Today’s featured photo was taken last night, at the edge of a vineyard. The photo looks idyllic, but there’s actually a very busy Autobahn next to the vineyard. It struck me as applicable to today’s post, which is about how things aren’t always the way they look to the naked eye. This post may be upsetting to some people. If you’re a relative of mine or Bill’s, and you don’t want to be alienated, you might want to quit reading right now…
My husband is one of the kindest, most sensible, most decent, most easy going guys I have ever met. In over twenty years of marriage, I’ve very rarely seen him genuinely angry. I’ve never seen him completely lose his temper. He’s never been violent or reckless, and he’s very slow to get upset. He’s like an oasis of calm. But, as they say, still waters run deep, and he is a very deep guy who, in his lifetime, has been influenced by quite an interesting array of characters.
I will be the first to admit, I am among the many odd characters in Bill’s life. My whole life, people have been calling me weird, peculiar, strange, obnoxious, outspoken, inappropriate and uninhibited. For some reason, instead of reining in my weirdness, I’ve mostly let it all hang out. I’ve found that many people don’t know what to do with it. Some people, on the other hand, seem to enjoy it. Bill is one of those rare and special people who likes me for who I am… and who has taken the time to look beyond what’s obvious. It’s one of his many gifts.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know he has a very unusual ex wife who is highly toxic, very manipulative, and just plain mean. I’m sure she would be offended that I call her mean, but what would you call someone who forces her children to divorce their fathers? What would you call someone who leaves a man with literal scars in places where the sun doesn’t shine? What would you call someone who does her best to ruin her husband’s relationships with his family of origin and friends, and spoils his career? When the inevitable divorce happens, instead of owning her part of it, she alienates the children to the extent at which they literally disown him and legally change their names. Yeah, she’s definitely leading the conga line of “interesting people” in Bill’s life.
Bill also had two stepfathers. One was a guy who looked like Charles Durning and wasn’t too bad, except when it came to money. When he had it, he was great. When he didn’t, he wasn’t great. The other was a very talented artist who married his mother because s/he was transgender and wanted her to teach him/her how to be a woman. Bill’s mom didn’t know her second husband was transgender when they married, nor was she aware that her husband resented Bill so much. Bill’s first stepfather used to tell Bill that talking to him was like talking to a brick wall. That marriage, which lasted for about four years, occurred right in the middle of Bill’s childhood, and it had a profound effect on him.
Bill’s mom had a friend who obviously thought Bill was gay. She’d tell him, straight up, that it was okay for him to be gay. However, Bill clearly ISN’T gay. He’s just very gentle and sensitive, and in tune with the softer side of his personality. Even if he was gay, it wouldn’t be appropriate for some random woman to tell him it’s okay to “out” himself, especially when he’s still a teenager. Sexual orientation is a very personal thing, isn’t it?
Bill has another close relative who is quite immature and emotionally manipulative. She’s been known to send him guilt trips via text message or voicemail. She was pretty homophobic for a long time, although I’m not sure if she still is. She once told Bill that she believed homosexuals go to Hell… and yet, her best friend and her daughter are both lesbians. I don’t know if her views have changed, but there was a time when she was very open about these views… which could just be from being an Old World American Catholic who lives in the mid South and was raised in the 50s and 60s.
Then there’s my family, which has its own parade of weirdness. Most people in my family appear to be very normal and accomplished. However, it’s a hotbed of dysfunction, with a smattering of extremely politically conservative people, colorful, artistic personalities, functional alcoholics, and deeply religious Protestant folks. Bill actually fits in better than I do, because he’s a military veteran from the South, and he has a very normal appearance in terms of his looks and demeanor. He doesn’t make waves the way I do. My grandmother once famously told Bill that his “charm” was wearing off on me. And yet, compared to some of the other people he’s known, I’m probably among the most “normal” of the bunch.
Bill’s life has been seasoned with a vast array of eccentric people, both in terms of his family of origin, and people he’s met along the way. Almost everyone is basically “good”, or at least mostly harmless. But they’ve sure been unusual and kind of fascinating. I could probably write an interesting book about some of these characters. He’s also been exposed to Mormonism, which a lot of people would truly consider a “weird” religion. I’m sure practicing Mormons wouldn’t because they’re in the church. But, if they were to look at it in a detached way, they might see that it’s weird to do baptisms for the dead, wear special underwear, or allow other people to dictate what beverages they’re allowed to drink and whether or not they’re allowed to masturbate.
Looking at it objectively, I could probably say that even Bill’s ex wife and his first stepfather weren’t all bad, although they both did some very toxic, damaging things to Bill… things that were completely uncalled for, and just plain wrong. They both grew up in terrible dysfunction and took it out on Bill, probably because he’s not very threatening (in spite of his military career).
This morning, as I was watching an old episode of 18 Kids and Counting (before Josie was born), Bill walked into the room and observed some of the smallest Duggar children sitting on the floor, barefoot. It was easy to see that their feet were pretty dirty, as they were kind of blackened. Someone had poured Cheerios on the floor, and the kids were sitting there, nonchalantly eating them. The older Duggar sisters shrugged and laughed as their baby siblings were munching on the cereal. I’m surprised Jim Bob allowed that to air, given how obsessed he was with his family’s image, before his eldest son, Josh Duggar, wound up in prison for receiving and possessing child pornography.
As we were watching this Duggar spectacle in dismay, Bill quipped, “That’s the kind of family where I’d expect the dad to take the kids to the landfill for a day of fun.” Bill told me that’s what Ex’s mother’s family would do… take the kids to play in the landfill. He added that she also had a relative who used to put his kids up on the roof and shoot at them with a BB gun. They would run around the roof, trying to dodge the BBs. It sounds crazy, and in this day and age, it no doubt would be reported if anyone ever saw it happen. But back in the 70s, it probably wasn’t considered a big deal in rural Texas, where her adoptive mother’s family were from.
I’ve seen some pretty redneck stuff myself, although the craziest thing we did in my family was ride in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck and go to the local swimming hole or go fishing with homemade rods and worms as bait. I did have some neighbors that did crazy redneck stuff, though… like the ones who would let their kids ride down the dirt road to their trailer on the hood of their car. That was deemed not so weird in the 80s, but I’m sure it would merit a call to CPS in 2023.
I don’t know if everyone is surrounded by people like this… I have read a lot of posts on the Internet in which people describe their families falling apart when someone leaves their religion, dies prematurely, comes out of the closet, or does something else that is considered taboo or devastating. Then I look at Bill, who has had a whole string of interesting events and eccentric people in his life. You’d never know it to look at him. He looks and behaves in a completely normal and sober way… He says that was the way he was trained to be, in order to avoid being abandoned.
Bill’s unusual background is probably why we’re so perfect for each other. He likes my inappropriate, uninhibited, eccentric side, even if I do make him blush sometimes. We always manage to have genuine fun. For proof on that, check out today’s travel blog post. We had a blast last night. I am always grateful to have him in my life, especially since he’s such a decent person. And I’m especially glad I didn’t meet him at church. 😉