6.19.2018

Faith and Control

The Next Great Adventure: A True Story

Faith and Control

When Griffin moved up to a "big boy" bed, we bought bunk beds. As a kid, I loved having bunk beds. Cindy and I understood how great it is to have siblings, how much of an impact they have on you, and that an only child has unique difficulties to overcome ... mainly revolving around being the only non-parent in the house. One or more kids after Griffin was our plan, but sometimes plans don't work out. People operate as if they have control of everything in their life, a good survival trait I suppose, but it is surprising when you find out you don't.

It was 1999 and Griffin was nearly 3 years old, by that time an "upperclassman" at Rainbow Wonderland Daycare. There he made fast friends with Haley, while Cindy was making friends with Haley's Mom, Kerry. This inevitably led to birthday parties and other kid-centered social activities. Somewhere along the way, Cindy and Griffin started attending a Wednesday night program at Kerry and Haley's church, Churchill Way Presbyterian Church, which was called 'Children of God.' It was weekly, kid-focused bible stories, games and dinner. The twist was eating dinner with someone other than your own parents. Couples from the church volunteered to be 'table parents' and the kids got to learn what it was like to interact with other families and people. Griffin's table parents were Bill and Sally Terry, who he still has a relationship with today.

I was making an honest effort to read and study and try to figure a way out of my religion issues, but certainly didn't feel ready to join a church or hang out with strangers in a fellowship hall. My self-study primarily served to add to my confusion. One week I'd be reading "The Jesus Mysteries" and whatever 'The Jesus Seminar' was publishing, and the next I'd read C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity" and G.K. Chesterton "The Everlasting Man." Everyone claimed they had "the truth" I was seeking. My vague conclusion was that the "pro-Christian" side was trying to explain and offer hope, to find truth beyond this world, while the other side primarily wanted to prove their own 'rightness,' disproving God and elevating themselves, validating this world as the source of truth. Perhaps I'm just naturally skeptical of humans.

I still wasn't convinced that church was a place I needed to be, but we were invited to attend worship with the Whitson's and, as I often did when I couldn't think of a valid argument or excuse, I conceded to Cindy's wishes and we went to worship as a family. We started visiting regularly in the fall of 1999.

We joined in early 2000. Presbyterians do infant baptism and Griffin was shortly baptized. The social aspect of church was important to Cindy and she latched on to the value it would have for Griffin, too. He acquired a whole group of siblings and aunts and uncles and parents and grandparents. It took me much longer to warm up, but I was fascinated by how these "church types" actually implemented their faith, and how they understood their own religion, because it was certainly different than my understanding. It was a much more graceful and open-minded approach than I expected. No one claimed to have all the answers. They debated; they didn't demand. Without the latitude to explore and learn I couldn't have stayed, but ever so slowly, over the past 18 years, my faith has grown, at least I hope it has.

As with most things, Cindy's approach was the opposite of mine. She just believed, and did her best to live it. She didn't need to deconstruct and re-assemble, she just wrapped herself in it and moved forward, doing her best to take faith "into" her world, instead of trying to build it up "around" her. I understood her approach about as well as she understood mine, but we moved forward together as always, respecting our differences and offsetting each other's strengths and weaknesses.

We got an immersive education in how Presbyterians manage their business. I had grown up in the Church of Christ. Cindy grew up Baptist, and joined a Lutheran church in Victoria. 'Churchill Way' was in the process of changing its name to 'Bentwood Trail', to better reflect its geographic location, and they were also in the middle of a search for a new pastor. There were rules and committees and votes and published meeting minutes. Robert's Rules of Order seemed integral. Later that year the new pastor, Rev. Dr. Todd Collier, was called. As newly minted Presbyterians we were starting to feel plugged in and connected. By Advent, it felt like "our" church.

Griffin was now 4 years old and we had had a few pregnancy disappointments in those years. There was another early miscarriage, and a painful tubal pregnancy that never fully developed, but we were still hopeful. Early in 2001 we knew that Cindy was pregnant but kept it fairly quiet, having learned from previous experience.

Cindy was 34 when she was pregnant with Griffin, but because she would be turning 35 before his delivery date, she was considered "Advanced Maternal Age." I teased her about that a lot, but the short of it was that they encouraged extra testing, specifically amniocentesis, where they do a sonogram and take some amniotic fluid to test for genetics, sex, and general health of the baby. Cindy was close to 40 years old so we knew it would be part of the plan again.

The day of the "amnio" we went down to Baylor Hospital in Dallas where her OB/GYN had
privileges. It was a routine thing. We had done it before. There was a tech and a doctor we didn't know. I instinctively knew something was wrong when I saw the tech point at the screen and look at the doctor. She didn't say anything, she just pointed. Cindy didn't see that part, and the doctor didn't say anything. He just went ahead with the procedure. When he was done he said, "There's a problem with the baby, we're going to need you to stay for a while and we'll discuss it after we finish the tests."

We were stunned. We sat in the waiting room, trying to puzzle it out, waiting to hear from the doctors. I convinced myself that it had to be something obvious and serious if they could see it on the sonogram at 14 weeks, but I had no idea what it could be. Cindy was a wreck. Not crying, not showing she was upset, but going full tilt at all the what-ifs and how-comes and why-us's, trying to plan around a situation over which she had no control. We waited. And there, in that waiting room, waiting to talk to the specialists and the genetic counselor, I made my decision.

We learned that the baby had a serious birth defect, an omphalocele, where the internal organs are outside of the abdominal wall. That was likely what the tech was pointing to. Correcting it would require serious and life threatening surgery, immediately after birth, and it may not ever be corrected to the point of being 'normal.' The surgery can cause complications with the internal organs requiring lifelong 'maintenance' surgeries to keep them working well. More seriously, the baby had a genetic defect called Edwards Syndrome or Trisomy 18. The details are frightening. They told us that the one year survival rate was 5-10%, but with the omphalocele complication they considered the baby's condition to be "incompatible with life." They also told us the baby was a girl.

Our options were to try to carry the baby to term (with less than 20% chance of making it), deliver it, and deal with the confirmed medical and genetic issues, or terminate the pregnancy. I had already made my decision and shared it with Cindy while we waited. I expected the worst. I told her that though I might be able to deal with the medical and genetic issues, I would not spend the rest of this time just waiting for death, that it was too much unnecessary suffering for everyone, including the baby. It didn't seem practical. It didn't make sense for Cindy or for Griffin. I was adamant that we would terminate the pregnancy. It was clear to me that this was mercy, not murder. She did not argue. I don't think she was in an emotional state to make much of an argument, and I took advantage of that to do what I thought was best for the family.

We made arrangements for Griffin to spend a few days with Aunt Nanny and Uncle Billy, and scheduled the procedure for the following week. Baylor Hospital does not do abortions without board approval. Our OB/GYN presented our case and got the approval. We checked in early, they gave drugs to induce labor, and after did the D&C. Family members and some friends were there for support, along with our new pastor, Todd. We stood around the bed, held hands and Todd prayed. I can't tell you what he said, but I can tell you it was a comfort, it gave me some strength. We gathered ourselves and continued the adventure with a new, major inflection point in the course.

Recalling this story, trying to get the scene and emotion correct and honest, a memory from my childhood comes back to me. An ambulance shows up at our house. We have one of those front doors with the three staggered windows and I see the lights flashing through them, but hear no siren. Two men come in and take my mother away on a stretcher. I'm not entirely sure what's happening and no one bothers to explain to me. The next day, or shortly thereafter, I'm at my Grandma Turner's house. I explain to her that the ambulance men took my mother away and everyone told me not to worry about her, that she would be fine. Grandma Turner told me that everyone was right. That she would be fine. That she had 'lost the baby,' that she had lost them before and always been fine afterward. I had no idea what losing a baby meant, but it didn't sound like something that led to being 'fine.'

Afterword:


In my life I have been personally involved in two abortions. The one described above and another one when I was much younger. A friend came to me saying she was unexpectedly pregnant. I knew the father by reputation only, and it was not good. I knew her family would not condone an abortion, and I also knew that their dysfunctional "support" would do more harm than good. She wanted to know if I could give her money for an abortion. She needed $125. I wrote her a check. It was the easiest option, and the one I was sure 100% of the single women I knew at the time, who didn't want to get married, would have taken. We thought we were wise. We thought we were in control, doing the smart thing, doing what was best.


I wish she would have had someone wiser to turn to, someone with more than $125 to give her.


I wish I would have known in 1983 that future studies would show a link between early and prolonged use of oral contraceptives and Triple Negative Breast Cancer, the type of cancer Cindy had.


I wish that research on the connection between induced abortion and breast cancer wasn't labeled inconclusive, because it feels like what they are really saying is that the research is inconvenient.


I understand that people will take this personal story or my comments and twist them to fit their ideas, their "principles," regarding the politics of pro-choice/pro-life. They'll judge me and that's fine. I own my decisions. In the political world this is nothing more than an anecdote. It has power because it's true, but truth has no value in politics that I can find. I'm not sharing this for politics. This is a story I need to tell, for my own sake, as confession and catharsis, but also because it could be helpful to someone else.


We make the best decisions we can with the data we have, but that's not control, that's informed gambling, and there is no guarantee you'll walk away 'fine,' regardless of your analytical power or your plans or your intentions. Knowing that, I would advise having faith in something other than yourself.

6.09.2018

Things Change

The Next Great Adventure: A True Story

Things Change

Though there was a waterbed store near Parker Rd and Alma Dr in Plano in the 1990s, there's a good chance that Cindy and I were the last married couple in Collin County to ditch their water bed in 1996. I bought one when I moved to Atlanta in 1982 because they were cheap. We got a slightly better model when we moved into our house in Missouri City. They were still cheap. But I remember the occasion when we finally got rid of it and bought a grown up bed. It was February, 1996, and we had just confirmed that Cindy was pregnant.

When we moved to Plano, closer to family, it was mutually understood that children would be on the agenda. Of course, with Cindy, everything had to be planned and, unfortunately, conception is rarely concerned about your planning. In 1995 we had one brief period where we thought Cindy was pregnant, at least according to the home pregnancy test, but before she got to Dr. Fuller to confirm, she had a miscarriage. That made us both very nervous and concerned. What if we couldn't have children? We had put it off so many years and I knew what it meant to her. It could have been devastating to us.

After that first miscarriage I was desperate to understand how and why it happened. One of the things that came up in my crazed search for answers was that electromagnetic fields could be an issue, power lines and such, and that made me suspicious of the electric water bed heater. Yes, it was probably me buying into someone's crazy theory, but the day her pregnancy was confirmed by the doctor we started sleeping in the guest bedroom, on a regular bed with mattress and box springs.

Fortunately we found a "real" bed for ourselves soon enough and the guest bed was available again, which was a good thing because later that summer our niece Cassie would begin spending a lot of time in that guest room and, eventually, doing a lot of babysitting. In the following months we pored through 'What to Expect When You're Expecting,' took birthing classes at Baylor Hospital in downtown Dallas, spent countless hours discussing baby names in earnest, and, with Cindy's usual project management mentality, decorated a nursery, outlined a birth plan, and detailed my instructions up to and including delivery day.

It was marvelous.

In all the years we were together I do not recall Cindy being happier. Yes, she had some morning sickness. And yes, being pregnant in the summer in Dallas was not easy duty, but none of that mattered. She would come home from work, strip down to her skivvies, lay under the ceiling fan on our grown up non-waterbed and say "this kid will be prepped and ready for Texas summers." She's pregnant in her graduation photos from Dallas Baptist University. Her cravings were chocolate milk and tacos, and for the only time in her entire adult life she abstained from coffee because even smelling it made her nauseous. The pregnancy and her constant laughing about the silliest things caused a leaking bladder problem. She joked about having "baby brain" but the lists and notes in her ever-present steno pad kept things moving along smoothly.

To the outside world, to her co-workers and friends and family, she was managing pregnancy like every other thing she managed. To me, she expressed concerns. Would she be a good mother? Would we be able to provide? What if she didn't want to go back to work? Would everything work out? Would we, Cindy and I, be able to grow beyond husband and wife to father and mother and what would that look like? I had all those concerns and more, but knew my role was to reassure, not add to her worries, and besides, she was obviously happy and that's all I ever really wanted.

It was about this time that I realized "I'm not ready to have kids" was me being selfish. It wasn't, or shouldn't have been, about what I wanted, what met my needs. We should have had children earlier. I should have considered what would be best for both of us. We could have had more children, but we didn't. Cindy, for her part, never looked backed with regret. She only looked forward with hope, always believing in the meant-to-be.

Griffin was born in late September. A few days before we had each made a separate, secret list of first names that we liked. The middle name was already decided. That morning, in the hospital, we compared lists and found that Griffin was the only name on both of our lists so the choice was easy. In typical Cindy fashion she had multiple tasks and lists prepared for me and I dutifully checked off the to-dos as we waited to go to the delivery room. At one point she almost forgot about being in labor. The local TV station was reporting that students had been pepper sprayed at Rowlett High School, during some sort of school assembly/riot, and she was adamant that we find out if Cassey (another niece), who went to school at RHS, was okay.

Someone once told me that a group of mothers sitting around telling labor and delivery stories was like listening to Vietnam vets talking about patrols outside the wire, each story more harrowing than the last. I won't attempt that level of detail here, but from my perspective it went pretty smoothly and was relatively uneventful as medical procedures go. I think Cindy and the all female crew of doctors and nurses were a bit disappointed that I didn't faint or get nauseous, but there was nothing unexpected or unsettling and I didn't really understand why they were concerned, though I suspect there was some sort of wagering going on.

Frances stayed with Cindy and Griffin that night in the hospital and I went home to take care of the dogs and get some sleep. It was fairly late when I drove home. I had stayed in the hospital room, holding Griffin, to watch the Texas Rangers clinch the AL West title. I remember driving home, north on US 75 Central Expressway, with the roof open on Cindy's ES300, just singing along to pop songs. It was a remarkable, happy feeling - wondering what the future would hold and knowing that we would be raising a child, the epitome of hope and potential. I knew it was a big responsibility, and I knew we could do it. Unjustified confidence I suppose.

It wasn't all emotion and contemplative reflection ... I was still going through Cindy's checklist ... Did you call Eddie? Don't forget to put the car seat in. Here, take home this blanket from the baby for Pearl and Cosmo to smell. Be back early in the morning to relieve Mom!

Despite excellent planning there were still many adjustments to make and a few bumps in the bringing baby home process. We dealt with jaundice and breast feeding struggles and a long line of visitors, and of course juggled those with work and recovery and wedging Griffin into every facet of a developing new routine. He cooperated for the most part and was, as they say, an "easy" baby. We figured it all out soon enough, I think primarily because we were not exactly "young marrieds" trying to figure out marriage and babies at the same time. We were much more calm than panicked.

Cindy returned to work shortly before Christmas, and she was ready to go back. We found a good day care and made the adjustment to our routine. Christmas itself brought an explosion of toys and gifts and visitors but we got back to our new normal not long after. While Cindy was home with Griffin all day she was happy when I came home to take him off her hands for a few hours. After going back to work, she was equally anxious to spend all of her home time with him so it worked out about how I expected. The baby got the attention and I was bumped down a notch or two on the priority list. I'm not complaining; it's just an observation. I knew it would happen and I think that's how it should be.

Cindy took on the additional responsibilities of motherhood without missing a beat. She simply re-prioritized and worked it in to everything else she was already doing. I thought I was doing well, too, but in the spring I started to be concerned about how I was managing things. Something just didn't seem right. I tried to talk to Cindy, to explain what was going on, but she just couldn't see it. She was frustrated with me at times, but other than that couldn't see why I was feeling "off."

I had changed jobs in July of 1996, just before Griffin was born. It wasn't just a job change, it was a career change. I moved from office/clerical management to computer consulting with a company named Paranet. I bounced around from project to project doing basic Unix administration and system/software support. And then Griffin was born and I had all these new concerns.

Some new parents don't sleep because the baby wakes them. That wasn't an issue for us, but I struggled to fall asleep, and in the morning I just couldn't get out bed without a big effort. I was often late for work, something very unusual for me, but wrote it off as needing to adjust my routine. I was having headaches and stomach issues, something I rarely had problems with. I was easily irritated and forced myself to just be quiet, to the point of clenching my jaws, just to prevent myself from venting at everyone and everything. Most evenings I stared at the TV, not even paying attention to what was on, just replaying the day's events in my head and imagining how things would have gone differently if only I had responded better or had the right knowledge or was better understood. I felt completely incompetent at everything - work, father, husband - and was settling in to a permanent state of not caring about any of it anyway.

Eventually it was bad enough that I knew something had to change. Cindy still didn't get it, she didn't see anything drastically different I guess, so I scheduled an appointment with a therapist through the Employee Assistance Program. On the first visit she sent me across the hall to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist confirmed what the counselor suspected; I was depressed. They put me on anti-depressants, scheduled weekly follow ups with both of them, and sent me home with some instructions on how to discuss this with my spouse. Once we got past the "why didn't you tell me you scheduled the appointment!" discussion, it clicked for Cindy and she realized that my earlier attempts to talk to her were a sign she had missed, she had missed all the signs.

By mid summer I was on a steady project at Mobil Oil and started getting my feet under me at work. I stayed on the medication for about 6 months. I joined a gym because I needed to get active before they would take me off the drugs. Eventually, I worked through it, but since that episode I'm hyper-aware of when I start feeling "off." It's a scary thing, knowing that you can be so easily, or unknowingly, broken.

The counseling revealed that I had many unresolved issues that I needed to work through, or at least learn to accept. The therapist was an older Jewish lady and sometime during the course of our discussions we talked about faith. I explained to her my conclusions about it all. Basically, after spending the first 17 years of my life being dragged to church I thought I knew exactly what it had to offer and that I didn't need it. In our last meeting, she encouraged me to re-visit all of the faith things that I thought I had figured out many years ago. She suggested some reading material, and also strongly suggested that I read not just "here's why you should believe books" but also the "faith is for suckers" side as well.

"You're a smart guy. You can figure it out. No one can tell you what to believe, but you have to believe in something other than yourself, because you, my friend, are imperfect. It's not easy. If it is, that's a clue you're doing it wrong. Dismissing faith because it was too hard for you to understand at 10 or 15 or 20 years old is too easy. Do the work. It should take your entire life to finish."

The early days of parenthood had a profound effect on my self-perception and my understanding of my purpose. Those days would influence my decisions for the next twenty years, and in retrospect the effect has all been positive. It is still marvelous, a miracle, and when I pause to think about it, to consider the impact of love and marriage and raising a child and how that has shaped me as a man, I can only conclude it is an undeserved blessing, because I am an imperfect man.


5.22.2018

Birthdays, Babies and Brides

The Next Great Adventure: A True Story

Birthdays, Babies and Brides


We moved to Plano, TX in 1992 and lived there until 2016, twenty-four years. We owned two different houses and 10 different vehicles, 3 of which are still in the fleet. Cindy worked for Oxy the entire time. I made a major career change and worked for eight different companies. We had one child, Griffin. We joined a church, Bentwood Trail Presbyterian Church. We lost three of our four parents. We had hail storms, a kitchen fire, termites, and remodeling projects. I built a fish pond at one house and had a pool built at the other. Both homes were always open to friends and family and one of our great pleasures was being able to provide them a place to stay, whether it was for a vacation, a relocation, or simply escaping their own remodeling project.

And we celebrated. We celebrated everything. Birthdays. Babies. Brides. Going away parties. Graduation parties. Welcome to Texas parties. We had a party to build a fence and a party for a visiting New York Metropolitan Opera lyric soprano. We hosted bible studies, church youth group parties and impromptu swim parties. And Christmas, well, it was truly a season and not just a holiday at our house.

This was, of course, all Cindy's doing. She loved being the hostess, providing that celebratory
atmosphere, giving people an easy place to have a good time. Once we got to Plano, with family near and Cindy's 'everyone is family' attitude, the celebrations became habit. It was what we did. It was not easy for me to make that change. It's hard enough for me to put on my extrovert costume and go to a party, much less host one, especially the way that Cindy did it, where everything was planned from the themed napkins to the separate kid & adult beverage coolers to the parking. But, it made her happy and I, eventually, learned how to be her trusty hosting sidekick.

There are many, many Plano stories, maybe a lifetime's worth, so in figuring out what to say about the Plano years I knew I could not, practically, cover it all. Looking back I realized that the theme of those years was celebration. There was always something to celebrate today, always the next thing to celebrate tomorrow. Even the times of mourning became times to gather, remember, and be grateful. Every celebration happened with the knowledge that my partner, my right hand, would be either leading or supporting the effort, not out of obligation, but from a sincere love and desire to make others happy.

We had grown from impetuous young lovers, learning about each other and how to live together, to comfortable, dependable partners, able to handle all that life throws at you, together. There were many times I missed the passion and excitement of the early years, too many perhaps. It's only on looking back that I realize what a blessing it was to have such a comfortable, constant, competent spouse. I loved her so much. I never told her that enough. It was like breathing, unnoticed and easy until you can't. Then you panic. Then you struggle. Then you force yourself to relax and remember how to breathe, what it felt like, thinking about the effort it takes, wondering if you will ever breathe so easily again.

I can't tell every Plano story. I can't describe everything that happened; it's more musical score than
narrative. I can't explain how we changed over the years; it would be better suited to a multi-season TV series than the stack of snapshots I could write here. I do plan on writing some of the impact stories, the course changing ones, but for this introduction to the Plano years, I want to focus on what I do remember about how to breathe, the common, simple things that kept us alive and moving forward.

She would fall asleep on my shoulder. I would smell her hair, kiss her forehead, wondering how in the world she could be comfortable in that position, and then gently push her off to her side of the bed before my shoulder went permanently asleep. Sometimes she would wake up and chastise me, "oh, you don't love me anymore?" before giving me a peck and rolling over to her side. Sometimes I would get that last bit of instruction, "don't forget you need to take care of that thing about the thing tomorrow" and somehow I would know exactly what she meant. Sometimes she wouldn't wake, exhausted, and I would kiss her behind the ear and say "love you more" because I knew that was the only time I would get the last word.

She would fall asleep on the sofa. After a long day at work and a glass of cabernet, she would lounge on the sofa in her pajamas, watching some frivolous TV show and then announce, "I'm going to bed after I watch the weather." She rarely made it to the weather report on the 10 o'clock news, much less through the forecast. I'd wake her up when I was ready to go to bed, usually giving her some bogus information on how the TV show ended or tomorrow's weather forecast. If she was really tired and the bed was cold I'd lay on her side of the bed to warm it up for her before she crawled in, and I would get "Aw, you still love me!" and my good night kiss.

Anytime I cooked, she cleaned, especially if it was a party. Part of it was to keep some control of the chaos, and part of it was to be in the middle of the action, keeping tabs on who needed what. One of my favorite things was to come up behind her at the sink, when she was elbow deep in soap suds, squeeze her butt cheek and nuzzle her neck. Sometimes I got pushed away with soapy hands. Sometimes I got my own butt cheek squeezed. Every once in a while she would grab both of my hands with her soapy ones, pull them tight around her waist, turn her head and whisper in my ear, "Later."

I never knew what might happen when she would unexpectedly come sit in my lap. Sometimes, she just draped her arm around my neck and said nothing, just staking her claim to me. Other times she would look me in the eye with raised eyebrows letting me know that I was too loud, or had had too much to drink, or was telling an inappropriate story. But most often it was sliding onto my lap, getting my attention, kissing me and then saying something sexy like "Why don't you take out the trash?"

A partner who loves you, who tries to understand you, may not always get everything right, but because they love you the mis-steps are easily forgiven. When my father died, Cindy assumed I would struggle and was overly solicitous. She was assuming I would react like her and would need to be supported, carried. What I really needed was time alone, to sort things out, to understand the impact this would have on me. Cindy struggled with how to support me. I struggled with how to explain to her that I just needed to be left alone, something she didn't understand because her comfort was in friends and family. Just days after my father's burial we went to the Trail Dust Steak House outside of Denton, Texas with a group of our new church friends. The event had been planned for a few weeks and Cindy thought it would be good for us to go. I'm not sure our new friends even knew my father had died. We weren't that close, yet. At one point Cindy handed the band a song request, Bob Wills' "Faded Love." Not long into the first verse I got up, went outside, sat on a "hitching post" in the parking lot, and began to cry. Shortly, Cindy came out, sat beside me, held my hand and said "Let me know when you're ready to go back in." Though she didn't know what I needed at first, she figured it out and did and said the perfect thing. That was my partner for you.

"Which ones, the pumps or the flats?" "Which ones, the dangly ones or the studs?" "Which one, the scarf or the hat?" The 'which one' question was fairly regular in our getting ready for work or to go out routine. Cindy would pull out two pairs of shoes or two sets of earrings and ask, "Which ones?" Early on the question petrified me, how should I know which one to choose? Later, it annoyed me because I did not know if she was asking me which one I preferred, or which one would look better for the occasion. Again, how would I know? Eventually, with enough experience on her preferences, my preferences, and how she would want to present herself, whether at work or for an evening out, I was able to answer with confidence "The pumps" or "I like the dangly ones." Since I nearly always liked the dangly ones, I knew she was just asking to let me think I had a say but it was one of our things, the things we did that reinforced working together.

"Scratch my back." "Massage my shoulders." "Rub my head." It seems like Cindy made one of those requests every night. A lot of husbands might interpret this invitation to touching as a precursor to certain activities, but I learned early on that she wasn't being coy. Her back itched or her shoulders ached or her head hurt and she needed to get past that and get to sleep. If I have a super power, it may be the ability to put a woman to sleep quickly, as evidenced by all the sleeping described here. For years I thought of it as more of a curse than a super power, until Cindy explained that it wasn't boredom that put her to sleep, it was comfort and security and peace.

The last few years I rarely got those requests. Between surgeries and chemo and general fatigue, her greatest relief came from being still, in a comfortable position, not from being touched or held. When the cancer first came back it was in her bones, specifically in her sternum and her right 8th rib near the spine. It was painful. There was nothing I could do to comfort her, except make sure she took her meds and figure out a comfortable way for her to sleep. Six months after metastasis her sternum and rib were basically dissolved. It was a constant struggle to manage pain meds to their best effectiveness. For my part, I worked very hard at being patient and understanding and her comfort became my primary focus. For her part, she was strong and brave and rarely gave in to despair. She made it easy for me to take care of her, as easy as she could. All of this was possible not because we had special skills or positive attitudes, but because that's just how we did things. We had practiced breathing together that way for decades. It was all very natural.

The daily ritual, the routine, that rhythm of life that moves you along from one day to another, from one adventure to the next, it has to be powered by something. It seems to me that the quality of your life depends a great deal on what you choose to power your daily, routine breathing with. For us, it was celebration, or even more basically, gratitude. We were grateful to have each other, to have love to share. Sharing love with another inspires you to seek and accept grace elsewhere. Grace allows you to let yourself be loved. Once you know you are loved, you can be a blessing to others in many ways, like celebrating with them, partnering with them, caring for them. 

Gratitude. Love. Grace. Blessings. Yes, this is God language, a fundamental place to find your breath.

Genesis 2:7 - then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 

5.13.2018

H-Town, Part One

The Next Great Adventure: A True Story

H-Town, Part One 



My math could be wrong, maybe off by a year, but I think this is right. We lived in Victoria for seven years so that means we moved to Houston, Missouri City specifically, around June, 1991. Cindy's job was relocated to Houston, but in practical terms she was already working regularly at the Greenway Plaza offices near The Summit, which became The Compaq Center and is now Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. During the week she stayed at the adjacent Stouffer Hotel and drove home to Victoria on weekends.

One night Cindy called as she was going to bed, as she always did to say goodnight and chat a bit, and after I said hello she immediately asked "Who is Bill Laimbeer?" I explained that he was a professional basketball player for the Detroit Pistons and then followed up with a question of my own, "Why do you ask?" She replied, "I thought he might be a basketball player. I was on the elevator with him and some other really tall guys."

"How did you know it was Bill Laimbeer if you didn't recognize him?"

"He introduced himself."

"To you, or to everyone?"

"Just to me. I was the only person in the elevator who didn't know him."

"Why did he introduce himself?"

"He invited me to a party upstairs."

"Oh. Did you go?"

"Of course not."

Not long after that I thought it would be a good idea to maybe spend a few of my days off in Houston at the hotel with Cindy, so we did that a few times, too.

We knew we would be moving and so Grandy's got a two month notice, and we proceeded to learn about selling a house and corporate relocation programs. Oxy sent an appraiser who made us an offer for the house, which we could take at any time, however, if we sold it ourselves they would pay us a bonus. We ended up selling it for just about the same price that we paid for it and with the bonus we did okay. The relocation program was pretty generous and included money to hire movers for packing and loading. I was amazed. It was magical. Men in trucks just showed up and before you knew it the house was packed, loaded, moved and stored. I swore I'd never move myself again.

We bought a slightly larger house than the one we had in Victoria, maybe 1800 square feet. It was in Quail Valley, a planned community in Missouri City on the southwest side of Houston, which was the easiest commute to Greenway. We lived in the Residence Inn on the Southwest Freeway (US Hwy 59) through June and July, also funded by Oxy, while we looked for a house. We closed and moved into the house in late July/early August.

The transition from Victoria to Houston was hard for me work-wise. Initially I went to work for Grandy's Corporation. My job was to be an evaluator/trainer ... to work a week or two at all the corporate stores in and around Houston, make recommendations, train the staff, generally improve operations. I lasted one night. It the only job I ever walked out on. That first night the restaurant was just so poorly run I made the manager close early, around 8PM, and set the staff to cleaning. The manager got mad and went out in the parking lot to drink in his car. Finally, around midnight I cut the staff loose, woke the manager up in his car, drove home to the Residence Inn and called my boss to leave a voice mail and tell him I quit. I never heard back from them and began looking for a new job the next day.

Cindy, meanwhile, was steady working at Oxy. She fretted over me searching through the help-wanted ads in the daily paper. I was looking for anything that paid; she thought I should find something that I would "enjoy," which was another fundamental difference between us, "enjoy work" was an oxymoron to me. I got a job offer from Pappasito's to be a kitchen manager, but I knew it would be 60 hours a week, and I didn't want to commit to a restaurant career. After a week or two of job searching, I took Cindy's previous path and signed up with Adia, a temp agency. I got a gig doing telemarketing for IBM which lasted several weeks and paid terribly, but it was income. Finally, shortly after we moved to the house, I interviewed and was hired by Granada Foods to be the Office Manager of their meat plant. It leveraged both my restaurant and accounting office experience, and I was excited for the opportunity.

In December we went to the Occidental Petroleum Christmas party, which was held at a nice hotel in the Post Oak area of Houston, a pretty swanky part of town. It was a dress up affair and I was on my best behavior, meeting a lot of Cindy's co-workers and bosses for the first time, including the guy with the inappropriate question. At one point some muckety-muck got up to give a speech and said something along the lines of "I know there have been a lot of rumors about another relocation coming up, but they're just rumors. Those of you who have relocated to Houston, you might as well settle in."

In early spring we heard that Cindy's job, which was with OxyChem, not Occidental Petroleum, would be relocating to the Oxy Tower near the Galleria, LBJ & Dallas North Tollway, in Dallas. Cindy was tickled. We would be close to her family and she would theoretically be traveling less. We already knew the ropes of relocation and were looking forward to lower humidity, familiar territory, and no MUDs. There was talk of truly settling down, and maybe even trying to have kids. I would be closer to my sister's in the Ft. Worth area, and the drive to Pampa was easy enough from the Metroplex. We were happy to be getting back "home."

The biggest concern was my job, but it turned out that I was able to transfer to the Dallas plant with my employer. By the time we moved I was no longer working for Granada Foods. The company got into what some described as "financial shenanigans" and was eventually purchased by Freedman Foods, a local company in Houston, that bought the Dallas plant as well. I could tell a lot of stories about the last days of Granada; it was quite the experience. I remember my boss, Dennis Stiffler, calling me in to his office and explaining the plan to keep the plant running until they could finalize a deal to sell it. At the end of the explanation he laughed and said, "You ready to rodeo?" It was the perfect thing to say because the only proper response to that question is, "Hell yeah!" and that's just the approach we took.

I have struggled with writing this Houston segment because try as I might, I can't recall any stories about Cindy or about things we did together while we lived there. The day the pipe burst in the ceiling (pressurized plumbing in the attic ... "it doesn't freeze in Houston" ... yeah right) and flooded the kitchen I was out playing golf and came home to a disaster. Cindy was traveling. I told her about it that night when she called. I was still squeegeeing out water. I dealt with all the cleanup and contractors and insurance agents on my own, too.

At the time I was still getting check-ups for melanonma at the dermatologist. Rather than find a new local dermatologist I drove myself to Victoria to see Dr. Cox. At one check up he removed a mole from a rather sensitive area. The local anesthesia wore off somewhere around Wharton on the drive back. I didn't mention it to Cindy and when she came home a few days later she was hopping mad to learn I'd done that without telling her. I thought I was sparing her the worry. She thought I was keeping secrets.

A few nights she stayed at the Stouffer because she worked late, was too tired to drive home, and had an early start the next day. I would mow the lawn on Thursday night, when the sun was going down, because it was cooler and because I didn't want to do it on Saturday when we were both off. She continued to make plans for our weekends, but they were often interrupted or postponed because of work. At one point she came home with a company supplied mobile phone, one of those bag phones. We never left home without it. I didn't like having it as a constant tether to work. Still don't.

Cindy wasn't the only one away and working. Between Houston traffic and trying to figure out the meat business I was rarely home before 7PM. One Saturday a month was devoted to doing inventory at the plant. It was not unusual for me to drive down to the plant late at night and help with computer stuff or fill in doing order entry. We both spent a lot of time at work, hers just involved more travel. We used to joke that all the time we spent apart helped to extend our marriage. We had a lot of 'welcome home' reunions and we learned to see our time together as precious, something to safeguard.

I made friends at work, with only a little help from Cindy. Most were younger. They were mostly Aggies, too and they all knew more about the meat business than me. There was Tammy and Delann, who went skiing with us in Ruidoso when Dennis hooked us up with a condo, and Linlea and Grady and Jeannie. There was also Joanna and Helen and Minnie, who had to put up with me as their manager, though the truth was they were probably managing me. I only worked at that plant for a year, but it was an intense one and a great experience. It really prepared me for the ups and downs of the software business that I would experience later, but that's a few stories down the road.

Recently, I mentioned to friends on Facebook that I didn't know if I could continue writing this series. The problem with trying to write a "true" story is that you can't just put in the good things, you have to be honest and that's difficult, especially when only one side of the story is being told. I can't speak for Cindy, I can only speculate. As well I knew her, I never knew her true, deep motivations for many important things. Maybe I just feel guilty about being the one still alive, but it's more like wishing I had taken the necessary time to truly understand her. Knowing is more comforting than speculating.

And then there's the part where I honestly don't remember any Dexter and Cindy stories from that year. Does that mean I'm already losing my memories of her? Or worse, does that mean I didn't make any memories with her when I had the chance? I don't want to say that I have regrets, because that implies intention, that I made selfish choices, that I wasn't being honest. That's a hard thing to confront and, since being honest here is the goal, I need to admit a big regret from this time.

I don't regret the hours we both spent at work. I think we were doing what we thought was best, the responsible thing to do. I missed her a lot, and I'm sure she missed me, too. I think we got a little too comfortable being apart, and over time the 'welcome home' reunions lost their urgency. We had been married for 9 years at this point and things became routine. That's normal, right? It helped us develop independence within the partnership, which made our relationship stronger in the long run, less susceptible to dependency and trust issues. In regard to jobs and finances and family, some of the big stressors, I think we did our best and for the most part, we did well.

My big regret was telling Cindy that I wasn't ready to have children.

When we were first married the logic was quite simple. We couldn't afford children and growing up in a house where money was always an argument there was no way I wanted kids until I was sure we could afford it. By our last few years in Victoria, I couldn't use that as an excuse any longer. We were paying our bills and saving a little and it wouldn't have been too much of a financial stretch. But I told Cindy I wasn't ready to have children, that I was concerned about what kind of parent I would be, that I had a lot of things I needed to sort out before signing up to be a father. That was partially true, and that partial truth became very evident not long after Griffin was born, but it was not the complete truth.

A big part of me didn't want to have kids because I knew where Cindy's priorities would shift. I didn't want to share any more of her. I was being selfish. She never questioned my reasons. She went along with me, putting it off for my sake, but in the end, as often happens when someone is selfish, neither of us got what we wanted. Cindy had her reasons for postponing children, too. I'm sure she did. She could have insisted, and I would have agreed, if only to make her happy. My true regret, however, is not with the decision. It is with the excuses I made. I wish I had been honest instead of selfish.

I am also sure that Cindy would not have my same regrets. She was never one to dwell on the past, to over-analyze history. She was, however, always ready for the next adventure and so we kept moving forward, doing our best. Dallas, specifically Plano, would be our next, and quite long, stop.

4.30.2018

Gone To Texas

The Next Great Adventure: A True Story

Gone To Texas!


Mom, me, Neil, Cindy, Jennifer
My annual performance review at Kraft in 1984 was nothing but good news, or so Harry, the Accounting Center Manager, informed me. I graded out as the top accounting center supervisor, I received the highest percentage raise possible (3%!), and if I went back to school to get an MBA I could be eligible for a promotion in 5 or 8 years, by which time he was sure there would be some retirements to make room for me. Harry didn't really understand me. The review did nothing for my enthusiasm towards the corporate world. I wanted to learn and conquer new things. It seemed more like a prison sentence than an "attaboy."

I couldn't let myself look for another job; that wouldn't have been the practical, grown-up thing to do, especially since I thought my role was to be the career person in the family. There was no internet to search for jobs back in Texas, and though Cindy was making friends, enjoying her job, and keeping us busy socially, I knew she wanted to be closer to home. Fortunately, my friend and mentor, the man who taught me everything practical about managing people, David Johnson, called from Texas. Jerry Hancock and David were planning on opening some Grandy's franchises in South Texas, starting in Victoria, and he called to ask if I was interested in being part of the launch.

It took me about a nanosecond to decide ... we would be back in Texas, I would be working for David, doing much more tangible work than shuffling papers, and it would be an adventure. It took me a little more time to sell Cindy on the idea. She had reservations. Though we would be in Texas, it's a six hour drive from Victoria to Rowlett, and was there even a shopping mall in Victoria? Neither of us had ever heard of it. She actually agreed pretty easily and her project management skills came quickly in to play to get us moved back.

We lived with Darvis and Frances for several weeks while I completed management training. Cindy
Early Grandy's crew
took a trip or two to Victoria to find an apartment and get the lay of the land. Before we knew it we were settling in to the Villa Chateau apartments on Miori Lane, directly across the street from Victoria High School, Home of the Stingarees. We later learned that the marching band practiced pretty early in the morning, and since the stadium was across the street, too, Friday nights would generate the nearest thing to a traffic jam in Victoria around our apartment. It was a great apartment. The only thing Cindy didn't like was the squirrel that harassed her from the courtyard fence, and the avocado green counter tops and harvest gold appliances.

Once again, Cindy got a job via a temporary agency, with the idea that she could do the "temp-to-perm" thing like she did in Atlanta. It didn't quite work out that way. She was placed at the Dupont chemical plant outside of town as an Accounts Payable clerk. Dupont wouldn't hire her as a full time employee, but they did hire her as a contract worker through the temp agency. At some point the Cain Chemical Company bought out a portion of the Dupont plant. Cindy had an opportunity to leave the contract and go to work directly for Cain in 1987, which she did. Less than a year after Cindy was hired, Cain sold out to Occidental Chemicals, and Cindy began her career with Oxy.

Cindy, Kathy P. & Vickie
Dupont Santa volunteers
I was working at a restaurant so my schedule varied. David always did his best to make sure I had either Sunday or Saturday off, because those were Cindy's days off, and if I had to work those days I usually worked breakfast shift Saturday or night shift on Sunday, which meant I either came home early or left for work late. Cindy, of course, was not one to sit idly at home. She started going to Victoria Community College, taking classes to earn her real estate license and at one point taking a golf class with her buddies. She never finished the real estate classes, though she did make some great friends. Even though she learned to swing a club and play a little golf, the major outcome of that class was that I started playing golf. I would go to the driving range to watch her practice and think, "I can do that." When I couldn't, it made me determined to master that frustrating sport, which I still haven't accomplished.

The real estate education prompted Cindy to start looking for a house to buy. I was not keen on the idea. It seemed like it would be an enormous amount of debt, not to mention the effort and expense involved in maintaining a house, but Cindy was determined. I was fairly confident that she wouldn't find anything. Our credit was mediocre, we didn't really have any sort of money for a down payment, and frankly, the economy was pretty terrible at the time. Oil and gas had taken a big hit, which consequently had a big impact on the restaurant expansion plans, which were now on hold. I couldn't imagine anyone loaning us money to buy a house.

Well, of course, Cindy found a house. It was a neat little 1300 square foot house on Suzanne Lane
The house on Suzanne today
according to Google
and we got the house by assuming the mortgage. The owners couldn't afford the payments and the bank was willing to let us assume the loan. It cost us about $700 to close and we were suddenly home owners. It was a gamble, one that we worried about the following year when the interest rate went up on the loan. We wrote the bank and told them we needed to renegotiate the rate or we wouldn't be able to make the payments. They apparently already owned too many houses so they worked with us and actually lowered the rate.

Many of the Dupont employees who went to work for Cain were given or purchased equity in the company. Unfortunately, equity was only available to employees if they had transferred from Dupont or if they had worked for Cain for more than a year. It turned out that of all the Cain employees in Victoria only Cindy and one other person were not eligible to share in any of the profit from the buyout. The owners decided to give Cindy and the other person a bonus equivalent to one year's salary. The impact on our financial situation was tremendous. Aside from the mortgage we were able to get out of debt from credit cards and car loans. Without those payments we were able to actually start saving a little. This was a major turning point for us in several ways.

Cindy had always been a high performing employee. When she went to work for Oxy she began to envision a career instead of just a job. The idea that someone thought enough of her work to give a year's salary as a bonus shifted her self-perception and her future plans. She was already making more money than me, and had better benefits in terms of insurance and retirement plans. She was good at her job, she enjoyed it, and she was appreciated.

A rare ice event wrecks the exit sign
It was the 80's. The accepted wisdom of the day was that women needed to find satisfaction in a career in order to be happy, that being a wife and mother were no longer enough. Cindy actually struggled with that. She would get frustrated with me when I didn't appreciate her homemaking skills. I thought she was doing those things because she wanted to. I certainly didn't expect her to do cooking, cleaning, etc on her own. I'd been doing those things since I was a kid. My Mom certainly made it clear that housework was not her task alone. My only problem was that my homemaking efforts were rarely up to Cindy's standards.

Both of us were in uncertain territory. Cindy felt like she should be homemaker first and career person second. I felt like I should be contributing more financially and have an actual career instead of just a job, or at least a plan for a career. I worked an odd schedule and Cindy always had work and social activities going on. We basically lived separate lives throughout the work week; she was often asleep when I got home, and I was asleep when she left. She would make plans for our time off together, but rarely for just the two of us.

There were times when she seemed to be upset that I didn't demand more of her time and attention, like it would have been simpler for her if I was a husband who demanded dinner on the table at 6PM sharp, and I know there were times that I was jealous of her time at work or with friends, but we never kept score. We just focused on things in front of us, looking forward to the next adventure.

We learned to be independent partners. There were some clear lines of responsibility. Cindy always did the finances because I didn't want to and she did. I always did home maintenance, car repair and whatever she told me to do on weekends. That's not a complaint. I didn't truly mind doing what she wanted to do. I just wanted to spend time with her. The exception was church. Cindy joined a Lutheran church that her friend Vickie attended, but I wasn't willing to go that far to be with her.

There was one planned weekend activity that had long term repercussions. It was my 30th birthday and Cindy decided that it was a big enough milestone to plan a party, despite my protests. She thought the way around it would be to plan a party in conjunction with Vickie's birthday, who was turning 40 around the same time, sort of a share-the-spotlight thing. She and some friends planned a joint "70th Birthday Party" for us, because 30 + 40 = 70 or something. They rented a pavilion at Coleto Creek Reservoir and there was barbecue and a couple of kegs and a bunch of people.

I was miserable. I looked around the party and realized that every single person there was from Cindy and Vickie's friends and family. All of "my" friends were working at the restaurant. I endured endless questions about all variety of things from these people that didn't know me. Yes, I'm a restaurant manager. Yes, I have a college degree. No, it's not in restaurant management. Yes, Cindy is amazing. No, we aren't planning children anytime soon. No, I don't think Cindy will become a stay-at-home Mom someday. No, I don't belong to a church. It was absolute torture and I let Cindy know it. She never planned another birthday party for me again, and I remain grateful for that.
Katy's 60th Birthday Party

We were back in Texas and took full advantage of the proximity to family. We would go to Pampa or Rowlett for Thanksgiving and Christmas, though they were often abbreviated trips due to the demands of restaurant scheduling. We would drive up US-59 to Jefferson and "camp out" with the Calhouns for vacations at Lake O' the Pines. I only recall one trip when I drove directly to Pampa from Victoria, which was about a 10 hour drive.

Cindy's family came down fairly regularly, too. We had a birthday party for Aunt Katy in the Chateau Villa apartment, and everyone came down to help us move into the house on Suzanne Lane. My father-in-law Darvis bought a truck from the Chevy dealer in Cuero, and Steve, Rodney, Darvis and I all went fishing on the Wharf Cat out of Port Aransas in 8 foot seas (never again). My father even made it down for a visit. He never knew Cindy, only meeting her briefly before we got married. While I was working Dad was home with Cindy, who doted on him and let him tell her stories. For supper one night she made lasagna and Dad, who would regularly refuse to eat pasta of any sort, ate it without complaint. I told Cindy that was a sure sign that he liked her, and he did. A lot. He often told me "She's too purty for you, you better watch your step."

Breckenridge ski trip - very 80s
Though the birthday party was torture, we made many good friends in Victoria and at some point I no longer considered them "Cindy's friends." There was Vickie, who taught me to waltz properly, and her husband Glenn, who loved our Dalmatians, Pearl and Cosmo ... getting a dog was a pre-requisite for me agreeing to buy the house. Cindy's carpool buddies (along with Vickie) were Jeanette and Kathy, who taught Cindy it was okay to stop for beers in paper bags on the way home on Friday evenings. Jay and Kathy Page were our party buddies, everything from trips to Wurstfest in New Braunfels to all day & all night cook outs in their backyard. We vacationed with a wide range of engineers from Cain and Oxy in Breckenridge for skiing and for our first trip to Las Vegas. Connie Filley, who Cindy met via the real estate classes, and her husband George, who was the District Attorney at the time, were good friends. We went to Stingaree football games in Corpus Christi with them, and George found Cindy a snub-nose .38 Special S&W to carry when she was driving back and forth to Houston for work. I still have it.

You know they're true friends when they'll board your dogs, feed you, buy you beers, plan vacations with you, and arm you when they think it's appropriate.


So much more happened in those years. There were so many opportunities to grow and learn about each other and simply learn how to be married. We had so many positive role models for marriage. David and Barbara. Jerry and Nancy. Jim and Kim, who were our peers as a young married couple, but had a different and very "in this together" partnership model compared to our more independent one. All the couples mentioned above. Glen and Vicky. Leroy and Jeanette. Garry and Kathy. Jay and Kathy. Joe and Evelyn Laza, Vickie's parents. If Atlanta was the honeymoon, Victoria was the proving grounds where we learned to work together and become true partners, even as we learned to become the individuals we were meant to be.

At some point in the late 80's Cindy forced me to go to the dermatologist. And I mean forced because she said "I've made the appointment. Be there." It turned out that I had a mole on my chest that was malignant, most likely caused by too many summer sunburns as a kid. They biopsied the mole on Thursday and said the results would be back Monday. We spent the weekend agonizing over what a bad result might mean. On Monday I called the dermatologist, Dr. Cox, during my morning break. When the nurse said, "Oh hello Mr. Turner, let me get those results" and then returned to the call and said "Uh, the doctor will call you back shortly," I knew it was bad news.

I waited before calling Cindy, because I knew she would want to know the plan. They scheduled me to take even more tissue on Thursday that week. For two weeks we walked on eggshells, waiting for the second biopsy result, not knowing what might happen. In the end it was all fine. The cancer had not spread, but we learned what a cancer diagnosis looked like, and it served as a reality check for both of us. Nothing is promised in this life, no matter how badly you want it.

There is one other story that must be told from our time in Victoria, because it was a fork in the road where a choice was made that changed the course of our life together. It's remarkable how much clarity there is in hindsight, isn't it?

Cindy had been asked to serve on a high-profile project team to implement a new accounting related computer system. As part of the kick-off for the project she had to travel to San Francisco for a week long planning meeting with the vendor and the Oxy team. She left on Sunday and planned to fly back on Friday night. On Thursday morning she called and said she would be coming home that night and she would tell me about the trip when she got home. I thought the project had been cancelled.

It turned out that in the meeting on Thursday morning, in an Oxy only meeting, some man stood up, pointed to Cindy and said "I just want to know who she has been sleeping with to get put on this team." Cindy was the only woman on the team. There was, apparently, some concern from some wives that a woman was on the team. She was shocked. Hurt. Confused. She said nothing, packed her stuff up, went to the hotel, checked out, called me, and came home. When we finally had a chance to talk about it we had a long talk about careers and jobs and goals and our expectations for each other. I told her that I only wanted her to be happy, to do whatever she wanted and to come home to me. She said she only wanted me to let her try, and to trust her. She wanted to prove that she deserved to be on that team, which she did, for the next 30 years.

In Victoria we made the decision, though not in specific terms, that Cindy would pursue a career, and I would support and encourage her. It was an important inflection point. I had no responsibility to become the primary bread-winner and career oriented partner, though I've always worked hard and honestly. She had no duty to be the wife/homemaker, though she managed to do that to her high standards, which were above my expectations.

We moved forward, eyes open, understanding the choice we had made. I had moved us from Texas to Atlanta and back to Texas in pursuit of my nebulous career goals. I now knew that future moves would be driven by Cindy, and I was okay with that, truly. I just wanted her to be happy. She got so much satisfaction and validation from work, in ways that I could never provide, that I knew it was the right thing to do, though I did have to learn to share her with work. It was an unspoken agreement made with the best of intentions, and for the most part, it worked out well.