The seeds of my trouble were planted, ironically, around the same time that I came to receive Jesus as my Saviour.
I was an angry, young girl. I had been raised in a troubled home, which I left when I was fifteen because I was plain fed up with it. I asked my guidance counsellor at school to put my younger brother, Jim, and me in foster care. For months, I visited this very kind lady, Mrs. Wallace, in her office and told her about some of the troubles at home, but nothing was done about my request, until my mother confirmed to her that it would be best for us.
I had blamed my stepfather for our problems, when I recounted them to Mrs. Wallace, but it was both parents who were upsetting to me. To put it simply, I was tired of being hit. In most families, even at that time when it was considered normal for parents to spank their children, most parents stopped doing it when their kids reached their teens, but my parents had anger issues. My mother wasn't as bad as my stepfather in that way, but it was bad enough. Because of how I had been conditioned to cater to her feelings, while ignoring my own, I felt it would be disloyal to mention her part in the abuse.
Yes, it was abuse, even if it wasn't to the degree that would get mentioned in the newspapers. It's always humiliating to a child to be slapped across the face or on the head, and more so when accompanied with words of scorn. I don't feel angry anymore about the mistakes my parents made. I feel that I have forgiven them; the memories don't sting anymore. I feel compassion for their struggles and understand that they were just human, not the gods I made them out to be, upon whom my sense of worth and my happiness depended.
Some may think that it is unloving of me to speak of their mistakes, and disrespectful to the memory of my stepfather and my father, but my Dads are in Heaven, now, and they don't mind me speaking of where they went wrong. The Bible is full of stories of people who were purchased by the precious Blood of Jesus, which tell of their triumphs AND THEIR FAILURES, so that we can learn from both. There is nothing that anyone can say about them that will hurt them; they are safe in the arms of Jesus, and delighted with joys forevermore.
At the present time, my mother still has issues about her past and feels that nobody has the right to talk about the mistakes she made, but the fact is, her mistakes are part of the story of my life, and I have a right to tell my story. I don't tell it to be vindictive; I tell it in the hopes that it will help others realize that, in spite of difficulties, Jesus knows the way through their wilderness, and He can lead them out of it into a land of healing and restoration. This is the story of how Jesus has led me through the wilderness, telling of His mercy and patience towards me, and of His faithfulness.
God has restored my soul! He gave me back my spunk that had been beaten out of me when I was a kid. He helped me to stand up to people, instead of letting them run all over me. He has given me the courage to say and to do what I need to say and to do, regardless of it ticking off people whom I love. I put them in His hands. I trust Him to open their eyes to see what love really is. It isn't catering to their flesh. Sometimes it requires speaking hard truth to them. Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
The three older kids in our family were conceived out of wedlock. Our father was a violent alcoholic who used to beat my mother and he even brought his girlfriends home, sometimes, without any concern for my mother's feelings about that. She was just a teenager and had no idea how to handle the horrible situation that she had gotten herself into. My stepfather came into her life, like a knight in shining armour, and rescued her. My mother and my stepfather hated my father, with good reason, but he was not available to vent on, so that fell onto my sister Pat, my brother Jim, and me.
They weren't horribly, horribly ugly about it. They both had enough of the fear of God and common sense to restrain them from inflicting serious bodily injury on us. We had some bruises and welts from time to time, but never any broken bones. The words that were spoken hurt more than the blows.
Jim got the worst of it because he was male; my mother identified him the most closely with our father. He was picked on and he developed neurotic tendencies, as a result, which fired up my mother's temper even more. She saw him as defective, "just like his father", but our Dad had been raised in a convent by nuns who were mean to him. Earl probably would have been a sweet, affectionate, little boy, just like Jim had been at the start of his life when he lived with our Grandma, if he had been raised with tenderness and compassion and patience. The cycle started with a hatred of women, which led to our father abusing our mother, which fanned the flames of her antipathy towards men (she had an abusive father), and she took that out on Jim. If anyone wonders why my brother developed a chip on his shoulder towards authority, this is where it got its start.
There was no way that I was going to leave home without taking Jim with me. If I wasn't there for them to smack around, they would only have Jim for a target. Mom and Dad behaved much more reasonable towards our younger siblings, so I had no qualms about how they would fare.
Mom was a lot nicer to us than our stepfather. Dad is with the Lord now, his sins all forgiven when he received the Lord as he was dying, but he sure was hard to live with. Dad's griping was like the constant drip of a tap; very trying to everyone's nerves. He was a perfectionist. When we dried the dishes, he wanted the cutlery to shine. If someone accidentally dropped their knife at the dinner table, we froze because we knew a diatribe would be forthcoming. We didn't dare jiggle the table either. By the time we reached our teens, mealtimes with our Dad had become very tense. He deeply resented being saddled with the care of Earl Townsend's kids.
Dad grudged every mouthful of food that we ate. It was misery to be a hungry teen and have that hanging over us. At dinner time, Dad would grab my plate and Jim's, and scrape some of the food off onto our sister Judy's plate, while griping about how much we ate and calling us pigs. We didn't have any more food on our plates than the other kids. Judy ended up with far more food than what she could eat, and she felt utterly miserable about the strife that Dad created. Mom rarely finished a meal with us in those days. She always sat down to the table, but usually within minutes would jump up and run from the room because she couldn't bear to hear Dad picking on us; she didn't know what to do about it.
I think a lot of the anger that she vented on us was due to my stepfather's grudging attitude about looking after her three oldest children. She was caught in the middle, trying to calm Dad down when he was angry with us, and when he wasn't around, she tried to bully us into being more cooperative with him. It would have been helpful if she had hugged us, instead, and said, "I'm sorry that Dad hit you and that he said that. Will you please try to do your chores faster?" If we'd had only one angry parent to deal with, it would have been easier to bear.
My mother wasn't wired that way, though. She has a choleric temperament. Those kinds of people like to get a lot of work done, and it doesn't come natural to them to try to find out what a person loves to use it to motivate them. They don't have much of a clue about meeting their children's emotional needs, and aren't very aware that children have emotional needs, though choleric mothers are really good about taking care of their children physically. My mother worked very hard at keeping our home and yard clean and tidy, and making it pretty. She sewed cute outfits for us, and baked bread and yummy treats, and even when she sat and watched TV, her hands were never idle; that was when she crocheted.
It was important to Mom, too, for us to do our chores without delay, and she would have been on our case about it, without Dad's nattering, but his bickering about our faults wore her down, and then she got too rough with us. We were not treated as slaves, though, by either of them. They had the normal expectations of town people regarding the amount of work that they wanted their kids to do. If anything, it would have been better for us if they had taught us more housekeeping and gardening skills, and kept us busier that way, but Mom and Dad did not have the patience to be good teachers, except for when Dad showed us how to use his carpentry tools. He loved his hobby and woodworking put him in a good mood.
I, in particular, found a lot of things about him to love in my early childhood. I was his favourite stepchild because my personality appealed to him. He thought I was funny and entertaining, and I adored him. How could he resist that? Pat was cautious of him because she had witnessed a lot of abuse when our Mom lived with our father. She had learned to be quiet and fade into the woodwork. Jim had bonded with our grandmother, who looked after him from when he was six months old to age four. It was a terrible wrench for him when he had to come live with Mom and Dad; it was like he lost his mother. He was a frightened, little boy in a strange place, so he was quiet, too, when he was around Dad.
I was a year and a half when my mother left our father and my Uncle Hughie came and got us, to bring us to our grandmother to look after. My "home life" up to then had been chaotic and frightening. Grandma's home was peaceful and nurturing. Pat and I were sent to a foster home for a brief time, but Grandma had our Mom bring us back to her when she found out that the Catholic couple who were looking after us wanted to get us baptized. Grandma was a Cooneyite, set against all other denominations, and she didn't want us to be indoctrinated into the Catholic church. Thank you, Grandma! I've talked to people who have told me that being raised Catholic really messed them up.
We lived with our grandmother on her farm in Revelstoke, and later in Salmon Arm when she moved there. It was wonderful to be a little kid living on a farm, with no chores to do, but lots of animals to look at, and some to play with. We had pet kittens and puppies and rabbits. We ate raspberries and peas straight off the bushes and out of the pods. We were allowed to pick as many flowers as we wanted from the zinnia and dahlia patch. Grandma was a godly, emotionally mature woman who worked hard all day long, but found time to dote on Jimmy, who was what she called her "million dollar boy," even after having raised sixteen children of her own! She spanked us sometimes, but it was deserved. Two of our uncles still lived at home, as they were in their teens, and they helped look after us. It was a golden childhood.
We visited our mother and stepfather sometimes. Grandma took us down to the coast on the train. I remember weary hour after weary hour of sitting and watching the telegraph poles as they passed us by, though really, it was the train that was passing. I don't remember much about the visits, except for the first time I saw my stepfather. I was the only one visiting them that time. I was probably two years old. My parents lived in a little basement suite that was spotlessly clean. Mom made up a little cot for me against a wall between the kitchen and the rest of the suite.
I did not realize, at first, that Dad lived there. To my understanding, he was my mother's friend, and he came to visit her on his lunch hour when he was working that first night of my visit. I remember him coming in through the kitchen door, wearing a black, leather jacket. He was a taxi driver. I sat on Mom's lap while he teased me with a lighter, saying, "Touch it, Lanny; touch it." My Mom just smiled as she held me in her arms. I am sure that she didn't think it was a good game, but she depended on this man and didn't want to upset him by telling him so. She wanted him to like her children, so that he would let us come and live with them.
My stepfather was sometimes very foolish in how he played with kids, teaching them things it was better that they not know. I was puzzled. I had been told, probably by my uncles, to never play with fire, but this nice, friendly man was urging me to touch the flame. I didn't know that it was hot, that it would hurt, having never touched fire before. He kept after me, though, giggling the whole time, so I finally touched it, because he seemed like a nice man. I screamed from the pain and the man looked shocked. He said, "I didn't think that she really would touch it!" My mother put some cool cream from a tube onto the burn, and soothed me with cuddles.
I think that Dad felt very badly about burning my finger, and tried to make it up to me the next day, with tenderness and extra attention. That is probably when I glommed onto him, astonished to get that kind of attention. My grandmother favoured my brother, because he was her baby, and my sister, because she was a little lady, but she pretty much left me to myself because I was a more independent sort of child, and rather noisy. I liked to bang about pots and pans, to make loud sounds. My uncles teased me and that made me cranky; they laughed their heads off at my sour replies to their provoking comments. It was so novel to be treated with attentive consideration that it brought out my adoration.
Dad was very flattered at my response. He thought it was hilarious that I would listen to him and do what he said, but ignore my mother. We became buddies. Dad loved to tell me stories about cute, funny things I did when I was a toddler. It was such a blessing; I needed to be somebody's favourite. Pat and Jim got to be Grandma's favourites, and that hurt, but this helped. It wasn't until after we moved in with Mom and Dad that he started to pick on Pat and Jim, which was very upsetting to us all.
I was the one who triggered the abuse in our home. Shortly after moving to Surrey to live with Mom and Dad, I wanted to be helpful, so I set about to scrub the kitchen sink. It was enamel, and I perched on the edge of the counter, busily scrubbing away with an SOS pad, which wasn't a good thing to use on enamel. I was only five; Mom and Dad wanted to encourage this housekeeping trend. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table and Mom was hovering about, smiling, both of them making a big deal out of me being helpful. I got bloated with pride; it felt like I was going to float away with it. I just started talking, saying anything that came into my head. That amused them, until I said, "You know, Dad, you're not my real Dad."
I didn't know what I was saying. I didn't understand anything about how babies are made, and it really didn't matter to me, but I had heard someone say this, so I thought I would inform my stepfather of it; perhaps he would find this news interesting. His face dropped; he looked hurt. To my shock, my mother grabbed me by the collar and pulled me off the counter, slapped me on the head, and said, "Look what you're doing to that sink! You're ruining it!" She sent me downstairs to the basement.
I don't know what Dad said to her, if anything, but she soon came downstairs, took a stick, and beat me with it. I was shocked. Nobody had ever treated me harshly before. My sister Pat stood by, in terror. It had been a long time since she had seen such violence. Mom kept demanding who had told me that Dad wasn't my father. I blurted out that Pat had told me. Pat's terror increased. Mom angrily turned to her and said, "Who told you?" She timidly replied, "Grandma told me." Mom dropped the stick in defeat. She could not find fault with her mother. She was very grateful for how her mother had helped her with her children, looking after us until she felt that Mom's and Dad's relationship was strong enough to take us on full–time. It really wasn't, though. My parents were emotionally immature, but at least we weren't in danger of being seriously injured physically.
It was from that time forward that our family split in half, with "the big kids" on side and "the little kids" on the other. Dad favoured his own children, and both Mom and Dad behaved like normal, loving parents to them. They expected more of us older ones, because we were older, but we noticed that they did not expect the same things of the younger ones at the same age that they had expected it of us. We became very jealous of our younger siblings. How different things would have been, if Dad had been more adult, and had dismissed my childish prattle, instead of deciding to nurse a hurt in his heart.
Mom felt bad for him, and she became rough with us three older children from that time forth. She also felt bad for us, and was caught in the crossfire between us and our stepfather, but she didn't know how to deal with it. She had grown up being bullied, and that was the only way she knew how to keep kids in line. The younger children were pretty obedient because they didn't want to get into trouble and be treated like us older ones, and besides that, if they didn't do their chores quickly enough, we older ones were told to help them, which put the responsibility for it on our necks. Oh, how we bucked against the yoke, bitterly complaining about the unfairness of it. I'm sure that we blew it up in our minds about how unfair it was, but kids are like that.
As time went on, things got worse. We had happy times together as a family; it wasn't all bad, but those good times became less as Pat, Jim, and I got older, and bolder about complaining. Pat and Jimmy grew up being ridiculed fairly constantly; Pat mostly by Dad, and Jim mostly by Mom. Their resentment was more intense than mine; I was treated better. In their teens, they actually began to hit back when Dad hit them. I was shocked to see this, but I really couldn't blame them for it. Dad eventually got way too out of line with Pat, so Mom sent her to live with some church friends when she was fifteen.
For the next year after that, Jim and I got into the habit of staying late at school, hanging out together in the library, so that we could avoid Dad. He worked night shift as a taxi driver. Our timing was ALWAYS off. I don't know what the matter with us was, but we always got home just as Dad was pulling out of the driveway. If only we had stayed at the library ten minutes more! Dad would rap off a list of chores he wanted us to do as he leaned out of the car window; it was a miserable minute to have to endure.
But it was only for a minute. It was on the weekends that all Hell broke loose. Dad was always cranky with us. I never brought friends home because he was so embarrassing. I knew that he would find something to scold me about, and I didn't want my friends to see how he treated me. By the time I reached my teens, Dad couldn't stand to see me being happy. If he thought I was proud, he made it his business to bring me down.
One time, when I was thirteen, I was feeling very pleased with how I looked, because my mother had made me a beautiful, long, flowing gypsy skirt and bought me a white blouse with big, puffy pirate sleeves to wear with it. Sometimes that woman was such a sweetheart! Dad became very annoyed that I looked so pretty, and that I knew it and was enjoying it. He started in on me, nattering away, and ended up flinging me around the kitchen. He tore the sleeve of my beautiful blouse. I was sobbing my head off, which made my face look puffy, and he ridiculed me for being ugly. His words burrowed into my heart like fiery darts.
When I was fifteen, during one of our miserable weekends, Dad pushed too far. He told me to clear the table after we finished dinner. I did as I was asked and then went upstairs to work on a little project with my sister Lorrie, who was eleven. I had gone with my mother to her cleaning job for Cloverdale Paints and had brought home a lot of the paint samples. Lorrie and I were cutting out these colourful bits of paper to make a mosaic, and were having a happy time together. Dad checked to see if I had done my job, and he saw that I hadn't put the leftover corn in the fridge. There hadn't been enough worth saving, so I had eaten it. He came upstairs and demanded to know if I had eaten the corn.
I was scared to admit it, considering how he was so hostile towards me and Jim in regards to eating. We couldn't possibly have been overeating, as we were both skinny children with normal metabolisms. The only kid in our family who could eat and eat and never get fat was our little brother Johnny. Dad kept demanding an answer and he started hitting me.
I'd had enough and I screamed back at him. Mom ran upstairs and demanded to know what was going on. I told her that Dad hit me, and he denied it. She asked Lorrie if Dad had been hitting me. Lorrie sat petrified on her bed and replied in a small voice, "I don't know." The answer was obviously yes, so Mom started yelling at Dad for being so mean. Dad yelled back. Judy got involved, yelling at Dad to stop. The whole house was in an uproar. This was the first time that Mom seriously intervened when Dad hit any of us, and he gave her a nasty time of it. She probably never intervened before because she knew it would go like this.
Judy ended the fight. Sobbing, she went downstairs, put on her coat, and walked out the door. She was going to run away from home. Mom ran after her. Judy was already down the driveway and onto the road when Mom reached the porch. She yelled at her to come back. Only twelve years old and used to being compliant with our parents, Judy returned, with her head down, still sobbing. Mom scowled at her and snapped, "What do you want to do? Are trying to get your Dad put in jail?"
Everything calmed down after that. Dad didn't want Judy to run out of the house anymore. The next morning, though, the effects of that fight lay heavily on my mother. She had slept on the couch, and she still lay there as I got ready for school. She called me over to her. I looked at her lying there, her eyes closed due to a migraine. She looked like death, her skin was so pale and slack. Barely moving her lips, she said, "Lanny, ask your guidance counsellor to put you and Jim into a foster home." I was so happy that she said that.
I understood that she was finally giving Jim and me a break; that she wasn't rejecting us. She felt that she needed Dad's financial support, so that she could look after the younger kids. We loved them, and we didn't want them to lose their Dad by Mom kicking him out of the house. He didn't mistreat them; at least, not directly, though the way he treated us older ones was very damaging to them. It never entered into his thinking that, though we were not his flesh and blood, and he was therefore not obliged to love us, we were his children's flesh and blood, and they loved us, and it distressed them that he mistreated us. We felt that they needed their Dad, so we were glad to be the ones to leave.
It actually didn't work out very well for Jim. He had been so mistreated that he had problems that our foster parents were not willing to deal with, and they gave him a hard time. He didn't stay in that first foster home for very long. I was there for a year.
I was very happy with my new home, at first. Finally, nobody hit me anymore. And I got to wear make–up! I didn't have to go to my mother's boring church. I could wear short skirts, which neither her church, nor my stepfather (who didn't go to church,) allowed. I didn't have to look like a dork! To us, that word meant nerdy, and nerdy people in the seventies were outdated in how they dressed. My mother's church and my stepfather's sense of fashion were at least ten years out of date.
My new foster mother took me shopping; she had looked after a lot of teens and was well–acquainted with their fashions. She got my hair cut short and styled and bought me some cute outfits. For the first time in my life, I became aware that some people were jealous of how I looked. What a revelation!
Until then, I thought nobody at school ever gave me a second look. Well, they probably didn't until I got that haircut and my new clothes. I used to walk through the halls, drooped over from hugging my books to my chest, cautiously peering out from behind my long hair, which hung in front of my face like curtains. Sometimes the boys called me a scrag, so I avoided them, and when we were called to the auditorium, my stomach coiled in knots as I fretted, "Who should I sit with? Will they let me sit with them? Or will someone come sit with me? If nobody sits with me, everybody will think I'm a scrag!" Oh, the pains of adolescence!
It felt great to get to wear make–up and cover up my blemishes, and to make my eyes look more defined with eye–liner and mascara, and to put some colour in my face with blush. My stepfather was right that my skin was pasty looking. Even in the bloom of youth, my face was of a nondescript variety, unless it was enhanced with cosmetics.
After I started wearing make–up, I went to school only once without it, on a day when, for fun, the boys were supposed to dress like girls and the girls like boys. Even back then in the seventies, kids were being conditioned by the educational system to discard Judeo/Christian values, but we had no idea that was what it was about. A friend loaned me her father's army uniform (he must have been very young and skinny when he joined), and I wore my hair in curlers, because our outfits were supposed to be kind of crazy. My gym teacher told me that I would have made a very handsome man. I didn't know how to take that. I didn't want to look like a man! Not even a good–looking one!
When I first moved into my new foster home, my foster mother sat me down at the table, looked me in the eye, and said, "You can smoke here, if you want to." All the other teens who lived there smoked, and I had tried it out a few times, but when it was put to me that way, I thought, "No, I don't want to spend my allowance on cigarettes. I want to buy make–up." It was no longer a big deal to me to smoke, seeing as it was allowed. Besides that, I didn't want to get cancer. That decision brought other benefits with it. I didn't get nicotine stains on my fingers, it didn't yellow my teeth, it didn't make my voice become deep, it didn't dry out my skin, my clothes didn't stink, and the walls in my home didn't get coated with a sticky, brown residue. Years later, when I was in my early fifties, a man on the bus said to me, "I can tell that you've never smoked; your skin looks so fresh and wholesome."
One day when I was at school, a girl who was friendly to me repeated a catty remark that some other girl had made, saying that I must think that I have a good figure. I hadn't thought about it at all, but now that I was walking straight and tall because I liked my new clothes and haircut, people were starting to notice me. I went home and looked in the full length mirror at how I appeared to other people in my tight, red dress with its high collar and short skirt. I grinned as I thought, "She's right! I DO have a good figure!" I was skinny, but my calves had a pretty shape and my bust was ample.
The latter became a cause for complaint by my youngest sister later on. My sister Pat had the next size down in that regard, then my sister Judy. Lorrie said to us, "You left nothing for me!" We all laughed; she was just funning. She still had enough to make her look like a very cute girl from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Our little brother Johnny used to brag to his friends that his sisters were beautiful. We were pretty, but it was my sister Judy who was really gorgeous. It amused me to see men's jaws drop when they saw her all dolled up.
Another thing that I considered to be a great benefit, when I went into fostercare, was that I finally got to have a boyfriend. He was a neighbour kid who lived across the street, three years my senior, and a friend of my foster brother Reggie. The boys were really into cars, and Bobby worked on engines with them. He was a handsome redhead; I've always loved red hair. Bobby's was a dark red, and he wore it slicked in a sixties style with waterfall bangs. He usually wore striped shirts with a black dickey collar underneath. I liked that greaser style, though I wasn't keen on the grease that he put in his hair. It just looked good; that's all. As pretty as that red hair was, it wasn't something that I wanted to run my hands through. The boys also wore Blakey's on their shoes, a steel plate on the sole that protected the tip, and they clicked when they walked.
I had a crush on Reggie, but who didn't? He was six foot, four inches, had curly blond hair, a baby face, and big blue eyes. He was out of reach, though, as I was very shy, and when my sister Pat moved into our foster home, the boys paid attention only to her. She wasn't skinny; she had what they considered to be the perfect figure, and she wasn't afraid to show it off. Those short, short skirts and low–cut tops, though, and another girl's jealousy, did a lot of harm to her reputation, and she hadn't even done anything, at that point, to deserve it. It was very annoying that she moved into our new home with us.
Pat didn't want to live with Mom's Christian friends. She wanted the freedoms that were now available to me, living in a very secular, non–religious home. Burt and Nan, our foster parents, said that they were United church, but I never saw them go to church. Pat told her social worker that she missed me and Jim and wanted to be with us. Hah! Pat and I usually fought like cats and dogs, and I don't think she missed Jimmy either. We knew that it was a lie, but Jim didn't seem to mind when she came to live with us. I sure minded. I really resented it. Here were all these boys, and there was Pat, stealing my thunder. Who was going to give me a second look, when she was around?
Bobby; that's who, but only because he couldn't be bothered to fight his way through the crowd to get to Pat. I was pretty enough for him, and pretty hot when it came to necking in the den. I was so starved for affection. I can't remember my stepfather ever hugging or kissing me, and I have only two memories of my mother cuddling me when I was little.
I asked her why she didn't cuddle me more. She said, "I wanted to. You looked so cute, but when I'd ask you to come to me, so that I could cuddle, you would just lift your leg and make a sound like you were passing gas and go on by." That sounded authentic. My stepfather always joked with me about flatulence when I was a little kid, and since he was my idol, I emulated him a lot.
My mother should have persisted. Even if I thought that I didn't want to be touched, I needed her to hug me to reassure me that she loved me. Bobby was eager to hug, and "smooch;" it always seemed that I couldn't get enough of it. My foster mother was disgusted when she walked in on us one day. She announced at the dinner table that Bobby and I were hugging so close that you couldn't have fitted a cigarette paper between us.
Actually, that's how it was for all of us girls when we were alone with our boyfriends in the den, so nobody really cared when she said this. Jennifer, their daughter who was a year older than me, called the den the "sin bin." Apparently, nobody felt bad about what we did in there, except for me. I knew in my heart that I shouldn't behave that way. I had a hicky on my neck when I went to church the following Sunday after the first time I necked with Bobby. My high collar couldn't cover it up. My Mom's friends looked sadly at me. I felt so ashamed that I stopped going to her church, and I was glad to not be compelled to go anymore.
Mom took my make–up into stride, and that first Christmas that I spent in fostercare, she tried hard to connect with me by giving me presents that she knew I would like. I loved the lavender pantsuit that she bought me, and she even gave me a couple of necklaces, though her church did not approve of jewellery, except for wedding rings, watches, and brooches. It looked to me like Mom was really trying to show love.
She was embarrassed, though, by how the social workers and my foster mother looked at her, like they thought she was a worm. The social workers disapproved of her for not having stepped in and prevented our stepfather from hitting us; they didn't know that she hit us, too. We told our foster parents, though, and, though they sympathized, at first, eventually they said that they didn't blame our parents for beating us. Anyway, Mom made herself scarce because she couldn't handle their looks of disapproval. A person can get past shame, though, if they are willing to admit their wrongs and demonstrate that, in spite of mistakes they made in the past, they aren't like that anymore.
I think that she actually didn't feel that she had the time to be more involved with us, and that the way she felt around the social workers and our foster mother was her excuse. As I said earlier, Mom liked to get a lot of things done, and she had plenty to do, looking after an acreage with a big garden, besides the housework and three other kids to look after.
Looking after Dad was quite a job, too, as he was so demanding. Whatever benefits my mother got from him, she more than paid him back with all the work she did. He knew she felt guilty about foisting us three older children on him, and he got mileage out of it, always demanding more of her. She was a work horse; no man ever had it so good, finding such a strong, young, intelligent, hard–working, and pretty (but emotionally–damaged) woman in a bad situation, as he did the day he met her, and helped her drag my father out of a bar into his taxi.
Since she didn't come to see us, I went to see my mother a couple of times over the next two years. It was a pleasant enough to visit with her, but not anything to make me miss her. Besides that, if I saw her more often, I would have felt more guilty about being worldly.
The person I missed was my grandmother. She died when I was ten. Pat, Jim, and I all missed her terribly. We longed for those golden days of our childhood when we had been happy. Sometimes, I would stand with my head in the broom closet of my foster home, because there were a few mothballs in there, and the smell took me back to Grandma's house. With my eyes closed, I would remember, and long for her.
I thought of myself as a good kid, when I first went to live in my foster home. I didn't smoke and I tasted alcohol only a little; I didn't like it. I didn't want to become a drunkard like my father, and it also made me feel physically uncomfortable. Just a little sip made my back feel like someone had pounded on it, so I mostly avoided it. I was also still a virgin, in spite of the heavy petting with Bobby. I had never taken drugs. Since I was avoiding the biggest problems that threw most parents into a tizzy, I didn't see that my foster parents had any right to complain about me.
Okay, so I hung my underwear in the attic to dry after I washed it, and they were worried that the dampness was going to attract mould up there, but I was really shy about hanging it out on the line, with those teenaged boys living there and their friends coming around. They weren't my brothers, after all. My foster parents never clued in that I was embarrassed about this. They just embarrassed me more by making vulgar jokes about it at the dinner table, after they finished scolding me in front of everybody.
They made quite a deal about how little I ate, as well. My stepfather had called me a pig because I ate as much as his kids, so the idea developed in my mind that eating is ugly, and I thought that these people would think it was a burden to feed me, regardless that they got money from the government to cover that expense. I wanted my foster parents to like me, and maybe they would, if I could save them some money that way. Their urging me to eat more became a way for me to get some attention; it made me feel that they cared about me, so I ate even less. I was anorexic, but not dangerously so. Of course, I stayed slim, which I liked very much.
I wasn't overloaded with chores, but, nonetheless, I didn't like doing them, which is typical of kids. Sometimes I was sent to the den to iron clothes. I did it, reluctantly, but frequently Bobby came from across the street to "visit," and then you could forget about me doing any more ironing. There were always piles of clean laundry in the den. Nobody worked very hard on the ironing.
I frequently sat with Nan and the other girls to watch soap operas, while Nan crocheted afghans. We watched All My Children and Where The Heart Is. It was astonishing how often wealthy, handsome men got into plane accidents in some isolated place, had amnesia, in addition to other injuries, were found by a beautiful woman who nursed them back to health, then married the woman, and after a few months, regained their memory, then had to decide what to do about their other wife, whom they loved also. How did they get married the second time, if they don't know who they were, and didn't have a birth certificate to present when they went for their marriage license? We overlooked details like that. We were too caught up with wondering which of the wives would get to keep those guys.
We watched horror shows at night sometimes. It is fairly typical of teens to watch that junk, but Nan eventually banned me from seeing those shows. They troubled me. I would hide under my blankets after going to bed, imagining that a werewolf was stalking around the room, and I had nightmares. Though she wasn't a Christian, my foster mother had more sense about what I should see than my church–going mother. Horror films had always bothered me, but I watched them when I was a kid because my mother let us. After I was banned, the other kids in the family helped police the situation, to make sure that I didn't sneak any peaks at their awful movies.
Archie Bunker came out in those days. Burt loved the show; he was an Archie Bunker. We thought it was funny, too, but half the entertainment was Burt's remarks and laughter. We watched Monte Python, as well. It was too weird for Burt, but I caught on to their bizarre jokes pretty quick. I got to know that style of humour so well that, years later, when my brother Johnny was watching a Monte Python movie set in the Middle Ages, I kept guessing what was going to happen next, like when an attack was being prepared on a castle, and I announced, "They're going to give them a Trojan rabbit." And they did, and it was promptly fired back over the wall, which I expected. It was fun to guess right so many times, but I probably ruined the show for my brother.
The situation with my sister Pat was what put me into the most disfavour in that foster home. I was jealous of her and fought with her, but I mistakenly felt I had a right to do that; she was my sister. Nobody else, though, as far as I was concerned, had a right to mistreat her. She was part of my family. I resented the mean things that were said about her by the other girl who was jealous of my sister, and that her family sided with her and said those means things about Pat, too. Pat had been given the boot after only a few months, and I was told that I wasn't allowed to see her because she was a bad influence on me. I probably wouldn't have bothered to go see Pat, except I was told not to. I thought, "Nobody is going to make me not see a member of my family!"
She actually was a bad influence, as she had become very rebellious due to my stepfather's mistreatment, and now this foster family's. Her next foster home was with a single mother who was very women's lib and New Age. Louise fanned the flames of Pat's rebellion, introducing her to Christian Science doctrines, which Pat adopted. The women's lib ideas contributed to my sister becoming aggressive and she thought nothing of getting into a fist fight with another girl, if the other girl initiated it. Pat wasn't the sort of person who went around looking for fights, but girls were jealous of her. It was amazing to think of how Pat started off in life as being so dainty and lady–like, to become so hostile and surly, thinking nothing of telling anyone to f off, male or female, if they were bugging her. She wasn't someone whom I cared to mess with in a serious way.
Of course, someone saw me with my sister one day and told my foster parents. I got scolded for that, but it made no impression. What annoyed me was how she was being called a slut. She looked the part, because she thought that was how a girl had to look in order to be attractive, but she was still a virgin. In fact, when she lived there, a guy we knew wrote her a dirty letter. She was incensed and fired off a reply. She let me read it. Just about every sentence told him that he was sick. I thought that it was way too repetitive, but she wanted to make sure that she got her point across!
One day, the girl who hated Pat told me, "Your sister is a slut," and I had enough of hearing that. I started to make some sassy replies, which was very dangerous ground because this girl was five years older than me, and her parents' darling. We went back and forth, trading insults, while she pushed me step by step down the stairs, and finally had me trapped up against the front door. I then insolently told her something that I knew would really get to her; that her breath smelled like her feet. She shook her head and walked away, and told her parents what I had said to her.
I am sure that she left out how the fight got started and how she pushed me down the stairs. When Nan scolded me later, I didn't make any reply; I attempted no explanation. Everyone was so sure that they were right about my sister that they would have shot down any defense of her. I just looked at my foster mother with contempt and that was the last straw for her.
The girl who had the fight with me eventually grew up. When I saw her a few years later, she behaved friendly, and by the look of the handsome husband at her side, she had finally gotten over the stupid crush that she'd had on the boy who had been chasing after my sister. Her parents had frequently spoken to her about giving him up. He was an alcoholic and was always persuading that girl to "loan" him money; it was so obvious to everyone, but her, that he using her. I don't think that Burt and Nan knew that he had been pursuing my sister, and that this was why their daughter was so ticked off with Pat.
A social worker who was a Christian drove me to my next foster home. She was a Christian and tried to witness to me, but I shot down every thing she said, so she gave up. I was just so angry at the injustice of being misunderstood, though I really didn't make any attempt at helping my foster parents understand me. The next foster home seemed pretty cool, from my perspective, and that of my friends at school. The parents were hippies.
They didn't look like hippies. Social Services wouldn't have given approval for them to take in foster children, if this young couple looked the part, but that is what they were at heart. They were into Eastern religion and they liked to smoke marijuana and hashish. Mike even smoked pot in front of me, while we discussed "philosophy" and religion. I don't think either of us understood much about those subjects, but we liked to think we did, and we wanted to be cool. He seemed very distant to me when he talked about it, while smoking his pot. I wished he would give me some, but he seemed to want to keep it all to himself.
His wife, Pat, was like a giggly teenager, though, when she smoked some hash with Val, the other foster girl who lived with them, downstairs in the basement, while her three, little kids slept upstairs. Mike and Pat didn't do this kind of stuff in front of their kids. I joined in with Pat and Val, and then behaved silly afterwards, outside with Val on the street, running and yelling with her, while Pat giggled at our antics. I really wasn't stoned; at least, the effect was much milder than I expected. I was just imitating Pat and Val because I wanted to be part of the fun. It sure was stupid fun, making that racket at night when people were trying to get some sleep.
Thank God I was in that home for only a month. Mike and Pat decided to move to Quadra Island, and they planned to take Val with them, as she had lived with them for years and they were very fond of her. Val was a very laid–back, easy–going type of person; the quintessential hippie. Mike and Pat said that I gave off "bad vibes". I am sure that I did, sometimes, because I wanted attention from these people, though they really weren't people whom I could respect. I was jealous of having to share their attention with their kids, and they thought that my bad vibes would be upsetting to their children, but I only felt that way when the parents were around; otherwise, I didn't have a problem with the kids. I was never mean to them. It was just a flimsy excuse that they gave, so that they wouldn't feel bad about not taking me with them. They never attempted to discuss the issue with me and bring some resolution to it.
Pat decided to help me find a situation that was board and room, but I would be on my own to do as I pleased, and she sold Social Services on the idea. It didn't turn out that way, though. We looked at a couple of places that were advertised in the paper as room and board, but they were creepy. One couple, in particular, gave me the willies and I was relieved when we left. The third place was in a nice home owned by a Christian woman who was a single mother, and she took a notion to becoming my foster parent. I was annoyed, at first, because I didn't want to answer to anyone, but it ended up that I didn't have to.
Pauline got more money for having me as a foster child than as a boarder, and that kept her fairly happy, though she wished she had more influence to get me to become a Christian. She didn't have the nerve to tell me what to do, though, when I broke curfew. I had been there only two days when I tried to sneak up the stairs at four in the morning, after talking half the night with some guy about religion and philosophy. She probably thought I had been doing more than that, and had no idea how to handle such a "wild" girl. I thought that I was in for a real tongue–lashing, and braced myself for it when she heard me on the stairs. None was forthcoming, though; she was too timid, so I just carried on in that vein, doing as I pleased, and Pauline didn't object very much, because I didn't flaunt my naughty activities to her.
I was quiet around Pauline (taciturn, actually), I spent a lot of time in my room, and I kept my room neat. Her daughter, a year younger than me, by contrast, was a very typical teenager whose bedroom looked like it had been hit by a tornado. Carol never cleaned that room, no matter how much Pauline nagged. One time, I couldn't stand the mess anymore, and I cleaned up Carol's room. I was pretty ticked off when I found a box of doughnuts under her bed, hard and inedible. If she wasn't going to eat those doughnuts, why didn't she leave them in the kitchen where I could have gotten at them? I threw the doughnuts out and arranged everything tidily. Pauline was very pleased with the results, and she tried to bribe me with money after that to clean up Carol's room again, but I was too traumatized by how much work it had been to want to venture it again.
I took Carol's dog in hand, though. Muffy was a neurotic, little, white poodle. She barked her head off anytime someone came to the front door, and also when I walked past Carol's room. I didn't like that dog, but I eventually couldn't stand to see her looking such a mess. Carol never combed her fleece. Since she never cleaned her room, go figure. I couldn't get the tangles out, so I sheared her with the manicure scissors. One time, I nicked her skin and she barked in pain. I sat there trembling for a minute. I didn't like the dog, but I didn't want to hurt her. I finally got up my nerve and continued the shearing, more carefully. Carol laughed when she saw her afterwards, exclaiming how she looked like a sheared lamb.
So, I had some redeeming qualities that encouraged Pauline to be patient, in spite of how surly I was when she attempted to interact with me. I didn't like Pauline's grating voice, I didn't like her looks, I didn't like how she walked; I was such a snotty kid. I especially didn't like her religion. One day when she was walking through her house, she said in a breathy way, "Oh, praise God!" I thought, "What a nut!" To my way of thinking, religion (Christian religion, that is) should be confined to church. It wasn't something that you brought home with you.
My mother didn't behave like that. She didn't drink or smoke or wear make–up or dance, but, aside from that, she was like most other people. She would try to sing hymns, though, when us older kids got into our teens, and it was really annoying because we knew that the only reason she was doing it was to indirectly witness to us, as she was concerned that we were getting off onto the wrong path. It's something she should have done when we were little kids.
My mother was not a good Christian witness to us in our home. She let us watch things on TV that we shouldn't have watched, and to read any kind of book, as long as it wasn't porn, but there were naughty bits in some of the books I read, and occult things, too. She didn't know, because she didn't read books; she was too busy. She also was too quick to hit, yelled too much, and said such mean things sometimes, and she used bad words when she was mad at Dad. They weren't terribly bad words, but they were words that she said we weren't supposed to say. Because of these things, I didn't consider her to be a good Christian.
Pauline was a better witness, though she had one fault that really stood out, and it is probably why her daughter didn't visit her often enough to keep her out of trouble in her later years. She eventually got sucked in by a man who conned her into signing over a quarter of a million dollars to "invest" it for her. Pauline's failing was that she tried to get from others more than what they were willing to give. It was very draining to be around her because of this. She died a lonely, old woman.
The most ridiculous offer she ever made anyone, that I know of, is one that she proposed when I was twenty, living on my own in Langley, and my brother Johnny came to see me. He was fourteen. When Pauline learned that he was at my place, she called and asked if he would come to her house and do some gardening for her, and she would make dinner for him in return. Gag! First of all, the kid was on holiday; he didn't want to do yardwork. Secondly, her cooking was no kind of reward. Johnny declined her generous offer.
Another time, when my kids were in their teens, she called me around Christmas time and said that, every year, she managed to shake $20.00 out of a stingy, old man, to donate to needy families, and she wanted to give it to me for my kids. How nice. The catch was, I had to go to her place to get it, and she suggested that I could wash her windows when I came. That was a clue that I would have had to do more than $20.00 worth of work for that money, and it wasn't even her money that she said she would give me. It would be like that old man paid for her to get her house cleaned.
Pauline felt that she was entitled to help, without having to pay for it, because she considered herself to be a widow. She was only in her forties when I lived with her. She was divorced because her husband had been abusive, and it was difficult to be a single woman trying to make a decent life for her child. Nonetheless, she managed to earn enough to buy her own home, before she retired as a courtroom clerk. The first day I was there, I watched a man do some work for her in her house, and then saw his face drop when all she offered for it in return was a cup of tea, which he declined. Twenty dollars would not have been out of line, and she probably could have survived parting with it, but she was tight–fisted about money.
She didn't apply that to feeding me, though. She was a horrible cook and, after the first meal I ate there, I wouldn't eat her cooking anymore. She tried all sorts of things to get me to eat, even buying a whole box of bananas, after she realized that I liked them. But I couldn't eat a whole box of bananas! I ate only a couple and the rest of them rotted. Likewise, when she saw that I liked tinned tapioca, she bought a whole crate of it. At least, it wasn't perishable.
Pauline tried to get me to go to church, but I never took her up on that. I did go to a fancy wedding shower and wedding for her niece, that she got me invited to. That was rather nice, even if I was too much of a grump to enjoy the wedding, because the band played Christian music.
The main thing that Pauline could do for me was to pray, and I am sure that her family and friends prayed, as well. She couldn't get me to listen to her, if she tried to warn me against the dangers of sin. I scorned her lack of experience with sin. She didn't know the fun she was missing out on. When I was sixteen, I threw my virginity away, because I didn't want to die without knowing what all the hoopla was about sex. I didn't think that anyone would ever love me enough to marry me.
By this time, my sister Pat was living with a biker, and I often visited her because her life seemed to be interesting and exciting. I also was attracted to "bad boys." This was because my parents had been so controlling that I felt powerless. I gained a vicarious sense of power by attaching to men whom I perceived as powerful. It gave me a thrill to walk among them, like a kitten in a cage of tigers, without being devoured.
I think that God was looking after me, but at the time, my sister and I figured that I was safe because of her. She said that they all knew that she would give her boyfriend a hard time, if anything bad happened to me. Considering that he used to beat her up sometimes, I don't think that was it. I didn't know that Gary beat Pat; she never told me until after they broke up. I don't think that I would have dared to go there, if I had known.
I had a couple of biker boyfriends, but neither of them had a claim on me. They each had a regular girlfriend, who were considered to be their "old ladies," which is what they called their wife or common–law spouse. I was just hanging around on the outskirts, not really in with the gang. I normally didn't take drugs or drink, so no money to speak of was spent on me, making anyone feel that I owed them something. I went to only three parties, and always left early, and I never went on any of the runs, so I didn't see the dangerous side of keeping company with them.
Both of my boyfriends were twice my age; one was thirty, and the other was thirty–one. They looked a lot older; rough living does that to a person, and they both had early hair loss. One of them said to me one day, "You don't really want a boyfriend. What you really want is a father." I agreed with him, but there didn't seem to be any hope that either my father or my stepfather would ever love me; they were too self–centred. I made do with these big, strong guys who were eager to take advantage of my neediness.
Eventually, I finally realized that I was walking too close to the edge of danger by hanging out with bikers, and besides that, I was also getting tired of being with homely men. Not that all bikers are homely; just the ones whom I dated because they happened to be the ones who'd had the nerve to get past my reserve. The rest of them rarely talked to me because the second boyfriend was their leader. He had edged out the first boyfriend, and he would have been ticked off, if any of them made moves on me.
This state of affairs ended one day when I ran into my boyfriend in town while he and some other bikers were riding around in their truck. I hopped in and we went out to the clubhouse. There in the woods, one of them relieved himself in front of me, assuming that I was all right with that sort of thing, since I was hanging out with them. Out of my boyfriend's hearing, he then made me an obscene proposition, in a manner which he probably considered gentlemanly and considerate. I was horrified and declined, then stuck really close to my boyfriend.
The leader's face glowed with pride at having a pretty teenager clinging to him, while the other guys stared at him with envy. He had no idea that someone had said something to me, but he knew that I depended on him for protection. He felt confident that he could take those other guys on, if needed, but that glimpse into the brute mentality of the other biker made me realize that I had better get away from them. I really couldn't count on being safe, if my boyfriend wasn't around. Besides, I wanted to date someone who never got into trouble with the law, and who was closer to my own age.
I went roller skating with my foster sister and her friends. On the last skate, which was for couples, a really cute guy named Will asked me to skate with him. He asked me for a date, and kept asking, until I finally gave in. What was I thinking of that made me so reluctant? I didn't want to commit myself, because I wondered if I would get a better offer. A better offer? This was the best offer I'd ever had. Yes, Bobby was cute, but he had a big mouth and told all the other guys about what we did together. He didn't even pretend that he loved me; it was all just for kicks. To be fair, though, I felt the same way about him. I didn't love him. I never even pined for him, when he got another girlfriend.
I pointed Will out to Carol and her friends afterwards and told them that he had asked me for a date. Janice started jumping up and down, and hitting my arm, while exclaiming, "Lanny, you've done in one night what we've been trying to do for three years! You met a cute guy!" Will had warm brown eyes, with long, black eyelashes, thick, dark hair, and deep dimples. He was what I considered to be somewhat short, though he must have been at least five feet, ten inches, and he had broad shoulders. We dated for a couple of months.
I wasn't even sure on that first date if he was going to pay for my food at the restaurant. I fretted about it, because I didn't have any money. I really didn't know how to date. All I knew were necking sessions, and then somewhat more, and had never required anyone to take me out anywhere. I was very insecure and had no idea that God considered me to be of any worth. I ordered just a hamburger, to keep the expenses down, and was relieved when Will paid for it without any hesitation. Once I realized that he considered me to be no different than any other girl, who could reasonably expect a guy to pay her way when he invited her on a date, I felt more relaxed.
My mother invited both of us to her place for dinner for my 17th birthday. Dad was at work, so it was a pleasant time. Judy and Lorrie sat across the table from us, their eyes as big as saucers while they stared at Will. They were fourteen and thirteen years old. They told me several years later that they had been really impressed with how good–looking my boyfriend was, and after seeing him, they could hardly wait until they were grown up and allowed to date.
I don't know that Dad would have ever allowed it, if he was still living with them they were old enough to date. Mom had had enough of him by the time Judy was sixteen, and she told him to leave. Judy had run off from home and taken Lorrie with her, and they went to a counsellor because Judy wanted to complain about him. The counsellor called our parents in and talked to them, and Dad made promises that he would try harder to understand his kids and be reasonable. Mom said that, as soon as they got home, he told Judy and Lorrie to go to bed, because he wanted to watch TV without being interrupted. Mom lost all hope then, that he would ever change; his promises were meaningless. She gave him the boot and got a divorce.
I couldn't blame her for that, and I was happy that Mom and the younger kids didn't have to live with his griping anymore, but I felt loss, as well. It was like an ax had been laid to my roots. I had so many memories of Mom and Dad working together outside in the yard, and of the good times. They had always been there in my childhood from age five to fifteen, together, even if it wasn't always in perfect amity.
But, I wasn't living at home, and Dad had been unkind many times before that, so the divorce wasn't that big of deal to me, but it was really hard on my little brother. Johnny adored his father. Dad had always been kind to him. Though he was a very intelligent kid, his grades slipped in school, and by the time he was sixteen, he had lost interest in school altogether. Fortunately, he was a hard worker, so he soon made his way to promotion when he went to work for a shake and shingle mill when he was sixteen, and by the time he was twenty–one, he had a profitable countertopping business and owned a house.
After Will stopped seeing me, I returned to my old stomping grounds, toying with the idea of dating bikers again. Will was only nineteen, and I was addicted to the kind of action that was available from older men who had more experience. God was looking out for me, though. When I met with my sister, the gang was out of town on a run, so we hit the beach, where I was likely to find someone who would interest me. It was summer and there were a lot of young people there.
That weekend, I met a very tall, young man, whom I considered to be good–looking, but it was mostly his extroverted personality that engaged my attention. I liked his build, I liked his tan, I liked his long hair, and I thought he was very cool. He got my sister and I engaged in a game of Frisbee, and he tried to fob me off onto his cousin, who had short hair; short hair on guys was not cool at that time. Besides that, he was short in stature, and he didn't have an outgoing, confident personality to make up for it. He looked rather glum.
The tall guy's sights were set on Pat, who was showing off her tan. Her bikini was so teeny that she didn't dare take a deep breath, and I had been telling her jokes, trying to get her to laugh. I was pretty near successful at it, too; she was having a hard time trying to not shake herself out of her bathing suit when Westy (name changed) showed up.
I got involved in the Frisbee game, and when Pat finally agreed to join in and went away to change into her other clothes, I told Westy that he had better look out because she was married to a jealous biker. I surprised myself because it wasn't in my nature to boldly tell lies. This was a desperate situation, though. Pat already had a boyfriend, and she didn't need this one, but I did, (so I thought). I could rationalize the lie because Pat said that she considered herself to be married; so be it.
Westy heard the word "married," and instantly turned his attention to me. The biker thing didn't perturb him at all. He considered himself a Christian, wanted to be an evangelist, and to him, it was quite an adventure to witness to bikers and to biker chicks. He was a terrible witness, though, as it turned out, because he had a lust problem.
I should have listened to the Christian girls at school who tried to witness to me, and gotten saved that way, but I was a rebel. God gave me chances to hear the Good News from people who would not have been detrimental to me, but since I was too bull–headed for that, He finally brought Westy into my life, because He knew that I would listen to him. It was either that, or I was going to get involved with bikers again, in spite of my trepidation about them.
Westy was a construction worker, but he liked to think of himself as a cowboy. I don't think that he ever lived or worked on a ranch, but his father had. Close enough, I guess. When I met him, besides wearing a pair of sunglasses, he only had on some white cut–off shorts and he had a bandana tied around his head hippie style. When he changed his clothes later, he came out of the dressing room at the beach wearing full cowboy kit from the hat to the boots, but in such a strange collection of patterns and colours that he looked like a pimp. I didn't care. By that time, I was totally charmed by his outgoing, confident personality.
I stayed charmed for a whole year, though long before that, Westy tired of me and was wanting to move on like a bee from flower to flower. He had some serious issues about women. He felt rejected by his mother and by his wife, whom he married when he was eighteen, and then she left him for another man. He was only twenty–one when I met him, and he already had a long string of broken hearts on his trail. He wanted to hurt women like he had been hurt, so he got women hooked on him, and then he dumped them. The only women whom he ever felt that he was in love with were women who weren't interested in him. He pined over them, but if they had come under his power, he would have quickly dumped them, too.
After a year of being nuts about this guy, I realized that I needed someone to pray for me. Westy had led me to the Lord, in spite of his failure to be a good example of a Christian, and I went to a church in Surrey. I found myself slipping into sin with other men; it wasn't just Westy who had a problem with lust. I approached an elderly lady named Dorothy Essler, and arranged to visit her in her home, so that she could pray for me about this problem. She prayed for me for hours, and it was gruelling, but at the end of it, I was free from the compulsion to give in and have sex with men, if I found them attractive. She also prayed against my anorexia, which I didn't even realize that I had, until she mentioned it. I didn't have a problem with it afterwards. I was only 100 pounds at that time, and thought I needed to lose still more, but I soon went back up to 115, which was my ideal weight.
God changed me a lot in only a short time. After I had been saved two years, my friends said to me one day, "Lanny, we can't believe that you ever hung around with bikers!" I loved going to church and attending the young people's group and singing in the choir. I soon became well acquainted with the Bible and I loved to talk about God with my friends, though not to any great depth, in those days. My interests were pretty wholesome. My whole life was centred around church.
The difference about how I felt about going to church now and how I felt about my mother's church is that I finally got a clear message of the Gospel. In my mother's church, the emphasis was on the way they did things, and what the workers (their ministers) expected of people. Jesus, who is the Saviour, was relegated to being nothing more than an accessory to their religion. He was not the main focus, and it was not clear that salvation is a gift that does not have to be earned.
That is not to say that just saying a prayer to receive Jesus as our Saviour is all it takes to get saved. The prayer has to be sincere. If we truly are sorry for our sins, then we want to leave them behind us, and if we find it difficult to do that, we take measures that will help us walk in the victory of the cross. That always entails studying the Bible and meditating on it, to renew our mind, and if we need counselling, we go and get counselling. We also need prayer from others, and private prayer times where we get into the Presence of God. It is in the Presence of God that we find out more and more how much He loves us. The more we realize that God loves us, the less we want to sin.
There were problems in the church that I went to; no church is without them, but they had a better grasp on how to interpret the Bible. Mom's church was very dogmatic, rigid, and out of whack. They adhered to some verses in the Bible that they took out of context, and it blinded them to many of the truths that are in God's Word. The Pentecostal church that I attended operated in the gifts of the Spirit, which are not obsolete, because the Church has not yet been perfected. God gave us the gifts of the Spirit to help bring us to maturity in Christ.
It might take some of us, like me, a long time to become mature, but when I repented of my sins and received Jesus as my Saviour, it got me started on the road in that direction. I probably would not have lived past twenty, if He had not intervened in my life when I was in my teens. I tended to get very depressed, as I didn't think much of myself, and I took foolish chances with my life. There were two times when I probably came close to being murdered while hitchhiking.
For the next two years, until I was twenty, I rarely dated. I was shy and quiet around men, especially if I found them attractive. Fortunately, I didn't find very many of them attractive, so that kept temptation at bay. My shyness was interpreted as being aloof; there were very few who had the nerve to ask me out.
I usually felt quite awkward when they asked. When I was nineteen, an Irishman whom I met at work asked me for a date. He sold airplanes, which sounded like an interesting job. He kept offering to take me on a plane flight, but I wasn't going to put myself at risk by going somewhere with a guy where I couldn't get a taxi home, if he tried to get fresh with me. Finally, when he asked me to take a flight with him only to Vancouver, that sounded safe enough.
First of all, though, I asked him if he was married. He grinned and said no. When I asked him if he had any objections to dating a Christian, he grinned wider and said no again. That let him know that he wasn't to try to get fresh with me, and he didn't. But that was the only time he took me on date. About a year later, he visited me at my home and hinted that he wanted me to be his girlfriend, but he wanted to go all the way, without marriage. That idea didn't fly with me, so he went his way, and I didn't hear from him again.
I wasn't anyone's girlfriend again until I started to date the man I married. We had been attending the same church for three years, but he wasn't cute enough to interest me. I thought that his nose was too big. I had a very idealized view of beauty; if a guy didn't look like a Hollywood star, he didn't meet my standards. Also, I thought I would like to marry an evangelist. There aren't a lot of handsome, unmarried evangelists, so I never saw anyone whom I considered to be suitable to marry. Finally, when I was twenty, and fearful of being considered "left on the shelf," due to being unwed at twenty–one, which was the usual age in those days when girls got married, I gave myself a sober talk about reality.
I admitted in my heart that I wasn't all that good–looking myself; without make–up, very few people would have given me a second glance. I also wasn't outstanding in any way as a person and I didn't think that I ever could be. I said to myself, "You're just an ordinary person, Lanny, and you will probably marry an ordinary person." This was where I made a very serious mistake.
Everybody is special, but very few people act like it, because they don't know that they are special. When a person doesn't think of themselves as special, they "settle" for what they can get, instead of being willing to wait for something better. If someone insists to us that they are special, we should help them along with that through the power of agreement in Jesus' Name, but we should wait for someone whose kind of special is compatible with our kind of special.
I took a look around me to see who I knew whom I would feel okay about marrying, if they were to ask me. That Scottish guy, though his nose was a bit on the large side, had a really nice build, and I liked his accent. I would dare to go on a date with him. There was nothing impressive about his face, but there wasn't anything ugly about it either.
I had always kept homely guys at arms' length, because if they got bold enough to ask me to marry them, I didn't want to hurt their feelings by turning them down. I figured that it was better to turn down a date, and hurt their feelings that way, than to hurt their feelings much more by turning down a proposal.
I don't know if my veneer of aloofness was hiding a soft heart or a soft head. Maybe both. I was afraid that I wouldn't have the guts to say no and hurt someone's feelings, if they proposed to me. I had been raised to cater to other people's feelings and ignore my own. I didn't want to end up trapped in a marriage to someone who didn't turn me on.
Some might think that I was getting ahead of myself; that the guys I knew only wanted to go on a date, to perhaps be friends, but that's not the way it was in those days, in the Christian culture in which I lived. The message of the Bible is really clear that sex is permissible only in the context of marriage, and there were a lot of Christian guys in their twenties in that church who were desperate to find a wife. The more homely they were, the more desperate.
Needy people have unattractive personalities and are difficult to get away from when they attach their hopes and dreams to someone. I didn't want the hassle. I didn't want to have to get brutal and tell them straight out that I wasn't interested in them. If I hadn't been too scared to say no, I could have possibly had more male friends back in those days. It doesn't matter so much now, if people don't like me when I disappoint their hopes, because I know in a deeper way now that God loves me, and I care about His view of me much more than anyone else's. What really matters is doing what He wants us to do; not what other people want us to do.
I made the first move towards the Scot. He was too shy to do it. He had never even talked to me before, though one time when he saw me at the front of the church, with my hands lifted as I praised the Lord, he said in his heart, "Hmm; I wouldn't mind marrying a little girl like that, Lord." He thought I was pretty and he wanted a wife who loved God.
I engaged Scott (named changed) in conversation, asking how his recent trip to California had gone. It was a disaster, but he didn't tell me the details about that until later. We made pleasant talk, and then I went my way, but I found several occasions after that to encourage him that I wouldn't mind his attention. Pretty soon, the chase was on, and I wasn't running too fast to get away from him.
Our first date was on Valentine's Day. I was fretting a few days before that Valentine's Day was coming up and I had no sweetheart to spend it with, not even someone to give me a card, never mind a box of chocolates. Back then, Valentine's Day was important to me, but I hate it now, because of its pagan roots. God met me where I was at, though. I needed to marry; I didn't have enough self–control to wait for a more suitable mate.
Scott phoned me while I was contemplating about how sad it was that I had to spend that day alone, and he asked me if I wanted to go to the Ice Capades with him on Saturday. Of course, I said yes, and as soon as I got off the phone, I leaped across the room to look at the calendar to see what day that fell on. It was the 14th! I was so happy that I jumped all around the room for joy. I had a date for that day!
It was a nice date. Another couple came with us. Doug was one of Scott's room–mates; they lived together in a little house in Surrey. Doug and Marian sat in the back of Scott's Monte Carlo, as Scott and I chatted in the front seat. I was puzzled that Scott didn't have a Scottish surname. He actually had a German name that had been modified to suit another culture, but I had never heard it before. I ventured at a guess that it was Polish. His eyes bugged out and he said, "That's rrright! That's that storre detective forrr ye!" Doug was astonished and said, "What's this?" Scott replied, "Don't you know that my faither's Polish?" And so we got off to a good start because Scott thought I was brilliant.
I was a store detective when I started dating Scott, but I wasn't a good one. The job was either too boring or too exciting, and I couldn't see very well because I wore contacts; they were blurry because my body built up protein on them too fast. You need to have sharp eyes on that job, so that you can be 100 percent sure of what you're seeing. Also, I was just a skinny, little girl, only five feet, four inches tall, who couldn't have defended herself, if attacked. The job made me very nervous and I developed embarassing tics in my face as a result. I was relieved when I got laid off.
Scott took me around to some places to apply for a job, and then we went to Queens Park and larked around there. It was a beautiful spring day with the pink cherry blossom trees in bloom. He literally did chase me that day, for fun, but I couldn't run very fast, and it was delightful to get caught.
We went for lunch at the White Spot later and began to talk about the comic strips we liked. Scott had boring taste in comic strips. He liked Broomhilda and Hagar the Horrible. I said scathingly, "You probably like Boner's Ark, too!" That struck us as very funny and we both started laugh and couldn't stop. Tears were streaming down my face when the waitress came to take our order, and she laughed, as well, though she didn't know what the joke was. We could barely manage to give her our order. I enjoyed being with a man who liked my jokes.
Scott was very funny, too. A couple of times when we were dating, he made me laugh when I had food in my mouth, and it ended up in his hair. Sometimes he made me laugh inadvertantly, like when he explained something about Muslims to his friend Doug one Sunday afternoon, while I was visiting at their place. I don't know if this is true or not, but Scott said that Muslims believe that their messiah is going to be born from a man, but they don't know which one, and that this is why the men carry a knife with them, to cut the biblical cord. Doug didn't bat an eye at the mistake Scott made about the cord. He just nodded his head sagely and said in a serious tone, "It sounds Scriptural, Scott." Scott had a tendency towards malaprops.
Women are strange creatures, and I am no exception to the mystery of the female psyche. Though on the one hand, I thought I would like to marry Scott, on the other hand, I didn't want him to be too eager. When he called me on the phone one day, asking if I wanted him to bring me some farm–raised eggs (that was his excuse to call), I thought to myself, "Why is this guy calling me and bugging me?" He was very sensitive and picked up on my mood right away. He humbly asked in his soft Scots burr, "Am I pestering ye, Lanny?" My heart instantly melted because he was meek enough to perceive my thoughts, though he really was good–looking enough, regardless of his nose, to attract the attention of a lot of women. I told him that he wasn't, and I would be glad to have him come over for a visit.
It was a nice visit. Scott sat on my couch and we chatted for a long time. I confided to him that I wished I had red hair. I had longed for red hair since early childhood, after meeting a very kind, red–haired lady on the train during one of my trips from Salmon Arm to visit my parents at the coast. Scott emphatically replied, "Och no! I love black hairrr! The rrreal Scots have black hair, and on Hogmanny, that's New Yearrs, if the first person who crosses the thrrreshold has black hair, that's considered guid luck ferr the whole year!"
Indeed! Maybe God knew what He was doing after all, when He gave me black hair. It had been brown, until I was twenty, and then that summer it turned black, which I thought was very odd, because it usually went lighter in the summer. Somehow, I think that God did this for Scott, so that he would find me all the more attractive.
I said, "Well then, if I have to have black hair, then I wish I had blue eyes." Scott objected again and told me that he loved my brown gypsy eyes, then launched into stories about the gypsies he had met in Scotland. He said that they came from Ireland, and that the men were very handsome and the women very beautiful, with their white skin and black hair. Yes, he was quite besotted, and I didn't mind that he thought that I looked gorgeous.
Again, though, I had doubts about if he was the right person. Before I started going out with him, I had been trying to attend upon the Lord without distraction, as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:35, but Scott was becoming quite a distraction. What had started out as just sending out feelers in his direction was moving too quickly for me. I spoke to my pastor about this and asked him to pray for me. He instead prayed exactly the opposite of what I wanted him to pray, and asked for the Lord to bless our relationship. I struggled with the dilemma and finally decided to give Scott up to the Lord, so that I could get back to paying attention to the things of God.
Scott visited me the day that I made that decision, and I kept waiting for the right time to tell him that I wasn't going to date him anymore. Wouldn't you know it! He looked so handsome in his light blue denim shirt with the pearly snap buttons. What broad shoulders he had! Why hadn't I realized before that he was so gorgeous? Devastatingly handsome, even! Somehow, the right time to give him my bad news never came, and he left completely oblivious to what had been on my mind earlier that day.
I always thought that I had surrendered Scott to the Lord that day, and that God therefore gave him back to me, but now I don't think I really did. I kind of half–way surrendered him, but I think that God's real will for me in regards to Scott was to just remain friends. I was too immature to do that, though, so God let me go ahead with the marriage, to learn my lessons the hard way, since that was the only way I could learn them, with the stubborn mentality that I had. Probably most people marry in that same manner, getting themselves into a mess because they didn't pay attention to clues that there would be trouble ahead. God can redeem the pain and suffering that we put ourselves through, though, if we finally surrender to Him.
Scott looked manly, but it was many years later, when a man remarked to me that his impression of Scott, from what I had told him, was that Scott wasn't the sort of man who would be willing to get into a fight to protect me. I think my friend was right about that. When Scott's hormones were raging in those early days of attraction, he may have thought that he would have physically defended me, if my safety was threatened, but he really wasn't very brave. I settled for a man who looked reasonably good, and could keep a steady job to provide for me, and who had some good character qualities, but not enough to last over the long haul. He wasn't brave enough to love me for better or for worse when he vowed to do so; his hand shook violently when he said those words, and I wondered about it.
It was part of my nature, though, to talk myself into thinking that the man who I married was fabulous, because I wanted to be happy and ride the high tide of passion that comes from loving someone who is amazing (in a good way). I idolized him, and put into my view of him qualities that weren't there. People got quite tired of hearing me rave about him, just as they had gotten tired of me raving about Westy, who was quite a disaster, as it turned out.
My marriage to Scott might have lasted, if I had not idolized him, but when I took my eyes off of God, and put my hopes in Scott to fulfill all my needs and dreams, I set the course for failure. Our engagement was a lot of fun, mostly, except for a couple of times when Scott accepted alcohol when it was offered to him, in spite of having promised me that he would never drink alcohol again, after telling me that he used to have problems with it.
If I knew then what I know now about alcoholism, I would have known that I shouldn't marry him, but the hormones were in high gear, and in my youth, I couldn't imagine denying myself the thrill of taking him to bed as my husband. That was the only way that God would condone it, and He let me marry Scott because He knew that I wouldn't listen to anyone, if they tried to warn me to not marry him. Besides that, he was single when we started to date, and he was a genuine Christian, though he had some big problems. At least, I got that part right, and so there was no reason for anyone to speak up at our wedding to say that we shouldn't marry when the pastor asked that question.
So, I got want I wanted, and I also got some things that I didn't want. I got tear–filled nights, wondering where Scott was when he didn't come home because he was drunk. I wondered if he was with another woman, but mostly I wondered if he had gotten killed in a traffic accident due to drunk driving. For the first four years of our marriage, that was the more likely scenario. Thank God he had a mother who knew how to pray! I sure didn't. I just knew how to worry.
I wasn't very connected to God. My thoughts were mostly selfish and carnal. I exasperated Scott because I wasn't all that he hoped for, either. I had the emotional mentality of a teenager, always wanting to be reassured that he loved me unconditionally, and continually disappointed to find out that he didn't. I don't think that it's possible for human beings to love unconditionally, though some of us, with God's help, learn to love heroically. Only God is capable of loving unconditionally. Only God can be all that we need and completely fill the emptiness in our hearts.
Because I wasn't firmly plugged into God, though Jesus never left me at any time, my life went into decline. Scott continued to drink; I became discouraged and stopped trying to be happy with him. I lost myself in Lalaland, roaming the land of fantasy to find my perfect lover. True to my personality type, I found better thrills inside my own mind than with my husband. What I had once found exciting with him became a bore because I knew he didn't love me and respect me anymore, having become such a disappointment to him. Scott didn't give much thought to how he had disappointed me. His whole focus was on how I had let him down. It gave him excuses to drink, though even when I did everything just the way he wanted, he still drank.
It was heartbreaking to compare how we started out to how we were ending up. I wanted so much to have him be the way he used to be, not only fun, but also gentle and tender and humble. It really went to his head that I told him so much that he was handsome. He began to believe it and wanted to take advantage of his looks to get other women to go to bed with him. I believed he was gorgeous because I saw him through eyes of love, when he was being good to me, but that attraction faded as his character deteriorated through the use of alcohol. It wasn't genuine love, of course. It was infatuation.
Anyway, Scott came to believe that he was too good for me, and I am sure that his mother contributed to the notion. She was disappointed when he married me because I wasn't the sort of girl whom she easily dismiss; she wanted to be more important to her son than his wife. Our marriage troubles were her chance to win the place in his heart that she wanted, but I don't think that she succeeded in doing that. In the end, he lost a lot of respect for her, because she took his part when he behaved like a scoundrel. Pure love helps other people develop character; selfishness aids the destruction of their character.
By the time our marriage was on the rocks, I had stopped caring about looking pretty for Scott. I shlepped around in a jogging suit, wearing it around the clock, except for when I took a bath. I nearly always had my nose in a romance novel or my eyes fixed on the ceiling as I wandered in my mind in distant lands, with a handsome, brave, exciting husband who adored me. That's a good way to destroy your brain. I don't know how it works, but I do know that it happens. My mind seemed to operate in a fog. It got cleared up, though, later on when I renewed my mind by reading and studying the Bible. Thankfully, I turned back to God before it became too late.
It was when I was in that state of paralysis due to fantasizing that my husband left me, and his complete abandonment jolted me back into reality. I had a mess on my hands, and I had to do something about it because my children needed me. But I had a lot of doubt about how much good I could do for them in the long term.
I didn't think that I could cope with supporting them on my own. I needed to dig deeper into God to find His strength for that, but in the beginning of being on my own, I first needed to find the strength to go on living. The mess got worse, though, because of the seeds of destruction that were planted due to rebellion. My husband was very jealous of Westy, not only because of how I had idolized Westy in my girlhood, but also because I let Westy come back into my life after Scott left me.
A lot of trouble could have been avoided in my life, if I had listened to those girls at school who tried to tell me about Jesus, instead of being so obstinate that I wouldn't listen until an attractive man, who had serious problems, caught my attention. What seems like only a little bit of sin at the beginning can turn into a huge harvest of trouble later on.Fiery Furnace
Copyright © April 2014, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on April 14, 2014
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.