I’ve just thrown the whole “my dad’s talking about getting remarried” thing out there very casually… so now I shall elaborate. This is a very, VEEEEEERRRRY lengthy post. Be warned.
My dad. Um, yeah, that’s a very complicated subject. He’s South Carolina-born and bred, with all the baggage that goes along with that. But he also has some other interesting little “quirks” that take it to a whole new level. As a general overview, his hang-ups include:
- Elitism that stems from a childhood in a very privileged white upper-class family
- Racial prejudice that’s so deeply ingrained that he still can’t quite overcome it
- Male chauvinism of the first order – women are to be seen and not heard
- RELIGION in all-caps.
- Emotional detachment – his parents showed zero affection to him, his siblings, or each other. His adult life has been a effort to pass this warped perspective along to his children.
- Paranoia. Not sure what this stems from… maybe a combo-pack of fanatical religion and his own special brand of anti-social personality disorder? (Note: he’s never been officially diagnosed because he refuses to admit that he has a problem. This is just my internet-based diagnosis.)
I can’t really explain the current situation without giving some history.
The Early Years
When my dad was 18-yrs-old, he left his tiny Southern town and headed for Clemson University to get an education. And, oh my, what an education he got. His roommates had recently joined a small, nondenominational church (called “The Chuch” from here on) and convinced him to go. A few months later, he had dropped out of Clemson and embraced religion wholly. The Church supported the belief that education was anti-faith… so his dropping out of college was the only logical explanation. The Church family fulfilled a yawning void in his life – he had never had a close familial structure or support system, and these people were there to give him the love he yearned for…. as long as he followed the rules and guidelines. And since my father is someone who thrives off structure/rules/direction, this suited him perfectly.
**Disclaimer: Even now, I’m finding it difficult to talk about this religion stuff objectively. Out of respect for my family & loved ones, I’m choosing not to include any specific information about the belief structure I grew up with, or The Church. Although I am no longer an active participant, I’m not tearing down the beliefs of others. This is my personal family history. Nothing more, nothing less.
So back to my father. Part of the belief structure that my impressionable father now embraced was the need to be “equally yoked” (Ref: 2 Cor. 6:14). In order to “equally yoked,” you have to marry someone that believes exactly like you do. Like, EXACTLY. So because The Church was very small with few female options of marrying age, he & his roomies headed off to a camp that was just for young people like him – young people who went to other The Churches. Enter my mother, who lived in Virginia, and had been sent to the camp by my grandparents.
My parents married less than six months later. My mother was 18-yrs-old , recently out of a long-term relationship with a Baptist preacher’s son (oh the horror – she was dating a BAPTIST?!?) and Daddy was mysterious, exciting, and approved by her parents. So after a hippie wedding (she picked her own daisy bouquet off the side of the road), she packed up and moved South with her new husband to a trailer park where they were surrounded by others from The Church. Literally surrounded. Like all their neighbors went to The Church, and went grocery-shopping together, and had dinner together, and shared a car. Not kidding.
My mother then spent the next year thinking “Holy shit, these people are f-ing crazy.” Well, not in those exact words because she was a good little Christian girl who didn’t use that kind of language. And to be perfectly fair, my dad had no idea what he was getting into either… my mom was a hellion. She pushed every envelope, broke every rule, and pissed off all their fellow church-goers (especially the men who had THEIR wives under control). She was belligerent, headstrong, and a 5-hour drive from all her family and friends. To use a good ole’ Southern saying, my daddy “had a tiger by the tail.”
After a year, my mom finally threw in the towel, packed her bags, and headed back up the road to Virginia. Enter me. Yep, she was pregnant. So her parents put her back in the car and sent her back to South Carolina to fulfill the “or for worse” part of her wedding vows.
The Good(ish) Years
Fast-forward 10 years. Mama & Daddy now have three lovely daughters who (*SURPRISE*) are just as headstrong and belligerent as their mother. Poor Daddy, you gotta kinda feel sorry for the man. The least God could have done was give him a son so he’d have one person on his side. We now live in a little brick ranch house in Townville that Daddy loved, Mama hated, and they bought anyway with promises of “I’ll buy you another house in 5 years. I promise.” This is the house that Mama will die in 19 years later. They’re still faithfully attending The Church. And they’ve managed to iron out a good many of the wrinkles in their marriage – it’s still a bumpy road, but nothing like “The Early Years.” Mama makes our clothes so that we can follow the rules of The Church without being “the weird kids” in school. We’re still weird. I mean, how can three girls who grow up with no pants, no shorts, no haircuts, no hair coloring or modifications of any kind, no makeup, no nail polish, no piercings or body modifications of any kind, no television, no movies, no bathing suits, no alcohol, no bars/movie theaters/clubs or other “worldly” places, no rock music (or any music with a drumbeat), no excessive jewelry, no high heels, no “worldly” culture, and, of course, no dating outside The Church, be NORMAL? That’s right. They can’t.
But we managed. Mama encouraged us to push the envelope and be ourselves. Like the time Susanna was called into the principal’s office for having her entire 7th-grade class sign a petition protesting the cancellation of their field trip to Washington, DC. Mama was called in for a teacher-parent-principal conference about Susanna’s uprising, and Mama defended her, claiming that Sue was exercising her democratic rights. Or the time that I accepted a date with Brad the Baptist and when Daddy threatened to kick me out of the house, Mama told him that his crap would be on the front lawn right next to mine. Or the time I was in first-grade and a little boy named Eli hit me every day on the bus and made me cry… Mama told me that the next time I came home crying because I hadn’t stood up for myself, she was going to spank me. The next day, I punched Eli in the face.
Then, when I was 18, Jennifer 14, and Sue 8, we quit The Church. I know, craziness. Our pastor got sick and what happens when the leader shows signs of weakness? That’s right, the wolves start circling. My dad was a loyalist… he wanted to stick by the rulebook, bring in an interim paster, and continue life as usual. However, there were others who had visions of grandeur… and the back-stabbing started. Our family was one of five that left The Church, which was the majority of the members. But the difference between our family and the other families is that they moved on… they found other churches that were similar enough to The Church, they moved away, they did whatever they needed to do. Except my family. Our (former) pastor soon died, but my dad just couldn’t let it go. He started tithing to a pastor (called “The Pastor” from here on) in Oklahoma who was the closet thing that he could find. Mama thought Daddy was a loony, – I mean, we’re in the Bible Belt with churches on every corner… WHY can’t he find a local church? – but she went along with it to appease him… over the years, she had begun choosing her battles rather than fighting him on every single thing. As long as he didn’t make her actively participate and left her alone to run the house as she pleased, she didn’t care who he tithed to. And The Pastor is a very nice man… Daddy could find worse people to idolize.
The BadBadVeryBad Years
Then, in Aug 2004, Mama got sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage VI, and it scared the shit out of our entire family. Her oncologist told us that she would be fine (wishful thinking, perhaps?) and after the initial freak-out, we got into a routine of chemo treatments, radiations, and pink ribbons for all. It became funny – not cancer, of course, but my mother’s ability to make an irreverent joke out of everything. She would take her wig off in restaurants and fan herself with it and roll with laughter at the startled looks she would get. Her favorite mastectomy joke was “whew, I’m so glad I got that off my chest” and then she would howl with laughter whether her audience was howling or not. She became a poster-child for “chemo brain”…. she was a scary, scary woman when she went off her Zoloft. We put cancer behind us and pushed on with our lives.
Then Nov 2006 arrived, and it was the beginning of the end. Not gonna go into it here… the archives of this blog have it fully covered. The Pastor was a part of it – he performed her last communion a few weeks before she died, and spoke at her funeral.
Which brings us to the present…
In all his books, Daddy read that the spouse should wait at least a year to remarry. On September 17, 2008, a year had passed since my mother’s death. And now he’s on the prowl.
The first time I mentioned Daddy remarrying, Holly asked the very excellent question:
Who in the world would your daddy marry? Does he have a girlfriend?
The answer is NO, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. But here’s the thing…. I really, really think that he won’t even have a girlfriend before he remarries. About once a month, he flies out to Oklahoma to visit with The Pastor. And The Pastor has a fairly large church with a reasonable number of eligible females. Based on my raising in The Church, this is how I think it’s going to happen:
THE REMARRIAGE PROCESS:
- Daddy’s going to tell The Pastor that it’s been a year since Mama’s death, and so he’d like to “fill the position”
- The Pastor will say “why of course, I have several ladies in mind.” These ladies will either be A) widowed, or B) never married. Divorced women are not eligible because that’s against the rules of The Church.
- There will be a church function of some kind where Daddy will meet all of the ladies in question and make his selection.
- I’m a little fuzzy about this part – Daddy will either ask The Chosen Lady out on a date, or The Pastor will approach The Chosen Lady about Daddy. The Chosen Lady will then either indicate interest (proceed to #5) or disinterest (return to #3).
- Daddy will take The Chosen Lady on a few outings. This may go on for several months or only one month, depending on how they get along. He will most likely not tell Jennifer, Susanna, and me about The Chosen Lady because he won’t want us to “cloud his judgment” with our inferior, emotional, female opinions.
- Daddy will propose to The Chosen Lady. She’ll say yes. They’ll plan a quick wedding. We (Jen, Sue, & I) will probably be invited. The Chosen Lady and Daddy will then move back to South Carolina and we’ll have a new stepmother to love and embrace. Um, yeah. Right.
I’m almost certain that #1 of The Remarriage Process has already been completed. There’s a chance that #2 is already underway, although I don’t know for sure. I don’t know anything for sure because my Daddy Dear will keep me in the dark until the last possible moment. Cuz’ that’s how he rolls.