Saturday, December 31, 2016

It Was Only Raining When We Left the Farm

I keep wanting to write a book about my wedding day, or even my life in general. This is the title I always wanted to give it.
   On this date in 1984, I married Perry Ann Stewart.
   Why, you may ask, would anyone get married on New Year's Eve? Trust me, the reason is anything but romantic.
   In 1981, I married an Amish girl named Bertha that I'd met and fallen in love with four years earlier. I was romantic then. They say love is blind. My love was deaf, dumb (meaning stupid), blind and stubborn. The girl had no business getting married, and she knew it. But I would not take “no” for an answer. So, after four tumultuous years of arm twisting – Way past the time I should have caught on – she agreed to marry me. I don't want to spend a lot of time on my anniversary talking about a past relationship; so I'll just point out that on our second wedding anniversary, she told me if she had thirty five dollars to eat on, she would leave me, hitch hike to Portland Oregon and move in with a guy that she knew out there. I gave her thirty five dollars, and she was gone.

   I actually met Perry while I was married to Bertha. My cousin Tim worked at the same hospital where Perry's mother worked, so they were acquainted with each other. One night at a bar in Warrensburg, Perry had won a pool shooting contest with the prize being a pony keg. She had no idea where to go with the thing, so Tim suggested taking it to his cousin Bob's (that's me) house where there is always a poker game going on. So Perry, her cousin Pat and the keg all rode up to my house with Tim to the “Perpetual Poker Game”.
   Tim knocked on the door and when I answered, introduced me to his friends and told me about the keg, which Bertha promptly ran out and grabbed. She wasn't very big, but she was brought up on a farm.
   When I looked in Perry's eyes, it was like I knew her. Specifically, I could see us being together; that she would become very depressed, but that she would never leave. All of this scared me half to death. As did the thought that went through my mind that this woman would be the end of my marriage to Bertha.
   Through the entire evening, I would not pay any more attention to her than was required to function in a poker game. I wouldn't talk to her. I wouldn't even make eye contact. This confused the heck out of Perry. The dynamics in the room being the way they were, she didn't even realize that Bertha and I were married. She thought Bertha was my sister and couldn't figure out why I wouldn't interact with her. After all, she was the hottest thing on wheels – and she knew it. Besides being beautiful, she was built like a brick outhouse and was used to being the center of attention in any room where there were men. Yet, I spent more time talking to her cousin. Pat cracked everybody up. He looked like the stereotypical Lounge Lizard. He had the hiphuggers, the loud shirt unbuttoned far enough to see the medallion resting in a sea of chest hairs. A freshly coiffed perm. To everyone playing poker that night, he will always be referred to as “Mister Disco”.
    When they left, I worked very hard to calm myself down. I kept telling myself: “She's from Warrensburg and you live in Wellington.” “This was just a fluke meeting.” “You'll never see her again.” “Calm down!” I was really upset. As tortuous as my marriage was at the time, I didn't want to give up on it. I thought marriage meant forever. Besides, there's that whole stubborn romantic thing. I really needed to get a grip.
    I don't even know what date that was, but I'm thinking it was in the spring of 1983. Then, on July 5th, Bertha left.
    I worked for a small town butchery at the time and they tended to lay me off in the summer when things were real slow. So with nothing else to do, I moved out of the house in Wellington, put my stuff in storage, and just kind of wondered around looking for good fishing holes.
    My brother Carl had just come back from 12 years in Australia and was living with my mother outside of Centerview, so I dropped by to see him. While there my car broke down and I was stuck.
Carl had met this girl and was absolutely smitten by her and kept asking me for advice on how to win her affection. I kept trying to point out that my wife had left me just a couple of months before – what did he think I knew about women? But he kept on anyway.
    One day my cousin Tim stopped by and as we were talking, I mentioned Carl and this girl he wouldn't shut up about.
Tim asked: “Well, you know who it is don't you?”

No. I haven't met her”

Sure you have. Remember Mister Disco?”

  I thought: “OH NO! SHE FOUND ME!!!”

    Carl eventually arranged for me to meet this girl he wouldn't shut up about. As soon as our eyes met, the sparks started flying. I couldn't help messing with her. A sort of game developed between us to 
see how subtly one of us could mess with the other and still have them know they are being messed with. We didn't want to actually start anything because Carl had such a crush on her and we were both worried about his feelings getting hurt. But the results were inevitable. Resistance was futile. Things got started.
    In January of 1984, Perry told me she was pregnant. By this time I was working at the butchery in Wellington again, so on February 4th we moved into a house in Wellington.
    I wasn't thinking about getting married. I had lost all faith in the institution of marriage. After all, I'd done it once. Look where that had gotten me. I'd also lost all faith in romance, for the same reason. Why Perry wanted to be with me so bad was beyond me. I was as cold as ice. Of course I wanted to get laid, but that was a long way from being in love. I was determined not to get emotionally attached to anyone again. I told her over and over again: “This is purely physical.” I also remember telling her: “Look, this is my life. If you want to tag along, that's up to you. Try not to make too much noise.” I'm sure anyone reading this has to think I was a first class jerk (That's the polite term). I'm telling you, you don't know the half of it. But if she was going to have my baby, I was going to be there.
    On July 29th, Leo was born.
    During the course of 1984, the butchery I worked at went bankrupt and the men that owned it and I all went to work for R.B. Rice in Lee's Summit, Missouri. By that Christmas, I was laid off again, couldn't afford to stay in the house in Wellington, and Perry, Leo and I ended up outside of Knob Noster, Missouri living in a double wide trailer with Perry's mother, step-father and her two younger sisters.
    Now, for the touching story of how we got married:
    Two days after Christmas, for reasons I don't remember, we found ourselves on the square in Clinton, Missouri eating lunch at a restaurant across from the court house. During the course of conversation, it suddenly dawned on me that if we were to get married before the year ran out, I could write Perry and Leo off my taxes and even get an earned income credit.
    With not a moment to lose, I ran across the street to the court house and applied for a marriage license. As I filled out the paper work, I found out there was a three day waiting period from the time I filed the license to the time we could actually get married. This meant the soonest we could get married would be on the 30th. I started checking around to see where we could get the deed done and my former boss, Glen Nadler, managed to get the pastor at his church in Wellington to agree to do it on the 31st. All we had to do was pick up the license and get from Knob Noster to Wellington. This didn't seem like it was going to be a problem. It was only fifty miles North, and the weather wasn't bad – yet. It was cold and rainy, but for December 31st, I felt we were pretty fortunate.
    Perry, her older sister and I headed up there in a '72 Impala. Her Mother, step-father and her other sisters headed up in an old Dodge van.
    Right about the time we crossed I-70, the rain turned to snow. By the time we got to Wellington, it had turned into something of a blizzard.
    The wedding was informal and strange. My former bosses, Glen and Larry were there with their wives. Glen was actually the best man. His wife took lots of pictures and then lost them. I didn't get to see them for 28 years. I suddenly got a phone call from her about four years ago telling me that she had found them.
    We wanted to have music for the wedding, so Perry's little sister Nemy sang Bread's “If”; a beautiful love song that nobody knew how to play except me. I ended up playing the piano at my own wedding. The pastor bought us a cake, which was great. He laid out a little spread for us, so we had something of a reception. It may have been one of the strangest weddings he ever performed, but it was nice. My taxes were now taken care of and there was nothing left to do but find a New Year's Eve party to crash.
    Everybody else headed back to Knob Noster in the Van. Perry, Carol and I went looking for a the snow.
    We first thought to check Stretch's house. He used to live across the street from me. I woke up one morning to yelling, cussing and gun fire coming from his place. Turns out he had become frustrated with his record player which he threw out into his back yard and emptied his pistol into it. He was a fun guy to party with. Unfortunately, he wasn't home. Then, when we left his porch, the car got stuck in the still falling snow where we parked it. I tried and tried to rock it out of there and ended up blowing out the differential. Now, we were in trouble.
    It seemed no one that I knew was home anywhere in that town. Carol, who was thrilled to see snow for the first time in her life (She's from Mississippi), was in tears because the shoes she had on were not meant for snow and her feet on the brink of frost bite. We eventually ended up back at the pastor's house, banging on the door because they had already gone to bed. We eventually roused them, and they were nice enough to put the three of us up for the night in the spare bedrooms that they had.
    That night, Perry discovered she was NOT pregnant again – if you know what I mean.
    So thirty two years ago today, on a very strange New Year's Eve, a woman who does not deserve what I have put her through, officially agreed to spend the rest of her life with a man that does not deserve the joys that she has brought to me.
...And the whole world parties with us. She never has to worry about me forgetting our anniversary.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I spent all year waiting for Christmas so I could write this essay.
I was going to write about all the things that are wrong with the celebration of Christmas. I was going to start with the very date that we celebrate Christmas on. I'm sure everyone who has done the slightest bit of research knows that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th. Lately I've found it fascinating that the Bible gives the exact date that Noah left the Ark. It spells out in advance the exact date that Jesus entered into the Temple on the back of a donkey's colt. Of course it gives the date He was crucified and the date He was raised. (we don't actually celebrate those occurrences on the dates that the Bible gives, but that is an argument for another day.) Yet, the Bible does not tell us the day He was born. A piece of information I find conspicuous in its absence. I read an essay recently that makes a pretty good argument that He was born at the Feast of Tabernacles. I'm not going to try to make that argument, but it is pretty clear he wasn't born on the date Christians celebrate His birth.
The ways we celebrate Christmas started bothering me years ago. I'll admit right up front that it was the money involved that first started getting under my skin. I didn't want to come across like Ebeneezer Scrooge but I couldn't understand how the proper celebration of Christmas meant you were going to spend so much money that you either had to start laying away in August or you were going to be in debt until April. Or both. I could see the pressures this put people under; the pressure it was putting on me, and I decided that I wasn't going to participate anymore. I told everybody that I wasn't going to buy them anything for Christmas and for them to not buy anything for me either. That didn't work, by the way. My mother is going to buy me a present whether I like it or not. So is my son. I get cards from all over the place, and well I guess I can't just drop out of the whole thing. Like I said: I don't want to be a jerk. But the expense just bugs the Dickens out of me. I quit smoking because I didn't want to spend a dollar a pack on cigarettes. Now, they're over $5.00 a pack. I quit doing Christmas when the commercials you saw the most was for Norelco razors. Now, the commercials are all Lexus cars and diamonds. Are you kidding me?
Then there's the lights. I don't know why people feel compelled to triple their light bill for the month of December, but I must admit I really like seeing the all the lights. I'm just too cheap and lazy to put any up myself.
I don't like Christmas trees either. Putting them up used to be fun. Taking them back down never was. The real trees made the house smell nice, but you ended up with pine needles everywhere – not to mention the attendant fire hazard. Then I ran into Jeremiah, Chapter 10, and I now have Scriptural justification for not having a tree. I even became offended by Christmas trees, interpreting that chapter as forbidding them. I found out not everybody sees it that way. It seems there are a lot of things that people I look up to as Christians don't see the way I do.

However, this year I've suddenly become very aware of the importance of Christmas. It becomes clearer to me as I see all the forces so determined to eliminate it. It started with Xmas. I didn't think anything of it at first. It just seemed like an abbreviation. When people started screaming to “Put Christ back in Christmas” my first thought was that Christ never was really in Christmas. That goes back to my argument about the date and all the other problems I have with how we celebrate Christmas. I mean, don't even get me started on Santa Claus. What in the world does a fat dude flying around in a sleigh have to do with Jesus, for crying out loud?
Then they started with “Happy Holidays”. Still, I was not concerned. After all, the holiday season contains Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah...heck, there was a time when I considered the holiday season to run from Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl. Of course, that was before they started playing the Super Bowl in February. "Happy Holidays" to me sounded like encouragement to do what I thought was necessary to stay happy for two months of cold weather and reduced sunlight. Things that faith in Jesus have allowed me to see the error in and consequently to free myself from. That, too is a whole different discussion.
Now we have stores that refuse to have the word Christmas displayed anywhere, though they still expect you to spend an insane amount of money there in celebration of a Holiday that they won't name. We have schools forbidding Christmas from being uttered in their hallways, let alone being displayed anywhere on the property. Lawsuits are being filed to remove nativity scenes from parks and court houses, and now I've noticed Leftist groups doing everything they can to distort the nativity displays that remain. Disgusting things mostly that I won't even describe here. The War on Christmas can no longer be ignored.
So, given the current political environment where businesses are being targeted just because it is known that they are owned and operated by Christians, I figure that this constant and determined effort to eliminate Christmas serves, at least in my mind, as an endorsement of the importance of Christmas.
Someone said you can judge the character of a man by the strength and power of his enemies. In kind of a warped sense, I think that applies here.
My problems with the date notwithstanding, it seems to me now it's pretty important to have a day to not only remember that Jesus Christ was born, but to proclaim it far and wide as a testimony to the rest of the world. The nativity scenes, if nothing else, will hopefully cause people to wonder what it is all about; and if they wonder, they might ask. If they ask, they might learn. Once they learn they might decide to believe, and thus be saved. That's why He was born in the first place. Because God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.
Therefore,I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS.
...I still don't have a tree. ...I still didn't buy you anything.