure to take the kids half the time, continue to be a parent even though they’re no longer married to their mom. To the kid, their relationship to your mom is less important. At first…

However, parenting is just another relationship, just like marriage – there are different needs with adults than with kids. So naturally, a relationship with your spouse is exponentially more difficult, because your needs are different and often harder to fulfill. If the kids wants junk food, and you refuse to give it to them, sure you’re got a tantrum for a few minutes and then life goes on. If your wife wants you to stop X, and you don’t want to stop X, this will continue on and on for… weeks? Months? Years? That lingering “tantrum” will poison your relationship for a long, long time.

That poisoned relationship will affect your kids, whether you like it or not. I certainly remember the day my parents divorced – it was done remotely, again because my dad was in the Navy – but it made an impact on my life. That anger can make things difficult for everyone in the family. Even when you stop that behavior, or start doing something to mend the relationship, it’s hard to forget that anger. For the one trying to change, when that anger is still directed at you… what’s the incentive to keep with the change?

Man, that was vague! I guess what I’m trying to say is that… yes, you can be a good father but a bad husband, but it’s preferable to try and be both. I’ve been married 14 years and I find it a wonder that anyone stays together. Relationships are hard work. However, being a good father is… a little easier. It’s still difficult, but it seems to be easier to keep your kids happy than to keep your wife happy.

Then again, my kids are only becoming teenagers now – I’m sure that as they become young adults, they’ll get more of those adult complexities, and they’ll hate me half the time too. Then they’ll become parents and they’ll forgive me, just like I forgave my father, because it’s only once you’re in their situation that you understand what your parents went through.

What do you think? Is there a happy medium you can make between all your family members? Or do you find relationships with children harder? Let me know in the comments below!

“You Pay For Convenience”

1 Sep

Convenience itself is a commodity – you can sell it as much as the product you’re selling itself. It’s important to remember that when approaching two-day shipping, getting into easy classes, or easy relationships – the prices are going to be higher even though you’re satisfied now.

This is why this is Maxim #2 for me, or to elucidate: “Things that are easier to get usually come at a higher price.” The convenience store is the easiest to understand. Same things you can buy at a grocery story, it’s easier to get to, and the lines are shorter. However, your options tend to be brand name only, there’s a lot less choices, and the prices are always, always higher. So depending on your situation, the reason you might buy that box of Frosted Flakes ™ there is because you believe your time is worth more than the extra money you’d be saving if you went to the grocery.

This can be carried over into many, many areas – which is why it’s a maxim for me. Take relationships: there is Ms. Right and Ms. Right Now. In my own life, I only had eyes for my main crush in high school that I was blinded to the woman who was dying for me as well as the other smart women who (in retrospect) I should have pursued. Because people are unpredictable and unable to be easily categorized, I figured (easily skipping over other factors) that it was less painful (rejection) to pursue the one girl I wanted than the ones I could have.

Better example is after I broke up with my first girlfriend, I simply wanted another woman to date, so I lucked out and found a woman online (for context, this was 2000, so online dating was a relatively new thing). Things took off and we had a good, but brief relationship. This woman was not who I would normally have pursued, but I wanted someone, ANYONE, to help me avoid the grief from losing the woman I loved. Of course, when the new woman decided not to pursue the rebound relationship, that grief came back in spades. I sought out counseling, and eventually, sought out a new career in a new place.

To take it in another direction, our entire online economy is based on convenience. Amazon grew by leaps and bounds because of its ability to get us stuff we wanted now… or sooner than we could find it in our hometown. When the pandemic hit and their supply chain was damaged, Walmart and Target suddenly went big because their system wasn’t affected and THEY had what we wanted right now.

Remember, you pay for this convenience, not just in cash, but in how you perceive the world. You now expect this convenience from Amazon, and when they suddenly couldn’t provide it, you sought it from others. Now we wonder why we can’t get this in other parts of our lives. Why can’t other people in my social media see things the way I do? Why can’t our government fix the problems with a simple click?

And what’s our response to this? We get angry… and depending on your situation, anger reveals itself in many ways. We had riots in several cities across the US last night; interestingly enough, NONE of them were covered by any of the normal news outlets, although Twitter was buzzing about them. Why? Because anger is also convenient. We’ve had riots so long that it’s no longer news. It no longer gets clicks. And it happened on a Sunday, when no one’s checking news anyway. So why bother reporting it–wait until Monday.

So convenience has warped our view of the world, and because things are easier and cheaper, we’re not willing to travel farther to get the things we want at a better price. Gee, no wonder people are lonely and miserable.

Wow – didn’t realize my rant would lead itself there. I try to stay on the lighter side of care. However, I must ask you, did I go too far? Is convenience truly the bane of our modern existence or has it been our salvation? Am I completely wrong? Let me know in the comments below!

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