By Sonny Scott
“Giving Social Security to 65 year-olds is like giving nuts to a squirrel with no teeth.”
– Johnny Carson
As a young fellow, I was in church every Sunday, and attuned to stories from the scriptures. I forsook the traditional Sunday morning activities of farm youth: fishing, swimming, smoking rabbit tobacco, etc., in favor of stories of Joshua smiting the cities of the plain, hip and thigh, and the adventures of the patriarchs of old. I pictured myself a family patriarch in the mold of Jacob, and of my own father, as the bread-winner, and head of family. I daydreamed of a brood of twelve strong sons, and a prosperous, well-tended farm.
It was my destiny to fall in love with a strong-willed woman. (You saw that coming, no?) She was much like my beloved Mammy, though I didn’t realize that until years later. She was not intellectually inclined, but rather the quintessential “people person,” vitally interested in the people around her, and inescapably involved in their lives.
She tried to accommodate my vision – Lord knows, she gave it her best, but it wasn’t to be. Staying at home 24-7 with three small children while I worked the hours required to make a living while pursuing two advanced degrees left her lonely and frustrated. She had to go to work for her own sanity, and I had to acquiesce, because it was obviously in her best interest.
She tried the usual jobs open to working moms – clerical stuff. Low pay. Petty office politics. Power games by predatory males. Cost of clothing and transportation driving family finances further into the red. She gravitated back to her first love – working with kids as a teacher’s aide. It allowed her to be where the boys and I were, and satisfied her need to be involved with people, adults as well as children.
In the 80’s, I moved her off-center. “Look,” I told her, “you’re doing a teacher’s work, and you’re good at it, for $6,000 per year, gross. Get a degree, and make yourself a career.” She was hesitant at first, but after repeated urging from me and her boss, Raymond Paden, she plunged in.
Tough going. Long hours, and long commutes. Clearly, it wasn’t going to happen at six semester hours per term, with a three-hour commute twice weekly. “Resign, and go full time,” I insisted. “Study speech therapy,” our superintendent suggested, “everybody needs one, and they aren’t to be found.”
It wasn’t easy. The academic world was not her forte, but she persevered through hard work, thorough preparation, and organization. Her family and friends cheered her on, but failed to consider the combined effect of several daily phone conversations. I came in one evening and found her cradling the phone to her ear in the midst of a daily round of calls from family, school work on her lap, and tears of frustration running down her cheeks. “That’s it,” I said, “you’re moving on campus.” She did, and proceeded to compile an enviable GPA. She graduated from MUW on the same day that our eldest son graduated from MSU.
Dr. Paden put her to work helping to correct articulation problems of young children. She was a natural – born to teach as few are. “Miz Icie” became a beloved fixture of the Houlka campus, and enjoyed a rewarding career.
Time moves on. Energy level flags. Arthritis and other chronic ailments take their toll. Sooner or later, everyone must make the hardest career call: “It’s time.” As of May 31st this year, my dear wife is a “retired teacher.” If I know her, she’ll never stop teaching, and will be intimately involved in the lives of our children, grandchildren, my aged parents, and her mother.
So, after almost 44 years of marriage, I have my heart’s desire – a stay-at-home wife. “Nuts for a toothless squirrel,” indeed. I no longer care for country breakfasts, or home-cooked suppers. Eros no longer gets his due daily devotion, and of all the things I looked forward to, most are no longer possible or desirable. Nevertheless, I have few regrets. I thank God for our life together. Our grandchildren and our parents will benefit from her love and devotion to duty.
Marriage is give and take, they say. Mostly, she’s given, and I’ve taken. Works for me.
Thanks, Sweet Pea, and happy retirement. God knows, you’ve earned it.
Sonny Scott is a Chickasaw County resident and a community columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.