The continuing Spinsterwitch family tale…
When last we left it two families had converged in one place, Little Falls, MN. The time was about 1948, and my parents were both enrolled in the local elementary school – in the same 2nd grade class, it turns out. They grew up going to the same schools and the same churches. My mother’s cousin was my father’s best friend in high school…and she was the one who encouraged my father to take her out.
But I’m ahead of myself. My dad’s family, as I’d mentioned before, was pretty chaotic due to his mother’s issues. He and his sisters, he had 2, were verbally and physically abused by their mother. Before they could work outside the home, they were put to work in their parents’ motel – cleaning and doing laundry (my dad is still the official laundrer in our family). In high school, he got a job at the local ice cream store (sort of like Dairy Queen or Fosters).
He was a gregarious youth, involved in a lot of different church and school related activities. He acted in school productions (he was the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance) and, with my mother’s cousin, would put on skits in the midst of high school pep rallies. He loved to read and was involved in debate as well.
My mother learned sign early. Her early childhood and youth are really unremarkable, except that they were happy. The pictures of her with her parents, her cats, her younger sister, all show a sweet, pretty girl. She, her younger sister and her parents lived with her grandmother and a bachelor uncle.
This uncle, interestingly, was a carpenter and built many of the houses they lived in. He also did lovely cabinetry and inlay work. We found out when he died that he also was into girly films from the ‘50’s…when the most risqué they got was a girl in a wet bathing suit.
She went to church. She took part in choir in school. She was also in the Pirates of the Carribean as one of the constables. I don’t remember if she ever worked before college.
My parents, as I mentioned, ran in the same crowd. They were friends, but not really close. I know that my mom’s cousin encouraged my dad to ask her out, but there must have been some flirting that happened prior, as the date he asked her out on was their Junior Formal. Now to clarify, this wasn’t a dance. It was, I think, a dinner party of sorts. They couldn’t hold dances at the school because many of the local churches frowned on dancing.
They dated in high school and went their separate ways for college. They continued their romance through a series of letters.
My father went to a private Lutheran college and my mother went into a nursing program in Minneapolis. My father was on his way to a history degree, with the intent to go to seminary and become a pastor. But in his Junior year, he dropped out against the wishes of his family (the disowned him), and joined the Army.
Mother completed her certificate program of 3 years, and accepted my father’s proposal of marriage. She went back home to begin plans for their wedding, and he was shipped to Germany. She eventually joined him, and they were married in Germany (their marriage certificate is all in German…can’t read a dang thing!).
They came back to the states and moved around with the army for awhile, then moved to Minneapolis after my dad’s discharge. My mom started her nursing career and my dad started working for a bank (he went from an initial job of teller to an assistant vice-president over the years).
They had Sister in 1966. They bought a small house shortly after she was born. This little house was the same I would be brought home to in 1970. The birth of my sister was significant, in terms of family relations because my parents made it clear to my dad’s parents that if they couldn’t be civil, they would never get to know their grandchildren.
There have been many challenges – my mother has heart disease and had to have open heart surgery when she was just 41. My father was laid off in the ‘80’s, which lead, eventually to some financial difficulties for them. My parents have been happy together. My mom describes my dad as her best friend. My dad says he doesn’t know what he would do without my mom. The most profound piece of all of this, to me the social worker, is that my father stopped a cycle of abuse that had probably extended through his family (on his mother’s side) for awhile.
My mom continues to have chronic heart problems. My dad only about a year and a half ago started having strokes and went into medical retirement from his work. He’s had a hard adjustment with a lot of anxiety and depression. They are a quirky couple with quirky dynamics and habits, and despite how frustrated with them I can get sometimes, they have made a partnership that has worked for them both all these years.
These days – my dad likes to play his Tiger Woods golf game, go out walking with their new dog, Jesse, read history and re-read his Hornblower books (he also secretly loves watching romantic comedies). Mom loves to cook, takes art classes and draws and paints, she loves her cats and dog, and she gardens like there’s no tomorrow (in their trip out to California last year, she would repeatedly ask, “What’s that plant?” and I would repeatedly answer, “I don’t know, mom.”). They both love to go out to see the Timberwolves Basketball team.