In previous blog posts, Mike and Don are fictitious characters in fictitious scenarios. I wrote those posts to underscore the fact no husband is symbolic of all husbands. We are all different, just as all wives are different.
The same thing is true of marriages.
I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. But I’m somewhat acquainted with those areas of study. That’s because we are daily besieged with stories about human relationships in books and magazines, and on television and other electronic media.
I’m amazed at how many of my retired friends, women and men, watch TV soap operas. In casual conversation they can give details about plots, characters, relationships, and even emotional context. Love, hate, intrigue, deviousness, addictions, ulterior motives, neediness, dominance, vulnerability, and so on.
And let’s not forget evil and the so-called wages of sin.
No, I don’t watch soap operas. Although some sitcoms and full-length movies, in addition to both nonfiction and fiction books, are close to the same thing. Some of those are cloaked with more sophisticated terms such as history, government, war, economics, prejudice, politics, and even religion.
Please don’t think of me as a cynic. I believe in the fundamental goodness of human beings as we try to better understand ourselves as highly intelligent creatures. Most of us are people who work hard to overcome bad impulses. And we often lose. But then seek forgiveness and try again.
Media produced by people like us are a kind of literary introspection. A study and commentary on the human condition as we struggle to make sense of our lives.
And then along comes something like Alzheimer’s Syndrome.
I didn’t expect it. Nor did the fictitious characters known as Mike and Don. It didn’t hit them directly. Instead, it did something much worse.
It hit their wives.
I don’t see myself as being like either the fictional Mike or Don. But my wife, if she could, might argue the point. Okay, I agree that I’ve had my moments.
Like the fictional Mike, I grew up in the 1950s. I was an offspring of “The Greatest Generation.” Postwar Americans were winners. We won the big war. And, while less well defined, we prevailed in Korea.
We had the bomb.
Although the public had mixed feelings about individual members of the military, subliminally at least everyone was proud of its accomplishments. While many courageous and dedicated women served and died, it was men who played the most prominent role. That appealed to me.
I enlisted in the army at age 17 right after high school. Afterward I went to college and received an ROTC commission in 1961. My assigned branch was armor, or tanks. I became a tank platoon leader and later a company commander.
We trained hard for a possible conflict with the USSR in Europe. Then, what everyone thought was inevitable because of the Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crises, calmed down.
More Cold War. More predictions of an unimaginable Armageddon. But no shots were being fired. No bombs were being dropped on an enemy. Or us.
The Kennedy assassination and escalating tensions in Southeast Asia. Vietnam. A revisiting of Truman’s “containment policy.” Keep the communist countries from expanding. A murderous and insidious soap opera writ large.
Our major involvement in Vietnam started in 1965. Because of the terrain and other conditions, army commanders decided to use lighter vehicles and helicopters.
Lots of them.
Only the Marines sent tanks, pretty much as mobile artillery. By that time, I had been transferred to the Texas National Guard, allowing me to start my teaching career.
Because my obligation to the service was fulfilled, I decided to leave the military in 1966. I had many reasons. Our involvement in Vietnam didn’t make sense to me. Guard units like mine were being trained to control antiwar demonstrations throughout the country. I hated that idea, to confront our own people on American streets.
Maybe more importantly, I didn’t like who I was becoming. Military commanders don’t ask subordinates to hold hands, meditate deeply, and conduct long discussions about strategy. Sure, good ones seek advice, but the commander makes the ultimate decision and subordinates follow those orders to the letter.
That persona can burn deeply into someone who realizes he is solely responsible for making life and death decisions. It’s hard to shake off in civilian situations. In my classroom. In my home. It could make me come across as uncompromising, dictatorial, demanding — almost an addiction.
My wife understood the problem. She was the daughter of a decorated military commander in World War 2. Her mother taught her how to cope with the situation.
And, because I knew it was becoming a problem in me, I worked with my wife to overcome it at home and in my profession.
While not perfect, I like to think I improved greatly over the years. My wife’s strong personality, and needing to change perspective to weather certain economic challenges, brought me back to better ways of behaving.
Unlike the fictitious Mike in his scenario, it didn’t take being hit in the face with my wife’s Alzheimer’s to open my eyes. That happened decades before.
As for the fictitious Don, my knowledge of that scenario comes mostly from observation of other guys I know. In their minds they often think of themselves as masters of the universe, who marry someone equally ambitious and full of hubris. Sooner or later, they are rudely surprised along the way, and can’t believe their world is falling in on them.
I didn’t give the stories about Mike and Don happy endings. In some ways, there is no such thing. But I can, based on my own experiences, change the ongoing storyline in ways that will soften the outcome.
Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.
©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved