If You Fall, I Will Catch You, I’ll Be Waiting, Time After Time

Rocky and I got married first. Trish had wanted to attend Minot State College so she could remain in town with us, but her parents refused to pay for that. They compromised on the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks. Sue and I missed her terribly. She and Jack broke up when she moved to Grand Forks, but they never lost touch. She came back to visit as often as she could.

Rocky and I got married in February of 1984. Sue was a bridesmaid and Trish was my personal attendant. Tonia was my maid of honor. I didn’t want her to be; I wanted Sue and Trish to be co-Maids of Honor. But Joyce insisted sisters should be each others’ maids of honor and to keep the peace, I acquiesced. Tonia and I were still not close and constantly fighting. I invited Larry to the wedding because he was my father and I was still trying to be his daughter. He told me he’d come as long as Joyce wasn’t there. I told him ok, but Lynne was not invited. He didn’t attend. Neither did Nora or Nita, or my Uncle Scott or my Aunt Cheryl. The families were too antagonistic toward each other and stayed away so as not to cause drama. I get that they were trying to make sure my day wasn’t ruined, but I felt abandoned again. 

Trish and Jack got back together at our wedding; now it was a long distance relationship, which was a LOT harder back then: no internet, no social media, no cell phones. It was expensive to call long distance. Grand Forks and Minot are only 5 hours apart, but when you’re separated from the person you love, it may as well be days that separate you. Trish visited Minot for all of spring break. She was a little bit chagrined, a little bit scared, and a little bit excited when she discovered she was pregnant. 

Jack immediately proposed. Trish’s parents didn’t want her to marry Jack. But Trish knew he had potential. He’d waited for her until she’d said yes to a first date. He’d waited for her when she moved to Grand Forks. She knew they could make a go of it. Trish’s parents had moved out of state and insisted the marriage be where they were living instead of in Minot. Trish jokes that they hoped Jack wouldn’t come all the way out there to get her. They were wrong; he did. Unfortunately, Sue and I couldn’t.

But Trish and Jack moved back to Minot after their wedding, so that made everything ok.

Sue married last. I found out I was pregnant about a month before her wedding. I miscarried the week before she married Paul. Jack and Trish had a little girl and I know I got to see her at least once before they received orders and moved away. 

Rocky and I hadn’t been married very long before I got to know the real person behind the jokes. He had no patience at all and snapped at me if I didn’t answer right away. He was cheap and refused to turn on the heat in the middle of the North Dakota winter. He wouldn’t listen to me, instead he acted like I was still a child and didn’t know anything. He had a temper tantrum at me while we were driving once and ran the car off the road into a ditch. I didn’t realize it at the time but he was already working on isolating me from my friends and family. He criticized my cooking because it didn’t taste like he’s mother’s. She was from England. He became so controlling that in his sleep, he would rearrange how I was sleeping in bed: turn me over, move my arms and legs, and prevent me from curling back up.

(Compare that with an incident that occurred while Bram was sleeping: I was awakened because he suddenly sat up in bed. He yanked me to him and lay down over me. Then he rolled onto his side, pulled me to him and said, “That was close!” and drifted back into deeper sleep.)

Rocky threw Paul’s bachelor party. He and a bunch of other guys from the squadron ‘kidnapped’ Paul. They brought him to our place, tied him to a chair, and then hoisted the chair into a tree. They then took the garden hose and drenched Paul. Leaving him soaked and bound and hanging in the tree, they broke out the beer and the BBQ and started grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Every time Paul asked to be let down, or said he was cold or his limbs were going numb, Rocky sprayed him with the hose. One of the neighbors called the cops, who arrived and made them take Paul down.  

Sue and I were horrified by this story. Rocky told me we just didn’t get the joke and Paul was never hurt and Paul thought it was funny. Paul said he didn’t mind; it was just the normal teasing that was done in the squadron. But after Sue and Paul were married, we stopped hanging out with them so much. At the time it seemed reasonable to me. Rocky was working 12-hour overnights; from 7 in the evening until 7 in the morning. I worked from 6 pm to 2 am. Our days and nights were completely opposite everyone else’s. This was something Joyce refused to acknowledge.

We only had one car so I would take Rocky out to the base to work, then I’d come back into town and work until 2 am. Then I’d go home and take care of the house: laundry, housework, take care of the pets. I’d prepare dinner and then go back out to the base to pick up Rocky. We’d come home, eat, shower, and try to be in bed by 9 am so we could get up at 5pm and begin our day. I cannot tell you how many times Joyce would call around noon and when I answered, she’d say, “are you STILL in bed?” And every time I would tell her, “I’ve been asleep for 3 hours. We work nights. Why are you calling me in the middle of my night?” I was lucky if she only did it once a week.

Anyway, it seemed reasonable that we didn’t see Sue and Paul that much since our days and nights were switched.  But even when we had time off and could have visited with them, Rocky always seemed to have some excuse why we couldn’t. We did hang out with several of his single friends, either leaving me at home alone, or leaving me out of the conversation because I was the only female present. I took a book with me so I’d have something to do when I was ignored.

We had rented a little house and Rocky got a mixed-breed spaniel he named Aragorn and I was finally allowed to get a cat (Joyce doesn’t like cats.). I named the cat Spock. Rocky didn’t want Spock on the bed and would hit the cat if he found it there. We’d come home from work to find the garbage strewn across the house and Rocky would smack the dog, even while I’d tell him he didn’t even know if the dog was doing it. Rocky told me cats don’t dig in the trash. Rocky insisted on letting Aragorn out of the house without a chain or fence or supervision and one morning the dog didn’t come back. 

I searched the neighborhood for the dog, getting queasier with every step. Then I got a call from the vet–Aragorn had been hit by a car and someone had found him bleeding in the street and took him to the vet. The dog’s nose and jaw were broken, one of his eyes was popped out of its socket. The rest of his body was fine. I asked the vet if he could be saved or if he was in too much pain and should just be put down. She told me Aragorn’s brain was fine and he’d take a long time to heal but he could be fixed. I told Rocky it was his fault the dog had been hurt-he should have put him on a leash or at the very least gone outside with him. Rocky told the vet to fix the dog.

I was queasy because I was pregnant again. When we were able to bring Aragorn home, the vet showed me how to feed him through a tube in his throat; his jaw was wired shut. Rocky was at work when I brought the poor little guy home. I sat Aragorn down inside and Spock the cat ran up to greet him and Aragorn opened his mouth. It was horrifying, like something out of a science fiction movie. He opened his mouth and all the wires sprang forth. We went straight back to the vet and this time returned with a muzzle to keep the re-wiring safe. 

Feeding the poor dog meant I had to put wet dog food and broth in a blender and puree it, then open the tube in his throat and use a syringe to squeeze the food into the tube. I had morning sickness that lasted all day for almost three months. I gagged the whole time I was feeding him and went and puked afterward. Oh, and one time we came home to the trash strewn all over the house and the dog sitting in the middle of the mess with his muzzle clamping his wired jaw closed. I didn’t say I told you so. Mostly because by that time I’d learned not to piss Rocky off. 

And I was pregnant so it was too late to rethink the marriage. Besides, where would I go? Back to Joyce and Jerome? Just what I needed, to return home as a pregnant failure, beholden to them for taking me and my child in.  

Rocky applied for retraining and we were given orders to Keesler AFB in Mississippi. I can’t remember who left Minot first: Me and Rocky or Sue and Paul. Our bright golden dream of being friends forever and raising our kids together was over. Me and Trish and Sue wrote to each other, but it wasn’t the same as crowding together on a couch or beanbag or car seat and giggling with our heads together.

Growing up really sucks sometimes. 

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