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red clay ponderings

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marriage

There is a Summer Place

Happy 61st Anniversary to these two!

They were just high school kids when they fell in love. She has said she liked sitting next to him in class, because he was smart and could spell anything. He was her living dictionary and encyclopedia.

She liked hearing him sing.

He and his friends would gather under my grandparent’s big oak tree and “make music”. That’s how they spent most of their dates. Neither of them had a car.

They only dated three months before they were married.They were 16 and 18 when they vowed “until death do us part”.

I was born eleven days before their first anniversary. A year later, my dad was in a terrible accident that required months in the hospital, and several surgeries. Doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but my mom refused that option.

He was a musician; a guitar player. She understood that losing his creative outlet would be detrimental for him. At the time, she was 18 and he was 20. Where did she find the fortitude to resist the advice of top Atlanta physicians? Where did that strength come from?

Love. And grit.

But mostly it came from love. She knew she had to fight for him when he was unaware and unable to fight for himself. Physicians relented agreed to try and save his arm. But it would require extensive surgery. An experimental procedure.

He made medical history.

Doctors at Crawford Long Hospital saved his arm and hand by taking functional pieces of one hand, and adding them to the damaged hand. Skin was grafted from his stomach onto his forearm and hand. The surgery was a success.

But after a long stay in the hospital, they were financially destitute. They were poor kids to begin with, and now they had a mountain of medical debt. Lawyers contacted them and urged them to file suit. They refused. They also refused to file bankruptcy. In their opinions, to file a lawsuit against his employer or to refuse to pay their debt, would speak negatively of who they were/are. So while he was still recovering, she went to work in a poultry plant, Gold Kist. It was the same plant where he had had the accident. She worked long hours in cold, wet conditions. When he was finally released from medical restrictions a couple years later, he returned to Gold Kist. They both worked for GK until the summer I graduated high school. They had remained dedicated employees for all those years. Their time with GK ended only because the company closed up shop in Canton.

During those growing-up years, my brother and I seldom saw them, other than breakfast and weekends. They worked double shifts to pay off the medical debt,and would pick us up from the sitter after we were already sleeping.

When she was 23, she lost both her parents within a two month period. They were the people she had counted on for emotional and physical support when my dad was hospitalized. They were the baby sitters, when it came to caring for my brother and me.

In their stressful, imperfect, tragedy laced marriage, how have they managed to stay together for over six decades?

Several things…

Neither of them have ever had an ounce of alcohol. As kids, both had seen firsthand the damage caused from alcohol, and both vowed to never give it the opportunity to wreak havoc in their own lives.

They took their vows seriously. “Till death do us part” meant something to them.

They fiercely defended one another other. Even if they didn’t fully agree with the other, they still gave support. They worked out the differences behind closed doors.

Respect… for each other and their families.

My mom never spoke a negative word about my dad’s parents.

And he never uttered a negative word about hers.

Are they perfect? Not by a long shot. But they keep trying, even now. They never gave up on one another. Or us. They never gave up hope for better days.

He has dementia. Music helps him. But not long ago, he told me he likes to play Theme from A Summer’s Place on his record player, when she’s around. Because it’s always been her favorite. And because, he said, “I know it helps her memory”.

💞

https://youtu.be/tFi_CKNJj

There’s a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I’m safe and warm
For within that summer place
Your arms reach out to me
And my heart is free from all care
For it knowsThere are no gloomy skies
When seen through the eyes
Of those who are blessed with loveAnd the sweet secret of
A summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams
All their loveAnd the sweet secret of a summer place
Is that it’s anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams, all their love

I Wanna See You Be Brave

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This morning, my childhood friend Becky posted a Sara Bareilles song on Facebook: Brave. And it triggered a memory of Becky’s mother.

Many years ago, after becoming engaged, I visited the mom of my friends Mike, Bobby and Becky Bruce-West. By that time, I had known Mrs. Bruce many years; since I was ten or eleven years old. She was like a second mom to me, and she really was a second mom to my cousin, Pam Bruce, who had become her daughter-in-law. As much as I loved Mrs. Bruce, I had only been in sporadic contact with her over the last several years. College took me out of town, then working and living in the Atlanta area kept me away. Pam and Mike were married and living in other parts of the world, Becky was married and living in Florida. The reasons for me to visit the Bruce home had grown up and moved on.

But once I was betrothed, I had a strong need to see her. I called and asked if I could come visit for an afternoon. She laughed. “Of course you can come see me! Anytime!”.

We caught up and laughed about old times. Then, in her sweet, aging voice, she asked: “Well Danita Clark, what will your new name be?”

“Able”, I said.

“Able”, she paused, and her blue eyes lit up like sparklers. “I can’t think of a more perfect name for you. Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been one of the most able people I’ve ever known. Brave, too.”

Hearing her words, I was overjoyed, because Mrs. Bruce wasn’t one to spout empty accolades. I also felt like an impostor. She had no way of knowing, but already, the little girl Mrs. B had known as able and brave, had become a young woman stripped of bravery.

When did that happen? Where did I leave the bravery? When? I’m not fully certain, but I think I know. I believe I left little pieces of bravery and able-ness on the ground around me, under my feet. Anytime I felt inadequate, I gave away bravery. No one took it from me. I handed it over, let it slip from my hands and hit the red clay, where it sank deep and became buried.

Unwittingly, as my friend Teresa recently said, I had set myself up to marry a man who didn’t value me. After I married him, I became less able, less brave. For twenty-four years, I had no bravery.
All that changed six years ago, come this July.

Glory to God, I survived.
And with a lot of help from Him, many good friends, some vagabond travels, family, and a new Rodan+Fields business, I have been ‘able’ to recover my bravery.

The insecurity, uncertainty and no-bravery, is now nothing more than an oily, greasy mark in the middle of the road. It sort of looks like an old, empty can of Crisco.

In My Life…A Video Discussion about Letters

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This week, a graceful lady and I met at her Cartersville, Georgia studio…Cindy Harter Photography to discuss Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife. Always gracious and full of Southern hospitality, Cindy agreed to video our conversation so that I could share with others.

If you’re ever in need of an amazing photographer, look up Cindy Harter Sims of Cindy Harter Photography…her beautiful work is remarkable.
She’s on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyHarterPhotography
Cindy’s website: http://www.CindyHarterPhotography.com

Our Conversation:

Thank you for watching,
Danita

Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife – the book

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Letters From A Whoremonger’s Wife, a story of abuse and an addiction to adultery, is now available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers as well as www.danitaclark.com.

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