Two Kinds of Love
Janeen and I began dating in July, and by November, we were very much in love. I loved her, and her love for me was different than any kind of love I had ever known. She loved me for who I was. She thought more of what she could do for me than for what I could do for her. She never criticized nor competed with me. I did not understand it, but it made me want to be with her. It was as if I were walking into the sunshine after living my entire life in a dark cave.
As I observed Janeen’s relationships with her children, I saw bonds I never knew in my family when I was growing up, or when I was married to my first wife Nancy. Janeen has four children, three boys and a girl, who all live within three miles of her. Her children enjoy being together, and they enjoy being with their mother. Janeen divorced her husband eight years before I met her, a man who was abusive to her and to their children. Throughout her marriage, Janeen did her best to protect her children from their father, and she made sure they knew that their home was a place where they were loved and where they felt comfortable.
Janeen was involved with her children’s activities. Janeen worked with her children when they took music lessons. She helped them with their homework and tried her best to help them with personal issues. She helped them with their math problems; she helped them write papers and sometimes typed them. She went to their school activities. She was a “room mother” at their school. She went to parent/teacher conferences. She took them places that were fun for them. She drove them to their friend’s houses whenever they wanted. She actively supported them in whatever they wanted to do.
Janeen’s children’s activities were focused on her children’s interests such as camping, boating, and riding motorcycles. Janeen was comfortable driving her motorhome while pulling a trailer large enough to carry motorcycles for each of her children. She took her children on weekend trips to the Sand Dunes or other off-road sites throughout Utah that were popular for safe motorcycle riding. Janeen’s husband Alan seldom accompanied them.
The only kind of love I knew before I met Janeen was based on obligations, whereas Janeen’s love is selfless and not overshadowed by ulterior motives.
Before my father died of polio when I was seven, he was always overcommitted and seldom home, so I spent most of my time with my mother, my sister, or either of my grandmothers, all of whom lived with me or within 40 feet. When I was young, my activities were things that my mother and her mother liked to do such as shopping or taking drives in the country to see scenery. I never did anything that men customarily did.
I looked a lot like my father, and to my mother, it was almost like I was my father’s surrogate. My mother loved my father, and she loved me for how I reminded her of him, not for who I really was. As a matter of fact, I did not know who I really was. I followed whatever she wanted me to do. I liked or disliked whatever she told me I liked or disliked. I don’t remember having any discussions about my opinions or what I wanted.
The winter after my father died was a heavy winter for snow. The boys in my school liked to throw snowballs during recess and lunch hour, and our pants would get a little damp from the snow. My mother was so afraid that I would get polio like my father that she instructed my teacher to have me go in a closet and remove my pants. Then the teacher would lay them on the heat radiator at the rear of the classroom where the other kids could see, and I sat in the closet until my pants were dry. This was seriously embarrassing. Surely if my mother thought about me and my feelings, she would realize what it meant for my image among my classmates and found another alternative, such as sending me to school with an extra pair of pants, but her only concern was that I did not get sick and die like my father.
My mother married my stepfather Bart when I was ten years old and things got even worse. According to our church beliefs, my mother was married for eternity to a man who had died, which meant she could marry another man, but not for eternity. This was a big problem for Bart, his parents, and his siblings. However having lived at home with his parents until he was 41 years old, Bart’s options for marriage were limited. He discussed his options with a top-level church leader who asked him what he thought his chances were of marrying a woman of the same faith with his same rigid religious convictions who did not already have an eternal marriage. Available women who met his expectations probably would already have had a previous eternal marriage unless they were much younger that he, and any woman that young would likely be uninterested in a man his age. The church leader and Bart decided he should not pass up the opportunity to marry my mother Dorothy.
The first two Christmases after they were married, we celebrated Christmas with Bart’s parents, his brother and sister, and their families. However, my sister LuRae and I were ignored. We were not Bart’s eternal children, and Bart’s parents and Bart’s brother and sister gave gifts to our step cousins, but no gifts to my sister and me. We had to watch our cousins open their gifts while we got nothing. Neither Bart nor my mother voiced objections. I think it is ironic, but not unusual, that such cruelty can be justified by a principle that is part of Christ’s gospel when Christ taught that love was the greatest commandment.
Bart continued to see view LuRae and me as inferior. My mother was raised in a male-dominant culture where wives followed their husbands, and she supported Bart. I took piano lessons, and although my mother was an accomplished pianist, she showed no interest in helping me learn the piano. I had to practice behind closed doors while she and Bart watched TV. My father, mother and Bart all sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but when I took private voice lessons from the director of the Tabernacle Choir, my mother and Bart did not help me learn to sing. Again, I had to practice singing behind closed doors.
They seldom offered assistance with my schoolwork, or discussed with me what subjects I found interesting. My parents fulfilled an obligation to support me until I became an adult, and that was it. Personal issues were never discussed or dealt with in my family. My having opinions that may conflict with theirs could jeopardize their total control.
My mother and stepfather had a daughter—my half-sister Maureen. She was only eight years old when I left on my mission, but I remember her getting much more attention than LuRae and me. She became an accomplished vocalist and pianist, and I doubt she could achieve that while practicing behind closed doors. She was Bart’s child and I was not.
When I was five years old, my mother opened a bank account for me and told me I should save for my mission. There was no further discussion about my saving or paying for my mission. Most Mormon boys go on missions, but few, if any, save enough money to pay for their missions themselves.
I worked hard as a teenager and saved enough money, over $2,200, to buy a new car before I went on my mission. I decided to wait until after my mission to buy my car so it would not depreciate during those two years. As I was preparing to go on my mission, I assumed my parents would support me since they never asked me if I planned to support myself, and the $100/month they would send me was not much more that what it cost them to support me at home as a teenager. In the weekly letters I wrote to my parents the last few months of my mission, I expressed in detail what kind of car I wanted, the options, and I even asked them if I could borrow an additional few hundred dollars to get the car I wanted most, a 1967 GTO. They never mentioned the money in their weekly letters to me except to tell me I should wait until I was home to discuss money. When I got home, I discovered that I had only $400 in the bank and my parents had a new Pontiac. When I asked them what happened to my money, Bart merely reminded me (with his nose high in the air) that I had been saving for my mission since I was five years old. I assume that, when I was preparing for my mission, he could not discuss with me if I agreed to use my money for my mission for fear I may not agree to use my money. They could not take the risk of allowing me to make that decision. If I declined to use my money for my mission, then they would have to take responsibility for my not going on a mission or pay for it themselves. Either the money they sent me each month was my money, or they used my money to purchase their new car, it made no difference. They had taken my money without asking.
The money issue was a big revelation to me. My parents did not care for me as much as for my money. At first I just felt guilty that I forgot I was saving my money for my mission, but the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt. I had been robbed, and the anger I felt towards my parents led me to look to someone else for direction. Nancy was the only other person I could turn to. My parents hated Nancy for being from the wrong side of town and wearing her hair in her eyes. I eloped with Nancy because I was so angry with my parents for using my money to purchase their new car.
It is hard to place the blame solely on my parents. This is how they were raised. Their parents treated them the same way. It was their culture. It was in their roots to often use religion as an excuse for committing evil acts.
I knew there was no love in my marriage to Nancy from the very beginning. She and I each claimed that we were in love, but it was just a cover. Neither of us married for love. Nancy married me to get out of Granger, a low-income neighborhood she hated. She had a boyfriend with whom she was sexually active when we married, but he was from Granger, too, and could not offer her a way out of Granger as I could. Nancy claimed to love me, but she continued her relationship with the guy from Granger after we were married, and she continued to have affairs throughout our marriage.
Nancy’s obsession with maintaining control of any relationship led to the problems I have with our four children. I loved our first child, a beautiful little girl, and from then on I was imprisoned in a loveless marriage. I did not want to be an every-other-weekend father to my daughter. Nancy knew we would eventually divorce, and she manipulated our four children to insure they would remain loyal to her and never see me after our divorce.
Nancy did not want me to be included in her relationships with any of her friends. She competed with me in every way. She always resented that I made more money than she did. Nancy was focused on her career and on what was best for her children. Her love for her children was based on her need for control, not on the needs of her children. I drove my children to school. I went to their games, I raced bicycles with my sons at BMX events regularly for years, but Nancy only went to one BMX race. However, I could not overcome Nancy’s efforts to make me out as the bad guy. My children did not have a mother like Janeen.
I had not experienced Janeen’s kind of love until after Janeen and I met. Janeen supported her son on his mission, and when he came home, she gave him her car and purchased a new one for herself. She did not see that her obligation to support him had come to an end. She did not even see it as an obligation. She loved him unconditionally and gave him everything he needed until he became financially independent.
Janeen’s children all live within two miles of our home, but my children all live in distant parts of the country. Janeen and I have been together for 15 years, and Janeen’s children come to our home for Sunday dinner several times each month. They invite us on the camping trips they take together and are constantly expressing love for each other. Janeen’s children have busy lives with families and friends, but their Mom is always high on their priority list. I was accepted into their family because their mother loves me and they know I love their mother, her children, and their families.
All Janeen’s children have a feeling of comfort and love when they come to our home. They know it is a place where they are loved unconditionally and are always welcome. They feel the same as they did when they were young, including feeling free to search the refrigerator and pantry for something to eat.
My children don’t ever come to our house for dinner. I have not seen any of my children in years. My children are all married, but I attended only one of my children’s weddings—the one that took place when Nancy and I were married. Nancy hired armed guards to keep me from attending my younger daughter’s wedding, and I did not know about the other two weddings until afterwards. One lives in New York, one in Chicago, one in California, and I don’t know where the other one lives. I have not had a relationship with any of them since their mother divorced me. They also don’t seem to want to live close to their mother or each other.
My children did not have a place where they could have the same feelings Janeen’s children have had at home. There was always a confrontational spirit in our home. Nancy had to maintain control and she did not trust me. I loved my children, but I did not know how to be a parent like Janeen because I never had that kind of home while growing up. There was no place where my children could go and know they were loved unconditionally and feel comfortable.
Janeen would love my children unconditionally as her own, but she has never had the chance. My children have never met Janeen, and I long for the chance to show them how much Janeen and I would love them as we do Janeen’s children.
Janeen not only taught me about love, but she also gave me insight in to what was wrong with the kind of relationships that existed in the family where I grew up. This realization has given me renewed confidence in understanding and bringing to light the source of most of my life’s struggles.