Monday, June 3, 2013

Some Stories About Deb

Some Stories About Deb
Thomas Allen

    In 1981 Deb came to visit me the day after Christmas. Fortunately, for me once she got here, she never left. Her flight was due around 2:00 p.m. I got to the airport around 1:00. Was I excited to see her! As 2:00 approached, her flight was moved down the list to around 3:00. Each time her flight approached the top of the arrival list, it was moved down to near the bottom. About 10:00 that night, she finally arrived. She had flown from Connecticut to Pittsburgh where she was to connect with a flight from Detroit to Raleigh-Durham. Because of snow, the Detroit flight was delayed.

    After I met Deb, we went to get her luggage. We could not find it. Then we learned that her luggage had gone to St. Louis. So, I took her to my parent’s house where she stayed until we married. Around midnight, her luggage arrived at the house.

    The first week that Deb was in Raleigh, I took her to see the place where she would spend the next 29 years of our lives. (Later we named this place “Marigold Plantation” after the pseudonym that she used for her advertisement.) Also, I took her to the office where I worked and introduced her to the people who were there. At that time, I worked in the Archdale Building. We went up to the heliport. One can get a good view of Raleigh from there. Years later I learned that she was terrified of being up there. As it was a clam day, there was no danger.

    On Thursday, the 31st, we drove to Dillion, South Carolina to marry. When we applied for our license, we learned that South Carolina had a 24-hour waiting period. Back to Raleigh we drove. We returned on the 1st and married. After the wedding, they took a couple of pictures of us. In the first one, we had a “what have we done” look. In the second on, we had a happy look.

    That night, Deb stayed with me instead of going to my parent’s house. I do not know if they ever missed her. They never said anything about her absence. The next day my parents had a dinner to which they had invited a few relatives. We did not tell anyone that we were married. While we were eating, my aunt Isabel kept looking at us. Finally, she asked if we were married. She had noticed our wedding rings. We admitted that we were. (I think that my aunt was proud of herself for being the first to notice.)

    Materially, Deb did not bring much into the marriage. Along with her clothes and some artwork and supplies, she had a rocking chair, a camera, a stereo, and a typewriter, but not much more. If I recall correctly, she had less than $100 in the bank. However, she brought a great deal into the marriage. What she brought into our marriage cannot be measured and is beyond measure.

    When Deb became pregnant with our first child, we were living in my apartment. We had a gas stove. Deb’s pregnancy heightened her sense of smell. She started smelling gas and complaining to me about it. She was convinced that the gas stove was leaking. So, I had to take it apart to see if it were leaking. Although it occurred to me, I doubt that it did to her, if the stove were leaking gas, there was a good chance of a fire and perhaps an explosion. My disassembling the stove (actually, I only removed the top cover) seemed to satisfy her. However, she did continue to complain about smelling gas.

    The fall before we moved to Marigold Plantation, I had a new lawn sowed. We bought the trailer and moved to Marigold Plantation in April 1982. Somehow I managed to get the plumber, electrician, and power company to arrive the same day as the trailer. Thus, we got the trailer set up, the pump in the well and connected to the trailer, the trailer connected to the power line, and electricity turned on in one day. Before the sunset, the trailer was ready for us to move in. However, the sewer line to the septic tank was not completed until the next day because another section of pipe was needed.

    We did not buy a lawnmower before the end of May. By then, we had a good stand of grass when I got around to mowing it. Around the first of June, I started mowing. As I was mowing, I notice that I was stirring up field rats and mice. I went into the trailer and got Deb and my shotgun. Deb drove the mower while I walked behind her with the shotgun to shot the rats and mice. Later, I wondered what the neighbors must have thought when they drove down the road and saw me walking behind Deb with a shotgun. I wondered if they thought I was one heartless man who had to use a shotgun to force his wife to mow the grass.

    When our first son was born, Deb’s water broke about 9:00 Saturday night. I carried her to the hospital that night. We spent the night in the labor ward since the doctor did not want to send her home because we lived so far from the hospital. Our first son was born about 2:00 Sunday afternoon.

    Just before our daughter was born, we went to the beach during the last week in June. Deb’s mother and youngest brother went with us. The doctor told Deb that it was all right for her to go since she was not due until the first week in August. On July 6 our daughter was born. The nurses had fun kidding the doctor about our daughter being the largest 32-week baby that they had ever seen. Obviously, the doctor had calculated incorrectly.

    When our third child was born, the State was experimenting with a new style of health plan. We could not go directly to a specialist. We had to go to our primary physician, and he would refer us to a specialist. During Deb’s pregnancy with our third child, she developed diabetes. The obstetrician gave her a blood test for diabetes. When she reported to her primary physician, he said that he was supposed to give her that test, not the obstetrician. So, he gave her the same test that she had a few days earlier. He was not going to lose the fee for that test.

    Fortunately, Deb went into labor with our youngest son just before I left for work, so I could quickly take her to the hospital. He was born a few hours after we arrived. While in the labor room, Deb kept calling the nurse and telling her that the baby was coming. The nurse looked at her and told her that she had not dilated enough. Around the fifth time that Deb called the nurse, the nurse looked at her and told that she was right. The baby’s head was showing. The nurse asked the doctor if he wanted to deliver in the labor room. After answering no, the doctor said that Deb could make it to the delivery room. Deb was in the delivery room for only a few minutes before our second son was born.

    For all three of our children, I was in the labor and delivery rooms with Deb. I think my presents comforted her. I got to hold our children before she did.

    After we married, we never bought a Christmas tree. We always cut one on our land. Until our white pine trees got big enough to harvest, we used a cedar. Usually, I found the cedar. A few times Deb found one. I always cut the tree and drug it to the house. After I got it to the house, most of the time we had to cut some off because the tree grew from the time that I cut it to the time that I got it to the house. We put the tree up, and then Deb decorated it. Later, the children helped decorate it. Usually, I put the angel or star on top as I was the tallest. Over the years, we had accumulated ornaments for a big tree. So the tree was loaded with ornaments.

    When we started using white pines, Deb helped me saw it. She pulled the tree away from the saw to keep it from binding the saw. Later, the children took over that job. They liked having the tree fall on them. After the children left home, Deb returned to her job of pulling the tree.

    The trees that I grew were much rounder than most sold on lots. Deb said that I used her as my model for pruning the trees. Perhaps I did. Moreover, they did not look nearly as large standing in the field as they did in a small room.

    One year after cutting down a tree and decorating it, I came home and found a new tree up. After the first tree had been in the house for a few days, the hibernating aphids came out. Aphids were everywhere, or so it seemed. Deb had thrown that tree into the yard and fetched another one.

    When we had goats, we usually fed the tree to them after Christmas. (Deb liked taking the tree down within two or three days after Christmas.) For that reason, we never sprayed anything on the tree.

    When Deb was pregnant with our first child, I often left her with my parents. My stepmother took Deb to her doctor’s appointment. Once when I left Deb with my stepmother, my stepmother’s friend was visiting her. My stepmother must have convinced her friend that we lived in the wilderness miles away from civilization. Her friend asked Deb what she did if she were cooking and needed an ingredient. Deb told her that she went to the Piggy Wiggly, which was a mile from the house. The friend seemed surprised that she did not have to drive 20 some miles to Raleigh.

    My stepmother also told Deb that I knew nothing and not to pay any attention to me. I was especially ignorant when investing. I admit that as far as investing is concern, I am a novice who flies by the seat of his pants. However, I did manage to get enough return to pay the loan on our mobile home and land so that we could use our land as the down payment for our house. Fortunately, Deb was intelligent and wise enough to ignore my stepmother.

    We bought a Johnny Walker house. The company built 90 percent of the house, and we did the rest. We were responsible for the heating system. We contracted putting in the heat pumps, which freed up the closet where the heating system was to go. That closet became our second pantry. I wired the telephone. Deb put fiberglass installation under the house. Except our bedroom, which we had carpeted, we laid tile on all the floors. When we laid the tile, we discovered how out of square the house really was. Also, we painted the interior walls. The carpenters left enough lumber behind to provide shelves for the closets, the second pantry, and the utility room.

    Deb got to see the house go up as our mobile home was about 120 feet away. One of her favorite stories was hearing the “oops” and “don’t worry about that, the Sheetrock man can cover it up.” She told that to the Sheetrock man. He said that carpenters thought that Sheetrock men could work miracles.

    In March 1989, we moved into the house. We had not quite finished all the work. However, I figured if we waited until we were through, we would never move.

    Deb wanted a house, and I think that she was pleased with it although she would like to have had a bigger front porch and a bigger and better kitchen. It was her nest. If it were not for her, it would never have been built. Unfortunately, she could not live her last days here.

    Except for me, everyone in the family ate cheese and drink milk. When the kids were growing up, they consumed about two gallons of milk each week. Before I retired, we usually had one major grocery shopping each month. Most of the time that was a family affair. Then each week we went to pick up items that we ran out of, such as milk and eggs, and to get some meat that was on sale. For the first several years of marriage, I often stopped by the grocery store on the way home and bought those weekly items. Occasionally, I bought cheese for the Deb and kids. To me cheese is cheese, so for awhile I bought  cheddar cheese. The cheese kept disappearing, so I assumed that they were eating. Therefore, I kept buying it. After a few months, Deb told me to stop buying it. They did not like it and were not eating it. They were feeding it to the cat.

    In the mid 1980s, I read an article that said that a husband should surprise his wife occasionally with an unexpected gift. Thus, I gave Deb a gift unexpectedly. Big mistake! She became highly suspicious. What terrible thing had I done causing me to give her a gift? Had I had an affair and was my conscience bothering me? Weeks were required to ease her fears and assure her that I had done nothing wrong.

    I forget what the gift was, but it was not expensive. Naturally, never again did I give her an unexpected gift. I waited for our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, her birthday, or Christmas. If I want to give her something at other times, either I told her before the purchase or we went to the store together to get it.
    One of the few places of friction between me and Deb was disciplining the children. We were both mostly laissez faire type parents — Deb more so than I. Usually, she waited until the kids pushed her to the breaking point before she reacted. I tried to keep things from getting to that point.

    Occasionally, Deb got on me about yelling at the kids; they complained about me yelling at them. I told Deb that if the children did what I told them to do when I told them to do it, I would not yell. I had to yell to get their attention. Then I heard them say, “Dad’s not serious yet. He’s not yelling.” We were fortunate that for the most part our children were fairly well behaved and did not get into too much trouble.

    One thing that I tried to impress on Deb was that when one of us disciplined a child, the other should not object — at least not in front of the children. Any disagreement should be done in private. We needed to support each other and stand united. Over time she came around to that view. Most of the time we supported each other, or at least did not oppose each other when disciplining the children.

    My oldest son got into trouble at school for throwing a rock and hitting a car. The principal paddled him. When he got home, Deb gave him such a tongue lashing that I felt sorry for the boy.

    On Christmas morning, the children never went downstairs to play with their gifts until we got up and went with them. I do not know what Deb did to keep the  children from going downstairs and start playing with their toys before we got up. Around five or six in the morning, we started hearing subtle, and at times not so subtle, bumps against our door and little voices. We heard things like “Are they up yet,” “Wake them up,” etc. We heard reports from the one that the other two sent to peek around the steps, such as, “Did you see anything?”, “What did you see?”, etc. Usually, the report was that nothing was seen. Whatever she told them to keep them under control and not to go downstairs without us worked because they never went downstairs on Christmas morning without us.

    One winter we had a snow that stayed around for about a week. After a few days, Deb and the kids came down with a severe case of cabin fever. They just had to get out. So, they got into my car (I was using the four-wheel-drive Blazer to commute to work) and tried to drive it out. The driveway was clean. However, the car slipped off to the side when she drove it from its parking space. She managed to get it stuck up to the axle of the wheel that was turning. I had to wait about a week for the ground to dry enough for me to jack up the car and file the hole with bricks and rocks. Then I drove the car out.

    Once Deb came close to getting sued for libel. Deb thought that the art council should support and promote all forms of art in the county. She did not like the way that the man who ran the art council ran it. Even when he was not the formal head of the council, he continued to control it from behind the scene. He was using the council to promote and support the whistler’s convention, which was his baby and real joy. Deb was not happy about that. So, she wrote a letter-to-the-editor expressing her dissatisfaction with him and his management, or mismanagement from her perspective, of the art council. She was not shy about stating her opinion of him and how he ran the council. She saw him as egotistical, opinionated and autocratic.

    He had his lawyer write her a letter threatening to sue her unless she apologized. As I knew that she was not up to writing such a letter, I wrote one for her to send to the newspaper apologizing. I ended the letter with a sentence thanking him for proving her point.

    About a year before she became ill, the whistler’s convention was divorced from the art council. The art council was reorganized under new management. It was set up the way that Deb would have approved.

    We used to have chickens. However, the dogs and racoons finished off what we had. We got started with chickens in the early 1990s when my oldest son brought some home from school. His teacher had a class project using chickens. As we lived in the country, he got about half the chickens. Deb with a little help from the kids built a chicken tractor. I did not help much on this project as most of it was done while I was at work. She used scrap lumber left over from building the house. That was one heavy chicken tractor. We learned about chickens with them. One important lesson was always to make sure that they had plenty of water especially during the summertime. Dogs finally killed the last of those chickens. How that last chicken survived that attack, I do not know. The dog had pealed the skin off its back; I had to kill that chicken to put it out of its suffering.

    From these chickens we moved onto others. I ordered some chickens and built a chicken coop in the woods behind the house so the chickens would be shaded during the summer. Later I built a second coop near that one and made some changes based on what I learned from the first one. At our peak, we had about 30 chickens. Later I built a new chicken tractor. Deb really helped me with that one. I messed up on the door, which really frustrated me. Deb stepped in and built the door. At our peak, we had a refrigerator full of chicken and duck eggs. When we had an over abundance of eggs, Deb boiled one or two dozen every week for me to take to work.

     In the mid 1990s, we got our first ducks. I order one of those assortments of ducks and geese. We finally gave the geese to my uncle as they were eating up my greens. We got a few eggs from these ducks. Later I order some more ducks of different breeds. These were more productive egg layers. Deb preferred duck eggs to chicken eggs for  baking.The ducks did rid the yard of Japanese beetles. I seldom see any now.

    When Deb and I were away from the house for much of the day, we left the ducks shut in their pen. When we returned home, we frequently checked for eggs. I lifted up a corner of the pen, and Deb gathered the eggs.

    Once when we came home, we decided to get the eggs before we went into the house. As we approached the pen, I noticed that the ducks were huddled in a corner in the front of the pen. This was peculiar I thought. After I lifted up a corner, Deb reached in to fetch the eggs. Instead of grasping an egg, she felt something strange. She withdrew her hand. When she withdrew her hand, a snake slithered toward the front of the pen. It was at least four feet long and had eaten the eggs. Naturally, I was at fault for her grabbing the snake. For weeks after that, I had to make sure no snake was in the pen before she would help me gather the eggs.

    Deb and the children camped several times near Nags Head between the mid 1990s and 2010.

    The first and last time that I went camping with Deb and the children was to Hanging Rock in 1999. Cinda, our dog, also went. We had a station wagon full with the dog, three children, and the camping gear. We used a two-room tent. Deb and I slept in the back room. The children slept in the front room. As we went just after the children had gotten out of school for the summer, the campground was crowded.

    In 2000, Deb and I began camping without the children. They were now old enough to leave at home alone. Our first such trip was to Stone Mountain. This was in the spring of 2000. This campground was the most crowded one at which we ever camped. When we arrived, only two or three sites were vacant. After this experience, we tried to time our camping trips such that few or no other campers were at the campground.

    In the fall of 2000, Deb and I camped at Pilot Mountain. We used a bicycle tent that we had bought for about $15. I put a tarp under the tent and one over it. The whole rig cost no more than $20.

    When we arrived at the park, only three or four of the nearly 60 campsites were occupied. We selected one away from everyone.

    Just before the gate closed, a family moved into the campsite across the road from us. They were towing a large camping trailer that appeared to be fully equipped. I guess that their rig cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

    I have always thought about how funny it would have been for someone walking down the road. He would look to one side and see a $20 outfit. On the other side, he would see a $20,000 outfit.

    Deb called that family Malcolm in the Middle. They seem to show up everywhere that we went.

    In November 2001, we camped at Merchant Mill Pond. By now I had bought a larger tent for us to use. We also had gotten a sleeping bag that held two people, so we could sleep together. At this time the water in the pond was down about six to eight feet. We took pictures of each other standing by a tree with our heads below the waterline. We canoed around the pond. Because the water was so low, we could not do much canoeing.

    In November 2002, we returned to Merchant Mills Pond. This time the pond was full. When we went canoeing, I thought that we would canoe around the pond for two hours. For four hours we canoed. We even went up a feeder stream. Both times that we camped at Merchant Mill Pond, we were the only campers there most nights.

    The reason that we camped at Merchant Mill Pond in November was that we did not have to pay the camping fees. The department for which I worked suspended fees for its employees camping at a state campground during the first week in November.

    Our last camping trips were at Medoc Mountain. On one of these trips, we forgot to pack towels. We went to two close-by stores  — not much exists within five miles or more of Medoc Mountain. Neither had towels. We ended up using a sweatshirt for a towel.

    I managed to arrange most of our camping trips so that we often had the campground to ourselves. Nearly every night we stayed at Medoc Mountain, we were the only people camping. When no one else was at the campground, we showered together. We enjoyed showering with each other. At the campground, we showered in the men’s room. We figured that if she were caught in the men’s room, there would be less commotion than if I got caught in the women’s room.

    Only once did we come close to being caught. Once at Medoc Mountain, we were showering together. When we went into the shower, on one else was at the campground. However, as I was getting out of the shower to dry off, a man walked in. I think I was in a greater state of panic than Deb was. Deb stayed in the shower until he left. An RV had parked at the campground while we were in the shower. That was the only time that we came close to being caught.

    Once at Medoc Mountain, we got caught in a thunderstorm during the night. Although the tent flapped a good deal in the storm, it remained up, and we stayed dry.

    When Deb was doing her gourd art, she used a copper scrubbing pads to clean the husk off gourds after they cured. To make sure that she had an ample supply of pads, I put some in the cart nearly every time that we went grocery shopping. (For most of our marriage, we shopped for groceries together.) After a while she told me to stop getting them. She was afraid that people would think that we were manufacturing drugs.

    Deb usually wrote a list of things that she would like to receive for Christmas and posted it on the refrigerator. One year her list contained a bathroom scale. For that Christmas, I bought her a bathroom scale. She must not have had any confidence in me getting her the scale, because she gave me one that same Christmas. Since then we have had two scales.

    One Christmas Deb gave me an air compressor. At that time she was spray painting and wanted to do some airbrush art. The airbrush art that she did was mostly on her art car. So, she gave me an air compressor.

    I used it mostly for the tires and grease gun. Deb used it for art and to paint other things. The children and I teased her about buying the air compressor for me for her to use. That accusation made her defensive to the point of later saying that when she bought me a gift, it was for me and not her. As for me, I did not care if she used it every day. I seldom used it. Her using it was better than it just sitting idle.

    Several years ago, I bought a Grundig Satellite 800 shortwave radio — mostly at Deb’s urging as it was not cheap. I had set the radio to turn itself off just before midnight and to turn itself on just after midnight on the station that played Amos and Andy and then turn itself off in 15 minutes. This was the original Amos and Andy, which lasted about 10 minutes. I had set it to play Amos and Andy so that I could hear it if I happened to be awake at that time of night.

    Once I went on a business trip and was gone over night. I forgot to fix the radio so that it would not turn itself on.

    When I returned home, Deb told me that she had awakened in the middle of the night and heard voices. At first she was frightened because she thought someone was in the house. Then she realized that the radio was playing.

    Her experience was somewhat funny. At the same time, I regretted not turning the timer off so that the radio would not come on. I regret the radio frightening her.

    I have been to Mt. Mitchell several times. The last time that I went was in 2004. I took Deb with me to my division’s annual supervisor’s retreat. She got to tour the arboretum and sketch some plants (I posted the sketches that I found), while I sat in those exciting meetings. We left the third day so that we could go by the community college in Lenior, which our youngest son was thinking about attending. On the way there we went by the Vance homestead historical park and to Mount Mitchell. All that we saw when we reached the top of the mountain were cloud tops. That may have been her first time there.
    The only other supervisor’s retreat that I took Deb to was at Atlantic Beach. It was held at one of the better motels. That was Deb’s first encounter with a bedbug. Fortunately, it was dead. While I attended meetings, she some seagulls. (I posted these sketches.)

    We did not have a guest room to junk up and then clean out. We had a three-bedroom house. Our two sons had one room, and our daughter, the other. When our daughter left home for college, we moved our youngest son into her room and converted his room to our computer room and mail room. When our youngest son left for college, Deb converted his room into her sewing room and drawing room. She wanted to discourage any of the kids returning home. Later he did come back home, and Deb lost her sewing and drawing room. Shortly before she became ill, our youngest son moved to Philadelphia. Deb got her room back, but it was short-lived. After she became ill, she invited our oldest son to move in and that room became his.

    Deb never seemed to suffer from empty-nest syndrome. She was glad that the children had left home. It was a fulfillment for her as she felt as though she had achieved her goal of rearing her children so that they could stand on their own. I think that I regretted seeing them leave more than she did.

    We used to be in a Meet-up group that discussed preparedness for disasters, i.e., what to do when disaster, either natural or man-made, occurs, things to have on hand, etc. One lady often brought a cake for the group to eat during break. Deb decided that she should take something to a meeting. So, she baked blueberry muffins. Her muffins were a big hit. All the muffins were eaten. The other lady had to carry home about half her cake. Deb was really happy and puffed up about that. People preferred her muffins to the cake.

    After I retired, Deb and I went to Raleigh about once a month. Sometimes the traffic was heavy when we returned home, but nothing like what it was when I came home from work. At times she commented that she did not know how I put up with all that traffic for all those years that I drove to and from work. I hope that it made her appreciate a little more what I did to support her and the children and the love that I had for them to do it.

    Deb had a problem of cleaning out the refrigerator. Things got pushed to the back. After a while, she became afraid to touch it. It remained there longer because she did not want to touch it. She was afraid that it had all sorts of fury things growing on it. Sometimes it did get that bad. At times I had to take matters in my own hands and throw the  item away.

    Deb was not much of a house cleaner. The longer we were married, the less she did. In later years, I did about as much as she did, which was not all that much. When she was in the hospital, I got my daughter, who is a house cleaner, to come and clean the house. It took her two trips. When I told Deb that our daughter was cleaning the house, she replied that she wondered where our daughter got her cleaning genes. She certainly did not get them from her mother.

    Although Deb was not a house cleaner, she was not a slob. She hated to vacuum, and even more she hated dusting. When we first moved into the house, she did make an effort to mop the floors about once each month. Sometimes she vacuumed. As time when on she did less, and I did more. However, she usually kept her kitchen under control. Except when canning, she managed to stay on top of keeping the kitchen clean. She also did the toilets from time to time as I seldom did them. I usually cleaned the tub. We both struggled with clutter. Keeping things in neat stacks with cats around who cannot tolerate neat stacks is hard.

    One thing that I learned was that the longer I was with Deb, the more I loved her. The more I loved her, the less important her housekeeping flaws and shortcomings became. Eventually, they became an essential part of her to be loved and cherished along with the rest of her.

    A woman, whom I learned later was a mail carrier, had an ad in the same Mother Earth News as Deb. When I sent Deb a letter, I also sent this woman a letter. About six months later, I received a letter from her. She sent her picture and asked for its return if I were not interested. Along with returning her picture, I sent a letter informing her that I had already found someone, was married, and had a child on the way. (I never told Deb about this woman.) She must have thought that I was a fast worker. I was not a fast worker. I just hit the yotta-lottery jackpot. After fourteen years of struggle and failure and eight years of existing with a broken heart, I finally won the lottery. And I won big; I won the septillion dollar jackpot.

Copyright © 2013 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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