I’ve spent a lot of time writing about DH’s trials and tribulations and how they impacted the family that I almost forgot about my own. It isn’t something I particularly care to remember but it’s very much a part of me. I don’t know how many people were aware of it but anyone who happens across this post will know after tonight.
In 1974, I had my 30th birthday. There was so much that had been said, and still is said, about that milestone. Lots of women have a hard time with it but I breezed right by with no problem. I actually felt superior to the poor souls who went through agony transitioning from their 20s to their 30s.
Then 31 came. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My life was all but over. I had already lived 31 years and that would probably be half my life. When I lived as long again as the years that were behind me, I’d be dead of old age.
I was unable to see anything around me that was beautiful. Instead of seeing blue skies and white fluffy clouds, I concentrated on dirty mud puddles. I saw piles of garbage. Anything that was gross or unappetizing caught my attention. There was nothing in the whole wide world that wasn’t warped and degraded.
I’d put on my happy face when I’d see people outside my immediate family but when I was at home, it was a different story. Normally, I’m an optimistic person but I was as far down as I could get and still be above ground. I numbed my feelings from the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed at night.
I didn’t want to live. One day, we were riding down the highway in the Rambler (pre-van). DH was driving. I was slumped in the front seat in a self-pitying funk. All of a sudden, I reached for the door and tried to wrench it open so I could jump and end it all. DH grabbed my arm in a vise-like grip and held on. How he managed to drive and hold me down at the same time, I have no idea. Maybe the angels were guiding the car.
It was embarrassing to think of getting help but I considered checking myself into a mental hospital. After months of living under a black cloud, it finally lifted and I was back to normal—whatever that was. By then, I hardly knew.
I’ve wondered what happened that precipitated such goings on. Maybe hormones? A chemical imbalance? Whatever it was, it wasn’t helped by anything I was doing. My eating, sleeping, and exercise habits were all terrible and there was the drug abuse on top of it all. It was a miracle that I was able to function as well as I did.
And now we’ll pick up where I left off the last time.
Little by little, imperceptibly, DH’s eye started opening. He started wearing an eye patch because what little he could see caused double vision. I cut up an old pair of blue jeans and made him a custom patch. It had a large eye with a hang glider (patterned after the Sun) embroidered on it. He was a strange sight to behold.
The closest VA hospital was in Nashville. We made the long trip with me driving since he was still not cleared to do anything but live and heal.
He was shown into an exam room and the boys and I were left in the waiting room. It was made clear I wasn’t welcome to go back with him. We busied ourselves with magazines until the door swung open and the orderly wheeled out a stranger. I hardly recognized the sick man slumped in the wheel chair as DH. We managed to get him into the van and left.
I asked him what on earth went on in that exam room. He had avoided going without his eye patch during the day so he was unprepared for a series of tests. He was forced to have his eye open for long periods of time and the double vision had made his stomach rebel. He was green with nausea.
That was our one and only trip to the VA. It hardly seemed worth it since the doctors didn’t give any more hope than the ones at the trauma center. DH didn’t make a follow-up appointment and I didn’t blame him.
Little by little, he got his strength back. Even more gradually, his eye was opening. He was still careful to wear the eye patch. That was the first thing to go on after his morning shower and the last to come off at night. Otherwise, he kept his eyes closed.
He couldn’t fly planes and he didn’t have the strength to hang glide but that didn’t stop his liking to go and do things. On weekends, we’d tour the countryside. Gas was cheap (there was a gas war and prices got down to 18¢ a gallon). Our trips were educational as well as fun. We went to the Grant Park Zoo and toured the Cyclorama (now known as Early Virtual Reality).
There were trips to Nashville and North Carolina. DS2 had been bitten by the history bug and he wanted to stop at every “histrial marker” he saw. With nothing but time on our hands, all the markers were read and committed to memory. Well, read, anyway.
DH was well enough to drive now but it made me nervous that he didn’t have depth perception with only one eye. He drove and that was that.
I was working full shifts at the factory and even put in a little overtime now and then when they’d do a Sunday run. My earnings covered the basics and some of our wants but DH’s pride made him want to do his part to support the family. He started looking for work.
Someone told him about a job building speed boats. Not exactly what he’d like but it would put food on the table. He went and applied, interviewed, and was hired. On the first Monday, I packed him a lunch and he dropped me off at work.
One of the girls brought me home and DH came in later, tired and disillusioned. The boats were made of fiberglass and his clothes were full of the prickly stuff. I learned not to wash his things with the rest of the family’s. It was awful. But it helped to pay the bills.
He made the best of it but I knew he hated building boats when he was destined to fly. He started thinking about trying to get a waiver to at least fly as a private pilot. The first day he could get off, he went to see the medical examiner. He came home crushed. The examiner informed him that he’d never get his medical certificate back if he had anything to do with it. He might as well forget getting a waiver, too. That seemed totally unprofessional to me. Sometime later the doctor committed suicide.
We started a campaign to get his waiver. I wrote anyone and everyone I could think of and DH made phone calls. There aren’t lots of pilots who have only one good eye but they’re out there. Evidently, the FAA didn’t want to add another one to the mix.
Late summer, I took DS2 to the doctor and got the news the tubes had come out of his ears and the drums were healed. He had missed almost all the good swimming. Fall was coming on.
School started and the boys got back into their routine.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent visiting the parents (both sets), birthdays came and went, and we were almost out the other side. DH was getting less and less enthused about going to work at the boat factory and I couldn’t blame him. He itched constantly from the fiberglass.
One day, DH’s brother called and I knew something was up. After a long conversation, he hung up and took me into the bedroom. He sat in the chair in the corner and pulled me onto his lap. It had to be serious but what did he have to tell me?