Chapter Five / The Wedding and Therapy
Faith graduated and secured a kindergarten job at Hayward School where she had done her student teaching. Since Faith's college was paid in full, resulting from the accident settlement, we were financially able to continue with the wedding plans and my final year of college. The wedding was to be held in New Holland, SD. This was Faith's home town.
All of the traditional tasks were accomplished. Invitations were prepared and mailed. Handmade silk flowers were the "in" thing. The church was decorated and the guests arrived. I sang to Faith during the ceremony as I played guitar to a John Denver song. The lyics were placed on a wooden plaque which I buried beneath a poured plastic coating. After I performed the song for Faith, I gave her the plaque symbolically handing her the message of the song. Many comments expressed how touching it was to give her the words of the song after I sang it. The real reason for the "supposed" romantic gesture, was my concern that I might forget the words under the pressure of the moment.
After the service, my mind moved forward to our departure and opening the gifts in the motel. I pictured bringing all the presents into the room and setting them out on the floor. Faith and I would remove the paper and enjoy the surprise while discussing how we would first use each thoughtful gift. The reception was in the basement. Faith and I went down the side stairway which led directly into the kitchen where ladies of the church were busy preparing a lunch for all of our guests.
I caught a glance of a long table with many household items on display. Upon approaching the table, Faith and I soon discovered these were our gifts. Someone else had the pleasure of unwrapping the many carefully decorated boxes so our guests could see each item received. We both felt violated and robbed of a joy we were looking forward to that very evening. A "lady of the church" came out from the kitchen and handed Faith a set of cards. "Here are all of your thank you notes. All you need to do is put a stamp on them and mail them out." We smiled politely and learned our first lesson in marriage. There will always be those who will want to take control of what they think is best for us.
The Black Hills was our honeymoon destination. Saved in a jar was one hundred and fifty dollars in coins. Our first motel was a splurge since we handed over the huge amount of fourteen dollars. Other rooms, during the week, were around six or nine dollars. Money was carefully spent at tourist attractions, restaurants, and on a few souvenirs. There was one dollar remaining in the jar when we returned home to Sioux Falls. Faith was always able to stretch a dollar.
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in education with a theater minor. Unlike Faith, I was not ready for a classroom full of children. There was a pull to missions, the pastorate, or a path toward an evangelical pursuit. It was decided I would attend the North American Baptist seminary. Looking back, the reason for this detour has been made clear. God required certain experiences to be gained in preparation for a future purpose.
I struggled. Never a student, I found every class challenging beyond my ability. I tried. I studied. I made every attempt to comprehend. It just wasn't going to happen. "Why is memorization such an incredible challenge?" I wondered often. Just as that question again crossed my mind, a familiar face came out of a classroom. "How's it goin'?" was my greeting.
Nancy was ten years my senior working toward a degree in psychology. "I'm well," she answered. "How's the seminary treating you?"
The door had been opened. I discovered the beginning of a new road. I needed answers and hoped to find them here. Nancy had some time and we sat in a quite space with little student traffic. I spoke of the difficulty I was having with my classes as a result of what I thought was my inability to memorize. I couldn't remember names, dates, locations, theological terminology, or the details of the hundreds of pages of reading involved in each class. Nancy agreed to meet with me once a week as a "psychologist in training." It wasn't going to cost me anything and I quickly agreed to participate.
After a few sessions I was able to gain an insight which has been helpful from that day to present.
"Our mind is like a tape recorder," Nancy explained. "Everything we see, do, and experience is saved; somewhere. It is always there. Playback might be easy with parts of the stored information and not possible with others. A protective mechanism puts a lock on memories we don't wish to recall. Even if our conscience mind wants to remember, the subconscious says, 'no.' If we are in constant practice of 'locking' away some things, it becomes difficult to remember most things. 'Locking' becomes a habit."
"So, what's up with all the 'locking?' Why did I form this habit?" I asked.
"What can you remember?" Nancy would ask.
"Just bits and pieces." I'd tried to bring it back. "I remember the project in St. Paul where I lived. I left my grandma's house at night by myself. It wasn't a long walk, but half way home a group of older kids stopped me. I remember getting shoved. A knife was at my throat. I don't know why. I don't remember what they wanted."
"Did you talk about the experience to anyone?" Nancy questioned further.
"I think I mentioned it when I got home. I heard something about not walking home at night by myself and I should know better next time. I remember a scolding and zero sympathy for the experience."
"How old were you?" Nancy asked.
"Very young. Maybe five," but I wasn't sure.
That's where we started in our quest to discover the purpose for "locking" memories. I recalled a lot of humiliation in various experiences as a child. Just parts of vague remembrance but never the full detail. There was fear in being punished for unknown reasons. Something about getting a branch from a tree and being hit with it. Dishes were thrown on the floor, because I didn't get them clean enough. Every dish and pan was removed from the cupboards in order to redo the task. Scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush. What was that about? I couldn't remember any more about that incident.
Bits and pieces surfaced over the course of several months. I remembered being constantly sought out by junior high classmates after school being hit and kicked. I remember not moving on the ground and feeling the blows until they got tired then laughing as they walked away. There was something about my dog when we were camping as a family. My dog nipped at someone who was teasing him. The consequence was my dog being let out of the car as we drove away. I vaguely remember him running after us. I also had a dog get hit by a car. I ran into the house and was scolded for being too close to the road. Not being able to settle down, I was placed in the old, dark, dirt basement while the rest of the family went somewhere. I remember something about mice. I was there a long time. There was also recollection of being in line at school. Someone said my last name and punched me in the face. I landed on the ground. Classmates walked over me as they went inside. No one helped me up.
It was difficult. I was embarrassed these things happened to me like it was somehow my fault and I should have prevented it.
"You were a child," Nancy would encourage. "The responsibility of protection, safety, sympathy, and justice were in the hands of the adults in your life at that time."
Talking about what I could remember continued for another several months. Her image of tapes being played back gave reason to feelings I would receive when hearing or seeing something random. A baseball bat hitting a ball was a sound I couldn't tolerate. This sound would start the play button of a tape from high school. I would be taunted from the team to hit the ball or be hit later. I could never hit the ball. The locker room became boxing practice where everyone took a turn.
Nancy said, "You have developed a coping mechanism to handle the struggles in your past. Your mind has suppressed many of the details. There might be entire experiences that you will never remember. Since your mind is accustomed to erasing things, memory is no longer an ability you have. But God can use you with whatever gifts you bring to Him. Not a grand memory. No problem. It's a skill you'll learn to live without. Now let's talk about the gifts you have and the gift you are."
Of people who have been helpful in my life, Nancy has always been at the top of that list. I never saw her again after that first year. I have no idea where she is today. I'm not even sure now, if that was her first name. I don't remember her last name. But I do remember what a difference she made in my goal to move forward giving me confidence to be who I am and continue the pursuit of God's will in my life.