Do not read this until you have read the entire story.
Needless to say I did not arrive in Panama with the best attitude. It was not what I expected and I did not handle the disappointment very well. I soon found out that there were no jobs available and that the college was over 2 hours away on the other side of the country. (Remember the days before online classes?) I set out on my first attempt as The Happy Housewife.
The problem was, I didn’t know how to be a housewife. When I first arrived in Panama, our house was furnished with loaner furniture from the Army. Those of you who have lived with loaner furniture know what I am talking about. Our bed consisted of a mattress on the floor, 2 flat sheets and one pillow each. We had a couch, a table, and a few dishes. I tried to make do with the situation knowing our furniture would arrive soon, but it was very lonely all day in a nearly empty house while dh worked crazy shift hours.
I tried ironing his uniforms while he was at work, except I didn’t know how to iron. During one attempt I actually broke the VCR (a loaner) while trying to iron. How can you break a VCR while ironing, I am not sure, but somehow I flipped the iron off the ironing board and it soared through the air landing on the cord to the VCR, burning through the cord as well as pulling the VCR off the television onto the floor. The young broke newlyweds now had to buy someone a new VCR.
I tried cooking, but I didn’t know how to make anything. Our dinners consisted of fettucini alfredo, hot dogs, and frozen pizza. All other meals were cereal. I was too afraid to go to the grocery store by myself (plus I didn’t have a car) so our trips would involve dh and I walking cluelessly through the aisles, with our ration cards (remember those) and always ending up with the exactly same things in our cart. Hot dogs, noodles, Parmesan cheese, and 17 boxes of Lucky Charms. During Thanksgiving I tried to make food for the sailors and soldiers, but ended up spray painting the walls with potatoes and eating raw turkey for dinner. I was such a bad cook I didn’t realize our oven was broken for over 2 months!
When we found out of furniture had arrived I was so excited. I could finally decorate, rearrange and start playing house. Except (and I am not exaggerating) every piece of furniture we owned had been damaged by the movers. It was terrible. I was in tears as box after box was unloaded and I was pulling out our dented, scratched, and broken possessions. The legs had been broken off our chairs, huge rips covered the back of our couch, and our dining room table had warped so badly you almost couldn’t set anything on top of it without it sliding off.
I tried to bury my frustration on our now house full of broken stuff by painting. I had this brilliant idea to paint our entire downstairs bubble gum pink. I knew that regular painting wouldn’t look right so I decided to sponge paint. After about 3 and a half walls I decided the sponge painting was just too hard so I gave up. The rest of our time there was spent in a house with partially painted pink walls. Dh said he felt like he was living inside a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
As for dh and I, and I am sure this will shock you, we couldn’t spend five minutes together without arguing. I found out quickly that marrying someone you don’t know at all, may not be such a good idea. He worked all the time and I was bored, scared, alone, and resentful of the situation. When he would come home from work I would be dying for someone to talk to and he would be dying to go to sleep. Since he works rotating shifts much of his sleep time was during the day while I was awake. I would usually let him sleep for two or three hours and then wake him up because I was so bored. Needless to say he wasn’t very happy with this habit of mine.
After a few weeks I found out there was a library on base so dh took me and I checked out every book I could. I have always been an avid reader and I was actually excited to have something to do with my time. The only problem was that I started to read Tom Clancy novels. They always seemed to be set in a third world jungle somewhere and I couldn’t help but relate these to my life. I would read all night and then lay in bed petrified that undercover agents or bad guys would come crashing through my door to kidnap me. I stopped sleeping.
One night as I lay in bed alone (dh was at work) I was trying not to think of everything bad that could happen to me. Just as I had calmed myself down I heard the doorknob turn on the front door. I completely panicked. I knew I was going to be kidnapped or killed. I tried to think of a plan, but I couldn’t even move. I laid there paralyzed in fear as I heard men’s voices in my downstairs. Then I heard footsteps coming up the stairs towards my room. I braced myself for what would happen to me… the door swung open, and standing there was dh, covered from head to toe in mud, uniform ripped, and looking quite upset. Not nearly as upset as I was since I thought he was there to kill me.
Turns out our car had broken down on the road to his work. This road was notoriously dangerous and dh was not too happy that he was stuck. He decided the best course of action would be to run the rest of the way to work and hope that someone passed him and offered help. Not only was the road dangerous it was in the middle of the jungle so there were all sorts of animals hiding in the dark as well. During his run for help dh fell into a huge pothole and ruined his uniform, became bathed in mud and bloodied his knees. Finally he was picked up by another sailor who drove him back home to get a clean uniform and return to work.
Except there were no clean uniforms. Remember my outside washer and dryer, I wasn’t kidding when I said I wasn’t going to use them. Laundry at our house would pile up until dh ran out of clothes and decided to wash something. So dh and his friend had to wait while he did a load of laundry in order to have a clean uniform to wear to work for the rest of the night. Dh was not happy, and I was not happy that he had scared me to death and ruined a nice uniform.
Unhappiness was a theme over the next few months. I found out that dh and I were complete opposites and not the kind that attract. We fought and bickered over everything from housework to food to music. It was a strange feeling because I was truly growing to dislike dh with all my heart and yet I would wait anxiously for him to return home from work so I could have someone to talk to. Even fighting was better than silence and our fights were anything but silent. I soon found out that dh had a temper like none I had ever seen and I was not one to back down from a fight and certainly not lose one. I remember screaming matches so terrible that dh would actually lose his voice. I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry for hours.
I tried to plot my escape but I didn’t know what to do. No one back in the states seemed to understand how bad it was and I didn’t have any place to go. No friends, no family, I was truly alone. The stress was more than I could take, and one day while taking a shower I started to feel faint and almost passed out. Dh took me the doctor and I that is when we learned I was pregnant….
Yes folks, another cliff hanger. I will try to have another installment next week. Until then, I have compiled all the installments and created a separate page for them. So if you would like to read Our Story in its entirety (or at least what I have written so far) you can click on Our Story at the top of my header.