Thursday, June 3, 2010

Throw the bum out!

On Memorial Day I wrote that my dad was away at war from the time I was 8 months old until I turned two. The family photo album contains black-and-white photos showing my mom, grandma, aunts, and cousins. Society as I knew it was run by women.

Then a man came home, this stranger with a deep voice who walked into our house and acted like he belonged. What’s more, my mom and grandma acted like he belonged. (Let me quickly add that my dad was a respectful, even-tempered guy. But to my two-year-old self, he barged in and disrupted our lives, and of course he took away my sense that everything revolved around me.)

I’ve had issues with male authority figures ever since. As in, Who does this guy think he is? Why doesn’t he respect that I know what I’m doing? As I write this I can feel the creeping resentment I have felt toward so many male bosses. Women, fine, I can work with them. Men seem like they’re…barging in.

I was dealing with an especially large dose of this resentment in the mid-1990s. I reported to a boss who was in way over his head. I tried to give him helpful information and advice, but he didn’t know enough to take it. He wasn’t sure he wanted to keep me around. One of my benefits was free tuition for my stepdaughter at a great college. It would be a year until she started, and I was determined to hang on until she graduated. With my hubby’s coaching, I handled the situation. But I always had to be careful and act respectful, and sometimes I wanted to explode.

One night at a baseball game, I found release. The umpire made what I thought was a good call. The rival manager strode onto the field to complain. The crowd was yelling at the manager to get off the field, and yelling at the umpire to throw him out. I joined in. I climbed up on the seat and screamed as loud as I could. I kept it up as long as the two men kept arguing, as long as anyone in the stands kept heckling. A friend said he thought it had been a bad call and the manager was justified in complaining. I said I didn’t care, I was having a breakthrough.

I was very publicly voicing my disagreement with a male authority figure, and I reveled in the feeling. It didn’t matter that he had no authority over me. It only mattered that I chose to let go, to be loud and disapproving and unrepressed and, yes, undignified. I wasn’t trying to persuade him, I was just feeling free.

I don’t need to yell at the umpire any more. Whether I have a good boss or a bad one, I can cope. But it's only in the last couple of days that connected all this with that unsuspecting man who came home when I was two and shifted my reality in a way I couldn't understand. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day thanks, and a charity clambake

I'm thinking today about three veterans of World War II: My dad, a good friend, and my husband's father, whom I never met.

Peter's dad was part of a railroad corps stationed in Belgium, where he maintained train cars sent over from the U.S. to move troop supplies and equipment. He survived the war and raised a family. At age 50, on his way to bowling one evening, he was killed by a drunk driver.

My dad was assigned to the Army Signal Center in London, where he endured the bombing and transcribed classified strategic conversations between Pentagon officials and military and diplomatic leaders in London and Paris. Dad was interviewed last summer for an oral history project, and he shared copies with me and my siblings...a wonderful gift. He has lived in Hibbing, Minnesota, since 1948, and this week will move with my stepmother to an assisted living facility in St. Cloud, which is closer to us and where we should be able to visit them more regularly. I was just eight months old when my 28-year-old dad went off to war; My early childhood photos show an extended family of women and children waiting for the men to return, and I have some very sweet letters from a proud young daddy to his little girl, along with a Scottish tam that he sent from afar.

Wayne Terwilliger, front left, with fellow Marines on Saipan
Our friend Wayne Terwilliger joined the Marines at 18 and spent his tour of duty in combat in the South Pacific. He was part of the landing at Iwo Jima and saw the flag go up on Mount Suribachi. He was also in the assault wave at the horrendous battle of Saipan. A photograph showing him in the midst of a sniper attack has appeared in various magazines and newspapers, and the US Postal Service featured it ten years ago when they commemorated the 1940s. His book includes an entire chapter on his wartime experiences, and helping write it made that war much more vivid for Peter and me.

To our dads and our friend Wayne, and to their young selves who went off and fought for their country, thank you.

And now for something entirely different....
Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub.. It's the last day of the month and time for the next image from the Men of York calendar produced by the Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for charities of York, Maine These gents represent Foster's Downeast Clambakes, and the tagline on their photo is "Hot Hot Hot...and steamy!" I won this calendar from Eva in a giveaway and have shared the photos each month; this is one of my favorites.

See you in June!


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