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More Memoir

The final counselor was a psychiatrist who interviewed us separately and together, examined the tests he had given us and turned to me with Joe sitting beside me.


“Your husband is an adolescent. His ideas of what life should be, what a husband should be, never matured past a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old young man’s ideas. As he grew into a man’s body his ideas stayed as those of his high school self. You can either live out your life with him and be his mother or you can leave and build a life for yourself.”


I began to sob. Joe just sat there looking at the doctor and me. I could not move; I could not stand. The counselor suggested that Joe might help me to the car so Joe lifted me to a standing position and walked me out of the building and into the car. I could not stop sobbing. Joe drove us home. No words were spoken.


****

I repeat, one thing I have learned about life - - - I don’t know as much as I thought I did. The newsreels during World War II expanded my understanding of how varied we humans can be. The trip to Georgia during the war made me aware of differences. Then television moved into our lives and showed me the many things outside my world.


As life’s issues became progressively more challenging, as I realized my husband’s thoughts were different from mine, as I realized that people killed one another over religious beliefs, as I became more and more aware of the world population living in poverty, - - -  I realized I had a lot of blanks in the pages of what life is all about. Then of course that old question “Why are we here?” raised its ugly head. The more I questioned, read and contemplated, the faster the questions flew at me.


Mid-life, I began to read a little psychology and philosophy. As I read, great “Ahas!” lit up my mind and I would think, “I knew that all along, where was that hidden in the recesses of my mind?” But did I already know that, or did I just agree so strongly that it instantly seemed to be my own thought?


Even as I became aware, aware that I could control more of my life, my being, alas, life sort of swamped me, consumed my hours and minutes and life raced by filled with making a living, making sure the children had a happy home, had fun times and that they were safe. I became consumed at times by duties, work, family, social activities, responsibilities, relationships and day to day habits and tasks and suddenly the children were grown.


Randy had married his high school sweetheart and Mike, graduated June of ’72 had left for Paris, Texas in September to attend Paris Jr. Collage. I was excited for him because he would be living with Jerry and his parents on their farm. He was moving forward with his dream of farming or ranching.


Then Mother lost her battle with cancer. The doctors had told her six months. She lived for two years before it took her down at age fifty-seven. I lost my best friend; my father lost the love of his life and my children were devastated. Blinded by grief and feeling lost and helpless, we plodded on. I grieve every day that I failed her. I could have given so much more to meet her needs had I only been more aware.


We loved her so much. She loved us more than we could know.

The loss of our GranGran at such a young age was devastating.


After Mother died, Randy and Nedra invited my father along on a camping trip out west. They pulled a pop-up trailer with two beds and all the other accoutrements for camping. Once they reached Cortez, Colorado, they drove into Mesa Verde National Park and camped for the night. After a big breakfast the next morning, they decided upon a hike up the nearby mountain and PaPa began to feel unwell. 


“I think I ate too much breakfast,” he complained and then collapsed in great pain. Randy and Nedra managed to get him back to the car and then to the ranger station. The rangers rushed him to the hospital in Cortez. He had had a heart attack. Joe and I drove out to Cortez immediately. The first night there we slept in the pop-up with Randy and Nedra. It had been determined that PaPa’s heart attack was a mild one and he was stable and resting comfortably so we felt it was all right to leave him for the night. It was bitterly cold and I kept trying to get closer to or under Joe for warmth. I finally woke enough to realize I was colder than I had ever been. I clenched my teeth, jumped up to turn the heater up, but Randy, already awake, said, “No use, I’ve got it as high as it will go.” We had every blanket on the beds and pilled on coats and sweaters but nothing was enough. The next morning found the water bucket a solid block of ice, and when we went to the stream near-by it too was frozen solid and we had spent the night in a canvas camper.


Since Daddy was stable and the doctors considered his attack a “mild” one, Randy and Nedra drove on to continue their vacation. Joe drove back to Ft. Worth to attend to work and family and I stayed in Cortez for a few days until my father was able to travel. I made plane reservations and checked Daddy out of the hospital. I had reserved a wheelchair to get him through the airport and onto the small plane to fly us to Albuquerque then on to Ft. Worth. It was my first time to fly. I think Daddy had flown once before in a small plane. That little plane flew low and the hot air from the desert below sent us bumping and dancing along. So, I’m taking care of my ill father, getting him home safely, right? So, who threw up the whole way home? Daddy would hand me bags, getting more from the flight attendant during the flight. I was the one helped off the plane and wheeled to the curb in the wheelchair we had ordered for my father.


1975

****

 Within the year, MHMR began moving all management teams out of the workshops and into the main office downtown. So, my manager and I made the move. Within the first week, all managers were told they would share one assistant (read secretary) for the entire group. “Assistants” were let go, but MHMR offered me an accounting position if I signed up to begin work towards an Associate Degree in Mid-Management at Tarrant County Jr. College.


So here I was again, taking care of family and home, working full time and taking night classes with homework. I moved with Anna and Cris to an apartment and filed for divorce.


****

Just before the move, while still at the workshop, Randy, joined the staff. Nedra still had a senior position at the main office of MHMR and had found the position for him. It was nice to see one another every day now that he was married and away from home.   

 

One day, Randy, obviously upset, asked if we could meet up. His distress was palpable as he came into my apartment.


“What’s wrong?” I alarmed.


“I’ve had an affair; I am in love Mother! I have to tell Nedra! I don’t want to hurt her.! This is not fair to her! I don’t know what to do!”


“Oh my god. Is the affair over?” I asked, but seeing the look on his face I said, “Oh no, it’s not.”

“Mom, I am in love with William.”


“Our William? Our William at the workshop?”


William was a Social Worker at the MHMR workshop when I first started working there. He was a very handsome, reserved young man, very private. His long-time life companion had recently died and since homosexuality was not out in the open in 1975, he simply said a friend had passed away and he needed to take a day off to go to the funeral. His coworkers had become aware that the relationship was more than just a friendship and spoke to management who insisted he take as much time as he needed.

My first reaction to my son was grief at the hardship this would put on him to have to live a life that must be secret. To live a life that some reviled. I sat down hard at his announcement holding both of his hands and he knelt in front of me.


“Do you hate me for this? I didn’t know how you would take this,” he said.


“Of course I don’t hate you. I grieve that you must deal with all this heartache. You must tell Nedra right away. She mustn’t find out about this from someone else.”


“I don’t know how to do it. I have tried for days. I can’t do it.” But he did.


I called Nedra the next day but we could not talk, we could only sob our grief. She and I moved her belongings into an apartment. Her heart was broken and she did not recover for years.


So much heartache at this time, uprooting my youngest girls, Peggy estranged, upset that I had moved out and left her daddy alone. Our family broken, my father still recovering from his heart attack, all of us still grieving the loss of our GranGran and now, Randy’s grief over not only hurting Nedra but losing her, his best friend, and wondering how to move forward with this new relationship facing him, how do we recover?


****

Being single started with the belief that life was over. Very depressed, I mechanically went through my days of getting ready for work, doing my job, making dinner after work for the girls. Basic grocery shopping and watching a lot of TV through sleepless nights.


NIGHT, THE DARKEST NIGHTS

  

Night comes alone and empty.

The stars, too far away and dim

To illuminate spirit or mind.

Darkness smothers and closes in.

 

City lights ablaze are cheering.

Alive I dance and sing.

But the night is long, and eventually,

Sleep takes me under its wing.

 

Morning shines, and hope anew,

Today brighter than yesterday’s song.

Even cloudy with rain is better than night,

But sunshine, worshiped, keeps me strong.

 

Alas, dark night is again.

Will morning release never come?

I sleep, breath tight and short,

Awaken, my battle unwon.

 

The day, like first love, is exciting,

But the night, ever still, is death.

My life roller coasters up and down

Reaching for fame, admiration and wealth.

 

What’s to ease the disappointments,

The night the darkest nights?

Can I rest in quiet and dark,

No fluttering heart without the light,

 

Breathe deep the soothing balm,

Be still without demand

For attention, affection, animation,

From someone else’s hand?

 

****

During the next few months, Nedra and I decided we were not going to lose out on the things we loved in life just because of divorce. So, soon after she and the girls and I were settled in our apartments we decided to go camping. We didn’t need men. We could do this. We packed all the gear and drove to a familiar campground and began to set up. Anna and Cris helped unload while Nedra, trim with dark, short hair, quiet, intelligent Nedra, and I set up the tent. The loop that held the tent stake on my corner of the tent ripped so I rummaged around and found the ice pick to punch a new hole in the fabric. I stabbed with all my strength, missed the fabric and plunged the ice pick into my calf. I gasped, Nedra looked around the corner of the tent and Anna and Cris stared mesmerized as I yanked the pick out and a six-inch spurt of blood squirted over and began to fill one of my shoes sitting close by.


As soon as we had me disinfected and bandaged, we began to pump up the Coleman to cook dinner. We pumped and pumped and pumped. Nothing. As Nedra and I tweaked and adjusted and pumped, Cris and Ann wordlessly began gathering wood. They thought we just might need to cook dinner over a wood fire. We finally had dinner, had a good night’s sleep, got the stove going for breakfast and had a wonderful time.

                                                                                                ****

The apartment Anna and Cris and I had moved to was, well, different. It had bright orange shag carpet and tiny rooms. It smelled of, well, it smelled. We began to look for another place right away. I found a very nice duplex.   


Anna and Cris were still in high school. Anna was a blue eyed, slender, five-foot four girl with a tiny waist and curving hips. Her thick hair of tight curls fanned to her waist. She was shy and quiet, but as life unfolded it became obvious she was a passionate girl with deep, caring emotions.


Cristy was a bigger girl. She was her daddy’s girl, larger than her petite mom and sisters. A beautiful face framed by lush curls the color of honey just like her dads did not help the low self-esteem that shadowed her entire life. She said repeatedly throughout life that she, never felt she belonged in our family.


“I am not one of you.”


Did she know before she was born that mom didn’t want to be pregnant? Was her mother less devoted by the time she was born due to five children and a stressful marriage? Did I take part enough in all of their lives at that point? What would their memories of our relationship at that time be?


   ****

Peggy, a petite five foot three, was born a brown bean. All five children were born bald and took a few months to grow some hair. Peg’s thick brown locks had curls and waves like her dad’s. Her brown eyes flashed when her brothers did not do to suit her. She graduated from high school June of ’74 with a scholarship for Texas Wesleyan University, then Texas Wesleyan College. When I and the girls moved to the apartment she moved in with her best friend and her family.  I was feeling embarrassed that I could not do more towards Peg’s college education, embarrassed that she chose to live with others. No cell phones, I did not have the phone number of the family she was living with, I lost her. I decided she was upset with me that I had left her father. I eventually attended her graduation from TWC and she did not know I was there.


Her memories of that period are very different. She moved back home with her father after graduation and soon, after almost two years of complete estrangement, my phone range at the apartment late one night. To hear Peggy’s voice filled me with such joy I was speechless.


“Mom I now understand why you left. Can I come live with you and the girls?”


The duplex had two bedrooms so I slept on the couch in the living room.

 

****

One day while out shopping at a mall, I ran into an old school chum, Patsy. She and her big family had lived across the street from us on Ave. D. She had four sisters and a brother and they had always been into fun. They often tore out to a movie at nine o’clock at night on school nights. Shocking for my staid, composed little family. They shopped ‘til they dropped on weekends and went to every fair, concert and anything else that might be fun. As we moved from Jr. High to High School, her father bought a farm and moved the family away. Tears and separation angst dissolved the next summer when she invited “us girls,” our little group of five, out for a weekend at the farm. It was a great time. Pat had let her friends know we were coming so there they were, six teenage boys, all combed and slick. They took us to a movie at the one theatre in the very small town nearby and out for ice cream afterwards. We rode the big mower across the fields at the farm the next day and fed chickens and gathered eggs.

 

When she and I met up while shopping one day after the divorce, we grabbed a coke and sat to fill one another in on our lives since high school. We talked children, husbands, divorces and jobs. Pat was also divorced as were two of her sisters. 

 

“Come join us tomorrow night. We go dancing at the Hyatt on weekends,” she said.

 

I was excited. I had not been excited for months. I had been down, down, down and suddenly I was excited. I did join those dancing sisters the next weekend and for many weekends to follow. I had also been asked out by a co-worker and decided there might be life after divorce.

 

Job Change

1976

****

 

Within two years MHMR had management problems. Senior management hired a relative who brought even more problems of incompetence to our accounting department. Employees began to leave in droves. I found a job as office manager with a small, family owned and operated Electrical company and met Robert Lee.

 

Robert Lee was a five-foot three dynamo. He had been a rough and tumble high school student in and out of fights. Jeans, t-shirt and sneakers were his daily wardrobe. He did a lot of the work on his many rental properties and had beat up tar-stained hands. And then we met. His grown son said, “Dad, if you’re going to start dating you gotta do something about your appearance.”

“Like what?”

 

“Let’s go shopping.”

 

Our second date had his broad, muscular shoulders in a handsome western shirt. New jeans fit his narrow hips perfectly falling just right over the arch of new boots and his soft black wavy hair sported a new haircut. He was strong and had a great physique. He drove me to the airport where he kept his plane and took me up for a flight over the surrounding area in his Piper Cub. Oh, that first flight, the excitement of lift off, the patch work of fields of green and brown, the sparkling pools of water here and there - - -.

 

FLIGHT

Flying high into the sky.

Soaring free you and I.

Look about over the earth.

Higher and higher we can fly.

 

Toward the sun, sparkling pools.

Ponds and streams reflecting light.

Diamonds set into the earth

To enhance the pleasure of our flight.

 

Emerald green fields.

Grays and blacks and browns

Pass below in beautiful patterns

As we travel on above the ground.

 

A city rises and beckons to us.

We pass it by through the haze.

Into distance passing faster,

Yet time slowed in deliberate laze.

 

The joy of flight takes my breath.

My heart sings with rapture.

A sense of freedom rising above

All cares and I want to capture

 

The rush of liftoff,

The thrill of flight,

To hold to me closely

In my dreams tonight.

 

 A very private person, Robert’s black eyes never let anyone in, but his smile could light up a room. He was upbeat and fun to be with, an energetic fireball. I loved that because I had always had a lot of energy, enthusiasm and drive, but one thing my parents had insisted on was that I be quiet and sedate. Never rowdy, never noisy. “Be still.” “Be quiet.” “Stop that crying right now.” I often felt l would explode.

 

As an adult I still felt mean and out of control to let any emotion show. To express an emotion was unthinkable. Tightly controlled, all emotion blasted me internally causing multiple health problems through the years.

 

After dinner our second date, Robert parked his car in a dark corner of a local park and reached over, pulled me close and kissed me.

 

“Good grief,” I thought. “I feel like I’m back in high school. What the heck?” 

 

I was very attracted to Robert from our first meeting, but I stiffened. “Robert,” I began.

 

“Hey, we’re adults here, not virgins. I’m not going to attack you,” he replied, a little surprised and embarrassed.

 

“Oh it’s not you. I just don’t know how to do this. I’ve been without much affection for twenty-five years.” I didn’t say what I was thinking, “and I don’t know you this well.”

 

He quickly took me home and feeling foolish I wondered why I had not relaxed and enjoyed a kiss I really wanted. Feeling he must think me a dull prude, I was surprised when he called for a third date. By the fourth date we were driving home from Dallas after visiting his brother when Robert leaned over to pull me close, no middle console, I did not resist. He kissed me while driving sixty-five, seventy miles an hour on a busy highway headed west after dark. One hand on the wheel, eyes on the road, he repeatedly kissed me until we pulled up to his apartment. We rushed into the apartment and did not bother to turn on a light. He took me home at 2:00 a.m.

 

****

 

My daughters were my top priority when I met Robert. We were still coping with not being a family of seven in a big house anymore.  Robert and I were both recently divorced and had healing to do. He had a job and many business interests. I had my job and family to keep me busy, so we simply spent time together when we could. We had things in common for sure, but our politics, backgrounds and life experiences, our different expectations of “The Good Life” left us miles apart in conversations. Physical attraction is what drew us together and was what kept us together.

 

Robert took care of his self and his younger brother after their mother left them. She took their little sister when they were all young and left the boys with their alcoholic father. “The Bear,” as the family called him, usually drank himself into oblivion each night after work. A typical meal for the boys was eating beans right out of the can some nights and maybe even less others. Once Robert was in Jr. High school, he worked multiple jobs in order to buy necessities for himself and his brother. He even bought a car his senior year in High School. He went to work full time after graduation, insisted his brother attend college and helped pay for it. Those young years drove Robert and his brother to the mantra, “I’ll never be without money in my pocket ever again.” They were both millionaires by the time they were thirty.

 

After Robert came into my life, he asked me why I was pouring money down the bottomless rental hole rather than building equity in a house. I was jolted out of my, “Life is over, just mark time,” funk and bought a little house in Meadowbrook, a very nice neighborhood only blocks from the high school and my girls and I moved in. They shared the two bedrooms and I slept on the couch in the living room. 

 

                                                                                                ****

 

I needed a new couch. The salesperson helped me choose the right one and when I told him I wanted to buy it on time, pay it out, he was very helpful.

 

“And what is your husband’s name?” he asked.

 

“I am buying this couch, not my husband,” said I.

 

“Well of course, but we will need this purchase to be in your husband’s name in order to check his credit rating to -------------

 

“How do you know I have no credit rating of my own?” I interrupted.

 

Poor man. His puzzled look assured me he had never been asked that question.

 

“I have proof of my income, my work history and want this purchase in order to establish my own credit rating. If you can’t do that, please get your supervisor to assist me.

 

His look changed to surprise and after a thoughtful pause he smiled and said “Of course I can do that. I guess this will be a first for both of us.”

 

                                                                                                ****

 

Before our move, waiting for my second date with Robert Lee, Peggy had heard that name and asked, “Short, dark hair?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Mom, if it’s the same Robert Lee that comes into the bank - - - - I – I can’t believe you would be seeing him. He comes in that bank and yells at people, even the president of the bank. He is terrible.”

 

Peggy had gone to work at the neighborhood bank after graduation and witnessed Robert’s visits there.

 

When I told him what she had said he laughed. He was all bluster. He and the president of the bank were close friends. They skied and hunted together. The tellers that had been with the bank for a while knew he was just messing with them when he fussed and fumed about some insignificant thing. They, like everyone that ever met him, loved Robert Lee.

 

Robert loved my girls right off and teased them unmercifully. The first time he saw Peg when he came to pick me up, he startled and stared. He was struck, not only by how pretty she was, but he thought she looked just like me. One of the best compliments I ever received. The girls grew to love him, but when he bought a Harley and came to pick me up to go to a party one night, well - - - - 

 

“Mother, you are not seriously considering getting on that thing?” said Peggy.

 

“What are you thinking? Those things are dangerous,” chimed Anna.

 

“Robert, you two are nuts. You be careful on that thing,” cautioned Cris.

 

Robert, with tongue in cheek, asked, “Do we have a curfew?”

 

“Be serious,” the girls chorused.

 

****

Peggy got a very young, gangly, romping puppy. He jumped up on everyone and barked and was a pain to be around. One day as Robert came into the house, the dog was all over him barking and being obnoxious. Peg was complaining about the dog and apologizing to Robert and he said, “I can fix that for you.”

 

“What? How?”

 

“I’ve trained all my bird dogs. I’ll teach him to behave.”

 

“Wonderful! Do you want to take him with you for a week or so and train him?”

 

“Naw, we can do it right now.”

 

“OK,” she said, a little skeptical.

 

Robert put the leash on the dog and took him to the back yard. When the dog did not do as Robert commanded, he would yank the leash, hard. The dog would howl and yelp and sounded like he was being dismembered. Well, Peggy just came unglued.

 

“Oh Robert what are you doing?”

 

“I’m not hurting him, he’s OK.”

 

Another yank. Another yelp, but by the third yank when Robert said sit, the dog sat. Robert said, “See, he’s a smart dog. You just have to show him what you want him to do and make a point with consequences when he ignores the command. He’ll be a little gentleman in no time. He’s learned one thing today and I’ll be glad to teach him another each time I’m here, but Peg you can do that. You saw how I did it. You can teach him.”

 

That never happened. Peggy could not stand to make the dog yelp and carry on and she made sure Robert never got the chance to make him yelp again so the dog just stayed a mess.

 

                                                                                                ****

Robert would pick me up after work the days we could see one another. We would grab a bite to eat and drive straight to his bed. Music filled the room as we held one another, talked and made love.  I usually prepared dinner for the girls before I left with Robert and wanting to present a respectable image of their mother to my daughters, Robert would usually have me home by ten or eleven. There were nights we skipped dinner and simply drove straight to Robert’s house. The nights we drove to Dallas to have dinner with his brother and got back to his house late, I might be midnight getting home. As time passed and the girls had plans of their own and they were used to me spending three or four evenings a week with Robert I became careless about getting home by ten or eleven. One night we fell asleep and waking at 2:00 in the morning, I jumped into my car to drive home. Ignoring a stop sign on the dark, empty streets I was surprised to see the flashing lights behind me as a policeman pulled me over. Hair disheveled, uncombed, puffy sleep face, I presented my driver’s license. A wake-up call to discuss my affair with Peg, Anna and Cris and make sure I kept reasonable hours.


Robert introduced me to a world I had never experienced or knew existed. We would occasionally meet up with his friends with plans to go to dinner. First, we would stop at a Seven to Eleven or Stop and Go and pick up beer. Everyone sat in the car and drank beer and harassed one another. No conversation of any substance, just fun and relaxing with a beer. I didn’t drink beer, had no clue about small talk and knew nothing about these people. I was a fish out of water and they thought I was a “stuck up bitch.”


Their words.


We went to a tractor pull, crash derby, we went to the Golden Gloves tournaments. I was trying to fit in, but the cock fight was too much. I did not have to say, “Not for me.” Robert was astute, he got it. He continued his regular activities with his friends but did not drag me along.


Robert and I skied in Colorado several times each winter and flew to horse races in his plane in Louisiana and Arkansas. He eventually traded his Piper Cub for a Mooney, a quick little single engine silver bullet, his dream plane. We managed to travel a lot when I had vacation time. He had taken early retirement and in addition to our travels he took trips with his flying buddies and spent a month in Europe every year.


****

When I met Robert, I was not a beer drinker. My parents never had it around and the first time I tried one of Robert’s I didn’t like the taste. Those friends of Robert’s we met up with before dinner that made me feel like odd man out because I didn’t drink beer thought it was because I was a little bit uppity about alcohol.  Nope, just didn’t like the taste of the stuff. But as time went on, after a long passionate couple of hours in bed, Robert would gasp to the fridge for a cold beer and gulp half of it down as he came back to bed. Those kisses tasting of beer were definitely associated with pleasure and began to taste better and better. I began to ask for a sip since it was cold and wet and I was also overheated and dry. After a few months, beer became quite lovely and I could drink half a bottle easily.


Early on in our relationship, after we were dating regularly, I would like to have known if I would see Robert over the weekend or next week or if I would see him ever again instead of the last-minute call from him each evening. He would suggest dinner some afternoons just before I left work or “Just checkin in to see if you’re OK,” on others. No discussions of, “Whatcha doin this evening?” or “I’m workin on a property tonight. How ‘bout tomorrow?” When I mentioned that, he simply said, “I don’t need a lecture,” or really some less charming Texas colloquialism, “I don’t need no a—eatins.“


“Uh, I thought that was something we could discuss, you know, conversation.”


“I don’t need to be told what to do.”


Well all right then,” I thought. “What a charmer.”


I brought that up one more time and he said, “You don’t like the relationship, leave it.”


On subsequent dates if I told him what I had been doing that week or what I planned to do the coming week there would be no reply from him. He never talked about what he did when not with me and if I asked, trying to make conversation, he would say, “Nosey aren’t you? Just gotta know what I’m doing?”

Well of course I would get my feelings hurt and wouldn’t answer his phone call for a couple of days, but soon when he called and I answered he would ask me out and I couldn’t wait to see him. We never discussed previous altercations. It was as if they had never happened.


I made the decision then to never, never ask him anything about his activities when not with me and I never volunteered what I was doing. Two separate lives, just enjoying the times we were together.


Driving to a party one night, I was harassing him, distracting him from driving, making him laugh and I said, “I love you.”


An immediate stiffening. “I told you, I do not ever plan to remarry.”


“I don’t believe the definition of “I love you,” is, “I want to marry you.”


“What is it then?”


“It’s caring about another as much as you care about yourself. Wanting the best for them. Wanting them to never be sad or hurt.”


“Like I care about my kids,”


“Yes, how you love your kids.”


It took two years before he could believe that I did not want to tie him to a wedding ring. It took almost as long for him to say, “I love you.” We had stepped outside during a party one night with the Eagles’ The Best of My Love playing. I told him the open relationship was not working for me, that I wanted more.


“I don’t want marriage, but I want a closer, monogamous relationship. I’m sorry Robert.”


He took me in his arms and said “I love you. I should have told you that a long time ago. I have not seen anyone else since I met you.”


So, busy Robert and I dated. That worked for me. I had a good job, women friends and the privilege of sharing my children’s lives. Anna graduated June of 1977 and began a great job as secretary to two lawyers. Cris had a boyfriend and was doing well with school work and extracurricular activities. Peg was working at a local bank. The four of us had our separate lives as we lived together in our little Meadowbrook house.


Robert did not stay over until all of my girls were married and away. Even then, after my daughters were grown and living elsewhere, he never left even a toothbrush at my house. He never allowed me to do laundry or errands or shopping for him. He was paranoid about “common law.” He had a VERY difficult divorce. Lots of money involved.  Joe and I had no problem financially with our divorce since there was little to split. I even did the divorce myself with the guidance of an attorney friend.


Robert had taken early retirement. He stayed busy with his extensive properties in Ft. Worth and at the gulf coast. He said often, “I don’t have time for a job.” In addition to caring for his multiple properties in Ft. Worth and Aransas Pass he bought acreage south of Ft. Worth and built a small subdivision. Retirement gave him ample time to build the houses and roads of the small development as well as the sewage and water systems required.


When Robert and I weren’t flying commercially to some lovely place, we flew around in Robert’s plane. Our years together were full of travel, romance and family. I grew wiser and happier than I had ever been. I was able to let go of the anger directed at Joe. I found that I cared and wanted him to be happy. We included him and NanNan at any family gathering. I wanted to be less judgmental and put effort into that. I felt confident in how I was managing our lives.


When Robert and I flew to Colorado several times each winter to ski, we would leave work on a Friday, catch a plane to Denver, take a bus to Winter Park, Colorado, check into our favorite lodge, nap a bit and be the first in the lift line Saturday morning. We skied until they ran us off the mountain at night. Early on the slopes Sunday morning, we skied until we left to catch the bus to Denver mid-afternoon. We flew overnight to Ft. Worth in time to go straight to the office Monday morning.


Those skiing trips were so much fun, after the first one that is. Robert, his brother Kenneth and his friend, and I met up with some of their friends at Winter Park. We were all staying in a big A Frame with a sleeping balcony along the sides and a roaring fireplace on the main floor. That first morning I enrolled in a beginner’s skiing class after renting my boots and skis. We planned to meet around noon and I went to the bunny slope. Everyone else headed for the top.


After lunch, my “friends” took me to the top of a Black and skied off down the hill calling, “See you at the bottom.” I stood there in shock. As I started carefully down, I was suddenly on a narrow, icy channel that had my speed up in seconds. I remember thinking, “I’ll never see my children again,” as I careened down that steep run.


Our weekend skiing trips continued each winter as well as flying trips to the races at Louisiana Downs and Hot Springs, Arkansas. With all three girls living at home I reasoned that it was OK for me to be gone over the weekend, but as the years rolled past, Peg and Anna were away more dating and eventually moved out to share an apartment. Cris was home alone too many evenings. I would give anything to do that over. I should have been home with my daughter.


One week, a friend had asked me to babysit her apartment and her cat for the weekend. I made arrangements with Peggy to look after her sisters, made meals in advance and made sure each one had plans of her own. My friend left for her weekend away Friday after work and Robert and I planned to have dinner and get to the apartment around 7:30. I was looking forward to a weekend retreat for just the two of us. As we were leaving the restaurant, I was walking in front of Robert towards the pretty, young girl at the checkout stand. Suddenly her smile turned to a look of surprise as she looked past me towards Robert. I turned in time to see him making faces and pointing at me. He continued to flirt with the girl as he paid the bill. This was unusual behavior for Robert but I just brushed it off and we drove to the apartment. The next morning, Saturday, Robert was up dressing at 5:30. I said, “What are you doing?”


“Gotta go to work,” he replied.


“It’s Saturday.”


“Yea, I gotta work with Gene on one of my houses.”


He continued to throw on clothes, came to the bed and gave me a quick kiss and was out the door. I didn’t hear from him Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Robert was obviously out of town. “So,” I’m thinking, “He tried to pick a fight with me by flirting with the cashier and when that didn’t work, he made something up Saturday morning because Mr. Lee had a trip planned for the weekend that he did not want to share with me. Son of a gun!”


When he did call, I didn’t answer. He called Tuesday and Wednesday and when I didn’t answer he stopped calling. In a few days I was calling him. Like a couple of times before when we had gotten cross ways. I could hold out maybe four days and I would be calling him. We never discussed disagreements; they were never mentioned (remember, he didn’t “need a lecture”) and we just picked up where we had left off.


Robert traveled to Europe each summer for a month, sometimes with his brother, sometimes with friends but usually alone. When he returned from one of his summer trips, I was trying to tell him what I had done while he was gone (hoping he would get my point that I didn’t need him to have fun.) He was much more interested in holding me tight and kissing me repeatedly. As I continued to prattle on and pull away a little, he pulled me close and said “You talk too much,” stood up, took my hand and led me to his bed. The powerful sexual attraction between us is what brought us together and that is was what kept us together.


He did call me often from Europe to tell me how much he missed me and to relate a few tidbits about his travels and he shared his photos and a detailed narrative once home. One year in Ireland he had been cold and wet for days, something he hated, he was a tropical loving guy. He called me every night to hold me on the phone to tell me how miserable he was, that he was headed home as quickly as he could arrange it and how he would hold me when he got there.


I had a decision to make. Was this relationship good for me? What did I really want? “I knew If Robert proposed tomorrow, I would have to say no. There was no way we could live together. The difference in our backgrounds, our politics, belief systems our preferred life style; no way could we ever make living together “Happy Ever After.” But did I want to break it off with Robert? No, I loved our evenings together. I loved our weekends together and I loved the trips we took, but - - - never knowing what would come up each week, the last-minute phone call each afternoon at work was becoming a problem. He decided when and if we would spend the evening together. As the months passed, I realized I was unable to make plans with family or friends because I was waiting to see when I could see Robert. I told him so one night expecting it would end the relationship. I was prepared for that. “That’s just not working for me,” I said.


“I agree, I love you. You are all I need or want in my life. You make plans and I will work around them.”

Woah!!” I thought. Never expected that and I fell into his arms and liked being there.


We continued to see one another as usual and the last-minute calls continued. Sometimes he was around and sometimes he wasn’t. I continued to go dancing with Patsy and her sisters. I continued to have dinner with other women friends or family but always at the last minute, after Robert had called late in the day and I knew whether or not we were spending the evening together. Nothing had changed.


1977

****

I loved the dancing evenings with Patsy and her sisters. We danced with gentlemen. They took us back to our table after a dance or two. We did not accept drinks sent to our table and walked off the dance floor if anyone was personal or rude. Traveling salesmen and airline pilots stayed overnight at the elegant hotels we frequented and told us about their families as we danced. Patsy had foolishly dated a married man for years positive he was going to get a divorce and marry her. When he had clients come to town he would ask us to join them for dancing after dinner.


One night late, nine o’clock, Patsy called to ask if I would like to join him and his friends for a couple of hours of dancing?” Why not? Patsy picked me up and we joined the guys at the Hyatt. My guy was drunk. Lay down on the table out like a light drunk. Oh great. I encouraged Patsy to enjoy herself. “I’ll enjoy watching.” Disco was popular and the dance floor was very entertaining.


Drunk guy rose, staggered out of the room and disappeared. In about fifteen minutes, Drunk guy walked back into the room standing tall and walking straight. Bright eyed and smiling he asked me to dance. That man could dance. I loved Disco and he twirled and swung me expertly around that room until they ran us out at 2:00 a.m. He thanked me profusely and took the elevator with his friends as Patsy and I left for her car.


We occasionally visited a couple of “joints” on the outskirts of town where cowboys gathered to dance. I wore out a pair of cowboy boots whirling around those dance floors to Wayland and Willie. 


Our friends, Dale and Jan, several years younger than we were, divorced about the same time our marriage unraveled. Jan and I stayed in touch and we occasionally went out together. During Cristy’s senior year, she agreed to baby sit for Jan while she and I went out one evening. Jan loved to dance as much as I did. When I went out with women friends, we stretched one drink to last all evening so had no hesitation about driving. At the end of the evening as Cris and I left Jan’s house, around 1:00 a.m., the streets were empty and pitch black. At a four way stop, I saw no need to stop with the streets so empty and pulled out right in front of a police car sitting in the dark. Immediately his lights were flashing and a fog horn voice shouted, “Pull Over.” Cris was undone. As I showed the officer my driver’s license he asked if I had been drinking.


“Yes, I had one drink this evening.”


“Is that your daughter with you?


“Yes.”


Will you please get out of the car ma’am?”


Cris was crying. ‘I’m not going to hurt your mother. She’ll be all right.”


I got out of the car and the officer had me stand in his headlights and pointed to a straight seam in the pavement.


“Will you please walk towards me while staying on that line there?”


I did, he was satisfied and told me to get back in the car. He cautioned me about driving recklessly. I apologized for being so careless and we were on our way. All the way home Cris was huffing and puffing.


“I can’t believe you did that! How embarrassing! Oh my Gosh!”


1980

****

Robert and I were readying his plane to fly over the piece of property he had just bought south of Ft. Worth one spring day. He planned to section it off into one-acre plots and build homes to sell. He had gotten approval to build the roads, sewers and water system required. His flying buddy Walt, a distinguished attorney, and his wife were at the airport. They were one of the three other couples we had flown with on that two-plane trip down into Mexico and Central America. Walt announced that his office manager had just resigned and turning to me said, “Would you be interested in the job?” I hesitated, I didn’t really know him well, but he threw out a salary I could not resist and after all, he was a good friend to Robert, Right?


My first day on the job, Robert was away in Europe again, I entered a high-ceilinged room on the sixth floor of a huge office building downtown Ft. Worth. It was drab and cold with no windows. There were two desks, a copy machine and a door leading off to the right and one to the left. A pretty young woman sat behind the desk right outside the door leading off to the right and a small, middle age woman, who never looked up, sat at the other desk by the copy machine. The young woman pointed to the door on the left and said, “That’s your room.” No “Good morning,” or “I’m Sally or June or anything,” just, “That’s your room,” and bent back to her work. I introduced myself and asked their names and dutifully went to my office, a very small room with many file cabinets, my desk and chair and no window.


“Hmmmmm, I thought.” When I heard Walt come in I rushed out to greet him expecting to sit with him and discuss the details of my duties, what immediately needed to be done and what the other two women’s responsibilities were. He nodded and went right into his office and closed his door. “Uh Oh.”

I asked the two women to join me in my office to discuss our duties, really just to ask what the heck we were supposed to be doing, you know, make plans, set up schedules. They looked at me as if I was speaking Hindu and went back to work. Walt and young woman went to lunch together and the other woman just disappeared. I was not acknowledged when Walt and the young woman came back to work but I followed him into his office before he could close the door and said I needed a job description.


“Just ask Brittany,” he said and stood to usher me out of his office.


“Brittany, Walt says you can give me an idea of what we are doing here.”


“I need ten copies of each of these three documents.” She handed the documents to me and nodded towards the copier.


What on earth have I gotten myself into?” thought I. This went on for three days. Walt and Brittany, the young woman, went to lunch together each day and she spent a lot of time in his office. On the fourth day, since Walt’s door was always closed, I called him to say I was coming into his office. As I expressed my frustration that the women were of no help and explained that I needed to know what the heck I was doing there, he just sat there listening. Then he said, “I thought you were an experienced Office Manager, too bad you can’t manage two women,” and before I could speak he motioned to the wall of law books on the shelves behind his desk. “Just start reading those, maybe you can figure out how to be helpful.”


I’m sure my eyebrows went up into my hairline. I knew immediately I was in trouble. I did not read law books. I did not try to communicate with the young and the faint.  If the young brought me things to copy or brought me material for data entry, I did them and cordially took them back to her when finished. I did spend my time job hunting.


After the first week, I was approached in the cafeteria by a woman who evidently worked in the building. “You the new girl in Walt’s office?” she asked.


“Yes, I am,” and introduced myself.


“I wish you good luck. You do know the history of his office managers, right?”


“No, I can’t say that I do.”


There had been ten or twelve in as many months.


The attorney fired me just before my six-week probation time was up. I never found out why he had hired me.  I was out of a job and would not be able to file for unemployment. I spent the following week trying not to be hysterical and applying for every job available in the newspaper. No internet to go to in 1980. I was hired within a week to manage the Ft. Worth branch of a Dallas firm, Educational Equipment Company. I would have a lot to tell Robert.


When he returned from Europe, he landed in California to spend time with family and asked me to fly out and meet him there. I used my Frontier pass and we spent a great few days with his cousin and her husband.  They welcomed us into their beautiful home. Oh the table she set, she was a trained gourmet cook as well as a talented landscape artist. A very passionate and accomplished woman. When it was time for me to go home back to the job, Robert was staying a few more days, I insisted he let me off at the airport curb that evening to wait for my stand-by flight. As I waited, they called all stand-by passengers to the podium.


“There has been a change and your seats cannot be confirmed right now. It isn’t looking good. Please stand by.”


“Oh geez,” I had no way to get in touch with Robert. I understood that our plane was a big one but when a crowd, a crowd reaching back further than I could see, of six-foot-tall football players, staff and coaches and luggage began to march into the waiting area and right onto the plane, I was quite sure no plane was that big. “I guess I’m spending the night in the airport,” I thought. Miraculously they all got on and those of us on stand-by as well. I expected a rowdy ride home but those guys were all asleep before we took off.


1981

****

Way too soon, Peg and Anna, with their good jobs, rented an apartment together. Cris, graduated from High School and with a good job bought a new car. Robert Lee was in Europe for his annual month there and I was out to dinner with a friend when a terrible storm raged through the city. No windows in the restaurant where I was, so the fierce storm was a surprise to us as we got to the entrance to leave. The wind was blowing rain and hail sideways and the parking lot was fast filling with water. I got on the pay phone in the lobby and called Cris who was at home alone. She was screaming and crying, “The windows are breaking in the bedroom! The hail has broken the windows!”


“Oh, my god Cris. Pull your mattress off the bed and get into the bathtub and pull it over you. Don’t hang up,” I cried before she could throw the phone down.


I could hear the hail pounding the house. She picked the phone back up and said, “OK, I’m in the hall with the mattress over me.”


“Stay there. I can’t get to you; the parking lot is flooded.” I kept her on the phone until the storm began to let up. She crept out from under the mattress and began to tell me about the damage. “Three windows are out and the bed and carpet in my bedroom are soaked.” She moved towards the front door and began to cry again, “Oh No! My new car is all dented, just beaten up.”


Insurance covered her car damage and the damage done to the house, including a new roof, but she was spending far too much time alone while I was having the time of my life.


Did my time away so much, enjoying myself, diminish the lives of my daughters during those dating years?

.

****

I was feeling good about myself.  I was probably in the best physical shape of my life. My weight and health were good. My children were all doing well and I appreciated my new job. One evening after work I kept my monthly appointment with my hairdresser to touch up my color. There was a wreath on the front door, a funeral looking wreath. My hairdresser had been shot by a jealous husband while climbing into his lover’s bedroom window (I am not making this up) and was dead. Good Grief! A married man with young children. What was he thinking? Well, I was not thrilled about having to try a new hairdresser but that seemed a little shallow compared to the tragedy for his family.


A couple of weeks later, I had an appointment coming up for my yearly physical with my OBGYN and got a call from his office to inform me that he had died. “Good lord! What is happening?” I thought. I was referred to his partner and made an appointment.


“Good morning Mrs. Dunton.” The new doctor greeted me on my first visit. “I have been eager to meet you.”


OK,” I thought, “That is a strange greeting.”


“I am intrigued by the hormone treatment you have been receiving.”


“I had a hysterectomy in my thirties because of varicose veins causing continuous pain, but kept my ovaries and did not need hormone treatment for years. After a while I began to cry often, no problems, just boo hooing out of the blue and the doctor started hormone shots.”


“But why the testosterone?”


“What?”


“The testosterone. You are getting large doses of estrogen and testosterone.”


“You’re kidding.”


“Nope.”


We sat there for a while sort of stunned. Surely he could see the huge glowing light bulb appear over my head. Those shots had begun at the same time I had started feeling so very energetic and eager. I suddenly could eat anything I wanted (a pint of ice cream for lunch) and never gain a pound. I felt self-assured and more competent than ever before in my life. When I left the OBGYN that had delivered my children, yes, the doctor I had started with as that naïve (read ignorant) young girl, and started with the doctor that had just died, I began to feel so – so, well, fabulous. That’s why men are so confident, so assertive, so – Wow! Testosterone.


“I have no idea why the doctor was giving me the testosterone, but I do not want to give that up.” I told my new doctor and began to tell him what that had done for me.


“I will not immediately change your shots of course, but I will want to talk about slowly reducing your dosages over time, the estrogen as well as the testosterone. The dosage he has had you on is way above average,” was his reply.


Guilt and Grandchildren

****

I finally suggested to Mike and the girls that perhaps they could just at least get me some grandbabies since it seemed they were never going to marry. Within the year Mike, Peggy and Anna married and the following year Cris walked down the aisle. Certainly not due to my command, it just worked out that way.


Those weddings should have been more important to me. As with my own wedding, I had always felt the expense and time spent on weddings was such a waste. I just never grasped the “Big Wedding” thing. I did not take part in the planning when Randy and Nedra married because of those beliefs. I thought that was just foolishness. I encouraged them to elope.


When I left Joe, when I deserted our family life, I felt such a failure. I felt I had hurt everyone by wanting to get away, so desperately wanting to get away from Joe. I couldn’t take it anymore. I sacrificed my children’s “Beaver Cleaver Life” to save my own. When later weddings came along, I had no money to contribute to rehearsal dinner or wedding gowns. I felt I did not deserve to go gown shopping. Their girlfriends went with them to pick out their wedding dress. I was working full time and traveling with Robert. Their friends and their parents, and the groom’s parents helped with the plans and were there while my beautiful daughters dressed and had their hair done.


My sense of worthlessness was no excuse for being so apart from my children’s wonderful, landmark experiences. Guilt haunts me to this day that I missed the hours before their weddings to help my beautiful girls dress and to hold them in my arms. And yet, I was an honored guest at each wedding, welcomed with love and attention.


The fact that Robert Lee came along and admired me, wanted to be with me, consumed me. The physical attraction, after years of none, overwhelmed me. Would I have been more involved with my children’s lives had I not suddenly had so much passion and excitement enter my own?


Pregnancies soon followed those weddings. Peggy’s Scott, my first grandchild, was due in about a week when Robert and I thought we had time for one of our weekend ski trips to Colorado, but getting home late Sunday night, we opened the front door of the Meadowbrook house, all the lights in the house burst on and family yelled, “Hi grandma!” A big banner over the door into the kitchen said, WELCOME HOME GRANDMA. I had missed the birth of my first grandchild.


Blond, blue eyed Charles Michael came to Mike and Lynn the following month.


1982

****

Even though Robert had retired from General Motors we continued to see one another as usual. Usual: him calling at the last minute if he wanted to see me. He was away a little more each year and I was approaching the big 50th birthday. Is this how I wanted to spend the rest of my life? I wanted more. Robert continued to be busy with his rental properties in Ft. Worth and at the coast. He was still completing his subdivision. He continued to take his month-long trips to Europe and when I used up all vacation time in order to travel with him, he made trips on his own. He began to spend more time at the Gulf Coast where his daughter lived. He had friends there and he and they swam and fished out of his boat. He flew to Oshkosh for the yearly air show and took other trips with buddies in their small planes.

Evenings alone, a boring job – I decided to get a real estate license. A few night classes and I began to work for a broker on weekends. I sat through open houses when no one came. I showed houses to a couple who wanted to see them again Monday morning when I had to be back at work. I would have to hand that sale off to another Realtor. The worst part was the woman who wanted to look at the same house for the sixth time and still couldn’t decide if she liked it or not. Obviously, I did not have the patience to be a Realtor.


What did I want? I wanted to end my relationship with Robert. I wanted to make plans in advance and not wait daily for his call before I decided what I was doing. I was well aware that I had tried and failed before. The few times we had quarreled and I did not answer his call he stopped calling, but after a few days I would call him. He called little over that next weekend. He called once to “Check” on me, to say Hi. Monday, when he called just before I left work, I told him I had other plans, something I had never done in our six plus years together. He called Wednesday and Friday at the same time, late in the day, and I said the same thing. He stopped calling. As in the past, over the weekend, I missed him terribly, but that weekend I sat on the floor by the phone, head on my knees, reciting, “Don’t call. You need to do this.” I did not call.

                                                                                                ****

My position at Educational Equipment Co. was not demanding. One salesman worked out of my office and two repairmen/deliver guys kept our repair/rental business going. I took orders, stayed in contact with school districts and suppliers and scheduled the guys. All bookkeeping and payables and receivables were handled at the main office in Dallas.


I was now free after work. I spent more time than usual with Peggy and her husband Donnie and my grandson Scott. Scott and I played games and I folded laundry until time for dinner when I would go home to give them family time together. I had not spoken to Robert in weeks.


Mike and Lynn lived out towards the outskirts of town so I did not go out as often. Actually, Lynn was distant. If I did visit, always calling in advance, she disappeared into her bedroom and stayed until I left. Lynn had a very large, close family. Her father was the pastor of a church in Arlington, between Ft. Worth and Dallas and that church was the family’s life. As years went by, Lynn refused all family gatherings and holiday invitations. I finally spoke up.

“Lynn, you know how much you love your little boy, your beloved Chuck? I love my son Mike that way.”

A glimmer. I had her attention.


“We are not asking you to miss any holiday function with your family, I work my celebrations around your schedule. Chuck is my grandson just like he is your mother’s grandson. I miss my son and grandson.”


She got it. Mike’s family remained unimportant to her but she attended all holiday functions after that. During those Educational Equipment days, Randy lived out of town still flying for Frontier and Anna and her husband David lived out of town. He was a Methodist minister and was moved from one small town to another for years. Cris was distant.

                                                                                                ****

What to do with myself? I had too much time on my hands. “I need a business of my own to nurture and grow.” I began to think about a day care.


“Why couldn’t I continue my job as manager of Educational Equipment Co., and hire others to run the day care until profitable and able to support me?” I talked to Peg and Donnie. Donnie was eager to find a business that would be his. He too chafed at others, supervisors, bosses, deciding his daily life. We began to speak in earnest about buying a day care.


My dad wanted to invest, Peg and Donnie put up funds and we went to work looking for a suitable day care to purchase. I found a woman and her son whose business brokerage had dealt with listing and selling day cares exclusively for years. They were personable, efficient and really knew the market. I continued my forty-hour weeks at Educational Education Company and looked at day cares evenings and weekends. Peg and Donnie often joined me. We had been looking for a couple of months when my phone rang one morning early, before work. It was Robert. We had not spoken for three months.


“Hi, how ya doin?”


“I am doing well Robert. How are you?” My heart did not begin to pound. Excitement did not grip my stomach.


“I’m OK I guess. I would like to see you. Could I take you to dinner?”


I thought, “I can do that as a friend, Robert and I can be friends.” “That would be nice. It would be good to see you.”


“Shall I pick you up tonight around 6:30?”


“I have plans tonight Robert. How about tomorrow?”


“Great, I’ll see you then.”


We had a burger; he was not one for fancy restaurants. We had a lot to talk about. He went into great detail about where he had been and what he had been doing the months we had been apart.


Interesting,” I thought. “He has never been forthcoming about those things.” The evening passed quickly. Driving me home he said, “I have missed you. I should have been more thoughtful about our time together. I’m retired, I should have made an effort for us to be together around your schedule. I want to see you. Do you think we could spend some time together?”


“OK. That would be nice. Maybe some night next week?”


“How about one night this week?”


“I don’t have anything going day after tomorrow.”


“I’ll pick you up at 6:00? Maybe we could drive over to Dallas to see Kenneth?”


“Sure. Thanks for dinner. Good to see you,” and I got out of the car and went into the house.


Day after tomorrow rolled around, Robert came to my door and I asked him in. We never made it to Kenneth’s.”      

                                                          

1981

****

A different, new kind of relationship began with Robert Lee. When he called each day, we talked about my schedule. We made plans in advance and he began to help me with my day care search. My family, all grown up and married with two little grandchildren, continued to take interest in the project and my father signed on to invest. I was having a hard time finding something that met all of my requirements so Robert suggested that we look at property and build. He also wanted to invest as a partner.


After months of looking at property and more existing day cares, the broker came up with the perfect, privately owned, strategically located business. Attendance records and financials were excellent. That day care had an apartment upstairs over the office, kitchen and class rooms below and a big fenced in back yard with trees.


When I went upstairs to check the apartment, my ankles were immediately black with fleas as I stepped into the front room.  Eeeeeee! Creepy! The broker was appalled. The apartment had not been used in years. The owner exterminated, cleaned and scrubbed everything to the point I could see that it would serve my needs. l put my little house on Meadowbrook on the market and signed on the dotted line.

My Day Care was in the small, fast growing town of Colleyville just west of Ft. Worth. There were two housing developments in progress with two more planned and approved by the city. The day care’s profits were small, but with the growth of the community I felt I could double my enrollment quickly. I retained the current employees, they had all been with the day care for years. Two young women who had lived in that community all their lives had worked part time at the day care while in high school. When they graduated, they took on the responsibility and replaced the full-time care takers. The middle-age lady who cared for babies in the nursery also agreed to stay.


I arose at 4:30 each morning to shower, get ready for work and go down stairs to cook breakfast for the children. I greeted parents and children until staff arrived and drove to Educational Equipment Co. in Ft. Worth to put in my eight hours. After work, I cleaned. I staggered other duties to fill out monthly State forms, plan and make reservations for field trips and write up detailed instructions for the girls. I carefully planned menus for breakfast and lunches as the state had strict rules about what and how to feed the children and yet I had to serve food they would eat. I kept payroll and accounting records on computer so did data entry and wrote payroll checks each week. I filled out reports required by the city and went to the bank. On weekends I did the grocery shopping and deep cleaning. I tried to have weekly meetings with my employees to go over parent issues and discuss field trips, but they wanted nothing to do with meeting on the weekends and they were not interested in staying after all the children were picked up even if I paid overtime. So, I left work to meet with them Monday afternoons during nap time not only to discuss issues and plans but to try to get to know them a little better.


My dear friend, JoAnn from Austin came for a visit. Remember Bill Price and JoAnn from Georgia? Joe’s best friend Bill? High school graduation, the Hupmobile, the Poly drag? She wondered what it was like to be divorced. She and Bill were at an emotional cross roads in their marriage and she was stressed. Three days watching my schedule after divorce and she went home madly in love all over again.  


Working full time while owning and running the day care did not always go smoothly. There were a couple of times the van broke down on a field trip and I had to leave work to get it towed and get the staff and girls back to the day care and there was a day of plumbing problems. A mother skunk decided to have a litter under the baby room and we had to move beds and babies out for a couple of weeks and seal the room off. The stench was overwhelming. The only help the city animal control unit could give us was to volunteer a trap.


“What do I do with the trap once my skunks are captured?” I asked. “Do you come pick them up?”


“No ma’am, I guess you could take the trap out to the country and release them.”


“Right, take a load of disturbed skunks into my car and take a drive into the country.”


The only help they gave was to suggest that I might use mothballs under the house. “They don’t like mothballs,” said the helpful animal control guy.


I poured so many mothballs down the trap door leading under the house that mothball stench became almost as overpowering as the skunk smell, but they did not leave and the trap stayed empty. Once the skunk babies were up and mobile, the mother began taking them out each night to forage so I sat up in the dark and waited. Once they trailed out around 11:00 p.m., I sealed every crack I could find that might allow entry under the house. I stacked rocks I had collected at the base of the entire foundation to keep mother skunk from digging her way back in. I poured more mothballs all around the foundation and collapsed into bed. It took about two weeks before we could move back into the nursery.


I had almost doubled my enrollment by advertising in the local paper and posting signs around town. I attended city council meetings as a way to get to know people. Then city elections time came around. There were two distinct factions in that small town. There were the old guys that had been in power for years and wanted nothing to do with change or moving forward and a new group who had gotten themselves elected and were currently running the city. That group had approved all of the new developments going in and had grandiose plans for the future.


Election time came and the old guys were back in power. Uh Oh, this could be trouble. The new government not only shut down the pending housing developments that had been approved; they stopped the developments already under construction. Well of course there would be law suits, but the bottom line for me was the fact that the city would not be expanding any time soon and I needed new families moving into the area to continue growing my enrollment.


As I continued my demanding schedule, I mused about what to do and happened to read a small blurb in the Ft Worth newspaper that a day care chain was building a new facility just out of the city limits of my little town, only a few blocks from my day care. That would certainly limit my ability to continue to increase my enrollment. While in shock over that news, I got a call from the woman at the day care that cared for the babies.


“Barbara, I hate to cause trouble, but do you know that the girls are having their boyfriends spend the day with them here at the day care?”


“All day, every day?” I asked.


“Most days and if not all day, all afternoon.”


I was livid. When it rains it pours. I left work and drove to the day care where I found all of the children in the play yard instead of having nap time and my two young women employees sitting on the back porch with two young men. No one was watching the children who were on the jungle gym, climbing the trees and crawling around in the dirt.


I fired them on the spot. They just stood there. They couldn’t believe it. They really didn’t understand what my problem was. “We can see the kids, there OK,” one said.


I was blinded by anger, the community problems, the new chain coming in, I made a big mistake. “Please leave the premises,” I sputtered.


As the parents came to pick up their children, “Where’s (and called the girls by name?)” they wanted to know and they wanted more than my bland excuse. By bed time that entire close-knit community was roiled to boiling. “Who does this interloper think she is firing our girls?” Two families pulled their kids out immediately. It would have been so easy for me to caution the girls that I did not want them having guests while on the job and reaffirm that they should stick to the schedule of naps then outdoor play. You know, do a little training while being civil. 


I missed two days of work at Educational Equipment Company hiring and training two new employees and immediately put the day care on the market. I had an offer within the week.


****

Robert took it upon himself to find me a little house to buy since I would need to move once the day care sold. He found a good buy for me and helped me move in. His daughter Roxanne came to help. My family members came to help. My dad came to help. The house got smaller every minute, but we got me settled.


That summer, after I sold the day care and was back to my boring daily schedule at Educational Equipment Company, I suddenly stopped hearing from Robert. A week passed. “OK, what now? I did not call him. I began to accept other dinner invitations. I traveled to Utah to visit Randy. He was still working as flight attendant for Frontier Airlines and I was still enjoying free airline passes. I spent more time with Mike and Peg and Anna and their spouses.


Two weeks later my phone rang one evening and it was Robert.


“Hi Babe. How are ya?”


“Geeze, you remembered my number.”


“What?”


“Where ya been?”


“You know, I’m down here at the coast building my house.”


“No, I didn’t know.”


“I thought I told you I was building a house on my property down here.”


“Nope, you just disappeared. I haven’t heard from you in weeks.”


“Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. I’ve just been so busy I guess I lost track of time.”


“It doesn’t matter Robert. I am seeing other people. I think we are done. Stay in touch.”


“Wait! Wait! I don’t want that. I am really sorry. I’ll be there tomorrow night. I’ll pick you up for dinner about 6:00. I’m sorry Babe, I’m really sorry.”


I counted the hours and fell into his arms once again.     

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