Monday, January 11, 2010

Adjusting to a new reality

At the age of sixteen I met the boy who would be my husband. At first I was not impressed by him but his determination to be part of my future was intense and eventually he won me over and I dated him for a few months.. He went to war in the South Pacific, and when he returned on a hospital ship he asked to be assigned to a hospital near San Francisco rather than in his home state of Missouri. He phoned me, and, though I had no intention of being his girl friend, I went to see him at the hospital. My father took an interest in him being an ex Navy man himself, and started driving over to the hospital to bring him to stay at our house on the weekend when he had a pass to leave the hospital. If there is such a thing as fate, or destiny, it was at work here. Less than a year later I was a bride, and feeling very grown up, though I was still seventeen. It was a wartime wedding, and romantic music and reading novels influenced my choice to be married. It was what you did in the forties. In the fifties I was a mother with a new house in the suburbs and a husband who was going to college on the G.I. Bill. I would not say this was a marriage made in Heaven; we had our conflicts and growing pains, but we had them together and survived the critical first five years. We went on together for almost sixty-four years and then I found myself alone. I had never been alone; I had left my father's house for my husband's house, and had been content to be wife and mother for all of those years. So now the finding how to be a person alone is a matter of some uncertainty. I do not play bridge or join women's clubs or go to church study groups, though over the years of my life as a wife, I had done those things. In the seventies I read "The Feminine Mystique", and though I believed that radical feminism was pretty extreme, the idea that I could become someone of value remained an abiding thought. When I was fifty, and the children left at home were in school and college, I decided to complete my interrupted education and took classes at a community college. We had run a business together for many years and I had studied Small Business Management, Business Law,and elementary accounting to help run the business and had decided to complete at least an AA in this field. The effort continued with a transfer to the university where I studied Social Science and found it much more interesting than business classes. My husband supported me in this venture, and was very proud when I matriculated with a BA in Social Science and Highest Honors. I never used this degree in a job but when I did get a job, my first since high school, it was in business. My husband wasn't well and was retired with a disability; we had a daughter in high school, so working was a necessity. Disability would not support us and our daughter in college.. Finally, when our daughter completed college, and was then married we were able to retire. I was 64, and he was 68. We traveled in an RV, camped in a tent trailer in the mountains, watched baseball and basketball together and as our friends died or moved away we became a solitary unit, enjoying the company of our children and grandchildren when they visited but not living near any of them. We were both politically involved in campaigns in the sixties and had a world view that was more New Deal than Reaganomics. I had stumped for Democratic candidates during the campaign seasons and had finally begun to write a political blog. Without my husband, who died in September at age 86 I am adrift, but have found that my internet connection is a vital lifeline to like minded friends but I have not been moved to write until now. I have lived during a time of great change, from a depression era childhood to a period of great national growth to the current time of national malaise. The populous seems to have turned in on itself. . Unable to revive the confidence, courage and compassion of their parents, and grandparents generations, they have given up and looking to government to solve their problems they are angry for the situation into which they have declined. I had great hope that the huge turnout for the Obama election was a turning point, and that those who had supported him with their donations and their time would take heart and begin to revive their hope for the future. Instead, they have dissolved into a state of resentment that the person they supported is not really a magician but only a man with a good heart and good intentions, and that he could not supply their every need. There is still hope for the generations that have followed the boomers, but they had better begin now to take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself, or we will have lost a generation and the result will be a third world society.

2 comments:

Will (Astra Navigo) said...

Kitty, this was hard to write. I know - my mother went through the same thing, and it wasn't easy.

You're one of the best people I know!

--Will

Denurd said...

I read this blog over on Multiply but I have been at a loss for what to say. Comforting words seem so inadequate after 64 years together. You and Chuck are the epitome of the “Greatest Generation”. You supported yourselves through college, stuck together and raised seven children. We, your children, did not understand your generations’ need for normalcy in the suburbs after surviving a depression and fighting World War II – you never talked about it much. We grew-up in comfort but in the shadow of the Civil Rights movement and Cold War - experiencing it all on Television. In the Sixties we rebelled against what we saw as compliancy and injustice. It took some time for us to appreciate our parents. I suppose it is going to take some time to understand what our children have to contribute. They are post racial, post gay, and believe in woman’s rights albeit the third wave has no understanding of what the first and second wave sacrificed to get them were they are - which is at best precarious. This new generation seems to be waiting at a bus stop for a street-car named change. I know it is hard Kitty but if anyone can do it – it is you. You have a large family who feel as I do – you are a hero.