Walk by Faith

The quote, “Walk by faith, not by sight” has very special meaning for me, first of all because my father had macular degeneration and deteriorated retinas, which progressed to ten years of blindness. My mother had to care for him, and do all of the house, yard, and garden work. She learned to run the riding lawn mower, and even harder yet, at sixty-five years old, she learned how to drive a car.  

I always said, I’d rather lose my hearing, than my eyesight, but nine years ago, over a span of a week I lost vision in my right eye. My vision was 20/1000, with a Central Macula Thickness of 1296, where normal is around 212. Bottom line—I couldn’t even read the big “E” on the eye chart.

I was referred to a retinal specialist, who told me that I had macular edema (not macular degeneration, but swelling of the macula) and Central Retinal Vein Occlusion, which is a blockage of the main vein at the back of the eye. Erratic blood pressure was causing the swelling, but it took several months to figure that out, and in the meantime, my eyesight worsened to the point where I could only see vague images and shadows with that eye. My left eye had to work overtime and my brain had to learn to override the blurry vision from one eye and focus on what I could see with the other eye. Needless to say, that wasn’t easy to do.

The treatment for this condition is an injection in the eye to reduce the swelling. Yes, they stick a needle in my eye, actually several sticks. In the injection procedure, I receive numbing drops, then a Beta-dine solution to sterilize the eye, then more numbing drops, followed by an injection to completely numb the eye, then a partial injection of the drugs to reduce swelling, then an extraction of excess fluid from the eye, and a final injection of the drugs, and thorough eyewash. If this sounds a little creepy to you, you’re not alone. My husband and daughter were trying to be supportive when they accompanied me to the doctor, but the process grossed them both out and neither one came back a second time.

It’s not easy for me to get through this procedure either. The injections cause headaches, and sometimes, the needles hit a blood vessel or nerve, which really hurts, and my eye looks horribly bloodshot for the next week or more. At first, I had to go through this every week, then it stretched from two to four weeks during the first year, but my eyesight did improve. As time went on, I learned that the damage to my vision was permanent—there is no cure—this is only a temporary solution to try to maintain my vision at present state, and now, more than nine years later, I have very little vision left in that eye.

The biggest thing is that I can see with my other eye, and I hope and pray that remains the same, but regardless, it has given me a new perspective on what my father must have gone through as his sight deteriorated until he was completely blind. I am certainly not the only person who struggled with loss of eyesight. There have been some famous people who were blind as well. Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel both lost their eyesight in their 60’s. Andrea Bocelli became blind after a football accident at the age of twelve, and Helen Keller was both deaf and blind after an illness when she was just nineteen months old. None of these people let blindness stop them. They all learned to adapt to the situation and lead successful lives. They truly are my inspiration because I believe there’s not much point in worrying or dwelling on the negative. It’s better to face each challenge life throws at you, consider the options for resolving the issue, make a choice, and then take action.

The Bible tells of Jesus healing blind people, some who were born blind and others who lost their sight. I have prayed and asked Jesus to heal me, but thus far, He has not. And even though I’m blind in one eye, I am so blessed. I can clearly see that He holds my future. I know God is always with me, no matter what I’m going through and I will continue to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Pray for Your Enemies

For I know the plans I have for you

More than fifty years ago, in June 1967, I graduated from Elk River high school. It honestly feels like just a short time ago, yet so very much has happened in my life in those years. Beginning life on my own, a series of jobs, vocational school, marriage, children, divorce, forging a new life, college, and a new series of jobs that turned into a career. I’ve gone from a young, naive girl, to a woman, wife, mother and grandmother. All of that, in the blink of an eye.

The desire for a better life and to move up at work, led to more education, accounting, legal secretary in vocational school and later as a single mom with two teenagers, I began college. Not an easy task, but a personal challenge working full time while going to school. For years I wondered if I could have done well in college if I could have afforded to go, so I had a lot to prove to myself. It took years of nights and weekend classes while working full time to get an associate degree, bachelors, and masters degrees, graduating Summa cum Laude. Yes, it was a personal victory. Something I proved to myself.

The desire for a loving family took me to marriage at eighteen, but I was not prepared for the challenges of growing apart from a boy who refused to grow up and be the man, husband, and father he should have been. My greatest accomplishment was my children. After losing my first baby, who I was going to name Daniel,  my sadness turned to joy with the birth of my son and daughter. They are my legacy. I have loved them dearly from the moment they stirred within me. I spoke to them, sang songs to them, and prayed they would be healthy babies. Reflecting on the times we spent together gives be great joy and sorrow. Joy—because it was a delight to nurture them, spend time together, and watch them grow into teens and productive, energetic, and hard-working adults, loving parents, responsible and dedicated spouses. I am so very proud of each of them. My heart bursts with love and pride in the persons they have become, but sorrow surrounds their lives and mine too as we struggled to make sense of the insanity, lawlessness, and manic-depressive moods of their father, and to survive without getting sucked into his bi-polar mood swings and explosive anger.

I left him several times, but my sincere regret is that I never stayed away.  I believed the empty promises of love and that it would never happen again. But, love isn’t supposed to hurt. Marriage isn’t supposed to be like that, with blows, slaps, pushes, threats, and nearly choking the life out of me.

But the Lord brought me through it all. We survived, but I see the toll it has taken, and continues to take on my children, especially since their father continues to harass and try to hurt them.

Lord, you tell us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute you. That man was surely our persecutor. I pray for him, Lord. I pray you take him, and crush the mean evil spirit within him. Turn his back on it. Bend his knee, and bow his head. Change him as only you can. Bring him to repentance, humility, and salvation, and drive out any evil thought of revenge. Remove all hatred and resentment. Break him Lord, for his sake, and for the sake of my children. I pray this in the name of Jesus.

Lord, I am but a sinner—broken, repentant, forgiven, redeemed and blessed. One day I will enter into Glory and walk into your arms—surrounded by my friends and family of believers who have gone before me.  What a glorious day that will be.

And I thank you, Lord, for being with me each and every day. I have found strength, comfort, and peace in you, Lord.  Thank you for bringing a good Christian man, into my life. He is a blessing, an encourager, my help-mate, and confidant. He keeps me upright when my strength is failing. He makes me laugh and challenges me. Sometimes, he drives me a little bit nuts, but I know he will never, ever harm me. Thank you, Jesus, for my children and grandchildren, and for the indescribable gift of salvation. Thank you for your love, your mercy, and your grace. You have been with me through it all, and I am truly blessed.

Alleluia.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44

 

Independence Day

June 3, 1967, the day after my high school graduation was my independence day. I’d already paid the deposit and first month’s rent on an efficiency apartment. I had a summer job at Sears Roebuck to start the following Monday. I’d worked as a waitress at a truck stop during my junior and senior year of high school and used that money to prepare for my escape and to purchase pretty pink sheets for the Murphy bed and matching pink towels for my bath in the claw foot tub. I bought my pots and pans and an assortment of dishes at Salvation Army.

At seventeen years old, everything I owned, including my clothes and record player, three albums and seven 45’s, fit easily into the trunk of my dad’s car. It was the only visit my folks ever made to my place because they expected me to spend $1.35 to take the Greyhound bus back to Elk River to visit them each month.

It took all of a half hour to unload and put away my things, then I got a lecture from Dad about the evils of the city while Mom wiped away tears and added, “Be careful, you’re a girl, you know.” I guess I’d been aware of that for a quite a few years already—don’t know why she had to mention it to me now.

I was beaming as they drove away and I waved goodbye. I remember climbing the steps two at a time, opening the door, and thinking, “It’s all mine!” No more sharing a room with my noisy, sister who never helped make the bed and left her dirty clothes strewn around the room. No more having to be the Mom, making dinner, doing dishes, helping the younger kids with homework, and getting them to bed on time as I had done since I was ten years old. No more barn chores, cleaning gutters, or stinky farm animals. No more chickens and picking eggs. No more frozen pipes in winter and having to carry water from the barn, or heating it on the stove before you could take a bath. Believe me, I was on cloud nine that day.

The furnished apartment came with a beat-up orange frieze couch, a green chair, two end tables, and dresser. The closet was eight feet long and two feet wide with hooks along the wall. The kitchen had a small built in banquette, and a two-burner gas stove with an oven that wouldn’t even hold a cookie sheet.

The apartment building was U-shaped and my apartment had a very good view of the neighbors across the hall. Even on the third floor, it was dark most of the time, and I had to open a window and stick my head out to see if it was sunny or rainy. Sometimes if I wasn’t sure about the weather, I’d sneak up to the roof and look out at the Minneapolis skyline ten blocks away. The weather ball on the Northwestern bank would be flashing green for fair weather, and red for rain or snow.

Yes, it was old, and beat up, the old oak floors squeaked, and it was three floors up, but I loved it. It was all mine and I didn’t have to share it with anyone. Growing up in a household where our family of seven lived with my grandparents, two uncles and an aunt, there was no privacy, and absolutely everything either belonged to someone else or had to be shared.

Now that I was on my own, I saved everywhere I could, washing clothes in the machines, but hanging them on a clothesline in the kitchen to save money. I walked to work sixteen blocks and back instead of spending a quarter on the bus each way. Sometimes I’d come home drenched, but that wasn’t a big deal. I brown bagged it at work and ate an awful lot of peanut butter and hot dogs which I roasted on a fork over the gas stove. I got paid every two weeks and had to ration my money. We had no credit cards in those days, so I used the envelope system to budget my money. There was one envelope for rent, one for food, one for clothing, and one for saving. When an envelope was empty, I couldn’t borrow from another, so I stopped spending. There was no money for entertainment or extras, but I kept a jar in the kitchen, saving every bit of change I could, eventually getting a blue Princess phone and saving up to buy a car.

Life was really good—or at least it was until reality set in. One night, I was locked in the basement laundry over night due to a faulty lock. That was scary. Also, when it rained heavy in summer, the roof leaked, not just drips, but buckets. I had to strategically move the furniture and place pans and buckets around the living room and kitchen to catch the waterfall. On the farm, I’d put up with mice and bats, but I was really grossed out when cockroaches invaded my little piece of paradise. I had to put all my food in cans in the fridge to avoid their invasion. Worse was turning on the light in the middle of the night and watching them scurrying around the room. I quickly learned never to put my shoes on without checking for bugs first.

The biggest challenge though was not in budgeting or a dumpy apartment or questionable neighborhood, it was that I was completely on my own for the first time in my life. I’d always been rather independent, but I also had a place to live, food to eat, and the comforts of home and family, which I no longer had. My only entertainment was playing my record player. Over and over, the same songs. One of them was the Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel. I soon found there was no silence in the city. It was fairly quiet living on the farm other than the animal noises from cows, chickens, horses and tractors heading out to the fields. In the city, there were blaring horns and sirens at all times of the night. Children crying, neighbors arguing, and doors slamming.

It was a challenge to make new friends and to balance it all on my own and at times, I felt scared and lonely. There were a few days when I thought maybe back home didn’t seem quite so bad, but I stuck it out. I saw it as an adventure, even if it had some pitfalls. I was free to make my own decisions, and I tried to make the best of every situation. I learned that’s what life is truly all about anyway—making choices and living with both the benefits and the consequences of my decisions. I made some good choices along the way, but I made enough wrong ones that really challenged me and made my life much more difficult for a long time. I lived for many years with regrets about my past, but I’ve asked God’s forgiveness and know that He has pardoned me for the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t have to carry the burden of guilt and shame any more. Oh, I am still a sinner, but I am forgiven, redeemed, and forever grateful for the love, mercy, and grace of God.

Joshua 1:9 says: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

My Hiding Place

I grew up in a home where shame and corporal punishment were not only considered acceptable, but necessary. Your home should be a safe and loving place, but when you live with abuse and in fear of the very person who is supposed to protect and care for you, it holds you captive even when the storms pass.

I have vivid memories of Daddy and Momma fighting when I was eight years old. It was intense. I saw him hit her, chase her down and hit her again. Once I got in the way and was hit too, so instead I hid in the closet with my two younger siblings and prayed for God to save us and stop my Daddy from being so mad and hitting us. He was a nice Dad when he wasn’t angry, yelling or hitting.

Afterward Dad was quiet and sullen, not speaking to anyone. Mom had red swollen eyes from crying and bruises all over. I went to her and hugged her, and she said, “I’m all right, don’t worry.”

“Why were you fighting?” I asked.

“We can’t afford another baby.” At eight years old, I seemed to be the only one she could talk to. I didn’t really understand about babies and how they got in Momma’s stomach, but I knew she lost one last year.

Things were very quiet at dinner that night. Daddy didn’t eat with us. The six of us silently shared five hotdogs and a can of beans. While helping Momma with dishes, she bent over holding her belly. Then there was blood, lots of blood on her legs and the floor, and she ran to the bathroom. I was so scared. I tried to help, but Daddy yelled to get out. I took the younger kids and put them in bed. Then I sat with my older two brothers on the couch and waited.

“Momma was bleeding, “I said.

“I think she’s losing another baby, my eleven year old brother Bobby said.

“What do you mean? She can’t just lose them.” I lost a ball once, but it seemed to me a baby shouldn’t ever be lost.

Ronnie, my nine year old brother said, “That’s what happens when she bleeded last time.” I gave Bobby a questioning look.

“When the blood comes, the baby falls out.”

I thought about what he said. It seemed awful to me. “You mean the baby dies?”

“Yup.”

It suddenly became clear to me, the babies weren’t lost somewhere, they died. I ran to my room, buried my face in my pillow, and cried for Momma and the babies that were lost.

It seems like I was always afraid of my father. He was angry, explosive, and unpredictable, but at times, he was also funny, tender, and loving. It wasn’t until years later that I learned about PTSD and realized that my Dad suffered from it. He returned from the war healed on the outside, but not on the inside and those memories came home with him and haunted him for years.

He married my mother a week after he returned from the war and tried to put it behind him. He started school to become a chef and worked nights in a factory. A year later, on the very day my oldest brother was born, my dad had an industrial accident and lost the fingers on his right hand. He lost his job and had to quit school. Worse yet, he was labeled a cripple and turned away from jobs. No one wanted to give him a chance. I believe this shattered his dreams and the anger mixed with those horrible memories of the war boiled inside him.

When I was ten years old, Momma was pregnant again with another baby. Things had changed some by then. They seemed happier and the fighting had stopped. Baby Jeffrey was born in a small hospital without proper sanitary conditions—he got spinal meningitis and only lived a week. Dad never fought with Mom after that, but he still was tough on my brothers at times. I think it took awhile for him to deal with his anger, but he did change, and he became a loving grandfather to my children.

Even though I came to understand his past and why he was so angry, I still had a hard time understanding how he could hurt our mother and us kids. The physical hurts healed in time, but the fear, resentment, and emotional scars remained for my siblings and me. With faith in God, I’ve been able to forgive my father, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. It took time, and many years later I was able to talk to Dad about it. He told me that memories from the war were like an old war movie playing over and over and over in his head. He was hurting so bad and he didn’t know how to handle it and he took out his frustrations on us.  I came to realize that he had lost hope for our future after the loss of his fingers, with a wife and five kids to support, and unable to get a decent job.

The unfortunate thing is that the chaos of this upbringing affected my life and self-worth. I left home the day after high school graduation just to try and escape it. I married at eighteen and soon realized he was abusive too. During the seventeen years of marriage, I developed my public self, took  accounting classes, and held jobs where I was recognized and promoted for my competence. But my private self was another story. I felt trapped in the turmoil of an abusive, controlling, and evil relationship. It overwhelmed me and I saw no hope for the future.

Having a father and husband who were angry and abusive made it hard for me to comprehend God, who was spoken of as “Our Father.” It was hard to believe that God could love me and not hurt me, but by reading the Bible, I realized that Jesus loved me so much that He died for me—He gave his own life for me.

Finally, at thirty-seven years old, with two teenagers to support, I got divorced. It took several years of Christian counseling to understand the impact of my past and began to make my own decisions and plan for my future. I began taking college courses on nights and weekends while I worked full time and earned a bachelor’s degree. More importantly, I blossomed and felt good about who I was. The turmoil, fear, and hopelessness that I’d known my whole life was gone.

Still something was missing, and I began to realize that I wanted more.  I went to church and began to truly change.  I was almost forty years old when I finally asked Jesus into my heart and the real healing and forgiveness began within me. I was happy—really happy, for the first time in my life.  

Several years later, I married a nice Christian man who was encouraging and supportive of me as I completed my Master’s Degree and graduated Summa cum Laude. This year we will celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary.  The memories from my past have become like old black and white movies—dark, distant, surreal—and my life is in full living color—blessed, fearless, peaceful, and full of hope for the future.

Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

written: August 2016

Hope For the Future

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I grew up in a home where shame and corporal punishment were not only considered acceptable, but necessary. Your home should be a safe and loving place, but when you live with abuse and in fear of the very person who is supposed to protect and care for you, it holds you captive even when the storms pass.

I have vivid memories of Daddy and Momma fighting when I was about eight years old. I saw him hit her, chase her down, and hit her again. I would shake and hide in the closet with my two younger siblings. I prayed for God to save us and stop my Daddy from being so mad. He was a nice Daddy when he wasn’t angry, yelling, or hitting.

Afterward Daddy would be quiet and sullen, not speaking to anyone. Momma often had red swollen eyes from crying, and bruises all over. When I hugged her she would say, “I’m all right, don’t worry.”

At eight years old, I seemed to be the only one she could talk to. “Why was Daddy mad, Momma?”

“We can’t afford another baby.” I didn’t really understand about babies and how they got in Momma’s stomach, but I knew she lost one the year before.

One night, Daddy didn’t eat with us at dinner. While helping Momma with dishes, she suddenly bent over holding her belly. Then there was blood, lots of blood, on her legs and the floor, and she ran to the bathroom. I was so scared. I tried to help, but Daddy yelled to get out. I took the younger kids and put them in bed. Then I sat on the couch with my older two brothers and waited.

“Momma was bleeding,” I said.

“I think she’s losing another baby,” my eleven year old brother replied.

“What do you mean? She can’t just lose them.” I lost a ball once, but it seemed to me a baby shouldn’t ever be lost.

My nine-year-old brother said, “That’s what happens when she bleeded last time.” I gave him a questioning look.

“When the blood comes, the baby falls out.”

I thought about what he said. It seemed awful to me. I couldn’t catch my breath. “You mean the baby dies?”

“Yup.”

All of a sudden, it became clear to me—the babies weren’t lost somewhere—they died.

I ran to my room, buried my face in my pillow, and cried for Momma and the babies that were lost.

It seemed like I was always afraid of my father. He was angry, explosive, and unpredictable, but at times he was also funny, tender, and loving. It wasn’t until years later I learned about PTSD and realized my Dad suffered from it. He returned from the war healed on the outside, but those memories came home with him and haunted him for years.

He married my mother a week after he returned from the war and tried to put the horror behind him. He started school to become a chef and worked nights in a factory. A year later, on the very day my oldest brother was born, my dad had an industrial accident and lost the fingers on his right hand. He lost his job, had to quit school, was labeled a cripple, and was turned away from other opportunities. I believe this shattered his dreams, and the anger mixed with those horrible memories boiled inside him.

When I was ten years old, Momma was pregnant again with another baby.  Things had changed some by then. Dad had a full-time job and my parents seemed happier. Baby Jeffrey was born in a small hospital without proper sanitary conditions. He got spinal meningitis and only lived a week. This had a major impact on Momma and Daddy. He never fought with her after that. I think it took awhile for him to deal with his anger, but they went to counseling together and he did change. Even though I came to understand his past and why he was so angry, I still had a hard time understanding how he could have hurt Mom and us kids. The physical hurts healed in time, but the fear, resentment, and emotional scars haunted my siblings and me for years.

I was able to talk to Dad about it many years later. He told me that memories from the war were like an old movie playing over and over in his head. He was hurting so badly and he didn’t know how to handle it, so he took out his frustrations on us.  He explained that after the loss of his fingers, unable to get a decent job, and with all the kids coming along, he’d lost all hope for our future.

My upbringing affected my life and self-worth for many years. I married at eighteen and soon realized my husband was emotionally and physically abusive too. It was like living life on a roller coaster, never knowing what was around the next curve. During the seventeen years of marriage, I developed my public self, took accounting classes, and held jobs where I was recognized and promoted for my competence, but my private self was another story. Trapped in the turmoil of an abusive, controlling, and evil relationship, I was overwhelmed and saw no hope for my future.

Having a father and husband who were angry and abusive made it hard for me to comprehend God, who was spoken of as “Our Heavenly Father.” It was hard to believe that God could love me, but by reading the Bible, I realized that Jesus loved me so much that He gave his own life for me. I was almost thirty years old when I finally asked Jesus into my heart and the healing and forgiveness began.

Finally, at thirty-seven years old, with two teenagers to support, I got divorced. It took several years of Christian counseling to understand the impact of my past, but I was able to forgive my father and I began to make my own decisions, to dream again, and plan for my future.

It wasn’t easy balancing it all.  Work, school, and teenage rebellion presented many challenges, but I persisted and took college courses on nights and weekends while I worked full time. More importantly, I felt good about myself and my direction in life. Like a butterfly struggling to get out of a cocoon, I was finally free to spread my wings and fly. The turmoil, fear, and hopelessness that I’d known my whole life was gone, and I was happy and at peace for the first time in my life.

Several years later, I married a gentle, caring, Christian man who was encouraging and supportive of me as I completed my Bachelor’s Degree and later my Master’s Degree, graduating Summa cum Laude. This year we will celebrate our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. The memories from my past have become old black and white movies—dark, distant, and surreal—and my life now is in full living color. . . blessed, fearless, peaceful, and full of hope for the future.

 

 

 

A Day Like Any Other

It was the spring of 1969—a day like any other day, the sun rising to melt the dew off the fresh green grass, a gentle breeze stirring the leaves, the fragrance of lilacs in the air. Yes, it was a day like any other for the rest of the world, but not for me. This was the day when my plans for a loving, normal, marriage and family came to an end and my hopes and dreams were shattered—for that was the day when he first hit me.

That day I realized I was the same kind of victim my mother had been for so many years. This was not a gentle little playful slap made by mistake—this was a forceful, deliberate strike which sent my head spinning in a whiplash, and raised a swollen red imprint on the side of my face that would later turn to shades of purple and blue. The shock of it had me frozen in place and it brought back all the memories of abuse my family endured from my bitter, angry, explosive father—a man who was supposed to love, guide, and protect us from harm.

With that blow, came the realization within me—I had married the same kind of man—and along with that blow came his words—demeaning, vicious words which cut into my heart and mind until I believed them— “you’re nothing, I own you, and you’re not going anywhere—ever.”

If you think this is a story of abuse which haunted me daily, you are wrong. He was a man of many moods, reactive, and volatile at times, but he was also hard working, determined, and ambitious. When he drank, it was to get drunk, but even sober, he was a rage-aholic, and his anger seemed to always be boiling within him ready to explode if the world didn’t treat him right or he didn’t get what he expected out of life. As a narcissist and sociopath, he blamed me and everyone else for every challenge or bad thing which happened in our lives.

In some ways, he was the same as my father, rather shy and quiet in public, and though he seldom showed it, he had a gentle side too. But there was a constant battle within him as to which side would prevail. My father suffered from PTSD, as a strong young man who left for WWII and returned with scars which healed on the outside, but never on the inside. My husband, on the other hand, endured a childhood filled with physical and emotional abuse from warring, alcoholic parents, and he brought it with him into our marriage.

Raised in fear of my father, I now came to the realization that fear had come to my marriage as well. For seventeen years, I endured the constant roller coaster of love, hate, abuse and empty apologies, or accusations that everything was my fault. He brought this to our children too, terrorizing them at times, and I stood in the gap to keep them from his wrath. I tried to never leave them alone with him because he was so quick-tempered you never knew when he might blow up. At times, I stood up to him, but even if I got my way at the time, it would always turn against me later.

I was a capable, dedicated, over-achiever at work, but at home, I could do nothing without his approval. There seemed to be no help in this situation. Today there are shelters and assistance to help women get out of these situations, but then there was nothing available to me. I tried going to my mother, but she being a victim herself, had no advice or help. Once after he climbed on top of me and choked me with both hands until I nearly blacked out, I went to my doctor. I sat in his office with bruised ribs and the purple imprint of his hands around my neck, and the doctor told me to, “Try not to make him so mad.”

There seemed to be nowhere to turn and I believed even God had deserted me. I thought many times about leaving, but it seemed like when our finances were at their worse, it was the most volatile and unpredictable of times. I tried to save money and I hid it, but he always found it. He didn’t trust me, and he watched me, monitored my phone calls, stalked me at work, and even followed me around our little town when I went to the laundromat or grocery.

I was packing up some old clothes for donation one day, when I found my Bible in a box on a shelf in my closet. I put my hand on the soft burgundy leather cover and began to cry. I prayed God would help me to honor my marriage, and He would give me strength and peace. I opened the Bible and read Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hope was something I had lost a long time before, but now I realized God was going to see me through this time. I prayed every day after that and believed God had a plan for my life.

Finally, there came a day of independence. After seventeen years of marriage, we divorced, but independence was a strange thing to suddenly have after so many years of possession and darkness. I didn’t know how to make my own decisions and I was constantly second-guessing myself, but I got help. I saw a counselor, and learned about co-dependency and the cycle of domestic abuse. More importantly, I prayed. I found my inner strength and grew ever closer to my Heavenly Father who was willing to love me for who I was. I changed—I healed—I grew—I blossomed.

My plans were to raise my children and never marry again, but God had other plans for me. After six years of being single, He brought me a gentle, godly man who has been my friend and husband now for over twenty-eight years. The days of abuse and turmoil are behind me. They are part of my past which seems more like a story out of a book, rather than the life I lived through. I rarely think about it anymore, but once in a while, something like the smell of lilacs will trigger a memory of the past, and it reminds me of how blessed I am to be where I am today.

 

 

Published Sept 12, 2019 in Ruby for Women Online Magazine

https://www.rubymagazine.net/2019/09/a-day-like-any-other-by-carol-palmer.html

https://wordpress.com/posts/carolpalmernugent.wordpress.com

Prejudice: A History Lesson

Prejudices. Where do they come from?

I wrote this true story on Prejudice some time ago. It was published in January, 2016 in the Ruby For Women online magazine. (Pages 22-24)  I was reminded of it this week as the ladies in my bible study talked about their first encounters with someone of another race.  This was my crazy first impression of people of another race.

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I never considered myself to be a prejudicial person, but I must admit that my first exposure to people of other races left me confused and frightened.

It all began in the summer of 1960 in a small town in central Minnesota where we had never seen folks of another color before. Dad and I went into town for our weekly grocery-shopping trip. Mom worked Saturdays, and at ten years old, I helped with the shopping. Mom would write a list and we would go to all three stores in order to get the specials from each one.

We were leaving the first store on a dreadfully hot August day when I spotted a dilapidated school bus spewing black exhaust and pulling into the community parking lot near the bandstand. The windows were all open and it was loaded with people—colored folks—my grandparents called them. I couldn’t take my eyes off them as a few men and women descended the steps onto the street.

I followed one of the women into the Red & White grocery and pushed the cart around the crowded little store watching as she put items into her basket, always selecting the least expensive brand of vegetables, dried beans, etc. I was a shopper too and I knew how to figure out the cost per ounce and find the best bargain—stretching our dollars as far as they could go.

The woman was rather different looking with very dark skin and eyes that bulged in their sockets. Her faded dress stretched tightly across her ample body. I could smell her from ten feet away. At the meat counter, she bought only soup bones while I ordered hamburger and chicken. Near the register, when my dad told me to pick out a piece of penny candy for each of the kids at home, she smiled at me—a big, broad nearly toothless grin, and I wondered why she didn’t have any teeth. “You’s lucky,” she said, “My kids don’ git’ no candy, no how.” I put my head down and said, “Yes, M’am,” and watched as she carefully counted out her change to pay for her purchases.

Back outside a man, who looked like a bronze skeleton, came up to help carry the bags back to the bus. As we left town, my dad commented again that he’d never seen Negroes in our town before. Later we found out they were working on the truck farms nearby and they came back to town every Saturday after that.

That was when my nightmares began. You see, there were only white people in our town. I had only seen Negro people on the Tarzan show on television, where they were cannibals with their scary painted faces, carrying spears with shrunken heads dangling from them. Tarzan was always rescued from the cannibals, but it was his elephants that saved him, and I didn’t have any elephants.

My fears were irrational, but I began to think that those people on the bus were cannibals too. In my nightmare, they were on our farm chasing me around the top of the hill by our house. My little brother, Charlie, was there too and we were running as fast as we could. He made it to the house, up the steps, and slammed the door behind him, but just as I got there, they caught me. Big dark hands grabbing my arms, dragging me back, kicking, and screaming toward a huge black kettle of boiling water. I knew that if they got me to that pot, that they’d throw me in and cook me for dinner. I fought and kicked with every bit of my strength trying to get away from them, but to no avail—they had me. The biggest one of them, with the scarred face, lifted me up ready to throw me into the pot. And of course, that’s when I would wake up—scared to death, sweating profusely, and crying. I’d jump from my bed and peer out into the night to see if they were there or not.

That nightmare haunted me for many years—every time, the same way, the same ending—and it really did have a negative effect on me because I couldn’t get back to sleep. The stereo type of cannibals on TV was all I had to go by and a visit to my grandparents in the city of Minneapolis validated my irrational fears. Grandma said it was a warning and that I should stay away from the colored because they weren’t like us. Grandpa agreed and told the story of a colored man who robbed the company where he worked.

My mother had a different experience working with several colored girls in the cafeteria at Power’s Department Store in the 1940’s. She said other people looked down on them, and made rude remarks about them and her because she worked with them. Mom said that they did their jobs and behaved themselves, so why should it matter about the color of their skin?

My viewpoint and prejudice came from a narrow view as a child influenced by television and by people who developed irrational fears just because of the color of someone’s skin. No one I knew was personally harmed by any of the colored folks, but still the fear and attitude prevailed.

A year later, my cousin and I were leading Sunday school class for the three-to-four year olds with a lesson about Adam and Eve and a picture to color. The lesson said they were the first people God made, and from them came all the people of the world. If all the people on earth—black, white, yellow, brown, or red— descended from just two people, then we must all be the same in God’s eyes. It was then I realized that we come in different colors, sizes, shapes, and backgrounds, but God made us and loved us all. I began to think that maybe there wasn’t such a big difference between them and me.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

God wants us to love one another as He loves us. If God is impartial and loves each one of us, then we ought to be able to cast aside our prejudice, love others, and treat them with the kindness and respect they deserve.

 

 

 

Cousin George

Hello Palmer Family!  Today, I wanted to share with you the connection to our cousin, George Washington.  Yes!  That George Washington, who was Commander of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States.

In researching our ancestry, I found that George is actually my 5th cousin 8 times removed.  By now, you are saying, what the heck, really?  Yes, we are related to George Washington.  We find the connection at Robert & Elizabeth Washington who are George’s 4th Great Grandparents.  They are also my 12th great grandparents.

Are you ready for a bit of a history lesson which includes our ancestors?

Robert Washington was born in Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, England in 1544 to Lawrence & Amy Washington.  He died in 1622 at Nethel Boddington, Northamptonshire, England.  Robert was married to Elizabeth Lyte, who was born in 1547 and died in 1599 at Warwickshire, England.

I went to England in May, 2014 and had the pleasure of visiting Sulgrave Manor which was built by Robert Washington’s father, Lawrence Washington. Lawrence was a wool merchant who  purchased the sixty acres from King Henry VIII  and built Sulgrave Manor in 1539.  Sulgrave Manor is located about eighty miles northwest of London in the beautiful rolling countryside of central England. Some of the homes nearby still have thatched roofs and sheep pastures surround the property.  The manor house has dark wood paneling, heavy beams, and a massive floor to ceiling fireplace, in contrast to the  beautifully manicured English gardens with strolling paths and blooming perennials.

Robert and Elizabeth Washington had ten children. Lawrence, born in 1565, was the oldest son and the 3rd great grandfather of George Washington.  The third son, Walter, born in 1570 is our 11th great grandfather. I will enclose a chart showing the ancestors and descendant line of brothers Lawrence and Walter Washington.  I have only included the two brothers in the ancestral chart and have not included the other eight children and their ancestors. (see the link below in red)

So, our ancestors began in England, but when did they come to America?  The answer is that they first came when there were just the thirteen colonies here.

George Washington’s great grandfather John Washington, was his first ancestor to arrive in the colonies in 1656. He was an planter, soldier and politician in colonial Virginia and a lieutenant colonel in the local militia.

Our 10th and 11th great grandfathers, Thomas Stanton and son Thomas Stanton, arrived in the colonies in 1635.  They were amongst the original settlers to Hartford, Connecticut and Thomas Jr., was one of four founders of Stonington, Connecticut along with William Chesebrough, Thomas Miner, and Walter Palmer.

I know you caught the Palmer name there.  Walter Palmer is our 9th great grandfather, married to Rebecca Short.  Their son, Nehemiah Palmer, is shown on the ancestral chart as our 8th great grandfather. Walter was a settler in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and helped found Charlestown and Rehoboth, Massachusetts as well as Stonington, Connecticut.

Yes, we all know a lot about the Schell Brewery and beautiful mansion there in New Ulm, Minnesota. We also know a bit about the Yoerg Brewery in St. Paul, and the Palmer House Hotels in Wheaton and Sauk Centre, Minnesota, 14231485Ancestral tree connection to George Washington – diagram  but there are many more ancestors, whom I will try and document for you in the future. We should be proud of all of them and their contribution to the history and development of our country.   We are descendants of pioneers who crossed the Atlantic, carved out homes in the wilderness, and traded with the natives. They built farms, founded towns, fought in the wars, moved west, and worked on the railroads.  The more I research, the more excited I get about their lives and stories.  I hope you will enjoy them too.

 

 

 

My Protector

Sometime ago, we lived in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Nature abounds in this beautiful area, with mountain peaks all around, desert views, massive boulders, and colorful washes that flow into the Verde River. In the center of town is a lake with a fountain that spouts water 562 feet in the air once every hour.  When we moved there in 1996, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore this beautiful desert country. I went on a few short hikes around town and then set my sights on the McDowell Mountain Park north of town. It was perfect for me, not too far from home, and enough of a challenge with its rolling hills and pathways. I made plans to go hiking one Saturday, but my husband, Dennis, objected to me going alone in such a remote location. His suggestion was for me to take our dog, Hillary, along for protection. It seemed to be the only way that he would be content to let me go out in the desert alone, so I prepared to take her with me.

Hillary was our seven-year-old Boston terrier, stout in the chest, and the kind of dog who played hard, and loved going on walks, but she was strong and willful and usually took you for a walk—not the other way around. I planned to wear a light jacket over a long-sleeved tee-shirt, stretch pants, and good comfortable hiking shoes. In my backpack, I carried sunscreen, a foldable dish for Hillary to drink from, and more than a gallon of water. I didn’t think I’d need any more than that on this spring day where the predicted high was seventy-eight degrees.

On the ride to the park, Hillary took a short nap, snoring and snorting loudly, as she always did in her sleep. When we arrived, there were just two cars in the parking lot. I double-checked the trail map. “Easy” the sign said, so it shouldn’t be a problem for the two of us. We started off with Hillary on her leash leading the way down the dirt path. She charged ahead as we passed saguaros and blooming ocotillos. Mourning doves cooed in an ironwood tree and red tail hawks circled overhead. It was peaceful and breathtaking as the sun peaked through the clouds highlighting the valley and desert below. As we rounded a curve and up a slight hill, a chipmunk scurried out of the grass startling Hillary and me. I laughed. “Scared us didn’t it, Hillary.” She looked back at me and shortened the distance between the two of us. Further up the hill, a series of lizards rumbled around in the tall, dry grass as it tightened its grip around the narrow path. By now, Hillary was trying to walk by my side, but another noise in the grass put her squarely behind me. “Guess you want me to take the lead now?” She surely didn’t object, in fact, she was so close behind me that she bumped my right leg with each step.

We stopped at the top of the hill and I gave her a drink, which she gulped heartily. We rested there for a moment taking in the beauty around us. Off in the distance, I saw a group of riders on horseback coming our way. We continued on. Blooming prickly pear cactus in yellow and red dotted the landscape. Farther along, we encountered the horse riders and Hillary was not thrilled about seeing those critters. Pulling on her leash, she dragged me away from the trail. I had to pick her up and stand on a large boulder until they passed.

We continued on and finally reached the top of the hill, a rocky summit with little vegetation, but 360-degree views. It was then I realized that I hadn’t thought to bring a camera, so I would have to commit the beautiful scenery to memory. We started our descent and the tall grass again surrounded the walking trail. Hillary quickly moved behind me again, panting. I stopped and gave her a third drink of water which she lapped up enthusiastically. By now, she’d sucked up well over half the water, but I figured we would be back shortly so that shouldn’t be an issue.

As we descended the hill, she gave a nervous yelp, and actually ran into the back of my leg. “What’s the matter, girl? Are you nervous about the lizards?” But it wasn’t the lizards she was concerned with. It was then that I noticed a pair of coyotes following us. They kept their heads low, below the level of the grass, and then peaked up above it quickly to catch a glimpse of us. I tugged at Hillary’s leash and picked up the pace, while keeping an almost constant eye out for the coyotes, which had a constant eye on us.

At one point, I picked up Hillary and climbed up on a boulder to get a better view of the two predators stalking us. I’d seen a lot of coyotes before, most were relatively skinny and not really all that big, but these two looked like they were on steroids, and had never skipped a meal. Hillary’s tongue was now hanging out and she was panting like crazy. She looked scared as she climbed onto my lap. “Who’s protecting who, Hillary?”

I must admit that I felt a bit anxious too. The group of horse-riders was long gone and there was no one else in sight. We rested there for a while as I watched the coyotes and they watched us. Finally, they started chasing in circles in the tall grass. Yipping in triumph, they ran off with a chipmunk.

With a sigh of relief, I took out the last of the water and Hillary drank every last drop. “You’re not very good at sharing are you?” She looked at me, still panting as the sun split the clouds and instantly began to heat us up. I took off my jacket and stuffed it in my backpack. “C’mon, let’s go home.” At the sound of the word home, she was up, panting, and eager to go.

We headed off on the path with her right behind me. The sun was high in the sky. I started sweating and she was panting something fierce. Down a small hill, we hit the prairie side, easier walking, but soon Hillary was pulling back. I turned to look at her and she plopped to the ground. “C’mon, girl, we’re going home,” but she wouldn’t get up. I let her rest a minute, and then tugged on her leash. “Let’s go,” but she stayed on the ground, panting hard. Finally, I lifted her up, but she didn’t seem to be able to stand up on her own. I realized then, that she must have been having a hard time with the long walk and the heat of the day. There was no shade on this end of the trail, nowhere to get out of the hot sun.

Finally, I picked her up, all twenty-four pounds of her, and carried her the distance of about six blocks, back to the trailhead. It wasn’t an easy task. When we arrived, I had to lift her into the car. She laid down on the seat in the air conditioning and quickly fell asleep, snoring and snorting loudly as usual. In her sleep, she started moving her legs as if she was running, and I figured she was dreaming of her great adventure in the desert, protecting me from those wild coyotes.

 

 

Remembering Ron

 

My brother, Ron Palmer, passed away on October 21st of last year. I have so many sweet memories of him and our time growing up together on the Palmer farm.

Ron seemed to always look at the good in people. He was loyal & respectful. He never spoke a bad word about anyone and always said something positive when others were criticizing someone.

Ron was always ready for an adventure. When we were kids, he and Bob built a mighty fine tree house out in the north pasture out of old wood scavenged from around the farm. They also took an old soapbox car that originally belonged to our Uncle Ralph, and got it running again. It was fun pushing each other up and down hill in it. He also helped us make clodhoppers out of coffee cans and baling twine.

Ron was the one who got us into acorn wars. He and Bob made slingshots out of oak tree branches, stripped off the bark, and then cut strips of rubber from old inner tubes to make the slingshots. The acorns were in abundance from the white oak trees, so we had acorn wars. Ron was a tough opponent –very accurate with that slingshot. We played for quite some time until he got me with an acorn right on the cheekbone. It raised a heck of a bump and gave me a black eye. Dad yelled. “Someone’s gonna lose an eye!” and he took the slingshots away. That was the end of acorn wars.

Ron didn’t get into a lot of trouble when he was young, but he did have some challenges. He was allergic to strawberries, and got hives several times. He also burned his right arm pretty severely once. Mom was canning and he bumped the boiling pickles which spilled all over him. We wrapped his arm in wet towels and packed it with ice and it recovered well.

We did get in big trouble once when Mom and Dad were at work. We were all in the house after supper and the boys were done with barn chores. We experimented with food coloring and paraffin wax, melting it on the stove, but it caught fire. Ron grabbed the pan and tried to throw it in the sink, but it was hot and burned his hand. He dropped the pan and wax sprayed onto the kitchen curtains on the right side of the sink catching them on fire. Then he turned the water on and it splashed more wax and flame onto the curtains on the left side of the sink.  We were all screaming and panicking at that point. By the time we got the fire out, there was water everywhere, ceiling tiles were stained black from the smoke, and just a foot of fabric remained hanging at the top by the curtain rods. So, we were punished with no dessert for two weeks, and Mom got new curtains.

I found out years later that Bob, Ron, and Chuck used to steal the cigarette butts from Dad’s ashtray. They’d got out behind the barn and smoke. They never told me about it because they said I would have told on them. They’re right, I would have.

Ron was curious about how things worked. If there was a tractor or some piece of equipment that broke down, he was right there to check it out and always came back greasy. For his 16th birthday, he got a watch from Mom and Dad. They warned him about over-winding it and breaking it. He never did that – instead he took it apart to see how it worked. There were little parts everywhere. But he couldn’t remember how to put it back together. (I guess that’s why none of the rest of us got a watch after that).

Ron was a bit quirky when he was young. He ate bugs—crickets, angle worms, beetles— He said they were good, but it was gross to me, but he said that he heard people in other countries ate bugs, so he thought he’d try it.

Ron was really strong. Both he and Bob were broad-shouldered and worked on the Palmer farm. Tossing hay bales onto the hay wagon helped build those muscles. During high school, both the boys played football, and Bob worked on a sod farm while Ron took a job at Tally Ho as a bus boy. He washed a lot of dishes and did a very good job. One eventful situation was the day Ron dropped a two-gallon jar of mustard and it shattered everywhere. Mom, who was his boss at the restaurant, was quite mad because it ruined his white pants and was a heck of a mess to clean up.

When we were in high school, Grandpa sold his new house on the west end of the farm and he, Grandma, and Uncle Bill moved back into our old farmhouse. Our family had to move out because Grandma said it was just too much for all of us to be in one house again. We moved to Albertville and rented a farmhouse from Vetch’s. Later we moved a mile down the road and rented from Martin’s.

Ron and a couple of his friends tried to form a band. He bought a guitar and an amplifier and learned to play. The band practiced in the old barn on the Vetch farm. It’s a good thing there weren’t any animals around because the rock music at full volume would have had cows giving sour milk. The band did learn a few songs, but never were good enough to play anywhere.

Ron was honest, and I don’t think he’d ever told a lie just to get out of trouble. Of course, there was one time that I thought he was a bit too honest. I went with my girlfriend, Marilyn, to decorate for her parents wedding anniversary party at St. Michael’s Ballroom. A friend of hers gave us whiskey to drink and we got drunk. At home, I was throwing up when Mom and Dad came home. I said I had the flu, but Ron ratted me out. “She’s not sick, she’s drunk.” Oh boy, did I get in trouble then.

Ron and Bob saved money to buy a car together – a beautiful red and white ‘56 Chevy. It was their dream car. They were so cool driving it to school, but wouldn’t let us other kids ride along in it. We still had to take the bus.

I still remember the day Ron drove off to work one day. The Chevy was making a strange noise when he pulled out of the driveway. Not long after that, he phoned to say that it had blown a rod and was towed away. We never did see that car again.

Ron was responsible though. He bought another car to drive to work, but he didn’t have much money to spend. It was a Plymouth, a big car with wings in the back and push-button shifting. He gave us rides in it from time to time, but I learned after the first rainstorm to not ride shotgun. The car had rusted through floorboards. You could lift up the floor mats on the passenger side and there was hardly any floor there—just a frame across it and every time he hit a mud puddle, we got soaked—not just your feet either, but most of you! Sometimes, I think he sped up just a little when coming up on a puddle, maybe not, but he sure did laugh when we got wet. So it wasn’t a good choice for a car, but Ron would tell you he “got a good deal on it.”

After high school, Ron took a job with the Rail Road laying track and pounding spikes—the old-fashioned way, with a sledgehammer. I remember that summer, he was mowing the lawn with no shirt on, and wearing an old pair of cutoffs, he was tan and muscle bound. My dad said the Marines wouldn’t have to do much to make a man out of him.

Both Bob and Ron were fiercely patriotic – Right after high school, Bob joined the Army and reported first. Ron took a job in St. Cloud at Franklin Manufacturing, which made commercial refrigerators. In November 1966, he enlisted in the Marine Corp Reserves, later he changed from the reserves to four years active duty. He had to undergo surgery before going in, but he was determined to serve his country.

Ron was proud to be following in Dad and Grandpa’s footsteps as a Marine in the infantry. He left for basic training at Camp Pendleton, where he quickly qualified on the range for handgun and M14, received Rifleman Qualification, and was promoted to Private First Class.

In July 1967, his Marine unit shipped out to the Pacific where he received special training before going to Vietnam. He arrived at DaNang and participated in Operation Liberty in defense of the northern border at Phu Bai RVN (just south of the central city of Hue)

In September 1967, he was wounded the first time by shrapnel wound to his left hand.

By this time, he had qualified on the M16 and M60 and then participated in Operation Cove near Thura Thien, close to the DMZ at the Vietnamese border.

In December 1967, near Quang Tri, while riding in truck, he received sustained a fragmentation wound to the lower back from a ricochet round while riding in a truck. (It was a friendly fire ricochet).

He was patched up again and returned to service in Operation Scotland in defense of Khe Sanh. The 26th marines were assigned to defend hill 558. Khe Sahn was nothing more than a desert mountain. The enemy was in caves and hiding within the jungle bushes. The Marines were ordered to take the mountain, but they were pinned down half way up. So our government bombed the mountain with a defoliant to burn off the leaves and foliage. Unfortunately, this “agent orange” severely affected both the Vietnamese and our troops for years to come.

In late January, 1968 Ron’s Company F, 3rd Marine Division continued to patrol near Quang Tri. The base was hit by Vietcong mortar and rocket fire as part of the Tet Offensive. Ron was wounded again by enemy explosive device, receiving a fragment wound to his right leg.

Ron usually didn’t talk about the war, but he told one story that I will never forget. He said he and a few other GIs were on patrol and were caught by some Viet Kong. They took them to a camp area and took their clothes and boots, leaving them wearing nothing but their under shorts. They managed to sneak off and escape when the guards fell asleep, but had to run through the jungle in their bare feet. He said they were all glad when they got back to the Marine camp, but felt silly coming in wearing nothing but their underwear and dog tags. Worse for them all, though, was the trench foot they got after that. He said he felt lucky that they did escape and didn’t end up as a prisoner of war because those guys weren’t treated very well.

Ron received the National Defense Service Medal, The Vietnam Service Medal, and Vietnam Campaign Medal. Ron was wounded three times while serving in Vietnam, twice from shrapnel from enemy fire and once from friendly fire. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Gold Star.

In March 1968, he was on his way back to the USN hospital in Philadelphia. Eight months later, he was identified as disabled and released from active duty, but it was several years before he received his honorable discharge.

Ron was a warrior, strong in his convictions to defend his county, but the war changed Ron. None of us expected the change in him from the Vietnam War, but there was no doubt he was different. Jumpy and sullen at times. The military blamed it on “shell shock” which was later called PTSD. That was part of it, but not all of it. Later we learned that defoliant which our own government sprayed –that Agent Orange— caused tremendous permanent damage to our troops. Cancer, lung issues like COPD, and nerve damage, to name a few. This was for anyone the chemical was sprayed over, in addition to those handling it. There is no doubt that it was a pathetic decision and use which caused permanent disability, death, and birth defects to the enemy and to our own troops. Worse also, was the government’s denial of medical and disability claims for our soldiers for years afterwards.

Ron came home a changed man—a different person than the one who left. Even though he didn’t die in Vietnam, he gave his life for his country. There’s no doubt about that, but I am so very glad that he stayed the same sweet person he always was. Many of our veterans returned angry, aggressive, and abusive. Some turned to drugs or alcohol to try to drown out the past, but Ron stayed straight and strong even though it totally affected his life.

Ron took courses in landscape design at Anoka Technical and worked at a nursery. I swear he knew the common and technical names of every plant and tree around. Later he took a manufacturing job at Thermo-serve in Anoka because it paid better and wasn’t seasonal. It was there that he met Kathy Skogman. The two became inseparable, and married December 5, 1970. They rented an apartment in the basement of a house in Anoka for a while. Their son, Michael Shawn was born March 29, 1972 and life was going pretty well for them, so they bought a cabin on Lake Fremont near Zimmerman, but after the diagnosis of PTSD and Agent Orange, the marriage broke up and Kathy and Michael moved away.

The doctors at the VA were predicting a very bleak future for Ron. They said his lungs and heart would struggle and fail and the degenerative nerve disorder would affect the rest of his life until he could no longer function on his own. Ron was convinced that his son would be better off in a stable family and didn’t feel he could offer that, so he gave up his parental rights, which I feel was a very loving, self-sacrificing decision.

Ron continued to work as he could, but he spent a lot of time in the VA hospital. Several years later, he met Susan Russell and they seemed to have a lot in common. They both loved comedies and sports. From the time he was little, Ron loved to laugh,—the Three Stooges were his favorite. He, Bob, and their friend Roy DeMars used to do an imitation of the “wise guys” routine that would crack us all up.

It wasn’t long before Ron and Sue fell in love and were married June 21, 1980. Ron and Sue had something special. They loved their kitty-cats and were both big sports fans—Twins baseball, Vikings football, and hockey, whether professional or high school, and especially the playoffs and tournaments—they followed them all.

Despite all the trips to the VA hospital and the challenges of his illness, Ron and Sue were married thirty-six years. They bought a conservative one-bedroom house in north Minneapolis and made it their home. Despite the changes in north Minneapolis over the years, Ron and Sue had great neighbors and loved their neighborhood. A few years ago, a tornado passed over their area and damaged their house roof, porch, etc., but they got it fixed and continued their life together. It was a good life. A good marriage, they were faithful, respectful, and loving throughout their lives together—and they had a lot of laughs.

One day Ron told me, “I have two families now. Sue’s family treats me like I’m one of them. They’re really nice people and I love them all.”

Ron valued his friendships and his family. He loved and respected everyone. Despite COPD, aspirated pneumonia, central nervous system and other health issues and restrictions, he remained in good spirits throughout his lifetime. He worked when he could, volunteered at Salvation Army, and attended many seminars and training at the VA, and made the best of his life.

Ron was fiercely patriotic, a kind, gentle, person, with a passion for life. He put his life on the line for his country, but the war, PTSD, and Agent Orange changed his life into something very different. It affected his health, his marriage, and his whole life in every way. He spent countless weeks at the VA hospital in a constant battle against the illness that haunted him. The VA doctors tried shock treatments, and experimental medication over the years to try and resolve the issues—nothing worked. But despite it all, he kept a positive attitude. He said he was a lucky man because he was one of the GI’s that came home. He always remembered his fellow classmate, Jim Pepper, who died in Vietnam in September 1967. They had most of their classes together all through high school. Ron said he was a friend,  and a good man, who didn’t have to die.

Ron was a man of gentle strength. He made the best of every day and every situation, happy despite the trials he faced. He looked at the bright side and saw the good in people. I don’t remember him bad-mouthing anyone—ever. He could have been bitter, angry and questioned “why me”, but he never did that.

He was a faithful, respectful husband, always praising Sue whom he said was, “one of the best things that ever happened to me.” There is no doubt in my mind that the world would be a lot better place if there were more men like Ron in it. I certainly miss his positive spirit and his phone calls. It was always fun to talk with him. Especially, some of the recordings he would leave. “Hey, Sue, no one’s answering, hello, hello. Nope, they’re not there. What should I do, Sue, leave a message, or what?” She’d say yes, and he’d hang-up anyway. Or she’d say, “You can call back.” Sometimes he’d just sit there, breathe, and wait. It was so sweet. But our conversations were always good. We’d talk about whatever was going on in his life, yard work, the weather, sports, etc. Just simple conversations. He’d always call me several times a year to talk about his son, Michael, especially at the start of school, at Christmas, and on Michael’s birthday each year. He always wondered how Michael was doing, but said he knew he was well taken care of because Kathy was a good person. He said he just wished he knew if he had a good life, and I’d tell him each time that I was sure that he did.

God blessed us with Ron. He was a good brother and a good son, a patriot, sports enthusiast. He was funny, and a generous loving father to a son he chose to never see again to give him a stable home. God brought him back to us after the war and kept him with us for many more years than the military predicted. God gave him a positive attitude and kept him decent, respectful, kind and loving for all the years he was here. Even though we miss Ron dearly, I know for certain that Ron knew the Lord. We talked about it several times, and for that, we know with all certainty that he is with the other family of believers in heaven. We’ll see him again. For now, his memory is always with us.

We love you Ron. Save a place for me, I’ll be coming too.

 

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.