Friday, June 5, 2009
Tomorrow is an important anniversary
On June 6, 1944, D-Day went forward as planned, World War II eventually ended, and names like Eisenhower and Churchill made their way into the history books.
On June 6, 1958, in the early afternoon, on the soap opera As The World Turns, Claire finally married Dr. Doug Cassen. Claire was the mother of Ellen Lowell who was a friend of Penny Hughes who...it really is too complicated to explain.
I don’t remember the former event (I was only three) but I distinctly remember the latter because at seven in the evening on the same day, my dad and stepmother were married in one of the smallest churches I ever saw (Methodist, before they merged with the Evangelical United Brethren and started calling themselves United Methodists) in one of the smallest towns I ever saw (Coppell, Texas, population approximately 600). Dad was 52. Mildred was 43. I was 17. Two weeks earlier I had graduated from high school in a town 30 miles away. Two months before that my dad and stepmother had been introduced by one of her brothers-in-law who worked at the same aircraft plant as my dad. Five months before that, on October 4, 1957, the day the Russians launched Sputnik, my mother had died after an eight-year battle against cancer.
Suddenly I was no longer an only child living with a widowed father, I was the middle one of five children. Suddenly I had two new older siblings (Bob and Ed) and two new younger siblings (Patsy and Billy). Suddenly I had a new name to avoid confusion (Bob Jr.). Suddenly I was no longer two thousand miles away from any aunt, uncle, or cousin. I had four new aunts (Cleo, Margaret, Faye, and Sue) and their husbands (Romie, Fritz, Oliver, and Jack) and five new uncles (J.D., Russ Jr., Marvin, Billy, and Freddie) and their wives (Ovaline, Dorothy, Thelma, LaWanda, and Martha) and an endless supply of new cousins (Kenneth, Janice, Jerry, Jimmy Wayne, Mike, Gary, Helen, Carol, Libby, Danny, Larry, Daisy, Ray, Brenda, Connie, Cindy, Barry, Terry, Jeff, Paula, Russ, and a few I have probably left out). And even though both of my grandmothers had died before I was born and one grandfather whom I had never met died in Iowa when I was seven and my other grandfather whom I had seen only once when I was 14 lived far away in Pennsylvania, I had a brand new set of grandparents (Russ Sr. and Virginia). And every last one of these new relatives lived nearby, and they were used to getting together often. It felt a lot like this:
...only bigger. Don’t bother clicking; it’s futile.
My new ready-made family all absorbed my presence rather easily, probably, but for me it was a real culture shock at the time.
Eventually I adjusted and life went on. Sometimes my dad would call my stepmother Ruth by mistake and sometimes she would call him Clarence. My dad lived for nine years after that eventful day in June 1958. My stepmother eventually married again to a man named John and they were together for nearly thirty-five years, and I said all that to say this:
You can get used to just about anything if you put your mind to it.
Eventually I even had sisters-in-law (Linda, Judy, and Beverly) and a brother-in-law (Clyde) and lots of nieces and nephews -- Stacy, Sam, Donald Bruce, Pam, Penny (who is named, and I’m not kidding, after Penny Hughes from As the World Turns), William, and Sandra. And now there are even great-nieces and great-nephews.
But I still haven’t gotten used to being called Bob Jr.