This past December marked the first year anniversary of the death of Dick Weinman's wife, Ginny. (December 13th, 2013.) AARP Oregon has published Dick's stories and poems about Ginny and the domination over her life by Alzheimer's. (One of these, "I'll Never Know," was published in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," in 2014.)
Now, on what would have been the 59th anniversary of their marriage, we are publishing their story. It will be posted in three parts.
Both of Us, by Dick Weinman, The Thin Edge of Dignity
Ginny was but a child – 16. I was 19.
Two separate souls - far removed in history, background, religion, motivation, dreams and hopes for their futures. They began their eventual lives together separately, as college “kids,” one not knowing of the other. Soon, they would be serendipitously joined. Then, some 60 plus years later, their lives would come full circle and, because of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, they would be unknown to one another once again.
The story begins in the first years of a new decade – the fifties, at Indiana University. It was to be the start of the entwining of our lives.
Social and cultural observers who know about these things called these times dull. Passionless. Apathetic. Ho Hum! Certainly not like the vivacious and volatile sixties which followed . . . also the violent, gut-wrenching, nation-splitting years of a major war in Vietnam.
But, we had our war, too – Korea. It wasn’t called a war, though; it was a “Conflict.” A “Police Action.” It was the backdrop of mine and Ginny’s meeting and dating and the first years of our marriage. The military draft always lurked behind the scenes while we were at school. At first I was deferred as a student, but I was fair game when I graduated in 1954, even though the War had ended. I appeared with Ginny before my draft board seeking a deferment because of my marriage, which occurred following graduation.
Even though the fighting had ceased, and the 38 th Parallel separated the Peoples Republic of Korea, as the North Korean government called itself, and South Korea, our ally and for whom we fought, America was still in war mode: a Cold War. Us versus the “Pinkos.” Senators and Congressmen were finding Communists throughout the government, especially in the State Department. Communists in Hollywood -- poor Hollywood: it creates happy, false lives and day dreams, but is made out to be dark and villainous during political campaigns, vilifying the American way of life. Communists in the news media -- the media gets whacked in political campaigns, too. Communists in your neighborhood; under the bed, perhaps.
The experts were right: Ginny and I met and started our lives together in a time that was dull, apathetic, easily satisfied, and overly comfortable. That’s why we met: the country had no real worries; most concerns were personal. I needed a date. Little did I know then that that date would result in forty nine years of marriage.
It was a blind date – sort of. I had no one to go out with – and it was Saturday night! A nineteen year old college male! What could be worse? All sorts of possible reasons for this failure raced through my head: I was unpopular, couldn’t converse, not funny, a bore; maybe there were physical drawbacks: bad breath, body odor, zits, yellow teeth. I needed to redeem myself. I needed a date.
What could I do? I could wander the streets looking for a pick-up – but if I saw a girl what would I say? I could head to a tavern and check out the dateless girls – but they’d have to be at least 21 or, like me, have fake ID cards. I could forget girls and go drinking or to the movies with other horny guys. No, I decided. I needed a date to upgrade my self-esteem. I asked my friend, Tommy Weiss, to ask his girl friend to fix me up.
He did. She did. I felt much better.
Since Tom had a car – not the reason he was my friend - we were off to the girls dorm.
Earlier in the day, when girls knew they were going out, they had to tell the House
Mother. They had to let her know when we might arrive to take them from the dorm, and when we planned on returning. (The expected time of return was curfew – 11:00 PM on week nights, midnight on week-ends.) When Tom and I entered thesanctuary, we had to sign-in and ask the House Mother to call our dates’ room to let them know we were there. Quite a defensive plan to protect the “virtue” of IU’s girlhood.
When the girls came down to greet us, I finally saw who Tommy had been raving about, and what my date looked like. Continuing her protective actions, the House Mother checked them out in the daily ledger, listing the time of departure. This in-out process concluded when the girls returned. If it was a good ( i.e. “hot”) date, the couple returned prior to curfew , because this allowed time for a kiss – or kisses - good night; maybe necking, depending on finding a hiding spot; sometimes petting, or other hormone-crazed eighteen/nineteen year old Dick & Jane activity – all before curfew.
When Tom and I got back, I muttered a quick “Good night. Thanks” and took off, while Tommy and his date, and groups of other couples, scattered in clusters, tucked into corners of the common room or hall way entrance, all encased in a variety of poses, visible to anyone who lifted an eye while kissing.
Some explanation: In the early fifties, universities still practiced the principle of in loco parentis, the “don’t even think about it” between the genders on campus. Of course, the universities may have been stricter than a lot of parents, but deans of students took a conservative, hands-on (theirs not the students’) approach to sexual behavior.
Despite measures of in loco parentis to save women students’ virginity – including the University requirement that a couple sitting on a sofa be several feet apart with both feet on the floor – this well intended, but biologically unnatural, dictum, met its doom beginning in a court case in Alabama in 1961. Fortunately for this Indiana University student, soon after the blind date, Ginny (that was not my date’s name, as you’ll see shortly) was able to meet me after curfew by sneaking out her dorm window and climbing down the fire escape. Chalk it up: Biology --1, University regulation – 0.
But that was later in the relationship.
Back to double date night: after I was introduced to Tom’s date, Ginny – beginning to get the picture – and my date -what was her name - we escaped the dorm and sped off to the drive-in theater, nick-named the“ passion pit” by undergraduates.
The Drive-In Theater. A super large parking lot, often comprised of hard sand, which sputtered from the rear tires of the car in front of you, clouding your front windows with grit. The screen, also super large, rose out of the ground for all cars to behold. Each parking spot had its own parking-meter-like post with a speaker attached. You hung the speaker through the driver’s front window and received the sound of the movie – somewhat squawkingly.
And then there was the concession stand – the coke-selling-popcorn-making-hot-dog-boiling-candy-displaying shed where you could escape the confines of the car to load up on junk food. And get mix for liquor, if needed.
The Drive-In was America’s unique contribution to worldwide culture. It was invented in the year of my birth (1933) in Camden New Jersey. During the decades of my young adult years -the fifties and sixties - the drive-in was the iconography of the country’s landscape. It was available to our society by the imagination and drive of Henry Ford, without whom we would not only not have had the drive-in theatre craze, but the birth and nurturing of that awesome American contribution to the world – suburbia. No surprise they both caught the public frenzy in the same decade – you drove out to get to the drive in.
What you did when you got there, is the story of young adult biologic learning and practice. And the beginning of my story.
Part 2 will be posted on January 15th, and Part 3 will appear on February 1.