Row Boat Man

In the Spring of 1976, I told my dad that I was thinking about quitting school. I was not asking permission. Back then, a 16 year old in Illinois could quit without parental consent, no signature required. My older sister quit every other day. Okay, just once a week, on average. She’d stomp into the school office on her way out the door, slam her books down on the counter and declare, “I quit!” And, on the very next day, mother would march her right back into the office to re-enroll.

Sis was emotional, so her quits were always in reaction to something, a tiff with a teacher or whatever. Mine was different. My quit would be an action, not a reaction. Much consideration needed to go into my decision, which is why I wanted to talk my dad. It never occurred to me that my parents may object. But, like I said, I wasn’t asking.

He did not tell me no. Dad never tried to control me, at least not in my teen years. I didn’t even have a curfew. I was expected to be courteous, to let my mother know if I would be home for supper, to call if I was going to be out late. At the most, he’d say, “think about what you’re doing.”

Oh, he did firmly ask me to stop trying to sign my sister up for the Army. That’s about as close as I can recall of him ever telling me no on anything, and that was just because they were getting tired of recruiters coming to the house. Yeah, every time my sister ticked me off, I’d fill out one of those military postcards in her name, get her a free pair of socks or whatever incentive was offered for requesting more information. Do they still do that? Maybe it was a 70’s thing. Those postcards were in about every scholastic magazine.

When I told dad that I was thinking of just not going back the next year, he knew it was my decision. I would be 16 in July. All he did was ask me why, and then he told me a story about a man in a rowboat.

Yeah, a man in a row boat. This poor sap set out to row his little boat all the way across the ocean. It was a long and perilous journey, months and months at sea. He was almost there, but he didn’t know it because he could not see the shore. Just another day or two, and he’d be there. But, he was tired, so he told himself that it’s too far away, he can’t make it, may as well give up. So, he turned his boat around and rowed all the way back.

It made a lot of sense. I already had 11 years of schooling, so what’s two more? Even if I did not graduate, I’d still have a 12th grade education.

Still, it was my decision. I opted to sign up for Graphic Arts at a vocational school for the next year to give myself a change of pace, with only a half day of High School classes. I was back in regular classes for 12th grade, as we moved to Ohio just before my senior year and Graphic Arts was not an option at the vocational school there. And yes, I graduated at age 17.

This is on my mind tonight… not exactly sure why. Maybe it explains why I don’t give up so easy, or why I hang in there far longer than I should at times. If it is a relationship, I don’t want to start over with someone new. If it’s a goal or a project, then it’s a “what if I’m almost there?” Maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t want to row my boat all the way back across an ocean.

Thanks for reading!

Shun Control

I broke silence, wrote about why I need to join the resistance on my YBWorks blog.

I expect negative feedback from family and friends who voted for Trump. Some will quietly unfriend me on Facebook, others will blow up my phone. I might get shunned again.

Oh well, shunning only works the first time… then you find yourself not willing to let yourself get too close again. Trust is gone… if they can shun you once, they can do it again.

It was my fault… I did the unthinkable… I survived and thrived without a husband and that, dear friends, set a very bad example for my married sisters.

It took awhile to connect the dots. 

I never really understood why I got shunned… the explanation given when my youngest sister broke silence was a vague excuse carefully worded so I wouldn’t ask any questions. She had to deal with some “personal” things.   

Okay, like that explains two long years of absolutely no contact, the bullshit story used to ensure that our paths would never cross, and the disconnect from other relatives who also shunned me as they took her side in our imaginary war.

Yes, word was that me and baby sis were fighting so much that we couldn’t be in the same room, so I was not invited to any family function that she planned to attend… even our family Christmas party was split into two events, held on separate days.

Two long years passed with absolutely no contact before our paths crossed at a family cookout hosted by other sisters to celebrate two birthdays: my 50th and mom’s 69th.

When I arrived, a big “uh-oh, aunt Nancy is here” flashed over faces on in the next generation down. Baby sis was in the house so I walked in… that’s when she hugged me and apologized with the weak excuse.  After talking, we were okay… but the young ones who had taken her side continued to shun me. I found that rather amusing, like who goes to a birthday party and doesn’t say one word to the birthday girl? One niece actually lifted her nose and turned her head as she walked passed me.

The weird thing about shunning is it intends to punish people by withdrawing highly desired contact and affection, as if the person being shunned will be thrilled to once again be welcomed back into the family fold. If too much time passes, the opposite effect is achieved. The shunned person is not so willing to fully embrace those who are capable of shunning people they supposedly love. The closeness once shared can never be restored as the trust is gone.

I know, supposed to let bygones be bygones, life goes on… but, seven years have passed since she broke the silence and we are not as close as we used to be. I still feel a distance between us. As for the young ones, time has made us strangers. We say hello on the rare occasions when our paths cross, but we don’t know each other anymore. Some have birthed babies who are now school aged children that I have never met.

It always bothered me that I never really knew why I got shunned. If there was a plausible why, I could understand. For nine years, I did not know why. Then a light bulb of illumination clicked on just a couple months ago, when I heard an older relative say, “Married women who want to stay married do not associate with divorced women.”

She went on to elaborate, explain the perils of such associations.

I had heard those words before, in regards to another sister with whom contact was limited after my divorce. I had blamed her husband… thought that odd idea came from his church.

Now it all makes sense… baby sis must have taken the old lady’s advice, abruptly cut off all contact with me while she was desperately trying to salvage her marriage.

So, why did I go off on this tangent?

Oh yes… the possibility of being shunned again, which raises a question: Is the possibility of being shunned for your opinion an effective deterrent used to silence voices?

 

Sister Shadows ( a la fiction, baby)

Once upon a time ago, three little girls stood like stair steps in a faded family photograph.

The oldest child was intelligent and free-spirited, a natural born leader. She grew up strong in her own right, graduated college with honors, and achieved many things. Life wasn’t always easy, but she cut her own path and learned many lessons along the way.

The middle child was creative and easy-going. She, too, did well in school and grew up strong in her own right. Her hands were blessed for making things so she enjoyed exploring her creativity and excelled at many things.

The youngest child was blessed with a deeply caring heart, but her strength was also her greatest weakness because she cared too deeply about the wrong things. Growing up in her sisters’ shadows made her overly competitive. She wanted to do things “first” even though her sisters were much older. Trying to compete with her sisters had to be flustrating because her sisters were good at their own things and refused to play competition games. Her caring nature did lead her to a good life that fullfilled her needs to nurture. She married young, raised a large family, and nurtured plants and animals.

And now the three sisters are old women and the youngest still harbors a competitive edge towards her sisters, but in her book, as the self-appointed family historian, she won and they lost because she can only define a woman’s life as she defines her own: in terms of the man they marry. Even if the marriage was extremely brief, a mere fraction of a lifetime, her sister’s personal achievements are negated to nothing in the ultimate revenge.

“Sister, wife of so&so, his work, his achievements; mother of child” with names and vital dates include.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

If you feel like you are growing up in the shadow of your sisters, step out into your own light so when you are old, you can rejoice and celebrate each other’s achievements. Each sister must choose her own path. It never was a competition.