Bill, Duggars, family, love, marriage

You’d never know it to look at him…

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. ūüėČ

Neighbors, nostalgia

Repost: Hardcore Rednecks

Today’s featured picture is a screen grab from a news story about a guy who “car surfed” on an Interstate in Miami, Florida.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone. I have decided to rerun this post from my original blog especially for my dear friend, Audra, who also grew up in Gloucester County. Bill and I are currently visiting Audra in France, and last night I was trying to tell her this story… I had forgotten the official term for this particular type of entertainment… This post made its debut on January 3, 2018. Enjoy!

This morning, I was reminded of a family I used to know. ¬†They were what you’d call “hardcore rednecks”. ¬†When I was growing up in Gloucester, Virginia in the 1980s, there were a whole lot of “hardcore rednecks” in my midst. ¬†There are probably still a lot of them in that area, although I haven’t been to visit Gloucester in years.

I grew up in a house right next to U.S. Route 17, which was to the left of our home and ran through Gloucester on its way to its terminus in Florida.  Across the highway on the left, there was a big awesome looking house that I never knew anyone to live in.  I often wondered when someone would fix it up.  It was like a mansion.  There was another big estate to the right of our house, too. Gloucester has an interesting mix of beautiful old homes and sprawling plantations, as well as dilapidated trailer parks. The zoning was such, back in the day, that one was equally likely to encounter both types of homes in any given neighborhood.

Also to the right of our house was a dirt road.  Not far down that road was another, less developed dirt road.  Turn right and you could go all the way to the power lines, which was kind of the apex of the redneck world I lived in during the 80s.  When we moved to Gloucester in 1980, that dirt road sort of existed, but no one lived back that way.  The whole area was mostly woods with lots of copperhead snakes and such.  In the decades since then, the neighborhood has developed quite a lot.  It was still mostly undeveloped when I was a kid.  Around 1984 or so, people started buying land back there and building homes.  Most of the homes built back there in those days were of the mobile variety, although I think since then, more folks have built actual houses.

I knew most of the kids who lived back there because we all went to the same school and rode the same bus.  We also used the same bus stop. 

I played with some of those kids. ¬†They appeared to be rather impoverished. ¬†The family I’m thinking of this morning lived in a single wide mobile home all the way at the end of the dirt road. ¬†One time, I went inside their trailer and noticed a huge hole in the floor. ¬†The place was always a mess. ¬†I remember politely declining one time when the oldest boy kindly offered me a piece of chicken. ¬†Even in those days, I had a sense of self-preservation after having seen their kitchen.

There were three kids living in that trailer. ¬†The eldest was in my grade. ¬†He was very large… tall and kind of fat. ¬†Most of his clothes didn’t fit him properly and his teeth were yellow, broken, and scuzzy looking. ¬†I doubt he went to the dentist very often, likely because his parents couldn’t afford to take him.¬†

The second kid was another boy, one or two years younger than me.  I remember him being very funny and smaller than his brother, but also very unkempt and dirty with shaggy blond hair. 

The third kid was a daughter. ¬†I don’t remember how much younger she was. ¬†I didn’t hang out with her as much because she was several years younger. ¬†What I remember most about her was that she was kind of witty, always had bare feet, and she had a lazy eye that made her look a little off kilter. ¬†Like her brothers, she had missing, crooked, and scuzzy looking teeth.

All three of these kids were really dirty most of the time. ¬†I noticed they were dirty, but didn’t really have too much of a problem with them. ¬†I was friends with the two boys because they were my age. ¬†The oldest kid was in some of my classes. ¬†Despite being rather neglected looking, he did well in school and got good grades. ¬†Last I heard, he was managing a supermarket near my house. ¬†Unfortunately, the supermarket closed; it was a victim of the Walmart invasion of the 90s. His younger brother was hilarious. I remember he used to go around singing songs from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which was a popular movie at the time.

One thing that I distinctly remember from those days was that these kids’ mother would drive them back and forth to the bus stop, which was right outside my house on Route 17. ¬†It wasn’t a bad thing that she did this, since their trailer was pretty far back on that dirt road. ¬†Although it probably would have done them some good to walk, it would have taken them a good twenty or thirty minutes to get to the bus stop from where they lived.¬†

In the afternoons, their mom would also meet the kids when they got off the bus and drive them home. ¬†Oftentimes, she’d let them ride on the hood of her car. ¬†They’d climb up on their mother’s hood– she drove a dirty old sedan that was a borderline land yacht. ¬†It was silver with a burgundy interior. ¬†She’d ferry them home on the hood as they laughed the whole way. ¬†It looked like a lot of fun.

Obviously, these aren’t the kids from my neighborhood, but they’ve nicely captured the mood in their video…

In the 80s, people did this kind of shit all the time… especially in rural Gloucester County. ¬†I was kind of jealous of those kids, because my parents would never let me ride on the hood of the car. ¬†They would let me swing monkey like on a bar in my dad’s pop top VW van, though. ¬†People were less safety conscious in those days. ¬†We didn’t even have a seatbelt law in Virginia until 1988.¬†

I can’t even imagine what would happen today if a mother let her kids ride on the hood of a car, the way this woman did back in the day. ¬†No one batted an eye back then. ¬†It was just part of growing up in a redneck area… kind of like going to the landfill to play, not that I ever did that. ¬†I remember Bill telling me his ex wife used to play at the landfill. ¬†In her case, I’d totally believe it.

I mentioned these kids to some friends and one of them said, “Wow, that’s pretty hardcore redneck.”  It occurred to me that, yes, I was exposed to some very redneck people when I was growing up.  And given that this friend is from rural Alabama, I figure she’d know the type.

Looking at Google Earth, I see that old dirt road is still dirt, but there are more houses back there and the road is longer than it used to be.  It looks like that disaster of a trailer is still there, too.  Maybe it’s not the same trailer, but there is a mobile home still there.  The area looks much the same as it did last time I was visiting my old house.  It actually makes me a little sad to see how that neighborhood has developed since 1980.  I remember when that whole area was full of trees and completely unspoiled.  Walmart has brought an air of suburbia to a place that used to be very rural. 

But yeah… I grew up around a lot of hardcore rednecks.  They were pretty good folks for the most part, though a pretty far cry from the suburban kids I knew when we lived in Fairfax County in the two years before we moved to Gloucester.  Hell, they weren’t like the fellow Air Force brats I knew in England, either. 

Riding on the hood of a car is called “car surfing“. ¬†A lot of people have been killed doing it. ¬†Oh… and I see this was a thing in 1985 or so, which was around the time the kids in my neighborhood were doing it. ¬†I guess they were more ahead of their time than I was. I wonder what those kids are doing today… and if they’ve ever car surfed since those days in 80s era Gloucester.