Web Ruble writes: I am a retired newspaper reporter of some 40 years, and a couple of those years I was religion writer at The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily. Now I am a novelist and short story writer. My wife Norma and I live in Fairview, OR but split our time between there and Tucson, AZ. We are lay leaders and deacons at Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Fairview, OR (near Portland). We also are volunteers on Thursdays about nine months out of the year in a soup kitchen in Gresham, OR.
Ripe For Revolution? No. God.
By Web Ruble
Although I believed differently, I sat there across from him, pretending my life was reparable.
I was there in that Spokane church, because word had reached me that my wife had been seeing that very Roman Catholic priest.
Despite warnings from my Catholic friends, I had decided that perhaps the "man of the cloth" – a slightly derogatory term I had been fond of using– could talk to me and shed some warm light on the dark struggle myself and my wife were having.
Tina and I, you see, were one step from splitting. I had decided to take the Spokane gamble even though putting our issue before the Vatican seemed foolish. Neither of us was Roman.Catholic. I was Protestant. So was she, although as a child she had been Roman Catholic.
You’ll have to excuse me if this story is a little lopsided. One might get a different yarn out of Tina. However, she’s hard to engage in conversation, as she’s maintaining a low profile.
She has possession of baby Wally, but to her it doesn’t matter. What she really wants is to be able to do whatever she wants to do. I am left furious. She has been dating half the town and some were guys at the University of Idaho, where I am frantically trying to get through architecture school. In a small town like Moscow, Idaho, it is more than embarrassing. It’s downright humiliating.
. I have been trying to play the game right. She hasn’t. And my college effort has been drooping. Emotion has not allowed sufficient concentration. My grades are hopelessly mediocre. While spending evening hours at the drafting board I had suspected she had been dating guys and doing it with our baby boy in tow.
Moreover, several friends had verified my suspicions. The news had been even worse. From time to time, she had been co-habiting with at least half a dozen, including her boss.
I was angry. We’d moved out of the trailer court for UI married students. She had secured quarters, actually a duplex, there in Moscow from her employer, and I’d been renting a half-basement in Pullman, Wash., eight miles away. I had at least two more years to go. I figured things would collapse into the emotional gumbo of Palouse clay long before I ever finished, but I had still hopes that this could be avoided. It had become obvious, however, that that wouldn't happen.
The marriage had been dead and it was time for me to divorce, gain custody of Wally, scrap college, leave town, get a job, and maybe try again later somewhere else. A divorce, however, would be expensive and a family disaster. No one in the Luger clan had ever had a divorce.
True, Tina and I had married in a fever. We had had a pepper romp in the back of her car and a month later she thought she might be pregnant. That was more than four years ago in 1955 in Eugene. We had dashed to the justice of the peace in Reno and hitched our wagons to one another’s fortunes. Later, she learned that she wasn’t pregnant. But by that time, however, we were married.
I reported for army basic training a few weeks later. I got leave after basic, but after that I was gone for three years. I was involved in some secret stuff overseas and couldn’t always write home. That first period of no communication may have been the beginning of the end. Maybe the end had even been before that . . . at the outset.
Who knows? So much had happened. And I am sure I hadn’t handled things the best. All I knew was the situation by 1959 was disastrous.
She had no patience. She wanted money now -- lots of it. She had said I was worthless and that she wanted to be free to date whomever she wanted. And maybe – just maybe – when I am all done with architecture school, if she hadn’t linked with a better prospect, she might consider a reconciliation.
However, she had told me that even then that would depend on income. In the meantime . . . buzz off . . .there had been so many cute guys around. And they had had money.
"Hey, don’t tell them I’m married, okay?"
Wonderful. One could bet his bottom dollar I’d go along with that last ruse. Sure.
She at one point had landed a job and had been trying to woo favors from her boss. She even sent me down to the restaurant on her evening off so I could determine whether her boss was getting foxy with another female employee. She had told me that her boss, Chad Charles, was her potential sugar daddy.
Why did I go along with the spying bit?
Who knows? But it had been only once. Perhaps I thought she would see the folly and that would end it. Wrong.
I don’t know why I had thought that, as I had worked for him briefly to get some mad cash last fall. I knew the kind of person he was. He had bedded most of his female employees. His wife had been getting suspicious. His business partner had known about it, but had kept silent. He had begged me not to blow the whistle, because if his partner bolted, his business would collapse and he’d go broke.
So there I had been -- the duty-bound moralist. A modern Tolstoy. Everyone else seemed to be running around, doing anything they pleased without moral regard for anything.
The most humiliating blow came when I ran across one of my pre-army buddies, Louie LaCroix. He was a law student and I had seen him rushing by a couple of times between classes. This particular day we both had an hour or so and went into the student union for a cup. I told him my story.
Then came the hammer. I wasn’t ready.
“Hmmm. You can’t win,” he said. “You’ll have to excuse me, but I dated her, too, before I realized she was married to you.
“Boy, is she hot. Too much for you. No girl that good looking – and stacked like she is and wanting a lavish life style – is going to waste 2-3 years waiting for an architecture drudge, no matter what his potential income might be. She’s just got too much exotic appeal and she knows the boys dig it. She bats her huge eyes and they come scrambling. She doesn’t tell them about the baby. And she holds you up as a worthless sap.”
“Thanks,” I said with eyes welling. “Those are words I wanted to hear.”
Louie continued: “I don’t see how you stand it. I thought maybe you didn’t care. Maybe, you should have put more effort into the marriage.”
More effort? Is he kiddin’? What about those arduous double shifts at Solly’s Plywood? The summer before in the Lucky Friday Mine? The turning over to Tina of my paycheck. The efforts I made to get out of the army a month early. The brief job at the restaurant and careful planning for architecture school. And all the time trying to be attentive to her and the baby’s needs. That wasn’t effort?
Louie went on talking, trying to console, but at the same time assuring me that the only way out was to leave town.
He said lots more but I wasn’t listening. I was dizzy. Emotionally I was destroyed. I was humiliated beyond all humiliations.
I decided. See the priest.
Spokane was 78 miles away. Why she was seeing a priest clear up there I didn’t know. Nevertheless, St. Michael’s had been easy to find.
Fr. Antonio Ricci was from Italy and lived at St. Michael’s. I had called for him and to my surprise not only was he there but he’d be right down to see me.
We had sat across a table from one another near the church entrance. He was young, about 40, but his view on life – in my judgment – was that of another era.
Right from the start, I could tell our interview was not going to wear well.
I had been desperate to find someone mature enough to reason with me, or help me find something reasonable in the relationship between my wife and myself. I sought out Fr. Ricci to determine whether there appeared any change in her attitude or any chance of us patching things.
After a few minutes Fr. Ricci said, “There is not much wrong with her attitude. I blame you more than her. It’s mainly your fault.”
He said only young single people should go to college. And certainly no married person should. A man should work full time to provide for his wife. Being a married student was nonsense. He said he didn’t think much of American colleges anyway.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But wait a minute. Yes I could. When I stopped to think about it, what he said had to be expected. After all, he was from a country so different. Perhaps Italy had very few married students. And maybe the most important factor in his judgment was that I was not Catholic.
In a lop-sided conversation like that one, after about five minutes it was obviously over. Goodbye.
Completely deflated – wearing a verbal dagger in my heart -- I wished him well and limped out the door and headed for the street corner. Depression had me almost to the point of suicide. No hope appeared in any quarter and certainly not in my corner.
Dizzy, outraged and aching inside – and believing perhaps that I didn’t belong on this planet -- I stepped down off the curb while waiting to cross the street.
A police car stopped at the light. The officer looked over at me and said with apparent malice: “Hey you, . . .get back up on that curb.”
“You dense, bozo? Get back up on that curb.”
“You gotta be kiddin’.”
“Do I look like I’m kidding?” The officer pulled his prowl car to the side and started to get out. He was huge and carrying a huge side arm.
Bewildered by this incomprehensible abuse in the name of some super-strict technical law – especially in the aftermath of what I had just heard from a clergyman -- I was seething.
When I stepped back onto the curb, the officer – to his credit – drove off.
I stood there with burning hatred of the United States, its mores, its new view of life, and its treatment of veterans. I had just had a go-around with UI administration the day before. I surmised they didn’t care about veterans.
UI at that point seemed to be going liberal. I had classified myself as a mild conservative, after having spent three years in high risk work with the U.S. Army overseas. On campus, however, I had pushed aside an at-first tendency to be right wing, and had become a centrist.
However, after what happened in Spokane, I was now ripe for revolution no matter how ruinous. Besides, how does one like a country that doesn’t like itself? .
Go ahead. Stack a little more guff on me, and see what happens, jerks. Perhaps the new left has the right idea after all. Maybe we should destroy this country and its grotesque social structure and start over.
Wow, was I angry.
Burning, I returned to Moscow, almost wishing it had been the one in Russia. It wasn’t long before I had learned of a twin-campus revolutionary group called, Let’s Anarch. ‘Twas a group of disenchanted students – plus a few un-enrolled lounge lizards -- at both the University of Idaho and adjacent Washington State University in Pullman.
It met twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays in some building on one campus or the other. I attended a couple of them. The beatniks were planning demonstrations to disrupt parents’ weekend at Washington State. The self-proclaimed anarchists were against practically everything. Moreover, they appeared juvenile. Their complaints were not based on any outrage like the unreasonable one I believed I was in. Rather, their arguments came across more as an extremely selfish, fun exercise.
I dropped a couple of courses but stayed in school. I contacted a lawyer about a divorce. To myself I vowed my own revolution, but it would be elsewhere at a place of my choosing. Disenchanted? That put it mildly. I was furious and desperate to exact justice from am indifferent society and I was almost willing to be bloody about it.
However, it wasn’t but a week later that that changed, too. I found myself in the college library, sitting across from a tall thin lass. She looked vaguely familiar. Several times that week I had gone to the library but had sat in different places. However, each time she or somebody who looked like her had been there close by.
Something was up. She knew I knew it. She mustered some courage, blushed, and said, “I’ve been watching you. I was at the last Let’s Anarch meeting. I could see you were upset and disgusted. The group is so insincere and petty. I know.
“I know you are hurting inside and that’s why you were there. You’re angry and want to get even . . .with something. I think I know what it is. But LOOK! Here I have some help for you.
She opened a Bible in front of me and she began reading passages – mainly Psalms and Proverbs and a little bit of the book of John. I was thunderstruck.
Normally I would have told her to mind her own business. But I didn’t. Somehow God was leading me. He saw me as ripe – not for social revolution -- but for an internal one or at least a realignment. It allowed me to consider seriously an entire conversion of my soul.
Now for the first time I have a solid source for answers. I feel tremendous relief and I feel good.
You see, I have God in my corner.
(© 2010 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)