Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing a Memoir -- Week 4

My book, A Heritage of Faith, is not a true memoir, it is a collection of family stories. I felt it important to leave a heritage for our children and grandchildren about how my husband and I grew up, how God called him to be a preacher and me to be a preacher's wife, and how God led us together. It is an unbelieveable story.

Charlie had been out of school for twelve years. While living in Fort Worth, Texas, he quit high school, worked on a cattle ranch, then at some other jobs until he joined the Army. During this time God called him to preach. I was six years younger, so I was going to school in Dallas, and listening to my daddy preach every Sunday. I was dating a boy in high school and continued to date him after graduation while I worked in an office for two years. He even gave me a ring and we talked about getting married. Yet I had a deep desire to go to college.

At God's direction, I quit my job, gave James back his ring, and went to a nearby junior Baptist college, where I met an amazing "older" man who had come to the college one semester earlier, studying to become a preacher. He was 25, I was 19. Six months later we were married, and I stopped attending college so I could work and help him get his degree and attend seminary. I was very naive, knew nothing about life, only that God called me to be a preacher's wife, and I believed I had found the right one. (I still do after 58 years of marriage.)

As Charlie pastored churches and worked extra jobs so we could live, I had four babies in six years. Our family complete, I worked again until I went back to school get my college degree. I taught piano lessons, sold Avon, and worked in various offices as we moved around.

Years later, after Charlie completed his college and seminary education, I went back to college and obtained my teaching degree. We struggled financially. Today's children know nothing about the hardships that their parents and grandparents had, so I wanted to tell them. Hence, I wrote my book.

Here's a story about our life before we had any children. We lived in DentonValley, Texas, about 60 miles from Abilene, where Charlie was a student at Hardin-Simmons University. I was pregnant, I had quit my job and we were living near the church in an old farmhouse--difficult to heat, out on the prairie where the wind blew and there was no grass, only tumbleweeds and sagebrush. I can still see that place, as I stood on the inside in the kitchen, looking out the window and trying to stay warm by heat from the oven.

When Charlie was pastor at Denton Vally, we continued to live in our rented house in Abilene and drive out to the church on Sundays. But after I learned that I was pregnant, we decided to move into an old farmhouse on the church field. A few months earlier I had miscarried our first child, and I thought that if I quit my job and stayed at home, I'd have a better chance at completing my pregnancy successfully.

It was a big farmhouse and it was winter, but we blocked off some of the rooms so we wouldn't have such a high heating bill and lived in only the kitchen, a small living room, and one of the bedrooms.

One afternoon Charlie began to develop a terrible toothache. He took some medicine to stop the pain. It made him sleepy, but the pain didn't stop. When the pain became almost unbearable, he took more medicine, then realized he had to have help. He said I would have to drive him to the dentist, where he had an office in his home, because he was just too sick to drive.

I was not an experienced driver, but I carefully drove to the dentist's house. The dentist asked him which tooth was hurting. He must not have had any x-ray equipment, because Charlie pointed to what he thought was the right tooth, and the dentist pulled it out. He gave him more pain medicine, and by the time we got home I had a hard time getting him out of the car and back into the house. It was early evening and he went straight to bed.

During the night, though, he woke me and said, "That dentist pulled the wrong tooth!" The pain was worse than ever. And besides that, Charlie was groggy, he was talking funny, his speech was slurred, and he was very unsteady on his feet. He acted like one of my uncles who used to come to our house while he was drunk when I was a little girl. Whenever that uncle appeared in that condition, my parents ushered me to my bedroom and got rid of him, so I was unfamiliar with most of his symptoms.

Charlie said, "You'll have to take me back to that dentist, honey, because this medicine has made me drunk!" He stumbled around and finally got his pants on. Meanwhile I looked at him like he was someone I never knew. This was the preacher God had told me to marry, yet he was acting like a drunk man.

I said, "You're scaring me. I haven't been around drunk people much before."

Then he smiled crookedly and said, "Isssh all right, honey, I've been drunk before." He reached over to pat me on the shoulder, but he patted the air near my shoulder instead. He was really out of it!

What a revolting development. My preacher husband had been drunk!

I drove back to the dentist's house, we got him out of bed, and he pulled the tooth next to the one he had pulled that afternoon. The pain was gone, Charlie slept the rest of the night, and life went on, even if my husband's past indiscretions had been revealed and I had learned something I had never before  known about him.

Whether you choose to write a true memoir, or to just tell stories as I did, writing your memories would be a wonderful gift for those who come after you. I hope you will give some thought to giving this gift to your children and grandchildren.

My husband when he was a cowboy, before I met him. He's the fourth man from the left, in the white shirt. On the ranch where he worked, only old men and young boys did the work because this was the 1940s when all the able-bodied men were away in the military. My husband went to work on Silvercreek Ranch in Fort Worth when he was 13, living in a bunkhouse and doing the work of a grown man.

Me, shortly before I went to college.


  1. What a great story. I have a similar one of our engagement to a seminary student (3 weeks after we met), his first church ($10/week), 3 children in 35 months, etc. I haven't written the complete story, but I have written a number of personal experience articles and short stories based on our life together. Your book, I'm sure, will be interesting to read.

  2. By sending this comment, you are in the drawing for a copy of my book. I said last week that when anybody leaves a comment, they will be eligible to win a copy. So we'll see, after a few weeks if we have anybody else commenting on the Friday Memoir pages. Thanks, Donna.

  3. Juanita:
    LOVE THE PHOTO OF YOU! I love these Friday stories. :)

    PS: Did you get the email I sent you with questions?

  4. Hi, Margo, thanks for the comment. How did you like that old car? Yes, I have the questions and will send the answers soon.