Valentine’s Day on February 14 is another day when folks celebrate “true love.” For some folks, this day is one of heartache and pain. That’s how it used to be for Trudy. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
My bi-monthly trip to the Bloodmobile at Winn’s Creek Baptist Church is always a fun time. The refreshments (homemade, of course) are the best! The line moves quickly and it’s not long until I’m sitting in the canteen waiting for my allotted time to be up so I can go home.
This story, however, has nothing to do with the Bloodmobile (even though it’s fitting for Valentine’s Day and the “my heart bleeds for you” theme of the day).
It does, however, come to you because of a visit to that Bloodmobile. If I hadn’t been there, I would never have overheard a conversation between Trudy and another woman, who asked where Richard was.
“He’s helping them figure out what the problem is with the heat,” Trudy answered. It was obvious from the way folks spoke to her about them both that they are loved, respected, and admired. Someone offered congratulations on another anniversary, and Trudy responded.
“Yep, we’ve been married forty-eight years, and all most people see is what we have now. They don’t have a clue what it took to get us here. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was plumb hard. But here we are, and I’m so glad we stuck it out.”
Later I contacted Trudy and asked if I could hear her story. Newly married couples look around them and think everybody else has it together when they don’t. They see financially and emotionally stable folks who still enjoy being together after many years, and somehow they think they missed the boat.
There are two words that can describe this marriage that almost didn’t make it.
She was twenty-one and he was twenty-two when they got married forty-eight years ago. Following several broken engagements, Richard finally thought he had found the gal with whom he wanted to spend his life and proposed four months after their first date.
Richard had finished two years in Vietnam after being drafted when he was eighteen. When he came home, he suffered from PTSD (not that it had a name back then). There was no medication available or even a diagnosis, but Richard found two ways to medicate the pain: stuff it and drown it.
Like his father before him, he turned to alcohol. Over time, he became a functioning alcoholic. He never missed a day of work and hid his struggle well. At home, it was a different story. Fortunately for his children, his verbal abuse was directed at his wife and not at the kids. Money was tight and that added stress to the marriage.
“One year we didn’t have $20 to buy our son a gift for his ninth birthday. We lived paycheck to paycheck. People see us as financially stable now, but they have no idea what we went through then,” Trudy shares.
She adds, “He was never verbally abusive when he was sober. It only happened when he had been drinking.”
Trudy began looking for greener pastures. In time, she decided she’d had enough of his verbal abuse and his alcohol, and so she made her plans to move out.
The first time was when their kids were thirteen and nine. However, before she executed her plan, her father died. A month later, their house caught fire, with fire and smoke damage throughout the house. She stayed to help get things straight and get the house repaired. They were displaced for two months while repairs were being made, and were able to move back just before Christmas. Also during that time, Richard got his first DUI, which created a further financial hardship.
Over the next few months, things in their marriage went back to what was their normal, with the added stress of relocating Trudy’s mother to a nearby apartment.
Still unhappy and wanting to leave, God once again used circumstances to keep Trudy at home. Her mother attempted suicide and they had to admit her to a facility. On their way home from visiting her mother, a car pulled out in front of them at the intersection in Scottsburg. Richard ended up in the hospital with a broken femur near his hip and was not able to work for over a year.
Her third attempt to move out was thwarted when their almost seventeen-year-old son was hit by a drunk driver. He suffered multiple injuries including compound fractures of both legs in many places. Three months later, he was able to come home, still in a wheelchair. He was finally able to return to high school three months before graduation. Their son walked for graduation and began his freshman year of college just prior to his eighteenth birthday. Trudy ended up staying because moving out would have been too difficult at that time.
“But,” she says, “I was still looking for greener grass.”
About four years later, Trudy again made plans to leave. She shared the information with her daughter when she was home on break from college. The landlord of the place she planned to rent needed a definitive answer by a certain date.
Her daughter assured her mother, “I get it, but please wait to tell daddy until after I go back to college.” However, serious winter weather arrived, and by the time her daughter was able to return to college, the deadline for the rental had passed.
Richard had gotten a great job working with the company building the Clarksville Bridge, a job that lasted about five years. During that time, their marriage had good days and bad days.But then Richard was arrested for another DUI. Trudy longed for greener pastures again.
Trudy had friends who were prayer warriors. They spent years praying with her and for her. One evening as three of them prayed together, one of them told Trudy, “God told me He is going to remove your yoke from you.”
A few months later, Richard’s job took him out of town. Distance and space gave relief, and Trudy knew this was how God was removing the yoke from her for the time being. They saw each other only when he came home for a visit or she traveled to where he was. “I always loved him,” she says now, “but there were times when I couldn’t stand him! I think this job was from God because it gave me the time and space I needed.”
“I finally got to the place,” Trudy says, “where I could say, ‘God, I get it. I’m supposed to stay in this mess’.”
This time, Trudy began to pray that God would show her where she needed to change.
“I am a control freak,” she admits now, “and I needed to relinquish control. I stopped looking at his faults and started looking for ways I needed to change. When I started looking at me instead of at him, things happened.”
Out of the blue, Richard stopped drinking. They’d been married for thirty years, and it had been a long and difficult ride. He didn’t tell her he had given it up, but it didn’t take her long to notice the difference in him.
“God got a hold of him,” Trudy says. “Richard changed. He has been dry ever since. He started reading the Bible and reading books written by men of faith.”
When Richard retired, they joined Winn’s Creek Baptist Church where they are still members and are active in the church family.
Better Than Ever
Richard still struggles with PTSD. He needs to take medicine and would rather stay home than travel. Trudy enjoys travel and visiting their children and grandchildren in other states.
Their marriage is different – and better than it has ever been. ‘Better than she had ever dreamed it could be.
“All those times I tried to leave,” she says, “But God used things that happened to keep me from leaving.”
There are two scripture verses that Trudy says helped her. These are found in Romans and Jeremiah.
Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Here’s some advice from Trudy.
- Understand that it’s not all going to be easy. Marriage takes work. Sometimes it is hard work.
- Go to God for wisdom and stop listening to other people – especially those who tell you that you deserve to be happy and you should just leave.
- Do what God asks you to do. It probably won’t be easy, but do it anyhow. Serving God is not a guarantee that it will be easy.
- Don’t think you should start off as financially or emotionally compatible as your parents or other adults are now. It took them years to get there, and it will take you years, too.
No matter how long we’ve been married, there’s a lesson here in this story. Those same words that restored this broken marriage are available to anyone.
Let Him be God.