The Winter of 1984, construction slowed down as it often would, so I enrolled in a correspondence class on marriage and family counseling through CCEF. (This was way before on line classes. 🙂 )
We were renting a house just behind the County Care Facility at the time. (see picture below).
The County Home as it was called locally, housed the young, the old, the physically and mentally disabled, those struggling with alcohol addiction, etc. It was a safety net for people who might otherwise have no where else to turn.
Our two girls, both toddlers at the time, would go with their mom over to the kitchen window of the care facility and visit the cooks. The kitchen was in the basement, and Sandy, or Lori, (the cooks) would hand them a cookie through the window.
We lived in that little house 3 and 1/2 years. Got to know many of the residents on a first name basis. Hap Steiner, Don Kibermeyer, Freddie, Melvin, Jerry…and Dan.
Dan was just a couple of years older than myself. At the time I had no idea why someone like him would be living at the County home. He wasn’t retarded, nor physically disabled.
Dan and I got together every Monday night after I got home from work for two years. He and I would sit at our kitchen table while I mostly listened to him. I secretly had this hunch that if we talked through some of his life issues long enough, he could be set free from whatever in the world it was that had him living here in this care facility, and then he could go on to enjoy a normal life.
That day never came.
I do know Dan consumed an awful lot of my Nestles Quick chocolate milk as we sat at the table.
Then there was a second person in our life at the time who was also a mystery. Her name was Jodi. She was in her late 20’s. Walked with a slight limp, slightly overweight. I think maybe she had a mild case of Cerebral Palsy She lived just a couple of miles from our place with her mother. She too struggled with an assortment of mental and physical issues and at certain times would lapse into this sing-songy voice when talking. Her struggles (it seemed to me) were more in the realm of negative thought patterns. I had a hunch maybe she’d been bullied as a young girl. Jodi would stop by randomly for a visit, and sometimes we’d go to her moms.
There is one more piece of this story I need to tell you, otherwise I’m going to keep tippy-toeing around it, and it will drive me bonkers.
I am not a religious person.
If that is your thing and it helps you navigate life, more power to you. No disrespect intended when I say that.
But I was experiencing a spiritual stirring in my life that wasn’t always in play.
Shortly before we were to be married, we were required to attend a pre-marriage workshop through the local church my wife attended. Workshops on everything from communication skills, insurance, money management, etc.
There was one guy that got my attention that afternoon. He did not look like a “church guy” He looked more like a college football coach or a construction worker. He looked at this auditorium full of young couples in love and said he was going to give it to us straight.
He said, “If you want your marriage to have a chance in this day and age, when one out of two end in divorce, then Jesus Christ, needs to be in the center of your relationship, the cement in your marriage.”
I had not idea what that meant practically speaking but as someone who was pouring a lot of cement at the time, that word picture really resonated with me . It left me wanting to know more. The best way I can put it, is a year and 1/2 later, the lights came on spiritually.
The more I grew spiritually, the more I wanted to know…
What would it take to help someone like a Jodi or Dan, both of whom seemed obviously stuck?
I finished my first class through the mail and wanted more.
To be continued….