Things I Regret, Things I Praise.
I was going to confine this simply to "Things I Regret," because I felt a need to apologize for some things I did when Grace was growing up. But along with the flood of regrets, I also had a flood of things that made me happy, and things that I did right but it may have been misunderstood at the time. So, this is simply a list of stories of my family life with Darthula and Grace.
Some stories are incomplete without discussing the background; therefore, let me do that now.
When I married Darthula, God had tricked me. If I were in possession of good sense and common maturity, I would not have married her. However, God had other plans, and he either withheld common sense from me for awhile or else he made use of my profound immaturity. Whichever the case, the results are wonderful. Because of what God did, that is, because of my marriage to Darthula,
- Grace was born, the biggest and most important blessing of all.
- Darthula will be cared for – a place to live, food to eat, friends to visit and a church home – for her entire life.
- Patsy, Darthula's sister, was freed to get married and have children of her own. (she had vowed not to get married until Darthula got married.)
- Grace got married and had children.
Thus, because I married and stayed with Darthula, five people now live: Grace and four grandchildren, and five lives are profoundly affected for good: Patsy and Bob got married and adopted two children, and Dan married Grace. Therefore, my sacrifice for a few years to Darthula blessed others considerably, and it's one I was willing to make.
Problems with Marriage
I regret the bad marriage; it only hurt us and was not a spiritual blessing at all. First let me say, Darthula is not a bad person. You know, when people separate or get divorced, they frequently blame the other person for everything bad and excuse themselves from fault. I could do that, too, but the fact is, she is also a nice person. Darthula doesn't have an evil bone in her body, so to speak.
The only problem is, her personality and mine were wrong for each other. They did not combine like sugar and water. They were like oil and water; they did not mix and the result was a mess.
For years I was in a state of perpetual anger. Not the low, bubbling below the surface type of anger, but it was hot, furious, outrageous anger. I remember a time of about two weeks during which every night I went to bed furiously angry. Every evening she would say the words and start the fight that would set me off; I think she did it on purpose. That's not to say she's to blame, for Darthula was as much the victim as I; she was doubtlessly only fighting for her own self respect and right to exist.
The only times I approached calm was when I was away from her. Her good health – mentally, physically and spiritually – and mine were dependant on us being apart.
Now that we are living apart, and have for several years, now I can love her. Now I can help her. Now I can support her emotionally. But I can't do that living with her. Our spiritual health require that we live apart.
Why I Stayed So Long
Within two years I realized the marriage was a disastrous mistake. But now we had a child, Grace. Grace was the darling of my heart and the delight of my soul. I was unwilling to take Grace away from Darthula because that would be too cruel; it would kill Darthula. I was unwilling to let Darthula raise Grace alone, because Darthula – although a wonderful mother – lacked the common sense required to raise a child. Letting Darthula raise Grace alone would destroy Grace. Therefore I made a decision before God: I would stay with Darthula to raise Grace until Grace was of age, until she was eighteen. I would put my own life and freedom on hold until Grace could leave home. I vowed to God, if it was possible, I would stay with Darthula for Grace's sake. I just needed help.
And God sent me a helper to make it possible.
I don't think I could have stayed with Darthula for so long, regardless of my good intentions, unless God helped me. As Jesus said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," (Matthew 26:41). I understood in 1968 that the marriage was not a good union, and I realized in 1969 that it was over; nothing was going to reconcile us or make things right. If you take a fish out of water, nothing is going to reconcile that fish to the air; nothing will make it right. To save the fish, you must return him to the water and stop insisting it learn how to breathe air. The only good thing for me at that time was our daughter, Grace. Years later a lot of other good things happened, but those days were pretty bad.
So, I was living in the same household with Grace and Darthula. It was a terrible situation and I was afraid of what it would do to Grace. However, I prayed for myself, because I needed help.
I worked during the day and attended night school. Home was three miles from school. If I walked it or took a bus, the amount of time would be about the same. Therefore, sometimes I walked home at night; it was nine o'clock.
One night in 1969, walking home from school, I prayed. I reviewed my situation with God and asked for a friend, a helper, someone who would be with me, even if that was all that He allowed. I described in detail what I wanted, what would be a good match for me.
Two years went by. In 1972 I met Ron, whom I knew instantly was the one God picked out for me. When I say, "instantly," it was literally that same minute. In 1973 he and I agreed to be together from then on. Look at the burden he had to bear; I was living with a woman in a bad relationship and I was trying to raise a child. He would always bear the brunt of other people's anger and callous remarks. Yet, God gave him grace, he be bore it all sweetly.
If it hadn't been for Ron's calming and stabilizing influence, I may have left Darthula and Grace regardless of my desire to support them. It was because of Ron that Grace had a father for twelve more years, until she was eighteen. He made it possible for me to stay there, raise Grace and give Darthula a home until Grace was of age. He made my life possible, and I have continually thanked God for him since that day.
On With The Stories
So that is the background. I didn't intend to say all that, but now it's said. Here are some things I regret and some things I praise.
Crossing the Street
I was coming home from work one day, around 1970, walking up the sidewalk from the bus stop, when I saw Grace across the street playing with some friends. She was about four years old. She saw me, shouted, "DADDY!" and jumped up and ran to me with her arms wide open to give me a big hug.
When she got to me, I picked up up and spanked her soundly. She was surprised and confused, as you probably are right now. What happened is that she ran directly from the neighbor's yard, into the street and across the street with her eyes fixed on me. She was shouting so loudly, "Daddy! Daddy!" that she couldn't hear me say, "Stop! Stay there!" If a car had been there, she should would be dead now. We had told her many times to look both ways when she crossed the street.
I knew this was to be an incident she would never forget, and she never did. The pain of the spanking was soon forgotten, but the lesson never was, and I think she never again crossed the street without looking both ways.
The problem is, I am still grieving over what I did. I did it for her good. I did it to save her life. But today, thirty-seven years later, I get sick to my stomach when I think of that day. Even now I can see her bright smile, her screaming, "Daddy! Daddy!" and running to me with open arms. She should not have gotten punished for that. I wish I could have done something else. I wish I was wise enough to have known what else to do besides that.
We had a dog named Selah. She was not a great dog, but was a trusting, dependent dog. She had been given to us by a military man and his wife when he was about to be shipped overseas. Selah was timid and afraid of people.
We had a next door neighbor who taunted her, causing her to bark incessantly. I went out there many times telling him to leave the dog alone and stop making her bark, stop taunting her, but he never would stop.
Selah was not my ideal dog. I was partial in my mind to an intelligent German Shepherd, but instead we had this poorly trained pet. She was timid, but when she finally learned to trust me, we got along fine. She wouldn't run from me, as she did at first, but came to me when I called. We were friends.
When Grace and Darthula went to Canada for a few weeks, sometime around 1972, I decided it was time to go ahead, bite the bullet and get rid of Selah. She had a puppy at that time, but by now he had grown to be bigger than she. So I decided I should go ahead and get rid of them both.
I took them to the animal shelter and dropped them off. Selah looked terrified and was crying. She was begging me not to leave her there, but I did.
To this day, I regret my dishonesty and my betrayal. If there is a doggy heaven – and I hope there is – I'm going to petition God to permit me to go there and see Selah. And when I do see her, I'm going to beg her forgiveness. That was the greatest, most despicable thing I have ever done to man or beast, and I am sorry for it.
I told Darthula and Grace on the telephone what I had done, and Grace cried. I'm sorry I made her cry, but that's nothing compared to the grief I feel for what I did to Selah.
The Black Cat
Grace had a black cat, Midnight Coal I believe was its name. We called her Coal. Grace got her, I think, when she was seventeen, around 1983. If I remember right, Grace had asked me if she could have it and I said no. But she got it anyway, deliberately defying me. However, I thought about it and decided not to make an issue of it. It wasn't that important to me, and if having a pet cat was that important to her, I would relent.
But Grace was seventeen, and soon out of high school. She moved away to an apartment, and later to San Luis Obispo for college. She was in a situation where she could not have a cat, so we agreed to keep Coal for her.
A few years went by, maybe two or three, and she returned home to La Crescenta (California). When she was ready to find her own apartment again, she said she would take the cat, and I said "It's our cat now." She said OK, and left it there.
I'm afraid I was misunderstood. If she had insisted or said she really wanted it, I would have said OK, no problem. But she did not protest; she just left.
Here's what I was thinking at the time. First of all, I had an acid tongue, more so then than now. I hope I got rid of that bad habit by now, but sometimes it still drips out. So as time went by, I made cutting remarks about having to take care of her cat. I didn't really mind; I just talked evil like that. I was making her feel guilty, because she had defied me and got the cat anyway.
When she said she would take the cat when she moved out, I thought she would have more trouble finding an apartment if she had a pet. Therefore, to help her out and give her a proper excuse to leave the cat there, I said, "It's our cat now." I was trying to be nice to her and help her, but I'm afraid it came across as evil. I'm sorry that happened. I wished I had talked to Grace more, and more kindly.
You may say, "Well, why didn't you say something more?" It's because we're not always in a situation or mood where saying something more is an option. At that time it was better just to let it go.
Again, back to the 1970s. Grace's favorite program was Gilligan's Island. It was almost five o'clock P.M. and I had just gotten home from work. Grace was watching Gilligan's Island. It was the climax of the show, with about five minutes left to go. Furthermore, it was the season finale, I think. At that minute, Darthula called Grace to come to supper. (In Texas the meals were called Breakfast, Dinner and Supper, with Dinner being at noon, even if it was only a sandwich.) Grace ignored Darthula and continued watching TV. Darthula called again, and Grace ignored again. That was when I got involved.
I forget whether I spanked her or not. Whatever happened, I told her in no uncertain terms she was not to ignore her parents. And she did not get to see the end of her show.
My problem is that Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I would prefer to have watched five more minutes of my favorite TV show than to go to supper right then. More understanding parents would have relented and waited five minutes. What's the big deal? But I didn't wait; I thought I had to show her who was boss, and who she had to mind.
It may have been an overbearing ego trip on my part, but I never thought of it that way; I still don't think of it like that today. I see it this way: a child's life hangs on a thread. Whether it's crossing a street or stepping on a snake, a child doesn't know how to look out for herself. A parent has to do it. So I wanted to teach Grace to obey instantly without question. Questions can be asked later. In my way of thinking, it really is a matter of life or death. I wanted always to save her life, and that was how I thought it could be done.
Grace remembers that incident, and she assured me I did the right thing at the time. But I still regret it. I should have given her those five minutes more. What was the big deal?
Too Many Spankings
In my day, spanking children was a part of life. Since that time, some people have come to the opinion that ought not to be done. Well, it was done in my case, and it's too late to change it now.
I did spank Grace, and she probably remembers some of them, but I didn't spank much. I always gave her a chance to explain herself first. When I came home from work, if I received a bad report from school or from Darthula that Grace needed to be disciplined right then, I would always talk to her first. I would get Grace's side of the story first. More often than not, I would agree with Grace. More often, after hearing the story from her, I would support her rather than spank her. I think she probably escaped 90% of her spankings because of that.
I did that right. I'm proud of it.
Grace may not remember the times I gave her to explain herself, because those times are not dramatic enough to embed themselves into ones memory. But I remember it happened many times.
Once I spanked her twice, once for the infraction and once for lying about it. I told her that even if it meant getting a spanking, it was more important to tell the truth. Thereafter, as far as I know, she always told the truth and she seldom was spanked.
Once she was laughing when I spanked her. I had decided to use my belt that time, because whatever she did was pretty naughty, although I don't remember what that was any more. So I spanked her and she cried. I stopped and she laughed. I spanked her and she cried. I stopped and she laughed. Finally, when the ordeal was over, I set her up on my lap and asked, "OK, why are you laughing?"
"Because," she said, "when you stand up your pants are going to fall down."
I'm sorry if I spanked her too much, but I'm glad that I did spank her some. It took well, and she's one of the best people I know. The pain of the spankings are gone, and the sweetness of the fruit abides with us still.
There is a time I lied to Grace, but I don't regret it, although she was quite offended that I would lie to her. Grace was almost twelve years old and she asked me if there was anything more between Ron and me than just friendship. Actually, I forget the actually question and answer, so this is just the gist of what happened.
I told Grace there was nothing more between Ron and me than simple friendship, although the fact is that Ron and I had been companions and marital partners for years. Shortly thereafter I gave Ron a haircut. We were both in the bathroom with the door locked, and we were both nude. Well, Grace went outside and peeked into the bathroom window and saw us, and understood the truth.
She told me that years later and was offended that I had lied to her since I had been so strong in teaching her that she must never lie to me.
Here's what happened. As I already mentioned, marriage to Darthula was horrendous for both of us. However, I, being the stronger of the two, was happily living a life without her and she was pretty much the victim. I ignored her as much as I could in my day-to-day home life. Now that's pretty hard, to be the one being ignored. Darthula was having a horrible time with the relationship.
Grace was an eleven, almost twelve, year old girl. Any eleven year old child does not have the ability, knowledge or sophistication to deal with such delicate knowledge. She would some day, some how, some way tell Darthula, which would have been destructive for Darthula. Such knowledge should not be imparted to a weaker adult by a child.
I would not care if Grace alone knew about Ron and me. It was Darthula I was trying to protect. I deliberately withheld that knowledge, and I did the right thing; I would do it again.
Some people may say, "Doesn't the Bible say we shouldn't lie? What about the ten commandments, 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor'?" That commandment says we should not falsely witness against someone in a court of law. If it were to be extended beyond the law, then it would be in the line of, "Thou shalt not gossip."
God once lied, as recorded in the story, 1 Kings 22:19-23.
There are times we must withhold information, and this was one of those times.
More Lies, Not Lies
Since Grace grew up, that is, since she reached age 18, she has accused me several times of lying. The fact is, with the exception of the above story, I've never lied to her... that I can remember. She never asked me to explain myself; she just said I was lying and left it at that. I wish she had given me the opportunity to explain myself.
Here's one example, but it's very, very minor. My grandson once asked me why wind blew. I told him it was because some places didn't have enough air and God was moving air to where it was needed. Grace heard me, said, "uh uh" (meaning "no") and walked away.
Well, here's what I was thinking. The sun heats the earth, causing radiation to heat the air, which causes it to rise. When air rises, a vacuum is left, unless more air comes in. A vacuum sucks in more air, which causes a wind. The wind is caused by a lack of air in a certain place because of the sun, and God created it all.
Of course there are more reasons why air blows as wind, but that is one of the proper answers. However, she just called me a liar (by her actions) and walked away without allowing me to explain myself.
Granted, that is very minor, but it's an example. I have not lied to her, but she has called me a liar several times. I wish she had not done that. I wish she had given me the opportunity to explain myself.