It was in my senior year I started dating Connie Huron, the young lady I would eventually marry. I have no idea why she took an interest in me though I think we may have bonded because we were the youngest members of our respective broken families. As we approached high school graduation, our elders had pretty much gone their own independent ways.
My brother, Richard, was busy pursuing a degree in institutional management, Naval Reserve Officer Training (NROTC), and his fraternal life as a Beta Theta Pi. Connie’s two older bothers had families of their own. Bill, the eldest, lived in Minnesota and worked for Land of Lakes as a labor negotiator. Bobby, the middle child, was the consummate shoe salesman who was married and lived in Greater Lafayette. Connie’s oldest sister Norma was married to Don Lipsett, a successful fund raiser for national conservative causes, and lived in Indianapolis. Ann was still living at home waiting for her childhood sweetheart, Jack Brake, to graduate from Indiana State so he could get a teaching job and they could get married.
Connie’s parents were separated and Connie lived with her mother. Her father, Glen had essentially abandoned his role as the family patriarch when she was in grade school. Living in Kokomo and working for Delco Battery, he stayed in contact with the family for 10-15 years and took part in family festivities at Thanksgiving and Christmas. From what I gathered he really didn’t play a significant role in Connie’s life.
Connie’s mother, Gladys, was a woman to be greatly admired. A diabetic, legally blind, beset by glaucoma, and overweight, she had raised all five kids working two jobs — nights as a cleaning woman in a downtown Lafayette furniture store and days as a cook in one of Purdue’s dormitories. Like Glen, she, too, had a problem with alcohol and occasionally got a bit tipsy but given what she had accomplished in her life and what she suffered on a physical level on a daily basis, I was hard pressed to think anything less of her for it.
Regarding her physical well being, the family made arrangements for her to be treated by an eye specialist in Indianapolis who, upon measuring the severity of her glaucoma, observed that she had so much pressure in her eyes that steam was actually rising from them. Small relief tubes were inserted in the corners of her eyes to relieve the pain she had quietly endured for years.
Gladys died alone one night resting on the living room couch. I don’t know who found her body but I was told that in death she looked very peaceful. I hope that was the case. She was buried in the Grandview Cemetery at the top of the hill on North Salisbury overlooking Happy Hollow. Her headstone reads “Jesus wept.”
* * *
Connie and I were married at the Thomas Acquinas Neuman Center in West Lafayette on November 27, 1966 and it was obvious from the very beginning of our marriage that her family wasn’t pleased with the union. I say that because a month later when everyone in her family assembled in the living room of her mother’s home to distribute Christmas gifts, not one member of her family thought to give me card let alone a present. Not one.
I don’t how other people might react to that but it made a lasting impression on me. In fact, every time I took the family back to visit the in-laws during our 25 year marriage, I had to fight the tendency to interpret every perceived slight as further proof that her family regarded me as an unwelcome visitor.