The Prodigal Daughter
“Fear not ... You shall forget the shame of your youth.”
N C Carlson
Copyright © 2015 by N C Carlson
Watchin’ God Book One
Listed Alphabetically The Prodigal Daughter
by N C Carlson
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents
are original and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person
or work. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the
permission of the author. The views expressed in this book are not
necessarily those of the publisher.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the
King James Easy Reader Bible,
KJVER®, © 2001, 2007, 2010 by Kings
Word Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Emphasis added
(Formerly titled Come Home: A Prodigal Daughter’s Story)
First edition Oct 2010
Second edition Nov 2013
Xulon Press Feb 2015
Front cover photo by Bill Parsons/Maximal Image®, edited by Nancy Carlson
Table of Contents
You are not the only one to fail God so miserably.
This book is about my mistakes, not anyone else’s.
Chapter 1 – In the Beginning
“The best way to start a story is to write, ‘It was a dark
and stormy night, and then get on with the story.“
Chapter 2 - I Have Wings!
“Besides,” I said with a smile, “it’s my story,
and I’ll tell it how I want.”
Chapter 3 - Here We Go!
By then, being in the Army, I was sure I was
“grown up” and could make my own decisions.
Chapter 4 - Albert I
Once you’re separated by distance, it’s easy
to stay that way.
Chapter 5 - Barney
Twenty-five years later, I can say “strong”
is more like “stubborn”.
Chapter 6 - Charlie
One day not long after moving back in,
I finally got good and scared.
Chapter 7 - Dooley
Be careful what you say!
Chapter 8 - Edgar
Lord, where do these men come from?
Chapter 9 - Fred
In my soul's eyes, I was the most horrible sinner
that was ever pardoned by the blood of Jesus Christ!
Chapter 10 - Geoffrey
I waited and prayed. But I don’t remember worrying.
Just To Be Sure
I’ve been on this path far too long... I’m coming home.
Okay, I Said the Prayer
Is there any proof of your relationship with God?
The Prayer That Can Send You to Hell
If you’ve “said the prayer” and there is no change
in your attitude about God…
Chapter 11 - Albert II
I picked Holderness. And I could hear God laughing.
Chapter 12 – Harold
He said “Don’t you just love watchin’ God?!”
Hey! That’s my line!
Chapter 13 - What’s Next?
The general manager hired me, confident
that I would do just fine.
Chapter 14 – Brilliant Thoughts I Had Along the Way
Bingo! A way to forgive them, Charlie most of all!
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
For nearly a decade, God reminded me I needed to write this story so I could tell someone else there is hope.
“Who wants to hear it, Lord? It’s a mess. It can’t possibly be anything You want the world to hear. Look at how I’ve dragged Your name in the dirt! Sure, if I put in all the details – and put a fake name on it, and took You out of it – I could make a million dollars. It would make a good soap opera. But You don’t really want me to tell the world how bad a Christian can get, do You?”
On January 18, 2007, God said “Why don’t you write it yourself?” in the voice of a nice lady who was taking my phone order at a bookstore. I was looking for something similar, but she wasn’t familiar with anything along this line at her store. The book was her suggestion. There was no question it needed to be written – and soon.
I put it off. “It’s too hard, Lord. It hurts!”
He sent a friend to help.
Connie Streich submitted a story to the same Xulon Press contest I did in 2006. Her story was so much like what I would have written that I looked her up online and called her! She’s a gift from God; no doubt about it. Without her, this never would have been written.
Even when I was disgusted with myself, she was not. She encouraged me to tell the story so God could use those experiences to bring others to Christ. She reminded me that my experiences of God providing for me strengthened my faith. That is absolutely the truth! Without all the times I had to rely on God, I would be just another run of the mill Christian with “fire insurance.” What a horrible thought!
I finally put this on paper for a divorced, retired preacher friend, who, when I asked where he had been all these years, said “It will sound bad, but most of that time I’ve been in hell.” I didn’t know what he meant exactly, but I recognized the sound in his voice.
It is also written with the hope that those who insist “old things are past away, behold all thing are become new” means that every bad habit you ever had will suddenly vanish the minute you “say this prayer” - will realize that just isn’t so. Taken to the logical end, that interpretation would mean that once you are saved, you become perfect, and if you’re not perfect, then you must not be saved. There is no truth in that at all! “Sinless perfection” is – just wrong! There would be no reason for God to write about restoring fallen brothers, or to note that “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” in Romans 7:15. Cut the rest of us some slack, and look in the mirror of God’s word. Remember, “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
Most of all, I suffered through the pain of writing this for all those Christians out there who have “been in hell.” You are not alone. You are not the only one who has failed God so miserably. No matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been, no matter how many of God’s rules you’ve broken along the way, or are currently breaking, He thinks you’re worth loving and rescuing, even if you don’t! You take that first step to get out of the pigpen, and He’ll be there to help you take the next. And the next. And the next.
With prayers that this will help you,
N C Carlson
I’ve tried to be fair to both sides in this story. Please know that I’ve tried to portray myself as guilty. It’s no less than the truth. Most of my problems I caused myself! Separating medical issues from personal responsibility is a bit tricky, but in the end, I must be responsible for my own actions.
Since this book is about my mistakes, not anyone else’s, I have changed the names of all parties. Husbands and boyfriends have been renamed in alphabetical order. Many of the real towns are quite small, so I changed those names, too. Wish me luck trying to keep them straight! I’m going to get lost...
The journey isn’t a pretty one, nor one of which I’m proud. Oh! But God...!!! Why He loves me, why He would say “Come Home,” and be there waiting with open arms, is beyond me! But thank God for His love and the redeeming blood of His Son Jesus Christ!
Drinking and drugs were not my problem. This is all about trouble with men, just to warn you ahead of time. Many men have loved me, and on some level, I loved them all. (It’s a PG rated book, though, I would think. You don’t need the details, so they aren’t provided.)
Read on - knowing it ends well!
In the Beginning
A newspaper editor told me years ago that the best way to start a story is to write, “It was a dark and stormy night” and then get on with the story. “You can fix the first sentence later,” she said.
I’m going to tell you a long story, but it didn’t start on a dark and stormy night. It was a bright and sunny day. I was four years old. Two neighbor boys invited me into the bushes on the side of the lonely road across from our house on the outskirts of a small town in Alaska. They were maybe eight and ten years old. There was a wonderful soft cover of moss on the ground. Lady slippers were in abundance. I love lady slippers. They look almost like orchids; only they grow very close to the ground.
The picture isn’t pretty after that.
My family moved away from that small town for four years, and then moved back. I was ten on another sunny day when those same boys tied me to a tree to “check out my anatomy”.
I learned early that males were stronger than me, and trying to resist was futile. I always knew there was something wrong with boys doing such things to me, but there was no will to resist...
The first time you are involved in any particular sin, intentional or not, demons and temptations enter your life that will plague you forever if you let them. If you don’t resist, they’ll multiply, and the sins will get worse. I didn’t realize for decades that the Holy Spirit will kick out those demons if you’re His child and you ask Him to! Thank you, Jesus!
Okay, back to the story.
The summer I was twelve things began to change drastically. The death of our cousins’ parents increased our family of seven by six cousins, making five sets of “twins” and one cousin three years older than the rest.
And I met Jesus.
It was yet another sunny day. Instead of being outside playing like most of the kids in the very small town of Moose Run, Alaska, I was laying on my bed – mattress, to be more specific – in my unfinished attic bedroom that I shared with a mouse or two. In my mind, I was having a conversation with the rebel foster boy who lived with a friend’s family. I wanted him to know how to go to heaven.
It wasn’t so much a conversation, as a litany of verses:
“For God so loved the world.” (John 3:16)
“All have sinned.” (Romans 3:23)
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“And in hell he lifted up his eyes.” (Luke 16:23)
“That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Excerpts from Romans 8:35, 38, 39)
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Jesus says to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
I memorized all those verses and many more, beginning at the age of seven. Goes to show you can know God’s Word, and still not be His child.
It dawned on me that I couldn’t remember when I had asked Jesus to save me from my sins, so before I was concerned about the neighbor boy, I’d better be concerned about myself! I knew there is supposed to be a moment in time when you ask Jesus to save you. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b) That “all have sinned” I was quoting in my head to the rebel boy also meant me. I knew I had broken many of the Ten Commandments. That isn’t the reason I would go to hell, though. Jesus said he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (Jesus!) (John 3:18)
Oh! But Jesus loves me! God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), so Jesus died and rose again so I could go to heaven when I die.
Right then, I asked Jesus to save me!
My mother has a note I wrote in Sunday school when I was ten that says I asked Jesus to save me when I was eight, “the same time as my big brother got saved”. That I couldn’t remember such an event only four years after it took place makes it probable that I was just copying my big brother and didn’t get saved at all.
Oh, dear reader, please beware of such a testimony of salvation! Just “saying a prayer” to please or copy someone can be the cause of you going to hell, especially if you think that’s all you need to do because “once saved, always saved”! (Which statement is true, but the caveat is you must be saved in the first place.)
Now that the Holy Spirit was influencing my actions, my citizenship grade went from D to B. “Doesn’t get along with others” in the fourth grade was no longer an issue. I spent more time reading, less time being aggravated by people. Friends who knew me then say I was always concerned about things of God as a teenager. It never occurred to me that decades later anyone would recognize or remember the Holy Spirit in me, as did a friend from that era, who was himself saved in 2006.
In the middle of my senior year, daddy’s job was transferred from the tiny town of Moose Run to Fairbanks. There were courses required for graduation that I didn’t have, and wouldn’t be able to get before I was supposed to graduate high school in the spring. That little fact helped convince my parents to find someone who would let me live with them for the remainder of my senior year. After all, I’d been at the same school for six years. It would be awful to have to move just a few months before graduating.
The house the rest of my family moved into only had three bedrooms and a basement. I got to sleep in the basement. It sure beat sleeping in a room with my four younger sisters!
It’s been a long journey from there to here. Sometimes I walked with God. Sometimes I was in the pigpen, when I’m sure decent Christians would rather I hadn’t said I was saved. Even when I was living far from God’s standards, I never could ignore Him or deny Him. Always, God was there; loving me, helping me, chastising me.
Always, always, loving me.
I Have Wings!
I moved to Fairbanks after graduating from high school. I worked as a housekeeper at a local motel, just taking one day at a time. I didn’t have any real plans, even though my senior yearbook says I had thoughts about joining the Navy. That was probably because a guy who graduated the year before had joined the Navy, and I had to write something for the yearbook.
Daddy sold that piece of property with the wonderful lady slippers, and he offered to pay for me to go to a Bible college in Michigan. I took him up on that offer. There was a family who used to live in Moose Run who now lived close to the school, since the husband was attending that school. Perhaps that was daddy’s way of making sure I had a safety net while offering me an education.
I did enjoy some of the classes: studies of the books of John and James were my favorite. Piano was a challenge, but I did quite well the first semester. I didn’t take it again the second semester, so to this day I only know how to read the treble clef notes – from E below middle C to high E. I still remember “Every good boy deserves favor” and “f-a-c-e”. Old Testament (OT) History and Christian Education (CE) were not my favorite classes. I mean, who wants to memorize a list of kings, right?
I’m not sure the instructor knew who I was in OT History, but I am certain the instructor in CE didn’t. I skipped CE for weeks on end. One day I decided I'd better go back to class. When the instructor asked me who I was and what I was doing in her class, I got up from my chair, left the class and didn't return the rest of the semester. How is it that my absence from a required class wasn’t noticed? It’s okay. I didn’t mind.
I didn’t have many friends. To tell the truth, I don’t remember any close friends. Evidently, PR and I spent some time together, though. He was a junior – I, a lowly freshman. He has pictures of the two of us at Lake Michigan that were taken by one of those cousins who came to live with us and now lived only an hour from school. PR and I were both smiling in the pictures, so we must have had fun on that trip. But that’s all PR and I were – friends. I don’t even remember when I met him. I do remember the occasion of one of the photos – me putting lotion on his bare sunburned upper body. We were even in my dorm house! My cousin must have taken that photo as well because if anyone from school had seen it, we would have both been kicked out.
Three weeks before the end of the school year, I was practicing piano in a small practice room with a narrow window in the door. Suddenly the feeling someone was watching me made me look at the door. What a surprise to see a casual friend from my church back in Alaska! He had hitchhiked from the military base where he was stationed several states away to come see me.
I asked someone if he could stay in their dorm for a few days, and we spent some time together. The day before he returned home he asked me to marry him, to my complete surprise. I told him eighteen was entirely too young to be engaged, let alone married. He insisted I should “stop listening to all those other people, and do what I wanted.” He was a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t interested in getting married. However, I let him talk me into agreeing to marry him, which event was to take place after he got out of the Army in July. That was the first of a very long line of such mistakes...
I had no idea how I was supposed to act or what was expected of me by a fiancé who was in another state. I called him several times a week, figuring that was appropriate. He was saving money for a nest egg when we got married, so I spent my babysitting money on the phone calls. When we talked on the phone, there was no excitement, no anticipation. Being engaged seemed entirely surreal.
At the end of that school year, PR was going home Out East for a week and had another rider along. I chose to go Out East over going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a female dorm mate. PR called his parents and asked if I could stay with their family for a week. What’s one more kid, added to his already ten siblings? His parents said it would be fine. One of his brothers thought it was cool that PR was bringing a girl home.
With no thought on my part about what my fiancé would think off the three of us drove, stopping only for food and gas! PR and his friend drove most of the way, but after driving all night they were both tired, so they let me drive. That was a real chance they took! They probably didn’t know I hadn’t driven even 200 miles in my entire life!
Wouldn’t you know it; I was driving when the yellow VW Bug engine blew up! It wasn’t my fault, honest! The engine had just been rebuilt, and for some reason there was an oil leak or something and none of us realized it.
My story is a little different than PR’s, but that’s the nature of memories, I guess. Recently PR informed me, rather indignantly, that it was a black Bug! He insisted he wouldn’t be caught dead driving a yellow one. They remind him of flower decals and peace signs, and that definitely was not his style. He also doesn’t recall me driving when the engine blew up, but it’s a safe bet I was, else I wouldn’t claim such a disaster in my memory. And I can recall the scenery on the road at the exact spot where the engine started making loud knocking noises. “Besides,” I said with a smile, “it’s my story, and I’ll tell it how I want.”
The three of us hitchhiked to the nearest bus station when the car finally stopped running right outside a junk yard in the middle of New York. We were traveling light and didn’t have much to carry as we walked down that lonely road toward Syracuse. A gentleman in a pickup truck gave us a ride to the nearest bus station. We also didn’t have much money, but for some reason I had enough babysitting money with me to buy three bus tickets. Thanks, Lord!
I had a grand time that week Out East. We visited the local sights. PR and I rode bikes around the suburb where his family lived. I have a clear picture in my mind of riding down a white-picket-fenced-lined hill listening to a radio, both of us singing “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” at the top of our lungs along with Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. PR was of an age to be drafted, so the song probably had some significance to him. For me, it was just a catchy tune with a sad story.
I took lots of pictures of the sights and a few of his family with my little 110 camera.
I was eighteen, remember. It didn’t occur to me for a few years that guys didn’t bring girls home to visit unless they had plans. For many years, when I thought of that trip, I wondered if I broke PR’s heart. He knew I was engaged, and wouldn’t have made his feelings known, no matter what they were.
Next, I headed off to a summer job in Alabama selling cookbooks door-to-door. On the way down south, I stopped to surprise my fiancé in Tennessee. Thankfully, he had enough sense to realize neither one of us was ready to get married. And I had enough sense to realize the summer job wasn’t for me.
With no job and no plans to be married, that left me wondering what to do next.
I decided to visit my grandparents in Chicago. They bought a bus ticket that I could pick up at the station in Nashville. I got on the wrong bus and was late arriving. My grandfather waited at the bus station for me to arrive, and when I didn’t, he went home. I’m not sure what he thought, but when my bus finally arrived, I called from a payphone, and he came to pick me up.
I don’t remember a lot about that visit, except riding in the back seat in the back seat of Grandpa’s big car with the window down. Grandpa flicked his cigarette out the window, and the ashes flew back in my face. He apologized and rolled up my window – from the front seat! I had never seen electric windows before. I vaguely recall my Uncle and his wife and my cousin coming over to see me. That cousin is my only cousin on my mother’s side of the family. With the new communication possibilities opened up by the internet, I have located him, but we still haven’t seen each other in forty years.
When I left Chicago to go to my cousin’s house – the one who went with PR and me to the Lake – I also got on the wrong bus! I figured I’d have to go into the city before getting a bus to Michigan. I didn’t realize the bus I was scheduled to take was already on its way to Michigan. Backwoods country girl...
Come to think of it, why didn’t Grandpa, knowing I was pretty green, stay with me until I was safely on the correct bus? I do recall that he told me which bus to take, so I guess he assumed I’d do as instructed, and not think (wrongly) for myself.
Once on the right bus, I did manage to get to my cousin’s house with no further mishaps. Her husband was away on a hunting trip in another state, so we hung out being as lazy as possible with her two young sons in the house.
I experienced several new things: dyed my hair, took a city bus and just rode around town, like Shirley Hollister of Grace Livingston Hill’s “The Enchanted Barn”, rode a horse bareback (and have pictures to prove it!) I recall the bus driver stopping to pick me up, not knowing if I was waiting for the bus or not. He informed me if I wanted the bus to stop in the future, to stand closer to the bus stop and look like I was waiting for it, not just hang around the general vicinity. What did I know? I’d never done such a thing before!
One day I was riding my cousin’s bike past an Army recruiting office and on impulse I went in, still having no plans for the future. I’d just received a letter from home saying my big brother had enlisted in the Army. Even though we pretty much ignored each other, except when I had money, and he didn’t, he is still my big brother. If he could join the Army, why couldn’t I?
After a few days of tracking down the proper paperwork, the recruiter took me to the induction station in downtown Detroit, leaving me to do the required testing and get a physical. With all the paperwork finished, I was ready to go back to my cousin’s house. I had signed up for a delayed entry date in November, because that was the soonest there would be an opening for the medical records specialist school I wanted. (Looking back, that position would have been a disservice to the patients since my typing is horrible!)
Here I go, thinking on my own again... The last bus back to my cousin’s house was due to leave thirty minutes after the testing was finished. The sergeant who was responsible for making sure I either had a bus ticket or a hotel room for the night said there wasn’t enough time for me to catch the bus.
I wanted to go home. I did not want to stay in a strange city in a hotel room by myself. I asked the sergeant how far it was to the bus station, and got directions. “You get the bus ticket for me, and I’ll make it to the bus station. I can walk the few blocks and be there in plenty of time,” said I foolhardily.
The sergeant looked at me like I’d lost all my marbles, but he handed me a ticket. I did make it to the station on time. It never entered my mind that a young girl walking alone in downtown Detroit at 5 o’clock in the afternoon wasn’t the brightest thing to do... I wonder if some would-be attacker saw those angels God has surrounding His kids? Such stories have been told.
Once a plan is in motion, waiting around for it to be implemented is hard for me. I decided that living at my cousin’s house wasn’t where I wanted to spend the next five months waiting to join the Army, especially with her two young kids. Makes me wonder how I ever made a living as a babysitter.
I found a job as a maid at a local motel, since the few months between high school and college gained me a bit of experience in that profession. I’d worked at that motel in Michigan for all of three hours with a lady who was training me in the fine art of making beds and cleaning toilets. When she found out I was only planning to be there long enough to earn some money for a plane ticket home, she told the boss, who promptly gave me my pay and sent me on my way. To this day, I still twist the plastic trash bags tight around the top of the can.
I’m not sure how I got the money to go home to Alaska, but I did get there. The plane was late arriving. I missed watching my favorite third-baseman, Gene DeLyon, in the last farm league game of the Alaska Goldpanners’ local season.
As a “welcome home” surprise, Momma cooked my favorite supper of pot roast, potatoes, and carrots. I missed that, too.
Here We Go!
Cleaning house is not something I do well or enjoy. What little I earned as a motel housekeeper when I returned to Fairbanks wasn’t enough to recommend the occupation to me for the three months before my Army school started. Nor did I particularly like living at home in a cramped house. Even though there were only eight kids at home, the three-bedroom house with basement was just too small. Besides, I’d been out and seen the world by then!
I rode a bicycle the fifteen miles to town to the recruiter’s office and arranged to leave as soon as possible. After the arrangements were made, the recruiter had to drive me home because I don’t usually ride bicycles! I was beat! To accommodate my desire to leave immediately, it meant giving up the training as a medical records specialist for the more generic clerk typist. Only in the Army could I hold either job. I can type fast, but only if you don’t consider how many errors I make. For that, I love computers! If you are an Army veteran of the late 70’s, now is a good time to thank God that I changed my MOS!
The morning I arrived at the in-processing station to start my basic training in Ft. McClellan, Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd was rockin’ on the radio with “Sweet Home Alabama”. The day was bright and sunny.
What a shock it was to be sleeping in a huge open room with forty other “ladies”! Even with all those ladies to choose from, I made acquaintances, but not friends. For some reason, it seemed that all my acquaintances in basic training were lesbians. I never have figured out why.
At a barracks meeting with the drill sergeant, I evidently talked more than necessary. “Don’t you ever shut up?” she asked. I took the hint. A few weeks later, she asked, “Don’t you ever talk??” Can’t win, ya know?
When we went to the field (that’s “camping” to civilians), one of the younger lesbians suggested we share a tent. The tent was a 2-man pup tent – just wide enough and long enough for two people who were friendly. Each person had half of the tent – or a “shelter half”. Knowing her preference for ladies but being totally naïve (and yes, a lifetime of experience later, I still am), I agreed.
“Let me show you something you will enjoy,” she said. I had no idea what she had in mind. Though she didn’t do much, I must say, it did feel good.
I immediately packed my bags, left my half of the tent, and moved to the big tent with most of the rest of the ladies. I wanted no part of such a thing as what had just happened!
That was the only time anyone ever tried anything like that, and I have never pursued the activity.
In retrospect, I can see how a young girl, whose first pleasant experience with sex was with another girl, could easily assume she must be a lesbian because she enjoyed it.
After basic training, I stopped for a week or so to visit my cousin, Susie, whose husband, Tom, was stationed in Oklahoma. Only Susie wasn’t home! No one met me at the bus station at 3 in the morning. I had no idea what to do. There was a county sheriff’s deputy at the bus station for some reason. He was concerned that I arrived with no one to take care of me. He took me to the temporary quarter’s office on post and made sure I had a place to stay the night. In the morning, I contacted Tom’s company orderly room. He wasn’t available until lunch, and I was advised to stay put until he could come pick me up.
Why didn’t I do that?? After a few hours and no Tom, I took the shuttle bus that went ‘downtown’ and attempted to find Susie’s house. The post office wasn’t willing to give me a street address, and all I had was the post office box number.
A soldier at the post office must have overheard my conversation, and offered to take me home to stay with his family until he could figure out how to contact Tom. I remember he had two little boys. My bed was a bunk bed in their room, but it was safe and warm.
God sure has had a lot of angles on duty taking care of me!
The next day Tom finally found me and said he had almost left for Michigan where Susie and their two sons were without me! We had to go to the next town to pick up my duffle bag full of my military uniforms, because for some reason they didn’t get off the bus with me.
After spending a week or two in Michigan with my cousin – of which I have absolutely no recollection! – we all headed back to Oklahoma, where I again boarded the bus, this time to California to learn my trade.
My duffle bag arrived in California, but my civvies ended up in Utah! I never did get them back. That was okay. What woman has ever complained of having to buy a whole new wardrobe?
At school, the only real requirement besides knowing how to fill out certain military forms was to be able to type 25 words per minute. I could type about 70 words per minute, so even accounting for errors, learning the forms was my only task. I was there for about two weeks.
The barracks were old World War II two-story wooden barracks with two-man rooms. My room was on the second floor.
Now that basic training was finished, we could do whatever we wanted, as long as we were at class on time in the morning. My roommate and I took the bus to San Jose and got thoroughly lost, but did manage to find the bus station to get back to post. On one or two occasions, I went to the local recreation center that was close to the barracks. I didn’t drink – still don’t – so the next story is a curious one.
I have no idea how I got involved with the military policeman who took me for a ride in his little pick up truck out in the desert, but I recall distinctly him leaving me there when I wouldn’t do what he wanted. Those angels got me home.
Before we could graduate from our training school, we had to pass a PT test. Being fresh from basic training, that wasn’t a problem for me. Back in those days, I was fairly athletic. We had to run 1 mile in 7.5 minutes. I did that easily with over two minutes to spare. After finishing my run, there was a lady who looked like she might not make it all the way around the track one more time. Not being tired, I went back and ran with her, pacing her so that she would finish. We barely made it under the time allowed. That made me feel like I’d accomplished something.
My next trip was to Colorado Springs, Colorado. When I arrived, the ‘WAC shack’ was my home for a week, along with most of the other female soldiers on post, until my permanent assignment was determined. Eventually, I was assigned to a company with one of the first co-ed barracks in the Army. The women had half of the second floor all to themselves. No men were allowed in our area, and we were not allowed in the men’s area.
When I arrived at the building, the entrance wasn’t very obvious. Not knowing anything at all about the place, I walked in the first door that was unlocked. There I was, in my mint green class B uniform, walking down what turned out to be the men’s part of the barracks! Geoffrey, a good-looking blonde guy, stuck his head out his door and asked if I was lost. I sheepishly acknowledged it to be true. He kindly pointed me in the direction of the orderly room, where I was to report for duty and assignment of my room.
The ladies rooms were actually just cubicles with doors and walls that didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, unlike the actual rooms the men occupied. Even though I officially had a roommate, she didn’t stay in the barracks as she was living with her boyfriend off post.
My job would be a levy clerk, where I would type travel orders for soldiers who were being reassigned to another post. And yes, that was almost as bad as being a medical records specialist, considering my typing skills weren’t up to the precision required. There were a lot of amendments with those orders to correct things I’d spelled wrong.
I fell in with a crowd that included Geoffrey, Albert, and several other guys. We played cards, rode around in their cars, waxed their cars, went to Sambo’s restaurant until all hours of the night.
I’d like to say I didn’t “sleep” with a guy until I got married, but that would be a lie. The first time was the result of pure unsuspecting naivety.
I frequently hung out in the dayroom, playing pool and cards with the guys and ladies in the barracks. One night, several of us were playing cards. When everyone else headed off to their rooms, two of the guys who lived off post, not one of my usual crowd, asked me if I wanted to go to their apartment and play more cards. Not being tired, I agreed.
How totally stupid!
I was only nineteen and for some reason didn’t even consider that they might have had other plans. And that was before my head injury, so I can’t use that for an excuse, though it seems the toxic environment we lived in at Ft. McClellan can cause psychological problems. Or, maybe growing up in a small town where things like that didn’t happen in my world would explain my naivety?
Anyway, when the guy discovered that was my first time, and I wasn’t interested, he apologized and said “Go to sleep.”
I have no explanation for that incident, other than pure naivety. There was no passion involved, no intention of being in such a position. He assumed I knew what he had in mind, and acted that way. I didn’t even think to question him. How could I have been so stupid?! At least he was decent enough to make sure I wasn't pregnant a month later. And God was kind enough to have prevented such a catastrophe. It was definitely God, as you will perhaps notice in other “first time” instances in later years.
Besides playing cards – I was very good at Spades - I took a class in architectural drafting. It was only a 9-week course, but that was the beginning of a passion for dreaming up floor plans.
On another bright and sunny day, (I should hate them by now, right?) I was walking to work from the barracks. Suddenly Geoffrey, who I used to be quite friendly with – without ending up in bed – flagged me down and asked me to marry him. It was quite a surprise, since we hadn’t been hanging out too much recently.
However, I knew he was on orders for Korea, and he didn’t want to go. My job was such that I could have pulled some strings to possibly get those orders cancelled. I assumed that was his motive. The proposal was so unexpected that I laughed, thinking maybe it was a joke. Not a brilliant or kind thing to do. But it was an instant reaction. Honest! I wouldn't have done such a horrible thing otherwise. As off-handedly as he asked, I declined the proposal, evidently having learned something from my experience the previous summer about getting married.
Until I hit my head.
A few weeks later I woke up at 2:36 a.m. with a cramp in my leg and sat on the edge of the bottom bunk. “Get up and stretch out your leg,” I thought. Next thing I knew, I woke up on the linoleum-covered concrete floor at 5:30 a.m., laying on my back with a very bad headache. Best guess – when I started to stand up I hit my head on the top bunk. My roommate wasn’t in the room that night, so no one was around to help or even notice. I went to work at 7:30 with a very bad headache.
It was two weeks before my friends, who noticed something was wrong, convinced me to go to the doctor. When I finally did, the physician’s assistant said I had a “slight concussion. If you get more headaches, take an aspirin.” A friend I located twenty-five years later said I was a basket case. “Totally different person,” he said. I have no recollection of the personality changes.
I’m not sure if this incident happened after my head injury, or before.
The barracks were several miles from town, and I didn’t have a car. How I got 20 miles from post and what I was doing so far away is a complete mystery. But I was walking back from the direction of the Air Force Academy when a man in a black pickup stopped to give me a ride. It was a ride he was after, and when I declined, he left me stranded at the local flea market. I called one of my friends from basic training, who lived in town with her girlfriend. The friend wasn’t home, but the girlfriend kindly came to get me. After my friend arrived, she took me back to the barracks.
Two weeks after the head injury, Albert returned from being on leave for a month. He asked me to marry him in a make-out session that didn’t interest me in the least. “Let me think about it,” I said.
“While you’re thinking about it, would you like to see my collection of Louis L’Amour books?”
I had read all of the Louis L’Amour books I could find and was hoping he has some new ones, so I agreed to go to his room. I’m not sure why, because it was against regulations.
Once I was in his room, Albert asked me to spend the night, which was against every rule in the book, both Army and Bible. I agreed. Don’t ask me why. You can’t “think about it” objectively sleeping next to the guy, even if you weren’t doing anything else! And I insisted that we didn’t.
The next morning, Sunday, I went back to my room to get my Bible that I wanted him to see. I was reading it in his room when someone official came to check out a report of a woman in Albert’s room. They were surprised to see me reading my Bible and left with no reprimand.
At least I thought to read the Bible to get an answer for such a life-changing event as getting married. Not that I got the answer from that short reading session. There was 2 Corinthians 6:14 that says “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” and I considered it in passing. When I asked, Albert said he was saved, citing a time that he was scared to death and asked God to save him from his troubles. At the time, I questioned that in my mind, but not seriously.
At some point in the morning, I said “Sure, okay. When do you want to get married?” Just matter-of-factly, like it was a reply to “Do you want to go to a movie?”
Hell-oo! I was nineteen. Never gave a serious thought to the question that day.
Albert had a silly gleeful gleam in his eye that I didn’t think anything of at the time. Since we were now engaged, it didn’t seem quite so wrong to let him talk me into bed. The conviction of being wrong was there, but thinking “I’m going to marry him, so it’s okay, right?” would lull me into submission.
Wrong! Oh, the price!
I began to doubt my salvation around that time because of my sexual sins. I knew better, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. In the small town where I grew up, with my friends and family always around, I had a support system that would help me do what I knew to be right. Now, it seemed that even though I wanted to do right, the ability to do so wasn’t there.
By the time I was in the Army, going to church was a rare thing. No particular place to go. No transportation. I missed being in church and was expecting my soon-to-be husband to attend church with me since he had a car and claimed to be saved. We did go once or twice, and he got a kick out of making out in the back seat of the car in their parking lot. It makes my stomach turn, recalling the tone of voice he used when he reminded me of that incident years later.
But I was only nineteen and completely clueless...
By then, being in the Army, I was sure I was “grown up” and could make my own decisions.
Hmph! What an excuse – “youth”.
“Albert, we haven’t moved into our apartment yet. We can still get out of the lease, can’t we? I don’t think getting married is such a good idea.”
“Well, now is one heck of a time to change your mind!” my tall, dark and handsome husband-to-be said as we drove from the apartment office back to our barracks in his beautiful little sports car.
I thought it was a great time to change my mind! However, I just shut up and did what I was told. I remember thinking “If he is going to be my husband, I need to learn to do what he says.”
The problem with that logic is the scriptural injunction for a wife to submit to her husband doesn’t start until after he is her husband. More than once over the years, I would let what someone else thought I should do override my good judgment, invariably with poor results.
Six months after Albert and I were married he decided he wanted to go back overseas. I used that job of mine to arrange it. With his job as a physical activities specialist (jock), we had a choice of some exotic locations. Once we chose a location, my clerk title made it easy to find an open slot for me at the same duty station, or even to create one.
Life wasn’t too bad the summer we arrived in Belgium. That is to say, I remember things in color and I wasn’t obviously depressed.
A lonely fifteen-year-old girl went with us everywhere. I didn’t mind, because she kept me from having to be alone with my husband. Albert didn’t mind because - well, he didn’t mind.
After school started, and the girl wasn’t with us nearly every waking moment, a man I worked with started chasing me. When I wasn’t working, I was writing – to God. Please forgive me. Help me get out of this. I hate being involved with another man. Even though there was no physical involvement, my heart was very involved, which is just as bad. (Matthew 5:28)
Depression coincided with bouncing off the walls. Back and forth, up and down, sometimes hourly, frequently at the same time. It’s very tiring being both depressed and overexcited at the same time. The depression ruled my emotions and clouded my judgment severely. The memories of that time are all in black and white, and embarrassing to me.
I learned to love the Country Fried Rock album, Marshal Tucker, The Dirt Band, and a few other such artists. “Disco Duck” was quite the hit. It was okay, but our record collection was peppered with The Bee Gee’s, The Commodore’s, Neil Diamond, Pet Clark, The Carpenters, Tom T Hall, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and such good music. On the morning of Aug 16, 1976 I woke up to the 7 a.m. news to hear the ‘The King is dead!” Sad day. There were quite a few unauthorized radios at work that week as fans of all fourteen nations represented on base joined the whole world listening to every Elvis Presley song ever recorded.
Albert started spending all his time at work or playing sports. I felt neglected and rejected, but he said he did that because I wanted to be left alone. He was probably correct.
At one point, I asked Albert why he married me. His answer shocked me. “To get you in bed,” he said without any shame in his voice or face. “But once we were married, I learned to love you and I don’t want to lose you.”
The “but” didn’t mitigate the first part of the answer. With shame for falling for the trap, I never forgot it. That, and his disregard for my request to stay out of bed until we were married, destroyed our marriage.
On a particularly bad day for me I invited the man who was chasing me home to bed during our lunch break, in retaliation for some now-forgotten hurt inflicted by Albert. My friend had just taken a muscle-relaxant, though, so nothing much happened. But the intent was there. Later, when he said that “Of course sex was what I was after,” like I should have known that all along, it very nearly devastated me emotionally. I recall swearing (a thing I rarely do,) and slamming the phone across the desk.
That was the first time I recall thinking about running my sports car into hard immoveable objects on the side of the road. My plan was to watch for no traffic on a very long straight stretch lined with huge old oak trees. With no traffic in sight, when the speedometer reached 90 MPH, I would jerk the steering wheel to the right and run into a tree, ending my life and the pain. That would be an instant ticket to heaven. The thought that maybe I wouldn’t be killed, only maimed, didn’t stop me from thinking about it.
Not long after that devastating comment, another man I worked with invited me to go to the market with him on a day we both had off, but our spouses didn’t. It never crossed my mind to think he might have any intentions other than going to the market.
Lord, what is wrong with me?? How do I get into these situations?