Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Hales' Journey, Part Three - College, Love, and a Family Crisis

College Clint - still sporting the cool mustache but now sans cigar - with his brother Jason. He didn't go to THE University, but at least he got the T-shirt and hat!

I’ll warn you up front that this portion is a little longer than the earlier installments. But to really see how my life took some of the later turns it did, this portion is important…. By this time, I had decided that college might be a better option than a military career. So I returned to college and started taking classes. Of course, things were different than they had been before I left on my military excursion. I was now responsible for myself. I had to get a full-time job to support myself. I worked at a sandpaper plant, loading trucks.

I mentioned that I had begun to attend church on most Sundays, and that is true. I worked the night shift, from 8:45 PM to 7:30 AM, Thursday through Sunday. So I would go to work on Saturday night, get off work and try to go to church. Honestly, I slept more than anything else. It was difficult to keep my eyes open. Certainly, it was a step in the right direction, but I hadn’t come fully away from “the dark side” by this time. I was still partaking of intoxicating beverages on a regular basis and spending times in clubs and honky tonks.

My parents had moved to San Antonio during my army days, so my hometown was no longer a place to visit very often. My mom kept telling (on the phone) about this girl she wanted me to meet. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t interested. Mom had tried this stuff before – and I knew better than to fall for it this time. Let’s just say that her choices had not impressed me much. But one weekend I traveled down to San Antonio (I had arranged my work schedule) to see mom and dad.

School was about to start and I figured I should see them a little before I got really busy. On Sunday, mom leaned over excitedly and told me that “she” was here and that we would be introduced after the service was over. I immediately began to plot a scheme to be gone before that happened. Hey, I hadn’t had all that military training for nothing…

As the final “amen” was being uttered, I took off like a shot. I was practically sprinting up the aisle, toward the back door. My car was outside and I figured I would get in and drive to my parent’s home and wait for them there, feigning forgetfulness as the reason that I didn’t meet “her.” As I sprinted up the aisle, I noticed this cute girl a little to my right. She was wearing a pink and blue checked dress. She had “big hair” just like all the beautiful girls did back then. I thought to myself, “I wish mom would pick someone like that…” Suddenly, I felt my feet continuing to move, but my head and shoulders stopped cold. My mom had caught me! I don’t know how that little woman kept up with me, but she did. She promptly began dragging me to the cute girl. Yeah, that’s right. My mom introduced me to my wife at church. How much better can it get? Talk about arranged marriages… But I digress. I will talk more about Debbie later.

What happened over the next couple of months really shaped the rest of my life. Yes, mom had introduced me to Debbie (though I lived over three hours away). But all was not well in our world. My father’s health had been deteriorating for several years. During my time in the army, he had received a heart transplant. Though he improved, he was never fully healthy again. The strain on my mom was more than she thought she could bear. So about a month after she introduced me to Debbie, my mom ran off with another man, abandoning my dad.

My dad and I had always been very close. Our personalities were very much alike. When I was a teenager, we bumped heads on a regular basis. But as I grew older and more mature, we become very close. When mom left, we grew even closer. I made the decision to finish the semester where I was and then move down to San Antonio to take care of dad.

While I was convinced that I would marry Debbie (I literally told some friends that on the day I met her), she wasn’t so sure at this point. But for me, knowing that she would only live a few minutes away made my choice to move in with dad even easier. So I gave my notice to the sandpaper plant and began to prepare for my upcoming move.

Now, I don’t want to drop a topic I introduced last time. Remember the classes that I had decided to take? Specifically, I took a calculus class and an introduction to literature course. I loved math and hated English, remember? Well, life had decided to throw me a curve. By October, I was hopelessly lost in calculus. I couldn’t drop the course, because I was getting the GI Bill and to drop the course would move me below full-time and I needed that money. But I also knew there was NO WAY that I would pass it. So I just stopped attending. I took my “F” like a man…

Oh, and the English course? I loved it. I found out that I was actually really good at reading and writing papers. It was one of those things that I was just a natural at. When all was said and done, I ended up changing my major to English (eventually getting a Masters Degree in it – more on that later on).

So I was moving to San Antonio to take care of my heart-broken, sickly father while trying to develop a relationship with the woman that I planned to marry, whether she liked it or not. But this whole situation was finally primed to get me to really address my spiritual life (or lack thereof)…


Clint said...

I will have you know that I wore that sweatshirt for several years. In fact, I wore it until my belly got in the way.

I probably still have the cap somewhere...

charlene said...

Your mother introduced you to Debbie? That means my son is not th only man alive that the girl of his mother's dreams. Once I met my Julie, I knew she was just what I wanted. Of course he wasn't too sure when I started introducing her as "My hopeful-future daughter-in-law". Glad to know I'm not alone here.

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