My Super-Aging was ignited with a move in direction, focus, support and self-caring in the autumn of 1967. I divorced in August 1966 from an East Chicago, Indiana Irish family where everyone born into the family became a respected community-leading drunk. Individuals were drunk by 8 pm and throughout the evening there was always a drink and a cigarette in hand. I did find the evening discussions of politics, Chicago news, fashion, national league sports, museums and celebrities more fascinating than the discussions of farming, crops, weather and the local basketball team where I was raised.
As a southern friend told a group of friends recently, she realized during a solitary walk at age 12 that there had to be more to life than what she was experiencing in her family and community. That yearning for more was her impetus to become a Super-Ager with an exciting artistic, spiritual, and international traveling community.
I was raised in a tee totaling farming community in northern Indiana. I was naïve and didn’t know what to expect from folks who drank before, during and after dinner. Plus, emotionally I was the perfect sappy co-dependent spouse for a drunk. After 3 years of being expected to join them in drunkenness (I nursed many frozen daiquiris and the kindly bartenders knew to make my drinks light) I was bored.
Because I knew that I could not raise children in this family of charming-spinning-their-wheels-drunks, we entered couples’ therapy. John sabotaged therapy often by getting high at our local bar after work and missing the train to downtown Chicago. When he didn’t meet me at the station, I went alone.
A degree in Guidance and Counseling had inspired me and I realized that I wanted to be a psychotherapist/psychologist. When I announced that I wanted to start a doctorate in psychology, John responded with an emphatic ultimatum, “No wife of mine is going to have more education than I have!” (We had worked on master degrees simultaneously.) What I had thought was equality and respect in our marriage was over in less than 6 seconds! I wrestled mentally, emotionally and spiritually with the fact that what I imagined as a win-win relationship was now clearly a lose-lose situation. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t allow my spirit to be broken. In less than a year I filed for divorce.
My therapist encouraged me to change Chicago suburbs since I was only meeting teachers and engineers (from oil refineries and steel mills) in the dating world. He knew a colleague with a room for rent where I could stay while searching for an apartment. After two days of living with the Chusid family in Oak Park, Illinois, the family suggested I continue living with them. I was thrilled to be living in a respectful family that was lively, brilliant, liberal, cultured, creative, exciting and sober. Here was a family where everything could be discussed.
That environment where individuals were striving for true equality and respect changed my life! Later I thought this avant-garde Jewish family who talked of physical health, emotional health, psychology, science, music, literature, theater, etc. had been a substitute for a finishing school.
How lucky I was!