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Life With Hiccups

On a hot summer day in Texas, my fifteen-year-old head buried in a book, as usual, I sat draped over the arms of one of the living room chairs. I sat in t-shirt, shorts and barefoot in the southern heat. It was 1947 and my mother was vigorously cleaning, sweeping and dusting our little three room, shotgun house to assure it remained in its perpetual pristine condition. My single bed sat over in one corner. Glass French doors opened into my parent’s bedroom. How on earth did they ever manage enough privacy to be intimate?  Next was the kitchen where Mother cooked up delicious southern meals. Daddy was mowing our small, bright green, St. Augustine grass yards front and back with the old push mower that he had just sharpened with his trusty file. I knew I needed to get up and help Mother shake out the throw rugs or rinse out my undies, she was obviously working up a pout watching me read, but leaving a good book was really hard.

The adventurers in my books took me to exciting places. “Why can’t I have a life of adventure and romance? It happens to others, why can’t it happen to me?” I would think. However, in my small, routine world, I couldn’t imagine how I could ever make that happen. “Just an adolescent dream,” I thought.

So, June of 1950 saw me walking down the aisle at age eighteen to marry Joe Dunton, the most popular, the most handsome guy at Polytechnic High School in Ft. Worth, Texas. I was still surprised that he wanted to even know me, never mind marry me. Our courtship had been short and uneventful. He had graduated the year before. I graduated one week and married the next. (No, I was not pregnant, just a naïve virgin.) I was excited at the prospect of living out my life raising children and cooking and cleaning.

Good lord! I was unable to imagine a future other than my and my peer’s small world of work hard to maybe own a house someday. I would, of course, never live a glamours life like the ones I had seen at the movies. I knew my place in the grand scheme of things, but did allow fantasy to transport me into experiences and places in my books.

OH MY, my life has been so much more. I have traveled and had wonderful adventures. Did I set the stage for those things to come about with my youthful question, “Why not me?” I guess not since I had also dreamed of marring a cowboy and living on a big ranch raising horses, cows and thirteen kids and that never came to pass. As excited as I was as I walked down that aisle (and not to a cowboy) there were those niggling thoughts, “What on earth am I doing? I don’t really know this person. Doesn’t matter, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just walk away,” thus establishing a mind set for my entire life.

After twenty-five years of marriage and raising five children, I walked away. I felt a hundred years old and a complete failure.

If there is one thing I had learned at that point in my life,

I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.


Now, so many years later, here I sit in my beautiful home in Colorado reading a book about someone else’s adventures of course, and thinking about my own. My trip to Central America comes to mind.



Robert called me at work one day to say, “Hey, one couple going to Central America has dropped out. Wanna go? Can you go? Can you be at the airport in an hour?”

Oh my god! Getting off work for ten days won’t be a problem, but driving home, packing and driving to the small airport might run a little close,” I thought.

Both four-seater planes were warming up when I came barreling onto the field next to the runway. Robert waved me into the hanger to park my car, grabbed my suitcase and we ran to the plane, the one of the two private, twin-engine planes we would fly in. I had met every one of the three other couples taking this trip but didn’t know anyone well. We took off in great weather to fly down the coast of Mexico into the Yucatan Peninsula making stops along the way in Mexico and then on into Guatemala.

At the very first stop at a small airport to refuel before we left the states, we were standing around beside the runway waiting for our planes to be refueled when a small jet slowly taxied toward us from our left. As it turned away from us to get onto the runway to take off, it revved its jet engines. A great blast of air blew one of our ladies over. She fell against a rock and broke her arm. She was in a lot of pain, but once the doctor declared it a hairline fracture, she insisted on continuing the trip. So, with cast and pain pills we took off for Mexico.

We flew along the coast over beaches and jungle. We visited cosmopolitan Veracruz. We landed in dusty small towns with dirt runways. We played on Isla de Mujeres, Cozumel and Cancun and braved the humidity in Chichen Itza and Tulum.


 One trip,

Two planes,

Eight people,

Down the coast of Mexico

Into Guatemala

Along the sparkling green


The blues of the ocean

Sweep in,

Turquoise, cerulean,

Moving, changing.


We fly close to the ground.

Creamy beaches,

Ruins among the jungle

Palm trees.

Long legged birds

Spread wings and

Soar into slow motion.

We visit cities along the coast,

Climb pyramids,

Enter temples

In the shimmering heat.


We swim

Crystal clear waters

On the sheltered side of an island.

A motorbike ride

Along the rocky coast

Startles the many

Big, Rigid




Standing at the far point

Of the island,

Giant Caribbean waves

Crash against the cliffs below.

Wind and spray

Plaster clothing to our bodies.

We are breathless and speechless

Watching the roaring power before us.



Getting off work for that trip was not a problem because my boss, Gene, and Robert were friends. In fact, that’s how we met. I had moved my two youngest daughters, sixteen-year-old Anna and her younger sister, Cris, thirteen, out of our family home to an apartment in 1975. My oldest son Randy was married, Mike, his younger brother, was working in Houston and Peggy, their sister, was a sophomore at Texas Wesleyan College, living with a friend and her family.


Within the next three months, I met newly divorced Robert E. Lee. My friend Wanda had come to the office to pick me up for lunch one day and met the co-owner of the business, my boss, Gene. Wanda was a voluptuous, handsome woman and that afternoon Gene said he would like to get to know her. He asked if I could arrange for her to meet us for a drink after work someday. He said he would bring his friend Robert. So, on the chosen date, Wanda and I walked into the designated meeting place, a very dark bar. Blinded coming in from the Texas sun, Gene’s voice called out to us and we followed it to a corner table. The men stood up and Wanda said “Robert?” and Robert said “Wanda, is that you?” They had gone to high school together and had not seen one another since. I had gone to the same school but a year later and had known neither of them at that time. The two of them had a lot of reminiscing to do and we were enjoying ourselves so much the hours passed. Finally, Gene said, “I’m hungry, let’s go eat. I know a great place.”


“Sure,” we chorused.

We walked out of the dark bar into cool night air. Gene was a tall, lean man with grey hair. I knew him as a laid back, jokester supervisor who saw himself as a lady’s man. He and Wanda seemed to be enjoying one another’s company.

Robert was five foot three with broad, strong shoulders that tapered into narrow hips in blue jeans. He had soft, wavy black hair and a very nice white smile. My five foot two, one hundred ten pounds fit right onto his lap as we piled into Gene’s pickup to drive the forty miles to Dallas where we had a great meal.

It was late when we got back to the parking lot in Ft. Worth where we had left our cars. Gene let Robert and me out and left to drive Wanda home. My car wouldn’t start. We left the car there and Robert drove me home. Days went by and I never heard from him. Finally, I mentioned to Gene that I must have been a real flop as a date since I had never heard from Robert. Within minutes I received a call and Robert said, “I thought you would never speak to me again since I just left your car sitting there and didn’t offer to fix it or have it towed.”

“It certainly wasn’t your responsibility to take care of my car,” I replied. “I appreciated that you took me home. I called my son the next morning and he came over and had it running in no time.”

Robert said later that was when he, “knew I was his kind of woman, independent, not expecting him to take care of my problems.”

Texas men always stopped to aid a lady in distress. “Can I help you Ma’am?”

But Robert Lee would drive right by a flat tire.

“They (women) want independence? Let um change their own tire.”





But I leap ahead. Back to Joe, my high school sweetheart, and my high school graduation. My mother had made me a beautiful shimmering taffeta gown for my senior prom. Joe had graduated the year before and had just started a new job. He didn't feel he could ask off as a new employee and would be working late so had his best friend Bill escort me to the dance. Joe had Bill present me with an orchid corsage when he picked me up at my house. It was raining that night and Bill held the umbrella as we walked to his Hupmobile. A Hupmobile with no floor. The seats were sort-of attached to the frame. There was no glass in the doors. I hoisted my iridescent, lavender dress up around my knees, held the umbrella between the window and me and made it to the high school a block from my house only a little damp. Bill and I danced the night away with each other and our friends doing the Poly Drag, a dance Bill and I could still do into adulthood. Joe could have dressed after work and joined us at the dance, but he didn’t. He could have come the ten steps to my house from his to see my dress and corsage after the dance but he didn’t. He was fast asleep by then. We were to be married in one week.


As naïve children who thought they were adults, Joe and I planned our wedding. No, that’s not right. My mother planned our wedding. I wanted to find a justice of the peace, marry and get on with life. She wanted that special experience that most girls want and she never had. We did not have the kind of money one needed for the white gowned, big wedding shown in all the magazines. In fact, I had never seen one of those magazines, but Mother had.

Mother was an energetic, opinionated presence. A five foot eleven, trim, curvaceous woman with snapping black eyes, her stylish, thick golden-brown hair framed an oval face and wide smile. She was a handsome woman.

Marked by their life during the depression, my parents were very frugal and having lived that frugal life with them for eighteen years, an elaborate wedding just seemed wasteful to me. I had worked part time my senior year and saved in order to pay most of the wedding expenses and mother baked for the reception to be held at our house. We chose pink, embroidered organza and she made me a beautiful knee length, shirtwaist dress with gathered skirt. I wasn’t concerned that my choice of pink rather than the traditional white to signify I was a virgin might be sending a message that I had been “fooling around.” I thought those traditional ideas were ridiculous. (Good grief, the weird ideas and mores of 1950 our puritan heritage had left us.)

All of my ninety-nine pounds looked gorgeous of course in my pink dress and little matching hat and high heeled pumps that we had meticulously dyed. Joe’s parents, two doors up, walked to our house for pictures before the wedding and we all drove to the church. Joe and his best man Bill drove separately in the Hupmobile. The ceremony was to be held in the chapel of Polytechnic Methodist church where Joe and I had been attending Sunday services and the activities for youth. It was a big beautiful church right next to the Baptist Church I had attended before I began dating Joe but had become disillusioned with. As a questioning thirteen-year-old, I had asked a theological question of my Baptist Church Sunday School teacher. I hadn’t realized at that time that she was just someone’s mother volunteering because she wanted to do good, but had as little knowledge of the bible as I. Since she did not have an answer for me, she suggested I ask the pastor. When I did, he simply patted me on the head and said, “Some things we’re just not meant to know.”

That just means you don’t know,” I thought.


But I digress. My father and I stood at the back of the chapel on my wedding day until everyone was seated. Joe, my very handsome life partner to be, and Bill stepped out of a side door and stood at the altar. My attendants, my high school chums, walked to the front and all turned toward the rear of the chapel. The wedding march began and I took my father’s arm. I was suddenly unaware of everything, our friends and relatives in the pews, our attendants, the minister and even Joe at the front watching us come down the aisle. I was only nervously aware of touching my father’s arm incased in his stylish new suit. He was a trim, five foot eleven, handsome man with wavy black hair and a mustache. My father had never touched me. We were not close. There had never been any affectionate move towards me during my eighteen years. He was a gentle man, just not interested in me.

The phrase “I’m so sorry,” ran through my head daily for forty years.

You know, like a song that gets stuck in your head?

I would often think, “What the heck is that?”

Was it an apology to my father for not being someone he could love?



Instead of looking into my soon to be husband’s eyes as we stood at the alter reciting our vows, I was fretting about how uncomfortable I felt being the center of attention. I concentrated excessively on the vows, “What if I make a mistake?”

I had spent a lifetime trying to be invisible, a lifetime screaming, “This is not who I am. This freckled being with thin hair is not who I am.” My father had let me know I was not a desirable person. 

The reception was even worse. We, my mother and I, knew nothing about what a reception should be except that she wanted us to have one. Mother had baked cupcakes and made punch and everyone came and began to mill around until Joe’s mother, a very quiet, background type person stepped forward and had us form a reception line to greet our guests.


                                                                    Ignorance is not bliss.


The Honeymoon


Those thoughts while walking down the aisle, “What am I doing? I don’t really know this person,” were still pounding in my head as we got into the Model A Ford, yes, a Model A Ford, to drive two miles to the motel where we were to spend our first night together after the reception. Two virgins in a Model A Ford borrowed from Joe’s brother. We thought the Ford was great fun, got checked in and, “Now What?” Our necking while dating had gone way past kissing but getting that heat going in a bleak motel room was just not happening. The birth control jell that had been recommended got all over my new satin gown and I could not have felt less desirable. But we tried and even though I had been practicing, -Ouch! Mother had given me a tool and advice. “Here, use this daily to expand the area.”

“Good lord!”

We got nowhere that night and were wide-awake as the sun rose. Upon leaving the motel, Joe drove to my parents’ house for breakfast. Money was always tight and we both were frugal, but drive to my parents rather than going out? What were we thinking? A worrisome insight of who my new husband was flickered through my head during that breakfast as he described in detail our honeymoon night. I squirmed, my mother tried to change the subject and my father just ate, looking down at his plate.


We left my parents after breakfast to buy groceries to stock our tiny apartment. I had no clue. My mother was not one to allow me in her kitchen. I had prepared dinner one night for Joe while we were dating but it was a pitiful meal with no suggestions or help from Mother. I received a cookbook as a wedding gift and followed the recipes religiously in order to make meals that first year of marriage.

I was excited. We were ready to begin our new life. Joe had bought new appliances in preparation for setting up housekeeping. Top of the line fridge and stove starting our life together with debt. Our tiny rented abode was a standalone, single car garage that had been converted into an apartment. The bed rested against the front wall, which had two full size windows looking out onto the street. We had no curtains but window shades that pulled down and rolled up. We were lying across the bed one Saturday afternoon trying to make love and evidently struck one of the shades and bang, it rolled up in a flash with a bang, bang, bang at the top. I went bonkers. Having sex was so difficult for me; it just was not what I had expected. The thought that the whole neighborhood might be watching us, which of course was ridiculous, freaked me out. Why was sex so difficult? We no longer had the romantic kissing and touching for a period of time that we had while courting. Joe, who had seen my breasts before the wedding, took one look and said, “I thought they were bigger.”

“Oh, thanks for that.”

I was soon disillusioned with married life. We didn’t have conversations. We could have talked about my job or his job. We could have talked about our expectations of the future but I cooked dinner after work and he slept.

We had been married six months when I pressed for a baby. I had dreamed of a large family since adolescence. I longed for motherhood. Joe said OK, that was OK with him so nine months later Randy was born. Those nine months were wondrous for me. A new being forming within me. A nobody like me bringing life into this world.

I continued to work at my job at J C Penney through my eighth month. I worked with three veteran employees in the stock room. We had the entire fourth floor to manage and price all merchandise. I hauled stock, inventoried and used a funny little machine that stapled a price tag onto soft goods. During the yearly soft goods sale, we would bring curtains, bedding and towels back upstairs, tear off the labels, mark everything up 5% and put them back on counters as mark downs advertised as “Big Year End Sale!” and people snatched them up.

During the last month of pregnancy, I enjoyed multiple baby showers. Girlfriends from school and family really did “shower” us with gifts. We had found an apartment and bought the crib and high chair and all those things that fill up the house. As the final days rolled around, I was left with nothing to do so invited Mother and my father’s sister Hatti, a favorite aunt of mine, to lunch. I prepared sandwiches and just as we were about to eat, labor began. We timed the contractions. They were far apart but I called the doctor’s office anyway, unsure whether I should eat or not.

He said to go ahead and eat. “Probably false labor.”

Within half an hour after we finished lunch, I had hard labor pains three minutes apart. We called Joe’s employer, left word and headed for the hospital. They poured white gunk down me until I threw up all that lunch and put me under. They just knocked you out and took your baby back then.

Joe, Mother and Hatti waited and once the baby came, everyone viewed Randy in the baby nursery through the glass and went home. Mother and Hattie had men at home waiting for dinner. Joe stayed until I woke, gave me a kiss and left. Back then, they would not allow fathers, or anyone else, in the room when babies were nursing.

1951 birthing was clinical. Fathers were dismissed. I was put to sleep and missed the whole thing. When I awoke, I waited patiently for a nurse to bring my child to me. The minutes seemed like hours. When the nurse appeared at the door of my room it seemed as if she moved to my bed in slow motion. Finally, she placed my boy in my outstretched arms. I felt the weight of his tiny body, I peeled the blanket off to see the tiny toes and fingers and skinny little arms and legs. I felt his soft skin against mine and smelled the scent of him. I rubbed his head against my cheek.



I bore a tiny son,

An extension of me.

No longer was I one.

How could this miracle be?


The rush of his mouth upon my breast,

The warm little hand nestled

Against my skin, my heart,

He sleeps, my fears depart.


He grew from a tiny cell.

I am in awe.

Deep within me all is well

Doubts of my purpose gone.


But now he is a man.

Out in the world in his own land.

Does he need me still?

Oh no, for he has his own will.


But our oneness is eternal.

Our love always abounds.

We will always be connected

In life or death it will be found.

Then we tried to nurse. He tried but couldn’t grasp. Milk gushed out of my breast and covered his face. He gasped as if drowning and began to cry. They took him away.

I cried. They tried to give him water from a bottle between feedings. He wouldn’t take the nipple. I only got him every four hours. Still, he could not nurse. Finally, I insisted they bring him more often, positive he would starve to death. The nurses were patient and kind and assured me he did not need nourishment for the first three days and would be just fine. He was. By the time we got home we had it figured out.

We brought him home the end of September and I was still nursing in December when we had Joe’s company Christmas party to attend. We left the baby with my parents. I had my figure back and Mother had made me a bright red wool dress cinched in at the waist. I cut a Kotex in half to put inside my bra. Randy nursed every two hours and we would be gone for four or more so I was concerned about leaks. Half way through the evening, as I had feared, I had a big dark circle over one breast and we abruptly left for home. So insecure, so uptight. If only I could have laughed it off and enjoyed the party. Randy would not take a bottle and demanded to nurse every two hours so when we got home, he had cried for an hour, my mother was crying, my poor father was ready to pull his hair, I was upset – not a good evening.

From the beginning, Randy never slept. Well, it seemed like never. He was a live wire, sparking at both ends. He would not tolerate his crib. The pediatrician recommended we put him in his crib and let him cry himself to sleep to break the habit of sleeping with us. Never happened. After two nights of four hours of crying we gave in. He walked at nine months and had words at eighteen months. When he began to crawl, he pulled up to a night stand and found the lighter fluid Joe filled his cigarette lighter with and drank it. I found him blue on the floor. I grabbed him and the phone. With the doctor on the line, he told me to gag my child and get him to throw up. Randy’s eyes had rolled back in his head. I began sticking my finger down his throat and he began to scream. I pushed harder until part of my fist was in his tiny mouth. He vomited. I did it again and he threw up again. The doctor, overjoyed, told me what to give him to drink and to get him to eat as much as possible. I hung up the phone and Randy and I just sat there staring at one another. We sat on the floor in a pool of vomit. My clothes and his face and hair and hands were smushed with vomit. I bent and kissed that wet head and held him close, ashamed to have been so careless about making the apartment safe for him.


Joe’s father, John, was the head baker at the state’s largest bakery, Bairds, located in Ft. Worth. When Joe graduated from high school, he helped Joe get a job driving one of the delivery trucks to haul bread and cakes in and out of stores all day five days a week. After we married, Joe came home each evening exhausted, immediately lay down on the floor and was asleep until morning. He slept most of the weekends.

I not only worked harder to be a good mother I geared up to be the best companion ever. I just knew Joe slept because there was nothing exciting to come home to. “I must be a better, more desirable wife so that he will want to be with me,” I decided. We had mastered that sex issue and I encouraged him. I made sure I looked sexy and happy when I met him at the door with a kiss and asked about his day when he came home from work. This was the fifties. Women were to be the perfect wife, mother, housekeeper and keep her husband happy. I rose early to make him a big breakfast, something he liked. I made fantastic meals with great desserts. I kept an immaculate house and washed and ironed his clothes so that they were perfect and ready when he needed them. Nothing changed.

By the time Randy was a year old I told Joe that I didn’t think our marriage was working out. “This just isn’t what I expected marriage to be,” I said. “You come home from work and fall in the floor and are asleep until morning.”

“Oh, I’ll do better. I’m just so tired by the time I get home.”

“Perhaps if you took a shower when you get home it would refresh you enough to have dinner with us.”

“Yea, I’ll try that.”

The next day he came home with a tiny TV. We set it up in the living room and carried our dinner in to watch. We did that for about three days until he fell asleep in front of the TV and I went to bed alone. Why did I stay? What would I do out on my own with a child? I would be humiliated to drag myself back to my parent’s small home with my baby. The main reason I stayed? I wanted children. I wanted family life and I could not do that without a man. I expected him to play the role of lover, husband and father as I saw those roles.

 Maybe I didn’t know how to love at eighteen.


Joe was twenty when we married. His home life growing up was different from mine. His father, John, worked nights and slept all day. After school, Joe and his two brothers had to be very quiet so as not to wake their father, so they did their homework and helped their mother until dinnertime. The three boys did all the housekeeping chores on the weekend. Their mother was an excellent cook and the family had dinner together each evening before John went to work. Everything revolved around John. I am sure Joe had other ideas of what a husband and father should be.

Maybe he didn’t know how to love either.



I was an insecure thirteen-year-old when Joe and his family moved into the house two doors up from us. I had an immediate crush on him. He was the middle son of three handsome boys. John, their father, and all three boys had thick wavy hair with big blue eyes fringed with thick lashes and smiles that sucked you right in.

I passed their house as I walked to school each day hoping that one of the boys would just happen to be coming out the front door, but alas, those boys were busy with school, homework and family and certainly were not interested in me.

George, the oldest, was a Junior in High School. After graduation he entered the army to attain a college education. George was a tall, slender, handsome, soft spoken young man who matured into a kind and gentle father and husband. He and his wife raised a loving family of four children. He was transferred to Midland, Texas while their children were small and we saw them occasionally when they came to Ft, Worth, but budget never allowed travel so we did not visit Midland. We did not travel and we did not eat out when the children were small. We lived on a tight budget because I kept having babies.

Johnny, their youngest brother, was my age and not only handsome but charismatic and fun. We were close enough after both of us were married for him to caution me about putting up with Joe’s sleeping habits. Johnny and his wife and children visited often through the years so that our children knew one another well. Eventually he and his wife divorced as did Joe and I.

Joe soon left the delivery truck and took a job in sales for a food distributor. Better hours and pay and not such hard work. He called on grocery stores at will and was judged by his sales. Johnny established a door and window manufacturing business specializing in custom work and Joe began to work for him on weekends. The brothers stayed close and it was a shock when Johnny died of a heart attack much too early.

The boy’s father, John, grandpa to his grandchildren, died of a heart attack while we were all still young with small children. A terrible loss. He was an upbeat, outgoing man and had always treated me in a special way. Having raised three boys, he was delighted when our third child was a baby girl. He loved that little chubby, curly headed girl. He liked and admired me but I was too shy to open up to the man as an adult. I had no idea how to accept complements or to let him know how much I appreciated his friendship. He had prepared well and left his wife with no financial worries.

Joe’s mother Vera, Beba to her three sisters and two brothers, and NanNan to her grandchildren, was a handsome, sturdy, retiring woman. She was an outstanding cook and seamstress. She made all her beautiful clothes. I tried hard to make a connection by admiring her food, by asking for recipes but all other attempts at conversation left her looking at me as if I was suddenly speaking a foreign language.

Grandpa and NanNan always had a lovely home with all the latest furniture and appliances and NanNan had every accoutrement in her kitchen and the finest sewing machine. The yards were landscaped with flowers and trees. They welcomed us when we visited to enjoy NanNan’s fabulous meals.

After John’s death, Vera attended Poly Methodist Church every Sunday morning. She did not drive but had women friends who picked her up. She did not go out with or entertain those lady friends. She did not chat with them on the phone, but she loved those Sunday mornings. She stayed in contact with her large family of brothers and sisters, but they did not visit often. Her oldest sister Eva had married John’s brother about the same time she and John married. Interestingly, that sister was as outgoing and verbal as Vera was quiet and withdrawn and her husband, a quiet solemn man, was just the opposite of his brother John’s smiling outgoing disposition.

Driving to dinner one night with May, NanNan’s younger sister and her husband, Joe and his mother and I were in the back seat. Absolute quiet, no conversation. May, whose husband was driving, began to retch and throw up into a paper bag. Her husband did not turn his head, he did not look over at his wife. He just looked straight ahead. No one said a word. May simply folded the bag and put it on the floorboard and on we drove. Sparse conversation over dinner left me feeling confused and uncomfortable.

John’s younger brother, fun loving and exuberant, lived with his family in Anacortes, Washington and came to visit occasionally. They would complain about the heat in Texas and almost every visit ended early because they couldn’t deal with the bright sunlight. “We are exhausted from this constant Texas sunshine,” they would cry.



When I became pregnant as a naïve eighteen-year-old, I did not know the proper names for my body parts. Truthfully, I didn’t know they had names. I had no idea there were different passageways to my urinary system and reproductive system. So, when I got pregnant at eighteen years of age, I would talk to my OBGYN about “between my legs.”

“You have an irritation between your legs? Like a rash?”

“No up in me. A burning.”

“Is that in your vagina or do you think you have a urinary infection?”

Blank stare. “What?”

His contempt was obvious. He made no effort to help me or educate me. We did get my first born into the world and he seemed to respect that by the time Randy was born I had done extensive reading and research to improve my knowledge. I am continually stunned at my parent’s lack of knowledge and awareness in 1932 and how they felt it was not “proper” to discuss the little they did know about the human body and its functions.

Would that doctor have been appalled had he known about my craving for dirt during pregnancy? No craving pickles or ice cream, I was overwhelmed with the smell of rain on dry ground. I lusted over a dry gravel path. I kept a Tupperware bowl of dusty rocks that sent my eyes rolling back in my head with ecstasy when I tasted them. I tried in vain to hide my gravel, but of course during later pregnancies the kids found them and soon everyone on the planet knew their mother ate dirt. It was so rewarding to read many years later that craving dirt during pregnancy was fairly common. One country in Africa has a cliff designated for use only by the village’s pregnant ladies.

By design, Mike David came along two years and three months after Randy. A cotton top baby boy with big blue eyes and a smile that never stopped. He slept on queue and loved life from day one. He also got us a $2,000 refund when we filed year end taxes because he was born December 31st, allowing us to claim him for the entire year. That $2,000 provided a down payment for a house on Donalee St.  Donalee was part of a cookie cutter neighborhood of small houses so new there were no trees or lawns. Three tiny bedrooms, one bath, tiny kitchen with washer and dryer tucked into one corner and a small dinning/living room were crowded into 1,100 square feet, but it was a castle to me.

During the first year after we moved in, there were things to be done around our new house and property. We planted a tree in the front yard and turned up ground for flower beds. Joe built shelving inside the small storage area under the car port and installed screen doors front and back. There was often car repair that he took care of in our driveway. Joe could build or repair anything. He could roof a house and repair electrical and plumbing. Whether wood, metal or machinery, Joe could make it better.

He slept less during those busy times and if there was an evening when we did not have chores, he would suggest we jump in the car after dinner and go visit someone. I demurred. I felt embarrassed to pop in on people unannounced, but we went. Four of us showing up after dinner, a smiling crowd as a friend opened his front door.

We, with other friends from church, started a Sunday School class for young couples, most of whom had small children. These were our dear friends. We socialized at church activities as well as in one another’s homes. I had a problem with the fact that Joe would monopolize Sunday mornings with monologs or questions. He would ask a question then ramble on and on trying to answer it. We quarreled about it Sunday afternoons until we finally managed to have an adult conversation about it and he said, “I am well aware that I dominate and take up the class, but I don’t know how to stop.”

Oh my god,” I thought. 


“I have so many questions in my head about God and sin and I feel so confused. I don’t know what to think or what questions to ask,” he said. “I just ramble on and I really do not know how to stop talking. I know I do that with my customers, but I don’t know how to control it.”

Our close friendships slowly dwindled until only one other couple continued to offer or respond to invitations.

One evening after dark, Joe and I were driving to visit friends. I was eight months pregnant with our third child with Randy and Mike in the back seat. No seat belts or car seats back then, just two little boys rattling around in that back seat. Randy decided to see if the doors would open while the car was in motion. He was four. As the door flew open with him desperately holding the door handle, it flung him out of the car and onto the street behind. I was screaming, “STOP, STOP,” as Joe was already slamming on the brakes. I could see the headlights of the car behind us advancing as I jumped out of our car even before it had stopped moving.

The headlights stopped about five feet beyond Randy and the driver jumped out and ran to my boy who lay screaming in the middle of the lane. There was no blood but he had obviously skidded on the gravel before stopping. As we examined him, we could see the back of his head swelling. We put Mike in the front seat between us and I held Randy as Joe made a fast U turn heading for the hospital. We had at least a twenty-minute drive and Joe sped and ran through more than one red light once he had checked to make sure we were clear of other traffic. In no time, a motorcycle policeman was behind us with sirens screaming and lights blinking. Joe did not slow down; he waved his arm out the car window for the policeman to move up beside us. When he did, the policeman could hear Randy’s screams and just kept going, moved right on up in front of us and cleared the way for us all the way to the hospital.

By the time the emergency crew had us in a room, putting Randy on a table, we could see that the swelling on the back of his head was as big as his head. An initial examination found no broken bones and he showed no signs of a concussion. He had gravel burns on his arms and back and certainly on that swollen head. The treatment was to scrub the gravel out of those wounds with a stiff brush. Oh my god! His cries and screams just did us in. The nurse looked over at Joe as he began to pass out and shoved him onto a chair and ordered him to put his head between his knees. I suddenly had diarrhea and raced to the bathroom with my two-year-old in my arms on top of my baby bump.

We were told to watch him closely all night and check his eyes often for signs of a concussion. I woke him to do that periodically but other than that he slept soundly all night and healed quickly during the following week. Child proof locks were installed on the car doors within days.



Our daughter Peggy was born while we lived on Donalee. The miracle of birth never left me.



When you were little, I kissed your sweet mouth,

Watched swings and toys take over the house,


Fussed over your hair and bathed and creamed,

‘Till your round little body was smooth and clean.


I knew each little crease of legs and arms,

Was totally enchanted by your smiles and charms.


I soothed your hurts and shared your tears,

Held you close to assuage your fears.


All through the years as you changed and grew,

Absorbed like a sponge and expanded, I knew


Your dependency on me was limited by time,

As you developed your style, yet still mimicked mine.


Slowly we parted, like a cell, and became two.

Slowly, you started your separate life anew.


Now that you’re grown, so lovely and wise,

I bask in the love I see in your eyes.


I relish times together, fulfilling and warm,

And succumb, once again, to your smiles and your charm.


With each new baby I was so in love with the touch of their skin against mine, the smell of them, their mouth upon my breast. Peggy was a chubby brown bean with a temper and thick brown eyebrows curved into a frown. She had chestnut curls and a little bow mouth often used to berate her brothers in the future.

I had a lime green parakeet that rode around on my shoulder some days. His name was Pete and he repeated many of my words that I used regularly. Toddler Peggy leaned against the unlatched screen door at the front of the living room. The door slammed open and she fell six inches onto the front porch. I was standing beside the couch with Pete on my shoulder. The minute that door flew open Pete took off like a shot. Peggy was sprawled on the front porch crying and as I scooped her up, I checked the spindly, new tree we had just planted in the yard. “Maybe he stopped there,” I thought. “I could probably talk him down.” No, no Pete, we never saw him again.

While visiting my parents one night, Mother was pouring boiling water into cups of instant coffee sitting on the kitchen counter. As she turned to put the kettle back on the stove, toddler Peggy tiptoed up, stretched her little arm up high and tipped a cup over towards her. She screamed as the hot coffee poured over her face and stomach. She only had a diaper on, no clothing. Frantic, we coated her heavily with Vaseline and wrapped her in a clean sheet as we rushed her to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

The fact that she did not have on a shirt helped diminish the damage. It would have soaked up the burning coffee and held it to her body. After the first panic of wanting to relieve her pain, we were concerned that her beautiful brown skin might be scared. The fact that we coated her with Vaseline immediately slowed the blistering, reducing the possibility of scarring as did the fact that we used the clean sheet guarding against infection. Her chest had sustained second degree burns. Her entire upper body was bound in gauze for the next two weeks as we nervously waited to see if she would be scared. Her face had first degree burns and keeping it clean, clear of any possibility of infection, was crucial. There was no scarring. Was I grateful that I had done extensive reading about treating burns, cuts, bruising, heat stroke, drowning, etc.? I had small children, I needed to be knowledgeable to keep them safe, right? Then how could I be so careless as to let bad things happen to my babies?



Alice and I drove down the rutted, rough dirt road that almost wasn’t one in her brand-new Nissan Altima. Falling down barbed wire fences among Johnson grass and other weeds separated us from the fields of sage stretching to the horizon. We bobbed and jerked along in the middle of nowhere until eventually, off to the left, we saw a couple of old dilapidated flat roofed stuccoes. Scattered across the bare front yard were shiny new Mercedes, BMW’s and a couple of other high-end cars. “Hmmm, must be the place.”

While reading one of Shirley McClain’s books, Dancing in the Light, I was captivated by her descriptions of Chris Griscom’s Light Institute in New Mexico. Founded in 1985, nestled in the hills of Galisteo, NM, this center for spiritual healing had become internationally famous. I felt New Mexico was an enchanted land the first time I visited there as a thirteen-year-old girl. I loved the smell of the dry air and the stark, rust colored landscape interspersed with tall Saguaro. So, after reading Dancing in the Light, I wrote to Shirley for information on how to get in touch with the institute. Her staff replied quickly and gave me phone numbers and address. I called and spoke with a young man there who was very cordial and informative. I talked about my career and my desire for a change and asked if they had need of administrative help.

“Why, yes.” He said. “We have decided to go from pad and pencil and ledgers to this new computer still in its plastic wrap sitting in the corner.”

I became excited. “That’s what I do.” I thought.

We set a date to meet at the institute and my friend Alice decided to drive out from Ft. Worth with me. We spent the night in Santa Fe and began our drive out of town early the next morning. Following directions, we soon left the pavement to drive a mile or more on a gravel road. Once we turned off that, we were on that rutted, rough dirt road.

We parked and got out of the car in our latest 1986 business wear of short black skirts cinched at the waist with a wide black belt. The spike heels of our black pumps sank into the sand of the parking area as the wind ruffled our big Texas hair. We could not have felt more out of place if we had been naked.

There was not a person in sight. We chose the worn, long narrow building on the right with its wooden front porch that stretched under windows and doors across the front and entered through the first screen door. No one. The floor had brand new carpet stretched over the lumpy, waving, I guess, ground underneath. The new computer in its plastic wrapper sat on the floor in one corner and gauzy lace curtains wafted out from the open window across from us.

“Hello,” we chorused. “Hello, anyone there?” as we walked into the next room and the next and the next. No one. We found ourselves whispering. It was so quiet. We walked out onto the porch and stood there for a while deciding what to do when a tall slender young man stepped out of the other building and started towards us. He wore white loose trousers and a white linen shirt with no collar and a big smile. He held out his hand and called us by name with a question mark. “I am so glad you came. Chris is with clients but I am eager to talk to you. Won’t you come in?”

They needed someone who could take the many calls from all over the world each day in many different languages, (“What? Different languages?”) and make appointments as well as help them with their travel reservations. They needed someone to set up the new computer, order whatever software would be needed to track appointments as well as start keeping their accounting records.

“Keep in mind we live a quiet life here, (“Quiet? How quiet?”) There will be no radio or TV allowed or personal visitors. We have no air conditioners or fans, (Oh dear, I don’t do heat.”) Our hours are long in order to take care of the overwhelming, worldwide response since Shirley’s book came out. Is this something that might interest you?”

“I don’t think I would be capable of trying to make appointments for people whose language I could not understand. I do apologize, I should have asked more questions before we came out,” I sadly replied.

“Oh please, don’t apologize, I should have volunteered more information when we spoke.  I am very glad you have come and am delighted to meet you both. I will give you a tour of our facility if you would like.”

“We would love that.”


“OK, the current sessions in the other building will be closing down in about fifteen minutes and I will be back to get you. Would you like something cool to drink?”

We waited on the porch and when the sessions let out in the other building guests came out and got into their cars and left. Three staff members, young women with scrubbed faces and soft hair, in flowing white dresses and sandals walked toward us with our interviewer. I felt rather cartoonish in my short, tight clothing, spike heels and big hair and makeup. Everyone was friendly and charming. They spoke softly and eventually drifted into the room with the computer while our young man took us through the treatment rooms in the other building. The rooms were sparse and all white with long white sheets draped over the massage tables.

After “Thank You” and “So nice to meet you,” and goodbyes, Alice and I got into our car and drove away. We were stunned. We just stared ahead as we bounced and wobbled our way down that rutted road until we turned to look at one another and burst into nervous laughter.

“Another world, oh my word, another world,” Alice said.

“I wish I could want that sort of thing,” I said. “But I could not live that life. I did feel small and insignificant against their calm, kind demeanor.”

Life in the Suburbs



I planted Elephant Ear bulbs along the front of our little house and they grew to enormous size. The kids could hide behind a single leaf. On the side of the house, off the carport, Joe made a big sand box. The children spent hours there. I had a clothesline in the back yard where I hung sheets rather than run them through the dryer because I liked the smell of the outdoors on them. One summer, our collie dog Lady had eleven puppies on that carport. That was a long night but a wow for the kids.

One day while making a bed, I heard a distant cry. “Was that a scream?” It continued. “That was a scream.” I rushed out the front door and to the neighbors where that blood curdling noise was coming from. I rushed into the kitchen door to see the teenage daughter of that family with her fingers in between the two beaters of the mixer that was still running, pushing those beaters deeper and deeper into her fingers. I yanked the plug out of the wall and literally bent the attachments to spread them enough for her to get her fingers out. The fingers were not cut but they were deeply dented. She was sobbing and I put ice cubes in a bowl of water and had her hold her hand in there as long as she could and gave her some aspirin. I asked if she wanted to come to my house with me since I had three small children over there alone and I needed to get back to them, but she chose to stay home. The pain was letting up a little and she thanked me. I never got a complaint about bent beaters from her family, nor a thank you either.

The couple across from them had two children later in life, like in their forties. They both had careers and had no clue how to care for a family. They were intelligent accomplished people, but within months after the first baby’s arrival from an accidental pregnancy, surprise, they were pregnant again. Nine months later the second accident arrived. Their house was a wreck, dirty dishes and laundry everywhere. They had to get up early each day to get the children to day care and themselves to work so they put the children to bed around 6:30 or 7:00 each night. Since the children didn’t always go right to sleep, they gave them Paregoric and tied them to their beds with soft rope around the children’s wrists. !! They got home from work around 5:30 to quarter of 6:00 after picking the children up from day care. They fed them frozen dinners and put them to bed. Weekends were a trial because they had no idea what to do with little children for several hours, but the entire family seemed quite happy and loving towards one another. Oh well, what do I know.

The houses were close in the neighborhood and the busy families saw one another often as we came and went. Ann, our neighbor two houses up, disappeared one week. “Have you seen Ann lately?” someone would ask. After a couple of weeks, Ann appeared with a new baby. Ann was extremely heavy and had, we learned much later, very irregular periods. She had no idea that she was pregnant until she began to go into labor! Her husband had rushed her to the hospital because of pain and - - Surprise!

We had the couples from our Sunday School Class over one evening and as everyone sat around our tiny living room, I rounded the corner coming out of the kitchen into the living room with more refreshments. Looking out the big picture window on the front wall of the living room with a wide view of our front yard were two of the neighborhood dogs locked in a passionate embrace. Mothers jumped up to grab children that were in the living room to drag them off to the bedroom where the other children were playing. Others gawked as the male tried to dismount and began to scream in pain. They were stuck together. He could not withdraw. I walked through the living room, lowered the blind, and the evening continued as before while the dogs continued to howl outside.

My women friends would call and suggest we have lunch or take the kids to the park in the summer. I would always have to make some excuse because as late as 1:00 in the afternoon I would still be in my p.j.s, hair uncombed with unmade beds and dirty dishes in the sink. “What the heck?” I would think. “They have small children; how do they have time to play? Why do I not have time to play?” I would think. “It’s all this work,” I would sigh. 


Well, one day I timed how long it took to make a bed, how long it took to wash the dishes. I even timed how long it took me to shower and get presentable each morning. The place and I and the children could be as neat as a pin in less than two hours. - - - - - hmmmmmmm. So, - - - -  that “quick” read while lying on the couch before I started chores hadn’t been quick at all. This was such a revelation to me. Once I became aware of the time I was allowing myself to read, play with the kids, put off doing chores, I overreacted. I became so efficient it became a way of life. It even eventually led to my having a career in corporate operations because I was so good at organization.



Soon, I was longing for a baby again. How do I describe the emotions of experiencing life growing inside me, the first sight of that little body? How do I describe the rush of joy when at three months my baby looks into my eyes and laughs out loud? I kiss those sweet, soft lips and feel two tiny hands clutch my hair to pull me close and I am transformed.

No way for Donalee to hold six of us. I handled our finances; Joe wanted no part of that. He simply turned over his paychecks, took out enough for cigarettes and lunches and left the rest for me to dole out. Just like I found Donalee and convinced Joe we could afford it, I found Cravens Road in Handley, a suburb of Ft. Worth. An attractive neighborhood with good schools within walking or biking distance. The house with green shingled siding stood mid-block on a little hill on an acre of land. Gardenia bushes and a blooming Mesquite tree decorated the front yard. There was a tall, stately cottonwood in the back yard for the kids to play under and a workshop behind the garage for Joe. The fenced off back half of the lot had a big barn and room for children to play.

One unique thing about the house on Cravens Road was the massive construction going on in front of the house. A two-lane thoroughfare with exit ramps was to run between us and the park across the way. A deep trench had been dug so that the road could go under the cross street at the end of our block. An exit ramp exited exactly in front of our house. We could not see it from our front porch because the trench was so deep. Our street, the access road, running in front of our wide yard, was a little lower than our house but way above the main road below so that our view was not of the entrenched highway but of the beautiful park across the way.

We sat on our front porch and watched the huge earth moving equipment some days. It took almost two years before the road was completed, but once finished, the house was shielded from the noise because the road was so deep.

All was well until the first wreck occurred. For some reason, cars had difficulty managing the exit ramp down below our house and crash after crash jumped us up from the dinner table or out of bed in the night. The highway department made adjustments, changed signage, tried everything to make that exit safer, nothing worked.

One snowy evening, as we were having dinner, we heard the crash. We ran out the front door to see if we could help. Often the crash was such that the driver would simply drive on. This evening, the car was crushed and the driver was sitting on the steep bank in the snow. We asked him if he was OK. He seemed a little stunned but was not injured and we insisted he come into the house to call the police and wait inside. He was grateful and friendly. He called his wife to come for him and we made coffee. The police and wrecker dispatchers had let him know the wait might be long because of so many accidents on the snowy night. Our children finished their dinner as we all sat around the table and then our guest shared our cake dessert. When his wife came, he insisted she have coffee and cake with us and we had a gay party waiting for the police.

In exactly one week after that crash, the mail brought a certificate for $100 (A lot of money in the 60s.) toward a meal at the best seafood restaurant in Ft. Worth. Our driver was the owner of that restaurant and wanted us to be his guest, “Because you and your family were so very kind to me.”

To eat out was such a treat for us. We dressed in our finest and were seated at the best table. As we perused the menus Randy said, “Can we have dessert?” When I said yes, he ordered to have dessert first then his dinner.


Always wanting to be the best I could be, wanting to retain my figure and feel attractive, I struggled with my weight. Loving food, with the appetite of a line baker, my five foot two ballooned in a hurry.  I had always had to diet, diet back down after gaining weight. As a young girl at home, mother sort of doled out the food and after all I was young and active so weight was not a problem, but after marriage I would make my favorites and have seconds. Then there were those trigger foods that set off a binge. Some foods you can’t eat just one, serving that is. I had retained more weight than usual after Peggy was born and was determined to avoid that while pregnant with Anna. I dieted seriously while pregnant. The doctor had assured me during those nine months all was well. We moved into Cravens Road one week and Diana Lynn was born the next. I had cleaned Donalee vigorously after everything was out of the house and Mother and I cleaned the new house thoroughly before everything was put in. We hung the last curtain as labor began. I was very thin for the first time since my ninety-nine-pound wedding when I delivered. Anna was tiny and frail. I had never felt so weak and tired. Anna and I were not well and strong at birth. But, having my parents there when we came home from the hospital to cook and clean and take care of everything, Joe slept, we were both feeling better in no time. I was feeling very good about myself. I was thin, with bigger boobs because I was nursing. I wore a thin sexy red nightgown day after day, always hoping Joe would look up and be interested. Nope, he wasn’t.

Anna stayed frail. She clung to me like glue. She was the first to refuse to be left in the church nursery. It took months for her to become confident.


I wanted Joe to be as excited about, as involved with, our children as I was. I just didn’t get it. I wanted him to be who I wanted him to be. I was saddened by who he was, by his indifference.

At eighteen months, Anna developed pneumonia. The doctor and I were trying to get her well without a hospital trip. I had a tent of sheets built over her crib with a vaporizer wafting steam into the tent. Three-and-a-half-year-old Peggy came down with the mumps, Mike and I quickly followed. Mother came to spend time with us to help. My father had never had mumps so stayed home. The oldest, Randy, came home from school with a fever and I said, “Oh honey, you’re just coming down with the mumps, let’s get you to bed.” He did not have the mumps. He had chicken pox. The lesions grew to the size of quarters. Of course, the other three came down with them immediately. By the time my mumps were going down a little my poor mother was exhausted so I sent her home. I administered Anna’s medications and I and her siblings read to her or played games so that she didn’t go stir crazy in her steamy tent. I bathed my suffering children in soda bathes and tried to keep them all entertained or occupied so they would not scratch the chicken pox and leave scars. There were meals to prepare and bedclothes to change and wash and ------ on and on.  The children were really sick dealing with the mumps and chicken pox. I was exhausted. I had not slept for four days and nights. When Joe came home early (he often came home around three o’clock and went to bed) I asked, “Can you watch the children for a while? I have not slept in four days and am exhausted.”

He replied, “I wish I could help you out but I’m just beat,” and promptly lay down on the bed and went fast asleep.

                                I could not have felt more alone and unloved. Sadness overwhelmed me.

I had developed impetigo, a contagious skin disease, in my right hand and passed it to Anna through her chicken pox lesions while carrying her around causing swollen places on her back and hip. She was still so sick, so the next morning the doctor met us at the hospital to check her upper respiratory situation because of her history with pneumonia and to lance the hugely swollen places on her back and hip. She wears the scars today. She still would have nothing to do with anyone other than family so clutching my neck, the doctors pried her loose to take her to a sterile operating room to lance her lumps.

“She will do much better once away from Mommy,” says the nurse.

Ha! I could hear her blood curdling screams all down the hall, during the procedure and continuing until they put her back into my arms. Wow! That very tiny girl had the lungs of an adult! The doctor gave us both a shot and meds for the impetigo and we dragged ourselves home to cope as best we could as we slowly began to heal.

After that, I began to ask myself, “Why am I living with a disconnected husband? This has got to be my fault. I’m getting what I want, I love my home, I love my life with our four, but is this what Joe wants?” Does he want a big family? He never objects when I want another child. Am I putting too much pressure on him to make a living for all of us?   

Once again, I put extra effort into being the best I could be. I “worked” at improving myself day after day, in fact that became a way of life. Not having hair, hips or boobs, to enable me to just jump in the shower, towel dry, throw on clothes and look like an attractive young woman, I had to apply product and curl the hair, (which wilted immediately) wear clothing to camouflage a size twelve upper body and a size eight lower. Next life, I’m having long legs, brown skin, (instead of my freckles) thick long hair and big boobs.

Through the years I completely changed my handwriting, corrected my posture and walk by practicing in front of a full-length mirror daily as I exercised. I concentrated on proper speech to a degree that I had no Texas twang when I moved to Colorado. When I began to work outside the home, I gave the job 125% because I had to be the best employee ever in that position. I wanted to be the best wife a man could ever imagine. I continued to meet Joe each day at the door as he came home from work with a kiss in something attractive with hair and makeup done well. He simply wilted against me as if to collapse, saying “I’m beat.”

Washington, D.C.



Through the years, I had traveled some, but a very special trip, soon after Robert and I met, was to Washington, DC where Roberts’ cousin worked for Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen. We stayed with her and her husband in their lovely home in Maryland for a week. She gave us tours of special places tourists never see as well as in depth tours of all government buildings. She directed us to everything we could possibly want to see in the surrounding area. We made time for the Smithsonian and I fell in love with those wonderful displays. The train museum was my favorite. The site of those huge old behemoths and the rich smell of the oil and creosote was overwhelming.


Spending an entire week together, I began to see Robert in a different light. His dress was appropriate and sophisticated. The obvious regard for his cousin and the charming interaction between the two of them was comfortable and enjoyable. Robert’s extensive knowledge of American history quickly became obvious as we soaked up the traditional surroundings. His easy charm with everyone we met during our tours as well as his cousin’s friends and associates was delightful.


His Texas macho did emerge during the fun New Year’s Eve party she gave for us. No amount of encouragement or taunting by the many guests could persuade him to don a peaked party hat. I have a snapshot of me and another guest trying to forcibly put a hat on him to no avail. He was having no part of that.


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