Discussing my son’s plan to build his business brought up a whole regimen of old feelings for me recently. I struggled to keep talking, stay in the conversation, and stay excited, when I just wanted to take five minutes out and cry out those old feelings. The worst part was that the feelings I suddenly experienced had nothing to do with him…
Driving an old vehicle with no heater, working long hard hours on the road with children, in cold winter months wasn’t my idea of how to raise children and definitely NOT my dream of living. I’d long dreamed of being a stay at home mom, home schooling from the comfort of my cozily decorated farm house in rural America. But that wasn’t the life I would lead.
Instead, I worked with my husband, collecting his vending routes, working on electronics and traveling long black ribbons of highway across vast empty spaces from one site to the next, in a high mileage vehicle with no heater, an engine that frequently died for no reason other than a ‘warmed up’ sensor, and low traffic routes where a break down could result in hours of sitting on the side of the road in a broken down vehicle in bad weather, before anyone even found us there. Because of the hours and the distance, my husband would not even have started searching for us, until several days had passed. While I struggled to keep working, he kept promising as soon as we had the money he’d get me a new vehicle to drive so there would be less chance of a breakdown and a heater that would work. But, he didn’t want to spend the money to fix the heater. So, I kept driving.
After several months, as the obvious danger of winter storms became imminent, I’d managed to save enough for the down payment we had discussed on the new vehicle. It was in the bank. He left to collect routes and came home extra late on Thursday night, I’d drifted off to sleep before he arrived, exhausted from my own day of work. As I awakened the next morning, he said, “Honey, I got your Lincoln, it’s in the drive!”
I jumped out of bed and hurried to the window look out at the driveway, where my new ‘Lincoln’ should have been. In the back of his truck were three expensive pinball games, “Lincoln’s in the gaming business” the salesman had said when he described them to us a few days earlier in the showroom. I had been there. At the time, he asked if we could spend my ‘car savings’ on them and then put more money in the car savings. I’d said ‘no’ because I knew the girls needed heat for the winter travel I would have to do. He remained excited and talked about the pinball machines all the way home. He talked about them every moment we were together for the next several days. When he left to collect the route, the game site wasn’t on his list of places to visit, but neither was a late night.
Without me there, and I strongly suspected that’s why he went back without me, there were no such reservations. My Lincoln was in the back of his truck (new truck, I might add, since he’d wrecked the farm truck he drove so carelessly).
Anger wouldn’t cover my feelings at that point, he didn’t care enough that we would be cold to protect us from the dangers of breaking down on back highways. He really didn’t care. With two small daughters to take with me as I traveled to do the work caring for his business, his equipment, during what would be the coldest months of the year… I knew, he truly didn’t care enough to protect us from the dangers of being on the road in the winter in a vehicle without a heater. His pinball machines were more important to him.
He was still laughing and excited about where he would locate the equipment, asking my opinion. Thrilled that he had his pinball machines.
I pulled sausage, eggs and biscuits from the fridge and started breakfast, letting tears run down my face.
When I wasn’t returning his enthusiasm for the pinball machines, excited to have new equipment on the routes, he informed me that it wasn’t like I really NEEDED the Lincoln, it was a gas guzzler and I would be better off with something smaller, that used less gas. When I reminded him that I hadn’t wanted a Lincoln, he wanted to get me a Lincoln like the one his mother had, because SHE said they were the safest car for moms with kids, he exploded. Slamming the door as he left, he knocked our family photo off the wall and broke the glass inside the frame.
Ultimately, he didn’t care. He walked away and ten years later, he hasn’t even made an effort to see the kids.
His hugs were meaningless. We meant nothing to him. Our safety on the highway meant nothing.
Today, I feel sad, watching other men put their wife’s feelings on the back burner. Not giving any thought to the needs she’s expressing over their own desires to have a toy, some new idea or a concept that they need to discuss. While women do need to share in the thrills their husbands bring home, there’s a need for me to understand ‘family first’.