Life

A Kiss For Luck And We’re On Our Way

bruce polly gerencser may 1978

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

Thirty-six years ago today, on a hot sweltering day, the most beautiful girl in the world walked down the aisle of the Newark Baptist Temple to meet her husband to be. Polly was nineteen and I was twenty-one. We were young, naïve, inexperienced Baptist kids, ill prepared for marriage, but here we are, thirty-six years later, still married.

We spent our honeymoon at the French Lick Hotel in French Lick, Indiana. A month before our honeymoon, I sent a check to the Hotel to guarantee our reservation. The check bounced, the first of many bounced checks during the early years of our marriage. We had no experience with handling money, and it took us a few years to figure out how to keep a checkbook. It also took us a few years to figure out that if you pay the light, telephone, and gas bill they don’t shut them off.

The groomsmen and I ordered our tuxes from a place in Pontiac, Michigan, not far from Midwestern Baptist College where we all were students. We didn’t try them on before the wedding, so imagine our surprise when we found out one of the tuxes was the wrong size. My soon to be mother-in-law altered the pants so my groomsman could squeeze into them. All would be well, or so we thought. As we were walking into the church auditorium, all of sudden the altered seam ripped open. There stood Mike Lavery with the crotch ripped out of his pants. We all snickered and he walked ever so carefully to the front of the church. No one was the wiser.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978-005

Our Wedding Party, July 15 1978

The soloist for our wedding was one of our best friends from college, Mark Bullock. Mark often led the singing during chapel and was quite a gifted singer. He also drove one bad-ass Plymouth Barracuda. Mark sang three songs, All My Life by Tommy Malone Jr., The Wedding Song by Peter, Paul, and Mary and We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters. It is these last two songs that caused quite a stir at the Newark Baptist Temple. They were the first and last secular songs sung from the pulpit of the church. Thirty-six years later, all wedding music must still be approved ahead of time. Our wedding made a last impression.

Polly’s dad, Lee Shope and uncle Jim Dennis, both preachers and graduates of Midwestern Baptist College, performed the wedding. Polly’s eccentric uncle, Art  Robinson, volunteered to take pictures. Moments before the start of the wedding, the new flash he had just bought failed. As a result, we have no live photos of our wedding. All told, there were about 225 people at the wedding.

After the wedding, the Shope/Robinson family and the Gerencser family gathered at Polly’s parents home for a meal Since my Dad and his wife lived in Arizona, they had not met Polly before the day of the wedding. Finally it was time for us to leave and we went upstairs to change our clothes. Polly’s Mom was upstairs and as Polly was heading to a separate room to change, her Mom guided her to where I was changing and told us, you are married now.  This was the first time we had seen each other undressed. Needless to say, we were quite embarrassed.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978

Post Wedding Picture, July 15 1978

We spent the first night at a motel in Springfield, Ohio. While I will not write much about our initial sexual experience, we were quite inexperienced, having had no training about sex. We did read Tim LaHaye’s book, The Act of Marriage, before our wedding, so we had a general idea of how things worked.  I can say, thirty-six years later, we have the sex thing down pat.

We spent several nights at the hotel in French Lick and then we drove up to Rochester, Indiana to see my mother. After visiting with her, we drove over to Bryan, Ohio to see my sister. That night, we stayed at the Exit 2 Motel near the Ohio Turnpike. The room was infested with mosquitoes and the air conditioner thumped and groaned all night long.  After we got up the next morning, we drove home to our 3 room upstairs apartment on Premont Street in Waterford, a community near the college.

Several weeks before our wedding, I stopped at a yard sale that had a bunch of furniture for sale. I asked them how much they would take for all the furniture. We agreed on a price and I hauled the furniture junk over to the apartment. Polly was not thrilled when she saw the w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l furniture I had bought just for her. It was not long before we went to debt to buy a couch from Kay’s Furniture and a bed from J.L. Hudson. Credit was easy to get, we had little understanding of how debt worked, and we quickly were over our heads in debt. We were kids playing in an adult world.

We enrolled for our junior year at Midwestern. Our plan was to continue our studies, graduate, and move somewhere to start a church. However, six weeks after our wedding we got a big surprise…Polly was pregnant. Oops!  Several months later, I lost my job, we were behind our rent, utilities, and bills, so we had to drop out of college. In February of 1979, seven months after our wedding, we moved to Bryan, Ohio. We lived with my sister for a few weeks until I could get a job and find a place to live. After getting settled, Jay Stuckey, the pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, asked me to come work with him and I agreed to do so. Our nine months at the church revolved around me working two jobs and never being home and Polly taking care of a newborn. We saw very little of each other.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978

Polly’s Father Walking Her Down the Aisle

In what should have been an early warning sign, I worked myself into exhaustion and landed myself in the county hospital. Two weeks after getting out of the hospital, we packed up and moved to Newark, Ohio. For the next fifteen years, we lived in central and SE Ohio. Five more children were born while I pastored churches in Buckeye Lake and Somerset. It was during this period that Polly and I grew up. We faced a lot of hard, difficult times, from my health problems to having a daughter born with Down Syndrome. Due to my commitment to pastoring full-time, we were poor, often without two nickels to rub together. We drove junk cars, lived in old houses or mobile homes, and made do.

And here’s my point in telling you this. These experiences, these hard, difficult times, are what helped to make us who we are today. We are survivors. We endured hardship. While we have no desire to go back and live the good old days, we do recognize that these experiences left a deep, lasting imprint on our lives. Through the pain and difficulty of the past we are better people today. Anyone who has been married a long time can tell a similar story.  The key to a lasting marriage, at least for Polly and I, is our commitment to endure whatever came our way.

bruce polly gerencser fall 1978

Polly’s Grandfather, parents, and us in front of our apartment. Polly is a three months pregnant

Thirty-six years ago, we were mutually infatuated kids thinking they were ready to join the real world. Our growth into adults was slow, painful, and quite humorous. Over time, puppy love began to turn into real, lasting love and here we are, all these years later, deeply in love with one another. A love that is not shown in cards, flowers, and candy but in our resolve to love one another in sickness and in heath, for richer or poorer, until death do us part. Our marriage is deeply flawed. We have had our share of failures and disappointments. Life certainly has not been what we expected it to be, especially since we are no longer Christians. But, regardless of our childish expectations and fanciful made for TV dreams, the adults we have become are well suited for the partnership we have developed.

Who knows what may yet lie ahead. It matter not as long as Polly is by my side. I love her dearly and I am glad she said Yes to me thirty-six years ago. I think the lyrics of We’ve Only Just Begun still aptly describe our marriage:

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
We’ve only begun

Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Published: July 15, 2014 | Comments: 16

Kathy Kristof’s Six Easy Ways to Save a Million Dollars

kathy kristof

Kathy Kristof, a financial columnist for CBS MoneyWatch writes:

Getting rich is something of a Holy Grail for many Americans, who have been warned that their retirement will look like a scene out of “The Grapes of Wrath” if they fail to save up at least $1 million before they’re old. Although many, perhaps most, people doubt they can save and invest that much, in reality building up a $1 million nest-egg is pretty easy. In fact, if you start young and follow these six steps, you can do it without really trying.

Kristof’s six sure-fire ways to save $1 million before retirement age?

  1. Contribute to a 401(k)
  2. Invest in stocks
  3. Stretch out your student loans
  4. Pay off your credit cards
  5. Learn to cook
  6. Procrastinate on consumer purchases.

There ya go boys and girls. Do what Kristof says and you will be rolling in cash when you  reach retirement age, that is if you started right after college. Never mind the fact that the $1 million Kristof says you will have will come nowhere near meeting your retirements needs 40 years from now. Oops, she forgot about inflation and rising consumers costs that aren’t part of the inflation calculation. Never mind the fact that the majority of college students can no longer find a job in their chosen field, and the jobs they do find often pay poorly, so poorly that they have to move back in with their parents.

Real wages in the US are stagnant or in decline. Most Americans have no hope of ever making enough money to follow Kristof’s six steps to a million bucks.  Consider:

income and productivity

Consider:

change in annual wages

So who is Kathy Kristof writing to? Most likely, the top 10% of wage earners. For the rest? Kristof’s six easy ways to a million bucks are no more likely to pay off than buying a lottery ticket. (and I am not suggesting that saving money is NOT a good idea)

Last night, John Oliver on Last Week Tonight hilariously, yet pointedly, explained what Kristof is seemingly oblivious to:

YouTube Preview Image

Kathy Kristof’s column is a reminder that most financial reporters and writers have no clue about how most Americans really live.

Published: July 14, 2014 | Comments: 19

If There is No Life After Death, I Might as Well Kill Myself Now

happiness

A recent commenter stated:

Second, you mention in one post that you care about the journey, not the destination, of your readers. If the destination for all of us is only death, I can’t think of anything more depressing, anything less motivating for caring about the journey. Who gives a flip about the journey if the end is death? The journey for all of us is full of pain and suffering, in one way or another. If death is the only end for all of us, I’d rather end it right now. The last person I would trust to help me on my journey is a preacher of a hopeless death.

Over the years, countless Christians have said to me that if they believed that this life is all there is that they would kill themselves. Of course, this is little more than hyperbole since I seriously doubt people like this commenter would actually kill themselves just because they are disappointed there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The above mentioned comment reveals a view held by many Christians, that life is filled with pain and suffering and our journey is one long test of endurance. For Christians who think like this, the only reason for enduring life is that there is a divine payoff after death.

I know a good bit about pain and suffering. Long time readers know well my story and the health problems I have. Yet, I would never say that my journey is all about pain and suffering. Yes, I wish I didn’t have to live with pervasive, chronic, unrelenting pain. But, the pain is not the sum of my life. If it was, I would be the first to say that it is time for me to hop on the long black train.

I have everything to live for. A wonderful wife, six awesome children, and nine grandchildren. Need I say more about why, whatever pain I suffer on my journey to the grave, is worth it? There is so much to live for and I don’t need the promise of a divine payoff to make my life worth living. I don’t need a God for my life to have meaning, purpose, and direction.

Many Christians have a hard time understanding people like me. They can not envision a life without God. Their life revolves around God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church. I totally understand where they are coming from. For most of my life, I thought the same way.

When I first deconverted, I was lost for a time. This is a common problem for people who were once deeply immersed in Christianity. Once God, the church, and the Bible no longer had any authority over my life, I was forced to determine for myself how I wanted to live my life. In humanism I found purpose, meaning and direction. Since this life is the ONLY life I have, I have EVERYTHING to live for.

The above mentioned commenter thinks my life is hopeless. Without a promise of life after death and eternity in heaven, what is there to live for?  Atheists live such a hopeless life, or so many Christians think. Let me close out this post with some of my hopes:

  1. I hope my family lives long, prosperous, peaceful lives.
  2. I hope my grandson grows up to play baseball for the Cincinnati Reds so I can watch him play.
  3. I hope at least one of my granddaughters becomes a scientist.
  4. I hope the Cincinnati Reds win the World Series and the Cincinnati Bengals win the Super Bowl.
  5. I hope that someday all the weapons of violence in the world will be destroyed.
  6. I hope that my wife and I will grow old together and that we will continue to have a blessed life.
  7. I hope to travel to many of the places on my bucket list.
  8. I hope we will end income inequality in America.
  9. I hope we will pass immigration reform, allowing millions of hard-working people to become US citizens.
  10. I hope scientists will find cures for many of the diseases that kill us.
  11. I hope we will figure out a way to control world population and in doing so make sure that every human has enough food to eat and clean water to drink.
  12. I hope Americans will begin to take the threat of global climate change seriously.
  13. I hope I win or inherit a few million dollars so I can have one awesome party and buy a house for each of my children.
  14. I hope to someday get my book done and publish it.
  15. I hope to take a photograph that is published in National Geographic or a photography magazine.
  16. I hope to master Photoshop.
  17. I hope all my internet friends  live long, happy, prosperous lives. For those of them that live with pain and disability like I do, I hope that they find purpose, meaning, and happiness, despite their suffering.
  18. I hope Bernie Sanders is the next president.

And for today? I hope that the Cincinnati Reds continue to pound the Pittsburgh Pirates and end up in first place at the All Star break. Most of all, as Polly and I go out tonight to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary, I hope we have a wonderful time. (anniversary is on the 15th) I hope both of us will reflect on how our marriage has prospered and endured despite of us. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, if I am not too tired when we get home that we might…………….

ricky gervais quote about life

 

 

Published: July 12, 2014 | Comments: 24

What People Really Mean When They Say You Look Tired

Here’s what people really mean when they say you look tired:

tired

Published: July 11, 2014 | Comments: 3

Two Personal Pictures You Might Be Interested In

bruce and polly gerencser

This picture was snapped a few weeks ago by one of the staff at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We were there to watch the Dayton Dragons play the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

gerencser schoch

Last week, our friends Jim and Tammy Schoch were in town. Jim is a former charismatic pastor. Jim and Tammy were a real help to us when we first left organized Christianity. Jim and I spent many a night at  local taverns or restaurants talking about the ministry and the past. He was a lifesaver for me. We miss them dearly. Several years ago, they moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so we only get to see them once a year.

Published: July 9, 2014 | Comments: 10

It Doesn’t Always Happen to Someone Else

shit happens

As a Christian, I believed that if I prayed God would take care of me and he would make sure calamity didn’t show up at my doorstep. In those rare instances when it seemed that God wasn’t answering my prayer and I was facing disaster, I  thought that God was either testing me or chastising me for disobedience.

I was relatively healthy until 1989. I played basketball in the winter and softball in the summer. In the fall I cut wood, spending hours cutting felled trees into wood stove sized pieces. I  hunted in the fall/winter, walking for miles in the Appalachian foothills. I was, by every measure, a healthy, increasingly overweight man.

I am still amazed by how quickly the circumstances of my life can change. It seems that life is being sucked out of me ever so slowly. Gone are the days of strenuous physical activity. Now I am happy if I can do things of  physical nature a few days out of the month. Our home is littered with projects in various stages of completion. I will get to these projects soon, I tell myself.  The pile of unread magazines on the table by my recliner continues to grow. I refuse to cancel the subscriptions because I just know I am going to catch up on magazine reading one of these days. The same could be said for the unread books that line the shelves in the living room.

Yesterday, I went over to my oldest son’s home to wire their new bedroom and bathroom. My coming over to help quickly turned into me taking extra doses of pain medication and sitting on a chair while I told others what to do. I was able to get the circuits where they needed to go, and I suppose I could make myself feel good over my son still needing my expertise, but I quietly wept inside as I thought about how much I have lost.  Today, I am in a lot of pain, even after sleeping 12 hours. Why? What little strenuous work did yesterday. And tomorrow will likely be worse than today. I shouldn’t do these things anymore, but the only thing worse than not doing them, is feeling that my expertise is no longer needed. We all want to feel needed by those we love.

One of the biggest of issues that dominate my every other week counseling sessions is my unwillingness to embrace life as it is. Even my family doctor has talked to me about the fine line between giving up and embracing the reality of how my life is. There will be no more days of playing basketball or softball. There will be no more days of feeling the sweat run down my face and back as I cut wood on a crisp fall day. There will be no more days of trudging through the woods playing a game of hide and seek with a cottontail rabbit or a fox squirrel. No matter how much I want it to be different, I will never be able to read like I once did. While the voracious appetite for the printed page is still there, the ability to process it is long gone. I am living a life of decline and there is not one damn thing I can do about it.

I am not angry, most days anyway, about how my life is. I know that modern medicine has no cure for me. I know I must embrace my life as it is, and if I don’t, the yearning for the physical abilities of the past will only take more of what life I have left.

As a Christian I believed that my physical afflictions were God making me more like Jesus. I believed the way to heaven was paved with suffering. I can confidently say that God never answered one prayer of mine when I cried out to him for physical relief or deliverance. I came to see that I was like the Apostle Paul who prayed for deliverance and God told him no. (2 Corinthians 12:6-8)

These days I now realize that the diseases that are taking life from me ever so slowly are the result of a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices with a topping of “who the hell knows.” When I whine and complain about my lot in life and say “why me” the universe shouts back, “why not you?”

Bad things don’t always happen to other people. It is not always someone else’s child that gets cancer or is killed in a car accident. It is not always someone else that gets cancer, goes through a divorce, or loses their job. It is not always someone else that loses everything in a fire, tornado, hurricane, or a flood.

The truth is, life is a big crap-shoot. Good luck. Bad luck. At the right place, at the wrong place. Good genetics. Bad genetics. Growing up on the right side of the tracks, growing up on the wrong side of  the tracks. Marrying the right person, marrying the wrong person.  The list is endless.

As I peruse the ways of humankind, it is clear that very few people live to be old without facing  trial and adversity. It is just how life is. If there is a God, I might find some pleasure and satisfaction in saying DAMN you God, but since there is no God, I am left to shout at a universe that yawns at my death-defying struggle. If the universe could speak it surely would say, this movie always ends the same way. Dead. Next.

It is futile to see life other than as it is. Wishing for days that are long since gone only results in depression and despair. We must embrace life as it is and go kicking and screaming into the night. We have two choices in life, fight or roll over and die. Yes, life is unfair and bad things happen to good people. Shit happens and it doesn’t always happen to someone else.

Let me close this post with a poem by Dylan Thomas, an early 20th century poet who died at the age of 39:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Published: July 3, 2014 | Comments: 3

What Are You Looking Forward to In the Next Year?

question

Several weeks ago, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have not yet submitted yours, I encourage you to do so.

Jim asked:

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

This is a simple, direct question but I find it quite hard to answer. Since my life is dominated by pain, fatigue and debility, it is hard for me to think beyond the moment. The health problems I have are the tail that wags the proverbial dog.  To quote the Bible, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. Most days, my objective is to just get through the day. Most days, I don’t have the luxury to think and plan for the next day let alone the next year. I often wonder if I will even be alive next year. I want to be, but there are days when the pain and debility is so severe that I have doubts that I can make it through to the next day.

With that said, I want to answer Jim’s questions from the perspective of what I am looking forward to in the next year IF my body cooperates and I am still among the living:

  • I am looking forward to our newest grandchild being born in November. It’s a girl, and come November the score will be Girls-9 Boys-1.
  • I am looking forward to the Cincinnati Reds playing the rest of the year like they have the last three weeks. If they do they will make it to the playoffs.
  • I am looking forward to the start of the college football season.
  • I am looking forward to the start of the NFL and the Cincinnati Bengals making it to the playoffs and actually winning a playoff game.
  • I am looking forward to writing and finishing my book.
  • I am looking forward to taking day road trips with Polly.
  • I am looking forward to taking a short vacation with Polly.
  • I am looking forward to my 36th wedding anniversary. (July 15th)
  • I am looking forward to attending as many dirt track races as my sons will take me to.
  • I am looking forward to writing for The Way Forward.
  • I am looking for to Christmas and buying gifts for the grandkids.
  • I am looking forward to taking as many photographs as I can.

I no longer have grand plans or big dreams. I am content to embrace the forced simplicity of my life, knowing that my body dictates what I do when and where. Gone is the strength and power to do what I want. I can no longer emotionally or mentally afford to have big dreams or plans. Those days are over. I am a realist and I accept that my life is what it is. All I can do is make the most of what I have.

I know….

unhappy

 

Published: June 30, 2014 | Comments: 5

When Parents Divorce, A Personal Reflection

gerencser family 1971

Gerencser Family Picture Taken Not Long Before My Parents Divorced

The year is 1972. I am a freshman in high school. I have lived in the same town now for two years. This is a record. I have finally made friends. I really like the church we attend. There are over 100 kids in the church youth group. Lots of girls to date. Lots of fun things to do. I thought to myself, finally a place to call home.

But it was not meant to be. In one swift moment my parents turned my life into a living hell.

In the spring of 1972, my dad came down to the basement where I was working on my Lionel O gauge train layout. My dad owned a hobby store in Findlay Ohio. While working for him in the hobby store I fell in love with Lionel trains.

My dad said that he had something very important to tell me. He said that he and my mother no longer loved each other and that they were getting a divorce.

In that moment my life was turned upside down. (and even more so my younger siblings)

As I sit here, as a soon-to-be 57-year-old man, I can now see why my parents got a divorce. My mom was pregnant with me when my dad married her. There is some question as to whether or not my father is actually my biological father, but nonetheless he is the only father I ever knew. I have suspicions as to who might be my real father but that secret will lie buried forever.

My mom and dad did not have a very good marriage. My mother had mental problems that landed her in state mental institutions twice. She tried to kill herself numerous times. My memory is still scarred with the picture of my mom lying in a pool of blood, the result of her slashing her wrists. I had just come home from school. I was 11.

My parents fought a lot, my mom flying into psychotic rages, and my dad leaving the house to get away from it. I have seen too much. I’ve heard too much. I wish I could forget, but I can’t.

So, in the spring of 1972, my parents divorced. It was an amicable divorce. My sister and I lived with dad while my brother went to live with mom. Let the fracture begin.

By the fall of 1972 the family upheaval was well underway. My mother married her first cousin. Her new husband was a recent parolee from a Texas penitentiary. My dad also remarried. He married a 19-year-old girl who recently gave birth to a girl. My dad and his new wife were married in the very same Baptist church that, not too many months before, our family had sat together for Sunday worship.

Now I had a 19-year-old stepmother.  In just a few years I would be dating girls her age. I also had a new stepsister. Needless to say, things did not go well. To this day, I am ashamed of the things I said and did. I was bitter and angry. I resented my new stepmother and her daughter. Quite frankly, I hated them, hated my parents, and even hated my pastor for marrying my dad and his new wife.

True to the form that my dad displayed before coming to Findlay, six months after his remarriage we moved. One day I was attending school at Findlay High School and the next day we were having an auction and moving to Tucson, Arizona. It seemed to me, at the time, that we moved in a hurry. As I later found out, the bill collectors were after my dad. After we got to Arizona they came and repossessed our car.

I found solace in the Christian church. Not too far from where we lived there was a large church, the Tucson Baptist Temple. I got involved in the youth group and tried to stay away from home as much as possible. My stepmother and I seemed to be in constant conflict and my answer to the conflict was to stay away.

But, one Sunday, it all boiled over. I came home from church and my stepmother and I got into a heated conversation. I’m sure I probably said something smart. I was hardly a saint when it came to my treatment of her. For some reason, on this day, she decided to pick up a leather belt and swing it at me. She hit me squarely in the face.

At that moment all the anger and rage that I had towards her and my parents came rushing out. I was a trim, athletic, strong young man. In a fit of rage, I picked up my stepmother and  threw her into a cement wall. She slammed into the wall,  knocked out cold.

What did I do?

Nothing. I left her on the living room floor and walked out of the house. I went to the store where my dad was a carpet salesman and I told him what I had done.

He rushed home and my stepmother was taken to the hospital with several fractures in her back. It is wonder that I did not injure her more severely or kill her.

The only positive that came out of this was that my stepmother left me alone from that day forward.

But I knew I couldn’t live there any longer.

Five months after I had moved cross-country from Ohio to Arizona, I hopped a Greyhound bus and returned to Ohio.

I spent the summer of 1973 with my mother. In the fall of 1973 I moved back to Findlay Ohio and lived with a family in the church that I had previously attended. At the end of my 11th grade year, I returned to my mother’s house in NW Ohio. I would live there for about six months.

I dropped out of high school and began working a full-time job. I was 17 years old. In the winter of 1974 my mother suffered another mental collapse and was committed to the state hospital in Toledo. My dad got wind of this and drove from Arizona to pick us up and take us back.(my brother and sister had also left Arizona and returned to Ohio) By this time, my dad and stepmother had moved to Sierra Vista, a beautiful community in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains. My dad had started a new business, a gun store.

It had been 18 months since I talked to my dad. I thought, perhaps things will be different and to some degree they were. I was a bit older, my stepmother was a bit older, and we mutually decided to tolerate and leave each other alone.

I started attending a local Baptist church where I met a girl who was several years older than me. We had a torrid  relationship, where I fell in love  and out of love in six short months. After our relationship ended, I once again hopped a Greyhound bus and returned to Ohio. I left behind my car which dad promised to sell  for me and send me the money. He sold the car quite quickly, and 40 years later I am still waiting for the money. It is unlikely that I will receive it since my dad has been dead for 27 years.

I would only see my dad two more times over the next 10 years. Two times, two days and then he was dead. He was 49 years old when he died. Seven years later, my mom would take a Ruger .357 revolver and put it to her chest and pull the trigger. She died instantly of a gunshot wound to the heart. She was 54.

My parents died way too young. I wish that their lives had been different and I certainly wish that my life had been different too.

When my parents divorced they turned my life into a twisted, messed up contortion that, to this day, requires a counselor to straighten out.

My dad moved us constantly.  I attended numerous schools. He continued this pattern he continued after he remarried. He was always looking for the pot gold at the end of the rainbow. He never found it. It seemed we lived from week to week and the bill collectors were always calling or knocking on the door. (that is when we had a working phone)

One time someone asked me if I moved so much growing up because my dad got transferred a lot. I laughed and said no. We moved a lot because my dad didn’t pay his bills.

One of the things I battle almost every day is the desire to be somewhere else, I am  restless, dissatisfied, and I find it difficult to be at peace. It is for this reason, among others, that I sought out a counselor 3 years ago. I knew I had to find some sort of peace. I am a work in progress, but I do now have days where I don’t feel that restless tug to be somewhere else. I am learning that here can be a good place to be and that there is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

My parent’s divorce and the aftermath are a constant reminder of the price that children pay when parents divorce. I am in no way passing judgment on those who divorce. I have counseled too many couples over the years to ever suggest that a man and a woman should stay married no matter what. Sometimes, for the sake of the children, it is better if the parents divorce.

To this day I am not certain if I would have been better off if my parents had stayed together. I kind of doubt it. Their problems were many and I suspect my mom would have still successfully found the right method and moment to kill herself. I have no illusions about our family being the perfect family if only my parents had stayed together.

Published: June 4, 2014 | Comments: 18