Friday, February 19, 2010
More memories of life with my first husband, Dean Shurtz
Another problem surfaced with the very thought of writing my memoirs. I would have to wait until his older sister and brother died before I could write about my rather unusual life with Dean, the reason being that in Utah there is such a difference in the life that is led by rebel members of a family compared to that led by good church members it is unbelievable. Dean was a thorough going young Mormon rebel when I met him who had probably been an alcoholic since he was 15. I knew his older sister Elaine, a fiery beautiful Mormon rebel girl in her own right. She scared me to death. I heard stories that she headed a gang of girls in high school who would hurt you if they did not like you, and I believed it. She had already married at the age of 15 another Mormon rebel, a son of a bishop, who was an alcoholic, and they had a child. Elaine was so full of ferocity and resentment it was hard to have a conversation with her. I thought she very likely wouldn't like any girlfriend of Dean's she was so protective of him. I think she drank with her husband, too, and my impression was that she and her husband did a lot of partying with local drinkers when he was able to find construction jobs close to town on the oil well.
I did not drink, but I loved to dance and what I loved the most about Dean was when he made music with his talented cousins, Pole Griffin and Sterling Roundy among others, who as far as I could see were alcoholics just like Dean. In fact, Dean quite alarmed me one night as when he and his cousin Pole picked me up, Dean was sitting in the back seat saying some pretty crazy stuff. I had never seen him like that and Pole hastened to tell me that he acted that way when he drank too much, not to pay any attention to it. Not pay any attention!
Dean was home from the Air Force on leave when I decided to break up with him so I could get on with my life. I was recovering from my incarceration in a mental ward which I thought Dean had handled better than I expected he would. I said if he did not want to get serious with me (I was now mentally ill in the world's opinion) I wanted to stop writing. Dean agreed to break up and then came back later and said no, let's go get married!
The night we eloped to Fredonia, Arizona which is what rebels did when they married, I was treated to the antics of another cousin of his who acted very crazy when he drank too much also. The other cousin came to our motel room and pounded on the door, saying he and Dean had to go get Sterling out of some farmer's chicken coop before he got shot. He was acting so wild Shed could not handle him. So Dean jumped up and off they went and did not come back for several hours. By this time I was wondering very strongly whether I would have cause to regret this marriage, sooner rather than later. Dean had already drunk so much before leaving for Fredonia he passed out in the back seat and could not be aroused to sing. If we had been by ourselves I would have turned the car around and gone back home for fear my future husband could not come to enough to say the vows, but his cousins were on a mission. There was no way I was going to get out of marriage now. They wanted a wedding even if Dean now seemed like a very reluctant bridegroom. He had already caused me to doubt my sanity in saying yes to marriage because instead of getting an early start after he proposed eloping he insisted on going with his cousins to 'steal a chicken to cook for the party'. This plan finally failed to materialize and we got on our way to the Justice of the Peace to get married very late in the night, the biggest decision either one of us had made in our lives so far. I did not think it was an auspicious beginning.
Dean already knew I was not a drinker. In the first place, I did not like alcohol in any shape or form, and my limit was 2 drinks if people insisted I drink to be sociable, so my wildness never included getting drunk with the guys which a rebel Mormon girl might do just to show she was tough. I stuck to coke whenever possible which left them with more money for their alcohol.
I was also still a virgin since I did not intend to let pregnancy get in the way of finishing college. I had been looking very hard for a guy who at least went to college to marry, who was not a good church member since I wasn't, but could not find any. An alcoholic Mormon rebel it looked like was the best I could do, especially after bombing out of college in what was viewed as a horrendous nervous breakdown. Whatever I had done to get locked up was presumed to have been extremely crazy.
My father had been a thorough going Mormon rebel, but possibly an alcoholic at 9 or 10! I am only kidding, but I am sure he started sampling from his father's liquor cabinet when he was very young and wherever else he could get it. He had partied his way through 2 or 3 years of college at the U of Utah before his father refused to finance his stay in Salt Lake anymore because he drank too much.
I was not sure Dean would be able to understand me since I had ascertained in 3 years of going with him on holidays and in the summer he was not very studious. He bragged that he had done no studying in high school if he could get out of it, but it didn't sound like my dad had done any either in his wild youth. Once you start drinking your chances of being a bookworm like I was are small. Heavy drinking tends to stop your brain from functioning as well. And a bunch of other stuff not to be desired.
But possibly everywhere, alcohol goes with rebellion. It may be a universal phenomenon among young males. (And we are supposed to look up to these guys) Doc, my companion now, was raised in a very tight German Lutheran community in St. Louis, married the daughter of a minister, and when that turned into a disaster, he started to drink. And as nearly as I can tell drank his way through 3 more marriages, some of his wives drinking with him, all of this with a genius I.Q.!!
A good smart sober man to marry is hard to find. I considered myself a wonderful catch for any Mormon rebel since I did not drink or smoke but was the equivalent of a Mormon rebel. I had pretty much left the church by then and could never be persuaded to return to it, except briefly now and then. I had been about to tell my mother I could not be baptized at 8 years old because I did not believe in Joseph Smith's 'revelations,' but was persuaded to be dipped into the pond by my favorite uncle. My doubts still never went away, so a Mormon rebel like Dean found me very easy to talk to about his reasons for resisting church.
Like most rebels he had a lot of good reasons I thought, which he would talk about to considerable lengths when encouraged. He was almost as skeptical as I was about the revelations but he went along with all kinds of experiments of mine, one of which was to try to have a little 'vision' to see if they were even possible. I was death on drinking as well, but could see he was going to drink about every weekend no matter what I said. I did not like his behavior when he tippled too heavily, and tried to introduce him to the novel idea that it was possible for him to rebel without drinking. I did it, why couldn't he?
I encouraged his rebel thinking while sober as much as possible which I thought was a sign of some intelligence and the will to think for himself, but this sort of made him uneasy as it did my father. My father had not gotten very far with his thinking with all the drinking he was doing and neither had Dean.
Have you ever tried to reason with a drunk man? I got used to seeing Dean go right out of his mind quite often if he got too drunk. Alcohol really had that effect on him. He would even get a wild look in his eyes that his relatives recognized, too. His drinking cousins were apt to run off and leave me with him when he got that crazy look in his eyes. They didn't want anything to do with him either in that state. I would be left to cope. In the morning he would say he had blacked out and did not remember anything he said or did. I thought that was a convenient excuse but allowed that it could be possible since he always seemed a little crazier than most when drunk.
The only solution, I thought, was for him to quit drinking, but after ten years of marriage, I could see I could not inspire this resolve in him. So I divorced him and he married his high school sweetheart who had never married after he broke her heart. She immediately gave him to understand that she would not be his willing helpmate if he did not return to the church. He told me after their divorce that he got up and went to church with her every Sunday for years and stayed sober!
But his rebellious nature finally got the better of him, and once he started resisting church, getting drunk seemed the thing to do, and she was just as horrified I am sure by his behavior while inebriated as I was.
He proceeded to drink heavily after the divorce until our son Raymond was instrumental in trying to get him to sober up. He brought him to stay with him and would not let him drink. One way or another he finally learned how to stay sober even when he was no longer attending church. That part of his 'recovery' was very troubling to the religious members of his family who loved him but could not abide a Mormon rebel, even when sober. His religious cousins tried to bring him back to the fold. I doubt if they even listened to his objections to church as I did. The church was right, he was wrong to criticize, discussion closed.
His drinking rebel cousins mostly all died. In old age, as I see it, Dean did not have anybody he could talk to except my son Raymond who was busy when he was around with his career and could not offer many hours of trying to draw Dean out and help him to advance his thinking and talking in a world without church. I would make a point of having a big talk with him at least once a year. But by that time I had other companions like Doc. I was with Pierre 4 years before him.
I always found that rebels have a great deal of difficulty if they have spent their lives drinking becoming sober rebels. They do not seem to think it possible. Doc is so convinced he can't be a sober rebel he won't even try it. He supports my life as a sober rebel, but as for him trying to go down that path without alcohol, he resists. Pierre would not stop drinking either.
So Dean became one of the few sober rebels I knew. I felt that all the work I had done on him while we were married helped him to get to that point. But his good Mormon cousins wouldn't even listen to him. They just more or less preached to him which he silently resisted, so they would get no where with their plans to get him active again in church. He lived with his older sister the last 10 years or so of his life, and I don't think she respected his rebel thinking at all. I know she did not respect mine. He would try going to church some for her sake, but would soon give it up and they would be at odds again on that subject.
That is the trouble with the good church people. They think they are right and everybody who rebels is wrong. The Mormon Church is the only true church on earth. The church offers the only way to salvation. They have been taught to proselytize, to bring the poor souls who will not even go to heaven if they don't accept the Mormon Church back to the fold.
I can't talk to good Mormon church people. I have never seen people so difficult to have a conversation with, and I have got a lot of good church members in my family. They are taught not to accept that there are other ways to live and think. And if you object to Mormon teaching, they're going to get huffy, defensive, and any possibility of a good discussion goes out the window. I have had Mormon Bishop cousins start the conversation off by asking me if I have returned to the fold, telling me that I need to get down there to church and get active. I lived with a religious aunt in high school who told me I had to go to church to live with her, and I was sure going to have to go to Mormon seminary which they had adjacent to every high school in those days. I dared not speak one word of rebellious thinking to her. After two years I decided I had to move to Salt Lake to be myself, and she virtually never talked to me again. I don't remember her talking to my dad but once in my whole life. His other sister who was also very religious and he would get into huge arguments every time they even had to talk about their father's ranch business.
Living in Utah finally became not possible for me, so I moved out of state, leaving tons of family members behind. I have never felt quite at home anywhere else, but I just had too much trouble in Utah getting along with my deep seated reasons for rebellion.
My ex husband Dean eventually I would say virtually committed suicide. He had suicidal thoughts soon after I married him. I tried to tell the religious members of his family he had become extremely suicidal in the service when his grandmother died who raised him. They told me it was me that had the problem (been in the nut house) not him! They refused to deal with a very serious crisis I thought, when his suicidal thoughts took over. He scared me to death, enough that I went to talk to his chaplain in the service who took me to see his commanding officer. The Mormon chaplain advised me to take the matter downtown because he thought the commanding officer might not do anything about it in time. I did and the district attorney through some almost laughable quirk decided I needed treatment not him and had me locked up, which did him absolutely no good. I was a week locked up and undoing that ghastly mistake in who needed treatment at the time. All this effort made by the Mormon Chaplain and me finally got to Dean enough apparently that he did not commit suicide while in Washington still in the service.
When somebody tells me they are planning to commit suicide I take it serious! I called his religious brother when I was in Washington and told him his brother was talking about suicide. I came home because I was afraid he might kill me, too. He had already attacked me without cause during a bout of craziness months before, after I married him. I went home before he actually did it. I didn't tell his family that because I knew they would insult me and blame me.
After his suicide threats I went home again with our two month old son Gary for quite a few months. His family did not talk to me at all about Dean's behavior or never asked me anything about why I called his brother. My perception was that they assumed since I had been incarcerated again I was the one who had done something really crazy up in Washington, not their brother. They had apparently never been told how he behaved when drunk at times.
Well, the commanding officer apparently thought it all over and decided to let Dean out on a hardship discharge. I think this was supposed to be so he could come home and take care of his ailing wife. (a nut case) When Dean got home he scared me again by confiding in me that he was looking around for a rifle to buy and was still going to kill himself. He had been drinking when he told me this, but he sounded quite serious. I immediately went down and told his older sister what he was saying. She shouted at me that there was nothing wrong with him, I was the problem. I went back home and told Dean what I had told her and what she said. I then said that I was going to move out because I did not dare stay with a man thinking such violent thoughts. He would probably kill me, too!
But he did not want me to move out, and so we talked and talked and he came out of that crisis slowly after he had been home a while. As I had tried to tell the commanding officer with the support of a Mormon chaplain, he had become acutely mentally ill when the only mother he had known since he was 4 died, and he needed help. I was certainly very ill when I came out of the mental hospital, you could call it mental illness if you like developed from years of stress due to my dad's alcoholism, molestation, etc., but I was also physically very fragile, so it did not take a whole lot of torture from Dean to get me to death's door. But Dean was possibly chronically mentally ill by then,too, due possibly to an inherited tendency for mental illness combined with terrible stress due to his mother's early death and his father's alcoholism and abandonment. His family did not want the disgrace, so I thought they were totally unwilling to recognize it. They did not seem to think two people in a marriage could be mentally ill. They even had other members of their family with some of the same kind of mental quirks and behavior, but they did not want to recognize those alarming traits in Dean.
His cousin Sterling tried to commit suicide by jumping out of the car when it was going, and Dean grabbed him just in time to save him. He later left home and never was seen again. We heard he was homeless on the streets of Chicago for some years before he died. Drinking was especially bad for Sterling and for Dean. His drinking cousins knew it. Sterling was a wonderful musician, too. He could sing, play the piano, tell jokes. But he was definitely mentally ill when I married Dean. So was Dean, considering that our first year when he was in the service was one of terrible crises, murderous violence when drinking, and suicide threats. I thought drinking with all the wild guys he met in the service had brought out more violence in him.
So much for good Mormons dealing with a family rebel, an alcoholic, and suicidal. Church doctrine does not provide the answers to a lot of problems, and that is the trouble with the teachings. The church people claim the religion is the answer to everyone's problem. If it doesn't work, it is not ever the church solution.
Dean finally committed suicide when he was on their watch in his early seventies. They had the chance to connect to him, but I don't believe that they ever respected his rebel thinking at all, because good Mormons don't. It makes me very sad to think he felt so alone, that up there he did not think he had a friend he could turn to who would relieve his pain enough that he would not walk into the desert and never be seen again. This was not the first time he took a long walk, couldn't be found, and scared people. This became a pattern of his when he got upset. He had first disappeared a couple of days when married to me. When he got lonely. Above all when he got bored. When he needed a friend. His death will always haunt me and it should haunt them. Did they ever really try to understand a troubled man? His point of view? Or did they just preach to him?
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