At first glance Gary and I have very different backgrounds, but closer examination reveals that the one childhood characteristic we have in common is instability. My parents traveled around the country seeking employment and we ended up living in a different location at least twice a year. Gary’s mother died when he was four and his father was in the Navy, so he was raised first by his grandmother, and later by a step-mother. He, too, lived in a variety of places. We also had parents who told us practically nothing about money- his because they had so much, mine because we had so little.
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that we spent the first twenty years of our marriage moving, working an assortment of jobs, and living from paycheck to paycheck. It was what we knew best. My grandmother always said “The Lord watches over fools.” I can personally attest to that, because many of our early actions and decisions were quite foolish. I suppose most of us can say that about something we did when we were 20+, but I shake my head to think how close we came a few times to literally living on the street. The only thing that saved us was the generosity of my grandmother. She took us in, as she did her own children, other relatives, foster children, and friends. She gave us a place to stay until we were back on our feet, and helped us with our children when we found work. And I’m happy to say that we repaid her in kind by taking care of her as she aged. Gary’s family was also helpful with money, time, and babysitting. His grandmother, though older and hampered by health problems, was always kind and generous.
The one thing Gary and I did have in common was a farming background. I think that is why we both enjoy the outdoors and why we spent so much of our early time camping, hiking, fishing, and playing outside. We dragged our children off to the mountains, the woods, the desert, and the lake as often as we could. Gary had also grown up with cars; he and his brother shared an interest in racing and we were involved in that for several years. Lack of money or experience hardly ever kept us from trying something. I swear both of us have gypsy or circus blood!
It is a miracle we raised three relatively normal children. They know I say that with love, but with the understanding that yes, they are a little “different” because of our lifestyle. I am proud to say that in spite of our shortcomings as parents and regardless of the many moves we made, they are intelligent, well-educated, productive, creative individuals with good lives. And I have to restate that in the beginning Gary and I were probably the least likely people ever to share parenthood. He had hardly ever seen a child- his father was an only child and he had very little family except his brother and step-sister. I grew up surrounded by brothers, cousins, and neighborhood children. Our ideas and experiences clashed every other day! But somehow we all survived.
Actual survival has also been a huge part of our experience together. I have had countless injuries and accidents. Gary nearly died twice. We have spent an inordinate amount of time sitting by each other’s hospital bedside or acting as nurse for each other. Add that to the times we have cared for sick and injured children and it is a good thing that we both have some medical background. Gary was a dental tech in the Navy, and later became a respiratory therapist for several years. I worked for a time as an EKG tech for a major hospital and we met at a staff party. And I might add that health related problems contributed greatly to our financial woes. A $42,000 hospital bill makes a big dent in the budget!
So, it took us a while to find our stride, to settle into careers, and to find a place to call home. I think family and friends were surprised when Gary became a truck driver, relieved when I returned to school to become a teacher, and shocked when we returned to Oklahoma. But that’s a post for tomorrow.