1968 Through 1969

Before writing this part of my husband’s life, I needed to talk to his brother. Four years my husband’s junior, he remembered events on which I needed more information.

His brother said in one of his sermons (yes, he is a pastor, too) on Martin Luther King Day that he remembered my husband coming home from school on a daily basis battered and bloodied. After school, those who resented his ROTC role as peacekeeper in the halls of the high school would wait for him and beat him. Of course, he gave as good as he got and again, his parents were called to the school.

My husband’s views of race were very much influenced by the riots and the beatings that he received. He told of a particular incident that happened during the riots.

He said that, during the worst rioting, a girl was taken by several boys and he could hear her screams for help. As he rushed to her rescue, he was ambushed by several other boys and taken to the school swimming pool. There, these boys held my husband under the water with the intent to drown him. My husband spoke often of his feelings of helplessness as he heard the girl’s cry for help go unanswered. He never let himself off of the hook for her fate. He never stopped to think about his own life being in jeapordy. He was tormented by the fact just that he was unable to help this girl.

This particular event was the seed that was planted in my husband’s heart of racial prejudice and hatred. Over his lifetime, it yielded a bountiful harvest. He was forever changed and hardened by his role as peacekeeper and ROTC. This hatred would surface from time to time especially when his daughter was interested in dating a boy of color.

This was the beginning of his darker side; the side that he would hide from his parents and from those he loved. He never wanted those he loved to see it because of its great verosity. He wanted to shield others from this part of himself, but it would continue to grow.

In early 1969, his parents made a decision to leave the Chicago area. They believed that in order to save my husband’s life, they needed to change geography. That was an acceptible option in those days, now, we know with those who are troubled or on drugs, changing location does nothing. As with most everyone who has had a drug problem, moving locations does little to help them. Like the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together”, my husband found those who were like minded where ever he went.

So it was, in 1969, the family was uprooted again and they moved 500 hundred miles from northern Chicago, IL and came to “Cornfield County” Indiana, my hometown.

His father became my pastor and the Son of the Preacher Man walked into my life on a weekly basis…and our Love Story begins….

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My Apologies…Clouds In My Valley

It has been quite a while since posting on this blog.

I didn’t intend to take such a long time in writing again, but it seems that I am unable to do the things that I did before his passing.

Yes, I am working and it seems to take most of my time and energy, but that is an excuse. Lately, my heart has been so heavy that I seem to not be able to bring myself to think on these things for very long and that troubles me.

I know that it is a coping mechanisms, but all the same, it takes a state of heart for me to write. It is the same when I sing…I just can’t force it. I feel like a lark that has lost its song. 

As the days pass, it feels that I am leaving him farther behind. He is always on my mind, but I seem to be distracting myself so as not to feel the pain that is as a huge boulder crushing my soul…

I know that this is “normal”, but no matter how much your head tells you not to panic, your heart says it is not surviving this pain and you wonder if you are going to make it through this dark Valley…

So, for now, I am forcing myself to sit here and explain myself to those who are so kind to come here. I apologize and I do want to continue the series on my husband’s life. I just have a hard time organizing my thoughts and get them from my head, through my fingers and on this screen…it is a new experience for me. Writing has always been my comfort.

Writing my thoughts has helped me come to “grips” with confusing circumstances and issues that are like a tailspin in my head. Maybe, now, I am not confused about my emotions, I am just afraid of them.

I am….afraid of the depth of pain…afraid that I won’t be able to sustain myself and be independent… afraid of loosing my way in this terribly dark place in which my soul resides…just afraid.

 In a few days, it will be three months since he died. I know that others think that I should be coping better with this. Others say that I am doing so well. That is because they cannot see inside my heart.

My heart is broken, shattered and scattered by a force that I didn’t know existed. I am so hurt that, if I could manifest this pain into a physical form, it would be like being in a terrible car accident. Every bone in my body was crushed and I am horribly disfigured…barely recognizible. That is how the pain feels, a crushing, never ending pain that is squeezing the life out of me.

But, to those who see me on a daily basis, I hide this pain from their view. They do not see the multitude of tears that are cried. They never see the dispondency that creeps over my face as I sit and stare at nothing. They will never see the scenes of his death that play through my head when I least expect them. They can never hear all of the questions that I ask myself as I second guess the decisions that I made on behalf of him…

All of this is hidden from view and I can’t allow anyone to know…how ironic, I just exposed these things to everyone in cyberspace, so I suppose, I have decided not to hide them any longer.

I hurt. I am wounded badly. I am fast coming to a point that I cannot push myself through another day without using all my emotional energy and yet, that is to be expected, right?

Like an uninvited guest, this pain is staying and I have no idea when it will finally take its leave of me.  It is wanting to move in and take residence and I am at a loss with how to live with it and not allow it to overcome me.

It’s Gonna Be Worth It

The Video says it for me….I can’t add much to what the song says.

Everyday, as I, in fear and trembling, leave the sacturary of my home to face new people with serious illnesses, it is this song that comes to my mind.

When I am so tired that I don’t know if I am going to be able to force myself to get into that old car and drive an hour to my first stop, I have to recall that “It’s Gonna Be Worth It”.

When I look into the faces of children and into the faces of the aged, my heart breaks for them and the betrayal of their bodies that bind them into a shell of the life that they once knew, I hear the melody and words that says, ” I don’t understand Your ways, but I give you my song, give You all of my praise…”

I especially don’t understand the pressure cooker of events that seem to befall me as I deal with the greatest loss my heart, mind and soul has ever known. I just know that I must not fail to live. If I fail, then who would take my place to tell of this man who was taken too soon from those who loved him.

But, most of all, there is only one way that I know that I can survive this crushing pain that consumes me body, mind, and soul. It is through my faith that I look past the hurt of my heart and cry out to my Lord…

I especially identify with the lyrics that says that He is using my pain to pull me closer into His ways….and if I must walk the rest of this life alone, I want to see His face. I want to see the Mysteries that my husband now knows.

He would quote the verse that says, “I would see Jesus”.

That was his goal. He wrote in one of his prayers that He wanted NOTHING between him and his Lord…I saw with my own eyes the smile on his face when he left this earth. The only thought I had was that he must have just seen Jesus…

I would see Jesus and I shall give him my “song” and all of my praise…because He is pulling me closer and bearing my pain…

For today, that is all that I need. I no longer live in my tomorrows because my days are full of bringing a little hope to those who are hurting in ways that my heart can understand. It is my hope that I am a “light” into their world and that they are God’s light in mine…

So as my weary heart, soul and body cries out in pain, I play this song and remind myself that Heaven is a little sweeter because my husband is there, but more than that, Heaven is my Hope and seeing Jesus face is worth it all…

In that I have absolutely no doubt….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1968

The History Channel  gives highlights about a past year in review. I haven’t seen one on 1968, but, based on my husband’s life story, it was a significant year in his life and in the history of the nation.

 

In 1968, my husband turned 16 that year. Like most of us who just couldn’t wait until we were of “driving age”, my husband was quick to get his driving license. Finally, he could drive and be legal instead of driving and hoping to not get caught.

 

But, he did get caught. He bought a “trike” and kept it at his girlfriend’s house. He would get on the bus at his house and get off at her house. They would ride the trike into school. That worked until he had a wreck with it. He wasn’t hurt, but it let the “cat out of the bag” and his parents became aware of what he bought and what he was doing…. not good. They made him sell the trike.

 

When he was 15 years old, he bought a 1959 Ford from one of the widow ladies in the church. He was so proud of that car. He washed and waxed it so that it brought the luster back to the paint and it shined like a new penny.  He was so proud to be one of the few kids to be heading toward his 16th birthday with a car waiting for him to drive. He couldn’t wait to cruise downtown on the “strip”.

 

It didn’t happen. It seems that his parents were always in financial trouble. In part, it was because that the church paid so little. It would be hard for any man to raise a family on what little the church paid its preachers. Yet, the church paid for the house and utilities. Where did the money go?

 

The main reason for his father’s constant need to find work in the public was because of the many illnesses, complaints and material demands of his mother.

 

She contracted polio when she was pregnant with my husband’s brother. Even now, she seems to always need to go to the doctor for something and the bills to pay for her many visits causes a strain on the family budget.

 

She also liked “nice” things. Good furniture, nice clothes and she had to “keep up” with all that her sisters had. Because her husband believed that he should provide for her every whim, he worked in the community to earn money. Many times, it just wasn’t enough. Little has changed over the years. In their dementia, their financial fiasco has caused their sons a lot worry and many dollars to keep them from bankruptcy…. but that is another post.

 

How did this lack of money affect my husband? His father,without his knowledge, sold his car. My husband came home from school to find that the car was gone. So was his money. The money from the sale of the car went to pay for another outstanding bill and it seemed to not matter that my husband had purchased the car or that he had brought the old car back to a “good” condition. By all rights, the money belonged to him. It was the first, but not the last time that my husband would have things taken from him and the money used for his parents benefit or for the benefit of another family member.

 

My husband tried to not begrudge his parents for their thoughtlesslness and their lack of understanding, but it effected the relationship between father and son. It served to drive a deeper wedge and expand the gulf between them. It was just another brick in the wall that my husband built between himself and the things of God. He lost respect for how “church people” conducted themselves.This was a pattern that only increased over his adult life. Yet, this seems “normal” for the bitter year of 1968. There was so much anger and resentment that reflected in my husband and in the nation.

 

The other night on HBO, I watched the movie, “Remember the Titans”. It is a movie about a white high school football team and how integration came to this southern small town and how the whites verses blacks dealt with the Federal mandate.

 

The movie is based on a true story and it reflected many of the attitudes of the day. It showed the struggles of trust and the outside influences of the town’s people coming to terms with the mingling of blacks and whites. In the end, it was a successful year for the Titans and the town rallied around the team. The football team showed the public that living together could work if the prejudices and the hatred that was the result of hundreds of years of rejection and subjection could be understood and reversed.

 

I thought that it was a moving story and I enjoyed the movie, but I also thought about what happened in my husband’s high school in 1968 when it was integrated. Nothing could be farther from the reality that my husband lived by integration in his high school.

 

Besides orchestra, the other elective course offered in my husband’s school was ROTC. Reserves Officer Training Corp was mainly on college campuses, but in 1968, high schools offered it as preparation for those young men who would graduate and be eligible for the draft.

 

In his high school’s basement, a full firing range was offered and these ROTC members would regularly drill and have target practice. My husband seemed to enjoy his participation. He knew that he would most likely be drafted and upon graduation, he would enter the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant.

 

I am sure that my husband’s parents thought that it would help my husband and his rebelliousness to find discipline through the military. They had no idea how much this program would impact his views and his attitude.

 

ROTC  made sense because, in 1968, the war in Vietnam was at its highest level of combat and losses. I remember watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite. The program showed the war zone. Every night while I ate supper, there were jungle scenes and coverage of the lastest combat objective. I remember listening and thinking that it was a huge price to pay for a people who really didn’t want us there. 

 

I also remember hoping that the war would be over before I finished high school. I had several male cousins that would be eligible for drafting. I was afraid for them to go to Vietnam.

 

Most 18-year-old males were on pins and needles as they waited to see if their draft number was called up. The only way to be deferred from duty was to be in college or married. If you weren’t college material, (in those days, you had to have decent scores on your SAT/ACT’s or the colleges would reject your application. Colleges also were hard on new freshmen in the beginning semester. It was a common practice to “wash out” as many as possible because they knew that most were there to evade the draft.) your future included Vietnam.

 

For those who lived through 1968 as a mid to late teenager, the memory of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago is still real. I heard on the news about a group of people that were chanting, “Recreate 1968” as they protested outside of the DNC in Denver this year…. what a bunch of idiots!!!!

 

It is clear that the memory of 1968 has faded should there be any of my generation in that group. Most likely, those who were so misguided to even think about recreating one of the most blood letting period in our history are too young to remember the burning and killing of that hot and endless summer.

 

In 1968, the protesters outside of the DNC were calling for an end to the Vietnam War. The tempers and passions were so high that it didn’t take much to set off the violence. If anyone wants to learn more about this period of time, I think that it would be a good research project. Maybe, it needs to be assigned in our schools as a requirement to learn and remember this awful moment in time.

 

When the violence broke out at the convention, racial violence spread like wildfire. Rioting was not contained to the streets. Fighting broke out in the schools and college campuses. There was black on black, black on white, white on white and white on black violence…. it was chaos.

 

My husband was a part of the integration and was bussed to a predominately black school. When the rioting in the school broke out, my husband’s ROTC unit was called to active duty. The Army called on the ROTC  to patrol the hallways of his high school. They were issued live ammunition. The government meant business and there would be bloodshed….