I gave up girlfriends in the second grade when I got in trouble with the principal for writing with chalk on the outside walls of the school building, swings and teeter-totter. I had expressed my affection for a cute little blonde, Darlene Darling. I wrote the words Darlene + James.
After that episode I never claimed anyone as my girlfriend or gave a valentine to anybody but family. In high school I had friends who were girls but no sweethearts. In the army and college I was not around girls.
After I went to work I got out into the world and joined the dating game. If the girl I was dating began to get serious, I disappeared. For many years, some relatives or friends often asked me “Why haven’t you gotten married”. I always shut them up with my reply “I understand that a wife is one who helps you through all the trouble you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t married her”.
While I was working in Fort Worth, a charming pretty lady, Jean Sargent, came to work in the office where I worked. After about two years, she quit Amoco to obtain her masters degree and then moved to Tennessee where she taught at East Tennessee University for two years. During this period we dated and kept up with each other.
After forty-three years of bachelorhood, I decided to find out about the troubles that a wife causes. On June 8, 1970, I married Jean and her three boys, ages 6, 9 and 12.
With a family of five and a move to Denver a year later, there were always troubles abound. These troubles were seldom serious and the most have been forgotten but there are a few that I still remember with humor. The first one I encountered was that the boys felt no need to flush the stool. This bothered me immensely and my campaigning was to no avail. Finally I hit on a plan that worked. When one of the boys could tell me who had not flushed, the guilty one had to perform the assigned chores of the squealer as well as his chores for the following week.
We had been married a couple of months, when Greg, the eldest, developed severe pain in his stomach as well as a low-grade fever. It was obvious to me that the boy needed immediate relief and the solution was an enema. This was a common thing for me and I was adept at this operation before I started grade school. Jean and the boys had never heard of such a horrible thing.
I prevailed on Greg to try this procedure. Let me tell you, giving instructions to a twelve-year boy to do something that strange to himself behind a closed bathroom door is nigh on to impossible. I don’t recall that he succeeded but Greg is still around and has erased the whole situation from his memory.
A few years later, Greg left to live with his dad and the two other boys had their own rooms. I placed a potted cactus in each of their rooms and they seemed pleased. They had never shown any interest in helping me with my flower gardens but one day I noticed tiny plants growing around the cactus in Bryan’s room. I was thrilled to see that he had developed an interest in gardening.
When I asked him what the plants were that were growing around the cactus, he answered that he did not know. He said that he was in a flower shop with his granddad in Texas and that he found the seeds on the floor. I soon noticed that the plants took on the looks of diminutive palm trees and decided that they were some kind of herbs. The Government Printing Office had a store near where I worked so I stopped by and purchased a book on plants so we could find how to cultivate these little plants.
I was mortified to find a picture of Bryan’s plants under the heading of narcotics and a picture identified them as marijuana. I did not say anything to Bryan about the crop he was growing. Instead I decided to help him with the maintenance of his medicinal herbs. Unknown to him, I watered his plants using boiling water. The next day the cactus appeared healthy but the little green plants were lying flat on the soil as dead as a doornail. Neither of us ever commented about the demise of the little fellows.
Bryan could be a little work brittle and often took a lot of reminding for him to get his chores done. He now had a job as a busboy at one of the locally popular restaurants. Jean and I took time about in driving him to and from work. Jeff complained to me that it was unfair that he consistently did his chores but Bryan did not. After one of Jeff’s outbursts, it was my time to pick up Bryan that evening
On our trip home, I told Bryan that he had not done his chores that week and that he was to do them when we arrived home. His job was to trim the grass from around the flowerbeds with hand clippers. He laughed while saying “You know that I can’t do that tonight. It is dark”. I could not back down so I replied, “Yes you can, I will hold the flashlight to provide light for you”. I don’t know if any of the neighbors saw us or not but the two of us spent about twenty minutes getting his chores done.
Sometime when Jeff was in the third grade, I remarked to Jean that it seemed as if we were buying an unusual amount of bread lately. She agreed that we were using a lot of bread but we did not give it anymore thought.
A week or two later, we received a call from Jeff’s teacher. She asked if we knew that Jeff had been leaving the campus during the lunch hour and that she there was not an authorization on file for his leaving.
That evening, we confronted Jeff about his noon hour activities. He was open with us and exuberantly explained about a business that he and two of his buddies had started. To finance their operation, they had been using their lunch money. They would leave school at noon and come to our house and help themselves to peanut butter sandwiches.
By combining their money they bought baseball cards in bulk and resold them individually for a profit. Jeff was the president of the company. He also kept all of their money since he did not trust their treasurer.
He was told that he was to cease leaving the school grounds during the noon hour. We did not tell him to stop his business dealings since I thought that we had a budding entrepreneur in the family. Our consumption of bread went down immediately. Evidently the business rapidly died. Since then he seems to have developed an aversion to work and has lost the spark to run his own company.
One night about mid-night, a couple of years later, Jean and I were awakened by the ringing of the telephone. I shuffled to the phone to hear a policeman ask if Jeff Sargent lives there. His next words were “Do you know where he is”. I answered, “Of course I do. He is asleep in his bedroom”.
The policeman asked me to please check Jeff’s bedroom. I turned on the light in the room and there was Jeff in bed covered with his blanket. I was shocked when I checked under the blanket and found two pillows but no Jeff.
When I told the officer what I discovered, he said he would bring Jeff to us. We were told that he and another boy and a girl were found peddling little kids’ tricycles down a hill in our neighborhood.
The other boy was a friend of Jeff’s who had thrown pebbles against the window of Jeff’s second floor bedroom to let him know that he was ready for one of their nighttime excursions. They had run into the girl and she joined them in a tricycle race. It turned out that the girl was a runaway whom the boys did not know.
I believed that punishment should be administered. I demanded that he bend over and I struck him with my leather belt something like fifteen times. There were no tears or yelling. If he ever slipped out for another night’s rendezvous, we never knew about it.
And then there are problems that can be life threatening. One night about ten years ago at two o’clock in the morning, I woke up and could not move. This went on a couple of minutes before I woke up Jean yelling, “I’m dying. Take me to the hospital”. She looked at me sympathetically and said, “First, I will have to make myself look presentable”. It must have been thirty minutes later when she returned in a pretty dress and jacket with full make-up and hair perfectly combed.
I could see that she was ready to go but I was now moving around freely and feeling good. I told her to take off her make-up and go back to bed that I was feeling good and that if I were going to die, I would have done it by now. She frowned but staggered out of the room to return to bed.
I would not have thought much about this being a threat to my life if it had not been for the Metamucil episode. It resulted from my attempt to help a long-time friend, Ken Blancett. Ken told me that he was having a problem in his back yard with snakes slithering into the fishpond and making a snack out of his priceless goldfish.
During the previous year I had twice been called to a neighbor’s home to kill small snakes that had gotten into her house.
Even though she had a snake killer across the street, she still did not feel safe. She spread a product called Snake Away around areas in her garage and house where she thought the little varmints could slide in. It should not take many of the crystals to cover the suspected areas but there were five one-gallon jugs of the poison stored in her garage.
I decided that the answer to Ken’ snake problem was in my neighbors garage. She was out of town but I knew that she would not care if I confiscated a cup of the “Snake Away” to help my friend. Then there was the problem of a container to pour the stuff into so I could avoid contamination.
I had taken Metamucil daily for many years and I suddenly realized that an empty Metamucil plastic bottle was the solution. I poured a cup of the crystals into an empty bottle and took it to our garage and placed it by the door of the driver’s side of our car. This should remind me to take it to church the next day and present it to Ken and save his fishes.
As usual, I was late getting ready to go to church the next morning. When I went into the garage I did not see the bottle where I thought I had left it. I did not have time to look for it or even think about where I must have put it. I decided that I would take it to him sometime during the week. I did not mention it to Jean since she was not aware of what I was doing and I didn’t want to take time for explanations.
After church, when we pulled into the garage, I told Jean about what had happened and that I must have had a mental lapse as to where I placed the Metamucil bottle. She said “You mean that you put that poisonous Snake Away in the bottle that was by the car? I wondered why it was there. I thought it had fallen out of a grocery sack. I put it in your medicine cabinet”. Luckily, in my haste, I had failed to take my Metamucil that morning.
This really shocked me since I had just watched a TV documentary about killer wives. I watched Jean’s movements for quite a while after that for fear that she had turned into one of those killer wifes.
These are just a few of the many troubles I had as a result of acquiring a wife. The warning I had received about getting married was correct. But I also found that dealing with family problems results in love becoming stronger. BRING ON THE TROUBLES.
APRIL 13, 2013