Changes in life come easier for some people than they do for others; it's just a fact of life. But if you live long enough, you are going to face changes that are dramatic, so you just have to learn to flow with what life sends your way. Unfortunately, some of the changes can be traumatic, up heaving lives and destroying others.
This is a story of how both several kinds of changes can be combined to produce a whirlwind of life.
Janie and I married right out of high school. It was kind of planned; however, it was also precipitated by the conception of our son the night of our senior prom. We took all of the necessary precautions, especially since Janie had been sick with a sinus attack and had been on a heavy antibiotic. The possibility of the medicine causing her birth control pills to be ineffective led us to also use a condom that night, however, fate saw our lives differently and both of the ones that we used were defective and had small pinholes in them in just the right place to act more like a nozzle on a hose than a stopper.
Oh well, life delivers challenges and ours was an eight pound-six ounce boy exactly nine months after the senior prom. We named him Luke and he became the joy of our life and our only child as Janie suffered some serious problems that we still do not fully understand resulting in emergency surgery that left her unable to conceive again.
We were very fortunate to have a lot of support from our families who took the pregnancy as a sign that we should go ahead and get married even though we had planned to wait until after we finished college. Our mothers worked, but they decided to "hire" our grandmothers to help with the babysitting duties so that Janie could attend technical school and I could attend college. She wanted to be a hair stylist and I was looking at a technical degree in construction management, so while we were in classes, Luke was being spoiled by his great-grandmothers who took turns caring for him.
Our families were not classified as wealthy, but they were not poor either. Grandpa was a carpenter and Janie's grandpa was an electrician. In fact, they were old friends who had worked on jobs together over the years. They conspired with our parents to purchase a neighborhood house and, with the help of their sons (our dads), it was fully remodeled and presented to us as a wedding gift. It wasn't a fancy house, however, they had done everything that someone who wanted to flip a house would do: new electric, plumbing, appliances, and roof, refurbished heat/air conditioning, refinished wood floors, and new carpet and linoleum. It looked like a brand new house and, in fact, would have sold for a new price after they finished all of that work. We spent the next year reworking the large yard and installing fences.
In the meantime, our mothers and grandmothers were not slack either. They conspired to fill the house with furniture and whatever household appliances, kitchen furnishings, and window coverings we would need. They dragged Janie to flea markets and resale shops until she was about to drop, but in the end, they did what family is famous for doing: they helped us get started in our new life as a married couple and new parents without any debt, and that was such a blessing to us for many, many years.
As a side note, our grandfathers found that not only did they work well together, but that they had a lot in common, including their desire to have their own business, so after remodeling the house for Janie and me, they started their own company buying, remodeling, and then selling houses. Today they call it "flipping houses", but back then it was just called construction and remodeling. Needing money to invest in properties, they drew our dads into it, creating a family business that by the time I finished my four year degree, was ready for someone to help them manage it, and that someone was me. Both of our grandfathers decided to take their retirement at sixty-two, so this was their retirement business and they enjoyed every day of it. Our dads helped with some of the work, but mostly, since Janie's dad was the assistant fire chief and my dad had an insurance office, they provided funding for the projects. Before long, their family business was very well known and people began to come to them seeking their help with turning an old house into a new one.
One of the houses that our family rebuilt a couple of years after we were married was just down the street from us and was sold to a young couple who had also married shortly after high school. We knew them from school, but not very well, so when they moved into the neighborhood, we welcomed them and their baby which was about a year younger than Luke. Their parents had helped them to buy the remodeled house by providing the down payment, however, now they had to make the payments. Gary worked in one of the local plants on an assembly line and Amy was a stay-at-home mother.
Over the years as our children grew, Janie and I tried to become their friends, but Gary just never seemed to want to be friends with anyone. That bitterness deep inside of him continued to erode his and Amy's relationship until they would have awful fights and he would leave for a few days, always coming back wanting to apologize and restore their marriage. This continued to be the pattern about every six months for as long as they were married.
Amy and Janie became good friends and she tried to help Amy with the problems that she encountered, however, it seemed that nothing really resolved the underlying problem. She and Lori, their daughter, started attending church with us about a year after they moved to the neighborhood, but Gary refused to have anything to do with church or religion, claiming that it was all a scam.
By the time Luke started school, Janie had built a regular clientele of women who frequented the beauty shop where she rented a chair three days a week, prompting us to discuss the possibility of her opening her own shop. After talking with our families, we decided to find a building and do it, the backup plan being that if we remodeled an older building, we could always sell or rent the property if things did not work out as expected.
And that's what we did.
We found a small storefront building just two blocks from our house that had been virtually abandoned and the owner was behind on the taxes. Only a week of negotiations and we were at the lawyer's office signing the papers and taking possession.
The first week of January, after three months of hard work, the shop opened and there was no looking back. By summer break, the two additional salon cubicles that we had included in the original remodeling were rented out and the beauty salon was well on its way to becoming a success.
That next fall, Lori started school and Amy, with some encouragement from Janie and me and after a big fight with Gary, decided to enter beauty school and less than a year later was happily building her own clientele from her cubicle in Janie's salon.
Now fast-forward a few years.
Amy's mother became ill with flu-like symptoms and for two years just could not recover her strength. She was hospitalized and developed pneumonia, dying just after New Years the year that Luke was fifteen and Lori was fourteen. Less than a year later, Amy's dad was killed in an automobile accident when his car went off the side of a mountain road while returning from a fishing trip.
These untimely deaths were hard on Amy because they were the only family that she had. Gary was his usual asshole self and simply told his wife to get over it, that they were dead and there was nothing anyone could do about it. She struggled for a short time until our mothers, who knew and liked Amy, recognized the dangers of her grief continuing beyond what was normal (and the accompanying bouts of depression), wrapped her in their love and basically adopted her into our family.
Lori was able to deal with the loss of her grandparents because of the strong, caring young man who held her hand and stayed by her side during her grief. As Luke explained it, "Lori and I have been best friends since we were barely out of diapers. If she hurts, then I hurt, and if she's happy, that makes me happy. I don't care what anyone else calls it or thinks about it, but I'll always be there for Lori whenever and wherever she needs me."
Our son was making us so proud of his maturity and strengths. And that was in addition to his academic excellence and his work ethic. He had turned into a very fine young man with values and principles, and we were so proud of him.
It had been about a year since Amy's father had died. She and Lori were at our house for Thanksgiving dinner. Gary had been gone for several days after having another of his explosive arguments with Amy, so she and Lori were spending a quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving Day with us. Then Gary called and demanded that his wife and daughter come home immediately. Amy, her face riddled with fear, told him that they would be there in a few minutes and received a loud cursing that everyone in the room could hear.
"We had better go," she said. "He's probably been drinking and will pass out in a little while. I'll call later."
After receiving hugs from everyone, Amy and Lori reluctantly left, walking down the street to their home.
I don't know if anyone else noticed, but Lori whispered in Luke's ear and then kissed him on the cheek. Their eyes locked for a brief few seconds as she forced a smile, her hands keeping in contact with him as long as possible.
.... There is more of this story ...