I've divulged a number of times that I never saw my parents kiss in my entire life. Wait, that's not entirely true. Once, when I was about 11 or 12, we three kids were standing in the kitchen and, for some reason, egged them on. "Kiss him, kiss him," we chanted to Mother. She did. A peck on the cheek.
Daddy graduated from medical school at the age of 31 and started his medical practice in Orlando. Orlando, pre-Mouse, was a quiet little city of orange groves and dairy farms. The downtown strip was populated by Ivey's and Dickson-Ives department stores and a few banks and insurance agencies. Florida Sanitarium & Hospital, where Daddy's patients would go for surgery, was growing. Today it is Florida Hospital, and is a major medical presence throughout Central Florida and beyond. Daddy's first office was on Magnolia Avenue. Then, with his patient base grew, he was able to buy the lot on the corner of Hillcrest and Shine and build his own office. A savvy businessman, he built a building that would make money for him, with extra offices he could rent out to other doctors.
His medical practice encompassed family medicine, obstetrics, and general surgery. Many was the night he hopped out of bed at 2:00 a.m. after only a couple hours of sleep to go deliver another baby. But it was the surgery aspect that he loved the most. And his patients loved him.
However, the price of his success was long and taxing hours. He left the house around 6:00 a.m. each day, returning home around 11:00 p.m. He'd drive first to the hospital and make rounds. Then he'd stop at some diner between the hospital and his office for breakfast, arriving at his office around 8:00. He'd see patients all day, grabbing a bite at noon and on the way back to the hospital for evening rounds. Then there was paperwork and medical reports.
Mother, trained as a nurse, never worked after his graduation. My oldest brother was born a year before Daddy graduated, and their second son was born the year after they moved from Loma Linda to Orlando. When I was adopted in 1950, she had two boys in elementary school and a maid, Emma Hooks, who would come in each day to help Mother with the laundry and cleaning and the new baby.
As he grew busier, and as the children grew, she turned more to her church. She would drop everything and do anything when asked by anyone from her church. They got all her energy and her attention. Oh, and how she loved to shop! The more he worked to bring in money to increase the family's security, the more she would spend. I remember, once when I was in high school, him coming into my room and parodying her actions, sitting on the bed and patting the cover all around him, "I went shopping today and spent $100, but I don't know where it went." And this in an era when $100 was real money.
I loved him dearly. He made me feel like I had worth and value. In contrast, I felt no love for her. She criticized me continually and made me feel like I was dumb, ugly and incompetent. She criticized everyone behind their backs; me, she criticized to my face. As often as possible about every possible topic. She had a lifelong negative impact on me.
As he worked harder and came home more exhausted, she did nothing to alleviate his tension, to provide comfort and succor, to make him feel any more loved than I felt, to give him a "soft place to fall," in Dr. Phil-speak.
I will not deny that she added value. The home was spotless. The meals were nutritious and served on time to the children, with leftovers tucked into the refrigerator for his later arrival. The children were enrolled in and delivered to church school, church events, and music lessons. Recitals were attended. But love was not bestowed.
He was doing the best he could to provide for the family, and he was running on empty. All the time. It's amazing his first heart attack only came when he was 58.
I always wanted him to leave her. When I was getting my first divorce, I asked him why he never left her. He replied clearly, indicating years of reflection: "I knew I couldn't get you, and I couldn't stand to leave you behind."
I remember once hearing her yell at him, "You can have a divorce, and I'll nail you to the wall." Nice. You hear a lot of "What can we do to make this better" in that statement, don't you?!
But I learned, from my relationship with him and from observing their marriage, what to do and what not to do. I now have a wonderful man in my life who works every bit as hard as my daddy did. I tell him I love him as he walks out the door in the morning. I tell him I love him the last thing before our eyes close at night. I strive to keep his stash of lunch stuff stocked so he easily throw something interesting in his bag to carry onto the train cab. I try to keep the house tidy and the lawn mowed and an interesting supper available so he has a peaceful environment to come home to. I spend as little as possible to avoid being a burden to him. I tell him frequently how much I appreciate all he does for me.
And as a result, I have the most wonderful, supportive, companionable relationship I've ever had. At 62!!
What a lucky girl I was and am, then and now.