Countdown to 60

Aging on my terms - Daily musings in 500 words or less

Tag: family

Life Changes – Part one

I didn’t intend to be in another relationship at 20, but there I was living with a man in a tiny home in Bend Oregon. I met Jeffrey in July of 1979 and by the fall of that year we were living together.

It only seemed natural to move my belongings and my cat in with his belongings and his cat. I had a kitten named Jeff when we met and it didn’t take long before my boyfriend’s name became Jeffrey instead of Jeff.

I had a gray cat named Jeff, then I met a man named Jeff Gray

Life was good in that little house at the end of a dead end street. We both worked and had friends and did all of the normal things young couples do. I was happy and what made things even better, was my best friend in the entire world lived just a few towns over.

I’ve written before that my brother Johnny was my best friend since childhood. Nothing change about that as we got older, except that we got even closer. He was always just a call away and I spent most of my days off at his place.

Johnny was in a relationship and even though he was only two years older than me, he was already a Daddy. It must have been hard for his partner LeeAnn, being around Johnny and me. We had such a close bond there were times when we inadvertently excluded those around us by getting caught up in our own conversation.

LeeAnn managed to hold her own though, and once Elizabeth was born, that baby girl was the center of our attention. It was great having my brother so close. Everything was falling into place and I was enjoying life.

My brother with his daughter

I turned 21 on May 10, 1980 and Jeffrey surprised me with a trip to Lake Tahoe to celebrate. We packed up the car and hit the road. I remember sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window watching the tall pine trees go by when all of a sudden I felt a profound sadness wash over me.

Jeffrey said I looked pale and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, but that something bad was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. We didn’t speak anymore of it and continued on with our trip as we both wanted to enjoy our time together.

We arrived back home on Monday after our long weekend, and the first thing I did was call my brother to tell him about our trip. He didn’t answer, but there was no need to leave a message. I knew he would phone me back.

I was a little upset when it took him several days to call me. After all, this was my 21st birthday we were talking about, and I wanted to share it with my brother. We finally spoke the night of the 14th and unlike our usual hour-long conversations this one was short.

Johnny listened to me talk all about our trip and then just said, “I’m glad it was fun sis. Happy birthday. I gotta go.” Then he said goodbye and hung up. I remember looking at the phone after he hung up thinking, “that was weird”. Something didn’t feel right.

(To be continued…)

Just the way I am

I started this blog less than a month ago. My intention was to share my story, and to be authentic along the way. I had this sense that I was racing towards 60 and still trying to figure out life. I want to reach that age feeling confident, wiser, and healthy.

So I just began.

But I’ve started things before. January 2016 I started a personal journal, again. This time, I vowed to write in it daily and keep track of my progress towards losing weight and feeling good. I took measurements and pasted photos in it. I got creative with different colored pens and drawings. I envisioned a diary stuffed full of photos and details about my life.

I not only lost weight, but I wrote in my journal daily. But somehow, neither of those things lasted.

When I look back at what I composed, I am beginning to understand why. Most of what I wrote about was what was going on around me. On the outside. I couldn’t even share with myself, in writing, what was going on inside.

I’m not sure I even knew what was going on within. I mean, I’m happy. I have a fun life. I don’t walk around sad or feeling like a victim. So what was the piece I was missing? Why do this? Why share all of these stories?

In these past few weeks, I’ve shared some of my deepest feelings about my life. And there is so much more to tell. As the posts are written, and the publish button hit, I feel a sense of empowerment. Okay, also a sense of fear.

And I bounce between those two emotions. I’m proud of myself for sharing these things, and I’m scared as hell that I did it. Last night I was filled with so much self-doubt, wondering what in the world I was doing. Am I just looking for validation from you?

This morning I got on the scale. I’ve lost 10 pounds. I feel lighter, and not just in weight. I realize I am very grateful for your validation. I am also grateful for the platform to release my fears and expose myself so that I can learn that I’m okay just the way I am.

Thank you.

Just the way I am

I am not Loretta V…

As a teenage girl, living with a single older father had its challenges. One time I got in trouble because he found a razor in the bathtub, and asked me if I was shaving my legs. I was in ninth grade.

We were living in Oregon at the time, and I hated it. I was going to a strange new school, and I had no friends. The first day of ninth grade, I met a girl in the cafeteria who asked my name. When I told her, she laughed and said her uncle had a dog named Loretta. That was also the school where I was teased for having “chicken legs” because I was so skinny. I wanted to go back home to Michigan.

My dear sister Linda is 15 years older than I am and like a second mother to me. She came to my rescue and told our father that she was moving back to Hart. And she was taking me with her. I was elated. We packed up her car and her three young boys, and headed back home.

That’s when I met Greg. He was two years older, my brother’s best friend, tall and blonde and so sweet. We hit it off immediately and before long we were dating. I was happy and busy with a new boyfriend, school and work.

Two teenagers in love

By the end of the school year, I was living on my own. My job as a waitress was enough for me to afford a small apartment in town. It was also a place for Greg and I to be together, and so we were. There was one problem with that situation though.

When Greg turned 18, it all changed. By then, Dad had moved back to Hart. One day the Sheriff stopped him in town and said they were going to bring Greg up on charges of statutory rape if my dad didn’t do something about us living together.

So being from a long line of young brides, my family suggested we get married. As a 16-year-old girl in love, I thought that was the perfect idea. I made my dress and Greg’s shirt. I picked Queen Anne’s Lace and we put them in jars of food coloring so I could have pretty flowers. And we got married.

We stayed in my little apartment and had friends over and acted like a married couple. But it was slowly falling apart as I finished school and worked, while Greg hung out.

We tried moving to a bigger city, in hopes of Greg finding a job, but he never did. I felt the weight of all of the responsibility on my shoulders and it was too much to bear.

I am not Loretta Vandenheuvel

At 18, I knew it would never work out. And so, I left. I moved to Oregon, and I didn’t look back. I filled out the necessary paperwork, and we got a divorce.

And I didn’t tell anyone for the longest time. I was ashamed, so I kept it a secret.

Until I met Jeff…but that’s a story for another time.



How to transform yourself

Yesterday I shared the story of the day my mother died. And, if you’ve been reading any of my posts, you know I grew up on a farm. It was after my mother’s death that I realized there was a whole different world out there.

The first time I remember my Aunt Ruth, was at mom’s funeral. She was my mother’s sister and had a very different life than mom. She lived in a big house in the city and came down with her husband to be there for the service.

The moment I saw her, I was immediately in awe. She had blonde hair and wore makeup, and looked nothing like my mother. She was stylish too, in her well-fitted red dress. After the service everyone came back to our house for food and condolences. My sister and I were showing Ruth around the farm, and when she got near one of the cows she got pretty skittish. She thought the “bull” was going to charge her because she was wearing red. We giggled at that one. She was definitely not a farm woman.

When it was time for her to leave, I found out I was to go with her and Uncle Dick, back to their home in Traverse City. I was so excited to go, I almost forgot about my mom…for a second.

When we got to their place, my aunt settled me in the front parlor with a cold soda pop in my hand, and went to ‘get comfortable’. I waited there feeling a bit out of place, but that changed when the woman who came back looked just like my mom. The blonde wig was gone, the make up off, her dentures were out, and a comfortable plain frock took the place of that red dress. She looked completely different.

I knew in that moment, even as an elven year old, the power of a make-over. I was lucky enough to stay with my aunt and uncle until school started. I had my own room, played 45’s on the record player they gave me, and went out on their boat. My favorite record was Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Our House” and I played it over and over, and my aunt didn’t seem to mind. It was a fun time and I still cherish those memories.

Back home in Hart, it took me a few years, but once I got my hands on some makeup, I was hooked. I also changed my hair. I had long straight hair, parted in the middle, just like everyone else. My sister, Linda cut it short and gave me a perm. Looking back at the pictures makes me laugh.

I think I wanted to be like my Aunt Ruth. Transform myself. And so I did.

Got to love the perms and makeup of the late '70s early '80s!


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